7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (the Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and readprayers.
Mr. BRENNAN presented a petition from Italians resident in the Commonwealth protesting against the policy of the Government in forcibly seizing and deporting Italians for compulsory military service beyond the seas, and praying that no such deportation take place.
Petition received and read.
Mr.LIVINGSTON.-I ask the Ministerwho is in charge of recruiting ifhe will take into consideration the advisability of restoring the ScottishRegiments. A proposal to that effect was carried in thisChamber without a division, but was lost in the Senate.
– The subject is one for the Ministerfor Defence to deal with. I shall bring the honorable member’s question under his notice.
-. Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that for a considerable, time the Commonwealth was notmade acquainted with certain information coming from the Secretary of State for theColonies, although, about a fortnight ago, . the Prune Minister released such a message for publication in the press, and quite recently His ExcellencytheGovernorGeneral did the same ? Will the Acting Prime Minister supply the public of
Australia with as much information concerning the course of the war, and matters connected with it, as can reasonably be made known?
Mr.WATT. - I do not know what the practice has been. Lastweek two messages appeared in thepress which seemed tohave been communicated by the GovernorGeneral,but beyond that I know nothing. I shall take an early opportunity to inform my mind of the procedure that obtains, and shall give the honorable member an answer later.
– Some time ago a very serious cyclone visited the Mackay district. The (people there suffered severely in consequence of it, and the Government promptly and generously came to their assistance. A more disastrous oyclone has since visited the Cairns district, destroying a great deal of property, and some lives. I interviewed the Prime Minister with regard to the matter, and asked him to consider the advisability of treating the people further north in the same manner as those in the Mackay district were treated. I also wrote to the Treasurer on the subject. I now ask the honorable gentleman if consideration has been given to my representations, and, if so, what decision has been come to by the Government.
– I am aware of the representations of the honorable member to the Prime Minister, and to me as Treasurer. I have not yet had an opportunity to consider the matter, but I shall see that it is dealt with at the nest meeting of the Cabinet.
– I understand that the report of the proceedings ofthe Conferonce recently held at Government House to consider the matter of recruiting will be made available to-day, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will arrange that the type shall be kept standing in the Government Printing Office, it being the opinion of the President of the Conference and Senator Millen, among others, that thereport should be circulated as widely as possible. Will the honorable gentleman make available to honorable members as many copies of it as oan be profitably used ?
– Yes. I shall see that the type is kept standing.
Position of Passengers and Crew
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The following advices have been received : -
asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Can he inform the House if it is the intention of the Government to introduce measures to-
restore the postal vote;
provide for proportional representation at all Senate elections;
provide for preferential voting at all elections for the House of Representatives?
– A Bill for the purpose has been prepared, but, owing to the pressure of matters relating to the war, the points mentioned in the honorable member’s question have not yet been finally considered by Cabinet.
Followers of Dr. Mannix
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.WATT.-Ishouldbegladifthe honorable memberwould postpone his question, to which I shall endeavour to give an answer next week. I took over the Prime Minister’s Department only this morning.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to liberate the Reverend Father Charles Jerger, pending an inquiry, into the allegation ofl disloyalty against him ?
Judge and Legal Advises
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Yes; but his services in that capacity are utilized) only to a very small extent, and never in. any cases that are likely to come before him in his judicial capacity. Should the Administrator desire legal advice, he either obtains itfrom a local solicitor or from the Commonwealth Crown Law Department in- Melbourne. Occasionally, the. Judge is consulted, regarding the form in which a regulation is. to be worded, or. other similar matters.
Housing of Workers
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice-
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. It is intended to refer this matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works so soon as the necessary plans and data required by the Public Works Committee Act are ready. The officers of the Department are now engaged inthe preparation of the same.
– On 10th inst.,. I promised to submit to the Minister for Defence the following question, put to me by thehonorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) : - .
Is it a fact that the labourers who went to England as war workers were guaranteed a minimum wage of £2 0s. 6d. a week, and that since their arrival in the Old Country, they have been compelled to insure against accident, although that gives them no more than was. guaranteed to them beforethey left. Under the circumstances, ought not the Government to pay their insurance premiums?
The reply of the Minister is as follows : -
Australian war workers are subject to the same conditions of employment, and to the provisions and benefits of the National InsuranceScheme, similarly as are British workmenwith the exception that Australiansare guaranteed minimum weekly wages). Mr. Charlton’s statement to the effect that Australian workmen were guaranteed against accident in Great Britain is not correct; the Commonwealth’s liability in this respect applies to the sea voyage only. Australian war workers are guaranteed minimum wages of £20s. 6d. per week, and are getting that amount,and in many eases considerably more. Their earnings are considered to be quite sufficient to permit of their paying the smallpremiums under the NationalInsurancc Scheme, and there appears to me to be no just reason for asking the Government to relieve the men of such payments.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) put to me the following questions : -
I promised to make inquiries, and I am now in a position to reply as follows: - 1.From inquiries made, I understand that no students are exempt from expulsion under the motion, which includes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th year medical students, also life members elected since the beginning of the war.
Amen dments -
The following papers were presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act - Inter-State Commission -
Prices InvestigationReports -
No.1. - Bread.
No. 2.- Meat.
No. 3. -FarmProducts Group - Milk,
Butter,Cheese, Condensed Milk,and Bacon.
No. 4. - Meat - Further Report dealing with Meat in New South Wales andQueensland.
No. 5. - Bread - Further Report dealing with Bread inNew South Wales and Queensland.
No. 6.- Groceries.
British and Australian Trade in the South Pacific - Report.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 24th April (vide page 4146), on motion by Mr.
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Mr. Tudor had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - ‘‘but in the opinion of this House the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) cannot represent Australian public opinion in London, for the following reasons, viz.: -
The speeches of the Prime Minister at and in relation to the Paris Conference ;
The war policy of Ministers which has been emphatically repudiated by two referendums of the Australian people;
The conduct of public affairs in Australia.
– I am thoroughly in accord with the amendment that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy do not represent the undivided opinion of the people of Australia. During the regime of the Government, the honorable member for Bendigo has not done anything in his capacity as Prime Minister that would tend to bring about that harmony which he so much desires, or make him and the Minister for the Navy truly representative of Australian opinion. Although we do not know at this juncture what problems are to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference, we do know that should any matters be brought forward affecting the ultimate destiny of Australia, neither the Prime Minister, as he is at present, nor the Minister for the Navy will be justified in subscribing to anything that would inveigle the people of Australia into any binding agreement with the Imperial authorities. The section of the community which the Prime Minister has turned against himself, through his actions during the last two years, deeply resent, in their turn, the fact that he andthe honorable member for Parramatta are leaving this country to represent them. The trip of those two gentlemen should have been postponed, or, at . least, the people should havebeen consulted asto (who their representatives should ibe at a conference for that purpose before those representatives left these shores. We have only to refer to the Prime Minister’s public utterances to find that he condemns certain sections of the community simply because they choose to disagree with his method of conducting the war. That method was submitted to the people on two occasions, and the people immediately turned it down; but he should not brand the sections of the community opposed to him as disloyalists and pro-Germans, or as having absolutely no interest in Australian affairs, for that reason only. Furthermore, he condemns us because we are not in thorough accord with his reason for continuing to prosecute the war. We assume that the war is a righteous one, and for that reason we are pledged to support it loyally. According to the Times Trade Supplement, the Prime Minister made the following statement in April, 1916 - and this is only one of many -
A commercial war must be waged. The organization of Empire trade is one of the vital duties before us. It is a necessity in the defence and security of the race. The hour has come, and we look for actions.
In utterances of that description, the Prime Minister plainly declaims to the world that this is a commercial war. We in Australia say that we do not recognise it as such. We are prepared to prosecute the war so long as it remains within its original ambit, that is, the breaking down of German militarism; but once it departs from that we say we want none of it. That is Australian opinion. Whether it is the Prime Minister’s opinion, or the opinion of others, I cannot say, but once the war becomes a commercial or trade war, I am finished with it. Yesterday the Prime Minister, before he left the House, wished to know what had come over the spirit of Labour. He asked what had crushed its virile spirit. He and other honorable members know very well what has come over the spirit of Labour. Labour entered into this war in the same spirit and with the same determination as any other section of the community. When the Government Went to the polls, the Labour portion of the community were quite prepared to support a Government that was outto win the war. Led away by that spirit of self-sacrifice, they voted for men who they knew were naturally diametrically opposed to their interests. They did this for the one reason, that they believed those men would assist to bring the’ war to a successful consummation, and at the same time look after the interests of the workers. After the Government was elected, the first action of theWin-the-war party was to do everything it possibly could to crush the spirit of the workers. That is what has come over the workers to-day. They are suffering from a sense of oppression and injustice. They recognise that they embarked on a certain course which was opposed to the beliefs held by the particular Governments then inpower in Australia. They were defeated in that course by methods which did not reflect very much credit on those Governments. One would naturally have thought that the Governments, having defeated the. trade unionists, would stop at that point, but they did not do so. They continued to wage economic war on the workers, and they have been doing it ever since. The workers feel that the Governments have been putting the knife into them. They suffer under a sense of injustice. They are sullen and intolerant ; they will not listen to anything that the Governments suggest in the direction of giving them justice; they do not trust them ; they look upon them with suspicion, and until that suspicion is removed it is useless to look to the workers for any co-operation in the matter of winning the war: Until the workers’ grievances are removed, they will look upon all overtures made by the Governments with the utmost suspicion, and they will continue sullenly indifferent to any suggestions that come from Ministers. That is the spirit that has come over Labour.
The Prime Minister says, “ Go to your unions ; tell them the truth, and urge them to action.” But what is the use of our going to our unions? We have already told them what their plain duty is, and they know it already. There are unions in NewSouth Wales whose members have abstained from work for seven months, and who are prepared to starverather than go back on the principles and ethics that are ingrained in them through their association with trade unionism. These men are heroes. They are of the material of which heroes are made. They are just as good fighters as are any men in France to-day. They are the class of men to whom we should look to save the country from that oppression of which honorable members say they are very much afraid, although they do not appear to be. These men have sons and relatives at the Front. The spirit which they have exhibited is one that should not be crushed. Bather it is one that should be built up in this country. If we are to be a virile, independent people, we should cultivate that spirit among the workers rather than attempt to press it out of them, and make them servile beings. Restore these men to the plane which they should occupy, and there will be no need for any one to tell them their duty. They know it. But when they find that those rights for which they have fought are being assailed, it is useless for any one to go to them to ask them to co-operate. That is my reply to the Prime Minister when he asks us to go to our unions and urge them to action. There is no need to urge them to action. The proper course is for the Government to carry out what the Prime Minister has said he is prepared to do. He has said, “I am prepared tobring things back to where they were.” If the Government are prepared to do that, there will be no necessity for any honorable member to put up a case to the workers. They will put up theirown case.
I had an interview with the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) this morning in regard to certain concessions which he granted in what appeared to me to be the right spirit. If that spirit is observed in any dealings or negotiations with the trade unions in the future, even if things do not resume their normal 3tate, there will, at any rate, be very much better relations between all parties. The Prime Minister has said that there would be some difficulty in dealing with certain employers, over whom the Government had no control at present. Surely, if the Government have complete control over the employees, they have the same control over employers. If they can issue War Precautions Regulations to deal with workers who refuse to abide by certain conditions which are intolerable to them, surely it is simply a matter of starting the sausage machine, and rolling out a few more regulations for the purpose of dealing with any employers who refuse to accede to the Government’s wishes. Lord
Forrest has said that the War Precautions Act was brought in to deal with the “ other fellow.” Honorable members opposite have been dealing pretty thoroughly with the other fellow for the last eighteen months. I hope that a broadside of regulations will be .brought to bear on the employers. If it is done, there will be a little more harmony in the community.
We are told that in the face of the common danger, it is not too much to hope that the people in all parts -of the Empire, including the Commonwealth, will present a unified and unwavering front, but -the Government are not attempting to -bring about this state of affairs, because there seems to be a decided set against people of Irish nationality living :in the Commonwealth. Where there is a desire to obtain harmony, the Government should . do nothing to disturb the ‘existing state of affairs, yet a new regulation has just been issued, designedly for the purpose of dealing with persons who may belong to the Sinn Fein organization, Abut really embracing every person who happens -to be Irish -ot of Irish descent. For some years I have ‘been connected- with a certain club in “Victoria, anil I have spent many enjoyable evenings there; ‘but when I went down the other night I was told (hat the military authorities had raided the premises, taken the secretary’s books, and all his belongings, and closed the place for practically a week. “It is -not -a Sinn Fein organization; it is simply a club got up for the purpose of bringing people together in social evenings. It is altogether exceeding the spirit of the regulation if, because a man is a Hibernian, or belongs to an Irish guild or lodge, or some other thing termed Irish, his house is to .be raided. It appears to me that a set has been made .against one section of the community. According to Mr. Knibbs, .there are 139,000 people in Australia who were horn in Ireland. Out of a total population of nearly .5,000,000, there are 139,00.0 who are supposed to be a menace to the peace of the Empire. There are .many Irish who have sons and relatives at the Front. 1 am of Irish extraction, and. I have four relatives in the .firing line. There are dozens of people with whom I am acquainted, who are Irish or of Irish extraction, who have sons, brothers, and fathers in .the firing line. There are Irish-‘born people, too, fighting at the Front; and, I say, therefore, that the whole action -of the Government is utterly wrong. If it is ‘the intention to deal with ..associations, or any set of persons who are guilty of allything contrary to law., let those associations and persons be dealt with individually; do .not let .us pick out any section of the community .and declare their association to be unlawf ul simply because they are of a particular nationality.
– Have you. read the regulation carefully? <
– It deals with the Sinn Fein.
– It deals with disloyalty and a number of other things.
– I admit .that Itoland, on the whole, is an anticonscriptionist country.
– .Both North and South.
– Both. North and South:; and persons of Irish extraction in Australia have a natural tendency, or, as I -think., the common sense, to toe opposed :to conscription also. That, ho-wester, does not necessarily make them disloyal:
– Hear, hear!
– The Society :of Friends and dozens of other societies ame much more anti-militarist than are the Irish societies, for the Society ‘of Friends are not only anti-conscriptionists, but also anti-militarists. An Irishman, if lie refuses to .be a conscriptionist, does not, we know, refuse to fight, while others I have mentioned will neither fight nor be’ conscripted. If it is disloyal to “be an anti conscriptionist, why not imprison all who are opposed to conscription ? If the pre* sent state of things is permitted to continue, we shall have more out-laws thanthere are people within ‘the pale of the law ; the whole ‘country will become an unlawful association, and will, I suppose, issue war regulations (against those who are now within the Segal pale. If it is unlawful to belong to the Sinn Fein, ;a social democratic club, or other progressive association, then I suppose that the Peace Society -would also, , be considered unlawful. In fact, as I say, we shall soon have half .of ‘the community .declared an unlawful .association ; and the man who stops in the street ‘to :speak to a friend may ,be arrested for associating with some proscribed person.
It is up to the Government to take some action, now that the stormy petrel’ has left us. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is the cause of all the trouble. He is decidedly anti-Irish, and anti-Catholic, as is proved by the regulations to which he has been a party. There is the case in point regarding which I asked a question to-day. In Sydney there is a Catholic ecclesiastic who has a following, not only of Irish, but of the whole of those composing his congregation; and I suppose there must be some 30,000 or 40.,000 Catholics within his influence drawn from all parts of the world. That man. has been interned; and while it. may be all right to intern an ordinary individual, of. whom. no. one. has much knowledge, it is clear that it does not tend to create a better feeling in the community when a man is taken out of public life and interned without justtrial. If this man is disloyal’, and can be proved so, there is no one in the community who would say a word’ against the action of the Government in interning him; but he ought to have a fair trial. Meetings of protest have been held all over Australia regarding this case; and I should like to see the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) go to Newtown, Enmore, or Marrickville when one of these meetings is in progress. Only last week I was at a meeting attended by over 8,000 people, in protest against the internment of this ecclesiastic; and if the Government desire to make any progress with recruiting they ought to refrain from such actions as have raised all this feeling. I have made inquiries, and, so far as I can gather, this man has neither done or said anything disloyal. All he said from Ms pulpit, some time ago, was that he desired the congregation to pray for the souls of all those who had fallen in battle, and hedid not discriminate between nationality or creed.
– Do you. really believe he was interned for that?
– That is all wecan gather as the reason for his internment, and we ask for an inquiry. If honorable members think that this ecclesiastic has been guilty of any unlawful act more than I have indicated, why should there not be an investigation? I have been supplied with certain information concerning this case, and I shall read it to give honorable members an opportunity to add anythingthey may think proper. My information is as follows : -
Father Charles Jerger was born in the Black Forest, Germany-
– He is not Irish then ? You lead us to believe he is Irish.
– I am not saying whether he is Irish or not; what I said was that he is a Catholic-
Father Charles Jerger was born in the Black Forest, Germany, and at the age of six left Germany with his mother, who then married a naturalized Briton - Jerger. FatherCharles’ nairne was Morlock. Took stepfather’s name. Arrived, with parents in Australia whenhe was nine years of age.
Educated and trained in Australia. Entered Passionist Order.
In. 1916, on account ot certain charges regarding disloyal. statements made against him. he visited Melbourne, saw Minister for Defence, and exonerated himself from the charges.
In 1918, Loyalty League meeting at Dulwich Hill, to establish a branch of the Protestant Federation, was arranged, and at the meeting resolutions were accepted for the deportation of Archbishop Mannix and internment of Father Charles. Resolutions sent to Melbourne - Minister for Defence.Ex-Senator Oakes, &c, were at the meeting.
Military called for Father Charles, and gave him five minutes notice. Took him to internment camp seven days later.
We protested through Hugh Mahon and’ others. Reult first was, “ That he would be released if sent out of Australia.” Again the statementwas made that he: had been guilty of fresh offences. Finally, that he was German born, and, therefore, could be interned without inquiry.
We urged that the charges against him should be made knownat least to his Provincial. Latter went to. Melbourne on Sth March. Authorities refused to see him.
He returned with His Grace Dr. Mannix, whoattended, under the chairmanship, of Archbishop Kelly, the great protest meeting against the internment, arranged in the Sydney Town. Hall, on Monday, 11th March.
His Grace of Melbourne then said, “ If he is guiltyhe must suffer; but do not lethim suffer without proof of his guilt.”
That, in effect, is our attitude. We protest in the terms of resolution already forwarded to you, to Tasmania, South Australia, and Queensland.
We urge that Father Jerger out of the internment camp is a better asset to or for recruiting than. Father Jerger interned.
Protest meetings to the number of twentythree in the city and suburbs have followed the Town Hall meeting. Fifty-five country branches have also held meetings, and’ forwarded resolutions curried to the Prime- Minister, Defence Minister, and also to. Federal member for the district.
The Minister stated, about four days ago, that such protests would make no difference, and has written us to the effect, The action taken in the Father Jerger case was strictly in accordance with the War Precautions Regulations, which throw responsibility for a decision upon the Minister, and not upon a Court.”
His Grace the Archbishop of Sydney, their Lordships the - Bishops of the Province of New South Wales have all expressed their approval of protest. Also offers have been received from members of the Federal House of Representatives and Senate for any possible assistance.
We will see several invited to Recruiting Conference in Melbourne next Friday this afternoon, and will request that they bring matter up there.
That is the position. If this man has been guilty of disloyalty, or of anything that tends to show that he is a proGerman - that his sympathies are with any other country that that in which he lives - let him, of course, be interned. But there should be inquiry into the case. Why should the Minister for Defence be both judge and jury in a matter of this kind ? This priest holds a position in public life equally as important as that of the Minister for Defence. If the Minister were arrested and interned, he would demand an inquiry into the allegations against him, and the people of Australia would be prepared to see that the inquiry was made. We ask for the same treatment in regard to this ecclesiastic. If, as a result of an inquiry, it is found that he is disloyal, the Government may then say to the Roman Catholic community, “ This man was disloyal, and a menace to the Empire, and he has been only justly dealt with.” How can one go amongst the Catholic community and ask for recruits when there are injustices such as this, and the anti-Sinn Fein regulation and the petition which was presented yesterday? The whole tendency seems to be to persecute the Irish and the Roman Catholics.
– This man is- not an Irishman.
– Some members on the Government side wish to intern Archbishop Mannix, and he is Irish enough. However, he knows a bit too much for his opponents. If there is to be harmony in the* community and if the people of Australia are to pull together, as they must do, to prosecute the war, there must be an end to this sectarian strife.
– It is not sectarian.
– It is. I refer the honorable member to the cartoons published in’ the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard. I could supply him with a pile of printed matter all directed against one particular creed. Will propaganda of this kind produce harmony in the community ? Why not make a regulation to suppress that sort of conduct ?
I believe it. is the intention of the Government to restore, as far as possible, the industrial conditions that existed prior to the first conscription referendum. If that course is adopted, I think some good will result. I notice, however, that since the advent of the National Government, a number of Boards have been created, but Labour has no representation on any of them. If the Government desire Labour to work in harmony with them, they must give Labour some representation on those bodies. A paragraph in the Ministerial statement reads -
Recognising the urgent necessity for organizing Australian industries and finding profitable markets for our products overseas, it is proposed to establish immediately a Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and to place in charge a first class business man, who will act with the representatives of the various industries.
When Great Britain entered the war, the Imperial Government saw the necessity for co-operating with Labour in order to successfully wage the war.
– And British Labour co-operated with the Government. Labour has not done that in Australia.
– Labour in Australia co-operated with the Government in the early stages of the war. But the Winthewar Government have not desired the co-operation of the workers. They thought they were strong enough to flog the workers into subjection, and they found that by the flogging operation they destroyed the best recruiting asset they had. The Labour Government which was in power in the early stages of the war did co-operate with the workers, and the workers reciprocated. When the Government determined to take over and operate the interned German ships, Senator Pearce attended at the rooms of the union with which I was connected before I entered Parliament, and asked if we were prepared to man those ships for trading overseas, and asked us what were our terms. He arrived at an amicable understanding with us. We manned the ships at the wages ruling on the Australian coast, and although the wages out of Great Britain are £5 per month higher than those for men out of Australia, our members are adhering to the agreement made with the Minister, and are working in the danger zone for lower wages than the British seamen are receiving. Similar arrangements were made with other unions. The Government approached the coal lumpers’ organization, and by arrangement a battalion was formed to carry out certain work. Agreements were made with the wharf labourers and the leather workers. Whenever the Government desired to insure the supply of clothing, or any other article required for the war, they approached the union and arranged for the co-operation of the workers. Preference to unionists was given to the men, and as a result harmony prevailed during the regime of the Labour Government. It was only when the National party took office, and attempted to abrogate preference to unionists and to flagellate the workers, that discord was created. Honorable members know that during the first two years of the -war there was no discord between the Government and the unions. It was not that the workers were getting higher -wages from the Labour Government than they are receiving from the Liberal Government, but they gave their assistance in return for the confidence of the Minister. Whenever the Minister approached the unions and said he was prepared to negotiate with the men, the union officials indicated their readiness to take a share of the responsibility. If the present Government think that the Australian workers can be driven like a flock of sheep, they are making a mistake. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) knows that as well as I do. He was schooled in the Labour movement; but either he has forgotten what he was taught, or he is pretending a lamentable ignorance in order that his present associates may think he is a pure merino. Honorable members are frequently speaking in praise of Mr. Samuel Gompers, the President of the American Federation of Labour, and I propose to read to the House a passage printed in the journal published by that organization. Mr. Gompers is a conscriptionist, and consequently must be infallible. I propose to quote a few words from an address by the Right Honorable C. W. Bowerman, who is a Privv Councillor, a. member of the British House of Commons, and the secretary of the Trades Union Congress. In company with ‘Mr..
James Thomas, who is also a member of the British House of .Commons and general secretary of the National Union of the Railway men of Great Britain and Ireland, he visited America as a member of a parliamentary Committee at the time of America’s entry into the war to explain to the workers of America how the workers in England were acting in connexion with the War. The whole address will be found in the American Federationist “of June, 1917, and honorable members will find it very interesting reading. I quote the following: -
So there, you -see, we hare safeguarded ourselves, not in an obstreperous manner, but in defence of the rights we have secured by our combination.. Obviously, we are not prepared, as you are not prepared, at the request of a dozen or more employers, to throw aside all those safeguards that cost you, and those that have preceded you, not only many anxious hours, but many large sums of money to secure. We are not prepared to forego those rights at the mere request of employers. Therefore, we have safeguarded the position of the men, and we have attached considerable import to setting up of local committees, because those men know the local conditions, and they have their national organization to refer to if necessary. We feel that the interests of our workmen are thereby safeguarded, and I think the employers should have the same feeling that their interests ore also safeguarded by that kind of machinery.
That shows the kind of organization there was in Great Britain.
– Honorable members opposite could have had the same thing here if they had come into the Government.
– It was not a question of our coming into tlie Government. We are here as members of Parliament, and whilst we are directly interested in the welfare of the workers, we have not the intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the different trades that is possessed by those who- are directly connected with them. As a member of this Parliament I do not look for representation on these committees. The representation should not be by members of Parliament as such, but by workers in the particular industries concerned. I cannot claim, like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) to know everything about every industry. . I can speak only for my own industry. What I am suggesting is that, for instance, if the Government decide to establish a - Wool ‘ Board they should see that the two interests of the employer and the employee axe equally represented on the Board.
Mr.Fenton. - There should be a representative of those who wear the wool on the Board also.
– I shall come to that later. If a Wool Board is established there should be on it a representative of the shearers, as well as of the pastoralists. If that were done all details connected with the working of the industry would have consideration, and friction would be removed. All that the pastoralist knows of the industry is how to collect dividends and inflate the price of wool. If any of them are taken into the Arbitration Court and confronted with a man like Mr. Grayndler, when they are brought to the consideration of the details of the industry from which their profits are obtained, they are made to look like bally fools.
– The honorable member does not know much about the wool industry when he speaks like that.
– I have gained a good deal of knowledge by dearly-bought experience.
– I thought the honorable member said that he knew nothing about any industry but his own.
– Whilst the secretary of the Steamship Owners Federation may know how much freight should be charged, and how much space is required for storing a particular commodity, when a matter is brought before the Arbitration Court it is shown that the man who shovels the coal into the furnace and the man who stands for five or six hours at the steering wheel knows more of the practical working of the ship than does the man who is in control of a big shipping company.
– The Wool Board deals only with the sale of wool.
– I am afraid that my friends opposite have not read the Ministerial statement. It is the statement of their own side, and they ought to study it. Referring to the proposed establishment of a Council of Trade and Commerce, the statement says that it has been decided, amongst other things, to appoint business men as representatives of various industries. The idea is to establish Boards that are to control the various industries.
-The honorable member would not come in.
– I do not say that I should be a member of one of these Boards. What I do say is that the’ workers should have direct representation thereon. With me the interests of the country come first. The Government propose the organization of industry, and I am strictly in earnest when I say that if they want harmony in an industry I have suggested the only way in which they can secure it. Some time ago, in connexion with the coal-mining industry, the Government appointed a Coal Board, which, as constituted, was an absolute farce. All these Boards, as at present constituted, are absolute farces. On the Coal Board there was, first of all, a representative of the Colliery Owners Federation, then a representative of the ship-owners, and a third representative, an admiral or something, that took part in the war. The least said about that gentleman the better for all concerned. Apart from Captain Glossop, the other two members of the Board had been running the industry from the start. I fail to see how the public can expect to gain any advantage by trade organization if the various industries are to be handed over to Boards composed of those who have always controlled them. In its turn, the Coal Board was controlled by the Shipping Board; but the Shipping Board was not composed of hard-working seamen, but of representatives of the shipping interests. Admiral Clarkson, C.M.G., is the chairman of the Shipping Board, and let me say that a naval man knows as much about the running of the mercantile marine as a pig does about an aeroplane. However, simply because he was an admiral of the Royal Navy, this gentleman was appointed controller of the mercantile marine.
– It is strange that the practical men on the Board should have elected Admiral Clarkson as their chairman.
– Of course, he is a C.M.G. “In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king,” and it pays sometimes, when you have an object in view, to put a duffer into the position of chairman, and let him take the blame for any trouble that may arise. That applies as far as the Shipping Board is concerned. The personnel includes Edward Owen Cox, managing director of Birt and Company, Limited, chairman of the Overseas Committee and chairman of the Overseas Shipping Representatives’ Association. I do not think there is any more capable man, so far as shipping interests are concerned. He has more qualifications than Admiral Clarkson for the job; but put him on board a man-of-war and he would be as much astray there as Admiral Clarkson would be on a merchantman. There is also Colonel Oldershaw, of the Prime Minister’s Department. I do not know much about that gentleman. Then there is Mr. Gordon Wesche, a partner in the firm of McDonald, Hamilton and Company, agents for the Peninsular and Oriental line, and formerly superintendent in Australia for that line of steamers. He is another man possessing vast experience, and knowing shipping from A to Z. Also there are Mr. C. M. Newman, managing director of Australian Steam-ships Limited; Mr. D. Hunter, managing director of Mcllwraith, McEacharn Limited; Mr. W. J. Young, of Elder Smith and Company, of Adelaide; Mr. A. Bright, of Gibbs, Bright and Company; Mr. M. Brodie, managing director of James Sanderson and Company; and Mr. B. A. Eva, manager of the Commonwealth fleet of steamers. Those gentlemen are conversant with their business. They know all about running ships.
– Is not Mr. Guthrie on the Board?
– No; his name is not here. They appointed him later, as a bit of a blind. He came in under a later regulation, some two or three months ago.
– He was appointed long ago.
– No; this was the new Board. The point is that a Board has been created. I am not taking exception to it as it is at present constituted, but why should the Government gull the people into believing that they are doing something towards conducting this industry?
– With regard to Mr. Guthrie, he was on the first Board.
– That is right, but this is a new Board. Mr. Guthrie was left off, and then was put on again. I have nothing to say against the business capabilities of the gentlemen, or of those upon any Board which’ the Government have created. I admit, in fact, that they have all the necessary business capacity. But I want to know why the Government try this camouflage on the public. Why should the Ministry lead them to believe that they are protecting industries when, all the time, the people who have been always exploting the country, are continuing to do so ? Why not ofganize the industries upon legitimate lines? The Government should appoint one or two practical ship-owners, who know all about the business, and a representative from the workers, together with a responsible official - a member of the Government - to control the industry in the best interests of the people.
– You want to nationalize.
– Then why issue regulations saying that the Government have created bodies when they have merely passed the industries concerned into th’/ hands of those who have always controlled them. Take the Wool Board, or the Shipping Board, or any of the Boards. Let us picture one of them sitting in committee. The Government representative comes along, inquiring, “ What have you done this morning ?” The men who know the business, and have always controlled it, reply, “ We have decided to increase freights” by £1.” The Government man then asks why. The experts are able to show a legitimate reason or excuse, and that is accepted. The fact is that these people are running the Government, and iti is not a case of the Government running the industry. The Government are not representing the people of Australia. The Commonwealth is being run by business interests outside of the Government. Then why do the Government say, “ We are prepared to organize industries and to run them on economic lines, thus saving endless expense to the people” ?
– You do not speak like that concerning the wool industry.
– The Wool Board is no more right than the Coal Board, or the Shipping Board, or any other Board. The whole idea is a swindle; the business interests have got us in the hollow of their hands, and are exploiting the country for all it is worth. That is the case in relation to every commodity they are handling. If the Government wish to do something for the best interests of the people, it is time they altered the personnel of the Boards, and created them upon a new basis. The only effective way to do that is to follow the example of Great Britain. If the Government are going to really take over the shipping industry, say, let them choose some such fully qualified gentleman as Mr. Hunter or Sir Owen Cox. Then let the Government appoint a representative of the workers, and, with a Minister of the Crown in control, we shall have the whole community in harmony, and the business managed properly and smoothly. Then, after the war, the industry concerned could be passed back into its natural channel. The workers, being directly represented, would feel that they were being brought into touch with the management of the industry; and if their representative were thus in a position to tell his unions that they were making certain demands which, owing to difficulties in the way were at present impracticable, the men would accept the situation, and so We would break down troubles such as exist to-day.
I promised the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) that I would give him a quotation from an editorial of Mr. Gompers. I quote from the American Federationist for May, 1917: -
For centuries Labour was a dumb giant serving masters. Labour is no longer dumb; it knows its rights and its indispensable service. The working people of all countries have hearts, aspirations, and loyalty that respond to the need of country. They are willing to give service - but should they be required to bear an unfair share of the burden? In giving- service, the working people give their bodies and their minds - flesh, blood, and spirit. They demand that the Government shall recognise the transcendent value of such service - that every other possession of the nation shall be held subordinate to men, women, and children. - They demand that those provisions protecting the health and life opportunity of the nation shall be the last sacrifices to national defence.
The workers are willing to give service - as free men with a right to representation in the agencies that control service. They demand representation for their interests and convictions in determining the finances of the war, the Board of Censors, food control, and all the forces that dominate life and opportunity.
The workers will give- service in the war for freedom and human rights. During the struggle they demand that their own rights and welfare shall not be filched from them, and they demand that they shall participate equally with all other citizens in determining the mobilization’ of the nation for effective service. ifr. Wallace.
That is all we ask in Australia. Yet you say that Mr. Gompers is loyal, but that we are disloyal. All we are asking at the hands of the Government is that we shall receive a fair deal. I must say that the Minister representing the Naval Department, in an interview this morning, practically conceded certain points, and I am indebted to the Government for those concessions. If they are carried out in their entirety, I am satisfied that good feeling will be restored in. the community. That is all we are asking.’ I shall read now an extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Justice Higgins at the Millions Club, in Sydney, with reference to this subject, and I think honorable members will agree that, by reason of his great knowledge of the industrial laws of this country, and his close contact with the workers of Australia, he is in a position to judge of their needs. Mr. Justice Higgins said -
What, after all, gentlemen, is that to which we direct all our legislation, all our administration, all our public institutions? It is the service and the benefit of human beings. When we talk of benefits to a country, we mean benefits to the people of that country; when we talk of benefits to a city, we mean to the people of that city. There is no asset so valuable as well nourished, healthy, sane, moral, intelligent men, women, and children. The best country is the country with the largest proportion of such persons.
That is all we are asking shall be brought about. The other day Mr. Beeby, speaking in Sydney on behalf of his Government, promised assistance to 1,000 starving men. We do not want the spectre of starvation to stalk through Australia., but, unfortunately, we have evidence of the existence of this condition of affairs in both Sydney and Melbourne. We and other countries are spending millions on war, for the purpose of murdering one another; but it is difficult to secure a few thousand pounds to supply the needs of the workers of this country. This condition of affairs should not be allowed to continue. While our interest may be centred on the other side of the world at the present moment, we should also give some attention to the condition of affairs in Australia. If the Government restore to the workers the conditions that had hitherto existed-, and provide occupation for our men, I am satisfied that the Australian worker will rise to the occasion. He has never yet been known to prove unworthy of his country, and, in spite of what has happened, he will prove worthy of it in the present crisis, if he is treated as an Australian, and not as a Chinaman.
– I rise principally to protest against the waste of time represented by this debate.
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order in referring to the debate as a waste of time.
– If that remark is disorderly, I withdraw it; but I protest against the fact that Parliament is giving consideration to the subject at present before the House, when the need of the hour is that we should be doing something to procure men for the relief of our men at the Front. I must confess that I am not one of those who hope for any tangible good to result from the recent Recruiting Conference at Government House.
– This is another factor for harmony.
– It is.We are asked to believe the professions of honorable members opposite that they desire harmony in the community. A conference was summoned, under the most solemn conditions, and honorable gentlemen from this House, and others who profess to represent the Democracy of Australia, but do not, attended, and agreed to certain resolutions, which, when carefully examined, mean practically nothing. Notwithstanding their professions of a desire for harmony, the first speech from the other side, after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had spoken, was that made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), every word of which, practically, was a protest against any recruits going from this country at all. We are also asked to believe that because the Government were wrong, because they had done certain things, recruiting had slumped, and that if they amended their ways, members on the other side would be able to help get recruits. I have never been able to believe, however, that there was any hope of co-operation from honorable members who speak in the same strain as the honorable member for Capricornia or the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). What was the meaning of the speech delivered by the latter? He said he revered as much as any man in this community the men who had sacrificed their lives and those who were prepared to do so at the Front, but because a certain individual occupied a high office in the Government he was prepared to allow our men to die for want of recruits rather than ask any men to go to their assistance.
– Did I say that?
– That is practically a summing up of what the honorable member said. He told us, in effect, that while the Prime Minister occupied his position in the Commonwealth Government, he would do nothing to get recruits for our men at the Front. That was the tenor of his remarks, as, indeed, it was the tenor of remarks made by other honorable members on the other side.
– It is a good job the speech is on record.
– I point out to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace), who quoted some remarks of Mr. Gompers, that there is a difference between the attitude of the Federation of Labour in America and that of those who to-day control what was the Labour movement in Australia, in that the Labour Federation of America, together with every other section of the American people, is furnishing its quota of men for the service of their country under a democratic form of compulsory service, and that it was in return for such service. Mr. Gompers asked that certain things shall foe done on behalf of men who are forced to go abroad to fight for the liberties they enjoy. I would remind the honorable member for West Sydney, therefore that under similar conditions he would have the same right to demand those concessions from the Government of this country. The difference between the Labour movement of Australia, as it is to-day; and the working class movement in every Allied country, is that the workers of every other part of the Empire and of the Allied nations, are doing their fair share in this war on the battlefield, and by reason of this service in defence of free institutions, they are entitled to demand that the privileges they enjoy shall be preserved for them. . People who talk of Eberty, but are not prepared to defend it when the time comes, cannot fairly claim any right to free institutions. Honorable members opposite declare that the workers of this country must be represented when great issues are being decided, and they talk as though they really represented the workers.
– The honorable member does not represent the workers.
– I represent one of the big working constituencies of the Commonwealth.
– But accidents will happen to any one.
– Accidents will happen, because we have seen how glib-tongued gentlemen, who have never done any labour in their lives, can get into Parliament on the backs of the working people. Unfortunately these accidents have happened with startling frequency in the past few years, with the result that at present the proportion of Labour representatives who can claim any apprenticeship in the ranks of manual workers is surprisingly small. Their claim to represent the working class community must, therefore, be examined very carefully before it is conceded. They occupy a position quite different from that of those who were associated with the Labour movement at a time when any connexion with it involved a risk of one’s livelihood.
– Where was the honor-‘ able member then?
– I was doing what all the leaders of the Labour movement in those days had to do - suffering for my association with it. I have had a rather different experience of the Labour movement from that of some honorable members who most glibly proclaim that they represent the workers of this country, while affirming that other people do not. I say that in many cases honorable members upon this side of the chamber represent more accurately than do honorable members opposite the real aspirations of the Labour movement. I have seen nothing in Australia more tyrannical than the bludgeoning that was resorted to by the bosses of the various Labour organizations for the purpose - of closing the mouths of Labour men who were in favour of the democratic form of compulsory military service at the time of the first referendum.
– The honorable member always used to be attempting to wield the bludgeon.
– I have seen nothing in Australia to equal the tyranny of the methods that were adopted by some of the organizations associated with the Lavour movement in their endeavour to prevent men saying what they believed to be true in regard to the responsibilities of the Democracy of that time.
– That is what tlie honorable member used to say of Mr. Holman.
– I have no desire to bandy words over trivialities. But when it is suggested that the Government should make certain concessions in order to obtain the necessary reinforcements for our men at the Front I would point out that the need for recruits is not one which has grown since the railway strike occurred in New South Wales, or since the split took place in the Labour movement. It was the need for reinforcements which impelled the Prime Minister to take the first referendum upon this question; it was because our people were not answering the call for adequate reinforcements in the way they should have done. The suggestion that the failure of recruiting is due to industrial troubles, to what the Prime Minister has done during the recent months, or to the treatment to which unionists have been subjected, is so much idle pretence. The need for men was urgent long before these matters arose. We are not facing to-day the most vital problem of the moment, namely,how we are to get the requisite men. I cannot bring myself to believe that there, is any considerable number of .honorable members on this side of the chamber who imagine that we will get a sufficiency of. recruits even if we concede everything that is asked of us by honorable members opposite. Personally, I cannot see any prospect of our being able to send sufficient reinforcements to the Front this year. Yet to me that is the one thing which* is of vital importance. It is of supreme importance that the men who are now .fighting for the free institutions which we enjoy should not be left to perish for lack of assistance, merely because we have not the courage to do the one thing that is necessary - the one thing which has served to provide the requisite reinforcements in all other belligerent countries. While we steadfastly refuse to take the one step that is necessary, all the troubles put forward by honorable members opposite to account for the failure of recruiting are merely vain pretences, and the worst feature of the whole business is that while we are talking and wrangling here the men are dying there for want of the aid which we decline to send them.
– I do not intend to follow the line of argument which has been adopted by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. If there are many speeches delivered in this chamber like that which he has just delivered, recruiting will not be aided very much, and beneficial results cannot be expected to flow from the Conference which was recently held at the Federal Government House. I entirely disagree with the honorable member when he says that the shortage of recruits arose before the split in the Labour party occurred. If he will take the trouble to look up statistics, he will find that prior to that split more men were enlisting than were actually needed, and even up to the time of the second referendum the Minister for Defence stated that we had a reserve upon which we could draw, and which was sufficient to provide us with ample reinforcements. Honorable members upon this ‘ side of the chamber are equally anxious with Ministerial supporters to reinforce the gallant boys who are fighting at the Front, and it ill-be-“ comes any honorable member to say that we are doing nothing in that connexion. I venture to affirm that the position today in regard to recruiting was brought about by the split in the Labour movement at the time of which I speak. Since then a feeling of resentment has been engendered in working men’s quarters throughout Australia by reason of the action of the Government of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth Government in inflicting upon this country a strike, which they could have avoided, at a time when we were urgently in need of recruits. The railways of New South Wales have been operated for years without any card system, and the introduction of that system might well have been allowed to stand over until after the termination of the war. Upon the occasion in question the Commonwealth Government refused to discharge its duty by telling the Government of New South Wales that it would manage the dispute with the railway employees, and that it would not permit one State to hold up the industries of the Commonwealth. Quite recently in this House, I pointed out that we required to create an “ atmosphere “ if we wished to assist recruiting. I am sorry that a speech like that delivered by the honorable member for Illawarra should have been made here, because it is not one which is calculated to assist recruiting. I was hopeful that the deliberations of the Conference which was recently held at Government House between the representatives of the various political parties in the Commonwealth would result in some good. I still believe that if things are handled judiciously beneficial results will accrue. I am sorry that Mr. Beeby has seen fit in to-day’s newspapers to qualify any arrangement which was arrived at by the Conference. Let Mr. Beeby and Mr. Holman do what is right, and not ask the workers to do so-and-so. Let them say, “ In order to bring about a better feeling in the community we are prepared to allow bygones to be bygones. . We are prepared to see that all employees who were displaced as the result of recent industrial troubles are set to work in the various industries. Let us bury the hatchet and reinstate those men who have suffered loss of employment consequent upon the railway strike.” Let them say to the employers,’ “ You must no i longer victimize a man who was formerly in your employ. He must be reinstated.” We shall then get many more recruits than are offering at the present time. Those who are accustomed to move about amongst the constituencies of working men know well enough the feeling of dissatisfaction which exists there.
But I wish to deal more particularly with the question to which reference was made by the honorable member for West Sydney. In the appointment of Boards, consideration should be given, not only to persons having vested interests in the industries to be affected, but also to the workers in those industries, who should receive equal representation with the employers. A number of Boards have been appointed whose members are wholly representatives of the employers and owners. That is true of the Wool Board, the Shipping Board, the Coal Board, and others. But can the community expect to receive fair play from a Board on which only one side is represented? Although there has been a great outcry against the high cost of living, the cost of living is getting higher. The prices of some com- tnoditi.es are regulated by Boards, butthe workers have no voice in this matter, though they suffer most from the increases. Until they are given equal representation with other sections of the community, we must expect dissatisfaction. To-day the rich are growing richer, notwithstanding the war, and the poor are getting poorer. This is because of the manipulation of interested individuals. The honorable member for West Sydney referred to the increase in the price of woollen goods. Let me draw the attention of honorable members to the position of a pastoralist referred to in the Bulletin in March last. Mr. Bracknell, a station owner near Inverell, New South Wales, with a holding of 24,000 acres, formerly carried on an average 20,000 ewes and from 50 to 100 head of cattle. Ten years before the war, his wool sold at from 12¾d. to 13¼d. per lb. In 1914 the clip was worth 14½d., and in 1915 18½d. In 1916 the price rose to 22½d. In that year he had 20, ewes, with 11,000 lambs at foot, the average yield of wool being 10 lbs.,, and the price he received for it £16,000. This breeder says that his sheep pay all. expenses, what he gets from his wool being clear profit. Is it fair to allow any man tomake £16,000 a year at a time like this ? If the price of wool is high because of the demand for it from the Allies, the community, and not particular individuals, should get the advantage.
– The Labour Government missed its chance there.
– I admit it. There would have been nothing to complain of had we allowed every one to manage his own affairs, but requiring everything beyond a certain income to be paid into the Treasury for war purposes. I think that everything above £400 a year should, at the beginning of the war. have been paid into the Treasury. There would then have been none of the heaping-up of bank accounts which has taken place.
– The adoption of the honorable member’s proposal would have smashed nearly every industry in the country.
– No, it would not. If those who were carrying on certain industries had not been prepared to continue to carry them on under the conditions which I would have prescribed, other persons would have been ready to take their places, and failing them, the Government would have carried on these industries, because the needs of the people must be met. We made a mistake in following the lines laid down by other countries on these matters. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) referred to the Shipping Board, of which Senator Guthrie is a member. It has power to appoint an Inter-State Board; but this, I understand, is not yet complete, because the Governments of New South Wales and Western Australia have not yet named their nominees - at all events, they had not done so a week ago. Those who have been nominated to the Inter-State Board are, like those who are on the principal Board, representatives of the shipping industry; not one of them is a representative of Labour. The Empire is now fighting with its back to the wall, and should make the best of every ton of shipping it possesses. The Board has, I believe, sent twenty-two boats off this coast, five others -are to follow, and perhaps more may go later. To that I take no exception. But I emphasize the statement that we should make the fullest use of all the vessels that we keep. Is the fullest use being made of them at present? From the information thathas been supplied to me, Idoubt it. The honorable member for West Sydney named the members of the Board that is dealing with the coal trade and regulating the loading and despatch of boats at the port of Newcastle. I am informed that, because of the existence of two unions since the last industrial trouble, there have been conflicts in connexion with the engagement of labour, and, as a result, boats have been delayed. I am told that those in authority - I do not know whether it is the local representative at Newcastle, or some one else, who is to blame - have refused to accept labour from the union which took part in the strike, giving preference to the so-called loyalists. These are some cases that have been furnished to me -
This vessel commenced loading about 7 a.m., and only worked until 10 p.m. with a singlegang. If she bad taken advantage of three cranes and extra men, she could have been finished about noon on Sunday, and would have been about thirty to forty hours further ahead. She recommenced loading at midnight on Sunday night, at the hydraulic cranes, which could have been avoided by the vessel being shifted to the electric cranes. This would, have saved the State Government a considerable amount, as the electric power-house which supplies powerfor the lighting of the dyke could have been used to load coal into the above vessel.
This vessel commenced loading about 6.30 a.m. The stevedores made application to the Port Hunter Stevedores’ Bureau for men to trim at 7 a.m., who were not available at the Bureau, and the vessel was allowed to work very slowly untl six man were procured from another vessel about 11 p.m. About twenty members of the union were available at the trimmers’ shed, but were refused employment on account of the employers refusing to sign them on their roster. These men are competent coal trimmers, and are denied employment for no cause whatever. If this labour had been taken advantage of,. this vessel would have been finished about 10 p.m. on Saturday night, and would have saved the payment of Sunday night rates, and she could have been ready for sea on Sunday morning, whereas she was not finished until 6 a.m. on Monday morning.
S.S. Period, last trip, waited on coal for About three hours, and the coal she was waiting for was being tipped at the Port Waratah heaps, where it is held in reserve by the Government.
About eight to ten hours is lost on every vessel each trip, through the system that has been recently established, by running up the hatches before engaging men to trim.
If vessels are delayed, ten, twelve, and twenty hours their carrying facilities are not being used to the fullest advantage. The Government should see that this does not continue. There are very many working people throughout the Commonwealth whose livelihood depends on the distribution of coal. The waterside workers are at present having a bad time, because there is little work for them to do. The families of some of them are practically starving, and the Government of New South Wales is setting apart money for their assistance. Many husbands have been unable to get work, except intermittently, since the last strike, because men not belonging to the old unions have received preference. This giving of preference interferes with the success of recruiting. The unionists are accustomed to the work, because they have been doing it all their lives, and they have families to support. You will have to discontinue the differentiation between men. There can be only one union. You cannot have antagonistic unions and give the members of one preference over the members of the other, the employers who control the shipping leaning to those who are against their fellow-unionists. Those who compose the Shipping Board are intrusted with the regulation of freights, but as they all are representatives of the shipping industry they say, “ We must have regard to the laws of supply and demand. As tonnage is scarce, and the loading that is offering is great, we are entitled to increased freights.” The increasing offreights makes living dearer, though it swells the banking account of those interested in shipping. Nothing has been done to prevent action of this kind. We are allowing those who possess the wealth of the countryto acquire more wealth at a time when our boys are risking their lives in the -defence of our liberties and property. We should face the position. Instead of allowing some persons to make money by the decisions of the Boards, we should appoint to these Boards representatives of every class to look after the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. There are in the Coal Employees’ Federation about 30,000 members, of whom about 9,000 live in Newcastle and Maitland. That organization should have a voice in the arrangement of matters vitally affecting its members. It should have representation on the Coal Board. At the present time, by reason of the shortage of tonnage, Western Australia is starving for coal; it cannot get sufficient from its own mines. South Australia is in the same position. At Broken Hill, industries are languishing for want of coal. In Victoria, factories are living from hand to mouth in the matter of coal supplies. This state of things is going to get worse. Whom does it affect ? The workers chiefly”. The waterside workers feel the pinch, because there is less work for them to do, and those employed in factories are feeling it because the factories cannot continue to employ all their hands. Furthermore, the miners who produce the coal have to work intermittently. The miners, like other classes of the community, are prepared to make sacrifices in a time of national danger, but they ask that all shall be put on the same footing, and equal sacrifices demanded of the whole community. The Government should see that the work in the coal trade is pooled, so that every man in a coal mining district may get a share of what there is to be done. If there is enough work to employ every miner in the district for eight days, let all be employed for that period. Do not let some work eleven days, and others two or three. With the present high cost of living, men cannot make . ends meet when their work is intermittent. No doubt, many of those who are employed regularly are prepared to contribute to help their less1 fortunate brothers, but at present some men are not working at all, having been victimized ever since last August. The Miners Union have contributed nearly £10,000 to keep the wives and children of these men from starving. The Government, however, should put an end to the present state of things. I believe that in Great Britain the workers have been given representation on the various Boards that have been appointed. Yesterday the Prime Minister told us that he had asked Labour representatives to attend conferences, and that they had refused to do so. I believe that the members of the Coal and Shale Miners’ Association would be prepared to send a representative to any conference, but they have not had’ an opportunity. It is not too late for the Government to recast their proposals, and to provide for the representation of the workers on these Boards.
To return again to the question of recruiting, I am very glad that there is a better feeling in the community, and I sincerely trust that it will grow. In addition to the obstacles to recruiting to which I have already referred, there are one or two to which attention might also be given. I am pleased that the Minister for Repatriation is endeavouring to provide for returned men. In too many cases, soldiers who have returned incapacitated have been allowed to go without payment of any kind after their discharge; but the Minister, I understand, is making arrangements to remove that grievance. There still remains another matter to which the Government might well give their attention. A man enlists, and before leaving for the Front allots portion of his pay to his wife or to other dependants. Subsequently, while abroad, he is granted furlough, and while on furlough finds it necessary to draw a sum in excess of what he has set apart for himself. Immediately that excess withdrawal is made, a message is sent to Australia to stop an equivalent sum from the payment to be made to his dependants here. The result is that a mother, or wife, or a sister, who has been relying on her fortnightly payments to meet her obligations, is placed in , a most unfortunate position. This should be avoided. The Commonwealth should try to arrive at some means of meeting the situation, even if the money required to keep up the payments to dependants here has to be taken out of the deferred pay coming to the man. It is utterly wrong that the dependant of any soldier at the Front should be left without means of support.
There is also the case of soldiers who return incapacitated, but are refused a pension on the ground that their incapacity did not arise in connexion with warlike operations. A man, after, perhaps, two years at the Front, returns home iri.; capacitated. He cannot follow his ordinary employment, and although he has a family dependent upon him, he is told that he is not entitled to a pension because his injury did not arise from warlike operations. Cases of this kind are being brought under my notice day after day, and I dare say that is the experience of honorable members generally.
– -Perhaps so. In November last, a married man, who had returned incapacitated from the Front, received his discharge; but, although he was unable to work, he received no military pay after his discharge, and was refused a pension on the ground that his incapacity had not resulted from warlike operations. He waited on me while I was at Cessnock last December, and I have been doing what I can to push his claim; but, so far, have not succeeded in obtaining a pension for him. He is unable to work, has no money behind him, and has a wife and small family to support. He was engaged in tunnelling work at Messines, and now that he has returned, can get no help from the Department. Incidents of this kind injure recruiting. Writing to me, he says, “My case is doing a lot of harm to recruiting in this district.” Every one knows of it, and such unfair treatment must interfere very seriously with recruiting. The Government should try to remedy grievances of this kind as soon as possible. I believe that the Honorary
Minister (Mr. Wise), who is now dealing with these matters, will make an earnest effort to remove such disabilities. . I know that he has made up his mind to do the best that he can in the position he occupies, and I have referred to this matter merely with the object of focussing public attention upon it, and to induce the new Minister to take steps to remedy it.
Another action on the part of the authorities which is also militating against recruiting is of an entirely different kind. Some time ago, a State War Council was appointed in each State, and that Council has the regulation of sport. In every country town, an annual sports meeting is held, and it has been the custom, in connexion with many such gatherings, to have one, or perhaps two, trotting events. No gambling is permitted in connexion with them, yet, although these are purely sports gatherings, trotting events in connexion with them are disallowed in New South Wales to-day.
– The matter is dealt with solely by the Defence Department. The State War Council has nothing to do with it.
– it can only say that the State Commandant is at the head of the controlling body. By way of illustration, I would point out that there is no better sports meeting in the northern districts of New South Wales than the St. Patrick’s Day’ sports at Maitland. This annual sports meeting is attendedby thousands; but the authorities have prohibited the two trotting events which were always associated with it. Wihile this is so, horse-racing goes on all over the Commonwealth. There is no interference with horse-racing meetings at which gambling is permitted ; but a trotting race,at a purely sports gathering, in connexion with which betting is not allowed, is prohibited. Those who are interested in these sports meetings are naturally soured by such restrictions. They feel it is unfair they should be denied the right to have a couple of trotting events in their programme while horse-race meetings are permitted. Numerous applications have been made to me to secure permission for one or two trotting events at a sports meeting, but all such applications have been turned down by the authorities. This sort of thing does not help recruiting. It does not help us to win the war. It merely gives rise to ill-feeling in the community. Is there any necessity for it? When it was decided that horse-racing should be regu lated for the period of the war, a specific number of meetings was allowed every racing club in the Commonwealth; but, trotting having been classified as racing, all” trotting events are disallowed at sports gatherings. A high jump for horses is permitted, but I dare say we shall hear presently that even that has been disallowed. Representatives of rural electorates know that I am correct in saying that this kind of thing does not help recruiting.
In conclusion, I have to express the hope that the Government of New South Wales will not indorse the statement made by Mr. Beeby, and published to-day. Let the State Government restore the workers to their former position, and, having done so, let them appeal to the manhood of the country to help on the recruiting movement. In such circumstances, I am confident that they will secure good results. If, on the other hand, we are to have all sorts of conditions imposed - if we are to have “ ifs “ and “ ifs “ - we shall not make much progress. I doubt whether it is right to have these sectional meetings ‘as between State Governments and unionists or employers. The matter is one that should be dealt with by the Commonwealth, since it affects the whole of Australia. In time of war, purely State interests should be subordinated to those of the Commonwealth. We have to safeguard the interests ofthe nation, and to do our best to prosecute the war to a successful issue. We are all anxious to do that, and when any State takes such action as is calculated to injure recruiting, the Commonwealth should assert its position. There is no limit to our power in time of war.
-Some honorable members say that we have too much power under the War Precautions Act.
– There is sucha thingas an abuse of power; but I say unhesitatingly that the control of all matters affecting the war should be undertaken by the Commonwealth. If the Government rise to the occasion, they will do what I have urged. I certainly hope that the State Government of New South Wales will do nothing to retard recruiting. I am anxious to see a better feeling prevailing in the community ; and, while I do not think we can secure an unlimited number of recruits, I certainly do believe- that we could obtain considerably more than we are getting at present. There is a limit to our man-power resources. In dealing with this phase of the question, we must have regard, not only to our total population, but to the number of men who have already enlisted, and to the number who have volunteered and have been rejected. If that be done, it will be found that the field for recruiting is not as large as many imagine it to be. If we have a united effort and a better political and industrial atmosphere, we should be able, however, to obtain a considerably greater number of recruits than are at present offering. That should be our aim. If the Government will do the right thing - if they will remove the disabilities under which the workers are labouring as the result of industrial troubles and political splits - I shall do the very best I can to help recruiting, just as I did before this trouble happened. “With things as they are one has no hope of success on the recruiting platform; but once the necessary atmosphere is created I am confident that the manhood of Australia, recognising that we are fighting for our very existence, will readily respond to the call to help their brethren on the other side who are taking all risks in the defence of our lives, our liberty, and our homes.
.- -I am’ sure that we all have listened with interest to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), than whom there is no more earnest man in this House. I heartily agree with his closing remarks, and am sure we all feel that whether the disabilities to which he has referred be removed or not he will continue to do his duty in the matter of recruiting. We know that”” he is behind the Empire and the flag, and has already made a great sacrifice in allowing his son to go to the Front. Much that the honorable member has said in regard to horse-racing applies with particular force to my own electorate. I do not hold a brief for horse or pony racing. As a matter of fact, I have attended only two such meetings in my life. But when we find that fortyeight trotting and pony race meetings are permitted in Sydney every year it is difficult to understand why people in the western districts of New South Wales, as well as in other rural electorates, should be denied the right to have one or two trotting events at a sports meeting. I was approached the other day by the secretary of the Forbes Racing Club! on behalf of the Bathurst, Cowra, Canowindra, Forbes, ‘and other racing clubs, who desire to hold one meeting per annum. Application was made for the necessary permission, but was absolutely refused. If horse-racing retards recruiting, then it would be a good thing to stop it altogether, but since forty-eight trotting and pony race meetings are permitted in the metropolis of Sydney every year - and I daresay the proportion is the same in Melbourne - there is no reason why residents of country districts should not have some consideration in that respect. We desire to focus all our efforts and bend all our energies in the one direction of winning the war; but this differential treatment of town and country residents militates against successful recruiting.
The honorable member for Hunter said that a resident of Inverell had this year made a profit of £16,000 owing to the increased price of wool. In September last I asked Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, what was the increased profits made since the war by the pastoralists of Australia in respect of their wool. I desired the information in connexion with a speech that I proposed to deliver on the War-times Profits Bill, and the reply I received was that the increased amount for the whole Commonwealth was only £350,000. That amount has to be divided amongst all the pastoralists of Australia.
– There must be some mistake.
– I admit that the price of wool per lb. has increased tremendously, but we must not overlook the effect of Mr. Fisher’s “ little drought,” which was really the biggest ever known, and which has led to a great shortage of sheep in Australia. That was exactly the statement I received and made in the House, as honorable members will see if they look up Hansard.
– What year was that for?
– Last year, just before I came into the House to address it on the question of war-time profits.
– I take more notice of an individual statement like that quoted by the honorable member for Hunter, coming from the man himself, who said he made those profits.
– I am willing, to admit that there are individual cases, but if honorable members will -go around the Western district, particularly around Hillston, they will find la great many properties practically unstocked. Hundreds of squatters and graziers are paying the Government rent, and so forth, and are not nearly so prosperous as they were before the war broke out.
– Some of them have not found their feet yet.
– They have not. If the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) was a banker, and could get the confidential ear of some of the squatters, I am sure he would tell a different story in the House. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), because I believe he wants to do his best to bring the different factions in the House together. We should get together. We hear a great deal from some honorable members of the Opposition about the tears which the Prime Minister shed when addressing a meeting on a certain occasion. I am sure that not only the Prime Minister, but hundreds of right-thinking people in the Commonwealth must shed tears of sorrow when they read the Hansard reports of the proceedings of the House. We address each other as if we were in a pot-house. While the war lasts we should drop these differences, and bend our energies to the devising of some scheme by which the National Government, to which the people of Australia ‘look for a lead, may do everything possible in the interests of this country, which is now in jeopardy.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) said yesterday that as the most important question of war policy submitted by lie Government to the people had been twice turned down, no one could say that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy represented Australian public opinion to-day. The honorable member should remember that the first referendum took place in October, 1916. Only six months afterwards we went to the country as the result of that referendum, and were returned by an overwhelming majority. How, then, can the honorable member say that because two referendums were turned down against us we do not possess the confidence of the people f
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said that on the second referendum 1,200,000 votes were cast for his side, and about 1,000,000 votes for us. Does he claim that all the “ No “ votes were Labour votes ?
– Of course, we do.
– In my electorate during the campaign Mr. McGirr, State member for Yass, said to the people, “Do not consider this question from a party point of view. It is a purely national question. Whether you are Labour or Nationalist, strip all considerations of party from your minds, and vote on this question purely on national grounds.” Surely the honorable member for Capricornia does not include the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) among the Labour voters on the “ No “ side? The honorable member for Werriwa was an anti-conscriptionist, and took the platform against conscription, but certainly he was not advocating the Labour cause on that occasion. I object to the utterly hollow sham, hypocrisy, and inconsistency of the statements of s the honorable member for Capricornia.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that his party would not be represented at the Imperial Conference. Whom would he send if he did not send the Prime Minister and his assistant? New Zealand has sent its Prime Minister and the previous Leader of the Opposition, who is working in harmony with him. Canada has sent representative men who are not members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government goes in every case. When the Leader of the Opposition was sitting on this side of the House and his Government sent the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) to England, were we represented at all? Was any word then said about our not being represented. The Leader of the Opposition also urged that the House should have met, and that the different claims which Australia had to make at the Conference should have been set out in the House. When the honorable member for Bendigo went to England before, were the Australian claims discussed in the House? No, they were never mentioned. The Prime Minister has not gone to the Conference on his own initiative, nor has the Minister for the Navy. They received a pressing invitation. Cablegrams came on two occasions pressing them to go to England to represent Australia there as Australia should be rep resented .
– Did you ever see the cable ?
– No; but does the honorable member think we should not be represented?
– No; I say we should be.
– The honorable member might fairly assume that we were invited. If he will wait patiently and watch developments, I think he will find that there will be present at the Conference representatives from all the Dominions. We have a right to be represented there also. Why is the Leader of the Opposition not represented? It was not my fault. That high-minded man, the late lamented Dr. Carty Salmon and myself, at a meeting of the Liberal party, proposed that, in addition to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition should be asked to come in with us, bury the hatchet, and form a, truly National Government.
– Not to form, but to join.
– To form a Fusion Government, and to have representatives in that Government in proportion to the number of hia supporters. That was a fair proposition to make. The olive branch was. extended to the Leader of the Opposition, and the gentlemen sitting behind him. Instead of accepting it as patriotic, loyal citizens of the Empire, they turned it down with contempt. If the Leader of the Opposition is not represented at the Conference, the blame lies with the gentlemen on the opposite side, and not with us. Only the other day in the House both the Prime Minister and theMinister for the Navy repeated that invitation te the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister said we had to adopt the National party platform. Do you think I would subscribe to the bachelor tax?
– The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have gone’ home to the everlasting credit of, and in the interests of, Australia and the Empire. Only a few weeks ago both of them stated in the House that if they were in the way they would gladly re sign their positions and make way for somebody else.
– But tne Prime Minister “faked” Hansard after that.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Yarra to withdraw the statement that the Prime Minister “faked” Hansard.
– I will withdraw “faked” and substitute “altered.” I said in the House at the time, and it is absolutely true, that the Prime Minister altered Hansard on that occasion.
– He altered Hansard.
– That is what I said.
– What is the difference?
– I withdraw the word “ faked.”
– Australia should be represented at the Conference. After the last Conference the suggestion was made that the islands in the Pacific and other German colonies should be returned to Germany. I set my face against that proposition. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) also suggested the same thing, and I believe many honorable members on the Opposition side are behind him. For the future safety of Australia, not only would I hold on to those possessions, but the object of every true Australian should be to use all his energies and influence to have the various islands in the Pacific south of the equator brought under the suzerainty and control of Australia.
– If it is going to cost thousands of lives, is it worth it?
– It cannot possibly cost thousands of lives. In any case; we know that Germany is out to win the war, and to crush every country opposed to her.
I urge the Government to consider seriously the advisability of amending the electoral law, soas to introduce preferential voting for the House of Representatives. There cannot fairly be any opposition to that proposal, because the system of preferential voting is adopted for selection purposes in all our leagues, whether Labour or National. If it is right in that case, it is equally right to apply the same principle to elections for the House of Representatives.
– I maintain that it will be a move in the right direction. It will certainly go a long way towards doing away with machine politics. Under present conditions, no one who does not belong to a National or Labour association has the slightest chance at the polls. An election is pending for Flinders, in Victoria. There is a Labour nominee, a National nominee, and a Farmers Union candidate.
– Do you object to the Farmers Union being represented?
– Not at all. I want to give those men a chance to send in a representative. The only chance for them to get a mau iu is to adopt preferential voting. I am putting up a fight for them.
– We are the friends of the farmers.
– Then why does not the honorable member support the proposal for preferential voting, and thus give the farmers a chance of returning a representative to this House against a Labour man? At the last election for the Flinders electorate, Sir William Irvine received a majority of 6,000 votes. I do not know the actual number of votes polled, but let us suppose there are 30,000 voters at the forthcoming by-election for the same electorate. If three gentlemen go to the poll the Labour candidate will probably secure 12,000 votes, and be returned, while his two opponents will divide 18,000 votes between them. With preferential voting, this would be of no consequence, because there would still be a possibility of the contingent votes being cast in such a way as to return a member supporting this party.
– Has the preferential system of voting been a success anywhere?
– I have never known it to be a failure.
– Where has it been a success?
– In Victoria.
– All I know is that it has been a success in the Labour leagues, and if the Government were to bring in a Bill to establish preferential voting for the House of Representatives, and proporvtional voting for the Senate, they would be doing something of advantage to Australia.
The other day, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) said that I was a coward and a hypocrite, and that I simply asked questions in the interests of the farmers, but did practically nothing for them. I want to tell the honorable member that, on the very morning of the day on which he made this statement, I had been round to the various Departments, and had secured a promise of 3,500 bales of cornsacks for the Farmers and Settlers Co-operative Society of New South Wales. That is only one little thing that I have done for the farmers. Day and night I am working for their interests. Possibly the honorable member was still in bed when I was round in the Departments that morning. We farmers get up early and do things.
– “ We farmers !”
– I have been farming since 1900. We ought to look after the interests of the primary producers. I will not use the hackneyed expression that they are the backbone of the country ; but I do maintain that they are the ballast of the country, and that if Australia is kept on an even keel, it will be owing to their efforts. The Commonwealth Government should take a leaf out of the policy of the New South Wales Government, who have guaranteed to the farmers a payment of 4s. per bushel, cash on delivery at the railway station, for the 1918, 1919, and 1920 wheat crops.
– Where are they going to get the money?
– That is their business.
– Why should not the Commonwealth Government do it?
– I agree with the honorable member. If it is possible for the State Government to do this, why should it not be possible for the Commonwealth Government to follow in their footsteps?
– I do not know that the State Government can do it. They may make the offer.
– They can do a lot of things if they make up their minds to do them. One suggestion is that they should issue notes redeemable when the wheat is delivered to the purchaser.
Lord Forrest. - They cannot issue notes.
– They can do many things if they only try to do them. I would point out to the ex-Treasurer that the whole of the money advanced against wheat remains in Australia, and is still in circulation among the people. If a farmer is given £500 to-day, it is placed in his bank within twenty-four hours, to be handed out to others immediately.
Lord Forrest. - If the Commonwealth Government did it for the wheat-growers, they would have to do it for other producers.
– The other producers are paid immediately on the sale of their commodities, whereas, unfortunately, the wheat-grower is hung up in regard to his payments. We were told by the Governments, State and Federal, which established the Wheat Pool for the 1915-16 crop, that the last shilling for that crop would be paid by November, 1916; but we have not been fully paid yet. In New South Wales3½d. per bushel remains unpaid, in Victoria 4d. perbushel, and in . South Australia not so much.
– Will the honorable member submit a motion calling upon the Government to pay that balance?
– I am quite willing to give notice of motion to that effect, or to support any honorable member who does so. One thing about the offer made by the New South Wales Government is the definite promise to pay 4s. per bushel aash on delivery. The farmers have received only 3s. per bushel for last year’s crop. Every penny of that 3s. is eaten up in expenses. It is the last shilling that counts to the farmer.
– And a good deal of that is already ear-marked to the storekeepers in payment of excessive rates of interest.
– The 3s. has gone long ago. It is out of the last shilling that the farmer pays for the necessities of life.
The other day I read an article in which it was stated that the Argentine Government , had agreed to pay the farmers in the Argentine Republic 8s. per bushel, spot cash, for their wheat, and that they had entered into an agreement with Great Britain to ship it at that price.
– What is the difference in freight?
– That question does not enter into the matter. The wheat is stacked in the Argentine Republic, just as it is stacked here, and at any time
Great Britain cares to take it, she can ship it away on payment of 8s. per bushel.
– Is it a fair price?
– It is too high. It is robbing the Allies.
– I do not propose to enter into any argument in regard to the matter. I am simply telling honorable members what is done. The question of freight does not enter into consideration, because the Argentine farmers are paid Ss. per bushel on the ground. Great Britain will take the wheat at that price.
– Has not Great Britain three years in which to pay for it, and is it not working off an old debt!
– The farmersare getting cash «n delivery. If it is possible for the Argentine Republic to finance its farmers in this way, why cannot the Commonwealth Government do the same? Something should be done to keep industries moving. I have nothing to quibble at, so faT as the State of New South Wales isconcerned. The farmers there are fairly satisfied at the proposal to pay 4s. spot cash.
Lord Forrest. - Is that the law ?
– The Government have announced that they will make this payment, and the National party have agreed to it.
– Are the farmers of New South Wales satisfied with the 4s. perbushel, when people in other countries are being paid 8s. ?
-The freight on Australian wheat is £7 10s. per ton. If that is added to the 4s. per bushel, it will be seen that, by the time our wheat reaches the Old Country, the price is a fair one.
– What does it amount to?
– I cannot tell the honorable member at the moment. I would be pleased if he would make the calculation for me.
-Freight to San Francisco is about ls. 6d. per bushel; yet the price of wheat is 10s. 7d. per bushel there.
– I am diametrically opposed to the suggestion made by the Government that the Inter-State Commission should fix the price of beef and mutton in Australia. If Ministers are anxious to burst up the pastoral and grazing industries, let them carry out their suggestion. They could do it in no better way. A little while ago the Minister for Lands in the State of New South Wales suggested that people should cease to grow wheat, because it did not pay them, and take up grazing. Many farmers in that State took the hint, and sold their farming implements, in order to put the proceeds of the sales into sheep and cattle - in the Wyalong district there were as many as eighteen auction sales of implements in one week - but as soon as they had done so, the Federal Government came forward with the suggestion that the price of beef and mutton should be reduced by 2d. per lb. - to the export price of Queensland meat. Since the drought the only State which has been exporting meat is Queensland. In the other States the demand has been so great that there has been no meat available for export. Queensland does not provide fair criterions. In that State, bullocks can be fattened on land that costs £10 an acre, whereas in New South Wales the necessary land costs £30, so that something like three times the amount of money has to be invested to obtain the same result.
– Why do the New South Wales graziers not go to Queensland?
– I quite agree with the view of the honorable member, for there is no place to which I would sooner go than the central districts of Queensland.
– Is the slaughter of young stock going on now 1
– Something should be done in that connexion, and it is only a matter of organization. In the south coast districts of New South Wales young calves were being knocked on the head - at any rate, that was so very recently - and if the Bureau of Science could devote its energies in this direction, something might be done to secure the rearing of young stock to maturity.,
A great many people are of the opinion that the high price of cattle and sheep is owing to a ring of graziers or combine. I have been interested in grazing for some time, and I am intimately acquainted with a great many graziers; and I never heard of a single’ case of the price being fixed by them. We send our stock to Homebush, or some other market, where it is knocked down to the highest bidder. If there is anything we have nothing to do with, it is the fixing of prices.
– Are there not sometimes five profits, and high commissions, on one line of cattle?
– I am now dealing with the fat-stock market. At a sale of store cattle in my electorate, I noticed some bullocks from Queensland being sold at £14 and £16 a head. This is a big price for store cattle; and if the price of beef be reduced by 2d., the graziers who purchase them will, - in six months, have to sell them at a loss.
– Is it not rather a matter of the middleman ?
– The honorable member is quite right. Unfortunately, the beef trade of New South Wales is in the hands of about six carcass butchers in Sydney, who really control prices. Why should the producers be penalized because of the unfair dealing of these men?
– Should not the Government step in and settle the matter?
– If we desire cheap beef and mutton, we should not touch the graziers prejudicially, but encourage- them in every -way we can, so that they may breed up as in 1902, and so causa the price to quickly and automatically come down.
– Do you think it is impossible to fix the price of meat?
– Yes, without hitting the wrong man. If the honorable member can suggest any way in which the price can be reduced without affecting the men ‘to whom I refer, we shall certainly be pleased to hear what he has to say. At present we are in the throes of a drought, with the result that graziers have to send their stock into the market. There was no war in 1902, when we had what I suppose is the record drought of Australia. We then lost thousands of cattle and sheep, with the result that beef and muston rose to prohibitive prices, just as is happening at the present time; indeed, in my opinion, if there had been no war, beef and mutton would have attained the same high level.. I have some figures here showing the number and value of the sheep and cattle in Australia before the war as compared with the end of 1915.
– It is to be hoped they are not like the figures that you gave ia regard to the profits of the pastoralists.
– They are just as correct; and I advise honorable members to look up Knibbs, when they will see. that
I am speaking the truth. In 1913 there were in Australia sheep to the number of 78,600,334, whereas at the end of 1915- which are the latest figures - there were 69,257,189, or a shortage of 9,343,145. In other words, we had at the end of 1915 14 sheep per capita of population, as against 16 per capita before the war. In previous good seasons, as in 1875, there have been in some years as many as 20 sheep per capita; but if the population increases, and sheep decrease, of course the price must go up. As for cattle, in 1913 there were 11,483,882, whereas in 1915 there were 9,931,416, showing a shortage of 1,552,466. If the Government carry out their proposals, as suggested by the Chairman of the Inter-Stale Commission, it means, assuming the average weight of A beast at 480 lbs., a reduction of something like £4 a head, or a reduction in the aggregate value of £39,725,664. Assuming the conservative value of 30 lbs., or 5s. for sheep, the Government proposals will mean a reduction in the value of . £17,314,297. In other words, by a stroke of the pen the value of the assets of the graziers of Australia are reduced to the extent of £57,039,961.
– In reality, reducing the price, the value you refer to is transferred from the producer to the consumer?
– That is it exactly. I have every sympathy with the poor, who like to get their food cheaply; but when we consider him, we must remember the wealthy people, lawyers and others in our great cities, who drive about in their motor cars, and to whom we are giving cheap meat at the expense of the producers of Australia.
The working classes are, I think, amply protected. I have never heard of a case before the Arbitration Court, or a Wages Board, in which the first plea was not that increased wages were necessary because of the high cost of living, and the first item always quoted is meat. Ifthe increased price of beef and mutton is covered by increased wages, I submit that the interests of the working classes are protected; and I cannot see where their argument for lower prices comes in. In no country in the world, unless it be South Africa, do the people enjoy such cheap beef and mutton as is enjoyed in Austra lia to-day, and nowhereare wages so high. I am not saying anything against this state of affairs, because I am pleased to see beef and mutton so cheap; but why should we make it cheaper if in doing so we penalize a useful section of the community ?
– Surely you do not desire that the consumer should pay more?
– I have no such intention or desire Only the other day I attended a market in my electorate where fat cattle were being sold at the rate of £2 10s. the 100 lbs. The butchers who bought these cattle and slaughtered them sold the meat at something like ls. per lb. The man who grows cattle has to fatten them for, say, four years, find the grass, pay rent, and face drought and other disabilities, and he receives only 6d. per lb. for the stock on its legs; whereas the butcher, in one week, makes a profit of 6d. per lb.
– Is ls. a lb. a fair price for the meat?
– Certainly not to the graziers.
– Do you think it is the middleman who causes the prices to go up?
– Certainly; I have already said that in New South Wales the market is in the hands of six carcass butchers in Sydney, who put on any prices they like.
– Why not tell the butchers in Orange that they are robbiug the people?
– I am not quite sure who it is that is robbing the people, but the butchers referred to can be found in the honorable member’s electorate. I do not say anything against the butchers,because when prices are affected in Sydney by the carcass butchers the retail prices have naturally to come up to the same level. The source of the whole trouble is in the metropolitan centres.
Lord Forrest. - I never knew a country butcher make any money.
– Possibly some country butchers may experience bad debts, and so forth ; but the butchers of whom I am now speaking are wealthy men.
I am not quite satisfied with the present constitution of the Arbitration Court. The Judge of that Court (Mr. Justice Higgins) was appointed for a term of seven years, and then his term was renewed for a further seven years. The work of the Court has developed to great dimensions, and very big issues are involved: A decision given by the Court the other day resulted in an increase of wages in one industry by £4,000,000. I do not wish to debate the rights and wrongs of that decision, but I think that too much power is vested in the hands of one man. Other tribunals which deal with questions of minor importance compared with those dealt with in the Arbitration Court comprise three men. In New South Wales the Land Boards and Land Appeal Courts have each a personnel of three, and the Appeal Court of the Supreme Court is composed of a bench of from three to seven Judges. Those Courts often deal with questions of quite minor importance, yet the Arbitration Court - the decisions of which sometimes involve millions of pounds - is controlled by one Judge.
– Where did the honorable member get his information regarding the £4,000,000?
– I am quoting The Worker, in which an appeal was made to the workers to organize, because, by an expenditure of £6,000 on arbitration proceedings, additional wages to the amount of £4,000,000 had been won.
– As a matter of fact, the amount will be greater.
– Instead of allowing one Judge to control the Arbitration Court we should have three Judges. I believe that the appointment of two other Judges would lead to greater satisfaction all round.
Mr.Ri chard Foster. - Would it not be better to have a practical man to represent each side on the Bench?
– That is a good suggestion.
– How about appointing two. more like Judge Higgins?
– I do not think there are two more men in the world like him. Honorable members who play bowls know that there are certain bowls that have no bias, and others which are all bias, and hit “ kitty “ every time. The present Judge of the Arbitration Court is all bias, and every time he adjudicates he hits “kitty.”
.- I protest against the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy departing for England without giving us the slightest indication of the policy they have in mind in connexion with the Imperial Conference. According to the Melbourne press, those two gentlemen unfolded their programme and stated the nature of their mission at a meeting of the National party upstairs. This Parliament is entitled to know what is in the minds of any men who go to the Old Country to represent Australia. Without regard to the personnel of the mission, I claim that this Parliament has a right to know the viewsof any men who go to England in this crisis to represent the Commonwealth.
– Did the Prime Minister do that prior to his previous visit to England?
– This is not a party question. These two delegates represent not only their own party, but the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. This Parliament, elected by the people, has a right to know what policy our delegates are to put forward. I strongly object to the Prime Minister going to England without being bound in regard to the policy he is to advocate. I agree with those who say that the attitude of the Prime Minister at the Paris Economic Conference when he declared that we must, not only beat Germany to her knees, but also conduct an economic war against her subsequently, is one of the influences that has prolonged the war. If he repeats those speeches at the forthcoming Conference he will not be representing the views of the Australian people. There is a vast public opinion that we cannot beat Germany to her knees. I myself have reached that conclusion, much as I would like to defeat Germany. We must have regard to the facts. One fact is that we are confronted with a very big task, and I say it is not worth the sacrifice of human life involved to continue the war until we absolutely beat the Germans in order to regain the territory we have lost in Belgium and France.
– Is the honorable member aware that a member of his party has given notice of a motion which, if carried, ought to be an instruction to the Home Government to demand an indemnity of £300,000,000 for Australiaalone?
– I am not responsible for that. As members of the Labour party we have our individual views, but the only man who speaks for the party is the Leader, and Dr. Maloney is not our leader yet. As a party we are anxious to assist the Empire and our Allies to win the war speedily, if that is possible, and we are putting no obstacle in the way of the Government, so far as that is concerned. But any declaration that we intend to beat Germany to her knees and then conduct an economic war only strengthens the determination of the German people to fight to a finish. Men who go to London to represent the people of this country should not be loud-mouthed about what they intend to do in that direction. I believe that even Mr. Lloyd George has put before the German people opinions which have misled them as to our aims in this war. I read in the Scottish papers that because of his boastful speeches, from many of which he has had to back down, Mr. Lloyd George is not as popular as he was in Great Britain. Whilst we are anxious to win the war, any man who, by his speeches, prolongs the struggle a day longer than is necessary, is an enemy to his country and to humanity. We should neglect no steps that are possible to bring about an equitable peace. This Commonwealth must have an influx of population, and to that end we must have the goodwill of people in all parts of the world. We should be amongst the first to say that we “ do not subscribe to any policy of beating the Germans o their knees and boycotting them economically afterwards. I believe in a policy of no annexations aud no indemnities. If our delegates have gone to England to advocate an equitable peace1, I wish them God-speed, but if the Prime Minister repeats the speeches he made on . the occasion of his former visit; he will not be representing the views of the Australian people, and will be doing an injury to the Allies and to this country.
A paragraph in the Ministerial statement alludes to the gravity of the situation, and states that we must mobilize for the protection of this country. Have we no right as a Parliament to know the reasons for this view concerning the gravity of the situation ? The State Governor of New South Wales, speaking at Bathurst, a few days ago, read a cablegram from the King calling upon his subjects to assist the Empire at this moment on account of the urgent need for more men. The Prime Minister and all the State Governors have received that cablegram, but the Leader of the Government has put the message in his pocket and withheld its contents from Parliament. I resent the -action of the Prime Minister in neglecting to make available to Parliament the information he has regarding the situation in Europe. -He is not the only man in the community who should have that information. The cablegram was sent, not to W. M. Hughes, but to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and it was his duty to make known to the people, through Parliament, the nature of the grave situation. I understand that already the Government have called up 40,000 men for home defence. What increase in the gravity of our position has justified the removal of 40,000 additional men from the avenues of industry, and the consequent disorganization of business and dislocation of homes that the sending of these men into camp has involved? In Sydney, on Saturday afternoon, there was quite a commotion. Trams were stopped in the streets to permit the military to ase special trams to take men to Coogee, Botany Bay, Watson’s Bay, and other points. What was the reason for this? Was it the intention to cause a sensation, or to get men into the camp with a view to inducing them, when there, to volunteer for service overseas? If that was the reason for what was done, it seems to me a very costly method of recruiting. Employers in a small way have come to me and complained that two or three of their men were taken away from their employment, and their business was upset. We have had no explanation of this, and Parliament does not know the reason why it_ was done. In my view, honorable members will not be doing their duty if they permit the Government to remain in power without explaining these things to the House. It is not too much to ask the Acting Prime Minister to say why these 40,000 men were called up. Is there any special danger to Australia imminent? Are there any raiders on our coast? If so, we ought to know it.
– It was to carry out the policy advocated by the anticonscriptionists, who said that we should have 500,000 men for home defence.
– We have a right to consider what the calling up of these 40,000 menwill cost, and honorable members opposite will not be doing their duty if they do not protest against such a thing being done without explanation.
According to the Ministerial statement, we are promised a number of Committees for the regulation of industries. One Committee is to be appointed to regulate the prices of commodities. The Government have so far completely failed to regulate the prices of foodstuffs. The matter is being transferred to the Trade and Customs Department, and the Government propose to call to the assistance of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene) and Senator Russell, two keen business men, representatives of the Stock Exchanges or Chambers of Commerce. The Government, in this matter, are really endeavouring to avoid their proper responsibility. There should be a permanent Board, quite apart from the Chambers of Commerce, appointed to deal with the fixing of prices. There should be a Minister in charge of the matter, and he ought to know the cost of materials, and of manufactured articles, and should see that prices are regulated upon a fair margin of profit only. In every State to-day, great profits are being made in many lines. If we take the building trade, the price of galvanized iron for roofing has been increased by more than 100 per cent. I have seen this galvanized iron being made at Lithgow, and I know that there is no need for the present high cost of this building material. The same thing applies to ironmongery, paints, and timber. The shortage of shipping is being used at the present time as an excuse for doubling the price of hardwood timber, although we know that Sir Allan Taylor has a fleet of steamers on the north coast shipping timber just as they used to do before the war. No Government is doing its duty in the regulation of prices while this kind of thing is allowed to go on.
On the subject of the shipbuilding proposal of the Government, I notice that a statement appears in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that America would be prepared to put 3,000,000 into the field this year if she could get the necessary shipping. We are all agreed that shipping is the pivot on which the war is going to turn. The Allies have more men, more wealth, and better equipment, than the Germans, and it is only a. question of making them available. During the last twelve months,the Government have had a golden opportunity to push forward the shipbuilding industry, but they are only now getting the wheels of that industry going.
– They had to obtain men who’ knew something about it.
– We had men here who understood shipbuilding. Six months ago the State Government of New South Wales offered to take a contract for the building of ships at Walsh Island. They have a manager there in the person of Mr. Cutler, and there is no man in Australia who can teach him anything about the shipbuilding industry. He was prepared to enter into a contract for the building of ships, but for some reason, whether it was that Mr Hughes was not good friends with Mr. Holman or not, I do not know, the offer was not accepted, and no shipbuilding has been carried on at that island. I believe that at the present time contracts have been let for shipbuilding there, but the island might have been used for the purpose six months ago. The Broken Hill Company were prepared to make the necessary plates and angle iron, but something intervened, and nothing was done. At Cockatoo Island, where the Warrego, Swan, and another destroyer were recently launched, the great cantilever cranes, andall the other necessary equipment for shipbuilding, have been allowed to remain idle. It is a criminal act on the part of the Government to have so long delayed the construction of ships. We have the men and the material, and if we bent our energies to the building of ships at the present time, we should be doing something to win the war.
A Minister has been appointed to take charge of recruiting, and in this connexion I have heard a statement made which I hope upon inquiry will be found not to be true. On Saturday last I was told by a man in the Liverpool Camp that when Mr. Carmichael opened his recruiting campaign over 100 men, who had already enlisted, and were in the camp, were ordered to get into their private clothes. They were marched to the railway station, put into the train, and told to go down to Sydney. When they reached the city, they were disbanded at the railway station, with orders to go down to Martinplace, and when the recruiting meeting started, to jump on to the platform and enlist. That was, no doubt, very nice, but it was only acting the showman. These men had already enlisted, and they were ordered to make a show of enlisting again. As a result, we got word over here that so many men had enlisted »t Martin-place, and there was great blowing of trumpets about it. I hope that recruiting is not going to be carried on in that way.
– I trust that the honorable member realizes that he has made a very serious statement.
– I believe it is true.
– The honorable member should impress it upon the Honorary Min,ister (Mr. Wise).
– I direct the Honorary Minister’s special attention to the statement I have made. I understand that some of the men referred to have not gone back to the camp*. They are in their private clothes, and they have remained away. While I am anxious to see recruiting carried on in a legitimate manner, I hope it will not b« turned into a farce.
– I hope that the honorable member’s statement is not true.
– I can assure the honorable member that it is true. There is one matter upon which I can congratulate the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard), as Minister in charge of Recruiting, and that is the abolition of the silly regulation under which men were forced to leave camp about 3 o’clock in the morning, and embark upon a transport before daylight.
– As if they were being deported.
– One would think that these enlisted men were so many criminals. They were taken away at night, and their people were given no opportunity of seeing them. I am very pleased that the Minister has put an end to that, and that now men are to be sent away in the light of day, and their friends given an opportunity to see them off.
– Does the honorable member know who was responsible for the recruiting farce which he says took place in Sydney?
– I do not usually act as a detective, so I do not know.
– Then bow does the honorable member know that the statement is true?
– I ask the Minister to inquire into the statement. If we are really going in for recruiting, and if the Government intend to carry out their promise to place the unions in the position which they occupied before the strike, we should be doing better work if we put all our weight into the business of recruiting at the present time. I for one will be pleased to do my part in it; but I want to see the Government carry out their pledge to re-register the unions, and place them in the position they occupied before the strike. I want them to put the men who have been victimized back into their employment. If they do these things, they will go a long way towards healing the breach in this community.
– If our honorable friends opposite will make a sincere start in the other direction, that will be done very quickly.
– What does the Minister mean by the other direction?
– Joining with honorable members on this side for the purpose of recruiting. .
– The Government have the matter in their own hands. They do not need to wait for anyone else. Let them lead in the matter. ‘
Lord Forrest. - What is to be done with the men of the new unions?
– Let them take their chance with other people. There should be no victimization on either side.
Lord Forrest. - The honorable member does not desire that they’ should be dispensed with?
– The right honorable member for Swan will understand that a union de-registered has no legal standing. There have been bogus unions established, to the members of which employers have given preference.
Lord Forrest. - How are they “bogus”?
– They were established for the benefit of the employers. We cannot expect to bring about harmony in this community by attempting to mix oil and water. No good unionist will work with a man who has joined a union with the intention to break another union. But unionists are prepared to work with these men on the same footing.
They desire that they should be placed in the same position that they occupied before the strike and before the referendum.
Lord Forrest. - They do not desire to destroy the new unions.
– They represent only a few men, and are not worth considering.
Lord Forrest. - They must be considered and given fair play.
– They will get the same fair play as any other man in the community. .
Lord Forrest. - Will there be any guarantee that there will not be another strike ?
– We cannot give any such guarantee. The strike is “the safety valve of the worker. Once he gives up the right to strike he becomes a slave, and so far as I am concerned I will give no guarantee that there will not be a strike. I hope that the Government will lose no time in giving effect to their promises to reinstate the unions. If they do that, they will have the fullest cooperation, not merely of members on this side, but of the people generally.
.- I desire to say something in opposition to the departure of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy, allegedly to represent the views, aspirations, and ideals of Australia at the Imperial Conference. After our experiences of the Prime Minister’s hysterical doings, first in Paris, arid then at this table yesterday, when he indorsed the sentiments which he uttered in Paris - notwithstanding that the whole of the Paris resolutions have since been repudiated - one can only insist that Mr. Hughes will not- be representing the views of Australia at. the Imperial Conference. Those statements of his at the Paris Conference have been repudiated by such men as Bonar Law, Asquith, Lloyd George, and President Wilson. Yet we heard the Prime Minister say yesterday that he would give the last drop of his blood for those same things. If he is going to attend the Imperial Conference with the retention of those views, of what use will he be either to Australia or to the Allies?
While I emphatically protest against the Prime Minister representing the Commonwealth in London, I am not so sure that it is not just as well that he has departed from these shores. He certainly cannot do the harm in England that he has done in Australia. He will not have the awful power there which he has held here; and the men controlling the war policy of Britain will not allow that same hysteria, vindictiveness, and spleen to be demonstrated in England that Mr. Hughes has shown in Australia. While he, with his distorted vision, can work for the subjugation of everybody in this community to his ideas, we are glad to think that he will not hold the same sway in England. Australia is very well rid of the Prime Minister* and, with all due respect to honorable members who ought to be opposite at the present moment, they are very well rid of him, too. I venture to prophesy that, while .he may return still bearing the title of Prime Minister, he will not retain it long after he has stepped again upon our shores. I trust that, meanwhile,- we shall enter into an era of peacefulness, and that there will be no further signs of the vindictiveness and spleen which have held sway during the past eighteen months or two years. I hope that the people generally, and honorable members opposite, will appreciate our entrance upon some approach to sane government - of government, at least, not upon vindictive lines, such as has been the case under the chief dictatorship of the Prime Minister. I do not doubt his earnestness, nor do I doubt the earnestness of a mad bull in a china shop. The Prime Minister has created a bitterness - a feeling of unrest, of suspicion, of class hatred - and all to prove that his every action has been right. And, unfortunately, he has not been alone in that respect. There are honorable members who left this party who are continually attacking different sections of the community in the effort to make people think that they alone are on the right track.
Before the Prime Minister left, he made certain promises. Personally, I do not give the slightest weight to them; but I hope that those who are now in control - and it is going to be an altogether different control - will take immediate steps to repeal a great number of the regulations under the War Precautions Act. There are many of them which should never have been framed. I anticipate that the Acting Prime Minister will, in the very near future, announce his intention to cancel them. I hope, also, to learn of the steps to be taken to do away altogether with the campaign of vindictiveness and persecution carried on by the Prime Minister. The Acting Prime Minister, and members of Cabinet generally, have a big job ahead to repair the damage done by the gentlemen taking ship to-day. I have hopes, however, that those repairs will be effectively made. There are a hundred and one things which have brought about hostility on the part of, large sections of the community towards the Government; and there are good grounds for that hostility. I myself am hostile, for many reasons. One of those has been represented by the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for West Sydney, and others, in dealing with the question of governmental control of shipping, wool, wheat, &c. Last week I dealt with the treatment meted out by agents of shippers to the farmers. The shippers to-day have practical control of the Wheat Board. The Prime Minister magnanimously gave the farmers of the whole of Australia one representative upon that Board.
– And Mr. Giles has been pretty severe upon it, too.
– That is so. Unless the Government are prepared to take away some of the plums from the Shipping Ring and allow the farmers to mind theirown affairs, in the same way as the wool-growers have been permitted to do, there will be an outbreak of hostility from the rural community. Take the question of the dockages which are now being made by the agents representing the shippers. Instances have come under my notice where dockages up to1s. per bushel have been made for smut.. This wheat may have been slightly smutty, but the dockage has come off, notwithstanding that it hasbeen equal to f.a.q., and even up to 59 and 60 lbs. per bushel in weight.
Mr.Laird Smith. - Are not the agents under the control of the Wheat Board?.
– They are directly under the control of the shippers, in whose employ they are. I have previously indicated in this House the wide powers of discrimination held by agents in the matter of dockage. It does not matter that the weight may be over the standard; if it shows a sign of smut, off comesa big dockage, even up to1s. That is totally wrong. The Government must exercise their powers and secure efficient control. They must devise scientific means ofdetermining what the wheat is worth. It should not be left to the autocratic word of men, some of whom, until but a little while ago, had done nothing all their lives but wield a quill, and who are now dictators.
There is also the question of secondhand bags. This, too, is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction, and with some cause. Owing to the laxity of the Government - due to their benevolent attitude in allowing private enterprise to take a hand inbusiness which should have belonged to the Government alone in days such as these - private enterprise was able to fix the price of wheatsacks in the first place. The Commonwealth Government then fixed the price for new sacks. That wasright, but it did not go far enough; for all the big companies - Dalgety and Co., and the rest of them - secured the opportunity to control and corner available second-hand sacks. And then, after the corner had been arranged, came the fixing of the price for second hand sacks. Prior to that the figures soared as high as 12s. per dozen, and private enterprise reaped considerable profit from the farmers. It wasafter this that the fixing of the quotation for second hand sacks came about. That was good and proper; but the authorities did not take the trouble to see that sufficient supplies of new sacks were brought into Australia to meet the demand.Seven months ago several honorable members, together with myself, inquired from the Prime Minister what steps were being taken to see that the farmers were supplied with sacks in sufficient quantities. The right honorable gentleman solemnly and sincerely promised that adequate steps were being taken to protect the farmers. Adequate steps were taken, right enough ; but it was the interests of the profiteers which were protected. Whether it was done with the cognisance of the Government or not, I would not care to say; butthere was no excuse for them - no excuse for that wholesale robbing of the rural interests. Then, to add insult to injury, the Government appointed a special Commissioner, Mr. Whitton, to ascertain whose fault it was. His report, I understand,will be available shortly. It will not redound to the credit of the
Government that if second-hand bags, costing the farmer from 9s. 6d. to 10s. per dozen, are allowed to go into the wheat stacks in New South Wales, deductions should then be made on account of the quality of sacks used. I can quote a case of one farmer who paid from 9s. 6d. to 10s. per dozen for his bags, and when he delivered his wheat the agent docked him ls. per bag. In another case a farmer, who had paid 10s. to 10s. 6d. for second-hand bags, was similarly docked. The interim receipt, pending the arrival of the wheat certificates, states that wheat in bags unfit for shipment overseas shall be docked ls. per bag.u At a station in New South Wales wheat in second-hand bags was placed in a separate stack, the presumption being that the bags were unfit for shipment, but Iunderstand that some of the grain has been sent overseas. The point is that the Wheat Pool benefits by transactions of this nature, but the unfortunate farmer who is docked because he is using secondhand bags is treated very harshly indeed.
Another question which I dealt with recently was the complaint that farmers could not get seed wheat in their own districts. I drew the attention of the Government to the case ofa farmer who had his land ready for seeding, but was unable to procure fourteen bags of hard Federation seed wheat, notwithstanding that millions of bushels were available within a short distance of his own farm. Many honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House pooh-poohed the idea at the time, but I have now put a concrete case before the House.
Lord Forrest. - And he was willing to pay for it ?
– Yes. I made representations to the Wheat Board of New South Wales, and have received the following reply under date 20th April, 1918: -
With reference to your representations on behalf of Mr. G. W. MacKenzie, farmer, of Narromine, who is desirous of obtaining supply of fourteen bags of hard Federation seed wheat, I beg to state it would be a difficult matter to withdraw same from wheat stacks. I understand, however, that Messrs. John Foster and Sons, seedsmen, of Sydney, are in a position to supply hard Federationseed wheat, and I have therefore asked them to forward a quote to Mr. MacKenzie immediately.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) E. HARRIS, Secretary.
It appears from this that the Wheat Board of New South Wales, not being in a position to supply seed wheat to the farmers of that State, have handed over the business of distribution to private enterprise, which gets its supplies from the Wheat Board.
– He could have got as much as he wanted provided the Wheat Board gave consent. It is all rubbish to say that the Wheat Board were unable to get the wheat from the stacks, because there are millions of bushels of hard Federation wheat out west, as all honorable members who are acquainted with the agricultural districts of New South Wales know. Some stacks are composed almost entirely of hard Federation wheat, and there would have been no difficulty whatever of getting the seed grain if the Board desired to give their consent.
Lord Forrest. - Why, then, did they say there was a difficulty?
– Evidently the secretary of the Wheat Board was unaware what types of wheat were stacked at the different stations. It is shameful that farmers who have wheat in the Pool should be required to go to private enterprise to obtain their seed wheat, because the seed wheat must first be sent to Sydney, where, no doubt, it is bought by Foster and Son, seedsmen, who, after they get their cut out of it, then ship it back to the district in which it is grown. These things must be remedied if the Government expect that harmony in the community which is so much talked about at the present time in this House.
– What is the State Parliament doing to allow this sort of thing ?
– The Federal Government have the last word with reference to the Wheat Pool.
One other matter which is causing a good deal of dissatisfaction at present is the position with regard to the rabbit and rabbit-skin trade, which is absolutely controlled by a few persons. During the past ten months there has been something very sinister about the control of the rabbit industry in this country, and many disquieting things have been said about the way in which the Government have allowed this business to fall into the hands of a combine, the members of which do just as they please. Immediately I entered the house I approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to see if it was possible to get a price fixed for rabbits. This is not a small matter, because not less than 8,000 people are concerned in this industry throughout Australia. After numberless deputations, letters, and interviews we at last got the Prime Minister to agree that the Price Fixing Commissioner should go into the whole question. We obtained information from all parts of Australia, and placed the facts and figures before the Commissioner, who was ready to fix the price when something peculiar happened. It was suddenly discovered by some one who had a frantic desire to prevent anything being done, that action to control the industry would be ultra vires. Many weird theories were devised to keep the combine in full control of the industry, and I say that the Government have not come out of this business with clean hands. I am not prepared to say what Minister is responsible, but I have drawn the attention of the Government to this damnable state of affairs, not once, but many times.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that they have not come out of the business with “clean hands”?
– I mean that the Rabbit Combine has done just what it liked in regard to rabbits. To-day it is making huge profits at the expense of the consumers and of the. trappers. The first paltry excuse put forward by the Government for their inaction was that, under the War Precautions Act Regulations, it would be ultra vires to fix the price chat should be paid to the trappers of rabbits. I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked him to make it legal, but he did not even deign to reply to my letter. I did not expect him to reply to it. I repeat that I have practically lived on the door-step of the Price Fixing Commissioner, of the Prime Minister, and of Senator Russell, in my endeavours to get some measure of redress for the thousands of trappers who are concerned in this industry. When the second contract was about to be entered into, we received a direct promise from the Minister and from the Price Fixing Commissioner that the rates payable to the trappers inAustralia would be definitely prescribed. As a result, great jubilation was evinced by the various delegates who attended a con ference which had been convened for the purpose of considering this matter. Personally, I was somewhat pessimistic regarding the outcome of that gathering by reason of my unfortunate experience with the Government. I was very doubtful, indeed, as to whether anything favorable to the trappers in Australia would result from it. Then we learned that the contracts had been cancelled, and thus ended the scheme of price- fixing. About this time, for some inscrutable reason, the Government decided to cancel the fixation of prices in regard to rabbit skins. I would like to know at whose behest that cancellation took place. Certain it is that such action operated directly in the interests of the exporters - that is to say, of the buyers. I may state, for the information of honorable members, that for skins for which we receive ls. 2d. per lb., and even less,11s. and 12s. per lb. are being paid in England to-day, and from 9s. 6d. to 10s.6d. per lb. in America. I have placed these facts before the Minister from time to time, so that he cannot plead ignorance of them. Ourrabbit trappers are being flagrantly robbed.
– When was the last shipment of rabbit skins made ?
– Was that the first shipment for some considerable time ?
– I admit that there have been freight difficulties, but every now and again some of the skins getaway. It is undeniable that some persons who are adepts at pulling the strings, can secure sufficient space to permit of their rabbit skins being exported, whilst others cannot do so. That circumstance, in itself, is sufficient to warrant an inquiry into this matter. Three months ago I made charges against the Government; and moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the corruption which surrounds the whole business; but the Government refused the appointment of that Committee. What is the position to-day? In New South Wales, we find that the Rabbit Combine is operating along quite new lines. When the Commonwealth Government failed to fix prices in connexion with the industry, this Combine got to work and induced the Meat Board in Sydney, through the Assent-General for New South Wales; to make representations to the British Government, with the result that on the 24th April of this year the Age newspaper contained the following announcement: -
A cablegram has been received by the New South Wales Government from the AgentGeneral stating that the Imperial Government has decided to purchase the New South Wales rabbits which were offered to it by the Sydney Meat Committee on 18th March, with some minor modifications.
The Rabbit Combine is so strong that it can brush aside the Commonwealth Government and proceed to carry out its nefarious scheme through the agency of the New SouthWales Government. Is the Commonwealth Government going to allow this combine to conspire with the New South Wales Government to rob the trappers of Australia ? These are serious allegations to make, but I am quite prepared to produce evidence of the corruption which exists in connexion with the handling of rabbits in Australia - evidence which will astound honorable members.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– The Rabbit Combine has effectively checkmated all attempts to restrict its operations, and has made exorbitant profits with the cognisance of, and evidently with the consent of, the Commonwealth Government.. The contract which will be entered into by the New South Wales Government will be for the supply of about 500,000boxes of skinned rabbits, for which the British Government will pay 17s. a box. Under the contract with the Commonwealth Government, the price paid by the British Government was 19s. a box, including skins. I protest against the subordination of the Commonwealth to a State Government. I believe that the Rabbit Combine has worked the oracle to prevent the trappers of rabbits from getting a fair deal. The Commonwealth Government has made over £300,000 from the rabbit trappers of Australia. That money should have gone into the pockets of the trappers; but, by an unfortunate accident, it went into the coffers of the Commonwealth Government instead, although it belongs morally to the trappers.
Let me refer again to the way in which the Holdsworthy Camp, in New South Wales, is conducted. The officers in charge of the Camp seem to desire from the men continual saluting, and the German goose-stepping. Recently, on a wet and stormy evening,they ordered the trooping of colours merely to gratify their own whim. Such ceremonies may be necessary in a training camp, but this cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be so termed, the men composing the guard there being mostly either ineligible for active service or returned soldiers. Oilskins have been served out to the guard, but they are so tattered and worn as to be no protection against the elements. The men should not be required to perform futile and ridiculous ceremonies merely to please the officers in charge of the camp. The fines that have been inflicted at the Camp are such that the Assistant Minister for Defence might well inquire into the matter. One soldier was fined 10s. for being late for the dinner parade, and others have been fined various sums, ranging from ls. to 10s., for appearing at mess with tunics undone, putties off, or clothing in other ways out of conformity with the regulations. The military despots who rule the Camp have created such a position that they are advertising almost fortnightly for guards. That should not be.
One other matter. There is a general desire on the part of members, and of the public, that there should be harmony in the community; but some of the members of the Ministerial party are making speeches the tendency of which is to create the reverse of harmony. This afternoon the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) went out of his way to create bad feeling. He never speaks here without sneering and jeering at the Labour party.
-Which fed, and housed, and clothed him.
– And with which he was reluctant to part. In a speech as hysterical and jingoistic as that of the Prime Minister yesterday, he poured forth venom, and did what he could to prevent the harmony which is so desirable. He jeered at members on this side, stating that we have climbed into our positions from the backs of the workers. There is not one member on this side of the chamber who did not work for his living before he entered Parliament. The honorable member himself battened parasitically on the Labour movement from its inception. He has been fed by it, and enjoyed a cosy job which it provided. He knows what it is to climb to a position from the backs of the workers. Under the guise of a Liberal, he first tried to enter Parliament in opposition to a selected Labour candidate. The Labour movement is generous enough to forgive such conduct. When he saw that the Liberals did not want him, and that the Labour party was becoming powerful, he changed his coat, and thereafter lived upon the workers. He is not of the type that fastens on to a pick and shovel or a shearing machine. He got a job from the Australian Workers Union, and, during the eighteen ‘ years that he held it, tried frantically to obtain a selection for Parliament. But the rank and file of the Labour movement, with great wisdom, rejected him on every occasion, and, becoming soured by his repeated failures, he again changed his coat. Now, wonder of wonders, he is the mouth-piece of the Employers Federation, and of the vested interests of the community. He preached about climbing into positions from the backs of the workers, but, after eighteen years of battening on the workers, he kicked them aside to get into the pay of some one else. He does not represent the workers of Illawarra.
– He is an accident.
– That, no doubt, would be proved at the next election. He does not represent the workers, and is never likely to do so. No doubt the time will come when he will again change his coat. So much for him.
Now that the excitable Prime Minister is out of the road, there is nothing to prevent Australia from becoming sane again, and getting back to the position which she occupied a couple of years ago; but before that can happen, the Government must repeal the vindictive and harsh War Precautions Regulations, which were made wholly and solely for the venting of that spleen for which, the Prime Minister is notorious.
– What can you guarantee in exchange?.
– We guarantee at least a certain amount of harmony in the community. While- there exist regulations which prevent honorable members from discussing public matters there will be friction, and it will increase: Of what benefit to the country or to the Empire and its Allies are regulations such as the notorious Sinn Fein regulation, which merely vents the spleen of a sectarian clique? There are one hundred and one ways in which disloyalty can be punished; but, at the dictation of some persons outside, the Prime Minister is prepared to do anything to harass a section of a community. I am not Irish, and do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, but I would not tolerate.a regulation such as this that I speak of if it were imposed against my enemies. It is not fair to use war legislation to injure one’s political enemies. If the Government is in earnest, the Acting Prime Minister will next week inform the House of the regulations that are to be repealed, and I shall welcome such an announcement.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to the particular matter of home defence referred to in the Government statement of policy. At page 3 of that statement there appears the following: -
Council of Defence. - In order to co-ordinate the work of the Defence Department more completely with the other Commonwealth Departments, and with the general policy of the Government, it is proposed to establish a Council of Defence, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Defence, the Secretaries for the Navy and Defence Departments, and two members of the recently appointed Business Board. Provision will also be made to strengthen the existing provisions for home defence by enlisting in the Citizen Forces persons ineligible for the Australian Imperial Force between the ages of twenty-one and fifty.
That was followed by a statement made by the Governor-General at the Recruiting Conference last week, in which he said, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 13th inst. -
I would also draw your’ attention to the concluding paragraph of Sir Samuel Griffith’s report, which reminds us of the fact that, in the midst of this great war, we, with 3,000,000 square miles of territory to defend, have but a couple of brigades of infantry under arms, these being reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force, while the training of Citizen Forces is reduced to a minimum.
No doubt this state of affairs is a remarkable tribute) to. the British Navy, but, however great our confidence in her protection, it is worth considering whether it might not be- advisable to make better provision for the defence of our shores by keeping alternate sections of the Militia, under training until peace is restored.
That very serious statement by the Governor-General is evidence of some consultation between him and the Cabinet prior to its submission to. the Recruiting Conference.
There have appeared in the newspapers during the last few days statements of an alarmist character. In the Argus of 19th inst. there appeared, under the headings -
Home Service - Statement bt Senator Pearce, the following: -
Senator Pearce added that the whole defence position of Australia was very unsatisfactory, and that the Ministry proposed to ‘ strengthen it. They intended to enlist men between twenty-one and fifty who were not fit for service abroad, and to extend home training. No one knew what would come out of the war, and we might yet have to fight in Australia.
Next day there appeared in the Age, under the headings -
Home Defence - The Citizen Forces - Pro posed Mobilization - Men between Twentyone and Fifty Years - Army of 40,000 Men - the following statement :–
The gravity of the war situation in Europe has directed increased attention to the defence position in Australia. The Commonwealth possesses practically no standing Army, and the ranks of the Citizen Forces have been largely depleted by the enlistment of trainees for active service abroad. That the Government views the present state of affairs with some uneasiness has been indicated by the Minister of Defence (Senator Pearce) in the statement which he made in the Senate on Thursday. He’ informed the Chamber that the whole defence position /of Australia was extremely unsatisfactory, and added that the Ministry proposed to strengthen it, as no one knew what would come out of the war, and we might yet have to fight in Australia.
Then there appeared in the Age of 23rd inst. the following: -
Australia and the Wab_Its Realities Nearer - Adequate Precautions Taken.
Within the past forty-eight hours, information has come to hand which points to the probability that the realities of the war may soon be brought before Australians in a. convincing fashion. The uneasiness of the Defence authorities, to which reference was made in the Age of Saturday, has been intensified by certain evidence which has come before them since Saturday morning. Steps have been taken to cope with a situation which may at any moment assume grave proportions: More than this cannot be said for the present.
For these statements the Government are responsible. They are responsible for each and all of them.
The Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) asks what warrant I have for that assertion.
My reply is that they are responsible, in the first place, for the statement made in the printed pamphlet outlining the policy of the Government, and which is now being discussed by the House.
They are responsible for the statement made by the Governor-General, since such a statement could not have been put forward by him except with the advice of his responsible Ministers.
They are responsible, also, for the statements appearing in the newspapers for the reason that there is a censorship which compels every item relating to the war to be submitted to Government officers before it can be printed. Therefore, this press statement of an alarmist character must have been submitted to a Government officer. The probabilities are that if was actually inspired by some agency of the Government.
Concerning these serious statements by the Ministry, by the GovernorGeneral, and by the press, the Government remain absolutely silent in the National Parliament. They are silent in regard to a question which, we are told, is fraught with the gravest forebodings. Members of this Parliament appear to act like a lot of school children. Beyond a mere question put to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) yesterday in respect to these alarmist paragraphs- a question which the right honorable gentleman brushed aside with the reply that he could give no information in regard to it - the Parliament itself does not appear to have concerned itself in the slightest degree with the safety of this country.
Nearly every honorable member opposite can stand in this House, and on platforms outside, and plead for thousands of men to go 12,000 miles across the seas to help Britain in the war in which we are now engaged ; but they treat with contempt admissions by the Government, as well as by the Governor-General and the press, that this war is coming right home to Australia, and that we must get ready to fight on our own shores. This National Parliament apparently thinks it ‘has nothing to do with such a matter.
This, then, is the attitude of the National Parliament, charged as it is with the responsibility of safeguarding Australia’s shores. The defence of Australia is, indeed, its first responsibility. It is not charged with the duty of defending the Empire, or with the responsibilityof maintaining inviolate the British shores. But it is charged, under our Constitution, and by the people of Australia, with the responsibility of defending Australia. No graver statements than those just quoted could be made. Yet, in regard to them, responsible Ministers are silent in the National Parliament. The National Parliament has become so disregardful of one of the main purposes of its existence that it does not appear to desire to ask even a question concerning it.
Here are other statements by responsible Ministers. On 21st September last the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook), referring to expenditure ou our Naval Bases, said -
My only fear is that the items are being cut down too much, in view of the international situation.
He said further -
So far as Naval Bases are concerned, the only thing I am uneasy about is as to whether we are getting on with them sufficiently fast. I intend to he quite clear about this matter before very much longer. It seems to me that all the argument is in favour of proceeding with the construction of Bases as well as ships, and with the rapid multiplication of all our enginery of war to the fullest extent, having regard to our position after the war, and the possibilities that may then arise.
The Treasurer, now the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), said, on the 13th September last -
I say, with the full concurrence of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for Defence, that at present the position of Australia is unsafe.
– Do not these statements show that Ministers are more or less alert?
– Apparently the honorable member is satisfied that they should be either more or less alert.
– That is a quite incorrect inference.
– At all events, this, the National Parliament, has not been taken into the confidence of the Government, nor have the supporters of the Government at their own private party meetings been taken into its confidence.
What are the reasons for which Australia set out on its defence system ? The Prime Minister said yesterday that time after time in this House he had directed the attention of Australia to the necessity for the compulsory military training of the whole of its young manhood for the purpose of defending ourselves on these shores.
– I believe I have heard the honorable member advocating the same thing.
– Why, then, find fault with it now?
– I am not. What were the powerful, the invincible, reasons which the Prime Minister put forward in advocacyof Australian defence? I could not quote from the Prime Minister’s own speeches upon those occasions without transgressing a decision already given by the Chair. His powerful speech on the 1909 Defence Bill relating to the problems of the Pacific may not now be quoted. The facts to-day are stronger than they were then. All the facts that existed then exist to-day stronger a thousandfold, but I am not permitted to refer to them, either in this House or outside.
Without transgressing that ruling, I may refer to statements made quite recently, which show that there is a general acceptance of the difficulties in which Australia is placed.
On the 25th January of last year Sir William Irvine said, as reported in the Argus -
He accepted the abandonment of the policy of a White Australia, the surrender of the claim that Australia had always made to control the future destinies of this continent.
Professor Bevan, who for some years was at the Pekin University, is reported in the South Australian Register of 13th September, 1916, as follows: -
I shall not be surprised if the White Australia policy may have to go.
The rest of his statement I would not be permitted to quote.
Dr. Bryan, from Tokio, a noted publicist, writing to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th March, 1916, referred to certain developments which I am not allowed to mention in detail, as a grave warning to the British colonies.
On the 29th June, 1917, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said -
We must have increased population in Australia to hold the country.
Mr. Hoyle, Minister of Railways in New South Wales, was referred to in the Sunday Times of 17th June, 1916, as follows : -
Mr. Hoyle has taken alarm at the developments in the war in progress. He is of opinion that there may be something doing in this part of the world before the dove of peace is again nestling in the kingdoms.
This had to do with the matter of strategic railways, deemed an urgent matter by Mr. Fisher and his Government in 1915.
The Prime Minister, on the 19th September, 1916, during the first conscription campaign, said -
We are doomed men. We are like sheep before the butcher. We may bleat and struggle, but we can do nothing to help ourselves.
If any statement should be stigmatized with the most disgraceful adjective, the most opprobrious epithet that can be applied to the disloyal utterances of a public man in time of war, surely that might be applied to the acknowledgement cf our want of defence preparations by the one man charged with the sacred duty of preserving the public safety. An assertion of that kind from the Prime Minister before the world, and in face of our existing and potential enemies, is the last that ought to be made by any public man.
– Is that all he said? What have you said yourself ?
– What I have said myself has been in an effort to get the honorable gentleman and other Ministers to do their duty by Australia. I certainly have not made a statement of that kind. We have had men in this country who said that Australia could not make its boots and shoes and could not make its clothes. I absolutely deny that Australia cannot defend itself. Australia can defend itself; but it cannot defend itself if we have Ministers in power who will never give the countrv an opportunity to do so.
– It can defend itself with the help of the British Navy.
– If the honorable member does not take up too much of my time with interjections, I shall give him authorities, better than any member in this House, on the question of whether we can defend ourselves. SenatorFairbairn said -
I am in favour of keeping Australia white if it can be done.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), in a recently printed pamphlet, stated -
There will be many re-adjustments of international relationships after the war. They may not all come at once, and the challenge to open Australia to the people of the East may take some time to mature. Already there are significant indications of a movement in this direction.
Then he speaks of the time when these inevitable representations will be made, to which I am not allowed to refer.
The Pastoralists’ Review, representing the great squatters of Australia-
– No, it does not. It represents only the owner of it, a private individual.
– Just as the Age, though owned by a certain group of individuals, speaks for a party in this country, so the Pastoralists’ Review, although owned by an individual, is supported by the pastoralists, and speaks for the pastoralists; otherwise it would not be supported by them. On the 16th February, 1916, it stated-
The war has put an end to White Australia.
The rest of the statement I should not be allowed to quote.
– What is the object of all this?
– My object is to show how this Government is neglecting its paramount duty.
– You are speaking in parables to get out of a trouble that is likely to come on yourself.
– Does the honorable member wish me to come into conflict with the Chair ? He knows perfectly well my mouth is closed to plain speaking . on this matter. The honorable member is at his old game, and I will take no further notice of him. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), so far back as 1909, in that famous eight-hours’ speech of his, said -
I have heard the Prime Minister himself say we have not twenty-five years to live as a nation. I have heard him warn the people of the dangers threatening from a certain quarter which I am not allowed to mention. Other statements he made I am prohibited from quoting. He said, further -
I say we have little time to prepare. Those who have studied the trend of history are aware of the international changes that have taken place in the last decade or so. There is sufficient in the situation for Australia to take warning by.
At the time that Australia entered its present defence preparations, it was safeguarded by treaties and arrangements with foreign Powers which, to put it in the mildest possible form, were infinitely stronger than they are to-day.
Sir, I am not allowed to deal with the mass of evidence in my possession from all quarters of the globe - external evidence of the growing menace to our national safety. Would to God the public could know it 1
Mr, Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, has spoken in parables on this question. He has referred (Sydney Morning Herald, 19th December, 1917), to the inevitable time when the nations engaged in this war will sit down round the peace table.
Let us imagine the delegates of these great nations sitting round the peace table to-night. If the Allies are successful, as we hope they will be, what “will those great nations demand ?
These are the publicly announced objectives, amongst others:
Prance wants Alsace and Lorraine.
Italy wants the Trentino from Austria.
Servia wants expansion.
Greece wants expansion at the expense of the Balkan States.
Russia had her ideas of expansion, which, of course, have now. gone overboard.
Great Britain has, since the outbreak of the war, annexed Egypt, and is seeking to extend British spheres of influence.
Those are some of tlie publicly announced objectives to be decided at the settling-up table.
Some other objectives have been revealed as the outcome of the Russian revolution. It has been stated, and never publicly denied, that there were secret treaties in existence. The following is a short list of them : -
In addition to what has been publicly stated of re-adjustments that must be made at the peace table, these were announced by the Russian Ministers to have been unearthed in the archives of the Russian Government at the time of the revolution.
All of the objects of all of the nations ranged on the side of the Allies have not been stated to the public. Pause and consider ! There are some nations which will sit round the peace table whose objects have never been publicly stated. What are their objectives? Some of the nations whose objects have not been stated are those which will emerge from this war more powerful than they were upon the outbreak of war.
We are told by the Premier of New South Wales the way to maintain Australia inviolate. When ‘ these powerful delegates sit round the table adjust ing their differences, when they are finished with Germany and Austria, we are told that the way for Australia to maintain itself inviolate and to preserve the White Australia policy, is that the last fit military man in Australia shall have gone 12,000 miles across the sea to Flanders! That is the doctrine laid down by the Premier of New South Wales and others. That is the claim that we must have at the peace table. The only claim that we can have at tie peace table for the maintenance of our integrity in Australia - political, racial, and social - is that we shall have offered up the last man of military age upon the Battle-fields of Flanders.
– I thought we heard something from your party about the last man.
– The honorable member refers to the last man and the last shilling. Mr. Denison Miller, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, said at the beginning of the campaign for thelast war loan, that the wealth of this country had contributed ls. 2d. in the ?1 to the war, and the Government guarantees high rates of interest with the return of the principal on specified dates. That is the first shilling only, whereas 50 per cent. of the fit men of military age of Australia have offered themselves, a number altogether out of proportion to the help offered by the financial magnates of Australia. In other words, wealth loaned 5 per cent. well secured at good rates of interest, whilst 50 per cent. of our man power has offered all - even life itself.
I have endeavoured to make my position clear on: this matter for some considerable time. On the 24th May, 1916, I submitted a memorandum to the Government, which crystallized certain investigations I had made in connexion with the international situation. In it I strongly urged that a certain course of action should be taken for the defence of Australia in Australia. Up to this time no hint had. been made of conscription for service oversea. I said -
The manhood of Australia should be trained and armed at once for home defence. Australian citizens should be invested with full citizen rights in this respect, and at least be given an opportunity of striking a blow in self defence should the untoward occasion arise.
My idea was that our manhood should be trained in their own areas with the least interference with their civil rights, duties, and liberties.
The concluding paragraph of the manifesto, which I prepared at the request of the No-conscription party in New South Wales, on the occasion of the last referendum, 1917, says -
Consideration should he given to Australian defence of its own land. The financial and industrial life of the country require certain minimum man power. With these requirements fully considered and adequately met, we should know what numerical balance was available for service overseas. Proper treatment of returned soldiers and dependants, and adjustment of our soldiers’ pay on a basis adequate to meet cost of living requirements, should be no longer delayed. In these circumstances, the last man Australia could spare would be forthcoming under the voluntary system.
This is an Australian policy.It is the policy of Australia . first, with a sympathetic desire to stand by the land of our fathers to the fullest extent, consistent with Australian obligations.
I submitted the same policy throughout both the 1916 and 1917 conscription campaigns to large and’ approving audiences all over the country, and referred to it
On the no-confidence debate in January last.
I am happy to say that this view has also been put forward at the recent Recruiting Conference. On page 21 of the report of the proceedings, Mr. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland, is reported to have said -
Is it asked that we start with the assumption that we can keep reinforced all the troops that we have sent to the Front? I have not seen that aspect of the ‘question approached. It has been assumed that we can do this. But how long can we keep doing it? Upon that question everything else hinges. Does the Minister say that we can keep doing it?
Senator Millen. We can maintain our present five divisions.
Mr. Ryan. ; Having regard to home defence, which was referred to by. the Governor General yesterday, and to the need of keeping going our industries, at all events, to such an extent that we may be able to- do our part in providing the Empire with foodstuffs and other supplies, I do not think that the question has been approached from that stand-point.
– I assure the honorable member that it has.
Mr. Ryan. Senator Millen’s statement did not indicate that. If it be so, I wish to know the data on which the conclusion has been reached that the particular number required can be kept up. No doubt the Minister can supply that. I hope that it is so.
The Minister did not supply it. Apparently, the Government have not the information; or, if they have it, they have kept it to themselves.
Senator Gardiner, the Leader of this party in the Senate, who was Assistant Minister for Defence in the Labour Government, is reported, on page 28 of the Conference proceedings, to have said -
I entirely approve of what the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Ryan) has said, namely, that the resources of Australia and the probable duration of the war should be considered before we approach any consideration as to the number of recruits we are to be asked to send. If it is to be a long-drawn-out struggle, how many men is it wise for Australia to send per month - is it wise to deplete the Whole male population of Australia merely because of the emotions of the people for the time being? Moreover, this is a war in which the resources, not only of man power, but of money, must be considered. Though I was a member of a previous Government which had some responsibility in connexion with this matter of Australia’s contribution - and if there is any blame to be attached to that Government I will take my full share - that is no reason why I should not invite attention for, and give support to, ‘ the suggestions made by Mr.Ryan.
When certain facts wereplaced before the Government on 24th May, 1916, by me as before mentioned, they took steps to carry out the suggestions offered, for, on the 22nd June, 1916, there appeared in the A rgus an article headed -
Compulsory Drill - Calling up of all Males - Cabinet Consideration - Data to be Prepared.
The article sets forth that steps were to be taken to prepare for defence in Australia.
According to another article appearing in the same issue of the Argus, the training of the Citizen Forces of this country, which had been suspended from the outbreak of the war, was to be immediately resumed.
My time does not permit me to read the report in detail, but it stated that the Cabinet meeting was attended by all members of the Ministry, with the exception of the’ honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), who was in New South Wales on official business.
In the Melbourne Herald, on the 6th June, 1916, a statement appeared to the effect that the adult units in the Citizen. Forces would resume their training.
In the Age of the 9th June, 1916, an advertisement appeared calling for men to man the Forts.
After certain regulations and data had been prepared, Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, went to Bendigo and made a speech, which was reported in the Age of the 28th July, 1916. The report of the speech was headed -
Defence of Australia - Future Wars - Senator Pearce’s Warning - Need for Preparedness - General Staff to be Formed - A Scheme of Organization.
Senator Pearce said ;
The formation of a great Australian General Staff, the organization of the whole nation for future defence, and the adaptation of all industries to war purposes, are great changes in Australian policy announced on Thursday night by Senator Pearce, Acting Prime Minister, at the mayoral dinner given by Councillor Beebe, mayor of Bendigo.
Senator Pearce’s speech showed that it had absolutely no relation to the present war. There was some reference made to the question of conscription by the mover of the toast. Senator Pearce repudiated the idea of conscription for service abroad. At that time Senator Pearce was not a conscriptionist. He was an avowed anti-conscriptionist. He said there were lessons to be taken to heart of vital consequence to Australia, but that there were reasons why they could not be debated. Let any man refer to this speech, and he will see it recognised a growing menace to Australia beyond the aims of Germany.
In the Age of the next day, the 29th July. 1916, the following appeared -
Sub-Committees at Work.
Elaborating last night the announcement he made at Bendigo on Thursday that it was proposed to constitute a Defence Council for Australia, the Acting Prime Minister explained that the details had already been planned out, and the general principle and the outline of the scheme as a whole had been adopted by the Cabinet. But the final adoption of the scheme in its entirety would not be decided upon until the arrival of Mr. Hughes, who would be President of the proposed Council.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) came back from London within a few days afterwards, with the conscription bee in his bonnet to send the men of Australia across the seas, he came to a Cabinet which had already decided that it was absolutely necessary to provide for the defence of Australia in Australia by making urgent preparations for local defence.
There was probably not one conscriptionist in the Ministry, because when the Prime Minister tried to get Cabinet to adopt conscription it split in half. The fact that he could not get a majority of the Cabinet to support him showed absolutely that the Australian Labour Government’s scheme outlined by the Acting Prime Minister (Senator Pearce) had nothing to do with conscription for service oversea. Finally, when a decision had to be come to as to whether the men charged primarilywith the defence of Australia should be for Australia first or not, when the test of loyalty was reached and the imported jingoes obtained the ascendancy, Australia was abandoned, and this scheme was thrown overboard in favour of a scheme for the compulsory deportation of Australia’s manhood to battle-fields 12,000 miles away.
This Council of Defence, agreed upon by the Government in June, 1916, and callously abandoned at the instigation of the Prime Minister, has now been revived -see Age, 24th April, 1918.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), who was interrupting me a few minutes ago, was a member of the Cabinet at that time, and to show what was in his mind I have only to read a copy of a letter written by him on the 19th June, 1916, two or three days before the holding of that Cabinet meeting which decided upon the scheme outlined by Senator Pearce. This is the letter written by the PostmasterGeneral to Mr. Evans, general secretary of the Political Labour League, Sydney - ‘
In reply to your request for my opinion on conscription, I desire to say that I am in favour of training our men for home’ defence forthwith, and of voluntary service overseas.
The honorable gentleman knew perfectly well the necessity for Australia’s defence in Australia, and he said that it was necessary to train every man in Australia immediately. He also said that he would have nothing but voluntary service for overseas; but when the Prime Minister came back and got him into a corner by himself, and talked to him about the Old Land, the land they both came from, the land of their birth, he was prepared to join with the Prime Minister and throw Australia overboard. And they did it. It may be a matter for laughter on the part of some honorable members.
– But the time will come when Australia will wake up, and, heaven help some of those men who are not prepared to stand up for it. When Australia makes up its mind -that it will put Australians into the National Parliament, we shall have a Parliament which will not forget that its first duty is to the country over whose destiny it presides.
– Without the British Navy we could not hold Australia for six weeks.
– There have been statements before that Australia cannot defend itself. The “Stinking Fish party “ still lives. If that is so, what is the value of our calling up 40,000 men for home defence? Why has a flying commander been imported from Great Britain to set up great flying squadrons? Why have we set up an Australian Navy ? Why are we building naval bases and ammunition factories? Why are we training Australia’s manhood ? If it is impossible for Australia to defend itself, all these preparations are so much waste of money, so much moonshine, and so much humbug.
As a matter of fact, if Australia had 300,000 men like the men who have gone across the seas, and if they could be armed, no nation in the world would ever undertake the task of coming to interfere with us on our own soil. Honorable members cannot have considered the shipping power of the various nations, or have the remotest idea how many troops could be transported to this country by any nation on earth. Did my time permit I could give the tonnage of our potential enemies, and show how many men they could carry. A little careful inquiry would repay those who talk so glibly but ignorantly of the number of men an enemy could land in Australia.
I have some authorities here, and I only wish the time at my disposal was sufficient for me to quote them all. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 25th September, 1916, the then right honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Cook) is reported as saying : -
It was a matter for regret that, after two years of war, Australia was making a few rifles, practically no shells, and no machine guns. He believed that the Australian workmen was as shrewd of eye and as cunning of hand as any other.
Mr. William Brookes, president of the Employers Federation, at the same time said : -
Though Australia has done great things, still he felt that more could have been done.
Australia had not contributed her quota in the supplying of guns and ammunition. Most of the laxity, was due to the lack of encourage, ment given to private enterprise in the past.
As a matter of fact, both these men say that Australia can supply guns and ammunition, if Australian workmen are given an opportunity to make them. But the policy of the Government is to send thousands of skilled artisans to the other end of the world to make guns, shells, and implements of war, rather than insist that they shall do the work here, spare material, if any, being sent abroad. < Canada is making munitions of various descriptions for the Empire, and I have quoted the right honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Cook), who speaks with some authority when he says that the same could be done in Australia.
In the Commonwealth Tear-Book, No. 4, which condenses Lord Kitchener’s report on the defence of Australia, we read : -
The provision of a military force adequate to insure local safety and public confidence at a time of attempted invasion is regarded as a paramount duty, and the home defence forces of Australia, it is proposed, should be determined on lines similar to those adopted in Great Britain. The estimated strength of the land forces necessary to do this - consideration being given to the great ocean distances which lie between Australia and the territory of any possible enemies, tlie armed strength and power of transportation oversea of any conceivable hostile nation, and the extent of territory of the Australian Commonwealth, contrasts with its comparatively small population - is estimated at 80,000 - half to secure the larger cities and defended ports from attack, and the other moiety to operate as a mobile striking’ force anywhere in Australia.
Referring to Kitchener’s scheme, Colonel Poster, who until recently waa Chief of the General Staff in Australia, says in his book, The Defence of the Empire in Australia, printed in November, 1914, after the outbreak Of the war: -
It will thus be. seen that the present war establishments and organizations of Australian Forces are well designed for all duties they can be called on to perform at home. …
If these points are attended to, Australia may consider herself capable of coping with any enemy that can forcibly land on her shores.
The consideration of the whole subject as applied to Australia may be summed up by saying that there is no part of the Empire so little liable to attack as Australia, and, therefore, so little in want of a large force for its defence.
Colonel Foster further says: -
The danger anticipated in sending troops across seas not commanded is well seen in the movement of the expedition sent by the United States to Cuba in 1898. After long waiting, until the sea was believed to bo clear of the enemy ships, the expedition started. It comprised . 15,000 men, unencumbered with horses, requiring thirty-two transports and fourteen menofwar to escort them. . . .
He goes on to explain the difficulty of these transports in wending their way across the ocean,’ and says: -
Finally, the disembarkation was a scene of confusion rarely seen in war. Troops and stores were hurriedly flung pell-mell on shore. Officers could not find their commands, nor the troops their equipment. Had ‘there been any resistance to the landing, a great disaster would have been chronicled.
Then he goes on to give other instances.
Forty thousand men were sent by the United States to the Philippines in 1899, when the ocean was clear of enemy raiders, and a long time was occupied in sending them.
Britain sent 30,000 men to the Crimea, with the assistance of both British and French convoys.
Japan in what was purely ferrying 400,000 troops across the narrow stretch of sea between Japan and Manchuria, experienced great difficulty. Their march inland was slow and tedious. Colonel Foster points out the difficulties met in keeping up the lines of communication, and goes on to show that such an expedition would have been a practical impossibility had there been any opposition on the ocean.
United States Transport Department reported, says Colonel Foster, that the whole of the United States shipping on the Atlantic coast could not ship more than 60,000 men, while the whole of the shipping of the United States on the Pacific coast could not convey more than 40,000 men.
The despatch to South Africa by Great Britain of 250,000 men over 6,000 miles of sea, at the rate of 1,000 per day, was, says Colonel Foster, the greatest movement overseas recorded in history. Britain, with the mightiest mercantile marine in the world, and with the assistance of French transports, was only able to take a quarter of a million of men to South Africa at the rate of 1,000 a day.
Yet we have to listen to men who have no faith in Australia, or in the power of Australians to defend themselves on their own shores. “We have heard of the brave deeds of Australian soldiers on Gallipoli; but if the soldiers of this country had to defend Australia on their own soil, there would, indeed, be a new page written in the military history of the world. We are not equipped to-day because we have a Government in power that has one eye only, and is not prepared to do anything for Australia - because the vital necessities of Australian defence are ignored, and because this Parliament, which is charged with the duty of defending Australia, refuses to live up to that duty, insist on knowing what is going on, and demand action adequate to our responsibilities.
It is pointed out by Colonel Foster, in his book, The War and the Empire, that it requires at least nine or ten tons of shipping to ship one man oversea, with his baggage and equipment. Inquiry and calculation, together with a little faith in Australians, would dispel the assumed helplessness of this country to protect itself. Britain fought many important foreign wars with less population than we have in Australia to-day. .
Colonel Foster refers to the instance of the French sending a small force to Madagascar in 1895. He says -
The French soldiers sent to Madagascar in 1805 in crowded transports were decimated by disease- Most of the transports, it may be remarked, were British, for even the secondgreatest naval Power had not enough of her own to carry that small force.
The fourth difficulty will bo the provision of. coal for a long voyage, noting that much will be needed for condensing water for so many mcn and horses…..
Referring to landings on a hostile coast, Colonel Foster says -
When an invasionary expedition has reached its destination, the landing of the army forms the most critical period of the whole operation. Absence of opposition is now essential for landing troops. The armies of to-day are too formidable to be faced in the open by men unable to return the fierce fire. Modern landings must bc made so far from populated districts and railways as to be unresisted.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary, American Navy, October 1915, re-‘ f erring to the supposition of an’ invasion of America from oversea, said -
Strictly speaking, if national defence applies solely to the prevention of an army landing on our Atlantic or Pacific coasts, no navy at all is necessary.
In 1915, 33,000 Canadians were sent from Canada to Britain unequipped, and, with Britain in absolute control of the” seas, it took thirty-one transports and sixty-two .warships thirty-three days to move men from one friendly port to another, and even - that force could not have been fast enough to defend itself, except in harbors, with extensive docking facilities.
General Nelson A. Miles, of the United States Navy, in January, 1916, before the Senate’- Committee said -
The placing of an army on American soil would be the last thing any European Government would ever attempt. It could never be re-embarked. It would dissolve like snow beneath the mid-day sun. Whenever it hasbeen attempted the result has been disaster. These overseas expeditions spring from the minds of men who know less about preparedness than anything else.
I cannot say all I should desire in the ‘ ten minutes left at my disposal; but if honorable members feel inclined to look up references they ought to read Colonel Foster’s The War and the Umpire, and his other book, The Defence of the Empire in Australia; and also the book of BrigadierGeneral G. G. Aston, CB., Royal Artillery, on the Russo-Japanese waT, twelve years ago. The last-mentioned author speaks of the difficulties of Japan in sending troops through Korea to meet the Russians on Yalo River, and those of Russia, who had to send troops 6,000 miles away from her base.
Let honorable members read Mr. C. H. Ferraby, in the London Daily Express of 23rd November, 1914, on the attack by the British warships on Zeebrugge. I am not unmindful of the magnificent performance by the Navy during the last few days at that same port in possession of Germany. This later attack had to take place under cover of a fog, the invention of some of the skilled marine and naval scientists; the Navy was within thirty minutes of its base; and, though it was a wonderful undertaking, the results are not great. It has been impossible, with all the might and majesty of the British, French, and American Fleets, to approach any of the enemy coast lines guarded by mines. Is such a defence as that beyond the reach of Australia ? Are we not able to mine our harbors and selected coastal areas, and thus prevent enemy vessels from approaching?
– .There are 9,000 miles of coast-line !
– There are; and in some places it would be absolutely impossible for an enemy army to land. What would an enemy force do if it were, landed 1,000 miles or more from the nearest habitation 1
I also invite honorable members to read John Masefield’s Gallipoli and Granville Fortesque’s What of the Dardanelles? and see how the bravest troops that ever faced the muzzle of a gun attempted to land on Gallipoli covered by the great warships of the British Navy. In nine months it was impossible for 300,000 of the finest soldiers the world had ever produced to make headway against the Turks on the hills of Gallipoli. Observe the difficulty of these grand soldiers in maintaining their hold on the small patch of earth, and how, at last, they were compelled to withdraw, leaving the whole expedition a disastrous failure. The Turks were only equipped with rifles, machine guns, and light howitzers, all of which could be made in Australia.
Honorable members who think that Australia can do nothing to defend itself ought to read some of those works, and inform their minds; they ought not to use the old gag and shibboleth “ Australia can do nothing “ - the same old gag of the “stinking fish” party, who would have had us believe that we could not make our own boots or clothing. If they get experts to give them information, they will find that if Australia were afforded an opportunity by the Government to defend itself, no nation on earth would undertake an expedition against us.
– Where would you locate your army ?
– I would get the experts of the Defence Department to say where the army was to be located. We could - in this country now provide a force of half a million men for the defence of Australia.
– Are you willing to call them out?
– My honorable friend knows my opinion, which I submitted in May, 1916, by memorandum to him, as to every other honorable member. Mr. Bamford. - Will you state it now?
– Yes. I am in favour of Australia being put in a position to defend herself, and to do whatever is necessary to that end. I am in favour of the public of this country being allowed to know the facts of the case. If there is one thing more criminal than another, it is the refusal of those in the control of affairs to allow the people to know the internationalposition - to know the great facts of this war in close proximity to our own shores.
The Government absolutely refuse to give the public any information - I am not allowed to give it even to Parliament, or outside this House. Under the circumstances, the Government may find great Labour conferences meeting presently because of the administration of Defence matters recently, and doing things which should not be done at this time above all others. There is a prejudice growing up against compulsory training, because of pin-pricks and unfairness in its operation, and probably the great working-class organizations will take up an attitude of hostility to that means of defence.
If the public were allowed to know the facts they would adopt no such attitude, but because they are not, and because those of us who have made a study of the question are not allowed to put the facts before them, men, in their ignorance, may do something which will be very much to the detriment of this country, if it does not lead to disaster. And if such an attitude is taken up, the responsibility must rest on the shoulders of those who have refused to allow the people of this country to know what the facts are.
We were told to-day that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy left for England yesterday. We are told, also, that ‘the position in Australia is critical, and that the preparations for Australia’s defence are unsatisfactory. Yet the. Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are so careless and callous as to Australia’s vital interests that, in the midst of these ominous circumstances, they can board a ship to go 12,000 miles to the other side of the world.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) said that Australia is being defended on the other side of the world.
– I am not influenced by what the honorable member said. He is probably misled in the same way as others of his compatriots born oversea.
It has been stated that the Prime Minister has been invited to Britain. How do we knoiw that either he or the Minister for the Navy has been called to London? What is the purpose of their going overseas at the present time? Unfortunately, the German Armies are advancing. Are the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy going to Europe to arrange terms of peace? Every sensible man knows that such a proposal is an absurdity at this stage. To talk peace when the enemy is in the ascendency is to accept his dictation. There was an opportunity to confer as to peace terms, but, unfortunately, that opportunity was not availed of. Then, for what are they going ?
The treatment these two Englishmen have meted out to us in connexion with their mission to England is on a ipar with the contempt with which this Parliament has been treated’ by the Government in regard to other matters of the’ highest national importance. Parliament has not been taken into the confidence of the Government.We have not been told what messages, if any, have been received from Great Britain; or, if any have been received, what messages preceded them. “We do not know whether the invitation, if any, was unsought, or was the outcome of representations made to the Imperial Authorities from Australia. We are not told for what purpose these delegates have gone to London, or to what they will commit this country while they are there. And the majority of honorable members of this National Parliament seem to be prepared to accept this humiliating situation.
– According to the Ministerial statement, the British Government asked representatives of ‘the Commonwealth to go to London.
– I have read Ministerial statements which may or may not be untrue.
– Did the honorable member object to the Prime Minister going to London on the last occasion?
– No. I was one of those who said that he ought to go, because his visit to London had relation to the particular question I am discussing to-night.
– Has not his present mission reference to the same matter ?
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- We do not know.
– Probably the honorable member did not know the nature of the Prime Minister’s mission on the previous occasion.
– Everybody knew the nature of his mission on that occasion. The honorable member was not in the House then.
My time has expired. I can only ask that this Parliamentwill, at any rate, recognise its paramount obligation to the people of this country to provide for the defence of Australia in Australia as its first duty to Australia. By all means let us do all we can to help
Britain with men, money, and supplies - let us do anything by which we can help the land of our forefathers - but our first obligation is the defence of Australia in Australia. And before we ask ourselves whether we can send 16,500, or 7,000, or 5,400 men per month across the seas our duty is to ask ourselves: What are our obligations in respect of man power for the home defence of Australia and the maintenance of our industries? When we have answered that question, we shall know what numerical surplus is available for sending overseas. Having insured that our first and paramount obligation to Australia has been adequately met, there will be no more loyal and enthusiastic supporter of everything the Commonwealth can do from one end of the continent to the other to help Great Britain than your humble servant representing Cook in the Parliament of Australia.
.- The paragraph in the Ministerial statement which seems to me the most important, and likely to affect the future welfare of Australia more than all the others, is that which reads -
It will be within the knowledge of honorable members that the British Government have asked representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an early date. The Government feel that, at this critical juncture, Australia must be represented thereat. The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy will represent the Commonwealth.
I desire to know what subjects are to be discussed at this Conference? Is the Conference to deal with the terms of peace, and the things that Australia will be asked to agree to as part of those terms, or is something else to be discussed which will be a means of continuing the war ? Are there to be proposals on the lines of the resolutions of the Paris Economic Conference - proposals which the German military caste may seize upon and circulate from one end of their country to the other in order to hearten the men of Germany to fight to the last ditch for fair treatment? Are the German militarists to be afforded an opportunity of saying that the Allies desire not so much to defeat the Prussian military system as to crush the German people into the dust? The people of Australia have a right to know what matters affecting the welfare of the Commonwealth are to be discussed at the Conference. The delegates say that they are representing Australia. I say that they represent only one section of Australia, and that the voice of the people of the Commonwealth can only be properly heard when the two large sections of the community are directly represented. What representation at the Conference have the people who elected honorable members on this side of the House? The delegates may assent to conditions to which the people who returned us to Parliament may not be prepared to agree.
– On the occasion of the Prime Minister’s previous visit to England the Labour party gave him a free hand.
– And. he represented the Labour party only.
– I did not give him a free hand. I recollect quite clearly what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said in the party room before he left for London on the previous occasion. We know what he told us, and why he went to England. As the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) stated, the Prime Minister went to England on the last occasion in the interests of the defence of Australia. We knew the reason for his mission.
– The Labour party gave him a free hand, and applauded him for what he did at the Paris Conference.
– The Labour party did not applaud him for his actions at the Paris Conference.
– Honorable members opposite used to read with joy the newspaper reports of his speeches.
– The Minister knows too well what was the attitude of the Labour party in reference to that Conference.
– The Prime Minister never explained to even the Labour party the mission on which he was going to England.
– That is not so. I enter my protest against the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) going to Great Britain to represent Australian sentiment. They represent the jingoistic element of the community in this country, but not the aspirations and ideals of Australian democracy.
In another paragraph in the Ministerial statement we read that “the Common wealth shipbuilding scheme is now definitely established.” If words could have established the scheme it would have been established long ago, but what a hollow mockery this statement is when not one blow of a hammer has been struck upon a plate to build a ship in Australia.
– Why have the boiler makers knocked off work?
-I refer the honorable member to the Acting Minister for the Navy. To understand clearly . how the Government have abjectly failed to initiate a real shipping policy it is necessary to trace the whole history of the pottering and paltering attempts that have been made to commence the local construction of ships. In February of last year I brought the matter under the notice of the House. I pointed out the necessity of going in for a vigorous policy of shipbuilding to enable us to assist the Allies to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Nothing was done in the matter until some months later. In June of that year a Conference was called by the Prime Minister, and was held in Melbourne. It was attended by the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, and representatives of New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian labour organizations interested in the shipbuilding industry. At that Conference the Prime Minister laid before the delegates assembled what he was pleased to call his policy of shipbuilding, and the conditions under which he would allow the industry to be established in Australia. I propose to quote some of the statements which the Prime Minister made from the official report of the proceedings of the Conference. Attached to the report is the statement -
I have read the foregoing report, and agree that it is a correct statement.
This is signed by “ W. M. Hughes,” and it is also signed by representatives of the trade unions “ W. J. Duggan, R. O’Halloran, T. Davies, J. McLachlan, S. Hampson, and W. A. Brown.” These men confirmed the statement of the Prime Minister that the contents of the document are accurate. Honorable members will, therefore, see that I am quoting something quite official. One of the first statements the Prime Minister made at the Conference was the following -
Being seized of the vital importance of shipping to the national, economic, and financial welfare of the nation, and the urgent need of increasing, by all means at our disposal, the supply of available tonnage, and realizing that in no way could Australia more effectively aid the Empire in the prosecution of the war than by organizing its industries and encouraging producers to increase the quantity of products for export purposes, and transporting these to Britain and her Allies, the Government decided to launch upon this great national enterprise.
They started to talk about launching this great national enterprise, but what were the conditions which the Government sought to impose. They said to the representatives of labour at the Conference, “ We will start this shipbuilding industry, which will save the economic life of the nation, and will help to feed the Allied troops that are fighting for us in Flanders - on certain conditions.” What are the conditions ? Here are the three basic labour conditions which the Prime Minister considered essential -
The labour conditions which the Government consider essential to the success of its proposals arc three: - (1) Continuity of operations. (2) Dilution of labour. (3) Piece-work. It was to consider these that the recent conference of representatives of the unions interested in shipbuilding was called.
I want honorable members particularly to listen to this, bearing in mind the Prime Minister’s statement about the economic life of the country being dependent upon our building ships. He said, further, that there should be no shipbuilding unless the unions agreed to the conditions. The Prime Minister said -
I want to make it perfectly clear that, unless the unions do accept these three conditions, the Government will not start in the industry.
– Quite right, too. Who should have charge of the business, the Government or the men?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs says, “ Quite right, too.” That is what the Prime Minister said. But I again ask honorable members to bear in mind what he had said at the Conference -
Unless we can find some way of getting our products out of Australia, there is going to be an almost complete cessation of industrial operations in Australia.
So that, unless the Government could have their conditions accepted, they were prepared to allow a complete cessation of industrial operations in Australia. It was not, apparently, a question of supplying the Allies with food, or of carrying on industrial operations in Australia as they should be carried on, but a question of breaking down union conditions that have been in force in this country for the last thirty or forty years. Let us contrast this with something else that happened in connexion with shipping. When the Prime Minister last visited Great Britain, he purchased fifteen ships, for which he paid £2,068,000. They were very old ships, and were not in a good condition of repair. In ordinary times, they would not have brought anything like the price that the Prime Minister paid for them.
– That is well known.
– I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs agrees with that statement. Why did the Prime Minister pay that enhanced price for them? It was because shipping was scarce, and because it was a vital necessity to Australia to obtain shipping. It was never suggested then that the Prime Minister should have said to the shipowners who demanded this price, “ You must not ask such a price. You must break down all these conditions, and unless you do so we shall not purchase any of your ships.” That was not the attitude adopted by the Government when dealing with a wealthy shipping corporation. It was then merely a question of paying the price asked, and getting the ships. I want to say right here, so far as the purchase of those ships was concerned, that I considered the Prime Minister did quite right in purchasing them; but I say. that he should have adopted the same attitude in Australia in connexion with the building of ships. Instead of wasting time holding conferences with union representatives, or anybody else, he should have got to work and started the building of ships. The great essential was shipbuilding, and not the breaking down of trade union conditions.
– The unions that stuck up hospital ships and transports would stick up the building of ships, too.
– I want to tell the Minister for Trade and Customs that it is an absolute falsehood to say that the unions stuck up hospital ships. No one knows better than the honorable gentleman that it is an absolute falsehood.
– I know that it is true.
– The Minister knows what happened just as well as I do.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw his statement that the Minister for Trade and Customs has been guilty of stating what is an absolute falsehood.
– In deference to your wishes, sir, I withdraw the statement; and I will say that the Minister for Trade and Customs is labouring under a misapprehension when he states that the unions were responsible for holding up hospital ships.
– I know that forty-five men walked off a transport, anyhow.
– This is a matter which seems to trouble the Ministry, and especially the Minister for Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman says that the business could not be controlled bv the unions, and must be controlled by the Government. It is evident thathe has not read the agreement very carefully or he would not have made that statement. Here is another quotation from this famous document, which I want honorable members to take particular notice of, because the whole thing turns upon this point -
Piece-work not to affect minimum wage. -
Mr. Hughes said that he had specially emphasized two points: First, that piece-work would not replace or reduce the minimum wage, but should go to supplement it. Every man employed would get the minimum wage as at present. The rates for piece-work would be fixed, and a man would be entitled to as much more than the minimum wage as he earned. No matter how much a man made on piecework the minimum wage would not be cut down. That was the first and great guarantee that the unions interested were given.
– What is wrong with that?
– I shall tell the Minister what is wrong with it. It seems to me that the Government have but a very poor idea of how to set to work to make a business a success. If it was true that the conditions imposed by the Prime Minister were not to interfere with the minimum wage, and that the piece-work system was only to supplement the minimum wage, why did the Prime Minister waste words and time in talking to anybody about it? The only condition that the unions have ever asked for have been that the minimum rate of pay should not be interfered with. Provided that was guaranteed they would be satisfied. They were not concerned about anything beyond that. What they were concerned about was the minimum rate of pay. If the statement made by the Prime Minister was correct the waste of time that has occurred in connexion with the starting of the shipbuilding industry has been little short of criminal, in view of the absolute necessity of shipping to carry the products of Australia across the seas to feed the boys who are fighting for us.
– Does the honorable member object to members of the Australian Workers Union shearing by contract?
– I want to tell my honorable friend that he has not quite perceived the lines I am following. I am not here supporting or denouncing piecework. What I am saying just now is that if what the Prime Minister set forth was the condition upon which the shipbuilding industry was to be gone on with it should have beenstarted last year, and ships should have been ready to launch by now. All that the Prime Minister had to say to the unions was, “Here is your minimum wage, and if anybody can earn more so much the better,” and there would have been no bother at all.
– Why did they not agree to that right away?
– You know why. The honorable member knows that the conditions set out by the Prime Minister in this document are not the condition’s which the Government asked them to sign, and the delay has been caused by the action of the Government in trying to get away from the original conditions set out.
– What is wrong with the minimum wage rate and as much as you can earn at piece work ?
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat. I ask honorable members to try to exercise more restraint in the matter of interjections. One interjection leads to cross passages from the other side, and thus a system of cross-firing is carried on which interferes very materially with any honorable member’s speech.
– I desire now to get on to another phase of the question - one of the most serious aspects of it, in fact. It has to do with the sudden change of policy on the part of the Government with respect to shipbuilding. According to the statement pf the Prime Minister at the Conference held in June last year -
The Government have decided, after most careful consideration, that these ships shall be built to a standardized design, which will apply to all parts, including engines, and designs are being prepared, under the supervision of Mr. King Salter, for this purpose. I have also had an interview with the general manager of the Broken Hill Steel Works, Mr. Delprat, and all preliminary arrangements for the supply of the materials for framework which his company can supply are now in hand.
That statement was made in June, 1917. Then we find that suddenly those arrangements were upset. I shall quote the words of Mr. King Salter, General Manager of the Naval Dockyards, Sydney. Speaking at the Naval Dockyard picnic on the 25th February this year, he said -
As regards merchant ships, we were quite prepared some few months ago to start on them, but for some inscrutable reason which the Prime Minister alone knows there was a complete change in all our arrangements, and now to-day I do not know what we- are going to do.
Here was the man who had all the arrangements in hand, who had brought the whole business right up from nothing - so to speak- - fo the very point of putting it into operation; and he tells us that “ for some inscrutable reason which the Prime Minister alone knows, there was a complete change in all our arrangements.” If that is so it shows on the part of the Government a scandalous lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the position. There is something further in connexion with this matter. In the Sydney
Sun of 25th February last there appeared an article headed “ Voyage of the Flying Dutchman.” I do not know whether it was well called the Flying Dutchman. I think that “ Dreamships “ is about the best name we could .give the vessels. Here is the quotation -
That the removal of control from the Government Dockyard was abrupt seems to be acknowledged on either hand. The haziness is about the date. In the same connexion, the public is entitled to receive from Mr. Hughes answers to these questions!-
I want the Minister to listen to this part of it: -
Is it a fact that Mr. King Salter prepared £3,500 worth of blue prints, which became useless when Mr. Curchin suddenly altered the dimensions by cable? Is it a fact that Mr. King Salter knew nothing of the new appointment, or the change of policy, till he read of them in the press?
If that is true, it indicates a scandalous waste of public money in these critical times, when there should be national economy. For Mr. King Salter I hold no ‘ brief - indeed, we have had many a good old “ scrap “ together, and I suppose we shall have a few more before we are much older. He has told us that all these arrangements were in hand. He had prints prepared at a cost of £3,500, and then the whole business was thrown overboard, and that money was lost to the Commonwealth. It is truly a scandalous condition of affairs. Matters were suddenly halted, and it was discovered that Mr. Curchin was being imported from Great Britain to carry on shipbuilding in Australia. I desire to know, first, why it was necessary to import any one to undertake the building of standardized vessels out here.. These were to have been standardized ships, ordinary tramps - merely steel boxes - which anybody with any knowledge of shipbuilding at all could have constructed. There were no intricacies more than a man with average knowledge of practical shipbuilding could have successfully carried out. Yet we find that Mr. King Salter - the man whom we had imported earlier from Great Britain, who had been given a huge salary, and who was one of the British Admiralty’s expert shipbuilders - was not sufficient. Neither was his under manager, Mr. Clarke, another of the Admiralty’s expert builders, possessing world-wide experience ; nor. the remainder ‘ of a staff of experts similarly imported, including draughtsmen from the Admiralty. All these experts were receiving high salaries, and had been brought out because they possessed extra special qualifications for the most intricate class of shipbuilding, namely, the construction of warships. Yet these were all boldly pushed on one side, and another gentleman, of whose qualifications I do not desire to say anything at present, was imported. In view of the fact that we have already these highly-paid imported experts on hand; it is an absolutely criminal waste of money to bring out another to do the work which those now here could have done very properly.
– Do you not think that a staff is wanted in Victoria, as well as in New South “Wales?
– Probably the honorable member is quite right. But, like most Victorians, he thinks Victoria is the capital of Australia.
– No; but we think we ought to get just a little of the shipbuilding.
– We have ample experts in Sydney, whose services we would be only too pleased to let Victoria have. Mr. Curchin was imported at a salary of £2,000 per annum to tell us how to build standardized ships. Then it was discovered that it would require more than just that one gentleman to construct the vessels. So they imported five other men - one to be a shipyard manager, at £600 per annum; another to be chief draughtsman, at £520 per annum; another to be foreman iron man, at £400 per annum; another a foreman shipwright, at £400 per annum; and a chief marine engineer, at £1,000 per annum. Here was a total in salaries of £2,920, plus the £2,000 for Mr. Curchin, making, in all, an additional £4,920 pei- annum,, at a time when this country is already heavily burdened. I am not afraid to say that, in the Naval Dockyard, there are to-day quite half-a-dozen ordinary under-foremen who have had experience iii the big shipbuilding yards of the world, who would be quite capable of undertaking this same work in any part of the Commonwealth at the present time. Why, therefore, should not their services be utilized, instead of going to the expense of importing these men? And, at the same time, what about those others whom we sent to Great Britain to learn shipbuilding, and whose expenses we paid in large sums? They are all back here now, strengthened by knowledge and experience. Why have not their services been secured, instead of importing this latest body of .experts, and at the same time shutting the door of promotion in the face of able young Australians? The whole business shows a scandalous disregard for finance and the welfare of our country.
There is also another aspect of the matter. The ships which Mr. King Salter was desirous of building were the ordinary tramp type, to be of a standardized design - following the example of the British Government. However, this plan was suddenly overthrown, and the Government decided to adopt some new. system. They went in for what is known as the Isherwood system. This is a matter of longitudinal framing as distinct from the transverse system of framing in shipbuilding. I promptly made inquiries, and discovered that Messrs. Isherwood, from whom Mr. Curchin comes - he was their leading man -are the patentees of this particular design of construction. . The Commonwealth Government are adopting this patent method. Now, the firm of Messrs. Isherwood are not a shipbuilding company; they are an up-to-date business firm, with a -patent for a particular style of construction. I said to myself, “The Commonwealth Government are not getting this for nothing.” So I asked certain questions as to what royalties were being paid to Messrs. J. W. Isherwood. Here is the reply. It uses the word “fees.” I want honorable members to note the fine way in which this, bit of camouflage comes in : -
Pees are payable to J. W. Isherwood at the rate of 3s. 4d. per gross ton, equivalent to about £550 per ship, for the preparation of classification, plans, &c.
This is another scandalous thing. It means that the Government are paying a royalty to Messrs. Isherwood of £550 on every ship, when there was absolutely no need for paying anything at all.
– How can that be, when the firm has prepared plans and specifications ?
– Can the honorable member not see that, since these are to be standardized ships - all. of one design - only the one master design is required. In reference to this particular matter, there is £550 paid; but not for the design. No one can tell what amount the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay for ship construction if each one is to cost £550 for the design alone. In my judgment, it is scandalous, especially in view of the fact that in Great Britain to-day standardized ships are being built to a design prepared by experts of the British Admiralty. No royalty is being paid to any firm. If there had been any doubt or difficulty about the matter, could not we, in this time of national crisis, have cabled to the British Admiralty asking them to allow us to use their design ? I am sure that, in such circumstances, the British Admiralty would have gladly come to our assistance. Instead, however, of applying to the Imperial authorities, some arrangement was made with Mr. J. W. Isherwood to pay his firm a certain sum, in order that we might be able to build ships to his design in Australia. Behind all this, also, is the appointment of Isherwood’s manager to the control of shipbuilding in Australia. I leave that with the simple statement that the people of Australia .will demand some explanation from the Government. They will want to know why they are to be called upon to pay this outrageous tax for the right to build ships in this country.
I want to know, also, why the Government have not taken advantage of all the facilities offered in Australia to carry out this work. I ask honorable, members to believe me when I say that I have no personal interests to serve, but am actuated purely from a desire to do my best in the interests of my country at the present juncture. Why, I ask, have the facilities for shipbuilding at Cockatoo Island not been availed of? Why are three slips lying idle there to-day - and why have they been idle for months past? The country demands an answer at a time like this, when, as the Prime Minister has told us, the whole safety of our economic life is depending upon ships. Why have not Messrs. Walker Bros., of Maryborough, Queensland, been allowed to build ships?
– They all had the right to apply.
– Walker Bros, over twelve months ago offered to undertake this work, but their offer was not accepted.
– Do you know the terms ?
– >I do not want to talk a’bout terms. Honorable members opposite could impose their terms on the trade unionists of this country, so surely they could have got their own terms with Walker Bros.
– They are still open, if they like to accept, them.
– Another firm at Port Jackson, Messrs. Poole and Steele, have turned out some of the largest ships of their kind in Australia. Why have they not been given an opportunity to carry out this work? Why is Mort’s Dock lying idle ? Why is no shipbuilding going on in Tasmania? And, indeed, why are ships not being built in South Australia ?
– You will not let me answer you.
– I can give the- Minister the answer in the Prime Minister’s own words. He states in his manifesto that “ the shipbuilding scheme is now definitely established.” The question I have raised is of such a serious character that the people of Australia will certainly demand t.o know why they have to pay Messrs. J. W. Isherwood and Co. for the light to build ships in Australia. Instead of doing some practical work, we have had a lot of “hifalutin” from the Prime Minister, who waves his hands about, talks largely, but does not get down to work. I have some knowledge of this business, and I am prepared at any time to give the Government every assistance possible in furthering the shipbuilding industry in Australia. It appears, however, that the Government do not -want ‘ practical suggestions. The Prime Minister, it seems, prefers to talk and make statements to the effect that the Commonwealth “shipbuilding scheme is now definitely established.” Is it? I think it is established only in their dreams; though I should imagine that the Minister at present in charge of the House (Mr. Poynton) has been awakened to-night, and he realizes that the country will demand an answer to the points I have raised. Up to the present the Government have merely paltered and pottered about with this great question. The present position of Australia is not unlike that of Rome, which was burning while Nero fiddled; but in this case it’ is a case of Billy “yapping” while–
– While the mice are eating the wheat.
– Yes; that will do, and I leave the subject at that. I am afraid that we shall have to wait until the “ crack o’ doom “ before we get anything practicable in the way of shipbuilding from this Government. In the meantime, our farmers’ produce is lying in the open, exposed to all the elements, and is being devoured by mice, but the one thing practicable to get our wheat to market- the building of ships in Australia - is not being put into operation by this Government.
.- It is with a certain amount of diffidence that I rise to speak after the speech we have just had fromour national shipbuilder.
– Well, it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.
– Order ! I must ask ‘the honorable member to cease interjecting. The honorable member for Herbert has hardly started his speech before he is interrupted.
– While I deprecate the loss of time occupied by this debate, and while I might be accused myself of, to some extent, delaying the division on the absurd amendment moved b’y the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I desire to say a few words on the subject now before the House. The amendment itself is absurd, because by this time the Ministers against whom it is directed have probably already left Australia’s shores.
– But they had not when the amendment was moved.
– But the Leader of the Opposition must have known how futile his amendment would be, because he was aware that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) had already packed their bag’s and booked their passages.
– They had their . bags packed once before.
– Yes, and on ‘that occasion would have gone with the approval of the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– They did not go then.
– This attack upon the Prime Minister is remarkable, because it comes from men who but a little while ago joined in electing him Leader of the party, with cheers that almost lifted the roof off that upper room in this building. They all were behind the Prime Minister then, even the honorable member for Cook (Mr, Catts), and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I remember we once had a saying of people who were closely associated with each other that they were so friendly that they would swap shirts. Well, that was the position as between the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the then member for West Sydney (Mr. Hughe’s) . It was “ Billy here “ and “ Frank there,” and I believe that on occasions they even went to the extent of lending each other 5s. if that were neces sary at any time. But the position has changed since then. Why are these accusations now levelled at the Prime Minister? Simply because he had the courage to stand up and voice his opinions all over the Commonwealth. When he came back from England prior to the first referendum, who were loudest in their praise of all that he had done? The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen) will know. When he came back everybody praised him, but simply because he has had the courage of his convictions and would not toady to the organizations outside-
– But he toadied to the duchesses.
– Because, I say, he had the courage of his opinions, honorable members opposite now condemn him. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) was among those who praised him at that time.
– I denounced his attitude at the time.
– To-day the honorable member for Brisbane and other honorable members opposite cannot find language sufficiently strong to condemn the Prime Minister. Why is it? Honorablemembers opposite must themselves know. Is it because they were too cowardly to go out with him; because their knees trembled with fear at the thought that they would lose their seats if they supported him. But I will not pursue that subject further. Honorable members know that what I say is absolutely true. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), who condemned the Prime Minister last evening, was in knickerbockers when the right honorable William Morris Hughes was fighting hard in the cause of Labour.
I was very pleased to hear the speech delivered by the honorable member for Cook to-day. He pleads, as a conscriptionist, that we should call up the manhood of Australia to defend it. I am entirely with him in that contention. The 40,000 men whom it is proposed to call up will not provide a force half sufficient for the purpose. But the honorable member was reported, during the first referendum campaign, to have asked, “Why should we be afraid of an attack by the Germans or anybody else?
Cannot we go Behind the Blue Mountains?”
– Whoever said that is a liar.
– Well, that is just the sort of thing the honorable member would say.
– It is just the cowardly kind of statement that is concocted by honorable members on the other side of the Chamber.
– The honorable member was reported to have made that statement in the Sydney press.
– Order ! These intersections across the Chamber must cease.
– Honorable members have no right to interject, sir. The position at the present moment is so grave that we ought to call up every man in Australia who is capable of carrying arms.
Last night the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) took exception to economic conscription. I say, without hesitation, that if I were an employer of labour no man should remain in my employ who was eligible to carry arms under the conditions laid down in our Defence Act. The most unfortunate thing that ever happened here is that on the outbreak of the war we did not repeal section 4’9 of that Act. The Constitution, in paragraph 6 of section 51, provides that this Parliament shall have power to make laws for the defence of the Commonwealth. Where is the Commonwealth being defended to-day? It is not being defended here, but on the other side of the world. But, unfortunately, we stultified ourselves by inserting in the Defence Act a provision “that no man should be sent overseas to serve in our military Forces without his own consent. But for that provision we should have had the power to send to the other side of the world every man whom it was considered necessary to send to defend Australia. Yet other persons contemplated the possibility of war at that time. In addressing my constituents in 1910, I said that, judging by what was happening elsewhere, and by the circumstance that the whole of the British Fleet had practically been concentrated in the North Sea, we should be at war with Germany within five years. As a matter of fact, we were at war with her within four years. Yet the people of England were so blind that, notwithstanding the fervent appeals of the late Lord Roberts to call up such forces as might be necessary, and to drill and instruct all eligibles in the Old Country, no steps were taken in that direction. Mr. Hughes advocated the same principle at that time with the full approval of the Labour party, of which I was then a member.
– How many years before the war was that?
– Not so many years. The Germans knew what waa coming, anyhow, and were prepared for it. We were so foolishly bland that we did not see as far ahead as did the late Lord Roberts and William Morris Hughes when he advocated conscription as far as Australia was concerned. Why did the supporters of the Labour party, who gave us a majority time after time, approve of that policy? Did they think that there would be no occasion to fight?
– They approved it on account of the White Australia policy.
– Will my honorable friends fight for a White Australia? Will they fight for anything? They directly approved of what was advocated by Mr. Hughes on the floor of this House in regard to our Citizen Forces. We have conscription for service in Australia today. But what is the use of it unless, at this juncture, it is put into operation?
I wish now to deal for a few moments with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). Last night he absolutely misrepresented what was done at the Paris Conference. I have here the official report of the proceedings of that Conference, and I have no hesitation in saying that the honorable member put an entirely wrong construction upon the decisions at which it arrived. He condemned what was done at that gathering, and said, amongst other things, that the Paris Conference had done more to prolong the war than had anything else. Let me read what was done there. I do not intend to weary the House by reading the whole of the decisions arrived at, but I will read sufficient to show that the honorable member has not studied what was done there, and, perhaps unconsciously, misrepresented those resolutions. He said that the resolutions were of such a nature as would be circulated in Germany.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Capricornia.
– Why treat it seriously ?
– Because it is a serious matter. When an honorable member misrepresents - perhaps unconsciously - the resolutions arrived at by that Conference, and the purpose of those resolutions, his statements ought to be controverted here.
– The Prime Minister’s speeches were reprinted in pamphlet form throughout Germany.
– Will the honorable member for Cook accept the official report of the proceedings of the Conference?
– German soldiers had it, anyhow.
– I must again ask honorable members to cease these interchanges across the chamber.
– It is a remarkable thing that whatever does not suit honorable members opposite is at once branded as a lie, whereas whatever suits them is always considered to be the truth. The honorable member for Cook is insinuating that the record which I hold in my hand is not correct because something was printed in the newspapers which purported to be the utterances of our Prime Minister.
– I did not say that at all.
– I understood the honorable member to say that. I have here the official report of the proceedings of the Conference. The first resolution to which I invite attention reads -
The laws and regulations prohibiting trading with the enemy shall be brought into accord.
For this purpose -
-The Allies will prohibit their own subjects and citizens and all persons residing in their territories from carrying on any trade with -
The inhabitants of enemy countries, whatever their nationality.
Enemy subjects, wherever resident.
Persons, firms, and companies. whose business is controlled wholly or partially by enemy subjects, or is subject to enemy influence, and whose names are included in a special list.
– They will prohibit the importation into their territories of all goods originating in or coming from enemy countries.
– They will devise means of establishing a system enabling contracts entered into with enemy subjects and injurious to national interests to be cancelled unconditionally.
The honorable member for Capricornia forgot to say that these measures were for the war period. He entirely omitted to mention that.
– What about after the war?
– That is not what the Prime Minister said yesterday.
– For fifteen years after the war.
– It does not say anything about fifteen years after the war. If the honorable member will read the report he will see for himself what were the resolutions arrived’ at. Other resolutions were passed - ‘ ‘ Transitory measures for the period of commercial, industrial, agricultural, and maritime reconstruction of the Allied countries ‘ ‘ - meaning that the Allied countries will protect themselves amongst themselves as far as is necessary after the war. Then another series of resolutions was carried - “ Permanent measures of mutual assistance and collaboration amongst the Allies.” There is nothing in the report of the proceedings of the Conference of the nature alluded to by the honorable member for, Capricornia, who desired to make it appear that we were attempting to permanently destroy after the war all trade and commerce between Germany and ourselves and between Germany and the other Allied nations. His animadversions, therefore, upon the Conference and its resolutions were entirely unwarranted.
– What about Considine?Do not forget him?
– I said that he knew nothing whatever about the subject.
In discussing this question last evening the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) made charges which he cannot possibly substantiate. He has no ground whatever for the statements which he made in condemnation of the Prime Minister. The amendment is clearly aimed at the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition had nothing to say against the honorable member for Parramatta attending- the Imperial Conference; and clearly his objection, and that of the honorable member for Brisbane, was to the attendance of the Prime Minister there. I have known Mr. Hughes intimately in social, political, business, and union circles ever since I entered this Parliament seventeen years ago, and I say that a straighter and a whiter man does not exist in Australia.
On one occasion, when the Prime Minister had’ been doing the work of three Ministers, an honorable member, who is not here now, accused him of taking the pay of three Ministers, but the accusation fell flat when it was shown that the right honorable gentleman had handed the money over to the Repatriation Fund. The charges of that kind which have been brought against him occasionally, mere dirt-throwing, fall to the ground, leaving him unblemished.
The honorable memberfor Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is here, not as an Australian, not as a Nationalist, but as a member for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Whose fault is it that the unions would not’’ agree to the terms laid down in respect of shipbuilding? That of members like him, who have incited them to stand out for better conditions. Honorable members opposite talk about profiteering, but what difference is there between the profiteers and those who, when the country is in extreme need, catch it by the throat to make demands on it? The honorable member’s address to-night was devoted to the delays in carrying out the shipbuilding programme of the Government. Is the Prime Minister to blame for them ? So far as I know, he has done all that he could. It is not his fault, nor is it that of the Government, that it has been delayed.
As for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) he would not be here if certain members of the unions had their way ; he knows that they tried byall sorts of trickery to oust him. The honorable member for Capricornia said that the Prime Minister was a great intriguer ; but some years ago - the honorable member for Cookknows of this - a cave was formed at the instigation of the honorable member for Capricornia; so that he, at least, cannot reproach the Prime Minister with being an intriguer. I know all about that cave, because I was in it. Some honorable members opposite are in a very uncomfortable position. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is where he is because of want of courage ; he has not the pluck to stand up to his convictions. That is what keeps many honorable members where they are.
– What rubbish!
– I do not accuse the Leader of the Opposition, because he has been consistent. But some of his followers have not been consistent. The honorable member for Maribyrnong is one of them, and he knows it; that is what hurts.
Let me speak of an incident that happened to me on Tuesday last. This is the time for straight talking. Iwas wearing the Anzac Day badge which I am now wearing - a badge which it is an honour to wear. As I stood on a kerb waiting for a tram, a lorry passed in which coal had been carried. On it were four boys, of ages varying from eleven to fourteen. As they passed, they jeered at my badge, and threw pieces of coal either at me or at it. I ask, Where were they taught to. disrespect such a badge - in their homes or in the schools or elsewhere? Had they been properly taught, they would have respected the badge; yet many children are being taught not to respect it, but to spit on it. I say, in all seriousness, that as things are going, this countrywill soon be face to face with a civil war.
– I hope not.
– And I hope not; but that is the way things are drifting. Who will be to blame? I ask honorable members opposite to have a heart-to-heart talk, and to see where they are being led or driven.
The honorable member for Capricornia has stated that there are no harbors in New Guinea capable of being used as a submarine or Naval Base.
– You will not find that in the report of my speech.
– Perhaps not.
– Then why attribute the statement to me?
– The honorable member has had an opportunity to revise the report.
– I have not revised it.
– To say that there are no harbors on the coast of German New Guinea, is to make a great and serious misstatement.
– I said nothing of the kind. I object to that statement, Mr. Speaker, and ask that it be withdrawn. I made no reference whatever to the harbors of German New Guinea.
– There was nothing unparliamentary in the honorable member’s language; but if the honorable member has been misrepresented, he can make a personal explanation when the honorable -member for Herbert resumes his seat.
– It cannot be denied that on the German New Guinea coast there are very spacious harbors capable of accommodating quite comfortably the combined German and British Fleets. The honorable member for Capricornia will not deny that he said that if the holding of the islands of the Pacific by the Allied Powers would involve the continuation of the war for one additional hour or day, then we should not insist upon holding them.
– I stand to that statement.
– Has the honorable member any regard for the future ? Does he know that we are at war? There are in Australia many who do not realize that the Empire is at war. They are content to live in what may prove a fool’s paradise, and they need to be reminded that there is a world war going on which is coming very close to us.
Apart altogether from German New Guinea, which, after all, is a long way from the Seat of Government, there are other islands in the Pacific to which we should direct our attention. A little while ago, Mr. Speaker and I visited the New Hebrides, where there are many harbors, two or three of which would accommodate a fairly large fleet. Those islands are within less than forty hours’ steaming of Sydney. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) to consider that fact. Would any honorable member care to have as a neighbour a disreputable or objectionable character? And does any honorable member desire islands in the Pacific which, so to speak, are next door to us, to be occupied by a hostile Power?
– It is impossible to get from New Hebrides to Sydney in two days.
– A fast cruiser could run from the New Hebrides to Sydney in less than two days, or from the New Hebrides to Townsville in sixty-five hours. She could not go direct because of the islands and shoals,’ but she could reach Townsville within the time I have mentioned. Imagine, for a moment, what our position would be with an enemy in possession of islands within such a short distance of Australia. And yet the honorable member for Capricornia, rather than have us fight another day to secure the future peace of the world, would hand over these islands to Germany.
– But Germany is not in possession of the,New Hebrides.
– I am well aware of that; but would any honorable member care to have an objectionable neighbour next door to him ? Would any honorable member care to have these islands held bv a hostile Power?
– I say “ No.”
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s emphatic assurance that he does not desire anything of this kind.’ My feeling is that Australia should have control of every island in the Pacific south of the Equator. Mr. Speaker will bear me out when I say that whilst we were visiting the islands of the Pacific matters came under our observation which’ impressed upon us. very strongly their value to Australia and the unfortunate position in which we should be placed if they were in the possession of a hostile Power. I am profoundly convinced that the British flag should fly over every one of these islands.
There are in Australia people who entertain kindly feelings towards the German Government. Against the German people as a whole I have nothing to say - some of them, I think, are led in a direction they do not desire - but for the German Government and Prussianism I have a most unkind feeling. I propose, for the enlightenment of these people, to make a brief quotation from a book entitled With the German Army in the West, which is being very widely read. The author, Sven Hedin, a Swede, accompanied the German Army to the West Front for the special purpose of recording its victories. Goethe, the poet, was once sent on a similar mission to Valmy. In that instance, the German Army failed, and I hope failure will attend it on this occasion. I am anxious, however, to show those who maintain that England was to some extent responsible for the war that Germany was entirely and absolutely responsible for it.
– What share had Russia in it?
– It was primarily through Russia that we entered into the war, and Russia has been the first to withdraw from it. ,
– She is not out of it yet.
– She is, so far as Germany is concerned. An article published in theNineteenth Century and After, some four years ago, went to show that the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria was connived at by Germany as an excuse for an attack upon Servia. The facts, as set out in the article, clearly indicate that it was. On the occasion of another eminent person’s visit, the route was lined with soldiers, but when the Crown Prince of Austria traversed the same road there was not a soldier to be seen. The funeral of the Crown Prince was also conducted in such a way as to convey the impression that, whilst he was a great man, he was not altogether a desirable personage. Here is an extract from Sven Hedin’s work: -
The world conflagration which Crown Prince William foretold-
I emphasize the word “ foretold “ - is now raging before our very eyes. Will he be justified in his steadfast faith in the people over whomhe is destined one day to reign? The writing on the wall from Ypres to the Wartha, from Tsintau to the Cameroons, is telling its tale. Here is a nation which cannot go under, and which never will be conquered.
The writer has also something to say of Social Democrats in the German Army. There are pacifists in this chamber. One champion pacifist, who is not here tonight, recently tried to smack a fellow barrister in a local courthouse. I want to contrast the German Socialist and the American Socialist with the Australian Socialist. The Australian Socialistis all for peace at any price. The American Socialist is not. The American Labour Federation went heartily into the war. Mr. Samuel Gompers, who has been for many years president of that Federation, a body comprising from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 persons, or twice the population of Australia-
– There are not more than 3,000,000 members, including Canada.
– Then the American statistics are entirely at fault. There were 3,000,000 Socialist votes registered at the Presidential election before last.
– That is not organized labour.
– I am speaking of the American Federation of Labour. Mr.
Gompers is to-day one of the seven men on the Council of Defence of the United States of America. At a Peace Conference held in 1915, the most numerously attended Conference ever held in the United States of America, he said that if he could end the war by holding up his hand, he would not do it, because it was fought in the interests of Democracy and humanity. The German Socialist says the same. In this book Sven Hedin says of an interview he had with sometroops -
To conclude, I asked in a loud voices - although it was a stupid thing to do, and I ought to have known better - “ How many of you are Social Democrats?”
At this there was a shout of laughter, almost of derision, and I suddenly felt exceedingly awkward, and wished I were back at Metz again. Even the pastor laughed and shook his head. At last a burly-looking soldier answered for himself and the others : “ There are no Social Democrats any more. There are nothing but German soldiers.”
That is the feeling we want to have in Australia - nothing but Australian or British soldiers, men who will fight for the flag that some people in Australia deride. There are men in this community who say they would not fight for the Union Jack, which protects them, and has protected them for years - under which they were educated, and are living and prospering. They would rather fight for the Ted flag of revolution, and possibly revolution and civil war are not so far distant as we would wish.
Mr.Considine. - Tour utterances will create one.
– If it does come, every man will bepreparedto take his part.
Now, to allude to another matter, a few days ago the Melbourne Age said that this Parliament was costing the Commonwealth £250,000 a year. In actual figures it costs the Commonwealth a good deal more; but I want to show that this Parliament costs the country absolutely nothing. Prior to Federation, we coined gold here. There is no profit on the coinage of gold, but there is on the coinage of silver and bronze, which We were not allowed to coin. Subsequent to Federation, we obtained authority from the Imperial Government to coin both silver and bronze, and the profit comes to a good deal more than the cost of this Parliament; so that this Parliament costs Australia nothing at all.
– The New York Year-Booh shows that the membership of the American Federation of Labour is 2,045,000.
– Then I have been misinformed by the work I am quoting, which says the membership is from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000. It is remarkable that the membership should be only 2,000,000 out of a population of over 100,000,000. That is a very strong commentary upon the force of Labour in the United States of America.
-There are many trade unions outside the American Federation of Labour. Practically all the skilled artisans are outside of it.
– I would tell the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that, notwithstanding the loyal way he champions unionism in this chamber, it is not so long ago since he was “ fired out.” He was on the council of the Waterside Workers Federation, and, like myself, he received a polite note, informing him that his presence was no longer desired as a member of the council. Yet he stands up here and champions the unions as if he were not merely a leading light in the temperance movement, or the chief spiritual adviser to this Chamber, and the guide, philosopher, and friend of everybody here, but a leading light in unionism also.
I wish honorable members on the other side would take to heart the indications of trouble in this country. When we hear a man say he has 30,000 followers ready to follow him anywhere, what does it mean ? All the indications we see around us show what is happening. A little while ago I was at a recruiting meeting. One of the audience, who was in mufti, was applauding the speaker, and a woman, who stood beside him said, “Why do you not go to the Front ?” He replied, “ I have been, and lost one eye there.” She said, “It is a pity you did not lose the other.” That is the feeling that is extant here.
– Surely such an expression is not representative of the people of this country?
– The honorable member knows that it represents a feeling which is only too prevalent in the community.
– Do you suggest that we support that idea?
– I shouldbe very sorry to suggest it. I am only pointing out to honorable members what may be ahead of us when a sentiment of that sort is expressed. It is not singular, and I say that we have to be careful; and we must not shut our eyes to what is happening elsewhere. Coming events cast their shadows before. We know what has happened in Russia. We know what is happening in other places. Let us not be driven into the same position by any mistaken idea that we are on the right course in standing by, indifferent to the fate of the British Empire.
– Will the Government consent to adjourn the debate?
-I understand that an arrangement has been come to by which a vote will be taken at 3.45 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, so that Inter-State members may leave by train for their homes; but as there are still four or five honorable members who wish to speak, it will be impossible to. carry out that arrangement unless we continue the debate now.
.- The Ministerial statement, in the words of Mr. Deakin, is nothing but “ a necklace of negatives/’ It has no sincerity in it. I would like the Government to give honorable members some information as to how they propose to deal with the financial position. I would like them to tell us whether it is their intention to continue meeting the war expenditure out of loan funds, or whether they intend to provide for it out of revenue. At least we should have some statement as to where they will find the necessary revenue for the payment of interest on the money we have borrowed to meet that war expenditure. Honorable members have made no serious attempt to ascertain the financial position of Australia. I was delighted to read the Budget speech delivered in the House of Commons the other day by Mr. Bonar Law, who pointed out that, notwithstanding the great strain imposed by taxation upon the people of Great Britain, the British Government were able to devote many millions of pounds from revenue to defraying war expenditure. Mr. Bonar Law told the House of Commons that the income tax would range to 6s. in the £1 on incomes of £2,500 per annum, and that on incomes exceeding that amount there would he a super-tax of 4s. 6d. in the fi. He also stated that incomes up to £500 would be exempt from payment of income tax, as they contributed through the Customs.
In Australia we find nothing but evasion of the issue on the part of a Government that was returned to office for the purpose of winning the war. One thing that is necessary to win the war is the finding of the necessary financial means of doing so, but our trouble is that many of the gentlemen who sit on the Treasury bench are connected with public companies and other vested interests. I made a statement in Sydney after the elections on 5th May last, that Australia would regret its action as recorded at that election. We have had no statement from the Ministry justifying their electioneering pledges. The position is serious, more than serious, yet it seems to make no difference to Ministers so long as they are able to raise loans. The last loan has certainly been eminently successful. I see that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is of opinion that the recent loan will realize £42,000,000, but we must not forget that by September next we shall have to raise another £40,000,000’. Our annual war expenditure is between £S0,000,000 and £100,000.000, and I quite agree with Mr. Bonar Law, who told the people of Great Britain that the period in which large sums of loan moneys are being spent is the period in which taxation can be imposed .with some justification. But the time must come when there will be no great expenditure of public money, and it will then be impossible to extract by taxation the revenue necessary to pay the interest on the loans, and every man in business, knows that the loan account cannot be used for the payment of interest. Honorable members have only to review the position calmly to see the seriousness of it. Of course, it is all very well for the occupants of the Treasury bench to feel that they have loan money to spend, but the day will come when honorable members on this side will have to square matters up, and it will, indeed, be a hard job to cleat away the results of the mis deeds of the present Government in the matter of finance. Mr. Bonar Law, in his Budget statement, said that it is the duty of the Government to levy as much taxation as is bearable without weaken ing the .conduct of the war, and that is very good advice to us in Australia. I presume many thought that it would never be possible to raise such a sum as £42,000,000 in Australia in the time at the disposal of the Government; but the fact must impress on the minds of all that there are many people here accumulating great wealth during the war. This is a fact which cannot be ignored, and I cannot understand why members of Parliament are so indifferent to the importance of these financial questions.
There are many ways in which expenditure could be, and ought to be, reduced, both State and Commonwealth. There are too many Parliaments and too many Governors, and I am satisfied that if a plebiscite were taken, the people would be quite prepared to reduce the expenditure in these directions. The cost of the government of Australia is nearly enough to pay the interest on £20,000,000. Some £800,000 is required to pay the Governors’ salaries and parliamentary allowances, irrespective of providing for many other offices that are presumed to be necessary. More knowledge as to the real position of the finances ought to be given to honorable members, many of whom are entirely unacquainted with the facts. We have our Estimates aud Supply Bills, but these apply mainly to the wages of the Government servants.
Many honorable members on. this side have spoken of the personnel of the many pools and committees connected with commerce and industry, and the Government would be wise in placing on those committees persons other than those concerned in the interests affected. The present system presents many opportunities for procedure that is undesirable, and we all know it is opportunity that causes so many people to do that which is not right. In the interests of the consumers, and of proper administration, some members of Parliament ought to have been appointed to offices of the kind. Every time I rise in this House I. endeavour to impress my fellow members with the importance of the financial situation. If I fail it is not my fault; at any rate, it will not prevent me from persisting, because I feel the day of reckoning must come, and we ought to be prepared to assist the Government if it is intended to take any serious steps.
I have not much to say in regard to the recent Conference at Government
House. On a previous occasion I expressed the opinion that the Government was not in earnest in that matter, but made use of that Conference in order to getthemselves out of the difficulty, not having the courage or the ability to extricate themselves. If the Government will put forward any scheme, I shall be quite prepared at any time to render all the assistance in my power to encourage recruiting. What we require is a display of common sense on both sides, and mutual consideration. We desire, not war, but peace based on reason and justice - not the rule of might, but the rule of right. That was the attitude adopted by the Labour representatives at the Conference. Before the split occurred in the Labour party over the question of conscription, I informed the Prime Minister that, as a representative of East Sydney, I had no authority to vote for conscription, because, in the electionof 1914, I pledged myself to do all I could to assist to bring the war to a termination which would be equitable to the race to which I belong. I intend to keep that pledge.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) referred to my views regarding the islands in the Pacific. My attitude to this matter has been consistent. At a Labour Conference held in Melbourne in 1885, and attended by the present honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), who was at that time a representative of a miners union, Mr. Curley, of Newcastle, and othp.r prominent Labourites, we gave consideration to a grievance of the farming community. In New Caledonia, maize was being grown by the labour of convicts from Prance, who were being paid the magnificent sum of 6d. per day. The Australian farmer could not produce maize to compete with the product of the cheap labour in the French Colony. As a Protectionist, I was in favour of a heavy duty being placed on imported maize. The Conference appointed a deputation to wait on Mr. Service - the then Premier of Victoria - and we asked him to provide funds to send us to England as a delegation to ask the British Government to arrange withFrance for Australia to take over the control of the French islands in the Pacific. Mr. Service did not grant our request to provide the means ; but the feeling at that time was that the adjacent islands in the Pacific should be under the control of Australia. I am still of the opinion that it would be far better for Australia to control those islands, even if they should prove a white elephant, rather than that they should be used by a foreign Power as bases for aeroplanes, submarines, and destructive artillery.
In reference to the Pools that have been established to deal with metals, butter, wheat, and other commodities, I feel justified in mentioning a case that came under my notice, and in regard to which I endeavoured to get justice done. A gentleman named Scott held a zinc proposition at a place about 322 miles from Sydney. Zinc from Broken Hill was being sold to the Japanese Government, and he desired from the Commonwealth Government the same consideration for the product of his mine. “ The answer he received from the Metal Exchange was that he should pay £500 into the funds of the Zinc Combine ; that he should have no voice in its management; and that he should give the Combine for fifty years control of the output of his mine; or, alternatively, the Combine would act as selling agents for him. Every member of the Zinc Proprietors Association was either a proprietor of or agent for the Broken Hill mines. . This association was appointed by the Government, and if he had allowed the Combine to act as his agents, that body would have taken good care that the mines at Broken Hill had the first call upon the market. Zinc concentrates were selling at £21 per ton prior to the war, and during the war the price has been £51 per ton; and honorable members will understand that this man had no chance of getting a fair deal for the output of his mine. I showed the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) a letter signed by Mr. Baillieu, the chairman, in which the terms I have mentioned were set out, and the Prime Minister could hardly believe that the facts I had stated were true. I mention this case as an instance of the evil of giving absolute control of any industry to a body of men with large vested interests in that industry. If the Government took the zinc concentrates business under their own control, and they were amenable to parliamentary supervision, all the producers would be in a better position.
In connexion with the Imperial Conference, I should like to contrast the courtesy which the Labour Government extended to the Opposition with the treatment which we have received from the present Government. According to a report appearing in the Age, the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy were present at a meeting of the party opposite, and the statement is made -
Both Ministers explained the object of their mission at some length, and gave expression to their views on the various problems which are to be discussed.
I direct attention to the fact that, so far no member of the Government, including the two gentlemen who are to represent the Commonwealth at the Conference, has said one word in this House as to what the problems to be discussed at the Conference are. Personally, I believe that there is no necessity at the present time for the holding of any such Conference, and it would not be held if it were not for the persistent agitation of Sir Joseph Ward and Mr. Massey, of New Zealand. In the Melbourne Herald of this evening it is stated that General Botha, the Prime Minister of South Africa, is not going to the Conference, and no mention is made of any person who is going in his place.
– I believe that Sir Joseph Ward and Mr. Massey are not going now.
– They are the persons who have been agitating for the1 holding of the. Conference for some time past. Their anxiety for the holding of the Conference has been due to the fear that if an election took place in New Zealand at the present time, they would not be returned to office. The Federal Government are in much the same position, because there has been a vast change in public opinion in Australia since the 5th May last. This change is the fault of the Government, because they do not give the public a lead. I have been a member of the New South Wales Recruiting Committee, and we have never had a lead from the Government. If the public are to be expected to take an interest in a question, they must be given a lead by public men. I hold that the Government are themselves answerable for ‘ the failure of voluntary recruiting. Many honorable members on the Government side are conscriptionists, and are determined to bring about conscription if they possibly can.. 1 As a re-, suit, they have ignored those who would be prepared to assist them to secure recruits by the voluntary principle. Any one who has any idea of Australian character must know very well that it is not possible to carry conscription in this country. I believe that when the history of Australia comes to be written, it will be for us a glorious record to be able to say that we sent every available man 16,000 miles away from Australia to fight in the interests of the Empire.
– We have not done- that yet.
– We have done so much that, in my opinion, every member of this community has a right to be proud of what we have achieved. In this connexion, I may be allowed to say that I hope that the practice of belittling Australia, followed by some of our public men, will cease. I trust that we shall hear no more of it. We know very well that it is impossible for us to send every man away. Primary production is sadly needed in Australia.
This brings me to the question of shipping, and I think that no greater burlesque was ever played by men calling themselves statesmen or politicians than the rascally game that has been played in connexion with shipbuilding in this country. In my opinion, it was never the intention of the Government that ships should be built in Australia. That would mean the establishment of an Australian industry, and I believe I could count on the fingers of one hand every honorable member on the Government side who would put himself out of the way in an honest attempt to secure the establishment of industries in Australia. Nearly every honorable member on the other side, including the leaders of the Government, are Free Traders to the backbone. Who would expect the Minister for the Navy or the Prime Minister to assist in the establishment of industries ? Before ever the Prime Minister thought of being a member of Parliament, he used to argue for hours in the little park in Balmain that Free Tr,ade was the only thing to save Australia.
– I heard the honorable member say once that he would follow “ Billy” Hughes to hell!
– Like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), I thought there was more sincerity in the Prime Minister. I was a strong supporter of his, and let me say that since he broke away from our party I have never upon any public platform said one insulting word about him, or anything in disparagement of the ability of Mr. ‘W. M. Hughes. I am not going to do it. If I have to gain my seat by abuse, I have a good trade at my fingers’ ends, and the respect of the people of the city in which I live, and I can do without a seat at such a price. If there had been any real intention on the part of the Government to build ships in Australia, the construction of vessels might have been started, at a slip alongside the Cockatoo Island Dock, or on the island itself, eighteen months ago. It was not necessary that half-a-dozen ships should be built at one time. The frame of one ship might have been constructed, and it was quite unnecessary to impose conditions regarding piece-work. There would have been no need for the dilution of labour. Honorable members on the other side, perhaps, are not situated like myself. I have served my time to a trade - one which would get me a living to-day. It is a trade for which I would do all in my power to retain its dignity. It was my living, and it has been my natural desire to keep it at a high standard, since it was through that source that I had to maintain my wife and ten children. Those who have not served an apprenticeship to a trade, and become masters of it, cannot understand the feelings of men in a position such as myself. At this late stage, I ask leave to continue my remarks. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
. - I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 2 o’clock to-morrow afternoon.
To-morrow is to be celebrated as Remembrance Day, being the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the shores of Gallipoli. It is fitting, therefore, that the National Parliament of Australia should mark the historic occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Censorship of “Labour Call.”.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not desire to detain honorable members, but I have an urgent matter to bring forward, in connexion with which I had already approached the Acting Prime Minister earlier in the day. Lt is the holding up of this week’s issue of the Labour Call. I have shown to the Minister a copy of the publication. I am not a practical printer, and Ihave brought this same issue under the notice of other honorable members who also are not practical printers. They admit that, so far as they can see, there is nothing which would direct special attention to the fact that certain paragraphs had been censored. Specific items have been omitted, and the law is that there shall be no indication of censorship in the publication. I do not know the technical details, but it appears that, instead of closing the matter right up, there has been left what I understand is called “full point.” It is only the matter of a portion of a line in each case, and would certainly not attract the notice of the public. I trust that the Acting Prime Minister will urge the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) not to further hold up the issue of this week’s number. I feel sure that there will be only extra prominence directed to the matter if the Labour Call does not come out to-morrow. It is now a day overdue, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister to intercede with the Minister for Defence to allow it to appear, because I believe that some of the matter Which has been censored has been already published in other journals in Australia.
– The honorable member for Yarra brought the matter under my notice earlier in the day, and I undertook to confer with the Minister for Defence and the Assistant Minister with regard to the censor’s action. I am not acquainted with the printing problems which apparently surround this proceeding, nor am I qualified to offer an opinion whether the matter which has been censored should or should not have been omitted. However, I was not able to move the Minister to-day, but I promise that I shall have a further consultation if opportunity offers to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180425_reps_7_84/>.