7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received the following cablegram from Lady Reid: -
Speaker, House of Representatives. - Please accept my sincere appreciation your message of sympathy.
– Is the Minister who represents the Minister forRepatriation able to reply now to a question which I put yesterday, as to the repatriation of army nurses?
– TheRepatriation Act provides that -
For the purposes of this Act any person who -……
is or has been, during the present war, a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service accepted or appointed by the Director-General of Medical Services for service outside Australia …. or .
is or has been, duringthe present war, a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service of any part of the King’s Dominions, other than the Commonwealth, on proof to the satisfaction of the Commission, that she had, before her acceptance by or appointment to that service, resided in Australia, shall be deemed to be an Australian soldier within the meaning of this Act.
Mr.RODGERS. - Provision exists for preventing interference with allotments of pay made by a soldier serving abroad, but the deferred pay of a soldier who dies; or is killed is not similarly protected. Although a soldier may have provided by will or otherwise that his deferred pay should go to a relative or dependant in. necessitous circumstances, it is still available to his creditors. As our soldiers have not gone abroad to gain money with which to pay creditors, will the Minister see that provision is made for preserving their deferred pay inviolate from creditors for the benefit of their friends and dependants ?
Mr.WISE. - I shall convey the honorable member’s views to the Minister for Defence.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for the Navy any objection to laying on the table of the. Library all the papers connected with the discontinuance at the Naval College of Cadet Midshipman Rubie, on the ground of ill-health?
– I shall place the papers on the table of the Library.
– In view of the large number of gold-mining companies in Australia which have suspended operations owing to the increased cost of necessary stores and labour, has the Government considered the advisability of offering a bounty to stimulate gold production? Isthe Acting Prime Minister aware of the representations on this important matter made to the British Government by the mining associations of Western Australia?
– On representations made by, I think, the Chamber of Mines of Victoria, and some other associated chambers, the Government considered the proposal that a bounty of £1 per ounce should be offered for the production of gold, but we could not see our way clear to adopt it.
– Is it provided in the proposed new standing order that questions without notice shall not be allowed, -and has the Acting Prime Minister observed that every question asked without notice this morning has been asked by a member sitting on the Government side of the House?
-To the first question the answer is, No; my reply to the second question is that I have noticed the unusual occurrence to which the honorable member draws- attention.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the- Minister for the Navy whether it is his intention to make available to honorable members, without any undue delay, the report of the Royal Commission on the affairs of the Navy Department?
– I have not yet seen the report, but as soon as I have had an opportunity to read it, and it has been placed before Cabinet, it will, without unnecessary delay, be presented to the House.
– Can the Minister say why the report has not already been presented to the House, seeing that it appears to have reached the newspapers, an epitome of it having appeared in several of them? Will he see that there is no delay in making the information contained in it available to honorable members at the earliest possible moment?
– With the consent of my colleague, I shall answer the question. I noticed in the press - I think yesterday - what purported to be a forecast of the report. The report itself, so far as I am awaTe, has not yet reached the Government, and, at the earliest, could have reached the Governor-General only last’ night. The usual procedure will be followed in regard to it. When the Minister in charge of the Department has had an opportunity to submit it to Cabinet, it will be perused by Ministers, and then presented to the House. That, I anticipate, will be next week.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy give the House the assurance that coal supplies will be available to keep the Barrier mines working?
– So far as I know, while the mechanical appliances at Port Pirie are in good working order, and there is no cessation of labour by reason of strikes, Broken Hill will be supplied with all the coal it requires.
– In view of the fact that the price of sugar materially affects the use of small fruits in the manufacture of jam, has the Minister in charge of . price fixing considered the advisability of taking action by which, without injury to the sugar industry, jam manufacturers may be able to obtain sugar at something like a reasonable price?
– The matter is being considered with a view to seeing that the fruit-grower gets a reasonable price for his fruit.
-The question anticipates one already on the notice-paper.
– Last year the Prime Minister promised that, as early as possible this financial year, complete balancesheets should be placed before Parliament, showing the operations of the Small Arms Factory and the other commercial undertakings of the Government. Has any effort been made to give effect to that promise ?
– I do not know how far the officers who have been instructed to. prepare such balance-sheets have got with their work. Instructions were issued for the preparation of balance-sheets, and, if possible, I shall present these balancesheets with the Budget-papers.
Utilization of Labour
– Will the Acting Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of employing the German internees in clearing and improving land in anticipation of the return of our soldiers ?
– I think that the Prime Minister has already explained that international law puts difficulties in the way of the forced employment of interned aliens.
– The Germans compel internees to work.
– I do not think that they compel civilian internees to work. Even if they do, it might not be proper or wise for us to do it. We have been advised by the British authorities that -the employment of civilian internees must be on a voluntary basis. The matter has already been considered by the Government.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware that the instruction has been sent to New South Wales that all military tents requiring repairs must be sent to Victoria? Why cannot the repairs be done in New South Wales?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence have prepared) for the information of honor-‘ able members, and have placed on the table, at an early date, a return showing how many men are now in the Broadmeadows Camp, how many have passed through that camp since the commencement of the war, and what has been the tonnage and cost of the carting of equipment, clothing, foodstuffs, and goods of all sorts to and from the camp ?
– I shall submit the request to the Minister, but I can see that the preparation of the return must entail a great deal of expense, and I cannot see much reason for it.
– Is the Acting Attorney-General aware that the Minister for Works gave notice of a motion to give the Speaker power to take action inregard to utterances of members which would be calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign powers, and has his attention been drawn to the utterance of the police magistrate in Broken Hill, who, when sentencing some boys under the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act, recently said that their services might be necessary against Japan ?
– The honorable member’s question relates to certain utterances made. by a police magistrate. If he will read the notice of motion I gave yesterday he will see that it refers only to utterances in Parliament, and I am not permitted at this stage to discuss that motion.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister confer with the Premiers of the States with a view to enlarging the scope of the Australian Wheat Pool in order to incorporate in its activities other grain, including oats, barley, and maize, so that the growers of those products may have the advantages of the finance and organization of the Wheat Pool?
– I recently made some proposal to the Australian Wheat Board for the enlargement of the power of the Commonwealth in regard to certain phases of wheat preservation and re-conditioning. Those proposals, I understand, the States are to consider and will approve. The purpose of them is to enable us, as a Government, to give to the Imperial purchaser of the past or future a guarantee that the conditions he stipulates in regard to preservation will be complied with. The honorable member for Wannon suggests a further enlargement, which seems to me somewhat humorous. In view of the many complaints from a section of the farming community against the conduct of the Wheat Board, it seems strange that a request should be made for a further extension of its powers.
– Does that remark apply to me?-
– No; but to certain irresponsible persons who affected to speak for the wheat industry.
– The Acting Prime Minister seems not to have quite understood my question. With a view to assuring a fairly normal return to the growers of oats, barley, and other grain in country that is not suitable for wheat growing, and with a view to maintaining a supply of such fodder in the event of drought, will he endeavour to bring under the wing of the Wheat Pool these other grains, in» stead of creating small separate pools?
That course, I assure him, would he a boon to a great many small growers in districts where the climate is temperate, and the land is high priced.
– I do not think it is possible to pool fodder without encountering a great number of the problems of preservation which have already arisen in connexion with wheat. It is possible to apply the Wheat Pool finance to other cereals, but I am doubtful whether it could be” safely applied to fodder.’
– This fodder must be preserved.
– I agree with the honorable member, and I think that later on there will be an even greater need for considering the question of the preservation of fodder than of wheat. It is becoming plain that if we do succeed in selling the wheat crop of last year to Great Britain or any other national buyer, that is the last possibility of the kind during the war. That being the prospect it may be that the farmers will have perforce to turn their attention to forms of production other than wheat growing. However, if the honorable member will state the exact nature of his proposition, saying whether it involves finance as well as control, I will see that it is referred to the proper authority for consideration.
– In view of the fact that approximately £5,000,000 has been paid to the Wheat Pool agents for the handling of wheat, will the. Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of dispensing with the services of a great number of the agents?
– This is the first time that I have heard that such a sum has been paid to Wheat Pool agents. I do not quite understand the honorable. member’s question, and I shall be glad if he will, reconsider it, and place it on the noticepaper.
– In view of the statement of the Acting Prime Minister yesterday, that the Cabinet had not yet considered the -matter of introducing a measure for the prohibition of the liquor “traffic during the war, will the honorable -gentleman say whether it is the intention of the Government to give consideration -to this question at an early date?
– In accordance with the promises I have given at interviews with the parties interested in this question, it is the intention of the Government to give early consideration to the problem.
– Will the Treasurer have prepared a return showing the number of persons employed in each State in the collection of income tax returns, and the issuing of assessments, and will he inquire whether it is possible by amalgamating the work of the Commonwealth and the States to effect a very great saving in this direction?
– I cau, at a later stage of the session, give the honorable member the information he desires. Some time will he required to compile it. I have been in consultation with the States as to the possibility of amalgamating the _ income tax offices. We have not reached a dead-lock, but Ave caine to a sharp disagreement as to the proposals. The States asked the Commonwealth to scrap its machinery. That I declined to do. I desire the States to put their work in the hands of the Commonwealth, that being the only authority that could co-ordinate and effectively carry out the requirements of both the States and the Commonwealth. .
– Is the Assistant Minister for Price Fixing aware that large quantities of oats are being held by big firms in Melbourne, evidently with a view to a subsequent increase in price? If not, will he make inquiries and disclose the information to the House?
– I shall inquire into the actual position in regard to the oat market.
– In connexion with the illicit shipments of honey from Sydney, there must have been a leakage of information from some source which enabled the shippers to know on what ships space would be available. Has the officer who supplied that information been discovered?
– I understand that the Shipping Board has dealt with the matter, and that it has now been referred to the Customs authorities/ Beyond that I know nothing of it.
– Are the vessels now engaged in the Inter-State shipping trade operated directly in the interests of the companies, or have they been wholly or partially commandeered by the Commonwealth? Are the. profits paid to the companies or to the Commonwealth?
– From a certain date, all the ships passed under the control of a Commission, and a rental is paid to the owners on a fixed scale. All freights and profits earned by the vessels are retained by the Commonwealth.
– Has any agreement been arrived at by the Commonwealth and the States concerned in regard to the linking-up of the New South Wales system of railways with the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway ? If so, will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House of the nature of the agreement ? ,
– The Government of New South Wales made a proposition for the building of a certain, kind of railway through Broken Hill, and connecting with the transcontinental railway at Port Augusta. After analysis by the Commonwealth authority, the proposal was declined. So far as I know, that is all that has been done in the matter.
- Sir Alexander Peacock, when Premier of Victoria, prepared a return showing by numbers, instead of names, the incomes and profits of various firms and individuals during the years 1914-15-16, as compiled from the income tax returns. Will the Treasurer have prepared a Federal return of a similar character, with up-to-date particulars, so that we may be able to know whether the firms and individuals who have made large war-time profits are contributing satisfactorily to the war loan?
– I will take the first opportunity of conferring with the Commissioner of Taxation in order to ascer tain whether it is possible to do what the honorable member suggests.
– Will the Minister in charge of price fixing agree to lay on the table of the Library all papers connected with the visit of the s.s. Durban to Calcutta, about March last, for the purpose of bringing jute goods to Australia, and a copy of all permits that may have been granted by Departments in Australia to persons to import jute goods or sacking?
-The matter comes under the control of Senator Russell. T will consult him and see whether it is possible to comply with the wishes of the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that heavy financial responsibilities will confront the Australian farmers, will the Acting Prime Minister take the necessary steps to have the 1914-15 wheat crop paid for in full ?
– Speaking from memory, we -have practically cleaned up the 1914- 15 crop.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways endeavour to speed up the work at the Arsenal, for which a large sum of money has been voted and is available, so that work may be afforded to a large number of men in New South Wales who are now unemployed ?
– In conjunction with the Defence Department the Department of Works and Railways has taken every step possible .to expedite the work to which the honorable member refers, and in pursuance of that policy, and as a preliminary arrangement, we have given notice for the construction of a railway to the arsenal site. It is our desire to have that work proceeded with as quickly as possible, and had it not been for the necessity to comply with legislative pro-, visions, probably earlier steps would have been taken. However, nothing can be done until- Parliament is approached in the matter.
– Does that mean that nothing is to be done until the railway is built?
– No. It is our desire to proceed with, the construction of the Arsenal as quickly as possible, and the building of the railway is a natural precedent to larger operations.
– Is it proposed to build cottages at other centres than Lithgow, especially in localities where there are permanent workers who cannot secure living accommodation ?
– The question submitted by the honorable member involves a matter of policy affecting not only the Works and Railways Department, but other Departments also, and I ask that notice be given of it. I may explain that the Works and. Railways Department merely carry out work at the instance of other Departments. The only case in which it may be affected is in connexion with the employees of the Commonwealth Railways Department, and there is alreadv a proposal under consideration to provide workmen’s homes at Port Augusta.
– Is the Minister aware that a serious epidemic of influenza has broken out among the employees at the Small Arms Factory at. Lithgow owing to the bad housing accommodation there, and will he take immediate steps to carry out the work of building homes for the employees?
– I am not aware that there has been an outbreak of influenza at Lithgow. The information would go to the Minister for Defence rather than to my Department. In regard to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, I may say that the report of the Public Works Committee upon the question of housing workers at Lithgow was only presented to the House yesterday.
– May I ask whether the houses proposed to be erected at Lithgow are to be temporary structures, which will be capable of being removed when the Small Arms Factory is transferred to the Federal Capital Territory ?
– The honorable member, who closely watches the proceedings of this House, knows that the scheme submitted to the Public. Works Committee embraced the building of brick houses of a permanent character; he will also remember that at the time an intimation was made to the workers at Lithgow that there would be permanent work at the Small Arms Factory there, which would not interfere with necessary arsenal work at the Federal Capital Territory.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that a gentleman named James’ Morris Scott, the author of a pamphlet entitled The Circulating Sovereign, has recently been interned at Holdsworthy? This gentleman is a widower with two children, and no reason has been given for the action taken. Will. the Minister inform the House as to the reason for this high-handed procedure ?
– Since the war broke out, all Governments . of the Commonwealth have had a hand in interning certain people, and they have all declined to give information in the House, or elsewhere, in regard to those specific cases. That has been the policy since war broke out.
– True, but discreditable !
– That is a matter of opinion. I prefer my own to that of the honorable member. It has been the policy since war broke out, and therefore I cannot give the information to-day. I have not it in ray memory; but, in any case, I do not think it politic to give itin the open House.
– Will the Prime Minister give itprivately?
– I will . do so, but I have not it with me at the present time.
Employmentof Victorian Labour in New South Wales Coal Mines.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely : “ Misleading statements made by a firm in Victoria for the purpose of inducing men to proceed to New’ South Wales for mining purposes, and, in consequence, deceiving returned soldiers who are left stranded in that State.”
Five honorable membershaving risen
.- I feel that it is necessary to draw atten tion to this matter as one of urgency. The following advertisement appeared in The Age of 2nd September last: -
Men and youths wanted, from 18 years of age; salary, from £3 10s. to £7 per week; constant employment. Pacific Co., Goodwin Chambers, Boom No. 9, ground floor, 386 Flinders-lane. Apply between 10 a.m. and 12 a.m., or 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
I have looked into a directory, and I can not find the name of this firm at that particular address, but the advertisement evidently has a connexion with a report which appeared in the Newcastle Morning Herald which has just come to hand, and in order that the House may know exactly the reason which is actuating me in taking the course I have taken, I shall read that report. It is as follows : -
The members of the miners’ executive are indignant at the efforts being made to induce men from other parts of the Commonwealth, notably from Victoria, to come to this district. They have in their possession affidavits from men who have been induced to come to Newcastle in complete ignorance of the conditions here prevailing. “ The men have been entirely misled,” said the executive yesterday, “and the conditions operating on the Maitland field misrepresented. We are doing everything possible to make widely known the position of the coal trade in this district, where there are a number of good, practical miners out of employment. It is to be regretted that the New South Wales Government, which has a branch of the Department of Labour and Industry in Newcastle, and registers employment from time to time, should permit any firm to bring men from one State to another.
One of the men concerned, named Daniel Perry, a returned soldier, stated that fares were advanced the prospective employees, who were expected to refund the amounts later on. A representative engaged the men, who were accompanied from Victoria to Hexham by a second representative. Nothing, he alleged, was said about coal mining. Applicants were invited to apply to an address in Melbourne, and were informed that “they were just the class of men wanted,” and that “ they could earn £7 per week with practically nothing to do.” Mr. Perry, who is a married man with a wife and two children’ dependent on him, was engaged to do pick and shovel work, and the circumstances, he states, were as follows : - On 2nd September there appeared on advertisement in a Melbourne paper, “ Wanted, youths and men ; wages. £3 10s. to £7 a week.” After making application re work, and inquiring if there was any industrial trouble, 1 was told there was none, and accepted a position. On arrival at Hexham I was taken out of the Commissioner’s train, placed in a coal train, and conveyed to RichmondMain Colliery. I found the place under police protection. On making inquiries,I found out that the Federation membershad refused to work with the loyalists, and in consequence there was trquble. I immediately quitted the work. I complain of the injustice of bringing men from Victoria without first acquainting them with full knowledge of existing local conditions. In my case nothing was said of the dispute existing, and the first knowledge I got of this was when I arrived at RichmondMain Colliery. There was no work suitable for me in Newcastle, and I had no alternative but to return to Victoria.
Firms in Victoria are permitted to advertise for men to go to New SouthWales without stating the true facts, and they are inducing them to go to the adjoining State only to find when they arrive there that they have been misled. This practice has been going on for a considerable time past, and I have had occasion to draw attention to it on several previous occasions. When I spoke of it before there was industrial trouble in the mining districts, and when the point was raised whether the unionists would be prepared to work with the loyalists who were engaged to take their places during that’ trouble, I gave the assurance that they would do so. They’ have done so, but I am sorry to say that, although the Recruiting Conference convened by the GovernorGeneral recommended that everything possible should be done to create harmony by reinstating men who had lost thenpositions during the trouble, there are many men in my district who still remain idle. They have been unemployed for fully twelve months. They have been victimized, and have had to be supported by their fellow men who have been working alongside loyalists. Is it not strange that there should be a recurrence of the position? The same Mr. John Brown who has a contract with the Victorian State Government has trouble again with his workmen, through seeking to compel them to fill two skips at the same time, which many of them have refused to do. The point is whether the Commonwealth Government are justified in permitting misleading statements being made to workmen in Victoria in order to induce them to go to another State to work. Many returned soldiers have gone to New South Wales thinking that they would get work there. I would like the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to ask the Minister for Repatriation whether an application has been made by any of these people to the Department for Repatriation for the services of returned soldiers. I am sure that neither Senator Millen nor his Department would permit of this practice if it were known to them. Possibly this agency has made no application to the Repatriation Department, but we should ascertain whether it has or not. It is curious to find the same mau - Mr. John Brown - and the same following cropping up again and again in cases of this kind. Is it not remarkable that Mr. Brown, although one of the wealthiest men in Australia, is constantly in trouble with his employees? I have no desire to be personal, but it would be interesting to learn exactly what he has done to assist in the prosecution of the war. “When we find that, as the result of action on the part of this man, disruption is being caused in the community to such, an extent as to interfere with recruiting, I think we are entitled to ascertain exactly what he has done with his wealth, and what assistance he is giving Australia in the prosecution of the war. The position ought to be inquired into. I do not say that Mr. Brown is connected with the advertisement to which I have referred, but it is singular that the men have to go to this colliery in his private train. This action is being acquiesced in by the State Government. The colliery to which I have referred is working as before, and the Abermain colliery has also, I think, settled its grievance. I want to know whether the Commonwealth Government, which is charged with the duty of looking after the interests of Australia in this time of crisis, intends to assert itself? The Commonwealth Government is paramount. Every State Government is subordinate to it, and it is charged with the duty of doing everything possible to promote harmony in the community, and so to encourage recruiting. I ask. honorable members to consider what is likely to be the effect of incidents of this kind in my electorate, as well as in the electorates of Newcastle, Macquarie, and Illawarra? This sort of thing is going on all the time.
-Is that so? Men are constantly being sent from other States to the New South Wales coal mining districts under promise of profitable employment, only to find on arrival that they are expected to work against trade unionists who throughout this war have been most loyal. The Newcastle and Maitland miners, in proportion to their numbers, have responded to the call for recruits in a way that has not been excelled in any other part of Australia. Incidents of this kind, however, must do an immense amount of harm. Men who, like myself, have advocated recruiting from the beginning, are placed in a most invidious position when the Government allow returned soldiers and others to be treated in this way. I and others, who. have entered heartily into the work of recruiting, are not given a fair show to . assist the Empire in this hour of trial. The Commonwealth Government should not permit any individual or State to indulge in practices of this kind. I do not know the character of this agency, but I take it that it must be connected with the gentleman to whom I have referred. If men who respond to these advertisements were told the whole of the facts on making application, the position would be different. It must not be forgotten that a large percentage of those who have gone to the Front are trade unionists, and that consequently there are many trade unionists among our returned soldiers. Are they to be deceived in this way? Are they to be sent from one State to another, and to be asked on reaching their destination, to take the bread and butter out of the mouths of fellow unionists? If this deception is allowed to continue it will make it impossible for us to go on the recruiting platform. Everybody knows what, the Commonwealth Government is doing at the present moment “ in order to enable many of the workers in the districts I have named to get a crust. As the result of action taken by the Government many men in the Newcastle district are being employed for three days a week, so that they may keep the wolf from the door. But while this is going on, we find agencies advertising for men in Victoria, and sending them over to Newcastle in the belief that they will be able to earn up to £7 per week if they accept employment there. They are naturally attracted by .such offers, and they go over only to find that they have been deceived.
The Government should probe this matter to the bottom, ascertain who are the principals in this agency, what information they give those who apply for employment, and what happens to those who go over. I saw a newspaper paragraph recently, stating that many returned soldiers from Victoria were stranded in New South Wales, whither they had gone in response to advertisements of this kind. In such cases either the Colliery Employees Federation or some other charitable body has supplied the men with money tq enable them to return to their homes. Is that a fair position in which to place any man who has fought and suffered for his country? No honorable member will say that it is, and yet this sort of thing is going on continually, the sole purpose being, it seems to me, to suit the convenience of one vindictive individual. I make that statement deliberately, and think it a pity that he should own a coal mine.
– He ought to be interned.
– I do not know of anything he has done to forward the interests of the country. In this time of crisis we are constantly having turmoil created by him in regard to comparatively unimportant matters.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will probably reply that this is essentially a State question. My answer to that contention is that at the present juncture, in all matters affecting national interests, the State authorities sink into insignificance, and that the Commonwealth Government is paramount, and should take action. The Government should require any firm or individual who advertises for labour to be employed in another State to give the fullest information as to the district and the conditions under which that labour is to be employed. Above all things, the Government should see that no deception is practised. I have taken this means of bringing this question before the House” so that it may be brought prominently before the working men of Victoria. I tell the working men of this State that in Newcastle and Maitland to-day there is not sufficient work to employ the men already there, and that action has to be taken by charitable organizations to prevent some of them from starving. It is idle to talk of promoting harmony in the community, with the object of encouraging recruiting, while at the same time the Government allow individuals to eat out the very vitals of the nation. This company has been in trouble from the first, although other companies are working. Why should Mr. Brown be always in trouble with his employees? He has a number of collieries, and while he may be working one or two the others are shut down. After the recent industrial trouble had been settled, and the men had returned to work, he changed the working conditions.
I ask .the Acting Prime Minister to take hold of this matter, to have a thorough inquiry made, and to sift it to the bottom. I ask him to ascertain who constitute this agency, what information they give a man who applies for employment, how many men have been sent over, how many have accepted employment on reaching the district, why many have refused to work on getting there, and what happened to them, and especially to the returned soldiers, who, in consequence of this advertisement, went to New South Wales and were stranded there.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who has presented his case, as he usually does, temperately and reasonably. I have to say at once that I have no acquaintance whatever with the facts to which he has referred. I am unable even to speculate as to who . is responsible for the condition of affairs to which he alludes, or as to what cure should be applied to it. I certainly think the honorable member has made out- a case for Government inquiry, and I make myself responsible for that statement. I do not know whether the State Government or any one in Victoria is responsible for what has occurred, but I shall ascertain the full facts, and inform the honorable member of the results of my inquiry. I shall probably take steps, if I find it necessary or advisable, to cure the defect to which he has referred.
Mr. FINLAYSON (Brisbane) r11.551 - The matter brought forward by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) involves an important principle. Although the illustration used by him is purely_ local, and applies particularly to the mining districts, there are still wider principles involved. Two main point? have to he dealt with. “We have first of all a misleading advertisement inducing men to accept >an offer of employment without being acquainted with the conditions prevailing in the district to which they. are to be sent. Such advertisements are generally so worded as to attract men seeking’ work, and at the same time to conceal from them the actual facts in regard to the employment to which they are to be sent. At the opening of this Parliament, the Ministerial statement put forward included the announcement that a Minister for Labour was likely to be appointed, to whom matters of this kind might properly be referred. I do not know whether the Government have given any further attention to that proposal, but it is evident that drastic action is necessary to prevent workmen being placed at a serious disadvantage. This kind of thing is not confined to any one State; it is in operation in all the States. For reasons that are not obvious, but can only be guessed at, men are being invited to travel from one State to another by specious promises of comfortable positions. As in the case of this particular advertisement, men are promised billets where they will earn from £3 10s. to £7 per week, with practically nothing to do. We are not such fools as not to be aware that billets at even £3 10s. a week, with practically nothing to do, are not obtainable. Honest men do not want such jobs. They are willing to give an honest day’s work for an honest payment, and the promises con- tained in these advertisements on the very face of them are meant to be misleading. Obviously they cannot be substantiated in fact. Unfortunately, many who are attracted by such advertisements have to leave their homes and families, and in some cases to travel from 300 to 500 miles in search of one of these fancy jobs, only to discover, on reaching their destination, that they have been deceived. ‘ They are thus left stranded, with no work in prospect, and no means of returning tq their homes. I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that the Government should give early consideration to their promise to put. a Department of Labour into active operation. If that promise were redeemed questions of this kind could be speedily dealt with.
I wish now to refer briefly to the matter as it affects the returned soldier. I am sure honorable members on both sides are unanimous in the opinion that whoever else deserves protection- and assistance, the returned soldier certainly does. It is a reflection on our organization as a community, and on our recognition of the services rendered by our returned men, that any of them should be deprived to any extent of an opportunity to earn their own living. The repatriation proposal are meant to some extent to get over the difficulty, but, unfortunately, day after day, we see in the public newspapers advertisements announcing that the Repatriation Department has on its books many men seeking employment. I have seen long lists of men of various trades, and with certain technical abilities for whom the Repatriation Department is seeking to find employment. The Brisbane newspapers the other day set out a list of something like 200 men on the books of the Returned Soldiers Repatriation Department, who were awaiting employment. That is so in all the States. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) certainly does not exaggerate the unfortunate results of these advertisements, and of men finding themselves unable to earn a living. Returned soldiers are either the best or the worst argument for recruiting; they provide to those who are eligible for enlistment either an argument in favour of enlisting or an argument against; and it is a most regrettable fact that returned soldiers-‘ statements and experiences have not been conducive to recruiting. Returned soldiers in the mass have not been able to say that their experiences justify them in honestly and strongly recommending their comrades to enlist. This is very unsatisfactory. Even from, the point of view of relieving the returned soldier from any difficulty in inducing his comrades to enlist - if only as a means of encouraging recruiting - the Government ought to take special care that he gets the utmost consideration in regard “to opportunities for earning his living. To have returned soldiers going about the streets of the cities vainly seeking for work, although willing and anxious to give a fair day’s return for a fair day’s pay, is an argument against recruiting that is very hard to get over. No amount of talking from the platform, no amount of enthusiasm with brass bands and flag flapping, is going to provide a sufficient argument for recruiting when set against the actual experience of the returned’ soldier. The Government ought to give very serious consideration to the question that has been raised this morning, and I hope that the rather short reply of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) does not indicate any lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the facts or of the necessity for some action at a very early date.
.- I desire to approach this question from the point of . view of the employment of returned soldiers. When the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was speaking I interjected that the practice to which he referred was being followed at Broken Hill, in the treatment of unionists, who having returned from the war, are now seeking employment. In the Barrier Daily Truth of 23rd July last, there appeared the following: -
At the meeting of the B.D.A.P.L.L. held last night, Mr. E. M. Horsington (secretary of the F.E.D. and F.A.) wrote as follows : - “ Enclosed is a copy of a letter we have forwarded to the Repatriation Department. The letter explains itself. We think it is a matterthat theP.L.L. could take up.”
The enclosure stated : -
The Officer in Charge,
Dear Sir, - “ I am instructed to write to you protesting against your Department sending men to work in Broken Hill and 60 per cent, of their wages being paid out of -the Repatriation Fund. “ A case that came under our notice is J. W. Corbett, a returned soldier, who was offered a job through your Department at engine-cleaning, &c, at the Zinc Corporation, Broken Hill, on conditions that only made the company liable to 40 per cent, of his wages, the balance to be made up out of his pension and the Repatriation Fund. This we think is very unfair both to the returned soldiers and to the Government, inasmuch as Corbett is quite able to do all the work required, and for which other men are paid 11s. 3d. per day. “ The only one who would benefit under this proposal would be the Zinc Corporation, who would be getting the man’s labour for 60 per cent. less owing to his being a returned soldier.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is going beyond the terms of the motion, which refers to” certain statements made by a firm in Victoria.
– I do not desire to transgress, but I understand that we are discussing generally the provision of work for returned soldiers.
– No; that is beyond the scope of the motion: The motion for the adjournment of the House is moved for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, misleading statements made by a firm in Victoria for the purpose of inducing men to proceed to New South Wales for mining purposes.
– If that be so I submit that I am in order, because the firm of which I speak has its head office in Collins-street, Melbourne. In response to a letter received from the secretary of the Political Labour League in connexion with this matter, I wrote to the Repatriation Department on the 21st of August as follows: -
Enclosed please find letter received from the Barrier District Assembly Political Labour League, enclosing copy of communication re ceived from Keswick Barracks, Adelaide, and signed by Lieutenant Napier. Also an extract from Barrier Daily Truth newspaper of the issue of the 23rd of July, 1918.
As you will see by the correspondence and clipping, it is alleged that a returned soldier by name J. W. Corbett was offered employment as an engine-cleaner at the Zinc Corporation, Broken Hill, through the Repatriation Department, on conditions that made the Zinc Corporation only liable for 40 per cent, of his wages, the balance of 60’ per cent”, to be made up by his pension and the repatriation funds.
This, if true, shows a very peculiar state of affairs in connexion with the replacing of soldiers in civil employment. As you yourself will see, such- action on the part of the Repatriation Department, while in no way compensating the soldier for injuries received in the course of the war, is of considerable value_ to companies such as the Zinc Corporation, who would thereby secure their labour 60 per cent, cheaper. ‘ at the expense of the general taxpayers of Australia.
– The honorable member himself must see now that the special matter to which he refers concerns the Repatriation Department, and not a private firm in Victoria.
– I do not know whether it is the way I have of putting the case that causes me to be misunderstood, but I am now really dealing with the action -of a company which obtains the labour of returned soldiers from the Repatriation Department.
– I quite understand that the question with which the honorable member is dealing is the administration of the Repatriation Department in relation to employment of returned soldiers, but there is nothing about that in the terms of the motion. The adjournment of the House is moved to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, statements made by a firm in Victoria. The honorable member is now speaking about the action of the Repatriation Department in sending soldiers to work under certain conditions. There is nothing in reference to that in the . terms of the motion, beyond the scope of which, I am afraid, the honorable member is going, unless he can show that the firm in Victoria is responsible for the action of the Repatriation Department.
– I understand that the firm to which I refer has its head office in Victoria.
– If the honorable member can connect the action of such a firm with the action of the Repatriation Department, he will be in order.
– That is what I am eudeavouring to do.
– So far, the honorable member has not done so.
– I intimated that the Zinc Corporation, whose headquarters are in Collins-street, Melbourne, is employing labour, a portion of which is that of returned soldiers, who get their employment through the Repatriation Department.
– Through statements made by that firm in Victoria?
– In the ordinary course of business, I take it.
– I must again call the attention of the honorable member to the terms of the motion, which definitely refers to misleading statements made by a firm in Victoria, with the object of inducing men to proceed to New South Wales for mining purposes, and to returned soldiers being thereby deceived and left stranded in that State. There is nothing about the Repatriation Department; and unless the honorable member can connect his statements with a firm in Victoria, and show that men have been sent away in consequence of misleading statements by that firm, he is certainly not in . order.
– Should I be in order in referring to men who come from States other than Victoria to work in New South Wales ?
– Not under the terms of. the motion. I have no personal desire to limit the honorable member’s remarks, but I am bound by the terms of the motion, and must see that the debate is confined to the objects stated therein.
– Then I shall content myself by saying that the state of affairs disclosed bv the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is not confined to the cases cited by him; and I ask tha Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) not to confine his investigation to Victoria and New South Wales, but to include South Australia and all the other States. I think that the whole people of . Australia, irrespective of what their political differences may be, will agree that the practice disclosed does not benefit the soldier, does not in any way compensate him at all for his injuries and hardships at the Front. The present state of affairs benefits employers, some of whom are taking advantage of the fact that returned soldiers are paid pensions and are givenassistance from repatriation funds. This, as I say, does not benefit the soldier, but merely benefits the employer at the expense of the soldier and the general taxpayer.
Question resolved in the negative.
Used for Advertising
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view , of the replies given to the questions of the honorable member for Brisbane by Mr. Fisher as Prime Minister, on the 16th July, 1915, and by Mr. Hughes as Prime Minister, on the 14th March, 1917- that the practice of using the. national flag and national emblems for trade and advertising purposes would be investigated -
Whether any definite action has been taken by the Government in the matter?
Has the attention of the Minister been called to the fact that the following trade advertisements, amongst others, are at present being published, in which the national flag and emblems are used : - Lippett’s Wines, Foster’s Lager, Johnnie Walker Whisky, John Bull Oats, Fluxite?
Does the Government propose to put a stop to this?
– I hope honorable members will not think Ministers discourteous in giving very scant answers to questions to-day. . Most of the questions directed to me. I saw only about twenty minutes before I entered the House this morning. As to this question, I shall look into the matter, and furnish the honorable member with information at a later date.
Education in Britain.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiry will be made, and the information furnished to the ‘honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable to say, but will make inquiry, and furnish the honorable member with information at a later date.
Loan of Customs Officers
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
Reduced Rates of Wages
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have no information in regard to these questions, but will make inquiry of . the Minister for Repatriation, find furnish information as early as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane asked a question as to the fixing of the price of tin. In reply to an inquiry, I am now informed that the formation of the Tin Producers Association does not necessarily involve the fixation of the price of tin. Unless a contract for the sale of tin is arranged by the Prime Minister, the association will sell in the best markets obtainable, and will pay producers on that basis. Fears have been expressed by correspondents recently, including the honorable member for Brisbane, that the fixation of the price of tin would be detrimental , to the producers’ interests, and they have been informed that it is not the intention of the Government to fix the price of tin.
Expenditure and Revenue
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I desire that this question should be postponed, for the reason that I am not sure at the present moment whether I am entitled to publicly give the information asked for.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 225.
Northern Territory, Ordinance of 1918 - No. 11, Liquor.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 6256), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the paper be printed.
. -I shall not be very long in my references to the matters referred to in the Ministerial statement which is practically a GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech. Owing to the peculiar circumstances in which we have been meeting during the last four years, we have had one session from the beginning of the present Parliament. We have met on different occasions, when not much has been attempted, and very little done, by the Government. We have gone into recess, and have beenmet upon reassembling with a number of Ministerial statements. We have had a similar statement on this occasion. I have carefully gone through it, and I find myself in hearty accord with the first five paragraphs relating to the war and recruiting.
The next paragraph refers to the fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are at present away from the Commonwealth. A statement appeared in the press to the effect that some Labour members had received information from abroad that the Prime Minister had stated in England that if voluntary recruiting was not found to . be satisfactory conscription would be introduced. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), when this was brought under his notice, stated that he had cabled to the Prime Minister, and so far as ‘he could ascertain, such a statement had never appeared in print in England. Some kind person in Great Britain has forwarded to me a page of a publication called the Illustrated Sunday Herald of the date 16th June, 1918, in which I find a paragraph with the headings - “ Hughes, of Australia,” “ Back in England for the Imperial Conference,” “ Dominion Fighters,”” A Steady Flow of Men for the Front.” In this paragraph the statement is made -
Mr. Hughes, the Australian Premier, arrived in London yesterday afternoon, accompanied by Mr. Joseph Cook, Minister for the Australian Navy.
It is then stated that Mr. Hughes was interviewed, and a reference is made to the interview. At the close of the paragraph the statement is made -
Questioned whether he thought the present system of obtaining recruits in Australia would meet the case, the Premier did not commit himself to any dogmatic opinion, but said he had hopes that the system would achieve all that was hoped for it. “ But suppose it does not, what then ? “ “ Ah ! then conscription. . . . “
– He talks in that way 14,000 miles away, but differently here.
– No, he does not. He explicitly denies that statement.
– I bring the matter forward in order to show that the statement to which I “have referred was published in the press in Great Britain, as the Acting Prime Minister can see from the page of the newspaper which I produce.
-May I say, by way of interjection, that I cabled the Prime Minister about this matter, and he emphatically denies that statement.
– I understood that the denial was made, but it was inferred that such a thing had never appeared in print at all.
– No. What I said was that I could not get a copy of it.
– Well, I have produced a copy of it to prove that such a statement was attributed by the press to. the Prime Minister. I have referred to the matter only to give proof of that.
– Fancy some one bringing forward all that the Age has said about the honorable gentleman !
– It would be difficult to produce all that both of the metropolitan newspapers have had to say about me. I should like to say that at present the Age is doing good work in one direction in its references to the cost of living, a subject with, which I shall deal later on. “When we hear of 4,000 guineas being given for a prize ram, what chance have the children of our soldiers to obtain meat at a reasonable price?
The next paragraph of the Ministerial statement has reference to the International French Mission. I feel sure that the whole of the people of Australia are agreed that a fitting welcome should be given to the French Mission. I trust that it will be similar to that given to the American Fleet, and that it will not assume a party character. I trust that it will be a national welcome. The whole of the people of Australia are interested in the visit of the French Mission, and the. welcome extended to the representatives of France should not be of a party character in any shape or form.
– The honorable gentleman may rely upon that.
– -I am very glad to hear that statement.
– Does the honorable gentleman include pacifists?
– I believe that the whole of the people of Australia are interested in the French Mission. It should not be made a party matter, and, if it is, the fault will not rest with honorable members on this side. I understand that in connexion with a reception of the Mission in Sydney not one of the Federal representatives of the city of Sydney received an invitation to be present.
– Did that not apply to honorable members on both sides?
– No; because the whole of the representatives of the city of Sydney happen to be Labour men.
– Not the representatives of Parkes and Wentworth.
– Those constituencies are outside the city. I refer- to East and West Sydney, the Federal representatives of which constituencies were ignored in connexion with the invitations to the function to which I referred. That is why I mention the matter. I again express the hope that the welcome to the French Mission will be a truly national welcome.
In the course of the Ministerial statement the Acting Prime Minister has said that the Government do not at this stage intend to describe the work of administration since Parliament rose, and that that will be outlined in the Budget, which is to be presented next week. I am very anxious to see that Budget. With regard to one act of administration, I wish to say, as I indicated by a question I put yesterday, that I am absolutely dissatisfied with the press delegation selected by the Government to go overseas. Of course, I recognise that we can claim, roughly, only two-sevenths of the representation in this Parliament, but in view of the decision upon the big question of conscription, after it was twice submitted to the people, it seems unreasonable that practically the whole of -the members of the press delegation selected should represent the conscriptionist interest in Australia. The anti-conscription press representatives were turned down. Only one waa invited to go, and that because he happened to be on the other side.
– That is not correct, because two were invited to go.
– Two were invited, and one of these happened to be in. England. When the representative of the Daily Standard of Brisbane found, it inconvenient to join the delegation, the invitation extended to him was ‘immediately given to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, on the ground, I suppose, that the proprietor of that journal represented the same interests as did the proprietor of the Brisbane Daily Standard.
– I do not wish to be called upon to fix up another press delegation. It was admost as hard as trying to fix the price of meat.
– I quite understand the Acting Prime Minister’s difficulty in the matter. If we are to believe some of the statements made in connexion with the selection of the press delegation, it was an absolute scandal. A statement appeared in print in an Adelaide newspaper that the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, a Mr. Heney, was invited by the Government to join the delegation, and the boss of the newspaper said, “If you are invited, and I am not, you get the ‘ sack.’ “ In order to overcome the difficulty created when the editor of the Brisbane Daily Standard was unable to make the necessary arrangements to make one of the delegation it is said that the Government said to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, “ All right, we will take the boss and you, too.” The statement has also been made that in the case of another gentleman, the Government said, “Here- is an invitation for you, but you must not accept it.”
– Is the honorable gentleman basing all this on rumour?
– No. I understand that Sir Langdon Bonython, of the Adelaide Advertiser, received an invitation, on the distinct understanding that he was not to accept it.
– How does the honorable gentleman come to know all these things ?
– They have not been denied.
– That is nothing.
– I believe I am absolutely accurate in my statement withrespect to the invitation issued to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I knew of no threat of “ sacking.”
– I do not think that Sir Langdon Bonython would accept any invitation of the kind referred to.
– He did not accept it. He was told that he was not to do so.
– I do not think that he would be a party to anything of the kind.
– I am informed that he was told, “ Here is an invitation, but you must not accept it.”
– No one would ap- proach him in that way.
– It was’ explained that he was too valuable a member of the Repatriation Committee, and that his services were required here.
– As Sir Langdon Bonython was an old member of this House, I am bound to say that, whatever blame may be due in connexion with the invitation to him, it rests with me, and not with him.
– I quite believe that, because I sat with Sir Langdon Bonython in this ‘Chamber for six years, and must say that I found him as honorable and straightforward as any representative of the people who has ever sat in this House. If there is iany blame due for what has occurred, I certainly do not attach it to him. I attach it absolutely to the Government. The thing was bungled from beginning to end.
– The honorable mem”ber said that the invitation was sent to Sir Langdon Bonython on the understanding that he was not to accept it.
– That was the fault of the Government, not of Sir Langdon Bonython .
– The honorable member implied that Sir Langdon Bonython was approached beforehand in connexion with the matter.
– I did not. If the honorable member has that impression in his mind, I did not intend to convey it.
– I am very glad of that assurance.’
– I say that Sir Langdon Bonython is as honorable as is any man who has ever sat in this House. The fault was not his, but that of the Govern - vernment, by reason of the way in which they handed out these invitations. Take the newspapers which received them. The Sydney Morning Herald - one of themost Conservative journals in New South Wales - received an invitation; the Brisbane Courier, the most Conservative newspaper in Queensland, received another ; and’ the Australasian, in Melbourne, which is represented by Mr. Mcintosh, received a third. The South Australian Register, in Adelaide, was also invited; as was the West Australian, Perth, the most Conservative newspaper in Western Australia, and the Mercury, Hobart. Twelve men were selected, six, at least, of whom represented the most Conservative journals in the Commonwealth. The other newspapers, which were invited to send representatives, have no definite policy except that of opposition to the Labour party.
– The West Australian does not oppose the Labour party very strongly.
– I am very glad of the honorable member’s qualification “Not very strongly “; but I think I am correct in designating these newspapers as the most Conservative journals in each of the States. When the selection of a representative of Labour newspapers had to be made, I say that if there is one man who stands out most prominently in that con- . nexion, it is Mr. Boote, the editor of the Australian Worker.
– Why, that journal deals with nothing except the cases of the interned Irish and of the Industrial Workers of the World.
– With all its faults, it is the leading Labour newspaper in Australia. But the Government took very good care that no representative of Labour journalism should be selected except one from Brisbane; and when he declined the invitation, it was passed on to the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I should have been very glad if all the delegates could have been Labour men, had I been able to vouch for them.
– I am complaining of the inequality of the representation - one Labour man as against ten anti-Labour . men. Is that a fair representation of the political parties in Australia?
– Does the honorable member call the Bulletin an anti-Labour paper ?
– Why, the Bulletin built the Labour party in Australia.
-The Bulletin has opposed the Labour party, and I happen to know the gentleman who has been selected as the representative of that journal on this press delegation. Apart from Mr. Campbell Jones, whom I chance to know privately, by reason of his having been a reporter in this House, I am acquainted with only three members of the entire delegation. However, I am not concerned with the delegates personally, but only with the interests, which they are representing.
– Perhaps that is why Mr. Blatchford was included - to make up the weight.
– He is not a member of the delegation.
– But Mr. Hughes invited him to accompany it,
- Mr. Hughes may have invited him tq accompany the delegates, but Mr. Blatchford cannot represent Australian press opinion. I repeat that the representation on the delegation is an absolutely unfair one, and that no member of this Chamber can justify it. Out of twelve delegates we have upon it only one Labour representative. That is unfair to him.
– The Acting Prime Minister has said that he had to vouch for the delegates. Perhaps that explains the position.
– No. A fair representation would have been eight anti-Labour men and four representatives of Labour newspapers.
– The honorable member is too modest. We were entitled to one-half of the representation.
– What should the representation be based upon - the number of Labour newspapers in Australia?
– Upon the representative character of those newspapers.
– Does the honorable member for Yarra suggest that any newspaper in Australia really represents the Labour party?
– No. Not even our own journals.
– The honorable member for Fawkner, with his skilled legal train-, ing, is very anxious to put me in a dimcult position.
Mr.- Maxwell. - No. My question is a Bond fide one. The honorable member does not regard The Worker as a newspaper representing the opinions of the Labour party?
– If the ‘ Government entertained that view, they had no Tight to invite one Labour representative to accompany the delegation. They should have said that Labour newspapers had no title to any representation whatever. That would have been the honest position for them to take up.
– How many newspapers are there which represent the other side in politics?
– Exactly. If we judge honorable members opposite by their own press, they*, occupy a similar position to ourselves. But I am not concerned about what any newspaper says about me - whether it be a Labour or an anti-Labour journal. I shall always deem it my duty to do the fair thing.
The Treasurer has told us that we are to have the Budget statement next week. After the party meeting which was held last Tuesday - a meeting which, if we had held it, would have been called a “caucus “ meeting, but which, because honorable members opposite attended it, was designated a “ pre-sessional “ meeting - we were “told that the Budget was to contain a number of interesting announcements. We read all about the meeting of Tuesday last.
– Does the honorable member think that he did?
– I do not. But I always admire the pertinacious way in which the press reporters go about their work. They are able to sum up the political position just as well as we can. If any honorable member had been sitting in the parliamentary press gallery for . years, and had thus become familiar with the ideas that are expressed here, he would be able to give a pretty shrewd guess -as to what transpired at the meeting to which I am referring. We” read in the daily press a statement of what the Budget is likely to contain. We were assured that the children are to be called upon to pay a tax of 16 per cent, on threepenny’ tickets to picture shows. Yet the people who are able to afford reserved seats at a theatre, and to pay 12s. 6d. for tickets to admit them to a race-course, are only required to pay a tax of 16 per cent. The children, I repeat, are to be called upon to pay a tax of 162/3 per cent, upon a threepenny ticket to a picture show-
– Upon what is the honorable member basing his calculations?
– A tax of½d. on 3d. is equivalent to a tax of 162/3 per cent.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his information in regard to the Budget?
– From the statement which appeared in the press.
– That wicked, Conservative press!
– Honorable members can hear things as well as can pressmen. We can hear from time to time of what is transpiring. If the Government are going to bring down taxation upon the basis I have outlined, it will be very unjust in its incidence. Of course, under the proposed new standing order, it is quite possible that we shall be allowed at least ten minutes to discuss the matter. I note that we are not to be “ gagged “ for a whole ten minutes. We ought to be thankful for that. The closure is not to be applied during that period. The Government, in their might, intend, therefore, to be merciful. They propose to give us at least ten minutes to deal with the various motions which we are to discuss.
I am glad to note that, from one paragraph in the Ministerial statement, the Australian troops who embarked in 1914 are to be granted well-merited furlough. But when our Standing Orders have been amended, fresh taxation measures are to be submitted - measures under which some persons will still be able to make huge profits. These people are not going to be hit very hard. They will be able to pass on the burden by increasing their prices.
Two -or three things stand out prominently in connexion with the Acting Prime Minister’s statement. One is that there is to be an amendment of the maternity grant. I suppose that the Government are going to put the brand of “ pauper “ on every person who applies for that allowance. There are only two ways in which the maternity allowance can be amended. “One is by increasing it, and the other is . by asking the persons who apply for it questions similar to those which used to be put to applicants for the old-age pension in Victoria.
– Had not the honorable member better wait and see the Bill before venturing to criticise it?
– There are only two ways in which the maternity grant can be amended.
– The honorable member will probably find that there is a third.
– Very well. We shall see. Of course I recognise that honorable members opposite, at their four hours’ party meeting on Tuesday, and at the meeting on. Wednesday, which lasted until 11 o’clock at night, had the advantage of hearing words of wisdom from the Postmaster-General upon the subject of “ How I made the Post Office pay.” I suppose the story will be screened in three films.
– Wait until the honorable member sees the film.
– I suppose it will be a film in opposition to “ Gerard’s Four Years in Germany.” It will be the PostmasterGeneral’s pet film. Now, for anything that the honorable gentleman has done which is good, I am prepared to give him credit.
– Most of the savings which he has made have been made at the expense of the country post-office’s.
– That will be a matter with which the honorable member and others who are specially interested in it will have an opportunity of dealing.
I do not propose this morning to discuss the question of compulsory war loans, the amendment of the Electoral Act, or the restoration of the postal vote. I do not forget that upon the last-mentioned question we had a double dissolution, and the man who organized that double dissolution is now out.
– The proper place for a man who does anything like that.
– But he went out voluntarily. There was no conscription about it, either by the electors or any one else. He went out purely voluntarily, to a better job.
– Why mention it? You opposed it, and it did you all the world of good.
– If I do not believe in a thing I will oppose it.
– Well, do not accept the benefits, then. You ought to retire.
– No, I ought not to retire. I think that was the only time I got a walk-over.
The most important item is right away near the bottom of the sheet, and has to do with price fixing. It states: -
Price fixing has now assumed considerable proportions, and it is felt that the time has arrived to place this upon a more satisfactory basis during the war than that of a War Precautions Regulation, and steps having that end in view will accordingly ‘be taken.
That means, I presume, that we are to have a Bill to validate everything that has been done, and to put it all on a proper basis. If anything requires a better basis, and to be given more full effect, it is this matter of price fixing. In the papers we have just read of 4,000 guineas having been paid for a prize ram. At the same time thousands of the children of soldiers who are away fighting our battles are unable to obtain meat. Four thousand guineas for a ram ! What price the children of the soldiers?
– Have you not enough intelligence to know that if it were not for those 4,000-guinea rams at the head of the pastoral industry, you would have very’ little wool and not a great deal of meat either ?
– And very few squatters.
– I am not concerned about the honorable member’s reflection on my intelligence, but it is quite possible that he would not be having the present enormous quantities of wool but for the conditions which he has indicated. It is the high price of wool that has kept the meat off the market; the honorable member cannot deny that. Who were these people that went out on strike in Victoria and refused to send one sheep or lamb or head of cattle to the market because the Government had fixed the prices ? And who were those men who came into the Queen’s Hall and engaged seven special trains to bring them to Melbourne to protest against price fixing ? Has any honorable member on the other side of the House protested against this? I ask that question of those honorable members who say they are still where they were, so far as the Labour party is concerned, except upon the one matter of conscription. I” ask if they have voiced their opinions on the high cost of living.
– Those men came to Melbourne at their own expense.
– Of course. They paid their expenses out of money which they had robbed the people of. The people paid for those special trains.
– That is as unworthy of you as it is untrue.
– It is absolutely true.
– You . know it is not true, and you cannot prove a single case.
– There were so many motors outside that-
– You will say anything after arguments like that.
– When that deputation came here to wait upon the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and upon the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene), one could hardly cross Spring-street for motor cars. They belonged to those poor people engaged in the effort to keep up prices.
– Do not show so much envy.
– That deputation did me the honour of hooting my name when it was mentioned. It was one of the highest compliments I have ever had paid to me. They hooted my name for the same reason that a burglar would hoot the name of a detective, or that a thief would, hoot a policeman. That is what I say of those who hooted my name because I have stood up to them, and prevented them from shipping their meat away, so as to create an artificial shortage in Australia. And, i f I get the chance, I will do it again. I make no bones about my attitude on that question.
We talk of the injury .that is being done to recruiting. The papers learned that the Trades Hall proposed ito fly the red flag, whereupon they said to themselves, “Let us hoorn that up; let us fool the people, and so let us keep them off something else.” I made my attitude clear on that particular matter long before” there was any thought of bringing in a regulation to deal -with the flying of the red flag. It is all a mere matter of camouflage. The papers were using this red flag cry, and saying, “ Let us fool the people, and keep them off something else.” I said, “ Yes, but these other people hoisted the black flag - the black flag of the profiteer.” To that a man replied, “ They have not hoisted the black flag at all.” I answered, “ No, they have not hoisted the black flag of the pirate, but they have acted the pirate all the same.” There is this difference, however, that in plying their calling the pirates, at least, took their lives in their hands; but these people -are only taking the lives of other folk. I would be lacking in the proper representation of my constituency were I to say and do otherwise than I have done. In portion of my constituency alone, namely, in Richmond, 4,000 men have enlisted, and nearly 500 have ‘been killed. Am I to stand here with the knowledge that the kith and kin of those soldiers are being forced to go on paying these high prices for meat? I repeat that the stock-owners went out on strike.
-. - You may tell your constituents there will be any amount of cheap meat in three months.
– We have been told that for the past three years. Mr. Angliss said that last year.
– There will be no more cheap meat in Australia.
– Not while the meat people can go on strike - as the doctors have been doing lately.
– Apart from the Riverina, where are the fat sheep and cattle in New South Wales?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) has just told us that we shall get cheap meat in three months. That is what Mr. Angliss said before the Inter-State Commission last year. When the subject was referred by the Government to the Inter-State
Commission in August last year, what happened after the whole matter had been fixed by the Government? Butchers advertised that they were selling more cheaply than the Government prices. But the people who had the meat to sell, namely, the graziers and the stock agents, took good care that those butchers could not get the meat. They closed down the market, and, for the first time in the history of Victoria, the Newmarket sales were abandoned. Not ohe sheep came in. They stopped the stock on the road. Cattle which had been put on trucks were sent back. Those men deliberately organized a strike in connexion with the food supply of the people. Had any trade union done that, there would have been a War Precautions regulation up against them in no time - one that would have gaoled them for their pains.
I understand that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) waa at the deputation as a visitor when those meat people hooted me.
– They hooted very vigorously when the honorable member’s name was mentioned.
– I am glad that crowd hooted me. I like their hoots. I will go into their districts, too. When the honorable member . for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who was acting as Leader of the Labour party in this Chamber during my absence in Perth, had arranged a counterdeputation at the desire of numbers of consumers, they were not able to get the Queen’s Hall. The Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene) very courteously and kindly received them, I admit. I had tot turned, and was to introduce the deputation. There were far more people in the room than could be comfortably accommodated ; and there were hundreds, if not thousands, outside the door and right back into the street.
– And they got the policemen’s batons.
– Npt on that occasion.
– Did they not? We saw “ it.
– The honorable member may be mistaking another incident, although, of course, I was not present outside.
– I do not think there was a policeman anywhere in sight.
-Yes. One helped me through the gate. He was a pal of mine. I would never have got into the building to introduce the deputation but for a policeman.
– He was one of the Federal police?
– No, not one of those hatched out of the Warwick egg.
– Tell me how it is that people can get rump steak for 7½d. per lb. in Queensland, and have to pay ls. 3d. for it in Victoria. What is the reason?
– It is some one in between; and they will take good care that the Queensland meat will not come down here. What ‘is more, they will blame the Queensland Government, anyhow. A conference took place in Sydney about a fortnight ago, in which certain parties asked that there be an alteration in the price of meat, and that it should be skied still higher. We shall want an armed guard directly to go for a pound of chops. We shall require an aeroplane to reach up to the prices if they soar much higher. That conference recommended an increase. It was. a conference of graziers, squatters, stock agents, and butchers. There were no consumers. What about the Inter-State Commission? That is not a Labour organization. There was no representative of the Trades Hall at the Conference.’ There were no representatives of the consumers. There was nobody to put the point of view of the people.
Yesterday I asked a certain question, and was told to give notice. I did so, for to-day; and I am now told to postpone it until Wednesday. That is all very well. I dare say I shall get what I am after directly ; but before my allotted time is up I intend to place on record the prices paid in Victoria before the drought. We have had droughts previously in Australia, but prices have never kept up as they have been doing recently. I have said in this chamber, and elsewhere, that no person has a right to make one penny extra profit out of the miseries of the people. But there are men who are making their profits by keeping up the prices.
– They are criminals.
– And apparently the Government are not going to see that the consumers in Australia shall have fair treatment. I know that prices of cattle and of land are going up, but the life of one child is of more importance than the value of all the cattle and all the land in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Meat is the most important item in the household. The expenditure on bread, sugar, ‘ and butter combined does not equal the expenditure on meat. “Therefore the increase in the price of meat is very severely felt, and so far as I can see there is absolutely no reason for it. There have been droughts in Australia previously, and yet meat has come down in price.
– What do you suggest ?
– I suggest that the Government should have put price-fixing on a fair basis, as they now propose, and bring the scheme into operation by legislative enactment, instead, of under the War Precautions Regulations.
– Do you not think that before the Government fix prices for stock they should endeavour to fix the seasons, too?
– I point out to the honorable member that, according to the Inter-State Commission’s report, the stock-owners of Australia, since the last drought, have made £27,000,000 more than they had made in the two . years prior to the drought, and that, notwithstanding the losses suffered during that period, there are more sheep and cattle in Australia to-day than there were after the drought period.
– The Inter-State Commission’s figures referred to fat sheep and cattle.
– I have here a table showing the fixed prices operating in Victoria in 1914 and 1917, as compared with the prices fixed by the . Government in July of this year. This table also shows that in the Queensland State butcher shops meat is selling at considerably less than in Victoria.
– Do you say that is for fresh meat?
– I presume it is fresh meat.
– It was frozen meat.
– It is not frozen meat; it is chilled.
– I will- send a telegram to Mr. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland, to get at the facts of the case. Apparently, there is a prejudice in some quarters against the use of frozen meat, but I have eaten it, and found it superior to some fresh meat. So long as frozen meat is properly thawed the consumer could hardly tell the difference.
– Does the honorable member say-
– I have only about ten minutes of my time left, and I desire, if possible, to complete my remarks on this subject.
– Order! I must ask honorable members to restrain themselves, and cease interjecting. The honorable member for Yarra has several times pointed out that there is a time limit upon his speech, and he is entitled to the full use of his time.
– The figures I have regarding the price of meat in Victoria are as follow: -
– But the Minister has knocked out all those figures before.
– So far as Victoria is concerned the Government got away from the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission, and fixed the prices at a figure higher than that suggested, and yet the stock-owners would not send a beast into the market.
– That is wrong.
– They declined to send a beast into the market.
– Not in New South Wales.
– But I am speaking of Victoria. The stock-owners of this State went on strike, and deliberately refrained from sending any stock to the Newmarket sales. I have it on the best of authority that the stock then on the roads were trucked back, and I have no doubt that the . people will have to pay extra for that. I am also informed that even in New South Wales butchers who advertised that they were selling at less than the fixed price were prevented from getting supplies.
The stock-owners of Australia acted in the same way as the flour millers in similar circumstances. It is well known that when the Government fixed the price of bread the Flour Millers Association prevented supplies from reaching certain bakers who were willing to sell at less than the fixed price. The same action has been taken in regard to other lines. The Government have fixed the price of galvanized iron, and I invite any honorable member to ask any contractor in Melbourne what is the procedure to-day. If a contractor gets his joinery done at one place, and goes to another supplier for galvanized iron, he will be met by the inquiry, “Where did you get your joinery? You go and get your galvanized iron where you get your joinery done.” It is true they will supply galvanized iron at the Government fixed price, but they will take very good care to charge a contractorextra for the joinery work. Take also the case of tiles. If a contractor approaches a tile manufacturer, he will be asked where he got his bricks from. Thus it goes on everywhere. In the case’ of meat, if any butcher dares to sell at less than the fixed price the stock-owners or their representatives will prevent him from obtaining supplies. That is the position to-day, and I maintain that the Government should prosecute and gaol, those who are responsible for this state of affairs. That is what I would do if I had my way. The Government gaoled some people who protested against the high cost of living, so they should gaol some of those who are keeping up the high cost of living.
Like other honorable members, I received a letter some time ago from Mr. Hall informing me that he had been instructed by the executive of his union to ask honorable members to protest against the fixation of prices in regard to meat. I need not go into the details of the case for the producers. I am willing that every person in this country should receive a fair thing, but I am entirely opposed to the manner in which the middlemen and stock agents are increasing the prices for the handling of our stock. In my reply to Mr. Hall, I told him I would not act as he suggested, and move in the House for the disallowance of the regulation, as I had been agitating on behalf of the people who were being exploited.
– You did not do much when you were in power, and prices were 40 per cent, higher then.
-. - No, they were not. When I was in power I stopped them sending their stuff away, and when the New South Wales Government, in defiance of the Commonwealth regulations, said they intended to put butter on board ship for export, I said, “ All right, go ahead; but I shall see that no ship gets a clearance from Australia so long as that produce is on board.” I- stopped butter from being sent away from Australia in order to create an artificial shortage, and I remind honorable members that «in April or May of this year the Assistant Minister promised that when the production in Victoria had increased the prices here would be lowered to 149.4s. per cwt. Production in Victoria has increased, but now the Government say that there can be no reduction in the price of butter until the Australian production has reached its maximum, with the result that, although Victoria is producing 500 tons per week, butter to-day is at its higher level in values. Let me quote some sworn evidence given before the InterState Commission in regard to this matter. Mr. J”. N. Williams, the secretary of the Grocers Association of Victoria, who is not a Labour man, gave evidence that the Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Selling Company last year made a profit of £12,786 on a capital of £66,969, or 19 per cent.; the
Western District Co-operative Company a profit of £7,163 on a capital of £22,045, a net profit of 32 per cent.; while the Victorian Butter Factories Limited made a profit of £10,823 on a capital of £11,837, or a net profit of 91.4 per cent. Those are the people that are making the profits. If a. man puts his money into the war loan it will take him twenty years to get that return, but if he puts it into a butter company he will get 91 per cent, in one year. Yet people wonder why the price of butter is going so high.
– Why do you not give the returns for three or four years ?
– I am simply quoting the sworn evidence of the secretary of an association that does not support us, but that puts its money in to support honorable members on -the other side. I read a statement made by a gentleman in Sydney the other day to the effect that when they put their money in to support the Nationalist candidates at the last election, they did not expect the Nationalists to bring forward the war-time profits tax. I said here when we last met that men can insure against anything in this country, and that a lot of people insured against taxation and price fixing by putting their money in to support honorable members opposite. Prices have not been fixed recently, and are not being fixed to-day, by the Price-fixing Commissioners, in accordance with the facts before them, but are being fixed in accordance with the result of the election on 5th May of last year. They know that honorable members opposite do not care a snap of the fingers how high prices go for those who have to pay. I should be lacking in my duty if I did not protest here against the way the public are being fleeced at the present time. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) put the matter well when he wrote that referendum pamphlet in 1915, fourteen months after the war started. . He said then -
We all know how the cost of living has increased, so that it is .with the utmost difficulty that the bulk of the community are able with the greatest economy to make both ends meet; and, making every allowance for the effects of the draught, there can be no doubt whatever that this is due very largely to manipulation of the market by unscrupulous persons at the expense of the community. These persons frequently pose as patriots.
They subscribe £50 to a patriotic fund and fleece the public of £5,000 by high prices.
When the Prime Minister wrote that it was true. It is more true to-day. There are no effects of the drought in Australia to-day.
– Are there not?
– Then let honorable members get up and show them.
– Come along with me, and I will show you.
– I have not the chance. I am out organizing for the Labour party all the time.
– You have time to tell lies in this House.
– Is the honorable member for Calare in order in accusing the Leader of the Opposition of telling lies in the House?
– I did not understand the honorable member for Calare to do so. If he did, I ask him to withdraw any such imputation.
– I merely said that the Leader of the Opposition has time to tell lies in the House. If that is out of order, I withdraw it.
– I did not ask for the expression to be withdrawn.
– I also ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I take no more notice of the honorable member for Calare than I did this morning of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner). Those people are more concerned about increasing prices than decreasing them. I am concerned that the people of. Australia shall get a fair deal, and that the wives and mothers and children of the men who have gone overseas shall not be fleeced and robbed, as they are at present. I am concerned that people who are piling up huge fortunes at the expense of the misery of the people should be stopped.
– In fact, you are the one honest, decent man in the House.
– I make no such claim. There is nothing of the Pharisee about me. I do not pose at all. I- am here to point out what the Ministry have failed to do. They have failed to see, after prices have been fixed, that the stuff was got to the market for the people. They have been humbugging over this question for- twelve months. To-day, when I asked if it was a fact that the squatters and graziers went to the Ministry and said, “ You have to increase prices,” and whether there were any consumers on the deputation, I was’ told to postpone my question until Wednesday. By that date I shall have spoken, and will have no opportunity of dealing with the answer when it is given.
I regret that there is no time to deal with a number of other matters. I wished to refer to one or two connected Avith the Defence Department. One woman received word that her son had been killed. Three months afterwards she was notified by the Defence Department that he had been sentenced for something, and that his pay had been reduced to 2s. 6d. per week. When we wrote to the Defence Department about this, they replied that they were sorry the mistake had occurred. Those are the things that have prevented the activity in recruiting that there should have been.
– That sort of thing also occurred when you were in office.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is not my intention to try to follow the arguments of the honorable member who has just sat down. It is very easy for city dwellers, who climb the Post Office tower and look around and think they see Australia, to cavil at the man ‘ on the land, and denounce him for increased price.-.. When the policy of fixing the prices for beef and mutton was adopted, these people seemed to think there was only one side to the question - the consumers’ side. Let me tell the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that there is also the producers’ side. The producer has had a very bad time, and is complaining as bitterly as the consumer. It is easy for those to talk who do not understand country conditions. I condemn price fixing entirely, because we are going altogether on the wrong basis. Before we start to fix the price of stock or beef’ and mutton, we must fix wages, and fix the seasons. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) interjects, we must also fix the amount of work to be done for the money. The man on the land is always being condemned because he is not prepared to pay high wages. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) - and no one has had more experience on the land than he has - knows that the man on the land objects to pay wages to men who want the work given out at the same time. The trouble in this country is that the man on the land cannot get the men to do the work for him.
I do not view the Ministerial statement with any degree of satisfaction. It is not so much what is in it as what ought to be in it, and is not, that we should cavil at. The idea seems to be flogged to death in this country that when the revenue does not equal the expenditure, we must keep on taxing until it does. We all know that in war-time very large sums of money have to be expended and that we are obliged to find the necessary funds. But I wish to complain, not about the war expenditure, but about the general expenditure of government. Without being a carping critic, I wish to know from Ministers why, .some effort is not being made now to curtail expenditure, ls no effort to be made to cut it down? What are we going to do with the Public Service? Everybody in this House is aware that the Public Service is a great deal too big for this country. It is well known that there are lots of men in the Public Service who are overpaid and Underworked, and that many of them are doing practically nothing but writing minutes to each other.
– You will be safer on the high cost of living. If you are not careful, you will lose your twelve quid a week, because they all have votes.
– I will risk the loss. I will speak my mind here, no matter whom it offends. I do not denounce all public servants. There are many good public servants, on the other hand, who are overworked and underpaid. They themselves object to the present system, but the fact remains that the real bosses of this country are the public servants, and the honorable member for Hume puts his finger on the spot when he says that they all have votes. They have lots of relatives and friends, and can influence numbers of votes. Therefore, what I am saying now is not likely to be very popular. But we must have a different system, whereby the public servants will not run the country, but the country shall run the public servants, and tell them what they have to do. The Minister sitting at the table (Mr. Poynton) knows that we have been promised for the last year or two that there shall be only one Taxation Department in this country instead of seven. I believe I heard the Minister raise his voice in protest against the continued existence of six State and one Commonwealth taxing departments.
– The States will not agree to have only one.
– If the States will not agree to it, if we get a strong Government in this country they will say, “We want not only one taxing department instead of seven, but only one Government instead of seven, and one Parliament and one Governor-General.” What do we want with seven Parliaments, and seven Governors, and fourteen Houses of Parliament? It is time we looked carefully into that question. I am strongly in favour of Unification. This country cannot be governed under the present system without taxing the people to death.
– Before the people will agree to Unification, we shall have to show a better example under Federal administration.
– The people in the country districts can manage their local affairs perfectly well. All the brains and wisdom are not centred in the big cities. With a proper system of local government we do not want fourteen Houses’ of Parliament and seven printing offices and seven Governors. If we persist in retaining the present system, the natural corollary is heavy taxation. Honorable members may . squeal, but it is no’ good criticising the Government unless one can show a way out. Why cannot we in this country adopt the system now followed in little Tasmania, where there is only one electoral roll and one set of electoral officials for State and Commonwealth ?
– The Government are going to do that.
– I am sick of listening to Ministers who are always going to do things. If Ministers do not take this thing in hand and” do it properly, the people will apply the “ order of the boot” to them, and that is what they need.
We are drifting into a bad position, because we are getting Executive government only, and Parliament has no say. I shall be told to-night and tomorrow that I have no right to criticise a Government of which I am a supporter, but I refuse to adopt the conception of government that is being pushed on us now, or to bow down to the members who sit on the front bench of the Opposition and think that everything they say is right. We want a live Opposition, conducted on intelligent lines, and not on carping party lines. At a time like this we might well dispense with party cries, and try to forget party divisions. I am looking forward to the time when the soldiers who have been fighting so well for us come back here, and with a long arm drag a lot of people out of this Chamber and take control of this country. I hope they do, because they could not mismanage it more than we have mismanaged it. The cost of government is far too high. It is said that the Public Service commands a lot of votes; but changes are necessary there, and the Government should be strong enough to bring them about. I shall give my support to any proper proposal, from whatever quarter, to that end.
It ill-becomes honorable members opposite to complain of. the expenditure on elections. We know that more money is found for their candidates than for any others. This is the twentyeighth year that I have been in Parliament, and during the whole of that time no one has contributed a £5-note towards my expenses.- There are many other honorable members on this side who can say the same thing. All credit to the supporters of -Labour candidates if, knowing that their representatives require money to fight their battles, they provide it. Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent by the unions on political campaigns. No one knows better than the honorable member for Maranoa that what I am saying is true.
– My expenses are paid. I plead guilty to that.
– I have heard the honorable member say that an election costs him less than £5.
– That is so.
– The honorable member is cheap at the price.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) referred to the war-time profits tax.
– Mr. Baillieu, the millionaire, was man enough to -say that it does not touch him.
– The tax, as at present levied, is preventing new industries from being established, while many who are -making money out of the war are contributing nothing to the revenue. The Government will not be worth its salt if it does not amend the law so as to catch these gentlemen. No one should be allowed to make money out of the war; as money is being made by those connected with shipping and other big concerns. What is the reason for the increase in the prices of articles of local consumption? Is it not evidence that there is profiteering? The Government should impose penalties which will prevent this. But it is useless to increase taxation unless, at the same time, economy is observed in the administration of- public affairs. Taxation is never palatable; but the poorest man will be prepared to pay his share if the wealthy is hit hard. The Government should hit the wealthy -man hard. They should impose heavy taxation on the profiteers. But I protest against the complaint that has been made about the producers. One might think that the consumers alone are to be considered. The consumers, of course, must be protected; but it i3 the middleman who makes the profits, and the Government should, prevent the making of undue middle profits. Great mistakes have occurred in connexion with price fixing, in regard to which matters seem to he going from bad to worse. Of course, it is easy to criticise, but difficult to build up.
I ask the Government to say what it proposes to do in regard to the administration of the Public Service, and also in regard to the standardizing of electoral legislation and taxation returns. In my district, some men pay two or three times as much to have their returns made up as their taxation comes to. I believe that the Government intends to maintain the old system of curves in its taxation legislation, -which .not five men in the House -understand. Why is not this system abandoned in favour of a simple table, making the taxation so much in the pound, the Tate increasing with the income of the person taxed? It has been said that the States will not follow our example; but I say .that they will be compelled to do so. Many men, like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Richard Foster), who are opposed to Unification, but want economy, are beginning to feel that they must support Unification, on the ground that it is better to be robbed by one *han by two. Money is being thrown away. Look at the expenditure on the Naval Bases. If a private firm received reports like some that have been presented to this Parliament by the Public Works Committee, it would “boot” out of its employment those who were responsible for the waste. Scores of thousands of pounds ‘have been thrown away. When there were three shifts being worked at the .Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, there was a shortage of houses there. But we all know that the Factory will be removed from Lithgow.
– No ; we do not.
– The House knows it, and the honorable member will know it a little while after the removal. Of course, some big industry may take the place of the Factory ; but I say that, how that there is only one shift, the need for houses cannot be so great as when there were three shifts. If this democratic Win-the-War Government is going to build houses at Lithgow, why is it not going to build them at Canberra and mt other centres where houses are scarce and rents are high? I do not ask for the expenditure of public funds on the erection of houses in my electorate. My opinion is that where there is a demand for houses, and a fair profit to be made by building them, private enterprise will do what is necessary. At Lithgow the- Government proposes to build houses at a time when the need for accommodation is diminishing. The Government is on dangerous ground in this matter.
– The honorable member was always opposed to having the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
– On the contrary, I was a member of the Government that established the Factory there. I have no desire to. borrow 400 or 500 of the honorable member’s 80Cla1181,10 supporters, who, though a source of strength to him, would be a cause of weakness’ to me. The proper place for the Arsenal, the Small Arms Factory, and similar enterprises is at Canberra. That is the best situation in Australia. If a better could be found, it should be adopted; but Parliament, in its wisdom, has decided, practically unanimously, that there is no better situation. What is the good of majority rule, unless the will of the majority is’ respected? The proposal to build houses at Lithgow is absurd, on the face of it. Is it proposed to build houses at other places?
– If housing accommodation is needed at other places, I suppose the Government will build houses there.
– Suppo”sitions cut no ice here. I do not disparage the work the honorable member has done.
– If the honorable member gets 2,000 of these Bolsheviks at Lithgow in his electorate, he will know that something has happened.
– I am glad to know the character of the honorable member’s constituents. If they are as harmless as the representative of the Bolsheviks in this House, whom I have found to be a kindly fellow, I shall not object to them. I assure the honorable member for Macquarie that I have no personal feeling against him, but his own common sense will tell him that the Government should not be expending money for small arms factory work in a town that- is on the decline.
– Who says that Lithgow is on the decline?
– I do not say that it is “ going down “ ; I believe that it is “going up.” Lithgow should be the home of a number of great industries, but the Small Arms Factory is not one of them, because Parliament has decided that the Factory shall, be taken away from there after the war is over. There have been grave discussions as to the most suitable site for the Factory, but all the experts, whose advice I prefer to that, of the honorable member, have agreed that all branches of the Arsenal should be in the one place and under the one supervision, and that there should be a bountiful water supply at the site. Commission after Commission has decided that the most suitable spot is Canberra.
– Who said that the Government have decided to shift the Factory after the war is over?
– Parliament has decided that the Arsenal shall be built at Canberra, although the Government were opposed to that policy.
– The present Government will be out of office by the time the war is finished.
– Governments come and go, and I expect the day will come, when honorable members, opposite will sit on the Treasury bench. When’ that happens, I shall express my mind as freely to them as I am expressing it to-day to the members of the Government.
– Will fourteen accomplish that desirable result?
– I do not think that we desire any political upheaval until we get rid of the war. When the war is over, I shall not be surprised if there is an upheaval. An honorable member asks me if that is a threat? It is not. I judge by the murmurs that I hear.
What do the Government propose to do to provide employment for the men who are returning from the Front? Judging by the turn events have taken on the Western Front during the last few weeks, there is a prospect of a lot of our soldiers returning very soon. How do the Government propose to provide for them ? Will they again adopt the old policy of putting men to work at shifting sand, or will they introduce a protective policy designed to build up industries in Australia ?
– They will send the men back to the Front.
– They may try, but . the men themselves will have a say in that. They have already proved what Australians can do. When they return we should be ready for them. During the war it has been proved that we can manufacture in Australia many things which we were told could not be made here. The old cry was that labour was too dear to permit of industries being established; but Australians have shown that very often the highlypaid workman is the cheapest. There, are many industries that can be built upin Australia, so that we need not continue importing from abroad. Now is the time to make a commencement. It is useless for the Government to try to put this matter on the shelf, and to procrastinate from time to time. If they continue doing that, the soldiers when they return will penalize those who have neglected their duty in this matter. There should be avenues of profitable employment open to all our soldiers when they land here, and that is why I ask the Government what they propose to do in regard to Protection. I know that in criticising the Government I am criticising men who are overworked and who are undergoing a great strain in the carrying on of the war. Those circumstances afford some excuse, but I do think that from such a large number of Ministers we should be able to get some initiative work. It is all very well to talk about Empire industries - nobody is stronger for the Empire than I am - but we must consider Australian industries first, and we must have an efficient Protective policy.
– It is all right. Mr, Hughes is fixing it up in England.
– I have nothing to say about the Prime Minister; I hope he will fix up something while he is in England. He is a man who has worked hard-
– A great empire builder.
– When I mention the name of the Prime Minister it seems to have the same effect on honorable members opposite as would the flaunting before a bull of the flag which honorable members fly over their Trades Hall. If they have anything to say against the Prime Minister, let them wait till he returns, and say it to his face..
– Is he returning?
– That is what concerns the honorable member. I have no desire to’ say anything harsh against the Government, but I am pointing out a policy that is open to them, and, as strong men supported by a. majority in both Chambers, they should make a commencement at once. I advocated Protection when it was not popular. It is all very well for the honorable member for Batman to scream for Protection to-day, when he thinks it is the right ticket.
– I am not screaming for it.
-.- Then I hope the honorable member’s constituents will ask him why he is not advocating a Protective policy.
– I shall not go to England to urge Protection - especially as a Free Trader.
– There ought to be more industries in Australia. The time is ripe for the commencement of them, and the majority of members of this Parliament are in favour of that policy.
The Government must also enforce a proper scheme of economy - not the economy that is represented by the cutting off of small country mail services, but an economy that will save thousands of pounds instead of tens of pounds, and that will result in the establishment of one Electoral Department and one electoral roll for the States and the Commonwealth, the amalgamation of Federal and State income tax offices, and the reduction of Parliaments and Governors. It is idle to tell me, after twenty-eight years of parliamentary life, that the” fault for the delay in introducing these reforms lies with the States. The States, must give way, because their electors are the same as those for the Federal Parliament, and they will not tolerate the unnecessary duplication of services. The people are already bowed down with taxation, which is yearly becoming heavier.
I am glad that the Government intend to make the financial shirkers toe the mark. I have toured the country in an endeavour to stimulate recruiting, and I have seen men come forward and offer their lives- all they had - but there are many men in the community who have never subscribed even a shilling to the war loans. It is the duty of the Government to say, “ We know you have the money, and we will compel you to lend it to us.” A mistake was made at the commencement of these war loans in not asking men to give their money as other men have given their lives. But surely, when we are offering them the best security and the highest rate of interest obtainable in the world, we have a right to apply compulsion to those financial shirkers of whom all decent men are ashamed. I am delighted that the Government propose to -take power to compel such men to do their duty. Some people applied the term “ shirkers “ to the men who did not enlist; there are other shirkers who must be made to do what they neglect to do voluntarily. If the Government do not compel men who have money to lend it to the country, they will get no support from me, and there are several men on this side of the House who are of the same opinion. Those members who have ample means are amongst the strongest advocates of that policy. I have heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) urge that policy a dozen times. Naturally, he and all decent men, when they come forward with their money, whether it be £10 or £10,000, perhaps incurring inconvenience in doing so, and know that their neighbours are doing nothing, feel inclined to take them by the scruff of the neck. The only course the honorable member has is to support the Government, as I heard him say he would do, in compelling men to give their money. There is no favour about the matter. Many men are investing their money in the war loans because they can earn more in that way than their capital would otherwise secure for them. Of course, I am aware that the very fact that decent men are putting their money into war loans enables others to earn 7 per cent, on mortgages, or 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, in businesses. For that reason I congratulate the Government on their proposal, and I am prepared to give them generous support.
I have called attention to certain things which took place at Cockatoo Island. At the time it was said that nothing of the kind had occurred, but changes were brought about immediately afterwards saving £1^000 or £1,500 a year. I congratulate the Assistant Minister (Mr. Poynton) on the visits he has made to that establishment. He is not an expert, but he is a man of common sense, and in five minutes he could see what was happening. If he pays similar visits in the future he will save many thousands of pounds.
I have nothing personal against Ministers. They have always been kind to me. They work hard, and they do their best; but I think it wise ‘to call their attention to these matters. I do not do so for the purpose of finding fault. If honorable members opposite wish to put me in a corner because I disagree with certain things they will not find it easy to do so. Why do not the Government strive to standardize electoral matters, and have proportional or preferential voting, and one roll for Australia ? If they will not try to’ give us one taxation form they cannot claim support from me. Reform in this direction will be in the interests of the people, because it is better to economize when it can be done properly than to attempt to wring more out of the people by taxation. We know what taxation means. We talk of taxing wealth. My experience, ranging over a quarter of a century, shows me that nine times out of ten the wealthy man passes on the tax.
I wish we could have a Government representing all hands. Unfortunately, honorable members cannot see eye to eye with one another; but it seems to me that there should be only one party while the war is on. It is idle for honorable members on this side to claim to be the only Win-the-war party, as it is equally idle for honorable members opposite to put forward certain foolish claims. Why cannot we all pull together at a time like this as a solid band, and, not by carping criticism nor by party tactics, but by honest efforts, bring about a better state of affairs, so that the people will not be taxed down to the dust? Things are going from worse to worse. If the war is not over next year, heaven knows what the taxation will be. As wise men we should endeavour to grapple with the position, and bring about a better state of things.
These are thoughts which have just occurred to me during the last five minutes. There are many other questions which honorable members will tackle, but I do not think that they will be as important as those which I have mentioned. I would like some one to show me why we should not have that for which I have just contended - why -we should not have a Protective Tariff. We must have standardization in different matters, and a policy that will give employment to our people. Otherwise, I warn honorable gentlemen on the Government side, and those who would aspire to seats on the Government side, that when our men come back from the Front they will take things in their own hands. I hope they will do so. They could not make a worse mess of affairs. I accept my share of the blame for what has occurred, although honorable members opposite are responsible for a great deal of it. We are all in this. Every man of common sense knows that a change is desirable, and I invite honorable members to help the Government to carry into effect the common-sense proposals which they have brought forward, and particularly these few items to which I have drawn attention.
Debate (on the motion of Mr. Mahony) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report : - “ Railway toconnect the Arsenal site, Tuggeranong, Federal Capital Territory, with the New South WalesGovernment railway between Nimmitabel and Goulburn”; also, that leave be given to theCommittee to hold meetings and transact business in connexion with this reference whilst either or both Houses of Parliament is or areactually sitting.
I present to the House the plans and the necessary information with regard to this proposed railway which will connect the line running from Goulburn to Nimmitabel with the projected Arsenal at Tuggeranong, in the Federal Territory. It will leave the main line a short distance out from Queanbeyan, and, after running parallel to it for a short distance, will traverse the Federal Territory to the Arsenal site.
– It is a purely Arsenal line.
– Yes. The estimated cost of the line is £62,613 12s. 6d., or an average of about £7,500 a mile. TheNew South Wales railway gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. will be adopted. It is necessary that the work should be proceeded with as early as possible,” and for that reason I have intervened at this stage in order that ‘the project may be submitted to the Public Works Committee without delay.
The construction of the line is urgent, since it will be needed to carry to the site the material required for the erection of the Arsenal buildings. I ask the House, therefore, to treat the question as a matter of urgency. I may say, in conclusion, that we are also seeking, on behalf of the Public Works Committee, leave to meet while the House is sitting, so that they may be able to push on with their investigations.
Plans, &c, laid on the table.
.- I desire to advance reasons why authority should not be given to the Public Works Committee to consider this project, and why a railway line connecting the proposed Arsenal site at Tuggeranong with the New South Wales railway system should not be sanctioned. In the first place, we already have at Lithgow a Small Arms Factory, and a suitable site for an Arsenal.. On that site, an Arsenal could be established within a very short period. The Government propose to proceed with the erection of a number of houses for the accommodation of employees in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and I submit that, in the circumstances, there is no reason why this line should be constructed or an Arsenal established at Tuggeranong. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said that it is the intention of the Government, after the war, to transfer the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to Tuggeranong. Such statements have created in the- minds of the people of Lithgow a bad impression, and have prevented many local residents from building houses by way of speculation. The consequence is that the Government find themselves practically forced to provide housing accommodation for a number of their employees. The honorable member also said that if the Government intended to build workmen’s homes at Lithgow, it should do so in connexion with national industries in other, parts of the Commonwealth. No one will object to that. If, in connexion with any Government industry, there is a lack of housing accommodation for employees, steps should be taken at once by the Government to remove so undesirable a state of affairs. The honorable member stressed the point that Lithgow was not suitable for the purposes of an Arsenal, and directed special attention to certain statements made a considerable time ago in regard to the subject. Tuggeranong, he declared, was the only suitable site for the Commonwealth Arsenal, and he certainly inferred that the Small Arms Factory should be associated with the Arsenal there. I have already put before the House the fact that a Parliamentary. Committe has declared Lithgow to be most suitable as a site for a Small Arms Factory,” and that it is specially endowed by nature for such a purpose. We have there an abundant supply of water, an ample supply of coal and -ironstone, and various other materials necessary for the carrying on of the industry. Why the honorable member should object to the Factory remaining at Lithgow, I am at a loss to understand.
– The honorable member will not be in order in traversing the speech made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– As a direct result of the bad housing accommodation for the Small Arms employees at Lithgow, there has been, during the past two or three weeks, a very severe epidemic of influenza. j Some time ago, the Government promised that steps would be taken immediately to provide workmen’s homes, but the work has been deferred, and there seems no likelihood of anything being done in that direction for the . next few months. If this lack of proper housing accommodation is the cause of the epidemic, there is every reason to believe that it will spread and greatly hinder the work of the Factory. A few days ago, something like 180 of its employees were absent on account of sickness, and this must necessarily mean a reduced output of the rifles that are so essential at the present time. I urge the House to consider the desirableness of allowing the Small Arms Factory to remain at Lithgow, and to require from the Government an assurance that there will be no interference with the industry. Statements such as those made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are published from time to time, and have a disturbing effect on persons who are seeking employment in the locality. Married men with families do not care to risk taking their families there because, in view of. such statements, they fear the Factory may soon close down. For the same reason, many local residents are refraining from speculating in the district.
– Let the Government make a definite pronouncement on the subject.
– That is what I desire.
– The Parliament has already expressed its decision.
– What Parliament said was that there would be no interference with the - Small Arms Factory during the currency of the war. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), though I cannot say whether he had any authority for so doing, gave an absolute assurance to this House that under no circumstances would the Factory be interfered with. And, up to the present moment, there has not been advanced any valid reason why the Factory should be removed. There is a greater output than ever before, and the rifles are produced just as quickly and efficiently as at Enfield, in England.
– What did the Public Works Committee say about moving the Factory?
– I do not think that the Public Works Committee made any recommendation, or had any authority to make a recommendation, regarding the Factory, That Committee did recommend that houses should be built immediately for the employees, in view of the great congestion in this connexion. It was on the assurance of the honorable member for Parramatta that the Government were approached with a request that houses should be erected. Of course, the climatic conditions may be just as good at Tuggeranong as at Lithgow; but, even so, a removal would mean the dislocation of every activity associated with the Factory ; and it would certainly cost the Government considerably more to train their employees if such have to be obtained on the establishment of another branch of industry. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance now that the Factory will not be interfered with during the currency of the war or at any period afterwards.
.-It would be just as well if honorable members had placed before them a short history of these works at Lithgow. For many months past the press-has been talking about the intention of the Government to economize; and, if the Government are sincere in this regard, they must know that the works now being erected at Tuggeranong are of no urgent necessity. The railway and the buildings can stand until after the war; but I go further, and declare it to be a pure waste of public funds to proceed with the works at the present juncture. I understand that the Government are cutting down the Estimates to the very bone; certainly, public necessities are being curtailed or brushed aside as if the public convenience were of no importance whatever.
– Especially by the Postmaster-General.
– It is to the Post and Telegraph Department that I refer. No wonder the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) can make the Post Office pay with his present policy. Public utilities, instead of being extended, are being curtailed ; indeed, some of them are being starved. Apparently, there is no money for maintenance of existing lines in Queensland, although the Government can find plenty for the railway and Arsenal at Tuggeranong.
– You are off the track.
– I am fairly on the track. If the Lithgow Factory up to the present has been good enough to provide rifles for our Forces overseas–
– At what cost?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the rifles will be turned out any more cheaply by removing the Factory from Lithgow to Tuggeranong ? If the honorable member can £.3- sure me to that effect, I will be in favour of removing the Factory at once. If there are any honorable members opposite - even if there is one - who will divide the House on the question of whether the present expenditure on the Federal Capital shall continue, he will find me voting with them in the negative. If we are to have economy, let us have real economy - not a wild-cat economy, with the expenditure of thousands in what is practically the bush. Personally, I never expect to see the Federal Capital finished; and, as for our sitting in the House of Parliament at Canberra, that is in the “ sweet by-and-by.” The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) was a member of the Ministry which established the Factory at Lithgow.
– The honorable member knows that there was no Canberra then.
– That is so; but I remember the honorable member standing at the table in this chamber and pointing out the great advantages of Lithgow as a site for a Small Arms Factory. He spoke of the easy means of access, its distance from the seaboard, its situation on the main line of railway; in fact, he painted a picture that made me think that Lithgow was the ideal spot for an Arsenal, and on his word I voted for the proposal. To-day, however, we find the honorable member “ off with the old love” and “ on with the new.” My own opinion is that at Lithgow there is everything necessary for an Arsenal; plenty of water, coal, and iron on the ground; in fact, the only thing lacking to make LIthgow a complete success is houses for the workers and their wives and children. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, however, would refuse these dwellings which are so necessary. To hear the objections raised to the proposal, one would think it (represented a wild socialistic venture; but no one knows better than the honorable member himself that on every coal-field, and on other mining fields throughout the Commonwealth, houses are provided for employees.
– So they should be at Lithgow.
– After that admission from the honorable member, I have nothing further to say.
– I intend to oppose the reference of this railway to the Public Works Committee because I am opposed to the expenditure of any money for any new public works until the proposals of the .Government with regard to finance have been completely elaborated. I am well aware that this work will be referred to by the Minister concerned as a small railway only about 7 miles in extent, which will not involve the expenditure of a very large amount of money. But since the beginning of the war, we, in this Parliament, have talked economy and have practised extravagance. The Government and Parliament have yet to prove by action that they are- sincere in their professions of economy. I am not to ‘be led aside because this involves the construction of only 7 miles of railway, and a comparatively small expenditure, because for a very long time, as honorable members are wellaware, I have done all I possibly could to secure economies, and .though many promises have been made that economy would be practised, none of them has been kept.
– The honorable member is referring to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– I have urged economy in connexion with every public expenditure, as the honorable member knows. We are living at a time when in this National Parliament taxation proposals are being submitted of such a crushing nature that they are altogether unprecedented in the history of any new country in the world. Should there be a division upon- the motion, I shall vote against this, as I shall vote against every other proposal for public expenditure until the financial proposals of the Government have been elaborated in detail.
.- I intend to assist honorable members who are protesting against the motion, on entirely new grounds- to those so far suggested, during the debate. I quite approve of the remarks of the honorable member’* for Wakefield (Mr.- Richard Foster), and agree with him that this is a time when economy must be the watchword of this Parliament. We should not at such a time commit ourselves to the building of a line of railway which for many years can be regarded only as” a mere convenience for the erection of the Arsenal. What, if anything, is wanted is merely a light tramway for the- transportation of materials necessary in the erection of the Arsenal.” It is by no means certain what the complete system of railway communication in the Federal Territory should be. It is understood that there is to be a line of railway from Yass to Canberra, and there has also been projected a railway to connect the Capital with -Jervis Bay. Yet here it is proposed to build a little spur line of 8 miles in length connecting the main line with the
Arsenal site, whilst a direct means of .connexion could be secured between the existing railway and the Arsenal .site which would not be more than 4 miles in length. Whilst the Arsenal is merely in process of construction, the only reason for the building of this line at all is to secure an easy means for the transport of necessary material.
– Will the Public Works Committee be tied to the consideration of one route?
– That, I suppose, will be a matter for inquiry by the Committee, and it is probable also that the question whether the line constructed should be merely a temporary light line or a permanent and heavy line will be left to the judgment of the Committee. It seems- to me that the main argument against the motion is involved in the question whether there is any real need to go on with the building of the Arsenal just now. I contend that there is not. I am one of those who are opposed to the erection of the Arsenal in the Federal Territory. I do not intend to repeat my objections to its establishment there. I think that the Federal Territory is entirely the wrong place for such an establishment. Although I was a. member of the Public Works Committee that recommended the Tuggeranong site, our inquiry at the time was limited by the Government to the selection of the best site in the Federal Territory for the purpose, and I honestly believe that Tuggeranong is the ideal site within the Federal Territory for the establishment of an Arsenal.
– . Other Committees searched all over New South Wales for a suitable site.
– That is so. I am not oblivious to the fact that expert engineers have reported that Tuggeranong is an eminently suitable site for the purpose. . I agree that it is a suitable site within) the Federal Territory. I do not wish to repeat the old. arguments I have used on the subject, but in my judgment a Federal Arsenal of such a character as is proposed should be located at a much greater distance from the sea coast, “ and in a much safer and more central situation. ,
– Does the honorable member not think that military engineers, and not civil, engineers, should determine a ‘matter of the sort?
– The Government have had advice on the subject from capable men quite competent to express an opinion on the matter, but that does not alter my judgment that the Arsenal should be established somewhere in the back country of New South” Wales, and somewhere near the South Australian border. I need only suggest to honorable members that if they place a map of Australia in front of them, they will see where the pivotal centre of the defence of Australia is. An Arsenal which is to be the nerve centre of our defence should be located in a place where it would be available and accessible to all parts of Australia in the quickest and easiest way for defence purposes. On that ground I believe that the Arsenal should be established somewhere on the projected line between Adelaide and Brisbane. .
– There are other essential conditions ‘which must be taken into account.
– I can assure the Minister for Works arid Railways (Mr. Groom) tha’t I am not unaware of those conditions. I have a very lively recollection of the statements put before the Public Works Committee as to the essential requirements for an Arsenal, but I think that all the requirements of space, convenience, the supply of necessary materials, water, and other essentials for the establishment of an Arsenal could be found out in .;the west, somewhere on the Darling or Murray Rivers. Were the Arsenal established there it would be in a position of absolute safety, and it would remove from the Federal Capital an unnecessary risk and danger, which is certain to be associated with it should the Arsenal be established in such close proximity to it as is proposed. This is, to my mind, one of the most serious objections which can be raised’ to the establishment of the Arsenal at Tuggeranong. We have to consider whether the short line of 8£ miles of railway which it is proposed to refer to the Public Works Committee is going to be the best line in future for the service of the Arsenal. I do not think that it is. I think that the best line ultimately for the service of the Arsenal, presuming that it is established at Tuggeranong, will be an extension of the line from Yass going round on the other side of Tuggeranong. A line on the western s:de would serve not only the Arsenal but the suburbs of the Federal Capital and the town proposed to be established in connexion with the Arsenal. It would link up the whole of the processes by one useful and necessary line, which must be built sooner or later. If that be so, this little spur line would be useless, and its construction an absolute waste of money. It would be useful only as a temporary line. As a permanent line it would be a waste of public money.
– It will be permanent for many a long year.
– Only because it will probably be the only line constructed there. We know that to-day we are accustomed to construct little bits of lines here and there for the purpose, of conferring temporary advantages instead of laying down a big comprehensive scheme and building into it.
– The honorable member ought to have been here a hundred years ago.
– But it is better late than never. I only offer these objections because I think that the Committee, in its inquiries, would need to consider, not merely immediate necessities, but ultimate requirements. Presuming that the Arsenal is to be established in the Commonwealth Territory, the Committee will require to take into consideration its future connexion with the Federal Capital, so that the railway may not be merely a little side line, but one which will prove permanently useful.
.– One rises to discuss a. motion of this character with considerable -diffidence, because one realizes that, altogether apart from its merits, it is essential that the members of the Public Works Committee should be afforded an opportunity of educating themselves still further upon this subject. But as I do not observe any signs of extreme anxiety on the part of the members of that Committee, I shall address my remarks to that side of the question which affects the public generally.
– Are there not any members of the Public’ Works Committee present?
– Not a single one of them.
– They are like the honorable member. They are a bit “ diffident,’’ and therefore remain out of the chamber. . - d
– I do not know whether the Works Committee are treating the House with proper respect. Here they have an opportunity of showing how inadvisable it is for us to intrust them with the determination of this question, and yet they . absent themselves from the chamber ! In regard to the proposed establishment of the Arsenal in the Federal Territory I have a feeling that this matter has been controlled by persons outside this House, who are animated with the idea that, for some vague strategic reason, it is necessary for this particular activity to be centred in Commonwealth territory. During my brief and inglorious career at the Works Department, I had an opportunity of studying the business disqualifications of the Federal Capital area, and subsequently I had an opportunity of ascertaining the quantity of coal that was being expended upon the production of rifles at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The figures which I obtained in this connexion are worthy of our attention. I found that at Lithgow roughly about 5 cwt. of coal in addition to a certain quantity of coal gas, was required to produce every rifle. I ascertained that the difference between the price of coal at Lithgow and its price at the Federal Capital, would mean that if we commenced the manufacture, of rifles at the latter place, and expended upon their production the same quantity of coal as is used at the former, each riflewould cost an additional 5s. or 6s.
– The experts say that the difference would amount to only 4£d. per rifle.
– The experts will say anything. But I have never yet heard of a Royal Commission investigating the work of those experts which has not recommended that something, should’ be done which was entirely contrary to their views. But, in addition to the factor of the coal shortage within the Federal Capital area, there is another vital consideration, namely, that of shortage of labour. If we were running an Arsenal at the Federal Capital, and one man absented himself from a gang of employees,the whole gang would be upset. We. have also to remember that every single item of raw material required at the Arsenal would have to be conveyed there.
I can find, no justification for the proposal to establish this Commonwealth activity within Federal territory except that which is embodied in the idea that every Commonwealth concern ought to be located in Commonwealth territory. Years ago one used to hear these things vaguely spoken of by certain public servants, whose .zeal in this direction has been chiefly responsible for the proposal to locate the Arsenal at the Federal” Capital. Their idea is that it would be unsafe to locate any Commonwealth industry in State territory because the State might seize it, and the Federal activity would thus come to an end ! This idea, which is the product of the very excellent antagonism that has been witnessed between Federal and State public servants, is not likely to appeal to honorable members. Speaking broadly of the history of this matter, we find, first, that a Minister, who at the time was in control of the Department of Home Affairs, started out to consider the establishment of an Arsenal. Not knowing very much about the matter himself, he sent an officer to India’ in order to acquire information upon it. After his visit to that country this officer discovered that water was a very vital essential in connexion with the activities of such an enterprise, and entered very largely into the question of economy of production. As a result, he came back and modified his first proposal by abandoning the site which he had previously recommended in favour of a site 10 miles away on the side of the Mumimbidgee. A new. Committee was deputed to investigate the matter. This Committee has a very strong personnel from a business point of view. But the places that were referred to it as likely to constitute suitable’ sites were not places which would ordinarily be referred to such a Committee. Newcastle, for example, was completely excluded from its investigations. The . Committee visited Tumut and some other places that were far removed from any centre where labour was available. At such places the cost of production would be enormous.
– That is a most important consideration. Any man starting a factory would locate it in a place where he could get plenty of labour.
– Exactly. Immediate accessibility to a labour market, and the ability to get raw materials cheaply, are the two essentials in connexion with any such enterprise. Now, the present Committee has not been given, a fair chance. It has not been asked where it would locate this Arsenal. It has been told, that the Arsenal must be located so many miles from the coast. Who decided this matter? It has been laid down clearly -enough by all experts that the efficient defence of Australia depends upon our command of the seas.
– Did Kitchener say that?
– Every single phase of any scheme for the adequate defence of Australia, including Kitchener’s proposal, has been based upon the essential condition that we retain the command of the seas. So long as we do that, we shall be able to defend ourselves against anything but raids and raids from the air. Viewed from this stand-point, a stronglydefended Newcastle would probably be the best site for the establishment of an Arsenal. Defence considerations have changed considerably in the past four years. The aim of this country should be to defend itself adequately in conjunction with the rest of the Empire, and to concentrate its danger points in as few places as possible - because we have to defend ourselves from the air nowadays as well as from the land and from the sea. The defence question in this regard has never yet been considered by a competent authority. So far as the location of this Arsenal is concerned, we have been merely told that it is necessary to have it so many . miles inland. .We know, on the other hand, that its establishment there will become a permanent load upon the community ; and I would hesitate to acquiesce in the expending of any money in that direction unless I could feel that such expenditure was absolutely essential.
Another phase is that we are even now, throughout the world, waging a war which is practically for the abolition of war - if that may be possible. .
– A poor, futile notion - waging war to bring about peace !
– I am interested in the point of view of the honorable member for Batman, and I fail to see any reason for his attitude towards the war generally if that remark of his is a real reflex of his mind. This House generally, I feel sure, hopes that if the present wave of advance in favour of the Allies is brought to success, we shall secure such a disarmament among the nations as will enable us to remove the bulk of the load represented by arsenals, naval sites, and the like from the taxpayers’ shoulders, and to devote all the energies wrapt up in matters of . that nature to the peaceful development of mankind. Even while we are talking here of the construction of an Arsenal, where it cannot be economically operated, we are deciding the great issue upon the battlefield. That consideration alone should weigh with honorable members when talking of the establishment of an industry which can only be really completely equipped and established after the war. For . these reasons, I am compelled to vote against the reference.
The same viewpoint applies also to the matter of naval bases. There is waste of money going on all over Australia. It is impossible to say what will be the distribution of naval forces after the war is over, and it is sheer lunacy to be pouring money into the sands at the Naval Bases around Australia’s southern coasts until the war shall have been ended, when we may know where we stand.I am reluctantly compelled to oppose the reference in what I consider to be the public interest.
.- During last session it was decided that the Arsenal should be established at Tuggeranong, and nearly a quarter of a million of money was voted towards the construction.
– But it has not yet been expended.
– That is so, but it has been passed, and it is now in process of being expended.
– Not yet. It will be, after this reference has passed.
– That is not so. The money is being spent now. With a view to practising economy in the construction of the Arsenal it is proposed to build a railway to save cartage. Any man who looks at the map must see that the Government will make a saving by building the line. . When the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was being built, after carting all the material from the nearest railway . point by traction engines and the like, it was concluded that had those in charge constructed a small line of railway thousands of pounds would have been saved. The Department is now realizing that the first and most essential step is to put down this short line of 8¼ miles into the heart of the site where the works are to be carried on.
Another point is that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), in giving a description of the country which it is proposed to serve, stated that it would not cater for any population. I point out that it -Will serve a large population of the employees in the Arsenal, since there will be a township in the neighbourhood. It has nothing to do with the line from the Federal Capital to Yass Junction. That is another proposition.
– But the township as it is shown on the plan is to be about 2 miles from the Arsenal.
– The railway will partly assist in the development of the township. We are asked to allow the Public Works Committee to sit while Parliament is in session. We should do that. This is an urgent work. The whole business should be pushed on with at once to bring about a greater saving of public money.
.- According to the plans as laid on the table, there is -only one course provided, and that would pin down the Public Works Committee to that particular course. There are two routes, either of which may be acceptable to the Committee, and may be recommended. It is only fair that the direct . route from the Federal Capital Site to Tuggeranong should also come within the scope of the Committee’s inquiry.
– The Government must submit a plan, and then it can be considered.
.- I consider that there is no urgency for this matter in view of the fact that we are at war and are incurring enormously heavy expenditure in carrying on the conflict. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) expressed what was in my own mind when he said that no one knows what will be the outcome of the war. If we secure an honorable peace which will preclude the possibility of war in the future, and thus largely, if not altogether, bring about world disarmament, shall we be justified in spending money upon the erection of an Arsenal in Australia? This matter can well afford to stand over until we know where we are and what the outcome of the war will be.
We might find the whole situation so changed that there will be no necessity whatever for the expenditure of a huge sum of money on the Arsenal.
– It is just possible that the Committee may make a- recommendation to that effect.
– The Committee might do that; but, as far as I am concerned, I can see no urgency in this matter at all. I may say, further, that, when this question was under discussion before, I understood the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who is now in England,, to say that the Factory at Lithgow would not be removed; yet we have now heard from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that it is to he shifted.
– The House did not decide that. A statement was made that work would be continued at Lithgow, although the parent factory would be established at Canberra.
– If ever the Government attempt to move the Factory from Lithgow, they will receive my most strenuous opposition, because I am satisfied that it-will lead to an increased expenditure in the cost of rifles. I have had occasion to visit the Lithgow Factory, and I found. that at first the rifles were costing a large sum’ of money, principally owing to the inexperienced labour then employed upon their production, and .because at the time the Factory was not then equipped with up-to-date machinery.
– What -becomes of the rifles when they’ are made?
– Since then the Government have purchased up-to-date machinery, and have duplicated some of the plant at the Factory, which is now in good working order, and there is a hope that the cost of production will be still further reduced. I ask honorable members what would be the result if the Government dismantled this Factory and took the machinery up to the Capital site? 1 am satisfied that the majority of the experienced workmen now employed at the Lithgow Factory will not go to
Canberra. They will not go up to that cold country and away from the centre of civilization, but will obtain employment in Sydney and other populous centres.
– Do you seriously state that men would rather live at Lithgow than up at Canberra?
– I can only speak of my own experience. I would prefer Lithgow every time as against Canberra. I was up at the Capital site during one Christmas season, and the weather was socold that I could hardly live there. I repeat that, we have reduced the cost of production of rifles at Lithgow, and that, if the Government dismantle the machinery and take it up to Canberra, the management will be faced with the’ same diffi’culties again, with the result that there will be a big increase in the cost of rifle production. As far as the Capital itself is concerned, I shall always he prepared to give it reasonable support; but, as to . this particular matter, I do not see thatwe would be justified in spending a large sum of money until we are quite sure that it will be necessary. If there is to be a division on this motion, I shall oppose it.
.- I think the time is inopportune for the Government to set about the establishment of a great Arsenal at Canberra. Every one who has studied war problems knows . that the instruments of destruction now used are vastly different from those that were employed at the commencement of the war; and, therefore, the Government, in my opinion, would not be justified in going on with this work, because we do not know what instruments of destruction will be required to meet the needs of the army in the future. As for the Small Arms Factory, I have some doubt concerning the wisdom of shifting it from Lithgow. I agree with the honorable member for -Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the successful management of a small arms factory depends upon a regular supply of skilled mechanics and apprentices, and,, therefore, that the Factory should- be as near as possible to the large centres of population, so that the labour employed may be supplemented as required. In the older countries of the world all such establishments are so situated that plenty of labour may be readily obtained to cope with the periods of rush ‘ work.
I think it is better that honorable members should vote against the motion today. We shall lose nothing by delay, and it might be in the interests of the people to postpone this work. If the Government are so flush of money that they can go on with a scheme like this, they should first see if they can reduce taxation, and so make it easier for the people to contribute to any further loans that, may be necessary. We must bear in mind that the soldier at the Front has no opportunity of investing money in 5 per cent, loans. Only those who are left behind - ‘the people who are benefiting by increased profits - are. able to do this. As the House wishes to go to a vote on the motion, I shall not say any more just now.
.- I would not have risen to speak on this matter but for the fact, that I intend to oppose the motion, and I do not think I should give a silent vote. I am quite in accord with- the reasons that have been urged against the proposal. I see no urgency at all in regard to this subject, and I never have. I think it would be more business-like, and possibly lead to greater efficiency, if we delayed the proposed reference.
– I shall oppose the motion for the reasons that have been given already. . But there are other reasons., I do not think a proposal of this nature should come before the House until we have had the Budget, and until we know what are the taxation proposals of the . Government, what retrenchment is possible, and have full information on the financial position generally. I hope that the motion will not be carried. Every one who has read war history, even in the most cursory way, must know that the whole military business and methods of warfare generally are absolutely in the melting pot. We have no assurance that if the Arsenal is . started now it will not be obsolete before it is completed. The House should set its face resolutely against passing a vote for a single £1 unless the expenditure is absolutely essential. If the motion is not postponed until after the Budget, I hope it will be rejected, and that not1s. of expenditure will be undertaken by the House until we know the taxes the Government propose to put on the people, and particularly the amount of retrenchment they propose to undertake. The matter of retrenchment is the most urgent question before the House and the country, and before the House knows how far the Government intend to reduce their expenditure, we should not vote a single1s. in this direction.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I hope the recommendations of the Controller of the paper trade just appointed will be carefully weighed by the Government before any drastic steps are taken to reduce the paper supply. There is considerable perturbation amongst employers and employees in the printing trade - and . I am speaking particularly for the employees - lest there should, be a very drastic reduction in the allotment of paper, with a considerable consequent influence on the trade itself. . At least 30,000 persons are employed in the print- , ing industry throughout the Common- * wealth, and even if there is a percentage reduction in the supply of paper to the printing establishments, it will mean a great disruption in employment, and lead to much business chaos. I understand that the Controller has been appointed by the Government to take certain steps at the request of an outside authority, and I hope that great care will be exercised. The printing trade enters into the ramifications of every business concern throughout the Commonwealth, and we must be remarkably careful how we disturb it. I would particularly ask the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene), before the House rises this afternoon, to give a definite promise that every section of the printing trade will be allowed to state their views as to how they will be affected prior to a conclusion being arrived at as to what shall be done with regard to the supply of paper.
.- Honorable members know that the sailing ship John Murray, purchased by the Commonwealth from the Government of Victoria, was wrecked. Did the Government insure the vessel, or are they, carrying their own insurance? If it was not insured, will any action be taken as regards the person responsible for that not being done? If the Minister has not a reply ready now, will he, on the next day of sitting, give me the information which I desire?
.- In Western Queensland, in the Maranoa division and elsewhere, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) actuated by motives of economy, is closing a number of allowance offices situated in sparsely populated districts. Two instances have been brought under my notice in which this has compelled persons to ride 70 miles to transact postal business. If the Government cannot afford to pay for allowance offices in the back country, I would suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) that he should make the postage what it was prior to Federation, and give us the postal facilities that we enjoyed prior to, and during the early years of, Federation, when the letter rate was 2d. Residents in the country do not object to paying 2d. for postage on letters, and the charge would be- a fair one at a time like this. I gather from the press that it is intended to raise the letter rate to l£d’. My suggestion is that it be raised to 2d., and that the facilities which we have enjoyed in Western Queensland for the last forty years be continued. No one knows better than the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) what postal facilities mean to people in the . country; yet he curtails them whenever he gets a chance.
– That is not quite fair.
.- Is the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in a position to make a statement as to the agreement arrived at between him and those connected with the wool top industry, ls the industry likely to be recommenced at an early date?
.: - To reply first to the question of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley). I intimated some time ago that there had been a number of negotiations concerning the wool top industry, extending over a period of upwards of five months Last night I had a conference lasting many hours with the sub-committee of the Wool Committee, and those interested in the works at ‘Botany. Eventually I made a proposition to the representatives of the Colonial Combing Company, and asked them to give me an answer this morning, when they- accepted that proposition. Some of the details of the arrangement have yet to be worked out, and that will not he easy ; hut the agreement will lead to an early restoration of business.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.’ Page) must not anticipate the Budget.
– I spoke -from what I have read in the newspapers.
– The honorable member should not believe everything that he reads or hears.
– What about the pamphlet of the Postmaster-General?
– I have not read it, and am baking it away for my Sunday reading.
In reply to the ‘honorable member for Yarra (‘Mr. Tudor),I cannot say offhand whether the John Murray.was insured; but I shall inquire, and let the House know.
The Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene)has charge of the control of paper supplies. We appreciate the difficulties to which reference has been made, and propose to take ‘action to . prevent chaos. It is not entirely, though it is partly, at the expressed desire of the British authorities that we are acting. We have been warned by our shipping control and other authorities of a coming paper famine, and we should not be justified in disregarding the warning. All classes of paper, including newspaper, are . affected. It is not that it is. difficult to buy paper, hut that it is difficult to get it brought here.
-Could not our waste paper he put to better use ?
– That is a question which only those in the paper-making trade could answer.
– What about putting an end to Hansard?
-We ave taking steps to limit the consumption of paper ‘by Hansard by a motion of which we have given notice, and I shall feel obliged if the honorable member will suggest to the PrintingCommittee some way of saving paper.
– The House orders the printing of nearly every paper that is printed.
– We must consider how we can minimize our printing.
– It is Ministers generally who move for the printing of documents.
– Simply as the mouthpieces of certain parties. I presented a wool report yesterday which isof the greatest interest to the pastoral industry, as it shows how the first Pool worked out. I should not have been justified in suppressing that report, or in merely circulating a few typewritten copies. It is necessary that ‘the whole trade should know how things have worked out, and how much our chief industry -has benefited by the arrangements that have been made. The Bulletin used to say, “ Great is the press, hut omnipotent is the suppress.” We are going to do a little suppressing by getting Parliament to consent to a self-denying ordinance. I shall bear in mind the suggestion that interested parties in the trade might have an opportunity to give- advice to the Controller, and . I shall confer with the responsible Ministeron the subject. The wishes of newspaper proprietors and other users of paper will be carefully considered, and their needs inquired into be-‘ fore hard-and-fast regulations are passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.’
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180620_reps_7_85/>.