7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FINLAYSON presented a petition, signed by 125 persons in the district of Cloncurry, electoral division of Kennedy, protesting against the forceful deportation of Italians and others for military service overseas, and praying that no more such deportations may take place, and that such persons may he allowed to naturalize themselves.
Petition received and read.
Mr. CHARLTON presented a similar petition from certain persons resident in Central Wattagon and elsewhere.
– I ask the Minister dealing with the censorshipwhether a letter from Mr. J. Baddeley, the president of the Colliery Employees Federa tion of Australia, and a cablegram from him to Mr. Robert Smillie, the president of the British Miners Federation, have been censored, and, if so, for what cause?
– I know nothing of the matter, but I intimated to the House some time ago that the Censor’s Department could not in future give answers regarding the fate of particular communications, because to do so would open too wide a door. The British censor has refused on all occasions to give such information. However, I shall ascertain the facts, and discuss the matter with my honorable friend later.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) noticed the very important statement made three days ago by Mr. Hoover) the Food Controller of the United States of America, that in order that breadstuffs and supplies for the American troops may be placed in the field during the coming winter, it will be necessary for the Allies to withdraw the ships now employed in the South American and Australian trade? Will the honorable gentleman ascertain if the statement is correct, and, if so, will he take immediate steps to have the building of wooden ships . proceeded with, so that the great danger which is threatening our trade may be avoided?
– I noticed the statement attributed to the Director of Food Control in America, the subject-matter of which was dealt with in telegraphic communications between the British and Australian authorities some months ago. I hope to inform my honorable friend within a few minutes what we are doing in the matter of shipbuilding.
– Is it correct, as stated in the newspapers, that the Commonwealth public servants in Victoria will be deprived this year of the Show Day holiday which they have enjoyed since Federation was inaugurated? If so, what is the reason for this deprivation? Is it not a fact that the enjoyment of this holiday has been considered in the various awards that havebeen made in the Arbitration Court affecting our public servants?
– Having, by courtesy of the honorable member, received notice of his intention to ask the question, I have been able to ascertain the facts of the case. Some time ago the Government considered whether the holidays of the public servants of Australia could not be put on a uniform footing. Hitherto State arrangements have largely dictated the holidays enjoyed by our public servants. The Cabinet approved of the introduction of a Bill to authorize the granting to the Commonwealth Public Service of twelve holidays in the year, eight of them being those named in the Public Service Act, section 72, sub-section 1, the four others to be chosen by the Acting Public Service Commissioner. Those four holidays have been chosen, and Show Day is not one of them, although Cup Day is. The Commissioner was about to give effect to the decision of the Cabinet, but when I heard of the matter, I said that until the law affecting the Public Service had been amended the existing arrangements should be observed.
– The public servants will get their holiday to-morrow?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if the Department has yet finalized any application received from a returned soldier, and whether anything has been done to expedite the dealing with applications for assistance made by returned men. ?
– The honorable member should know that the Minister for Repatriation(Senator Millen) has put all the energy he can into the management of his Department, and has done wonderful work. If there is any particular case in regard to which the honorable member wishes to complain, surely his proper and just course is to specify it, so that the Minister may have an opportunity to deal with it.
– I am tired of doing that. There are hundreds of such cases.
– If the honorable member will give me the cases in question, I shall be glad to submit them to the Minister, and I am sure that he will do what he can to expedite any in regard to which there has been delay. soldiers’dependantsand rent.
-An article appeared in last night’s Melbourne Herald, under the heading “ Publicity Brings Stories from Soldiers’ Dependants,” in which there was the following: -
A case that came forward to-day is that of a widow who has had two sons killed in the war. Her house is one of a terrace, and every other house has had repairs made inside except that which she occupies. For eighteen years she has paid her rent regularly, and at the beginning of the war it was 14s. Other houses have been raised to 16s. This house has now been sold, and the new landlord demands 19s. 6d. a week. When a demur was made, the tenant was asked if she would take a lump sum to go out. The lump sum was to be the amount of removal expenses. Thepresent landlord is said to be a prominent worker for the Red Cross. i need not say any more, because i know thatI have the sympathy of all the members of the House, including the Acting prime Minister (Mr. Watt), when i urge that something should be done to prevent action of this kind, which, more than anything else, is interfering with recruiting.
– It is, perhaps, only natural that the honorable member’s feelings are so strong that he should have forgotten to ask a question. i take it, however, that he desires to know whether the Governmentareaware of such cases and propose to do anything. i have not seen the newspaper extract to which the honorable member refers, but i shall see that the matter is inquired into at once. ex-sergeant wallace henderson.
.- i desire to know whether the Postmaster-General will place on the table of the Library all the papers regarding the dismissal of ex-Sergeant Wallace Henderson from the Postal Service?
– i see.no objection to that. acetate of lime works.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) aware that in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, last week, a question was asked whether it was a fact that several returned soldiers had been sent to the Acetate of Lime Works, Cannon Hill, for employment; that, on . presenting themselves at the works, the manager had asked them if they belonged to any association or union; and that, on their replying in the affirmative, they, were told that they were not wanted? Have the Government issued instructions that members of unions are not tobe employed at the lime works? Do the Government know anything of the circumstance referred to?
– I know nothing at all about the matter.
– In view of the anomalies in connexion with the granting of houses rent free, or at a mere peppercorn rent, to widows of soldiers who have died at the Front, will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, as a means of stimulating the States to further exertions in this regard, ihave prepared a list of the widows in each State who are now free from the dread of the landlord’s knock!
– I understand the honorable member desires a return showing what provision has been made in each State by the various organizations, or by the State Government itself, to provide free homes for widows. I shall see the Minister for Repatriation, and ascertain whether the information can be obtained.
– (Last weekI asked whetherthere was any objection tolaying on the table of the Library the 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 mayhave been granted by Departments in Australia to persons to import jute goods or sacks. I should like to know whether any answer can yet be given ?
– I have sent on the request to Senator Russell, who is the Minister concerned, but as that gentleman is unwell, I have not been able to obtain the information. It shall be obtained as soon as possible.
– I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General is able to make a statement regarding the posting of newspapers to individual soldiers. There is much misunderstanding on this matter, and I have received many letters in regard to it. Under the circumstances, a statement is most desirable.
– The honorable member mentionedthis matter to me last Friday, I think, andI have herea statement in reply. The statement is as follows : -
This is a matter which is controlled by the Department of Defence. The following reply is being furnished by the Minister for Defence to-day in connexion with a question by Mr. Charlton, M.P.: - “ The regulation has not yet been issued, but it has been announced, in response to representations made by the responsible military authorities overseas, that, owingto transport difficulties and the general conditions obtaining at the Front, it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee delivery of newspapers posted to individuals. Particularly, in the case of daily-papers, it is stated that they are generally out of date,and therefore useless on arrival. “ It was decided by the Army Administration to enlist the aid of the Australian Comforts Fund and the Red Cross Society, and these bodies have for some time past been working in close co-operation wjth them, with a view to the bulk supply of Australian newspapers. The Minister is informed that they are now sending forward large quantities of all weeklies to every unit of the A.I.F., including hospitals, and contributions of such papers would be welcomed by the patriotic bodies mentioned. “ It should further be explained that, apart from the special consideration which is thus being shown ‘to the natural desire of Australian soldiers to obtain their own newspapers, printed in their own country, the Army Administration have made arrangements for the supply of various publications of interest. For example, the Anzac Bulletin, containing news specially cabled from Australia, and the British-Australasian, a weekly issue of information regarding Australians and Australian affairs generally, are being distributed widely to the Australian troops. As is well known, these papers contain copious extracts of matters of interest from papers in all the States. An organization known as the ‘ Camps Library ‘ also supplies books and magazines to all Australian units. “ At the same time, if it is desired to send any particular news item to an individual soldier, this can, of course, be effected by making a cutting or extract from the newspaper and sending it by letter post, a course which, it may be remarked, will insure speedier delivery to the soldier.”
– In view of the great work being done by the Ladies’ Committee at Port Melbourne in welcoming home returned soldiers, will the Acting Prime Minister interest himself in seeing that those ladies are afforded proper facilities for the carrying out of their work?
– I know nothing about the difficulties to which the honorable member has referred, but after reading the document which he has handed to me, I shall take an opportunity of conferring with him, and will endeavour as far as possible to make the wishes of the Committee fit in with the requirements of the Navy Department.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Recruiting inform the House whether, in connexion with the voluntary ballot, now being conducted, any special effort is being made in the public Departments and Services to secure an effective answer, and whether any record is being kept of those eligibles in the Government Service who return a negative answer ?
– The heads of the various public Departments have been asked to supply the names and ages of all eligibles in the Public Service. Some of the public Departments in New South Wales have taken up this matter enthusiastically, and have asked that they themselves be allowed to conduct a voluntary ballot in their Departments.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Price Fixing any answer prepared to those printers who class themselves as non-typothetae, or anti-combine, and who have urged that they are entitled to representation on the Advisory Board to be appointed in connexion with the control of paper supplies? Does the Minister intend to give such representation?
– Already a Paper Controller has been appointed. Action is being taken to associate with that gentleman a number : of representative men drawn from various portions of the paper trade. If the non-typothetae printers have any further representations to make to me in regard to their separate representation on the Committee, I shall be pleased to hear from them.
– -Has the Assistant Minister for Price Fixing made any provision by which the fixed wholesale prices for meat will be obtained by the producers? Is. he aware that in some States, particularly in certain localities, the position is becoming acute by reason of the droughty conditions?
– No direct steps have been, taken by the Government to insure that the producers shall get the proclaimed wholesale prices: They submit their stock at auction, and I presume that as long as they continue to do that they are satisfied with that procedure.
– Is the Minister not aware that a big proportion of the stock is bought on the hoof for canning?
– If the producers are not satisfied with the procedure they have followed -for so many years, and desire to enter into a co-operative movement to secure better prices for themselves, they will have every assistance from the Government.
Objection to word “ Conscripts “ - Articles on Peace Proposals.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the military censors have issued instructions to the Barrier Daily Truth not to refer to the Australian soldiers in process of training as “ conscripts “ ? If so, will he inform the House of the reason for such instruction?
– I know nothing about the matter.
– On the 20th September the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me -
I promised to make inquiries, and have now been furnished with the following replies’: -
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any statement to make in regard to what is being done with certain Australian citizens, mostly of Irish descent, who were arrested about three months ago and have not yet been tried or had any charge laid against them?
– The Royal Commission’s report on the Irish internees will be considered by Cabinet to-morrow morning.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Is it a fact, in consequence of the price of new wheat and chaff bags having been fixed, and not that of second-hand bags, that the farmers of New England were recently compelled to pay up to 15s. 6d. per dozen for second-hand chaff bags - in many cases in a most dilapidated and useless condition?
What provision has he made to enable farmers to obtain sufficient bags for the ensuing wheat crops and for chaff at a reasonable price?
Whether he will consider the necessity of fixing the price of second-hand bags?
Whether the time has not arrived for the Government to import direct sufficient bags for the coming harvest, and distribute the same direct to the farmers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– At the present time the difficulties surrounding the completion of the agreement with respect to continued manufacture of wool tops are so great that I do not propose to make any comments or furnish any information which would tend to aggravate the situation.If matters develop as I hope, I will consider the honorable member’s suggestions.
– The approval of the Imperial Authorities for the return to Australia on leave of the original members of the Australian Imperial Force was obtained only after the Commonwealth Government, ‘and Mr. Hughes and Sir
Joseph, Cook, in England, had persistently urged the claims of these men to a furlough in their homeland. The difficulties in the way of meeting the wishes of the Government were very real, but, as a result of the representations mentioned, and bearing in mind that the men would again be available, the War Office at last consented to their withdrawal in such large numbers from the lines. It will thus be seen that the arrangement entered into provides for the return of the men on the termination of their leave, and the Commonwealth Government, while yielding to none in recognition of the services these men have rendered, regret that they cannot, because of the termsof such arrangement, encourage any proposal for their wholesale discharge from the Army. At present, owing to the shortage of reinforcements, favorable consideration of individual applications for discharge is necessarily confined to cases possessing unusual features of financial and domestic hardship. This principle will be maintained. Any enlistments above present requirements - 5,400 per month - would, of course, naturally facilitate the sympathetic treatment of these applications.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that 7,000 Anzacs are returning shortly to Australia, he will consider the many pathetic appeals of parents for the return of their sons?
Mr.WISE. - All such appeals are inquired into, but owing to the shortage of reinforcements, and the urgent necessity for keeping the Australian divisions up to strength, in view of the fact that as these units become depleted in strength, a greater strain is thrown on the endurance of those remaining in the field, it is only possible to grant release in cases of severe domestic financial hardship in the family of the absent soldier. An increase in the number of recruits offering is the most effective way to help those making these appeals.
asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.WATT.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will make a statement or table a return showing -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Civilian prisoners of war, eighty in Germany. No information as to any civilian prisoners in Turkey.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Government, through the Commonwealth Meat Administration, has put before the conference of the interests concerned proposals which will insure meat being available to the Australian consumer throughout the year as close to export parity as possible, and which have been generally agreed to. The scheme will not operate fully until the conclusion of certain negotiations with the Imperial Government to co-ordinate the export prices of canned and frozen meat, and meanwhile interim arrangements have been made.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the desire of soldiers abroad to obtain the local paper circulating in the district from whence they enlisted, he will take into consideration the advisability of repealing the regulation prohibiting their doing so?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Regulation has not yet been issued, but it has been announced, in response to representations made by the responsible military authorities overseas, that, owing to transport difficulties and the general conditions obtaining at the Front it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee delivery of newspapers posted to individuals. Particularly, in the case of daily papers, it is stated that they are generally out of date, and therefore useless on arrival. “
It was decided by the Army Administration to enlist the aid of the Australian Comforts Fund and the Red Cross Society, and these bodies have for some time past been working in close co-operation with them, with a view to the bulk supply of Australian newspapers. The Minister is informed that they are now sending forward large quantities of all weeklies to every unit of the Australian Im perial Force, including hospitals, and contributions of such papers would be welcomed by the patriotic bodies mentioned.
It should further be explained that, apart from the special consideration which is thus being shown to the natural desire of Australian soldiers to obtain their own newspapers printed in their own country, the Army Administration have made arrangements for the supply of various publications of interest. For example, the Anzac Bulletin, containing news specially cabled from Australia, and the British Australasian, a weekly issue of information regarding Australians and Australian affairs generally, are being distributed widely to the Australiantroops. As is well known, these papers contain copious extracts of matters of interest from papers in all the States. An organization known as the Camps Library also supplies books and magazines to all Australian units.
At the same time, if it is desired to send any particular news item to an individual soldier, this can, of course, be effected by making a cutting or extract from the newspaper, and sending it by letter post, a course, which, it may be remarked, will insure speedier delivery to the soldier.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I would prefer that the honorable member should ask for this information by way of a motion for a return, so as to enable the Government and Parliament to decide whether it is necessary or desirable to furnish such information.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
With regard to the iron ore deposits in Tasmania under offer to the Government -
By whom is the property held at present, and what is the nature and extent of it?
How long has the property been held by the present owners, and what work has been done by them upon it? ,
At what price is the property offered?
At whose instance is this matter under consideration by the Government, and what object has the Government in view in considering it?
– The information desired by the honorable member is embodied in a return which I am about to lay on the table.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether there is any objection to parcels being forwarded through the post to munition workers in England?
– There is no objection provided the parcels do not contain prohibited articles.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Raising of Rents
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– This question is one which should have been directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, who administers the War Precautions (Active Service -Moratorium) Regulations. I am informed, however, by the Minister for Defence that it is not the practice to give special instructions to the police as regards the enforcement of any such regulation. A public announcement was made some time ago that any person complaining of any. alleged breach of the regulations might bring the matter under the notice of the District Commandant of the military district concerned, and the District Commandants have been instructed to have careful inquiries made into the subjectmatter of any complaints, and to take appropriate action. Action has been taken in the case of all complaints made. The Minister takes this opportunity of repeating the announcement, as it is the desire of the Government that those concerned should avail themselves of the protection of the regulation.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The honorable member’s question would be better presented in a motion for a return.
– That is only a dodge.
– I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whetherhe has considered the question of light dues being charged to river and bay steamers in cases where the lights are of no service to the vessels?
– No cases are known where Commonwealth light dues are charged on river and bay vessels passing lights which are of no service to such vessels.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - ‘
Value of Estates
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House a return showing -
The number of graziers and squatters who have died during the last two years?
The value of their estates?
The amount of probate and succession duties paid to the Commonwealth in each case?
– Yes. A return will be laid on the table of the House, as desired.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Arrangements were completed on the 23rd instant for the demobilization of the officer named at the end of the month.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information asked for by the honorable member is supplied in the Budget papers which are being distributed to-day.
Payments to States
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On Friday last the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked whether I was aware that an instruction had been sent to New South Wales that all military tents requiring repairs must be sent to Victoria, and inquired why the repairs could not be done in New South Wales. I promised to obtain the information for the honorable member, and am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following answer : -
A largo number of tents returned from campswhich had been closed required repairs to fit them for re-issue, and, as the staff of sailmakers in Sydney was fully occupied with current repairs, and could not overtake the accumulation in a reasonable time, portion of the work was sent to the Department’s Harness Factory in Victoria. At the latter establishment there is an efficient and trained staff of sail makers, and it is more in the interests of the Department to keep this staff together than to take on a large number of casual employees. In addition, it is not an easy matter to obtain sailmakers experienced in tentage repair, and the work was of an urgent nature in view of the approach of the Citizen Force training.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of this Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Blythe River Iron Mines Limited - Agreement with Commonwealth Government, together with general statement regarding the matter.
Price-fixing - Reports relating to jam fruits by the Prices Commissioner for Tasmania.
The War - Prisoners of war and civilians interned in Germany and other countries - Particulars re, including information as to Australian internees.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement for 1917-18.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 171, 186.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1919, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
InCommittee of Supply:
– I have the honour to submit for the information of honorable members the Financial Statement of the year: -
The amount received in excess of the Estimate of Revenue was £1,621,313, and is explained by: -
Expenditure was less than estimated by £2,308,528, and is explained by -
To summarize the whole retrospect, the figures may be shown in the following way : -
Loan Fund for Works, &c- In 1917-18 the expenditure out of Loan Fund for Works amounted to £1,803,488. The chief items are -
The whole of the money required for the Works was borrowed from the Australian Notes Fund.
War Expenditure out of Loan and Revenue. The war expenditure has been as follows : -
War Loans. The Fifth War Loan : In November, 1917, 41,708 persons subscribed £21,213,780 to the Fifth War Loan. This bears interest at 4½ per cent., free of Commonwealth and State income taxes.
The Sixth War Loan closed on 24th April, 1918, when it was found that the total subscriptions amounted to £42,851,960, being £36,325,130, at 4½ per cent., free of Commonwealth and State income taxes, and £6,526,830at 5 per cent;, subject to Commonwealth but not to State taxation.
The largest previous loan ‘ was the Third War Loan, to which was subscribed £23,587,650. The number of subscribers to that loan was 102,042 ; but to the Sixth War Loan 143,748 persons contributed.
Loans and expenditure up to 30th June, 1918-
– That was on the six loans.
Estimated amount required -
– £7,000,000 of it is earning interest.
Payments for Maintenance of Australian Forces Overseas. The moneys due to the British Government for maintenance of Australian Forces overseas have amounted to -
It is a matter for regret that the Commonwealth has relied upon the British Government tohelp in financing Australia’s share in the war. The prosperity of Australia is remarkable, and at least we should arrange for the future that the current expenses of the Australian armies shall be met by Australian money. That is the basis upon which the Estimates for this year have been framed, and there is reason to believe that the British Government will agree to fund the arrears of £38,345,000.
The Estimates of Expenditure out of Revenue include a sum of £3,430,000 for payment to the British Government of interest for two years, from 1st July, 1917, to 30th June, 1919, upon the outstanding amount due. Hitherto no interest has been paid to the British Government upon such balance. -
The Seventh War Loan. The people are at present being asked to subscribe to the seventh war loan the sum of £40,000,000.
When floating the sixth war loan, the Government announced that no more tax-free issues would be placed before the public. The present loan accordingly has been made subject to Commonwealth taxation, but owing chiefly to constitutional difficulty the loan is to be free of State income tax. It would no doubt be possible” for the Commonwealth and States to agree that the loan issues of each shall be subject to the taxation of both, but arrangements have not proceeded so far as that. There are some dangers in permitting ‘ a State “ to tax a loan of the Commonwealth, and it would probably be necessary to provide that the State should not tax interest on Commonwealth loans at a greater rate thai, the tax upon incomes of similar amounts from other sources. In any ‘ case, no action could safely be taken until reciprocal legislation had been passed by all the States and the Commonwealth.
The freedom from both Commonwealth and State taxation was a great attraction to large investors, and in that respect the seventh war loan is at a disadvantage compared with its predecessors. Notwithstanding the disability the Government hopes that the people will make very large voluntary subscriptions as on the last occasion. .
Compulsory subscriptions if War Loans not fully taken up voluntarily. Information is in the possession pf the Treasury showing that there are many persons who have not subscribed to war loans or who have not subscribed as much as might reasonably be expected of them, and the Government has considered whether the burden of finding money to carry on- the war shall be borne only by those whose sense of public duty or self-interest moves them to do so. It is clear that the immense sums required cannot be pro-
Mr. Wait. vided by a section of the community - large as that section may be. The money must be- found, and the help of all the people is required. The Government has, therefore, decided to introduce legislation requiring all persons to subscribe to war loans in proportion to their means. I have reason to believe that such a measure will meet with the approbation of the chief financial institutions of Australia. While relying, as in the past, upon the patriotic spirit of the people to furnish the major portion of our loan supplies voluntarily, it has been determined that in so far as subscriptions to any war loan fall short of the amount required, resort must be made to compulsion.
The neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand has passed legislation in this direction, which has had a stimulating effect on recent loan operations. The measure to be submitted will provide a penalty of twice the. annual average of income tax paid during the past three years upon those citizens who do not voluntarily contribute. The enforcement of the penalty, however, will not absolve the person subjected to it from the obligation to subscribe the amount demanded. The Bill will apply to the seventh war loan at present in course of flotation. A Board of Appeal will be created with power to exempt an appellant either wholly or in part.
The .Government is convinced that when the equity and necessity for such a measure are fully appreciated by the people it will meet with general support.
Loans to the States. In August, 1918, the Commonwealth raised in London for the States (except New South Wales) a loan of £4,750,000 at 5.J per cent., the currency being 1922-1927. The price of issue was £99 10s.
The following is a summary of amounts loaned by or through the Commonwealth to the States for public works: -
There is still due to’ the States a balance of £410,000 which the Commonwealth undertook to raise for 1918.
At the Conference held with the State Treasurers in July last, it was agreed that the Commonwealth shall find loan moneys for the calendar year 1919 amounting to £2,580,000 for the public works of the States, except New South Wales. How the additional money for the States is to be found has not yet been decided, but an undertaking has been given to the British Government that during the war no further application will be made in London by the Commonwealth on behalf of the five States for moneys other than renewal loans.
Co-ordination of Australian public borrowing. One of the objects of Federation was to secure better control of public loans, but no solution of the difficulties has yet been arrived at, notwithstanding numerous conferences and much discussion. Though the exigencies of the war have brought the Commonwealth and the States into closer connexion than they were before, the result is still far from what is desirable.
The position is that -
Under these conditions clashing inevitably results, and will become more noticeable as time goes on.
During the next ten years something like £390,000,000 of Australian loans will have to be redeemed, being about £200,000,000 of State loans and £190,000,000 of war loans. Practically the whole of this immense sum must be provided for by renewal flotations. Moreover, additional sums will be required for war, for repatriation, and for State public works. It will be seen that a herculean financial task is ahead.
The rehabilitation of the world’s suspended industries and the restoration of devastated provinces will absorb much money when peace comes, and the finances of the nations will probably be in such a condition that there will be little opportunity for Australia to get new loans overseas for years to come. Australian loan requirements must therefore depend more than hitherto upon Australian resources.
The Government has taken into consideration the difficulties of the present, and the immediate future, and has proposed to the State Governments that they should give to the Commonwealth full control of all State and local government borrowing for the three years ending 31st December, 1921.
If this proposal is agreed to, conversion operations overseas will be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. The business in Australia will also be conducted by the Commonwealth after conference with the State or States interested. Transactions with the Savings Banks will be left to the States to deal with, but market operations will be managed by the Commonwealth.
I believe that the Commonwealth will be able to secure better terms than any State, but the chief and immediate advantage of placing all loans under one management will lie in the avoidance of embarrassment and loss which must result from the jostling of seven competitive borrowers in so critical a period.
The Commonwealth alone can coordinate control of the loan business, and make arrangements which will be satisfactory to all interests.
These are the arguments which have been put before the States, and the Goernment is now awaiting their replies.
Public Debt of the Common wealth. The public debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1918, was £284,022,072. This includes the total of subscriptions to the sixth war loan, though some’ of the instalments of that loan were outstanding on the 30th June, 1918.
The public debt is made up as under : -
Australian NotesFund. On 9th September, 1918, the position of the Australian NotesFund was: -
The annual amount of the interest at present being earned on investments is £1,494,095.
The banks of Australia have undertaken that, during the war, they will not present Australian notes to the Treasury for redemption in gold. By this agreement the Treasury has been able to create the large circulation which exists. On 3rd August, 1914, just before the outbreak of war,’ notes were held by the banks and the public respectively as follows : -
Financing of Primary Products. Owing to the control and sale by the Government of important primary products, financial operations never before undertaken by a Government Department in Australia have to be managed by the Treasury. Without such an arrangement it is clear that these Huge operations could not have been successfully undertaken by the producers.
In the year 1917-18 it was necessary to arrange finance for £26,750,000 on account of wheat; £45,000,000 on account of wool; and £5,000,000 in respect of other primary products - a total of £76,750,000.
After conferences with the banks it was agreed that they should carry a wheat overdraft at 5 per cent. per annum, and that they should bring to Australia money received by them in London in respect of wool, skins, wheat, rabbits, and butter. This was subject to the following conditions: -
The banks recently asked for an increase of the rate payable on the wheat overdraft, but the Treasurer found him self unable to accede to the request. The overdraft at present stands at £13,471,000.
It was found that the banks did not require advances of the full amount of £24,000,000, the actual advances never exceeding £7,192,000. This amount has now been reduced to £1,729,000.
The Treasury, in August, 1918, approached the banks with a request that they should transfer to Australia the wool money which will be payable inLondon for the clip of the season now begun. The amount is estimatedat about £50,000,000. Most of the banks have agreed to take their shares, and the Treasury is still in correspondence with the others. Any amount not taken by the banks will be financed by the Treasury. The conditions of advances by the Treasury to the banks are similar to those of 1917-18, but the aggregate must not exceed £20,000,000.
Shortly it will be necessary to determine how the wheat crop of 1918-19 is to be financed.
Wool. On behalf of Australian woolgrowers, the Government has sold the Commonwealth wool clips for the period during the currency of the war and one full wool year commencing on the 1st July after the termination of hostilities.
– How is that done under the Constitution?
– It is done under the powers conferred by the War Precautions Act, as are so many other far-reaching things. That question opens up a great number of points that are of vital consequence, not only to us in this House, but also to the people with whose interests we are dealing. There are some phases of the War Precautions Regulations to which objection is taken, of course; but I do believe that thebusiness side of the War Precautions Act, and the Regulations made under it, will be unanimously approved by all parties in the House. It may be necessary, for purposes of that kind, to go further than the present Act allows in order to safeguard these huge transactions. As new worded, ‘ the Act operates only for the period of the war and six months thereafter. That, however, is a matter about which the Government will have something to say to the House at the proper time.
The flat rate of1s. 3½d. per lb. for greasy wool is continued, but the rate for handling charges has been raised from5/8 d . to¾d. per lb. Such prices are final as regards wool for British Government purposes.In relation to wool sold for other purposes, wool-growers are to receive half of any excess which may be obtained over the basic price.
Some time will elapse before the amount of the final dividend (if any) for 1916-17 can be determined.
For the season 1917-18 the sum of £42,662,215 13s. 7d. has been paid to wool-growers.
Appraisements for the season 1918-19 have commenced, and it is estimated that, before the end of the present calendar year, approximately 800,000 bales, valued at about £20,000,000, will be appraised and paid for, subject to the retention of 10 per cent.
Probably the major portion of the balance of the clip, about 1,250,000 bales (of an approximate value of £29,500,000), will be appraised, and payment made for same, before the end of May. The total value of this year’s wool is estimated at £49,500,000.
An appraisement will take place towards the end of June next in all centres to clean up all odd parcels of wool and to close the 1918-19 wool season.
The sum of £125,179, representing licence-fee payments by the Wool Tops Manufacturing Companies, has been credited to the Commonwealth Government Wool Tops Manufacturers’ Account.
A matter for congratulation is that the British Government has seen fit to arrange for these gigantic purchases, which guarantee stability to the important pastoral industry during this time of crisis.
It is also fortunate that the Wool Committee, who have laboured so incessantly at this unpaid war service, have so efficiently and smoothly discharged their onerous responsibilities.
Wheat Yields and their disposal. The deliveries to the Wheat Pools have been as follow: -
I may mention, in passing, that the estimated local consumption for the three years is 90,000,000 bushels, leaving an exportable surplus of 313,384,000 bushels, or nearly 8,400,000 tons. The other Stocks already referred to comprise the following: -
To remove this surplus would require 886 vessels of 5,000 tons each.
It will be observed that payments have been made to growers, of £30,467,000 in anticipation of shipments and local realizations.
Prospects of sale. The Prime Minister is at the present moment endeavouring to effect a satisfactory sale of the unsold balance of the 1916-17 and the 1917-18 wheat. His difficulties are aggravated by the fact that the Imperial Government has such large stocks still in Australia, with little prospect of early shipment. That Government apparently is not anxious to buy, and, from a commercial stand-point, this is natural. Growers, therefore, cannot look forward to a high price such as that suggested by some critics’.
Guarantees. In these circumstances, the guarantee for the coming season, which the Commonwealth Government has given in conjunction with the State Governments concerned, is of. great value to wheat-growers, and, to the same extentthat it is of value to growers, it may prove to be a burden on the taxpayer.
– Hear, hear!1 How much is it?
– It amounts to 4s. 4d. per bushel, less certain expenses.
Construction of silos for wheat storage. The Commonwealth Wheat Storage Act 1917 provided for advances of £2,850,000 to States for silo construction. Satisfactory progress has been made in the State of New South Wales. The work in course, in that State’ provides for upwards of 19,000,000 bushels of wheat, and silos have already been completed in several country districts. In July, 1918, tenders were invited for the construction of certain country silos in Victoria, but no tender was accepted, prices being considered too high. The State Government is giving further attention to the subject.. In Western Australia a Silo Bill was rejected by the Legislative Council, but it is understood that the Bill is to be re-submitted. Plans for the work have been prepared in anticipation of parliamentary approval. South Australia has not yet expressed its intention of taking advantage of the Com.monwealth Wheat Storage Act.
Purchase of cornsacks. A consideration of the circumstances of the jute trade induced the Government to purchase our cornsack requirements for the coming season ; 60,000,000 cornsacks have been bought on contract at a cost of £2,400,000. The first shipments have been landed in Australia, and it is anticipated that by the middle of October 150,000 bales will have arrived. The price for these sacks to the usual distributors .’is 9s. 8d. per dozen ci.f. The wholesale price has been fixed at 10s. Id. per dozen, and the maximum price to the users 10s. 6d. per dozen, plus railway freight actually incurred from port of landing. The effect of the purchases is that an ample supply of bags is assured for the coming season. I havereason to believe that these transactions have saved Australia £500,000. Taking the present price ruling, namely, 14s. 7½d. per dozen ci.f., the Government’s transaction shows a saving of about £6 10s. per bale. This is equivalent to a saving of over £1,250,000 on the total quantity.
Metals. The exportable output of zinc concentrates has been sold to the Imperial, authorities for the period of the war and ten years afterwards. This sale covers 300,000 tons of concentrates annually.-
– Another matter affecting the Constitution.
– Precisely; but the honorable member is not grumbling at it ?
– No. ‘ I am merely pointing out that you are exceeding the Constitution by making this contract for ten years after the war.
– We are taking risks in our endeavour to stableize the production.
– That is all right as long as the producers are protected.
– They are parties to this contract.
Our production of lead amounts to about 175,000 tons per annum, and the exportable output has been sold to the British Ministry of , Munitions, with the exception of lead for the markets of the East.
The surplus output of copper has also been sold until the end of this year to the British Ministry of Munitions. The value of the output per annum is approximately £5,000,000.
An embargo has been placed on . the exportation of tin ores and concentrates, and in future all locally-produced tin ore and concentrates will be smelted in Australia.
The formation of a Tin Producers’ Association has been approved, which will protect the interests of all producers. Local requirements will be provided for. The Association will remain under British control, and the Commonwealth Government will be represented on the Board of Directors.
The Australian output of wolfram, scheelite, and molybdenite has been acquired for the Imperial authorities, and it is gratifying that the production of these necessary ores has increased almost 100 per cent, compared with 1914. Considerable sums of money are being expended on up-to-date plants for the treatment and purification of these minerals.
Newcastle is becoming the centre of much activity in the production of iron and steel and manufactures thereof.
On the whole, the base-metal industry of Australia is in a prosperous condition.
So vital is the supply of iron and steel to’ the Commonwealth, that the Government has taken an option of purchase over the ‘ Blythe River leases, situated near Burnie, on the. North-west Coast of Tasmania.
With the production of refined metals in the Commonwealth, subsidiary industries are being developed, such as the manufacture of plate and sheet iron; wire; white and red lead; zinc pigments; and sheet zinc.
Bluestone is being produced, and white arsenic production is steadily increasing”. The fabrication of arsenical compounds is important to the pastoral industry for sheep and cattle dips, also to orchardists for spraying compounds.
The production of antimony has not advanced as it should have done, and plants for the treatment of auriferous antimonial ores must be installed in the near future.
The production o£ bismuth is well established, and there is every prospect that within the next year there will be ample capacity for the treatment of all bismuth concentrates recovered in Australia.
Sugar. An agreement has been entered into with the Queensland Government under which the entire crop of sugar in Queensland has been acquired for the seasons 1918 and 1919 by the Queensland Government, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, at £21 per ton of raw sugar of 94 nett titre. The price to the public will remain as at present. The agreement continues all existing conditions, and gives some assurance to this important primary industry. The carry over of sugar from last year amounted to approximately 50,000 tons of refined sugar, which exceeds the normal season’s surplus. Cyclones and bad winter conditions will mean shorter production, and it is expected that this surplus will be absorbed during the current year.
Jam. For the 1917-18 season, the Commonwealth succeeded’ in obtaining orders from the Imperial War Office for 12,000,000 lbs. of Australian jam, and from the Government of the United States for 38,000,000 lbs. Orders for 3,500,000 lbs. of jam .were also secured from the” Indian Government. The price was fixed at 5s. 3d. per dozen lbs. f.o.b. A further order, totalling 22,000,000 lbs., has been received from the Imperial authorities, and is being allotted to manufacturers. These quantities were distributed amongst jam manufacturers in all States.
For the purposes of the contracts, in 1917-18 arrangements were made to supply contractors with sugar at the reduced price of £24 per ton. The total quantity allotted at this price amounted to approximately 14,500 tons. As the ordinary price of sugar is £27 7s. 6d. per ton, it will be seen that its supply at the lower rate represents a substantial concession to manufacturers.
Leather. For the purpose of regulating the supplies and prices of leather used in manufacture of military and civilian boots and shoes, a Commonwealth Leather Industries Board was constituted under the War Precautions Regulations in May, 1917.
The Board’s activities were at first mainly directed towards the regulation of prices charged by tanners for the. various leathers used in the manufacture of ordinary boots and shoes. A complete schedule of prices for these leathers has “been fixed. For the just enforcement of these .prices on the tanners, it was necessary to fix the price of hides, and a schedule of prices has been determined which preserves the formerly existing relative values of hides and leathers.
In order to- conserve supplies, the free export of both hides and leather has been prohibited, -permits to ship abroad being granted when the Department is assured that local requirements are fully met.
In 1915, at the request of the Indian Government, the Commonwealth undertook the purchase and shipment to India of leather required by that Government. The first shipment was made in December, 1915. Since that date the value of leather shipped to India is £114,283 14s. 2d. A new order for 600,000 lbs., representing a value of approximately £70,000, has just been given to suppliers, but no portion of the order has yet been shipped.
In order to arrange for the export of surplus leather to the United Kingdom the Government is endeavouring to secure the modification of a rule, established by the Imperial authorities, that preference in shipment is to be given to hides instead of leather. The Government appreciates the disabilities under which the leather manufacturers are labouring, and advices recently received from the Prime Minister indicate a prospect of early relief.
Butter. During 1917-18 the total quantity of butter stored by the Federal Butter Committee of Australia for shipment to the United Kingdom in connexion with the Imperial contract for butter was 1,232,802 cases, the value being £4,488,621.
For the 1918 Winter Butter Pool 35,460 boxes were placed in store for local consumption, the value of which was £129.800. . The total quantity of butter handled during. 1917-18 was 1,268,262 cases, valued at £4,618,421.
Negotiations, which are not yet concluded, have been entered into for the sale to the Imperial Government of surplus butter and cheese during the year ending 30th June, 1919. The Prime Minister is doing his utmost to conclude the sale in London, and it is hoped that negotiations will be finalized shortly.
All arrangements have been decided upon, contingent on the sale being made, to form and conduct a pool, the control of which it is intended to hand over to the producers? representatives under regulations which they will operate subject to the veto of the responsible Minister. During the period for which the Pool Committee is elected they will control the whole of Australia’s output, except that of Western . Australia, and will make arrangements for winter provision. All the profits will be distributed amongst the producers.
Board of Trade. A Board of Trade, consisting of three Ministers and two outside business men, has been created, the functions of which are: -
Already the deliberations of this body have proved of the utmost value, and the’ Government is hopeful that, as its work develops, its increasing usefulness will be generally recognised by the producing and mercantile community.
Bureau of Commerce and Industry. There has been created a Bureau of Commerce and Industry whose functions are to organize commerce and industry throughout the Commonwealth. A Director has been appointed, and steps have been taken to invite the co-operation of those engaged in the great primary and secondary industries of the nation. The Government feels that this Bureau should be. free from political control, so that producers, manufacturers, and traders may be encouraged to voluntarily unite in preparatory organization for the important period of reconstruction that will follow the war.
Institute of Science and Industry. Provision has been made in the Estimates for the establishment of an Institute of Science and Industry, the Directorate of which will supersede the present Advisory Council. The Institute, which was formerly under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, has been transferred to the Department of Trade and Customs.
A Bill will be submitted providing for the necessary appointments, the general functions of the Institute, and the duties and powers of the Directors.
Shipbuilding in Australia. The shipbuilding programme of the Government providesfor the construction in Australia of forty-eight vessels, as follows: -
The steel vessels are to beof approximately 5,500 tons dead -weight capacity. Each vessel will steam about 10½ knots. The auxiliary schooners are each to have a dead-weight capacity of 2,300 tons. They will be propelled by two sets of engines of semi-diesel pattern, estimated to drive the vessels at about 7 knots. The barquentines will have a dead-weight capacity of 2,600 tons. The engines will be similar to those to be installed in the schooners. Each of the steel ships, it is estimated, will cost, complete, about £160,000, making a total expenditure for the present programme of £3,840,000. The wooden vessels complete are estimated to cost on the average about £64,000 each ; the amount involved is therefore £1,536,000.
The steel plates, totalling 6,000 tons, for the first six vessels (three of which are building at Walsh Island, two at Williamstown, and one at Cockatoo) which could not be obtained in Australia, were ordered in America. The remainder of the material required, including plates, sectional material, engines, auxiliaries, and equipment, is as far as possible being made or obtained in Australia.
The engines for the first two steel vessels being built at Williamstown and the first vessel at Cockatoo are being constructed at Messrs. Thompson and Company’s works at Castlemaine, Victoria.
The engines for the vessels being built at Walsh Island will be constructed in the engineering shops on the Island.
The following materials have been ordered in England, viz., cables, wire ropes, compass outfit, signal lamps, joiners’ hardware, steering chains, and electric wiring.
Australian firms are supplying : - Anchors, windlasses, winches, bakers’ ovens, sanitary fittings, steering gear, wireless installations, steel derricks, iron and steel castings, wood blocks, stoves, cooking ranges, ships’ boats, iron blocks, electric light installation, timber, canvas, outfit and manilla and hemp ropes.
The New South Wales Government has. contracted to deliver the six ships at intervals up to three years.
Messrs. Walkers Limited, and Poole and Steel, have contracted to deliver four steel vessels at various times during three years.
The twenty-four wooden vessels are all deliverable within two years.
Five steel ships are actually in course of construction.
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers and Shipbuilding in America. During the past twelve months the operations of the Commonwealth Government Line have been successfully continued and extended. Of the fifteen steamers originally purchased in 1916, it is regretted that two have been lost by enemy action, namely, the Australdale- on the 19th October, 1917, and the Australbush on the 13th November, 1917. In order to attempt to cope with the large amount of cargo offering for shipment, and which was urgently required for war purposes by Great Britain and the Allies, the Government purchased the sailing vessels John Murray, Speedway, and the hulk Shandon. The John Murray left Australia at the end of last year with a full cargo of wheat for the United States of America, but on her return voyage she was totally wrecked on Maiden Island on the 22nd May.
The management of eighteen ex-enemy vessels was taken’ over from the Navy Department by the Commonwealth Government Line during the early part of this year. Two of these vessels also have been sunk by the enemy.
Contracts have been entered into with American shipbuilding firms for the construction of four wooden motor vessels and ten wooden steamers. All the motor vessels, namely, the Cethana, Culburra, Coolcha, and Challamba have . been launched, and the first - the Cethana - arrived in Sydney recently with a cargo of steel plates, paper, and lumber. The second - the Culburra - is now on the loading berth at an American port, and is expected to leave almost immediately for Australia.
Of the ten steamers, the Bellata, Bundarra, Birriwa, Berringa, and Bethanga have been launched, and every effort is being made to expedite the ‘ completion of the contract. It is at present intended that these vessels shall be employed in the Pacific trade, and carry wheat to America, returning with general cargo. Exclusive of the vessels building in Australia, the Commonwealth of Australia at an early date will have a fleet of forty-five cargo vessels, which, at such a time as this, must be considered satisfactory.
Oversea Shipping. The scarcity of tonnage arising out of the heavy demand for transport in the Northern Hemisphere, and the destruction of ocean craft by enemy submarines, developed so many problems affecting the disposal of Australian products that it was thought desirable to place the whole overseas shipping business under the control of an impartial and capable authority. Consequently the Commonwealth Shipping Board was formed ih February, 1917.
Under the direction of the Board, the Overseas Central Committee, with subcommittees at each of the principal ports, attends to the loading of all overseas steamers. The sub-committees send reports and recommendations as to space requirements and distribution to the Central Committee, which, ‘in its turn, reports to the Commonwealth. Shipping Board.. In this way, equitable treatment of shippers and the most economic and effective use of space are secured.
How essential it has become to make the utmost use of space available is illustrated by a comparison of the overseas shipping inwards and outwards before the War and at the present time. During the year ‘ ending December, 1913, 2,014 ships amounting to 5,371,531 tons entered, and 1,971 vessels of 5,230,417 tons cleared at Australian ports. In the twelve months ending 30th June last, only 1,078. vessels of a total tonnage of 2,488,920 tons entered, and 1,117 of 2,614,656 tons cleared. This represents a reduction of inward and outward tonnage of over 50 per cent. Besides the actual losses, large numbers of vessels which in normal times served Australian requirements, have been diverted, to other work.
Inter-State and Coastal Shipping. The coastal shipping has also been greatly depleted by the transfer of Inter- State vessels to service overseas. No less than fifty-three of such vessels, with an aggregate tonnage of 195,617, have been taken off the coast. In addition, sixteen ships of an aggregate tonnage of 77,017, which in normal times served Australian coastal requirements, have been removed to other work, leaving their former services to be performed by the remaining fleet. The position in the coastal and Inter-State trade, as a consequence, became so acute that it was deemed advisable to appoint a Central Committee to regulate and secure the most economic use of the space available, the whole of the shipping business thus being- brought under the administration of the Controller of Shipping. Despite the surrounding difficulties, the result of this arrangement has proved in the highest degree beneficial.
Regulation of Capital Issues. The issue of capital by companies became subject to Treasury control under the War Precautions Regulations in January, 1916.
Since then, 821 mining applications have been received, and consent has been given to a capitalization of £9,394,000.
Manufacturing and producing applications numbering 2,194 have been received, and consent has been given to capitalization of £30,099,000.
The other applications received number 1,332, in respect of which authority has been given to a capital of £20,092,000.
The total applications have been 4,347, and the total capital authorized has been £59,585,000.
The figures include capital of reconstructed businesses and moneys required to pay off maturing debentures and other liabilities, as well as new projects.
The mining purposes are chiefly coal, gold, molybdenite, tin, and wolfram.
The capital permitted in - relation to manufacture and production (£30,099,000) includes-
The capital issues approved for purposes other than mining, manufacturing, and producing were mainly for financial and trading undertakings.
In the administration of the regulations’ every effort is made to avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on raising capital for production, manufacture, and extension of Australian trade.
The expenditure of money on amusement businesses has been made subject to Treasury consent. The practice is to refuse permission for the erection of buildings for amusement purposes in localities where the public is now catered for. The effect is to prohibit the investment of capital in new amusement ventures. Expenditure required to effect necessary repairs to existing structures is usually allowed.
Speaking generally, I believe that, although some sections of the commercial world may have chafed under the restrictions, the ‘ regulations have been amply justified in this time of war.
Repatriation. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act of 1917 was proclaimed in April, 1918. The Department then took over the activities of the State War Councils.
When the Department assumed control, 49,150 men had been discharged, and an accumulation of claims had to be met. During the months April to July, 13,927 men were discharged, and the Department has not only dealt with this current work, but has cleared off the prior accumulations.
The first function of the repatriation authorities was to provide employment for the large number of men who had been discharged. For the period from the 8th April to the 31st July, 16,469 applications were received, and 12,001 men were placed in employment. The number of men out of employment on the 31st July was 2,719. On the other hand, the Department had 3,278 positions offering, but in most cases suitable applicants were not available.
The applications for general assistance during the same period numbered 30,972, of which 23,649 were approved. T.he expenditure for this period was £182,081, for 25,855 cases, which includes matters approved by the State War Councils, but which had not been completed at the date the Department assumed control.
In the period from August, 1917, to June, 1918, 3,365 applications for land settlement were confirmed, 1,618 men being allotted blocks. These figures do not include the number settled by the Queensland Government, as that State at present stands outside the agreement with the Commonwealth.
Hostels . for the permanently and totally incapacitated have been provided in Sydney and Melbourne, and similar provision in tha other States will follow. Provision made for the current financial year is as follows: -
War Pensions. War pensions in force at 30th June, 1918, numbered 110,602, including about 6,000 pensions which are being paid in London. The actual London figures at 30th June are not yet available. The increase in the number of pensions in the twelve months is 65,411. The expenditure in 1917-18 was £2,772,210, an increase of £1,622,968 over the previous year’. A further increase of £2,227,790 is expected this financial year. Provision is accordingly made for £5,000,000. The average fortnightly rates of pension granted to date are £1 16s. 6d. in the case of incapacitated soldiers and £1 ls. 2d. in the case of dependants.
Northern Territory. The establishment of freezing works at a cost of £700,000 has greatly stimulated the development of the pastoral industry of the Territory. ‘In the first season, about 19,000 head of cattle were treated at the works, of which 85 per cent, were “freezers.” The second season at the meat works has just finished. It proved shorter than usual, due to the late start, but otherwise was satisfactory.
The war and lack of capital has hampered the mining industry. Several mines which have been subsidized by the Government are being developed, and are giving promise of encouraging .returns. The wolfram deposits at Hatches Creek, in the Frew River district, have produced . over £40,000 worth of wolfram in the last two years, in spite of the fact that the transport ‘difficulties are very great.
The demand for pastoral land in the Territory has been greater during the past year than at any time since it was acquired by the Commonwealth. The high prices of stock have probably accounted for this demand, but have incidentally increased the difficulty of securing breeders for new country. The portion of the Territory adjacent to Queens- ‘ laud has been occupied more quickly than_ other parts, but settlement is also spreading towards the centre from the northern and southern boundaries. Large areas of country in all parts of the Territory previously held under annual tenure have during the past year been converted into pastoral _ leases’ of forty-two years’ duration, with conditions as to improvements and stocking.
Papua. Reports from the Territory of Papua testify to its steady progress; The revenue is increasing. The planters are now in a position to export rubber, sisal hemp, and copra, but are hampered by scarcity of shipping.
There are over 35,000 acres of cocoanut plantations in the Territory, and eventually these are expected to annually produce from 16,000 to 18,000 tons of copra. More than 7,000 acres of rubber have been planted, estimated to supply 1,000 tons of rubber per year.
A grant of water rights at the Rouna waterfalls, for the purpose of power development for the treatment of copper ores, is under consideration.
The proposal to build a railway from Port Moresby to’ Sapphire Creek - a distance of 18 miles - has been revived by a company which possesses extensive interests in a copper field near Port Moresby, where large deposits of low-grade ore are known to exist.
Assent has been given by the GovernorGeneral to an Ordinance passed by the _ Legislative Council of Papua, entitled the “Natives Taxes Ordinance.” The expenditure of money received by such taxation will be devoted exclusively to the betterment of the natives, and will cover agricultural and technical education.
As a commercial undertaking, the oil- . fields are still unproved. ‘ The striking of large bodies of gas at considerable depth is a very hopeful sign. Deeper drilling and an extension of the area to be tested are necessary, and steps are being taken to that end.
– Is the white population of Papua increasing ?
– I have not the figures here, but I think that it has not increased since the war began.
Federal Capital Territory. For financial reasons expenses of administration and constructions are being limited to the lowest possible figure. Cabinet has approved of an expenditure of £5,000 for afforestation and tree-planting, and this work is in progress. The administration of the lands acquired is proceeding as satisfactorily as possible, having regard to uncertainties of the future. A. scheme for utilizing portions of the farming areas for repatriation purposes is now being prepared.
The current expenditure of the Federal Capital Territory has now been so far reduced that the revenue is almost equal to the expenditure.
Railways. Trans- Australian Line. The two ends of the Trans-Australian railway were linked up on the 17th October, 1917, and the first train carrying passengers was run through from Port Augusta on the 22nd October, 1917.
The traffic has largely exceeded expectations; three through passenger trains are now run each way per week. Passengers must book well ahead to secure accommodation, and their numbers are steadily increasing.
The live-stock traffic is growing. The construction of therailway will enable large tracts of pastoral lands to be developed which otherwise would have remained undeveloped.
The goods traffic is also increasing. Consignments of perishables are transported from the Eastern States to Kalgoorlie and Perth.
The loss in working the line for the eight months ending 30th June, 1918, amounted to £57,428.
It is estimated that working expenses will exceed the revenue by £44,000 in 1918-19.
Provision has been made in the current year’s Estimates for £300,000 to provide for additional rolling-stock, water supplies, ballasting, and other construction expenses.
Oodnadatta Line. The Oodnadatta Railway is worked by the State of South Australia for and on behalf of the Commonwealth.
During the year just closed the loss to the Commonwealth in the working of this railway was approximately £37,000. That loss has to be provided for in this year’s Estimates. The loss on the previous year’s working was £43,640.
– It is time that we shut that up.
– Under the agreement with South Australia, we cannot do that.
Under existing legislation, the Commonwealth is required to maintain the train service and the same rates and fares as were in operation when the line was taken over in 1911.
It is hoped that arrangements will be made with the Stateof South Australia for rates and freights to be increased at an early date.
Darwin to Katherine River. The extension of the Northern Territory Railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River (54 miles) was completed during the last financial year.
In the 1917 season, 18,869 cattle were trucked for Vesteys, Darwin, and for the 1918 season 28,795. A greater number would have been trucked during the latter season but for industrial troubles, just prior to commencement, between Vesteys and a section of their employees. It is anticipated that at least 40,000 cattle will be carried next year.
During the financial year just closed the loss in . working expenses over revenue amounted to £21,126.
The working expenses of this line have been carefully considered by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and it is probable that the railway will during the present financial year - for the first time since taken over by the Commonwealth - pay working expenses, and return a sum of £5,000 to the Treasury towards interest.
Provision of £15,000 is made for the Northern Territory Railway, of which £7,000 is required toward the completion of the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek, and £8,000 for additional rolling-stock and certain other works entailed by the development of the traffic.
Cordite Factory. During the past twelve months the Cordite Factory has been able to meet all orders in regard to the output of small arm and big gun cordite and fulminate of mercury.
Provision is made on” the Estimates for a sum to meet extensions of plant in connexion with the manufacture of fulminate of mercury and detonators, and a further sum for other extensions.
Money will also be required to complete the Acetate of Lime Factory at Bulimba, Queensland. The works will be in working order this month. The establishment of this adjunct enterprise means that Australia will no longer be dependent upon outside sources for acetone - a raw material used in ‘ the manufacture of cordite.
Provision is also being made for the erection and installation of a plant for the purpose of manufacturing trinitrotoluene.
This Factory is near completion, and it is expected will be in operation early next year.
Aviation. Hitherto the work at the Central Flying School at Point Cook has been limited to elementary instruction, but it has now been decided to establish a new course which will produce pilots completely trained and ready for service abroad.
Proposals have been worked out for the creation of air services for Australia on a more extensive scale than was contemplated before the war. The necessary expenditure will be large. The scheme involves the creation of a force of which the personnel will in normal times be citizens. They will be trained during suitable periods by a smaller number of permanent instructors. It is obvious that at this critical period it is not advisable to publish details of the works to be undertaken. The planes, engines, and materials for their construction will be produced within the Commonwealth.
Amalgamation of Federal and State Taxation Offices. This proposal has been the subject of much discussion at recent Conferences between the Treasurers of the Commonwealth and the States.
The scheme of handing over the collection of the direct Federal taxes to the States was not acceptable to the Government, for reasons which I have explained to the House. In. July of this year, I offered the States to collect their income taxes for one-third of the present cost. This offer was not accepted.
With a view to simplifying the labours of taxpayers, the Taxation officers of the respective Governments were requested to collaborate in the preparation of a uniform schedule for Federal and State purposes, but reported their inability to do so, in the face of the differences in the existing Income Tax Acts. In all the circumstances, I believe that the proper course is for the States to pass laws based upon the Officers’ Draft Bill, or the new Commonwealth Act, and to transfer the collection to the Commonwealth.
If the States demur at this proposition because of a fear that their claim upon the money involved would be prejudiced, the Federal Parliament should be prepared to give them suitable statutory guarantees.
Revenue and Expenditure, 1918-19. Let us now turn to the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the present year (1918-19):-
the bridging of which I shall deal with in a few moments.
Comparison of Revenue. In comparing the Estimates of Revenue for 1918-19 with the. actual receipts 1917-18, the following differences are found: -
I propose to explain later the causes of the decreases and increases in Customs and Excise, Land, War-time Profits, and Entertainments taxes.
With respect to the other decreases and increases, I may say -
It will be seen that, instead of a decrease, there actually will be an increased Net Revenue, estimated at £134,534. (3.) In 1916-17, an advance was made out of revenue for the purchase of cloth for the Expeditionary Forces. The amount was repaid out of War Loan in 1917-18, and the item does not recur this year.
– Shall we be responsible to the German owners of those ships for the repayment of earnings after the war?
– I do not propose to open the question of international law on the point; that would involve, perhaps, as long a statement as that I am now making. I would prefer to ask the honorable member, as a fearless layman, to discuss the matter himself; because the lawyers in the House do not seem inclined to do so.
Estimates of Expenditure from Revenue, 1918-19, compared with 1917-18. It often happens that, in considering the Budget proposals of the Government, a comparison is made between the “ actual” expenditure of the previous year and the “ estimate “ for the current year. This is misleading, because the invariable experience is that large sums provided on the Estimates remain unexpended at the end of the year. That is strikingly exemplified in the accounts of 1917-18, for which the estimated expenditure was £37,283,832, but the actual expenditure was £34,975,304, the amount expended being £2,308,528 less than the Estimate.
The Estimate of Expenditure for 1917- 18, as already stated, was £37,283,832, whereas the Estimate for 1918-19 is £45,344,595, representing an increase of £8,060,763. This increase is made up as follows : -
It will be noticed that the Commonwealth expenditure, apart from war, is estimated at £471,988 less than the estimate for last year. The following is an explanation of this decrease: -
It is not proposed here to explain in detail the various increases and decreases, because the Estimates themselves disclose the particulars, but it may be stated generally that the increase in the Department of the Treasury is due to increased cost of the Taxation Office, additional interest paid to the States in respect of transferred properties, and larger payments for the maintenance of old-age pensioners in State charitable institutions.
In the Department of Defence, the increase is caused by the additional training which it is proposed to give to the Citizen Forces during this financial year.
A payment in relation to increased cost of seamen’s wages under Arbitration Court award explains most of the increase in the Prime Minister’s Department. Four Deputy Public Service inspectors are shown for the first time oh the
Estimates of the Department. As they previously appeared in another section of the Estimates no increase of cost is involved. There is larger expenditure in the High Commissioner’s Office, due to war work.
In the Navy Department considerable increases have been caused by revision of the pay of the sea-going Forces by additions to the numbers of those Forces, and by more numerous Citizen Forces.
The decrease in the Department of Trade and. Customs is due to the fact that £200,000 was provided on the Estimates, 1917-18, for remission of duty on cornsacks. This is a non-recurring item.
It has been possible to reduce the nonwar expenditure of 1918-19, as compared with the estimate for 1917-18, by £471,988, notwithstanding the fact that large inevitable and automatic increases of expenditure have to be provided for.
These may be set out as follows: -
Had it been possible to avoid these increases’, the reduction in the Estimates forthe coming year, instead of being £471,988, would have been £1,394,550.
Reductions in Estimates of Expenditure. I may mention that after the Estimates of expenditure were finally revised by the Departments, they were reduced as follows: -
War Expenditure included in Ordinary Estimates. It must be remembered that almost all the Departments are per forming work due to the war, and this is reflected in the expenditure. The following gives some indication of the nature of these services: -
Prime Minister: - War despatches, cables and correspondence, sale of Australian products, shipbuilding and shipping, audit, war work in the High Commissioner’s office.
Treasury. - Taxation, war pensions, war loans.
Attorney-G ener al. - War Precautions Regulations, investigations, and prosecutions, enemy contracts and patents, metals, legal war problems.
Home and Territories. - Passports and related matters.
Customs. - Regulation of import and export permits, Trading with the Enemy Act, winding up of enemy companies, enemy shareholders, price fixing, Wheat and Butter Pools, &c.
Works and Railways. - Building and other work for Expeditionary Forces and repatriation.
Defence and Navy. - War work carried out by administrative branches.
These services are estimated to cost £300,000 per annum; but it has not hitherto been considered practicable to remove them from the ordinary Estimates to the section carrying war expenditure. In comparing our expenditure in the prewar and war periods, honorable members should, of course, take this important phase into account.
War Expenditure out of Revenue. The increase of war expenditure out of revenue is explained as follows : -
Works, &c, payable out of Loan and Revenue. The following is a statement of ‘the estimated expenditure for 1918-19 on works, &c, payable out of revenue and loan:-
Provision has also been made under Loan Fund for redeeming Northern Territory loans totalling £339,408.
War Expenditure out of Loan and Revenue. I have already shown the total under this head up to 30th June, 1918, and the estimated total up to’ the end of 1918-19 may now be summarized as follows : -
War-time Profits Tax. Returns were lodged in 1917-18 by businesses which had made over £1,000 profit in the war-time accounting period. There were 6,401 returns. Of these 1,083 showed excess profits when compared with the pre-war standard.The ‘tax assessed to these businesses amounted to £1,064,857, of which there was collected up to 30th June last the sum of £680,008. The average tax per taxpaying business was £983. The number of new businesses was 173, and these were called upon to pay £94,573 in tax, or an average tax per new business of £546. The old businesses which were assessed numbered . 910, and their taxes aggregated £970,284. The average tax per old business was £1,066.
The Government has carefully studied the general incidence and effect of this impost, and has decided that it ‘would not be justified in recommending its abolition. Its effect, however, upon new businesses is too severe. An amending Bill will, therefore, be introduced to give relief tothem, and thus remove the existing discouragement of new enterprises. Concessions are also proposed in relation to tin mining, and in certain other directions shown by experience to be necessary. In 1917-18 the tax was 50 per cent. For 1918-19 it has already ‘been fixed at 75 per cent. The revenue, including arrears of the previous year, is estimated for 1918-19 at £1,800,000.
Bachelor Tax. No amount is included for bachelor tax in the Estimates ofRevenue for 1918-19. A Bill will be introduced to repeal the original Act.
Bridging the Gap. I now come to the question of new taxation. As already stated the revenue of 1918-19 at existing rates is likely to be £6,125,004 less than the expenditure. To bridge this gap it is proposed to obtain in 1918-19 the following estimated additional revenue: -
I shall now deal with these subjects in due order.
Customs and Excise Revenue. The Customs and Excise revenue in 1917-18 was £13,225,295, and, not taking into account the revenue which will result from the new taxation, would yield in 1918-19 the estimated amount of £12,050,000, a falling off of £1,175,295. The £12,050,000 shows a very serious decline compared with 1915-16, when the revenue reached £16,934,103. This represents a reduction of £4,884,103.
In last financial year certain luxury restrictions took effect. They operated for only a part of the year, hut they will influence the revenue ‘ for the whole of 1918-19.
Shipping is being gradually reduced, and restrictions are being placed by Allied Countries upon exports. For these reasons there will inevitably be an enforced shrinkage in the importations of spirits, motor cars, musical instruments, paper, jewellery, fancy goods, agricultural products, and many other commodities.
On the other hand, our bonds contain large quantities of spirits and tobacco, and the Australian spirit and tobacco, industries are in a flourishing condition. Were it not for these facts the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth during” 1918-19 would be very -much less than has been estimated, and in this connexion it may be pointed out that stimulants and tobacco, at present rates of duty, are estimated to provide well over 50 per cent, of the total Customs and Excise revenue.
The proposals for the new duties, which will be levied wholly oh stimulants and tobacco, will be introduced to the House by the Honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs on the conclusion of the Budget Speech. Including the £1,985,000 estimated to be received from the additional duties, the total revenue fr.om stimulants and tobacco is estimated for 1918-19 at £8,337,050, which represents 59 per cent, of the total estimated Customs and Excise revenue of £14,035,000.
Income Tax. It is proposed that the rates of income tax collected for last year shall be increased by 30 per cent. The additional yield is estimated at £2,200,000. The flat rate on companies will be raised to 2s. 6d. in the £1. The estimate of the revenue at the old rates is £7,400,000 for 1918-19, so that the total now expected from income tax this year is ‘£9,600,000.
Land Tax. In 1913-14, 17,823 persons paid Federal land tax, and in 1914- 15 the number rose to 18,264. The taxpayers in 1916-17 numbered about 17,000.
During the seven years ended 30th June, 1917, there was a considerable reduction of the taxable field owing to sales, and the total unimproved value of the lands which for that reason ceased to be subject to. Federal land tax is as foi-: lows : -
In 1914-15, the rate of tax was increased by making the progression rise at l/18750th of one penny, instead of at l/30000th of a penny, as before. The additional tax collected by this alteration cannot be exactly stated, but is estimated at 30 per cent. The increases from 6d. to 9d. in the flat rates on all values exceeding £75,000 in the case of residents, and from 7d. to lOd. on values exceeding £80,000 in the case of absentees, were- 50 per cent, and 42.85 per cent, respectively. /The tax assessed in 1914-15 was £2,347,000. Since that year sales have operated to decrease the revenue, the tax to be finally assessed for 1917-18 being estimated at £1,900,000. Comparatively few sales have been, made by the larger land-owners. This is probably due to the exceptional prices obtainable for primary products. Some taxpayers have not been deterred by the tax from purchasing additional land, and taxpaying absentees also appear as purchasers. In 1915-16 and 1916-17, 4,065 residents of Australia, who already paid land tax, purchased additional land, while sixtythree taxpaying absentees also increased their holdings. The total value of the land purchased by these 4,128 persons is £6,210,000, the average purchase being £1,504. The latest complete statistics (for 1914-15) show that ownership pf taxable land was distributed as follows : - 14,363 residents owned land of the unimproved value of £200,490,000. 3,511 absentees owned land of the un- improved value of £4,345,000.
The unimproved value of lessees’ estates in Crown leasehold lands was assessed in 1914 at £12,240,000. This value will be greatly increased for succeeding years when the additional lands dealt with are included.. The basis .OI the valuation ia disputed by the Crown lessees, and the Government proposes to carefully investigate the matter to avoid any unjust incidence.
The actual collections of land tax in 1917-18 amounted to £2,123,778, and the estimate for 1918-19 is £2,000,000, not including the yield from increased taxa-tion. The Government proposes that the land tax be increased by 20 per- cent.
This being expected to yield about £380,000, the total revenue in 1918-19 is estimated at £2,380,000.
Entertainments Tax. This tax is charged on persons who pay more than 6d. for admission to entertainments.
Certain proprietors who, - when the tax was introduced, decided to maintain their former prices unaltered, and to pay the tax themselves, were compelled by pressure from competitors to collect the tax from the public.
In the six months ended June, . 1917, the taxable entertainments numbered 67,799.
Doubling these figures for twelve months we have the following position : -
At present rates of tax, the revenue is estimated for 1918-19 at £205,000. This shows a falling off of £40,890 compared with £245,890 received in 1917-18. The decrease is explained by the curtailment of horse-racing and boxing.
The Government proposes to impose a tax of one penny on 3d. and 6d. admissions to entertainments. Admissions at these prices are at present free of tax. The extra yield for 1918-19 is estimated at £275,000, bringing the estimate of total revenue up to £480,000.
Postage War Tax. The proposal for a postage war tax is that there shall be an increase of½d. on letter-cards, postcards, newspapers, and packets. The yield for 1918-19 is estimated at £516,000.
Transfer from London Funds. In last financial year the Treasurer included in his Estimates of Revenue a sum of £825,355 which he proposed to transfer from London funds. The money was not required, as the actual revenue exceeded expectations. £800,000 from these funds has been includedas part of the money to fill the gap I have referred to.
The London funds were accumulated by transferring amounts from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a Trust Account in anticipation of the supply of goods, &c., in Britain. Large quantities of the goods for which provision was thus made have not been supplied, and are not likely to be shipped for months, and, perhaps, years. The moneys are therefore available for transfer back to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Taking into consideration the fact that we are now in the fifth year of war, Australia is to be congratulated on the generally healthy condition of its finance, production, trade, and manufacture. This is, of course, partly due to recent good seasons and to the expenditure of considerable sums of loan money. The resulting stimulus would not, however, have operated with such tonic effect if we had not been able to dispose of our staple products. The purchases of wool, wheat, metals, butter, and other primary commodities by the Mother Country, even when we could not deliver the goods, have contributed in the most visible and noteworthy way to the maintenance of our stability and prosperity.
I wonder whether our people fully appreciate the potent influence of Britain’s wisdom and “generosity in every phase of our national well-being. It is devoutly to be hoped that this aid and liberality may be continued until oversea commerce resumes its normal flow. If not, our material situation will swiftly and surely become very serious. I sound this note after mature deliberation, for I am deeply impressed with Australia’s dependence, not only alone for. safety, but also for material progress, upon our Home-land and Empire. There are obvious difficulties which may prevent an indefinite repetition of this paternal magnanimity. If these embarrassments intensify, then the people may have to accommodate themselves to a measure of discipline from which they have happily been free throughout the whole period of the war.
The war prospect is brighter to-day than it has been since the fateful month of August, 1914. The Allies have arrested and rolled back the Western German offensive, and in the assumption of the initiative have inflicted heavy punishment on the enemy. In Macedonia, encouraging movements are also in progress. The magnificent victory in Palestine should fill every Australian heart with pride and thankfulness and with an unalterable resolve to stand firm until the end. Thus only can this nation prove itself worthy of its blood and heritage, and worthy of the 50,000 brave men who have laid down their lives that we may be safe and free.
With due thanks for the consideration extended to me by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, I conclude by moving -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 The Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
-Will the Treasurer have his speech printed so that it may be circulated, as I think it should be, throughout Australia?
– The usual procedure will be followed. I shall consult the wishes of honorable members.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I lay on the table the Budget-papers for 1918-19, prepared for the information of honorable members.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Duties on Stimulants and Narcotics.
– I move -
That the Tariff proposals referred to in the Customs Tariff Validation Act 1917, as amended by resolutions proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the tenthday of August, One thousand nine hundredand seventeen, and the twenty-sixth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-fifth day of September, One thousand nine hundred’ and eighteen, at four o’clock in the afternoon, Victorian time, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Tariff proposals as so further amended.
That the Tariff proposals referred to in the Excise Tariff Validation Act 1917 as amended by resolution proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the tenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-fifth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and. eighteen, at four o’clock in the afternoon, Victorian time, duties of Excise be collected in pursuance of the Tariff proposals as so further amended.
That the Tariff proposals relating to goods imported from and the produce or manufacture of the Union of South Africa referred to in the Customs Tariff Validation Act 1917 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-fifth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and eighteen, at four o’clock in the afternoon, Victorian time, duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Tariff proposals as so amended.
By omitting the Schedule and inserting in its stead the following Schedule: -
The increases in duty set out in the resolutions are proposed in view of the urgent need of revenue. The articles affected by the increases are those on which higher duties may most reasonably be imposed, and which are, at the same time, most productive of revenue.
Imported Beer. It is proposed to increase the rates on imported ale, beer, and stout by 3d. per gallon. This increase will be accompaniedby an increase on Australian beer. Ale and beer are at present prohibited imports, but 30 per cent. of the 1916-17 importations of stout is permitted.
Imported Spirits. The most important item is spirits, on which an import duty of 25s. per gallon is proposed. This is an increase of 5s. per gallon. Although this rate may appear high, it is pointed out that the British Government recently doubled the rate on spirits, the British duty at present being approximately 30s. per proof gallon. The higher duty on spirits necessitates consequential amendment in Tariff items 4, 8, 9, 10, 15, and 24.
Australian Spirits. The. Excise rates on Australian spirits have been increased, and have the effect of generally reducing the margin in favour of the locally-made article, and, in two items, of abolishing it altogether. Under present conditions, the difficulties attending importation, such as partial prohibition of imported spirits, the shortage of shipping space and the consequently greatly increased charges for freight, have been of considerable advantage to the local distillers. On the other hand, the increased cost of production of Australian spirits has been trifling. ‘These considerations justify, in the interests of revenue, a reduction in- the margin of protection hitherto enjoyed by the local industry.
The increase of 35s. per proof gallon on spirits, n.e.i., has been imposed with the view of preventing the use of inferior spirit for human consumption. An undesirable practice has grown up of blending, after clearance from bond, of spirit not distilled in accordance with - the requirements of Excise Tariff items 1 to 6 with spirit distilled under those items for potable purposes. The inferior, spirit can be purchased at a nominal price only, and the rate has been increased to add to its cost, and thus discourage its use as a potable spirit. This will not affect the delivery of spirit for industrial purposes, as manufacturers can obtain delivery on security as to its use at the same rate as potable spirit covered by Excise Tariff items 1, 3, 5, and 6.
A duty of ‘6s. per proof gallon is proposed on spirit used in fortifying wine. The present rate is 8d. per proof gallon. In view of the increased . duties proposed on all forms of stimulants, including imported wines, a duty on spirit used in fortifying wine may reasonably be imposed in the interests of revenue. A further effect will be that spirit will be more sparingly used in fortifying wine with consequent advantage both to the quality of the wine made and to the health of the consumer. ‘ The duty is equivalent approximately to a duty of about 6d. per gallon on the wine.
Imported Wines. Higher duties are proposed on imported sparkling and still wines. These are in conformity with the general increases on stimulants.
Tobacco, &c. The import duties on tobacco have been increased by 8d. per lb. A new heading applying to tobacco cut fine, suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes, has been inserted in Item 22, the rate being the same as that oncigarettes, viz. : 10s. 6d. per lb. if of United Kingdom origin, and lis. per lb. other-wise. The object of this amendment is to defeat the practice of using cigarette tobacco in the illicit manufacture of cigarettes for sale, thus escaping the
Excise duty on cigarettes. A similar provision has been inserted in- the ‘ Excise Tariff. -
An -advance of ls. and 2s. per lb. respectively has been made in the duties on cigars and cigarettes.
Australian Tobacco. The Excise rates on Australian tobacco have been increased by 8d. per lb. on hand-made strand, plug, and cut- tobaccoes. The margin of protection in favour of local tobacco as against the imported article has been maintained. ‘ A new item, viz. : Tobacco cut fine suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes, has been inserted with the same rate as that on hand-made cigarettes, viz., 6s. 3”d. per lb., the object being, as already stated, to protect the revenue against the practice of using cut tobacco in the illicit manufacture of cigarettes.
The rates on cigars have been increased by ls. en hand-made,” and ls. 6d. on machine-made; while ah advance of 2s. per lb., corresponding to a similar advance in the imported rate, has been made on cigarettes.
Excise Beer. “ In consequence of the prohibition of the importation of beer, the trade of the Commonwealth has been placed in the hands of the local brewers, who now have »o outside competition.
The Excise duty on ale, porter, and , other beer has been, advanced from 7d. to ls. per gallon, and the distinction in rate between beef brewed from malt and hops only and that brewed, from other materials has been eliminated. The quantity of beer brewed from malt and hops forms only a very small proportion of the total beer brewed,- and the imposition of a uniform rate will not lessen its production, while it will facilitate the collection” of duty and .avoid considerable expense in the keeping of double records and the making out of duplicate returns.. The wording of the item has been . amended in order to cover other fermented liquors containing more than 2 per cent, of proof spirit. A case has arisen in which a fermented liquor of considerable proof .strength escaped duty owing to the fact that it could not be described as beer.
South African Tobacco. The amendments of the Tariff on “tobacco produced in South Africa are consequential on the amendments in the Customs and Excise Tariffs.
General. Except as already explained in regard to certain Australian spirits items, the present margin of protection has been maintained.
It is estimated that the new duties will provide this financial year an additional revenue of £1,985,000.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 7.45 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20th September (vide page6286), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the paper he printed.
.- One of the first ideas which entered my mind after seeing the statement read by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) last week was that this is a Government of statements and not a Government of deeds.
– A Government of statements, not of statesmen.
– That hits off the present Ministry exactly. During the lifetime of the present Parliament, I have listened to something over a dozen statements made on. behalf of the present Government, but I have failed to discover that it and the party in power have ever gone beyond the making of those statements. Let us hope, in regard to this last statement, that ‘Ministers at length realize their responsibilities to the country, and will tackle seriously the big problems which confront Australia to-day.
The statement now before us commences with expressions of hope and confidence in the military achievements of the. Allies - a hope that we all share. We desire that we may obtain an honorable and just conclusion to the great struggle now proceeding. But although the statement eulogizes the brave deeds of our boys at the Front, Ministers are content with mere words; they do not go further. All honour has been paid in spoken and printed words to the brave young Australians who have risked their all for us, but little of a practical character has been done by this Government to recompense them for their sacrifices. One of the greatest troubles in this community to-day is the high cost of living, which affects the dependants of out soldiers. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, the food and groceries that a householder bought in 1911 for £1 would now cost £1 l1s. in Sydney and £1 9s. 7d. in Melbourne.
That shows the extent to which the purchasing power of the sovereign has decreased; and I ask, when Ministers are paying eulogy to our soldiers, what are you going to do to rectify this reduction in the purchasing power of their money % The paltry 6s. per day which we fixed as the pay of our soldiers on the outbreak of war does not purchase nearly as much now as it did then, and it would be better for them if, instead of speaking and printing Words in praise of their brave deeds, we increased their pay to an amount whose purchasing power would be at least as great as that of the rate fixed at the outbreak of the wax.
– Would it not be better if we made an attempt to relieve them?
– A good deal is being done to that end, but the best way to relieve the distress among their dependants, their wives and children, is to increase their pay to an amount whose purchasing power will be equal to that of the rate of pay fixed at the beginning of the war. If the recruits numbered twice what they are to-day, that would not increase the purchasing power of money. We ought either to give our soldiers sufficient money to enable them and their dependants to purchase those things that are necessary for a decent degree of comfort, or we should compel the exploiters, those who by means of combines are controlling and increasing the prices of foodstuffs, to provide the community with goods at a reasonable cost. The Government’ are doing neither of these things.
– At the present time things are cheaper in Australia than in any other part of the world.
– Even the toys that Father Christmas brings to the children have increased in price by from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not like to hear these statements. It does not suit those on the other side to listen to the request that the soldiers should get a fair deal, and that the exploiters should be prevented from robbing the dependants of the soldiers. They get uneasy when they hear statements such as I am now making. We must pay our soldiers at least 10s. per day to give them anything like a living wage. In support of that contention, I remind honorable members of the report of the Board of Trade appointed by the Holman Government in New SouthWales. It consisted: of a representative of the employers and a representative of the employees, with His Honour Mr. Justice Heydon as chairman. Having gone carefully into the whole question of the cost of living, it delivered it as its opinion that £3 per week is the minimum wage that any man’ in Australia should receive. That opinion was published only a few weeks ago, and in the face of it the Government should pay our soldiers at least 10s. per day, and increase the separation allowances accordingly. If this be not done, and the war goes on for another year or more, the purchasing power of money will be further reduced. When men and women cannot buy what they need, they are in a very bad way. With shame must it be said that the wives and children of our soldiers are compelled to depend on the generosity of goodhearted private citizens for a decent living. Instead of compelling them to depend on private charity, the Government should come down with taxation proposals which would make those who have the money contribute enough to give a decent living to the soldiers who are risking their lives and shedding their blood in defence “of the wealth of the country .
– Well, the Government are putting a tax of 33 per cent. on the tickets bought by children to go to picture shows.
– Yes; that is so. The Sydney Daily Telegraph is not a newspaper that can be accused of having Labour leanings. On the contrary, it is very much opposed to Labour. Yet this is an extract from an issue of that newspaper published in May last -
After paying excess profit duties, the earnings of the White Star Shipping Company during the past year amounted to over £1,500,000 sterling. This enabled it to pay a! dividend of 20 per cent.
– You surely do not blame this Government for that.
– I blame all the Governments. I refer to the profits of the White Star Company as typical of what is being made by many other companies all over the world, including Australia. Let me drawattention to another case mentioned in the Sydney Sun in an issue of July last -
Manly Perries. - Half-year’s profits, £14,116 14s. l1d.
The Manly Ferries Company is a New South Wales company.
– What is its capital?
– What is the capital of our soldiers and their dependants? Their capital is their lives, which they are risking and often sacrificing in defence ofthe country, although we pay them a mere paltry 6s. per day. For anything more, they are ‘dependent on the charity of some local committee of bighearted men and women, whose help may increase their incomes to a sustenance wage. It is a shame that the Government allows this to occur in Australia. Whenever any honorable member on this side of the House raises his voice on behalf of the soldiers or their dependants, honorable members opposite indulge in sneering remarks, and say, in effect, “ Hands off the sacred profits of the exploiter. Don’t touch the profits. It does not matter about the soldiers or their dependants.” Whenever we ask for a living wage for the soldiers, . we are laughed at by honorable members behind the Government.
– I can tell honorable members, however, that the day will come, and come quickly, too, when the people will make them laugh on the other side of their mouths on this question.
Mr.Richard Foster.-The day is coming when the soldiers will make you do that.
– The honorable member will find where the soldiers will be. Let mecome now to another part of the Ministerial statement. We are told that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are still in Great Britain.
– What are they doing there ?
– That is what I would like to know.
-Do you mean to say you are so ignorant as not to know that?
– I say that the people of this country would like to know what they are really doing in England.
– They were invited by the Imperial Government.
– I want to know, without any humbugging or sidestepping, what their mission really is, because we read in the papers the other day that some unkind scribe had suggested that they were engaged in some physical occupation such as “ jawing “ the people; and we read, also, something about a carpet weighing a ton being placed in their office. Is this country to be called upon to pay for this sort of thing?
– Where did you get that “ yarn “ from ?
– From the press which “barracks” for the honorable member and his friends opposite - the Argus and the Age - and therefore I must accept it as being true.
Another matter mentioned in the statement is the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that, because it is down on the business-paper.
– I would remind the honorable member that the Speaker is quite capable of maintaining order in this House without his assistance; and I have no doubt that, if I transgress the Standing Orders, the Speaker will inform me.
– But I want to save you from your transgressions.
– I wanted to know why there was any need for any amendment of the Standing Orders; but when I perused the statement further, I saw that the Government proposed an amendment of the electoral laws, providing for preferential voting for the House of Representatives, an amendment of the maternity allowance, as well as the reintroduction of postal voting.
– Hear, hear!
– I well remember, not many months ago, how a certain little gentleman waved his arms about in this House, and told us that this was a nonparty Government, and that not one stone in the temple of Labour would be displaced during their term of office.’ The Government knew quite well that an amendment to the electoral law, providing for preferential voting for the House of Representatives, but not for the Senate, would bring about their ears a storm of protest from members in this Chamber; and realizing, no doubt, that if Labour members were allowed freedom of discussion they would disclose the inconsist encies of the Government, they decided upon this amendment of the Standing Orders. They felt that if they declared the amendment of the electoral law an urgent measure they would be able to shut down upon the’ discussion by allowing, say, only six speakers ten minutes each to talk upon it, and they would” take good care that three Government speakers would occupy their full ten minutes each, leaving only half-anhour for members of the Opposition to put their side of the case.
– Where did you get that idea from?
– That is what they would do if they were in power.
– The Minister knows quite well that if our Standing Orders are altered as proposed an amendment of the electoral law could be declared urgent by the House - the Government could do itwith the numbers behind them - and they could thus practically stifle discussion upon it.
– Yes; fifty members on the Ministerial side could “gag’’ the twenty-two on this side.
– Yes, we had an example of what might happen when the Government announced that the bachelor tax was to be repealed. All honorable members must recollect quite clearly that when the bachelor tax was. introduced members on this side criticised it very freely. They pointed out to the then Treasurer what would happen if it were placed on the statute-book, -and impressed upon him that it would be impossible to collect a tax of that nature. Our words proved true, andI point out that if our Standing Orders are altered, and legitimate discussion in this Chamber is cur-‘ tailed, members on this side will not be able to assist the Government to do the right thing in certain circumstances.
Now, in regard to preferential voting, I want to know why it is to apply only to the House of Representatives?
– Ask the senators.
– I prefer to ask the representative of the Government in this Chamber.
– Did not the Prime Minister announce this policy in his Bendigo speech?
– Yes, he did.
– The Prime Minister did not intimate that preferential voting would be introduced only for the House of Representatives, and I think it probable that’ there is something behind the present attitude of the Government. I cannot pretend to see through curtains or brick walls, but I fancy that, in this matter, there is evidence of the “mailed fist” somewhere - that somebody said to the Government, “Hands off the sacred Senate. If preferential voting is held to be good, you must try it on the dog first.”
– The Senate told the Government that if they introduced preferential voting for the Senate they would throw the Bill out.
– Yes; I think that is the explanation of the Government’s attitude. I think that certain senators, who are, of course, members of the Ministerial party, told the Government, at their party meeting, that, while preferential voting was all right for the “ other fellow,” it must not be tried upon the Senate; and that if it were they would use their majority to “boot” it out. I say, however, that if preferential voting is good, it should be applied to both branches of this Parliament. Do honorable membersrealize what the position will be if effect be given to the Government proposal? Do they realize how electors will be inconvenienced . with preferential voting for the House of Representatives and the present system of voting for the Senate? There will then be two distinct systems of voting in operation. Elections for both Houses are usually held on the same day, so that electors will be called upon to vote under the. preferential system for candidates for the House of Representatives, while for the Senate they will be required to mark the ballot-papers in the old way, by placing a cross opposite the names of candidates. In all seriousness I urge on members opposite that this will create endless “confusion throughout Australia. Even today, under the present simple system of voting at elections for the Commonwealth Parliament tens of thousands of informal votes are cast; and if we complicate the position still further by having one system for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate, I am afraid that confusion . will reign supreme from one end of Australia to the other.
– Take one at a time.
– (The Government are either going to introduce this amendment of the electoral law with a view to the next election, or they are not.
– We hope to establish it for all time.
– If so, why not apply the system to the Senate? It is perfectly plain that this proposed legislation is merely a party trick, honorable members opposite hoping that by the confusion created their party will be helped, and the Labour party damaged. As I say, this legislation is purely for party purposes, and is a direct violation of the solemn promise given by the Prime Minister that no party legislation would be interfered with while the National Government was in power.
I was going to refer to the policy of price fixing, but I am rather inclined to think that the term price “ faking “ would be more fitting to describe what has been taking place lately. Immediately an attempt was made to regulate the price of meat a strike was declared by the whole of the stock-raisers of Australia. The Government were told that if the prices fixed were adhered to, not only the stock-raisers, but the stock agents, who manipulate the market, and control the price of foodstuffs in Australia, would declare a strike.
– Is the strike on now?
– The Government backed down. It cried out, “ Don’t shoot ; we will come down.”
– The stock-raisers and stock agents said that they would not send stock to market unless the schedule of prices was withdrawn. As proof of the correctness of what I say, there are the records of the cattle and sheep yardings at the various stock markets during those two or three weeks, and those records show the lowest ever known except during periods of intense drought.
– Does the honorable member say that that was due to concerted action on the part of the stock-raisers?
– I do distinctly say so.
– You are libelling the best section of the community.
– Thereply to the honorable member is that it has already been announced that the yardings in the future will be normal. Why? Because the Government have “ climbed down.” As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has very rightlyremarked, they said, “Don’t shoot; we will come down.” There is one nasty aspect of the question to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members. When this strike took place, and the food supplies of the people of Australia were held by a gang of bandits, meat-preserving works were closed down. In my electorate there are such works, one of them known as the National Meat Preserving Works.
– Who owns these works ?
– I do notthinkit fair to mention names. At any rate,the National Meat Preserving Works were closed down because there was no stock available. “ The class of trade carried on at these works is tinning meat for soldiers’ rations; and I should like to remind honorable members that just a few months prior there had been some talk of a dispute in this industry in Sydney. The employees had threatened to cease work, but instead of doing so they agreed to hold a conference with the employers. The chairman of that conference was one of the largest meat preservers in New South Wales, and I shall be glad to give his name privately to any honorable member who desires to have it. At the conference that gentleman said, “ Men, before you cease work remember the class of industry in which you are engaged; remember that one tin of meat is a day’s ration for a soldier.” The result of that appeal was that the men, many of whom have sons and other relatives fighting at the Front, decided not to stop Work upon any consideration, but to refer the dispute to “arbitration. But when the meat bandits could not get their price from the people of this country, it was” their troubles “ about the soldiers’ rations. It did not matter to them that over 1,000 men engaged in meat packing for soldiers should be thrown out of work - there was then no talk of one tin of meat being a day’s ration for a soldier. The only thing that mattered to them was that they should have their price and their profits; otherwise there would be no meat for the people or for the soldiers. Let me quote some figures in this connexion from the Sydney Sun of the 12th August last. This is not at all a Labour paper, but one that “ wallops “ the Labour party pretty hard, and I do not mind saying that I “wallop” the Sun just as hard whenever I get a chance. In the article, which is introduced in heavy-type headlines, we may read as follows : -
Ration : 1¼ lb. per Day.
Stock in New South Wales -
Per head of population, 11/3 head of cattle; 18 l-7th head of sheep.
What we Eat -
The average consumption of meat in New South Wales per annum, 181,142 tons.
Eating meat every day, it would take eight years and four months to devour the stock in the country.
I want the significance of these figures to sink into the minds of honorable members -
The people of New South Wales will not starve. There is plenty of meat in the cupboard, though it is said that it has very little fat on it now.
The article then proceeds to give the. stock returns I have just quoted, and goes on to say -
If the Government decided to place the population on a meat ration, every man, woman, and child, even the baby newly born, could have 11/3 head of cattle, and 18 l-7th head of sheep. That is to say, that would be the allowance for a bachelor or a spinster without dependants.
Honorable members opposite may laugh, but I fancy that these figures are too deadly for them, and show up these meat bandits just as they ought to be shown up. We are told that there is a scarcity of sheep and cattle in Australia, but’ the figures show the true state of affairs. The article proceeds -
A man with a wife and child would get two bullocks, and 54¼ sheep, sufficient to start a nice little grazing farm. The man with a large family to support could start out as a squatter.
That is probably competition which some honorable members opposite would not like-
In other words, if the people of New South Wales decided to abstain from meat during the currency of the war, this State would give a meat ration to an army of 1,000,000 soldiers for eight or nine years without exhausting the supply, the assumption being based upon the average ‘ normal consumption of 1¼ lb. per man per day, with an allowance for wastage.
Yet we are told that there is a great shortage of stock in this country-
– These are New South Wales figures.
– From a “ red-rag-“ paper !
– Is the Sun a “ redrag “paper?
– It shows itself to be so.
– The honorable member’s opinion as to that is valuable. I do not propose to quote a great mass of figures, but just a few, in order to show how the Government have utterly failed to do anything to help the consumers of meat in Australia. For a sirloin of beef the Commonwealth Government’s first proclaimed pricein New South Wales was 8d. to 9d. per lb. In the Queensland Government shops, sirloin of beef has been sold for 6½d. The price of sirloin in 1914 was 6d. per lb. The second attempt by the Commonwealth Government to fix the price resulted -in sirloin being raised to l1d. per lb. I will now quote ribs of beef. The first proclaimed prices by the Commonwealth Government were 7 d., 8d., and 9d. Ribs of beef were sold in Queensland Government shops at from 3½d. to 4½d. per lb. The price in 1914 was. 5½d. The second spasm of pricefaking by the Commonwealth Government brought the price of ribs up to10d. per lb. Now I will deal with rump steak and fillet. The first attempt by the Commonwealth Government, before they climbed down when they were afraid they were going to have a pot-shot made at them, was to fix the price at from1s.1d. to1s. 3d. Queensland Government shops. are selling it at 7½d. The price in 1914 was 9d. per lb. The second spasm of price-faking by the Commonwealth Government resulted in the price being raised to1s. 3d. and1s. 4d. per lb.
– In the Newcastle district you could buy most cuts of meat for1d. a1b. less, delivered to the house, than the proclaimed prices.
– That reminds me of a butcher’s shop in George-street, Sydney , near the Central Railway Station. There was a cartoon pasted on the window showing a butcher with his apron on, knocking out a person named Massy Greene. Underneath it were some such words as, “ Massy Greene and his price- fixing knocked out. One penny cheaper than the Government’s proclaimed prices.” Yet up go the prices again still higher ! For shoulder steak the Commonwealth Government’s first attempt at price- fixing madethe figure 8d. It was sold by the Queensland Government shops at 5d. per lb. The price in 1914 was 45/8d. per lb. At the second attempt by the Commonwealth Government - or rather the second failure - the price was fixed at 9d.
I will now deal with mutton. . The first attempt by the Commonwealth Government made the price 7½d. per lb. for leg of mutton. It was sold by the Queensland Government shops at 6½d. The price in 1914 was 5d. per lb. The second attempt by the Commonwealth Government fixed the price at 8d. As to shoulder of mutton, the Commonwealth Government’s first spasm was 6d. In the Queensland Labour Government’s shops the price was 4½d. The price in 1914 was 4d. per lb. , while the second faking expedition on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and their price rigging, made the figure 7d. Loin chops were fixed by the Com monwealth Government intheir first attempt at 8d. to 9d. per lb. They were sold in the Queensland Labour Government shops at 7d. The price in 1914 was 6¼d., while the second attempt by the Commonwealth price-faking scheme made it10½d.
There we have the sordid tale of this Government in attempting to deal with the high cost of living. As soon as the interests of any of the people who put their good money up to help honorable members opposite to get into power are endangered the Government quickly come to heel. The Queen’s Hall, within these parliamentary buildings, was rushed by thousands of men like a great lot of savages. Honorable members could not get into the Queen’s Hall. If they desired to interview their constituents upon business, they were unable to do so in the Queen’s Hall through thousands of these men rushing up here and taking possession of the halls of this Parliament.
– What a fine show they would have made in uniform.
– There was a golden opportunity for the Minister for Recruiting to try his eloquence and see if he could not prevail on that lot that their duty was to go out and beat the Germans,instead of trying to wring huge profits out of the dependants of our soldiers. Here was a mob of big, lusty men, fit to fight for their country, but fighting with the Government to have their profits increased. “ Hands off our sacred profits. The rights of private property must never be interfered with,” was their cry, and down came the Government very quickly when- they saw the pop-gun which was presented at their heads. They allowed the Queen’s Hall to be taken possession of, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was hooted when his name was mentioned.
– The honorable member for Dalley was there, and heard them hoot me - -the finest compliment I have ever been paid.
– I was unable to go through the Queen’s Hall on account of the vast throng, and was forced to go through this chamber and out “through another entrance, to get to the Library. I was proceeding around the passageway and heard Mr. Tudor’ s name .mentioned,’ and a spontaneous hoot came from that vast throng that had possession of the Queen’s Hall. Like my leader, I consider that that was one of .the grandest compliments ever paid to Mr. Tudor; because, to be hooted by the exploiters of the people, to be howled at by the enemies of Labour, is one of the grandest compliments any Labour man can receive. I was pleased indeed to know that those people did hoot my leader, because I knew from that that my leader must be a sturdy friend of the people of Australia. I will leave the subject there to tell its own sorry tale to the public as to the absolute ineptitude of the Government in respect to one of the greatest problems of the day.
Another item .in- the Ministerial state ment - that contained in the last paragraph - refers to an amendment, amongst others, to the Maternity Allowance Act. That statement is like a scorpion - the sting is in its tail. I wonder what the Government propose to do. Since I am desirous at all times of helping any one in need of assistance, I propose to offer one or two brief suggestions as to what should be done with reference to the maternity allowance. The cost of living has enormously increased. One of the greatest problems confronting not only Australia, but the whole of the western civilization to-day, is in regard to population. A de clining birth-rate. must be one of the greatest menaces to the people of the western world. To keep a nation strong, active, and virile, we must have an increasing population. A young Australian is the finest immigrant this country can ever have. The allowance of £5 is given- as a maternity grant. It is not conceded by way of a dole, but as a right to the people who endeavour to do a duty to the nation, and are trying to preserve the nation’s well-being. We know that the. purchasing power of the £5 has vastly decreased since first the maternity allowance was granted. I, therefore, suggest that we bring the. maternity allowance up to the present purchasing value of the original sum of £5 - the figure fixed by the Fisher Government when it placed that splendid law upon the statute-book of our country. Next, in return for what the soldiers have done for us, and for the struggles that their women folk have had to make here, at home, throughout the war, I suggest that We make provision that in the case of the wife of a returned soldier the allowance be increased, and that instead of the purchasing power being made the equivalent of the original sum of £5, an added amount be given. Such a measure will be of assistance to this country, because, irrespective of what party may be in power, if we neglect to encourage the natural increase of population by the birth of virile children, we may as well say good-bye to the future of this continent as the home of a great white race. I trust that the Government will amend the maternity allowance in the manner I have indicated, and so encourage the people to do their national duty.
In conclusion, I hope that the Government and their supporters will remember the words of the Prime Minister, who, when appealing to the people before the last general elections, promised that not one stone in the temple of Labour would be disturbed. He assured the electors that the present. Government were nonpartisan, and would leave things as they found them. I especially appeal to those -supporters of the Government who at one time were followers of the Fisher Government to remember their pledges, speeches, and votes upon the electoral laws, the pensions, scheme? and the maternity allowance, and to ponder carefully before they, dishonour the solemn promises of themselves and their leader.
Mr. ARCHIBALD (Hindmarsh) £8.48]. - The honorable member who has just resumed his seat drew attention to the concern he feels for the interests of the soldiers. In fact, in the speeches of all the honorable members opposite there is apparent a desire to impress the people with the great interest they have in .the men who are at the Front - as if they were singular in that respect. This war has brought together in the Army men from all trades and callings, and all social conditions. They have been associated in a common brotherhood formed to defend right from might;, and we can well understand what will be the feeling of those men when on their return they learn that honorable members opposite have never done anything to assist .the (Government to carry on the war and have adopted only an attitude of criticism and jeering. I do hot say that honorable members on this side are perfect, but I do claim that there is on this side as much interest in the welfare of-the soldiers at the Front as there is on the oth’er side, and there is no need to make party clap-trap speeches for the purpose of misleading the less intelligent sections of the community.
We have heard the usual talk to-night about the attitude of the Government in regard to the fixation of meat prices. We shall have such talk as long as this Parliament lasts,- because the meat question is one of the trump cards which the Opposition wish to play before the country when assailing the Government’s price-fixing policy. They expect by that means to reach the Treasury bench, as their distinguished hero, the Premier of Queensland, has done.
– He is a good man.
– He is very similar to the honorable member.
– He is a good Australian.
– Behind that interjection there is a covert insult that is worthy of the honorable member for Cook, and only a man as low as he is would make it. .The honorable member is indulging in a covert sneer at me because I am an Englishman.
– I ask the honorablemember for Hindmarsh to withdraw his offensive reference to the honorable member for Cook.
– 1 ask the honorable member for Cook to’ withdraw the’ covert reflection he made on me. Scoundrel !
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression also.
– I withdraw the remark. Let us examine the facts regarding the fixation of meat prices. The Premier of Queensland (Mr. Ryan), in his wisdom made an agreement with the pastoralists of Queensland, and then in- - creased the price of’ meat supplied to the Imperial Government. Either he, as agent for the Imperial Government, robbed them, or he robbed the squatters. Bear in mind that the price at which meat was ‘obtainable- in the Brisbane butchers’ shops, of which we have heard so much, was not the price at which it was sold in all the Queensland shops. Only certain butchers could buy the meat at the lower price. If any honorable member -deliberately supplied meat at reduced prices to the constituency that returned him, he would be kicked out of the House for bribery and corruption, and the Queensland Government should have been kicked out of the office to which they attained by bribery and corruption. If such tactics represent the morals of honorable members opposite, they are welcome to. them. Whatever fate befalls the present Federal Government, or . the honorable members on this side, I hope that none of us will ever be associated with a Government that will commit bribery and corruption in order to get position and power.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to a State Government in such terms?
– Regarding the good taste or otherwise of such remarks, I do not care to express an opinion; but there .is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent an honorable member from criticising a State Government.
– I am quoting facts. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) referred to the fact that the maternity bonus was passed into law by the Fisher Government, of which I was a supporter. At the time that measure was introduced, it was declared by its opponents to be a means of bribery and corruption, in order to influence electors in favour of the Labour party. Whatever may be said for or against that bonus, do not forget that every mother in Australia was entitled to receive it if she complied with the ^conditions. In that respect, the Fisher Government’s action is in direct contrast to the action of the Queensland Government in regard to meat prices, because every butcher _ in Queensland cannot get meat at the prices at which the Government sell it to a select few in Brisbane. I leave these facts tq the judgment of the’ people. I do not take much interest in soft speeches and insinuations’. I’ prefer to be guided by the Biblical saying, “ By their fruits ye shall know them.”
– The honorable member believes in availing himself of the protection of Parliament in order to slander people outside.
– At any rate, I do not believe in the sublime philosophy of the Sinn Feiners. I regret that the Government altered the original schedule of meat prices. They should have fixed the prices earlier, because I am certainly of opinion that the rates were being advanced through the operations of a Ring. However, I have referred to that matter in previous speeches, and I have no desire to imitate honorable members opposite, who have one speech, which they reproduce on every occasion. The prices which the Government, have now fixed are too high; but I am certain that, had the Government not taken action, beef would have risen another 4d. per lb. within- six months.
– There is nothing to prevent the price being raised by 6d. per lb. in respect of cattle bought on the hoof. Those who purchase on the hoof can sell for what price’ they choose.
– I do not think there is any possibility of the prices rising further. If, on the other hand, the prices fall, I strongly recommend the Government to make their schedule conform to the lower rates, and to make those rates permanent. I am a firm believer in the fixation of prices. No matter what wages the working people are receiving, they are no better off if the purchasing power of their money is decreased. The prices- of all’ necessities of life should be fixed. The fact that the war is in progress provides’ an additional reason for that policy; but even when the war is over, price-fixing must continue, and I hope that honorable members on this side of the House and the vested interests of the country will recognise that fact. It is useless for us to run our heads against stone walls. We must face certain facts. . We cannot have contentment amongst the working classes unless we cut the ground from under the feet of those who are exploiting the people. In my opinion’, price fixing is not merely a matter of political expediency, or a measure of safeguard to be applied only during the war; it should be part of the permanent policy of every civilized country.
I do not propose to review to-night all the matters referred to in the Ministerial statement. As a whole, the contents are good, and worthy of serious consideration. But there is one matter “to which I wish to call attention, because I consider that there has been an oversight. We. have not realized the serious position in which we are placed to-day. But the Governments upon the other side of the world do realize “the serious crisis with which they are faced, and the sooner we do the same thing the better it will be for us.
Only the other night the honorable member for Eden-Monaro complained that the Government had not undertaken the revision of the Tariff. Now, of all comedies which could be staged in Parliament at the present, juncture, surely a revision of the Tariff would be the most farcical. We all know perfectly well that we lack the ships necessary to bring many of the commodities we require from the Old Country to these shores. As a matter of fact, we are worse off now in respect of tonnage than we have been at any stage during the war, and for the simple reason that British tonnage is being utilized for the transport of American troops and stores across the Atlanticto.. French ports. What has been accomplished in this direction is nothing short of marvellous. Many wiseacres had avowed that it would be quite impossible to provide the ships required for that task. But they have been provided, and consequently it seems nothing short of a huge joke for any honorable member to suggest a tinkering with the Tariff at this stage. Another point, which seems to have been overlooked, is that there never was a time in. the history of this country when we had such a golden opportunity to establish Australian industries.
– Does the honorable member think that we ought to wait till the war is over before increasing our Tariff?
– It is certainly premature to talk about the. matter now. I have been under the impression that during the war it was the policy of the Government to prevent money being invested in new enterprises. But the figures quoted by the Treasurer in his Budget statement to-day conclusively show that the Government are prepared to encourage any individual who is willing to invest his money in new industries. We hear a good deal of talk concerning the wickedness of the capitalist who indulges in profiteering. To me, however, it seems as if there is profiteering going on all round. It is as difficult to discover a needle in a haystack as it is to find anybody with anything to sell who is not intent upon profiteering. It can easily be demonstrated thatthe price of any manufactured article in Australia to-day is almost equal to its London parity. In the face of these facts it is obviously premature to talk about the framing of a new Tariff.
One of the paragraphs in the Ministerial statement refers to the proposed creation of a Bureau of Science and Industry, and announces that a Bill to give effect to this object will be submitted for our consideration.’ I do not know what the Government propose to do in regard to this particular bureau. But it is time that Australia copied the example which has been set by England and America. What has been accomplished in the Old Country? At the present time there is no unemployment in Britain, and the wages being paid to the workers there are much higher than they were in prewar days. The way in which the men and women of all classes in the Motherland have put their shoulders to the wheel in an effort to save civilization and the Empire, will make one of the most stirring chapters in history when it comes to be written. Despite all the difficulties which previously existed there between Capital and Labour, upon the outbreak of war both sides settled down resolutely to the task which was before them. The Prime Minister of England is a very brilliant man, but I do not think that he ever knew much about trade unionism. I do not think that he was ever very deeply interested in trade unions. His knowledge of these organizations has been acquired during his career as a public man. As the result of the appointment of the Whitley Commission, he has become impressed with the fact that when the war is over there must be a Letter relationship between the working classes and the great manufacturing classes of England than existed prior to the war. That is the keynote of the report of the Commission in question. Here in Australia the condition of the workers hasbeen materially improved by reason of the war, and also because of decisions that have been given by the Arbitration Court. But, after all, no award by an industrial tribunal can prove as satisfactory as an agreement which is arrived at between the parties to any industrial dispute at a round-table conference. When the war is over, the workers will no longer be content to be merely employees in industries - they will insist upon becoming partners in them. Otherwise there will be a cut-throat revolution and the red flag will be hoisted.
– By the Bolsheviks.
– They are members of the same breed. It is of no use mincing matters. The sooner we face the situation as it is being faced in the Old Country the better it willbe for us. But the Labour leaders there are acting very differently from the Labour leaders here. There, Mr. Will Thorne, Mr. Ben Tillett, and others recognise the responsibility which will rest upon their shoulders when this fearful struggle is over. They realize that the workers will never return to the drab conditions of life which obtained prior to the war. That, I repeat, is the keynote of the report of the Whitley Commission. Let us constitute an authority to cover practically the same ground as has been covered by that body. I know of nothing more important to the industries of this country than that we should establish some such machinery. In America, it is true, the desired results have been achieved by means of agreements between the contracting parties. The honorable member for Capricornia frequently talks about our Federal Constitution, and exclaims “For heaven’s sake, don’t let the bottom fall out of it.” May I remind him that America, as well as Australia, has a
Constitution - a Constitution underwhich there is so much freedom in normal times that one would almost imagine that every man is a law unto himself. Yet in time of national crisis, practically all the power conferred by that Constitution is centred in one man. I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Beeby, the Minister of Industry in New South Wales, is in thorough accord with the suggestion that I have made under this heading. Let us call together the Ministers of Industry in the States, and let them form a council. Let a council be formed in every large city, consisting of workers and employers, and, as this scheme will be useless unless it is farreaching, let there be a committee in every shop. Of course, the task will be a difficult one, as it has been found to be in England, but as it is not a characteristic of Australians to run away when they are in a tight corner, that fact should’ not deter us from seeking to achieve the desired end. No doubt there will be grievous disappointments, but if the workers can have the opportunity of criticising the methods by which work is carried on, there will be greater harmony. Let them be put in the position of partners. A partner in a concern does not necessarily have an* overwhelming monetary interest in it. We must work on these lines in order to get the absolute confidence of the men. One of the causes of discontent in Great Britain has been the absence of constancy of employment, and it is no doubt a great cause of discontent to a worker when he finds that for a large portion of each year he is out of employment. Some capitalists will question our right to interfere with the conduct of their businesses, but the sooner such men are pushed out of business by taxation, or in any other way, the “better it will be. Without question the old days have gone. We no longer look upon employment as a means for creating colossal wealth for a few to put into their pockets or squander, while the great majority have difficulty in securing the necessaries of life. All that sort of thing has to go.
If we approached the Trades Halls in Australia with a proposition such as I have outlined they would turn it down in five minutes. It is a curious fact that many great questions which have cropped up in these organizations during the war have been determined by very narrow majorities. The red-rag element win merely by the skin of their teeth. . It is characteristic of this red-rag brigade, the industrialists, that they are the greatest tyrants we have in Australia to-day. They throw out the taunt that a man is a “ scab “ if he does not roll up to a meeting of the union where a question is to be decided by a show of hands which should be submitted to a ballot, and where no man dare open his mouth, and in this way they intimidate him. The best type of unionist does not go near his union. He sends along his contribution by some one else. I have asked several unionists why they do not attend the meetings, and they have said, “ We have no time for thatsort of thing.” But, notwithstanding the absence of so many of the best type of unionists from the meetings, the red-raggers in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane only win by the skin of their teeth.
– We used to call you a red-ragger.
-I have never been called a red-ragger.
– I quite agree. You never deserved to be called one.
– I did not go into the Labour movement and learn everything afterwards. I brought a wellinformed mind into it. I was reading the best that was worth reading in literature concerning it while the honorable member was reading the Worker. It is left to red-raggers, such as the honorable member is, to claim that those who formed the party were red-raggers.
In the inevitable reform before us, we have a right to claim the support of the Government. It is useless for them to say that the Trades Halls are opposed to it. Let them be opposed. Every time they withstand an effort which is made with the object of bringing the two contracting parties together in the interest of the peace and security of this community, they are putting a nail in their coffin, and we shall be putting a nail in our own coffin if we are prepared to allow these men to longer pretend that they represent the workers. They no more represent them than does the Kaiser. The time is eminently ripe for dealing with this problem, and I hope that the Government will do something upon the lines I have suggested.
There are one or two portions of the report of the Whitley Commission worth reading. This is one -
With this end in view, we are of opinion that the following proposals should be laid before the National Industrial Councils : -
That district councils, representative of the trades unions and of the employers’ association in the industry, should be created or developed out of the existing machinery for negotiation in the various trades.
That works committees, representative of the management and of the workers employed, should be instituted in particular works to act in close co-operation with the district and national machinery.
I think that we should have a National
Industrial Council in Australia, and that the Government should set to work to establish one. It will be no disgrace to them if they fail owing to opposition from the industrialists. However, I do not believe that they will fail, though I would still advise them to make the attempt, even if I thought that their efforts would have no result. As a National party, we have no right to allow honorable members opposite to assume that they represent the workers. We must show the people that they can trust the National’ party to give them all they have a right to expect from their industry, and that they can get it without having anything to do with those revolutionary clap-trap people who talk so much and do so little.
There are other points in the Whitley Commission’s report of equal importance. Among the questions with which it is suggested the National Councils should deal, or allocate to district councils or works committees, the following are selected for special mention: -
That is one of the results to be obtained by bringing them closely in touch with one another -
That is what I have said. I am certain that we should get more industrial peace by a joint agreement. From 1894 until I was kicked out of the party through following Mr. Hughes I was an executive officer of the waterside workers of Port Adelaide, ‘ and during that time we did not once have a dispute with our employers, the ship-owners. We made a practice of meeting them from time to time and fixing the wages and conditions of work. Notice was given on either side that a re-adjustment was required. That state of affairs continued until the workers in Port Adelaide joined the federation. Since then their time has not been such a happy one. What occurred in Port Adelaide could happen in every industry in Australia if the employers and the workers were willing. What a saving would be effected!1 Look at the cost of arbitration. Look at the expense of the whole game. Look at the organizer, who, half his time, is engaged in fomenting disputes. He was not required under the old system of agreements and round-table conferences, and he will not be required if this reorganization to which I have referred is brought about.
Other questions suggested in the Whitley Commission’s report for reference to district councils or works committees are -
This is not a scheme for the worker to sib at a table with the employer as a slave, a servant, or a lackey, but as an equal .
– Or at a dining table either.
– The honorable member for Barrier would not try a scheme of this kind at Broken Hill, for it would “bust” up his job in six months. My quotation continues -
– From what document is the honorable member quoting?
– I am giving the publication an advertisement, as it is, I consider, one of the best pieces of literature published in Australia to-day. I am quoting from the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard.
– Critchley Parker again.
– No; but the honorable member never gets’ any further than the Worker and Boote. I say that it is for honorable members on this side to bring pressure to bear firmly and courteously upon the Government to induce them to move in this matter. I do not pretend that a movement in this direction will at once completely succeed, but I do say that we must try to do something on these lines. If we fail the Parliament succeeding this may not fail, and it is worth our while to go upon the track. I will quote for honorable members now the agreement made between . President Wilson and Mr. Gompers, the’ Labour leader in America. It is as follows -
I say that it is impossible for the National party to ignore their responsibility in respect of this grave issue. We see the workers of this country drifting steadily but surely into syndicalism, and that can never be tolerated if we are true to the best interests of the country. I know the class to which I belong, on both sides of the world, and I say that the great mass of them, are intelligent, hard-working, good fellows, who, if you put an honest clean-cut proposal before them, will readily follow. If that has not in some instances appeared to be so, it is because the workers have been systematically and deliberately lied to by those holding the opinions held by some honorable members opposite. They have been invited over and over again during the war to leave politics alone and to stick to the industrial question, as they are making such a mess of the political job at the present time. Honorable members opposite want to use the trade organizations of the country as a political machine for the purpose of bringing about a revolution. That is ‘their game, absolutely. I do not say that of every honorable member on the other side, as there are some exceptions. In Newcastle,New South Wales. I believe that the workers would be ready to give what I. suggest a trial; but I am thinking more of the position taken up by the Trades Halls in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, and in Adelaide, where they get their inspiration from the Melbourne Trades Hall. I say that a National Council of Labour should be established, and also State Councils, and that in every factory and work-shop in the Commonwealth a Labour Committee should be formed on the lines I have suggested. If we work on those lines there will be, no doubt, some failures and misunderstandings, but we should break down the support which honorable members opposite are getting from the workers, and we should induce the workers generally to return to the attitude they adopted in the ‘nineties, when they had perfect freedom, and were animated and determined in their criticism of public affairs and public men, but loyal to the best interests of the country and to the industrial movement to which they belonged. I appeal to honorable members on this side and to the Government to take up this question, because there is a responsibility resting upon our shoulders which we cannot afford to ignore. We must at least try to do something on these lines, even though we fail. I would sooner that we should fail in a cause like this than have it said that the National party neglected to try to grapple with the most serious problem that can arise after the conclusion of the war.
Government have seen fit, through their officers, to interfere in connexion with the ballot now being taken amongst the Labour organizations in regard to what are known as the Perth resolutions on the war and recruiting.
– The question of a German peace.
– Is there are some misconceptions being prepared for- the public, such, for instance, las that indicated by the interjection of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), I think it is just as well that the Perth resolutions should be put fairly and squarely on public record, and that, very briefly, something should be said in their justification. The resolutions read as fol- lows : -
Attitude to the War.
The attitude of Labour towards the objects of the war is what it was at the outbreak of the war -
The aims of Labour, and participating in the war, purposed -
Further participation in recruiting shall be subject to the following conditions : -
Provided that this determination shall be immediately submitted by each’ State Executive under the direction of the Federal Executive, with a recommendation from this Conference for its adoption, to a referendum of members of all branches and affiliated organizations, and shall become operative upon a majority of the votes of those voting being cast in the affirmative. The ballot to close not later than 1st November.
The reason why a ballot of the organizations is being taken is that it was claimed that in two of the States represented at the Conference, namely South Australia and Tasmania, the organizations had not been consulted upon a proposition of this kind. There were motions on the businesspaper to which this scheme was a relevant amendment, but, in view of the representations of the delegates from the two States I have referred to, the Conference agreed’ to a ballot being taken of the members of the organizations . It is therefore not correct to say that the Conference shirked in any way its own responsibility, or was afraid to decide the matter itself. That is put out of question . by the fact that the Conference almost unanimously carried these resolutions, and recommended them to the ‘rank and file of the organizations.
– If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) had been present when I commenced to speak he would know that I began by stating that the Government, through responsible officers, had initiated interference in this ballot. The Government has hurled its weight into participation in this matter, and as I find that misrepresentations are being made and misconceptions engendered,I propose, in the calmest and most friendly way possible, to state my view, which is contrary to that set forward now on the part of the Government.
In the first place these resolutions should be read as a whole. They should not be disunited, because they each form part of a united policy.
– An attempt to shirk your responsibilities to the Empire.
– Hear, hear; there is no doubt about that.
– These resolutions not only indicate ina practical way what it is proposed should be done, but give the reasons which actuated the Conference in taking up the position it adopted. It is stated in the resolutions that the attitude of the Labour movement to the war is now, at the present moment, what it was at the outbreak of the war. At the outbreak of the war we were told that Britain had entered into it on the basis of that wellknown formula which has been inserted in the Perth resolutions, and which I have already quoted. This policy of the Labour Conference lays down in the most emphatic way the friendliness of the Official Labour movement to Great Britain and the British Empire. In this time of strong feeling and excitement, when some honorable members think that those who differ with them may be justly branded with any epithet that enters their minds, I want to say that I absolutely repudiate any association or connexion with any of those people in this country who manifest bad feeling or hostility to Great Britain.
– It is a pity the honorable member does not do a little more.
– I am the judge of what I should do, just as the honorable member is the judge of what he ought to do. There are in the Commonwealth people whose expressions . of opinion as they relate to Great Britain appear to be capable of. interpretation as the most violent opposition to the Old Country.For the most part these people were born in Britain, and are comparatively new arrivals. It is a most astounding phenomenon to find men of any nationality ‘ repudiating the land of their birth. There are in Australia Germans who left Germany ‘ because of their hatred of German militarism - who came here to escape it - yet, although they were driven out of their country by German militarism, we find that for the greater part they are wholly in sympathy with the Fatherland, whether Germany be right or wrong. I suppose in no country has the proletariat been so downtrodden as in Russia, but I have never yet met a Russian, either here or in America, who had not a love and veneration for the country of his birth.
– Even the Bolsheviks.
– I do not know whether any of the Russians I have met are Bolsheviks, but my statement accurately describes them. It has come as a very great surprise to me to find in Australia comparatively new arrivals from Great Britain, whose hostility to the land of their birth appears to be unmeasured.
In order that the Labour movement may not be associated with any propaganda of that kind, the Perth Conference laid it down emphatically that its attitude to the war was to-day what it was at the beginning of hostilities, when Britain entered into the conflict with the publicly- declared object of defending the cause of Liberty and- Democracy, preserving the independence of small nations, and for the honouring of publicly-made treaties, and the maintenance of international law. The great Labour movement stands solidly to-day where it did at the opening of the war and that is officially announced in the resolutions of the Perth Labour Conference..
There has been some misconception of one point regarding Britain’s entry into this war which has been used, I find, in some working-class circles, and concerning which I wish to place on record a different interpretation. It is said that Britain did not enter this war mainly because of the violation of the treaty with Belgium.
– Who says that?
-I am telling the House what has been said in some working class circles, and I am about to submit my view to the contrary. It is said that Britain, by some secret treaty, was bound to enter the war, even if the question of Belgium had been entirely eliminated. In order to give colour to that assertion, a quotation is made from a speech by Sir Edward Grey in the House of Commons, in the course of which he was asked whether if the question of Belgium were amicably settled the British Government could give an unconditional guarantee of the maintenance of neutrality in the event of a war between Germany and Prance. To that inquiry, Sir Edward Grey said, “No, we could not give an unconditional guarantee, because we have an arrangement with France that if an attack were made on the French coast by the German Fleet, the British Fleet would go to the assistance of Prance.” This announcement, made public probably for the first time, has been said -to show that, there was a secret treaty . between Britain and Prance to war upon ‘ Germany for reasons of some secret and unworthy kind. To characterize such an understanding as an ordinary secret treaty - as a bargaining between nations -such as must lead to war - is not to fairly represent the position. It is exactly the same as if there was an arrangement between the United States and Australia that in the event of a hostile fleet making an attack upon the coasts of Australia the disposition of the American Fleet to help Australia would be this,, that,- and the other. From its very nature such an arrangement could not be made public, and it would be ridiculous to put it in the category of what are known as secret treaties. It is an arrangement between two Powers that if one is attacked there would be a certain disposition of the fighting forces of the other to defend their common and joint interests. ‘ If we had an arrangement with the United States that in the event of an attack upon Australia by some Oriental nation there should be a certain disposition of our fighting forces, then, according to this line of argument, we should be expected to publish to the hostile nation, and to the whole world, what that disposition of our defending forces was to bp.
I, therefore, take this opportunity to put the other side of the question, so. that it may be read by Labour supporters in various districts. I consider what I was going to describe as the misrepresentation of the attitude of Sir Edward Grey and the British Government in regard to unconditional neutrality to be absolutely unjustified. That attitude does not in any shape or form vitiate the honorable and unanswerable reason given to the world for Britain’s entry into this world-wide conflict.
– ‘Did the honorable member say that this misrepresentation came from a section of the Labour movement?
– I said I had heard it ‘used in some working class circles.
– Has the honorable member nothing better to do but to come here and attack his own party?
– If I think that my party is prejudiced by the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of certain per sons, I have every right to avail myself of an opportunity to correct such mistaken views. The honorable member often makes statements’ with, which I strongly disagree, but I recognise that he has, as I have, the right to his own opinion and to express it.
There should be no separate consideration of the portion of the Labour policy being balloted for, apart from the other portion of the war and recruiting policy adopted as a whole. The Conference adopted an announcement of loyalty to the objects with which Britain entered this war, and I have to regret that there is any severance of these two parts of the united resolution carried at the Perth Conference.
I come now to that part of the resolution which deals with the attitude of the movement towards recruiting. I ask honorable members to take particular note of the words, “ further participation in recruiting “ which are used in the resolution, because they have been thoroughly misunderstood in some quarters, and wholly misrepresented in: others. It has been said that they mean that no individual member of the Labour movement would be allowed to enlist if the ballot were carried in the affirmative. Such a view is opposed’ to the actual reading of the words employed. No such meaning can be read into them without a thorough misconception of the sentence. “ Participation in recruiting “ does not mean having to do with any person voluntarily offering himself for service ; it has nothing to do with the enlistment of any individual. Chambers’ English Dictionary, defines “participator “ as “ one who partakes or shares in something with another.” “ Recruiting “ is defined in the same dictionary as meaning “ the obtaining of new supplies ; the enlisting of recruits; the business of obtaining new supplies or enlisting new soldiers.” In other words, it means a joint sharing in the business of obtaining new supplies for the Army. It really has to do with the advocacy of a cause, and what the Perth Labour, Conference resolution actually declares by these words is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the individual enlistment of persons in this country, whether they be Labour supporters or others. That is a matter for every man’s judgment and conscience. What it refers to is the official participation or association of the great Labour movement with the advocacy, the platform oratory, or other means adopted to persuade others to enlist. That is what the words mean, and they cannot bear the construction which some people are trying to read into them for the purpose, in some cases I think, of misrepresenting the actual position and prejudicing a fair interpretation of the whole “War and Recruiting “ resolutions by the general public.
The Conference declared that “further participation in recruiting shall be subject to the following conditions.” It seems to be a crime in Australia for people to say that if they are going to participate in a scheme that participation shall be subject to conditions which they believe to be right. The participation, according to some people, should take place regardless of whether we thinkit right or wrong. We must be guided by what others - our opponents-say is the right thing to do. We are to be compelled to participate in the advocacy of these things upon a basis which we may not think right-
Further participation in recruiting to be subject to a clear and authoritative statement on behalf of the Allies.
What is there wrong about that declaration? If there is confusion in the public mind, why should there not be a clear and authoritative statement on behalf of Great Britain and her Allies, so that we may know whether the objects of this war are to-day what they were at the outbreak of the war.
– Does this attitude compare with that of the British Labour movement, or of the American Labour movement?
– The Australian Labour movement has practically said that if the objects of the war are to-day what they were at its outbreak we are just as enthusiastic about it to-day as we were then.
t- Mr. Balfour has set out clearly the objects of the war.
Mr.Maxwell. - So has President Wilson.
– And so has Mr. W. M. Hughes, who says that one of the objects of the war is the annexation of
Germany’s colonies, the bottling up of Germany, and the continuance of a trade war against her for a number of years after the present struggle has ceased. Do we not know from the. honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that when the morale of the German nation was shaken, when it was tired of the war, when the Reichstag carried resolutions favoring peace negotiations, what brought solidarity into its ranks, and nerved its people to go on with the fighting, was the circulation among the German soldiers of Mr. Hughes’ speeches ?
– Where do you find authority for that?
– Ask the honorable member for Ballarat, who has come back from the Front, and knows what is happening there. He is my authority for the statement. If the statement of our Prime Minister is correct, the objects of the war to-day are not those for which we entered the war.
– He has not said that the things mentioned by the honorable member are the objects of the war.
– Has he not said that we would not stop fighting until we had gained those objects?
– The honorable member does not think that our Prime Minister can speak for the nation and its Allies?
– The honorable member for Ballarat says, by an interjection, that the statement made by our Prime Minister has been repudiated in Great Britain, but we have not seen that repudiation published in Australia. May we not ask that the great public of Australia shall be informed of the repudiation by the British Government of the statements of our Prime Minister? Some members who have been in England may have seen this repudiation in the English newspapers. I have not, and the general public knows nothing of it.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the things you have mentioned were the objects of the war.
– The honorable member is splitting straws. If he said that the war should not cease until we had possession of the German colonies, does not that become one of the objects of the war?
– One of the results of the war.
– You may call it. one of the results of- the war if you like. Let it go out to the public as a result of the war, and let them judge whether it is I or the honorable member who is splitting straws. . It is easier for a public man to swim with the tide than to battle against it for what is the right thing.
– The trouble is that too many are trying to swim with the tide.
– Throughout British history it has never been popular in war ..time to oppose a war or to criticise its conduct, although years afterwards the public has often altered its opinion.
The Government, recognising that the public mind is confused,, and needs educating in regard to the war, appointed, almost as soon as the Perth Conference ceased to sit, a directorate of war propaganda, and set up a great department to educate the public, presumably concerning the objects of the war. So far, the only thing that has been done by the department is To interfere in the conduct of this ballot; and I shall deal presently with some of the reasons given for that interference by the gentleman - a University professor, I understand - in charge of the department. The Perth Conference asked for a clear and authoritative statement of the war aims of Great Britain and her Allies, and the Government has practically acknowledged the justice of tie demand by setting up a great department to issue statements to the public concerning the war. It is seen that the public mind is confused, and that there is need for something of the kind.
– You do not intend the people to have the freedom that you boast about, seeing that you put on the ballot-paper the instruction to vote “Yes.”
– I have made no*’ boast. There has been no “ instruction “ how to vote. The Conference, on facts not available to the rank and file, makes a recommendation, and leaves each individual to choose “Yea” or “Nay.”
I have heard all sorts of criticism of the Perth Conference. It has been said that its resolutions were not extreme enough; and that, having gone so far, it should have gone further. But I can imagine the howl that we should have had from those who are now complaining if the Conference had gone further. Some of them say;. “Why did not the Perth Conference take its courage in its hands, and lay down the policy of the party without providing for a ballot?” Yet these same persons complain that the Conference did lay down a policy.
– It put an instruction on the ballot-paper.
– It did not. The Conference, in arriving at its decisions, had’ reasons before it which would not be allowed to be put before the people of this country. I should not be permitted to put before even those now sitting in the gallery of - this chamber the reasons why I assisted iri bringing about the declarations made by the Perth Conference. I should not be allowed to . state those reasons in Parliament, or outside of Parliament, although they cannot be challenged, nor can the facts on which they are founded be gainsaid. I must not state them, because it does not suit the Government for me to do so. The Perth Conference, knowing that ‘ the public” could not have a full and free discussion of the questions at issue, and having access to facts which cannot be pUt before the public, felt that it should recommend the adoption of a certain course, yet leaving the movement to veto the recommendations if it thought fit.
– That is what Mr. W. M. Hughes said at the first Convention Referendum. The honorable member is following a bad example.
– What facts has the honorable member that we have not got?
– I have a lot of facts which the general public has not got.
Another condition laid down by * the Conference was that the Allies should agree ‘to enter into peace negotiations upon the basis of no penal indemnities and no annexations.
– Do you believe in a policy of no indemnities and no annexations ?
– No “penal” indemnities.
– What do you mean by “ penal “ ?
– The honorable member can ascertain the meaning of the word ‘’ penal “ by consulting a dictionary.
– But what do you mean by it?
– I mean no indemnities enforced for the mere purpose of punishment. I say indemnities for the purpose of restoring devastated territories and damage done, Yes; but indemnities for the purpose of mere vindictiveness and punishment, No.
– How about the seamen drowned on the high seas ?
– Is it possible for me to answer this chorus of interjections, and yet make my speech within the allotted time? My honorable friend knows perfectly well that if I attempt to answer all interjections, the whole of my time will be taken up, and Ishall be called upon to resume my seat without being able to put my position before the House. Let me quote the words of Mr. Lloyd George to show that Labour is not alonein asking for peace by negotiation. Last January, in Westminster Hall, Mr. Lloyd George said this -
The moment the Germans show a disposition to negotiate for equitable terms, there would be no reluctance to negotiate with them.
– Yes, on equitable terms.
– My honorable friend, if he likes, can ascertain what the Labour movement means in regard to equitable terms of peace.
-But was it not proposed to have peace negotiations forthwith?
– The Minister has come in late, and now he wants me to go overit all again.
– No, I refer only to the one point.
– The resolution of the Perth Conference was to this effect -
That a clear and authoritative statement be made on behalf of the Allies, asserting their readiness to enter into peace negotiations upon the basis of no annexations and no penal indemnities.
The peace proposals of the Labour movement provided for (a) the evacuation of occupied territories; (b) the restoration of devastated territories; and (c) for the consultation of the inhabitants of disputed territories as to the form of government they desire, under an International Commission. The disputed territories re fer, of course, to Alsace-Lorraine, the Trentino, and other places.
– Has Germany ever shown the slightest desire to discussterms of peace on such a basis as you have indicated ?
– I do not know.
– You do know.
– So far as I know, Germany has not.
– And so far as any one else knows, she has not.
– Let me tell the honorable member, however, that, owing to the manipulation of the newspapers of this country, I do not know what is going on on the other side of the world.
-Neither do we.
– But there is good news to-day from Palestine.
– Yes ; and very good news from the Western Front.
– Germany is going to be defeated.
– I hope she will be.
Another condition for the further participation by the Labour movement in advocacy of recruiting is that Australian requirements in man power shall be ascertained with regard to home defence and industrial activities.
– Do you think that should come before filling the ranks?
– In answer to that interjection, let me quote” a statement made by the Governor-General at a Conference recently held on this question of recruiting. On page4 of that report there will be found this statement -
I would also draw your attention to the concluding paragraph of Sir Samuel Griffith’s report, which reminds us of the fact that, in the midst of this great war we, with 3,000,000 square miles of territory to defend, have but a couple of brigades of infantry under arms, these being reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force, while the training of Citizen Forces is reduced to a minimum.
No doubt this state of affairs is a remarkable tribute to the British Navy; but, however great our confidence in its protection, it is worth considering whether it might not be advisable to make better provision for the defence of our shores by keeping alternate sections of the militia under training until peace is restored.
There are conditions in the world to-day which render it absolutely imperative that some provision shall be made for the defence of these shores. This was openly stated by the Governor-General at’ the Conference on recruiting, and was published in the official report of those proceedings. Is there any reason, therefore, why odium should be cast upon the Labour movement for asking that Australian requirements in man power should be ascertained ?
– Meantime, who is going to carry on the war?
– I want to say this, and I have said it before : This is a National Parliament for Australia - a Parliament charged with the safety of Australia - but one of the last things to be discussed here is the question of the safety of this country.We may discuss the safety of England, the safety of France, or of any other country on earth, but we must not discuss the question of the safety of Australia.
– Yes, we can. Australia’s safety is being decided in France to-day.
-The GovernorGeneral evidently held a different opinion, for in his address at the Conference he stated that there were reasons why alternate regiments should be kept in this country for the defence of these shores.
– Against whom?
– My honorable friend knows he is asking me to disobey a ruling of the Chair.
– No, I do not.
– Does not the honorable member know that I have been taken to Court for having given an answer such as he asks for now?
– The honorable members knows perfectly well that he does. He is asking me a question which he knows I am not allowed to answer. The Governor-General shows-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member not to introduce the name of the Governor-General into this debate.
– Let me refer, then, to the gentleman who occupied the position of official chairman of the Recruiting Conference, and to his views concerning the requirements of this country. I say that if this opinion is held in circles other than Labour, then it is legitimate for Labour to say that, so many men having left Australian shores, there should now be an inquiry as to how many more may be sent. The Government themselves have stated, on different occasions, how many should go. At the time of the first referendum they said most emphaticallythat 16,500 per month should be sent; and during the second conscription campaign they declared that 7,000 per month would be necessary, although at that time there were larger Forces in the field. Then, when there was a dispute as to whether 7,000 per month were required, an inquiry was conducted by Sir Samuel Griffith, who brought the number down to 5,400 per month.
– What would you cut it down to?
– I would have an inquiry to ascertain what Australia’s minimum requirement is, and cut it down to that. Without any inquiry I am unable to say what the number is.
– What would you do to get the minimum requirement?
– My friends opposite seem to be very much concerned about the attitude of the Labour movement.
– Of course they are.
– Then they ought to be concerned about the information that the Labour movement asks for on which to base Labour action. Why is information withheld or denied that Labour deems to be essential?
It has been said that the Labour movement pledged itself in the conscription campaign to a continuance of the voluntary system - that it repeatedly, in the conscription campaigns, pledged itself that it would continue to do its utmost under the voluntary system without ‘any limitation whatever. I cannot say what took place in other States, but in my own State I was asked to write the official manifesto. This I did; and there was no such statement made in either of the conscription campaigns as that the Labour movement pledged itself to unconditional association with the advocacy of recruiting so long as the War lasted, and no matter what the varying changes in the aims of those concerned might be.
-Was that not said in the manifesto ?
– Not in the no conscription” manifestoes. There was something in the election manifesto at that time - I forget the words - but to say that it was in the manifesto in the conscription campaigns is, so far as I am aware, not correct. It is also said that the action of the Conference means the abandonment of voluntary enlistment. It is nothing of the kind. I have shown that participation in recruiting has nothing to do with the individual enlisting - with the recruiting of the individual according to his own freewill.
– Does it prevent the people taking part in advocating recruiting?
– No; it is simply stated that the party will not, as a party, officiate inany scheme unless certain guarantees and conditions are laid down ; and every party and person is entitled to say under what conditions they will participate in anything. It is further said that the resolution of the Conference means “ pulling out “ of the war ; indeed I have seen such expressions as that it means to stop ammunition factories, shipbuilding, food supplies, and to withhold moneys to maintain our soldiers at the Front, and to return them to this country. I say that the resolution means absolutely none of those things. If it meant any of them I would not be found advocating it.
Whether this ballot is carried or not I shall take no part in the stoppage of shipbuilding, I shall take no part in the discouragement of providing food supplies, I shall take no part in withholding moneys to maintain our soldiers at the Front, and I shall certainly not take part in withholding any moneys, even if it be the last penny, to bring our gallant men back to this country.
It does not mean any of those things. As one who took part in , drafting the resolution, I am entitled to say that no statement of the kind was ever made at the Conference, and was never in the mind of any single man who voted for the resolution.
Let me refer to the manifesto issued on behalf of the Government, and signed by Mr. G. K. Picken, Director of Educational War Propaganda, of 445 Collinsstreet, Melbourne, on 2nd September, 1918. This is the interference by the Government with the taking of the ballot; and a lamer attempt to influence the public I have never seen. If this manifesto exhibits the strength of the directorate of war propaganda in Australia, God help the country depending upon a director that can put such a weak and unconvincing document forth on behalf of the Government. . Let me draw the attention of honorable members to two or three points mentioned in the manifesto. It says that the Labour movement wishes the Allies to - divert their most representative public men fromthe strenuous business of conducting the war, to the even more difficult problem of finding a formula which will both settle the greatest international question of all history and’ at the same time satisfy the Australian Labour party.
Apparently, according to this, the war is to go on without the Allies coming to an understanding as to the aims and objects of the war - they are simply to keep fighting because they have started fighting, and it is sheer impudence on anybody’s part to even ask those who are conducting the war what their reasons -and objects are. The writer of this manifesto utters a threat; and, no doubt, he had consulted the Government. He says -
There is, in fact, no danger of such a message going forth responsibly to our gallant Allies.But if at some future time there should appear to be such a danger, I tell you plainly that steps will be taken to promote throughout Australia such a series of loyal demonstrations as will open your eyes.
Is the Government, if this ballot is carried in the affirmative, going to arrange for public meetings from one end of this country to the other ? Have the Government authorized this man to throw this threat out to the Labour movement - to shake the fist of the Government in our faces, and threaten us with consequences’ if we dare to say “ Yes “ to the question put before us?
– If it be carried the Labour movement will count for very little in this country.
– Just now my honorablefriend was interrupting about no annexations or penal indemnities, and I refer him to what the Director of War Propaganda said in this manifesto -
The phrase “ no annexations and no penal indemnities” is, of course, one way of expressing an important principle: the principle properly expressed by those who say that the conditions of peace must contain no seeds of future war.
The writer is under no misapprehension as to what the term means, and he regards it as a perfectly legitimate and fair way of stating a most important principle. He goes on to say -
Whence this sudden enthusiasm for home defence on the part of those who clamour so insistently for repeal of the Australian Defence Act?
This propagandist of the Government might correct his information before he issues misleading statements of that kind. Does the Perth Conference ask for any repeal of the Defence Act? On the contrary, it insists on the maintenance of the Act. Yet this agent of the Government tells the Labour public, as a reason why they should vote against the resolution, that that movement is the same that advocates the wiping out of the Defence Act, and no defence for Australia. It is absolutely untrue.
– It is quite true.
– It may be true of isolated individuals who happen to belong to the working-class movement, and with whom I should be sorry to associate myself.
– They are the leaders of the movement.
– They are not. The leader of this movement is the Perth Inter-State Labour Conference, which lays down the authoritative policy for the movement; and to that policy every member has to subscribe. As a matter of fact, the Conference declares that the Defence Act must stand, and that there must be Australian’ defence.
Further, the Director of War Propaganda says - “I do most earnestly urge that to impose the conditions of this ballot-paper upon Australia’s further participation in the war is to expose yourself to “ - soandso.
The ballot-paper does not impose any conditions upon Australia’s share in the war. In this Parliament, Labour has a handful of about twenty members in a house of seventy-five. There is a two-thirds majority against us. It is the Government that is conducting Australia’s part in the war, and to say that the conditions of this ballot-paper affects the participation of Australia in the war is absurd. The carrying of the ballot will not affect the Government in the slightest degree, and all honorable members know it.
– What will your attitude be if the ballot is carried ?
-My attitude will be what it has been since I presented a memorandum to the Government in May, 1916, before there was any talk of conscription, and in which I told them that I thought the most urgent thing required in this country was immediate home defence.
– You said that if men were called up under your suggestion - if they went on with the voluntary system - they would get more recruits. You were advocating voluntary recruiting then, and now you are against it. It is in Hansard.
– The circumstances have changed, and new facts have emerged which altered my attitude since May, 1916.
– If Australia were in danger to-morrow you would not fight.
– Of course I would.
– I do not think you would fight for Australia. Your actions show that you would not.
– The honorable member is entitled to his view. I do not care what brand he puts on me. I do not care a twopenny dump. I takeup the attitude that I think right, and am not going to be brow-beaten by the hurling of statements which the honorable member thinks willcatch the public ear. This is only a mean and contemptible way of trying to put a brand on a public man for something upon which the honor- . able member thinks the public are with him.
There should not be any hesitation on the part of the Government to grant the inquiry, with representation of Labour thereon. It would satisfy the great Labour movement as to matters on which both the Labour movement itself and the people generally are in utter confusion. The Government manipulation of the public press has been largely responsible for this confusion in the public mind. The public cannot believe what they see in the newspapers, when articles containing references to facts and criticisms of facts must be handled by an officer of the Government, who can cut out sentences and tear portions from their context, and, under threat of heavy fine and imprisonment, the public must not be allowed to know through the newspapers concerned that its articles and facts are interfered with. It is now proposed actually to do the same thingin Parliament. It has been put forward on behalf of the Government that Hansard records of honorable members’ speeches may be manipulated in exactly the same way as in the case of general newspapers outside.
– A loyal man has nothing to fear.
– I have nothing to fear - only the vindictive actions of the Government under the powers of the law to put me in gaol for giving facts to my country. For the Director of War Propaganda to say that this ballot-paper imposes conditions upon Australia’s further participation in the war is absurd. Be imagines that the Labour movement, with its twenty-two men in the House, is in the position of the Government, with its fifty members.
To cap it all, this representative, on behalf of the Government, appeals to Labour as the friend of Labour. He says -
The consequent set-back to the cause of Labour in Australia will be very grave.
The Government is very much concerned with this grave set-back to the cause of Labour. The official further says -
I write as one who has been a life-long devotee of the true ideals of Democracy.
Does not every honorable member opposite say the same? Is it not a fact that their ideals of Democracy are the only true ideals?
The Director of War Propaganda, on behalf of the Government, although he complains of the terms used in the resolution - which, he points out, may be capable of this misrepresentation and that misrepresentation - uses terms which would convey to the mind of Labour that he himself is a Labour man, and is appealing to Labour on behalf of Labour. He claims that he is a life-long devotee of the true ideals of Democracy, and he. adds, “ Think well before you produce such a revulsion against Labour as can make only its enemies rejoice.” - This gentleman,. I suppose, has never voted Labour in his life. He is no doubt a very good “ Nationalist,” Yet he hypocritically pleads for the cause of Labour !
I had hoped that, as an outcome of the energies of the Government’s Director of War Propaganda, we would be having some removal of the misconceptions which are befogging the public mind; but, apparently, this gentleman is merely intended to propagate the ideas of the Government. So far he has produced but this one thing, and that is an interference with the ballot being token within the Labour organizations, by the help of misrepresentations and threats of consequences. It is an appeal on behalf of the Government to prevent the rank and file of the Labour movement from participating in the ballot, from doing that which the Labour Conference almost unanimously believes to be right and honest, correct and practical, and the sensible and loyal thing , to do, from the standpoint of the welfare of Australia, whose interests it is our first duty to safeguard.
– You know it has checked recruiting. Where has Ryan’s Thousand come in since then?
– The honorable member has a lot to say about Ryan’s Thousand. He knows that when Mr. Ryan went on the . recruiting . platform’ in Queensland he was jeered at and howled down. So, too, when the Leader of the Federal Labour party (Mr. Tudor) went out advocating recruiting, there was so much animus in the minds of followers of the Government that they refused him a hearing.
– Does the honorable member advocate recruiting ?
– I do not, in the present circumstances. My attitude is absolutely reflected by ‘the “War and Recruiting” resolutions of the Perth Conference. I expressed much the same view in this House in a speech that was confiscated by the military authorities when they raided this building. I believed then, and I believe now, that the policy I enunciated was. the right one to adopt. I am with Britain up to the hilt, subject only to the conditions that the interests of my native land, Australia, shall not be sacrificed to those of Britain. With that one reservation I will do all I possibly can to help Britain in this struggle; but for the last couple of years I have “wanted to know whether ornot the interests of my native land are being sacrificed, and that is what the Perth Labour Conference desired to know.
– Our interests will be sacrificed if we do not support the war.
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion. I am not discussing the war itself, but the terms of Labour’s participation in recruiting propaganda. Honorable members opposite may not desire my assistance’; they may spurn and repudiate my help, but if they desire it in any project it will be given only upon conditions that will satisfy my mind that I am doing the right thing.. Those conditions were set forth in the resolution of the Perth Conference, and I hope that the great Labour movement will indorse it with no uncertainvoice.
Debate (on motion by Lt.-Colonel Abbott) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 7.30.to-morrow evening.
.- I was informed earlier in the evening by the Assistant Government Whip that the Government intended to propose this adjournment in order that honorable members may have an opportunity of attending the Show. . But I understood that the Government were so anxious to proceed with business, after a recess of fourteen weeks, that they even proposed to curtail honorable members’ speeches.
– The honorable member knows that a general desire was expressed for an adjournment until to-morrow evening.
– I do not mind the Government adjourning Parliament as often as they like. We have just resumed after an adjournment of fourteen weeks, and to economize time the Government propose that members of the Opposition shall be prevented from speaking as fully as they may desire to do. I see no objection to honorable members visiting the Show, but that is not sufficient excuse for the Government proposing a special adjournment when they have expressed a desire to hurry the business of Parliament by curtailing honorable member’s speeches. .
.- I do not oppose the motion, but I hope that those who are controlling the business will endeavour to so arrange it that honorable members who represent distant constituencies may be able to go to their homes occasionally.’ I protest against the present system of meeting on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays for week after week, and often doing very little business. Out of consideration for Queensland and “Western Australian members the Government might try to arrange that Parliament shall sit fairly continuously while there is work to be done, and then have a lengthy adjournment. We know that the Government intend to try, by curtailing speeches, to prevent any needless waste of time. On the other hand, I do think that an effort should be made to have more continuous sittings, so that we might have a better opportunity of discussing matters, and allow honorable members who represent constituencies far from Melbourne more opportunity of visiting their homes and electors than is possible under present conditions.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) will see in the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister that there is enough business to enable us to have a continuous session from now till Christmas.
– Before altering the Standing Orders in order to cut down the speeches of honorable members so ruthlessly, would it not be better to sit four days a week?
– There is no desire to cut down speeches ruthlessly, but there is a desire to make this Parliament an efficient instrument of the people. The Government are arranging the business with a view to assisting honorable members. I sympathize with those who represent far distant constituencies, but they must realize that, while the war continues, it is necessary to keep Parliament in session, so that it may be called together at any time. I agree that, as far as possible, there should be continuous sittings, so that business may be transacted, and honorable members who live in other States may have an opportunity to return to their homes. Those honorable members who live in Melbourne have an inestimable advantage over those from other States. The public do not understand thesacrifices made by members from distant States in attending to their duties in this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48. p.m.’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180625_reps_7_85/>.