7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Government of Queensland are shooting down citizens in the streets?
– Questions will not be answered until the no-confidence motion has been disposed of.
– I wish to ask the Acting
Prime Minister whether the Government intend to do anything to relieve the destitution in the capitals of the different States?
– The Acting Prime Minister has already intimated that it is not the intention of Ministers to answer questions until the no-confidence motion has been dealt with.
– That is a grand thing to tell starving women and children.
– It is a scandalous shame.
– Order ! When the Speaker is on his feet it is the duty of honorable members to remain silent.
– And some of these people are on their backs with hungry stomachs.
– I ask the honorable member to obey the ruling of the Chair.
Motion (by Mr.Higgs) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) on the ground of ill-health.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 10460), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Mr. Higgs had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ the Government docs not possess the confidence of this House.”
.- When the debate was adjourned last evening, I was pointing out that the Ministerial statement presented by the Acting Prime Minister did not contain even a hint that the Government proposed to take any steps to deal with the Trusts and Combines which are operating in the Commonwealth, and which were so roundly condemned last evening by several Ministerial supporters. There can be no doubt that Trusts and Combines have Australia in their grip. The Beef
Trust is operating strongly in the Commonwealth to-day. In a report presented by a Commission appointed by the United States Government to inquire into the Chicago Meat Trust and its ramifications, quotations from which appeared in the Barrier Daily Truth of 5th April last, there is given a list of the operations of the Beef Trust in various countries. According to the report of the Commission, Armour and Company, of the Meat Trust, are represented in Australia and New Zealand by Armour and Company, of Australasia, and Swift Company, also members of the Trust, are represented in Australia by the Australian Meat Export Company. The Commission reported that-
The Commission had to meet deliberate falsification of returns properly required under legal authority; we had to meet schools for witnesses, where employees were coached in anticipation of their being called to testify in an investigation ordered by you (President Wilson) and by the Congress of the United States; we had to meet a situation created by the destruction of letters and documents vital to this investigation; we had to meet a conspiracy in the preparation of answers to the lawful inquiries of the Commission. The public were told that no “ Trust “ existed, and that the “ Big Five “ were in most effective competition, but the report declares that “ these five corporations and their 500 odd subsidiary, controlled, and affiliated companies, are bound together by joint ownership, agreements, understandings, communities of interest, and family relationships.” In the three years 1915-1916-1917 four of the five big concerns made net profits amounting to £35,600,000, and it is stated that in 1917 their earnings were more than four times as much as in the year before the war.
The Commission went on to say -
It is our opinion that the failure of American meat production to keep pace with population is in large measure due to the conditions created and maintained in the markets by the Big Five.
This may well be the reason for the high cost of meat and other commodities in Australia.
It has been denied from time to time that the Meat Trust is’ operating in Australia. Here we have a Commission declaring, on unimpeachable testimony, that it is operating not only in America and other countries, but in Australia. Despite the fact that this evidence is in .the hands of the Government, that all this information is available to them, they show no disposition to take any action in regard to the Trust. At this critical period in our history, when we are facing a readjustment of industry and thousands of workless people do not know where they are to obtain the next meal, the Government are still unprepared to do anything. The Ministerial statement deals with a number of comparatively immaterial matters, but there is not even a hint in it that the Government intend to do anything to alleviate the necessities of the people or to deal with Trusts and Combines.
I do not wish to weary honorable mem- . bers by making long quotations, but I desire to place before them -an extract from an article entitled “ The Simple Annals of the Poor,” which appeared in the Age of 20th June last. This statement is made, not by a Bolshevik or a red-ragger, but by a newspaper in an article dealing with the work of the Ministering Children’s League. Referring to a meeting held by that League .in the Town Hall, the Age states that -
It was a pathetic picture of the lives of the little children of parents who were “ inefficient - not very .good at anything,” and whose helpless inefficiency was assumed to be largely due to stunted or ill-nurtured physiques. The fathers have very poor earning capacity, and they are the first to be dismissed when work slackens. . Therefore their little ones know too much about want. One child, just returned from the Cottage by the Sea at Queenscliff, met her mother with the cry, “ Mother, there was food left over after every meal ! “ As Sister Emilie, of the Central Methodist Mission, said, that one sentence revealed a terrible condition of affairs in that child’s home.
It is only too true that this state of affairs relates not to the home of one child only, but is characteristic of thousands of homes in Australia to-day.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said last evening that several hundred soldiers had been prevented from returning to their homes in Tasmania because of the action of Mr. Walsh, general secretary of the Seamen’s Union, in calling out the crew of the Wyandra. That statement illustrates tho colossal hyprocrisy of the Government, who are trying to persuade the people that the seamen are the cause of the present trouble. As a matter of fact, the Government are deliberately holding up the coal supply and trying to utilize the Seamen’s Union, just as they availed themselves of the Eveleigh Workshops dispute in 1917, to starve the women and children of this country, and to blame the workers for the trouble, in order to break down our industrial organization. They wish to remove the political representatives of the working classes here. The country is being run at the present time by a gang of murdering thieves. It is a conspiracy-
– I ask the honorable member to moderate his language.
– The languageis not strong enough.
– I would point out to the honorable member that language can be forcible without being extravagant and grossly offensive.
– But women and children are starving !
-I ask the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) not to interject while the Speaker is on his feet.
– Why do not the Government do something?
– The honorable member immediately repeats his breach of the Standing Orders. I name the honorable member for Dalley for his persistency in defying the Chair.
– I do not care.. Women and children are starving.
– The Government are a set of canting humbugs and hypocrites.
– I ask the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to cease his interjections. The honorable member for Dalley has had a few moments to reflect, and I wish to give him an opportunity to apologize to the House.
– With your concurrence, Mr. Speaker, may I interpose. I regret that I was absent when the incident to which my attention has been directed took place. I am entirely ignorant of its nature except that I am given to understand by my honorable colleague (Mr. Groom) that interjections have been made in defiance of the order of the Chair. That is not uncommon when feeling runs high. But it is also a very common incident thai: when honorable members have had time to reflect, they see the wisdom of obeying the Chair, no matter on what side of the House they sit. I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to supplement your appeal to the honorable member that he will obey the ruling of the Chair, as all honorable members from the Leader of the House downwards have to do.
– I feel that I cannot withdraw from the attitude that I have taken up. There are thousands of women and children starving in this country and the Government are doing nothing. I’ absolutely refuse to withdraw from the position taken up by me.
– I would remind the honorable member and the House generally that, whatever the reason may be for the action taken by him, it is entirely apart from the question to be determined. The rules of the House are being flagrantly ignored and disregarded, and I must look to the support of honorable members in demanding their due observance. I hope that the honorable member will recognise that it is his duty to withdraw from the attitude he has adopted. .
– No, I am not going to withdraw. The welfare of the women and children is more to me.
– May I offer a few additional words.I am not permitted, nor is any honorable member, to discuss the merits of the views of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) as expressed in ‘his interjection. If I were I would tell ‘him that the Government has done and is prepared to do a great deal, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) himself knows. That, however, is not the question before the House.
– The trouble is that you have done nothing.
– It would be very much better if the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) would allow this matter to be settled as beween the Chair and the honorable member concerned. It is only a question now of obedience to the invariable traditions of the Chair and of orderly conduct. If the honorable member were the occupant of the Chair, he would have to enforce the rules of debate even against members of his own political views.
– If you tell me that you are going to do something to relieve the distress, I will withdraw.
– I cannot obtrude the merits of the question at this stage.
– Then I shall not withdraw.
– But the Leader of the Opposition knows that the door is open to him, and all those associated with him, to put views of that kind in a proper way to the Government. If they are so put, they will be duly considered, and promptly attended to. I appeal to the better judgment of the honorable member for Dalley to respond to the direction of the Chair.
– I shall not withdraw.
– Then I have no alternative but to call upon the Leader of the House to take the necessary action to enforce observance of the Standing Orders of the House.
– The very unpleasant duty is cast upon the acting head of the Government of moving -
That the honorable member for Dalley(Mr. Mahony) be suspended from the service of the House.
I take this action very reluctantly, because I am sure the honorable member and his colleagues feel that this incident is unfortunate, and should not be pursued. However, no alternative is left to me, and I move accordingly.
– The condition of these women and children is more unfortunate.
– Before putting the question, I should like to give the honorable member for Dalley another opportunity to consider his position.
– No, I will not.
– Then I have no option but to put the question.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was therefore, under standing order 59, suspended for the remainder of the sitting, and withdrew from the chamber.
Several honorable members interjecting,
That the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) be suspended from the service of the House.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) was therefore, under standing order 59; suspended for one week, this being the second occasion of suspension during the same session; and withdrew from the Chamber.
– I very much regret-
– Brother Burchell will now give his testimony.
– I am quite prepared to do so. As testimony in my mind must be the truth, I hope the honorable member will take my testimony in that way.
– The honorable member is behind the gang of profiteers.
– I am quite prepared to answer for my actions to the people who control my attendance in this Parliament. It is not for the honorable member to control me. I should like to say to the honorable member that I have never once in this session interjected while another honorable member has been speaking. I ask honorable members opposite to give me the same consideration as I give them, and no more. We know that it is the duty of an Opposition to criticise the Government. At different times, during their political career, honorable members opposite have availed themselves of opportunities to criticise the actions of the Government. While I agree that that is quite in accordance with parliamentary procedure, I do not think that the criticismof the Government should be merely destructive criticism. Whilst an Opposition will naturally direct attention to the faults which every Government is from time to time guilty of, whether it be a Government of the Official Labour party or of the party now in power, we have a right to expect from them something of a constructive character. I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs), when he moved the motion of want of confidence, did not offer any constructive criticism of the Government. I listened to the honorable gentleman very closely, but he did not suggest any way in which the government of the country might be carried on to give effect to the object we all have in view, the good of the general community. I was surprised that he did not refer to the financial proposals of the Government. It is true that he asked a question, without notice, to discover whether the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) intended to visit England in connexion with the pooling of the war debts of the Allies, but he did not, in his speech on this motion, offer any criticism of the financial proposals of the Government, or in connexion with the proposed amendment of the Tariff. There are many things in the Ministerial statement.
– But nothing with regard to profiteering, and the honorable member stands by that.
– Perhaps the honorable member will permit me to make my own speech.
– The honorable member is as hypocritical as is the Government he stands behind.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that he was allowed to make his speech without interruption, and he should permit the honorable member for Fremantle to do the same.
– I am entitled to, state my views in my own way.
– You are as hypocritical as the Government you are supporting.
– Order ! I must insist on the honorable member for Darling ceasing his interjections and obeying the ruling of the Chair.
– I was proceeding to say that, in the printed document setting out the Government’s proposals, there are many matters which should claim the commendation of honorable members opposite. There is, for instance, the question ofshipbuilding, and the fact that at least one of the planks of the Labour platform, a Commonwealth owned line of steamers, has been put into operation. But we did not have one word of commendation on this matter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs). Reference is made also to the Navigation Act passed by the Labour party in 1910-13. Concerning this we have simply had the criticism that it has not been proclaimed up to date; but we have been told quite distinctly by the Government that it is their intention to amend the Act in a way which experience has shown to be necessary, and that subsequent to these amendments being passed by Parliament, the Government intend to proclaim the Act. Honorable members know very well that the Act has not been proclaimed because of a request made by the Imperial Government, at about the time when the war broke out, that this actionshould not be taken. The first intimation made by the Government after the signing of peace is that it is their intention to take certain steps to amend the measure and then have it proclaimed. But that does not satisfy honorable members opposite. I do not desire to refer to anything which the hon orable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has said, except his statement that the Acting Prime Minister may now be regarded as the leader of the Salvation Army.
– Yes, and brother Burchell is now giving his testimony.
– I am glad to be associated with the Acting Prime Minister in all that he is doing, and I remind honorable membersopposite, that in the social sphere the Salvation Army has done loyal and good service to this country. It is good to be the leader of an army for the salvation of Australia, and I am very glad indeed to know that I am associated with the Acting Prime Minister in his task as the leader of this, army.
– An army of profiteers.
– Order ! I must insist upon the honorable member for Darling ceasing his continuous interjections.
– I believe the party to which I have the honour to belong will at the next elections, be returned with a renewal of confidence on the part of the people of Australia. Honorable members opposite may smile, but they must acknowledge that excellent work has been done by the Government during the period of stress and strain when the war was in progress.
– The National Government! They allowed the people to be robbed .
– They carried out their duty faithfully, and they deserve well of the community.
– What hypocrisy ! The honorable member is as hypocritical as the Government behind which he is standing.
– The honorable member knows that the Government have faithfully and loyally served the community during the war period.
– They allowed the people to be robbed.
– It is true that we have heard a good deal about profiteering and the high cost of living.
– Do you doubt it?
– Honorable members who knowme better than the honorable member for Darling-
– I know at all events that you” ratted” from the Labour party.
– Order ! I have several times called for order, particularly from certain honorable members who have been persistent in their interjections. Perhaps they are not acquainted with the Standing Orders, and I may be permitted to direct their attention to standing order 58, which reads -
No member shall converse aloud, or make any noise or disturbance whilst any member is speaking, or whilst any Bill, Order, or other matter is being read or opened; and in case of such noise and disturbance being persisted in after the Speaker has called to order, the Speaker shall call upon the member making such disturbance by name, and such member will incur the displeasure and censure of the House.
I remind honorable members that these are not the Speaker’s Standing Orders. They are the Standing Orders of the House, and members should maintain the reputation and honour of their own institution by observing their own Standing Orders. I hope this will be done.
– I have, amongst my notes, references to the cost of living and industrial unrest, and I intend to use them in their proper order. I am sorry if anything I have said has given honorable members cause to interrupt, but I hope now to be allowed to resume my remarks.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the course of his speech told Us that the demobilization of Australian soldiers was expedited because the men had revolted. He did not say when or where Australian soldiers had revolted against the delay.
– But I can. The13th Field Artillery Brigadein Franceprotested against being sent to Belgium. General Brown was brought there, and it took him all his time to keep things straight. As a result, they were not sent to the place they expected tobe sent to.
– Did that expedite their return to Australia?
– I cannot say that. You can ask Bessell-Browne whether what I have said is a fact or not?
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection, and the information given. I am well aware of the fact that British troops revolted against an order for their return to France after the armistice was signed. I know also that Canadian troops revolted, and broke up camp in Wales, because they were not beingsent home ; but never once did I hear of Australian troops getting out of hand owing to delays in demobilization, and that was the main theme in the statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He said that, because of a revolt on the part of certain troops, the Government took action to speed up the machinery for demobilization. I say that it was not so.
– Do you say that, the soldiers were satisfied with being kept in the Old Country?
– That is not the question; and that is not what the honorable member said.I am dealing with his statement concerning the demobilization arrangements.
– Did they not cause trouble because they were being sent away without their leave?
– I am notaware that any were sent away withoutleave.
– I was.
– Did not the honorable member get leave?
– No,and many other men entitled to leave did not get it. When General Monash was brought down to Devonport, he approved of leaveand it wasgiven.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred also to Mr. Keith Murdoch and the Sun newspaper. Ihad the privilege of meeting Mr. Murdoch on several occasions, and I can speak of him as an excellenttype of Australian, holding Australia’s end up very creditably inLondon. But havingsaid that, I want now to say that good as were Mr. Murdoch’s opportunities for obtaining information, it was not always possible for him to go to the best source, and that, after all, his periodical letters to certain newspapers in this country were but the expressions of opinion of Mr. Murdoch, and of nobody else. We all know that in Australia we have different view-points on matters of immediate importance, and in just the same way it may be assumed that Mr. Keith Murdoch’s view-points differ from those of other well informed people in the Old Country. It is rather unfortunate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred tothe Sun, because I find the following from Mr. Murdoch in that journal on 25th February, 1919 : -
The shipyard strikes are delaying6,000 Australians in England, and causing keen disappointment amongst the troops. General Monash has ascertained the views of the men awaiting passages, whoinclude a large proportion of unionists, with the result that artisans have freely volunteered to fit the ships. These men were immediately engaged on two vessels, sent tothe southern ports from London. They receive union wages, besides their military allowance, and are working vigorously.
I quote that to show that Mr. Murdoch, inhis capacity as a pressman, is also prepared to see the other side of an argument, and that while he wrote in December of certain things that were not being done as expeditiously as might be desired - after all, but an expression of opinion on his part - when it came to a question of fitting up ships he was prepared to, faithfully, advise the people of Australia what was being done.
We had a further statement from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that instructions had been issued by the Government to send our soldiers back to this country at the rate of 15,000 per month for a certain period, and that for the balance of the time only 10,000 a month were to be sent. I have it from the Director-General of Demobilization personally, and quite straight, that the proposals of the Government were for 12,000 to be sent in December, 14,000 in January, 16,000 in February, and so on, increasing by 2,000 per month until the whole of the men were returned. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that the Government deliberately prevented men from returning to their homes.
– How does the honorable member ‘know what was proposed? Had he access to official documents?
– I know, because I was working there. It was part of the ordinary routine of my business, as a military officer, and connected with military demobilization work, to know this.
– But Keith Murdoch’s information must have been obtained from a good source, because all his reports were most reliable.
– I have not attempted to disparage Mr. Keith Murdoch. I have said that he is an excellent type of Australian, and I give him all credit for what hehas done. Knowing him personally, I would be lacking in my sense of honour if I did not pay him this compliment; but I also say that, after all, Mr. Keith Murdoch’s views are but an expression of opinion from one man. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs) sees things from one point of view, while I, perhaps, view them from another angle. It is no reflection upon the honorable member, then, when I say that my views and opinions do not tally with his.
– Mr. Keith Murdoch refers to official documents.
-And, in the light of subsequent events, his information must have been from official documents, because it was true.
– I have quoted what were the instructions given, and arrangements attempted to be carried out by the Demobilization Department.
– Murdoch is the best pal the soldiers ever had. He told the truth, anyway.
– I am not prepared to admit that he is the best friend of the soldiers, but he is a very good one. I do not, however, want to discuss Mr. Keith Murdoch. The point is that the arrangements made were that, during December, 14,000 men should he sent away. In mistake, I gave the figure just now as 12,000 men. There were to be 16,000 sent in January ; 18,000 in February ; and so on, increasing by 2,000 each month. Those arrangements were made in December. Mr. Keith Murdoch wrote his letter on 8th December; but the arrangements of the Demobilization Department with the Shipping Comptroller were upon the basis I have quoted. The Government have been charged that they deliberately blocked men from coming home. They did nothing of the sort.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted certain figures regarding the number of men despatched during December, January, and February. Those figures, I believe, are correct. They are certainly not up to the totals which I have just quoted, the reason being that the Imperial Government could not provide the ships. The Shipping Comptroller could not keep anywhere near to his original agreement with the Australian Military authorities. In regard to the figures which Mr. Higgs quoted, it must be kept in mind that in February there was a tremendous slump. The total went down to about 4,000 or 5,000 men. That was directly due to the great strike throughout the United Kingdom among the men responsible for refitting and finishing the fittings on troopships. It was not a question of a strike among waterside workers, as we know that body in Australia, or of a strike of seamen ; it affected carpenters and artisans. The trouble was not settled in London and Southampton until some considerable time after matters had become normal in other ports. We felt the effect of the strike in February, mainly because the ships which had been allotted to the Australian troops by the Shipping Comptroller were in the Thames and at Southampton Docks. That fact explains the fall in the February returns. General Monash - as Mr. Murdoch cabled in the extract which I have just quoted - knowing that the Australians would include a very large number of unionists, and that they would not desire, unless circumstances were very grave, to attempt to take the places of the men on strike, simply put the whole case before the men themselves. I know, from personal contact with the situation, that he stated the position to the men who were to come home on one ship in particular, and that was the Euripides. He said, in effect, “ There is the ship at Tilbury Docks at the present moment. I cannot control the strike. I am .not in any sense responsible for it. On the other hand, I cannot secure a vessel from the Shipping Comptroller to replace that ship. It is for you men now to say whether you will take the place of these who are not at work, and prepare the ship to be sent home with yourselves on board.” Thereupon a number of the Australian troops concerned undertook to fit that ship as well as others; and that is how the difficulty was overcome. Moreover, . Mr. Keith Murdoch told the Australian people on the 28th February that that was so; and I can support what he wrote, because it was an absolute fact.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made another statement to the effect that strong pressure would secure ships.
– That is what Mr. Murdoch said. It is a quotation from one of his articles.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I was under the impression that he had made it as his own statement. I only know this, that General Monash and his staff, and Mr. Hughes on every conceivable occasion, and Sir Joseph Cook at every opportunity, did their utmost to get shipping from the Comptroller. Honorable’ members opposite, however, should place themselves in the shoes of the Comptroller. That official had not only the Australians to consider - he had to provide for the transport of food supplies to ‘England. He knew that there was food to be got from the United States and Canada. He was compelled to bring the foodstuffs from the nearest points first, in, order to relieve the tension. British public opinion would never have stood for an official who would say, “ Let us put all the ships on the Australian run. Let us send all the Australian troops home in them. There is food to be got from Australia; but I will admit , that the ships will be away for six months, while, if I were to send vessels to Canada they would be there and back with foodstuffs within a month.” We should endeavour to realize, also, some of the difficulties which our representatives in the Old Country have been, and are, up against. It is not simply a case of putting up their hands and saying, “ We demand the ships.” Mr. Keith Murdoch knew that as well as I did. General Wisdom was appointed to take charge of transportation organization. I met him a few days before I left London, and I shall mention what was said at that meeting merely to indicate the attitude of responsible officials concerning demobilization.. General Wisdom was in high glee. He said, “ I have just secured another 3hip which the Canadians had had on offer, b,ut which they have not been able to use. I have persuaded the Shipping Comptroller to turn it over to the use of the Australians; and, although it means that we must prepare our draft and make ready all the necessary information after the men have been selected, and that we shall have only five days in which to do it, I have nevertheless agreed that we shall fill the ship and send her out.” That officer has been right through the mill, starting as a major and finishing as a brigadier. He knows the game. He knew what the Australian soldiers wanted. He was so keen over getting that extra ship that he showed his gratification in unmistakable manner. While honorable members in this House criticise the Government and hold them responsible, they must remember that the individual administrative duties in London are being performed by men who are as keen to get the’ Australian soldier back home’ as anybody out here in Australia.
– Why was it that the speeding up of our soldiers happened only after Mr. Keith Murdoch’s ex-pose?
– I do not agree that tHat was the case. Let us examine the various dates. On 8th December Mr. Murdoch wrote from the Old Country, and ‘ January’s figures showed an increase over those of December.
– Of one or two thousands, perhaps.
– That is so; and then came the slump during February. After that, followed the increase in March and the subsequent continued increases ever since.
– The honorable member also explained that our men fitted the ships themselves; so that could not have been placed as an obstacle. According to the honorable member there was only one ship.
– I stated that I knew positively of the Euripides. That happened to be because I had been placed on the boat roll to sail on the vessel. I might add that i t was owing to influenza that I was unable to travel upon her.
– When you did come home, did you sleep in a hammock?
– I did not.
– Not likely! Officers’ cots!
– The honorable member need not worry about that. I invite him to consider the statement of General Monash, made on 26th November. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said Sir John Monash addressed senior officers of the corps on 26th November, after receiving instructions from the Government. He may be interested to know that General Monash and Mr. Hughes did not meet from the date of the signing of the Armistice until 1st December. The honorable gentleman said, further, that General Monash would never dare to deliver an address to his senior officers. That makes me smile. Sir John Monash is a wise man. He called his senior officers and others together and said, “ I have been asked by the Government to accept the responsibility of demobilizing the Australian troops.” Then he went into the whole thing with them. As I see it, they had a round-table discussion. The problems would range from “A” to “Z”; and General Monash placed those problems before his officers as he saw them - not as instructions from the Government, but as a Corps Commander. After hearing the views of’ his officers he, no doubt, went to London strengthened with a knowledge of what would be best from the point of view of France’s interests. Then he met the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and received his commission to get on with the task. It was then that he was told what the Government knew and desired. I left France on the 24th November, 1918, and was in London one week ahead of General Monash. I was intimately associated then with the demobilization work, and I knew the moves that were being made. After hearing that statement the honorable member will know that I have sought to give him information and prevent any misunderstanding regarding the officer who is responsible for the demobilization of the Australian troops.
– Would you mind saying whether, in your opinion, General Monash is competent to carry out the demobilization ?
– Absolutely. Anybody who knows that gentleman will agree that Australia could not have had a better organizer or a more competent man, from both a military and a civil point of view - a man with broader knowledge of what the Australians require, or better equipped with the driving force necessary to carry on his organization well and promptly.
– Are you not exaggerating now ?
– Not one bit. I saw General Monash arrive in London on the 1st of December with a few senior officers in order to create and conduct the demobilization scheme, and I have seen his Department grow, and the work done, at close hand. I say absolutely that Australia could not have had a better man than General Monash for the job.
– It isnot too big for him?
– Certainly not.
– Then why is Senator Pearce required . there ?
– Honorable members may smile, but the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who is an ex-Minister, is aware of the fact that Ministers have a different standing and status altogether from a public servant or a general of the Army. Both the. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) were in London; but could both or either be expected to be in two places at once ? How could the Prime Minister be in Paris and Loudon at the same time? I can only tell the honorable member for Capricornia that my statement is quite correct, as to General Monash being able to carry out the work.
– Do you not think that the credit belongs to. him for the demobilization of the troops ?
– Not the whole of the credit
– How much of it belongs to Senator Pearce?
– Order! There have been numerous interjections within a few minutes.
– And this is my only one in the last half-a-dozen.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– The honorable member for Capricornia knows that there are many instances in which it is necessary to go a step higher and get to a responsible Minister of the Crown over the head of a chief of a Department. General Monash hadnot that advantage, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for the Navy were or could be always available in London. When I left England on the 17th of March, it was expected by the Department that the whole of the Australian troops would be out of England by the end of September. Senator Pearce arrived in London two days after I left, so that I did not see him. I arrived in Australia six weeks later, and I am informed through the cables that the whole of the Australian troops are expected to be out of the Old Country by the end of July, showing a clear saving of two months. I do not know anything more than do other honorable members, because, when I left the Department, I, of course, handed the whole of the business over. However, if we can infer anything from the facts at all, with the knowledge I have of times when even General Monash needed the extra bit of push I have indicated, I believe that Senator Pearce has been responsible in a very large degree for the speeding up. That is my firm conviction after hearing all the arguments and discussions, and having read the information afforded by the press.
– Is that admission not rather disrespectful towards the British Government ?
– I did not see anything in it disrespectful to the British Government. The honorable member knows as well as I do that the gentlemen who compose the British Government are human just as he and I, and are liable to make the same sort of mistakes. After all, it is time after time necessary to get to the right man in order to “make good.”
The honorable member for Capricornia referred to a speech made by Major Henley, who is member for Burwood in the New South Wales Parliament. No date was quoted as to when the ships in question were offered and refused, and I remind the honorable member that to offer a ship to the Australian authorities to-day, and say that it must be loaded on Sunday is not practicable. On this side of the world we desire every man to return with a full statement of his affairs as they have developed oversea. In giving this information, I am not using technical terms, but stating the facts as briefly as possible in a fashion that honorable members can accept and appreciate. We desire to have with each man a photograph of his pay ledger card in order that when he arrives here it may not be, as it was originally, a matter of weeks and months before he can be finalized. Profiting from mistakes in the past, the Department on the other side decided that after selecting a man for a quota or draft, they would get all the particulars and papers necessary, and send them on the ship on which the man travelled, so that he and they might arrive simultaneously. In about 1 per cent. of the cases the plan fails even to-day, as the most carefully arranged mechanism and administration must fail. When this honorable member of the State Parliament of New South Wales makes the assertion he does, it would be as well to find out the date on which the ships were offered and rejected, and the period that was allowed in which they were to be filled with men. I do not know the circumstances at all, but-
– The whole thing has since been denied in London.
– I am merely suggesting that there may have been a reason why the offer was rejected, if it was rejected at all. Now I am advised there has been an official denial. Honorable members may not be aware that originally it was proposed by the Imperial Government that all oversea troops should be returned to their home countries direct from France, and, acting on that assumption, the Canadian, the South African, the New Zealand, and the United States Governments got to work and made their plans for demobilization. However, there was a change in the programme, and the change was notified only after the armistice had been signed.I ask honorable members generally to bear in mind what this one change alone would mean in the way of organization. Large bodies of men cannot be moved unless careful arrangements are made for the movement, and for proper feeding, housing, and so forth. By way of illustration, I may say that in the Old Country it was not possible to get the necessary camp accommodation for our Australian soldiers without much delay and much cross-firing between the Home authorities and the representatives of Australia. Ultimately, the difficulties were overcome, and we were able to get additional camps. I do not think that honorable members opposite would desire Australian soldiers to be quartered in tents on Salisbury Plain in winter time.
– Not if honorable members had been there themselves !
– I agree with the honorable member, and on this question the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and myself will be in accord.
– Not when there are sixteen in a tent, though the honorable member has not had that experience.
– Have I not?
– I am only judging from what I saw of officers generally.
– The honorable member has no right to judge unless he knows.
He asked me a little while ago to prove something, and I’ do not wish to retaliate by asking him to prove his statement, because he does not know the facts.
– I say I do not think you have had to occupy such a tent.
– No body of men in the position of General Monash and his senior officers would dream of bringing our soldiers over from France until they had made complete arrangements for their housing, feeding, and general welfare. This was one of the tasks which immediately confronted the demobilization staff in London and I may say that that phase of the work did not affect me, so that honorable members need not think I am sounding any praise of myself. I know, however, that there was that real difficulty, and it was only after satisfactory arrangements had been made that the flow of men from France to England, and from England to the ships, was provided for.
The honorable member for Adelaide, in an interjection, said that he did not get that leave which was enjoyed by his comrades, and I can quite believe that he very naturally felt aggrieved, no doubt thinking that, having been brought from France, it was intended to rush him straight to the steamer.
– My case was not the worst; men who had been twelve months in the field were deprived of their leave.
– I cannot understand how that came about.
– The Prime Minister ought to know,
– Why should the Prime Minister know?
– Because I wired to him, and paid for a reply.
– Do you know where the Prime Minister was at the time?
– I do not ; buta reply was paid for.
– I have here, if honorable members care to look at them privately, the instructions issued to all concerned in the demobilization and repatriation of the Australian soldiers. These instructions were issued in order that every section of the Australian
Imperial Force, whether in France, on Salisbury Plain, or in London, should know how, where, and why certain things were to happen. It is laid down clearly and definitely that soldiers are to be allowed their furlough.
– Was not that after the troops had refused to go on board a vessel at Devonport, and General Monash, who was called down there, had approved of their request? The men had leave afterwards.
– What was the date of that?
– I do not know, but I read about it in an Adelaide paper on my arrival at Fremamtle.
– I do not say that the honorable member’s statement is incorrect, but I would like to know the date in order that we might clear up any misunderstanding. The Director-General of Demobilization, with whom I was associated for nearly four months, is as sympathetic towards the “ digger “ as is any honorable member opposite.
– I believe it.
– In the general demobilization instructions provision was made for every officer or man to have fourteen days’ leave in Great Britain before embarking for Australia. If there was any case in which that leave was not granted, it was not done at the instigation, or with the knowledge, of the administration in London.
– I paraded before my colonel, and urged public business in my capacity as member of Parliament, but I was not granted leave.
– I am pleased that politicians did not get a pull over there.
– In the Australian Imperial Force, it was very often a distinct disadvantage to be a. member of Parliament.
– It was decidedly.I had proof of it on many an occasion.
– The honorable member for Adelaide is not alone. I think he will find that all the members of Parliament who were in the Australian Imperial Force suffered from the same disadvantage.
– I got as little out of the fact that I was a member of Parliament as any man got.
– I also had no leave before embarking from the Old Country.
– Order! Honorable members must cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) by interjection asked when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) would reply, and the Acting Prime Minister was good enough to refer to myself in connexion wth demobilizaton matters.
– He called upon you ta give your testimony.
– It is more tha.n testimony ; it is proof. The honorable member for Kennedy asked in a rather sneering way if I knew anything about the French end of demobilization ? The Imperial Head-quarters, which controlled the Australian Imperial Force, were in London, and an organization which is controlled by another must of necessity have its central administration at the point where the other is operating. That was the reason for the establishment of our central administration for demobilization in London. Any person who was aware of the great trouble occasioned by the delays to mails, and the unsatisfactory method of making use of telegrams between France and England, can realize how difficult it was to carry on dealings between the two places, and how necessary it was to have the demobilization head-quarters in London.
– The honorable member will admit that Horseferry-road was a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– What part of it?
– Every part of it.
– I cannot admit that. The administration at Horseferryroad was as good as could bc found anywhere.
– I shall give an illustration of it when I speak.
– Then I am sorry the honorable member did not precede me. I agree with him if he is referring to the approach to Horseferry-road.
– Hear, heart
– The environment of Horseferry-road is very bad, but it must be remembered that at the time the building was taken over by the administration of the Australian Imperial Force it was practically impossible to get other premises of a suitable size in which to house a large staff.
– There should have been a Commonwealth Minister in London all the time.
– When this site was selected, the High Commissioner’s office was in Victoria-street, Westminster, and the premises chosen in Horseferry-road were considered to be sufficient to house the comparatively small staff attached to the . Australian Imperial ‘Force administration at that time. However, the necessity for larger premises grew very rapidly. The whole of the records of a constantly growing establishment of men and officers had to be kept there; the war relics were stored there, and all the activities branching out from the Australian Imperial Force administration had to be accommodated. But, notwithstanding all these difficulties, the administrative staff was as efficient a body as could be obtained. Of course, individual cases may be quoted which would appear to disprove my argument, but, I am speaking on broad lines. I, myself, have had a personal experience which might go to disprove my statement. It was not so much per- sonal experience as inter-departmental experience of the Horseferry-road administration.
– Horseferry-road was known as the “ flappers’ rest,” was it not ?
– It may have been, but I have never heard that title used in connexion with it. The individuals who were responsible for the work at Horseferryroad were, on the whole, hardworking, conscientious men who used every endeavour to hold the scales of justice evenly in accordance with the instructions they received from time to time. But the work at Horseferry-road could have been speeded up. I was asked to take up a certain branch of demobilization, and entered on the duties attaching to it on , the 9th December last. I was given an office, a table, and a telephone; writing material eventually came along; and I was bold, “The Australian Imperial Force is there ; select the staff you need to carry on this work, and go ahead.” Not knowing the Australian Imperial Force very intimately, I sought the advice of officers who did, and secured the names of a number of men who were considered suitable for the class of work I had on hand. Then I applied through the departmental channel of Horseferry-road to have these men sent across from France to London for the purpose of an interview; because the work I was doing was performed wholly by men who volunteered to remain in Great Britain and see it through. I emphasize my use of the word “ volunteered;” it has a bearing on something which I wish to say later on. It took me exactly six weeks to get one senior officer from France to London through the Horseferry-road administration. It took me ten days to get another officer through the Demobilization Administration. It was not excessive for an officer to spend ten days in reaching London owing to the transportation delays that ensued upon the signing of the armistice, but a delay of six weeks was outrageous. That is my experience from an interdepartmental point of view.
Now, in reference to the voluntary work of members of the Australian Imperial Force in London, Senator Pearce has been accused of having taken twentyseven pay clerks from Australia to the Old Country. It was in January last that Senator Pearce left for London with these officers, but at that time one had the greatest difficulty in the world to get members of the Australian Imperial Force to volunteer their services for any work in London. When news came to Australia from Great Britain that clerks were scarce and worth their weight in gold, and that the necessary work had to be done by employing English people in the Australian offices, the Defence Department decided to send these twentyseven pay clerks from Australia to London, where they were required. There was no desire on the part of the Administration to force a member of the Australian Imperial Force to leave France against his will and go to London, and thus be blocked from returning to Australia.
– Those clerks were only despatched after the chance of doing the work had been offered to practically every man serving over, there.
– It was promulgated time after time, through General Orders, that this work was available. I have seen official letters from the Acting Corps Commander, General Hobbs, and from other senior officers in France, showing that they did their utmost to meet the request of the Director-General of Demobilization that he should be supplied with the necessary clerical assistance.
– The complaint here waa that returned soldiers did not have the opportunity of getting those positions, and that men who had not seen a day’s active service were chosen in preference to them.
– It is evidently a double-barrelled complaint, but I believe I am right in saying that quite a number of the. men who went away from here - in fact, about half of them - have seen overseas service.
Sitting suspended from 1 till 2.15 p.m.
– While I commend the promptitude with which the Government dealt with the. work of demobilization in London after the armistice had been signed, I do not think that the complexities of the undertaking were realized by Ministers here, nor did the Government in Australia, in my judgment, make the preparatory arrangements which ought to have been made before the armistice. The matter was brought under the notice of the Government in July and August of last year, but while the demobilization schemes of other countries, including some of the Dominions of the Empire, had been outlined and agreed upon by their respective Administrations, we in Australia were undecided. Various propositions were put to the Government, but were neither rejected nor accepted. Some little time might have been saved in organizing the Demobilization Department in London had proper attention been given to the original suggestion put forward from the Imperial end.
I am glad that the Leader of the Government requested me to deal with the demobilization proposition. Before I left the Old Country, General Monash also asked me, not only to advise members of the Cabinet here as to what was taking place, but also to make it as widely known as possible, since he recognised that the work he was undertaking, which was not perfect in his eyes, needed some explanation, in order that the people, and particularly the members of this Parliament, might appreciate some of the difficulties associated with it.
Turning to the repatriation proposals in the Ministerial statement, I say quite frankly that my brief experience in my constituency taught me that the work of repatriation bristled with difficulties. The Department entered upon it without any precedents for its guidance. Precedents had to be created from day to day and week to week, and at the outset the machinery governing . the repatriation effort was necessarily imperfect. There have been individual cases where the regulations framed under the Act have pressed harshly, and, in the view of some honorable members, rather unjustly, but my experience of the Department is that it is not only sympathetic in its treatment of the returned soldier, but does its utmost to meet the varying and conflicting requests that are put forward. We all know that what suits one individual may not suit another, and that a regulation framed to-day to meet, perhaps, quite a number of cases of a particular kind may be apt to press heavily on other individual cases. Taking the work of the Department all through, however, when we find that, after allowing for the men who have returned to their former avocations without assistance, only 4 per cent. of those who have been dealt with by the Department have not ‘been satisfactorily placed, we must agree that its performance is most creditable.
I was surprised that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) should have attempted to throw on the
Government the whole responsibility for the industrial unrest prevalent throughout Australia to-day, on the ground that they had not made it easier for various unions to approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Every honorable member of this House is familiar with the constitutional andother difficulties that have been in the way, sothat the honorable member, in seeking to lay the whole of the blame at the door of the Government, was most unjust. He knew perfectly well that his statement was incorrect. The effect of the return to civil employment of the men who have been fighting is not being felt in Australia only. The matter is one that affects the whole world, and industrial unrest to-day is world-wide. In to-day’s newspapers there appears a cablegram reporting a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in which he clearly indicates that industrial unrest in the Old Country is a very pressing question, and reminds both Capital and Labour that in order to satisfactorily settle it, the greatest care must be exercised in the reabsorption of our tens of thousands of soldiers into civil employment. I believe that in this process a good deal of friction is inevitable, since it means the displacing of a great number of women workers and of others who necessarily filled the gap during the absence of our men at the front. That friction, however, is not going to be removed by the making of inflammatory speeches. Every honorable member should realize the responsibilities resting upon him, and if we are to assist in bringing about a better understanding between employer and employee, we should get to grips with the problem before the nation.
– Will the honorable member be surprised to learn that 323 out of the 400 men on the Repatriation Department unemployed list for South Australia are labourers?
– I should be surprised. In the State of which I am a representative a number of those appearing on the Repatriation Department’s unemployed list are artisans. Others are clerks, but the percentage of general labour is very small. In order to deal most effectively with the prevailing industrial unrest we must endeavour to get nearer bedrock. There are strikes in various parts of the Commonwealth to-day, while others are threatening. Honorable members opposite are now pledging themselves to favour arbitration as against direct action. Many of them throughout their political career have been in favour of arbitration, and whether it be by a reference to the Court or by round table conferences, we must have some form of arbitration if we are to bring about a clearer and better understanding between employer and employed. What I desire above everything else - and I say this to employers as well as employees - is that there should be a more humane feeling displayed between the two parties.
– Would it not be right to say that there should be more equitable results ?
– If the honorable member will permit me to elaborate my argument, he will learn exactly where I stand with regard to the industrial problem. Whilein the Old Country I had an opportunity to deal directly with the National Alliance of Employers and Employed. I was surprised to discover that in that organization there were many men so well known in the manufacturing world, as well as amongst the industrial classes, that the Federation of Trade Unions, with its general secretary, Mr. Appleton, representing some 2,000,000 workers, was directly affiliated with the Alliance. I found that on the executive of that body organized Labour had equal representationwith the employers, that they met on terms of absolute equality, that the principle of one man one vote was applied, and that in every way the object of the organization was to create a better understanding between employer and employed. I found, also, that the work of this organization was most effective. We are discussing in Australia to-day the report of the Whitley Commission. That Commission was the outcome of an organized effort on behalf of the National Alliance of Employers and Employed to secure the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons to deal with the subject. That Committee was converted into the Whitley Commission, whose report was influenced and swayed by the experience of its members of the working of this very organization. I invite honorable members to get together, and to have a heart-to-heart talk as to the best way of meeting the present situation. It is useless for one side to be abusing the other. There should be no tearing down. There should be no saying this, that, and the other , of the capitalists, and there should be no condemnation of the worker by the employing class.
– The honorable member will have to talk in that way to his abusive Prime Minister, and induce him to alter his tone.
– I know that the Prime Minister is intensely favorable to the objects of the organization to which I have just referred, and I commend that organization to my honorable friend.
– Do you think we could meet the Victorian Employers’ Federation, who employ a man to go about and say that marriage is a luxury for the workers ?
– I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that there are men actively associated with this particular organization in the Old Country who felt infinitely more bitter, if it were possible, than one would feel at a statement of that kind. One of the principal officers on the Labour side of this organization is a man named Harry Duberry, who, for several years, was the secretary of the Independent Labour party in the United Kingdom in pre-war days, and he is not a man who by any stretch of imagination could be charged with truckling to employers or to capital. Other men who have given the whole of their lives to the cause of organized labour in the Old Country - men like Ben Tillet, Appleton, and others who could be quoted - are members of this organization, and are meeting, for the sake of the workers whom they represent, the direct opponents of all the Conservative ideas of the Motherland. They are meeting those men fairly and squarely, face to face. They are putting the workers’ case, and the others are putting the employers’ case ; but eventually they will understand one another, and remove doubt and distrust on either side. That is the phase of this movement which I commend to honorable members opposite, and with equal earnestness to honorable members on this side.
– I went down to the Chamber of Manufactures, and pointed out how they made £6,000,000 more profit within the last four years than they had’ made previously, according to their own figures. They did not feel very much obliged to me for telling them that.
– I should be only too glad to have the assistance’ of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter, because I feel that it is one of the ways in which we can solve the problems that are confronting us. I say to him in all sincerity that if we can get organized labour on the one hand and capital on the other, to meet together for some common object, as they are meeting in the particular instance I have quoted, we shall remove quite a number of the existing difficulties and disadvantages.
The objects of the alliance, briefly stated, are as follow: -
This organization was only formed in 1916. It was bred out of war-time conditions, and with a knowledge of what the war might eventually mean. In the report for 1916-18, the following excerpt is quoted from one of the “Whitley reports -
The causes of industrial unrest are clearly associated not only with the industries and the technicalities relating thereto, but with the wider social, domestic, or national questions . affecting the homes and domestic concerns of the people.
I am sure honorable members opposite have all questions affecting the homes and domestic concerns of people at heart.
Those are among the things with which this organization deals -
We arc convinced that these causes are not local or peculiar to any particular industry, but are of a national character, and a remedial policy must be adopted by the Government quickly and vigorously, if the incipient and growing dangers now threatening the industries are to be averted.
What is wanted is a new spirit - a more humane spirit, one in which economic and business considerations will be influenced and corrected, and, it is hoped, will be eventually controlled, by human and ethical consideration. The main cause of unrest lies deeper than any mere material consideration. The problem , is fundamentally a human, and not an economic, problem. A new spirit of partnership is therefore essential.
The gentlemen responsible for the formation of this alliance thought so much of those remarks that they put them into their report. Amongst its membership and on its executive committee are representatives of what were at one time the most Conservative business men of the Old Land. To-day, realizing their responsibilities, they are helping in this work.
– To use a phrase which the honorable member will understand, they have “ got the wind up.” Is not that the reason ?
– I do not agree with that at all. It is not a question of “ getting the wind up “ in their case. I remind the honorable member that the Government of the United Kingdom offered a shipyard as a going concern to different federations of the steel and iron trade, with permission to step into it, and pay for it on the very lengthiest of terms, or to run it for a given number of years to see what sort of a fist they made of it. There is no question of the British Government “ having the wind up “ is there ? Unfortunately, the workers’ organizations, for some reason or other, turned the. proposition down, according to cabled reports. Again, in West Hartlepool, a private employer offered his employees in a shipbuilding concern equal representation on -the directorate, and, ‘after the payment of their own and other salaries and working costs, an equal share in” the profits. Sir’ Robert Hadfield in “the Birmingham district did exactly the -same thing. It is up to us on both sides of the House to do our part as responsible public men in introducing the idea of the alliance into our general commercial life, in order that, on the one hand, the man who does not believe that any good can come from labour may be converted, and, on the other, that the man who, as a representative of organized . labour, thinks no good can come from the employer may be converted also, and that we may have a better tone, a more humane understanding, and a new spirit in the community, to use the phrase which honorable members opposite cheered just now. Industrial unrest is not confined to Australia. It is not the sin of this Government, nor would it be the sin of the Opposition if they were in power. The simple fact is that the whole world is feeling the strain, and unrest is showing itself everywhere.
– It is the sin of this Government, so far as Australia is concerned, and would he the sin of any other Government that allowed the things to go on that have been going on.
– I do not agree with that. Causes other than administration are helping to create the feeling of unrest. I listened with a . good deal of pleasure yesterday when the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was dealing with trusts and combines from this side of the House. I have said outside, and repeat here, that I have no sympathy with the man who unjustly profiteers in this or any other community. I have never wavered in that regard, but the difficulty is to get down to bedrock, and find out who is doing it.
– If you have no sympathy with it, what is the strength of your condemnation ? Because it is here, it is tangible, it is a fact.
– I invite the honorable member to bring his cases along, when he speaks, as I am doing now. I am quite willing to learn. During the last six weeks I have had opportunities of seeing the balance-sheet of more than one concern which was openly accused in my own State of becoming rich and fat at the expense of the community. I am not a chartered accountant, but I hope I have enough brains and common sense to. understand a balance-sheet when it is put in front of me, and I say distinctly that, although those charges were levelled promiscuously against these firms, their balancesheets, which were shown to me in confidence, showed nothing in the way of. huge profits accounted for either by salaries, by provision for future expansion, by development, or in stock.
– Or in reserves?
– I went into the matter very closely, because I am sure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) will take my assurance that I would not deal with the thing in a halfhearted way. I wanted to know the facts. They were good enough to furnish me with their audited balance-sheets, and I say distinctly that you have to get something more than a surface view to find out where the difficulty is.I do not profess to know how we are going to get at it. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), for instance, had a good deal to do at, one stage with price fixing. Owing to his work at that time, I believe the honorable member is a wiser man now than he was before he started, and so are’ a good many more of us, who have found out that it is not so easy to fix prices as it looks. If the States will exercise their functions, and check anything which appears on the surface to be an absolute profiteering “ ramp,” that, I think, will be a sufficient check against that phase of it. But it does not go as deeply as I should like to see the inquiry go. I would like the Commonwealth, even with the crippled powers that it possesses, to make some effort to assist the States. In the district which I have the honour to represent we import a lot. of goods from the eastern part of Australia. A Price Fixing Board has no more chance of controlling the prices of those goods than I have of receiving £1,000,000 tomorrow.
– On two occasions we gave the people the opportunity to give us increased powers, and they turned our proposals down.
– We must press these questions again, because they are of urgent importance. Any’ honorable member who chooses to inquire into the matter will find that in regard to all importations into the Commonwealth we are controlled by the London Shipping Conference, which, in its turn, is controlled from the United Kingdom. The Empire, so far as I can, understand it, .is self-contained. At the present time we are a nation within a league of nations, and if we can arrange for the Imperial Government and the Dominions Governments to take united action to limit the percentage of profit that may be made by any individual, we shall have a reasonable chance of grappling with the everincreasing cost of living.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made one or two ‘ valuable contributions to this debate, and, from my stand-point, one of the most valuable was his admission that the demobilization of our troops on. the other side of the world had been in capable hands from its very inception. In saying that he proved that the presence of Senator Pearce in England was totally unnecessary.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member proved my statement right up to the hilt. We thus have it from one who has recently returned from the Old Country/ and who knows something about the demobilization of our troops there, that the Government and their supporters were guilty of nothing more nor less than a wilful waste of public money in sending Senator Pearce and his family overseas.
– The honorable member prided himself upon being the only member of this Chamber who does not interject, and I want him .to live up to that reputation. He waxed fairly eloquent in regard to the Whitley report. I invite honorable members to peruse the cables that have been published in our daily newspapers during the past few days, and to say what is going to be the fate of the Unionist party in the House of Commons? Why, 200 members have already waited upon Mr. Bonar Law, their leader, and have stated emphatically that, if the Government are going to indorse the Whitley report, there will be ructions in the political arena.
– The honorable member is mixing up two reports. The Whitley report is altogether different from the Sankey report.
– Not altogether different. At any rate, there is to be opposition. If labour is likely to get a bigger bite out of results in the United Kingdom, pronounced efforts will be made to prevent it. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) . is altogether too optimistic when he relies upon those reports to bring about the conditions which he described. I ask the -House to realize that Australia to-day is the one part of the world which can, if she chooses, be self-contained. Within our own bounds we can produce everything that is necessary to sustain human life. Consequently we have very little cause indeed to depend upon any assistance from the outside world. If we will only take the trouble to conserve, by means of storage, our surplus from the good years, we shall always have ample reserves to enable us to face seasons of drought with complacency.
– What would the honorable member store during years of plenty to enable us to meet the lean years?
– I would store wheat for one thing.
– Just look at the wheat we have stored here now. That ought to afford the honorable member an object lesson.
– It is a well-known fact that the method we have adopted for the storage of wheat in Australia is an antiquated one. Had the grain been put in silos of sufficient dimensions it could have been stored without injury. If we had had Labour Governments in power, both State and Federal, we should now have had silos all over the country.
– They have silos in New South Wales.
– The National Government of that State has built them.
– Why do not honorable members opposite stand up to make their speeches instead of making them sitting down ?
– They would be put out if they were over here.
– I must ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw thatstatement, which constitutes a reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw it. I have no intention of going out.
– I want to look at Australia as I find it to-day. Although its stores are packed with foodstuffs from floor to ceiling, there are empty stomachs in this glorious country of ours. Would the honorable member for Fremantle see his dependants starving whilst every shop in Perth and Melbourne is full of the very foodstuffs that are necessary for the maintenance of human life ? We, as legislators, if we are prepared torise to the occasion, ought not to wait for amendments to the Constitution or for action on the part of the State Governments. If we valued the lives of human beings we should have prepared for this time. But what have we been doing ? Resting on our oars. I do not blame this Government exclusively for that. I blame the Fisher Government, the succeeding Hughes Governments, and the present Government, for not so organizing our industries that we should be prepared for the demobilization of our troops.
– The honorable member for Fremantle supported them all.
– Yes; and he continues to do so. These are stern facts that we have to face. I would not shrink from adopting any means - even the smashing of the Mace, or the tipping of Mr. Speaker out of his chair - if that would bring food to the hungry. I would be prepared to take my share of the risk incurred in any such action. I am sure that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) well remembers the dire distress which followed the collapse of the land boom and the great industrial troubles that occurred in the early nineties. We all know the persecution and the starvation which ensued. We have the iron in our souls to this day, as the result of the treatment which was then meted out to innocent people. God forbid that there should be any repetition of those times in Australia. Yet for more than twelve months I have been urging that the same spirit that existed in. the early nineties exists to-day. There is’ a tendency on the part of employers, assisted by capitalistic Governments, to squelch trade unionism in this country. No effort is being made to bring about a better understanding between employers and employees. There is no endeavour made to rescue the people from the talons of the profiteer and to provide employment for the people. I feel almost the blush of shame rise to my cheeks when I read on the political programme of the National Federation the plank, “ Unemployment insurance.” What an awful indictment that is against an intelligent and up-to-date people. Ought there to be any unemployment in Australia? To that question every voice in this House will reply, “ No.” I am not surprised at the present industrial unrest in this country. Knowing, as I do, the spirit of the men and women of the working classes, the wonder to me is that there is not still greater unrest. We, here, talk about this thing and that thing. Yet we do nothing. Parliament has become merely a talking shop. When we stress the industrial unrest caused by the excessive cost of living, some honorable members whine, “ Why, we have tried to induce the people on two occasions to give this Parliament larger powers, but they have turned down our proposals.” But it has always been the policy of the Labour party to try and try again. When the people were first asked to give this Parliament greater powers under our Constitution, by an overwhelming majority they declined to do so. This may have been due to the fact that the questions submitted to them were of a somewhat intricate character. At the following elections the Labour party said, “ We are going to test the opinion of the people again in regard to these matters.” We were then assured by our political opponents, as the honorable member for Fremantle knows, that the Labour party was acting in an extremely foolish way by endeavouring to obtain at an election time an amendment of the Constitution. Nevertheless, the questions were submitted to the people, and some of those questions were within an ace of being carried. With that latest vote on record, why have we waited all these years without asking the electors once more to endow this National Parliament with the powers which we need ?
– The Bills providing for a referendum passed this House.
– Yes; and they ought to have been submitted to the people. But we all know that it was represented to the Prime Minister that if he would set aside those measures, the State Premiers would take certain action in the direction of voluntarily handing over to this Parliament more powers than it at present possesses. We were impressed by that offer, and we were urged at that particular time to drop the Bills in question. But it was never intended that they should be dropped indefinitely if the promise which was made by the State Premiers was not respected. As soon as it became evident that the State Parliaments did not intend to sanction the proposition of the Prime Minister, I made it my business to wait upon Mr. Hughe’s. I said to him: “You see how things are going”; to which he replied, “Yes; it is very unfortunate.” I then said, “ The sooner we submit these proposals to the people the better.”
– It was afterwards denied that the promise was made by the State Premiers.
– We know that the promise was not worth much, in view of the fact that the Legislative Councils of the States had power to prevent effect being given to it. At that time, however, the State Governments were really afraid that if the electors were afforded an opportunity to do so, they would hand over to this Parliament the powers which it sought, and accordingly they deemed it wise to voluntarily offer to surrender them.
– We carried the proposals in South Australia on the second occasion.
– I recognise that South Australia has always done’ its duty in that connexion. We have no right to delay in this matter. If the party opposite were in earnest, and if the Prime Minister were in earnest in a desire to ‘remove the disabilities under which the people of Australia suffer, they would have submitted at the election in 1917 a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution. Had that -been done, what would have been the result ? Seeing that we were even “then feeling the pinch of the profiteer and the exploiter, I believe that the people would have consented to the amendment necessary . I suppose that a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution will be on the political menu which will be presented to the people at the coming elections. Every one knows what the Labour proposal will be. It has been my individual proposal for a long time. I have long said that I questioned whether an ordinary amendment of the Constitution would be satisfactory. I say that every Constitution in Australia should be put into the melting pot as soon as possible, that we might draw from it a National Parliament clothed with the powers which it was originally believed this Parliament would possess. We could then delegate to provincial councils - not State Parliaments - certain powers which they might appropriately exercise. Under existing conditions the State Parliaments have delegated certain powers to this Parliament and have kept us within well defined limits, which we cannot overstep or the High Court will pull us up.
The distress at present prevailing is of such a character that something should be done at once to relieve the people. We cannot ignore the fact that men, women, and children who ought to be well clothed, well housed, well fed, and fully employed are to-day ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and in very many cases unemployed.
– Why do not the sailors come to their assistance ?
– The difficulty to which the honorable member refers is only of a temporary character, and I am referring to a permanent condition of affairs, which was in existence prior to the disturbance to which he alludes. There are committees engaged in my constituency nearly all the year round collecting contributions in money and clothing to make , provision for those who cannot provide for themselves. Yet we boast that this is a free and well cared-for community. Is it any wonder that there should be discontent in this country ? What did the Prime Minister say only the other day ? In a few words, the right honorable gentleman put - as hecan do very graphically and dramatically - the natural consequence of the discontent to be found in the world today. When addressing a company of workers Mr. Hughes said, “ The profiteer breeds Bolshevism.” Honorable members opposite know as well asI do that that is the truth. Yet we sitdown quietly and allow the profiteer to go on his way and, donot lift a little finger to rescue those whom he has in his talons. We cannot wonder, in the circumstances that there are displays of discontent, not only in this House, but outside. The workers went away in their numbers to. fight against the common enemy, and if there is one thing on which they have made up their minds it is that those dependent upon them, and all living under similar conditions, are going to have more of the good things of this life than theyhave had in the past. No matter what Government may be in power, they will be ignominiously pitched out of office by the people of this country if they do not satisfy that demand, which is becoming more and more clamorous every day. Go where we will we find that the voices of the small business man, the artisan, and the ordinary labourer arejoined in the one complaint, “ We are being fleeced and robbed.” Yet, with that united voice of the people in our ears, legislators loll on the benches here and do not lift a finger to redress the grievances of the people. I intend to give expression to my opinion so long as Mr.
Speaker is here to listen to me. As a representative of the people I have the right to make my voice heard in this chamber, andI intend to do so as frequently and as vigorously as I can in order that some relief may be afforded to the people who are suffering.
I ask how honorable members think we would have got through the war if the workers had stood aside. We know very well that it is impossible to carry on any industry without the assistance of organized labour. I shall quote an extract presently to show what has been said elsewhere regarding the necessity of ranging organized labour on the side of those who hope to do anything for the country. It may be said that no voice was raised by the workers of the country in support of the demand for proper organization to meet the conditions with which we would be faced on the return of our men from the Front. In this connexion I shall quote what was said at a deputation to the then Acting Prime Minister (Senator Pearce) when the Prime Minister was absent on his first visit to the Old Country. The deputation represented the Trades Hall Council of Melbourne, and there was present on it also a South Australian Minister, Mr. Anstey, who happened to be in Melbourne at the time. He heard that a deputation was to wait on the Acting Prime Minister in regard to the organization of industry for the time when our men would return, in order that unemployment would not be prevalent during the reconstruction after the war. The deputation waited on the Acting Prime Minister (Senator Pearce) on Friday, 24th March, 1916. There were present, in addition to those to whom I have referred, a number of members of this House. All the speakers laid before Senator Pearce the necessity of organizing properly for the time when the demobilization of our troops would take place. I hope I shall not be considered too egotistical if I quote what I said myself on that occasion as giving expression to my thoughts at the time. I said -
Australia should remember that those who are now her Allies and best friends would become her bitterest foes, so far as trade was concerned, when the war was over, and it would be worse than criminal if the Commonwealth did nothing to prepare for that time when it came. When the word came that the war was over, and it might come suddenly, thousands of men would foe thrown out of employment in Australia. The Commonwealth should be prepared to divert that labour into productive channels.
Speeches of a similar character were delivered by many at that deputation. Mr. Hughes, prior to leaving for Great Britain, had intimatedby a speech in this House, and by some action he took, that the Government intended to establish a Bureau of Science and Industry. This was one of those high-flown titles which are given to some organizations, and which, though they impress some people, never impress me. I never had very much faith that this organization would do much for our Australian industries. We told Senator Pearce that the Bureau would be of very slow growth, would probably be controlled by a number of university professors, and that very little benefit would accrue from it to the industries and workers of Australia. We pointed out to him that organization as necessary, in order to prepare for the time when the war had come to an end. I have not Senator Pearce’ s reply to the deputation, but I can give the effect of it. He said that he quite realized that the representations made by the deputation were quite correct, that the Bureau of Science and Industry could not meet all the demands of Australia, and would certainly not satisfy the people of Australia in making their industries prosperous, establishing new industries, andproviding employment for the people. He said he would take the representations of the deputation to Cabinet, and that the Government would endeavour to evolve a scheme to meet their wishes. I make bold to say that, had the Government at that time taken in hand the proper organization of industry in Australia, we would not be in the muddle in which we find ourselves to-day in regard to demobilization and unemployment. We should have done it long ago, and we are late in taking action, but we must do something in this matter.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Fremantle is not here, because I pro pose to make a quotation from the Lon don Times of 10 th May of this year. I was looking over the file the other day, and from the latest number on it I extracted many valuable quotations. In the Times of the 10th May of this year there is an article which contains the following statement: -
If the Government must depend primarily on the support of the House of Commons in the most decisive of all the phases of the great conflict, it is absolutely of the first importance that they should carry with them the great mass of organized labour.
That is the opinion of the London Times, and I believe it is the opinion of Mr. Lloyd George. I believe that his efforts have been very largely in that direction. In the reconstruction period he is desirous of having behind him the whole body of organized labour-. The Government in Great Britain are doing their best not to antagonize organized labour, but to show themselves as friendly disposed to labour as possible. They realize, as do many writers of distinction in the Old Country, that without the ‘assistance of organized labour, reconstruction after the war must be a terrible failure. That course is not being followed in Australia. The workers of this country have recently been called by themost opprobrious names. We are called to order sometimes for what is said on this side, but I remember distinctly that only quite recently a certain honorable member on the other side, pointing to the Ministerial benches beneath him, said, “ We are the builders,” and, pointing over to the Opposition, “ You are the wasters.”
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable mem ber is welcome to that opinion ; but the remark was disorderly, in the first place, and it was also distinctly offensive and absolutely untrue. The leading men in Great Britain say to the representatives of organized labour, “ We want you, with all your force and wisdom, to come to our assistance, to range yourselves behind us, and help us in reconstruction.” Here we are called by an ex-Labour man these opprobrious names, which, ifuttered outside, would possibly lead to something more than a call to order.
– Honorable members opposite have nothing in common with English industrialists.
– As the cap fits the honorable member, he can wear it. All I can say is, that if his antecedents will bear as close a scrutiny as those of honorable members on this side, he has reason to be satisfied.
– They will bear closer scrutiny than will those of the honorable member, who is a “rat” from Liberalism.
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it.
– I do not mind.
– It is not a question of who minds; it is a question of order.
– I regard a remark of that kind - or any other - from that quarter as a compliment. Another quotation I desire to make is from remarks made by President Wilson, who is supposed to know something on these matters. After the armistice was signed he said, speaking in America -
While the war lasted we set up many agencies by which to direct the industries of the country in services it was necessary for them to render, but the moment we knew the armistice was signed we took the harness off In regard to foodstuffs and shipping, restraints are being relaxed as much as possible, and will be more and more as the weeks go by.
But this is the portion of the speech that I wish to emphasize particularly -
The ordinary and normal processes of private initiative will not, however, provide immediate employment for all the men of our returning armies. There will be a large floating residuum of labour, which should not be left to shift wholly for itself. It seems to me important, therefore, that the development of public works of every sort should be promptly resumed, in order that opportunities should be created for unskilled labour in particular, and that plans should be made for such developments of our unused lands and our unused natural resources, as we have hitherto lacked stimulation to undertake.
I know some press complaints have been made about suggestions in this House for providing employment. Some members have suggested that we should make a start on the unification of the railway gauges; others have advised continuing the Federal Capital works; and others, again, have urged that we should carry out the pledge given to South Australia by constructing the North-South railway line. In my judgment, while all these works might, in due season, receive full consideration, they will not furnish immediate relief.
– What about the unification of railway gauges?
– I do not think we are ready for that proposal yet.
– Yes; we have all the plans.
– But other work, of greater urgency than any of these, can be taken in hand. Of course, money will be required. I understand that one of the reasons advanced by the Federal and State Governments for not proceeding with public works is the lack of cash. This is a poor plea, because money is always available to a Government. Some people say that money may be obtained at a price. It seems to me to be good business to pay a fairly big price for money, or any other commodity, at certain times, for the purpose of providing employment and preventing distress such as exists at present in the ranks of our returned soldiers, as well as among the ordinary people in the community.
– And distress which is increasing.
– Yes, this distress is increasing. I am not here to give expression to those eruptions that take place now and again, but it appears to me that what is happening now is symptomatic of the feelings in the community. For instance, I believe it is an absolute fact that in the constituency represented by the last speaker, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), it was necessary, recently, to restrain 200 returned soldiers, who were unemployed, from doing something serious by marching them through the various streets, singing songs until they had cooled down. This distress is present among soldiers, not only in Australia, but in Great Britain also. If any honorable member cares to read the English files - he will not find this information in the daily press of Australia, because it is carefully excluded in order to keep the people here in the dark - he will learn something of what is happening on the other side of the world. I believe, however, that the soldiers are making themselves heard in Great Britain to a greater extent than is the case here, and that the Imperial Government are making greater efforts to redress their grievances. Everybody knew, when the war broke out, that a considerable sum of money would be needed to pay our troops overseas, and while on war service, and to provide for their pensions and repatriation. Why, then, did not the Parliament exercise some of its powers, limited as they are under the Constitution, to obtain more revenue? Why did not the Government take over all insurance business - life, fire, and marine? I would even disregard any State proposition. At the outset of the war the British Government took over the whole of the marine insurance business, and made millions of p unds. Their control of this business is now helping them to pay the bill. Why should not Australia do the same, and obtain some of the big revenue that at present flows into the pockets of private individuals. France, 1 suppose, has done more in this direction, and enjoys more State monopolies than in any other countries. The latest State activity in France is the monopoly in the supply of petrol to the French people, by which the French Government expect to make £1,500,000 a year. Why should we not do the same in Australia? Why should not the Government control all supplies of kerosene, petrol, and other oils in Australia? Something should be done to develop the oil supplies of Papua and investigate our own resources. It would pay this House to set apart next Wednesday afternoon for the discussion of this subject, and to pass a vote of £500,000 for the development of our resources by boring, and the employment of such experts as Lord Cowdray obtained in Great Britain. For centuries the geologists of Great Britain had declared that there were no oil deposits within the United Kingdom., but quite recently a supply has been obtained at 3,000 feet. I understand a bore is yielding 400 gallons per day, and it is expected that further borings will very largely increase the supply.
The opinion of a geologist need not be regarded as final. Events have proved that a first class practical oil-borer - a man thoroughly conversant with oil discovery in all its phases - is often the better man to decide this important question.
I deplore the apathy in regard to the oil resources of Australia. For some years boring operations have been carried out in South Australia, and we are extracting oil from our shale deposits in other parts of the Commonwealth. I believe that eventually large supplies will be obtained from Papua, but greater vigour’ should be displayed in research and in exploratory work. The proper course is to nationalize the distribution of oil supplies throughout the Commonwealth, and to do away’ altogether with private’ enterprise, thus securing for the Commonwealth revenue the large profits that are at present being made out of the business. I speak as one who has resided in the country during the past twelve months, and . whose illuminant is kerosene. I. know only too well how great has been the increase in its’ price as compared with the time when, first”. I lived in the country in 1902. We have now to pay nearly three times as much for a tin of kerosene. Why is this so? Some people say it is because shipping is short. I know, however, that that is not the only reason. I remember reading that when America entered the war, the Secretary of the United, States Treasury, Mr. mcAdoo, declared that it would be necessary to levy heavy income taxation upon the people of the United States, and he had some figures prepared indicating how the wealthier individuals of the Republic would be taxed. Rockefeller, the great oil king, was shown to have an income of about £12,000,000 per annum, and under the new income tax schedule he would be called upon to pay about £7,500,000 a year to the United States Treasury. Some people might think this was a pretty heavy impost; but Rockefeller stretched out his long arm, and with his big fist he is now dragging from every user of American kerosene an extra price for this particular commodity. Every other user of kerosene in the Commonwealth is now helping to pay Rockefeller’s taxation to the United
States Treasury. Can it be expected that people who are on the verge of starvation will sit down quietly when they know that men like Rockefeller are day by day delving into their pockets and taking from them money which they can so ill afford to spare ? I well remember what the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said when the .then Prime Minister (Mr. Andrew Fisher) introduced his first Income Tax and Probate Bill. The Acting Prime Minister, who was then a free lance, said he knew that a large number of people would be called upon to pay the tax because, and he added, “ There is going on in every community a nitration process, and this impost will filter down and down until it reaches bedrock,” Bedrock, he added, was represented by the working people of this country, who, because they could not pass it on, would have to carry the burden. Not only are the people being charged exorbitant rates for food, clothing, and on every article in everyday use, but they know they have to pay the rich man’s taxes as well. With this galling fact staring them in the face, are they going to -sit down quietly ‘ Can it be expected that they will be amiable when they know that this robbery is. going on? I say that unless some redress is given, not only shall we hear the stamping of the feet and the shouting of voices, but I fear something worse will happen in this country.
– I tell honorable members opposite that the patience of .the people is at breaking point. There are thousands of people in every part of Australia who will not tolerate the present condition of affairs very much longer. There are some people who will not join vigorously in a movement, but will help, nevertheless, as much as they can. They include the large bulk of what may be described as the middle class. The sympathies of that class are inevitably turning more and more to the workers and their representatives as the only medium of redress. I do not want to see this thing come about, and will do my best to prevent it ; but from what I have seen I am convinced that present conditions cannot last. Are we never going to wake up and do something for the people? We are told there is no money. This Government is wasting money. I have referred to the Bureau of Science and Industry. As a printer, I am always interested in good letterpress work. It is well understood that better work can be done on good quality paper than upon inferior material. With certain delicate plates it is necessary to have a smooth-surfaced paper in order to present the best possible picture. Honorable members have received copies of the Journal of Science and Industry. I invite them to examine the quality of its paper, and to ask themselves whether there is justification for any Government organization issuing its journal upon such ‘expensive and beautiful hand-made paper.
– All for the publication of treatises on bugs!
– It is a wilful waste of money to allow these people to air their fads on the best paper, procurable. I admit that in the matter of departmental usage of paper the Postmaster-General has gone to the other extreme. THe telegrams issued by his Department are so difficult to open, owing to the shocking quality of the paper, that they are a disgrace to the Department. At the other end of the scale, however, the wilful waste perpetrated by an institution which professes to do a great deal in behalf of industry amounts to a scandalous shame.
The Public Accounts Committee, in a recently- submitted report, indicated to the Government where they already possess suitable sites for buildings for branches of the Public Service. . Witness what Has happened recently, however. The Repatriation Department notified that it had outgrown its East Melbourne quarters - that its requirements were about 40,000 square feet of space. The Commonwealth Property Officer was requested to endeavour to secure a suitable position. He made investigations, and recommended that if the Repatriation Department required land with buildings on it, it was- believed that, with the consent of the Governor-General, an area could be obtained in the neighbourhood of the Young Men’s. Christian Association Rest Hut. It appears that finally the Federal Government agreed to lease from the Victorian Government, for a period of twenty-one years, the site on St. Kilda-road recently occupied by Hoadley’s Chocolate Factory. It is intended to pay the interest on the sum with which the State Government purchased that site - an item amounting to £400 per annum. That may be regarded by certain people as a mere bagatelle. But it is when such comparatively small amounts are heaped on each other that a huge aggregate is discovered. Why is that particular site required? There is land available in the Victoria Barracks yard which should amply serve the requirements of the Repatriation Department. There is also a large area at present carrying only some old iron buildings, at the corner of St. Kildaroad and Wadey-street, at the northern end of the Barracks block. It is occupied now by the Victorian police. It has an area of, approximately, 84,000 square feet, with a frontage of 135 feet to St. Kilda-road, 458 feet to Wadeystreet. and 198 feet to Wells-street. The report of the Accounts Committee points out that if a building were to be erected on that land it would not be architecturally necessary to conform to the style of the existing Barracks, which are built of bluestone. If the Government are keen upon improving a property at all, why should they not improve their own ? It appears, however, that they prefer to go further afield, and to construct temporary buildings on the Hoadley site, for which block they are to pay an item of interest amounting to £400 per annum. Further, there is the prospect at any time that they may have to quit that property and be forced to seek shelter elsewhere. One might multiply instances of public money being utterly wasted. . So far as I am concerned, if any word or influence of mine can save even £10 for the public purse, I shall deem it worth my while.
– We want King O’Malley back again !
– I do not know whether we want him back again or not ; but we need to infuse into the Government a little practical common sense.
– What about Canberra?
– Probably the honorable member and myself will be found on the same side when it comes to a vote upon that project. I am not particular as to the company I keep in a matter of that kind.
No returned soldier desires to put a breadwinner out of his position, particularly if that individual has done his best to get to .the Front, and has not succeeded. Yet’ such things are happening. I am certain that the returned men themselves would be among the first to protest. A gentleman in the city waited upon me yesterday in regard to the case of a man who, for a number of years, has been employed by a big public financial institution. My informant told me he was a fine, trustworthy, fellow. He has now received notice, however, that he is to be discharged, and that his place is to be taken by a returned soldier. The man has a wife and five children to support. He did his best to go to the Front. He enlisted, and was sent to Broadmeadows Camp, where he remained for five weeks. When a strict medical examination was made, however; he was discharged as unfit for active military service, and. he returned to his position. Now that individual must go out.
– I know of the case of a man who fought in three campaigns prior to this last, and who was not accepted for the Great War ; but he was “ sacked,” and a man put in his place who had never left this country.
– Such things are, undoubtedly, happening. The man to whom I have referred, and who is the breadwinner for six others, is to be thrown out on a literally and metaphorically cold world. There is nothing for him to do. Such a system will not lead to proper demobilization, or to the establishment of contentment throughout the community. The fiat should go forth from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that in such cases there shall not be disturbance of employment. There have been bungles in regard to repatriation, some of which occurred merely because the organization of relief was not begun soon enough. President Wilson said, immediately after the armistice, “ Now, you American governmental departments, get busy ! Do not wait upon private initiative. The Government must establish works to provide employment for our people.” That was the right attitude, and it was prompt. We have made no such preparations.
With regard to the Tariff, honorable members opposite hold that it is right that we should wait for the return of Mr. Hughes, so that we may ascertain the proposals of the British Government. What bunkum ! There are items in the Tariff concerning which we are entirely independent of Great Britain. Thousands of items are of a purely Australian character, and give employment solely to Australians. Why wait? An interim Tariff should have been introduced long ago. Certain industries to-day are dependent on the sometimes slender and brittle thread of Ministerial promises. Butin some cases the thread has snapped. The promises of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) have not been kept, and, as a result, very many people have been thrown out of employment. Even the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) would not embark on a big industry, entailing large expenditure, simply on a Ministerial promise. Some people did so, however, regarding the promise as emphatic; and what is required, in the light of their experience, is something in black and white in a Statute by way of protection. To their shame, there are people in Australia who, when it became known that, in consequence of the war, shipping would be short, and travelling to Europe dangerous, scuttled to Japan to arrange to bring goods manufactured in that country to Australia as quickly as possible. The quantity of such goods has increased by leaps and bounds, and I ask : What hope have we, under Australian conditions, of meeting such competition? In some articles recently published in a Melbourne newspaper we are told of thousands of boys and girls being kept in compounds in order that they may work for long hours each day in factories for a wage of 4½d. per head. The result is that there are Australians here who are buying goods created out of the blood and sweat of little Japanese children. How can Australian industries flourish under such conditions? Allied or not, we must have absolute pro hibition if we are to protect Australian industries from competition of this kind. I do not know how the Free Traders propose to meet the position, but I have heard that some of them have been converted from their fiscal theories and fallacies; at any rate, they desire to make this country, so full as it is of raw material of every kind, as nearly self-contained as possible. Week by week men and women are being thrown out of employment, for the simple reason that Australia is using goods made under the conditions I have indicated. The highest wage paid to the most skilled artisan in Japan is about1s. 6d. per day, and it is only during wartime that the work people have been able to extract an extra 6d. We cannot profess to maintain the principle of a White Australia if the ports of the country are thrown open to the products of cheap labour of this kind. There would have been a certain guarantee to those who desired to start industries here if we had passed an interim Tariff. Had that been done, we could, at the close of the war, have considered our fiscal arrangements from beginning to end, and brought about an up-to-date Tariff.
– We must keep out the Java and Fiji sugar.
– ‘The conditions on the sugar plantations of Java and other places are deplorable, a good number being, I believe, under Dutch control, and the native labour employed under what is almost a system of slavery, or semislavery. The same may be said, unfortunately, of Fiji, and in this regard the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a good deal to blame. The conditions there are a danger to our civilization; and I believe they must have been largely brought about by the consent of the British Government. Fiji is only a Crown colony, and I cannot imagine that the importation of tens of thousands of Indian coolies could have been effected without the knowledge and sanction of the British Government. An official report by one who has visited the sugar-fields of Fiji, and a report from a representative of the Indian Government, are such a slashing condemnation of the operations of this company, and of others, that I feel sure the British Government, or some other Government, will, in consequence, make somebody “ sit up.”
Since the war terminated not only trade unionists and working people generally are asking for protection in England. I saw in the Times a great page advertisement, calling on the middle classes to form one great union, and there is a provisional executive, including many members of the House of Commons. The object is to have some organization by means of which the voice of the middle classes may be heard in. the efforts to solve some of the problems which confront the Old Country, and to safeguard them from being made the dupes and victims of profiteers. There is the same need in Australia for some such action, and, although I am a member of the Labour party, I believe that if I were to convene a meeting of those who call themselves the middle classes - though it might be difficult to define them - the attendance would be overflowing. Mr. Knibbs can work out his figures to the nicest fraction, but any intelligent house-wife will tell you what a difference there is between her bills five or six years ago and her bills to-day in the matter of groceries, clothing, and so forth. Indeed, it is a marvel to me how many in this, community manage to live. The other night I was addressing a meeting, and mentioned, that so far as I could make out, £1 in 1910 would purchase as much as £1 13s. lOd. will to-day, and an interjector called out that the difference was really much greater. After the meeting the man who had interjected told me that, employed on the wheat stacks, he earned SA. 7s. a week, and that after providing for rent, union dues, and for his wife and six children, there was so little left that he could not afford to buy a decent suit in which to attend his union meetings. I could not disbelieve the man; and if that is the case with a wage of £4 7s., what must be the conditions in homes where the average earnings are £2 10s. to £3, and where the families ‘are equally large, or larger. In my own electorate -I find the streets where the working classes live full of youngsters, whereas in the more “ toffy “ parts hardly a child can be seen playing about. The working men are the greatest producers in the country in more senses than one, and they provide that great essential, human beings.
I know the electors of Dalley, for I lived there as far back as 1886; and I do not wonder at the honorable member (Mr. Mahony) pleading for the women and children who are suffering from hunger. Can we be surprised’ at the honorable member bursting the bounds of ordinary decorum, ‘and smashing into smithereens the rules of this or any other House, when he thinks of the awful distress that prevails in that industrial centre. The Government must be held distinctly criminal if they allow the present state of things to continue, seeing that it can be so easily prevented. What is the good of the Government providing £1,000 to be doled out in relief? Our people do not want doles; .they have proved their independence on the battle-field and on the cricket and football fields, and, manly and womanly as they are, they hate such parity. What they demand is work to exercise their muscles and brain, so that they may increase the wealth of the country, and enable us to . meet the present financial position. Starvation and unemployment never did any country any good. Have we no national spirit or spirit of humanity? In Great Britain, even in the university arena, it is being realized that something must be done. But university appointments will not create bread, aud it is work and bread that are wanted now. The working people have made this country what it is, and they and their children ought to have a chance. With vigorous men and women, well fed and well clothed, Australia has a great future. Our agricultural areas are a mere nothing compared with the value of human souls; let us in all our legislation do that which will bring some relief to the sufferers in our community. I wish to see Australia living under peaceful and well-ordered government; but unless something is done we shall be in danger of happenings for which we shall be sorry, aud it is the duty of the Government to provide work and food for the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Navy and Defence Administration - Royal Commission - Report on Navy Administration (dated 13th February, 1919).
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Awards and Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with plaints submitted by the -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Association (dated 12th May,
Australian Letter Carriers’ Association (dated 12th May,1919).
General Division Officers’ Union of the Trade and Customs Department (dated 12th May, 1919).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Carnegie, Victoria - For War Service Home purposes.
Fitzroy, Victoria - For Australian Notes Act purposes.
Tarcoola, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Australian Imperial Force in Egypt.
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) asked when the AustralianImperial Forces still in Egypt were likely to be brought home? I promised to make inquiries, and I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
The return of the troops in Egypt was fully provided for with the general demobilization scheme, and ships were allotted, insuring that these troops arrived in Australia in the same proportion and about the same time as the troops in France and England. Owing to the serious riots in Egypt, the General Officer Commanding there suspended the demobilization arrangements, and utilized the troops for quelling the disturbances, which were of a serious nature. It was thought that this suspension would only mean a matter of a few weeks delay, but, as it appeared to be longer, the Commonwealth Government took up the matter with the Imperial Authorities, and strongly objected to the delay in demobilization, and to the Australian troops being used as part of the Army of Occupation in Egypt. As a result of these representations, conducted inEngland by the Prime Minister. (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), the Imperial Authorities decided to relieve the Australian troops of this duty, and the shipping authorities were directed to provide ships as soon as possible for their return to Australia. As a result of this notion. eight ships were allotted for conveyance of Australian troops from Egypt, and thedemobilization is now in full swing. The system adopted for demobilization of the Egypt troops is to return them to Australia by units. Prior to the suspension of demobilization, the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Regiments had left Egypt, and have since reached Australia and been demobilized. The 3rd Regiment reached Australia lost week, and the 4th Regiment is now Hearing Australia. Advices have just been received to the effect that the 5th,6th, and 7th Regiments embarked and sailed on 28th June, and the 8th Regiment and Anzac Divisional Details embarked and sailed yesterday. The total number of Light Horse Regiments in Egypt was fourteen. It is anticipated that the remaining six willembark in the ships allocated, and leave Egypt before the end of the month. It will, therefore, be seen that the return of these troops is now being accelerated and proceeding as fast as possible. Relatives of these soldiers need now have no anxiety with regard to them.
Freeman Case:Mr. Corbould: Doctor ons.s. “ Sonoma.”
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On Wednesday last, reference was made to the Freeman case, and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that he would make inquiries as to the possibility of holding an investigation into the case, and, in reference to the alleged intention of a very material witness - Mr. Corbould, manager of a mine in the Cloncurry districtto leave Australia. I have received three telegrams from Brisbane on this matter. One reads as follows: -
As an old miner and ex-soldier request your utmost detain this alleged patriot Corbould.
The Freeman case is only a typical one. Therefore, there is all the more reason for exercising the utmost care in regard to witnesses who may possibly be required. Mr. Corbould - the man alleged to have supplied the statement upon which Mr. Freeman was arrested - is such a material witness in connexion with any inquiry which may take place, that, if he is allowed to leave Australia by the permission of the Government through the issue of a passport, an unfortunate feeling will arise in the minds of the public that the Government are not anxious that a proper inquiry should be held. His departure may defeat the ends of justice. I hope Ministers will say that, whether Mr. Freeman is to be given a fair trial or mot, or, at any rate, until that question is decided, Mr. Corbould wall not be allowed to leave Australia. If an inquiry is to be held, he will be needed as a witness. If an inquiry is not to be held, some other action must be taken.
A considerable amount of public interest has been aroused, particularly in New South Wales, in regard to this case, and it is spreading. The gentleman whose telegram I have just read was a miner in the Cloncurry district for years before he went to the war, and returned to Australia about a month ago. As he has just got back to Brisbane after a visit to his friends in the north, he should have a full knowledge of the facts. I hope that action will be taken to prevent Mr. Corbould from leaving Australia until the question of Mr. Freeman’s liberty is decided, or until an inquiry is held which will determine his future position.
. -I wish to say a word or two in connexion with the Freeman case without trespassing upon the merits of the dispute between Freeman and his supporters on the one side and the Defence Department on the other. A side of the case which seems to have been lost sight of is the position of the doctor on the s.s. Sonoma. No doubt, the shipping company wished to get rid of an unwelcome visitor, but its doctor seems to have trespassed beyond the bounds of decency in getting rid of him, because I find that both morning newspapers in Sydney, in describing “ the imminent death “ of Freeman, reported thatthe doctor on the s.s. Sonoma had said that Freeman’s temperature was down to 93, and that he was on the verge of collapse. It was found, when Freeman was removed to the military hospital, that his temperature was 98.3, and I am quite sure it was the correct temperature, because I know that in the case of a perfectly healthy man a few days’ starvation will do him no harm, provided he has an ample supply of water. A personal friend of mine does himself very well for six months of the year, and then has ten days’ rigid fast, but during that ten days he does all his physical exercises and the other things necessary to keep him in good condition, and he looks just as well at the end of that period as he did at the beginning of it.
– Two honorable members have been suspended to-day for referring to the fact that certain, people had to undergo a compulsory fast.
– If the honorable member is disposed to get up a personal subscription for those unfortunate people who have beenthrown out of work through no fault of their own, I shall do my utmost to help him, but that is a different thing altogether. I would like to know whether the Acting AttorneyGeneral will take into consideration the apparent fraud of the doctor of the s.s. Sonoma.
– The honorable member should not make that charge when the man is not here to answer it.
– He can easily answer it. If there was not fraud on the part of the doctor, then there was the most extraordinary conspiracy on the part of the newspaper reporters. I should hesitate to believe that they conspired to say that Freeman’s temperature was 93 when a few hours afterwards it was actually 98.3.
– What power have the Government over the doctor of the s.s. Sonoma? He is probably an American citizen.
– That may be so, and he is probably laughing heartily now, and may laugh heartily when he reads my remarks. But it is a very dangerous laugh that would cause the feeling there was in Sydney at that time. There was a great deal of public sympathy for a man who ‘ ‘ was starving and on the verge of collapse “ which Freeman could not have been if he was taking water. That fact seems to be well established. The doctor of the vessel seems to have done his best to cheat public sympathy, and I would like the Acting AttorneyGeneral to see whether his behaviour brings him within the compass of the laws of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190704_reps_7_88/>.