7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister what is the position in regard to the unfortunate industrial dispute which still continues, and whether there is any foundation for the published statement thatthe Government have decided upon a course of action? If there is, may the House and the country know what course of action is proposed?
– The Government do not propose to answer questions until the noconfidence motion has been disposed of.
The following papers were presented: -
Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine - Half-yearly Reports from 1st January to 30th June, and from 1st July to 31st December, 1918.
Commonwealth and State Ministers’ Conference, held at Melbourne, 22nd-27th January, 1919 - Report of the Resolutions, Proceedings,and Debates.
Consolidated Revenue Fund - Receipts and Expenditure - Approximate figures 1918-19 compared with Actual 1917-18 and Estimate 1918-19.
Loan Fund - Receipts and Expenditure - Approximate figures for 1918-19 compared with Actual 1917-18 and Estimate 1918-19.
Public Service Act - Fourteenth Report on the Public Service by the Acting Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Proclamation (dated 19th June, 1919) revoking Proclamation (dated 5th March, 1919) prohibiting the Exportation of Condensed Milk.
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1919 - No. 7-Jury (No. 2).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 148, 149, 150, 163.
South-West Africa - Report on the Natives of, and their treatment by Germany, January, 1918. (Paper presented to the British Parliament. )
Debate resumed from 4th July (vide page 10490), 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 Heu thereof the words - “ the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.”
.- -I need hardly say that I have no sympathy with this motion of want of confidence m the Government. During the recess I had a good deal of business to transact with the various Ministers, and came to the conclusion that the House made a very serious error last year when it refused at least to acquiesce in the request for the appointment of Assistant Ministers during the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) in the Old Country. That was a false step. Each Minister has had more work to do than he could cope with. Every Government, not only in Australia, tut throughout the civilized world, during ‘the war period, has been faced with complex and difficultproblems, crowding one upon the other, and the work thrown on the shoulders of Ministers has been abnormal, so that the House in failing to approve of the appointment of Assistant Ministers has been starving the Departments.
Before proceeding with my criticism of some of the remarks made during this debate, I desire once more to appeal to the Government on behalf of our blind soldiers. The pension that has been granted to these men, with whom we all have the deepest sympathy, is inadequate
Under present conditions for their maintenance. Happily there are only some 108 men so afflicted, and while we sympathize deeply with them, I think we all anticipated that the number would be much larger. What I say with regard to the blind soldiers will apply also to those who .are ‘totally disabled. These men who have made so great a sacrifice in the interests of the Commonwealth and the Empire should be made as comfortable as possible.
– Does not the honorable member think that they should be put beyond fear of want for the rest of their lives ‘I
– That is what I am advocating.
– Would not anything less than that be ungenerous ?
– Anything less would be unworthy of the people of Australia. The figures which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) quoted at the opening of the Brighton Hostel, a day or two ago, rather surprised me. He said, if I remember rightly, that amongst our returned men there were 500 who were totally disabled, and 108 who were blind. Surely Australia can afford to put those men beyond all fear of want, and see that they are cared for in every way for the rest of their days. I strongly urge the Government to increase the pensions payable to these men. Many partly disabled men are able to do some work, and so to- supplement their pensions, and they are certainly the better for being employed; but these men for whom there is no hope of even partial recovery, should be made, as the honorable member , for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has said, as comfortable as possible for the rest of their lives.
I wish now to reply to some of the criticisms of the Opposition. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), speaking in this House on Thursday last, on the high cost of living, made a suggestion which I am afraid was intended only for his constituents.
– That is not fair.
– I was about to qualify the remark. The honorable member’s statement, I fear, was either made for the benefit of his own constituents alone, or was the result of want of thought, or of his not ‘being seized with all the surrounding fa’cts and circumstances. The honorable member’s cure for the high cost of living is to stop exports. I remind the honorable member, however, that there are no stronger supporters of the export trade in Australia to-day than the miners’ unions and the mine-owners, both of whom he represents, and both of whom depend on the export of coal for the maintenance of high prices. I believe that matters have gone so far that every unionist must support the mine-owners’ associations in the demand for increased prices;and I think that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) will verify that statement. I am now only relating what I am told are facts, which lead to the conclusion that the mine-owners and the miners in the Maitland and Newcastle districts, work most harmoniously together in the matter of prices, and depend very much on the export of their surplus product in order to maintain prices. They strive after the oversea and Inter-State markets, and they depend for their very existence on the export of their surplus products, otherwise they would be starved out in those two districts in the matter of coal production. I remind the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the producer is not a fool, nor is he tied to any particular line of production. Before he sows his crop, he considers whether he is going to have a market. If the Australian market fails him, and he knows there is an oversea market, he will plant; if he has to depend only on the local market, without any export trade, he turns his hand to something else. Very often he has to depend on the export market, and if he is prevented from exporting, he will probably leave wheat alone, and grow flax, for which there is a good demand in Australia at the present time. The people of the Hunter division, or any other part of Australia, cannot live on flax, whereas the farmer can, because ha gets a better price for that commodity than for wheat. If the wheat-growers of Australia are forces into other avenues of industry, there can be nothing but chaos and high prices as the result of their turning attention to wool, dairying, or flax.
I should now like to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for South. Sydney (Mr. Riley), who, I regret, is not present; because I desire to remind him that his statements are not in accord with facts. The honorable member said the price of butter in 1914 was1s. 2d. per lb., while it is now1s.11d. per lb., and it is evident that he has picked out the lowest price in 1914, and the highest price in 1918. If he had compared the highest price in 1914 with the highest price in 1918, he would have found them to be about the same. In the winter of 1914, the wholesale price of butter was 1s. 8d. per lb.
– That is too high in a country like Australia.
– I shall deal with that phase later on. At present, the price is1s. 7d. per lb., and it was higher for about six weeks, I think. The retail price in 1914 was1s. l1d. per lb., before price-fixing was established, and at present butter can be had anywhere in Australia at1s. 9d.
– Not in Western Australia, surely?
– I mean in any part of Australia excepting Western Australia. I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) for putting me right; there are only five States in the butter pool, and Western Australia is not one of them. Indeed, that State cannot supply more than one-tenth of her own requirements in butter, and practically the whole has to be imported.
– Western Australia is not permitted to produce her own butter.
– I shall deal with that myself.
– It is news to me that Western Australia is not permitted to produce anything she wishes to produce. The fact is that the farmers in that State find that wheat pays better than butter. When I was over there twelve months ago, I was told that it was too much trouble to manufacture butter, and they preferred to buy it from the eastern States. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) stated that potatoes are now £18 per ton, and he quoted the price for 1914. At the present time, the price is 12s. per cwt., at which potatoes can be bought in the grocers’ shops. As a matter of fact, since 1st January last, though I do not know exactly when, the price of potatoes I as been as low as 4s. a cwt. The honorable member went on to say that there was no drought, just as Mr. Fisher said in 1914, but I can assure the House that, so far as the dairying industry is concerned, there has never been in the history of Australia a worse year for producers than the last twelve months.
– New South Wales has had a good time in the north.
– That is not so. For the year ending the 31st March, 1918, Queensland exported 286,636 boxes of butter. For the year ending the 31st March, 1919, the export was 32,678 boxes, a falling off of 254,958 boxes, valued roughly at about £1,000,000, which was lost by the dairymen of Queensland owing to the drought. The export of cheese for the respective periods was 28,985 crates and 2,211 crates, showing a falling off of 26,774 crates. The export of butter for the whole of Australia for the year ending 31st March, 1918, was 1,147,202 boxes. For the year ending the 31st May, 1919, the export was 522,807 boxes, a shortage of 624,395 boxes. These figures dispose of the contention that there was no drought. I can assure honorable members that the price of butter is not high, and that no profiteering has taken place in regard to butter during the last twelve months, at least. I challenge any honorable member to refute my statement. In fact, there has been no profiteering in regard to primary products. The primary producer is now selling his own produce in Australia at a price which is very much below the world’s parity. If one wishes to discover where the high cost of living arises, he must seek somewhere else for it than among the primary producers.
– They sell to the middleman. It is the middleman who is responsible for the high prices.
– Practically speaking,there are no middlemen in regard to butter.
– There are plenty of proprietary butter factories, and they are boasting that they are getting more for their butter. I travelled in the train the other day with a member of the butter control.
– There are proprietary factories and proprietary agents, but since the inception of the Butter Pool, no profiteering or speculating in butter has been possible for factories or agents. A few months ago, we thought that some people were speculating in butter, and we immediately had a census taken of the butter in cool store, but we found very few boxes, and they were immediately commandeered. That action effectually prevented any attempt at profiteering in butter, and the profit which certain people might have made went into the Pool, and will eventually go back to the dairymen. Dairy commission agents charge 3 and 3½ per cent, for their turnover in the business, whereas a softgoods firm in Flinders-lane takes a profit of 20 per cent. before any one else can get any. Cut out Flinders-lane and a very big factor in the high cost of living will be cut out. Every person is naturally inclined to dispose of his produce in the highest market; but so far as butter is concerned there has been no undue inflation of prices. The price of milk for distribution in the city is1s. 2d. per gallon, which is equal to 2s.11d. per lb. of butter contents; but as milk-condensing firms offer 2s. per lb. of commercial butter contents for the milk for condensing purposes, the farmer has an alternative market for his milk. There are some 40,000 registered dairies in Australia, employing, roughly, 120,000 persons. Taking an average of three persons per dairy, the average earned by each dairy last year was £530, or, roughly, £170 per individual engaged in the industry. Out of these earnings have to be paid interest on capital invested, rents, and a hundred and one other little things which have to be set against the gross earnings. I do not ask honorable members to accept my unsupported statement as far as dairying is concerned. I can show from an unbiased source that the price of butter has been all along and is at the present time low. TheInter-State Commission, in their No. 3 report, dated 12th October, 1917, say-
Cost of Producing Butter-fat.
Butter-fat constitutes 85 per cent. of the contents of butter. Its production cost fluctuates in conformity with that of milk, which has already been dealt with. Estimates prepared independently by different witnesses show that the increase in the cost of producing butter-fat is about 5d. per lb., which is about equal to the increase in the price it realizes. The producer, however, who sells his cream to the factory has this additional return, that he can use his skimmed milk for pigs and calves, which are at present very profitable.
The result of the drought is very apparent in the production of butter. In some districts farmers lost 40 per cent. of their herds, and the price of cows has so risen that the losses cannot be made good at less than 50 per cent. upon earlier prices.
It was said that in pre-war years the cost of manufacture and selling was 1.46d. per lb., while the present cost is 2.33d. per lb., an increase of 59 per cent. The present cost of manufacturing butter is l.19d., that of marketing, freights (in Australia), &c., . 89d. In the case of export the cost of marketing is 2.47 d., as a result of the higher freight rates.
The cost of manufacture taken alone has increased by 44 per cent., and this is attributable to the increased cost of materials and labour.
From figures given above, it appears that the cost of making butter and putting it on the market is a little more than 2d. per lb. With butter-fat at1s. 5d. perlb., this would make the production and marketing cost of butter 1s. 7d.
While, no doubt, allowance must be made for individual cases or for erroneous estimates, the general effect of the evidence is disquieting. It certainly makes it clear that there is nothing in the shape of profiteering in the producing stage of the milk industry, and that in fixing prices great consideration should be given to the fact that every incentive is needed to maintain the whole dairying industry at a high level of output, as it is of immense importance to every State, and any unfair reduction of reward may cripple production.
I quite concur in those remarks, because I know, from long experience of the dairying industry, that the certainty of a market abroad and the easy facilities for getting rid of the surplus butter, have always tended to create ample supplies in Australia. And when there have been ample supplies, prices have never been excessive.
I think it was the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) who said that the remedy for the high cost of living was to place the Labour party in power. The honorable member does not know quite so much about that remedy as I know. The Ryan Government, who are supposed to be Labour - we call them extremists, although I notice that some of their supporters consider they are worse than the Tories - were returned to power on the cost of living cry. The people believed that Mr. Ryan was in earnest, and that if returned he would reduce the cost of living. Instead of that happening since the Ryan Government attained office the cost of living has increased more in Queensland than in any other State.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - How did Mr. Ryan reduce the price of beef ?
– To the general public it has not been reduced. It has been reduced to a favoured few living in the large cities by means of an arrangement with the pastoralists to supply the State shops with 12,000 tons of beef per annum at a reduced price. The cost of that meat supply was loaded on the Imperial meat contract. One result of the opening of State meat shops in Queensland has been that many people have not been able to get meat at all. In order to buy from the State shops, we must travel 2 or 3 miles by train into Ipswich, wait to be served, and return home. The purchase occupies about three hours, and entails so much time, worry, and expense as to be not worth while. We have been obliged to rely upon tinned meat. But, in any case,people do not live on meat alone. Bread has been 4½d. per 2-lb. loaf in Queensland throughout the war period whilst in other States it has been only 3½d.
– We have been paying 4½d. in Melbourne for some time.
– The Prices Commission, in 1916. reduced the price of bread to 7d. per 4-lb. loaf, and it has not been above that figure since
– It is 9d. per large loaf in Victoria to-day.
– Any rise above 7d. has taken place only during the last few weeks.
– The price of bread hasbeen 9d. per large loaf for six weeks.
– Is that the cash price?
– The master bakers have such a strong Combine that they can do as they like.
– For three or four years we have been getting bread delivered at the house for 3£d. per 2-lb. loaf.
– I can show the honorable member receipted bills at 9d. per 4-lb. loaf if he does not believe me.
– I am speaking about the price that has ruled until recently. A certain concession is allowed to the baker for booking and delivery. But I assure the honorable member that the ruling price has been 3£d. per 2-lb. loaf delivered.
– I am sure it has not. The price was 4d. until recently, and now it is 4Jd.
– Bread can be bought for 3£d. in Melbourne.
– The Civil Service Bakery sold bread for 7£d. per large loaf, and the master bakers took steps to stop the supply of flour. The matter was taken to Court, and one flour milling firm was fined £50. The firm lodged an appeal, but was afraid to proceed with it.
– The proclaimed price has been 3£d.’ per small loaf since 1916, and any higher charge has been a violation of a War Precautions regulation.
Continuing my remarks upon- the condition in Queensland, I will quote some prices which I paid in March last: Onions were 4£d. per lb., although they were only 1 1/2d. per lb. in Victoria.
– I do not think they have been as low as 1 1/2d. per lb. for two years. The wholesale price has ranged from £12 to £30 per ton in this State.
– I am speaking of £40 per ton in. Queensland. Pumpkins were 4 1/2d.; potatoes 4d., or £40 per ton wholesale; and condensed milk lid. per tin, in the State in which it is made.
– Condensed milk “is produced by the Combine. They are all in that.
– I have no sympathy with that Combine. The honorable member will admit that if a dairyman can get 2s. per lb. for the butter contents of his milk from the condensed milk manufacturing companies, he would be foolish to take ls. 5d. per lb. from the butter factories, because with the wholesale price of butter at ls. 7d. per lb. the value of the butter contents of his milk would work out, roughly, at ls. 5d. per lb. I do mot think even the Leader of the Opposition is so patriotic that he would make that sacrifice if he were in the dairying industry.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) asked me to give him some particulars with regard . to the price of butter in Western Australia. . The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has also taken a very keen interest in the price there, and so has the ‘honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). In, fact, there has been a deluge of correspondence on the matter within the last few weeks, and I have had reports of meetings held in Perth, convened by the merchants there, to protest against the price that they have been charged for butter. The merchants of Perth have no cause of complaint whatever, although, perhaps, the consumers have some cause to complain. During the last six weeks it has been impossible to supply Western Australia with anything like her requirements, which are about 2,500 boxes per week of first-grade butter. One of the duties with which the Pool has been charged is to see that there is sufficient butter in Australia for the ‘requirements of the Australian people during the “ short “ period. That necessitates pooling butter in the plentiful season. We made an attempt to start pooling butter in December last, but we were unable to get within 50 per cent, of our anticipated surplus, and we are much below our requirements for the winter shortage. If the winter had not improved, a thing unknown before in the history of the dairying industry in Australia, we should have been absolutely short of butter in Australia. But the winter has improved, and we have been producing more ‘butter during the winter than we produced in the summer months. We had to store the very best of our .butter for winter Pool purposes. This cost us ls. 7d. and ls. 8d. per lb., that is, for 92 grade. Anything above 92 grade cost us ls. per cwt. higher per point. We had to draw on (he winter Pool to supply the Western Australian trade. We were certainly, able to supply that State with a small proportion of its requirements from our fresh butter, but, in order to put all the traders on the same footing in Western Australia, we decided to charge them the same price for fresh butter as for stored. The retail price was proclaimed in Western Australia, so that the merchants made their ordinary profits on the butter that they purchased. That put; the traders there all on the same footing, so that they have nothing to complain of. I wired over to the West a few weeks ago, and we decided, in response to their wires, to reduce the price ‘to Western Australia. We were justified in doing that because our winter production has very much exceeded our anticipations. If it had not been for that, the price would have bean up another Id. adi over Australia. We found we ‘had ample stocks coming forward to meet all our requirements, and we decided to reduce the price by Id. practically from the 26th of June. We rebated the Western Australian people Id. a lb. on one consignment that left here on the 26th June. We have also been, paying the freight on all butter from New South Wales to Victoria that was going to Western Australia. The Prices Commissioner has arranged the price there so that they can clear the quantity of butter they had in hand at the ordinary profit, and it was decided to reduce the price on the 10th of this month (July) in accordance with the reduction that we had made. It has been said that we changed them 196s. per cwt. That is hardly a fair statement to make, because they have to pay 3s. per cwt. over the market rate at ‘any time, which is intended to compensate the growers here for boxes. When butter is sold loca’lly, the boxes are charged up to the grocers, and when they are returned the grocers are credited with the amount with which they were debited. We cannot do that with Western Australia. The ‘boxes are destroyed when they get there, or are used for other purposes. The Western Australian trade, therefore, has to pay for its boxes. We offered to supply the Western Australian’ trade with all the
South Australian butter, and I understand they were quoted ls. 7d. per lb. for it, but they are rather fastidious over there, and want our very best butter. While they pick the eyes out of our butter and get the very best, they will have to pay for it. I should have more to say on this matter but for the fact that we are negotiating with the Western Australian people now about a shipment that was sent to them, and the negotiations are not quite complete. This trouble arose with Western Australia, in the first place, not through any transactions of the Pool, but through the shipping strike, which prevented us sending’ them butter by sea. We have had to rail it for the last six weeks, and found it very difficult to get space. I must thankthe railway officials, both of the Commonwealth and of the States, for giving, us the facilities they have. This has enabled us to transport about 3,000 boxes per week to Western Australia. If the railway authorities had failed us, Western Australia would have been without butter of any description, or at any price. The railway authorities, however, came to our rescue, and, «s one who takes a deep interest in the dairying industry, I publicly thank them for their assistance. They have transported our butter at o very reasonable rate - just a little over Id. a lb.
– Is it not extraordinary that Western Australia is not producing all the butter it requires?
– It is extraordinary, but they are not doing it, and they tell me that they never will.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), who has just resumed his seat, has disclaimed any sympathy with this motion .of no-confidence. Although it is rumoured that he does not intend to seek re-election, it was hardly to be expected that he would sympathize with a motion challenging the past and present activities of the Government. The Ministerial party have passed a resolution expressing their approval of the actions of the Government and confidence in their future work. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that there is perfect unanimity amongst them and that their party is neither a caucus nor a caucus-ridden party. Although the statement that the Ministerial party is not a caucus party may be reiterated again and again, those who are largely responsible for the forming of public opinion are by no means convinced. The Age declares that it is really trying to supplant the Labour party by its caucus methods.
– It is worse than a caucus. It is a junta.
– Something more convincing than mere reiteration is required to satisfy the people. The A ge recently indulged in some criticism of the National Federation, which we used to know as the “ National Ass.” The parties comprising the National Federation have been known under various names, and, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) used to say, “ One has only to scratch beneath the surface to find that many of the socalled Nationalists are the old Conservatives or the Tories, as we knew them in England.” What a conglomeration to pass a vote of confidence in the Government as we know it to-day ! What a lovely Government it has been, and still is ! What a beautiful record it has in respect of its government of Australia at a time unparalleled in its history ! I invite honorable members opposite to carry back their minds to the statements which they and their supporters indulged in during the war period, when they were cajoling eligibles to go to the Front. We all remember how they spoke of the sacrifices to be made, when they were trying to dragoon eligibles to enlist. I propose to tell the House something of the sacrifices that have been made, and to show how far honorable members” opposite are justified in recording approval of the way in which the Government has discharged its duties.
I am inclined to think that the people of Australia will not indorse the resolution of confidence at the next general election, although the Age, the Argus, and practically every country “ rag “ in the Commonwealth are barracking for the Government. Is it not surprising that former members of the Labour party - the ‘ ‘ caucus-ridden ‘ ‘ individuals of two or three years ago - should now be mix ing with the Tory element on the other side ? These former members of the Labour party assert that they still hold to the platform of the Labour party, and declare, in South Australia at all events, that their only crime was that they added patriotism to it. If these honorable members are Labour men to-day; if they still believe in the ideals and aspirations of Labour-
– They do not believe in those of the present Labour party.
– I admit that the honorable member may be able to select certain members of our party with whose aims and conduct at times he does not agree. But what has he to say as to the principles of our platform, which have not been altered, but stand, as they did when he and others were members of our party ? Can he consistently remain with the Tory element in this House and support those Labour principles? He must declare himself for one side or the other. He knows he was returned as . the representative of Boothby, not by Labour, but by Liberal votes, so that he must either support the platform of the Liberal party or be false to the trust which they reposed in him. The objects of the two parties are as far apart as the poles. The policy of the Labour party is designed to bring contentment to the people and to provide for the equitable distribution of the wealth that is produced by the whole of the people. On the other hand, the Tories of the National party stand for conserving in the hands of a few, as far as possible, the wealth that is produced by the whole of the people, and they hope by thus controlling it to exploit the people, as they have always done.
Let me return, however, to the Age criticism of the National Federation. It is not the criticism of a “red ragger,” as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would interject if he were here, but a statement by one of the semi-Conservative newspapers of Victoria. Referring to the proceedings at the recent conference of the National Federation, it wrote -
In the morning the Acting Prime Minister attended the gathering, and suggested that, instead of making a speech, lie should “ consult in private with the members of the Conference.”
And yet there was an outcry when the Labour party excluded the daily press from its deliberations. Every representative of South Australia knows why the reporters were excluded from the meetings of the Adelaide Trade and Labour Council. It was found that they would not accurately and honestly report what took place there, and the Council was forced, at last to exclude them. The Age continues -
Later, when Mr. Watt had left, and other business came forward, fresh excuses for secrecy were found. Underlying all this starchamber procedure is the obvious desire to keep from the enemy - namely, the official Labour party - all knowledge of the elaborate preparations that are being made for conducting the next election campaign.
The only consideration, so far as the Government are concerned, is what shall be done at the next general election to keep the official Labour party out of office.
– Will the honorable member make some quotations from the leading article which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the A gel
– I presume the honorable member is referring to some criticism of our party in which the Age indulged. I admit the Age does criticise us. We have withstood its criticism, and will do so again.
– It is in its natural element when criticising our party.
– That is so;’ but it is singular that criticism of this kind’ should be levelled against a party which passes a “unanimous vote of confidence in the present Administration.
The National Federation has been formed, not with the desire that the destinies of the Commonwealth shall be controlled in the best possible way, but with the sole object of defeating the official Labour party at the next general election. That, with honorable members opposite, is the all-absorbing consideration. They realize that unless some special action of the kind be taken they will have no more hope of being returned in their present numbers than they have of flying to the moon. How could they hope, for instance, to hold the seat for Boothby in the event of a three-cornered contest. Such a contest would be hopeless, from their point of view, in respect to both Boothby and Hindmarsh.
– Since the honorable member has been away we have provided for preferential voting.
– The honorable member knows why that provision has been made.
– To secure majority representation.
– In addition to its secret Caucus methods, the Ministerial party are trying, by tinkering with the Electoral Act, to make their election doubly sure. On this point, I invite honorable members to read the Nationalist, copies of which have been distributed amongst us to-day. I invite them, also, to focus the activities of the Nationalist party in South Australia in the same direction. When the split in the Labour party occurred in connexion Avith the conscription issue, only three members of the Labour party in the South Australian House of Assembly remained true to . its principles; all the others “ratted.” At the next general election it was thought that the Labour party would not be able to recover its position; but, as a matter of fact, the party of three was then increased to seventeen. It was by the merest chance, and under very peculiar circumstances, I am led to believe, that the party was not increased to eighteen. The night before the election the Premier of South Australia deplored the fact that Sir Richard Butler, who to-day occupies a very invidious position amongst his own “ pals,” was to be “ dropped “ from political life. Just prior to the closing of the poll, it was thought that he had been defeated, but when the ballot-box for Smithfield turned up, it was found that he had secured his election by a few votes. The Labour party also lost the contest for the electorate of Wooroora - one of the most Tory divisions of the State - by only a few votes.
In South Australia to-day those members of the National party who deserted the Labour party, are howling as loudly as possible with the object of convincing the people that proportional representation alone will save the State, and, indeed, the Commonwealth. They declare that there must be an alteration of the Electoral Act in that direction. The
Tory element recognise, also, that the time is almost at land -when they will be defeated, not by a mere fluke, but by the votes of the growing Democracy of Australia. I do not think that one of the former Labour men in the South Australian Parliament - with, the exception of Mr. Fred. Coney-beer - is likely to secure the quota. Every one of the other Labour renegades will be defeated. The Nationalists in South Australia are crying for proportional representation, in order to save their seats, for they know that it is their only hope.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has referred to the recent amendment of the Electoral Act. That amendment was brought in by the Government because of the disintegrating influences in their own ranks. They knew they were not solid, and that in the event of a split vote they must go under. Their nominee lost the by-election for Swan, and their nominee’ for Corangamite was also defeated. It was not a matter of doing what is best for the State; this Electoral Act was designed to do what was best for the powers who held the reins of Government at the time, and honorable members opposite might as well admit the fact. Even the extension of the vote to soldiers at the Front was a mere election subterfuge; it was not the result of a conviction that soldiers who left here under the age of 21 were equipped with the necessary wisdom to select members of Parliament. On the contrary, we on this side hold that youths of eighteen years of age and upwards, who have to earn their own living and bustle in the world, know what is desirable and necessary for the better government of themselves and their people, and we support the principle that the age ought to be reduced in both Commonwealth and States. Honorable members opposite have no such object in view, because they simply extended the franchise to soldiers, and, I believe, other war workers; at any rate, it was simply camouflage, and a matter of saving their seats.
– The honorable member knows, or he ought to know, that pre ferential voting has been the policy of this party for ten years.
– If so, the fact has been kept so persistently in the background that I did not know it, and I have never heard any reduction of the age for electors advocated by honorable members opposite. There is no doubt about the matter now, however, because the reform mentioned by the honorable member is essential, and time has to be taken by the forelock, or the opportunity may not occur again. Therefore, there is a forecast in the statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) of an amendment of the Electoral Act, presumably to insure that the Labour party shall never have an opportunity of “ sweeping “ the Senate as it did at the time of the double dissolution. I warn honorable- members opposite, however, that we have seen the result of gerrymandering by the Parliament in South Australia. The districts in that State were gerrymandered, as Sir Richard Butler, who is in such a splendid position to-day owing to his administration of the farmers’ commodity, said, in order to make the Liberal Union safe for the next 25 years. That was his hope, and the hope of others; but it was not realized, for, at the very next election, the people who were responsible for the gerrymandering were put out of office.
– The honorable member is using language very loosely; how could Parliament gerrymander anything?
– Parliament did it.
– It is extravagant language.
– The honorable member knows that these districts were cut up and gerrymandered - that districts were made disproportionate - and that it is now suggested there shall be proportional voting for the metropolitan area and ordinary voting for the country districts. Was that not done by Parliament ? If the honorable member does not know the history of this gerrymandering, I suggest he read it up.
– Where is South Australia?
– South Australia is only a little bit of the Empire that we soldiers went away to fight for, and it sent about 35,000 men to protect the honorable member and his interests. If the honorable member’ and his side will give us a fair chance at the general election, we will show him what and where South Australia is. In the meantime, I remind him that we won the Boothby seat, and that undoubtedly we can do big things in South Australia when we get a fair deal.
– This is a good election speech, and it ought to get the honorable member another 100 votes.
– I hope I shall not need another 100 votes; and in this “good election speech “ I am trying to point out that those with whom he is in collusion are making themselves safe, as stated by the Age, by secret Caucus meetings, and by forming themselves into a National Federation with other bodies. I fancy that it was those movements that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had in his head when he made the speech reported in last night’s Herald, for the .right honorable gentleman’s statement cannot be directed against us on this side. Whom is the Prime Minister going to fight?
– I was wondering!
– So was I, as I wondered about the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) when I was fighting his battles at the Front.
– There is not much Anzac modesty in that!
– The honorable member would have been able to say the same thing if he had had the courage.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that imputation.
– If it is an imputation I withdraw it, and beg the honorable member’s pardon. I was merely carrying on a little cross-firing, and had no intention to hurt his feelings. I should like to direct the attention of the honorable member for Henty to that speech by Mr. Hughes, as reported in the Herald, of Sth July, 1919-
He said that Australia was the soldiers’ possession, and only weakness or cowardice would ever let the waiting vultures clutch it. “ I came to represent Australia, and, by God, I have done it! “ declared Mr. Hughes. “There is no way of holding Australia except yours. I am returning to fight those who, all their lives, have been fighting me . . . .”
I do not know who the “ waiting vultures “ are. Who are they who, all their lives, have been fighting the Hon. W. M. Hughes? We never fought him; we only challenged his judgment in trying to conscript Australia for service overseas, after having emphatically declared that under no circumstances would he be a party to such a policy. The Labour party refused to be played fast and loose with, and, consequently, we challenged the Prime Minister on conscription. Honorable members have seen that right honorable gentleman bare his leg in his wellknown style, in- his flight of oratory at the table here, but it was not members of the Labour party he was then fighting. He has not fought us, and he will not have to fight us, but the intriguers who are out to supplant him. If I could get behind the mind of the Prime Minister, I should find that it is not on this side that he sees his potential enemies, but on the other side, and amongst those who are declaring in the National Federation that they have every confidence in him. I am inclined- to think that there will be stirring times in this House when the Prime Minister returns, unless some honorable members who now support him mend their ways, and do that for which they declared so loudly When the war was at its height.
The honorable member for Henty may think that he reminded me of the Electoral Act, but, as a matter of fact, I have it on my notes, together with a reference to the second referendum. Did honorable members opposite approve of that second referendum? They know very well that, when returned, the Prime Minister told them that conscription was a dead issue. Are they going to approve the Prime Minister’s somersault in putting the second referendum, thus dividing the people on an issue that had been decided twelve months before, and in declaring that the affairs of the country should not be carried on without the powers asked for.
– I thought you were not fighting the Prime Minister?
– I am not- I am fighting those who supported the Prime Minister’s action on that occasion. Honorable members opposite had only to tell the House that they would not support the
Prime Minister’s action, and another Government would have been put in power to do that which is necessary to make Australia progress. But members opposite will certainly say that they approve of the Prime Minister and the conscription proposals, and that, by hook or crook, they intended to conscript Australia, if they could, not only for war service, but in every walk and avenue of industrial life during the war.
– What absolute piffle !
– The same assertion is made in an article in the Nationalist organ in South Australia, and also in the Bulletin.
– You do not believe that?
– If the honorable member asks me what I believe, I can tell him that when I sat behind the Prime Minister I believed him when he told us that the War Precautions Act would never be used unless the German or other foreign warships came into Hobson’s Bay, and it was necessary to proclaim martial law - that nothing would be done under that Act unless approved by the AttorneyGeneral, who, of course, is one of his own side. I believed that statement of the Prime Minister, because I had faith in him at the time, and after what has been done under the War Precautions Act I can believe anything of honorable members on that side of the House. They ought to hang their heads in shame, not only for what they have done to the general community, but for what they have done to the soldiers. However, do honorable members approve of the Prime Minister’s hop out and in again to office - of the intervention by the GovernorGeneral in the manner in which he applied -himself to the politics of the day?
– I remind the honorable member that it is not according to parliamentary practice to introduce the name of the Governor-General into the debates.
– I hope, sir, you are correctly interpreting the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister resigned his office, and, of course, handed his resignation to the Governor-General. The ordinary course in most crises is for the King’s representative to send for the Leader of the Opposition. From what I have read, I gather that, on this occasion, the King’s representative did not send for the Leader of the Opposition.
– Yes, he did.
– As I read it, he sent for the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), the honorable memmer for Grey (Mr. Poynton), and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor).
– Order! I call the honorable member’s attention to standing order 271, which says -
No member shall use the name of His Majesty or of his representative in this Commonwealth irreverently in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.
It has always been the practice to insist that animadversions regarding His Majesty or the King’s representative in Australia shall mot be made in debate unless on some specific motion.
– I am dealing with a matter which took place when I was absent from Australia. On a motion challenging, not only the proposed administration, but alsothepast administration of the Government, I regard it as the function of , this Parliament to criticise certain actions in which the King’s representative took part. Is it not a direct challenge on a specific instance, and am I not in order in traversing the history of that episode?
– The honorable member is not in order in taking the course he suggests. Any action of the King’s representative can only be dealt with on a specific motion challenging it. Criticism of the King’s representative cannot be introduced in the ordinary course of debate.
– I am sorry that the Standing Orders will not permit me to discuss this matter, because this is the place in which we are supposed to record our opinions, and criticise any action of which the Government may have been guilty during its term of office, and because this is one of the matters which must necessarily he referred to on the hustings, and I am sorry that I am not allowed to say here what I must perforce say when I give the electors my correct perspective of the action taken upon that occasion. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite, familiar with the incident, know full wellthat if they had been in Opposition at the time, they would not have permitted so exalted a personage to interfere as he did; and I am satisfied that, even if they have protested their unanimity with theGovernment, and their approval of the actions ofthe Government, they at least are not genuinely sincere in approving of this particular action.
There is another matter I wish to speak about which may also cause me to traverse ground prohibited by the Standing Orders, and the ruling just given. I refer to the earldom which was conferred on the late member for Swan (Lord Forrest). That gentleman was one of the big men of Australia; perhaps he did more than any other man to develop the Commonwealth, and he deservedly earned the respect of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth;but I must record my protest against the creation of hereditary titles in a democratic country such as ours is. I am opposed to the granting of titles atany time, and particularly to the way in which they are being thrown about at the present time. In fact, I am anxiously waiting to see whether Percy Brunton, the “peanut king,” will get a title. He is just as notorious as some gentlemen who have been awarded titles, and perhaps he has done just as much good.
The most appalling action of the Go vernment during last session was the sanctioning or camouflaging or - I would say it if the Standing Orders permitted me - lying-
– Order !
– I shall not say it, but, from what I have read and know of the matter, I can say that the action of the Government in sending Senator Pearce overseas was condemned by the press throughout the Commonwealth. Every paper which I saw When I reached Fremantle on my return was unanimous in condemning the action of the Government. I commend the loyalty of the honorable member forFremantle (Mr. Burchell), who hastried to justify the action of the Government in sendingSenator Pearce to London; but why, I ask, did the Government camouflage the matter so much during last session? Why was it not made known to honorable members opposite, if not to the House, that it was necessary to send support to General Monash ?
– I said that I knew no more about the matter than any other honorable member, but that the f acts, as we have seen them disclosed in the cable news, showed there had been an increase in the speeding up of returning men.
– If, as the honorable member says, Senator Pearce has done the work, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is getting the limelight. However, the point I am dealing with is the manner in which Senator Pearce left Australia. There is something radically wrong, something smelly, when people go down to a vessel to hoot the departure of any person.
– It all depends upon who the hooters were.
– The honorable member has “ come down at his first fence.” The first paper in which I read a criticism of Senator Pearce’s departure was the West Australian, and it is not a Labour paper, but is one of the bell-wethers of the Liberal Union. Has the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) read any of the resolutions passed by returned soldiers in regard to Senator Pearce’s departure? Surely they can take a fair view of what should be done in regard to military matters, and cannot be accused of having the bias which may be said to be displayed by a party politician ? Today the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is telling the soldiers “ Australia is yours ; Australia is as you make it.” They were returned soldierswho howled, and howled very loudly, against the immoral action of the Government in sending Senator Pearce to London. The honorable member for Fremantle said that the Minister for Defence was a factor in regard to intervening between General Monash and ship-owners in the matter of expediting demobilization, but the honorable member cannot produce anynewspaper which says that he has ever been such an intermediary. He cannot have seen the published statement that the Prime Minister had gone to the British Ministry, and that, as a result, shipping had been speeded up, proving that the Prime Minister did the work and not Senator Pearce. The honorable member said that Senator Pearce did not get Home until three months after General Monash had commenced the work of demobilization. Does he claim that after having Ms scheme in operation for three months General Monash could not competently finalize things and get the scheme going?
– I said before, and I repeat now, that, in my judgment, Senator Pearce has been responsible for the speeding up of the return of Australian soldiers ; ,and I say this with a knowledge of the difficulties which General Monash had to face. ,
– I would be inclined to believe the honorable member df his own experience had fitted in, but I understand that he did not meet .Senator Pearce before he left London, and that he left before he had any opportunity of judging what effect Senator Pearce had on General Monash’s work.
– That is quite correct.
– Then I leave it to honorable members to judge how the honorable member for Fremantle can give the assurance that the presence of Senator Pearce had the effect he says it did on demobilization work.
– I was giving you my opinion, birt I say again that it is backed by the facts.
– The facts are disclosed in the cablegrams from Great Britain, and these show that where it became necessary to speed up the shipping companies the Prime Minister intervened. I have seen no record of Senator Pearce doing what the honorable member for Fremantle urges he has done.
– It is quite certain that if the Prime Minister could not do anything, Senator Pearce could not do it.
– I am certain that the Prime Minister would not let Senator Pearce do anything if there was any limelight to be gained by doing it. I read in ian article the other day about a function at Australia House. At the commencement Mr. Fisher, in his official capacity of High Commissioner, was head serang; but towards the finish he was shouldered to one side, and, in his stead, stood “ Billy.” While I commend the loyalty of the honorable member for Fremantle to his colleague (Senator Pearce), I cannot accept his statement as to the facts. General Monash had already had his scheme in operation three months, and the honorable member was not in London .when Senator Pearce was there. The cablegrams tell us that any intervention that took place as between General Monash and the British Ministry in regard to shipping was undertaken by the Prime Minister. Therefore, I say that, so far from Senator Pearce’s presence being required in London for demobilization purposes, he is, in “ digger “ language, a “ dud.”
When the honorable member for Fremantle was speaking, I interjected regarding the revolt by our soldiers against demobilization delays, and he asked me for proof. I can only give him my assurance, which he can verify by reference to Brigadier-General Bessell-Browne.
– He was a good man, was he not?
– I had little to do -with him ; but our fellows liked him. A chum of mine in the 13th Artillery Brigade told me that when the armistice was signed it was proposed to send the brigade into Belgium. Our fellows objected, and at a meeting decided that they would not go. When the matter came before Brigadier-General Bessell-Browne, he was very “flummoxed,” but eventually he captured a few corporals and sergeants, who were acting as intermediaries for the men, and through them induced a sufficient number of the brigade to obey. They were then sent to some place, but not the destination originally proposed. “ But,” said my . mate, “ 10 per cent, of us got away, and it was not long before the rest of them left Belgium.” The point of this incident is that Australian soldiers can be overridden by military autocrats to a certain point, but they cannot be driven as far as the British ‘ Tommy ‘ ‘ can ; they break much quicker; thank God they do.
I also interjected to the honorable member for Fremantle that the men had to resort to direct action before they could get the fourteen days’ embarkation leave to which they were justly entitled.
– What date was that?
– I cannot say; but the honorable member can calculate that from the following extract from the Chronicle, of the 7th January -
The aggrieved Australian soldiers at Devon- port, of whom mention has previously been made, are men who enlisted in 1915, and who complain that whereas the 1914 men are given numerous privileges, they have only had their periodical short leave. They have now been embarked from France to Devonport for immediate repatriation. They state that many of them enlisted in January and February, 1915. The matter is being referred to the authorities. The Somali left Plymouth to-day, and there were no refusals to sail by her. The Burma is also embarking soldiers from the Continent.
I admit that I tried to get off the Somali, and I was not the only one who made the attempt. I desired my fourteen days’ leave before embarkation. All the leave I was given from the time I left Australia till the date I returned was the seven days following disembarkation. Apart from that, I did not have a free leg for a day. Another chap in the same corps, Mr. Burton Hardy, an Adelaide solicitor, could not get more than fourteen hours’ leave in order to fix up some special business. When I found that there was a possibility of my not getting the fourteen days’leave, to which I was entitled, I paraded before my Commanding Officer, and then before Major Playford, the son of the late Hon. T. Playford, of South Australia. He said to me, “If I were you, I should telegraph to Hughes, and so have two barrels to my gun.” I paraded also before Colonel Collett, and the only reply I received from him was, “ Not approved.”
– What date was that?
– Prior to the 11th December. I was only one amongst many who were lined up waiting to be paraded regarding embarkation leave. One man had accumulated an enormous quantity of souvenirs, which he intended to give to his friends, but he could not get leave to go to London to arrange for their despatch. I made every attempt to get leave for myself, but without result. My telegram to the Prime Minister was not answered. “ Diggers “ who returned with me had been twelve months in the line, and for that reason alone they were entitled to fourteen days’ leave. An unfortunate fact is that some of the men, who were hit on the occasion of the last “hop over,” on the 8th August, were deprived of the fourteen days’ leave to which they would have been entitled had they not been wounded. The Chronicle of 4th January last said -
Wherever possible, the married men will be permitted to book their passages with their wives to Australia, instead of being compelled to travel in troopships. Leave prior to embarkation will be granted in all cases. Sir John Monash, on. being interviewed in regard to the Plymouth incident, when the men declined to embark without leave to see England, upheld the demand of the men.
I read that statement in the press. In order to get leave, I degraded myself once into one of the creeping things one has to be if he wishes to get justice in the Army. Yes, I have been right down on my stomach. But a little bit of “ direct action “ resulted in some of the men at Devonport getting satisfaction from the “ silvertails,” with their red lapels, their canes, and Sam Brown belts, who glare at a “ digger “ as if he were dirt. And we shall get a little more direct action from the men to whom “ Billy “ Hughes said “Get home; I am coming to lead you.” His leadership will require to be vastly different from that which the men are receiving to-day from the National Government if they are to become his docile followers.
In connexion with demobilization, there is a lot that requires investigation. The same remark applies to repatriation. Wherever possible, the ability of the applicants being equal, preference should be given to returned soldiers in connexion with all appointments. I claim that as much for the officer as for the “digger”; but when an officer is given a departmental job, he must forget that he has been an officer. He must become a civilian, and not act as if he would have persons arrested and shot at dawn whenever he thinks it necessary. Usually, he does think it necessary. This is what the Argus has to say about unnecessary expenditure in connexion with the Military Forces: -
Officers in high rank who have returned are retained on the pay roll, as well as most of those who were in administrative positions during the war.
The “ silvertail “ element is well looked after by the Department, and rightly so, so far as the officers who are doing necessary work are concerned. But if unnecessary officers of high rank are being kept in the Department at excessive expense, the abuse requires looking into. There is too much militarism in Melbourne at the present time. At the Domain Camp, where
I was imprisoned for a time, one may see every morning the farce of mounting guard enacted. The band is paraded for the purpose, and the whole nonsense is conducted in the presence of half-a-dozen officers. All this military “ swank “ involves unnecessary expense, and if honor- able members are content to have it continued, I do not know what the electors will think of them.
– That is keeping up the “home” front.
– There is no doubt about that; and as long as we allow it to continue, these officers will- be glad to get the pay and the “swank” that attaches to it. I can appreciate a little bit of “ dog “ in an individual, because that may only signify that a man likes to keep himself well groomed and maintain a good appearance. But the actions of some of these military Johnnies are more than “ dog.” When I was imprisoned at Largs Bay, I made a complaint to an officer, and but for the barbed wire that separated us, he would, I believe, have slashed me across the face with his cane. If he had done so, I would have kicked him on the shins.
When another honorable member was speaking about repatriation grievances, the honorable member for Calare (Mr.
Pigott) asked him to quote one case. An honorable member may know of numerous grievances, but may not have the particulars in his pocket at the moment he is called upon to produce them. I could mention to the House dozens of cases. 1 shall relate one South Australian case, in which I was personally concerned. The Honorable John Carr, of South Australia, came to me with a complaint from a returned soldier, and I invited him to accompany me to the Department, in order to see what we could do for the unfortunate fellow. I am glad that I took Mr. Carr with me, because, after the interview, he said to me, “By Jove, I thought that officer intended to throw you out.” I said, “ I know that, and I am glad you were present, because, otherwise, he would have said that I wa3 abusive.” The case was that of a soldier named Cuthbert, who had been two and a quarter years away on active service. He was discharged on the 17th April, and repatriated himself. He was a sailor, and got a job on the Wandana, and as the Wandana came up the Gulf on Sunday, the 15th June, he was paid off. On the Monday he had no further job to go to. The Wandana will employ him again as soon as the strike is over. He did not strike, but was paid off. The unfortunate point of it is that his wife had been ill. He brought with him, as evidence, the doctor’s bill for £5 12s. 6d. He paid £3 odd to a private hospital, and went to the Department and asked for sustenance, as he had nothing. It had cost him all he had saved up in deferred pay to reinstate his home when he got back, so that his request was a very fair one. I was prepared to hear the case argued by the Repatriation Department, so I said to him, “ Come round and I will see what they can do,” as he was not satisfied with the treatment meted out to him. After pushing past two or three clerks, who asked, “ What is your business? Can’t we fix you up?” I said that I wanted to see the head of the Department. We were then taken into that official’s room.. When we got in he turned round, and asked, “Well, what do you want?” I hardly knew what to say, as he did not ask us even to take a seat. I said, “This gentleman is Mr. Carr, M.L.C., this is a ‘ digger,’ and my name, is Yates. I want you to consider this man’s case. He has applied for a sustenance allowance, and has been refused.”
He said, “What are the circumstances?” I related them to him, and he said, “ I can do nothing.” I replied, “ That is strange. It is hardly fair to a man who has put in two and a quarter years of his life in serving his country, and risked his life, and is supposed to be a hero, and who has been assured that nothing is too good for him, if he is to be told that you can do nothing.” He said, “I will read you a ruling,” and he read ruling No. 115, to which I listened. That ruling governs the majority of cases as to how a man shall get sustenance allowance, but at the end it reads -
Provided always that this principle will not apply to those cases where the loss of employment is directly due to causes attributable to war service; and provided, further, that any case which may seem to justify consideration as a special case may be treated accordingly.
When he read that, I said, “ Very good ; that will do me. I want you to treat this man, if you will, as a special case, seeing the extraordinary position he is in, with sickness in his family, and seeing also that he has brought you the doctor’s bill to show you. He has not troubled the Repatriation Department, but has found himself a job, and has been paid off .through circumstances over which he has no control. I should, therefore, like you to deal with him under the last paragraph of that ruling.” He said, “I cannot do it.” I replied, “ If I were sitting in your chair, I should take quite a different view of it.” He said, “ You are not in my chair, and I do not intend you to sit here. I think you have gone quite beyond your duty and power.” This is where Mr. Carr and the other fellow got up.
– Was that person “ a civilian or a soldier?
– He is a civilian; but he was either a colonel, a major, a captain, or a lieutenant.
– Had he been to the war ?
– Yes; or, at least, he had one of these medals. I am giving the House the performance as it actually took place, and not embellishing it or drawing upon my imagination.
– That is an exceptional case. You do not get many like that.
– How many more exceptional cases are there ? It is only the exceptional cases that the latter part of that rule is intended to cover. The straight-out case is easily met; but how many more men whose cases are out of the ordinary have been turned off through not having a member of Parliament to come to? In the ordinary case no injustice will be done. Eventually, I said to the gentleman, “ I am sorry that my language does not meet, with your approval, but I have said nothing for which I think I ought to apologize. No matter what language you require me to use, I want to let you know that I take exception to the method in which you are administering that ruling. If I did not tell you so, you. would say I came here and did not register my protest.” That is an instance which, no doubt, can be duplicated. Let me quote another case. Any member who deals with “ diggers “ can get plenty of these cases. A man named S. C. P. Polmear writes to me from Melrose, South Australia, about the State Government giving preference to soldiers who can finance themselves to some extent. He does not care about that policy.
– You are speaking of an isolated case.
– Only the isolated cases are brought to us.
– We have given assistance to over 100,000.
– I quite expect you to do so.
– -Why condemn the Department because of that particular case ?
– I am not condemning the Department. I say the Department has done a lot, but I am pointing out its faults. If they were not pointed out, how would the Minister know that they exist? How, otherwise, would the Minister know that I have been treated in the manner I have described when pressing what I thought was a just complaint? I believe that Cuthbert should get his sustenance allowance, and that the Department should pay the doctor’s bill for him. He should have been attentively listened to. What really underlay the attitude of the official who dealt with him was that he could not see further than the seamen’s strike. .1 said to him, “ I want- you to blind yourself to that fact.” This man is a soldier. Never mind whether the seamen are on strike. Although he is a seaman, he has not struck. He was paid off.” He was making Cuthbert suffer for the seamen that had gone out on strike.
– Is not that an unfair thing to say ?
– That is my opinion. . I would not draw that conclusion if the man had not dragged the strike into it - a thing which he had no right to do.
– Did you bring that case under the notice of the Minister ?
– The representative of the Minister is here, and I want to place on record some of the things which I do not think the Department is looking into. I do not believe enough care is being taken to see that these injustices do not happen. The Military Department is still too much influenced in its administration by an autocratic atmosphere, and the fair thing is not being done to our soldiers generally.
The man who wrote to me from Melrose says -
I enlisted on 25th August, 1915, and was accepted without a doubt. I served with the Mining Corps, and was discharged on the 1st February, 1918. Whilst away I got bad eyes - the reason they sent me home. After examination the specialist considered that I was suffering with trachoma before enlisting, and
I received no pension; a nice way to finish with a man. You well know that weak eyes are soon detected : but I had no signs of weakness whatever. I tried all ways to get the verdict altered, but with no result. I have to be very careful with my eyes, and it is of grave concern to me for fear of my wife and children getting the complaint from me; but the authorities do not think of this, and have proved that the promise of pensions for any injuries received -has been broken in many cases.
That sort of thing has no right .to happen.
– But the honorable member knows that all these cases have to be decided by the medical authorities.
– -I will give the honorable member that in, but this man points out circumstances that conflict with the opinion of the medical authorities. The medical authorities say he had trachoma before he joined the army.
– Then why did they take him?
– That is the whole po±ut If he had trachoma, how the devil did he get into the Army ? It is of no use saying that these men weo afflicted after you have had their services.
– You will have to dismiss all the doctors, or take their advice.
– We have to be game to do a little bit on our own as well as take the doctors’ advice.
The Repatriation Department is a big organization, and we could not have a Department that did not do something. As the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) has pointed out, they have repatriated so many men, but thousands of others, like the man on the Wandana, have repatriated themselves. I have not looked up the records recently, but when I went to Sydney at the request of the out-of-work returned soldiers there, I noticed the Repatriation Department’s advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th May. According to this there were 1,427 men out of work. That is not a great number compared with the total of those who have returned ; but the point is that of that number there were 88 clerks, 20 caretakers, 450 drivers, 227 light labourers, 223 labourers, 20 liftdrivers, 84 motor-drivers, 30 station hands, 111 storemen, and 30 watchmen, or a total of 1,283 of the ordinary labouring type. I guarantee that all the rest have repatriated themselves. They were probably in some fixed employment before they went away. Those 1,283 men belong to the working-class section of the community. They could not have been out of work before the. war, because it will not be urged that we sent our unemployed to the Front. Probably a good many of them had jobs promised, and some of those jobs may never have been filled. About the same time in Victoria there were 1,027 men unemployed. Of these there were 122 clerks, 154 drivers, 420 light labourers, 120 labourers, 42 storemen, and 33 motor -drivers, or 891 out of the 1,027. At that time there were only 200 registered on the books of the Repatriation Department unemployed in Adelaide, hut of those 150 were labourers, and 32 were light labourers. On the 25th June, however, according to the advertisement in the South Australian Register, the total had increased to 485, of which 27 were clerks, 15 farm labourers, 20 drivers, 16 miners, and 323 labourers, or a total of 401. That is where the Repatriation Department needs to apply its energy - to those who are on weekly wages, and have to look for work from week to week, not those who are in jobs that will last.
– Would that be the result of the strike to some extent ?
– I hardly think so. The first figures I quoted were before the strike, but the last were after the strike began. That is the aspect in which repatriation does not go as far as it should. That is the arm of the Service that is not being considered, and where the work is not being done effectively. It is easy to watch a machine working, but when you have to do something that the machine will not do, that is where your ingenuity and ability are put to the test.
I desire now to deal with the internment of our German-Australian settlers. I do not stand for disloyalty or disaffection on the part of any section in the community. If a man is not prepared to do his best for his country, to speak for its good, and to say nothing to its detriment, then I say, “ Put him out.” That is where I stand on the general principle of internment, but I intend to cite one or two cases in regard to which I have tried my hardest to get the men concerned released. I am going to refer now to one individual in particular. I worked hard to get him back to his wife and family. He has been released. But how? I went last Monday morning to see his wife and their two children. I desired to discover whether my efforts to release the husband and father had been of any avail. This is a copy of a telegram which I sent to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell) -
Re Roesler internee, arrived Australia five years age, father died at sea. Naturalized twenty years, thirty years postal official, victim neighbours’ spite.Request inquiry view to release.
And here is the reply from the Acting Secretary forDefence -
I am in receipt of your wire of the 7th inst., relative to internee Roesler, and desire to inform you that this matter will receive early consideration.
That was dated the 11th June. I went on a Monday morning to see Mrs. Roesler, and to learn what knowledge she had of her husband. I did not see her at her home. There was a notice on the door. It said that any one wanting to see Mrs. Roesler should call at another place indicated. I found her. She was in black. Her husband had been dead for nine days, and she had had no official intimation of the fact. It appears that the Reverend Jose, of North Adelaide, had been asked by the military authorities at Keswick, South Australia, something to the following effect : - “ You live out at North Adelaide. Tell Mrs. Roesler her husband died on the 17th June.” Up to the present, that widow has had no intimation from the Government that her husband is dead. She cannot get an adjustment of his lodge money or his insurance because she has no official information from this good Australian Government whether her husband is alive or dead.
– Have you seen the Minister about that?
– God damn the Minister! I do not want to see the Minister.
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw and apologize.
– Apologize to whom?
– The honorable member must apologize to this House.
– I apologize . to . the House if honorable members do not feel affected in the way I do.
– Order !
– He was not speaking of the Minister present in the chamber.
– He addressed himself direct to “ The Minister.”
– Order ! The Chair is the best judge of what is order and what is not.
– Did the honorable member go to the Minister about it ?
– -When Roesler’s case was first brought before me, I demanded an inquiry, and I got one. It was fixed white I was away speaking in the country during the first conscription campaign. While there, I received news that Roesler was to be tried on such-and-such a date. I could not get back to the city, and wired, therefore, asking that the trial be suspended until my return. It was not suspended, and the case for Roesler’s internment was upheld. I might say that it was after that campaign that I enlisted and went to the war. I could not follow up this man’s case while I was out of the country. . I have since seen people who attended at the trial, and have been assured that when the poor man’s lawyer - Mr. Frank Smith, of Adelaide - asked what was the charge against Roesler-, he was told there would be no charge; but that nil that there would be would consist of evidence given by certain neighbours. I will state ‘the reason why that man was interned. He was a poor little chap, most inoffensive and quiet, as good a little man as ever drew breath. He was a postal official in the North Adelaide post-office, and had been there for thirty years. When I heard of his trouble, I visited his wife, who was most deeply distressed. She had no idea why this terrible thing had happened to her husband. She knew she had never done anything to indicate that -she was disloyal, and that he had never done anything of the kind, either. She showed me a £50 war bo id, which she had managed to buy. That was some indication of her loyalty,* I should say. Unhappily, she has had ito sell it since, in order to help maintain her kiddies and herself. She told me .that there was a neighbour named Ferguson living close by. Some years before the war his boys had been in the habit of annoying Mrs. Roesler by kicking a football over her fence, and she had threatened that if they did so again she would put a pin into the ball. It was only a threat. ‘That night, however, Ferguson had waited on her husband and abused and assaulted him. Roesler took him to Court, and won his case. Ferguson then threatened that if ever the time caine, he would get Roesler out of his job in the post-office. He did more - according to the wife. This man’s chance came when the war broke out. Roesler was interned owing to the spite of his neighbours. They said that he was in the habit, when he saw people going to draw their war pensions, of saying that the pensioners were collecting blood money; and that, on another occasion, he had remarked to a person whose son had been killed at the war, that if the boy had never gone to fight he would not now have been dead. I made close inquiries at the post-office. One of the officials - Mr. Field - said he did not know why Roesler had been interned. I inquired, “ Have you ever heard him make any remarks which might be taken to be disloyal, or has he in any way shown any disaffection, or done anything that would be likely to get him into trouble?” The official said “No.” I asked, What kind of a servant has he been?” and his former fellow employee said, “ An excellent servant.” I said, “ Is there any one else in the office who is likely .to have heard him utter any disloyal statements?” and the answer I received was “ No.” All five of those employees at the North Adelaide post-office - Messrs. Field, Smith, Lennox, ‘Cook, and James - were prepared to go before the tribunal and swear that Roesler had said and done nothing disloyal; but the: poor fellow was interned until he died,, on the 17.th June. They gaoled him; vet, from all the evidence which I have been able to gather, were was not a better resident of South Australia. I will tell honorable members what he was, though, and I will suggest another motive than that of his having uttered disloyal remarks. He was treasurer of a Labour committee- ‘
– That does not stand to the credit of a man who makes such a statement.
– You can write it to my credit or discredit, as you like. I repeat it. I am satisfied that the political standing of this man was at the ‘back of it all.
– You never brought these matters before the Minister, and that shows what little sympathy you really had for the man.
– Have I not stated that I secured the original inquiry? Have I not read the telegram, and the reply thereto, sent and received since they let me out of gaol? Could I carry on the man’s case while I was away at the Front, or while I was stowed in gaol?
– You said the man was dead.
– Good God! The man has just died. Do you think they would intern a dead man?
While I was in Darlinghurst I came across another individual; and if ever there was an injustice perpetrated - if ever there was something which stands to the disgrace of this Government - it is the continued internment of Paul Hermann. He is about thirtytwo years old, and has resided in Australia since he was two years of age. His father was known to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), with whom he worked at one time. This internee’s history, therefore, may be traced by honorable members in this House. Hermann was interned in Holdsworthy Camp, and was transferred to Darlimghurst because he tried to get a letter out to his wife. I ask honable members not to think he was a criminal because he was in Darlinghurst. From what I saw, there are greater criminals outside Darlinghurst than in it. This man has been interned since the armistice. While I was in Sydney I met Hermann’s brother. The latter had been at the war for four years, and, upon his return to the country for which he had fought, he found that the Government had interned his brother. I want to anticipate the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) now by telling him that I brought the man’s case before the Minister, acting just as I did in regard to the unfortunate Roesler . I took the brother with me,’ and was accompanied by Mr. Steele, Secretary of the Young Australia League - which is patriotic enough, so far as its title is concerned, I should say. I was accompanied also by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) and by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts). We waited on the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), and asked him to bring before the Acting Minister for Defence the whole circumstances surrounding the internment of Hermann. I had no desire to make all the facts known on the floor of the House. What I wanted in the case of Roesler was to get that poor woman’s husband back to her, and what I now want is toget Paul Hermann back home to his wife. He has been molested and thrown into gaol absolutely for political reasons. At the outbreak of the war he was a tailor in charge of about fifty hands in the particular phase of the business with which he was connected. He offered his services in the same capacity to the Minister for Defence. He offered to be engaged at Australian Imperial Force rates, in the Commonwealth Clothing Factory. Although he was of German parentage, and his brother was at the Front, he made that straight and open offer. He was not disaffected in any sense.
– No more was his father. The old man hated the Prussians.
– As the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) is now present, I ask him to speed up the tribunal which looks into such cases as that of Hermann. I want results, and. not replies such as I have received in the case of the other man. I do not want to find that this man, too, has died. Ido not want to learn that he has “ gone west “ as the result of an attack of pneumonic influenza while languishing in Darlinghurst. I do notwant to go and see his wife in widow’s weeds and to find all his people for ever after cursing Australia. Paul Hermann is a good Australian, and a fine young man. The only known reason for his internment is that he made a certain suggestion at a meeting of the Young Australia League. Possibly, Sydney people know more about that League than I do, and can say whether or not it is a hotbed of disaffection. Hermann, in discussing the expense of sending’ the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the Old Country and keeping him at the Peace Conference, was talking about the amount in which Australia was likely to be involved, and he said the money could have been better spent in developing Australian industries.
– But you do not believe that ?
– God help me! I believe anything unless you let me know the facts. What about Roesler? That poor little man is dead ! His widow wants to know what the Government will do for her. She says, “I go out washing, and as soon as they know who I am, I am discharged.” in God’s name, I ask the Government if they are going to hound that poor woman to death? God spare the Prince of Wales ! I went to fight the common foe. I did not go there in order that the Government of Australia might treat human beings like that. I have a feeling that a fair thing is not going to be done in regard to this war. I went to France to help kill the Kaiser. By God, he will never get killed! Neither will von Hindenburg, nor von Ludendorff, nor von der Goltz, nor von Sanders. They are living as fine a life to-day as before the war, and they will live to breed another war. The Government talk about indemnities, and about the captured colonies. What the hell aTe they going to do with Ludendorff?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– I again beg your pardon, sir.
– The honorable member’s time limit has expired.
.- In the few minutes that I intend to devote to the discussion of this motion, I do not propose to indulge in a review of ancient history. We have ahead of us much work of a far more valuable character, and this is no time to ransack ancient history merely to manufacture political placards for the next general election. We have had placed before us by the Government a comprehensive programme, in which they contemplate highly important measures that .will make for progress, and, we hope, increased production throughout Australia. When -those proposals come before us in the form of authorizing Bills, it will be time enough for us to discuss them.’ Meantime, there are only three or four features of the long list of measures in the Ministerial statement to which I propose to refer.
I desire, in the first place, to stress the importance of passing without delay, not only the Bills that have already been introduced by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), but others calculated in every way possible to encourage production in Australia. The task that confronts us is a colossal one. Having regard to the sacrifices of our soldiers, and the immortal way in which they have raised Australia to the dignity of nationhood, we need at once to settle down to such work as will not only help production, but lead to greater industrial peace, and enable us to do justice to those brave men by means of an effective repatriation system.
We have to confront the disquieting situation that during the last three years the cultivation areas of Australia have been considerably reduced. I want to know what the Government intend to do to encourage an increase in primary production. According to the latest statistics furnished by the Government Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, in 1915-16, we had 18,528,000 acres of land under crop. In 1917-18 that area had fallen away to 14,298,000 acres, showing a reduction of 4,230,000 acres. In 1915-16 we had 12,4S4,000 acres under wheat, but that area in 1917 fell away to 9,774,000 acres, a reduction of 2,710,000 acres.
– With every ^prospect of a further decline.
– There is every, prospect of a further decline, unless action is taken by this Parliament to bring about a greater measure of industrial peace, and greater harmony as between employers and employed. Without a closer association of common interests as between employers and employees in the industrial sphere, we can never expect to largely increase the production of our rural areas. We have a. Protective Tariff, and we believe that Australia should be selfcontained. We have all the elements, all the raw materials and resources necessary, I believe, to make this the most selfcontained country in the world. We have vast resources in the shape of primary products, which should be worked up into the finished articles. W’e -have also vast’ iron resources that should be developed, since the safety of the nation depends upon the proper development of the iron and steel industry. Notwithstanding all these resources, however, we have industrial unrest, industrial warfare, class consciousness, and class antagonism that, make it impossible for production to increase. It matters not what Tariff is passed ‘ by this Parliament; unless, side by side with the passing of that Tariff, we settle the industrial unrest in a satisfactory way, we cannot expect our production to increase.
It ought to be possible at this stage for the Government to come down with proposals for a fuller development of the cooperative principle amongst, to begin with, our primary producers. The primary producers of Australia have already set an example to the nation by the way in which they have proceeded to develop their commercial co-operative enterprises. ‘Their effort in that direction will make for the replacing of the middleman, the cheapening of prices throughout the Commonwealth, and, I believe, for the abolition of the profiteer. It ought also to make for greater efficiency. By special agricultural education, and in every other way, the farmer is being made more efficient than ever he was before. The farmer has already settled down to the task of educating himself, and these co-operative organizations will enable the education that he seeks to be disseminated and commercial experience gained in a way that must enormously increase our primary productions. All efforts in that direction, however, will be impossible without labour. We must have labour in order that we may .bring about increased production in connexion with not only our agricultural, but our mineral industries. The efficiency that is to be secured from the principle of collective co-operation should be extended, not only to primary, but to secondary production, and I hope it will be possible for this Parliament, during the present session, to induce employers, and especially large employers, of labour to bring forward comprehensive schemes of co-operation. They should be encouraged to make an offer of the kind to the unionists of Australia. If such an offer were made; if they were told that they might co-operate in large businesses, that they might secure closer commercial association with that which they produce* - and it is the lack of this that ds at the root of the present-day trouble - it would be possible, I am sure, to induce the sane, sober-minded, efficient, and ambitious section of our workers to embrace such means of cooperation. In that way we should secure a greatly increased output and, at the same time, that industrial harmony which would make for the building up of our industries.
– It is too late now.
– I think not. I know that it will prove a great task because of the class consciousness of the trade unions which has been largely fomented by the flamboyant and demagogic utterances of their leaders. Class consciousness and antagonism to all forms of co-operation and co-partnery have been created in that way, and it will require very tempting schemes, and much persuasion on the part of the employers, so to break down that prejudice as to induce the workers to become an integral part of the great industries which are producing in Australia to-day.
In this connexion I invite honorable members to look at the position of the United States. There recently appeared in the Nineteenth Century a very able article by Mr. Ellis Barker showing that the value of the products of the workers in all classes of industry in the United States, numbering something like 6,615,046 was £4,134,412,000, whereas in Great Britain the products of 6,019,746 workers - nearly the same number as in the United States - were of the value of £1,617,340,000. In other words, the value of production per worker in the United States was two and a half times greater than in Great Britain. This increased production in the United States has been brought about by the encouragement given to the efficient man to earn as much as possible. It has been brought about by a system of well-regulated piecework, which differs altogether from that which operated in Australia prior to the advent of industrial unionism. I have not a word to say against industrial unionism. It has done much to uplift and to ameliorate the conditions of Australia. We know that at one time piece-work was resorted to here largely with the object of speeding up. Before the days of industrial unionism the output of the smartest operative was made the standard with the object of bringing about a system of speeding up which probably would have meant ultimate slavery. With a system of properly-constituted tribunals such as our Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, there is no reason why we should not resort to piece-work. Just as it is possible for such tribunals to fix wages, so it would be possible for them to fix piece-work rates in a way that would afford ; a just deal to the workers.
We should, however, go beyond the piece-work system. Co-operation, to my mind, is the only means by which we shall obtain greater industrial harmony inthe Commonwealth, and it is only by securing a larger measure of industrial harmony that this Parliament and the people can do their duty in regard to the grave and serious problems that confront us.
– What is the production per head in Australia?
– It is greater than that of any other country, but it must not be forgotten that we have here a population of only some 5,000,000 people, occupying 3,000,000 square miles of country, and that the enormous natural production of Australia accounts for something like 70 or 75 per cent. of our total production. The position is quite understandable. We ought to have a population of 100,000,000 instead of 5,000,000 people, and in order to secure that increase we must properly develop our industries.
Unless the Government can bring down with their Tariff proposals a scheme for the further and better adjustment of our industrial- conditions -a scheme that will give us greater efficiency - it will be impossible by any form of Protection to de velop our industries as they should be. developed. I believe that can be done under the co-operative principle. According to reports of the Inter-State Commission, it ought to be possible to establish within the Commonwealth many new industries. We should, for instance, work up more of our wool into finished articles. Why should it not be possible to establish many more woollen mills under theco-operative system? My suggestion is that where those engaged in any primary or secondary industry are prepared to form properly-constituted co-operative organizations, the Government should be ready to ‘advance to those organizations the money necessary to enable them to firmly establish that industry.
– This is twenty years too late.
-It ought never to be too lute to carry out such an important reform. I hope that the employers of Australia will meet and formulate some comprehensive scheme for submission to the workers, which will enable them to secure a greater financial interest in the businesses theyare carrying on. If the employers put forward a concrete practical proposal I think it would be accepted, and would succeed. They have too long delayedthe submission of such proposals. In my view, a great deal of the class prejudice which now exists would never have been developed had such proposals been submitted at an earlier stage. I hope that it will be found possible now for the employers to propound a comprehensive scheme to submit to the unionists of Australia, which will secure greater efficiency in manufacture and production, greater contentment amongst the workers, and greater prosperity for the nation, so that we may discharge the stupendous responsibilities which have been left to us as an aftermath of the war. The first of these responsibilities is the just and generous repatriation of our soldiers, and the next is to make provision to meet the financial burdens which the war has imposed upon us.
I should like to make a short reference to the question of economy in our public expenditure;which is mentioned in the Ministerial statement.I understand that there is a Commission at work investigating fully the expenditure of our public Departments. In my view, no departmental Board can possibly bring about the necessary reduction in expenditure in the Public Service. That is a duty which should be undertaken by Ministers. I fail to see why it should not be possible, now that the war is over and we have divested ourselves of some of the powers necessarily assumed under the War Precautions Act, by the amalgamation of some of our public Departments to bring about the necessary reduction in public expenditure without loss of efficiency in administration. The Prime Minister’s Department has grown considerably during the last four or five years. The Navy Department has also considerably increased. That Department has concerned itself with shipbuilding, which has been a very important undertaking, but which might be better placed under the Department of Works and Railways. The works carried out now at the Naval Bases throughout the Commonwealth are under the control of the Works and Railways Department.
– The shipbuilding operations are under a good man at present.
– That is so; but he could be brought under the authority of the Minister for Works and Railways.
There is a great deal in the Government programme which might be debated now, but I shall defer my remarks in detail upon it until such time as the Bills which have been foreshadowed are brought up. That will be the time to debate them on their merits, and to pass them, I hope, in such a way as will enable us tosolve some of the problems which confront us.
I should like to refer for a moment or two to the seamen’s strike, which is threatening to paralyze the industries of Australia. What are we, as a Parliament, trying to do to break that strike - that revolt against constituted authority in Australia? Honorable members opposite have stood for the last twenty years and more for the building up of constitu tional, means for the settlement of industrial disputes, in order that fair play might be given to the workers of the community. They have asserted that justice can only be done to the workers of the community through the ballot-box in the Parliament of the nation. We have in this community built up Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards. We have passed Factories Acts which lead the world in ameliorative industrial legislation. No other part of the world can compare with us in this respect. I have read carefully the series of articles which have been written by Mr. Beeby, and I say that we have in Australia the finest industrial legislative machinery of any country in the world.
– Does the honorable member think that Mr. Beeby will get the worker to agree with him?
– I am not going to discuss Mr. Beeby any further. We have had two or three attempts at syndicalism similar to that which is now being made by the seamen. This last attempt is being made by a set of revolutionaries, and their object is to overthrow the whole of the work of the Parliaments of Australia for the last twenty years and take the law into their own hands. Yet we find that not one man on the opposite side has so far had the moral courage to stand up and condemn the work and methods of the revolutionaries who are leading the sea men in the present strike. In my opinion, there is only one way in which the strike can be broken, and that is by honorable members opposite taking their courage in their hands, and the risks associated with doing so, and saying that the work that they have performed for the last twenty years is not going to be pulled down by three or four demagogues, syndicalists, and Industrial Workers of the World men, whose hands are against society as a whole, who give nothing to society, and take everything they possibly can from it. By the combination of the forces on the opposite benches with the unions outside who profess that they are not in sympathy with the seamen’s revolutionary and destructive strike, that strike canbe broken. If honorable members opposite take that course, it will be possible for this House to do something to enforce law and order in the country, and to. see that; the legislation which has been passed times out of number in the interests of the workers shall be respected in this community.
– The honorable member never heard of a seaman dying worth £1,500,000, as did the late Mr. Gibson..
– What I say is that, through the ballot-box, with a majority of workers in the community, the workers can get what they desire. Labour has been in power inAustralia for several years, and should have squared these things up when they had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament.
Honorable membersopposite talk about the profiteer. I would not hold up my finger on behalfof the profiteer. No doubt profiteering has taken place in Australia, but there has been less of itin this country than any other country in the world. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) referred to several articles of foodstuffs, in connexion with which the verdict of theInter-State Commission, after investigation, is that there has been no understanding and no collusion and no profiteering going on in the cases of milk, butter, and bread. I believe that large profits have been made out of other commodities, and particularly out of clothing. It should have been possible to have done more to prevent profiteering than has been done, but we have at least the satisfaction of knowing that 75 per cent. of the extra profits made has gone back to the revenue in the form of war-time taxation..
– Sharing the loot! Co-operation with the pirates!
– We know that, as a Parliament, we neglected our dutyto some extent in not asking for such an amendment of the Constitution as would give us a permanent powerover Trusts and Combines. Had it not been for the destructive proposals of the Labour party, who asked for too much, it would have been possible for us to secure such an amendment of the Constitution as would have given us permanent power to deal with these organizations.
Mr.Mathews.-Why do not the Go vernment bring forward a proposal now?
– A separate referendum would be necessary, and does the honorable member propose that, within twelve months of a general election, the Government should introduce a Bill for the submission of the question to a referendum ?
– Yes ; does the honorable member propose to wait for four years ?
– The honorable member is aware that Labour has had a majority in various State Parliaments, and I should liketo know how he accounts for the fact, stated on the authority of Mr. Knibbs, that in Queensland, where the Labour party are in. power, the cost of living has during the last twelve months gone up at a greater rate than in any of the other States’.
– That is easily explained.
– It will require a lot of explanation. I shall not take up. any more of the timeof honorable members, I trust that even at this eleventh hour, honorable members opposite who sit here as the declared parliamentary leaders of the Labour organizations of Australia, will at last have the moral courage to stand up and condemn the revolutionary strike that is beingcarried on, and lead the unions to take asane view of their responsibilities. If theydothat, the strike will be broken, and in the present circumstances it seems to me that that is the only way in whichit is possible to break it.
– I listened with pleasure to the last speaker. He has suggested cooperation for the settlement of industrial troubles. I have already told honorable members that itis now too late for that. During the last few yearsthe workers of thecommunity have been seeking to secure some of the benefits of civilization: We have to admit that in Australia they haveSecured, perhaps, as many of those benefits as have the workersof anyother country. We have tried forsome twentyfive years under Wages- Boards, and for some fifteen or sixteen years under. Arbitration Courts, to secure improvedconditions for the workers. What has been the result? The moment the workers’ wages have gone up, prices have gone up.
– The increase in wages has been passed on.
– Yes . There are two. sections in this community who agree on this question. Strangely enough they are the extreme Socialists and the Conservatives. Both these sections contend that it is useless to raise wages, because the rise will be passed on. I have heard one of the leaders of Conservative thought, and one of the leaders of extreme Socialism in Australia, in making this contention, take the same article as an illustration. They took a table, I suppose, because it happened to be in the room. It was pointed out that if the labour on the table cost, say, 14s., it was sold for 17s., and that if the wages were raised to 17s. the vendor would ask a guinea for the finished article. It is no use raising the wages of the men who make this furniture, because, under the circumstances, they are no better off. If it is impossible under our system to improve the condition of the wage-earning section by raising wages, there is something wrong with the system; and if we cannot by legislation raise the wages of the worker, and improve his social conditions, where are we? Both the Conservative and the extreme Socialist take the same view of the problem; but the Conservative is willing to keep on patching the system, whereas the extreme Socialist says that it is the system that is at fault, and that it must go. There is not an honorable member opposite who, on this question, can refute the statements of the extreme Socialist. The Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes), as an advocate of Socialism, could “ wipe the floor “ with any individualist debater that could ‘be produced, and there are thousands of others who could do the same. At any ordinary Socialist gathering may be found students who can prove irrefutably that our present system is beyond patching, so as to suit the worker, and that, therefore, it ought to be abolished. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) suggests that the time has arrived for profit-sharing, from which both employer and employee would reap some benefit; but how ridiculous this suggestion is may be realized when we reflect that to improve the condition of the worker by such means we have to take profit from the wage-paying portion of the community. Both the extreme Socialist and Conservative say that if wages are raised the price of the commodity must be raised; and that is the difficulty which confronts every legislative body in the world. It is not singular to Australia. The world is teeming with unrest. I admit that many are desirous of finding some remedy for that unrest, but it cannot be found under our present system; and on this point the argument of the Socialist and the Conservative alike is unanswerable.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Do you contend that the Arbitration Act and regulations have broken down ?
– I was never in favour of the Arbitration Act; I think that the direct way will do more for the workers, and more quickly bring about an alteration of the present system.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Then you do not believe in legislation ?
– I do ; I believe that by legislation we could create such a system that profiteers would not exist, and the workers would get the full product of their labour. Those who are to-day taking direct action are tired of waiting, but my own belief is that it is better to go on trying to get the desired results by means of legislation.
– You do not agree with direct action ?
– I think the seamen are justified in the stand they are taking. It is too late to offer profit sharing and co-operation. Last January the Government could have given the seamen what they desired ; but the unfortunate circumstance is that these offers come too late; and that is the experience right throughout the world. Take the industrial turmoil in which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) took part some twenty odd years ago. The employing section were willing afterwards to concede what that gentleman and his mates were endeavouring to secure, but that was only because it was seen that it was impossible to go on fighting and gaoling men, for society would rise and rebel; as it is doing today.
I do not know whether any honorable member opposite has put in twelve months in the forecastle, or has ever seen the forecastle of some of even our best ships along the coast. The men eat, sleep, and live in one chamber; and I am sure there is not an honorable’ member who would like his bedroom and diningroom in one.
– I have had it so many a time.
– Yes , for a while; but would the honorable member like to live in that way year after year?
– Striking will not remedy that,
– I am afraid that the honorable member, like Rip Van Winkle, has been asleep for twenty years. A seaman’s work is not overclean at any time. The deck hands get all besmudged with oil and dirt, and when a fireman comes from below he is covered with coal dust and sweat, and altogether unpleasant to look at. He goes into his combined bedroom, dining-room, and retiringroom, where he has to remove his dirty clothes, and has not proper accommodation for washing. I ask again if any honorable member would like to live under such conditions year in and year out? I can quite appreciate what our soldiers had to put up with at the Front, but they were fighting to better conditions, and were willing to face all the discomforts of the situation. We are told that there is not room in our ships of to-day to give the seamen better accommodation. But room must be provided, even if some of the passenger space be . used. I know, of course, that this means “ passing it on,” but our seamen must have better conditions. As to the demand for a six-hour day in port, we can quite realize the position of a seaman who, after three or four weeks voyaging to Queensland and back, desires to see something of his wife and family, for even seamen desire this sometimes. Can it.be said that in this regard the seamen are asking too much ? If we were a civilized community, we would give sailors, after a long voyage, three or four days’ holiday in which to enjoy their homes and the pleasures of social life.
Another point is that the seamen’ desire to be insured for £500 in view of the influenza epidemic.Seamen are placed in a peculiar position in this regard, for they are in and out of quarantine, and have to deal with passengers who are running from place to place, and spreading the complaint broadcast. Dozens of sailors have died, and it is contended that they are doing this work for the benefit of the rest of the community, and, therefore, the Government should insure their lives.
– Does that argument not apply to every man who comes in contact with influenza patients?
– I regard that question as so silly that it does not require an answer.
– It upsetsthe whole of your argument.
– It does not, for it has no bearing on the case. The seamen on our coast are conpulsorily brought into contact with influenza more than are others ashore.
– Not at all. What about attendants at hospitals?
– At hospitals special precautions can be taken, but deaths have occurred amongst hospital attendants, and their lives, too, ought to be insured by the country.
– The Victorian Government Hid insure them for £500.
– Exactly ; and the same should be done in the case of the seamen. Then, again, there is the manner of serving up the men’s food, and so forth. I know a married man with four children, who, as a teetotaler, prefers tea to beer, and he contends that the shipowners ought to provide him with a cup, and not merely with a tin pannikin when he requires refreshment. Most of the food of the men is served in tin plates and pannikins; and it would be only just if the shipping companies were called upon to provide cups and other crockery.
– When I went to sea wo had to provide our own utensils.
– That was at a time when the seamen were “ downed,” as some would like to “ down “ them today; and, in any case, bad conditions years ago are no reason for bad conditions to-day,
– Certainly not; but the men have to provide their own utensils to-day, and could buy cups instead of pannikins.
– There was a time when the”boss” denied any right on the part of his workmen to interfere with the working of the business. I had a boss thirty-two years ago, in Collins-street, who would not let the men interferein any way, but held that, as he had provided the capital, his employees had nothing to do with the business. Very few would take such a position as that to-day. Some old chaps might be surprised at the progress of affairs, but I donot suppose any one under fifty years of age would say that an employee in any civilized community has no right to assert himself and demand some share of the benefits of civilization.
– Supposing it is admitted, as I admit, that the fo’castle accommodation does require improving?
– The seamen tried to get an improvement made by the Arbitration Court up to last December, but failed; and they have now decided that the Arbitration Court method is useless.
Another contention of the seamen is that the system of monthly wages is not a good one. I do not care how wealthy a man is, he is no financier if he has any money lying idle; and every one of us is waiting for ‘the month end in order to get our dividend, wages, or salary. A working man who is paid monthly has to pay all his wages out for the expenses of the month, and has nothing left to go on with ; and, altogether, the monthly system is bad for any man with a small wage. The men ask that the wages shall be paid fortnightly; and I am sure that every one here sees the justice of that contention. I can well remember that, some nineteen years ago, at a conference in Melbourne, of which I was vice-chairman, I was the only one opposed to arbitration, and that was because I felt that it would prove useless. However, I have often dealt with this subject, and do not intend to enlarge on it to-night. In the case of a Wages Board, for instance, we have representatives fromboth sides and a chairman, the latter of whom may know nothing about the industry concerned, though, of course, his common sense may tell him what it costs a working man to live. The representatives of the men ask more than they expect to get, in order that they may not get less, whilethe other side offers less than they intend to give, in order that they maynot have to give too much. The workers have tried the Arbitration Court.
– Was the fortnightly payment one of the issues before the Court ?
– It is one of the things which the men desire. They want fortnightly payments, and these have not been conceded to them. Honorable members know that our Arbitration Act contains a provision which prevents lawyers appearing before the Arbitration Court unless both sides consent to their appearance. The result has been that Labour leaders have become so proficient in the presentation of their cases to that tribunal that they have frequently been eulogized by the presiding Judge. Trouble, however, arises when there is a difference as to what is meant by a decision which has been given by the Court. When such a difference occurs, lawyers are brought into the case. The man who knows the particular trade or calling whose claims are being investigated cannot argue as to legal technicalities.
– You can overcome that difficulty quickly and quietly by the creation of a compulsory Board of Reference.
– Everything would depend on whom the Board was composed of.
– It would be composed of men engaged in the industry affected, and the Judge would be the arbitrator. Mr. MATHEWS. - I repeat that when a difference arises as to the meaning of any decision given by the Arbitration Court, lawyers are brought into the case, with the result thatcosts go up, and the worker is left lamenting: I have dealt with this phase of the question in order to show the honorable member for Wim- mera (Mr. Sampson) that it is too late to adopt his suggestion. All over the world there is industrial unrest to-day. The cotton spinners in Great Britain are out on strike. The individual who fails to recognise the unrest which pervades every country the world over is wittingly blind.
– Talk about Australia and about this crisis.
– The honorable member must excuse me, because I intend to deal with this question in the way that I think fit. I repeat that the man who cannot recognise the industrial unrest which exists throughout the world is wittingly blind.
– The vast majority of your own people do not believe in this strike.
– The honorable member does not know, any more than I do, what the vast majority of those people believe.
– Only a few revolutionaries are doing this. Why do not the seamen go into the Arbitration Court?
– Because they are tired of that Court.
– Is the honorable member tired of the Arbitration Court?
– I was never in favour of it. I have already said that at the Conference to which I alluded a little while ago I stood alone because I recognise the futility of arbitration. I admit that the Arbitration Court has patched up things and made them better than they were. But I contend that its usefulness has gone.
– Has not it done more than any strike has done?
– No. But we would never have had an Arbitration Court had it not been for strikes’. It was not from any love of such a tribunal that honorable members opposite conceded the Arbitration Court.
– Has not arbitration increased the wages of the workers by hundreds of thousands of pounds?
– Yes. But while it has increased wages by hundreds of thousands of pounds, the profiteers have been enabled to make millions of pounds. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) said, “ I want honorable members opposite to take their courage in their hands and assert themselves on this question.” Why do not the Minis terial supporters take their courage in their hands and fight the profiteers? During the last few. years every one of us has been robbed by the profiteers, and honorable members opposite know it.
– We have been waiting for the honorable member to name some of them.
– I will enumerate a few. In the first place, some of our Australian manufacturers, whom we assisted to build up their industries by means of protective duties, have robbed the people. I say that, although I intend to vote for the imposition of still higher duties. The men who have manufactured woollen commodities in Australia have robbed the people of about 100 per cent.
– The honorable member would not dare to say that outside. Let him name anybody who has done that.
– Why, the. InterState Commission has proved it.
– It has not. .
– Yes, it has. The woollen manufacturers made 100 per cent. profit in three years.
– Order! These interjections across the chamber must cease.
– Our woollen mills have increased the wages of their staffs and of their directors; they have written down the values of their properties and machinery to an infinitesimal sum. They have paid heavy taxation, and have still made a profit of over 30 per cent.
-Tobegin with, that statement is not correct.
– They have made from 33 per cent. to 37 per cent. profit.
– Is it news to the honorable member to be told that some woollen mills in this State were prepared to send out their goods at a certain price, and the. Government said’, . “ No. You - shall accept more.”
– I do not believe that even the present Government is bad enough for that. Then the Anzac Works produced loom woven material. They had assistance from Mark Foy, otherwise they would not have been able to do so. It cost about 7s. 6d. or8s. 6d. per yard to manufacture that cloth, andthey were selling it to the tailors of Melbourne for 15s. a yard. But the warehousemen of this city objected, and said, “We will give you £1 a yard for it.”
– My word, the tailors got their cut out of it, too !
– The tailor calculates so much for his labour and so much for material, and then adds to these items so much for his profit. The more material and labour that are used, the bigger are his profits.
– What are his running profits ?
– I do not know. There are some tailors who can command a much bigger profit than can others.
– Some of them have to wait a long time before they get paid.
– The woollen manufacturers of this country have robbed every man and woman in it.
– What did they have to pay back in war-time profits taxation?
– After they had paid that taxation they made a profit of from 33 per cent. to 37 per cent.
– They were on a good wicket.
– They did nine years’ work in three years.
– And. they got nine years’ profits in three years.
– They ought to get nine years in gaol.
– Thereis not an honorable member opposite who was not robbed by the boot manufacturers while the war was in progress. The timber mills of Australia supply another instance of profiteering. They put up the prices of their hardwoods and softwoods to an extent that was absolutely unjustifiable. They made a profit of from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. There is not a warehouse in Flinders-lane which has not robbed every man and woman in Australia - not one. The local manufacturers and importers have been bosom pals, and have been profiteering throughout the war. If honorable members upon this side of the chamber are to take their political lives in their hands and assert themselves on the present occasion, why do not honorable members opposite do the same by telling the people how they are being robbed ? But there is not a word in the Ministerial programme in reference to attacking the profiteers. Had the Government been in earnest, one of the first things they would have done this session would have been to put through a Bill authorizing a referendum to be taken upon the question of whether this Parliament should not be granted increased powers.
– What special virtue would there have been in doing that atthe beginning of the session any more than at the end of it?
– We must go before our constituents about next May. That being so, if there is not time between now and then to get through a Bill asking the people to endow us with greater powers, the Government deserve all that the newspapers have said aboutthem.
– That will be their election promise.
– It will certainly be raised as an election cry, but let us now acquire the power to attack those profiteers who are robbing the people.
– An Act to amend the Constitution must be submitted to a referendum within six months after the measure is passed by this Parliament.
– What objection could there be to the House meeting in January next for a few days in order to put the final touches on such a Bill? There is no constitutional difficulty in the way of bringing the measure forward and passing it, and submitting it to a referendum at the next general election. I know that on this question the party to which I belong can defeat honorable members opposite at the next general election, but this is what honorable members will say, “ We admit our remissness upon this matter, but look at the Bolshevism that is rampant in Australia.” Against “profiteering” honor- able members will hurl the cry of “ Bolshevism,” and the people can be, and may be, gulled by. it, and say, “ We shall put up with the profiteers in order to keep out the Bolshevists.”
Profiteering is interfering with “ the provision of homes for our soldiers. Last week in New South Wales, the Deputy Housing Commissioner - Major Evans - tendered his resignation because he said he was tired of gulling returned soldiers. He said that he had thousands and thousands of names of men requiring homes upon his list, but not one house had been built. There must be a reason for this. A few weeks ago I was talking to a contractor who has made a good deal of money ,out of building houses and selling them. ‘ When the war broke out he came to the conclusion that contracting was no good, but recently he bought five acres of land between Alphington and Ivanhoe with the intention of building thirty villas on it. He is quite satisfied to make a profit of £50 on each house, and he fully expected to put up houses at an average cost of £1,400, but when he made inquiries as to prices from timber merchants, brick-makers, lime and cement merchants, ironmongers, and all the other providers of the essential requirements of a house builder, he found that the average cost of each villa would be about £1,900. He told me that he had given up the idea of building the houses. He said, “ You will have the same difficulties in connexion with soldiers’ homes. I know what the trouble is. The men in charge of the building of homes for soldiers are up against the same thing that I have been up against. The merchants and so on, who control these essentials, realizing the situation, and knowing that the building of homes for soldiers will be a big thing, and must be gone on with, are looking to make a profit out of the work.” The very announcement that the Government intended to build homes for soldiers has to a certain degree kept back other building speculators. This gentleman told me that the Government would find that the soldiers’ houses would costnearly 30 per cent, more than we estimated, even on the inflated values current during the war. I have made some inquiries myself, and I find that the brick- makers are just as cheeky to-day as they were during the boom of some years ago. They quote a price, and you may take it or leave it. They say, “ We cannot give you all good-grade bricks; you must take some of the others, and if 3*ou do not like it, you can go somewhere else.” The builder cannot go somewhere else. It is the same with the cement merchant and the timber merchant. The latter asks– 65s. per 100 ft. for dressed Baltic pine.
– Is the Baltic pine in store?
– They cannot get pine.
– Large stocks of it are held. The Government will find that they cannot build soldiers’ homes, when they have to pay 65s. per 100 ft. for Baltic pine.
– Let them use Australian timber, and they can get pine cheaper in Queensland.
– Very nearly the whole of the Australian hardwood has been cornered. Hardwood, properly seasoned, can be used in house construction for joists and rafters. I know that the Footscray City Council, on the advice of their engineer, has stipulated that softwood must be used for joists, because Australian hardwood cannot be obtained sufficiently seasoned, and, if used when it is not seasoned, causes cracks in the plaster. But there is a great deal of fairly well seasoned hardwood in Australia. However, the hardwood millers are very cunning. They are after their profits just as the importers are, and they have raised the price of hardwood so high that it causes one to wonder whether it is better to use imported softwood, which gives a better job, at the increased price, instead of buying Australian hardwood.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.£5 p.m.
– The hardwood merchants of Australia have raised their prices to a limit equal almost to the prices for imported softwoods. Cement manufacturers also, knowing that there would be a large demand, created a “ corner “ in ‘ cement or came to some honorable understanding with the same purpose in vies* Much the same situation has been creator with regard to builders’ ironmongery. In common with other merchants those who handle this particular line have raised prices considerably, and I think that the Government will find their costs 30 per cent. higher than anticipated. The situation may be met quite simply even if the Government have not constitutional power to do certain things. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government opening timber mills, brick yards, and cement-producing concerns in all the States, and importing their own ironmongery for the large contemplated building operations in connexion with the Repatriation Department.
– Half the timber mills in Tasmania are shut up because they cannot get ships.
– That may be so, and I think the proprietors of timbers in Tasmania are just as big robbers as proprietors of mills on the mainland. If the Government do not take some action to relieve the present situation there will be more trouble. Some Tasmanian timber mills may be closed, but I am satisfied that if the Government attempted to buy one or two they would have to pay “ through the nose “ for them.
– They can be bought quite cheaply now.
– Then why should we not have some of the fine Tasmanian timber for our housing scheme? There is nothing to prevent the Government breaking up “ corners “ in all these commodities. Combines, “ corners,” and vends are in the air. Everybody wants to “ corner “ something. I have in mind a couple of constituents of mine who, having a little money, wanted to create a “ corner “ of their own. When they found that sugar was getting dear they went round to all the grocers’ establishments endeavouring to buy up a few bags from each, and because they were not successful, they abused the grocers, whom they charged with being in a Combine, when, as a matter of fact, they were endeavouring to carry out the same scheme themselves. Last Monday week I attended a meeting called to discuss the metal question.
– Exactly. The chairman of the meeting, without a blush or suggestion that he was doing wrong, intimated that an arrangement would be come to, whereby those controlling the molybdenite mines in Australia would be able to keep up prices for that metal. There were a few jokes concerning the chairman’s statement, and when I remarked to the gentleman sitting next to me that the arrangement was “ red hot,” his only reply was, “ Well, everybody is doing it.” I agreed that everybody was doing it, but I also pointed out to him that it was because of thisgeneral profiteering that he and I and others were suffering to-day. He could not deny that, but he justified what was being done because he also wanted to obtain some advantage from a “ corner “ in a particular commodity. That is the position to-day. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has asked why we do not take our courage in our hands and do something. I ask the Government to do something; to bring down a Bill that will enable us, at the next election to ask the people for greater legislative powers for the control of these monopolies. If they do not take action in this direction a great percentage of their supporters will look askance at them. When we were discussing a similar measure on a former occasion, honorable members opposite fought it bitterly. The then honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) admitted that the powers asked for were essential, and he put up one of the strongest arguments in favour of the measure, but declared that he would not trust honorable members then on the Treasury benches with the use of these powers. Since then the situation has changed. Honorable members who were then in Opposition are on the Government benches. If they were afraid of trusting the Labour party with the use of these powers, and if they were sincere in their protestations about preventing profiteering, why do they not now come down with a Bill giving authority to put this question to the people?
I desire to say a few words in connexion with the Repatriation Department. It is the duty of a Government to find work for every person in a community, but lately there appears to have grown up a system of providing work for returned soldiers by displacing somebody else who happens to be in a position. All I can say is that any returned soldier who wishes to see an old man, possibly the father of another soldier, thrown out of work to provide employment for him, is no man at all.
– They do not want to see that done.
– Exactly. I know they do not. I have in mind the case of an old man, sixty-one years of age, with a soldier son who has not returned from the Front yet. He was employed in a large warehouse in Melbourne for nine months, and was the last to be put on. When there was a demand for employment for returned soldiers, this man and two others were put off. I know that that soldier will not be very pleased when he comes back to find that his father has lost his job.
– But that has nothing to do with the Government.
– The honorable member seems to assume that the Government have no responsibility so far as providing employment is concerned.
– No. I am dealing with the particular case you mention.
– This sort of thing cannot go on. I am pleased to be able to say that returned soldiers do not want to displace others. It is the duty of the Government, by legislation, to create employment, and if the Repatriation Department is not efficient in this respect, the Government should take other measures. The idea of putting on the land men not fitted for that occupation is a very foolish one. It is equally foolish to pay £20 or £30 per acre for land upon which to settle returned soldiers, because this will mean such a millstone around their necks in the form of interest on capital, that they will not be able to finance it.
– It all depends on the quality of the land.
– I am aware of that, but what I am endeavouring to point outis that by some set of circumstances there appears to be an impression that going on the land is the right course for a returned soldier. As a matter of fact, farming means very hard work, indeed, and it is little short of a crime to put a man on the land unless he is fitted for it.
I warn the Government not to differentiate between the returned soldier and the man who did not go to the war for any reason at all, whether disinclination to fight, ill-health, or any other disability. If they do so differentiate they will be creating a feud which they will find difficult to stop. The returned soldiers will gradually decrease in numbers, whilst those who did not go to the war will increase; and if a feeling of hatred is engendered between the two sections the result will not be beneficial to the country. Therefore, when honorable members talk about displacing men from positions and substituting returned soldiers, I ask them to consider whether there is any sense in throwing out of employment the fathers and brothers of soldiers. Understand that thecasual wage-earner cannot get employment for a full twelve months in the year. Before the war he averaged about ; nine months’ employment each year. Those who have returned from the war expect to get employment for twelve months. It is an easy calculation, that if returned soldiers who are seeking casual employment are kept in work for twelve months, other men, who, in the past, averaged nine months’ employment, will find work for only six months. And they will not submit to that. It is the duty of the Government to see that that difficulty is not created.
I now appeal to the Government on behalf of the returned soldiers. The Commonwealth must have made millions of pounds out of the fines imposed on soldiers. We have lauded the soldiers to the skies, and talked about their brilliant efforts, and the name they made for Australia; and I think it is now their due that the Government should create an inexpensive non-military commission to review the whole of the punishments inflicted upon the men who went to the Front. Thousands of men were fined for trivial offences while in the fighting line; hundreds have suffered long terms of imprisonment, and their pay has been stopped. The Government ought to do justice to those men by instituting an inquiry into the whole matter.
– The Government are considering that now, and I do not think the honorable member will be disappointed when he hears the result.
– I am very pleased to hear that, and I hope that the Government will refund the money deducted for the blankets in which deceased soldiers were buried.
– That inquiry will relate to deceased soldiers only.
– That is very good so far as it goes, but I desire something more than that. Why should the Government try to save money at the expense of the men who went abroad to fight ? We have read of their great exploits, and we hear them cheered to the echo on their return, because Australia is proud of them. Are we to keep from them portion of the paltry money which they were allowed as a military wage? When the war started the pay of a private was fixed at 6s. per day, but by the time the armistice was signed the value of the 6s. had decreased considerably. We allowed the profiteers to rob the men while the war was on, and now the Government are participating in the robbery.
– The honorable member knows that these things took place, under a Labour Administration also. I have always protested against them.
– I am not blaming only the present Ministry, but we understood from the Government that something would be done to reduce these punishments; nothing has been done. Men were severely penalized for having been absent without leave after having served two and three years in the trenches ; and it is a peculiar fact that there was no equality in the punishments inflicted. One man was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment for an offence for which another man served only fourteen days. There should be some inquiry into this matter, but not by a military tribunal. I would rather hand such offenders over to the tender mercies of the honorable member for Parkes.
– As the antithesis of martial law?
– Exactly. These fines cannot be regarded lightly. I know of families who, when the husband returned, expected to get from £60 to £90 as deferred pay, and received duly £10 or £15, the balance having been deducted for crimes, which in civil life would not be crimes.
– Those offenders had already paid the penalty in ‘the form of field punishment.
– And were fighting all the while. In days gone by it was generally understood that when a soldier reached the firing line he liquidated all his debts to the Army. But I understand that that has not been done in this war, even in the British Army. The Government ought not to waste time in dealing with this matter. On Sunday I listened to a Thanksgiving Service, which I think would have melted the heart of the hardest criminal on earth. That service was arranged at the instance of the Government. As a further thanksgiving, let us show leniency to men who are serving lang terms of imprisonment and who have fought and been wounded.
– The honorable member knows that there will be a general amnesty.
– There ought to be. But, as the honorable member is not in the Ministry, I cannot accept his assurance. It was the duty of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to announce a general amnesty to all military prisoners. The State Government in Victoria have decided to remit one-sixth of the sentence of first offenders, one-twelfth of the sentence of second offenders, and one-eighteenth of the sentence of third offenders. At Christmas 1917, certain prisoners were liberated as an act of grace. When Peace is declared, the Government should at once liberate all the men serving short sentences, and give immediate consideration to the question of extending leniency to men serving longer terms. They are suffering for merely military crimes, and now that the war is over let us forget the lot.
– Would the honorable member release a man who killed his wife?
– That is not a military crime; that is murder. I have seen hundreds of men tried by court martial, and I know what military crimes are. The Government should consider whether some of the soldiers were not punished unfairly, and in certain cases were the victims of liverish and spiteful officers.
– Already a Committee of the Cabinet has been appointed to deal with that question.
– I am glad to have that assurance.
One of the first duties of the Government will be to review the trial and sentence of Gunner Yates. I listened to the trial for several days, and I have tried to get the official papers in order to prove to the House a statement I am <about to make, but the Government will not place the papers on the table. It was very clear from the evidence that the officers were to blame for all the trouble that occurred. Gunner Yates was sentenced to sixty days’ detention, and recommended to mercy, because some one else was at fault; the officers had not done their duty. If the Government do not take some action in regard to the trial of Gunner Yates there will be no doubt in my mind that his prosecution was an act of political vengeance because he had dared to side with the men with whom he had fought, and had allowed himself to be made the spokesman of not only the men, but also the commander of the ship. The lawyer for the defence asked the officer commanding the ship, “Did you ever send for Gunner Yates?” He said, “Yes.” “Why did you send for him?” “Because ‘he was a representative man, and I thought he might have some power over the men, and argue with them about the foolish stand they were taking.” “Did you send for him more than once?” “No.” Attention was drawn to another time at which Gunner Yates had been sent for, and the witness said “Yes,” and finally admitted that he had sent for him four times to try to quell the disturbance. According to the evidence, there would have been a mutiny on that ship but for Gunner Yates. He stopped the men from mutinying by showing them how futile it was to attempt it. The only thing he was condemned for was for adding, “ But if you do it, boys, I am with you.” He would not have been a man if he had not said so. It is a fact that there was no soap on that ship for three or four days, and what the boys call “ chats “ were just as prevalent as they were in some of the trenches at the Front. Of course, the officers were in a very fine place, and most of the non-commissioned officers were all right; but there was no soap for the men, although the boat was lying outside Adelaide. The man who got it for them was named Friend, Gunner Yates’ fellow criminal. He was secretary of the Comforts Fund. He agitated for necessaries like soap and for comforts for the men, and got a month’s “detention” for doing so. That trial took place in Australia. If it is a fair sample of the trials at the Front and in England, then not one man who has done or is doing a sentence for a military offence is guilty of what he was charged with. Consider the evidence of the officer commanding the troops under crossexamination. I can understand a man unused to Courts, under crossexamination, saying something which is not correct, but when I hear a major giving his evidence in such a halting way, I draw my own conclusions. It was stated in evidence that the Adelaide health officer, who went aboard the ship the night the mutiny was supposed to have taken place, had never heard there was any trouble on the ship until 7.30 that night. Yet all through the week the men were endeavouring in vain to get redress.
– Is the honorable member speaking on the want of confidence motion ?
– Yes. I assert that the Government have not come down in this programme with any proposal that the people want. These are cases that need to be dealt with at once, instead of waiting until the men come out of gaol to see whether they have been imprisoned rightly or wrongly. Does the honorable member want to see these men stay in gaol until the Government have time to investigate their cases ? A Judge in New South Wales is reported to have said from the Bench on one occasion that it was better that men should suffer than that the ordinary course of justice should be strained. In other words, he meant that the decision of the Court must be accepted, no matter whether the man. was innocent or not. It is all very well for legal men to say that; but the people of this community will not admit it. They demand the immediate investigation of cases of this sort. I could produce dozens of letters concerning the cases of men now lying in gaol for military offences. When the honorable member asks me if this has anything to- do with the want of confidence * motion, I say it has everything to do with it. I am surprised at such a question, coming from the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), although I could have expected it from many on that side. The .people of this country have no confidence in the way the Government are treating these soldiers. Honorable members can hear this in the street, but they are afraid of being charged with want of patriotism if they bring the matter up. Honorable members can call me a rebel if they like, but, so far as I am aMe, I will ventilate matters of this sort. If the honorable member had made an inquiry into the punishment and trial of any of these men, as I have done, and knew what I know, he would, I am sure, feel as I feel about it. This is the only place where these things can be ventilated.
I ask the Government to consider at once the cases of the men who were tried and condemned; both those in gaol and those who have come out. In the latter cases, I want the men to have their money refunded. Political spite placed the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) in durance vile. He was supposed to be kept in .a detention camp, but .they .put him in gaol. That is another matter that must be investigated.
– Have these- individual cases been brought under the attention of the Minister?
– How can they be?
– How else oan he deal with them? The cases have been dealt with by the ordinary process of law.
– I .am asking the Government to deal with the whole of the cases of the men who have been punished, and am quoting the case of a man whom I saw tried. . I heard the evidence given, and I have told the House what I think of the verdict. Does the honorable member for Fawkner know that military detention means serving time in a criminal gaol ?
– It should not.
– If the honorable member does not feel inclined to take up the matter, I intend to do so, and to pursue it further.
– I should be very glad to help you if I could.
– It is the duty of the Government to have all these cases investigated, but not by a military man. In the French , Army, if a private is being tried, one of his peers is a member of the court, and looks after his interests, so that the officers will not be allowed to use extraordinary means to condemn him. Gunner Yates was put to great expense. There was no need for him to go to the Front. It might be said of some thatthey had to go in order to save their seats. That did not apply to him. He went to the Front, and served there. When he caine back an admiring country allowed him to be imprisoned and robbed. Besides the cost of the trial, from the time he was punished until he was drummed out, the day after he had served his time, he lost all his pay. In ‘his case the loss of his military pay did not cause him any great distress, but it has been a loss in the homes of thousands of other men who have been treated similarly.
– Were all these men condemned by our Government, or were some by yours?
– Do not be such a damned fool! I have not charged any Government with condemning the men. If the Government refuse to investigate the cases, it is ‘a proof that they are influenced by political spleen. Why will they not allow the evidence in the case of Gunner Yates to be placed on the table of the Library? There can be no Defence reasons for the refusal. We have been told in the case of other papers that it might cause ill-feeling with some of our Allies. I could understand that during the war; but, in this case, one of our members was tried in Australia, and no> question of that sort can arise. Why, therefore, cannot the papers he produced, so that honorable members may peruse the evidence?
I wish to deal with the cases of a number of men who are in prison, but not for military crimes. Can the Government see any sense in pursuing any further those who want to fly the red flag? The war is over, Peace is signed, everything is settled, and the flying of the red flag cannot cause Japan any uneasiness. It cannot hinder recruiting, so why will the Government persist in keeping those men in gaol ? A man named Long has been in gaol for some time for flying the red flag, He has no criminal desires; as a matter of fact, he is an intellectual; a student of economy; and has satisfied himself, as a student, that internationalism is the only thing that can benefit the workers, and that the red flag is its flag. What fun or use can the Government see in keeping that man in gaol, or any man who obeys the laws of his country, outside of the foolish desire of the Government to stop them from flying the red flag? Do the Government think that the flying of that flag will have any bad effect on the community? Why cannot people be allowed to flyit?
– Let them fly any colour they like.
– If I went down the street waving a red flag I would be punished; yet at the races this afternoon I saw dozens of them. The Victoria Racing Club is more plucky than the club that races at Caulfield, which now flies a blue and white flag. What a ridiculous farce it is! Would honorable members opposite try to prevent , any man who thought he could confer blessings on mankind by some international idea from attempting to do so? Then why stop them from flying the red flag?
– Letem all fly !
– The honorable member is proud and fond of the Union Jack. He likes to wave it.
– A good flag!
– The honorable member made a lot of money under the Union Jack. If certain men believe in the red flag as the emblem of international brotherhood, why should they be suppressed in that belief ? They have gone hungry for their ideals They would just as soon vote for the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) as for me. But I have no “ set “ against thorn for holding such views; and now that the Peace celebrations are upon us, will not the Government release those red-flag people ?
.- One matter which has been referred to by many honorable members is the present industrial unrest. Certain speakers have endeavoured to place the blame, or nearly the whole of it, upon honorable members on this side of the House. Industrial unrest is more prevalent than ever because of the increased cost of living, and because of the enormous profits being made.
– Are those things responsible for the present strike?
– The increased cost of living is responsible for a great deal of the industrial unrest, and has greatly contributed to the present strike. Although wages have increased, the larger sum paid on an average to-day will not purchase as much as did the smaller wage of a few years ago. For every increase in wages there has been a more than proportionate increase in the cost of living.
– It is always passed on with an increase.
– It has been passed on. I have in mind a man who possessed a store and factory in my electorate. His will was proved a little while ago, and it appears that he left a fortune of £1,856,000. I refer to the late Mr. Gibson, who had his store and factory in one of the poorest parts of Collingwood. I did not know the man, and I knew nothing against him as an individual. I complain, however, of the system which allows one person to amass such a fortune while other people in the same locality are going without the necessaries of life - without fires to-day in many of their homes.
– Do you not admit that it was because that man served the public so well that he made such a fortune ?
– Of course, I am aware that the firm has branches in Prahran and in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia. But the people are asking the reason for the general increase in the cost of living.
– Will the honorable member admit that all the evidence could be produced before an Arbitration Court ?
– As for the Arbitration Court, a decision has been given since the outbreak of the seamen’s strike, wherein the High Court laid down, in effect, that once an organization had filed a plaint and had been given an award it could not sue for an increase of wage during the term for which the award was granted. An organization is not permitted to bring forward a fresh plaint even although it may be able to show that £1 to-day will not purchase what 12s. did a few years ago.
– Would it not cut both ways? What about a fall in prices?
– There has never been a fall in prices in this country. People to-day are making exorbitant profits, no matter whether they are on the land, or in a store, or in a factory.
– The most profitable year which the manufacturers had was the first year in which you were in power.
– I will give some statistics from Knibbs in that regard. In 1913 the gross output of the factories throughout Australia amounted to £161,500,000. The amount of wages paid was £33,600,000. For every £100 worth of manufactured articles, the workmen received £20 15s. in wages. In the following year the increase in the output of the factories had raised the total to £166,450,000, and wages had gone up to £34,100,000. Though the increase in the gross factory output had amounted to £5,000,000, the addition to working wages had equalled only £500,000. Instead of receiving £20 15s. for turning out £100 worth of manufactured articles, workmen got only £20 10s. In 1915, goods to the total gross value of £169,000,000 were turned out of the factories, and the wages paid amounted to £33,200,000. Thus, although factory increases were £3,000,000, wages decreased by nearly £1,000,000. In 1915, the wage share was only £19 10s. In 1916, the total of the gross factory output was £172,574,000, and the total wages paid were £33,828^000. The wage share was £19 13s. 4d. In 1917- the last year for which Knibbs has issued figures - the gross output of the factories was £206,200,000; and the wages total was £36,600,000. That is to say, the workmen’s share in wages had gone down from £20 15s. to £17 15s. in four years.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and myself were invited to the opening of the Chamber of Manufactures building a little while ago. I told the gentlemen there some things which did not add to my popularity. I gave them these figures. I said that my experience at the Customs Department had led me to believe that people bringing in goods through the Customs would undervalue for the purpose of getting an advantage. I told them, too, that I had known of people making up their income tax returns and forgetting certain items of income but remembering all the many exemptions. But, I said, I believed the manufacturers of Australia were truthful, and that the figures which they had given the statists were correct. The manufacturers then said, “What about raw materials?” Well, after eliminating that item, let us see what was the manufacturers’ share. In 1913, the output of the factories amounted to £161,500,000, and the total had increased in 1917 to £206,300,000. Wages advanced during that same period from, approximately, £33,600;000 to £36,600,000. Thus, although the increased factory output totalled £45,000,000, workers’ wages had increased by only £3,000,000. The manufacturers’ share in 1914 was £31,000,000, while the share of the workmen was £33,000,000. That is to say, the workers in 1914 secured £2,000,000 more than the manufacturers, after “allowing for raw material costs and all other charges. In 1917, the manufacturers received £37,000,000, as against £36,000,000 received by the workmen. While the workers’ share had increased by £3,000,000, the manufacturers’ share had advanced £6,000,000. I ask honorable members opposite to try and explain that. Let them say that it was the marvellous efficiency of the late Mr. Gibson which enabled him to make his millions. I suppose that for every employer in the land there will probably be a hundred workmen. My figures are not compiled at the Trades Hall, or by the Seamen’s Union, or by an official of the Australian Labour party, or by the “ Caucus “ party - as honorable members like to call us - but by the manufacturers themselves. If they are incorrect, then the fault lies with the manufacturers, and not with me.
While this is true of the manufacturers, I do not believe that they have made proportionately more than has been made in the principal industries of this country. I believe that the pastoral, the agricultural, transport, and. mining industries - and particularly those companies engaged in the production of metals that were used in connexion with the war - have made infinitely more than the manufacturers have done. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), while I believe that these huge profits are made, and that the workers are not receiving anything like a fair proportion of them, I intend to vote for increased duties, so that industries may be firmly established in our midst. Once we have these industries established here, it will be the fault of the people themselves if we do not so deal with them as to enable the workers to secure justice. We can regulate our own industries, but when we purchase the products of industries abroad the position is altogether different. We have read recently in articles written by Mr. Adam McKay how girls employed in cotton and silk factories in Japan work in twelve-hour shifts, and that as one shift gets out of bed its place is taken by the shift that has just left the looms. We should establish our own in,dustries, and if we fail then to provide for conditions favorable to the worker, the blame will rest only with ourselves. We can deal with our own industries, but not with those overseas.
These excessive profits constitute one reason for the existing industrial unrest. The fixing of prices is one remedy, but it has been tried here to only a limited extent. The system has not been effective because, in my opinion, it was never intended that it should be. I know it will be said that I was a member of a Government that should have taken action. It was, however, only three months before I retired from that Administration that the High Court decided that we had power to fix prices. I brought down upon myself- the denunciations of many people because I asserted that the products of Australia should be sold to the people of Australia at the prices at which they were sold to the people overseas, and that we ought not to permit the creation of an artificial shortage of any locally produced commodity, in order to’ increase prices here. Time after time there have been deliberate attempts to create artificial shortages for that very purpose. Mr. Hagelthorn, who I am glad to know was defeated. at the recent election for the Southern Province, declared, when Minister for Agriculture for Victoria, that if there was a shortage of butter, the people should eat jam, or treacle, or some other . substitute, so that we might sell our butter overseas. The dairy farmers of the Commonwealth have yet to realize that four-fifths of their produce is consumed locally, and that they pay more consideration to the consumers of the remaining one-fifth than they do to their own people. I had that fact in mind when I said that Australian consumers should receive first consideration, and yet I was denounced. We -should provide for the fixing of prices. I do not know whether this Parliament has the power to do so.
– We have not.
– If we have not the power to fix prices, what is the meaning of the Commercial Activities Bill, which appears in the list of Government business on the notice-pa,per ? If we have no power to fix prices, we have no power to control our primary products. Why are the Government going to control butter, wool, wheat, and other commodities if we hav© no power to deal with prices ?
– We have no power to fix prices except in relation to such commodities as are the subject of the contracts just alluded to by the honorable member.
– If that is so, the people should be afforded an opportunity to vote for an amendment of the Constitution vesting thatpower in the Commonwealth. Let us put back the Constitution to where the people thought it stood when they voted for the Constitution Billin 1899. If this Government are not prepared to bring forward such an amendment of the Constitution, they may rest assured that there will soon arise in this country a party that will demand that such a power shall be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament.
In fixing prices, we should provide that those who rob the people by charging more than the stipulated rates shall be sent to gaol. Those convicted of robbing the people in that way should be punished, not by a monetary penalty, but by imprisonment. Let their wrong-doing be made known to the whole community. I had an object lesson in this regard at a school which I attended many years ago. A boy in my class who had stolen something from another lad was compelled to stand before the whole school with a placard bearing “ the word “ thief “ suspended from his shoulders. Those who are convicted of robbing the people by charging them more than they are entitled to do should be called upon not to display the Red Cross Badge of Honour, but to post up on their business premises a placard giving details of their offence and conviction. They should be compelled to display such a notice for twelve months, not only on their business premises, but on every delivery cart or other vehicle used by them. Every bill-head issued by them should have upon it a record of their conviction. That would be more calculated to put a stop to overcharging than anything else of which I know.
– In other words, give publicity to the offence.
– Yes; it is the sort of publicity that these people would not like.
– Why not compel them to display the Red Flag-“ Danger “ ?
– What would be more appropriate would be to compel them to fly the Black Flag of the pirates. That is the flag under which they trade. The pirates of the olden days, indeed, were more humane than many of the presentday profiteers. They compelled their captives to “ walk the plank,” and there was at once an end to their misery. But profiteers are making the workers walk, every day of their lives, the plank of poverty and destitution. It is practically impossible for the people to make ends meet. There is no reason for these excessive profits.
– How would the honorable member deal with the profiteer?
– By the limitation of profits.
– That is my remedy.
– It is said that the honorable member will be defeated at the next general election, so that he may not be here to join with me in providing for a limitation of profits. After all, however, many of us have been threatened, but threatenedmen live long. Those who are making enormous profits will make an effort to get round any limitation provided by Statute. In many cases companies have been concealing from the general public the huge profits made -by them. According to the Sugar Commission, which was appointed about 1911, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had stored up its profits in undivided capital, and had voted to its shareholders £3,000,000 worth of shares. We have in Australia many companies that have resorted to the same tactics. People who are guilty of this sort of thing should be treated as the honorable member for Adelaide (Gunner Yates) was treated. They should be sent to gaol. Although Gunner Yates was recommended to mercy, no mercy was extended to him. I would not recommend the profiteers to mercy. If we provided for a limitation of profits many companies would probably distribute amongst their shareholders a large proportion of their earnings in the shape of bonus shares. The Dunlop Rubber Company, for instance, has a registered capital of about £1,000,000. Its paid-up capital is supposed to-be over £500,000, but nothing like that amount has actually been put into it by the shareholders. A very. large proportion of it has come out. of undivided profits. Instead of the directors saying to the shareholders, “We have made this year a profit of £40,000, and oan pay you a 20 per cent, dividend,” they perhaps say, “We will pay a dividend of only 10 per cent., ‘with a 2§ per cent, ‘bonus, and “will add the rest of our profits to capital account and ultimately divide it amongst you in the form of bonus -shares.” It is in this way that many companies making big profits strive, to conceal the fact from the ‘general public.
The Argus, in a leaderette, published in its issue of 2nd ult., said -
In business circles the tendency is growing to add to capital account some portion of reserve fund, which in most cases represents the undivided profits of a series of years. Such a transfer increases the solidity of the institutions concerned by imparting permanence to what may be an important asset from the point of view of the creditors. By capitalizing reserves used in the conduct of a business, its real earning capacity can be better disclosed-
I think .that the word “ disclosed.” must be a misprint - and dividends to shareholders can be distributed without exciting the envy of less affluent members of the community. In times of general unrest it is undesirable to create the impression of “ profiteering “ in connexion with any business, and the declaration of what appears to be a high percentage of yield undoubtedly has this effect. That undesirable result can be avoided by taking steps to prevent the ratio of registered capital to shareholders’ total funds falling to too low a level.
The race-course speiler who takes down a man by means of the thimble and pea or the three-card trick is an honest man compared with the writer of this article, who urges those who make large profits out of the people to deceive the public by adding to their capital the profits Which they dare mot distribute. In other words, he suggests that the people whom the Argus referred to a few days ago as the “ Beer-swilling rioters “ - the people who vote Labour - ‘should not be allowed to know what the profiteers are making. The victim of the three-card trick is taken down with his eyes open, but manufacturers of foodstuffs and various other commodities which the people consume or wear are deliberately robbing the people by adopting this policy. The Argus advises such individuals to smother up their profits. It urges them not to let the public know the enormous profits they are making. .
The Acting Prime Minister (Mt. Watt) was present at the meeting of the Chamber of Manufactures at which I gave the figures that I have quoted this evening. On the following day there appeared im. the Argus a letter, in which the writer .said that I had no right to inflame the passions of the community by quoting in this way figures which the manufacturers themselves had supplied to the Government Statist. I should be failing in my duty as a Labour man and a worker in this community if I did not point out these things and did not let the public know that the Argus advises business men ‘to smother up their profits. I was in Sydney last week, and on the day I arrived there was an increase made in the ferry fares. People were complaining of this, and one of the newspapers - I think the Daily Telegraph - said that a great mistake which the Sydney Perry Company had made was that they had watered their stock too often. The newspaper suggested that it was all right for the companies to water their stock twice, but they were not justified in watering it a third time. I say that the watering of stock is not justified at any time, and that companies should estimate their profits on their original capital.
– Strictly speaking, the capitalization of profits is not “watering.” Watering is a worse transaction than that.
– I am aware that, strictly speaking, capitalization of profit is not the watering of stock, but many companies take, say, £30,000 of undivided profits and £70,000 of watered stock, and estimate that that increases their capital by £100,000, and then the consumers of their products have to pay profits on that £100,000. That is distinctly unfair. But a leading newspaper of this city advises that kind of thing, and suggests to business people that they should smother up their profits and should not let the public know what they are doing. It is because of these things that we have industrial unrest in the community. Any one who believes that the people will, in future,- be satisfied with what satisfied them in the past will find himself very ‘much mistaken. Even if we had a limitation of profits, and increased our income tax rates, providing that a man receiving an income of over £5,000 a year should pay income tax to the extent of 15s. - or even 20s. - in the £1, we should not settle the difficulty if at the same time we permitted the wholesale watering of stock.
– The honorable gentleman is now talking on the limitation of incomes.
– No, I am talking of the taxation of incomes. I was talking of the limitation of profits, which I favour, and which I believe would put a stop to a great deal of profiteering that is going on. I am talking of the prohibition of such business methods as the Argus advocates. We know that in some cases amounts are placed to reserve which would permit of the payment of dividends up to 20 and 30 per cent. The Inter-State Commission proved that that was done in many cases, and proved that some of the companies in our midst are making enormous profits. We should put a stop to that kind of thing. The Government must remember that the people outside are more concerned about the increased cost of living than about anything else.
– The honorable gentleman does not forget that under the war-time profits tax we collect 75 per cent, of excess profits.
– We did up to the 30th June of this year. We are all wise after the event; but I am one of those who, if he has made a mistake, is prepared to admit that he has not gone upon right lines. I say that the war-time profits tax encouraged a man to make’ excess profits, because he knew that if he did so he would get at least 5s. out of every £1 of such profits made. If I knew that I could take down honorable members opposite for £1, and would be sure to get 5s. of it, I might be tempted to try to do so.
– The honorable gentleman would not do that.
– I do not suppose that I would, but there may be some other honorable members who would be less scrupulous. The cost of living is such that to-day it would not matter if prices were decreased to some extent in some lines, .because the cost would still remain very high. We have read in the newspapers during the last few days that there is a glut of meat in the cold stores, particularly in Victoria.
– And hundreds of thousands of persons are starving.
– At any rate, hundreds of thousands of persons are going without meat who would purchase it if it could be obtained more cheaply. I saw in to-day’s Argus an account of a meeting held yesterday, at which Dr. Cameron, of the State Agricultural Department, said -
It had been stated in the press that the high prices of meat in Melbourne at the present time were due to the producers getting more for their meat than they were entitled to. He would like to direct attention to the fact that while on 27th June, 1917, the prices of mutton in the wholesale market at Flemington ranged from 4Jd. to 5)d. per lb., on the corresponding date of this year they were 4Jd. to 5£d. per lb., showing a difference of id. per lb. As regarded lamb, the prices for the corresponding dates of 27th June, 1917, and 1919, were 6 1/2d. to 71d. per lb. and 5d. to 6id. per lb. In these latter instances the difference against the producer was from lid. to lid. per lb. The producers were not getting as much for their mutton and lamb as was the case two years ago, when the retail prices were lowered.
The retail prices were lower two years ago than they are to-day. Who is getting the increase in price?
– Not the grower.
– No, it is not the grower, according to Dr. Cameron, who is not a Labour man, and who is not connected with the Trades Hall. He says that some one between the producer and the consumer has caused the price of mutton and lamb to be increased. This has occurred in spite of the fact’ that there has been an increase in the quantity of mutton and lamb coming into the market. In the month of June, 1917, 86,300 sheep were marketed in Melbourne. In 1918, in the corresponding month, there were 111,500 sheep, and in 1918 the number went up to 198,800 sheep. So that the number marketed increased from 86,300 sheep in 1917 to 198,800 in 1919, an increase of about 135 per cent. ; yet mutton is dearer to the consumer to-day than it was two year’s ago. The number of lambs mar- keted in June, 1917, was 39.400, in 1918 49,250, and in 1919 76,530. So that nearly double the number of lambs came to market in 1919 as compared with 1917. The average consumption of sheep and. lambs in Melbourne is about 30,000 carcasses a week, or 120,000 per month, for the metropolitan area. In spite of this, there were marketed in June, 1919, 198,000 sheep and 76,000 lambs, or 274,000 carcasses, or more than double the average consumption. There is more beef marketed in Melbourne to-day than there was two years ago. The number of cattle marketed, in June, 1917, was 7,835, in June, 1918, the number was 7,955, and this year the number was 9,636. This is an increase, roughly, of 25 peT cent, in the number of cattle marketed. Dr. Cameron and others, at the meeting held yesterday, said that unless we could get our sheep and lambs away there would be a glut in the cold stores, but the people do not obtain any advantage in a reduction in the “price of meat. Any honorable member living in the metropolitan area has only to ask his wife, who pays the bills, whether meat is cheaper to-day than it was two years ago, and he will find that it is dearer than it was then. Some one is getting the difference, and we are told that the producers are not getting it.
– That is true.
– I know that the consumer is not getting it; so that some one between the producer and the consumer is taking it out of both.
– Have wages gone up?
– I do not think that the killing price of lambs and sheep has been increased during the last two years. I do not think that it is casting any moTe to distribute meat to-day than it was costing then. I gave an illustration on this point from the baking trade when speaking on the Supply Bill. I am sorry that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) is not present, because he doubted whether the price of bread has gone up in this State or not. The bread carters received an increase of 5s. per week in their wages, but the masters charged an additional $d. for each 2-lb. loaf, and atn additional Id. for each 4-lb. loaf, and on the average number of loaves distributed by each carter they received an additional £2 5s. las their share. They received an extra amount of £2 10s., and the worker got only 5s. of that. I could give a similar illustration from the clothing report of the Inter-State Commission. The baking trade here is controlled by the Master Bakers and Millers Association. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is aware that Wedderburn, in his constituency, had a very flourishing flour mill.
– That is true. It has been burned down, but the honorable gen- ‘ tleman need not blame me for that.
– I do not blame the honorable gentleman for that. I know that when that flour mill was in existence they were able to sell flour at a lower rate “than the Government’s fixed price. They were able to pay the bakers, who were shareholders in the concern, dividends and bonuses. But the Flour Milling Combine got to them ‘and said, “ You must stop doing this,” and they had to sell their flour-milling business to a firm in my own electorate. Honorable members need not think that there is anything in this for me. It reminds me of Mr. Gibson’s will. He made a lot of his money in Collingwood, but he did not live there. The manufacturers and millers do not live in Richmond, in Abbotsford, or in Collingwood. They make their money there, but they live in Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, or St. Kilda. The millers froze out the Wedderburn Co-operative Milling Company.
– And then burned the mill down.
– I do not know who burned it down. It may have been the “ Israelite in the basement “ and not the “ gaslight on the ground floor.” In reference to this company or combine of the master bakers and millers, I wrote to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) on the 14th March of this year in the following terms: -
The manager of the Civil Service Co-operative Bakery called upon me to-day regarding the following matter.
He tells me that they are being prevented from obtaining supplies of flour apparently by the “ Car-gear “ Committee. I. understand that this is a Committee comprising the Millers and Master Bakers Association.
The millers, Stratton and Co., of Abbotsford, have been their principal suppliers for the past ten years, supplying about 30 tons pf flour per week. These people now say they’ have insufficient stocks.
This is a very strange statement for them to make, in view of the fact that only last week a deputation waited upon Mr.. Oman, a State Minister, and urged that more wheat be milled in Victoria, as many of the mills were unemployed at the present time.
I might mention’ that the Civil Service Cooperative Bakery supplies the Naval Depot at Williamstown. The suggestion was made that the bakery apply to other millers.
I shall be much obliged if you will give this matter your early consideration, with a view to seeing that justice is done to the Civil Service Co-operative Bakery. ,
I received the following reply, signed- on behalf of the Customs Department: -
Adverting to your letter dated 14th ‘ instant, addressed to the Prime Minister, with reference’ to a complaint by the manager of the Civil Service Bakery to the effect that his bakery is being prevented from obtaining supplies of flour, apparently by the “ Car-gear “ Committee, I beg to inform you that’ a report has been received from the Chief Prices Commissioner, in which it is stated that an inspector from his office has for some, time been investigating the complaint that bakers are being refused supplies of flour excepting under certain conditions said to be laid down by the “ Car-gear “ Committee, but that it has been difficult to obtain satisfactory evidence that the regulations are being disregarded.
With regard to the case cited by you, evidence lias been obtained, and is now in the hands of the Crown Law authorities for necessary action. ‘ . .
This reply I sent on to the manager of the bakery, and he replied, telling me that the case was to go to the Collingwood Court. I acknowledged the receipt of that letter and went on to say -
I received your letter of the 31st instant. No doubt you are busy over the matter. I saw where Stratton & Co. had been fined £50 and, had been granted a stay of proceedings for a month.
I would like to know of any further developments. Does- it mean that you will be without ‘ flour for that time? You might let me know the position now.
The position was that Stratton and Company had been fined £50, and had lodged an appeal, but had not gone on with’ that appeal.;
– Did they pay the fine?
– I take it ..that theCrown Law Department would” see that’’ the fine was paid. What we h-°-ve to realize is that this .master bakers and millers’ combine can fix the .price of bread’ in this community at any figure they like, and although there is. at the present time a greater stock .of wheat than at any other period since, I suppose, Victoria was Victoria, bread is higher in price than it was twenty-five years ago.
– Would you sell wheat at a cheaper rate than it is being sold at now ?
– When the honorable member was asleep or did not - under-: stand what was being said I gave the- illustration of the Wedderburn Flour Mills. The fixed price was given for the wheat, and those interested were able to pay dividends, give their shareholders a bonus, and sell cheaper than the price fixed by the Government.. The master bakers - and millers’ combine declared that flour must be sold at the fixed rate, and that no bonus be given to the shareholders in the flour industry, who are the bakers, and that if the command were disobeyed those disobeying it- would be frozen out. They were not only frozen out, but burned out. It may be a laughing, matter to some honorable members to think that the price of bread can rise to over a shilling for a 4-lb. loaf, but it is a serious matter for the people of this community.
The Civil Service Co-operative Bakery, when starting business, was not hostile to Labour, but now it is a member of the Master Bakers Association, and perhaps honorable members do not know what that association is able to do. About twelve months ago the proprietor of one of the eatinghouses down town desired to change his baker, but was told by the Bakers Association that he would not be allowed to do so, and other consumers of bread have been similarly treated time after time. Mrs. Clements, a (member of the Bakers Association, who carries on business in Parkville, was fined £50 because she had taken a customer from another member. ‘ All these facts are known to the Government, and yet ‘no action has been taken. ‘ If the present antitrust law is not powerful’ enough, -the’ Government should ‘honestly-‘ admit ‘ the fact to the people,, and ask for greater powers. In the *Age of last Saturday there was an article dealing with combines, and it was pointed out that they are being brought into existence in various directions in this community. It is true that these combines have not put on the pressure that is exercised by similar organizations in other countries, particularly America,but what they have done already is enough to make Australia wake up. Unless the Government do something, the people of Australia, as sure as we are here to-night, will take a hand themselves. The present conditions in this regard afford the reason why many in the community are being led to take direct action. They ask: What is the use of going to the Arbitration Court for a 5s. rise in wages when there is an immediate increase of 10s. in the cost of living ?
We know that many companies and other traders are making exorbitant profits. When the Inter-State Commission inquired into the conditions of the grocery trade it was proved that there are seven firms in Victoria, known as the “holy seven,” who control absolutely the whole of the wholesale grocery business in the metropolitan area, and probably throughout the State. No person can buy, sell, or use certain groceries unless they have the permission of these seven. In the Age of 3rd July last year there is a report of the evidence given before the Assistant PricesCommissionerby Mr. JohnN. Williams,secretary of the Grocers’ Association, which, I may say, is not a TradesHall association, and has nothing to do with Walsh or Bolshevism. It is an employers’ association, and the following is an extract from the evidence of the secretary: -
Witness went on to explain the profits made by certain wholesale butter distributing companies during last year. He pointed out that the Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Selling Company made a profit of £12,786 on a capital of £66,969, or a profit of 19 per cent.
-They gave it back to the suppliers.
– But the consumers had to pay it. Does the honorable member think that the consumer should not “come in” anywhere? Would he call it an honest deal if a trade union asked for an extra £1 a week in wages, and said it did not care what the employers charged the community for the product ? In my own trade of hat-making I would not call sucha bargain an honest one, because it is not honest to take the money from the consumers, even if it is given to some other set of persons. On the eve of last elections the Government declared that they had made £500,000 profit out of the sugar deal, and that they proposed to give it back to the growers, leaving the consumers outside altogether.
– What of the rabbit trappers ?
– There was £100,000 profit made out of wheat sacks, and that was given back to the farmers ; but in the case of the rabbit trappers, in whom the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has interested himself so much, the Government made no return, although there had been a profit of £250,000. If it was right to give the profit on wheat back to the farmers, and the profits on sugar to the producers, it is only right that the profit should have been returned to the rabbit trappers.
– They could not be identified.
– Yes, they could. Certain firms in Victoria were put in charge of the matter, and had agents throughout the State, and every agent kept a, record of the whole of the rabbit skins received. It will be seen, therefore, that it would not be any more difficult to hand the profits on rabbit skins back to the trappers than it was to hand the profits on sugar back to the growers.
– What the honorable member is declaiming against is exactly what is taking place in the coal trade.
– The honorable member may point that fact out to the House.
– And in the case of the coal trade the action has been indorsed by the! Trades and Labour Council over and over again.
– The honorable member may point that out to the House. I have lived in a mining district, but have never worked in a mine ; and for my part something else than coal would have to be burned if 1 had to go down mines and get it. I think the miners are entitled to all they can get, for, in many cases, risking their lives in order to supply coal for manufacturing and household purposes.
However, reverting to the grocery trade, I may say that Mr. Williams, to whom I have just referred, showed in his evidence that the Western District Cooperative Factory made a profit of £7,000 on a capital of £22,000, or a profit of 32.4 per cent., and that Victorian Butter Factories Limited made a profit of £10,800 on a capital of £11,837, or 91 per cent. Yet we are told that the workers have a rightto be satisfied with the Butter Pool which was created by the present Government. The control of the butter industry was put into the hands of only one section of the community. The members of the Committee include the Minister for Trade and Customs (Hon. Massy Greene), Chairman; Mr. H. Sinclair, M.P., ViceChairman; the representatives for Victoria being Mr. P. J. Holdenson, of Holdenson and Neilson, F.F. Proprietary Limited, 521 Flindersstreet; Mr. H. W. Osborne, the Western District Co-operative Produce and Insurance Company Limited, 49-57 King-street. The representatives of New South Wales are Mr. P. S. Basche, care of Messrs. Basche and Lowney, 368 Sussex -street, Sydney;and Mr. C. J. McRae, Coraki, New South Wales. The Queensland representatives are Mr. W. T. Harris, Forest Gate, Toowoomba; Mr. T. F. Plunkett, Logan and Albert, Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, Beaudesert. The South Australian representative is Mr. J. W. Sandford, Messrs. A. A. Sandford and Company, Grenfellstreet, Adelaide. The Tasmanian representative is Mr. O. G. Norton, Burnie. On the Cheese Section of the Committee New South Wales is represented by Mr. J. Mackey, of Messrs J. Mackey and Company, 269-271 Sussex-street, Sydney. Victoria is represented by Mr. J. Rankin, of Colac; and Queensland, by Mr. A. C. Galbraith, Rural Industries Limited, Roma-street, Brisbane. The Government nominees are Mr. C. E. D. Meares, care of Coastal Farmers Co-operative Society Limited, 374 Sussex-street, Sydney; Mr. A. W. Wilson, Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Society and Insurance Company Limited, Flinders-lane, Melbourne; and Mr. W. Purcell, Greenmount, Queensland. Mr. M. A. O’Callaghan, the Commonwealth Dairy Expert, Melbourne, is also included. The consumer is not represented in any shape or form. Every person upon that Dairy Produce Pool Committee was interested in getting the price fixed as high as possible.
– The only point is that they did not fix the price.
– We were told to-day by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), that the Committee had kept the price down. He claimed that it had succeeded in doing that.
– By the manipulation of the Pool the Committee enabled the Minister to fix a lower price than he otherwise could have fixed.
– Then the Butter Control Committee were able, by the manipulation of the Pool, to keep the price down.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong in stating that the Dairy Produce Pool Committee fixed the price of butter.
– The Dairy Produce Pool Committee did not include one representative of the consumer.
– Simply because it was purely a business management.
– While the Government appointed fifteen representatives to that Committee, including Mr. O’Callaghan, who is a Government officer, they did not appoint a single representative of the consumer. I believe that other representatives have since been appointed owing to the retirement of one or more members-
– No substitutes have been appointed.
– I gather from the newspapers that Mr. Pope is on the Committee.
– Mr. Pope is attending to South Australian interests, but he has no vote.
– These are the questions in regard towhich the people are constantly making inquiries. Why have no representatives of the consumers been appointed ? Recently I read something about the Bureau of Commerce and Industry which has been appointed by the Government.. I learn from the publication which I hold in my hand, and of which every honorable member received a copy, that this body includes the Minister (Hon. W. Massy Greene), and the Director, Mr. Stirling Taylor. The members of the General Council are C. E. D. Meares, Esq.; Ed. Jowett, M.H.R., squatter; Hon. J. Hume Cook; H. Brookes, Esq., O.B.E., paper manufacturer; James Cuming, Esq., chemical manure manufacturer; G. W. Shipley, Esq. - I do not know him; W. Warren Kerr, Esq.; P. C. de Crespigny, Esq., banker; G. C. Klug, Esq.; D. J. Patterson, Esq., printer; Hon. A. K. Trethowan, M.L.C., Nationalist candidate for the Senate; Senator T. W. Crawford, sugar farmer; E. J. Luke, Esq., A. D. Walker, Esq., J. A. Harper, Esq. - I understand that he as a South Australian manufacturer; E. Allnutt, Esq.; Mark Sheldon, Esq., merchant; Sir Owen Cox, K.B.E., representative of Birt and Co.; and J. Webb, Esq. Now, if we are to have a Council of Commerce and Industry ought the Government to advertise the fact that no representative of the workers is to be admitted to it? I believe that three representatives from the Trades Hall were invited to be present at the preliminary meeting of this body. But their reception was of such a character that they were not encouraged to attend again. They were practically warned off in order that the council might be of one political colour. Honorable members opposite ought not to declaim against “spoils to the victors” when the Government appoint a Committee of the complexion of the Dairy Produce Pool Committee. Had I been Minister for Trade and Customs, and appointed fifteen representatives of the consumers and not one representative of the manufacturing interests to such a pool, I can imagine the howl that would have come from the present Minister. He would have urged that the producers were entitled to some representation. Does he not think that the consumers and the men who are engaged in the industry are equally entitled to consideration. Are all the brains possessed by the manufacturers? Are there to be no workers’ representatives on Committees of this character ?
– They were appointed, and they attended the first meeting, but they never came again.
– There are nineteen members on’ this particular Committee. Three Labour men were asked to attend its first meeting.
– They had no power when they got there.
– Seeing that only three representatives of the workers were invited to be present, and that there were nineteen representatives of the other side, can it be urged that there was anything like fair representation ?
– -The honorable member is misrepresenting the whole position.
– I am not, and the Minister may make his own speech when I have finished. But I am not going to.be interrupted by him when my time is limited.
– The honorable member is misrepresentingthe whole position.
– I am not.
– The honorable member’s statement is wrong.
– It is absolutely accurate. The Minister cannot prove that as many representatives of the workers were invited to be present at the first meeting of the Committee as there were representatives on the other side. That is the position. The situation is equally bad in respect of the Butter Control Committee. Only one section of the community was considered in the appointment of its members. But Ministers say, “Workers, there is no place for you. If you open your mouths and ask for anything, we will call you Bolsheviks, and blame you , for everything. We will take good care that you are not given any consideration]. You have no ability. You will be ignored. You are only useful as individuals out of whom the manufacturers, whom we put on these Committees, can make profits.” What has happened since the abolition ofprice fixing?
TheWar Precautions Regulations in regard to the flying of the red flag could be continued, people could be put in gaol for flying the red flag, but when it came to a regulation dealing with price fixing, preventing profiteers from putting up their prices, it was a case of “ off with it.” I have taken out some figures from a return furnished to me by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) setting out the prices fixed for various commodities, and compared them with the prices ruling to-day for those same com- ‘ modi ties, which I have had confirmed by standard firms. The comparison is as follows : -
Mr.Greene. - Will the honorable member quote the prices of those commodities which are lower to-day?
– I candidly admit that I cannot do the impossible. I do not know of one case in which the price is lower to-day.
– In quite a number of cases the prices are lower.
– I am very glad to hear it.
– I suppose that clothes pegs and washing blue are cheaper !
– I remember that at the time of the Perth Conference the Go vernment declined to fix the price of meat, but fixed the price of horseshoes, castor oil, cotton wool, and a few other things of the same description. They refrained as long as they could from fixing the prices of meat and groceries, things that were essential. If any person attempted to fly a red flag he was gaoled, but if he was flying the black flag of the profiteer he might get as high a price as he could.
The Government have also relaxed the restrictions on dealings in regard to the exportation of hides. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has placed on record the increase in the cost of. leather since that embargo was taken off, and has pointed out that the commodity has increased in price from1s.1d. to1s. 8d. per lb. The farmer who sold the hides did not get a farthing’s benefit until about six weeks afterwards, but the tanner holding stocks of leather and the meat companies got the advantage immediately. The Minister knows better than any other person in this House that the embargo was lifted because the meat companies were piling up hides and would not send them to the tanners.
I have with me the Inter-State Commission’s report, in which they dealt with the Australian prices of imported hosiery and knitting yarns, which in many instances had to be made into the hosiery used by our troops. The report shows an increase from 63 per cent. to 280 per cent. in the price of these yarns. While Mr. Knibbs takes into consideration the cost of groceries and meat and house rents, he has not yet included the price of clothing in his “ cost of living “ figures; but every honorable member knows from his own experience that the cost of clothing to-day is 100 per cent. greater than it was prior to the war, while the quality is slightly worse. Lest it may be said that the workers have gained an advantage through this increase, let me point to the evidence given before the InterState Commission by the president of the Master Tailors Association in Sydney illustrating the advance in the cost of men’s tailored clothing. He submitted the following table of comparisonin prices : -
While the material costs had gone up from 16s. 3d. to £2 3s. l0d. in the one case, and from £1 2s. 9d. to £3 14s. 9d. in the other case, and while the gross profits were 33 per cent., the workers’ share had only increased by 5s. per suit.
Doubt was expressed by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that these profits were made by the various companies. On that subject the InterState Cormmission’s report, on page 38, states -
During the years 1915-17, the net. profits accruing to the. manufacturers have averaged 31.33 per cent, on capital. The total net profits have almost equalled the average total capital invested in the industry during those years. They also . represent an amount of £ 52,7 10 in excess of the total capital employed in the industry in 1914.
– They made those profits out of contracts which your Government let.
– Very likely. I would not be surprised.
– It was so, undoubtedly.
– What does that prove, except that these people are making huge profits?
– I am anxious to submit information showing the profits which these-gentlemen are making. I do not want to make it appear that I am sheltering manufacturers as against the producers; I believe they are all doing very well out of the community at the present time, and I remind the House that when the Inter-State Commission inquired into the sugar industry recently, one of the witnesses - a manager in a big Sydney concern - said, in effect, “You ought to put another½d. or1d. per lb. on sugar. The people of Australia are used to paying high prices. They do not bother about high prices now. There is altogether too much of that feeling abroad, and that, in my opinion, is the principal cause of the existing industrial unrest.
– Which is existing all over the world.
– That is so, and I emphasize the fact that the findings of the Inter-State Commission represent the opinion of an unbiased body, upon which there was not one Labour representative. Whatever the political leanings of the gentlemen of that Commission are, they are certainly not in the direction of political opinions held by honorable members on this side of the House.
– I think Mr. Paddington is.
– As far as I know, he has never expressed any opinion at all. The only member who has expressed any political opinion is Mr. Swinburne, who, of course, has as much right to hold political views as any member of this House.
– He is not a member of the Inter-State Commission now.
– I have no fault to find with any member of the Commission for the expression of political views. I am merely pointing out that this was an unbiased Commission, and its findings are important. In its inquiry into the manufacture of blankets and flannels, it found that in 1914 the net profits of twelve manufacturing firms were over 9 per cent. ; in 1915, over 23 per cent.; in 1916, ever 41 per cent. ; and in 1917, over 25 per cent. In themanufacture of serges and tweeds the net profits in 1914 represented 16 per cent.; in 1915; 35 per cent. ; in 1916, 37 per cent. ; and in 1917, 26 per cent. For the whole industry, embracing ‘blankets, flannels”, tweeds, and serges, the net profitin 1914 was 13 per cent. ; in 1915, 29 per cent. ; in 1916, 39 per cent. ; and in 1917, 25 per cent. The Commission adds -
It will be observed that the profits throughout the Commonwealth expanded considerably in 1915, reaching high water-mark in 1916, during which period the mills were employed almost exclusively on contracts for the Defence Department.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) interjected just now that these profits were made on contracts given by the Government of which I was a member. “Well, I have it from the lips of one of those contractors that the tweed which they supplied in accordance with Government schedule was being delivered at one-third the price that contractors in England were obtaining for the same class of material. They were compelled to sell in Australia at that price, because we had started to do the work ourselves, and if, to use the vernacular of my constituency, they made it a “ welter “ in 1916, goodness knows what they would have done if we had not exercised some sort of control over them. No doubt they would have done what other companies have been doing in the Old Country, under a Government whose supporters are in the same political camp as are honorable members opposite. Prices were kept down in Australia, but still they made enormous profits, and they want to go on making those enormous profits at the expense of the whole community.
On the following page of the report figures are given showing that the total capital employed in the manufacture of blankets, flannels, serges, and tweeds was £1,114,385 in 1914, and that the average for the years 1915-17 was £1,273,738. The turnover in 1914 was £1,189,861, and in 1915-17, £2,267,919. That is to say, the capital employed in woollen mills was turned over twice in one year - an absolutely unheard-of performance in the manufacturing industry. Any honorable member with a knowledge of manufacturing knows that it takes a concern like that all its time to turn over its capital once a year; yet these mills, on a capital of £1,273,738, had a turnover of £2,267,919. . The percentage of net profit to capital in 1914 was 13.44, and the average for 1915-1917 was 31.33. The amount of profit necessary to pay 10 per cent, on capital, according to the InterState Commission, was £127,373, the excess of profit over the amount necessary to pay 10 per cent, on capital being no less than £271,659. The Commission adds -
It appears to be clear that, from the consumer’s point of view, the actual net profits of the woollen mills have been very greatly in excess of ‘ a fair and liberal return on the amount of capital invested in the business. It may, however, be contended by the proprietors that the profits were not in excess of what might be expected under the circumstances,, conditions over which they had no control having placed them in a most advantageous position.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was quite right when, in 1915, he remarked that there are men in this community who pose as patriots. They, give £5,000 to the patriotic fund and rob the community of £50,000 by increased profits. These people, to whom I now refer, are taking it out of the community to-day, and it should be the duty of this Parliament to see that the consumers are fairly dealt with. The Commission adds -
II is much to be regretted that the greater proportion of their excessive profits were derived during the period in which they were engaged in supplying material for the clothing of our soldiers, and when they were acting in unison. This is conspicuous during the years 1915 and 1916.
I come now to the wholesale distributers, and, on this subject, the Commission states -
Prices are now fixed by wholesalers, not by adding the same uniform percentage to landed cost, but by directing the head of each Department, e.g., Manchester goods, ready-made clothing, silks, &c, to produce at the end of each half-year a defined gross profit on the sales. The departmental head knows what his goods have cost into warehouse, and so adjusts the conditions to that cost of the various articles handled, as to bring out an aggregate amount in turnover which will yield the stipulated gross profit over aggregate landed cost.
The Commission was appointed to inquire into, among other things, the increased prices charged and the excessive profits made by the Australian manufacturers of woollen piece goods; the increased profits made by the wholesale distributers, and, in many cases, by the retail distributers ; and the increased actual amount of duty paid as a consequence of ad valorem duties being charged upon the increased values of imported goods. The report states that care was taken to examine all the accounts, and to go into the matter very carefully. In the Age of Saturday last, I find the following -
They may use the new-found power to increase prices and wax rich rapidly. It is the third possibility that ought, by law, to be made impossible by a community that elects its own Government to look after its interests. During the war the Federal Government made bungling attempts to control the retail prices of “ necessary commodities.” In announcing the end of that control, the Acting Prime Minister said that further action against price inflation by “trusts and combines was the business of the State Governments. The State Governments will be just as ready to pass the responsibility back to the Federal Government. What is the Government for, if it is not to look after the interests of the people? And there is no interest that touches the masses of the people more than the cost of the commodities of life.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the party on this side of the House, and I shall quote to the House a report published in the Argus of Thursday last of some remarks made by the president of the National Party Conference (Senator Plain), which sat in Melbourne recently -
During the sitting the chairman said that Mr. McWilliams, M.H.R. (Tasmania), was reported in a section of the press to have said that he wanted to see before the next election a conference of all the anti-labour movements. He (the chairman) had received a telegram - “ National Labour party, Victoria, entors emphatic protest against reference at conference inferring conference was antilabour, which would lead public to believe that combination existing in Federal Parliament to-day is of same category. We desire remind you tens of thousands Labourites supported present Government under leadership of present Prime Minister. We think such statement detrimental to his interests as Labour man. - Glance, Secretary.” “ We have not comehere for the purpose of downing Labour,” continued the chairman, amid cheers. “‘We should make it known that we arc here for the purpose of protecting loyal Labour. Speaking as a Labour man, I say that we are here to see that those great traditions which have been challenged by a section calling itself Labour, but which is composed of nothing but impostors are maintained in their entirety. We have to protect Labour against these impostors, and to protect the masses against so-called Labour men. (Hear, hear ! )
Some members of the party on this side have been described as “ Johnnies-come lately.” Even Senator Plain cannot say that of me, and any man, inside this Parliament or out of it, who soys that I am an impostor, is a liar. I do not care who he is. Statements of the kind made by Senator Plain will not tend to allay industrial unrest. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and I had the privilege of attending as delegates at the conference held in Sydney in 1902, probably before Senator Plain thought of coming to Australia. If ever there was a “ Johnny-come-lately “ in the Labour movement, he is the man who uttered the sentiments I have quoted, and who said that those who have stood true to Labour are nothing but imposters. When we on this side hold a party meeting, honorable members opposite allude to it. as a Labour caucus, and the Argus refers to “the beer-swilling rioterwho happens for the moment to be out of gaol.”
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members have listened with interest to the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and I can safely say that every honorable . member on this side is in hearty accord with his denunciation of profiteering and his desire to find some means to check it, and stop the constant rise in the cost of living. We can find no fault with his tone or his earnestness in that matter, and he has also given the House a good deal of information. No doubt a reply to much of it can be made, and especially will my friends, the butter producers, have something to say in answer to the statements made by the honorable gentleman. He will be the first to agree that those engaged in dairying or wheat farming for a living are just as much entitled to a return for their industry as is the wage-earner. The honorable member argued that the fixed price of butter was unfair and that the Minister did not appoint a properly constituted and representative Board. The price was fixed by the Minister, and whilst, as a rule, I believe in giving complete representation to all interests, yet in the case of the Butter Pool, as the function of the Board was to manage the sale and distribution of the commodity, and not to fix the price, those who were concerned in, and understood the business, were the proper persons to place on the Board.
I rose mainly for the purpose of dealing with one item on the Government’s programme, and particularly the feeling that exists outside Parliament, both in the Labour ranks and amongst the employers and capitalists, that the industrial arbitration systemhas been a failure. We have an instance at this hour of a labour organization opposed to the Act, and I have had communications from employers’ organizations, asking me to support the abolition of the Act. It is curious that both the wage-earner and the employer should be in the same boat in that matter, but I believe that both of them are under a misapprehension of what has taken place. As a consistent supporter of arbitration, I believe that, taking human nature into consideration, and the fact that the Federal Act is very much tied up by limitations due to the Constitution, the Acthas been a very much greater success than most ofus anticipated. According to Mr. Knibbs’ latest figures, in 1918 the number of unions in the Commonwealth was 394, many with a great number of branches; the number of members was 581,755, the number of awards in force under the Commonwealth Court was 85, and under the State Courts 781, or a total of 866. The number of industrial agreements’ was: Commonwealth, 569; State, 264; total, 833. The number of persons working under awards, agreements, and determinations of the various Courts was 569,000; that is, out of a total of 581,755 members of unions. These figures show that the trade unions have taken advantage of the Courts provided for them, as it was intended that they should, and have not stood aloof to any extent. In. the last quarter of 1918 there were 110 disputes, none of which was in the Federal arena. The establishments involved numbered 199; the number of workers directly involved was 12,290 ; and the number indirectly involved, as nearly as could be estimated, was 4,762, or a total of 17,052. Therefore, only 12,290 workers out of considerably over 500,000 were involved in those disputes. Alarmists who say “ Look at the strikes we are having,” simply count up the number of strikes, and do not work out the proportion of those involved to the hundreds of thousands who are working harmoniously and observing the law loyally. Then they want to make out that arbitration is a failure. Those figures prove its success.
I intend briefly to review the conditions of the masses that have led up to the situation with which we are faced to-day, and with whichboth Federal and State Parliaments will have to deal. I agree with my friends opposite that it cannot be ignored. There are in the ranks of Labour over 500,000’ organized workers, who have proved their loyalty to each other, and whose opinions cannot beignored. We have no right to try to ignore them. They have played a big part, and have had abig influence on both State and Federal politics. Every one admits that the past legislation of the Labour party will stand. Not even the most conservative man now proposes to take it off the statute-book. But there are coming into that movement, as was evidenced even before the war, some influences that are not good. I have been casting my mind back to the conditions of the masses when we started organizing Labour many years ago. The worker then had no say as to his wages or hours. If he was out of work he went looking for employment. He did not ask what his wage was to be, and he did not know until pay-day came. Young men of the present day do not know anything about that period, because young Australians, as a rule, are not very studious of history.
– I sat in the Trades Hall of this city, and settled wages, thirtyfive years ago.
– I know the honorable member did, and no doubt there were organized unions in the bigcentres, but I am speaking of the conditions in the country. In tlie gold-mining industry of Victoria we had no say as to hours or wages. To-day men from the ranks of Labour are taking prominent positions. The Prime Minister himself was a Labour man, but at that time the workers had no social status in country towns. In towns dependent on mining the mine manager was king and emperor, and woe betide any individual who offended him. As to n. worker being put on a municipal council in the country, such a thing was quite unheard of. When we began to organize labour into unions, we were met at once with the lock-out. A notice was posted that anybody joining the miners’ union would be discharged. When we organized the first nine branches of the miners’ union in Victoria we were locked out, and (those members of the unions who were in work - and the unionists were only a small percentage of the workers in the industry - paid levies to provide £1 a week each for us. Our wages then were only £2 2s. a week, when we got them. I notice that some of the modern managers of strikes provide no funds at all, and leave their people to starve. In those days sweating was rampant in the cities, and the conditions were very -bad, .particularly for women workers, as was disclosed by Committees which investigated the question. And such has been the position, indeed, until a very recent period. Labour had no voice. The boss could say, “ You can take this job or leave it. It is a free country, and if you don’t like it you can walk off.” When there were strikes there was no difficulty in getting men to fill the places of those who had gone out. .It took courage to be a striker in those days. The situation culminated in an upheaval, which emanated from the efforts of the employers to secure freedom of contract. I refer to the maritime strike - or, more properly, lock-out - in 1890. Employers refused to recognise the unions. Labour was defeated in the struggle. Nevertheless, it was the awakening of Labour, and the era of political action was inaugurated. The establishment of trade unions was part of the -new movement. When Labour began to take a hand in politics we sought reform in various directions. There were still severe strikes. The man who deserved first credit for the introduction of compulsory arbitration was the late Charles Cameron Kingston; he brought forward a measure in the South Australian Legislature. Later, a .New Zealand Act was passed; and there were other than Labour sympathizers who began to support the principle of compulsory arbitration. I emphasize that, because J desire to give credit where credit is ‘due: Public opinion was created mainly through the efforts of Labour, and the Arbitration Act was placed on th? statute-books. Labour took considerable risks in agreeing to compulsory arbitration. Labour voluntarily agreed to give up the strike weapon. Labour knew what suffering was caused by strikes. In all the history of trade unionism, until quite recently, the strike had been the last resort. When Labour went on strike it followed certain broad .principles. These had been laid down by the trade unionists of Britain. For example, nobody would dream of striking against the .Government. .British unionists had a tradition never to strike except upon a rising market, when there would be some hope of achieving one’s ends. The experience of trade unionists in New South Wales had indicated that one would rarely find a J udge who was not .openly and strongly biased against trade unionists. Yet we took the risks of having such Judges .appointed chairmen of our Courts. W-e preferred even that to the old strike method. We had a .fine and .able man -in the late Mr. Sam Smith; and., later, Mr. Riley, now honorable member for South Sydney, took his place in the Court. It was about this time that Mr. Justice Cohen laid down a certain principle. There had been a gross case of sweating exposed. Employees were working in Sydney for ninety to 100 hours per week for the magnificent wage of 10s. together with very inferior food. The Judge said that an industry which could not pay a fan.- wage should .not exist. We are now acquainted with other dicta in various Courts, notably those of Mr. Justice Higgins, who declared that the wage of the most unskilled man should be such as to enable him to maintain himself and family as they ought to live in a civilized community. These were tremendous advances. Looking back, we realize the significance of the change in public opinion. Statements such as those of Mr. Justice Higgins became accepted by the Conservative element of society, and it was a far cry from that period when freedom of contract was the rule, and when Labour had to suffer the boycott. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.. Page) will recall the boycott of shearers in Queensland. In a very few years the worker has advanced from a position where he had no voice, to one in which he can enter a Court and state his case before an unbiased Judge. Indeed, if there is any bias at all to-day it is not against Labour. From having had no voice, Labour has been given an equal say with employers; and so long as the wage system continues that will be a fair thing.
The arbitration system has been a success despite many drawbacks and much criticism. There are several directions in which it might be improved, and I am glad to know that the Government intend to amend the present Act. For example, there should be more power to establish reference Boards. Many industries would work more smoothly, if the pin-pricks, which often do so much harm, could be done away with. Since there has been a Court to approach, wherein grievances may be redressed, there has inevitably been great increase in trade unionism, notably among women workers. A stage has now been reached when sweating has been practically abolished. As unions have become stronger it has been found almost impossible to fill the places of men who have gone out on strike. While some people do not approve of the Court and the system under which it investigates the conditions of labour, there can be no doubt that it has been a great advantage and an education to the people. Through its instrumentality, much that was previously unknown has been exposed to the light of day, and in that respect it has proved a great gain to the masses.
In many other ways the workers have been brought more and more to the front, and have had even the Government of Australia in their hands. Those who prate nowadays about class consciousness and capitalism forget that the capitalists were defeated when we secured the recognition of the principle of adult suffrage. With the coming of adult suffrage the control of all things was placed in the hands of the people, and although much idle talk in regard to the capitalists is still indulged in, the truth is that they can do nothing that the people refuse to allow.
When the principle of arbitration was adopted, it was clearly understood that labour organizations, and more particularly the political labour organizations, which in the early days included many trade unions, should be able to devote their energy, their time, and their funds to other objects. The Commonwealth having established a Court to determine questions relating to wages and hours of employment, these organizations were free to tackle other problems, and they proceeded at once to do so. Many important questions, as the result of their efforts, have been brought before both the Federal and State Parliaments, and in that way we have achieved big reforms that have come to stay.
It is often urged that from the Labour stand-point wages have not been increased as they should have been. Those who indulge in such comment overlook the fact that before the principle of arbitration came into operation, those who were not members of a union in many cases were in receipt of disgracefully low wages. We have heard of individuals who received a wage of 10s. per week of 90 hours. That is a fair sample of the conditions that then existed outside the ranks of unionism. Sweating of that kind, however, has been abolished, and the position of thousands of people who were outside the unions has thus been improved by means of organization. That is a point that should not be forgotten when we are dealing with the general improvement that has taken place in the social position, status, and power of the masses. With this improvement there came the further problem which has been touched upon to-night, and which every country has now to face. . As wages have increased, so the cost of living has increased. According to Mr. Knibbs, today 30s. is required to purchase what one could obtain for £1 in 1911. Every application made to the Court for a new award is based on the increase in the cost of living. That cannot go on for all time. It is altogether .unthinkable that it should, and those who are engaged in framing the laws of the country have to ask themselves what is the best way in which to deal with the problem. Having made fair provision for dealing with the relationship of employer and employee, we have now to face this further question. It used to be said of me that I was altogether too radical in my views. On one occasion I told a clergyman, who expressed a desire to see peace between employers and employed, that it was not desirable that too great a degree of harmony should prevail between them. I explained that my reason for this belief was that if the relations between employer and employee became, so to speak, too harmonious, we might have here what had taken place in Chicago, where contractors in the building trade had arrived at an agreement with their employees under which they “ took down “ those who employed t’hem to build houses, and divided the proceeds.
It is only reasonable that we should appeal to employees and every one else to stand by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I claim that in this regard they have done wonderfully well.
– The recent decision of the High Court as to the powers of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is not likely to improve the position.
– At all events, the President of that Court, Mir. Justice Higgins, speaking at a dinner given by the Million Club, in Sydney, on 1st June, 1917, said, in regard to the Court over which he had presided for ten years -
There has never yet been a single conviction, or oven, until the last few days, a prosecution “for a strike in a dispute within the Court’s jurisdiction. Once only has permission been asked to prosecute for a strike. It is also a fact that there has never yet been a conviction of an employee for disobeying an award.
That is a very high testimony to the recognition which the working classes have given the Court. When we are denouncing, as we have a right to do, those who refuse to avail themselves of the Court, we’ should not forget that the complaint applies to only a small section, and that the great masses of Labour are showing that they favour arbitration.
We have had some experience of the price- fixing system. Those’ who have studied our efforts in that direction assert that during the war period it resulted in a saving of £10,000,000 to the people of Australia. If that statement be correct, then it is a strong argument for the adoption of price fixing generally. Another remedy for profiteering, and one that requires much consideration, has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who urges that we should provide for the limitation of profits. We have as much right to demand that the manufacturers and distributers of goods shall be subject to regulation as they have to demand that Labour shall be regulated. The public have as much right to go on strike against them as Labour had to go on strike; but since we regard a strike as an evil, we say, “ Let us resort to peaceful, constitutional methods, and have Courts, Boards, or other tribunals to deal with the profiteers, who are robbing their fellow men.” We said to the employer, “ You are not to be permitted to take advantage of the need of your fellow-man, who is out of work and looking for a means to obtain a crust. You must pay him a fair return for his labour.” Similarly the community has a perfect right to demand that a fair return shall be given for cash handed over the counter to anybody. The womenfolk knowthat something has risen in price almost every week, and no reason is given for the increase. The storekeeper and distributer does not always get the profit. He cannot help the rise in prices, and it is very difficult to say who is to blame. We must have some investigation of the matter. The Leader of the Opposition and the older members of this House are aware that under our Constitution we are prevented from dealing with the matter as it needs to be dealt with. If there were united action on this question, as there might be, between honorable members on both sides in this House, and it were considered that the Federal authorities should deal with it, something might very soon be done. We might have the Constitution amended to enable this Parliament to deal with the matter. I know that the Government have been looking into the question. If the State Governments decline to tackle the business, the State Parliaments might agree to hand over the necessary power to deal with it to the Commonwealth Parliament, without a referendum.
– The State Legislative Councils will not hand over the power.
– It is a question whether the State Legislative Councils would do so; but what I mean to suggest is that this is a matter which cannot be shelved. We have a ticklish time before us as a result of the war, and the matter must be taken in hand. A num’ber of proposals have been made. ‘Some complaint has been made about the increase in the price of boots, but it is clear that that is due to the fact that there is a world demand for hides, and agents are prepared to pay any price for them. It is said that our prices are regulated by the world’s parity, but if prices in Australia are to be regulated by the world’s parity, they must go higher even than they are now. We must ask ourselves whether it is a fair thing that in a great producing country like Australia, that could supply its own wants if the rest of the world disappeared, people should have to pay the world’s parity for the goods they consume. It is a question whether it would not be right and fair to continue the system of pools. It seems to me that the Wheat Pool was so successful that we might continue that method of handling the farmers’ wheat. If we did so there is no reason why we should not withdraw from the Wheat Pool at a fixed price, lower than the London parity, sufficient wheat to supply Australian bakers. I do not think that the fanners would complain of that. The alternative would be to leave it to local competition, but honorable members know that it is difficult to get good butter in a butter district, because it does not pay the producer to sell small quantities of butter to local dealers. He desires to be able to send away his produce in bulk. A pool would regulate the butter supply, and the Australian people should have the best instead of the worst of local productions. The same course might be followed in dealing with fruit and other things. At present we send away the best, and keep the worst, for Australia, which is not fair. The whole business argues organization, limitation, and interference with the producers, just as we have had interference with the workers to fix their hours and the price of their labour. Even the fixation of prices as an experiment has had a measure of success, and, in my opinion, we should combine the whole of”’ these things.
It has been suggested that we might fix up everything by one revolution. I regret to say that there is a very strongbody of people in this country who haveno sympathy with methods of arbitration, but who want direct action. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he attributed the desire for direct action to the high cost of livingI think that what he meant is merely that it has led to a great deal of unrest, and has helped those who favour direct action to get .a hearing. I think that they have taken advantage of the high cost of living to press their doctrine This is a new element with which we have to deal, and I may refer .to it or* another occasion at greater length. Before the war, foreign elements came tothis country. I am quite certain that it was to these foreign .elements that Senator Plain referred, and not to honorable members opposite, and, least of all, -to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) . I believe that ‘ a number of men, whom -Senator Lynch has called “ Jonnny-come-latelies, “ came here within recent years, and notably from America, and they have preached the Industrial Workers of the World doctrine. For some of them, America had becometoo hot. The record of the Industrial Workers of the World in America is a very bad one. . There is hardly any crimeagainst Labour of which they have not been guilty. Leading officials of the organization have been on the pay-roll of strike breakers, and some of them have raised money by false pretences. Someof these people came here and commenced the direct-action propaganda. I was blamed some time ago for warning people against these fellows and their economic teachings, which I called economic lunacy. It was said that I was making too. much of them, and they were not so dangerous as I suggested. I regret to saythat my fears have been justified by the existence to-day. of such a large body of these people that it took the trade organisations at a recent Conference all their time to defeat them. “We have in existence the One Big Union - an organization that has direct action for its preamble. I was one who took some hand in the promotion of the One Big Union idea, but it was ‘based upon a very different principle from that now. suggested. “When the Australian “Workers Union had a conference, they wiped out the scheme that has been adopted here as utterly impracticable. The One Big Union for which the Australian Workers Union stands would prevent direct action. They proposed the amalgamation of existing craft unions. The unions were to manage their own affairs in their own way,, but there was to be one limitation,, and that was that they should not take extreme action without the consent of the Central Executive representing the whole organization. That would prevent the disasters which arise when a small body of men take extreme action, and other organizations follow the same course out of a desire to be loyal to fellow workers. The Australian Workers Union is now fighting the other body to which I have referred because of its objects. It proposes to do away with craft unionism and link up the bill-stickers with the compositors of the Typographical Society. This is an utterly impracticable scheme, which no experienced trade unionist would expect to succeed. It is, of course, all right when considered from the point of view of the Industrial Workers of the World doctrine of one big union, which it is proposed should take possession and run the industries. This proposal is immoral, wrong-, and utterly opposed to “anything British or Australian, and a foreign importation of comparatively recent date. The Industrial Workers of the World started only in 1906, and those concerned’ were a bad lot, not recognised in the
United States ; but they have come here, and expect their policy to be adopted by sane Australians. The organization is strong enough to put up a big fight, and just recently, in New South Wales, it took the moderates all their time to defeat the extremists. It is reported, and I have not seen the report contradicted, that Mr. A. C. Willis, secretary of the Coal and Shale Employees Federation, has asked why the coal miners should not fix their own wages. That is just what we had to fight against on the part of the- employers, who, we contended, had no right to fix. wages without consulting the men; .and when unionism became strong enough, it was possible to settle the matter in friendly conference. Is it to be said that the wage-earner, having no responsibility, and no interest in the industry other than his work, shall fix the conditions under which he is to work? Such an arrangement would be no better than the other against which we fought ; but the direct actionists favour the idea of having: committees to run industries. One is tempted to remind them of the experience of Russia in this connexion-.
– It is not so long since we advocated direct action, you know.
– When we had no other means, we took direct action; but we did not like it, and when we found other means we dropped it.
– Do not forget that the employers took direct action against us.
– I know;, but they were not justified in ‘ doing so; though, perhaps, I ought not to say that they were not justified, seeing that both sides were fighting with what weapons they had. But it is not a sane and civilized method of settling disputes, nor is it a just method. In the Federal Conciliation and Arbitral tion Court, 500 odd agreements have been arrived at in friendly conference, and that is one of the best sides of the Court. I would rather have an arrangement arrived’ at in that way than, a decision from the Court, because the former is morelasting, more friendly, and works more smoothly. And it is to the credit of the masses of the wage earners that they have stood’ loyally by such arrangements. What I am referring to now is the great danger in the effort now being made to take advantage of the cry about the high cost of living, that the extremists may gain their own ends, which would prove disastrous to any country. What these extremists propose is really anarchy, or, as far as I can learn their ideas, a communism for which we are not prepared. I suppose that the Australian people are about as far advanced, and as well educated, as any people in the world ; they are an intelligent, vigorous, law-abiding race, and while they are good at organization, they are by no means ready to carry out this communistic principle. If ever mankind does adopt the principle, there will have to be a great change in human nature; we have not got far enough away from the wage system - or wage slavery, as it was called, and as it was - to be ready for these rash experiments. It is true that the Labour party in some sections was, and still is, socialistic : the objective of the movement was socialistic; but I notice that a change has been made, for an explanation of which I am looking to some one who was at the recent Conference. I do not know what is meant, and, but for the lateness of the hour, I would have liked to refer to the objective of the party during the period when Labour was very successful in managing the affairs of Commonwealth and States, and show wherein it differs from that which I regard as coming very close to the disastrous one big union programme.
Speaking of Socialism, one should remember that many socialistic enterprises have been set in operation with success. I do not agree with those who, because mistakes are made, and some venture of the kind is not working well, condemn all Government enterprise; this is a mistake made by people who are not in possession of all the facts. There have been socialistic functions. successfully exercised in connexion with’ the Defence Department, in the way of the manufacture of harness, clothing, woollens, and so forth. No complaints have been raised in this House regarding those enterprises, although, as politicians, it is our duty to voice complaints if any are to be made. On the contrary, these works are admittedly a huge success. In the States during the regime of Labour, this socialistic method has been applied to public utilities. When the Brick Combine Was found too oppressive in Sydney, the State Government started brickworks, which are, perhaps, the most up-to-date in the world, and, while keeping a check on the Combine, have proved a paying proposition.
The way out of our present difficulties is not one that any one man, however much he may have studied these matters, can see; but, personally, I believe that the correct principle is the evolutionary one. Evolutionary Socialism was the ideal, of Labour, and I hope it is still; but with a large section *that is not the aim, but rather anarchy, under which no one can tell what will happen. In order to stop these dangerous departures, trade unionists will have- to take a greater interest and part in the work of their unions, and weed out those wild extremists who would disrupt any organization. No one but a moderate man can retain unity in an organization of any kind, whether a trade union, a church, or any other body - no one but such a man can reconcile and keep in check extremists, who are a menace and a danger to solidarity, apart altogether from the particular views they may hold. I hope that the great masses of Labour will see that a check is kept on this dangerous element that has been squeez-ing itself in. At the present time a body of men who have had the respect of Australia, and who have been well managed in the past, are declaring war against the Arbitration Act. My old policy and advice was that if men could get an advance by means of a compromise at a conference they ought to take it, and come again next year for more. “ Keep on coming, and you will get what you want eventually.” But the tactics that are now. being pursued only make for trouble. What their aim is I do not know, but they should certainly be put down with a strong hand. As to the future of society, there is an immense a wakening all over the world. The present is a dangerous time, by reason of the fact that the faddists get their chance, and their fads need to be carefully examined. Prior to the outbreak of war, while on a ‘ visit to the United Kingdom, I found that ‘ the voluntary co-operative movement was the solution of profiteering. In some of the districts, notably Kilmarnock in Scot-, land, 80 per cent, of the residents were members of co-operative societies. There was not a .profiteer anywhere. The profits went to the consumers. In the Newcastle district of New South Wales, too, there were good co-operative societies. There are many similar organizations in Australia. In Britain these organizations extended to the manufacture of products and to the carriage of those products in their own ships. They manufactured their own products, carried them in their own ships, and sold them to their own. people. Now there is a proposal on foot there to take over the railway systems which ought to be owned by the community. Here in Australia wo have a great many of these public utilities owned by the entire community, as they undoubtedly ought to be. How far that principle should be extended I cannot say. In Australia our evolutionary movement has been in that direction, and we ought to put our foot down on .any proposal which has not evolution,ary Socialism in it. We cannot very well afford to wait on this question, which is facing the Parliaments of the Commonwealth. I say that it is facing the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, because, under our Constitution, we have not full power to deal with it. But we should not hesitate to tackle the problem. We should ascertain what can be done, whether by way of the limitation of profits. or by fixation of prices, or by a. combination of both The problem must be attacked. When we do attack it, we shall educate the .people in t/he matter of what profits the employers are making, and whether those profits are excessive. The employers are entitled to get interest upon the capital which they have invested in any industry, insurance upon the risks which they incur, as well as a fair profit. All these matters require to be investigated by experienced men. They cannot be dealt with offhand. I hope that the Government will look into them very deeply, and that they will he able to submit proposals which will command the support of honorable members on both sides of the ‘chamber. We need more powers in respect of arbitration than we at present possess. The State? told us that they were going to give us those powers. Let them do so without further delay. Quite- a number of commodities in Australia have gone up very considerably in price, although they are produced locally, and are not exported at all. I know that the’ men on the land have not had as much as have the poorest wage-earners. In addition, they have had to work long hours for what they got. They are not profiteers. Australians should get the benefit of commodities which are locally produced, and I think that this might be arranged with fairness both to the grower and the consumer.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McGrath) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190709_reps_7_88/>.