7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented: -
Customs Act - (Regulations Amended- Statu tory Rules 1919, No. 171.
Drought in New South Wales: Farming and Pastoral Industries : Income and War-time Profits Taxation.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to the serious position ofthe farming, and particularly the pastoral, industry in New South Wales. Since February, 1918,the whole of New South Wales south of the LachlanRiver hasbeen in the grip of a drought, -which I believe is the biggest on record. Representatives of city electorates, WhO do not travel except during :an election compaign, may smile at this statement, but I invite them to visit the western district of New South Wales, and see fox themselves the devastation that the drought has wrought. It is all very well for representatives of Victoria to say that there is no drought. That may be true of this State, which to-day is a veritable flower garden, but if they would accompany me to my electorate, they would realize how serious is the position of the pastoralists there. Our average annual rainfall in that division has been from 22 to 24 inches; but in the last sixteen months we have ‘had a fall of only 12 inches. ‘Some two months since ‘2 or 3 inches of rain were recorded, and whilst this afforded some relief, it cannot be said that the drought. has broken.
The condition of many farmers and pastoralists in the western district of New South Wales is deplorable. Owing to the ravages of the drought, they are almost at their wit’s end to find fodder for their sheep and cattle, and they are now being -called upon to pay heavy taxation in respect of profits earned over twelve months ago. We often hear it said that the pastoralists are doing very well with wool at 15Ad. per lb., but as against that many men have lost half their nooks. Fifty per cent, of the sheep in the’ Calare district, usually one of the most flourishing in .New South Wales, have been lost because of the longcontinued drought.
– In the far western district of New South Wales, nearly all tho sheep have died.
– The honorable member is a true nationalist; although he re-‘ presents Victoria, he takes an interest in the position of other States, and he knows that my facts are correct. He tells me that he has been informed by a friend that graziers in the neighbourhood of Broken Hill have lost practically all their sheep. is it fair in these circumstances that the Government should be collecting income tax in respect of profits made -some’ eighteen -months ago, and the war-time profits tax in respect of profits made three years ago ? If a man during the year ended 30th June, 1918, made a profit of £3,000, but during the year ended 30th June last suffered a loss of £5,000, then, in respect of the two years, he has been a loser to the extent of £2,000, and I claim that he should not ‘have to pay income tax in respect of the first-named period. Many graziers aTe quite unableto pay this taxation. I hope the Acting Prime Minister will take a very sympathetic view of their position ; that he will invite the Commissioner for Taxation to make an investigation, and in all deserving cases to grant relief. On behalf of the graziers of the western district of New South Wales I extend to tho honorable gentleman a cordial invitation to travel through that part of the Commonwealth, feeling confident that, if hedoes, he will recognise the reasonableness of my request and grant the desired relief.
– I have received recently quite a number df invitations, many of them far more attractive than that just extended to me by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott), but owing to the pressure of administrative duties and departmental circumstances I have been obliged to decline the whole of them.
Students of astronomy have recently been drawing the attention of the people? of the world, and particularly the attention of .those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere, to the very rare conjunction of the two great planets Venus and Saturn, which is now talking place, and those of us who are. endeavouring, in a rudimentary way, to follow the information conveyed to us, have been delighted with the study. It reminds me very much of the situation in the -House to-day. The conjunction of a noconfidence motion and a grievance day is a very rare occurrence-, fortunately for the Government of the day.
– Which is Venus?
– The Government, undoubtedly; although on second thoughtsI think we should be likened to Saturn, whose reign on ‘earth is spoken of as “ .the ‘Golden Age.”’
– What about the artificial rain making?
– The honorable member, as usual, is confusing two different matters. I am speaking of astronomy, whereas he refers to meteorology. On only one occasion since the inauguration of the Commonwealth Parliament has this conjunction of a no-confidence motion and a grievance day occurred. At that time a Labour Government, with Mr. Fisher at its head, was in power and when it was challenged by the then Opposition, Mr. Fisher, with considerable propriety and wisdom, drew the attention of the House to the fact that Ministers could not properly answerquestions or deal with grievances while a no-confidence motion remained undecided. The House at that time assented to the proposition emanating from Mr. Fisher, which recommends itself to me to-day, and in the hope that the no-confidence motion will be got out of the road, and in, orderto give honorable members a full opportunity to discuss it, I propose to move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The honorable gentleman, having spoken to the question, cannot now move that the debate be adjourned
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th July(vide page 10565), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which. Mr. Higgs had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.”
– I desire to make a few observations upon the amendment which has been submitted, and I shall deal mainly with questions concerning soldiers, with repatriation, and pensions. There are many other matters which I should like to discuss, but since my return from abroad, my time has been so fully occupied with questions relating to the treatment of returned soldiers, that I have not had the opportunity I should have liked to devote to such matters as profiteering and industrial unrest. Each week I have been interviewing hundreds of soldiers, and dealing with voluminous correspondence, in which their complaints are voiced. I hope, however, before concluding my remarks, to address myself, though perhaps briefly, to the questions of profiteering and industrial unrest.
At the very outset of my observations, I wish to direct attention to the action of the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) in reinstating two cadets who had been dismissed from the Naval College in New South Wales. These lads, after four years of service, were expelled from that institution by the officer in charge. I admit that it is necessary to have discipline both in the Army and the Navy. I have had a fairly long experience of the Army, and I know how some commanding officers view questions of this character, and how unfair they are in their treatment of junior officers. I, therefore, have pleasure in commending the action of the Acting Minister for the Navy in this particular matter. It appears that these lads, who had been four years in the Naval College, were granted half-an-hour’s leave on the night of the armistice. During their leave they may have had a drink or two more than was good for them, and as a result they did not put in an appearance at the appointed time. Thereupon, the commanding officer dismissed them from the College. Had he been allowed to have his own way, they would have been ruined for life. They would have been expelled from the College in disgrace. I am glad that the Acting Minister had sufficient courage to stand up against the commanding officer of that institution, and to insist that these lads should be afforded an opportunity of completing their term there. I do not know whether they are sons of membersof Parliament or not; but, in my opinion, the Assistant Minister merely dealt out justice to these lads when he ordered their reinstatement in the College. I wish that the
Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), at the beginning of the war, had taken up a similar attitude instead of being guided so much by the advice of his officers. Had he listened to complaints, and used his common sense, we would not have had so much trouble in this country. Unfortunately, during the past four or five years - notwithstanding that Australia was 13,000 miles from the scene of the conflict - we have been dominated entirely by the military and naval classes, and Ministers have been afraid to give expression to their views, lest they should offend some general or colonel who held different opinions. Consequently, I applaud the action of the Acting Minister for the Navy. A commander of the Naval College who wouldresign his position because those lads were not summarily dismissed from it, we ought not to be sorry to lose.
I do not altogether agree with those honorable members who complain of delay in regard to demobilization in England. I do not suggest that Senator Pearce has had anything to do with hastening that demobilization; but, nevertheless, wonderfully good work has been done there. Originally, it was thought that fully two years would elapse before the last of our troops would be returned to their homes, whereas I am now credibly informed that all our boys will be back in Australia within the next two months. Knowing, as I do, the difficulties experienced in obtaining shipping abroad, I have no fault to find with the demobilization arrangements which have been made in England. But I have a strong complaint to urge in regard to the demobilization arrangements in Egypt. If honorable members will pay attention to the following letter, which I received by the last mail, they will understand the reason underlying the trouble there. It reads -
Knowing you as being a “ champion of the oppressed,” whoever they may be, I beg the privilege, as a former, and I hope a future, constituent of yours, to place before you for your consideration the following very serious grievances of a large body of good Australians, to wit, the Australian Light Horse, hoping that in your official capacity you will do something to alleviate the injustice being done to them. The grievances are as follows: - .
In regard to No. 1, it was decided by the authorities here that demobilization of the troops here would take place in units, the 1st Regiment to go first, the other units to follow in their numerical order. This, for a start, was directly contrary to the published cabled statement of Mr. Hughes that length of service would bethe main consideration in the matter of early repatriation; obviously the most fair method of sending the men home. Without deigning to explain to the men why they were demobilizing in units, a start was made. The 1st and 2nd Light Horse Regiments got away, and then demobilization was stopped on account of the Egyptian revolt. The position now is this: A large number of early 1915 men, to say nothing of the 1916 men of the h igher-numbered regiments, have, according to authority, to remain in this blasted country away from the homes they are longing for, for another summer, becoming more and more debilitated in health as a matter of course, whilst a large number of 1918 men - many arrivedby the last boat-load of reinforcements to reach here - who were fortunate enough to be allotted to the 1st and 2nd Regiments, are safe home again.
I believe that statement to be true, and I say that the plan of demobilization which has been adopted there is a most unfair one. To bring back to Australia men who, just as they landed in Egypt were allocated to Nos. 1 and 2 Regiments, whilst keepingbehind boys who have been on service since 1915, is decidedly unfair.
– I was classified by a Medical Board as Class C. I was declared to be unfit for further service. The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Poynton) might ask how some honorable members upon his own side of the Chamber got back. But the men to whom. I am referring were sent to Egypt as reinforcements of the No. 1 Regiment, and were in good physical health. Yet because they were lucky enough to be attached to that regiment they have been returned to Australia, whilst men whohavebeen on service since 1915 have been left behind.
– Were not the men who have been returned drafted into the 1st Regiment before demobilization began?
– Yes. But I say that the plan which has been followed is a wrong one. The boys who enlisted for service in 1915 should have been the first to be returned to their homes, and the 1916 lads should have followed them. The letter continues -
I do not think this matter needs any further explanation to convince you that, for the convenience of a few, injustice is being done tomany.
In regard to the second point, the cancellation, for an indefinite period, of demobilization, on account of the Egyptian revolt, is also felt by the men concerned to be an injustice. A Staff Officer detailed from General Head-Quarters to explain to the men why they are being delayed, candidly admitted in his lecture when I heard him, that the Egyptians have many good reasons for revolting and just as candidly admitted that they should be given what they desire. The main cause of this revolt, according to him, was the Egyptians’ objection to Englishmen being given the Civil Service jobs that Egyptians had spent time and money in being educated for, and with the peasantry and lower classes the injustice they had suffered in various ways through the requisitioning of men and supplies for war service. In regard to the former cause, I know that it Was arranged that a large number of British and Australian officers who desired to remain in these parts after demobilization were to be given. Civil Service jobs (despite the very meagre qualifications for the jobs that they possessed) over the heads of these educated Egyptians. A scurvy trick has been played on the Egyptians, inasmuch as the delegates the English Government has allowed them to send to Paris to plead their cause will find the door closed on them, a thing they assured themselves about before they let them go.
When the Egyptians discover this, ructions are expected to follow, and we are to be kept here to see that the “ Gippo “ does not get justice.
– The letter is going into Egyptian politics, is it not?
– This man was kept there in connexion with Egyptian politics. This was his answer -
The position then, sir, is this: I enlisted four years ago to do my bit against the German desire to rule the world. The job has been completed, and I most emphatically object to being kept away from my home one hour longer-
I do not think any honorable member will say that he is not right. He was not sent over there to prevent trouble in Egypt; he was sent there to help to defeat the Germans, and wo know how well our soldiers did that job. His letter continues - to protect and safeguard British financial interests in Egypt, or aid in seeing injustice done to the Egyptians.
I hope, sir, that you will consider what I have written, and do what you can to get a large body of desert-tired and war-weary men home as soon as possible.
I am, yours &c.,
I trust that the Government will take notice of this letter. It ought to appeal to every one. In any case the method of bringing these men back from Egypt should be altered. Those who went away from Australia first should come back first, and we should intimate to the British Government clearly and distinctly that we did not send our boys across the seas to take part in keeping down the Egyptians. They were sent to Egypt to train for operations in Gallipoli, and on the plains of France and Flanders. If the British Government call for Australian volunteers to hold Egypt for them, let them do so ; and if they get volunteers well and good; but that is another question. Our soldiers enlisted for a specific purpose, namely, to defeat the Germans and Germany’s Allies; and having done their job, they ought to come back to Australia by the first boats available. This is one of many letters I have received dealing with this matter. I hope that our men in Egypt will be sent back immediately to their loved ones in Australia.
In connexion with the housing scheme for returned soldiers, we have appointed a large staff of colonels, majors, and other officers, and we have appropriated millions of money for the purpose, yet not one house has been built or bought for a returned soldier.
– That remark does not apply to South Australia.
– The South Australian Government have done well. I am speaking of what the Federal Government have done.When they will foe ready to build a home, I do not know. As soon as this amendment is disposed of, I shall endeavour to ascertain what the Housing Commission has cost, and what it is doing. We do not know what it has done, except thatit is certain it is not building or buying homes for returned soldiers. There are many questions involved, and the Commissioner has not even decided them yet. He is not quite clear that a widow without children is entitled to participate in the benefits of the scheme. Surely that question should be settled speedily enough. I am the only Victorian country member in the Labour party, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) represents Bendigo, and I guarantee that if he were here he would agree with me that the scheme needs alteration, or that some other interpretation should be placed on the rules if the mining districts of Victoria are to get any benefit from the Act. A considerable portion of the land in the mining districts of. Victoria is held on miners rights. In the early days, a man who paid half-a-crown for a miner’s right could take up an allotment of land, and build a home on it; and so long as the land was occupied, and a home was erected on it, he had a valid title to it; in fact, one of the best in the world. But no mortgage could be registered upon a property held under such a title, and the Government Savings Bank will not advance money upon it. If the Housing Commissioner is unable to make advances on property built on miners’ residence areas, the benefits of the War Service Homes Act will be lost to the big inland mining cities of Victoria.I believe that the trouble could be overcome in ten minutes, but it is impossible to get the Commissioner, or any one else, to move in the matter. If the Commissioner has not sufficient power to advance money for the purchase of homeson these miners’ residence areas, the Act should be amended.
Even when the Housing Commissioner has got over his initial troubles, I do not think the scheme will be of much benefit to returned soldiers. First of all the Act needs to be amended on the lines adopted in. South Australia. No- one in Australia would take up the attitude that a soldier’s widow with children should always be in fear of the landlord’s knock at the door every Monday, but under the Federal scheme the excessive payments required will effectually prevent her from being able to get a home of her own. The South Australian legislation provides that widows or mothers with children shall pay a rent not exceeding 6s. per week irrespective of the cost of the house up to £700, whereas under our scheme if a widow wants a house costing. £700 she will be called upon to pay £3 10s. per month if the house is built of brick, £41s.8d. per month if the house is built partly of wood and partly of iron, and £4 13s. 4d. per month if the house is built wholly of wood. That is almost 25s. per week.
– It is too much.
– It is not only too much for the widow, it is also too much for the returned soldier. Where is the returned soldier who will be able to pay 25s. per week, in addition to municipal and water rates? The South Australian scheme exempts the soldier from the payment of municipal and water rates, but the Federal scheme provides that he must pay them. When the municipal and water rates and insurance premiums are added to the monthly payments ; of £4 13s. 4d. required for a wooden house costing £700, the purchaser will be obliged to pay about £5 per month.
– It will be more than that.
– The pension for a returned soldier totally incapacitated is 30s. per week.
– The South Australian system represents a return of 2½ per cent. interest on the outlay.
– The South Australian authorities have adopted a very wise provision by extending repayments over a period of fifty years. That is what we ought to do.
– Two and a half per cent. will not cover current interest on capital.
– It is not a question as to what the schemewill pay.
– I am notarguing that it is.
– We should not consider the financial aspect of the problem at all. What we have to remember is that for four or five years these men have led lives that have made some of them peculiar individuals, and the best repatriation scheme we can devise is one that will get them settled in homesof their own without a moment’s delay, no matter what it costs. Otherwise serious trouble will eventuate in this country. There is trouble brewing today. I am one of those who believe in the plank of our party that stands for arbitration as a constitutional means for righting the wrongs that exist to-day; but I say that there is material at hand which, if not dealt with very carefully indeed, is liable to cause an explosion when least expected. These men who for four or five years have been taught to respect neither life nor property are coming back to Australia with, no doubt, a keen remembrance of all that has happened at the Front. I have seen a man, while proceeding up the lines of communication, knocked down and killed by a motor bus. He was dead. Nobody cared very much. That was the feeling among the men during the war, andthey are coming back with many such influences still affecting them. For a time, therefore, we shall have to handle them very tenderly, and see that theyare promptly and comfortably settled. So far as their homes are concerned, the question of cost should not be the first consideration. Once get a man in a home of his own, with his interest centred in his garden, and in a short time he will forget many of his experiences abroad, and will become just as good a citizen as he was prior to enlistment. I say to the Minister, “ Shake up Colonel Walker, and all those connected with the housing scheme, and before this session is far advanced, bring in an amendment of the law to allow widows of soldiers and totally incapacitated men to participate in its benefits.”
I sincerely hope that some notice will be taken of my remarks, and that good will be the outcome. Speaking to returnedsoldiers yesterday, I told the boys that, perhaps, it would be as well if we disbanded the returned soldiers’ organization, allowed chaos to reign, and let the Government see what would happen. We are battling for eighteen hours a day trying to settle some of the troubles I have mentioned, but it seems to be almost useless to talk about them. In the Repatriation Department there is muddle and discontent from end to end; and, although we make many suggestions that we know are quite feasible, little notice is taken of them. The Department will not assist a man to enter into business unless he was in business prior to enlistment. The Victorian Government will, however, permit a manto go on the land if he were a farm labourer before the war. But they do not permit every man togo on the land. Nobody says they should.They have appointed a Qualifications Committee to examine all applicants for land, and decide whether they are suitable for that occupation. Under this scheme many applicants are rejected, but we have the assurance that men who pass the test are qualified to take up land, and therefore are likely to make a success of the business. Let me give one or two illustrations of difficulties with regard to applications for assistance to enter into business. I have in mind the case of a young lieutenant, who, before enlistment, was a journeyman baker. When he came back, he did not want to work for anybody else, but desired to go into business on his own account; but simply because he was not in business before he enlisted, he cannot get assistance now.
– A man cannot get assistance even if he were a manager of a business before enlistment.
– That is so. I know of another man who was prepared to put up £1,000 to secure a £3,000 business. His brother was interested in a very big firm in Ballarat; but as this young man had not been in business for himself before he went to the Front, he was likewise unable to secure assistance from the Repatriation Department. So it is with men who were single. They cannot get assistance.
– Many honorable members, when elected to this House, had no previous experience in politics.
– Exactly. During the earlier stages in the administration of the Act almost any returned soldier who applied for assistance to enter into business was helped in this way, with the result that many failures were reported. I suggest that the Government should appoint a Qualifications Committee of business men, similar to the Victorian Qualifications Committee- for land settlement, and allow that Committee to examine every applicant for assistance to enter into business. The Committee might be guided by advice from the Local Repatriation Committee, and by references as to character, ability, sobriety, and honesty, as well as evidence as to the possibility of successful businesses being established in small towns. If this were done, I feel satisfied that a lot of the discontent existing to-day among returned soldiers desiring to enter into business, but prevented from doing so by the regulations, would be removed.
– As a matter of fact, we want State Boards that will give a little more attention to the business aspect of the sch’eme, and take more responsibility on their shoulders.
– We want more than that. Many of these young men, although not in business prior to enlist ment, have been managing canteens and controlling men during the wax. In this “way they !h.ave gained very considerable ‘business experience, and are certainly fitted now to enter into business on their own account. And they were told that they could expect assistance from the Government when they returned. When reading the Win-the-War and All for Australia papers in France, they were informed that millions of pounds were to be spent on behalf of returned soldiers. There was then no suggestion of restrictions such as are now imposed by regulations in the administration of the Act. Nothing was said about it being necessary for a soldier to have been in business prior to the war before he could get assistance under this scheme, or whether there would be discrimination between married and single men. They were told that they were going to be assisted on their return to Australia. Do honorable members realize that if a man comes back to Australia class “ A,” unless he wishes to go upon the land, and unless he was in business prior to the war, he cannot get one penny piece from the Government, apart from a little sustenance? If a man were a miner before, the war, and cannot .get a qualification certificate for land settlement, the best this country can offer him is reemployment in the mining industry; and I venture to say that a young man who enlisted with full knowledge of all. the obligations resting upon him to fight for this country, would naturally think that something better than mining would be offered to him upon his return. He would think that this country would be grateful for what he had done. But what is the position to-day? If a young man makes application for £25 for furniture, he has to wait week after week, and month after month, before the application is dealt with. There is far too much centralization in the administration of the scheme.
– You must not forget that we have dealt with over 100,000 individual cases, and it is easy to criticise.
– I am offering this criticism in the best possible spirit. I realize that repatriation is a new governmental activity, and I appreciate all the difficulties that are being encountered in the administration of the Act; but, as one who perhaps has been brought more closely in touch with it than even the Assistant Minister himself, I know what has been done. I know he has broken many regulations in order to deal with eases I have brought under his notice; in some cases advancing £30 or £40 and taking men off the sustenance list. But, because this has been done in isolated cases, it is no reason why I should be silent on the general question of administration.
– But we have not dealt with isolated cases. We have dealt with over 100,000 in the last twelve months.
– Let me remind the Assistant Minister that Mr. Clayton, the president of the Fathers’ Association, and formerly the Town Clerk of Melbourne, is not a revolutionary character by any means, but at the meeting in the Auditorium last night he said most emphatically that the promises made to the men were not being carried out. We know that the statement about only 4 per cent. of the soldiers not being finalized and repatriated is not true. A soldier returns, and the Department finds work for him. The job may last only one week or two weeks, but that man is entered up as having been finalized and returned to civil life. He may be out of work a fortnight later, but if the job lasts for six months, and at the end of that period he requires further assistance, he cannot get it, because application must be made within six months of his return. Local Committees are hamstrung. I shall read to the House a letter from a young soldier whose case I have investigated. I know the statements contained in the letter to be true. He wrote as follows to’ the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation : -
Sir. - You have had my case in hand since April 4, 1!)]0, and have done absolutely nothing. You have also had two letters of mine containing references; you have not even observed ordinary courtesy by sending me an answer. Whenever I write to you or your Department, you cither never answer, or else you take several months to do so. On April 4. I applied for a loan of £35, for furniture. This is still not fixed up, and if it had not been for my father, my wife and I would have been sleeping on bare boards till an indefinite date. I also applied for a loan of £250. to reinstate myself in my former business. This matter, like everything else which the ratepayers intrust to you, is receiving neglect. I demand an immediate answer from you. and as it is of no use writing to you through the post. I am now taking steps to let the public know. I have served 1,187 days, during which I have received three bullets, and have never had .a bad mark against my name. Yours, &c.,
I can vouch for the truth of what I am about to say. That man made application on the 4th April, and has not yet received all his furniture. The person from whom the furniture was bought is Mr. Ludbrook, who has not received one penny from the Repatriation Department. Joseph has done £9 worth of work for Ludbrook, who declines to pay until the Repatriation Department settles with him. That soldier returned from the Front with a bullet wound in his left hand, and the Department granted him a pension of 8s. a week. His brother was killed on the battlefield. I appealed to the Department regarding the insufficiency of the pension, and within a fortnight the amount was increased to 25s. per week. That shows the absurdity of the pension originally fixed. Joseph brought his wife from England, and if he had been dependent on the Repatriation Department he and his wife would have had neither furniture nor blankets, but his father came to their assistance. He is a decent young chap, an electrical mechanic by trade, and was in business prior to enlisting. He has applied for. £250 to reinstate him in a business, but he cannot get a definite reply as to whether or not the application will be granted. In order to comply with the regulation which requires him to have a shop m which to start business, he has been paying 30s. per week in rent out of his sustenance allowance and pension, and he and his wife have been living on less than £1 per week. He can get no finality from the Repatriation Department. Major Barrett may make all the explanations he chooses ; the facts are as I have related them. I know .the case intimately, and the Returned Soldiers Association appointed a committee to investigate it. If I have written one letter to Major Barrett on the subject I have written a dozen, but the case is still unsettled.
– Do not make bosses of too many majors. Give a private a chance sometimes, and we shall get a little more civility and attention from that Department. Make a complete alteration in the Repatriation administration. I stand for preference to returned soldiers, but sometimes I think that no harm would be done by giving a civilian a chance in some of ‘ these positions. A man like Mr. Clayton, whose own son has been at the Front, would be more sympathetic than are officers who were on the other side in comfortable jobs.
– That is one of the complaints made on this side.
– One of “the things we have to do is to protect the returned soldier from the returned soldier. I make no outcry about civilians getting some appointments; I have seen too much of the autocratic methods adopted by some returned officers. I would not complain if a few of those gentlemen were given a little spell. If the Government require advice when they propose to make any appointment,- the Returned Soldiers Association will always tell them who are “ dinkum “ soldiers.
– Read Major Barrett’s reply to the letter by Joseph.
– Certainly. This appeared in the Herald yesterday -
Major J. E. Barrett, Deputy Controller, states that an application, dated April 17, for £35 loan for .furniture, was lodged by the correspondent with the Department on April 24. It was submitted to and approved by the State Board on May 13. On May 20 the firm from whom the furniture was purchased was written to regarding the description of the items. A reply was received on May 28, an order issued on May 29, M. C. C. Joseph signed on June 2 as having received the goods.
He did do that, but he has not yet received all the goods.
– Then why did he sign the order?
– He and his wife were without furniture, and he would have signed anything in order to get some portion of the goods. Any member who has had anything to do with ‘the Repatriation Department knows that many persons who sold goods to the Department have complained that they cannot get payment. Major Barrett’s answer continued -
An application for loan for business dated April 28 was received in Department on May 2. Considerable delay was caused by Local Committee not supplying information. Mr. Joseph interviewed the Deputy Controller on Juno 16, and he was informed it would be necessary for him to supply certain. evidence of his former business, to be placed’ before the State Board. Some information was received on June 24. The application was referred to the State Board, and the application was sent to the Commission on July 1. Mr. Joseph was notified’ of this procedure on
July 5. The application is now with the Commission, awaiting decision.
I have seen all the correspondence, but it does not dispose of the fact that on 4th April Joseph sent in his application and has not yet. received a decisive answer. During all the period” that has elapsed since he applied, why has not -the Department told him that -further references or credentials were required ? He has written frequently to Major Barrett, and if the Assistant Minister turns up the file he will find many letters, of mine to the same gentleman regarding this question. I was never advised that these things were wanted. It was only when Joseph waited on them on 16th June that he was told that certain formalities had not been complied with. He immediately complied with them, and received a letter that the matter wasgoing to be decided by the Board on 24th June. Then he -received another letter fixing 1st July. It is now 10th July, and there is no finality yet in the case.
Regarding the Local Repatriation Committees, let me point out what is Major Barrett’s trouble, to be fair to him or any other man who is in the position of Deputy-Controller. He has no power over the local secretaries of the Repatriation Committees. We do not find the money for them. - The Ballarat secretary is paid out of the patriotic funds, although I guarantee that the ‘people who subscribed that money never believed that it would be used in that direction. The secretaries should be paid by the community. Why should a few people be everlastingly putting their hands in their pockets ? Those that give every time have to bear the whole burden, whereas the burden should be placed on the whole community. The secretary should be paid out of the general revenue. Then he would be under the authority of the DeputyController, and. if he did not dohis duty, he could be dealt with. To-day all these committees are purely local affairs, and the deputy does not control them.
On the question of vocational training, I claim that every man returned from the war, whether Class A, ‘ or medically unfit, if he desires to fit himself for something better on his return, should be given vocational training. Those ‘menbers who meet returned soldiers know that there’ is considerable ill-feeling today amongst the lads. Those who had to work pretty hard prior to enlistment, and have been lucky enough to come through without a scratch, are to-day appealing to- be taught trades - such as carpentering, motor mechanics, blacksmithing, or engineering. They do not want to be living on sustenance. Their desire is to make themselves better citizens. We must not consider the cost in this, matter. Every man, irrespective of rank, who went away, and who wants to qualify himself to be a better citizen, should be helped to do so. That is one of the promises we made to the men prior to their enlistment.
– Would you say irrespective of rank or age?
– Would not some men be too old to learn?
– I do not think I am too old to learn anything at forty -six. I have quite a number of men at Ballarat learning boot making and boot repairing. Every man passed by the doctor as fit to go- to the war ought, upon his return, if willing and anxious to learn a trade, to be given the opportunity and facilities to do so, irrespective of the state of his health. We ought specially to look after the man who has lost an- arm or a leg. To those who apply, we give sustenance until we can fit them into some trade, but quite a number of men who have lost a leg or an arm are taking the £2 2s. per week and walking about the streets without bothering to apply to learn a trade. They are going from “ pub “ to “ pub,” And becoming worse every week, and harder to deal with. Only last week I picked up one in Ballarat, who told me he was doing nothing, and when I asked him if he had not applied for vocational training, he said, “ What is the use?” I brought him in, fixed him up, and sent his report away. These men should not be neglected. It is our duty to look after them and keep their minds occupied, so that they may become far better citizens. They are going to ruin to-day, not because the Department does not offer the chance, but because, after the suffering they have- gone through, their condition is such that they wre not caring or worrying, and mo one else lis caring or worrying very much about them.
– The scheme provides for every one who enlisted under the age of twenty-one.
– I think the age is twenty. Every man under twenty who enlisted- and comes ‘back class A oan get vocational training. That is quite right, but the principle should be extended to every man who went away. There will not be so many who want it, but the present restrictions are causing discontent. The Assistant Minister and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), who know what mining is, will understand the feelings of a yoting man who comes home with his medical certificate showing that he was discharged “ medically unfit, not due to misconduct.” He does not get a pension, and does not complain about that, but he saidto me, “ I have been slightly gassed, and am not in good health, as my certificate shows, but because I am not getting a pension I cannot get vocational training. I was mining in Broken ‘Hill, and do not want to go back to it, yet the decision of the authorities means that all I can look forward to is to go back to mining after four years in Gallipoli and France.” That is most cruel.. All these lads, whether their certificate is marked “ discharged medically unfit “ or not, if they wish to take up a new trade, should at the very least be given by the Government the opportunity to learn.
When men are placed on the land, we give them a. sustenance allowance of only £1 a week. That is not enough for the single man who has to live on his land in its first stages. The sustenance rate for every man who goes on the land should be increased to £2 2s. per week, and more in proportion to the number of his dependants. I note that in Western Australia they are supplementing the allowance for the man on the land by 9s. per day. I trust that our Department will copy Western Australia in that regard. I hope the Government will take action on the two or three matters I have mentioned - full training for every one that desires it; increased sustenance for those going on the land, and an alteration and speeding up in the methods of the Repatriation Committees. The whole scheme of housing also wants revising, but while the present scheme is being carried on those who are in charge of it ought to be speeded up.
I have received from Canada a list showing what the Canadian soldiers receive in the way of pensions or allowances. Every Canadian soldier on his discharge gets £8 for clothing allowance. When our party was in power here, it fixed the allowance at a 30s. suit. You will not get much of a suit for that sum. The Government also actually demand from the soldier the return of his overcoat, or, if he keeps the coat, he is fined 30s. I hope the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will have that regulation altered. When a young man comes back, most of his shilling a day deferred pay will be used to buy him an outfit. If he wants two or three suits, it will cost him £20 or £30 at once. If he were in Canada he would be paid £8 immediately he landed. He would get much better treatment in regard to pension. The Canadian Statute provides that for all ratings below the rank of petty officer in the Navy, and for the Military Forces, a pension of £.125 shall be granted for total incapacity. The Australian Act provides only up to £7S. The Canadian Act gives a pension for the first child of £30, for the second child of £25, and, for each subsequent child £20. That is double what we are providing. Australia has a system of granting three-quarter pensions. If a soldier is three-quarters incapacitated he is totally incapacitated. There should be no such condition as “ three-quarters.” No employer would care to give work to a man who was three-quarters incapacitated.
– I had a case in which a doctor said that because a man had lost one arm he was only entitled to half pension. I was able to get that altered, but such things should not require special efforts. Our boys should not be compelled to get members of Parliament to intervene on their behalf.
– That is unquestionably so. A little while ago two lads came into our Soldiers’ Institute at Ballarat. One had had his leg terribly torn by shrapnel. The foot was turned round, and an arm was paralyzed. But he ‘had received a certificate, as he came off the transport, setting out that he was suffering from no physical incapacity “ as the result of war-like operations,” and, therefore, that he was not entitled to any pension. He had a wife and two children at Ballarat.
– The officer responsible should have been removed.
– It ‘ was obviously a mistake.
– In Ballarat East there was another lad who received a similar certificate. We took action in both cases; but the point is - as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) has just emphasized - that matters such, as that should not require the intervention of members of Parliament. If Australia, must make mistakes at all in the granting of pensions, let them be on the side of generosity.
I call attention now to the position of dependants of soldiers born out of wedlock. I do not know when we shall have an amendment of the Act, but it is urgently required. If a soldier whose parents were married subsequent to his birth is killed, his mother receives a pension for three years ; then it ceases. That lad may have been bread-winner for the family; but the mother is entitled to nothing after three years. Other members of the family may not have known that the dead lad was born out of wedlock. They would naturally wonder why the pension was not being continued, and the poor mother would probably have to disclose the unhappy circumstances. We have been promised an amendment of the Act times out of number. I trust that an amending measure will be introduced without a day’s delay. The whole subject of pensions is in urgent need of revision. When our soldiers were sent abroad, and were told that if they lost an arm they would get a pension, say, of 30s. a week, it was not foreseen that the value of that 30s. would be little more than 16s. upon their return. They have come home to Australia, and have found that the cost of living has so greatly increased that it is almost impossible to make ends meet by the sole aid of their pensions. If they secure sustenance up to £2 2s. a week, what is that compared with the loss of an arm or a leg? Those men have for ever lost their former opportunities of recreation and enjoyment generally, and of returning to normal work.
Australia’s pension bill amounts to £5,000,000. If the soldiers are justly dealt with, that sum will be much nearer £10,000,000. The cost will be very heavy; but consider what would have been the cost had there been no “ Aussies “ in France a little earlier than this period last year. General Foch, with many another expert soldier, has recognised and paid tribute to the work of the Australians. They drove the Germans out bf Villers-Bretonneux, stopped the enemy’s tremendous drive, and wrecked their victorious onslaught upon the Allies. And, further north, an Australian Division hurled back the foe from Habebrouck when the Germans were descending in hordes through Armentieres in the course of their smashing rush upon the Channel ports. It was the “ Aussies “ who saved Paris on the one hand, ‘and Ypres and the Channel ports on the other. _ Probably they saved England from invasion. I believe they ended the war at least five years sooner than would have been the case had they not been there to stem the tide. But for the Australians I think there would not have been much doubt to-day regarding the position of the Allies in relation to the cost of the war. This country, and Great Britain generally, together with her Allies, would have bee!n in a state of insolvency. Now our lads have returned to their Australian homes, and we must revise the whole of our ‘pension lists. No Government is to blame for the situation. A Labour Government introduced the Act, but there were lots of things to be learned before the war had ended. I know of one case where a young lad was the sole support of two aunts. Before going to the war he made an allotment on their .behalf. Then he returned wounded, and got his pension; but the aunts could not be given anything because such relations were not comprised in the list of dependants. I have had cases come before me where lads, prior to the waT, had just left school and were apprenticed, and were earning, say, 10s. a week. Their fathers were working, ‘and were maintaining their families. While the boys were away, however, the fathers became invalids, and could no longer go to work. Then the boys came home partly or wholly incapacitated; but their mothers could get no pensions because the lads had not been helping to support the families before enlistment. Let us not forget that they did ten men’s work while they were “ over there.” It was not the intention of the Australian Act to place parents in such >a position. Of course, we do not desire to give pensions purely out of sympathy. My boy was going to school prior to his enlistment. If he had been killed there would have been no financial loss sustained by his family. But the Act was not framed to exclude cases of lads who were apprenticed before the war, and who, but for the war, would now have been bread-winners. The mothers of such boys . should not be sufferers to-day for the mere reason that their sons went away to fight.
I propose to deal now with the cases of men who were passed by medical officers as fit to go to the Front and who, upon being sent back home, have been . confronted with the statement that the injury from which they suffered was a pre-war injury.
– There are dozens of such cases.
– Hundreds, if not thousands! Originally, they had been passed as medically fit. Great blunders were made by doctors in sending lads away in a condition of alleged physical fitness. Hundreds and thousands of Australians got only as far as England, and the climate developed diseases which they may have had only in a mild form in Australia. They were compelled to return; and, incidentally, they were saddledwith severe physical trouble as the result of their experience of England’s rigorous climatic condition’s. The British and Canadian Acts make provision for cases of that kind. Those Statutes set out that, unless it can be proved that a soldier wilfully concealed disablement or disease, he shall be entitled to a pension, just asare all other soldiers. To-day, our Australian soldiers, finding themselves in such a position, cannot claim any pension. Upon their return to the Commonwealth they have been “ turned down “ in scores of instances. If the Pensions Act is not amended somewhat on the lines I have suggested, there will be a good deal of discontent amongst returned soldiers, and many strong complaints will be made regarding the treatment meted out to them.
There is another section of men who went to the war, who are not receiving proper treatment. We refused to allow any Australian to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force unless he did so in Australia. When war was declared, there were between 7,000 and 8,000 Australians in the United Kingdom. They could have come back to Australia and have enlisted here at the Australian rate of pay. They believed that their country was in danger, and that time was the essence of the contract, and they enlisted immediately in the Imperial Army, joining as privates at1s. per day. They went to the Front, and many of them who are back in Australia to-day can secure none of the benefits of our repatriation scheme. I believe that they should be treated in exactly the same way as the returned Australian soldier who enlisted in Australia.
– I think that they are all included.
– Is the honorable member sure that they are not treated in the same way ?
– I am pretty sure that they are not. In support of my view, I may quote the following newspaper paragraph, which was sent to me: -
When War was declared against Germany, there was a large number of Australians absent on business or pleasure trips from the
Commonwealth, who, fired by the spirit of patriotism, joined the British Forces wherever they happened to be at the time. Those who did so, and have survived the hardships of the battlefields, are now finding out that their patriotism has cost them more than it did the diggers who joined the colours in Australia. For one thing, the rates of pay are much lower in the Imperial Forces, where a private is. only paid1s. a day. According to the story told to Truth by one of these Imperial soldiers, Prime Minister Hughes stated, in a speech delivered at Australia House, that8,000 Australian citizens joined the British Armies in the United Kingdom. They tried on many occasions to get transferred to the Australian Imperial Force, but without success. Our informant, who , is an Australian native, happened to be on a visit to Scotland from Australia at the outbreak of the war, and joined the 7th Scottish Rifles (52nd Division) at Glasgow in September, 1914, as a private at a bob a day. He fought on various battle-fronts, including Gallipoli ( Cape Helles ) , the Sinai Desert, Palestine, and France, his division frequently fighting alongside the A.I.F., to which he tried in vain to be transferred. He was in the British Army for four years and a half, and as he never received more than1s. per day, his monetary losses wore heavy, and he returns to his native land practicably penniless. By joining the British Army, he was told, he lost his status as an Australian citizen, and has no claim on the Repatriation Department for assistance.
I believe that to be absolutely true. The paragraph proceeds -
It seems hard that Australians, simply because they happened to be away from the Commonwealth when war was declared, but who fought in the same cause as their countrymen, should, at the conclusion of the fighting, be placed at such a disadvantage. The British Reservists who were called to the colours from Australia were paid the difference between the Imperial rate of pay and the Australian rate. Surely something of the same nature could be done for the Australians who enlisted with the Imperial Forces.
In the case of British reservists who were here when the war broke out, and were called to the colours of the British Army, we made up the difference between the Australian and the British rate of pay. But Australians who enlisted in England in the Imperial Army, when they come back here, are not being treated as Australians at all.
– Does that apply to officers resident in Australia who joined British regiments?
– I believe so.
– The difference is not so great in the case of officers.
– T-he honorable member will find that under the present Act the benefits of repatriation are secured, not only to Australians who served with the Imperial Forces, (but to those who served with the Forces of any of the King’s Dominions, subject in each case to satisfactory proof of domicile.
– I can only say that I received the paragraph I have quoted with the following letter: -
I enclose a proof slip of a paragraph which will appear in Truth this week, concerning a matter which you may think worth ventilating in the House, as it .afreets many Australian soldiers. Our informant (the soldier referred to in the paragraph) is Robert Seeley, 22 Capel-street West Melbourne, from whom you can obtain further information if required.
It would appear evident that Robert Seeley has made application to the Repatriation Department, and the answer given to him is disclosed in the paragraph I have quoted. His name and his address are given, and he can be applied to for information. I shall leave the matter of the grievances of the soldiers for the present.
I have a word or two to say regarding the action of the Government in connexion with cornsacks. While I was away they bought 60,000,000 cornsacks, at a cost of £2,400,000. They sold these to merchants at 9s. 8d. per dozen. The bags were then sold to the farmers at 10s. 6d. per dozen. The merchants made a profit out of the transaction of £208,333 6s. 8d., and the Government made a profit of £117,000. The balance of the bags, when the Pool was wound up, were sold at 9s. 8d. per dozen. They are now being retailed at 13s. 9d. per dozen. I am very anxious to know what the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) has to say upon this question of cornsacks. We have been given to understand that the Government are favorable to the farming interests, and I should like very much to hear their explanation of the sale of the balance of these cornsacks. First of all, they allowed the middleman to make a profit of £208,000, and they made a profit of -£117,000 themselves. They have sold the balance of the bags at 9s. 8d. -per dozen, and to-day the middleman is retailing these bags at 13s. 9d. per dozen. Some one is making a pretty good profit out of the business. The honorable member for Corangamite was not pledged to ‘the Government during his election; and on this question of cornsacks we claim his vote in the division on the motion now before the House. If he wishes to do justice to the class he comes here to represent, he should by his vote strongly protest against the enormous profits which the middlemen have been allowed to make in connexion with this cornsack transaction.
I wish, further, to direct attention to the regulations in force in some of the States regarding the use of second-hand bags for the transport of produce from one State to another. The facts show the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to bring about uniformity between the States in these .matters. If a farmer wishes to use second-hand bags to send potatoes to Western Australia, he finds that, by the regulations of some of the States, he is prohibited from doing so. The reason is fear of the introduction of Irish blight,, notwithstanding the fact that there is no Irish blight in Victoria. If the farmer, however, uses second-hand bags for the transport of barley, wheat, or any other products to Western Australia, he is at perfect liberty to do so. A bag which has been used for the transport of potatoes may be used as .a second-hand bag for the transport of wheat to Western Australia, though it is just as liable to carry the blight in that way as if it had been refilled with potatoes. I urge the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to try to come to some arrangement with the States regarding the use of second-hand bags. ‘The farmers should be allowed to use bags as often as they please, provided that they are good bags. There is no danger of the introduction of Irish blight into any State, as, so far as I know, it does not exist in Australia, and there is certainly none in Victoria. Now that the Government have relinquished their control of cornsacks, this is going to be a serious .question for lie farmers, and it will be very much more serious if secondhand bags cannot be used. I hope that the Minister will take action to secure cooperation with the various State authorities so as to permit farmers to use secondhand bags for the transport of potatoes to Western Australia or to any other State. If the Government limit the farmers to new bags for the transport of potatoes to Western Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales, they will play into the hands of the middleman, and give him a greater monopoly than he has to-day. I am sorry that the Government have relaxed their control of cornsacks. It is proposed to distribute the £117,000 profit amongst the wheat-growers, and I do not think that is altogether fair, for there are others- besides the wheatgrowers who use those sacks. I urge the Government to consider the case of the many people who used the sacks for potatoes and various other kinds of produce, and give them some share of the profits.
I should like to say a word or two regarding profiteering, and also the prevailing industrial unrest.
– Is not one the cause of the other?
– I certainly think that if there had been no profiteering, and the cost of living had not gone up so enormously, we would not have the present unrest. W7e have to realize that the private wealth of the country increased from £1,417,000,000 in 1911 to £1,850,000,000 in 1918, showing a difference of £350,000,000 in those few years. In the same period the workers’ wages have gone from 51s. 2d. to 65s. per week, an increase of 13s. 10d., but the cost of living has increased by 51 per cent., which means that the worker to-day, in view of the difference in the purchasing power of the wages, is 12s. 7d. a week worse off than in 1911. It is no wonder that numbers of people are becoming discontented.
As to the seamen’s strike, I may say that I was eight weeks and three days on my trip home to Australia, and I would not live on the sea even if I had the job of the captain or the doctor, who certainly enjoy most luxurious conditions. For all that time there was nothing to be seen but water, and I thought the voyage would never end ; it was perfect isolation, with the ever-present smell of the boat.
– Some of the sailors love the water.
– They can have it.: though, as I said, the officers and other officials on the boats live luxuriously enough. When we rose in the morning about 6 o’clock, unable to sleep for the tossing of the hammock, with hundreds of men jammed together, and an atmosphere beyond description, we would see, on going on deck, a couple of seamen leave the cook’s galley and have some coffee or tea out of dirty old tin cans, the very recollection of which is enough to make me sick. However, I may say that we soldiers were glad enough to put in a “ tray bit” to get a cup, no matter how or where it was made. It is no wonder that the seamen are discontented to-day when we consider the hardship of their lives. It is asked why they do not go to arbitration to get their grievances redressed, and for an answer we may glance at the profits made by their employers. A big shipping firm in Australia bought a colliery at Newcastle from Coates, the linen people, for £400,000. They did not float a company in Victoria, because here the Companies Act requires the disclosure of the amount of purchase money ; but they went to New South Wales and there formed a company - not at £400,000, but at £1,000,000. If the workers go to the Arbitration Court and quote excessive profits made by the shipping companies or mine-owners, it is pointed out that the profits amount to only 6 per cent’. It is true that the profits are 6 per cent, on £1,000,000, and the Court is not informed that only £400,000 has been put into the venture. As a matter of fact, 15 per cent, is the actual profit.
– That cannot be done under the Companies law in New South Wales.
– I tell you it was done, and not so long ago; and this is the aspect of the matter that was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) when he talked of the continual watering of stock, and the smothering-up policy advocated by the Argus.
– If you buy a coal mine for a quarter of its value you are perfectly entitled to sell it at its true value.
– Gold mining in this country has been killed by the same sort of thing. Men take up ground, and wait for others to develop the adjoining leases, and then, coming in with the promoters, get £20,000 or £30,000 for their share. When people talk about gold costing £6 an ounce, it must not be forgotten that this £20,000 or £30,000 is considered as money put into the development of the mine, though it is nothing of the sort; it is simply put into the pockets of private individuals, who are described as “ shrewd “ speculators. Such expenditure ought not to be charged against the industry, or urged as a reason for keeping down the wages of seamen and others concerned. Huddart Parker, after paying enormous dividends, increased their reserves and undistributed profits from £75,405 in 1916 to £574,610 in 1919. No wonder the seamen are discontented, and that dissatisfaction is abroad. During the war everybody was supposed to be suffering, and none making any profits out of the war, and the working classes, who not only suffered from increased prices, but sent the best of their families across the sea to keep the Union Jack flying, feel hurt when they realize that those who were keenest in waving the flag were quietly netting enormous returns, such as are spoken of in the extract I have read.
– Probably those large returns were on account of the enormous charters the English Government gave the ship-owners.
– I do not know who paid the money, but there are the figures. The Melbourne Steamship Company, although under the watchful eye of the Hughes Government, took £85,000 of undistributed profits in 1918 and added them to the capital account, no doubt to save criticism. Besides this, the company paid large dividends, and still has a balance of £177,866 in reserve. The Union Steamship Company netted in 1918 a profit of £170,537, and increased its reserves from £552,000 in 19.16 to £722,000 in 1919, and also paid huge dividends.
– On what capital ?
– I have not the capital figures here, but I venture to say that the dividend was not less than 10 per cent. No one is ‘better informed about this matter than the honorable member, for he knows all about the coal transaction.
– I can assure you that I do not know anything about the transaction. I know that I get 6 per cent.
– We have to remember that since 1911 wages have increased by only 26. S per cent., as compared with an increase of 51.4 per cent, in the cost of food alone. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that 4$ per cent, of the people own 7S per cent, of the private wealth of the ‘Commonwealth, while 63 per cent, of the people do not possess a penny-piece other than the wages they earn. One-sixth of 1 per cent, of the people own more than 25 per cent, of the total private wealth of the Commonwealth. Less than 2 per cent, own 61$ per cent., whilst 4$ per cent, own 7S per cent, of the total private wealth of this country. Eighty per cent, of the people - and these are ‘the people who are doing all the hard work and producing everything - own less than £100 in cash or belongings. In 1911 the average wage of the working man was 51s. 3d. per week, and the ‘estimated private wealth of Australia was £1,417,901,000; whereas in 1918 the average wage was 65 s. per week, a-nd the approximate private wealth of Australia was £1,850,000,000. Whilst this disparity in the distribution of the wealth of the country continues, and while the cost of living is steadily increasing, there must undoubtedly be industrial unrest.
We, as Britishers, ought to settle our troubles in a constitutional way. That is a principle for which I have always stood. I do not believe that there is any necessity for a revolution in this country, and as one who has always taken a keen interest in the affairs of my native land, I hope that our people will make no blunder in that regard. I do not think they” will; but if there is one newspaper in this country tbit is doing its level best to bring about a revolution, to set class against class, and religion against religion, it is the Argus. In a leading article which appeared in its columns on Monday last, the names of certain men were singled out for comment, and it was urged that, because they were leaders in the present industrial dispute, the movement was a religious rather than an industrial one. Those who are sowing this seed little know what they will reap. It is causing bitterness everywhere. Trade unionists know what they are doing when they are electing their office-bearers. They elect them, not because of their religious beliefs, but because they have faith in them as leaders. The religion of an individual is not taken into account by a trade union when electing its officebearers, and we, as a party, are not going to be deluded by the cry of “ religion “ which has been raised. We are not going to be divided by that means. It is a bread-and-butter question with which we have to deal. The question is, whether those who produce the wealth of the world are to receive a larger share of what they produce. When the producers of wealth see the landlord class growing, as they are to-day, richer and richer, and the aggregate wealth of the few ever increasing, while the wages of workers are decreased by an increased cost of living, there can be no escape from industrial discontent and unrest.
– Is it not true that, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said recently, profiteering breeds Bolshevism?
– The right honorable gentleman, in making that statement, uttered a great truth. If the desire is toprovoke a revolution in this country, then by all means let the profiteer go on as he has been going. Do nothing to interfere with him. Treat the men on strike, and the working classes generally, with contempt, and you will bring about a revolution. Beyond all doubt, it will come in such circumstances. Men are returning to Australia who, after spending four years on the battlefields, are not prepared to live under the conditions that obtained here prior to the war.
– Who are treating the working classes with contempt?
– The Government and their supporters.
– That is incorrect.
– As an illustration of the profiteering that is going on, take the price of boots to-day. The embargo on the export of leather had no sooner been lifted than the price of leather in the local market was increased, even before an ounce had left the country, and up went the price of boots. The people are told that the price of boots has gone up because of the increase in wages. In the exhibition of the work of returned soldiers in the Queen’s Hall last week, there was shown a pair of boots the cost of which, to the purchaser, was 17 s. 6d. The overhead charges, management costs, and wages paid to the worker in the manufacture of that pair of boots totalled 3s.10d. ; the balance represented the cost of the leather put into them and the manufacturer’s profits. With the lifting of the embargo on the export of leather, the price of the sole leather used in respect of that particular class of boots was increased by 2s. per pair.
– We might have known that that would happen.
– Certainly. It is well known that in the cost of production to-day wages represent but a very small item. They are not responsible for the increased cost of living, but, generally, where an increase of1s. per day per man is made in the wages of an. industry, the increase in the price of the finished article which follows the award is equivalent to a rise of 2s., or even 3s., per day.
I appeal to those members of the Ministerial party who formerly sat with us, and who were with us when we submitted to the people the two referendums to vest wider powers in the Commonwealth Parliament. We knew then, as we know now, that our people were, and would be, helpless unless those wider powers were vested in us. It is useless to leave to the State Parliaments the duty of dealing with profiteering. The State Parliaments are really governed by their Legislative Councils, which represent, not the bone and muscle, but the broad acres and the wealth of Australia. The Legislative Councils, in effect, consist of the profiteers, and they will not pass legislation to deal with those who are growing enormously wealthy out of the sufferings of the many. There is only one cure, and it is one that every well-wisher of Australia should seek to apply. The Ministerial party, as the party in power, at the next general election, should submit to the people .proposals for so amending the Constitution as to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with Trusts, Combines, and other organizations that are inimical to .the best interests of Australia.
.- The, thanks of the House are due to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who has just resumed his seat, for the excellent way in which he has dealt with repatriation matters, since nothing but good can result from the views that he has put forward. In regard to the motion of no-confidence, I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs), who submitted it, and those of the Opposition who have supported him, have rendered our party a signal service. This party has been in power for two years and a half, and, having regard to the fact that during the greater .part of that time the government of Australia, because of the war, has been largely carried on by means of regulations, it is only to be expected that there should have grown up in the country .a feeling of dissatisfaction against the present Administration. The Nationalist party has had to answer many charges of an indefinite character, but when we ask for definite complaints they are not forthcoming. What will the general public say of the launching of this no-confidence motion? They have watched with interest the debate upon it, and they will naturally say, “ The Opposition consists of men who make politics their profession. They, above all others, should be in a position to criticise the Government, but what have they brought out against it?” What criticism of the Government has been forthcoming? I hold that to-day, as a result of this noconfidence motion, the Nationalist party stands higher in the estimation of the people than ever it did before.
– Then honorable members opposite should thank the Opposition for submitting the motion.
– We do. What have the Opposition brought against the Government? What reasons have they given as to why the Government should no ‘longer continue to hold office ?
– The profiteering that is going on.
– The Opposition have raised the cry of profiteering, but there is not one member on this side of the House who is not as much opposed tlo undue .profit marking as is any member of the ‘Opposition. It is of little avail to make a ‘charge without pointing the remedy. We are opposed to the making of undue profits, and have decried the efforts of some men to make huge profits out of the people during the war. This Government has not been wanting in its efforts to- break down profiteering. It has made a determined attempt to do so by means of price-fixing. That system, to my mind, however, is not, and can never hope to be, successful, since there are too many loopholes of escape. For instance, when the price of corrugated iron was fixed, not a sheet of new corrugated iron could be obtained, for the reason that it was all treated as secondhand, and, ‘as such, sold at a price higher than that fixed by the Prices Commissioner for the new material.
The cost of living is indeed high, not only in Australia, but al] over the world. There is, however, no country where the cost of living1 is as low to-day as it is in Australia. Can the Commonwealth Government be blamed for the high price of commodities, since the power to deal with the question is vested in the -State Parliaments ? In Queensland we have a. Labour Government in power, and there, if anywhere, according to the arguments of the Opposition, we should find that the cost of living has been kept down. But what is the actual position ? I have here the figures from 1914 to 31st March last, prepared by the Government Statistician, Mr. Knibbs. They show that in Queensland in respect of the retail price of food and groceries, the weighted .average an 1314 was 1082 . That was prior to the war, when the Denham Administration was in power; but in March, 1919, when the Ryan Labour Administration was in office, it had risen to 1734 - an increase of 60.3 per cent. No other State shows such an increase in the cost of living. New South Wales during the same period shows an increase of 48.8 per cent. ; Victoria, 41.7 per cent,; South Australia, 32.5 per cent.; Western Australia, 17.3 per cent.; and Tasmania. 41.7 per cent. The average increase for the whole Commonwealth was 42.7 per cent., and yet Queensland, where, according to the arguments of the Opposition, the cost of living should be low, topped the list with an increase amounting to 60.3 per cent.
– The honorable member cannot blame the State Government for the actions of the Commonwealth Government.
– The honorable member knows that the power rests with the States, and that the National Government have only such powers as they have seen fit to take from the States.
– Under the War Precautions Act, the Commonwealth Government possessed all powers.
– What would have been the result if the National Government had not stepped in ? Why, the increase in the cost of living in Queensland might have reached 75 per cent. How can the cost of living be reduced? There are only two ways in which that result can be achieved - either by increasing the supply, or decreasing the demand. I say that one, if not the chief, reason why prices are so high to-day, is that during the war the people have had more money to spend than they have ever had before. Further, they have been quite willing to spend it. They have lived extravagantly. To-day it is not so much the high cost of living with which we are troubled in Australia as it is the cost of high living. When we find the daughters of working men who are in receipt of a wage ranging from £3 10s. upwards paying 42s. for a pair of boots-
– I say that the people in our midst who are buying expensive boots and shoes, as well as those who are purchasing expensive costumes, are members of the working class.
– Does the honorable member say that the workers are not entitled to the” best?
– They are entitled to the best they can afford.
– And if they cannot afford anything, they must go without?
– No ; but they have no right to pay 42s. for a pair of boots, and then complain that they have not sufficient means to enable them to purchase the necessaries of life. But what have honorable members opposite done to induce those who support them, and who send them to this Parliament, to increase the supply of necessary commodities? Numbers of them have openly advocated direct action in regard to the present strike. They say they are convinced that the workers stand to gain more from direct action than they can gain from an appeal to the Arbitration Court. In the meantime, tens of thousands of people have been thrown out of employment, the wheels of industry have been paralyzed, and the supply of goods has been decreased. This line of conduct can have only one result - it must increase prices.
As I have already remarked, pricefixing will not settle this question. But the people who are making undue profits must not be allowed to fatten at the expense of the majority. In some way or other we must take from them their ill-gotten gains. The Government have attempted to do this by means of the War-time Profits Tax Act.
– That taxation is all passed on. The worker pays it. That is the curse of it.
– The trouble is that in the administration of the Act many men have suffered financially who have notprofiteered during the war period, whilst others who have profiteered have escaped unscathed.
– I am told that the entire Act has broken down.
– Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) mentioned the case of a man who, upon his death, left to his heirs something like £1,500,000. It was stated, by way of interjection at the time, that this individual had amassed his wealth by reason of his great business ability. I say that he amassed it very largely because he had been carrying on business in a country which possesses a stable form of government. I claim, too, that no man should be permitted to hand down to his heirs £1,500,000 in cash. Consequently, I would suggest, as one means for getting back money from men who have made enormous fortunes, that our death duties be increased.
– Why not take the whole lot?
– I would not bake the lot. I would see that those whom a testator leaves behind are not left in want. I would go farther, and see that they are left in some degree, if not a high degree, of comfort. But, beyond that, the money of the testator should revert to the State.
– Suppose that he divides it before he dies?
– Then I would see that, by means of the income tax, the greater portion of it was paid into the exchequer of this country. Either ‘by means of the income tax or of death duties I would prevent these enormous fortunes being handed down to those who have done little or nothing to build them up.
Those who have spoken in favour of direct action have been very quiet in regard to the strike - if we may call it a strike - which has occurred in Townsville, Queensland. Their attitude contrasts strangely with the attitude which they adopted in 1912, when the Brisbane tramway strike was in progress. At that time, they were loud in their denunciation of Mr. Denham - the then Premier of Queensland - because he saw fit to ask military assistance from the Commonwealth to enable him to preserve order in Brisbane. Yet only last week, in Townsville, the police, in their endeavours to maintain order, were obliged to fire on the crowd, thereby wounding eleven persons. Yet not a single word of protest has been uttered by members of the Opposition. They protested because Mr. Denham asked for military assistance to enable him to preserve order, but they offer no protest when the police, in their endeavours to maintain order, fire upon these men.
– The honorable member knows that the matter of which he is speaking is a State one. But I suppose that he is not concerned with that fact.
– In 1912, when a Liberal Administration was in office, the position was quite different in the view of honorable members opposite. In 1919, with the Ryan Government in power, we have silence from members of the Opposition. These strikers defied constituted authority, and I regret to say that we have men in this Chamber who in their own small way have also defied constituted authority in the person of Mr. Speaker. That is the example which they set to men outside this Blouse. You, sir, are clothed with power to preserve order, and you have had to exercise that power. Honorable members opposite have defied you.
– I must ask the honorable, member not to pursue that line of argument.
– Why is it that these men outside are defying constituted authority? The trouble dates back to the conscription referendum. They found then that all they had to do was to bring pressure to bear upon their socalled political leaders and many of these would not remain true to their convictions, but would follow the path of least resistance. The men who were expelled from the Labour party at that time were expelled because they stood for the true Democratic principle - because they held that the majority should rule, and that whatever the majority decided should become the law of this country. Because they stood for that principle they were expelled from the party. To-day we- find the seamen holding up commerce and industry, because they will not submit their claims ,to the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.
Wallace), when speaking on this matter the other day, put forward a splendid case for the seamen. He argued that the conditions under- which they are obliged to work are of a highly disagreeable nature. Honorable members upon this side of the chamber were with him in that statement. Rut those conditions are being remedied at the present time. There is no reason why the seamen should refuse to take their grievances into the Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite are silent upon that point. Not so members of .another .place, who affirmed, in no uncertain voice, that these men should submit their claims to arbitration.
– But there are several matters involved which cannot be dealt with by the Arbitration Court.
– The majority of the issues involved can ‘be, and. should be dealt with by that Court.
– Not the most pressing matters.
– The trouble is that the men, headed by Mr. Walsh, have taken matters into their own hands. They thought they could overawe the Government and the people of this country into granting their demands, and when they found they could not, for the sake of their own skins, and of the positions which they hold, they still kept the men on strike. They keep them fighting a losing battle in an endeavour to retain their own positions in the -union.
– They are fighting to destroy arbitration.
– Quite true. They are fighting to destroy arbitration, for which Labour leaders in the past worked so hard and strenuously. Tor years we in Australia have prided ourselves that we led the world in the matter of industrial arbitration.
– We want to modernize our methods now.
– To adopt -direct action is to follow the path of retrogression.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), in dealing with repatriation matters, .mentioned the cases of persons who have been denied war .pensions or assistance from the
Repatriation Department, because, prior to the enlistment of the individuals who had lost their lives on service, they were not dependent upon them. Only today I received a letter from the Deputy Commissioner, in Brisbane, stating that because the parents of a soldier who has lost his life at the Front were not dependent upon him for twelve months prior to- his enlistment, they are not entitled to assistance from the Department. That may be ‘the regulation, but regulations are not made to be adhered to too strictly. Case after case has been mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat to-day, in which the regulations have been overridden. There .should be more .sympathetic interpretation of the regulations. >
– They should be overridden or altered.
– The parents of a deceased soldier who are in want are entitled to assistance from the Repatriation Department whether they were dependent on the soldier prior to enlistment or not.
– I know of- no case in which the Repatriation Department’s regulations have been overridden.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) quoted an instance in which a mon who had lost one arm had been granted a half pension.
– That was a war pension matter, .and did not .come under the Repatriation Department.
– His allowance was doubled.
– But no regulation was broken in order to do so.
– If it is necessary .to break regulations in order to deal out justice they should be rescinded and made more liberal, but I would rather break a regulation than permit an injustice.
– In any case, why should returned soldiers be required to get the services of members of Parliament in order to secure justice ?
– I find that the Repatriation Department in Queensland is no respecter of persons, and that a man only needs .to h-a-ve a just claim for it to be dealt -with, whether it ds presented -by a member of Parliament or by himself.
The Department is doing excellent work. In all my dealings with it I have yet to find a case, where an injustice has been done to a soldier or to the dependants of a deceased soldier, which the Department has not to the best of its ability endeavoured to remedy. But I know that honorable members, are all in agreement with me when I say that there is too much centralization. Once demobilization is completed and the men have passed through the hands of the central office, the work of repatriation will fall principally upon the Local Committees. They will have to do the bulk of the work in the future, and should be given more power. Certainly they should not have to refer so much to the State Boards, and. the State Boards in turn should not have to refer so much to the Central Commission in Melbourne. All this leads to inordinate delays. However, we must take care that we look at repatriation in the right light. Sustenance money which is given to soldiers or to their dependants must not be regarded as a gift. It is not a reward for something they have done, because it i3 impossible to estimate in pounds, shillings, and pence the services they have rendered to Australia. The whole object of repatriation is to help our returned soldiers to help themselves, and when we examine the number of cases dealt with by the Repatriation Department we must give a large amount of credit to the administration for the work that has been accomplished. Every honorable member can bring forward isolated cases in which men may not have received their just dues, but they are very few in comparison with the number of men who are satisfied with the generous treatment they have received from the Department.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) quoted figures showing that the greatest proportion, of unemployed returned soldiers consisted of casual labourers. It will be the chief problem of the Repatriation Department to find employment for such men. Thousands of men have already returned to Australia and been absorbed in industry without making any appeal to the Department.
Men who held responsible positions and gave satisfaction to their employers prior to enlistment have been received with open arms on their return, and have been reinstated in their former situations, or in similar positions; but there has always been a large percentage of men in Australia who can secure only casual employment - in work for a week and out for two ; in work for three weeks- and out for four - men with no particular trade or calling at their command. The openings at the disposal of the Repatriation Department for the employment of casual labourers are, of course, very small. To place these- men in clerical positions is impossible, as they can do nothing but labouring work; but the Department has endeavoured to give as many as possible vocational training. Those who saw the exhibition of work by returned soldiers in Queen’s Hall last week must have marvelled at the latent ability of Australian soldiers. Men who had spent years in handling cargo on wharfs have turned out splendid work after three months’ training in some of the engineering and trading schools about Melbourne. But there are many men who cannot be trained in this way, and the question is what is to be done with them ? The Department cannot be expected to continue paying them sustenance money week after week and month after month. They were not in permanent employment before they went to the war, and it would be an enormous task for the Department to undertake to guarantee them permanent employment, or sustenance money in the event of their being thrown out of employment. Parliament could relieve the Department of that responsibility, and say that for their services, and because they had offered to fight for the country, these men are entitled to live in comfort for the rest of” their lives; but I would not go as far as that. These men have done their duty - every man who went to fight for his country did his duty, but no more than was- expected of him. Those who went away have proved themselves heroes, and we should do a- great deal for them; but, on the other ‘hand, we have-not done enough to make those men who failed to do their duty - failed to live> up to the responsibilities of citizenship - pay any penalty for their neglect. Many returned soldiers are unemployable. Through fondness for drink or for other reasons, they are unable to return to work when it is found for them. Many of them are suffering from shell shock; they are showing the effects of the life they have lived during the past four years; their nerves are shattered, and they are unable to control themselves. These are the men who should be made the special care of the Repatriation Department. I am pleased to see that in someparts of Australia provision has already been made to send them to institutions where they will not feel that they are the outcasts of society, but where they will be cared for and given a course of training that will benefit them, and possibly permit them to return to civil life. In Queensland there are many cases of men who were totally unfit for employment whom the Department could not send out to employment, in justice either to the employers or to the returned soldiers themselves. After a few months, in an institution such as I have just described, these men have shown so great an improvement in health and moral fibre that they have been enabled to return to civil life, and occupy responsible positions.
The question of repatriation is not a party one. The people of Australia have decided that the soldiers who have returned must be cared for, and must not suffer for having offered their services on behalf of the country. Therefore, above all things, let us keep this question out of party politics. Let us approach it in a spirit in which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has dealt with it this afternoon. Let us offer suggestions from both sides. If we work together in this matter we shall be able to say with truth that no soldiers in the world are being so well cared for as are the soldiers of Australia.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) that repatriation should not be regarded as a party question at all; and I am convinced that all honorable members are sincere in their desire to see our returned soldiers properly restored to civil life, so that theymay have an opportunity of proving as successful in that sphere as they were on the field of battle. We owe a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) for the information he has given us. Though I am fairly familiar with the grievances of our soldiers generally, thehonorablemember’s speech was certainly, in some respects, a revelation to me. At present there is a feeling in certain quarters that returned soldiers are fit only for such work as stone breaking. That is quite a mistake. In my experience in the Army I found that men drawn from all occupations in civil life were earnestly fighting together as comrades, and these men, who are now returning to civil life, are competent to fill any position that maybe available. Recently the Government distributed £500,000 to the municipal councils of the Commonwealth, with the object of relievingthe distress that exists amongst returned soldiers, due to unemployment; and the manner in which this sum was allocated strengthens the belief that, semiofficially, at all events, the men are regarded as fit only for stone-breaking. It was provided that , the money was to be spent on road construction, in which returned soldiers must be solely employed. If that sum had been applied to the establishment of industries, such as cloth weaving, it would have provided permanent employment for a large number of returned soldiers, and, so far as that business is concerned, it would have been placed on a sound footing.
Another aspect of repatriation referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat was the regulation that if once a man has been placed in a position, he is regarded as repatriated, and out of the hands of theDepartment for all time. That is wrong. Many men lose positions found for than by the Department through no fault oftheir own. Sometimes, too, they are offered positions which are an insult to any intelligent man, and yet if they refuse them, they are struck off the sustenance roll. I have in mind two specific cases. One, which came under my notice in Perth, was that of a man who was marked as fit for light labour only. He was actually offered a position as nursemaid to a baby boy, at £1 a week!He informed the official that he considered the offer an insult, and refused it, with the result that his card was promptly handed back to him marked “ S.P.R.” (suitable position refused), and his sustenance was cut off. We had toput up a big fight before we could get him reinstated on the books of the Repatriation Department . Just imagine a returned soldier being appointed nursemaid to a little boy ! I wonder what he would have been paid when the boy grew up. In another case a man, who was a motor mechanic and driver, found it impossible to get back on the departmental books because he had lost a position that had been found for him in the country. This man was a foreigner, and, although he gave every satisfaction in his work, his employer’s wife was rather nervous - whether his pidgin English scared her or not, I do not know - and she refused to go out in the car with him. His employer, to whom he gaveevery satisfaction, had to dispense with his services. He gave the man a splendid reference, but when he came back to the Department he was informed that he could not be replaced on the books for sustenance allowance, because he had been repatriated.
In cases like these themen are entitled to more sympathetic consideration. My only object in bringing thembefore the House is to assist the Ministry. These grievances may be remedied by a. little stretching of the regulations. At present the permanent officials of the Department arc not permitted to do this. In Western Australia, we have a sympathetic Deputy Comptroller, but he will not budge one inch from the regulations. He says, “ There are the regulations. I am bound down to them. If I move, I will get hauled up.” It is rather significant that sonic time ago secret instructions were issued to officials of the Repatriation Department concerning the interpretation of the Act and regulations. For twelve months I was on the State Executive of the Western Australian branch of the Re turned Soldiers Association, and on several occasions we asked to be supplied with a copy of these instructions, because we felt that, as an official body representing the men who were principally concerned, we should know what the official interpretations were, so that we might be able to determine whether applicants had any ground to go upon or not. The Department refused to furnish us with a copy of the instructions, sowe then applied through the Federal Executive, a body representing the Returned Soldiers Association in every State of the Commonwealth, for whom the Act is framed. Again we were refused. I do not think I am betraying any secret when I say that we secured a copy eventually ; but we had to go about the business in a way that was not creditable to us as an association, or to the Department itself. We were forced to take this course.
– That was direct action.
– Yes, and it was successful direct action.
In. connexion with the general repatriation scheme, I remind honorable members that, in 1916, we were informed in the All for Australia publication, distributed to the troops on active service, that the Government had allotted £60,000,000 for repatriation, and that some £10,000,000 had already been spent.
Mr.Orchard. - Who printed that paper?
– It was issued from Australian Head-quarters, and, I presume, at the instance of the Government. Those responsible for it evidently had some connexion with the Government, because right throughout the conscription campaign it was “ chock full,” from cover to cover, with articles issued by the National Party and the Australian National Government. As I have said, it was then stated that the Government had already spent £10,000,000 on repatriation. I am sure honorable members will agree with me that such a statement was absolutely untrue. Evidently it was made at a time when theNational party were looking for votes, and that, I think, is one reason for some of the present dissatisfaction with repatriation matters. As the Act i3 now administered, a man gets £2 2s. a week while awaiting employment. This is very considerate from one “point of view; but what is the effect? Men are allowed to walk the streets of our cities from day to day and week to week, receiving this sustenance allowance, and some of them contract bad habits. They acquire a fondness for a little liquor now and then, and gradually some of these men, instead of being returned to civil life as good citizens - men with a chance to make Australia a better country - are becoming worse citizens. If, instead of continuing this dole of £2 2s. per week to the men, who, in the meanwhile, are allowed to walk the streets in idleness, the money were invested in reproductive works, permanent employment would be found for returned soldiers, who would then not be in danger of drifting, as at present. At all events, it should be possible to provide them with some employment - perhaps for half-a-week at a time - for which they might be paid £2 2s. a week, which is somewhere in the vicinity -of the regulation wage for half-a-week’s work. In this way the men could be usefully employed, and the money profitably expended, instead of, as at present, being disbursed without any return to the State.
I desire now to refer to the position of the 700 Tasmanian soldiers who have been stranded in this State. We have been told that the Government are going to get these men home; but I have been informed on reliable authority that some days ago the seamen wrote to Admiral Clarkson, the Comptroller of Shipping, stating that they were prepared to transport the Tasmanians to their home ports, provided that, for the trip, they were granted the increases and certain other conditions asked for. They also guaranteed that the maximum extra cost to the Commonwealth would not exceed £50, and, further, that if the Government agreed to their offer, their action would not be used to prejudice the strike position in any respect. Admiral Clarkson did not have the decency, so I am informed, to acknowledge the offer. Probably it has just been pigeon-holed, and “the Tasmanian soldiers have been allowed to knock about the streets of Melbourne. What has been the result? Two of them got into an argument of some sort, were arrested, and tried by the . military authorities, and now one is serving a sentence of nine months, and the other a sentence of three months’ detention. This happened because the Government would not accept the offer made by the seamen to take these men back to Tasmania. If it had been accepted, the men would not have been knocking about the streets of Melbourne, and the two to whom I refer would not have got into trouble. ‘ There were over 700 of those Tasmanians, and assuming every one to be a private, their delay on the mainland will cost the Government in pay alone £200 per day, exclusive of food and quarters. Yet the Government would not pay an extra £50 to the seamen in order to get the soldiers to their home State. There has been a scandalous waste of money in connexion with that matter, and the Government have displayed a bitter spirit towards the seamen, who made a genuine offer to get the Tasmanians to their homes.
– This is the first 1 have heard of that offer.
– I assure the honorable member that my information did not come from the Seamen’s Union. It came from a source that is absolutely reliable.
– I think it is a mistake. This trouble was mentioned in Cabinet, but I heard nothing of that offer.
– Last night a deputation from the Returned Soldiers League came to this House for the purpose of interviewing the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) upon the ‘ subject. The deputationists had gone to the trouble of collecting the whole of the facts for submission to the Acting Prime Minister, with a view to expediting the departure of their comrades, but the honorable gentleman could not see them. This morning the Government announced that they intend to get those men to their homes. How is that to be done ? Mention has been made of a volunteer crew. In other words, the Government propose to continue the policy they have adopted for the last two years - organized “ scabbing.” I remind honorable members of what has been the effect of that policy. Two years ago there was a big industrial upheaval in Australia, and, with the approval of the Government, “ scabbing,” or, as it is termed by others, volunteer labour, was placed on an organized basis in order to fight the industrialists.
– They refused to load the transports which were in port ready to take our men to the Front.
– Nobody knows better than the honorable member that the wharf labourers did not refuse to load any transport or hospital ship, but they were not permitted to handle those vessels unless they would handle every other ship. The employment of volunteer labour has been a shameful business. On the wharfs at Fremantle the Government even employed Austrians, against whose nation we were fighting at that time, in order to starve good Australians into submission. Of 800 members in the Lumpers “Onion, 350 went to the Front. In addition, seventy-nine sons of lumpers enlisted. Yet our opponents had the audacity to say that the lumpers were disloyal, and they engaged Austrians to starve them into submission. For two years the lumpers submitted to that treatment, and then the crash came. One result of the organization of volunteer labour was the killing of one man at Fremantle. The Shipping Combine dictated that the wharf labourers must be crushed and forced to their knees in destitution and despair because they had dared to fight that body. The Government, in attempting to enforce the volunteer labour policy on the wharfs, brought about the death of one man.
I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) refer to the pensions of blind and totally disabled soldiers. Upon that matter I feel very keenly. I was one of a party of twelve pals who went to the Front. Seven of them lost ‘their lives, and of the remaining five, two are permanently blind. I have lived with those boys for many months, and I know of the awful tragedy that has come into their lives. How their memory tortures them with scenes of green fields and blue skies, and all the beauties of Nature, which they will never behold again ! One day, when taking one of my blind comrades out for exercise, I saw his hand steal to his cheek, and I asked. “What is the matter, Bill?” He replied, “I can feel the sunlight on my cheek.” Think of the tragedy of those words ! Never again will he be able to see the glories of his native country - the sunshine, the flowers, and the fields. What does he get in return for the sacrifice he made for us and for the country? What do the Government offer him ? A pension of 30s. per week, an allowance of 12s. per week, and a further amount of 10s. per week for an attendant, or a total allowance for himself and attendant of £2 12s. per week. Having regard to the present high cost of living, that payment is disgraceful. Through our Association, we have been told on occasions that the country was doing the best it could afford to do for these mon. Any Government who would make that statement, and then grant a considerable pension to a retiring Chief Justice, is not entitled to the confidence of the people. There are not many totally disabled or blind soldiers in Australia. One official in Western Australia, who should be in a position to know what he is talking about, hinted that the official attitude in regard to blind meD is that, if they were not kept employed, the peculiar nature of their disability would possibly make them insane, and, in order to prevent them losing their reason, the Government were prepared to make them work for portion of their living. I do not say that that is the attitude of the Government, but I am repeating a suggestion which was made by an official in Western Australia. I maintain that anything a blind man is able to earn by reason, of special training he may have received, since returning from the war should’ be available to provide him with extra comforts, and should not be required for the purchase of bread. It is the duty of the Government to see that such men have ample comfort for the rest of their lives. I am making these remarks -in no partisan or spiteful spirit, and I earnestly appeal to the Government to do their duty to the totally disabled and blind soldiers, and insure that they have something mono than a living wage.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) said that the working classes were only entitled to the best they could afford. In other words, they were entitled to only the best that the profiteering firms which employ them will permit them to have. That is an improper attitude to adopt, and any man who will make that statement will also say that a blind soldier should have to work for portion of his livelihood. The industrialists are entitled to some consideration. They constitute the mass of the producers of the country, and they are entitled to the best food and clothing that it is possible to get. I heard some honorable member interject that each worker should have a Rolls-Royce car. I do not think any labouring man aspires to such opulence as that; but every man is entitled to reasonable comfort, and if the best boots are a necessity in a climate such as that of Victoria, his wages should enable him ro buy them, no matter what their price may be.
The honorable member for Oxley said that, in order to evade the fixed price, firms treated all galvanized iron as secondhand, and he asked, “ How are we to deal with such practices ? “ If the Government were willing, it would be possible to deal with such underhand trickery, and with the re-selling that takes places while goods are in transit to Australia. The Government could become the sole importers of such goods. On one occasion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he knew of the traffic in goods on the water. “ A “ would buy a parcel of goods for £100,000, and when they were a fortnight off the coast of Australia would sell them to “ B “ for £150,000. A week later, “ B “ would sell them to “C” for £200,000. The’ result would be that, instead of the goods being landed at £100,000, they would be landed at £200,000, and the consumer would have to foot the bill. When such roguery is taking place, it is the duty of the Government to become the sole importers of goods that are thus trafficked in, and to put out of business people who will not deal honestly with the community. Let the Government see also that the retailers are honest in their transactions. That solution of the problem was pointed out to the Prime Minister two years ago at a Conference, but no action has ever been taken. Is it because the Government are afraid of the Combines and the big interests of this country, or are they the active allies of those interests?
The cost of living is one of the most vital questions with which we have to deal. We hear much talk about the industrial upheaval and the workers being in partial revolt against constituted authority. My wonder is that many more of them are not in revolt ‘against a constituted authority which stands for the present plundering of the ‘people by the big Combines. In. the .-1 r/e article last week appeared the statement, “Unquestionably, the Coal and .Shipping Combines are heavy contributors to the cost of living.” There is no question there of increased wages; the Combines themselves are the heavy contributors to the high cost of living. Yet the Government cannot rise to the height of dealing with a powerful Trust or Combine; they can rise only to the pigmy height of dealing with some poor individual who waves the red flag because he ‘believes in it. Although tobacco is classed as a luxury, ir has become almost n necessity to most of the workers. The Age says-
With some slight exceptions, tlie tobacco trade of Australia is in the bands of the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Ltd.. which fixes prices, not for the consumer alone. but also for the grower.
They have a double-edged sword in that case. They not only chop the grower down so low that he is just getting a living, but they chop the consumer up so high that he cannot, afford anything like what he should get of this small luxury. The Age says, further -
Some years back growers were notified by the British Australasian Tobacco Company that very much more “ tobacco was being produced in Australia “ than the demand warrants.”
What action have -the Government taken to stop this Combine from restricting the amount of primary produce supplied by Australian growers? We are told that the hope of our country is increased production, that we must produce more wealth, so that we may pay off our war debts and repatriate our soldiers properly. Yet here is >a Combine illegally dictating to the growers that they must not produce more than the company says they may. What action will the Government take to protect the growers from being squeezed off the land by this Combine? The Age adds - lc was stated that, on account of combination, growers were at the mercy of one buyer, who was interested in plantations in the Tutted States.
That buyer, therefore, says, “ You must restrict your plantations in Australia*, mine in America are more important to me.” The Government have not announced in their policy any intention to deal with the Combine which talks in that way to Australian producers.
The small farmer and primary producer is one of the most deserving types in the community. I have seen these men in Western Australia in all stages of their conquest of the bush. I have seen them when they first go out. with their little bark humpy, and try to belt a clearing out. of the heavy timber, and I have seen them when they have become more affluent, and are able to employ others to do the heavy work for them. It means to almost every one of them many years of the hardest struggling, working from daylight to dark, in order to keep pace with the growing cost of living and produce sufficient to feed the rapacious maws of the Combines which rob them. The Age says -
Artificial manure manufacturers, it may be mentioned, however, have a Combine, and several of them have publicly admitted the elimination of price competition.
That is a direct admission by a paper that by no means prints the red flag in its corner, that there is amongst the artificial manure manufacturers a Combine for the purpose of exploiting that most deserving class in the community - the small farmer. Again; there is nothing in the Government policy to deal with these people; no statement that the primary producers are to be protected from the ravages of the
Artificial Manure Combine. They must put up with it, and pay their percentage into its maw.
In the report of the Inter-State Commission on groceries, two lines which are used in almost every household are mentioned. Regarding kerosene, this appears -
During those years (1915 and 1916) the company’s turnover was equal to £5,159,534. Out of the profit made, it could have paid a dividend of 10 per cent., quite ample for any company during the war, and been able to reduce the sale price of its products by £821.000, equal to 16 per cent, on its turnover.
– What is the name of the company?
– The Vacuum Oil Company.
– How are you going to get at them?
– One way would be by properly handling the oil deposits in Papua, instead of allowing others to buy portion of them and manipulate them.
– What would you do in i he meantime?
– Follow the Government policy, and do nothing!
– It is very easy, as the honorable member for Brisbane points nut, to do nothing, as the Government is doing, but it would be much safer for every one in. the Commonwealth to do something.
– Would you prohibit their imports?
– I do not think that is necessary.
– How can we deal with those people, who are m another country?
– By doing what was attempted previously - ‘applying .to the people of this country for power to alter the Constitution.
– We could not deal with them even then. We can deal only with those that are here.
– This excess profit was made not in America, but in Australia, by the Vacuum Oil Company of Australia, which, I admit, is only a branch of the big concern in America. The report continues -
The company was supplying the public with necessary commodities; it was in a position almost of monopoly, and its disregard of the public interests in seeking increases of price, while still making excessive profits, amounts, in our opinion, to profiteering.
The company has stated that it ran a great many risks, especially with regard to the heavy freights which it was from time to time compelled to pay, in order to keep up its stocks and supplies. In the opinion ofthe Commission, the company ran no risks against which it was not adequately insured by its large accumulated profits.
Those accumulated profits had, of course, been previously exploited from the people.
– Did the Commission make any recommendation for dealing with that company?
– I presume it made certain recommendations to the Government about controlling the price.
In the other matter on which the Commission reported in connexion with groceries, there is no need to talk about control by a foreign company. It is a local industry which is being very hard hit at present by cheap eastern competition. The Commission reported on the subject of matches -
In the six mouths between January and June, 1915, safety matches cost the manufacturers from 2s. to 2s. 7d. a gross, while the price to the merchants remained at 2s.6d. per gross. The prices the merchants charged, however, were extremely variable, ranging from 3s. 10½d. to 6s. 6d.per gross, equalling a profit of 55 to 140 per cent. respectively. It is evident the merchants expected a shortage of matches, and those who had stocks conserved same and increased prices. On this account there was a good deal of market manipulation which was not justifiable.
That was a case of distinct trafficking, and the Government should have made this session a definite announcement of its intention to deal with people who trafficked in that way with the absolute necessities of the people.
I have investigated for myself the question of ladies’ shoes. I went to a Colling wood factory and secured a pair on which the manufacturer who sold them direct to me assured me that he was making a reasonable profit. He charged me 12s., which, he said, was a little more than he was charging the retailers in the city. I brought that pair into Melbourne, and examined the prices of shoes of exactly the same size, last, and make in various shops around the city. I found that the price varied between 21s. and 24s. a pair, but was never under 21s., in spite of the fact that they cost the retailer less than 12s. If that is not a distinct case of profiteering, I do not know what is.
– Can you tell us where we can get those shoes at that price?
– If the honorable member gave the name, that man would get no more leather.
– I am not so inexperienced as not to realize that.
– It is of no use to bring forward cases unless you can substantiate them.
– I can substantiate this case. I bought the shoes personally at the factory, and investigated the prices around the city. I assure the honorable member that the figures I have given are absolutely correct.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - How many intermediate profits were there?
– Why should there be any intermediate profits? What right has any one to live on the consumer by making intermediate profits between the manufacturer and the retailer?
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Would you cut out the middle man?
– I would cut out all between those two. That example is only another reason for demanding Government action. The whole question of profiteering and of the high cost of living demands closest investigation and the most stringent action in order to prevent such industrial crises as we have among us at present. The cost of living is one of the greatest factors in the creation of industrial disputes. When the cost of living is higher than the worker can cope with, he becomes restless and discontented. If he is driven a little further he takes what is now termed direct action to remedy his grievances, with disastrous results to the country.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) referred to the butter position, and attempted to convince honorable members that the Pool had been most generous. In Western Australia it has been proved necessary to combine dairy farming with fruit-growing and pig raising. Various attempts have been made also to establish bacon factories ; but in every instance the parties concerned have been driven out of the market,’ because the eastern “ rings “ have informed the merchants of Western Australia that, if they dare to deal with the party which has set up in local competition, produce from the eastern States will not be supplied to them. And, to-day, the “ ring “ has stepped in. Foggitt, Jones, Limited, have started a big factory at Bellevue. Local enterprise has been frozen out and the big monopolist has entered the field.
– The principal of that firm is a leading Labour man.
– That does not fill his firm with the righteousness of the Labour movement. I know of another firm, two of whose members are more than leading Labour men; yet their company continues to profiteer throughout Australia to-day. They are not the only men having controlling voices in the- business. As long as profiteering is permitted to continue so- long will instances such as these occur.
– You do not say that those men are justified in their methods ?
– Certainly not! The Commonwealth sells its butter from store at 177s. 4d. pex cwt. The average period of storage is three to four weeks per box, and the cost is 2d. per week. I will set down the storage period as amounting to five weeks, thus making a total of lOd. per box for storage. To the people of Western Australia, however, the Pool charges 199s. That was the price in connexion with a big shipment sent to the West when the people were short of supplies. At that figure the price per box showed a difference of no less than 10s. lOd. over the price ruling in the eastern States. Storage costs averaged only lOd. ; thus, an amount of 10s. remained. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Moreton mention that the case is also charged to the people of Western Australia. We pay another 3s. for the case. Even then, we are penalized to the extent of 7s. per 56-lb. box - an amount which is deliberately taken out of the pockets of the people of our State by the Com monwealth Butter Pool. We receive no less than 2,500 boxes a week, on an average, from the Eastern States; thus, £800 to £1,000 a week is taken from the people of Western Australia by the eastern monopoly which controls the Pool.
The Age has announced that Trusts and Combines have a grip on the Commonwealth - so tight a grip on certain of our industries that the latter ,aT”e going out of existence. The gold mining industry of Western Australia is waning, and must cease if matters develop as they threaten. Owing to the high cost of living the miners must be paid a wage which will enable them to live; and that wage is necessarily rather high. To-day it is possible to work only the very richest grades of ore; any mine which has not ore of richest quality must cease activities. The mayor of Kalgoorlie told me that in ten years’ time thai little city will not be in existence except as a railway depot. The way in which to remedy such a condition of affairs is, not to increase the wages of the worker in order to enable him to cope with the cost of living, but to throttle the Trusts and Combines. That would reduce the cost of living.
No sooner had the war come to an end than the Government displayed great anxiety to remove the restrictions placed on traders in regard to price-fixing. In certain instances those restrictions may have assisted to reduce the cost of living, and to prevent the exploitation of the people; but the point is that the relaxations came about at the earliest possible moment. Restrictions upon popular liberty, however, were not removed with such haste. There is no removal yet of restrictions in the case of the man of international ideals who desires to wave the red flag. I do not know what possible harm the waving of a Ted flag can do. The cost of living to-day is pressing so heavily upon the people that they are becoming more and more resentful of the gangs of plundering Combines. The workers feel that their children are insufficiently clad and fed; that the Combines are, in effect, slowly murdering the little ones. But the Government, in their anxiety to do away with price-fixing restrictions, have virtually proclaimed themselves active allies of those Combines.
Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [5.43]. - During the course of this debate the attack upon the Government has crystallized into an accusation that they are responsible for the high cost of living. An endeavour has been made to fasten responsibility upon the shoulders of the Government. Honorable members -opposite do not seem to realize that the high cost of living is being felt outside of Australia. At present, indeed, that condition is world-wide. It will be a considerable time before the world has thrown off the shackles of the high cost of living due to the war. I propose to direct attention to the condition of affairs existing before the war. One factor is the absence of German and other foreign competition today ; and another is that we are compelled to manufacture for local needs certain commodities which were imported plentifully a few. years ago. In order to do that, we must look at the condition of affairs in England immediately prior to the war.’ Certain clouds were gathering, and had been gathering for fifty years before the war, and all these influences have to be considered together to account for the present conditions in England and in Australia, and for the high cost of living.
After the War of Independence and the wars with Napoleon, a tremendous impetus was given to British trade on the conclusion of peace. There was a tremendous development of her natural resources, and a rapid repair of the waste of population. Higher taxation did nothing to check this twofold development. It is a fact not generally known that during the first half of the nineteenth century the population of the United Kingdom rose from 10,000,000 to 20,000,000. To-day, it is between 45,000,000 and 50,000,000. When the population was 20,000,000, 17,000,000 of the people were fed on home-grown wheat. The rural population was flourishing, and the population of the eighteen principal towns of England trebled during the first half of the nineteenth century. In spite of the high taxation during the period I speak of,- there was an economic output after the Napoleonic wars such as had never previously been known. I am going back to ancient history, because I wish to show the analogy existing between the conditions of the country after the Napoleonic wars and the conditions at the present time. The wars from 1775 - the time of American Independence - right on to 1S15– the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars - infused into the people of England a spirit of work. Taxation, as the result of war, and thrift go hand in hand. After 1815, inventions followed one another with startling rapidity, and within a period of forty years the imports of cotton into England increased thirteenfold; the imports of wool, tenfold; of silk, sevenfold ; and of iron, sevenfold. I am working up to the period when the last war broke out. I am endeavouring to throw a little light on a subject which has, to some extent, been neglected. In 1S45 Great Britain provided 64 per cent, of the world’s coal, and she then became the workshop of the world. The momentum in her industries reached its full force in 1851, the year of the great Exhibition, and just ‘before the Crimean war. During the thirty years following Great Britain remained- supreme in the world’s main industreis. Since 18S1, ten years after the Franco-German war, the momentum in industry, so far as Great Britain is concerned, has been gradually getting less, whilst, other nations in competition with her have encroached upon her industries. What has been the cause of the general slackening which took place in England after the Franco-German war? The history of nations is in this respect the same as that of individuals. When an individual has attained a high dignity or position, there is a tendency on his part to sit back and go slow. He has not the same initiative, push, and energy as he had earlier in life. The same thing applies to a nation, and it applied to England after the Franco-German war. After that England was gradually losing her position as the leading industrial nation of the world.
– That was because the other nations adopted Protective Tariffs.
– Probably it was; but I am trying to show the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who has seriously delved into some of these questions, that it was not solely because of the fiscal question. There was another factor accounting for what took place. There was a failure in England to take advantage of science a3 applied to industries, and the worker in England has, since the date to which I have referred, as compared with workers in other countries, gone slow. As a proof of this, I take the difference in the return from the worker in the United States and the worker in England, and I give the figures for 1916. In boots and shoes, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced per week fi 7s. 4d., and in the United States the worker produced £3 10s. In butter and cheese, in. the United Kingdom, the worker produced £2 Ss. Id., and in the United States £8 3s. Id. In clothing, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced fi 3s. lid., and in the United States £4 7s. 4d. In cotton goods, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced fi 10s. 5d., and in the United States £2 13s. 9d. In cutlery and tools, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced £1 Ss. Id., and in the United States £4 ls. 6d. In gasworks the value of the weekly production of the worker in the United Kingdom was £4 ls. Id., and in the United States £11 16s. 7d. In hats and caps, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced £1 5s. 10d., and in the United States £4 ls. lOd. In the brewing industry, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced £6 7s. 3d., and in the United States, £19 10s. 5d. In railway carriages, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced £2 7s. 4d., and in the United States £4 0s. 5d. In soap and candles, in the United Kingdom, the worker produced £2 19s. 8d., and in the United States £11 7s. 8d. In 1916, in the United Kingdom, the average worker produced practically onehalf, and, in some cases, only one-third, of what was produced by the worker in the United States of America.
– The difference was not altogether due to the worker. 0
– That is so; the difference was not entirely due to the worker. It was accounted for, to some extent, by the different conditions existing in America. I do not intend to avoid the causes -which led to the difference.
– What part did machinery play in the matter ?
.- I shall deal with that in a moment. In the matter of the production of coal in 1919 in the United Kingdom, there were 260 tons of coal produced per man per year. In Canada, the production was 395 tons ; in New Zealand, 503 tons; in Australia, 542 tons; and in the United States of America, 660 tons. The coal-miner in the United States of America produced ‘ twice as much coal per year as did the coal-miner in England, despite the fact that in England the coal-mines are near the seaboard, and there is much less haulage of coal necessary than is the case in America. Thirty years ago the cost of the production of coal at the pit mouth in England was 4s. 10d., and in 1912 it was 9s. per ton. In the United States of America, thirty years ago, the cost was 6s. 4d. per ton, and to-day the cost is only 6s. Id. So far as Great Britain is concerned, the cost of producing a ton of coal increased in the period mentioned by 4s. 2d., whilst in the United States of America the cost decreased by 3d. per ton.
If we take the case of iron and steel we find that, fifty years ago, Great Britain produced five times as much iron as Germany; but, in 1913, Germany produced twice as much as did Great Britain. Fifty years ago Great Britain produced two and a quarter times as much steel as Germany, but, in 1913, Germany produced two and a half times as much as did Great Britain. This was in spite of the fact that, in the matter of production, and getting the product to the seaboard, Great Britain was better situated geographically than is Germany. In Germany there was tremendous ‘haulage and very high railway freights. The same thing applies in regard to wheatgrowing and other industries:
What I wish to put to honorable members is that these conditions prevailed in England at the time of the outbreak of war in 1914. We had been outstripped industrially. There was a failure on the part of England to adopt up-to-date machinery and scientific methods. There was a policy, so far as England was concerned, of go slow, and it was continued to a certain extent during the war.
– Does the honorable member think that his comparisons are at all reasonable 1
– Is it not suggested that in every country at the present time the workers are going slow, whilst the honorable member is trying to prove that only the workers in England have been going slow ?
.- In a great many of the countries in the world the workers are going slow, and what I wish to impress upon honorable members is that the countries that forged ahead in that period, and were competing with the British Empire at the outbreak of the war, were countries in which the workers were not going slow, and in which the production per head of population of working men was greater than it was in England.
– There were incentives given to production in those countries.
.- I admit that. The conditions prevailing in England prior to the war should have a- lesson for us in Australia. There must be no beating down of wages in Australia; the worker must get fair hours and better pay. That is generally recognised. But the idea which workers in Australia have in mind to-day, as the workers in Great Britain had in mind before the war, that it is a good policy to produce as little as possible lest the supply should outrun the demand, is an economic fallacy. It is an economic law that the greatest possible production is in the interests of the community at large. From which country do we set the cheapest goods to-day f
– From Japan.
.- We get rubbish from Japan, and I am entitled perhaps to say also that we get some rubbish and shoddy from England also. I am speaking now with regard to industrial products that come to Australia. People find them covered with a sort of veneer and purchase them, perhaps, because they can get no others, but in many cases, no doubt, because they do not know that they are Japanese goods. That is a difficulty which might easily be overcome by having imported goods labelled with the country of origin. Speaking of goods of excellent quality, I say that the cheapest of thosegoods come from countries in which they are produced by employers earning the largest profits, and paying the highest wages, and their cheapness is due to the elimination of waste. That is the full utilization of machinery and scientific methods. These goods are coming from the countries which are adopting up-to-date and scientific methods of production, paying the best wages, eliminating waste, and conserving their man power. ,
In regard to one industry which had an important bearing on the war and the result of the war - the coal-tar and coal industry - I may say that at the outbreak of the war in 1914 there were in Staffordshire, in England, some mines which produced a higher percentage of benzol than any other mines in the world. At that time there was a German firm quite prepared to install machinery at these collieries in England on the timepayment principle, and willing to take payment, not in cash, but in the benzol, as it was extracted from the coal. After the war broke out, it was discovered that from the benzol the Germans made toluene, one of the three constituents of trinitro-toluene, known as “ T.N.T.” and used it in the manufacture of high explosives, which were subsequently hurled at our men. It was a year or two years before England discovered how these high explosives were made, and was able to get a supply of the necessary chemical, by the aid of which she ultimately won the war.
– One of the results of the Free Trade policy!
– I do not know that the fiscal question has anything to do with the matter; my point is that in this one instance England had been absolutely recreant to her responsibilities in not taking advantage of opportunities that were offered, and allowing other nations to step in and secure the lead in the matter of scientific and industrial education.
This remark applies, not only to the particular chemical I have mentioned, but to all the arts and sciences of peace which were utilized by the Germans in the prosecution of the war. England was too slow to take advantage of scientific inventions, and thousands and hundreds of thousands of our chaps were practically butchered and murdered in consequence. In Australia there is the same need for action; it is absolutely essentia!, if the British Empire and England are to maintain their position as the leading Power in the world, to encourage scientific training and inventions - to use every means to develop to the utmost the brains and ability of our people. We in the Federal Parliament ought to be prepared to help in this work in every way. In England there was no technical education worthy of the name, and ninetenths of the ‘boys who left school at thirteen or fourteen years of age, drifted into “blind alley” occupations, and remained there.
– And lived in blind alleys.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- And lived in blind alleys. The honorable member who nas interjected has just returned from the Old Country, and he knows how heart-breaking it was to some of us, who had never seen that sort of thing, to discover these young chaps, who, on account of their social conditions, were deprived of their opportunities in life. I first came into contact with young fellows of the kind in the early days at Gallipoli. In Kitchener’s Army I found some who had had absolutely no experience of fighting, who had been in uniform for only six weeks, and were unable to make a fire with the wood at hand, or to understand why it was necessary to boil the water in order to make themselves tea. Some were sent, along with other troops, for so many weeks’ training, and proved as “ green as grass.” These lads, under the system prevailing in England, were de- void of any technical education, and it was not six months or a year, but two or three years, ‘before they were fit to take their place side by side with their fellow men in the firing line, and use their brains as the others did. These lads have not been taught to think, and, with a miserable living wage, had had no inducement offered them to make any greater output of the products on which they were employed; they were simply cogs in a machine.
When the war broke out, England had lost, or was losing, her industrial position in the world, largely owing to the fact that she had not taken the trouble to educate and scientifically train the rank and file of the community. Here in Australia to-day we are faced with exactly the same position. People are apt to think that because we have provided a system, of free education we have done all that is necessary. In Germany, however, in towns such as Munich, there were compulsory technical classes in halftime schools; that is, a boy went to his factory one week, and to the technical school the next. Until we in Australia .afford opportunities for training for the whole rank and file of our people, whose brains may be better than those of others in high positions, we cannot expect to attain and maintain a foremost position in the industrial world. There seems to be an idea that the “ goslow” methods that prevailed in the Old Country are applicable here - that machinery is a thing to be fought shy of - but the history of the world shows that the country which is the readiest to adopt the scientific application of machinery affords the best conditions and wages for the workers. In Britain, underproduction and the “ go slow “ method hit rich and poor, the whole of the classes and masses. In America, wages are higher than in England, because the American operative turns out manufactures two or three times the value of those produced where the methods are slower. Low industrial production is always responsible for low wages, though I do not know whether my honorable friends opposite believe in that doctrine. Wages can be increased only if production is increased, and in order to get increased production, we must have marshalled with it the scientific and industrial education of the .workmen. We are apt to think that the workman has only what is called static power like a machine; but what we require is dynamic power, so that he may intelligently use not only his hands but his brains. It ought to be realized by the workers of Australia that people desire to spend money on, say, boots and shoes; and if the output of these commodities is limited, there will not, of course, be so many boots worn. The result must be that after a time the worker is found illclad, whereas if our. workers are properly educated, and equipped with the best machinery in the world, vast quantities of commodities are produced and consumed, and the consequence is a cheapening of the commodity.
In Australia to-day there is a strike, accompanied by a clamour about the high cost of living, and this strike has cost this country certainly considerably over £1,000,000 in wages. Every time strike occurs the wheels of progress are stopped, and, according to the magnitude of the strike, we have increased cost of production. The workers themselves, who have engaged in strikes, off and on, for the last nine or ten years, are the indirect means of the increasing cost of living, in so far as those strikes have affected production.
– How is that so, when we are living on our surplus output during the strike? How does the strike inflate the value of commodities already produced ?
– The interjection takes me from the thread of my remarks, but I may be able to satisfy the honorable member by citing the case of meat. The argument of the honorable member is that to-day there is in cold storage in Australia so many million carcasses of meat - that is, the exportable surplus - and, in spite of that, the price of meat is high. Primary products are in a quite different category from manufactured articles, and the middleman, has not, or should not, come into it. .In my humble opinion, the primary producer who has opportunities to send his goods oversea to the place of consumption is entitled to have the price regulated by the world’s market. In Australia to-day, the price of meat is governed ‘ by the price of meat in England and other parts of the world, less freight, and so forth. The statements in the press that the high prices of meat in Melbourne at the present time are due to the fact that producers are getting more for their cattle and sheep was contradicted by Dr. Cameron at a meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society yesterday. Dr. Cameron said -
On 27th June, 1917, the prices of mutton in the wholesale markets at Flemington ranged from 4$d. to 5Jd. per lb., and on 27th June of this year prices ranged from 4Jd. to 5Jd. per lb., which was a difference of 0½d. per lb. lower to-day than two years ago. Lambs on 27th June, 1917, sold from 6)d. to 7Jd. per lb., as against 5d. to 6’jd. per lb., which was realized on- the corresponding date this year, being lid. to lid. per lb, lower in 1919 than in 1917.
The producer is the man who should get the full value of his product ; and the producer of meat is getting less than he was two or three years ago. To the consumer, however, the price is higher, because the exportable value of the particular commodity is fixed by the price realized in the Old Country, and the local price has to conform to the world’s price.
We have only to look at the position in the United States of America to realize that the best policy for a country to adopt is to install the most up-to-date machinery in its industries and to try to increase the output per head of its industrialists, rather than to employ obsolete methods and follow the go-slow system which we are adopting in Australia. Every year an American workman buys three times as many collars and shirts as a British worker does. In America the workers live far better, are better fed, and better dressed. High production - I do not mean sweating, but high production in the sense of getting the best value out of operatives by the use of up-to-date scientific machinery and the most modern methods - will lead to increased wages. High wages need not necessarily involve high prices if the doubling of wages is accompanied by a doubling of production. Commodities, in the production of which high wages are paid, need not be any dearer because of the payment of those high wages. As a matter of fact, such a condition of affairs means prosperity. Wherever the production per man is the greatest, there it will be found that the masses of the people are the most prosperous. In America that applies all round. In India, where individual production is small, because little machinery is used, and in Egypt, where for 4,000 years the fellah has irrigated with the shadoof - a long pole with a goatskin bucket at one end and a man at the other - in both these countries, where the most antiquated methods are employed, we find the greatest poverty.
I wish to use the illustrations I have given in regard to the conditions prevailing in England to impress upon the people of Australia that in their own in- ‘terests - in the interests of every section of the community - employees should give of their very best to the employers, and that by going slow and reducing their output they tend very largely to increase the price of the commodities or articles which they are’ producing. If the employers use up-to-date machinery and scientific methods, while the employees are well trained and give of the best that is in them, the position must inevitably be better all round.
Some hundreds of strikes have taken place in Australia during the last few years. Every time we have a strike the wheels of industry become clogged, and the effect of that strike is to increase the cost of the commodity produced by the industry to which it relates, and indirectly to raise the cost of living.
– The honorable member has told us of the duty of the employees; let him tell us now the duty of the employers.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - It is the duty of employers to recognise that a workman is not a machine, but that he is what I should describe as a dynamic force. Emplovers must recognise that the worker, has a trinity of powers - the spirit to do, the mind to create, and the hand to move. Once we have employers and employees putting their heads together and recognising that it is in the interests of all concerned that workers should give bettor work, with the natural corollary of better wages and higher and better production we shall have a larger measure of prosperity throughout the whole community.
– “Will the honorable member tell us of one instance where employers have given anything to the workers without being forced to do so?
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- I can give many instances of the kind. I would refer the honorable member to what has been done for the workers by Cadbury Brothers, who have one of the biggest businesses in the world, as well as by the Lever soap people at Port Sunlight, and Ricketts Limited, whose blue manufacturing works at Hull I inspected. Three thousand hands are employed there. The- conditions prevailing in these and other business concerns in the Old Country are such that if we could introduce them here, even to a limited extent, the position as between employers and employed would be very considerably improved. Ricketts Limited make provision for the housing of their own employees; single girls have their own club rooms ; a doctor and a dentist are paid by the firm, to attend to the employees; and the interests of the men and women working there are looked after in every way. There is tremendous room for improvement in that direction in Australia. So far very little has been done in that respect, but I would remind honorable members that we have Arbitration Acts and regulations, designed to improve the conditions of the workers.
As the outcome of the maritime strike of 1891, the Labour party was established in Australia, and there followed, on the part of Labour representatives, a clamouring for the establishment of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, which, it was said, would do away with direct action. To-day we have such tribunals, where employers and employees may meet face to face. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) and others fought for the principle of arbitration.
– We stand for it still.
– It is included in the platform of the Labour party, and every right-thinking man ought to advocate law and order as opposed to direct action. We have our Police Courts and our Police Magistrates to determine ordinary disputes between members of the community, because we recognise that a person smarting under a sense of injustice should not be allowed to take the law into his own hands and to fly at the throat of the man who has offended him. Civilization has, amongst other things, set up such tribunals where men may settle their differences,and every honorable member opposite has, at some time or other, championed the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration. When the Coercion Bill was passed by the Wade Government in New South Wales, and in. connexion with the Tom Bowling trouble, there was a hue and cry on the part of the State Labour party, who urged that Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards should settle all industrial matters. We have such tribunals in New South Wales and Victoria to-day, and we have, in addition, a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins, where industrial troubles may be dealt with in a proper legal manner. But, notwithstanding the existence of these Courts, and despite the fact that Mr. Justice Higgins has expressed his readiness to deal with the shipping dispute, that strike still continues. How many members of the Opposition are prepared to say to the seamen and others now on strike,”We deplore your tactics. Do you not know that we, your representatives in the Federal Parliament, have passed laws enabling you to have your case investigated and dealt with by a tribunal specially created to determine such matters? You should have your case inquired into in the statutory way for which we have provided. You will get justice in the Court; you can secure the redress of your grievances by resort to this law, and you should avail yourself of the law, instead of seeking to gain your ends by direct action “ ? How many honorable members opposite are pre pared to speak in such terms to the strikers? Only last session they were asking for an amendment of the conciliation and arbitration law, and we have actually in existence to-day all the machinery necessary for the settlement of industrial disputes without any departure from law and order.
I hold no brief for the shipping companies, but I should like to know how the Opposition, believing as they do in law and order, believing as they do in the principle of arbitration, which is included in the platforms of the State and Federal Labour parties, can remain silent when a strike such as that now in progress is paralyzing one of the biggest industries in Australia, and threatening to involve the whole industrial efforts of the Commonwealth.
– And all because of the inability of the Government to handle it.
– That may seem at first sight a very plain statement, but when we come to examine it what does it mean? We have conciliation and arbitration laws in force to-day; we have the Court and the Judge to deal with industrial disputes; we have, in short, everything that should go for the making of a settlement. We have faith in the honour and integrity of the President of the Court. What, then, do the Opposition expect the Government to do? My own view is that the Government should not move one step from the position they have taken up with regard to the settlement of the shipping strike, since we have the proper legal machinery to deal with it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the question of the strike as it affects the general community, and was inquiring what remedy my honorable friends opposite had to offer, and, particularly, what suggestion they had to make to the strikers. In a Democracy such as we have - a Democracy which is the freest in the world, because every man and woman here has a vote of equal value - it does seem an anomaly that, after Parliament, in its wisdom, has established Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards to insure the reasonable and amicable settlement of industrial differences, men who consider themselves aggrieved should refuse to take advantage of those tribunals. Today we are on the threshold of one of the biggest strikes that has ever convulsed Australia. Yet it seems to me that, despite the attention which has been given by Parliament to industrial matters, everything is now to go by the board, because a small section, of the community, at the behest of a disgruntled few, wish to pitch all arbitration agreements into the waste-paper basket, and to return to barbaric method. They remind me of so many naughty school boys. Because they think they cannot get redress in the tribunals which have been established for the settlement of their disputes, they refuse to work, and say that they will drag the whole community down with them. So far the strike has not directly assumed very huge dimensions; yet we find that in Victoria alone the wages which have been lost to the workers amount to £436,742. So far as Australia is concerned, as the indirect result of the strike, £1,746,000 has been lost in wages to date. But it must be perfectly apparent to every honorable member that the loss sustained by the community cannot be measured by the actual loss in wages. The chief loss to the country is caused by the stoppage of production. Within the past few days I have spoken to wharf labourers, and I know that the general feeling amongst their rank and file is that the’ present strike is ill-timed, that it is unjust to the community, and that if they could quietly resume work; they would be glad to go back to-morrow. But because of the action of a few individuals, who have done nothing for, and given nothing to, the community - Mr. Walsh, for example, and a few of his direct action.ists
– The same thing is always said about executives during strike times.
.- I know that, in order to obtain direct action, it is necessary to have at the head of affairs a man who is thick in the hide, and who is prepared to tear up all industrial agreements.. The rank and file have to be mere catspaws, who are ready to do the behests of a certain section, otherwise their billets would be gone. But the persons with whom I chiefly sympathize are the women and children of the men who are forced out of work by the Bolsheviks and extremists who are doing their best to drag Australia down to her ruin.
– And who are in- “ creasing the cost of living.
– Yes. Democracy is a splendid thing when all pull together; but it is a very bad thing when only half the people exert their full strength. It is a sort of joint-stock company, in which Jack is as good as his master. We can only obtain full success from Democracy if each member of the community gives of his best. Honorable members opposite affirm that they are looking after the interests of the workers and the producers. Then how can they sit tight when there is in progress a strike whose tentacles will stretch out to and affect the whole of the industries of Australia? Why are they not prepared to take some step to show these people that they are in the wrong? I recognise that honorable members opposite are largely the mouthpieces of the organizations which they represent. I can see before me honorable members who represent some of the biggest Labour unions in Australia. Arbitration Courts have been set up in our midst to provide the workers with improved industrial conditions. Why do honorable members ‘ opposite sit silent in these circumstances ? Why is no influence brought to bear on the few hirelings who are dragging down this country? One honorable member opposite interjected a little while ago, “ Why do not the Government put a stop to the strike 1” That was a most elementary sort of inquiry to make. Can any honorable member opposite say that the Government should step in and do something? Does anybody suggest that the time is ripe for the Government to intervene, and practically to say to the seamen, “You naughty boys: you will not go into the Arbitration Court, and, therefore, we will force the ship-owners to give you increased wages, and a six-hours day in port, and to concede the other demands which you make?” We ai-e not here to act in a judicial capacity. Why should Ministers usurp “ the functions with which the Arbitration Court has been endowed, and that without hearing the pros and cons of the questions involved ? Outfit they to judge the situation and say to the steam-ship owners, “You have not given these men a fair deal : pay them a few bob a day extra, and yield to the other claims which they make? “
– Why did the Government interfere in the coal strike?
.- Whether they were right or wrong in so acting I cannot say. Does the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) mean to saythat the action of the Government on that occasion should be regarded as a precedent sanctioning the over-riding of the Arbitration Court? That the Cabinet settled the coal strike is no reason why they should interfere in the present dispute. What could the Government do, beyond forcing the steam-ship owners to grant the increased wages demanded?
– It is not that at all. Let them smash up the men if they think they are wrong. That is what the Government should do, if they had the courage of their opinions.
– Smash up the men ! Does my honorable friend want us to precipitate civil war in this community ?
– If you dare to do so. But you do not dare.
.- When we have a tribunal established for the express purpose of settling industrial disputes, why should the Government take steps to force the seamen to resume work ?
– You are a gutless crowd. You have not the courage of your opinions.
.- If I had the ability of my honorable friend opposite, I would not be in this House - I will not say where I would be. Indirectly, the seamen who have struck are by their action dragging down a very -big section of the community. Everywhere in our midst is industrial unrest. Why ? Because men have been thrown out of employment by the action of the seamen. There is the spectre of starvation in certain directions, and women and children are suffering. Why ? Because these men have struck, and will not allow coal to be brought here. What about the 500 Tasmanian returned soldiers who have been unable to get to their homes by reason of the strike, and who have made bigger sacrifices than any of these seamen have made? These soldiers were prepared to give their lives for their country, and they have been spared by Providence to come back to Australia. But because a certain section of the community think that they are suffering from some terrible injury, they refuse to allow boats to be manned for the purpose of returning these soldiers to their homes in Tasmania. There is also in this House an honorable member who, on account of a personal bereavement, would recently have been glad to get back to Tasmania. But simply because these men think they are fighting for a principle, he was unable to do so. To-day we have distress in our midst, and we shall have more of it. It is not the province of the Government to make a single step in regard to the present trouble until the men on strike take advantage of the laws which we have enacted to enable them to obtain a settlement of their differences before a proper tribunal.
– Not even to assist the women and children ?
.- I am speaking of the men who are on strike. A person who had the milk of. human kindness in his nature would scarcely ask a question such as that. The Government have already shown what they are prepared to do in regard to innocent wives and children, but the danger is that if help is given to a considerable extent, it means, in a sense, prolonging the strike. I do not say that these women and children should not be helped.
– They ought to be helped by their husbands, as they could be if the men would only get back to work.
– I foresee endless difficulty once the Government start assisting these women and children: and if they do not assist them our friends opposite are prepared to make political capital of the fact that the Ministers are prepared to let -the wives and families of those directly and indirectly affected starve.
– Although they have been brought to this condition by the action of their own breadwinners.
– They have been brought to this condition voluntarily. It would be totally different if they had been forced into it, and there was no get out for them. I ask honorable members whether they think it is the province of the Government to give assistance ad .infinitum when the power to end the existing distress rests in the hands of the men themselves at any moment by going back to work. But as surely as the sun rises in the east, if the present trouble is ended by Government intervention or by giving way to the men in any direction, it will only be a question of time when absolute anarchy will prevail in Australia. Honorable members have spoken of the precedent established by the Government in settling a coal strike by increasing the price of coal by 3s. per ton; but if the existing strike is settled by giving concessions to the men, what will happen? Next week the shearers will probably take the same step, and the following week the transport workers, and the same demand will come from every branch of industry in Australia.
– The honorable member cannot say that of the shearers. They took a ballot about settling their dispute by arbitration, and it was carried by three to one.
.- The honorable member knows that when I referred to the shearers it was merely by way of illustration. I did not actually mean that the Shearers Union would take this step. If honorable members will look at this matter dispassionately, without prejudice or bias, they will see that if the Government use pressure to settle this strike they will put fetters and manacles on themselves for all time, because they will be obliged to do the same thing next week, the week after, next year, and for years afterwards for every industry in Australia.
– Then the honorable member means that every industry requires concessions.
.- That may be so, but there is a tribunal at which every matter in dispute can be settled. Does the honorable member believe in direct action when there is a tribunal set up for the settlement of disputes between employers and employees ?
– Does not the honorable member believe in direct action ?
– Not where there are Statutes setting up machinery for the settlement of disputes. If we can do without laws dealing with the settle.ment of disputes, then let us go back to the days of barbarism and attack each other with clubs. Our Arbitration Act, and the regulations framed under it, have been evolved for the amelioration of the conditions attaching to civilized life. It. is quite certain that many other troubles will arise if this matter is settled in any other way than through the proper channel.
– How will the honorable member do it? Will he starve the men into submitting their case to the Arbitration Court?
.- (The Government will have to follow the example set in New South Wales by Sir George Fuller. When the New South Wales Government had trouble with the transport workers - a Wages Board wa3 available to the workers, but they preferred direct action - Mr. Fuller. as he was then, simply brought workers from the country down to the city, and carried on operations, and the strike was very quickly settled. If we are going to have trouble in Australia with the Bolshevist element, the Commonwealth Government will have to follow that example, because in the unions there is a majority of levelheaded men who do not want direct action. They are blindfolded by the other element - the more advanced and noisy minority - who put their particular views forward at meetings and have them carried by snap votes. When the trouble occurred in New South Wales, the workers had the same remedy as there is in Victoria for the settlement of disputes.
– No, they had not.
– I wall not argue the matter, because I know that I am right.
– The New South Wales Government took direct action. .
.- Yes; and if action is taken by the Commonwealth Government on this occasion, it will be direct action ; but it will be constitutional direct action. The ships ought to be manned in spite of the sailors. There are people who are short of food and coal. They should not be kept short of food and coal because a certain section refuse to go to the Arbitration Court.
– Then why do you not man the boats?
.- It is mot my business to man them. I am merely here to make suggestions; but if the Government climb down, it will not be with my acquiescence. Honorable members opposite know me well enough to believe that I would be with them if there was justice behind their attitude, but I cannot be told that there is justice behind it. However, I shall not harp on this string. To do so might be distasteful to honorable members opposite. But I have had no direct statement from any one of them as to whether he believes in the direct action which has been taken by the sailors.
The whole of the attack on the Government is in regard to the cost of commodities, but it is a singular fact that in Victoria the wholesale price of meat today is cheaper than it was three years ago. Let us make a comparison between Victoria and Queensland, where there is a Labour Premier, and where State meat shops are established, and where, if a man puts on old clothes and hustles a bit, he can get a few pounds of meat cheaply, but if he goes into a State meat shop in an ordinary way he has no chance of getting it.
– That is an absolute lie.
– I ask the honorable member for Maranoa to withdraw that remark.
– No, I will not do so. He is telling a deliberate lie.
– The honorable member knows the rules of the House as well as I do. I ask him to withdraw his remark. I am sure he will do so.
– In due deference to the Chair, I withdraw my statement.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting. At a time like this, when feeling is running a little high, interjections are likely to cause serious trouble.
– I would like the honorable member for New England to at least aim at the truth.
– Honorable members have equal opportunities of speaking. I endeavour, as far as possible, to call on members from either side to speak alternately. If statements are made from one side, they can be answered by the next speaker , on the other side in the ordinary course of debate; so there is no excuse for offensive interjections, or any violation of the Standing Orders.
.- Perhaps I did not make myself clear.
– Hear, hear ! I do not think the honorable member did.
– I have just sat down after appealing to honorable members to refrain from interjecting. I do not care about taking “direct” action if I can help it; but if the direction of the Chair is not obeyed, that step will have to be taken.
– I was not appealing to the intelligence or want of intelligence of the honorable member for East Sydney, because my remark to him was that what I was saying was simply going in at one ear and out of the other. I was quite aware that that was the case, so far as he is concerned, because there is nothing to prevent anything that goes in at one of his ears from going out of the other.
– The honorable member has made a reflection upon rae. I ask that he be called upon to withdraw it.
– If the honorable member feels that what has been said is a reflection upon him, I call upon the honorable member for New England to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw my remark that there is nothing in the honorable member’s head to prevent my speech from not making an impression upon his understanding. There is something to prevent it.
The honorable member for Maranoa misinterpreted my remarks about the State meat shops in Brisbane. With one exception these meat shops are in electorates represented by Labour.
– That is so.
– And these meat shops are so few - I am not talking about meat sent by parcels post or delivered at railway stations - that at times there is such a pressure of people anxious to get cheap meat - I admit it is cheaper there than elsewhere - that it is with the greatest difficulty one can get it. That was the statement I was about to make. But in spite of this direct Government action, when we compare the prices prevailing in the Victorian capital with those of the metropolis of Queensland, where there is a Labour Premier, we find that the purchasing power of £1 is far less in Queensland than in Victoria. I have made a comparison in regard to 46 items of groceries, and I find that what could have been purchased for £1 in 1911 costs to-day in Melbourne 28s. 5d., and in Brisbane 29s. 7d. More recent figures accentuate my argument. It. will he seen, therefore, .that in the place where there is cheaper meat and cheaper primary products generally, the cost of over forty lines of general groceries is ls. 2d. or ls. 3d. higher than in Victoria.
– How do you attribute that result to the Ryan Government?
.- I attribute it to the Ryan Government because Mr. Ryan told the people of that State from the public platform that he was going to reduce the cost of living by buying up cattle stations and giving them cheap meat and entering upon other activities ordinarily undertaken by private citizens. The latest figures I have been able to obtain indicate, as I have shown, that the purchasing power of the sovereign has appreciably decreased in Queensland.
– But in Queensland grocery prices have to carry the added cost of transport.
.- I leave my honorable friend to deal with that question from his own point of view. The fact remains that the cost of living has increased in the northern State, as elsewhere, and for some considerable time to come we must be prepared to face this situation. What will be the effect of a Tariff revision? Extra Protection must mean an increase in the cost of living. Then we have Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, by means of which wages may be advanced to keep pace with the increased cost of living. A prohibitive Tariff must mean an increase in the cost of living so far as Australia is concerned. Some people ask, “What .about profiteering?” If in any particular commodity there is a suspicion of profiteering, action can be taken to have the complaint brought before the Chief Inter-State Commissioner for investigation and report. Several charges of profiteering have already been investigated by the Inter-State ‘Commission, and in many oases the complaints have been found to be without justification.
I wish now to speak of a matter connected with repatriation, by referring to the general complaints concerning Hie treatment of country lads, particularly in the northern part of New South Wales, which, of course, I regard as the best part of Australia. So long as the work of the Repatriation Department is centralized in Sydney, and doubly centralized in Melbourne, we will not have any satisfactory land settlement of returned soldiers. I have in mind a certain town in which, lately, there was trouble with the committee. A public meeting was called, and it started at 8 o’clock in. the evening, with a crowded attendance, and was not over until midnight. They pitched out the old committee, and appointed another, composed of the most excellent business men in the district. The executive made repeated representations to the New South Wales Board in regard to certain applications, but in most cases those recommendations have been turned down.
– But the same complaints are heard on every hand.
.- These lads are being kept waiting, and they are breaking their hearts over the delay. Very often it is found that, when the reply does come to hand, the applicants are simply turned down, without any satisfactory explanation being offered. I remind the House that this repatriation business is not going to be settled in twelve months. “We will be repatriating our soldiers for the next four or five years, and possibly longer; but if all the power is to rest in a central body in Sydney and Melbourne, instead of authority being delegated to Local Committees, as is done in the caseof the principal banking institutions with regard to branches in country districts, these questions will not be settled satisfactorily.
– I thought that Local Committees were authorized to take action.
– The Local Committees cannot do anything without money, and, seeing that they are in a position to know all the circumstances and to judge of the fitness of an applicant, it is heartbreaking to them to have their recommendations turned down in Sydney or Melbourne. If the members of these Local Committees are prepared to give their time to repatriation matters, surely they can be trusted with the expenditure of certain moneys. Many of them, no doubt, have been living in their districts for ten or fifteen years and longer, and they must be in a much better position than a man in Sydney to’ know how best to repatriate the lads there.
I turn now to the question of ram metals. The portion of Australia which I represent contains, I suppose, more of two precious metals than any other part of Australia. I refer particularly to molybdenite and wolfram.
– No. North Queensland is a greater producer.
.- In my district there is one mine from which, before the war, the owner took 150 tons of molybdenite. It was sold to Germany. At that time, the owner was’ getting up to £100 a ton for it, and at the outbreak of the war the mineral was worth £500 per ton. At the present time, this mineral is being won in different parts of Australia, and is being sold under Government control. In New South Wales, Dalgety and Company were appointed the buyers, with instructions to purchase if it did not contain more than 5 per cent, of bismuth. In order to make my point clear, I desire to read this extract -
With the reduced demand for metals since the conclusion of the war, the Imperial Government lias fount? it necessary to terminate many of the contracts entered into with the Commonwealth Government for the supply of wolfram, scheelite, and molybdenite. These’ metals were used in the manufacture of armour plate, gun barrels, and high-speed steel. The producers’ interests, however, are being watched, and a reduced purchase of standard grades will be continued until 31st December.
Since the Commonwealth acquired the output in .193 5 production has greatly increased, mid the production of 1,360.64 tons of tungsten ores, ana 215.84 tons of molybdenite, was practically double that of 1013.” The prices secured for the producer were fully 60 per cent, higher.
It is advised that at the end of 1919 there will be in stock in Great Britain sufficient tungsten and molybdenite to meet the requirements of the United Kingdom’s home and export trade for at least two years.
At the present time, all the tungsten mines in New England - and tungsten includes molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite - have closed down because Dalgety and Company, so far as New South Wales is concerned, are not prepared to buy the product if it contains more than a i per cent, of bismuth. That is an impossible condition. As a consequence, the oil flotation and other mineral treatment works are closed down, and a considerable number of miners are out of employment. I ask that this’ matter receive the earnest attention of the Government at the earliest possible moment.
We all know that the wool-growers of Australia have been obtaining pretty decent prices during the war, but a few days ago I noticed the following cabled information : -
Wool from the clip of Mr. A. A. Daiglish Pomeroy, has been sold at auction in Boston at 5s. l’-id. per lb. This constitutes the highest price yet realized in America for greasy wool.
The consignment consisted of twelve bales A.A.A.W., and fifteen bales A.A.A.H.C., and was appraised in Australia on 20th March, 1!)18, at 2«4d. and 30il. respectively.
From this it will be seen that these particular clips of Australian wool brought double the appraised value in Australia. While the wool-grower is no doubt satisfied with the price he has been getting, he and others interested would like to know who is getting the difference between the appraised value and the price realized in the Old Country.
– The British Government have been doing a bit of profiteering.
– Apparently some profiteering is going on.
– Wool freights have been pretty high.
.- But this wool, which was appraised at 29£d. and 30d. in Australia, brought 5s. 1½d. in. America.
– In the case of the Imperial Government, half the profit on resale is returned to the grower.
.- That is so; but the point is, will the grower get it? I am perfectly satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that honorable members on the other side of the House -have no answer to the Ministerial statement, and therefore, they ought to come over to this side of the House and vote unanimously for the motion.
.- I was at first astounded when I read the Ministerial statement, but after consideration I realized there was no occasion for astonishment, and that it was merely in keeping with the general practice of this Government to ignore the vital questions which are affecting the people of Australia. This Government came into office with a great flourish of trumpets, declaring that if the National party were reformed to power the position would be made . sure for the workers of Australia. We find, however, that there is hardly a ray of hope for the workers -the people who have borne the brunt of the battle, and whose relatives in some cases have made the supreme sacrifice in this great war. Is there one word of promise to deal with the high cost of living ? The only reference is to be found in the statement that there is no need now for price-fixing. The war has been won. The world is safe for Democracy, and so profiteers are to be allowed to go on crushing the workers in this country. The Government make no suggestion for coping with this problem. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott), no doubt acting under instructions from the Government, attempted very ingeniously, to side-track this issue, but the greatest trouble of the people today is the cost of living, and the appalling distress throughout the community. And the only attempt made by the Government, who are said by their supporters to comprise the best political brains in Australia, to relieve the distress and misery of the people is to hand out a charity dole. Surely the great Win-the-war Government, who alone, by merely wagging their jaws, won the war, can find some other means of relieving distress and improving the conditions of the people. On Friday direct action was applied to me, and I was cast into outer darkness for drawing attention to the miseries of the people.
– Order! That was not the reason ; it was for setting the rules of the House at defiance; but I have already called to order an honorable member on the Government side who attempted to revive that incident. The Standing Orders do not permit of reflections on votes of the House.
– To those honorable members who represent industrial constituencies the distress which is prevalent in the community is brought home very clearly. That misery is not a direct result of the upheaval iri the maritime industry, but is due to the inability of the people to purchase the necessaries of life. They are being robbed at the point of production, and also over the retail counter, to such an extent that their wages are insufficient to enable them to purchase necessary food and clothing. Consequently, the workers and their families are obliged to deny themselves; the children must do with less clothing and boots. The fact is that the purchasing power of wages has decreased. Honorable members on the Government side talk glibly about increased wages being the cause of the high cost of living. But, as I shall show in a moment. Knibbs proves clearly that the ratio of the increase in the cost of living to the increase in wages is as two is to one. In last Saturday’s issue of the Sydney Sun, the following statement appeared from Mr. Roseby, secretary of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales. He is not a member of the Labour party or of any trade union organization; he is not even a Bolshevik. He possesses all the qualifications which honorable members opposite consider requisite in a gentleman. In an interview he said -
Poor people are hungry in Sydney to-day, wanting food and can’t get the kind they need. The association has been hard hit. The situation is almost desperate. People who are badly in need of provisions are applying for certain food which is not available. Sago and rice cost £30 per ton; neither can be procured. Potatoes that formerly cost £6 are now £24, and onions that previously were bought for £12 are now £20. The society cannot buy to give to the needy poor, because it has not got the money to pay for the goods.
– Because we cannot get ships to carry the goods.
– Not at all. Mr. Roseby referred to rice. Recently a gentleman, writing to the Sydney press, referred to the high cost of potatoes, and suggested that rice was a good substitute. At that time, rice was being retailed at 3½d. per lb. in the shops. But on the day following the publication of that letter the article rose to 7d. per lb. That statement can be proved to the hilt. Did the strike cause that increase? Does Mr. Walsh, whom honorable members opposite regard as the great Bolshevik, possess some magic power which enabled him, merely by a wave of the hand, to cause all the great stocks of rice in the Sydney stores to disappear? No; the rice is still there, but the people controlling the stocks saw an opportunity of wringing more profits out of the people, and they did not hesitate to take it. The sacrifices which the workers and their sons made in the war, and the present-day needs of the people, are nothing to those profiteers ; their only god is money.
I shall quote from the Commonwealth Statistician figures which, I hope, will lay once and for all the bogy, so constantly raised by honorable members opposite, that the high cost of living is due to the increase in wages -
These figures show that since 1911, whilst wages have increased by 26.8 per cent., the cost of living has risen by 51.4 per cent. En other words, the increase in the cost of living has been double the increase in the cost of wages. Those figures do not take into account unemployment and sickness ; they apply to only the constant worker who has a regular income. But what about the unfortunate in casual work, with sickness in his family? All that sort, of thing has to be taken into consideration. Mr. Knibbs then gives figures collated from the various trade unions. These should be fairly accurate, because most union secretaries, as I know from experience, make a particular point of endeavouring to supply the Government Statistician with accurate informa- tion. This is the information given in Knibbs -
So that, instead of being 65s. per week, the average wage to-day should be 77s. 7d. Those figures reveal a startling state of affairs. They show clearly that the worker is being robbed all round the compass. The Democracy of this country fought in the great war. Did they fight to come home and be robbed by exploiters? Did they fight to make Australia the exploiters’ paradise? Surely this Win-the-war Government, this Government that won the war - I will give it all sorts of credit, nor do I wish to take any of the glory and the glamour from it - is going to do something for the worker now that the war has been won. Here is the statement of Ministers. Where is there one word in it of hope for the workers ?
– We are going to establish Protection, which will give them all the work they want.
– When the Tariff is being considered, I shall not vote for anything that will help the boodler to get more boodle at the expense of the worker. In mo vin gr the amendment on this motion, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour party (Mr. Higgs) dealt with some of the pressing problems of the day, and showed that the Government were lacking in their duty to the people. He pointed out the remedy to the Govern ment. Did the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) offer any solution of these great problems, when he rose to meet the grave charges laid at the door of the Government by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? Oh, dear, no! Did he tell the House how the Government were going to make Australia safe for Democracy? Oh, dear, no ! Did he say one word to indicate that the Government were going to deal with profiteering? Certainly not. All he did was to make a speech, in his characteristic style, which is very nice to listen to for those who like to have their ears tickled by word spinning and high-sounding phrases. When he found that he had no programme to offer in solution of these problems, -he made frantic appeals to one and the other of his supporters to bolster up the Government cause. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), he said, and the honorable member for somewhere else, would testify how the Government were making Australia safe for Democracy. Those honorable members have endeavoured to give their testimony on behalf of the Government, but the most significant and serious fact, from the stand-point of the people, is that not one member of the Government has felt it his duty to rise and show the people what the programme of the Government is on these matters, which so vitally concern their every-day life. Ministers are all struck dumb, but there are frantic signals to the rank and file of their supporters to give their testimony. Is this because the Government have no programme to put before the country? Is it their deliberate wish that their own followers should drag out the discussion on this motion of want of confidence? If the Government really desired to got on with the business, and had a programme - if they were not bereft of all constructive ideas - they would have allowed the Opposition members to exhaust their time, which would have expired long ago, and kept their own members silent, in the determination to get on with their programme as soon as we had had our say. The Government have not taken up that attitude, because they have no programme to go on with. Will the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) rise in his place when I sit down and show me, in this Government statement, the things the Government propose to do to remedy the great evils from which this country is suffering? W6 had testimony, if one may call it so, from the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). That poor unfortunate squatter, who cannot supply sufficient boots and clothing to his family, lashed himself into a fury about Trusts and Combines, which, he said, we would have to deal with. How does he intend to vote on this motion ? Will he vote for the .Government which proposes no measures to restrain Trusts and Combines? What is his speech worth? Is it merely words, or does he intend to follow his speech with action ? Does he propose to give a vote in accordance with the ideas he expressed? Oh, dear, no ! I am very much afraid that we shall discover that he is like a good many more sitting behind the Government. They will talk, but they will not strike; they will bark, but they will not bite.
– You will not bite the “ red-raggers.”
– We will wipe the honorable member out good and strong at the next election, when he will be glad of any old flag that he can get hold of. I wish to show the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who had so much to say about Trusts and Combines, what we ought to do with the Beef Trust. He went so far as to say that a mere fine was not sufficient. He would gaol those responsible for Trusts and Combines. I am inclined to agree with that; but I am afraid that when it caine to the pinch the honorable member would fight very shy of interfering with them. From an article in the monetary and commercial columns of the Sydney Morning Herald in January of this .year, I find that a Commission was appointed by the United States Government to inquire into the Chicago Meat Trust and its ramifications. The following is part of the article: -
The Commission had to meet deliberate falsification of returns properly required under legal authority : “ we lind to meet schools for witnesses, where employees were coached in anticipation of their being culled to testify in (in investigation ordered by you (President Wilson) and by the Congress of the United States: we had to meet a situation created by the destruction of letters and documents vital Lo this investigation : we had to meet a conspiracy in the preparation of answers to the lawful inquiries of the Commission.” The public were told that no “trust” existed, and that the “Big Five” were in most effective competition, but the report declares that “ these five corporations and their 500 odd subsidiary, controlled, and affiliated companies nro bound together by joint ownership, agreements, understandings, communities of interest, and family relationships.” In the three years 1915-16-17 four of the five big concerns made net profits amounting to £35,600,000, and it is stated that in 101.7 their earnings were more than four times as much as in the year before the war. How the public in Great Britain and Australia are most directly interested in this organization may, perhaps, best be indicated by the following list of agencies, so far as the American Commission has been able to identify them: -
Swift Co. - In Britain: Libby, McNeill, and Libby, of London; Curry and Co. Ltd.; Garner, Bennett, and Co. Ltd.; H. A. Lane and Co. Ltd.; H. L. Swift Stall; Franklin Land and Investment Co.; Swift Beef Co. Ltd. In Australia: Australian Meat Export Co. In Canada: Swift Canadian Co.; Libby, McNeill, and Libby.
This report clearly demonstrates that the ramifications of the huge octopus have extended to Australia. It is in control of the meat industry here, just as it is in America. The report proceeds to show to what lengths those people will go in order to achieve their ends -
The Commissioners discovered, in the course of their investigations, that the packers had joint funds, subscribed in proportion to thu business done, and used for thu following purposes: -
To employ lobbyists and pay their unaudited expenses.
To influence legislative bodies.
To elect candidates who would wink at violations of law, and defeat those pledged to fair enforcement.
To control tax officials, and thereby evade just taxation.
To secure modifications of Government rules and regulations by devious and improper methods.
To hias public opinion by the control of editorial policy through advertising, loans, and subsidies, and by the publication and distribution at large expense of false and misleading statements.
Those are the findings, not of a labour organization, but of a Commission appointed by the Government of the United States. The mask has been torn from the face of the Beef Trust; it is exposed in all its hideousness to the gaze of the world. That Trust is in active operation in Australia to-day. Can one wonder why it is impossible for the workers to obtain meat? The only place where meat is scarce in Australia is on the tables of the workers. The American Beef Trust is in control of the industry, and the Government of the day comprise gentlemen who are going to make Australia safe, for Democracy! What do they propose to do? Do they suggest dealing with the Beef Trust? I can see many honorable members opposite who were once heard delivering eloquent appeals for additional constitutional powers to enable the Commonwealth to deal with Trusts and Combines. To-day those honorable members are conspicuously silent. We hear nothing now about amendments of the Constitution, so that Australia may deal with the Beef Trust. No word may be seen in the Ministerial statement indicating that the Government propose’ to deal with the problem. Those gentlemen behind the Government who once ardently sought additional constitutional rights are content to-day that the Government should have no policy in the matter, and that the Beef Trust should continue to rob the people. If those honorable members did not approve of the Government’s lack of policy, why did they carry a motion the other day, in which, they expressed appreciation of the noble work of the Government? They should ha ve worded it, “ The ghastly failure of the Government.”
In the press some days- ago there appeared mi - announcement concerning the enormous amount of meat held in cold storage; and there were complaints regarding lack of shipping space. There was not shipping accommodation to carry the meat, away to the other side of the world. There are enough empty stomachs among the children of the workers of Australia to consume that meat, if the opportunity were provided. There is meat in abundance in this country. The cool stores are bursting with carcasses, while, at the same time, the poor workers and their families are crying for food. Unless growing children can be furnished with food containing bone-building properties, there is no hope of raising a strong and healthy community. The children, of to-day are the citizens of tomorrow. Surely it is our duty to see that the youth of this land shall obtain the nourishment necessary to rear them into strong nien and women. We shall never develop into a virile nation unless we tackle and overcome the problem of the poverty of the people. The conditions of the poor of England were at the base of Britain’s weakness in the great Avar. We know of those puny individuals taken from the London slums - men reared under conditions in which it was impossible to be strong and healthy.. Those slum-reared men were brought, up with none of the sunshine of life. Slum conditions were appalling. People were herded together like cattle. There were courts where sunshine never entered. A Government which fails to deal with problems such as those is accepting a big responsibility. The people everywhere are demanding better conditions. Australians are not going to be satisfied with the old methods. We want more of the good things of life ; and the workers will get them. When we talk of industrial unrest, and prate about Bolshevism, do we stop to consider the cause of it all? It is the canker of poverty gnawing at the hearts of the people. The father knows that if he loses his job to-morrow there is no bread or clothing for his children, and that a week hence there will be no shelter for them. Can we wonder at people holding extreme views at a time when a “ National “ Government has failed to do anything for them? Can we wonder at the workers losing confidence in assemblies such as this, and that they are losing faith in constitutional methods of remedying their wrongs ? We cannot wonder at it, because the Government hold out no hope to them. But if we had a Government who had the welfare and the interests of the people at heart, and were not actuated merely by a desire to give a free field to the exploiter, and to every one who desired to wring as much money out of the people as possible, we should have a programme of constructive legislation placed before us.
The present Federal Government are assuming very serious responsibilities. We who hold positions in the public life of Australia cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the conditions of the people must be dealt with, and the causes of industrial unrest must be wiped out. If we do not deal with them the people will deal with us and our institutions. When the rulers of a country have failed to take notice of the murmurings of the people they have always brought disaster upon their heads. Were the murmurings of the people listened to prior to the French Revolution ? We know that they were not. We in Australia must learn from the lessons of history. We must be prepared to tackle those questions properly, and pass legislation to improve the existing conditions of the people. We must see to it that no one section in this community shall be able to enrich themselves and to build up fabulous fortunes whilst another section is living in abject poverty and want.
.- It was not my intention to make any remarks at this stage, but in view of the charges of profiteering that have been levelled against the producers of this country, I feel that I should not be doing my duty to the electors of Corangamite if I did not refute some of the statements which have been made by honorable members opposite. The worst of these statements was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who said that those engaged in the pastoral and agricultural industries of the country were worse profiteers than are the manufacturers. It seems to me that all the charges of profiteering levelled by honorable members opposite against the producers have been uttered by honorable members representing industrial centres. I notice that the honorable member for Ballarat had not a single word to say about profiteering by the producer, for the simple reason that he knows the position of the producer, and is aware that he has never had an opportunity of profiteering. Let me say that if the proposals of honorable members opposite were given effect, they would lead to a reduction in production in this country, and we should then certainly have dearer food than we have today. The true position is that the producer in Australia has not been given even a fair chance. He has not been making more than an average profit during the years of the war. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has told us that the producers have been piling up huge profits. As a matter of fact/ so far from piling up huge profits, many of them are going out of the business of production every day. In my own district there are 36,000 acres less under cultivation to-day than there were three years ago. In Australia there are 3,000,000 acres less under wheat than there were three years ago’. Our people are going out of production simply because it is not found profitable. The proposals of honorable members opposite would tend to induce more to go out of the business of production than are going out of it at the present time. It is all very well for honorable members to say that there has been profiteering by the producers, but there has been nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact in the last four years the rural population in Victoria alone has been increased by only 4,000, while the population of the urban areas of the State during the same time has increased by 178,000.
I have said that people are going out of the business of production because it is not profitable. Some will say that they are going out of agricultural production to enter upon wool-growing. If that be the case, the position is that large areas in the district I represent are reverting to the condition of the old station properties, and are being used merely to run sheep. I say that that is not in the interests of this country. It should be the duty of this Parliament to encourage production. Wheat is our next best asset to gold. We have millions of tons of wheat stored on our coast just now, but it is a splendid asset for this country. I had the good fortune to-day, along with other honorable members, to inspect the huge stacks of 1916-17 wheat belonging to the Imperial Government. Notwithstanding the statements to the contrary that have been made concerning that wheat, I say that it is in excellent condition. We saw the largest store of flour in the world, and the flour is in excellent condition. It is being looked after by paid representatives of the Imperial Government. Some men say that the wheat should be released at something like 3s. 6d. p* bushel. I say that to do that would be to take their wages from the hardestworked men in the State, to give them to the urban industrialists. I say that the man on the land is entitled to as good wages as the industrialist in the city, but honorable members opposite would take their wages from the men on the land. That proposal is unfair and unjust.
We find that other countries of the world are encouraging production. In the United States of America the Government guarantee 10s. 2d. per bushel for wheat. In New Zealand the guarantee is 6s. per bushel, and the average yield of wheat in that country is 21 bushels to the acre. In Great Britain there is a guarantee of 7s. 6d. per bushel, while the average yield of wheat there is 31 bushels to the acre. In Australia the average, yield of wheat is only 11 bushels to the acre, and the guarantee is 4s. 4d. per bushel. If we were to give the wheat-farmer merely the average price with the average yield in Australia ho could not continue to grow wheat. The Government will have to do something to increase production to help us to pay our debts on the other side of the world. I have heard men say that if the farmers of Australia had been left to themselves they would not have got ls. per bushel for their wheat. If we had sent in wheat to the other side of the world one-fifth of the value that we have sent, Australia, instead of sending £200,000,000 to the other side of the world would have sent only £40,000,000. It was in the interests of the country as well as in the interests of the farmers, that the pools were established, and that the wheat crop of Australia was handled in that way. Only yesterday in the press we were informed that a sale was effected to the Imperial authorities of 1,000,000 tons of wheat at 5s. 6d. per bushel. That must have been satisfactory to every wheat-grower in Australia. As a representative of wheatgrowers I say that I am satisfied with it, and I am sure that they will be. I should just like to say that this sale of wheat contradicts the statement which was made by responsible people some little time ago that we might have to take less for our wheat than 4s. 9d. per bushel.
The value of the wheat crop of 1915 was £40,335,698. That is a wonderful quantity of wheat to be produced in Australia. If honorable members opposite propose to reduce the price of wheat to the producer, they must bear in mind that that will considerably increase the number of men who are going out of wheat cultivation in this country. Instead of drawing people into the cities, we should turn the tide of population from the cities to the country. We should have the country districts settled by wheat-growers rather than by wool-growers. The position in that regard can be understood when I say that if the district I represent were devoted to wool growing, it would produce 12s. 6d. per acre, but if put under wheat, it would produce £4 per acre. What would become of our railways if that great area reverted to the production of wool? There would be little freight earned, and little employment given, and the position of the country would become absolutely serious. Men must be encouraged to grow wheat. I do not desire that the Government should promise the same guarantees as to price as are given in the other countries I mentioned. That would be out of the question. But, at least, we should have open to us the markets of the world, and be able to get the best possible price for the products so hard to earn from the soil.
I shall not slay very much more on the wheat question, but I wish to make a few remarks with respect to butter production. I represent probably the richest dairying constituency in Australia. That may be saying a good deal, but there are 200,000 cows in my electorate, and £40,000 per month are paid by two factories in my electorate for milk. We have seen the price of butter fixed. The Minister for Trade and Customs said the other day that a reduction of1d. per lb. on the price ofbutter would take from the dairymen of Australia £790,000. From this statement honorable members can imagine the vast amount of money which was compulsorily taken from the dairymen of Australia in the period during which the price of butter was fixed, when the consumer in Australia had his butter given to him at 2d. per lb. below the Londonparity. The dairymen, who work,not eight hours per day, but more nearly sixteen hours per day, had to sacrifice £2 per cow for the benefit of the consumers of this country. That will show honorable members what the dairying industry has been paying. Many honorable members have quoted from the Inter-State Commission’s report, and, taking my cue from them, I shall quote a little from the same source. In their report on the dairying industry, they say-
As in relation to Victoria, returns for years before and during the war from dairy farms situated in various parts of the State were examined. The examination of these accounts, and the evidence given by numerous witnesses, confirm the opinion of the Commission that, even in good seasons, dairy farmers can earn only moderate profits in an occupation which entails long hours of employment, and which is particularly susceptible to adverse seasonal influences. Everywhere the same opinion is held - that, if it were not for the fact that it is for the most part carried on by families, this important industry would no longer figure in the forefront of the Commonwealth’s primary industries.
To go further, in reference to statements of fictitious profits made by dairymen, let me quote this from the report -
The Commission examined the returns from various dairy farms, both before and since the drought.It is clear that, so far from the farmers making extravagant profits, they have had a hard struggle to pay their way, especially when the expense they are put to in replenishing their herds after the drought, at increased prices, is taken into consideration.
This reference is to the drought, which many honorable members opposite laugh at, but which honorable members on this side regard very seriously. The Commission goes on to say -
It is a common belief that dairying can only pay when a man has a family who will work for nothing.
Do honorable members opposite say that they desire that men should make money out of their families? Surely they do not.
Going a little further, I can quote something from the evidence ofwitnesses whom I know personally to be absolute experts in the business of dairying, and men who got very much more than the average price for the cattle they sold. The Commissioners say -
A witness, deputed by the Victorian Farmers Union, comprising6,000 members -
The union now comprises. 18,000 members - put the matter from two points of view. He, first of all, estimated under average conditions the cost of producing milk, and the returns obtained from it. In the result he showed that a man working sixty hours per week would earn only 26s. 6d. per week during nine months of the year.
Iwish the Leader of the Opposition to note this, because I shall make further reference to it. The quotation proceeds -
The next gave the actual results of his own working, with two brothers as his partners. The earnings of each per hour were as follow in the years mentioned: - 1914 -2½d. per hour. 1915 - Loss of1s.1¼d. per hour. 1916 -1s. 4d. per hour.
This witness, judging by the way his figures were submitted, carried on his farm on expert lines,but on a small scale, and8 miles from the butter factory.
It is stated that at no period since dairying was established has the production of butter given a return of9d. per hour for the labour required to produce it, taken over a period of threeconsecutive years, and that during “ recent years the number of farms that were formerly used as dairy farms, which are now used for other purposes, is astonishing.”
But that “ small scale “ was on a much bigger scale than that on which any of the returnedsoldiers are being placed on the land. What I have quoted shows the position to-day - shows that if the dairyman is to make money it must be out of his family.
I now wish to refer to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) said in regard to dairying. Speaking at the Town Hall on 12th August, 1917, he said that we ought to revert to the 1913 prices, and went on to point out that the average person ate½ lb. of butter per week, and that the increased price meant 5d. per lb., or11s. 8d. a year; that bread had increased by1d. in price, and that the average person ate 4 lbs. per week, which meant an actual increase to the consumer of 5s. per year; and that meat was dearer than ever, having increased by 4d. per lb., or, on an average consumption of 3 lb. of meat per week, £2 12s. per year. Now, if we add these increases together, we find that the products of the primary producers represent an increased cost of living of only £38s. 8d. per annum to the consumer. There are 73,000 producers in Victoria, and the adoption of the prices suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, would represent a direct burden on each producer of £60, although they are only earning 26s. per week. Honorable members opposite urge that there should be a minimum wage for those engaged in secondary industries, but it would appear that they regard 9d. per hour, or 26s. per week as good enough for the dairyman.
– It looks like sweating.
– It is ten times worse than sweating, and I can only suppose that those who make such statements as we have heard from honorable members opposite do not know the conditions of dairying in the country. If such huge profits are being made by men on the land, why do honorable members opposite not come out and join them?
– They would have to work !
– If they did come and join us they would have a hearty welcome, but as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) says, they would have to work, and I suppose that is their trouble. I might refer in similar terms to the position of the wheat-growers; and I am surprised that honorable members opposite can make statements of the kind to which I. have referred when they know that they cannot possibly be correct. Several members of the Labour party came to Corangamite at the time of the election, but they had not very much to say about these particular matters on that occasion. It is the representatives of industrial centres who make all the talk about the dairymen when here, but they are very silent on such subjects when in the country. If a minimum wage is good enough for industrialists, it must be good enough for the men on the land. Let us have our full market value for our stuff, for, as I have pointed out, it only means an increased cost of £3 8s. 8d. per annum to the individual consumer, while a reduction of prices to the extent suggested would mean a tax of £60 on each producer. Honorable members opposite talk about men on the Government side being robbers, but it would be difficult to know what to call Opposition members if they were to impose this tax on the man on the land.
Statements have also beenmade in regard to onions and potatoes, though I do not know whether honorable members opposite could distinguish one from the other. As a matter of fact, a leader in another place said that onions were exceedingly plentiful in some years, and that in those years they ought to be pooled and carried over into years of scarcity; indeed, after the statements we have heard, it would not be surprising to have it suggested that tomatoes should be pooled and kept for a couple of years. Do honorable members opposite know that it costs £16 per acre to produce onions? I, myself, grew onions for a few years, but, notwithstanding the prices, I have ceased to grow them, as not profitable. Men have to pay as high as £10 and £11 rental per acre for onion ground. It is all very well for honorable members to laugh, but such ground is worth £100 per acre.
I admit that the cost of living is high, and that there has been profiteering, but the profiteering has never been on the part of the producers in the country. Men in the cities pay more for a suit of clothes now than represents the whole cost of living of a primary producer, and “ make no song “ about it; but they have a great deal to say about the primary producer whose returns from butter, bread, and meat represent an increase of only £3 8s. 8d. per annum. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and others say that there should be a high Tariff.What for? Is it to make clothes cheaper?
-We will keep the Japanese out, I hope.
– And so doI hope we shall keep the Japanese out. But before such an extreme step as that suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and others is taken, and manufacturers are put in a position to get still bigger profits, we ought to look at the profits they are making to-day. It has been said that the woollen mills average dividends of 29 per cent., and I think that is correct; but She fanners have never made anything like such profits. Indeed, throughout this countrythey have not made 7 per cent. If they could make 29 per cent. they would make fortunes, but they never had the opportunity, and of late the markets of the world have been closed to them. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) spoke of the price of meat, and I say that the position in this regard is absolutely serious from the stand-point of the primary producer. We have seen a slump in the market, and, while honorable members opposite talk about the “ rich squatter,” he is just as exceptional as a rich man amongst them, though . I am told there are honorable members of the Labour party who are worth a good few thousands. To-day the man who is producing meat is getting 5¼d. per lb., and if the consumer has to pay more it is not the fault of the producer, but of some one between him and the consumer. The Labour party had three years of power in which to find a remedy, but, though I was not here at the time, I understand that they did nothing. Surely they are not asking others to do what they could not do themselves! On the other side of the world, meat is being sold wholesale at1s. 3d. per lb., and the foreigner in Argentine and the United States is getting over1s. per lb., as contrasted with the 5¼d. received in Australia. Mr. Prothero, who had the administration of agriculture in the Old Country, said that the farmers of Australia were the only farmers who had made sacrifices in the interests of the Empire. We are entitled to the open markets of the world, and have no desire to shirk our responsibilities, or place taxation on the shoulders of others. I contend that increased prices should be available to us, and that when the Government require money it should be taken from us on an equality with the manufacturer and the merchant. But while there are no restrictions on the manufacturer and the merchant, there have been many placed on producers. The fact is that, as against the producers, encouragement is given to the two classes I have mentioned.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) tried to draw me out with regard to bags, and that is one of the reasons why I rose to speak. The honor- able member said, and I agree, that the position in this connexion is serious. The Government purchased a large number of bags for the use of the producer, and, according to the statement of the honorable member, had to carry over 36,000 bales last year, and made a profit of £117,000 on their dealings. If the Government could not come closer inits estimate of cost, there was just as great a possibility of a loss as of a gain, the affair should have been conducted so that the farmers for whom the bags were obtained got the whole of the benefits.
– They were ordered for the Wheat Pool.
– They were ordered for the farmers of this country, and sold at 9s. 8d. per dozen, not to the farmers’ organizations, which would have distributed them to the farmers at cost price plus a little commission, but to importers, who no sooner got control than they increased the price to- ls. 1½d. each, which will mean an added cost of 5d. per bushel next year. This, I hope, will be remedied by the Government, who ought, together with the State Governments, to see that the primary producer gets cheaper bags. I . have a lot of correspondence here from, the Western Australian Farmers Association, the Victorian Producers Association, and different Ministers, but I do not propose to read it to the House. I may say, however, that those organizations were prepared to put up guarantees to take the bags when they heard that they were available, but they were only given a small proportion. I hope the Government will lay on the table all the information they have in regard to this matter, so that we may know what proportion of bags has gone to the different importing firms in Melbourne, and at what price, and how many have still to como from India. Thi? bag question is going to be an exceedingly serious one. We are told that £100,000 was paid to the Wheat Pool in order to give the farmers some of the profit hack : but, as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) said, the money is going to the wrong men. As a matter of fact, the potato-growers use over 2,000,000 new sacks in a year, and we have also to consider the barley and oatgrower;. These men are being sacrificed to the wheat-growers, and that is not fair. Again, those who purchased scrip are to participate in the dividends, though the poor Mallee farmer is excluded.
In the Western District of Victoria we had only one drought in 30 years, but in that drought 60 per cent, of the dairy herds were wiped out. The men concerned had to get the assistance of the Government in building up their flocks and herds, and yet the producers are asked to provide cheaper bread, butter, and meat, despite the fact that the people of Australia have absolutely the cheapest bread, butter, and meat in the world today. Of course, I am now speaking of primary producers, and not of manufacturers, to whom, it is suggested, further opportunity should be given to charge high prices. Some references have been made to chaff, though I do not know whether those who spoke know what it costs to produce chaff. Chaff cannot be put into bags to-day under 30s. a ton, and, as it costs 10s. to cut, we have an expediture of £2 a ton on two items alone. Honorable members will now understand why chaff is dear; and I can say that it is not profitable to produce at present prices.
If honorable members had an opportunity to see the profits made by the farmers, they would find them very small indeed; whereas, if they examined a farmer’s books to find what he pays in the way of interest on mortgages, they would find a much larger amount. I hope honorable members will realize that the struggling farmers produce three-fourths of the wealth of Australia, and, that being so. I have no doubt that they pay three-fourths of the taxation. If the Opposition had their way, however, they would have additional taxation imposed upon the farmers. Surely that would be most unfair.
I had intended to feel my way, as a new member, and to become familiar with the procedure of the House before speaking ; but I was tempted to reply this evening to some of the statements of the Opposition. I hope that the Government will do something in the direction of economy. A beginning might well be made by the amalgamation of the State and Federal Income Tax Departments. It is an absolute farce that taxpayers should be called upon to make up two distinct income tax returns. Why is it not possible for one schedule to serve for both
State and Federal purposes, and the ap portionments to be made by the respective authorities? In that way a saving of something like £40,000 per annum could be effected. A determined effort should also be made to simplify the income tax schedules. In their present form, it is practically impossible for any man - in the country districts, at all events - to make up his own return. I fail to understand why the schedules should not be compiled, so -far as the farmers are concerned, on the basis of sales and purchases.
I have been advised by experienced members of the House that a man should not commit himself to any proposal in its early stages, since such a course is likely to involve him in trouble. I intend to accept that advice, and to remain quiet with regard to many of the proposals outlined in the Ministerial statement until they actually come before the House, when I shall probably have something to say with regard to them. I do not intend, however, to resume my seat without making a few observations on the question of repatriation. In Senator Millen, as Minister for Repatriation, I think we have the right man in the right place. He has certainly undertaken one of the biggest tasks that has fallen to the lot of a Minister in Australia, and is doing very well ; but there are associated with his Department anomalies that ought to be rectified. I have a good deal to do with returned - soldiers, and one of the anomalies that has come under my notice is that, under the regulations, a man must return to the avocation he was following at the time of his enlistment. That is unreasonable. Why should a progressive man, after four years at the war, be required to return to his former employment? It will be understood, I hope, that any criticism I may offer in this connexion is intended to be of a constructive, and not destructive, character. I consider it to be the duty of every member of the community to try to make the scheme for the repatriation of our men the best that can be devised, since they are worthy of the best that we can give them. As illustrating the unfairness of the regulation requiring a man to return to his former avocation, I shall refer to the case of a returned soldier who, before he went to the Front, was a cab driver. He is a- teetotaller, with a wife and family, and has had the support of the Warrnambool Soldiers’ Association and the Warrnambool Repatriation Committee in his desire to buy a motor car, and to ply for hire with it instead of using a horse and cab, as before. In other words, he wants to follow his former calling, merely substituting an engine for a horse. The Department, however, has said to him, “ You were a cab driver before you went away, and now that you have returned you must continue to be a cab driver.” His request has been before the Government and the State Committee a second time, I ‘think, but the only reply he has received is that the. regulation must be carried out. Where we have a progressive man of this character, why should we not help him to improve upon his former position ? Why compel him to remain in a groove. ? He is told by the authorities that it is open to him to accept employment with some one else. That, in my opinion, is not good enough. Let our returned soldiers be their own masters where that is possible.
Like other honorable members of my party, I am in. favour of the establishment of new industries. A certain measure of Protection is necessary to establish them; but there was never a greater opportunity than that which presented itself to the Government with the home-coming of our soldiers to build up industries on the co-operative principle. We wanted, for instance, thousands of feet of timber cut for the building of the homes of returned soldiers. There was nothing to hinder those who enlisted from the forest districts, and who were used to saw-mill work, from, co-operating in the cutting of that timber. The Government could have repatriated many men in that way, at a cost of something like £250 each, instead of spending £2,500 in placing them on the land. And so with our woollen mills. These, again, offer ample opportunity for expansion. There are ‘many industries that might well be created on co-operative principles, and there is certainly plenty of room for them here. We manufacture only something like 3 per cent, of the wool we produce. If returned soldiers were established in the woollen industry, they would be in an infinitely better position than they are likely to secure by being placed on the laud, or given vocational training to become the servants of others.
The housing scheme is another serious problem in connexion with repatriation. We have throughout Australia many decadent mining towns where good houses are- cheap and plentiful. If the Government would, as a means to decentralization, establish new industries in those centres, and place returned soldiers in them, they could be housed and provided for at one-sixth the cost of placing them on the land. They would have an opportunity in this way to secure, not merely the minimum wage; but some of the huge dividends which, according to the Opposition, are paid to the shareholders, of companies at the present time. What I urge is that returned soldiers should be established, not in nationalized industries, but in co-operative enterprises, conducted and owned by the soldiers themselves.
As to land settlement, I would put as many men as possible on the land, but. under conditions that would allow of their making good. The men will make good if we give them sufficient land to live on, but not if they are settled on only small areas. I have worked areas of from 100 to 1,000 acres, so that. I know what the position is. If, as is at present proposed, a man is placed on £1,000 worth of land, then before he will be able to make a living out of it he must earn 20 per cent, on his money, and that is more than I can. do. If, on the other hand, the full amount of £2,500 is devoted to the purchase of land, he should make good . If our returned soldiers aire to be put on the land, let us see that the conditions are such as give a reasonable chance of success. Do not put them on small areas. Where we put a man on a small area, the improvements that .must, necessarily, be made to it will, cause it to become too costlY. and he will have to maintain for its working, a plant that would be sufficient to work an area three times as large. A man must’ have at least £2,500 worth of land to make good. Much of the land that is being purchased is of exceptionally good quality, and is costing from £55 to £60 per acre. By all means let us place’ returned men on good land, but settle a man on a small area of first class land and you make a Chinaman of him. In order, to make it pay he must go in for intense culture, and, save in the irrigation areas, the task before him is most difiicult. Absolutely the best proposition is to place every returned soldier on 500 acres of £5 an acre land. Very many of our men are not so. robust as they were when they enlisted, and I am satisfied, if we place them on 500 acres of £5 an acre land, they will make good, even if they only grow wool. Theycould cultivate if they pleased, but it. is infinitely better that they should be placed on holdings of this size than that they should be given small holdings in other than irrigable areas. I hope honorable members will recognise the difficulties of the man on the land, and that, although they cry out about the high cost of living, they will not seek to take from those who are harder worked and poorer paid than themselves, something which in reality they do not possess*
.- I never . thought that I would live to see the day when the shadows of the 1891 strike would’ approach us from an exactly opposite direction. In 1891, the shearers of Australia struck against freedom of contract. To-day the ship-owners of the Commonwealth are striking against freedom of contract, or, as it is now called, “ direct action.” I .accept ‘the principle of arbitration as a palliative in the settlement of industrial disputes, because I know what a strike means. It is all very well for men to talk glibly of a. strike, and to suggest, as the honorable member for New’ England (Mr. Abbott) did to-night, that it should be fought to a finish. I want, to tell honorable members who do not know- it that the women trade unionists of Australia are the- very strongest unionists, and that, in this strike, they will hold out longer than will any of the men concerned in it. I well remember that, during the great strike in Queensland in 1891, married women took their rings off their fingers, and parted with other little heirlooms which they prized highly, in order that their men should not yield to the Pastoralists Union. I have no love for the capitalist or the pastoralist. They hounded me from one end of Australia to the other, and blacklisted me with every other man who dared to try and right the wrongs under which we were suffering. That grievous wrongs did exist is abundantly proved by the fact that whereas we were shearing for 12s. 6d. per 100 at that time, the pastoralists to-day are paying up to 25s. per 100.
– Thanks to arbitration.
– Thanks to unionism - and to the Australian Workers Union at that. It is all very well ‘to talk about arbitration. The present Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Irvine, when he occupied a. seat upon this side of the Chamber, frequently twitted me with being in favour of the strike. I was in favour of the strike, because I recognised that, it was the workman’s only weapon. But now that we have arbitration upon our statutebooks, and I have signed a platform of which it forms a plank, like a good unionist and a soldier in the industrial army I must respect that platform. Nevertheless, I say to the Acting Prime Minister that there is a means of settling the present dispute if he- will go the right way about it. It can be settled by the creation of a Compulsory Board of Reference, and by allowing the Judge of the Arbitration Court to be the umpire. When men who feel aggrieved can meet representatives of the other side in a roundtable discussion of their grievances, it is surprising how difficulties disappear. We should strain every nerve to avert the disaster which is threatening this country - this dear land of Australia. Members of every shade of politics should do their best to bring about a peaceful solution of the existing difficulty. 1 have no wish- to see strikes. One has only to go. to the Trades Hall any morning or afternoon to realize the effects of a strike. There he will see pale, wan women, with children in their arms, waiting for relief, either in the form of food or clothing. In a country like » Australia such a condition of affairs is simply damnable. We ought to do our best to effect a settlement of this dispute without attempting to bring the strikers to their knees by means of starvation. That is a savage method to adopt. Having been through the mill, my sympathies are with the strikers. There is no gainsaying that. Having suffered as I have suffered, my sympathies are with them. Precisely the arguments which are being used against the leaders of the seamen’s strike to-day were used against the leaders of the 1891 strike. Why, in that year, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith was asked to lay hold of the leaders of the strike, put them on the .first ship available, and send them out of the country. He was told that the country did not want these agitators or great Socialists. Had there been any such thing as Bolshevism when I was a young man, I am certain that I should have been a Bolshevik. To starve unionists into submission is a savage way of settling an industrial dispute. Nobody is more sorry than I am that the present strike has occurred, and I hope that an early and peaceful settlement of it will be brought about. To achieve this end the Government need not climb down, nor need the seamen. The position is still open, and I hope that something will be done to speedily bring about a termination of the trouble. “
Many honorable members who represent metropolitan and industrial constituencies seem to have a “ bee in their bonnet “ in regard to the primary produce]1.. So far as “ cow-cockeying “ is concerned, it is the hardest and severest work any man can undertake. The dairy farmer has his nose to the grindstone from early morning till late at night; and, after all, what does he get out of it? It may surprise honorable members to know that in parts of Western Queensland there are families running dairy farms who do not average £2 per week. Do not honorable members think that it is up to these people to strike for direct action? Unfortunately they cannot be organized, or they would resort to direct action very speedily. I believe that the workers of Australia are entitled to the best that it is possible for them to get. Nothing is too good for a man so long as he can pay for it. I do not wish to see people eating margarine while there is plenty of butter produced in Australia, and I say that if margarine is going to help the industrialists in our big centres, we are going to ruin one. of our primary products. If Protection is going to bring about that result, then God help Protection ! You talk about profiteering in regard to wool. The wool producer puts his wool into the open markets of the world for whatever price he can get for it. The Wool Board lias stipulated that every one who wants to buy wool locally, the Commonwealth Government as well as private woollen mills, must, pay the same price, yet the Commonwealth Woollen Mills can turn out a cloth second to none in the world, and supply a suit length for £1 7s. 6d.
– The price is getting less every day. The last statement was that the price was £1 10s., and even that figure was disputed.
– I can produce a suit made of cloth turned out by the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. It, is a slop suit; it is not a tailor-made suit.
– The cloth costs 6s. 6d. per yard, and, allowing 4-J yards for a suit length, the cost is £1 9s. 3d. for the cloth alone.
– It depends upon the size of the man for whom the suit is required. But my argument is that the primary producer - the mau on the land, who is producing the wool - is not profiteering. It must, be some one else. Why do honorable members seek to lay the blame at the door of the man who is producing the wool? Let me say that once primary production goes clown in Australia, this Commonwealth will go down very quickly. The primary producers are the backbone of the Commonwealth, and it is useless for secondary industries - what the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) would de- scribe as protected industries - to commence in the big centres of population unless they can secure from the primary producers the raw products they seek te work up.
– Every one knows that.
– But the honorable member, although he knows it, puts winkers on, and will not see it.
In regard to meat, the highest price paid in Australia to-day is lower than the price paid in any other country underthe sun. Yesterday I saw in the Argus where a farmer had sent his sheep into the Melbourne market, and they were sold at 13s. per head. As the fleece is worth 12s., the purchaser ‘procured the carcass and trimmings for ls. Yet honorable members say that the farmer is a profiteer. ls the money going into the pockets of the man who grows the sheep? We do not hear from honorable members one word against the man -who buys from the farmer, simply because he carries on his operations in a manufacturing centre.
– We want to see that the men on. the land get a fair thing as well as the men off the land.
– No one knows the trials and troubles the man on the land has to face better than does the honorable member, because he has been nipped; he has had his tail screwed. It was the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) who put his finger on the spot the other night, when he pointed out that the cost of living had increased owing to the operations of Trusts and Combines. What is the price of oatmeal? Oats are quoted in the Argus at 5s. 9d. per bushel, yet oatmeal is £15 and £16 a ton. Who is the profiteer there? It is most, peculiar that the person who grows the oats should be blamed for profiteering when he has to go into the open market to sell them. As a matter of fact, it is the gentleman who does the milling that gets the profit; yet not, a word is said against him because he happens to be employing a few nien in his industry. No matter where we are sitting in this chamber, let us be fair.
We all know the troubles that the cow cockie has to put up with. I do not know one of them in my electorate who is free from debt, but, as a class, the cow cockies are the most hopeful people in the world. As soon as their families grow up, and they can get away, they give it “brusher,” and get out further west into the pastoral holdings. They are subject to droughts, disease, and pests. Sometimes tick gets amongst their cows, and if it does not take off the whole of their herds, it deprives them of a large percentage of them. These men work day and night, early and late. There is not one of them but would gladly take £2 per week all the year round, and think he was dashed well off.
– He would be better off.
– Yet we do not hear one word said in their favour. I now come to thequestion of wheat.
– Will the honorable member first tell me what the price of oatmeal is?
– It is £16 per ton.
– But, on your own figures, the oats cost more than that.
– I have here a statement taken from last Saturday’s Argus, quoting oatmeal at £31 10s. per ton, and oats at 4s. 6d. to 4s.10d. per 40-lb. bushel. If that is wrong, I invite the honorable member to “ get “ to the Argus.
– How many bushels does it take to make a ton of oatmeal ?
– Why should the honorable member ask me? He has been figuring that out for himself. I can tell him ho w many fleeces go to a bale of wool, but I do not know much about oats or oatmeal.
Now, with regard to the meat industry, my friend, the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) was not quite fair, though I admitthat the Queensland Government have done some things which I do not approve of. They, have, however, given cheap meat to the people of Queensland.
Mr.Hectorlamond. - To some of the people.
-Something, at all events, has been done, though some people now ask why the Government have notprovided cheap meat for the whole of Queensland. Have honorable members any idea of the vastness of that State? Do they realize that my electorate itself is very nearly as large as the State of New South Wales?
– But not so populous.
– Well, we do not want our population cen tred, in one city, as in New South Wales. We want the people in the bush profitably engaged in an industry that is second to none in the world.
– They would not care to take the industry on if the Government commandeered stock for meat works at 2d. per lb.
– The honorable member does not. know what theywould do. I am quite satisfied with the price of stock in Queensland to-day, and I hope to God it never gets less. At all events, when the Queensland meat shops were opened they were supplying the people with meat at half the prices then being paid in Melbourne.
– After they had commandeered the meat from the works.
-It does not matter where they got it from. The people have had the benefit of the transaction.
– The Imperial Govern ment paid for the largest portion of it.
– Well, we have done a lot for the Imperial Government, so they ought to do a little for us now ; and they are doing it. The Queensland Government contracted to supply the Imperial Government at 4d., and took meat from the meat works, which are controlled by one of the Trusts and Combines of Australia, at3¼d.
– It was sold by the Liberal Government of Queensland to the Imperial Government at 4½., and the contract price - 4d. - was on condition that the meatworks would supply to the State at from 3d. to 3½d. per lb.?
– What does it matter whether it was the Denham or any other Government, so long its they paid a fair price for the meat and the people got it cheaply? Can’ the honorable member say that the producer 13 not” getting a fair price for his cattle now? “We are all satisfied, ‘but we hope the price will never be less. The producers are satisfied, the consumers are satisfied, and the Govern.men t are satisfied, so what reason is there to grumble? People are getting the best of meat cheaply, and they are satisfied.
– Some are not.
– Perhaps those who cannot get it are not satisfied.
– Then what are honorable members opposite growling about?
– They are growling about the price in Victoria and New South Wales. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) have been talking about the Ryan Government and the high price of foodstuffs in Queensland. The honorable member for New England said that, although a Labour Government is in power, there has been an increase of 60 per cent, in the price of groceries since 1914; but he very carefully left out all reference to meat.
– No; he included meat.
– ‘The honorable member did not. He took grocery lines - such articles as .blue, of which an .ordinary family uses about Id. worth per week; and starch, and cream of tartar; but he overlooked the fact that nearly all groceries have to be imported into Queensland from the other States.
– Not flour.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. It is a fact that Queensland has to import flour.
– I have seen some excellent wheat growing on the Darling Downs.
– Flour has to be imported, also oatmeal, peas, potatoes, and onions, hams, bacon-
– Is ham included in grocery lines?
– Of course it is. Would the honorable member expect to buy hams at an undertaker’s establishment? The lift of groceries referred to by the honorable member for New England also included cheese, butter, lard, eggs, honey. beeswax, condensed milk, currants, raisins, herrings, salmon, sardines, coffee, Cocoa, sugar, macaroni, sago, salt, mustard, starch, blue, matches, candles, tea, kerosene, cream of tartar, carbonate of soda, .and caustic soda. That list shows the falsity of the figures which have been quoted. I suppose that the average family in Queensland spends about 12s. per week on meat, and it is in respect of all the small items I have enumerated that the rise of 60 per cent, has taken place.
Lt. Colonel Abbott. - That list includes everything except meat.
– The honorable member omitted the very item upon which the State Government have effected a reduction of 100 per cent. Meat is the one article which the State Government pride themselves on ‘having reduced in price, and the one article which they had power to deal with. There was no inflation of the price of groceries so long as the State Government controlled them ; ‘but as soon as the Federal Government assumed control there was an increase all round. Honorable members know that if a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court awards the worker an extra 4s. per week in wages, the increase is of no value to Mim, because within a fortnight there is an increase in. the prices of food, clothing, and boots. I say candidly that I do not think price .fixing ‘will prove a remedy at all. So long as many of these articles must be obtained from abroad,, what control can any State Government have? The merchants will simply cease importation, and that will be the end of the price fixing. I agree- with the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that something should be done to burst up the Trusts and rings, and to set aside the- “ honorable understandings “ between the merchants who deal in clothing and other necessaries of life.
– How would th© honorable member deal with them?
– There is an easy way. . A gentleman connected with the Meat Trust told me that, no matter what the Government did, the Trust could still control meat as it thought fit. I asked him what would happen if the Federal Government placed an export tax on meat, and he said, “ I did not think of that.”
– The primary producer would suffer if that were done.
– To prevent that, the Government should step in and erect public abattoirs, and dispose of the product through that medium. If the Federal Government obtained the necessary power from the people, it could burst up every Combine in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) referred to the operations of the Flour Combine in Victoria. I know that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) does not think it right that the food products of the people should be in the hands of any Combine; but we shall require to take some preventive action very speedily. Last night the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) said to honorable members on this side, “ Why not take your courage in both hands and go out into the highways and byways telling the people what you think about the strike? If you do that, the strike will soon end.” I reciprocate that advice. Let Ministerialists take their courage in both hands, and go out into the cities and condemn these damned profiteers, who are robbing, not only the workers, but also the primary producers - the men who are grafting on the land, and developing Australia into a beautiful country for us to live in! If something is not done to put an end to profiteering, both the Government and the Opposition will be lacking in their duty.
– How can we do anything without the constitutional power?
– Why do not the Government ask for the power? The people will give it. When we asked for the power, the Liberal party and the Combines fought us.
– I assure the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) that if the Government will carry through both Houses of this Parliament a Bill which will enable us to appeal tothe people for an alteration ofthe Constitution in the direction of giving the Federal authority power to deal with the profiteers, every honorable member on this side will assist them. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) interjected to one honorable member that any Bill passed by this Parliament to effect an alteration of the Constitution must be submitted to the people within six months. I predict that within six months from to-day we shall be before our electors, and if the Government will show a bonâfide desire to get this power from the people,we on this side will give them every help.
– Other than by the fixation of prices, how can we deal with profiteering?
– I have already said that I have no faith in price fixation.
– Does the honorable member see any other possible solution?
– Yes. God knows, enough evidence was obtained by the Inter-State Commission to prove that every industry in this country is controlled by Trusts and Combines and ‘‘honorable understandings.” Will the honorable member say that the boots which are displayed in Melbourne shops to-day are being sold at their true value? Cannotthe Government deal with the profiteers in the boot trade? Where there is a will to deal with those gentlemen a way can be found. Ask the people to give the Federal Parliamentpower to control the profiteer, and a means of control will soon be discovered. Surely all thewisdom that is supposed toexist on the Government side can devise some means of stopping profiteering. In the words of the honorable member for Wimmera, I advise the Government party to take their courage in both hands and go into the country and denounce the present abuses. The people will be behind them. The reactionaries who will vote against conferring increased power upon the Federal Parliament do not represent 10 per cent. of the whole population. And, mark you, the States desire theCommonwealth to have authority to deal with this matter. They know what they are up against, and rather than see the people fleeced in the way they have been, they will be quite willing that this Parliament should have the power. Some honorable members talk about, a revolution, but if there is one thing more than another that the British race is strong on it is law and order. What would revolution mean in a country like this, where every man and every woman of the full age of twentyone is entitled to a vote? No Soviet, no Bolshevik teaching, no electoral system can give the people of Australia more power than they have to-day. That is the best safeguard against any revolution. I do not fear a revolution. The chaps who to-day are carrying the banner of Labour, and forcing the hands of the capitalists, are only in the same position as we were in twenty-five years ago. I am becoming a lot more conservative than I used to be. As a young fellow I would tear down and burst up things, and what was going to be the end God knew, but I did not. I wanted to do something, and that is the way with these people to-day. If, you make the conditions of life worth living you need have nothing to fear. Do not forget that the wives and children of the’ workers are human beings. They feel as you feel. They have their joys and sorrows as you have. They can find tons of pleasure at a 3d. picture show, and go home as well pleased as any of those who have paid half -a -guinea to hear Florence Young sing.
In dealing with repatriation, Senator Millen has tackled a Herculean task. It is the easiest thing in the world to criticise. It would be easy for half-a-dozen men to come into this place to-morrow and tear it down, but it would want brains to build it up again. That is the position of Senator Millen to-day. Everything is new that he is dealing with, and he has some of the hardest cases on God’s earth to handle. You have only to hear the tales they put up to me. They have my sympathy until I get the facts. Every cog in the machine is new, but the Department is doing its very best to do the right and square thing by the boys who have been to the Front. If there is one set of men more than another to whom the whole House should give its sympathy, it is those who have lost limbs, or sight, or reason. “ Thirty bob a week ‘’ is no good for a blind man, or a man totally maimed, like one I saw in Queensland, who had nothing but one arm, and one hand, and his trunk. We ought to put those men beyond want for life. Australia cannot do too much for them, and so long as I have a voice and vote in this National Parliament they will get everything I can give them. Many men who went to the Front have become unnerved and unsettled. You will hear people say that a lot of them are drunkards and “ bad eggs,” but they never asked these men when they were medically fit, “Do you drink grog?” “ Do you like the company of women?” “ Do you like having a night out ? “ Now that they have come back, these people find all the faults and none of the virtues in the men whom they asked to go away to fight our battles, and to’ make things comfortable for me and mine. They fought as hard for me- as: it was possible for men to fight, and the’ least I can do, and the least a grateful country can do for them is the right and square thing. We can pick lots of holes in the coat of the Repatriation Department, but I prefer to try to right the wrong on the spot, and in many cases it is wonderful what can be done. “We have had trouble in Queensland with the Local Committees. They think they should have more power, and more cash to handle, but when it is explained to them why it would not be beneficial for them to have too much boodle to handle, they see the error of what they were expecting, and raise funds locally to deal with local cases. There have been some silly decisions, but directly I have brought any of those cases under the notice either of the controller (Mr. Gilbert), or the Minister (Senator Millen),’ in every instance the wrong has been righted, and quickly too. Instead of criticising the Department, we should all] put our shoulders to the wheel, and help to make it a success. There should be no politics whatever in repatriation. I do not ask a man whether he is a Labour man or a boodler. When he comes to me I do the best I can for him. The Department is doing its best, but there was never a new -machine created yet that went smoothly from the start. I wish to say publicly that I know no man in or out ofParliament who could do as well as Senator Millen is doing to-day with that Department.
Surely we can find among the returned soldiers an organizer, who has had experience at the Front in handling men or supplies, to take the post of Administrator of the Northern Territory. If we did, we would show our bona fides towards returned soldiers. Such a man would, perhaps, give greater satisfaction and be more highly respected than any civilian who could be appointed to the position. But I fear that with the appointment of this gentleman who has been so much talked about in the press, the administration will not be conducted at Port Darwin, but by Mr. Atlee Hunt, in Melbourne. If that should prove the case, I can see nothing but trouble ahead for the Northern Territory. South Australia did well to get rid of it. If ever there was an illegitimate child foisted upon a man who was not its father, the Northern Territory was so foisted by South Australia upon the Commonwealth. However, we have driven a bad bargain, and must make the best of it. Here was an opportunity of appointing a returned soldier of proved organizing ability.
– The Government might be charged with wanting to introduce military rule if they appointed a soldier.
– No! Militarism is a curse; but when an officer sheds his uniform, why should he not be plain Mr. Maxwell, instead of General Brass-hat Maxwell ? I think the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) would make a splendid Administrator, because he knows human nature. If Dr.Gilruth had hadmore of the corners knocked off him, instead of being buried away inthat monastery of a University, and if he had rubbed shoulders with the rest of the world, he might have made a good Administrator.
-If he had had more of the milk of human kindness.
– I will leave that matter as far as I have taken it, and will conclude by expressing the hopethat the seamen’s strike will soon be over, and that the women and children will soon have done with charity doles. Nothing takes the finer feeling off the people more quickly than being the recipients of charity. I hope the Government and the Seamen’s Union will “see the light,” as Mr. Hughes once put it, and that that light will guide us to a termination of the industrial hostility which is spreading over Australia to-day.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) did not fail to use his opportunity to have a fling at the Northern Territory. It should be remembered that South Australia carried the burden of the Territory for many years before the White Australia policy became so firmly established in Australia. South Australia kept the Territory free from coloured labour. Queensland would never have come into the Federation but to get rid of her kanakas. That is historically true, and no Queenslander willdeny it. If there are weak parts of Australia, it is right that the richer portions should carry them, for that was the object of Federation.
Profiteering has been the basis of almost all the remarks of honorable members opposite. Ninety per cent. of the people will agree, however, that dearness of living to-day is not peculiar to Australia. The subject is certainly one which should be veryclosely considered. It would be all very well to talk about profiteering, as some honorable members have done, if they happened to be standing on a tub outside, and desired to’ inflame the passions of their hearers. But the fact cannot be ignored that the world has passed through the greatest war on record, and that similar conditions exist in every other civilized country at present. If should not be forgotten that during the years of war Australia had plenty; but there was not plenty in the Old Land. Prices in Australia have not reached the heights recorded in the Old Country.
– Do you think they should ?
– I certainly do not. When honorable members opposite talk about profiteering, why do they not toll the people that it is a condition common to all countries to-day, and that the high cost of living is a problem for the best statesmen in the world? In Italy the Government have been forced to buy food and sell at considerable loss. So grave was the situation that there was no other resource. Honorable members on this side of the House are as much interested as any one else in reducing the cost of foodstuffs. Opposition members have no monopoly in that desire. Their campaign is nothing but a party game, to make the most of existing conditions. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Plage) has a curious method of referring to modern history. We know the great fund of emotion he possesses. No one could carry an audience with him better, and no one could picture the suffering that is the lot of the great mass of the workers better than the honorable member. He has described conditions at the time of the shearers’ strike of 1891, but what I blame him for is that apparently he has not realized the tremendous advance which the workers have made since that time. He has told us that shearers at the time of that strike received 32s. 6d. per 100. Now they are getting 25s. per 100. How was that advance brought about? Certainly not by the shearers’ strike. That strike undoubtedly was a challenge, and a very proper challenge, by the shearers to the pastoralists and capitalists. The shearers practically said to the pastoralists,’ “ You do not own Australia, and you will not be allowed to own it.” Without taking up the time of the House unnecessarily, let me say that that strike led to the formation of the Labour party, and the Labour party, with the Shearers Union, have been able to bring about an advance in the wages of shearers from 12s. 6d. to 25s. per 100. The keystone of the whole business is practically evolution. We established a tribunal of arbitration, and it is unnecessary for me to go over the work it has done. I may say that I’ share the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Maranoa, and assert unhesitatingly that I prefer conciliation to arbitration before a Court. Em ployers and employees engaged in the same business know more of its conditions than do all the’ lawyers in Australia. There may be. some advantage in the proper weighing of evidence, but we know that the hearing of some cases before Arbitration Courts is unduly prolonged. I prefer a conference between employers and employees in the same industry, with the settlement of a deadlock between them, should they be unable to agree, by an arbitrator, on the intelligent principles which have always guided the people of out race. What has been the history of our race for the last 700 years? It may be described in the one word “ compromise.” Men have desired something which their opponents have not been willing to give, and a balance has been struck, and they have been content to let the matter rest for a generation. They have then raised the question again, and secured what they were unable to secure previously. That process has been going on in the history of our country, not to the entire satisfaction of the workers, or of any one else. It was a very common thing thirty years ago for men interested in the workers to ask that God would give them a Divine discontent. It is now the feeling of every intelligent man in this country that the condition of the worker should be better than it is. By associating himself with others similarly placed, it has been possible for the worker to better his condition.
During this debate we have been ac.cused on this side, over and over again, of a lack of sympathy with the worker. lt, is suggested that we are, in this respect, different from what we used to be. But it does not matter where I sit in this House, or where I may be outside, my opinions on these questions are not altered. They were formed forty years ago on the other side of the world, and the exigencies of politics do not affect such opinions.
What is the position to-day? We are in the midst, of the second strike that we have had within the last three years. The honorable member for Maranoa has referred to the strike of 1891. That was not a strike against the conditions under which the shearers bad to earn their living. It was an attack upon the pastoralists, and upon the capitalistic section of the community. It was a challenge by the workers to the capitalistic class. They said, “Australia does not belong to you. You may have your share of it, but we shall have our share.” That was the challenge of that time. When in connexion with a strike of that character, a man was called a “scab,” what was meant was that he was not enrolled with his fellows in a union - that he paid no contribution to a union, yet at the same time took the advantages secured by those who were enrolled in a union. What is the strike of to-day, and what was the coal strike ? They cannot be called strikes against the capitalists, or against the conditions of labour. That is only a stalking-horse, which this man Walsh and his crew put up.
– That is a nice name for men. The honorable member called them vagabonds last year. He now calls them “ a crew.”
– I do not care by which name the honorable member prefers to call them.
– The honorable member is talking of men disrespectfully.
– I have no respect for these men. No one more firmly believes in freedom and the right of criticism that I do, but the people of a country who, in their love for freedom, allow others in the exercise of that freedom to destroy them, ar.e insane. Men who in a free country cant about freedom, and use the freedom which belongs to all for the purpose of destroying their fellows, should be deported to the country from which they came, whether it be Scotland or Ireland. If a man comes to Australia and cannot find any better job than to set the people here by the ears, and do everything he can to create burning hatred in the community, he is not worthy of respect. After the war through which we have passed, the one thing which every Australian mau and woman should try to do is to bind the people of the country together.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member has not tried to bind them together. He has not made a speech that has not teemed with violent hatred against honorable members on this side and those associated with them. I might, with Hamlet, ask the House and the country, “Look on this picture, and on that.”’
– Would not the criticism which the” honorable member is now levelling at the men whom he refers to have applied to himself twenty years ago?
– It would not. The honorable member cannot produce any speech made bv me twenty, thirty, or forty years ago which could be said to be any more than radical. But the cutthroat “ red-ragger “ is not a radical, and the gang behind him are not radicals. My right honorable friend, the Prime Minister, said on more than one occasion - and it was my policy, too - “ No man ever lost a day’s work because of any advice I ever gave.” What about the gentry who are splitting up the Labour party at the present time ? Can they say that no one has ever lost a day’s work as the result of their advice? Look at the monstrous crime that is being perpetrated to-day in this, which is one of the richest countries in the world. During the great war we have passed through there was many a child in the Old Land crying for bread which his mother could not give, or could give but very sparingly, because the people were put upon rations. No child in Australia has been put upon rations. But children here are crying for bread to-day through the work of these miscreants. What is the use of the eternal clatter we hear from the other side in the face of the facts as we know them ? I challenge any honorable member on the other side to say that, up to the time of the disruption of the Labour party, any child in this country was left hungry. The track of the people to whom I have referred is the track of infamy, brutality, and rascality.
Honorable members opposite insult honorable members on this side day after day, and declare that it is the Government’s fault .that children are starving, whereas the truth is that it is the fault of the fathers of those children.
– This is a Pacifist speech !
– I am contrasting the present circumstances with the policy of thosemen under whom, for thirty or forty years, when working for their fellow-workers, no children ever wanted bread. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), who is now associated with the Labour party, made it his very first act to vote for himself to come in here, though he knew nothing of the movement before.
– Allow me to tell you that you are a liar.
– I must ask the honorable memher to withdraw that statement, which he must see is very disorderly.
– Yes, I know the language is unparliamentary, but that statement has been made so repeatedly by the honorable member that it is time I did something to make him stop.
– The honorable member is not in order in interrupting a speech, and he must obey the direction of the Chair, and withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw it, but if the honorable member says the same thing again I shall repeat the offence.
– I hope the honorable member will not do that.I ask him to obey the rules of the House, and withdraw the statement unconditionally.
– I did withdraw it.
– The statement is either true or false, and it is known in Queensland which it is. I was referring to the difference in policy as between those now associated with the Labour movement andthose formerly associated with it. Under the old order, the children of the workers had plenty of food; but that has not been so since the split in the party. My view is that two-thirds of the unionists of Australia have no sympathy at all with the present strike, and, so far as they are concerned, work could be resumed at once and everything go on as before.
– You have not heard any unionists complain! Have you found. any unionists affirming that the seamen have not done the right thing?
– The South Australian branch of the Seamen’s Federation have expressed themselves in favour of arbitration.
-You spoke of other unions, not the Seamen’s Union.
– The secretary of the South Australian branch said that the men were intimidated by the word “ scab.” The men in the early days of the Labour movement would require more than that word to frighten them.
– Has the Port Adelaide Labour Council passed a resolution condemning the Seamen’s Union?
– I do not know, and do not care, what that council has done.
– I ask you to prove your statement.
– I need not prove a fact that everybody knows.
– Mere assertion is no proof !
– I am referring to the action of the Seamen’s Union.
– You referred to other unions as condemning the action of the seamen.
– Did the honorable member see that the Port Adelaide branch of theWaterside Workers’ Federation voted in favour of arbitration by something like 1,200 votes to about 80?
– The Australian Workers Union took a ballot, but that did not prevent other unions acting for themselves.
– I am stating what I know of the inside working of the unions, and in the case of every one of which I have any knowledge we may take it that two-thirds of the members are in favour of the old evolutionary practice, the one-third consisting of young men, many with no responsibilities, and in whose case it does not matter whether they work or play. It is deplorable there should be such an attitude on the part of so many trade unionists; and, though it is nice to swim with the tide, there comes a time when a stand must be made. The fathers of the suffering children ought to be the first to study their interests, and risk the name of “ scab “ rather than see them hungry.
– Do. you advocate good tradeunionists “ scabbing “ on the seamen?
– I do not admit that that wouldbe “ scabbing.”
– You are advocating others taking the place of the seamen.
– I am not. Some honorable members opposite have said that the Government instituted a bureau of “ scabs,” which really means that during the last strike, when the children wanted bread, the dire necessity of the public caused the Government to appeal for workers. That strike was under no ordinary circumstances ; and the men who responded to the call of the Government, in order to protect society, ought not to be called “ scabs,” for to use that word in such a case is a straining of the English language. I think very little of the Western Australian Government, or any other Government, that has not honour enough to keep to its bond with the men who were willing to run some risks for the protection of society. If the Government have got to be the slaves of the extreme section of trade unionists, then it is all right; but my view is that the Government should be in the hands of the Parliament, and supreme.
I desire to express my great satisfaction with the manner in which Senator Millen has carried on the work of repatriation. His task is a Herculean one, and I shall not criticise what he has done. Repatriation is not a party question, but a national question ; and its methods must be altered fromtime to time to meet exigencies. There seems to be a general complaint on the part of returned soldiers that land isnot being made available for their settlement. If they are all to be encouraged to go in for mixed farming - for the growing of wheat and wool - then we shall need to have behind us the British Exchequer, in order that we may provide for them. Is there any reason why they should not be encouraged to go in for hog-raising in those States where maize can be grown? The industry would not involve anything like the expenditure which would necessarily be incurredin mixed farming, and it would yield a much quicker return. It would remain for the Government to market the produce. We have been told by a representative of Western Australia that the industry was attempted in that State, but was destroyed by the middlemen. Dealers and jobbers are likely to smash any new industry, so that I consider it imperative that, in the event of our returned soldiers being induced to take up hog-raising, the Government should not only finda market for their produce but market it for them. We have in Australia a tremendous area capable of producing maize, and if returned soldiers were settled upon it and induced to take up hog-raising, we should have from it a much larger output, while, with an increased production of pork and bacon, the producers of beef and mutton might be less independent than they are to-day. Where maize-growing is impossible, returned soldiers should be encouraged to enter upon poultry farming. It should be our endeavour to expand our rural industries wherever possible. Many returned soldiers might grow tired of these smaller industries, but. many city men would willingly enter them, and, in this way, rural life would be popularized, and the wealth of the country increased. Those who were in England forty years ago will remember the prices which American pork and bacon realized in London when the trade was opened up, and there is nothing to prevent Australia opening up with the Old Country a big trade in hogs. Pork and bacon could be put on the English market by us more cheaply than by any of our competitors; so that the industry would be valuable for export purposes as well as from the point of view of our own consumers.
.- In view of the lateness of the hour and the wish of the Government that we should take a vote to-night on the no-confidence motion, I shall curtail the remarks that I had intended to make and deal with only a few material points.
The burden of the complaint made by the Opposition in submitting the motion of no-confidence has ‘been the high cost of living and the profiteering which they urge is going on. Other grievances have been advanced, but have been either of medium size or very small. Some of their grievances, indeed, remind me of one of Hans Andersen’s fairy tales. A princess was about to be married to a prince whose mother had some doubts as to her pedigree, ‘ and determined to test it by piling up for her use something like twenty-five feather beds and placing in the lowest of these a pebble of about the size of a pea. On these the Princess spent the night, and when asked next morning how she had fared, complained that she had not slept a wink because of some big, solid object in the bed, which had bruised her in many places. The story very well illustrates the nature of grievances which the Opposition have ventilated. The true test for membership of the Labour Opposition, it seems to me, is ability so to drag out infinitesimal grievances as to make them appear to be veritable mountains of trouble.
The burden of the complaints of honorable members opposite has been in regard to profiteering. I well remember, however, that, towards the close of last year, every member of the Opposition was declaiming, against the War Precautions Act. It was urged by them that the Act should be at once repealed, that the powers which it conferred on the Government should be used only in war-time, and that, since the armistice had been signed, those powers should no longer be retained by them. I invite the House to consider what powers the Government have to deal with profiteering other than those for which the War Precautions Act provides. Not one word has been said by honorable members opposite in condemnation of the inaction of the State Parliaments, which have sovereign powers in this regard, although not one of them is holding out a helping hand to the consumers of this country. The Labour Opposition are endeavouring to throw on the Commonwealth Government the whole of the odium, when the truth is that they have no power to deal with profiteering except under the War Precautions Act, which the- Labour party declare should be repealed.
One of the disappointments of the Ministerial statement is that it does not indicate that the Government have faced the question of an alteration of the Constitution. The war has shown that the Federal Constitution is not the wise instrument of government that we thought it to be. Under the stress of war conditions it has been found to be unworkable. I hope that the Government will move in the direction of calling a conference of the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, with a view to securing an amendment of the Constitution that will satisfy all parties, and give to the National Parliament the power that it should have to deal with great national questions. It will not be sufficient for the Government merely to bring in an amending Bill, since that would be only a piecemeal way of dealing with the subject. What we need is another Convention, which, in the light of our experience of the Federal Constitution during the last eighteen years, and of its failures during the wai”, should be able to amend it for all time.
The Opposition have been facing both ways, not only in condemning the Government for failing to repeal the War Precautions Act, and then complaining of their failure to take action under it, but in respect of other matters. We have been asked to consider what would be the position if they were in power. To arrive at a conclusion, we have only to look at what has happened in Queensland, where a Labour Administration is in office, and where Ave find that the cost of living is higher than iu any other State of the Commonwealth. If there are profiteers in any part of Australia, they are certainly to be found in Queensland; but Ave do’ not learn of any attempt on the part of the Queensland Labour Government to check their operations. According to the quarterly summary of Australian statistics, published by Mr. Knibbs iu March last, the wages paid in the industries of Queensland represent only 15.26 per cent, of the value of the output, whereas the average for the Commonwealth is 17.74 per cent. The wages paid in that State are lower than those prevailing in almost any other part of Australia. At the same time, the margin for profits and miscellaneous expenses and charges by the manufacturers and others is greater in Queensland than in any other part of the Commonwealth with the exception of Tasmania. It is If per cent, more than the weighted average for the Commonwealth, In- the face of these official figures, how can honorable members opposite who complain about profiteering hold, up the example set by the Labour Government of Queensland as one that should be followed in the Commonwealth Parliament?
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) pay a tribute to our primary producers, and seek to remove from the minds of his party the idea that the primary producers are in any way engaged in profiteering. If there is profiteering, as I believe there is, it is certainly not the primary producers who are getting the benefit of it. I hope that the honorable member has been able to persuade his friends opposite that their, charges in this connexion are entirely unfounded. During the course of this debate stress has been laid upon the excessive cost of a suit of clothes, and it has been asserted that that cost is due to the high price of wool. Seeing that a suit of clothes contains only about 5 lbs. of wool, and that the increase in the price of wool has not been more than about 6d. per lb., it is obvious that, in an ordinary suit of clothes, the increased cost of this material does not represent more than about 2s. 6d. or 3s. at the most. It must be apparent, therefore, that if there be any profiteering in tlie tailoring industry it is not the wool-growers who are getting the benefit of it.
Honorable members opposite have been strangely silent in regard to suggestions for the settlement of the great industrial trouble which now afflicts this country. They have merely suggested that the seamen should be granted all their demands.
– Does not the honorable member think that they should be given better conditions?
– I do not know. I am quite prepared to believe that some of their demands are justifiable, and if that be so, they have a ready means for securing their enforcement. I have never known the Arbitration Court to refuse justice to anybody, although sometimes we have been apt to think that the justice meted out has been just a little bit one-sided. The profiteer, the man who “ corners “ foodstuffs and starves the people, is an enemy of this country, and should be condemned. Similarly, the seamen who paralyze industry by “ cornering “ labour, and whobring starvation to many, are equally to bc condemned. . What is causing the starvation in our midst to-day ? It is the fact that thousands of men are prevented by a very small number of their fellow unionists from earning wages.
– But the profiteer is getting a decided advantage, whereas the seamen are suffering serious disadvantages.
– The seamen are “ Cornering” labour, and are starving the people of Australia. In Victoria alone we behold the spectacle of 1,200 seamen throwing out of employment 40,000 or 50,000 wage-earners, all of whom have women and children dependent upon them. About 5,000 seamen throughout Australia are causing a loss of millions of pounds at the present time, .simply because they will not follow the constitutional procedure which has been provided for them. Yet they have not been advised by a single honorable member on the other side of the chamber to resort to the Arbitration Court for the settlement of their differences. At some time or other this community will have to fight for itself, either against the profiteers or against those who are “cornering” labour or foodstuffs. We had an example of direct action last year. That direct action has resulted in the coal hewers of New South. Wales being enabled to earn, in some prises) up to £15 and £20 per week. They are the real aristocrats of labour in Australia. Because their tactics were successful last year, an attempt is now being made to repeat them. If we yield to the demands of the seamen, we shall have similar claims by other unions. Manifestly, therefore, we shall have to make a stand at some time or other. In my opinion, it is better for us to say now that, Parliament having provided a proper means for the settle ment of industrial disputes, all organizations which feel aggrieved must have resort to the tribunals which have been constituted for the express purpose of dealing with them before subjecting the whole community to hardship and serious inconvenience. I know that almost 80 per cent. of honorable members opposite, if they had their own way, would advise these men to go to the Arbitration Court on the distinct understanding that if their cause were just it would prove successful. If our Arbitration Act requires amendment, why did not honorable members opposite amend it during the years that they were in office? To-day they affirm that if the Navigation Act were proclaimed many of the complaints of the seamen would disappear. But they themselves brought in that Act, and they failed to proclaim it, notwithstanding that they were in office for two years after it was passed. Why did they not proclaim it?
– It had to go to the King for his assent.
– It received the King’s assent, and why did not the honorable gentleman proclaim it when he was in office? Was it because the Government of Great Britain asked that it should not be proclaimed while the war was in progress ?
– Then the war was in progress until last November, and yet honorable members opposite complain that the present Government have not proclaimed the Navigation Act. One of the first acts of Ministers, after the signing of the armistice, was to intimate that they intended to amend the Act, and subsequently to proclaim it.
– They can proclaim it and afterwards amend it very easily.
– But honorable members opposite have prevented them from proceeding with their programme by submitting a motion of this kind.
– It is the honorable member himself who is preventing them now.
– Up to the present time I have been mighty silent this session.
During this debate a good deal of criticism has been devoted to the Paul Freeman case. Honorable members opposite have emphasized the fact that certain German internees are being deported, and we witnessed a very dramatic scene in this chamber when the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) declared that if anybody came to his house to take him away from his wife and children he would shoot him like a dog. Need I remind him that if a man commits an offence against another individual in this country - if he isguilty of burglary or assault - he is sent to gaol for a period that is proportionate to his offence. In that case is not a man torn away from his wife and children?
– Yes; but do not omit the trial he is given.
– In such a case the crime is against the individual Those who describe themselves as Socialists claim that the State is greater than the individual, but now they say that crime against the State is an admirable thing, and should not be punished.
– The honorable member is not fair in making that statement.
– Seventy-five per cent. of the persons interned in Australia without a trial were interned by the Labour Government when honorable members opposite were in power, and now these honorable members complain that these men should not be torn away from their wives and children. As a matter of fact, the Government do. not propose to tear them away. They simply say tothe Australian wives of these men, “You have your choice; your husbands abused the hospitality of Australia; they have attempted to stab it inthe back when it has been in a desperate case, and we cannot afford to keep men of that type here. If you choose to cling to your husbands, we will provide passages for you and your children, but if you wish to remain in Australia you may do so. The choice lies with you.” That is the wise attitude the Government have assumed . The statement is made that these men are being deported without a trial. If an honorable member invited another person to be his guest for a week or two, ‘and found that he was abusing the hospitality extended to him by arranging with some one outside to burgle the place, what, attitude would he assume? Would he not deport the offender promptly? No. Under the system which honorable members opposite advocate, he would allow the offender to. remain until he had a fair trial, although he was caught redhanded. The men who are being deported proved in the recent crisis that they were unworthy of Australia’s hospitality. They have tried to stab Australia in the back; they tried to ruin it, and connived to let its enemies come in. They will be a danger to the Commonwealth if they are allowed to remain here. It is our duty to keep Australia free for Australians. Therefore, we have a right to say that these men should be deported.
In all these instances the Opposition speak with two voices. They declaim against profiteering, and blame the Government for not taking action, yet they urge them to abolish the only means by which that action can be taken. They condemn the ‘ Arbitration Act, because they say it is not complete, yet when they were in power they did nothing to amend it. They complain that the Navigation Act has not been proclaimed, but they were in power two years after it was passed and did not proclaim it. One cannot help admiring these “ still, strong “ men of the Opposition, who were still as mice when they had all the power and the requisite majority, and now are as strong as lions, and roar as loudly, when they are not likely to be called upon to carry out any policy they advocate.
I have some complaints against the Government, but they are not ‘sufficient to lead me to .vote against them and put the gentlemen opposite in power. In the history of this or any other country there has never been a greater steal than what is known, as the rabbit-skin steal. In one deal, the Government made a profit of £250,000, and in another case the Defence Department commandeered rabbit - skins at less than half price, and probably made another £300,000. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) was asked whether the Government intended to pay back to the rabbit trappers the profit made on the rabbit skins immorally taken away from them - I could almost say illegally - he said that there were difficulties in the way of handing the money back to the original trappers. That is probably the case, but I may suggest a course by which he can give it back to them in an indirect way. A week or two ago he proclaimed a new scheme for co-operation among dairy farmers, and offered certain Government financial aid so long as the Government had some control. The proposal was for the cooperative dairy companies to come together and form a co-operation to deal with the whole of the dairying interests of the Commonwealth. It would be a very fine scheme if carried out, not only in connexion with dairying, but also in connexion with every, primary industry. I have been working in the same direction for many years past, and I hope that the Minister’s scheme will come to fruition. But at one time there was an attempt to form a Co-operative Rabbit Trappers Association - the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was interested in it - and my suggestion to the Minister is that he should utilize the money he took away from the rabbit trappers as a basis for a fund for financing them to market their skins here or overseas.
The Minister for Trade and Customs took a very high-handed action when he * prohibited the importation of sheep dip. It caused a considerable amount of dissatisfaction. Certain dips suit certain classes of wool, and there are about a dozen different classes of wool in Australia for almost every one of which a dip of a .certain strength is used. At any rate, the wool-growers of Australia have’ been accustomed to using certain dips, and, rightly or wrongly, they believe that the new dip which is to be forced upon them will not be satisfactory for their ‘fleeces. Many of them, speaking from their experience, say that they will not be able to use it. My principal complaint in this regard is that an individual Minister should have the power, when Parliament is not sitting, to say that a certain article shall not be imported into Australia. I have complained previously about the power given by the War Precautions Act, practically nullifying the position of every private member of Parliament. During the war the Cabinet had all the power, and the people were simply obliged to accept what the Government said. But beyond this was it right for the Minister for Trade and. Customs to say, without consulting Parliament, that no sheep dip or any other article should come into Australia? I object to a Minister having this power.
I listened with interest to the speech made by the honorable mem:ber for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) about repatriation, and I feel that if he had confined has remarks to that particular subject, his would have been the moat valuable contribution to this debate. I join with him in saying that I be’l’ieve the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has been faced with a very big task, and that he has accomplished what perhaps many another man would not have succeeded in doing; but I point out that in December last we passed a Housing Bill, and, under the authority’ of that measure, a Commissioner was appointed to administer the law. Applications for assistance were lodged immediately. Returned soldiers actually paid deposits on houses, and have been paying them ever since, in the hope of being able to get ‘assistance under this scheme. Hp to ‘the present, however, not a single house has ‘been built, and not a single house has been bought. Why is this?
– Because the scheme has not been given effect to.
– I believe the delay has been because of a contest between the Commonwealth Bank ‘and the State Savings Banks as to which institution should have the business, and that the departmental view has prevailed: I understand that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has been desirous of creating a new department to deal with this governmental activity instead of allowing it to be undertaken by the State Savings Banks, which have been doing similar business for years, and have highly trained staffs available for this particular work. The Commonwealth Bank authorities desired to participate in the profits, and, I understand, have at last persuaded the Minister that the work should be undertaken by them. In several other directions already we have duplications of Departments, notably the Electoral Department, and. now there is to be another duplication. I do not know whether this competition between the Commonwealth and State Savings Banks has been responsible for the whole of the delay, but I believe it has accounted for some of it.
– I am in favour of the Commonwealth Bank doing this work, instead of handing it over to the States.
– And having two similar Departments ?
– I prefer the Commonwealth to do its own business, and not depend upon the States.
– Whatever the reason, there ‘has ‘been delay, and, up to the present, the benefit of the housing scheme has not been extended to those who have been looking for it. I trust that the Minister for Repatriation will give ‘attention to this question, and see that the scheme is put into operation as soon as possible. The Act was rushed through Parliament after about one day’s discussion.
– Less than that.
– It was passed at the end of last session, when no one wished to block it, because we all desired that the soldiers should experience its benefits at the earliest possible moment. We are now at the beginning of a new session, and in the interval nothing has been done to give practical effect to the legislation.
It was my intention to deal with other subjects that have been referred to in the course of debate, but thehour is late, and I do not wish to detain the House. I could not help, however, being struck by some remarks made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson). In his references to the seamen’s strike and the price of foodstuffs generally, he remarked that the question for this country now was, “bread or Bolshevism.” I am glad he did not say “ bread and Bolshevism,” because they are two things which do not go together. We know what Bolshevism has done in Russia. Its advocates started out by proclaiming the brotherhood of man, and the result has been the prostitution of women, and the starvation of the rest of the men. Yet the honorable member for Brisbane offers this to the people of Australia - “Bread or Bolshevism” He knows why bread is not available to the people of Australia at present. He knows it is because the industrial leaders are holding up industry, and preventing their fellow-workers from earning wages which would enable them to buy the bread they want. “ Bread or Bolshevism!” A fine alternative to offer to the people of Australia! With some knowledge of what Bolshevism has meant in other countries of the world, and with some knowledge of profiteering in Australia, I can say that this country is yet, thank God, the cheapest place in the world for the ordinary necessaries of life. I believe the people of Australia have too much good sense to tend towards Bolshevism. They have everything that the people of Russia lacked when they started out on their career of Bolshevism. They have a free Parliament, for which every man and woman of the age of twenty-one years has one vote. All have the same rights in this country. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) said, the people of Australia have the right to elect their own representatives, and I feel satisfied that this equality will prevent them from being involved in. action which may lead to slaughter and hunger, such as has been the experience of Russia under Bolshevism, which the honorable member for Brisbane offers to us.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Higgs’ amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . … 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- (By leave.) - I understand that the (honorable member for Franklin desires the debate to be adjourned at this stage.
– And others of us desire to speak to the motion.
– This is the first intimation I have had of that desire. The arrangement, which I understood was accepted by honorable members on both sides of the House, was to dispose of the motion to-night.
– The honorable gentleman promised a full discussion of this matter.
– The discussion has been more full than useful, and I am almost remorseful about it. With great respect I submit to the honorable member for Franklin that in the interest of public business it is advisable to dispose of this matter to-night. That may mean an abbreviation to some extent of the remarks he intended to make, but he will see the necessity for not prolonging the debate on the motion which honorable members generally knew would be decided by a vote such as has just been given.
– In the old days we occupied two or three weeks in debating a motion of this kind.
– There were giants in those days, and motions were debated with singular vim and eclat, and not so apologetically as was the amendment which the House has just negatived.
– I did not intend to be apologetic.
– The honorable gentleman intended to be exceedingly humorous, but he did not look it. He may have attempted to be violently aggressive, but he succeeded in being only characteristically courteous. I desire honorable members to complete thedebate to-night, so that at the next sitting we may proceedwith more useful business. I am quite sure the honorable member for Franklin will find the House ready to listen to any remarks he wishes to make.
. -I enter my protest against the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that members were given to understand that the debate would be closed to-night. That is the first intimation which I and several other honorable members have had of that arrangement. We preferred ; to speak to the motion rather than to the amendment.
– I adopted the usual method of acquainting honorable members of the arrangement.
– The usual method failed in this instance. As the Acting Prime Minister will not consent to an adjournment of the debate, I now move, in accordance with the notice I gave to the Government Whip some time ago-
That the following words be added: - “ and that the Government add to its programme the following: ‘The appointment immediately of a Select Committee consisting offive members of this House to investigate and report as speedily as possible upon the water transport of Australia, overseas and Inter -State’.”
So far as the State of Tasmania is concerned, water transport is the most important subject that can be discussed in this House. In respect of mail service, trade and commerce, and shipping generally, the State is governed to-day, not by the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues, butby Mr. T. Walsh. For eight weeks Tasmania has been isolated, because the Government have been too cowardly or too indolent to take the action they ought to have taken. We had an example to-day of what they are doing. They have sent the Rotomahana away to be quarantined for a week. They could have ordered her straight away to Barnes’ Bay, where she could have discharged her soldiers in a few hours, and could have come back here and left on a second trip while she is lying down there in quarantine.
– How does the honorable member know that she is going into quarantine for a week?
– I was informed on very good authority. Will the Minister say now that she is proceeding direct to Barnes’ Bay?
Mr. Watt. - I am not asked in the official way. I am simply interjecting in order to get information.
– I have it officially that she is proceeding to Portsea, and not direct to Barnes’ Bay, and the reason given was “ shortage of coal.”
– Nothing of the kind. Is it upon information of that sort that you call the Government “ cowardly or indolent “ ?
– My information can be verified on oath. I shall give the Acting Prime Minister the information upon which I am basing that charge.
On the 14th JuneI sent an urgent telegram to this . effect : “Fruit rotting in sheds and on wharfs. If growers furnish complete crew, will you let them have a steamer ? “ I received no reply for a week. On the 20th I repeated the telegram, saying, “ On the 14th I wired you as follows . . . please reply for meeting to-night.” On the following day I received a wire to this effect -
Kumala loading 50,000 cases at Hobart. Coolcha, with a carrying capacity of 2,750 tons dead weight, we hope will lift fruit in three weeks.
There was absolutely no answer to my telegram. If the Government had asked for crews, they could have manned boats out of Melbourne. If the Acting Prime Minister will say now that he is prepared to release any boat that is tied up to the Melbourne wharfs, I am prepared to give him to-night the name of a man who will give him a crew in 48 hours. The extraordinary position is that the only boats which are not commandeered by the Government are trading.
– Becausewe have commandeered all those that are Inter-State.
– I will give the Minister the names of some which have not been commandeered. Has the Douglas Mawson been commandeered by the Government ?
– I do not know the names of all the vessels. .
– Well, she has not been commandeered, and she is running.
– What size is she - 50 tons?
– She is 333 tons, and is running between Melbourne and Sydney. The Timaru, 460 tons, is running between Melbourne and Sydney. The Ramornie, 560 tons, is also trading between Melbourne and Sydney. The Larannah, 700 tons, is trading. She was deliberately held up here for four or five weeks by the Board of Control, although she had a full crew waiting for her. The Rosstrevor, 133 tons, is running. Every sailing vessel, small as they are, owned in Tasmania, is running. Those are the only boats that are running.
– Inter-State, or within the States?
– They are running between Hobart and Melbourne. They are small, but they are all we have. Contrast the action of the present Government with that of the preceding Government in 1916. The same Mr. Tim Walsh, who ought to have been deported or shot when he called the men out of a transport which was waiting to take food to the boys in the trenches-
– Would you give the same treatment to the profiteers in this country ?
– I would, to a good many of them. I am not defending them.
– There was no strike in 1916.
– The men were called out of the transport Barambah. The then Minister for the Navy gave the secretary of the union two hours to find a crew. He failed. The Minister then sent down to Queenscliff, and forty-five reservists were brought up and put on the transport, and she sailed.
– It was easy to deal with one transport.
– And the Government will not give the boys that were put on that boat as naval reservists credit for the time they have served. The Repatriation Department will not give them vocational training.
– That is another matter. My point is that when men were called out of that transport in Melbourne the Minister did not go to Rear-Admiral Clarkson and ask him what to do, nor did he go to his Acting Prime Minister and ask him what to do. He acted. The present Government ought to have acted eight weeks ago. Either the men were right or they were wrong. If they were right, their demands should have been conceded. If they were wrong, man the boats with others, and sail them.
– If the honorable member wants to challenge the Government on the conduct of this strike, let him say so plainly, and not cover up his meaning by reference to transports.
– I intend to challenge the Government all right.
– Very well; we will have a vote early, too.
– The Acting Prime Minister began bluffing over the quarantine business.I said on the platform that he was not game to carry out his threat, and he was not.
– The honorable member said I was a bully.
– I did not. I will tell the Acting Prime Minister what I said. The difficulty arose over the quarantine regulations. My State was clean; and we have kept it clean; and threefourths of the trouble which has occurred now is due to the fact that the Tasmanian authorities defeatedRear- Admiral Clarkson over the matter. I shall now repeat, deliberately, to the Acting Prime Minister What I said in the Town Hall at Hobart. He said that if we did not surrender our rights of quarantine to the Federal authorities he would take the ships away from us.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said unless the Commonwealth regulations were complied with, ships could not go to Tasmania.
– That is the same thing, in other words.
– It is not the same, because you had no quarantine rights.
– I said then that the Acting Prime Minister was not game to do it, nor was he. I said then that for a man to make such a threat, because his officers could not get their way, and break down the quarantine that was keeping the State of Tasmania clean, was the act of a political bully, and I repeat it now. We have kept our State clean. I hold that all the regulations you can pass under the Quarantine Act are not worth the life of one of our people. We see what the scourge is doing in other places.
– Do you not think the lives of the people on the mainland are just as valuable as those of the people of Tasmania?
– Then look after yourselves, and quarantine yourselves. I propose to stand up here and challenge the action of the Government in completely isolating my State, as they have done, bringing absolute ruin to thousands of our people. I shall take all the responsibility, whatever it may be. It is all right for the Acting Prime Minister to smirk and grin. If he had been down through the Huon in the past few weeks, as I have been, and had seen hundreds of thousands of apples rotting in the sheds on the wharfs and in the orchards, he would feel as I do. If it were not for the moratorium regulations thousands of people would be thrown out on the roadside, their homes closed to them, to-day. There were 150,000 cases of rotted pears in the orchards. This fruit has been heldup by Mir. Tom Walsh and his rebel crowd. The Government are afraid to put men on to the boats and man them. There are hundreds of thousands of apples rotting in the orchards, while there is a splendid market in Sydney - one of the best that has ever been known. There is a splendid market in Queensland, also - one of the best in our history. Our people are being absolutely ruined, and yet honorable members are expected to come here and take it sitting down. I will not. I know those people. I lived among them in my early life. I have seen them living hard and working hard to get their little homes together. All they have in the world is their little orchard, and their only means of subsistence is the mainland market. Yet, because the Government have been afraid to take action, these people are being ruined. So far as trade and commerce are concerned, this Government is not governing Australia. Mr. Tom Walsh is governing it. The PostmasterGeneral is not regulating our postal service; Mr. Tom Walsh is doing so. If we pick up a newspaper and turn to information regarding mails for Tasmania, we see the phrase, ‘ ‘ At first opportunity.” The whole of the shipping of my State has been held up. The whole shipping business has been a farce since the Board was created. I did everything possible to prevent the acceptance of the constitution of that Board. It controls the whole of the Inter-State trade of Australia, and it consists of Rear- Admiral Clarkson, who is not a mercantile man, and six men who are the managers of the six shipping companies interested. In the minds of the public there is no confidence in that Board. If the Government had accepted my suggestion, and had composed the Board of four managers of shipping companies and four members of this House - two from either side - the present strike would not have occurred.
I want to tell the House about the condition of nearly 100 people who are stranded in Melbourne, and cannot get to their homes in Tasmania. There are women here to-day who are- absolutely penniless. There have been vacancies in the passenger list of the Wyandra, but Admiral Clarkson has refused to allow one woman to go on board that ship. He says there is no accommodation at the Quarantine Station. That is not true. “When certain people, including women of all classes, became stranded in Melbourne, I ascertained that the instruction had’ been given to the shipping companies that no women were to be shipped., because there was no accommodation at the Quarantine Station. I knew that to be incorrect, for I know the Quarantine Station. I telegraphed to Dr. Goddard, Federal officer in charge of quarantine, and inquired if there was any accommodation for civilians in the station. He replied -
We have accommodation fully prepared for twenty-seven women and twenty-seven men, a total of fifty-four, in the Brum Quarantine Station.
In case there might have been some mistake I wired Dr. Goddard again, desiring to know whether those figures were exclusive of accommodation for troops. I received a second wire: “ Yes, exclusive of military quarters.” I fortified myself still further. I spoke over the telephone to Dr. Cumpston today, telling him that I intended to use those telegrams on the floor of the House. I asked him if the information therein was correct. He said, “Yes; we have accommodation for twenty-seven to thirty men, and for twenty-seven to thirty women.” He. added that the accomoda- tion was poor ; it consisted of two-troop huts. I know that is so. The Government and Admiral Clarkson will have to answer for the situation existing at this moment, and proof must be furnished regarding who is right. I intend to make other rather strong statements to-night in the matter of shipping. The Government may appoint any Committee they desire; I will see that evidence is forthcoming. I ask the Government to appoint a Select Committee consisting of five honorable members, to prove who is right and who is wrong. We have read in the papers of the awful trip made by the Dart across the straits. For the reason that permission was refused them to travel by the regular steamers, an English lady and her two daughters, together with others, took passage in the Dart. How nearly that craft came to being lost some honorable members know. What happened the other day upon a little boat leaving this port? A man and his wife and two children desired to get back to Tasmania. The husband and father had been walking the streets of Melbourne, -penniless. He had a little business in the Island State to which he urgently desired .to return. But the authorities would not allow the woman and her children to go. Thereupon, they stowed away, but were discovered and sent ashore. They got on board again. They managed to hide in the forecastle. It does not matter how they got tHere, but they stowed away again. . Just imagine a woman and her two little children stowed in the forecastle of one of those little hookers crossing the straits ! Yet honorable members who know what it must have been like are expected to say nothing. I think the House will agree that it is necesary for some inquiry to be launched. I hold the Government responsible in this matter, because nearly all these boats have been commandeered by them, and because Rear-Admiral Clarkson is the officer controlling or directing the Shipping Board.
In the case of the oversea shipping, Sir Owen Cox is chairman, or ruling member, of the Board. He is also, I am credibly informed, the representative of the Inchcape Syndicate. The biggest and most deadly menace that ever threatened
Australia is the Inchcape Shipping Ring of England. Honorable members will notice the ramifications of this Ring. I give the names of the shipping companies from memory, and it is possible that I may omit some which should be included. The Ring controls the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, theBritishIndia Company, the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, the Union Steam-ship Company, the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the FederalHoulder Company. There are six shipping companies which this syndicate in London is governing and ruling to-day. There are several others which might be mentioned. They have a very large interest in the Leylands ShippingCompany, which is one of the biggest shipping concerns in the world. The Union Steam-ship Company is the principal company trading with Tasmania. HuddartParker and Company have a partnership in the Loongana, the extent of which I do not know, andare, therefore, also interested. My State is in the s tran gle-h old of the Trusts and Combines to-day. The Commonwealth Government have commandeered the cool storage space on boats trading to Tasmania. Jones and Company and Piesse and Peacock have control of it. What is the result? When orchardists in my electorate were offered 7s. 6d. cash for apples in Hobart they had to sell them for 6s. per case, because these men have been given control of the shipping space. While they have to sell their apples at 6s. per case by semiforced sale, apples were realizing 14s. per case on the railway stations in America; and if honorable members will take up the newspapers they will see the prices that are ruling in England to-day. Whilst our orchardists were compelled to selltheir apples in Hobart at 6s. per case, these same people were advertising to buy them for 7s. per case in Western Australia.
– Is that what Jones got his title for?
– I am trying, as far as I can, to keep the personal element out of the matter. I say deliberately that my people are held by the throat with a strangle-hold by Trusts and Combines. The men to whom we should look for redress are the Shipping Board, consisting of the managers of six shipping companies. There never were a people so completely at the mercy of Combines as are the fruit producers of Tasmania today. It must always be remembered that Tasmania is an island State. Shipping is the very life of our State, and the world’s shipping to-day is in the hands of the most merciless Ring one could possibly imagine. We shall never get satisfaction for the public so long as the trade and commerce of this country is in the hands of the present Shipping Board. I am not saying one word against the individual members of the Board. I know some of them personally, and they are good fellows, but they are, first of all, the servants of their companies. How can they represent at the same time their companies, the Government, and the public? They cannot do it. Until we get some representation of the trading public and the people of Australia on theBoard we can expect nothing but trouble and disaster.
It has been truly said that those who control transport rule the country. Who is controlling the transport of my State? It is Tom ‘Walsh who is controlling it. He is holding up the whole of the trade of my State. I cannot, however, hold him responsible. This is the place in which I should voice my opinion, and I can hold responsible only the Government of the Australian Commonwealth. They must accept full and complete responsibility for what is happening in Tasmania today. Every member of this House’ must share that responsibility, and every honorable member on this side must doubly share it. I ask honorable members to imagine what would occur in Australia if men wore offered 5s. 6d.per bushel for their wheat and they had to sell it for 3s. 6d. per bushel because some ring controlled all the shipping. What would happen in the coal industry of Australia if the miners were offered 15s. per ton for coal at the pit’s mouth, and because some one was holding up transport they were obliged to sell it for11s. per ton? Such a condition of things would not last one week. If what I am relating to-night of Tasmania occured in one of the bigger States of Australia, it would not be allowed to last for one week. Tasmania is a part of the Commonwealth, though a small State. Sometimes I think it is possible that honorable members who represent that State are, perhaps, a little more sensitive than are the representatives of larger States. As a mother cherishes the greatest affection for her weakest child, so, perhaps, honorable members representing the smallest State in the Commonwealth feel their responsibilities more keenly than do honorable members representing larger States. I wish that the members of the Government and other honorable members could go through my electorate and see what is happening there. I repeat, that hundreds of thousands of cases of fruit are rotting in Tasmania. God knows what some of the orchardists are going to do ; I do not know. But I represent these men, and I have to put up this fight and make this plea for them - whom else have they?
– The estimated quantity of apples now available in Tasmania is 1,800,000 bushels.
– They are rotting. Every cool store is filled to the uttermost. The Wyandra traded for four trips to Barnes Bay with troops,and within a few miles of her there werethousands and tens of thousands of apples ready for transport. Tom Walsh said, “ You must not ship a bushel,” and the Government of the Commonwealth said, “ All right, Mr. Walsh, you have got us.” Just fancy a country like this governed in such a way - not by the representatives of the people, not by the Government of Australia, but by a rebel, traitor gang, which is holding up the people and taking every advantage, even to calling men off the transports. Iwas going to say I do not blame them, but I do, though one can quite understand that if the Government allows them to do these things they will keep on doing them. I repeat what I said before, that this strike is either right or wrong. I must say that the men have one substantial grievance. I was associated with sailor men for many years as a young fellow, and have been in the forecastles of steamers, andI say that the accomodation is not good, and ought to be improved at once.
– You ought to alter it before you abuse the men in the way you have been doing.
– I have not abused the men - I pity them; but I am abusing those who have got the men by the nose. I have talked to men on strike, and I think that if we could get to their inside reasoning we should find that not 10 per cent. are in favour of a strike, or desire to see 700 or 800 Tasmanian troops stranded in Melbourne, unable to get to their homes. Very sad things have happened in this connexion. Amongst the troops was a bonny boy, who had been away three years and a half fighting for Australia and the Empire, and on returning to Australia he was brought into this infected area, took influenza, and died. For this somebody ought to be held responsible. Can you imagine a more asinine way of handling our returned soldiers than to bring them up Port Philip Bay in a clean ship, past the Quarantine Station, and, after landing them in Melbourne, which is an infected area, sending them into quarantine for seven days? Why should they not, in thefirst instance, have been landed from a clean ship at the Quarantine Station, and thence taken to their homes without a day’s delay.
– The plea is that there was no coal.
– What has coal to do with it? The whole time this was going on. the Wyandra was running, and there was coal enough to bring the men here and take them to quarantine. The whole thing has been a gigantic blunder from beginning to end; and so long as the shipping of Australia is in the hands of the present Board I do not look for any remedy. I think it is most unfair that this discussion should take place at so late an hour. There are other men who feel, not, perhaps, so strongly as I do on this matter, but who are deeply interested, and it ought to have been ventilated at a reasonable hour.
– The Government promised a full discussion, which means that every member would have the opportunity to speak.
– A subject like this could not have been debated with propriety on the amendment of the honorable member, which was one of want of confidence in a certain specified direction.
– What is the honorable member himself doing now?
– This is an attempt to remedy a state of affairs which nobody can defend. No one would defend Rear-AdmiralClarkson’s refusal to allow women to go to Tasmania, because there is no quarantine station there, when it is known that that is not true.
– I could not put the whole catalogue of the sins of the Government in one motion or in one page.
– There is no doubt that the whole of the Inter-State and overseas shipping, so far as Tasmania is concerned, is as unsatisfactory as it well could be. I do not desire to reiterate or weary the House, but I do ask honorable members to bear in mind that the producers of Tasmania, who have had several bad years, and have been unable to ship to England for about three years, were compelled, when they had a chance to sell at 7s. 6d. per case for cash, to sell to somebody else at 6s., because the whole of the space had been commandeered We talk about profiteering; but I should like to know what that conduct is, and how it can be defended ? Women have had to sign on as stewardesses, and practically be smuggled out of this State into their own, after having undergone seven days’ quarantine at Portsea. Can any one defend the act of compelling women to travel in the hold of a sailing ship in order to get to their homes? If there is any honorable member who does not credit these statements, let him telephone to Dr. Cumpston to-morrow. Here I may say that, so far as I have been able to see, Dr.
Cumpston has acted throughout with every consideration, and I have no fault whatever to find with his actions, because I think he has tried to do his best. He was in communication with the shipping companies and the Tasmanian Tourist Agency, who receives applications sometimes by letter, and forwards them on, and his attitude has been that, while he said that the accommodation was not good, if the people who desired to go were prepared to sign a paper accepting the accommodation, they would be allowed to do so. Why have these people not been allowed to go ? Ever since the Tasmanian Government refused to relax their quarantine regulations, Rear-Admiral Clarkson has made the shipping provisions in the case of Tasmania as difficult as he possibly can.
– Yet you have just voted for an expression of confidence in those responsible.
– I desire an inquiry because I have made statements which, if not answered now, will have to be answered sooner or later. I wish the Government to appoint a Select Committee of five members to go into the matter immediately, and see whether or not my statements are true. If the man who is controlling the Shipping Board has deliberately refused to allow women to go on the plea that there is no accommodation, and the officer in charge says there is, the question ought to be settled straight away.
– I think the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) ought to be condemned for it.
– I think that, perhaps, if the Acting Minister had had a free hand, he would have acted just as his predecessor did, and stopped the strike quick and early.
– I do not know where the honorable member expects to get support, seeing that he is condemning both sides.
– I desire a f air Committee to put the matter right. I do not care who is appointed on the
Committee so long as wehave an investigation.
– Into the whole of the shipping industry?
– I have purposely made the terms of my motion wide. I would remind honorable members that, under the Constitution, this Parliament is responsible for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth; that all laws made by this Parliament are binding on the Courts, Judges, and people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth; and that trade and intercourse amongst the States,whether by means of internal carriage or ocean carriage, must be absolutely free. Can any one say that navigation between Tasmania and the mainland is free?
– What about theState quarantine restrictions ?
– I would remind the honorable member of the quarantine regulations framed under the Commonwealth Act. The State quarantine “gag” no longer carries any weight. Rear-AdmiralClarkson used it the other day when he asked, “ How can you expect ships to be running in the Tasmanian trade when the Tasmanian Government are holding them up for a week ? My answer was, That objection is of no avail, since you are holding them up for eight weeks at a stretch.” The Larannah had a crew, and was prepared to sail, but was deliberately held up by the Controller of Shipping for four weeks.
– I do not think that is correct.
– It is.
-Weshall see to-day whether it is or not.
– If the Government will give me the inquiry for which I ask, they will have proof of all my statements. Vessels that are not controlled by the Commonwealth Government are now running between Victoria and Tasmania. The only trade communicationbetween Tasmania and Victoria for nearly two months has been that provided by vessels not controlled by the Commonwealth Government. The small shipping companies can find crews to run their vessels, whereas the utmost satisfaction that the representatives of Tasmania can obtain from Admiral Clarkson, even now, is that he will find vessels to carry the mails and returned soldiers from Victoria to our State. In the first instance the regulation provided, I understand, that neither passengers nor cargo should be carried. I agree that hot one civilian should be taken as a passenger while a soldier is waiting here to be returned to his home in Tasmania. Our soldiers should have the first call. But where there is not a sufficient number of soldiers to occupy all the accommodation on board one of these vessels, it is nothing short of brutality that women should remain stranded here merely because of a decree issued by Rear-Admiral Clarkson. That is the position to-day, and, from the point of view ofTasmania, it is very serious.
– The honorable member is making very serious charges.
– Let the Government appoint a Select Committee of five members of this House, with authority to take evidence on oath, and I undertake that the statements I have made in substance will be verified on oath by responsible witnesses.
At this early hour in the morning. I do not wish to detain the House further ; but I tell the Government plainlythat the State of which I am a representative is suffering deadly injury at the hands of Trusts, Combines, and Monopolies. If the Minister for Trade and Customs will carry out his scheme for co-operation on the part of producers, and provide Government backing for such co-operative enterprises, as he says he is prepared to do, then a new heaven and a new earth will be opened up to the producers in Tasmania. One of my reasons for submitting this motion to-night is that the Minister has consented to allow Mr. Stirling Taylor, the Director of Commerce and Industry, to visit Tasmania with the object of securing co-operation amongst the fruit-growers. Owing to his engagements in connexion with the dairy industry, and to the fact that some of his leading officials havebeen stricken down by influenza, that gentleman will be unable, however, to pay the promised visit before September next, and I fear that, unless we take immediate action, we shall have a recurrence of last season’s experiences.
– The honorable member desires that the Government shall adopt, in connexion with the fruit industry, the system they are adopting in connexion with the butter trade?
– Yes. I think that 1 am rightly interpreting the intention of the Minister for Trade and Customs when I say that he is prepared to goa long way in that direction. The control of the whole of the refrigerated space should be in the hands of a committee of growers, and the Government should have such representation on that committee as they may desire for their own protection. Instead of the grower having to go cap in hand to the middleman to beg of him some shipping space for his apples, my desire is that the middleman shall have to go to the committee of growers to obtain in the proper way the space he requires. But, unless immediate action be taken to secure the control of the refrigerated space on the oversea ships, we shall have this season the same experience that we had in connexion with the fruit industry last year. The people whom I represent willagain be in the hands of those who have commandeered the space, and are thus able to buy at practically their own price for the oversea trade, no matter what the market price may be.
– Who are they?
– A ring of buyers has now been formed in London.
– Where they are selling apples at 26s. per case.
– And giving only 6s. per case for them in Tasmania. Local growers could obtain 7s. 6d. per case for their apples in Hobart, but were compelled to sell to these people at 6s. per case at a time when apples were fetching 14s. per case on railway stationsin America. I appeal to the Government to save these people from further exploitation. They are absolutely at the mercy of Kings and Trusts, and cannot sellin the open market in England. Now that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is present, I desire to repeat my statement that fruit-growers were offered 7s. 6d. cash per case for their apples is Hobart, but had to sell for 6s. per case because the cool space had beencommandeered.
– Will the honorable member also repeat his charge that RearAdmiral Clarkson heldup a vessel foa which a crew had been obtained ?
– Yes. The Larannah was held up for four weeks when a crew was available to take her out.
– By Rear-Admiral Clarkson ?
– By the Board.
-That is a mere assertion. Cannot the honorable member give some proof of his statement?
– I have proved that Rear-Admiral Clarkson is not telling the truth. I make that statement on the authority of the Federal Quarantine Officer both in Melbourne and Tasmania. I have made serious chargeshere to-night. Let the Government appoint any Select Committee that it may choose to investigate these charges - they may put me on it or leave me off it, just as they please - and I am satisfied that they will be convinced of the absolute truth of my allegations. Unless some action is taken immediately to secure for the growers space on these oversea vessels, they will be robbed again next season just as they have been this season.
– Will the honorable member repeat his statement in regard to women being detained here?
– Yes. Admiral Clarkson has refused to allow women to leave Victoria to undergo a period of quarantine in Barnes Bay. Only the other day a little boat - the Kyogle - which runs from Sydney to Hobart brought down twenty-four soldiers and ten civilians from the former city. They had to travel to Sydney in order to get passages on her. No woman was allowed to be sent by that vessel-
– Because RearAdmiral Clarkson would not consent to them going.
– Why ?
– Because he says there is no quarantine accommodation for women in Barnes Bay.
– That must be wrong. There is accommodation for women in every quarantine station in Australia.
– Of course there is. Everybody knows that but RearAdmiral Clarkson. For the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition I will repeat the wires which I have obtained from Dr. Goddard, the officer in charge of the quarantine station at Barnes Bay. I wired to him asking what accommodation they had for civilians there. His reply reads -
We have accommodation fully prepared for twenty-seven women and twenty-seven men; total, fifty-four. Bruni Quarantine.
In order that there should be no mistake about the position I wired to him -
Is this exclusive of military?
To that message he replied -
Yes, exclusive of military quarters.
– Does the honorable member think it would be a proper thing to send a woman there?
– I have purposely refrained from mentioning the one woman who had to go by the Larannah.
– The honorable member mentioned one case in which a woman was refused permission to leave Sydney. He mentioned it three times.
– I did so because Mr. Webb, who is in charge of the Tourists’ Bureau, has been besieged by women day after day, and has been obliged to inform them that the shipping companies will not allow them to join any vessel. I mentioned the three ladies who had to go away in the Bart, also the man whose wife and two children stowed away in the forecastle of a vessel. I believe there are at least fifty or, sixty persons stranded in Melbourne to-day. I am glad to know that some few have been smuggled away in spite of Rear-Admiral Clarkson. The others have been detained here for weeks. Dr. Cumpston has verified the statements made by Dr. Goddard to me. The Federal Quarantine Officer states that there is accommodation at BarnesBay, but Rear-Admiral Clarkson will not allow one woman to leave Melbourne, because he says there is not accommodation there.
– Has his attention been called to the fact that there is accommodation ?
– What does he say to that?
– He will not listen to it. I believe that every Tasmanian representative has interviewed RearAdmiral Clarkson in an endeavour to get these matters adjusted, but we have succeeded in getting nothing. It is the duty of the Government to see that the mails to Tasmania are carried, and that proper communication exists between Tasmania and the mainland. It is their duty to see that the requisite vessels are manned. One Minister acted promptly and settled a difficult situation in two hours. But we have been in the present position for eight weeks. I repeat that the Tasmanian mail service is controlled by Mr. Torn Walsh, that our sea carriage is controlled by the same individual, and that the whole of the shipping to Tasmania is also controlled by him. Iam certain that if the Acting Prime Minister had acceded to my request when this Board was appointed, and had constituted it of four managers of the shipping companies and four members of this House, the strike would never have occurred.
– There being no seconder to the honorable member’s amendment, it lapses.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.4 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190710_reps_7_88/>.