7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Military Offences: Clemency
– In view of the fact that on Saturday nextthe whole of the British Empire will be celebrating Peace, I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the Government (Mr. Groom) whether the Cabinet will take immediate steps for the release of the several hundreds of returned soldiers who are now serving sentences for militaryoffences in the gaols of Australia, so that these men may join with their relatives in celebrating the Peace for which they wentaway to fight?
– The honorable member conveys a wrong impression when he says that there are several hundreds of returned soldiers imprisoned in Australia. The whole matterreferred to by him has been receiving our attention for some time. Wehave been in communication with all the State Governments,with the object of securing uniform action in regard to civil prisoners. We are considering the case of the soldiers and sailors, but are awaiting further information, and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.
Mr.Riley. - This afternoon?
– Not this afternoon, but, if possible, to-morrow.
-We stall not be here tomorrow.
– The honorable member willrecognise that it is in the interests of those to whomour sympathies go out that I am making this statement at the present time.
– The Minister will not have an opportunity to tell us to-morrow what is proposed tobe done. Why not let these returned soldiers out now instead of indulging in platitudes?
– I am afraid the honorable member is hardly doing himself justice. He knows that it is impossible for me to make a statement immediately, but I assure him, and the House, that the Government are giving the matter the most careful and sympathetic consideration, and hope to he able to make an announcement eitherto-night ortomorrow. We are considering the question from the most generous stand-point.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Defence give the relatives of Australian soldiers in Egypt any idea as to whenthey may expect the last of them to be returned?
– On the 4th instant I made a full statement in the House in regard to this matter. I may, for the information of the honorable member, quote the concluding paragraph of that statement -
Advices have just been received to the effect that the 5th, 6th, and 7th- Regiments embarked and sailed on 28th June, and the 8th Regiment and Anzac Divisional Details embarked and sailed yesterday. The total number of Light Horse Regiments in Egypt was fourteen. It is anticipated that the remaining six will embark in theships allocated, and leave Egypt before the end of the month. It will, therefore, be seen that the return of these troops is now being accelerated and proceeding as fast as possible. Relatives of these soldiers need now have no anxiety with regard to them.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what steps are being taken to fill the vacancy on the Public Accounts
Committee, caused by the resignation of’ the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) ?
– The matter is one with which the Prime Minister has to deal. On receiving from the Acting Minister for the Navy a letter intimating that he desired to resign from the Committee, I at once forwarded it to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), in order that he might take the necessary steps to fill the vacancy, if it was considered desirable to do so.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Governmenthave yet reached finality, and are prepared to make an announcement in regard to the appointment of a Director of Navigation? There appeared in the Herald last week a statement that the position had practically been filled?
– The position has not yet been filled. An announcement will be made to the House as soon as it has been.
– Will the Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint a nautical man or a layman to the office of Director of Navigation?
– The Government will endeavour to appoint to the position the man whom they think best fitted to discharge the duties attaching to it.
– Will the Government before making an appointment afford the House an opportunity of discussing the question of whether the Director of Navigation should be a man with seafaring experience or a landsman ?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of that question. The policy generally followed by the Government in regard to appointments is to consider the qualifications of all applicants, and choose the man best qualified for the position.
– Yesterday I put to the . Acting Minister for the Navy a question in regard to the ship-building industry, which, I think, was misunderstood by him. What I desire to knowis whether it is intended to give effect to the decision of the ship-building tribunal, presided over by Mr. Conington, in regard to compensation claimed by members of the Australian Society of Engineers ?
– I regret that I misunderstood the question put to me yesterday by the honorable member. My recollection is that the tribunal recommended that in some five cases compensation should ,be paid for wrongful dismissal. Two or three other matters were also dealt with. The only point not finalized is the suggestion by the tribunal that I should get rid of the foreman of the yard, and place in his stead a member of the Australian Society -of Engineers. I have positively refused to allow this tribunal, or any other body, or individual, to interfere with the control and management of the yard.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in the preparation of the Estimates of Expenditure for the current financial year, you will take into favorable consideration the position of married messengers in this House who are working for a wage of something like £3 a week, with a view to following the lead set by the State Parliament by giving them an increase that will make their payment somewhat commensurate with their duties and responsibilities?
– Under an arrangement, made by my predecessors in office, the salaries paid to messengers and others connected with the establishments of both Houses of the Parliament are usually the subject of consultation between the ‘ Presiding Officers. Unfortunately nothing can be done in respect of the salaries of the staff of this House without affecting the salaries of those employed in the other, although ‘there is a good deal more to be done in this House than there is in connexion with the Senate. I had consultations with the President on- the subject when the House Estimates were in course of preparation, when the matter was fully considered, but it was not deemed advisable to provide for such increases for the present financial year. Recognising, however, that the increased cost of living might press heavily on some of the lower-paid officers, we arranged with the Treasurer for the payment of a bonus to certain employees at the end of the last financial year, and I have no doubt that favorable ‘ consideration will be given to a similar proposal at the close of the current financial year.
– I ‘desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the restrictions on. the importation of sheep-dip were imposed at the request of the Imperial Government, or whether the Australian Government acted on its own initiative ?
– I am given to understand that the Imperial Government originally asked the Commonwealth Government to take whatever steps it could to secure the local manufacture of the sheepdip required here in order to avoid, first of all, the use in England of certain constituents of dip that were urgently needed for munition-making purposes; and, secondly, to conserve freights both to and from England.
Cost of Management
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation ask his colleague to make urgent representations to the different States to discontinue the present system of loading land purchased for soldiers’ settlement with up to 5 per cent, of the cost of those lands with the object of covering the cost of management? Will he suggest to them that the Australian Government will undertake the management, since the impost of 10s. on a £10 purchase, in addition to the excessively high cost of erecting homes and “ stocking up “ at the present time, must lead to great difficulty?
– I will call the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the Government whether he has made himself acquainted with the demands of the seamen on strike, and whether the Government have formed any opinion as to whether those demands are just or fair ? If so, will he tell the House what decision has been arrived at in regard to the merits of the claims?
– The Government have acquainted themselves with the nature of the demands that have been made, and have already indicated the way in which they think those demands should be settled.
– Will the Government afford the House an opportunity of discussing any contemplated agreement with the Imperial Government with reference to oil boring in Papua before such agreement is consummated ?
– No regular agreement for the permanent working of the field has been considered, even in general outline, up to the present time. Possibly an agreement may be made, which will depend on the results of testing, but I cannot say that it will be submitted for the approval of the House. Full attention will be given to the request, but it may be many months before any agreement is ready for discussion.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the oil in respect of which a bounty is paid to John Fell and Company is being delivered to wealthy gas companies in Australia and New Zealand? Will the Minister see that the bounty is used to reduce the price of kerosene instead of for the purpose of feeding big companies?
– Parliament provided that the bounty should be paid for the production of crude oil from shale, and until it sees fit to alter the law the Min ister administering it must simply pay a bounty for crude oil produced from shale in Australia.
Purchase of Motor Cycle- Assistance to Dependants - -War Service Homes Act
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol low : -
asked the Minister re-‘ presenting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he will take into conideration the altering of the regulation whereby a person is debarred from receiving asistance through the Repatriation Department on account of tha/t person not having been dependent on the soldier relative for a period of twelve months prior to that soldier’s enlistment?
– Although in the case of widowed mothers or mothers with incapacitated husbands the benefits of the Act are based upon dependence, such cases wherein dependence did not exist are dealt with on their merits. It is not thought desirable that in these cases relationship apart from dependence should automatically entitle applicants to the benefits of the Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice-
Whether those Australians who proceeded to Great Britain and worked on munitions during the war period are subject to the provisions of the War Service Homes Act?
– The Government proposes to include in the provisions of the War Service Homes Act those munition and war workers, chemists, and constructional draughtsmen who went abroad under a specific agreement with the Defence Department, or at its invitation, The necessary amended legislation will be introduced during the present session.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to extend the provisions of theRepatriation Act so as to recognise munition and war workers as entitled to consideration and assistance?
– It is not proposed to extend the provisions of the Repatriation Act to munition and war workers, but the Government proposes to introduce legislation to extend the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to munition and war workers, chemists, and constructional draughtsmen.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Webster).Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
New South Wales, 2,075 centals.
Victoria, 282 centals.
Western Australia, 921 centals.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return prepared showing -
-I shall endeavour to obtain the information desired by the honorable member, and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the Legislature of the State of Connecticut having ordered the word “convict” to be stricken from the official records, and the word “inmate” to be applied to a prisoner, and seeing that a large number of scientific men who have studied criminology hold the opinion that environment and ill-equipped minds are the main causes of crime, will die Acting Prime Minister request the Cabinet to follow _ the example of Connecticut in all Federal legislation?
– Inquiry will be made.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Imperial Government concluded the purchase of 500,000 tons of wheat over which an option was held at 5s. 6d. f.o.b., or has any other overseas sale been effected?
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, to his knowledge, there is any justification for the statement that a company is being formed for the purpose of taking over the interests of German proprietors in New Guinea?
– I have no knowledge of the intended formation of any such company. Suggestions in regard to the matter were, I think, made some months ago, but I have heard nothing of any recent development.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I will make inquiry into this matter, and furnish the honorable member with a reply as early as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the overseas shipping companies being instructed to only take raw materials from Australia, such as wheat, wool, sheepskins, tallow, &c, will the Government place steamers of the Commonwealth line on the berth to take leather, basils, pickled pelts, and other Australian manufactures to London market?
– I shall make inquiries, and furnish the honorable member with a reply as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has given any consideration to the question of appointing the meat inspectors of the Commonwealth to permanent positions in the Public Service, as was recommended by Mr. Justice Powers in his award to the Meat Inspectors Association?
– The matter is at present under consideration.
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– As this is a matter which is dealt with by the Department of
Defence, the question has been referred to the Acting Minister for Defence for consideration.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in order to prosecute a vigorous policy of immigration, he will take into consideration the desirability of sending a number of returned soldiers, possessing the necessary qualifications, as recruiting agents, to address Returned Soldiers Associations in Great Britain, , Canada, South Africa, France, the United States, and Italy, with a view to encourage emigration from these countries to Australia?
– It is hoped that it will be possible to arrange a Conference with the State Governments on this important subject at an early ‘date, when the honorable member’s suggestions will receive consideration. “WOODEN i SHIPS.
– On the 11th July, the honorable member for Dalley asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Docking, caulking, deck, engine, and general repairs: -
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will hu see that all returned men participating in the Peace celebrations on Saturday next, especially those who take part in the march past, are provided with a good dinner at the conclusion of the ceremonies?
– Arrangements are being made for the issue to all ranks of refreshments, including tea, at Carlton Gardens, after the troops pass the saluting base.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Government take the necessary steps to ascertain what amount of money was taken m fines from the soldiers who enlisted for service abroad and cause such amount to be refunded to those from whom such fines were taken?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s . questions are as follow: -
Messrs. Clark, Purvis, Edwards, and Butler, of New South Wales; Mr. Berriman, of Victoria; Mr. Harris, of Queensland.
The Release Commission is composed of the following gentlemen: -
Judge Williams, Brigadier-General Williams, Mr. R. Teece.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’squestionsare as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Adelaide . (Mr. Yates) stated -
It has been brought under my notice by the father of two cadets in Adelaide that his sons are to be called upon on Peace Day to undergo two drills, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, although Citizen Forces are called upon for only a volunteer parade. This gentleman desires that the Government should see that some alteration is made in this order, so that the cadets may have an opportunity to take part in the Peace celebrations.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The Military Commandant, . Adelaide, has been communicated with and instructed to arrange for the two cadets referred to above to undergo their drills at a later date. He has also been instructed that no compulsory cadet parades are to be held on that day, but voluntary parades may be arranged to enable cadets to take part in the Peace celebrations.
The following paper was presented: -
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That Mr. Fowler be appointed a member of the Library Committee.
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page 10797), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The people in my constituency have been looking forward to the cessation of hostilities in the belief that industry would then be restored to normal conditions. They are disappointed to find that the Government, by this Bill, are asking for an extension of their control in regard to certain commodities, and that no relief will be afforded to secondary industries. In regard to the wool industry, I am surprised that the Government should try to mystify the House and the country by providing that the “Wool Committee shall include two representatives of the growers and three representatives of the sellers. I should like to know the difference between a wool grower and a wool seller, for the wool grower has wool for sale, and sells it in the first place. The Wool Committee is composed entirely of squatters who are directly interested in the production of wool, and to this I have no objection ; but there are other industries to be considered. Then, on the Wool Committee there has to be one wool buyer. Does that mean the British Government, seeing that the British Government is the biggest buyer of our wool ? One manufacturer and one scourer or fellmonger are also to have seats. Who is the manufacturer on the Committee? And there is not one wool scourer or fellmonger on the Committee, although there is one gentleman, who was formerly in the business, but is now a station-owner. As a matter of fact, this is not a representative body, but is composed of producers or interested men only. When it was formed, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), said that its first function was to stimulate the whole of the industries involved, and there is a paragraph in the original regulations setting forth that fellmongering and wool scouring shall be kept at full speed, and that any surplus products may be exported. That, however, has all been reversed.
In my constituency a large number of men depend on the fellmongering and wool scouring industry, which was built up by private enterprise, has pioneered the manufacture of wool tops, and was doing fairly well before the war. The firm had a market for their commodities in Japan, at a high price, and the business was gradually extending. After the war started, however, the contracts ran out, and they were allowed to make others with the Japanese Government, though the conditions were such that it was necessary to charge a very high price for the tops. Under the arrangement the Commonwealth Government were to receive a little more than half the profits, and when inquiries were made as to the reason of the high price, it was explained that it was not desirable that Japan should get cheap tops, and so cut out the British manufacturer. That is a reasonable proposition, but because the firm I have in my mind earned huge profits, in which the Government participated, the opinion was expressed in this House and elsewhere that too much money was being made in the industry. The Wool Comniittee had fresh regulations made, which have so hampered the industry that it cannot be carried on satisfactorily at the present time. Before the war those concerned went into the meat market and bought the sheep; using what they called green skins, from which the wool was taken for the purpose of making the tops. Under the new agreement, however, the Wool Committee prevented the use of green skins, and said that if the firm bought the sheep they would have to get the wool washed and re-appraised, and carted back to the manufacturing establishments. All this, of course, meant additional labour by the firm, and the result is that they have been unable to carry on. They have tried to continue the industry, but the Wool Committee has decided not to allow them to export, so that now large stores in Sydney are stacked to the roof with tops.
– Why is the export of wool tops not allowed?
– Because there is a law case pending regarding the profits made.
– Who is bearing the loss in the meantime?
– The firm. The whole of the plant is idle, and some 700 or 800 men are out of work. The firm can buy wool at the re-appraised rate, but they are not allowed to export until the case is settled, which is not likely to be before twelve months hence.
– Honorable members on this side have a good deal of sympathy with the honorable member, and would help himif he informed them as to the agreement made between this firm and the wool growers on a review of the wool top question.
– I cannot go into the whole of the details, but I may point out that Mr. F. W. Hughes, who is the principal of the firm, was a member of the Wool Board, and a party to the agreement, and that Sir John Higgins seems to have got at loggerheads with that gentleman. Mr. Hughes could not accept the agreement because he found it an impossible one; and I ask, now that the war is over, why the Wool Committee should have the power to close these great works. If the power of the Committee, in regard to wool tops, were taken away the works could be re-opened, and an export business in wool tops extended to all parts of the world. Are we to consider only the primary producer in the matter of wool? We understood that secondary interests had to be established and encouraged; but that is not being done under the present arrangements.
– That would be in the interests of the primary producer also.
– If this country is to be a great country we must have secondary industries. This company, before the war, had its own machinery for the manufacture of wool tops, and was doing good business, but it has been ham-strung by the action of the Wool Committee. If the control of the Committee were removed to-morrow we should have a large industry, employing thousands of people.
– What is Mr. Hughes’ objection to the agreement?
– There are technical legal points that I cannot explain, but it is a question of how much profit shall go to the Government and how much to the firm.I venture to say that if the matter were left to a Select Committee of members from both sides of this House, the matter could be settled and the works reestablished. The law case will be long and expensive, and, in the’ meantime, the industry is crippled. I am sorry that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is not here, because he has the whole subject at his fingers’ ends, and I believe he sympathizes with the effort to secure encouragement for this industry. The desired end could be achieved if the Government told the Wool Committee that the manufacturers of wool tops must be permitted to carry on as before the war. Of course, contracts and agreements must be observed, but there is no agreement with the British Government, or any other Government, in regard to wool tops ; so that there is no difficulty of that kind in the way.
– It depends on the attitude of Mr. F. W. Hughes’.
– Mr. Hughes is prepared to carry on, but the firm is not allowed to export, although quite ready to make the tops. I understand that the Wool Committee require the tops to be kept here as a sort of guarantee.
– The Board could hold the produce of the sale of the tops.
– Quite so. The Committee have gone further, and have dislo cated the whole of the scouring and fellmongering industry. In Botany, in my own constituency, there has been established for the last fifty years an industry of this character, and- yet to-day the machinery stands idle, and the employees ore walking the streets. If one asks the reason for this, the reply is that those who carry on ..this industry cannot obtain skins. Just fancy, in a country like this, in which there are killed over 10,0.00,000 sheep annually, it is not possible to get skins for fellmongering! I have information, though I cannot prove the accuracy of it, that, after the visit of the French Delegation, one of .its members, ‘who is interested in the (production of skins in France, approached the British Government, with the .result that it is now more profitable to send dry skims Home to be treated in Europe than to treat them here. If a fellmonger buys a skin here, and takes the wool off it, he gets only ls. 3£d. per lib. for the wool, but if a person buys skins, and sends them Home to .the Old Country, and the .wool is taken off there, the return is 2,s. 6d. a lb. Thus it is that those who export skins can afford to -pay more for them than can the local fellmonger ; and now we see a sort of gamble in skins. In short, this large industry is crippled in the interests of employment in other parts of the world.
– There roust be some other reason. i
– I do not wish to impute motives, but it is said that some .people are m’aking money as a “result of the present position. Skins are worth 10s. to 12s. 6d. more in the Old Country than they are here. If I buy them in Australia and send them away I get double the price for them.
– So that you are not likely to sell to the local fellmonger.
– No, and it would not pay him to buy them., seeing that he is only permitted to get a flat rate for the wool on them. I wonder why the woolgrowers permit this sort of thing. When a woolgrower sends his wool to Great Britain he gets 50 per cent of the profit . obtained over the fixed price of ls. 3½d per lb., but wl;en skins which are bought here are sent to other parts of the world he does not get the benefit of that -profit, hut must be content with the flat rate of ls. 3½d. per lb. By the export of these dry sheep skins the woolgrower is a loser, the fellmonger is a loser, and the workers are losers; and in no sense is the country a gainer. The local fellmonger cannot compete with the man who is buying sheepskins for export. I cannot understand why the Central Wool Committee persists in crippling the fellmongery industry. I give the Minister notice that in Committee I shall move an amendment to omit paragraph (f) of section 5 of the Third Schedule and insert the following words in lieu thereof: -
After the State Committee have ascertained that all local fellmongers have been supplied, any surplus sheep skins may be sold, but shall be sold only to or through or with the consent of the Commonwealth Government.
I believe that a great injustice has been done. It was the intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that all local manufacturers should be kept going at full speed, but now there seems to be a struggle to send skins to Europe. Someone is making money out of these operations. I do not know who it is, but it is peculiar that the Central Wool Committee have appointed agents to go about the country and buy skins to send away.
– For whom are they buying?
– I do not know, but I have information that after the visit of the French Delegation an arrangement was made to buy sheep skins here with a view to establishing the basil industry in France. I do not know whether that is correct, but it is certainly a fact that in Australia the industry is going down, and men are walking about the streets unemployed, while thousands of bales of sheep skins are to be seen on the wharves awaiting shipment to Europe I hope that my amendment will be accepted. It will make it imperative that the export of sheep skins will only be possible when the local fellmongers have a full supply to enablethem to carry on their establishments.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) in regard to the handling of wool and sheep skins seem to show the necessity for an investigation. We are very largely in the dark about what is being done, not only in regard to wool, but also in respect to the operations of the Wheat Pool; and if the statements of the honorable member are correct - I presume they are,’ coming from such a source - the Government should certainly institute an inquiry. They would also do well to investigate the reported loss of about 6,000,000 bushels of wheat in New South Wales, because, if by thieving - for it means nothing else - that quantity of wheat has disappeared, it proves that the Wheat Pool has been a gigantic failure. It certainly means the loss of £1,500,000,- more than enough to pay all the expenses usually entailed in the marketing of wheat. It seems to me that the reported loss is too gigantic to be possible, but the Government would be well advised to have the matter thoroughly inquired into. We are told that it is a matter for the State Government to deal with, because the Federal Government merely controls the financial end of the Pool; but where does the farmer come in if the State is supposed to control the actual product, and the Federal Government controls the financial side, and both disown responsibility concerning what has become of this lost wheat? In my opinion it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government, as representing the whole of the Australian producers, to take the matter in hand and have it thoroughly investigated.
In dealing with these matters I am speaking largely at random, because I was away from Australia when the main part of the work was in progress, and I find it very difficult to obtain reliable information as to what has actually been done, and what is now going on; but if it is a difficult matter for an honorable member of this House to obtain information, how much more difficult must it be for the man who is engaged in growing the products controlled by the various Boards ? There is a great deal of ill- feeling among the primary producers of Australia to-day, and it is not without reason. Even if, to a certain extent, it may seem to be -a usurpation of State rights, it is the bounden duty of Commonwealth Ministers to take steps to protect men who have toiled and sweated to produce these commodities, in regard to the control of which errors, to say the least of them, have been exposed as far as honorable members of thisHouse can expose them.
One would think, listening to statements made from the other side of the House, that the man on the land has been living in luxury for many years; that he has no troubles; that he neither toils nor spins, and that he simply sits down and enjoys prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The man on the land has more cause for complaint than any other member of the community. We have been told, during the course of this debate, that the primary producer is not entitled to the full market rate for his produce, and -that itshould be- kept down as it has been kept down during the years of war. Do those honorable members opposite who claim to represent the workers realize where that argument would lead them ? One honorable member who put forward the proposal’ represents a coal mining constituency where the coal miners have an agreement with the owners that wages rise and fall according to the price of coal. If we carry the honorable member’s, argument to a logical conclusion, and the men who produce wheat and butter are not to get the full value for their products, how can he expect them to pay reasonable rates of wages to their employees, and, at the same time, how can he maintain the reasonable agreement that exists to keep up the wages of the coal miners?
– Some of the primary producers are working for nothing this year.
– The primary producers are more or less accustomed to that. Some years the profits are good, but other years often swallow up the whole of those profits.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the war period generally.
– During the war period the primary producers were not given fair treatment. In 1910 this Parliament passed the first Federal land tax, but in 1914 it increased it, and also imposed succession duties. In 1915 the income tax was imposed, and since then the lessees of Crown lands have been called upon to pay land tax.
– And there was an additional 20 per cent, increase in that tax in 1918.
– The man on the land is carrying the heaviest burden of taxation, and is also being held down in respect to the price of his products, while honorable members opposite advocate that he should be still further held down in this respect. At a time like this when, people are suffering grave injustices, it is not right that we should hear arguments put forward in this House, that the primary producers should be prevented from getting a fair return for their labour. Instead of endeavouring to crush them, we should rather extend them consideration, particularly when they are just recovering from the severity of a drought. Australia, in common with other parts of the world, increased its currency during the Avar very largely. The result is that the primary producer having the value of his. product kept down, while the secondary producer has been allowed to obtain any price he could get for his article, the cost of all commodities used by the ^primary producer has risen enormously. On top of that we are threatened with an increased Tariff to protect factories that were established owing to the increased price it was possible to secure for goods manufactured from raw material, for which the primary producer was not permitted to get a fair price.. We are going to call on the individual who, after all, is the stable man of the country, to pay out of his pocket for the support of the very things that were established at his expense. Yet the House takes it calmly, and wonders why land is going out of cultivation. Unless some of these things are remedied, Australia will find it very difficult to meet the load of debt imposed on it by the war.
– The metropolitan population is increasing by thousands.
– Every one knows that the drift of population from the country to the cities in Australia is alarming. Can we wonder ait it when we see that the man on .the land has to bear taxation, not only to support his local shire or municipal council, but also for the purposes of the Federal and State Parliaments, and, on the top of that, the Federal Parliament . says to him, “We are not going to allow you to get the market value for your goods?” Is it reasonable that this man should go out to subdue the desert, as it is sometimes put, ,to sacrifice the future, not only of himself , but of his family, ‘by struggling on the land to keep those people , who are fattening in the cities? This House is taking mp an attitude extremely dangerous to the future safety of this continent, if it listens to the argument that the man who is doing the work, breaking in new land, and feeding and clothing the people generally, is not to get a fair return foi’ the very arduous labour which he undertakes’ year in and year out, day in and day out, come-d aygoday, every day and Sunday. The man on the land ‘has to -put up with all these things, and is he then to be told that he shall not get .the price obtainable for his product? Are the people in the cities, where men congregate in their unions, and can dictate to their representatives in this House, to be pampered and petted in every possible way - ‘to be given definite hours and good pay for those hours - while he who produces is to receive lower returns than he should get? I cannot understand how a man representing any constituency, no matter what his shade of political opinion is, can advocate in this House such an evidently wrong and immoral proposition.
– You do not ob]ed to dealing with the profiteer ?
– No one wants to deal with the profiteer more strongly than I do.
Mr. -Riley. - That is all we want. Mr. FLEMING. - Unfortunately the argument adduced by the Opposition is that .the primary producer is not to get the full market value for has product. The question of the profiteer* is quite another matter. We on this side of the House are just as keen- to destroy the -profiteer as any honorable member on the other side is, because we realize that, as things stand at present, he is taking money out of the pockets, not only of the workers themselves, serious as that is, but of the producers. When I men!tion the workers, I mean those engaged in all branches of industry, primary and secondary. It is the producers on whom the stability of this country rests, and to whom we must look absolutely and finally for .the clearing off of the enormous burden of debt that faces us. I hope, after the interjection of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr.. Riley), that we shall find that the honorable members of the Opposition are seeing the error of their ways, and will no longer defend such plain daylight robbery as the taking from the .primary producer of the full market value of his product.
.- The majority of those who have spoken in this debate seem to have adopted towards the Bill an attitude that they should not have taken up. The House and the country are deeply indebted to the honorable member for Batman (Mir. Brennan) for the manner in which he handled the subject last night. We ‘have several lawyer legislators, and this is a measure on which, above all others, they should have dilated in accordance with their knowledge of constitutional law. We, as laymen, hardly know where we are. ‘ The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), for instance, said that he supported the Bill only on account of the contracts entered into. It was an expedient, he said, which covered some of the acts of the Government during war time. But to my mind it is quite in opposition to all the arguments that have ever been urged against the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth during peace time. What the Government did in war time was. done only by virtue of the decision of the High Court, and the honorable member for Batman, in a well thoughtout exposition of the judgments of the High Court Bench, showed that they in themselves were not sufficient to warrant the extension of the Commonwealth powers. He suggested that stress of circumstances, and the force of the personality of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), brought about the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth as we have seen them exercised under the War Precautions Act. The only authority we have that we shall be doing the right thing if we . pass this Bill is the statement by the legal gentlemen selected by the ActingAttorney General (Mr. Groom), and hi* voucher that the Bill is legal and correct. As a layman, ‘ I do not see how you can be both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On one occasion we are told that the Commonwealth cannot assume these powers in times of peace, and then, when it suits the Government to get a statement in the other direction, they call together a coterie of legal gentlemen, presided over, I presume, by the Acting AttorneyGeneral, and obtain from them a favorable certificate. As some one. suggested, it is simply making work for lawyers. I shall be very- much grieved if after this Bill is passed it i§ found that we have no right to these powers, and I hope the people will take a note of what has happened. I shall support the Bill because if the power is necessary I do not want to see chaos result from the activities of the Government during war time in connexion with our primary products.
I have been astonished to hear honorable members who represent primary industries talk as they do about the Pools. Boiling the thing down to common everyday facts, the primary producers know full well that during the stress of wartime nothing better safeguarded their interests than the pooling scheme carried out by the Government. If that was not the case, why do not their representatives in this House utter their protest in the proper manner by challenging the Government on the question ? Why do they not -refuse to pass the Bill, in order that we may go right back to the pre-war method of handling the products of the primary producers? But the primary producers are getting a fair deal, and have had far more than a fair deal, as I am prepared to illustrate by facts, and not by quoting the mere utterances of interested parties. I want some state- ment, other than the certificate of the Acting Attorney-General, backed up by the legal gentlemen -who acted with him, showing their reasons for certifying that the Commonwealth has this power. What are the points that they may have to meet when this legislation is challenged by the wool people, or by the jam people, as has been hinted ? Are we simply to be the plaything of the Law Courts?. The people do not desire to be ruled by the High Court, no matter what the majority is on the Bench, and they certainly do not wish that a majority of one on the High Court Bench should settle such important question*. If any one man in that position can decide for or against the Commonwealth, he practically becomes the ruler and dictator of the Commonwealth. The House has not been given enough information on this Bill, and those people outside who go to the trouble of ascertaining what is done in this place will have nothing to show them why the Commonwealth Government have now taken up the attitude that they should get wider powers. If the opinion of the legal gentlemen outside, that the Government can take these powers, is correct, let honorable members support amendments that will be moved in Committee to carry the principle further. I. shall vote for other industries to be taken in, and then those honorable members on the other side of the Chamber who back the Government will have a chance of proving that they are sincere in their offers to crush profiteering. They will be able to support amendments that will extend the Bill so that it will take in every activity, not only primary, but secondary, and do everything that will protect the people from the profiteers. That we have been at the mercy of the profiteers goes without saying. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), last night dilated upon the unrest prevalent in the Commonwealth, but that unrest is prevalent throughout the world, and for the one specific reason that during the stress of war the people have been bludgeoned by the profiteers of every country. I feel aggrieved at what has taken place in this regard in Australia. I went to the war honestly and conscientiously to assist as far as lay in my power to put an end to mili tarism, and on one very auspicious occasion during the war I accepted the Prime Minister’s assurance that not even the wildest ideas of anyone who was advocating the conscription of wealth would approximate to what he would do to make wealth pay for the war. That was the utterance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) which won my vote on a certain issue. But, now, I ask any honorable member, looking through the statistical returns, to show me where, in one instance, the Prime Minister has made wealth pay for this war. Wealth has profited out of ‘ the war, even in’ regard to those interchanges of credits which are called loans. Every transfer of credit from one side of the book to the other has been a source of profit to the men who, according to the Prime Minister, are going to pay for the war. If the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. -Fleming) were present, I would remind him of an article which was sent to all the papers in the Commonwealth telling the people that investment in the War Loans was a gilt-edged security. If it is a gelt-edged security, where has the Prime Minister made any investor pay for this war? Besides the exhortations to men to offer their services at the Front, the thing that rang most in the ears of the general community was the statement that sacrifices must be equal. Where has the sacrifice been made by the “ capitalistic section “ of the community - a phrase which I do not use offensively ? Show me one instance of it. Not only has that section made no sacrifice, but it has made profits in excess of1 anything known as to any period of years prior to the war. I challenge any man, in the light of the figures which have been collated by the Commonwealth Statistician, to prove that I am- wrong. The taunt has been hurled at us that we are the enemies of the primary producer. The Labour Party has never been his enemy. I have always maintained that very few members of the labouring section of the community have been known to retire on what they have earned from the primary producer Very few farm labourers retire to their own farms, and very few shearers buy palatial mansions out of what they earn at shearing sheep.
– More farm labourers have become the owners of, farms and employers of labour than any other class in the community.
– The honorable member may be right in the case of Tasmania, but I do not believe it is true of South Australia. The more general rule of expansion in the farming industry in that State is that the farmer puts his son on to acres which he has added to his holding since he first began. To add acre to acre is more the custom there than for farm labourers to leave their employment and buy farms for themselves.
– I could instance a whole settlement where farm labourers are now farmers.
– The opposite is the rule in South Australia, except that in our closer settlement activities and in the irrigation settlements along the Murray, where blocks have been allotted, several men who were workers in the city have been very successful. Speaking generally, so far as wheat-growing is concerned, the tendency is for people to aggregate large areas, gathering them, holding by holding, and then to distribute them amongst their children.
I deny the accusation so often made by our political opponents that the Trades Hall element in this community would deprive the primary producers of their rights. It is not the workers who exploit the man on the land; but the middlemen who “ farm the farmer.” Their operations are to be traced in all our big cities, and they usually occupy large offices and palatial residences. Such men rob the primary producers of that which should go to them. The working section of the community do not exploit them in any way.
I am unable to find in the reports of the Inter-State Commission anything bearing on the operations of the Wheat Pool during the war period, but I think it will be acknowledged that, in the stress and turmoil of the war, the farmers would not have fared as well as they did but for the Pool, and the fact that the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) was acting in their interests, as he did the other day, when he arranged the sale of 1,000,000 tons of wheat to the Imperial authorities. Thesame quantity might have been sold to the British Government under other circum stances, but the primary producer would not have been advantaged to the extent that he will be as the result of the action taken by the right honorable gentleman. I do not think the farmer will say that, in the circumstances, the pooling of his wheat has been detrimental to his interests. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said that the primary producers were more or less satisfied with the Wheat and other Pools whose operations are to be extended under this Bill. I think they are. Some honorable members have said that the primary producers have not done well during the war. As against that statement the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), who is interested in stock was candid enough to say in the House the other day that the meat producers were quite satisfied with the prices they had secured, and that they hoped they would long continue. I should think they would be satisfied. According to a report issued, by the Inter-State Commission we had in Australia, in 1913, 11,892,584 sheep, and the value of the wool obtained from them was £4,032,954. In 1916 the number of sheep in Australia had been reduced to 10,545,632, but the value of the wool-clip from that reduced number was no less than £6, 577,614. In other words, although the number of sheep had decreased to the extent of 1,346,952, there was an increase of £2,544,660 in the value of the wool.
– Is not the honorable member glad of that?
– What effect did that increase have on the general community In view of these figures, will the honorable member say that sheep-owners have been called upon to make any sacrifices during the war. Surely if the honorable member were a sheep farmer he would not wish for anything better than to have his returns in one year increased notwithstanding that his flocks had been seriously reduced. Can the representatives of the pastoral industry say that there has been any attempt to prevent the pastoralists getting the full value of their labours?
Lt. -Colonel Abbott.- Under the Wartime Profits Act the Government will take nearly the whole of those additional profits.
– It will be for the pastoralists themselves to say the extent to which they have contributed to the revenue under that Act.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Sixty-five per cent.,of those excess profits will go into the Treasury.
– We take up to 75 per cent. of the war-time profits.
– It will be for the honorable gentleman to furnish us later on with a return showing what the pastoralists have paid under that Act. Even assuming that they have been called upon to pay into the Treasury 65 per cent. of these war time profits, 35 per cent. of those increased profits still remain with them. What sacrifices have they made during the war period, seeing that their profits have been in excess of those secured under normal conditions? At one time some of those now supporting the Government were prepared to advocate the taking of the whole of the war time profits.
– If you had applied that law to the profiteers in the city the Government would have got a lot more.
– I am prepared to apply it to all profiteers, whether their operations are carried on in the city or elsewhere. I have endeavoured already to deal with them.
A report presented by the InterState Commission shows, that grocers in Victoria and New South Wales are working from hand to mouth, but there is a coterie known as the Cooperative Distributing Company of New South Wales, which fixes the price of Moreton’s tinned fish before that commodity leaves England, and also fixes the price of Champion’s English vinegar. The company even endeavoured to fix the price of Indian Root Pills in the same way. but the proprietors of that medicine would not allow them to do so. As to the honorable member’s suggestion that we should put a stop to profiteering I may say at once that the Opposition are prepared togo to any lengths to secure that end. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) inquired this morning whether Ministers had observed that the
French Government are going to enter into competition with several industries in France. We stand for the same principle - for the nationalization of industry - and I am prepared to do anything to help along the movement. I would suggest that we start at the fountain head of all commercial activities - the banking institutions. If we commenced there we would quickly put an end to profiteering.
Returning to the position of the pastoralists I contend that the figures I have quoted from the report of the Inter-State Commission show that they have not had to sacrifice a penny because of the war, but have really profited by it. The report shows that the wool clip in 1913 was 106,833,690 lbs. as against 101,846,924 lbs. in 1916, a decrease of 4,9.86,665 lbs. Notwithstanding this great decrease the returns to the pastoralists in 1916 were £2,500,000 in excess of those received in 1913 period.
– But the reduction in the number of. sheep has been an absolute loss. Thousands of them died.
– Notwithstanding their reduced flocks the pastoralists secured an immense increase in 1916. They made £2,500,000 more than they did in 1913 when they had 1,250,000 more sheep. I should like to suffer the same sort of loss.
– Surely the carcass of a sheep is worth something?
– Undoubtedly, and if the pastoralists in 1916 had bad the same number of sheep that they had in 1913 they would have obtained a still greater return. The honorable member does not grasp the point I am trying to make. I am not suggesting that the reduction in our flocks was due wholly to the drought. I am simply pointing out that notwithstanding the reduction in the number of sheep in Australia in 1916 as compared with 1913, an enormously greater return was secured from the wool clip.
In 1913, 410,694 cattle were slaughtered in Australia for a return of £2,566,837. In 1916, 247,781 cattle were slaughtered - showing a decrease of 162,913 - yet there was an increase of £274,451 in the returns. No wonder the member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) speaking as a cattleman says, “ We are quite satisfied.” What sacrifice have the cattlemen made by selling meat to the British Government.
– All the cattle were sold in open market.
– I am aware of that. The profiteers allowed the cattlemen to get the extra price during the war period. What sacrifice have the cattlemen made? What have they done for the soldiers’ widows and mothers and for those who kept the wheels of industry going during the conflict? What have they done to help the Empire during its time of stress? I care not whether it was the man who owned the cattle on the hoof, or the operator in the market, or the retail butcher - somebody made that increase of £274,451. I know that these large profits are one of the causes of the unrest and strikes of to-day; and the Government desire to gaol men because they tellthe people the facts. These figures show who are the men who. have exploited the community. I do not say they arranged it deliberately, but the opportunity offered and they took advantage of it. In the early days of the war, we heard much about equality of sacrifice. Sir William Irvine said that, if necessary, the fanner should put a firestick in his crops if the interests of the country demanded it. What sacrifice has been made by the cattle kings ?
In the year 1913, 4,732,231 sheep were slaughtered for a return of £3,739,012; and in 1916, 2,647,200 sheep were slaughtered for a return of £3,759,613. In other words, there was a decrease of 2,000,000 in the number of sheep slaughtered, but an increase of £20,601 in the return from the stock.
– Is that the wholesale or the retail value ?
– I am quoting the return published in the document to which I have already referred, and it relates to all dealings in meat from the station to the consumer. But, as I have pointed out, the sheep farmers have not made as much money as the wool merchants. Their extra gain from the smaller output was only £20,000; the cattle breeders’ extra gain was only £276,000; hut the wool sellers made an extra profit of £2,544,000.
– They did very well.
– Again, I ask, where was the sacrifice for the war? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us that the wildest proposals of the men who would conscript wealth would not nearly equal what he would do by way of taxation to make wealth pay for the war. But, as I predicted, wealth has not paid for the war; the payment will he made by posterity. I have dealt with this measure in reply to the assertions of honorable members on the Government side that, owing to the operations of the Pool, the primary producers of meat and wool have not had as good a time as they should have had. The figures I have quoted prove that they never had a better time than during the war period.
The same argument applies to wheat. I do not say that the wheat farmer has not been in the hands of the very persons who exploited him in pre-war times. I have previously told this House that the. late John Darling died worth £2,000,000, made in twenty-five years by dealing in. wheat. No man working on a farm ever left £2,000,000 behind him. It is the duty of the House to appoint some Commission to ascertain whether the depredations that are taking place in connexion with our primary industries cannot be prevented, and those who have been responsible for them penalized. In South Australia two Commissions have inquired into the wheat business, and one brought about the downfall of the man who claims to be a representative of the farmers, and who, writing to the press signs himself either “ Farmer “ or “Mother of Ten.” I refer to Sir Richard Butler. He was always pleading for the “poor cocky farmer,” but he was ignominiously pushed out of the Ministry for dealing in the Wheat Pool. In the course of the inquiry, reference was made to the fact that Mr. Brimage, one of the officials of the Wheat Board, sold timber to the Pool and made a profit.
– Is there not a lot of wheat missing in South Australia ?
– I do not know what the position is in that State, but the statement made by , the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) regarding the thefts in New South Wales was serious enough. If it be true that 6,000,000 bushels of wheat are missing from the New South Wales Pool, the persons who took it are just as bad as any burglar. If the wheat has been obtained by criminal means it is the duty of the Government, in order to protect the farmer, to thoroughly investigate the matter and lay the felon by the heels. Reverting to my argument, I repeat that the farmers never did better at any period of their existence than they have done during the last two or three years. I make no complaint of that; I desire everybody to have the best that the world can offer. That is a basic principle of the Labour party. “ The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” and we are all brothers; and although at times we have to resort to extremes to convince honorable members opposite of that doctrine, it is, nevertheless, a fact. The day will come when such a doctrine will replace the present system of cutting each other’s throats for a few shillings.
The season 1914-15 was affected by drought, and the farmers reaped only 24,000,000 bushels of wheat throughout Australia. But in the following year the wheat crop increased to 179,000,000 bushels, and in 1916-17 it was 152,000,000 bushels. By that time about halfamillion men were either engaged in war activities or were fighting in France, but notwithstanding the depletion of man power, the farmers in 1917-18 harvested 114,000,000 bushels.. I ask honorable members to consider what those figures connote. The previous largest harvest was 103,000,000 bushels, obtained in the year prior to the drought. During the war period the farmers received for their wheat a flat rate of 4s. 9d., plus any further amount that could be obtained by the Government from the sales to the Mother Country, and I hope that honorable members will not say that that payment was less than the wheat merchants would have given to the producer. There is no doubt that the vultures of finance have scarified the farmer, and will do so again if they are permitted, but the traffic in wheat certificates has not taken place at the Trades Hall. Honorable members on the Government side talk glibly about the primary producer not getting a fair deal from members on this side, but I remind them that the Labour Government created the various Pools in order to insure that the farmer would get the best possible price for his products, and that the accumulated surplus would not he wasted. I am grieved to know that the Commonwealth does not possess greater powers in that direction.
One of the last measures on which I spoke in this House before leaving for France was a Bill to permit the Commonwealth to finance the State Governments in the erection of silos for the storage of the wheat which was being destroyed by mice and weevils in the stacks at nearly every port. I believe that New South Wales has been the only State that has taken advantage of that enactment, so as to conserve the surplus of the fat years for use in the lean years. It is our duty to carry out that policy, and I am sorry that the other States have not proceeded further in the matter, and that the Commonwealth is not able to arrange storage in silos, as well as regulating and controlling the sale of wheat. When honorable members say that the primary producer is a cause of annoyance to this side of the House, they are quite wrong; but I do assert that during the war period the farmers have had a fair return; in fact, they have never done better in the whole of their existence than they have since the drought season in 1914-15. I suggest that on all these Boards, or Pools, there should be a representative of the employees in the industry concerned, for, after all, this is a correlativecom- munity, and in the last analysis it is the working people who have to pay.
– Why not have at least one honorable member from each side of the House on all these Boards ?
– That might meet the position; but what is in my mind is representation by a man employed in the trade or industry concerned. Suppose I were appointed on the Wool Committee, as from this side ofthe House, what do I know about wool ?
– “What does the Chairman of the “Wool Committee know?
– The honorable member knows more of the composition of the Wool Committee than I do, and while I do not question the ability of the chair-‘ man, I suggest, as was suggested in the case of the Industrial Commission to America, that men who are employed in particular trades or industries, and who know all their intricacies, should be appointed.
I am going to support the second reading of the Bill, but I shall be very much grieved if subsequently this legislation is challenged and declared to be ultra vires, the Government being involved in considerable expenditure owing to having followed the lead of the Attorney-General. In my opinion, it is the duty of members of the legal profession, who have been returned to this House because of their legal and general attainments, to follow the lead of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and give us all the information they can as to the legality of the Bill, so that we’ may not vote in the dark, but do that which is for the benefit of the community generally.
It.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [12.50].- Amongst the ‘activities dealt with by the Government, there is one branch that requires careful handling. I refer to the rare metals - the tungstens, which comprise wolfram, scheelite, and molybdenite. Prior to the war, practically the whole output for Australia, which was very limited, went to Magdeburg, in Germany, which had a monopoly of the industry. Early in the war it waa discovered that England had only four months’ supply of tungsten steel ; so the scientists gott. to work, and laboratories were established in the Old Country, with the result that the factories set up were able in a short time to turn out sufficient tungsten steel to meet the requirements of England and the Empire during the war.
At the present time the control of these metals in Australia is vested in the Commonwealth Government. and all the sales of the three I have mentioned must be through Government agents. For the period of the war, and for six months afterwards, contracts were made with the British Government, under which the price of molybdenite of a certain stan-. dard is to be 100s. per unit, and of wolfram 52 s. per unit. This contract will probably continue for another six months. The mines in Australia are mostly in the north of New South Wales and Queensland, .and there the position has become rather hazardous. In June last notification was received !by the different miners and concentrating companies from Dalgety and Company, the authorized buyers, that tungsten ore3 would not be received unless of a certain standard. That standard is almost prohibitive, and at present it is impossible, without scientific research, to produce the concentrates required by the representatives of the Government. As a consequence, the whole of the mines in North New South Wales are closed down, and the miners are out of work. The expensive works which were recently erected there, and in Sydney and elsewhere, for the treatment of these rare metal concentrates, are also closed down, because they are unable to produce a commodity of the. standard of excellence set by the Commonwealth Government, who are agents for the British Government.
So long as this state of affairs continues, the production of metals will be practically nil ; and I invite the attention of the Commonwealth authorities to the importance of preserving the industry. Unless something is done at an early date, Australia, instead of producing a fair share of these metals, will be compelled to go out of the market. Further, we shall find the different mining centres which have been established ceasing to exist, and the treatment works, on which thousands have, been expended, will become white elephants. This will also be the fate of the expensive ‘ plants erected to carry on the various processes, including the oil flotation process, which produces the concentrates, and the results of which have been remarkable up to the present time.
In Australia, there seems to be great ignorance in regard to the use of tungsten steel and metals, and only as a result of the war has attention been drawn to it. Prior to the war, practically the whole of out high-speed tools were manufactured on the ordinary blacksmith method - by suddenly heating and then suddenly cooling the metal. But the difficulty, in a continuous operation, was to make the steel sufficiently hard and tempered to offer the necessary resistance, and to answer the test ofcarrying out heavy work, such as drilling cylinders for big guns, and insuring mathematical correctness along the line of shafting. In England, there was only one factory prior to the war which had attempted in any way to deal with the production of high-speed tools by means of tungsten alloys, and that factory was not a success. The whole of the products from Australia and elsewhere in the Empire, went through the bottle-neck of Germany and radiated to ‘England, America, and other parts of the world; and when attention was drawn to the fact that the German supply was cut off by the war, the scientists of England awoke to the necessity of filling the gap if the war had to be carried on with any hope of success. The manufacture of high-speed tools has played a far greater part in the successful conduct of the war than most people imagine. With the antiquated methods of pre-war days, it would not have been possible to produce one-fourth of the munitions, or onefourth of the guns of heavy calibre, and other instruments required ina conflict so huge. Therefore, high-speed tools had to be produced; and, in order that honorable members may know to what extent these have affected the production of munitions, I need only point out that they are necessary for very many reasons, as the following statement will show -
Owing to the fine edge to which the” tools must be ground, and the fact that the tool never leaves the work, the heat affects the tool far more than the work. It follows, therefore, that good engineers’ tools must combine . a number of essential qualities, namely: -
1 ) Hardness to give a keen-cutting edge.
Strength to resist the enormous strain concentrated on the cutting edge and body of the tool.
The property of remaining unaltered in hardness and strength at high temperatures. .
Uniformity in texture’, so that tools may be re-heated, re-made, and reground many times and still show the same characteristics.
Uniformity as between one tool and another, so that identical results may be obtained in repetition work.
6 ) Softness and ductility when heated to a suitable temperature, so that rolling and forging are possible without undue waste.
The capability of being annealed or softened, so that complicated tools, such as twist drills, milling cutters, shell-boring tools, &c, may be manufactured while the steel is soft, and may be hardened with the least possible distortion. .
If this industry is allowed to go out of existence in Australia, there will be very great difficulty in supplying’ the requirements of the Empire, and of England in particular.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - There are other uses to which tungsten can be put, such as in the manufacture of permanent magnets of the quality requisite for magnetos and telephones, filament lamps, and armour plating steel of high quality. A few figures in regard to the world’s production and consumption of tungsten may be of interest. So far as Australia is concerned., mining for rare metals has been a parlous industry because the use to which they could be put was not too well known. The world’s consumption of tungsten ores rose steadily from 4,000 tons in 1906 to 10,000 tons in 1913. During this period the British Empire produced approximately half, and, in. fact, possessed a controlling interest. Since the war the output of ore has risen to close upon 20,000 tons per annum, and the United States has jumped into the position of being the largest producer, having increased the output from 1,400 tons in 1913 to close on 7,000 tons in 1916. while the Empire production for 1916. was under 6,000 tons. The increased production within the British Empire of , from 5,000 to 6,000 tons was no . small achievement in itself under war conditions.
– What particular relation have the honorable member’s remarks to the Bill?
– The Bill deals with certain activities which are controlled-: by the Commonwealth, and proposes to extend the life of our control’ over them. I am anxious to point out the absolute necessity for continuing control in regard to rare metals, in the search for which a considerable number of men are employed in New South Wales and Queensland. I am also pointing out that through- the ignorance of the man in the street in regard to those metals, it is possible that the claims of the persons engaged in the industry, which is only in its embryo state at the present time, are apt to be overlooked unless attention is drawn to the great utility they are to the British Empire.
– The honorable member’s argument is to point out the necessity for enlarging the scope of the Bill in order to deal with those metals?
– Yes, I was referring to the increased production of the British Empire. In 1914 tungsten metal, as opposed to tungsten ores, with which I have just been dealing, was almost solely produced, manufactured, and made in Germany. In this respect it can be compared to epsom salts, a product which may be bought and sold every day. Germany secured” the raw material and manufactured a sort of Eno’s fruit salts, which was distributed throughout the world at a high price as a patent medicine. Tungsten metals contain 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of tungsten materials, and in 1914 Germany had almost a monopoly of the tungsten steel manufacture for the world.
– Prance had a share of the manufacture.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - The honorable member is quite correct. The United States of America was partly self-supporting in the matter of tungsten metals, and France was also attempting to compete in ferrotungsten manufacture, but it was recognised that Germany had in her claws practically the whole of the world’s supply and distributing power of tungsten metals. I know from first intimacy with people engaged in the mining of these rare metals in Australia, that Germany was a most keen buyer prior to the war. The price offered by German buyers was £100 per ton more than the price which has been- secured by our miners during the war. Within three months prior to the war the owners of a small mine in New South Wales sold a large quantity at £300 per ton. That quantity was shipped to Magdeburg, and the buyers were very keen to get the producers in the north of New South Wales and Queensland, where most of the Australian production of these rare metals comes from, to enter into contracts to supply so many tons per year for years ahead. That was, I suppose, in anticipation of the war. Luckily, however, during the war the attention of the British Government and scientists was drawn to the potentialities of these metals, and in the laboratories of Great Britain scientists have been able to perfect machinery which will produce tungsten steel equal to the German out,put. Scheelite, molybdenite, and wolfram are very rare metals. They are tungstens, inasmuch as they are used for the hardening of steel, this method taking the place of the old carbonizing process of heating very rapidly and cooling very rapidly. This is how the scales fell from our eyes during the war, and honorable members should know something about it, although it is not very palatable talk to those who are not closely in touch with the production of these metals.
From a comparatively early date in the war, prices for the tungsten ores and’ high speed steel were controlled in such a way that the British makers - in reality the British Government - could secure their supplies of tungsten at a figure which has always been far below that ruling in other countries. During the war, Norway and Sweden, which produce very low-grade ores, were getting up to £2,000 per ton for their product. The British Government had to pay them the prices asked, so that the metal should not go to Germany or elsewhere, but the miners in Australia were only getting from £400 to £500 for the same standard 6f metal. This was owing to the fact that the British Government, who were out to win the war, had. cornered the whole of the Empire’s supply of these precious metals. It was a case of life or’ death to the nation to have these tungstens for the alloy of metals used for turning out muni- tiona or producing high-class tools employed in munition works and elsewhere. I have a publication here which says with regard to the contracts made within the Empire -
By this arrangement a large sum of money, probably over £2,000,000, was saved by this country.
The miner in Australia has helped to win the war by accepting from 40 to 50 per cent, below the price that he could have obtained for his produce in the ordinary markets of the world. He is not grumbling at that, but now that six months from the termination of the war the contracts between the Imperial Government arid the Commonwealth Government will come to an end, and Germany will be a competitor in the markets of the world, he. believes that the Commonwealth Government ought to take steps to foster the industry here. I am speaking on behalf of hundreds of miners interested in winning these rare metals, and of people who have put thousands of pounds into oil-flotation and concentrating plants which have been set up for dealing with these precious metals. The producers have no wish to sell to the German buyers, but they want to know whether the Commonwealth Government will see that when the contract with the Imperial Government expires a market is found for their metals in the heart of the Empire, and that they get the highest price to be obtained in the world’s metal market, preferably from the British buyer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should take over and organize the sale of these metals, and export them ?
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - I would not go so far as to say that, but as the ramifications of the metal market are so weird and uncanny, the working miner or a small company cannot be expected to get into the heart of things at the other end of the world to ascertain what price should be obtained for the metals sent overseas. I regard it as being within the province of the Cabinet of the day not to brush this matter aside cursorily, but in the interests of the miners engaged in the industry producing metals which the Empire requires, to see that the. best price that is ruling in other parts of the world is obtained for their output. During the war they accepted from 40 to 50 per cent, less than the price they could have obtained in the open markets of the world, and the British Government saved, at least £2,000,000 by getting theirsupplies from within the Empire.- Our miners have helped to bring the* war to an end, and it is only fair and rational that this industry, which is so important to the British Empire and to its future trade, should be carefully watched, so that the miners engaged .in producing these rare metals may get the highest price which they could obtain by competition in the open world’s market.
At the present time we have not in Australia, so far as I am aware, any laboratory or works where experiments in regard to the manufacture of tungsten steel can be. carried out. At Teddington, near Richmond, in the suburbs of London, there is a research laboratory which, to an Australian, is an absolute eye-opener. Through the good offices of Sir John Monash, I had an opportunity to look through those works, and made the pleasing discovery that on the metallurgical side the highly intricate scientific researches being carried out there were under the direction of an Australian, Dr Rosenhain, who’ won a travelling research scholarship in Victoria. At this great laboratory tests are made of tungsten and all allied metals.
I put it to the Government that one of the most important duties of our Bureau of Science and Industry today should be that of making practical tests and. experiments in regard? o not only to the uses of our tungsten metals, but to the manufacture of tungsten steel, the demand for which will be world-wide. We have here the iron, the steel, and the coal necessary to the establishment of a great industry, and the Broken Bill Proprietary Company to-day seems likely to be able to supply the whole of the steel requirements of Australia. We need, however, to go further. We should utilize our raw materials here just as Germany dealt with them before the war, and as England is utilizing them to-day. It seems to me that it should be the province of our Bureau of Science and Industry to make experiments, not with a small retort on a table, but on a scale designed to truly test the general commercial utility of tungsten for the manufacture of tungsten steels. It should not deal merely with minute particles, but make experiments on a large scale, so as to show our “steel manufacturers that it is physically possible to turn out in Australia an . article that was formerly manufactured principally in Germany.
– Success for us would mean a monopoly of the tool steels of the world.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- Quite so. Providence has blessed us with all the things that go to make u,p a great nation. -We have all that should tend to make Australia more self-contained than any, other country. Before the war these rare metals, about which .no one here, save those directly concerned, knew anything were being shipped from Australia, and concentrated in Magdeburg, Germany, where they were treated and, in manufactured form, sent to every quarter of the globe at prices perhaps 50,000* per cent, in advance of the original, cost of the raw product. That is a point that we ought not to forget. We should remember, also, the desire of Germany to corner these .metals as she cornered other metals from Australia. We have the coal and everything else necessary in connexion with the production of steel. What, then, is there to prevent us ‘ doing what Germany prior to the war was doing, with the use of our metals, for the world ?
At the Teddington laboratory, amongst other things, various aeroplane tests are made. I saw there a model aeroplane, with a spread of 2 ft. 6 in., enclosed in a glass case, where it was subjected to a wind travelling- at the rate of 60 miles an hour. Scientists on either side of the glass case watched the effect of this rushof wind upon the tiny model, and noted every movement. In this way new designs were being tested.. The dimensions of the several parts were mathematically true to the extent of one ten-thousandth part of a second , and as the result of tests made in this way, plans and papers were Bent to Woolwich and elsewhere, for the construction of aeroplanes, with a spread of 50 feet, with the certainty that as soon as they were made, pilots could enter them and fly away.- It “was there that I’ saw an Australian’ boy, ‘ Dr. Rosenhain, controlling one of the biggest scientific research departments established in connexion with the war. Why should not Australian scientists, instead of being employed’ in other parts, be found employment here? I met several such men in the Old World. . One enters a great scientific laboratory in the Old Country, and finds occupying a prominent position there a man who has come from the School of Mines at Ballarat, Adelaide, or Broken Hill. In conversation with him, one is told that Australia offered him no opportunities when he completed his course, and that he had to go abroad. The people of Australia paid for the’ travelling research scholarships won by these men, who have been blessed with genius, and we should utilize their services here. They constitute a great national asset; they belong to us, and would be delighted to work with us; but we must offer them some inducement to remain here, and to assist in scientific research calculated to materially assist in building up the Commonwealth. It may be due to our sunlight or, perhaps, to our universal system of education, but the fact remains that, as a community, we have more initiative, than have any other people.
These tungsten metals are more farreaching in their importance than most people imagine. They are associated with all the big industrial enterprises that are going, to play a large part in the building up of Australia. This world of. ours is not run by hands alone, but by the dynamic force of every person in the community - -by the utilization of the brains and the abilities of men occupying even the most humble positions. The abilities of our people should be marshalled , for the benefit of the whole community, and I urge the Government to enlarge the Bureau of Science and Industry ten or twenty fold, even if - it costs £10,000 or £100,000 to do so. Every improvement made in the production of a particular commodity must benefit Australia as a whole. The nation that hopes to be some day at the head of the world’s affairs must be prepared to utilize science to the full. It must recognise the value of science as applied to industry, and the importance’, of bringing to bear on all its operations the trains as well as the physical strength, required to give effect to them. We have produced scientists whose services are being utilized in other countries today;we should find employment for them here.
In regard to the utilization of these base metals, success lies in the hollow of our hand. One mine alone in thenorth ofNew SouthWales has produced more, molybdenite than any other mine in the world. If these rare metals which are. going to count so much in the industrial progress of the community are to be utilized as they shouldbe, it . behoves the Government to see that the industry is protected. At the present moment all the miners in this particular branch of the industry are out of work, and expensive plants, costing from £8,000 to £10,000, are shut down . because of the literal interpretation given to the agreement made by the British Government as to the supply of ‘ these metals”. . I urge the Government to take such steps as will enable them, when the contract for the supply of tungsten terminates, six months after the conclusion of the war, to open up a market for the tungsten miners where they will get the . best price for their metal’s. We should take care that neither America, Germany, nor any other nation is allowed to exploit the industry as Germany did at the expense of the Australian public and the British Empirebefore the war.
The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom.) asked, by way of interjection a few minutes ago, whether I would . suggest that the Government should take complete control of the marketing of this product.
– I was wondering whether the honorable member suggested that the Government should organize the producers, so that the marketing of their product might he carried out through the agency of the Government.
– It seems to me that that proposal would hardly fill the bill. What I suggest is that the Government should ascertain what is the world’s price for tungsten, and where the best market is. If they do not intend to continue the control of this metal, then they should enable the Australian producer to shift it tothe place where he can get the biggest price, so” that the working miner will getthe . best possiblereturn for his industry. Unless that be done, Australia must goout of the market as a producer of these rare metals. It is all-important toAustralia, and the British Empire as a whole, that this branch of the metal in- - dustry should be fostered.
The subject is a very dry one, and I do not wish to labour it, but it is, as I have said, very far-reaching in its effects, and I am Utopian and hopeful enough, to’ believe that as the ramifications of the steel industry spread, and as strikes and industrial troubles become things of the past, we shall have established on this littoral of ours - near our coastal centres if you like, but I should say where hydro-electric power is availabie-great industrial works. In Victoria and elsewhere beautiful rivers are running to waste; the latent power is thereif we. will but use it. We have all the raw materials,, and I hope that in the near future, with the aid of the brilliant minds of our scientists, the great steel industry of Australia will have taken such strides that we shall be producing not only the crude steel, but all the highly-finished products which- are now distributed from Sheffield, Wolverhampton, and other big centres in the United Kingdom, that we shall be able to supply the world’s demand for internal combustion engines, high-class electrical machinery, and every other high-class steel product. It is my belief and hope that it will not be necessary for us to send toGreat. Britain or America, and certainly not to Germany, for those manufactured steel goods which in years past have absorbed so much of the life-blood of Australia.
Mr. FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [2.48).- The Bill before us’ brings us face to face with a problem of a most intricate kind, which has been a fruitful source of perplexity to this Parliament ever since Federation was accomplished. One pleasant feature of the debate so far has been the evident desire of honorable members on both sides to recognise the difficulties and devise the best way out of them. Some honorable members have devoted their remarks to the need for protecting the manufacturers; others have thought of the consumers, and others of the producers; but there is an evident desire in the Chamber. to secure to this Parliament such power as will give to all interests in Australia efficient protection and lasting security. The purpose of the Bill is particularly focussed in the following paragraph of the preamble : -
And whereas the conditions brought .about by the war ore still operating, and render it necessary to further control the supply and price of sugar and dairy produce to the people of the Commonwealth . . . and in so far as the prices of dairy produce are concerned, the War Precautions (Prices) Regulations should continue to have the force of law, and that provision should be made for the continued fixation of the price of sugar. . . .
There we have a clear statement of what the Bill is expected to accomplish. Iii brief, the measure seems to aim at securing statutory authority for some things we have been able to do by a temporary exercise of authority under the War Precautions Act. I was interested to notice that it was not until the War Precautions Act had been in operation for a considerable time that this Parliament discovered that it had any power under the Act to do what’ we have been doing during the last two or three years in our interference with the trade and commerce of the country. The limitations of the Constitution were recognised, and when the War Precautions Act was passed, there was no suspicion in the mind of Parliament that it would enable us to extend the powers of the Constitution, which -limited our authority over trade and commerce to that between States and with foreign countries. Later, a decision of the High ‘Court revealed the fact that the Act conferred upon this Parliament unlimited power so far as trade and commerce of the Commonwealth was concerned. We have now come to the end of that authority, and the Bill proposes to continue under the authority of a statutory law of the Commonwealth certain of those powers which we possessed in time of war. At once the questions present themselves- - “Can we do this ? Is this the way to. do it V Whilst there is not the slightest doubt in the minds of honorable members that we are exceeding our constitutional authority in passing this Bill, I have equally little doubt that we are trying to do the right thing, but in the wrong way. A memorandum relating to the Australian Industries Preservation Act was prepared in August, 1909, by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn), and it says -
The method of amendment (section 128) which enables the people to speak both through their, national representatives and directly at the poll on a referendum, is evidently more in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution than that of parliamentary reference, which applies to matters affecting the interests rather of two or more States than of the whole Commonwealth.
I do not think there can be the slightest doubt in the mind of any honorable member that the proper, unquestionable, and constitutional method of securing the powers sought in this Bill would have been’ by means of a referendum of the people for the purpose of an amendmentof the Constitution.
– If we have the power to do these things, where is the necessity for taking a referendum ?
– I am quite prepared to believe that Parliament is satisfied as to the need for the exercise of these powers, and I also firmly believe that the people are ready to grant them to the Commonwealth; indeed-, I believe the people are ready to give the. Commonwealth Parliament, if not entirely unlimited, at any rate, very much wider, powers than are contained in this Bill. The spirit of nationalism has made rapid progress in Australia during the last few years, and the ability displayed by the Commonwealth Parliament in war emergency, and under pressure, has convinced the people that there are advantages to be gained from this Parliament possessing unlimited power over trade and commerce. When the War Precautions Act was in operation, late in 1915, this Parliament passed a Commonwealth War Powers Bill, which sought to arrange that certain powers should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament for the purposes of the war. Some very eminent legal gentlemen who are now quoted in support of this Bill expressed the view, then that if the States conceded the powers which were being sought during the war, such powers would last only for the period of the war and twelve months afterwards, and then would revert to the
States. An arrangement whereby the majority of the States conceded the powers sought was later accepted as the easier and more expeditious way out of the difficulty. We must recognise the difficulties that do exist. The experience of the Federal Parliament and of the commercial community since the advent of Federation- has convinced the people that the present Constitution is unable to protect them in any sense either as producers, manufacturers, or consumers. How, then, are we to do it? The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has quoted to the House certain legal authorities, who state that in their opinion this Bill is within the competence of the Federal Parliament. I would not dare to venture an opinion in contradiction of those eminent gentlemen, but I cannot help reminding myself that these same lawyers have always been quoted as authorities against the Commonwealth Parliament in the exercise of powers that were -not strictly constitutional. Now, we find them expressing an opinion that seems to give a very free and liberal interpretation of the Constitution.
– Only on the subjects mentioned in the Bill.
– That cannot be, because if the Commonwealth powers extend to the matters mentioned in the Bill, they must also be capable of extension to anything else to which the Government may choose to apply them.
– Not necessarily.
– I am aware that this Bill is meant to continue certain arrangements made under the War Precautions Act. There is before the House another Bill to prolong other arrangements made under the same Statute. We know how necessary and advisable it is that certain things should be protected, that whatevercontracts have been entered into in regard to wool, wheat, sugar, and other commodities shall be continued. The whole question is whether this Bill is the proper way to do it, and this the . proper time.
– What will be the position of the contracts if this Bill does not pass ?
– There is no question of the position in which the contracts will be. When we were discussing an extension of the War Precautions Act a few months ago I argued that whilst it would be necessary to guarantee the security of some of these contracts, and prevent disturbance in the commercial world, the sooner we got rid of these restrictions that prevent business flowing back to normal channels the better it would be for the Government and the country. The danger I see is that we are going to establish a method of getting round the Constitution without having the courage to say that the Constitution must be amended -in such a way as will secure to Parliament for all time the powers necessary.
I was interested in looking up the case that was put for and against when it was last proposed to alter the Constitution in 1915.It will be remembered that each side in politics was given an opportunity to put its case in writing, and copies of the arguments were to be sent out to every elector.
– I do not think copies were sent to every elector.
– They were printed for that purpose, but I believe they were not really sent out.
– The publication- had a chequered career.
– However that may ; be, on page 12 of the pamphlet . the argument in favour of the constitutional changes proceed thus -
Every other Parliament in the Empire has the powers we are asking for. These Parliaments can protect the interests of the people if they choose. They can limit the profits of these unscrupulous persons who are ‘heaping up war fortunes, regulate prices, and deal generally with Trusts and Monopolies. They can deal with strikes and industrial disputes generally. But the Federal Parliament of Australia, in the greatest crisis of the modern world, when the entire fabric of civilization is cracking with the frightful strain, is powerless to deal with capital or labour: powerless -to prevent exploitation of , the people by capital: powerless to maintain industrial peace.
On page 19 that is emphasized in these words -
For example, under the Defence power, or any other it now possesses, the Commonwealth could not give the producer a guarantee of trading freely between the States; it could not prevent the States acquiring wheat, meat, or other produce; it could not make a general company law to protect shareholdersandthe general public; it could not prevent exploitation of the people by regulating prices; it could not limit profits during the war, and so prevent the . piling up of huge war fortunes: it could not deal effectively with any industrial dispute . that paralyzed the industries of the country; it could not deal with Trusts and Combines; it could not nationalize or control a monopoly even if it were bleeding the nation white.
On page 23, in reference to companies, we find the following : -
The Commonwealth must have power to control companies, because companies control nearly ‘all the capital invested in industries upon which the great mass of the people are dependent for a living. The- control of companies is a bread-and-butter question, for companies not only employ 75 per ‘ cent, of all labour, but fix the prices of the greater part of what the whole community lives on. . Companies control wages and prices, therefore the community must, be able to control companies. Trusts and Combines are usually composed of companies working together for their mutual benefit and the. people’s detriment, and in order to effectually control Trusts and Combines we must have power over the companies that compose them.
It is interesting to notice that that power was desired, particularly during the war, because of a tendency among a certain class to take advantage of war necessities in order to aggrandize themselves. On page 13’, the present Prime Minister’ (Mr. Hughes), who was the compiler of the argument in favour of the referendum said -
Now, we all know how the cost of living has increased so . that it is with . the utmost, difficulty that the bulk of the community are able, even with the greatest economy, to make both ends meet, and, making every allowance for the effects of the drought, there can be no doubt whatever that this is due very largely to manipulation’ of . the market by unscrupulous persons at the expense of the community. These persons frequently pose as patriots. They subscribe £50 to patriotic funds, and fleece the public of £5,000 by high . prices.
– That is absolutely correct.
– No one will venture to question it. This Bill professes, as its particular purpose, to regulate the price of sugar and dairy produce, and to protect the people of Australia. But the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves is that, so far from the exercise of those powers having protected the people of Australia, we have a higher cost of living and larger profits, and the people in a more destitute position,: economically, than before. It is strange, also, that while the ‘ Government; in their’ Ministerial statement, say that the pricefixing system they adopted saved some millions of money to the . people of the country, they propose to withdraw the price-fixing arrangements.
– The Governmentcould not help themselves.
– They could not, from a constitutional stand-point.
– That shows the one-sided character of this legislation.
– Not at all.
– The Government say that they have been able to reduce prices for the people, but that they cannot continue the protection because it would be unconstitutional, while at . the same time under this Bill they propose to continue protection - to whom ?
– Nothing of the sort.
– I appreciate the position so thoroughly, that honorable members opposite find themselves compelled at considerable pains to explain things. I used to think that there was only one class of men in the community who could adapt themselves to every change in circumstances, who could dothat to which Goldsmith refers -
Doctrines fashioned to the varying hour.-
I am satisfied that in addition to the lawyers there is also a very . large section of politicians who find their doctrines very convenient in that respect. I know that there are two sections of politicians, at any rate, whom we can always identify and locate : I mean the extremists on both sides. There is the Conservative on the one side, and the Labour man on the other, and we always know where to find them; but between there is an enormous number who seem to be able to accommodate their conscience and arguments whenever circumstances require. They remind me of the lines by John Oxenham -
The high soul climbs the -high way,
And the low soul gropes the low;
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
There is scarcely an honorable gentleman opposite who feels more strongly in these matters than does- the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom). That honorable gentleman has opposed and obstructed every attempt to secure those very powers which he now purposes to acquire by unconstitutional method.1 Many- honorable members opposite have always consistently opposed the exercise of such powers by the Government, and there are also many others who, under more congenial political circumstances, have supported attempts to secure them. I believe that all of us here are of opinion that the Commonwealth should- have these powers, but the question is whether we have a right to nullify’ the Constitution. This Parliament is supposed to be” the depository of power under the Constitution - supposed to be the custodian of the Constitution of Australia, and the protector of the liberties of the people. Yet we are deliberately being asked by the Government to violate the Constitution , which limits our powers.
– I thought you said you would not dare to differ from the legal opinion given.
– I do differ from that opinion; but I do not put my own opinion forward as of the same value.
– You say that we are violating the Constitution.
-I do, and I go further. In the Judiciary Act it is provided, section- 88, as both the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) must be aware, that when ever the Governor-General refers to the High Court for hearing and determination any question of law as to the validity of any Act or enactment of Parliament, the High Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. Then section 93 provides that the determination of the Court on the matter shall be. final and conclusive, and not subject to any appeal. I challenge the Government to submit this Bill to the High Court under the provisions of the Judiciary Act after it has passed both Houses of Parliament, and let the High Court determine whether or not it is valid under the Constitution.
– Do not worry; the Bill will get there!
– The ‘ honorable member makes; a very relevant interjection when he says that the Bill will get before the Court, in any case, and I can only hope that he will get his share of the work involved. There is no question that if the Government do not themselves take advantage of the Judiciary Act, and refer the Bill to the High Court, thus saving . an enormous amount of’ time, trouble, and money, there are sections of the community who, for their own protection, will have to test its validity. This latter method will involve no end of intricate legal technicalities and arguments and, as I say, the expenditure of large sums of money.
– Surely you do not object to lawyers living ?
– I do not object to their living ; the only objection I have is to how they get their living. The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of a most interesting episode that occurred in the House when we were discussing the industrial (powers of the Commonwealth, and it was proposed to submit to a referendum- that the limitation! in .regard to the control of industries should be removed. ‘On that occasion, the present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine), who was then member for Flinders, said, in effect, “ The Act is an Act for conciliation and arbitration and the prevention and settlement of .industrial disputes; we have argued as to the meaning of ‘ conciliation ‘ and the meaning of ‘ arbitration,’ and we have discussed the meaning of ‘ the> prevention and settlement ‘ of disputes, and, most of all, as to whether or not there is a dispute at all.” It will be much the same in regard to this Bill. Immediately the Commonwealth attempts to exercise the powers it gives a . whole stream of legal arguments will be let loose, and, instead of the ‘ powers accomplishing the purpose for which they are introduced - ito secure certain arranged contracts in the interests of the contracting parties - we shall have the Constitution of Australia dragged, torn, and beaten about, and we will scarcely know where, we are when the argument is over. On every occasion when a constitutional question has been brought before the High Court, there has been a doubt left as to what the Constitution really, means. It is admitted that it is not what it says, and that we do not know just where we are.
– That is inevitable in regard to any written Constitution. It was the same in America.
– It was not to the same extent in America, simply because the Supreme Court there took a very courageous, though somewhat risky, attitude in their interpretation of the Constitution, and practically remade it.
– And our High Court followed them.
– But not to the same extent, nor with the same clarity or definiteness. The judgments of the Supreme Court in America in regard to constitutional matters have always been clear, and in regard to specific cases have left no doubt as to their meaning.
– American cases have been relied on in interpreting our Constitution, which is largely founded on the American Constitution.
– I know that our Constitution and the decisions of. our High Court upon constitutional questions have largely followed- the American Constitution and Supreme Court decisions, but it is an argument that we should not be content to follow the long, tortuous, and ruinous journeys of the American people in regard to their Constitution, which, like ours, was a compromise based on political rather than economic necessities, and that we should go to the fountain head, which is not provided in the American Constitution, and ask the people of Australia what they think about this whole question of Commonwealth powers. We have a favorable opportunity of doing so at the next general election. I have not the slightest doubt that if the people are appealed to they will be prepared to give this Parliament the powers which are now sought to be extended to it, particularly because there is an urgent necessity to protect them against exploitation. The people, not only of. Australia, but of every other country, have been deliberately robbed and exploited by their fellow countrymen under the pressure of war necessities. It is unfortunate, but immediately war breaks out trouble begins. The Melbourne
Age on 11th August, 1914 - about a week after war broke out - published the following: -
State interference is not merely justifiable, it is necessary. The exploiter is in command of the market, and he has shown us the stuff of whichhe is made. Like a bolt from the blue war fell upon the world . . . with a parallel rapidity the exploiter fell on us, and proceeded to batten on our needs. Not an instant did he hesitate. The nation lay prone before him, and, perfect patriot that he is, he fastened on the nation like a vampire. It would be less harmful to encounter an armed foe in the field than to suffer the extortions of these ruthless greedy traders. Unquestionably we must outface and disarm them; and there is only one way to do that - by collaborating State interference.
The position has not improved since then. On the contrary, it has gone from bad to worse. Whatever disadvantages we suffered because of profiteering, exploitation, and economic piracy atthe beginning of the war, we are in a much more parlous condition to-day.
– The strike is not helping matters.
– There would have been no strike if the Commonwealth Parliament had used fearlessly and honestly the powers the Government possessed under the War Precautions Act, and which should have been used under constitutional authority.
– To man and run the ships? I agree with you.
– To’ run the ships by granting to the seamen what are admitted on every hand to be nothing more than fair and reasonable terms.
– If the Arbitration Court says that they are the seamen will get the benefit of them. The honorable member’s party has always been in favour of arbitration.
– That is so.
– It does not look like it now, because the purpose of the strike is to burst up arbitration.
– The honorable member is putting a very strained interpretation on the attitude of. the seamen. Our party has distinctly repeated its belief in arbitration; but it maintains that the present system is inefficient and wasteful, and that it is too slow and too costly. When we asked for the power to make the Arbitration Court effective for its purpose, the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) was one of those who’ most violently opposed it.
– No; I have been one of the strongest supporters of arbitration for the last thirty years.
– I did not say that the honorable member opposed arbitration. I say that he opposed our efforts to get power to make the Arbitration Court effective for its purpose. The fault today is not that arbitration as a principle has failed, but that the application of the principle so as to be usefully effective has failed. The demand is not for the abandonment of arbitration, but that the Government, not only in connexion with the proposals referred to in the Bill, but also in regard to the whole economic situation, should secure to the Commonwealth powers which will enable the Arbitration Court to be made what it was meant to be, and what is was understood it was to be - a means of preventing and settling industrial disputes. To-day we have a paralysis of the functions of a Court which could be made useful for economic purposes. Mr. Justice Higgins, President of the Court, told us ten years ago that the position which has arisen would certainly emerge unless some attention was paid to the functions of the Court.
– The Court is not paralyzed. The trouble is simply that the men will not go to it.
– The seamen did go to the Court last December, and they secured an award.
– But they refuse to go to it now, because then they did not get as much as they expected.
– It is amusing to hear these gentlemen referring to the action of the seamen, and accusing them of not doing their work or proceeding along constitutional lines when the Government are introducing a Bill which is absolutely unconstitutional. Where have the seamen or workers in any form of activity learned the virtue of direct action? From my friends opposite. The whole of their actions, every step they have taken, has been direct action.
May I revert to the argument I was putting forward when drawn away from it by the interjection of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) ? I was talking about the exploitation of the .public and increased prices. On every occasion that the worker in an industry went to the Arbitration Court and secured an award, almost .contemporaneously there was direct action on the part of the manufacturers and merchants in the shape of increases in the cost of the commodities produced.
– The manufacturers do not carry on philanthropic institutions.
– The increase was partly justified by the increased cost of production, but in some cases the price paid by the public was out of proportion to the increase in the cost of production, brought about by the new terms of the award. However, on one side we had arbitration in regard to fixing the workers’ wages, whereas on the other side there was direct action on the part of the employers and manufacturers in fixing the cost of the commodity. There is no Arbitration Court to fix prices, and when the Commonwealth Government exercised some control over the fixation of prices and the manufacturers discovered at the end of the war that protection of the public was withdrawn- - there was immediate action on their p.art. A case was brought under my notice this week. The day after the Government announced . the withdrawal of the price-fixing regulations dealing with condensed milk, the price of that commodity increased by 6s. per case.
– Does the honorable member contend that the Commonwealth Parliament has the constitutional power to legislate in regard to the fixation of prices ?
– I say that the Commonwealth Parliament does not possess that power.
– Then for what is the honorable member arguing ?
– I contend that the Commonwealth Parliament does not possess the constitutional power to do so, neither has it the constitutional power to continue its control over wheat, wool, or any other thing; but, inversely, if it has the power to deal with these commodities it also has the power to deal with others.
– There, are no contracts in regard to the other commodities. We can deal only with commodities for which we have contracts.
– The honorable member must know that if the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to. deal with commodities, their list does not end with those contained in this Bill. The very fact that certain articles are covered by the Bill is an admission that somewhere the power of this Parliament is lacking.
– The Government have, merely brought this Bill forward because the House insisted that definite legislation should replace the War . Precautions Regulations.
– I do not know thatthe House insisted on it. The party upstairs may have done so.
– No. The honorable member was as insistent as. any other honorable member.
– When we were previously discussing ‘ this matter, I submitted an amendment to refer the whole question of the continuation of the control of trade and commerce, industrial matters, and so on, to a referendum, and Mr. Speaker, quite correctly, ruled the amendment out of order. Nevertheless, I believe that is the’ proper method to adopt. If there was not some doubt as to the power of the Commonwealth under the existing authority, there would not be need for this Bill. . The very f actthat the ‘Government bring forward a Bill to give them authority to do things which are illegal, prove that they deem it is necessary to obtain the power sought for.
– Under the existing regulations the Government could do anything they propose to do under this Bill.
– With every movement in the direction of protecting the producers of wheat, milk, wool, and sugar, and the consumers of those commodities, I am in most hearty agreement, but I want to know why the Government stopped at these articles-. Other people are not protected.
– That is another question.
– It is not another question, but another phase of the same question. The Government, having decided to obtain statutory authority for all these regulations,, and since it is a certainty that their right to this authority will be questioned in the High Court, they might as well have made one . job of the. lot. As it is, they are making two bites at the one cherry, and the result will be grave trouble.
– Is the honorable member prophesying what the Government are going to do?
– I am pointing out how the Government could obtain the necessary authority in the easiest and most effective way. I am confident that the people of Australia are ready to give this Parliament increased powers.
I recently had an argument with a friend in regard to the War Precautions: Act. My friend said, “ Thank goodness,, the War Precautions Act will expire in a short time.” But my reply to him was, “ I am certain that before the Actexpires there will be a movement for its extension.” My friend pooh-poohed the idea, and said that, under the Constitution, it would be impossible to extend it. But within a fortnight there was introduced in this House a Bill to extend the Act.
– The honorable member must have known it was coming on.
– No; but there are many men who, like the honorable member, and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), have plenty of backsight but little foresight.
The honorable member for ‘ Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has made a very striking appeal for the farmers. He has pointed out the difficulties that confront them at the present time.
– Some of them are in a very bad position.
– I think that is so. No one on either side of the House objects to the prosperity of any section of the community; but we have all to recognise that the man on the land practically carries the burden of ‘ the community. If it be true - and I believe that to a large extent it is - that the primary producers’ of Australia are in ‘the very unfortunate position outlined bythe honorable member’ for Robertson, then something should be done for their protection. The honorable member ‘said that there was a strong feeling on the part of the’ primary producers that they’ were’ not receiving proper treatment, and he asserted,’ further, that land was going out of cultivation. That is’ a most unfortunate position of affairs, and it can be true only because of the actions of the Government now in power. No such statements were made while the Labour Government- were in office. True, we were charged with not giving the farmer sufficient protection, but it was never said that the farmerswere not properly treated by us, or that during our regime land was going out of cultivation. If the farmers are suffering, it , may be but another illustration of a man falling amongst his friends who have robbed him.
– The honorable member has been looking so far ahead that he has no time to look at the complaints made while his party were in office.
– My concern is that if land is going out of cultivation it will constitute one of our biggest difficulties in meeting our liabilities and in endeavouring to reconstruct after the war.
– The high price of sugar is causing some hundreds of acres of small fruit country to be given up.
– If the price of sugar is too high, with whom rests the fault? While this Bill proposes to perpetuate the present price of sugar, namely, 31/2d. per lb. for Al grade, the actual result of the fixation of prices is that to-day the people have to pay 31/2d. per lb. for an inferior sugar. The maximum price is becoming the price for the minimum grade. In the restaurants, aswell as in. the. homes of the people, to-day you will find, not Al sugar, but brown sugar being used, and the price charged tor this is 31/2d. per lb. I am prepared to support the Government in guaranteeing the people Al sugar at 31/2d. per lb., and lower grades at correspondingly lower prices.’
The honorable member forNew England (Lt. -Colonel ‘ Abbott), who “treated” theHouse to an interesting and illuminating speech in regard to the metal industry’, pointed to the enormous potential wealththat we have in our metals. Every one knows that in our mineral resources we have a latent wealth of immense value, not only to our own material internal interests, but in rehabilitating us in respect of our foreign responsibilities. What are we doing to develop them, and what can we do? Each State has its own Mines Department controlling the mining industry. The Federal Parliament,’ by ‘means of its control overexports, also interferes, and between the two authorities it is so battered about that only those large firms that are- able to exercise, monopolistic control are securing any benefit from their labours;’ The workers, the men who are doing the spade work of the industry, are getting the least return.’ That is whatis happening in connexion with all industry in Australia, and it is largely responsible for the prevailing industrial unrest. Unless we can find ways and means of meeting this difficulty other than by an extension of the powers of the War Precautions Act, for what can we hope ? Legislation of this kind is merepatchwork. It represents only instalments to keep the wolf from the door for the time being. What we want is a strong, bold, courageous policy for Australians, having regard, not to the individual States, but to Australia as a whole.
I am inclined to think that what the Government are trying and hoping to do by means of this Bill is good, but I believe, also, that they are seeking to secure that object in a wrong way; and no method ‘ of doing the right thing in the wrong way will ‘ ever lead to satisfactory results. There is a very easy method of getting the necessary powers. In addition to the method of the referendum, which is by far the most reliable means of getting the people of Australia behind these powers, there is still another way in which’ ‘to- secure authority.- The Government, might have made an adventure along these lines by asking the States to give their concurrence to; the vesting of these powers in the Federal Parliament. Such’ approval, on the authority of Sir Edward Mitchell, who speaks as to’ the competence ofthe Parliament- topass this Bill, would have enabled the Commonwealth Government to carry on these schemes until the expiration of the present contracts. I do not see how the States could have objected to such an extension of these powers as would cover the period of the contracts, and, having obtained their concurrence, the Commonwealth Government would have had an effective and easy method of accomplishing their purpose. Instead of that, they have brought down a Bill which is going to lead us into bog after bog and morass after morass of legal technicality, and in the end we shall not know where we are or what our Constitution is worth to us. It is because I believe that we can get a Constitution that will give us power to effectively manage the affairs of Australia in the interests of the people that I suggest to the Government that, immediately after these Bills are passed, they should submit them to the High Court under the terms of the Judiciary Act, and obtain straightway the decision of the Court as to their validity.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fowler) adjourned.
Bill reecived from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Order of Business. - Peace Celebrations : Clemency to Military Prisoners : Remission of Fines - Defence Department : Preference to Returned Soldiers : Instructional Staff: Ordnance Branch - F. W. Hughes Ltd. : Contract With Japan - Australians in Imperial Forces : Treatment of Dependants - Return of Tasmanian Soldiers : Detention of s.s. “ rotomahana “ : quarantine - Deportation of Enemy Aliens.
– In moving -
That the House do now .adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable members that on Wednesday next we shall proceed with the consideration of the Bill which we have been debating to-day, and which we are anxious to pass as early as possible. As soon as it has been disposed of we shall proceed with the Moratorium Bill, and then the Bureau of Science and Industry Bill.
– May I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether he is yet prepared to make any announcement with regard to the remission of sentences on returned soldiers imprisoned in Australia to-day ?*
– Not yet.
– An order recently issued seems to aim at the discharge of the whole of the staff sergeants on the Instructional Staff, and the substitution for them of returned soldiers. I have every .desire that returned soldiers shall have preference in employment, but I have been told that some of these men applied for leave to enlist, and made every endeavour to get to the Front, but were prevented by the Department from doing so. Now they are being punished because they did not see active service. If that is being done, it is most unjust that they should be made the victims of a regulation which ignores the fact that it is owing to the action of the Government that they are in their present plight. The payment of these men also calls for sympathetic attention. They have been kept for three and a half years at practically the same wages as they started at, although, owing to the war, the cost of living has been increasing each year. Altogether it seems to me that their case calls for more sympathetic treatment at the hands of Ministers than it has had so far.
.- A man who is well advanced in years, and has one wooden leg, has been dismissed from his employment in the Ordnance Branch in order to make room for a returned soldier. Surely the Government do not intend, in order to give effect to the policy of preference to soldiers, to discharge old men who were not capable of going to the war. This man has for many years struggled for his living, and yet he has been dismissed, and another man, who is hale and hearty, although he has served at the Front, has been put in his place. I am sure that returned soldiers do not expect to take the place of aged cripples. I hope the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) will make inquiries into the case.
.- Some time ago, during the discussion of the motion of want of confidence, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) made a statement concerning F. W. Hughes Ltd., of Sydney. Through having made some interjections while the honorable member was speaking, I have received a communication from Mr. Hughes, in which he asks me to place a statutory declaration before the House. He says that the honorable member for Capricornia “ made a statement that F. W. Hughes Ltd. went into liquidation in order to break its contract with Japan. Such a statement, reflecting on myself as a director of both companies, ought not to be allowed by me to remain uncontradicted.” I read this declaration at. his request -
I, Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins Mackenzie, of Martin-,place, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, public accountant, do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare that -
And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1900.
Subscribed and declared at Sydney this seventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, before me - S. Gordon Robey.
.- In the main streets of Melbourne to-day I witnessed a spectacle which almost broke my heart. I saw large crowds of men, women, and children pleading to be given the means to buy the necessaries of life. It seems to be deplorable that something has not been done to grant the relief they need. I have no desire to go into the merits of the present industrial dispute, but I think that, in the midst of our rejoicing at the great victory which the Empire and the world have achieved, we should at least try to remove the great distress in our midst. I appeal to the Government to regard the plight of these people in a humane spirit, and to do something to prevent a repetition of the demonstration we saw to-day. We ought not to let the wide world know that people needing sustenance must in this twentieth century parade our cities in order to impress their claims upon the Government. I feel sure that if the Government are of the same mind as the majority of honorable members, and of the people outside Parliament, they will adopt some method of rendering assistance to these needy citizens.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of the House the manner in which the dependants of a sailor who has served in an Imperial minesweeping corps have been treated. This man belonged to the merchant service in Australia, and I have a letter from his wife asking me to do what I can to get assistance for her. I shall be quite content if the Minister will promise to investigate the case and relieve her distress.
– If the honorable member will give me the letter I shall have it inquired into.
– But this case calls for immediate attention. The husband has received the D.S.M. for war service on the other side of the world, but his wife and children have been thrown out on the streets penniless. At the same time, we are spending money on Peace celebrations.
– Who threw them out?
– This extract from her letter will explain -
I wish to ask you if you will advise me? My husband, when war broke out, was a merchant service sailor, and he went to England and joined the British Navy, and has been minesweeping on the North Sea ever since, and got the D.S.M. He was demobilized last February, and sent word saying he could not get home quick enough. I have had no money since,and no word or sign from him. I feel sure he is dead. I was driven fairly mad over owing three weeks’ rent, and no money to move. So, yesterday, I- sent furniture to store, . and a friend paid for a room for a few days. My eldest girl worked three years at MacRobertson’s, but is out of work. Other children are aged 13, 11, 10, and I have been fairly hurt and insulted, over my rent and bills in front of neighbours. I have pawned even my blankets, and I can prove to you I am not able to work hard. A friend has paid for a room in this house until Tuesday, and my children have been taken by different people for a few days. After that–God knows. St. Vincent de Paul Society has helped me with a little food and boots for two children ; one has just come out of Fairfield Hospital after scarlet fever. They tried to get the boys into the orphanage, but could not; they are crowded out.
My only reason for bringing this matter forward publicly is that there may be other similar cases; , and I regard it as a great travesty and satire on the Peace celebrations that a woman and her children should be in such , an unfortunate position after the services rendered to the country by her husband.
– I desire to impress on the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), the great necessity . there is to make arrange- ‘ ments for the e’arly transport of returned Tasmanian soldiers to their homes. Today I received a wire’ from the chairman of the Soldiers’ - Fathers Association in Tasmania, asking me - to urge the Minister to give further consideration to this important matter. It is particularly pointed put that in the case of vessels coming via the Cape, Hobart could easily be made the first port of call, involving scarcely any diversion from the ship’s course. It seems deplorable that there should be such difficulty in getting the men to the island State after they have been landed in Australia. At present they may be kept in Victoria or any other State for a considerable time; and as many of them have been away as long as four . years, their parents and friends become naturally anxious, particularly in view of the prevalence of influenza on the mainland. To them the influenza epidemic may represent a more alarming state of affairs than it does to us here, who are more intimately acquainted with the actual conditions, but not only the Soldiers’ Fathers Association, but the Returned Soldiers’ Association, and the public generally in Tasmania, are asking that some better arrangements should be made. I am informed that a wire has been sent to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and to Admiral Clarkson, to the effect that public meetings are being held throughout the island in order to impress on the Government the. gravity of the situation. Every endeavour is being made to- get our men returned from the Mother Country, and since Senator Pearce arrived there, matters have’ so progressed that, to the de-‘ light of every one, it was announced the other day that our last man will shortly be on his way to Australia. But when they do arrive in Australia, they are liable to be kept in one port or another for quite as long a time as was required to bring them from the Old Land.
– Could not warships be used to takethe men to Tasmania?
– I have already made inquiries ‘as to that, because I prefer to do what can be done by means of the Department rather - than take up the time . of honorable members . in this .
House, and I find that the men on the warships, after their long term of service, are entitled to extended leave. It would scarcely be fair to keep them on duty to carry on such a- work; but I hope the Government will look into this matter and see what can be done.
.- I think that, honorable members’ on both sides will be interested in the reply I have received from the Defence Department to the petition which was forwarded from enemy subjects, or people of enemy origin, who desire to remain in Australia. The reply is as follows: -
Melbourne, 14th July, 1919. With reference to your letter of the 5th instant, addressed to the Acting Prime Minister and a petition received by yon from certain enemy aliens resident in the Ambrose and Mr Larcom districts, together with a supporting petition signed by other residents of the districts, I have to inform you that nothing is known of - these individual cases at headquarters, but that only in exceptional cases is it proposed to call on uninterned enemy aliens to show cause why they should not be deported, and that before any person is deported he will have an opportunity of applying to a specially appointed tribunal for permission to remain in Australia. - Yours faithfully,
The Ministry ought to tell us, I think, how this specially appointed tribunal is to be composed, and where it will sit. Are these uninterned residents in Queensland to be compelled to come to Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide, in order to appear on their own behalf ? I urge that any action by the Government in regard to these people should be prompted by the dictates of humanity, and not by vindictiveness and revenge. We asked these people to come to Australia, and amongst those who have communicated with me are many who took up very heavily-timbered country, cleared it, and invested all they had in their farms. Germany has been utterly smashed, and we ought to follow the plan of America, where native-born Germans, of whom there are 10,000,000, are allowed parole. America is composed of a dozen different nationalities - Russian, Austrian, German, Italian- - possibly it is the admixture that accounts for the strength, of the
United States as a nation. ‘ In our own race Danes, Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, and a dozen other peoples make up the British race.
– Why, there are dozens of words in the Scotch language that have been appropriated from the French.
– Do the Scotch appropriate even . words ?
– Max O’Rell, the French humorist, wrote : - “ The Scotch are said to keep the Sabbath and everything else they can lay their hands on “ ; and doubtless from the hundreds of Frenchmen, who, in the course of centuries, have settled in Scotland, there arises that vivacity which sometimes characterizes the Scot. Now that the war is over and the enemy crushed, we ought to allow a spirit of humanity to influence us. We are anxious to keep the country popula ted, and to increase the population; and yet it is proposed by the edict of the Government to send these people out of Australia. The tribunals ought to be local, so that those concerned may not be put to expense or placed at a disadvantage, and all the proceedings ought to be open to the public. If there is evidence that a person is not fit to remain here let him be sent away, but if those brought to the Court are shown to be honest, hardworking citizens who have done nothing against the British Empire, they ought to be allowed to remain, whether they be German, Austrian, or any other European nationality.
.- I should like to refer to the statement of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) - a statement which came rather as a shock to me - that an Australian may be demobilized in England, though he wishes to return to Australia:
– This man enlisted in the British mine-sweeping service.
– Then I did not quite understand; but, in any case, I think the Government ought to get in touch with Australians who enlisted in the Imperial Forces on sea or land and take care that their dependants are treated as favourably and generously as are the dependants of the men who enlisted in Australia.
This means, of course, that we must maintain the dependants until their men folk return. I have no doubt that the Imperial Government will do everything possible to help men who enlisted in their service, but whetherthey do so or not, we are under obligation to our own people; and I trust that the Assistant Minister for Defence will see that dependants are given a decent chance until the return of the breadwinners.
.- I indorse what the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has said in reference to the unfortunate state of affairs as disclosed in the arrangements for the return of the Tasmanian soldiers. The positionof Tasmania, I am afraid, is not thoroughly understood in this House, for very few members find time to visit the island and ascertain what are the conditions there. In the circumstances, honorable members are apt to ‘forget that Tasmania is an island, and has not the same quick and convenient means of transport as the mainland. Many of these boys have been away for years, and, with other Australians, have held their . own. For this they deserve - and I do not say they do not get - as much attention as is given to others, but the people of Tasmania, not being fully aware of the departmental replies to questions, do not always realize that a fair deal is being given. I urge the Government to hurry up the despatch of the Tasmanian soldiers to their homes, either by sending them by way of Adelaide, as has already been done, in one case; or allowing the boats via the Cape to first call at Hobart.
There is another matter in regard to which I do not think the authorities are getting full credit from the Tasmanian people, who cannot understand why the Rotornahana should have been held up at Portsea instead of going direct to Barnes Bay. I think that the authorities very likely have a good reply if they would only make it known.
– Perhaps there is more accommodation at Portsea.
– That cannot be the reason, because they do not go ashore at Portsea. ‘ If the Rotornahana could go straight to Barnes Bay, and come back again, she could convey 500 or 600 men during the time that she is now wasting at Portsea.
– Is there sufficient accommodation for 500 men at Barnes Bay?
– Yes. There were 700 men there quite recently.. But that is not the reason. It is, I understand, because there is not sufficient coal. A very unfortunate position has arisen in regard to quarantine. When the influenza epidemic broke out, the States and the Commonwealth were raising small points in all directions, and quibbling about them, while the people who were suffering from the scourge were allowed to be neglected. The State of Tasmania happens to have remained a clean State, and surely they have- a right to keep out the disease. Medical men do . not seem to know very much about it, and the Tasmanian health authorities claim that seven days is a sufficiently short period. At any rate, at least one case of influenza occurred within six days on a boat proceeding to the island, and proved fatal. Other cases have occurred after intervals of- four and five days. My experience of influenza was a pretty lively one.. I was on the Rotornahana at Portsea for seventeen days, and the disease went through the ship like a bush. fire. The authorities at Portsea relieved the situation by removing the crew and second class passengers, and by sealing up the fore Dart of the ship, after which there were no further cases on board. On that occasion the cases followed one another within forty-eight hours, but as the Tasmanian authorities can point to cases which have occurred in which the interval has been five or six days, they are satisfied that a period of seven days is the very least that they can adopt with safety to the people of the State. Apparently doctors everywhere know very little about the disease. In fact, they are. very chary about giving any opinion in regard to it.
– I think that the Tasmanian health . authorities, who are enforcing seven days’ quarantine, know as little about influenza as others do.
– They know quite as much as others do, and, on the experience they have gained, they are entitled to claim that a period of seven days’ quarantine is necessary. I do not want the State authorities and the Federal authorities to be fighting one another while the patient they are supposed to be saving is left to die, and seeing that the disease is likely to continue with us for another twelve months, it is time they put their heads together to devise a scheme consistent with public safety for permitting freer communication between Tasmania and the mainland. If a quarantine station is established at Middle ‘Island, in the Tamar River’, what is there to prevent the Loongana, or any other boat, taking passengers backwards and forwards much more speedily than is possible under the present arrangement? The interests of the public should be the first thought of the Commonwealth and State authorities, and the sooner something is done in this matter in the interests of the public the better it will be for all concerned.
.- In two days’ time Australia, by direction of the Crown, will be celebrating Peace. In order that this could be rendered possible Australia put the best part of’ 400,000 men under arms, of whom, approximately, 60,000 fell in the war. Chiefly by reason of the character of the Australian soldier on service, small breaches of discipline Brought penalties on the war servicesheets of many of those who fell, and, in the spirit in which we ought to approach Peace, I ask the Government to remit all those penalties.
– An announcement was made in reference to the point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) yesterday. The matter mentioned by. the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) is receiving attention. The question raised by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) will be investigated by the Defence Department, to see if anything can be done in regard, to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190717_reps_7_88/>.