7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister in. charge of the Housewhether he has. any announcement to make as to the negotiations now proceeding’ with respect to the present industrial dispute?
– Certain negotiations are proceeding, but in view of what is transpiring, I am not yet in a position to make a definite announcement.
Non-Flying of Flag on General Post Office .
Lt-Colonel ABBOTT.- Will the PostmasterGeneral state why theflag wasnot flyingon the General Post Office on Peace Day ; and whether it is a fact that a flag is flown over that building only, when the honorable gentleman is in Melbourne?
– It is explained by. my officers that the non-flying of the flag over the General Post Office on Peace Bay was due to the f ailure of one of the staff toperform his duty. The matter is being attended to. I do not believe in the flying of flags to mark my arrival in Melbourne, and do not encourage the practice.
– Will the Acting Leader of theHouse state whether the Government have yet received the full official text of’ the Peace Treaty embody-‘ ing the League of Nations provisions ? If it has been received, may the paper be printed and circulated for the informationof honorable members?
– Certain provisions of the Treaty were cabled to the Government, but the full text has not yet been received.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader ofthe House been drawn to the proceedings before the Royal Commission now inquiring in Sydney into the Georgeson wheat contract ? As the matter is of national’ importance, and of particular interest to the farming community, will the Government take steps to be rerepresented beforethe Commission, in order to protect the farmers from being robbed?
– The Royal Commission in question was appointed by the-. State Government to deal with a State matter, and all representation before that Commission is determined- by the State concerned.
– Will the Minister for Worksand Railwaystakeintoconsideration the advisablenessof communicating withthe State Governments concerned, with a view to securing a duplication of the supply of coal now being drawn from New South Wales? The New South Wales and Victorianrailway services connect not only at Wodonga; but also at Tocumwal; and a transfer of ‘ coal from New South Wales could take place at Tocumwalaswell as at Wodonga. Will the honorablemember urge that both lines be used in that way ?
– The matter hardly comes within the jurisdiction of the Departmentof Works andRailways, but I shall convey the honorable: member’s representations to theState Governments concerned.
– In regard to the prayers read each day at the opening of our proceedings,, I desire to ask you, Mr.’ Speaker, whether youdo not think it is somewhat out of placefor usto continue to importune theAlmightyto grantus peace whena peace that is highly satisfactory to the Empire has alreadybeen secured.
– Since the declaration of peace, certain deletions have been made from the form of prayer which was drawn up by a Committee appointed to go into the matter; but if honorable members consider that further revision is necessary, I shall give it consideration. I would, however, draw special attention to the wording of that part of the prayer to which the honorable member refers, and which, to. my mind, does not call for immediate alteration, since what we ask for is a “ lasting peace.” We pray -
Strengthen,O Lord, the soldiers and sailorsof our Commonwealth, our Empire, and our Allies.
That, I think, is a supplication that we can at all times make. The succeeding sentence -
Protect them from all dangers;give them speedy victory over their enemies, is notnow read,but it seems to me that the concluding sentence- andgrantthat an honorableand lastingpeace may result from their valour and their sacrifices, is a prayer that will apply for all time.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Will the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Repatriation lay on the Library table the papers in connexion with thenegotiations withthe State Savings Banks and the arrangement finally made with the Commonwealth Bank for financing the Commonwealth war service homes scheme?
– I will bring the honorable member’s requestbefore the Minister for Repatriation. I do not think there can be any objection to it.
– May I ask the Minister acting for the Treasurer whether, ifhe has any influence with the management of theState Savings Banks, he will endeavour to induce the several comptrollers to bring up the wages oftheir officials to the level of the salaries paid to employees of the Commonwealth Bank?
-I think that we have quite enough to do to look after our own troubles.
Mr.FENTON. - I have received from the Postmaster-General a letter stating that tenders are to be invited for the supply of telephones of various types, including 2,100 table sets for common battery working. I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether, prior to the acceptance of any tender, he will make a thorough inquiry as to whether this work can be done by Australian workmen in our own postal workshops?
– I have already done what the honorable member suggests. It has always been my desire to extend the operations of the manufacturing branch of my Department, and to have our requirements supplied, as far aspossible, by Australian workmen. But owing to the war having depleted our stocks very severely, and our inability to replace them quickly enough, we have had to take an exceptional course in order to givethe public the service’ to which they are entitled. I shall look into the matter again ; but, in future, I intend to strictly adhere to the policy adopted in the past.
– Have the Government come to a decision in reference to the recommendations made by the Acting Public Service Commissioner and the Crown Law Officers regarding retiring allowances for public servants ?
– The matter isstill under consideration. Nodecision has yet been arrived at.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that Mr. Tom Walsh, the general secretary of the Seamen’s Federation, has commenced a hunger strike? If there is truth in the rumour, will the Government deem it a suitable case for the application of the “ Cat and Mouse Act “ ?
– No such rumour has come to the ears of Ministers. The last portion of the honorable member’s question, although it deals with a matter concerning the administration of justice and the public affairs of the Commonwealth, would seem to indicate that it is not intended to be regarded as serious.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. I would hav§ made it sooner but for the absence of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster). A few weeks ago I asked him the following question: -
The Postmaster-General’s reply was as follows : -
The reply to my first question is sufficient for my present purpose. The remark, “ I should like to see the statement referred to. If it has been made, as stated, it is not correct,” inferring that I had fabricated the statement myself, is most offensive to me. It impugns my sincerity and honesty in asking the question, which an extract from the Argus of 31st May last will show I did not trump up. This extract is -
Mb. Griffin’s Appointment
No intimation has yet been forthcoming about the Federal Government’s intentions regarding Mr. W. B. Griffin’s tenure of. office as director of design and construction for the Federal Capital. Mr. Griffin’s appointment terminates in .October.
For half his time Mr. Griffin is paid £1,050 per annum, and is allowed to do private work in the remainder. Of late years practically no works -have been carried on at Canberra, and, consequently, Mr. Griffin has had little to do in his Federal capacity. Last year, however, he was paid special fees for designs for altering the General Post Office in Elizabethstreet, and the .telegraph operating rooms, amounting to over £1,000. This work was not given to Mr. Griffin because there was a lack of officers in the architectural branch of the Department of Works and Railways, which is under the direction of Mr. S. Murdoch, who is responsible for the whole of the building operations of the Commonwealth. Mr. Murdoch, in the execution of his duties, also prepared plans for the very works for which Mr. Griffin’s plans were made, and the greater portion of the new post-office buildings in Bourkestreet was built from Mr.. Murdoch’s designs.
In the light of that extract, I think that the least the Postmaster-General can do is to offer me an apology for haying re plied to my question as he did.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I am surprised at the honorable member’s remarks, and at the conclusion he drew from my reply to his question. He has no reason to infer that I attempted to be offensive or unfair to him. I simply said that I had not seen the statement he referred to, and, in the circumstances, it was quite natural for me to question whether it was in accordance with the facts. As a matter of fact, I knew that it was not. Hence I asked for the source upon which my friend was basing his question. No personal reflection was intended, nor was any implied. I am pleased that the honorable member has brought forward this matter, because it gives me the opportunity of correcting an inaccurate statement, namely, that the plans which were drawn by Mr. Griffin were copies of something done by the officers of the Public Works Department. The plans used were those drawn by Mr. Griffin ; that is to say, his ideas and his design were used subject to some alterations arranged by the officers of the Works Department and myself for various reasons which I need not specify here. These alterations necessitated another set of plans being drawn up by the officers of the Public Works Department. The bulk of the design, practically 99 per cent. of it, was the work of Mr. Griffin. If we had had some competition with regard to the planning of necessary public works on which millions of pounds have been spent in Australia, we could have saved a very large public expenditure, and would not have had so many buildings which do not meet requirements, and which are so common a feature in the Commonwealth today.
– Were the plans submitted by Mr. Griffin for the alterations to the General Post Office, Melbourne, compared with those issued by the departmental officers, and was any saving, as well as convenience, in the carrying out of the work of the Post Office effected by using Mr. Griffin’s design?
- Mr. Griffin’s plans were altered in some respects, but there is no indication of any saving having been effected.
– Has the Acting Leader of the House an announcement to make regarding the filling of a vacancy on the High Court Bench and the appointment of a new Chief Justice?
– I am not in a position to make any announcement on the matter.
– Is the Acting Minister forthe Navy in a position to tell the House what truth there was in the cable message published recently, to the effect that the Prime Minister had ordered three ships of 20,000 tons each?
– I propose at a later stage to-day to make a full statement regarding the ships that have been built.
– In the flotation of the new war. loan, will the compulsory sections of the Act recently passed be put into operation, or are any new arrangements to be made?
– I propose at a very early date, probably this week, to make an announcement in connexion with the new loan, and at that stage I shall give the information for which the honorable member asks.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House give us any definite information as to what date we may expect the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) ?
– I can give no definite date. The nearest we can say is that it will be some time in the middle of next month. We have tried to get into touch with Cape Town, and as soon as we obtain the information we shall let the honorable member know.
– There is no Government control of cornsacks at the present time. Early this year, the Government announced its intention of releasing all control of cornsacks, and sold all the bags it possessed. It intimated at the same time that the duty would devolve upon the trade in the usual way to make the necessary preparations for the coming season. The difficulty this season, owing to the rapid increase in price, has beenengaging the serious consideration of the Government for some time, but it will be impossible for the Government to do anything save in co-operation with the States, and negotiations are at present proceedingbetween the Commonwealth and the States regarding the matter. I am unable to say that it will be possible for the associated Governments of Australia to do anything, and it may be necessary still for the trade to make the full provision for the season.
– As the Government are going to take the action indicated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, in answer to the previous question relating to cornsacks, will they consider the other necessaries of life, which are used by the great bulk of the community?
– As I have already explained, this Government, standing by itself, is powerless in the matter. The position is as I have stated it, andI do not think it would be desirable for me to gofarther.
Sentences on Seamen.
– Has the Acting Minister for the Navy received any reply from the British Admiralty with regard to the releasing of the men who were sentenced by court- martial on H.M.A.S. Australia?
– Last Friday a cable was sent to the BritishAdmiralty making strong recommendations for mercy for these men, and also intimating what was doneherewith regard to the prisoners over whom we had jurisdiction. Up to the present, we have had no reply to that cable.
Supply of Wire
– In view of the curtailment of services through the lack of wire, will the PostmasterGeneral assure the House that the fullest advantage is being taken of the local manufacture of wire at Port Kembla?
-Yes. The full solution of the problem , is being deferred until the return of the Prime Minister, under whose regime this matter was initiated. But I have, in the interests of the public and of the Department, entered into a contract with the company mentioned by the honorable member to supply my wants at a rate to be fixed when the conditions are finalized. By that means I have cut out any cause for delay in the meantime.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island - Ordinances of 1919 -
No. 1. - Appeals.
No. 2.- Affidavits.
Surveying Staff - Director
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in the event of the Government, under the FederalNavigation Act, assuming the control of the survey of ships, the surveying staff of the various States now performing these duties will be incorporated in the Federal Service with all the rights they now have under the States PublicService Acts?
– In making appointments to the Navigation Department, first consideration will be given to the claims of the State officers carrying out the duties to be transferred. Any permanent State officers transferred to the Commonwealth Service will, under section 84 of the Constitution, have preserved to them all their existing and accruing rights under the State Public Service to which they belonged.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
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?
– The fullest consideration will be given by the Government to the claims of all applicants for the post, with a view of selecting the man most capable of discharging the duties of the position.
asked the Acting Minister for the Wavy, upon notice -
– The answers are- 1 and 2. No.
Number and Pay of Officers
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he request the Departments concerned to furnish the House with information under the following heads:-
The number of officers employed in the Defence and Navy Departments for the years ending 30thJune; 1914, 1915, 1916,. 1917, 1918, 1919, whose salaries and allowances collectively make a total respectively of £600 a year and up to and including£699 per annum?
The number receiving £700 a year and up to and including£799 per annum?
The number receiving £800 a year and up to and including £899 per annum?
The number receiving £900 a year and up to and including£999 per annum?
The number receiving £ 1,000 andup to £1,199 per annum’?
The number receiving£l,200 and up to £1,499 per annum?
The number receiving £1,500 and up to £1,699 per annum?
The number receiving £1,700 and up to £1,999 per annum?
The number receiving £2,000 per annum and upwards? 10: The names, position, and employment of all officers receiving salaries and allowances totalling £1,000 per annum and -upwards, showing the salaries and allowances received in separate columns?
– I will consult the Ministers concerned, but am of opinion that the information should be asked for in the form of a return.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is being done at Canberra to fit it for the reception of the Commonwealth Parliament ?
– Nothing hasbeen done in connexion with construction of Houses of Parliament since action in the direction of calling for competitive designs was suspended. The matter of resuming the competition has received consideration, and it is hoped to make a- statement on the subject at an early date. I understoodthat the honorable member was referring to the parliamentary buildings only, but a good deal of work has been done in connexion with Mr. Griffin’s original plan ; that is to say, the subdivisions which were included in his original designs have been carried out, and work, such as the taking of levels, the laying out of certain streets, and Other matters within the city area, has been done.
Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he noticed by the cables that in France profiteers have been obliged to reduce prices on many commodities by 25 per cent., and in Italy by 50 per cent.; and, ifso, whenmay the people expect similar action here in the Commonwealth?
– No, I have not seen the cables referred to, but would remind the honorable member that the constitutional, powers enjoyed by the Government of France and Italy are in excess of those heldby the Commonwealth. If the honorable member will point out where profiteering is being practised here, the matter will be brought under the notice of the State Government concerned.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he consider the changing of the term “Old-age Pension” to “National Pension”?
– The matter will be considered.
Troopship “ Somali
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Negotiations’ were, however, in progress with the State Government with the object of agreeing upon a mutually acceptable policy permitting of modifications in the quarantine restrictions. An agreement having been reached with the State Government subsequent to the announcement above referred to, it became possible to allow the Somali troops to land and proceed to their homes instead of spending seven days in quarantine. Any inconvenience caused by this change in arrangements was more than offset by the advantage to the troops and the economy to the Commonwealth. As the changes made apply to all subsequent troopships, no recurrence of the conditions is likely. 2 and 3. See answer to No. 1.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Seamen’s Accommodation: American Contracts
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The ships being built by and for the Commonwealth are in accordance with the requirements of the Navigation Act.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the alleged unsatisfactory condition of the wooden ships built in America, owing, it is stated, to - (a) slowness of steaming; (b) the enormous expense entailed shortly after their construction in making repairs and alterations to them - what action, if any, does the Government propose to take in reference to existing contracts in America for this class of ship?
– There is only one uncompleted contract in America for wooden ships at the present time. The question of cancelling the vessels under this contract which has not been completed has received consideration, but it was not considered advisable to do so.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the reply given by the Acting Prime Minister on the 11th July to a question on this subject by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), when it was stated that the Government had no information whether General Sir William Birdwood intended to visit Australia; that it was understood that the Prime Minister had been considering the matter, but that it was not known whether a formal invitation had been given to the General. Further, that when the Prime Minister returned, he would be in a position to inform the honorable member and the House.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government, in view of the interest shown in Mr. Keith Murdoch’s newspaper articles from the Front, authorize him to prepare an authentic record of the events as he saw them in his theatre of activities?
– I understand that the Acting Minister for Defence has at present under consideration the whole question of the Historical Record of Australia’s part in the war.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that profiteering has arrived at such a stage that people not only have a difficulty in living, but it is being made an expensive matter to die, as undertakers in the capital cities are charging up to £25 for the plainest of coffins?
– This is a matter for regulation by the State Governments. .
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Resumption of Trade
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
Whetherhe will lay on the table of the Library the whole of the papers in connexion with the issuing of a summons against Arthur Blakeley, in December, 1917, by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department?
– No. It is not the practice of the Department to lay on the table of the Library papers in relation to prosecutions instituted by the Commonwealth.
Administration and Bank Charges
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
asked the Minister for Trade and Custons, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
. -(By leave.). - In answer to a question some time agoI promised that either the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) or I would make a statement at an early date regarding the: programme of ship-building for Australia, in and out of Australia. I am now in a position to give the particulars. The first programme of ship construction in Australia consists of six vessels of the three island or well deck type. These vessels are 331 feet by 48 feet by 26’ feet 1 inch depth, moulded to the upper deck, and are being constructed at the following dockyards: -
Dromana and Dumosa, Commonwealth Dockyard, Williamstown
Delungra, Dinoga, and Dilga, Government Dockyard, Walsh Island, Newcastle
Dundula, Commonwealth Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, Sydney
These vessels are about 5,500 tons dead weight on 21-ft. 91/2-in. draught, and are fitted with single screw engine and Babcock and Wilcox boilerswith an i.h.p. of about 2,200. capable of driving a vessel at a speed of 101/2 knots atsea. The cubic capacity of the vessels is about 282,000 feet. The Delungra was launched on 25th March, 1919, and is now fitting out. The Dromana was launched from the Williamstown yard on 11th April. Engines and boilers and all auxiliary machinery have been installed, and the vessel is practically complete, and will probably be proceeding on trial in the early part of next week. The Dundula, at the Cockatoo Island yard, was successfully launched on. 9th July, and the work of fitting out is proceeding. No. 4 ship, the Dinoga, is practically ready for launching at Walsh Island, and No. 2 ship, Dumosa, at Williamstown, would have been launched at the end of this month had delay not occurred owing to the seamen’s strike and. the coal andpower restrictions. No.5 ship,the Dilga, at Walsh Island, is completely framed out. The plating of the hullhas beencommenced, and the bulk- heads are fitted complete. The cost of these vessels will average about £155,000 each!
– At about £28 per ton. A second programme, consisting of fourteen steel ships, has been commenced. These will be built in the following yards : - 2 at Commonwealth Dockyard, Willi amstown. 3 at Government Dockyard,. Walsh Island. 1 at Commonwealth Dockyard, Cockatoo Island. 4 at WalkersLimited, Maryborough, Queensland. 4 at Poole and Steel’s, Adelaide, South Australia.
These vesselswill beof the shelter-deck type, and will be 331 feet B.P., 48 feet in breadth, by 31 ft. 7 in. depth moulded to shelter deck: They will carry1 about 6,000 tons dead-weight on 23 ft. 81/2 in. draught. The total capacity will be about 338,000 cubic feet. The machinery driving the vessels will be the same as for the vessels building under the first programme. Arrangements will be made for the carriage of oil fuel, and the boilers will be suitable for burning either oil or coal, as may be considered desirable.
Steel plate material for these latter vessels building at Walsh Island, Cockatoo Island, and Williamstown has been ordered from England, and about 2,500 to 3,000 tons have already been delivered into the above yards. A portion of steel sectional material has also been delivered from the Broken Hill Company.
Work has actually commenced on three of the last-mentioned ships. . These vessels will cost, approximately, £155,000 each. This shows a considerable reduction per dead-weight ton, which is due to the fact that the steel plates and bars were purchased at a lower figure than for the first six ships. It is anticipated that six of these vessels willbe completed in- eighteen months, another six. in two years, and the balance in two and a half years.
Two wooden five-masted auxiliary schooners are under construction by
Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh. The dimensionsare 250 feet x 45 feet and. 24- ft. 5 in. The dead-weight will be about 2,600 tons on a load draught of about 19 ft; 10 in. One vessel is framed out and partly planked, and the second vessel is partly framed. The timbers used in the construction are Australian hardwoods. The propelling machinery consists of two sets of semi-Diesel Bolinder engines, developing about 240 B.H.P., at about 240 revolutions per minute, and it is estimated will drive the vessel at 7 knots. The contract price for these vessels is £26 per dead-weight ton.
Negotiations have been completed for the construction of four larger vessels, with the option of two more; the dimensions being - 520 feet over-all length; breadth, 62 ft. 3 in.; depth, moulding, 45 feet. These vessels are of the shelter deck type; with a long bridge and forecastle above the shelter deck, and three complete decks laid. It is estimated that they will carry about 12,800 tons deadweight on a load draught of 30 feet.
Twin-screw quadruple engines, with cylinders 231/2 inches, 34 inches, 48 inches, and 73 inches, and stroke 51 inches, will be fitted, and steam will be generated by an ample installation of water- tube or Scotch boilers. The machinery will develop 7,300 horse-power, with a speed of 15 knots, under trial conditions, the speed at sea over a long voyage being 13 knots; fully loaded.
About 250,000 cubic feet of insulated space for the carriage of frozen meat or chilled produce will be provided. The total cubic capacity of the vessels, including insulated spaces, will be about 700,000 cubic feet. Liberal accommodation will be provided for officers and crew. The cargo arrangements will be of the most modern and up-to-date description, and will enable rapid handling of cargo. Arrangements will also be made in these vessels for the carriage of oil fuel, and the boilers will be suitable for burning either oil or coal. The cost of these larger vessels will be £423,000 per vessel, or for the four £1,692,000.
Itis anticipated that two of these vessels will be in commission in two years,to be followed by a further two at intervals of six months. Deliveries are, of course, subject to reasonable deliveries of material and the absence of industrial strife.
All the vessels mentioned are being built to Lloyds’ highest class under special survey, and the requirements of the Navigation Act are being carried out.
– Before the honorable gentleman leaves that matter, will he say whether tenders were called for the construction of the large vessels ?
– Those to which I am now referring are to be built in Australia.
– What will be the cost per ton?
– The cost will be about £35 per ton. The greater the speed and the larger the insulated space for refrigeration, the greater the cost of the vessel. The cost estimated for these vessels will compare very favorably with the cost of shipbuilding in any other part of the world to-day.
The question of extending the Williamstown Dockyard, so that vessels of the larger size and type can be built there, is at present having consideration.
In addition to the foregoing, a contract has been signed with Vickers, in Great Britain, for the building of three vessels of 12,000 tons dead-weight, 900,000 cubic feet, of which 370,000 is to be insulated. The length of these vessels will be 520 feet by 68 feet beam. The vessels are to be built to burn oil fuel or alternatively coal fuel as required. The speed is to be 15 knots. The vessels are due for delivery in January, June, and October, 1921, respectively.
A similar contract has also been entered into with Beardmore’s to build two steamers similar in all respects to those being built by Vickers, referred to above.
Complete details of these contracts have not yet been received from London.
– How many vessels will be provided with refrigerated space.
– All the new ships referred to will have refrigerating space. The first-mentioned tramps, of 5,500 tons, will not have refrigerating space.
– In what yards is it proposed to build the large ships in Australia?
– I have said that two are to be built at Walsh Island, and two at Cockatoo Island, the Government having the option to have a third built there at the price fixed.
Wooden Tonnage. - A contract was arranged for the construction of four wooden full-powered motor vessels with the Sloan Shipyards Corporation at Seattle.
These vessels were completed and delivered as follows: -
Cethana, 18th July, 1918.
Culburra, 26th August, 1918.
Challamba, 2nd October, 1918.
Coolcha, 26th October, 1918.
A further contract was arranged in the same way with the Patterson, McDonald Shipbuilding Company for the construction of ten wooden steamers.
Of these, the following have been completed and delivered: -
Bellata, 8th October, 1918.
Bundarra, 11th December, 1918.
Bethanga, 5th May, 1919.
The following vessels have yet to be de livered : -
Birriwa, expected end July.
Berringa, expected beginning of
– Where do they get these fancy names?
-They are all native names.
– Can the Minister say whether the wooden ships built for the Commonwealth in America have proved to be satisfactory ?
– If the honorable member will permit me, I prefer to make the statement in my own way.
With regard to the remaining boats, an alteration in the motive power was decided upon, and arrangements made for the substitution of Diesel engines in place of steam engines originally provided for. Below are particulars of these motor ships : -
Benowa, delivered 15th July.
Babinda, delivery expected middle August.
Balcatta, launching expected be ginning of August; ready for delivery end of September.
Boobyalla, delivery indefinite.
Borrika, delivery indefinite.
It will be observed that the date of delivery for the last two is indefinite, in consequence of the several strikes which have taken place at the shipbuilding yards; but the latest information I have is that deliveries should be one month between each boat, so that if the Balcatta is delivered the end of September, the Boobyalla will be handed over the end of October, and Borrika the end of November. It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty that these expectations will be realized.
I am sorry to say that the wooden boats built in America are not turning out satisfactory ; but that is not the fault of the Government. In America the yards were taken over by the United States Government, which, apparently, could not supervise them. We have had the best legal opinion obtainable in regard to the orders.
– Have we not a representative over there to look after the interests of the Commonwealth? What is he doing ?
– I do not know what he is doing. He has been there for some time, and yet ships of which he was in charge were delivered months ago. It is all very well to be wise after the event. When this contract was made the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was cheered for having the courage to do something to meet our great necessities at the time.
As to the local ships under my control, I have cancelled their building as far as possible, with the exception of the two mentioned, and that exception was because a quantity of timber was left over. Last week, in answer to a question, I showed that the cost of cancelling contracts for those ships was about £5 per ton, whereas in the case of 370-odd ships, the contracts for which were cancelled by the American Government, the cost was from £13 to £14 per ton, although the vessels were at similar stages of construction, and none of them completed within 50 per cent. Under the circumstances, I think we have to congratulate ourselves on being relieved from these contracts for wooden ships - although, as I say, there were cheers when Iannounced that they had been made. I have now carried out my promise to present a full statement to the House in connexion with the shipbuilding programme.
– I suggest that to the statement just read there should be added the cost paid for the cancellation of the contracts for wooden ships in Australia, so that the statement may appear complete in Hansard.
– I have not the full statement in regard to these wooden ships here; but, in any case,the facts have already appeared in Hansard.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 23rd July, vide page 10934) :
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- I notice that there is a preamble of about three pages.
- (Mr. Atkinson). - The consideration of the preamble has been postponed.
– It is my desire to move amendments in certain clauses which have reference to the preamble, and I am afraid that it may be held by the Chairman that such amendments are inadmissible.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member may move such . amendments as he desires as the clauses are reached; indeed, the object of postponing the consideration of the preamble was to afford that opportunity.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears,– “ the prescribed date “ means - in the Part of this Act relating to dairy produce, the thirty-first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and twenty; in the Part of this Act relating to wool, the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty; in the Part of this Act relating to sugar, the thirtieth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty; and in the Part of this Act relating to flax the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty;
-I moveThat the word “twenty,” line 7,be left out with a view to insertin lieu thereof the word “thirty.”
It is my desire to extend the dates in every case,believing that if we have the power to fix the date as 1920 we have power to fix it as 1930.
– The honorable member knows, very well thatI cannot accept the amendment. This date was fixed to enable the contract made with the Imperial Government to be carried out. The contract was to export to the United Kingdom for sale to the Imperial Government the surplus dairy products of Australia, . at an agreed price, and the date specified for the conclusion of the contract is the date fixed in the Bill.
– June, 1920, is the date fixed for the conclusion of the contract in relation to wool. I understood that the contract was to continue during the war and twelve months thereafter. If that be so, the war, according to the Minister, is not yet over.
– The contract really relates to the season following the conclusion of the war, and we are advised by those who know that the date fixed covers the terms of the contract.
.- I hope the Minister will be; able to assure the Committee that it is not the intention of the Central Wool. Committee during the whole period of the contract to stifle - I do not use the word in any sinister sense - our internal industries, which at present are obliged to call a halt. In a little place called Dunkeld, in Victoria, there was a wool-scouring establishment which provided much employment, and was of considerable benefit to the town, and there was a decent local wages’ sheet. En the early stages of the war the owner was quite content to make the sacrifice of laving his establishment closed down. Now his two sons have returned from the war, and as a means of repatriating one of those sons he wishes to hand over to vim his business, the plant of which has been maintained in good order at con- siderable expense. To-day the boy is idle, the plant is idle, and no wages are being paid. In such cases is it not possible for these small local industries to be set in operation again ? For five long years the owner of this establishment has been hamstrung by the conditions made by the Central Committee, which prevented him from carrying on his operations. I do notwish to prevent a continuance of control by the Central Committee to the extent that such control is essential for the completion of the contract with Great Britain. But having regard to the fact that these small industries have been tied up for five years, will the Minister see whether some relief cannot be extended to them?
.- I am astounded that the Acting AttorneyGeneral. (Mr. Groom) is not, prepared to accept an amendment to furtherextend the operation of the Bill. If this Parliament can constitutionally enact that this measure shall operate until 1920, it will be equally constitutional for us to extend it to 1930 or any other date. The Government say they believe that the measure will do something to control commerce in the interests of the people; then why fix any limit to its operation ? If the measure is good let us operate it indefinitely. There would be no date fixed for the termination of the measure if the Government felt confident that the proposal was constitutional, and I am convinced that the honorable member who said that this Bill is a gold brick offered by the Government to the people spoke the truth. They tell the people that certain commodities ought to be controlled, but they are not prepared to tackle the problem in a constitutional way. If the Government were sincere they would immediately bring down a Bill to get the sanction of the people to an amendment of the Constitution.
– Are they not going to do that ?
– No indication of their policy in that regard is contained in the Ministerial statement.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the amendment before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to show that this measure cannot be con- stitutional, and thatthe only way in which this Parliament can : get the . requisite power to deal with commodities is byasking the people for an alteration of the Constitution. The Government are not sincere; they are merely playing with the question, land treating this Parliament and the general public like so many children. The moment the validity of this measure is tested in the High Court, the whole scheme which it. seeks to legalize will fall to the ground. We should then find that an extension of our constitutional powers was necessary in order to enable us to do much that is absolutely requisite. Instead of the time of the Committee being wasted in the discussion of measures of this kind, we should be considering a Bill to enable a referendum of the people to be taken to extend the constitutional powers of this Parliament. I hope that the Acting AttorneyGeneral will consent to the extension of the operation of this measure until 1930.
.- This discussion is somewhat amusing in view of the fact that during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, members of the Opposition, almost without exception, urged that the measure would be declared invalid by the High Court. They now propose to extend for a period of ten years what they describe as an illegality, so that their proposal suggests the attempt of a man to multiply nothing by ten. In view of the argument advanced by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Mahony) as to an extension of our constitutional powers, it is just as well to remind the Committee that it is only some three years ago that a measure providing for a referendum of the people on an amendment of the Constitution’ was introduced in this House, and that the Labour Government then in power denied the people an opportunity to vote upon it.
– When was such a measure passed in this House?
-Surely the honorable member does not deny the fact that the Labour Administration in power at the time prevented a vote of the. people being taken in regard to that measure? The honorable member stopped short of ac cusing the Ministry of hypocrisy, and perhaps it was just as well that he did so. He probably had in mind the actions of his own party during the last few years, and found it difficult to. give expression to a word ‘ which” might have been used to describe the position of that party. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), in bringing down this Bill, stated distinctly that the powers for which it provides were sought merely to cover contracts made during the war, and to enable them to be completed. It was only because those contracts hadbeen entered into that he claimed for Parliament the power to pass such a measure. The Opposition said that the Bill would be held to be invalid, yet they now ask that its operationbe extended for a period of ten years. Let us get on with the Bill, and leave the High Court to decide the question of its constitutionality. If we have not the powers for which it provides, it will be a bad thing for Australia.
.- The matter referred to by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr.Rodgers) relates rather to a detail of administration than to the Bill itself. This Bill is designed to confer the powers necessary to give effect to the contract already entered into, and to enable it to be completed. It is not intended to do more than that. As to the matter of administration referred to by the honorable member, I shall make representations to the Wool Committee on the lines suggested by him.
.- I thank the Acting Attorney-General for his undertaking. Generally speaking, the benefactions of the Wool Pool are acknowledged throughout the length and breadth of Australia.. I would point out that traders, as well as country operators in sheepskins, in small lines of wool and hides, and those engaged in fellmongery works in country towns, loyally stood by what they deemed to be the needs of the country during the war, and in doing so they surrendered their life’s work. The fellmongers in country districts, for instance, have for five long years practically closed down their business places. In their works many men were employed, and the wages earned by them were a valuable asset to the small towns close to which they were established. These industries, however, have all been stopped. In one case of which’ I know, three generations of a family have carried on the onebusiness of skin buying and dealing. They have had their own stores, waggons, and agents, but for the last five years they have had practically to give up their business. In view of the fact that there is plenty of wool to enable the contract with the British Government to be carried out, and that great quantities of raw material are no longer required for the purposes of the war, I ask the Acting Attorney-General to make to the Central Wool Committee the most earnest representations possible as to the importance of giving the class of men to whom I have referred a chance to resume their business during the coming wool “season.
.- I rise to support the plea advanced by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). The position taken up by the Government is that this Bill can be applied only’ to contracts that were entered into . during the war period, and that it cannot be extended, as many’ of us would like it to be, so as to permit of a greater measure of governmental control in directions of much importance to the people, who are complaining of the high cost of living. It should be possible, however, as the honorable member for Wannon has pointed out, to do something for those country business people who have willingly given up their industry during the war. The Central Wool Committee have shown much capacity, and their operations have been of almost immeasurable worth to the community; but their disastrous policy of centralization has caused much suffering on the part of country wool, merchants and their agents. The sooner we get back to normal conditions in this regard the sooner we shall do a measure of justice to these people, and give our rural towns an opportunity to advance. Country representatives do not ask the Government to do anything calculated to endanger the validity of a Bill of this kind, but we certainly think that this measure of justice should be done to men, who, in consequence of the war, have lost their means of livelihood. If that cannot be done under existing arrangements, then the sooner we wind up the governmental activities covered by this Bill the better for all concerned. That is my view, notwithstanding that I am prepared to support a system of Government interference in connexion with the marketing of our produce and the fixation of prices. We shall have to make a most emphatic protest against- any extension of the period to be covered by this Bill, unless we can secure for the country wool and skin merchants the measure of justice for which we ask.
.- According to the legal authorities quoted by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) in introducing this Bill, it is competent for this Parliament to pass a measure of this kind in relation to contracts made during the currency of the war provided it be passed prior to the date of the exchange of ratifications. All thinking men MUSt agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the settlement of the difficulties to which the war has given rise will call for the exercise of more genius than even the successful prosecution” of the war demanded. It seems to me that many years will elapse before we shall return to normal conditions, and that being so, we should extend the operation of this Bill beyond 30th June next unless in the meantime we can obtain an amendment of the Constitution vesting wider powers in this Parliament. As an illustration of the way in which legal opinions differ I would point to the case which the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Ryan)- conducted before the Privy Council. In the first instance, Mr. Justice Cooper, of the Queensland Supreme Court, gave a decision against the State Government in an action brought by local pastoralists in regard to the Government acquisition of cattle stations. The Government appealed to the State Full- Court, and obtained a judgment in its favour. The pastoralists then went to the High Court, which decided against the State, but the Privy Council, on appeal, reversed the decision. Four different tribunals gave alternative decisions on the same set of particulars.
– Is that an argument in favour of an extension for twenty years?
– It is an argument against placing too much faith in legal opinion, and if this measure is challenged the same variations of opinion may be expressed by tribunals as were given in connexion with the Queensland land case. In view of the possibility of the measure being challenged, and seeing that we may not, through apathy, seek from the people the powers the Commonwealth should possess to deal with these matters, it is as well for us to extend the operations .of the measure for another ten years, so that we may make our position doubly secure. There may be a good deal in the claim that throughout the country districts the operations of the Wool Committee have deprived many agents of their means of livelihood; but I contend that, if the operations of that Committee are not continued by an extension of this Hill, the people of the Commonwealth may be mulct in very heavy charges for wool after the 30th June, 1920. The operations of the .Wool Committee have had some little restraint on those who sell wool. At the recent wool sales in London wool has sold as high as 10Od per lb.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the amendment?
– Yes. If we do not extend the powers given by the Bill for another ten years, provided we have the constitutional authority to enact such a measure, which I doubt, a great injustice may be done to the people of the Commonwealth. Wool, which is now sold at 10Od. per lb. in London, can be bought by Australian woollen manufacturers locally at something like 42d. per lb.; but if we abolish the restrictions at present existing under the contract relating to Wool and the operations of the Wool Committee, the local price of wool may rise to a considerable extent. Thus the woollen manufacturers may be called upon to pay double the present price, and those who desire to clothe themselves in woollen goods may be obliged to pay very heavy prices for them. I am prepared to accept the chance that this Bill may be declared unconstitutional; but, in order to set our house in order, I think we ought to extend its operations for another ten years.
– Then why did the honorable member advocate the wiping out of the War Precautions Act?
– The honorable member need not look up to the reporters’ gallery to see whether they are taking a note of his interjection. We can all play ro the gallery. I am out every time to protect the pockets of the people, that are already being delved into too deeply, and which will be delved into more deeply in the future if we do not protect them. If this measure will protect them for another ten months, I am ready to give my vote to extend that protection for another ten years. ‘
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has used the same old argument that unless the operation of ‘ this measure is extended the man who produces our raw products will secure something like a fair market price for his goods.
– A fair price?
– Yes. . The world’s parity. There is no fairer price than the world’s price. The only justification for the extension of this Bill is the fulfilment of the contracts into which the Commonwealth Government has entered in reference to various commercial activities.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that, throughout the country districts, many small traders have been deprived of their ordinary means of living. A good deal of roguery has been carried on in the past in connexion with the skin trade, and it is to be hoped that now conditions are normal more discrimination will be shown in regard to the issue of permits in reference to these matters; but, whatever date is fixed for the termination of the Bill, the Government should do something to give those honest people who have been dealers in a small way in country districts an opportunity to return to their . ordinary , avocations. I hope .that Ministers will not consider the proposal put forward by honorable members opposite to further .-extend the period in which they may .still .be in a position to hold down the primary producer, who to-day is the most ill-used man in Australia.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) upon the candour he has shown in regard to his object in supporting the retention of this provision as it stands. He wants to be assured that he is to have the .benefit pf the War Precautions Act in securing for the primary producer, for some months in advance, what he is. pleased to call a fair price, and .which, ,he says, is the world’s price. It. i’S a very cheerful, if somewhat voracious, admission, from an honorable member who used to . twit the Labour party in regard to their ambitions in the matter of fixing prices. …
I .leave that matter, to remind’ the Minister (Mi:. Groom) of what’ I reminded .him in my speech on the second reading, and that is the fact that the duration of ‘this Bill .bias .been determined upon by reason of the certificate supplied by certain eminent . legal gentlemen outside this House. I had hoped that he would pay honorable .members the compliment, even at the eleventh hour, of justifying his attitude towards the Bill, and the .dates he has’ fixed for the termination of its operations ; but I learn that he has said nothing by way of justification or excuse, or even palliation, and that we still rest on this certificate, which I now declare to be, in my opinion, an utter absurdity, if, indeed, it does not perpetrate something close to a fraud on this Parliament.
– If the honorable member had been in the chamber last night. he would have heard what the Minister said.
– Let him go on.
– If the honorable member did deal with that aspect ,of the question I am doing him an injustice.
– .State exactly what you mean- by- “ fraud.”
– The certificate supplied to the House would convey to the minds of .honor-able members the impression _ ‘that some one, , or all, of the activities that are proposed to he .carried out . under this. -.’Bill were guaranteed by high legal authority out-, side the House as being capable of accomplishment; but there is not a single activity proposed .to be. carried out that is guaranteed by > legal ..authority any- where. ,A11 that .the certificate says is that the Bill is, in the opinion of these gentlemen, within .the competence of Parliament. That opinion carries us nowhere. The Bill may be, and probably is, within the competence of Parliament, but it involves a fixation, of .prices, it involves commercial operations within the boundaries of a single State, and it involves the possibility . or intention of carrying. out a vast number of operations which .have from time ;to time been declared to be .- .without ‘ the , competence of the Federal Parliament. These legal gentlemen do not know any more than ‘ we know .as .to what is proposed to ‘be done ‘under., the measure. If at any future time, as. will probably be. the case, some one .challenges the Bill as to -the fixation of the price of sugar, or as .to commercial dealings, in dairy produce, and the High Court decides that such an interference with local trade is absolutely outside ‘the competence of this Parliament, these eminent legal gentlemen will :sim-ply say that it was not a transaction of that kind, or at .that time, it may be six months after the war, they had in contemplation, when they said that the bare machinery of the measure was within the competence of the Federal Parliament. It was due to honorable members that the Acting Attorney-Genera.!. (Mr. Groom), the chief law officer of the Commonwealth, should have supported the Bill by authority, if he felt competent to do so - and I pay him the compliment of saying that I think he is competent to do so - and if he was capable of giving it candid and sincere support,, and if there was any authority he could quote. He has not done so.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has moved an amendment that .the .period’ <oi .the regulation relating to dairy produce shall end ten’ years later than ‘is” intended’’ by the regulation itself; but if the honorable member refers to clause 4, sub-clause 3, he will find there, as he will find in connexion’ with all these activities, a provision which will carry them on for an indefinite- period, and for the purpose of reference,, and taking this clause in conjunction with the one we are discussing, I may be permitted to read it. The subclause provides1 -
After, the prescribed date the Dairy Produce Committee may continue to exercise such powers as are specified in the War Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) Regulations, or in any Regulations made in pursuance of this section, but only so far as may be necessary for the. purpose of completing transactions, matters, and things in relation, to the operations of th’e’ Committee which have not been completed by the prescribed’ date;, and of winding up theoperations of the Committee:
In that provision there is abundant food’ for contention and litigation as to what things are completed and what ,are not completed, and when these regulations are to end. -No end is prescribed for them by this Bill. The Bill is to become a kind of liquidator, just as there are liquidators now in Melbourne engaged’ in winding up the affairs of various boom companies that went . into’ liquidation about twenty-five years ago. They are still going strongly, and under this Bill these Pools may still be operating long after the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition has’ run even its extended course.. Still, if the G overnment arc satisfied, as apparently they are, that the principle of control and fixation is now .within the competence of this Parliament, a fact which they denied ad nauseam in many speeches on the floor of this chamber, this is an excellent opportunity for them to show their sincerity by giving the country the benefit of. the extended power which they have so recently f ound to exist in the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has- hardly done himself justice,nor do I think he has done justice to the Committee: . The honorable member made’ a- speech earlier in-‘ the debate; and I remained here to reply to. him. I replied late last night,, but the honorable- member was. not in his place to- hear me. I went into, some of. the matters to which he- had referred.. If- he was not here, he must, not blame me for discourtesy because he did not hear my reply. He has said this afternoon that the certificate of these honorable counsel amounts to. a fraud, on the House. - That, was an iniquitous remark for the honorable member to make, and in his1 calmer moments, when he reads it in black- and white, no one will regret it more than himself.
– The honorable member, asked me to explain’ exactly what I -meant,, and my explanation made- it perfectly clear, that there was no reflection on counsel. I meant that it amounted to misleading the members of this House and the country.
– Then the honorable member’s’ remark amounted to a> charge of misleading on my’ part. ‘ During ‘ the eighteen years I have been in this House* I have always taken honorable members’ fully and frankly into my confidence! upon every subject which I have had” to submit to them. I do not believe! there was ever a Bill submitted to Parliament in connexion with which the Government more fully put upon the table the whole of the facts than in this case. I am forced to the conclusion that the honorable member has not read the’ speeches made here, or studied the subject, and probably. has not even read the preamble of the Bill, where he will find the material facts’ completely set out
– I have read it most carefully.
– Then let me examine first the honorable member’s charge that Parliament is being “ tricked “ by the certificate presented to it. I explained to honorable members exactly what happened in this matter. In the United Kingdom a large number of difficult legal and administrative problems arose,, and the British .Government obtained the assistance of experts in several in- stances. . Even on. the definition’ of the termination of the war, it took the advice of two Judges- and a number- of experts. The honorable member’s leader (Mr. Tudor) takes a very different view from the honorable member. He is an ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, and he said he thought the Government had acted very wisely in taking the advice of eminent counsel in this matter. May I remind the Committee of what we are doing, because the honorable member evidently does not realize it? We have made big contracts with the Imperial Government. We have organized the resources and products of these industries, running into millions of pounds. Large financial obligations had been undertaken, and we were coming to the close of the war. If the war terminated suddenly, and we had no legal power to carry on these activities, obviously chaos and confusion faced us in connexion with all these transactions. The obvious duty of the Government under those conditions was to have all these activities closely investigated, to see exactly where it stood. If, by legislation, we could in a legal and orderly manner complete the operations which were necessary during the course of the war, it was our bounden duty to do so. We did so accordingly. A tremendous task has been placed upon the Attorney-General’s Department and myself, and during the last six months we have had in that Department to face more serious and difficult problems than at any period I can remember, consequent upon the great difficulties arising out of the war. In the circumstances, it was my duty to the House not to rely upon my own opinion as Attorney-General, but, seeing that so many millions were involved, such largeinterests concerned, and so many relations implicated, to secure alsothe best advice I could obtain in Australia. The honorable member himself admits that the Committee is a good representative body of the legal ability of the Commonwealth. It is to the eternal credit of these gentlemen, who are capable of commanding the highest fees in their profession, that in a spirit of patriotism they gave up all their time, learning, experience, ability, and thought to assist the Commonwealth in solving the very difficult and serious problems before it. The facts in connexion with each of these great
Commonwealth activities were placed before them, together with the circumstances in which the legislation was carried out. The contracts that were made, the regulations involved, the course of administration pursued, and the interests concerned were put carefully before them, and before this the Department took the responsibility of drafting Bills representing the departmental view of the legislation that should be introduced. Each of these Bills, together with the circumstances, were put before the Committee, both in Sydney and Melbourne. I presided over the deliberations here and on several occasions went to Sydney to preside in connexion with these matters there. After all the consultations and deliberations on the subject, counsel gave their opinion in the form in which it has been put before Parliament.
– I have never seen an opinion like that before.
– The honorable member knows that a brief is sometimes indorsed with a plain “Yes” or “No,!’ while in many other cases considered opinions are given almost in the nature of a judgment. The Bill has been submitted to Parliament, and what Parliament very properly wants to know is whether it is a measure which this Parliament has the legal power to enact. That was the question, and counsel’s opinion is the answer in clear, definite, and unequivocal terms.
– Another question was whether the control was a good thing to continue.
– Counsel were not concerned about policy. The Government take the responsibility for the policy. They were asked to advise only on the legal question. For all the rest, the Government, and of course Parliament if it passes the measure, must take the responsibility. The Bill having been put before counsel, they certified - “We have carefully considered the Bill, and are of opinion that it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament.”
The honorable member says that I have put that opinion before honorable members as if it were a guarantee to Parliament that Parliament has power to pass this Bill. I defy the honorable member to quote a single line in anything 1 have said that will convey that opinion. Here is the official report of the words I uttered. The honorable member, as a lawyer, knows that no such guarantee could be given.
– He is on the other side.
– No, he is not, because he expressed a sort of doubting opinion that the Bill is within the competence of this Parliament. He is inclined to agree with counsel on that point, although he disagrees with the judgment of the majority of the High Court in the case of Burvett v. Farey. The honorable member asks me for an authority on this question. How could I cite to him the judgment of the High Court upon the interpretation of the Constitution regarding a question that” has never arisen ? The honorable member knows that no such direct authority could be given.
– It is just for that reason that I say the certificate of competence carries us nowhere. It is valueless, although it is not valueless as a declaration of law so far as it goes.
– The honorable member knows that in 1903, when the High Court was established, we had a written Constitution. It was known that that Constitution would have to become a living organism expressive of the life of the people, and that of necessity there would be conflicts between the Commonwealth and the State”!. We constituted the High Court for the express purpose of deciding the issues that were likely to arise. No one at that time could give a guarantee as to how the Court would interpret the Constitution, but students of constitutional law, who understood the principles upon which the Constitution was laid down, and who had studied the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States,, were able to predict in certain cases, with a fair amount of accuracy, how the decision might go.
– I do not think they did so far as State rights are concerned. They did not expect that the States would be superior to the Commonwealth.
– I am. speaking only of opinions that were given. If the honor able member looked at the advice given by the ‘ Commonwealth law authorities during the early stages of the development of the Constitution, he would find that they were able to give very competent advice which proved correct on a great many of the leading problems affecting the Constitution. Opinions given by the Attorneys-General of the United States of America have been published, giving their advice as to how they believed the Constitution would be interpreted. No one ever suggested that they could give a guarantee. But, in the light of the judicial interpretation of the Constitution, these counsel were competent to give to Parliament what was. their opinion as to what could have been secured.
I take full responsibility for the legislation which has been introduced, and I advised honorable members that I believe this matter to be within the competence of Parliament. Last night I briefly indicated some of the reasons which had led me to that conclusion. An honorable member, by interjection, seemed to think that I had based my position on the fact that the Commonwealth had entered into contracts. That was not the only ground. Where the Commonwealth has entered into contracts which extended beyond the termination of the war, I hold that we are competent to deal with such matters. Suppose that we took the interpretation to be that the defence power was one which could only be exercised during the period of war. What an extraordinarily limited power that would be. We, in Australia, are exercising, within our jurisdiction, on behalf of the Empire, the complete power of defence, not only for- ourselves, but for the Empire. We have had relations with the different parts of the Empire in the despatch of our troops from Australia, in handing over our Fleet to the Imperial authorities, in our financial undertakings and obligations, and in providing food and equipment necessary for the conduct of the war. If we took the stand that defence is a power to be exercised only during the period of actual war, we would not be able even to get ready for warfare. . It is admitted that in the defence power there is included preparation for war. It is obvious that it must be included. What an extraordinary Constitutions this would be if we knew that there were large forces about to attack us and that, because the Empire had not technically and legally declared war, we were impotent to exercise a single power of defence until the enemy had landed upon our shores,and we were in a state of confusion. It is generally admitted that included in the power of defence is the power to prepare in anticipation of attack.
Let us now consider the other side of the case. Can we exercise preparatory powers: and full war-time powers; and then, immediately upon the cessation of warfare can we go no further ? That would lead to an absurd position. In regard to all our obligations we would be able to do nothing. With respect toour troops overseas we might have some limited power; but, as for our administrative actions, immediately upon the cessation of war we would become powerless.
– What has all this to do with the clause under discussion?
– I am endeavouring, courteously, to answer a proposition stated by an honorable member on the Opposition benches. If, immediately upon the conclusion of the war, all the administrative activities which we had created and. organized in order to give effect to obligations entered into, and which were essential for the carrying on of the war, were to cease, then all Federal control would be absolutely ended.
– Nobody has suggested that.
-Under such circumstances, obviously, the power of defence must continue.
Mr.Page. - I rise to a point of order. You, Mr. Atkinson, prevented several honorable members on this side from discussing the whole Bill, and yet you are allowing the Minister to make a secondreading speech while we are in Committee dealing with one clause.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) spoke at considerable length while you were not present.
– I have been here the whole time.
– Order! The Minister; is replying to a point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– Of necessity there must be implied in the Constitution a power of defence which, in certain circumstances, must last beyond the actual declaration of Peace. I pointed out last night, in connexion with the activities withinthe scope of the Bill, that there were circumstances which justified the making of contracts, and which contracts were essential in the interests of the Empire. It was urgently necessary that certain of our resources should be organized’ and placed at the disposal of the Empire;, and, to do that effectively, we had to take up a control which would extend over a certain prolonged and definite period. For the security of the United Kingdom itself, the Imperial Government desired . these resources, in order that it might be able effectively and successfully to carry on the war. My opinion is that, as regards these particular activities, and in the circumstances which existed during the war, and still continue, the Parliament is competent to pass this legislation in order towind up these activities in. the manner set forth. There are also other circumstances, in connexion with the moratorium which justify Parliament in legislating beyond the period actually concerned. But to contend that if we have this power we therefore possess unlimited power to fix prices generally is not reasonable. When warfare ceases the ordinary working of our constitutional provisions will be reverted to; and then the power of price-fixing within a State will naturally devolve upon the State.
.- The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) made some observations last night, it appears, which I did not hear. Having made inquiries to-day, I was informed that he hadnot touched upon the aspect of the case which has now been debated. I was evidently misinformed, and I record my regret that I have done the honorable ..gentleman, to that extent, an injustice.. I thank him also -for his defence of the constitutional position,. It was a statement due to this Committee, and was, I think, too long delayed. Owing to the unprecedented circumstances in which the Bill was introduced, it was incumbent upon the Minister to present his view of the constitutional position.’ Something more was due to honorable members than the words of a bare certificate - a certificate provided, as I have more than once stated, (by an irresponsible body, however eminent those. gentlemen may be outside of Parliament. ‘
The Acting Attorney-General has logically pointed out, as members of the High Court Bench have , also done, that since we have .a general power of defence .given under the Constitution, it , follows that that involves matters preparatory to defence. And the honorable gentleman argued from that that it must necessarily include power to continue even what might bo called remote defence operations after the war was over. I suggest, however, that the real test appearing from the decided cases upon’ this question is the extent of the nation’s danger or embarrassment, arising from the war itself, and that there is, therefore, a vast difference between operations preparatory to war and operations carried on after danger has passed. As these operations under the various contracts are clearly to be carried on in time of peace, when the international crisis has, in fact, passed away, I suggest that they will ..probably be found, when tested, to be outside the competence pf the Commonwealth Parliament. I repeat that a certificate. of competence to pass a Bill affords no assurance that we shall be able to do, under that Bill, any tiling we may desire to do, for the simple reason that the matter of our powers to do a particular thing .cannot ,be decided until the time and circumstances arrive when it is to be - determined.
.- I desire to speak briefly from the point of view of the producer. Every producer will be prepared, to affirm that contracts which were made in good faith, and in. the. expectation, .that the war:would have lasted considerably longer than it did, should be carried out;- and, therefore, every producer will be quite willing to concede ,the time regarded by the Government as necessary to effect those ends. But .any proposal that the Government should exercise, a regulating influence on prices of commodities, produced at a date subsequent to that period would not find, acceptance with the producers. The interests concerned in this measure are too big and important to be trifled with. We regret that prices had tq be fixed at all. But it was necessary to establish ‘these Pools and Committees, and to enter into these contracts, in order that we might carry on in time of war. Such a condition of affairs was inevitable, and we are prepared to see the business through so far as those contracts are concerned. But we will strenuously resist any .attempt to prolong such a situation. ,If the wool contracts had, not .been in existence, we would have been free to sell wool at the world’s price to-day, and. we .would be able to get a better price than, that which has been fixed under the contract. It ,is a monstrous proposition that .that condition of things should be prolonged for a moment longer than is necessary. Honorable members opposite, always speaking from the point of view of the .consumer, ask for a lowering of prices, but I point out to them that the only -way to reduce the cost of living is to encourage production, and the only way to encourage production is to give the producers the advantage of the world’s markets. The primary producers have droughts and other natural adverse conditions to contend against, and if we add to those natural difficulties the valuation of their products by the Government, the result must be fatal to the interests of the producer, and, consequently, to the interests of -the consumer and of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– Especially when the valuations are made by men whose only idea is to keep’ prices down.
– -There is not one representative of the consumer on /any of these Boards.
– We know that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), with the idea of cheapening butter to consumers in Australia, prohibited its exportation. The result was that the big dairy herds were dispersed, no butter was being manufactured, and, naturally, the price went up.
– The honorable member ought to get his head read.
– The Leader of the Opposition does not like to he told what were the effects of his action. In view of the mistake which he made on that occasion, he ought to restrain honorable members behind him from any line of action which would have similar evil effects upon Australian industries to-day. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has suggested that the operations dealt with under the Bill can be carried on for a considerable period after the present time. It is clear that for some time after the contracts are finished a considerable staff must be continued in employment to wind up the whole of the Pool business. In ‘connexion with wool, for instance, one of the conditions incidental to the contract is that the wool producers are to receive 50 per cent, of any profits made (by the British Government upon the re-sale of the wool to manufacturers in England. That is a matter which cannot be finally settled for a considerable time after the contracts are closed, and until it is settled there cannot be a winding up of the whole scheme. ‘There must he power given to continue in existence the Departments which have been provided for, until all the details connected with their operations have been brought to a conclusion.
.- I do not know that I would have spoken again if it were not for the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), and of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom). The honorable member for Echuca has stated that the way to lower prices to the consumer is to encourage production in this country. Let me inform the honorable member that there are more sheep in Victoria to-day than there ever were before.
– But not in Australia.
– We only use Victorian sheep in Victoria. Although there are more sheep in the State to-day than there ever were before, mutton is dearer to-day to the consumer than it was at any time within the past forty years. The honorable member has said that I prohibited the export of butter. It is true that I did, and I remember that the gentleman who was then Minister of Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Hagelthorn, said that we should send away the butter from Victoria, and that the people here should use treacle. We are told that honorable members on this side represent the consumer, and I may be allowed to say that the honorable member for Echuca has never said a word for the consumer since he has been in this House.
– The honorable gentleman is quite .wrong there.
– I advocate equal consideration for producers and consumers. When we secure the extension of the operation of the Bill, I intend to move an amendment dealing with the composition of the Dairy Produce Pool.
– Will the honorable member not move that amendment before the extension is secured?
– I shall move my amendment whether we secure the extension or not.
– Will the honorable gentleman say what his amendment is?
– The honorable member will find that my amendment has been printed. The Government, in arranging for a Dairy Produce Pool, have decided that there shall be three representatives appointed by the Government in connexion with that Pool. I intend to move . that there. shall also be three representatives of the consumers, appointed by the Leader of the Opposition. I think that is only fair. Surely if the Government are to appoint three nominees to represent the producers, who, I understand, are to be Mr. Mears, the representative of the South Coast Company-
– Order!’ The honorable member is anticipating the discussion of another clause.
– The Government have received a certificate from a Legal Committee that this Parliament is competent to pass this legislation, but that is not to say that after the Bill is passed it will be valid.
– In the opinion of the Legal Committee it will be valid.
– Is the honorable member prepared to block any Bill for which he cannot set such a guarantee?
– I am not blocking this Bill, The Minister in charge of it has proposed that its operation shall extend for one year, and I am going ten times further, and proposing that it shall extend for eleven years. The Government wish to extend the power of price fixing. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) yesterday was able to point out that this Parliament dealt with this matter in 1906, when considering the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. There were in this House at that time constitutional lawyers quite as eminent as any who are members of the House to-day. At that time the present Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Higgins, Sir Edward Braddon, Sir John Quick, and others were members of the House.Not one of these gentlemen stated at that time that this Parliament did not possess the power claimed for it. The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has stated that, in accordance with a judgment of the High Court, we have the power to fix prices under the defence powers of the Commonwealth.
– Not for an indefinite period.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I mentioned that, while we were supplied with the opinion of the Legal Committee which has been referred to, I wished to know the question that was submitted to that Committee..
– The question submitted was the Bill itself.
– They have expressed the opinion that we have the power to pass this measure. I wish to know whether we could not submit to these legal gentlemen the question whether we have the power to deal with these matters for an extended period. I am not a lawyer, but I venture to say that if you tell any person of average common sense outside that the Commonwealth Parliament is competent to extend this power to the 31st August, 1920, without any alteration of the Constitution, he will say that it is equally competent to extend that power to 1930. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) this afternoon interjected that we wish the War Precautions Act wiped out. Honorable members on this side of the House have given notice of motions for the disallowance of certain regulations under that Act which they consider obnoxious. I sent a lengthy letter to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), referring to certain regulations under the Act which we desire to have repealed, but I have never at any time said that all the regulations under the War Precautions Act are bad. I have said that, in my opinion, certain of them are beneficial to the public. I gave notice nearly two years ago of a motion -
That StatutoryRule No. 212 of 1917 relating to the deregistration of unions be disallowed.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) gave notice of a motion -
That War Precaution Regulation No. ‘ 190 of 1917 re industrial operations connected with loading, despatch, &c, of shipping be disallowed.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) gave notice of a motion -
That the regulation issued under the War Precautions, Statutory Rule No. 213, 1917, dated 29th August, be disallowed.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) also gave notice of a motion–
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! What is the honorable member’s point in making these quotations?
– We have been told that we desired to wipe out the whole of the War Precautions Regulations. I am pointing out that we desired that certain of them should be disallowed. In this case there are some regulations under the War Precautions Act which I propose should be extended. The honorable member for Cook has a notice of motion on the. paper to this effect–
TheTEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member has quoted quite sufficient for’ the purpose of his argument.
– The Government in this measure are setting out the time to which they desire that certain of the regulations under the War Precautions Act shall be extended. I believe that that is the method which should have been adopted previously in regard to these matters. I remind honorable members, however, that of the regulations which we held to be obnoxious, not one has been disallowed by the Government. I believe that those dealt with in this Bill should be extended for a longer period than even that proposed by the Government. My amendment is that “ 1920 “ be struct out with a view to insert “ 1930.” ‘ There will be a Federal election in 1920, and it is within the bounds of possibility that honorable members opposite who are in a majority to-day will, after that election, find themselves in a minority, and there will be another Government on the Treasury bench who will be able to deal with the Butter Pool, and the other Pools then existing, as they desire.
– The honorable gentleman thinks that he will carry the revolution next year.
– I think it is quite possible that the people of Australia will realize what an abject failure the present Federal Government has been. It’ Has made mountains of promises, but there has been only a dust heapof performances as the result. Once the people get an opportunity to deal with this question, they’ will do so in an effective manner; and, as the 31st August, 1920, will be after the elections, an opportunity may be presented. I agree with the Minister (Mr. Groom) when he says that there is need for an alteration of the Constitution to give this Parliament still greater powers inthis connexion; and when the people have a chance to vote on the question again, they will do so in no uncertain way. I hope weshall be able to deal with price-fixing on a better method than that followed even during the currency of the war
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has made a statement, no doubt in good faith, but one which entirely misrepresents me. He told the Committee that I had never said a word in the interests of the consumer. As a matter of fact, I referred to his own actions as having the effect of materially increasing the cost of butter to the community, and I spoke against his proposals in the interests of the consumer. What is the object of the honorable member in moving this amendment? There are certain specified commodities dealt with in the Bill, all of which are primary products.
– My object is to extend the operations of the Dairy Produce Pool for ten years.
– With the hope of killing the dairying industry, and injuring all the primary producers. The object of the honorable member and those who support himis to take a line of action detrimental to the great producing interests. The honorable member talks about what the Government have failed to do in the way of reducing prices, and is pursuing a deliberate policy, in order to bring about conditions which must, of necessity, increase the cost of living. There is only one way to reduce the cost of living, and that is by encouraging production ; but what the honorable gentleman seeks to do is to artificially reduce the cost in a way which must inevitably have the effect of increasing it.
.- The logic of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) is peculiar. He tells us that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) desires to kill the primary producer by extending protection to him for another ten years. If there be anything in. that contention, then the extension proposed by the Government will kill the producer in the first year.
– The only object of the Bill is to enable the Government to carry out certain contracts.
– Those contracts have been entered into in the interests of the primary producers, and, therefore, in the opinion of the honorable member are good; and, if they be good, we ought to extendthem.
– This legislation has already been in operation for three or four years, and the industry is not dead yet.
– The honorable member is confounding normal conditions with war conditions.
– We, on this side, know that at the first opportunity the people will replace the Government by the present Opposition; and if we get the power to regulate these matters for another ten years, we shall do so in the interests of the producers as well as of the consumers. We all remember the bitter attack by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) on the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) because the latter, when he was Minister for Customs, would not allow the whole of the butter of. the country to be exported at a very high price. On that occasion the honorable member for Echuca clamoured for permission, on the part of the producers, to put 16 per cent. instead of 14 per cent. of water in the butter. If people desire to have water, they can buy it ‘at a much cheaper rate; and why not allow them to put it in the butter for themselves? I shouldbe very sorry to think that the interests of the primary producers are entirely in the hands of honorable members opposite, because we on thisside have quite as much regard for those interests, as we shall show when we arereturned to power.
If we do not extend the operations of thisBill for a certain period, sugar will certainly go up in price; and if the Wheat Pools are released from the controlling influence of the Government, an opportunity will be afforded for speculation, with a similar result. These commodities ought to-be controlled, and I welcome the extension of the Bill. If we have the’ power to regulate sugar, butter, and wool, and the Bill stands the test of law, we can surely go further, and regulate the prices of all other commodities. I shall support the amendment.
– I presume that as a layman I can hardly venture into the highly technical arguments between the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and the eminent King’s Counsel whose opinion has been given to the . House;but I should like to point out what seems to me an inconsistency in the positionof the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) and others, who are asking for an extension of the term. Not only in this debate, but on other occasions, we have heard from honorable members of the Opposition that these several Pools are ill-constructed and are engines by which the producers of the country are raising prices and profiteering at the expense of the consumers. That has been the story right up tothis afternoon , but now honorable members opposite suddenly discover that there is a great virtue in extending the Pools for another ten years, and so submitting the consumers,’ whom they profess specially torepresent, to the continued exactions or producers - the avowed enemies of the people. Itis quite evident thatthere is verylittle serious intention behind the amendment. It may serve to throw dust in the eyes of those people of common sense whomthe Leader of the Opposition(Mr. Tudor) says always support him outside -
– I never said that.
– It may serve to throw dust in theeyes of those who are to be told that this Parliament had an opportunity to fix prices,and refused to take it. But honorable members opposite know as well as we do that the powers under the Bill are powers arising from the war, and that they cease as soon as the commitments made during the war have been completed.
I can follow the argument ofthe honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). It is quite possible that a certain section of the community may appeal to the High Court against something done under this Bill when it becomes an Act, andit is quite possible they may succeed.I have very little doubt myself - and here, of course, I am treading on the holy ground of thelawyer - that many things done by the Wool Committee are not within the powers that were givenbecause the country was at war. I have great doubt whether the ‘High Court would hold that all thethings the Wool Committee are doing are essentialto the powers that the warconferredonthis Parliament.
– Do you state that in view of the certificate that has been read to us?
– The certificate does not guarantee that things done outside the authority of the Act are legal The Wool Committee, in my judgment, can do all it ought to do in connexion with the war agreement under the Act.
– I do not know how we would have got on without the Wool Committee.
– I agree with the honorable member ; I am not one to attempt to depreciate the value of the services which that Committee have given to the country; but they have done things which they had no right to do, and which were quite unnecessary in connexion with the protection of the agreements with the Imperial Government.
– They have made no “ bloomer “ up to now.
– At a later stage, I shall attempt to show that the Committee have made very serious “ bloomers,” not only affecting the immediate present, but as affecting the future of some of the industries of the country. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) may, at a later stage, be able to say, “ I told you so “ ; not because this Bill is outside the competence of Parliament,but because those administering it exceed the powers necessary to complete the agreements entered into.
. -I have no doubt that the Minister (Mr. Groom) is right in what he . says regarding the contracts already entered into with the Imperial Government. So far as the Wool Committee is concerned, those engaged in pastoral industries ought to go on their knees and thank God that it was created in the early stages of the war, for otherwise there would have been financial ruin from one end of Australia to the other.
– And also the Wheat Pool.
– The whole of the Pools. But the Wool Pool has done some good, not only for the pastoralists, but for the whole of the people of the country; and I know no bad thing that it has done.
No Committee that I have ever known, and certainly no Committee dealing with commodities in such a wholesale way, has given such general satisfaction. I can understand the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) having their little pickaxes at work trying to undermine the Wool Committee because it did not let the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) control it, instead of it controlling the Prime Minister.
– That is a slander on us.
– The honorable member is thriving very well under the slander.
– What right has the Committee to interfere with the operations of any industry that is not essential to the carrying out of the contracts.
– The control of wool has been placed in the hands of the men in Australia who are most capable of exercising it. So far as the wool top industry is concerned, if what has appeared in the press is true, F. W. Hughes and Company have very little cause to growl. Their only trouble is that their profits have been curtailed, and that the Wool Committee will not consent to be controlled by them.
– The members of the Wool Committee look after their own profits.
– Their administration has been satisfactory to the pastoralist, the Imperial Government, and the Commonwealth Government. The only persons who are dissatisfied are F. W. Hughes and Company.
– What about the workers in the wool top industry?
– Does the honorable member contend that the interests of the few hundred men engaged in the wool top industry at Botany are of greater importance than the interests of the hundreds of thousands of men engaged in the pastoral industry in the back-blocks? Apparently, the men out-back are to have no consideration at all, but coastal industries must he protected all the time.
– What about the hosts of small wool businesses in the country that have been shut up?
– The men who conducted those businesses were living on the primary producer. Now the whole of the wool ls being dealt with by the Central Wool Committee, instead of passing through the hands of a’ third party. We know that the contention of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is correct, because in the early days of Federation this Parliament sought to impose an Excise duty in respect of certain Australian industries so that employees might be assured of a living wage. Some manufacturers professed to approve of the idea, and promised to do what the Government desired.
– Everything was “ sunshine.”
– Particularly in harvesters. But we know that a man of straw was put up to fight the Commonwealth Government, and the High Court decided that the Act passed by this Parliament was ultra vires; in other words, we were “ down and out.”
– And that was the end of the endeavour to protect the worker.
– Yes. We have debated this question so many times from different points of view that we know we have not the constitutional powers which we are seeking to exercise, but the Minister has said that the commercial activities which are the subject of this Bill may be carried on as an extension of the defence powers that were exercised on account of war necessities. If the Government have the powers they claim to have, and I believe the claim i3 right, why do they not extend them to other commodities, such as bread, clothing, and boots?
– This Bill protects only . overseas contracts made with the British Government.
– Charity begins at home. Surely we should look after our own people before we look after the people overseas. I should be the- last to repudiate a contract made with people overseas during the war period, even though the honouring of it involved us in a pecuniary loss; but whilst keeping our contracts with people abroad, why should we allow the Australian people who produce these commodities to be robbed? Let us ex tend our control to other commodities, and if the persons whose profits are jeopardized appeal to the High Court, we shall know who are the profiteers and who are not.
– The price in Australia of each of the commodities affected by this Bill is less than the overseas parity.
– I fully understand that, but why cannot we create Pools in connexion with other necessaries and fix the prices of them ? The primary producer, as well as the consumer, is asking for protection against the profiteer. The profiteering in cornsacks is one of the greatest scandals ever perpetrated in this country. Why should not the price of them be fixed ? The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) produced in this House samples of tweed made by Vickers and Company, at Marrickville, and ranging in price from 6s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. per yard ; but the- makers of those tweeds cannot sell a yard of cloth to a tailor; the whole of the material must pass through the wholesale houses.
– We can stop that, surely.
– Let us do it instead of talking about it. Does any honorable member believe that the prices of blankets should be as high as they are to-day? My wife used to hand-weave blankets from merino wool at a cost of 15s. per pair, and, although they were made thirty years ago, they are almost as good to-day as when they were made. Cannot something be done under this Bill to prevent profiteering in blankets?
– Not under this Bill.
– If the Government mean what they say, and wish to protect the people, let them take a practical step in the direction I have indicated. By so doing they will help, not only the consumers in the cities, but also the primary producers ; they will be taking very effective “ direct action.” I regard the amendment to extend the operation of the Bill for ten years as camouflage; but, if the Bill is good for one year, it ought to be .good for ten years. Of course, I quite understand the difficulty of further extending a scheme which is part and parcel of the defence measures adopted during the war period. I suggest that the Government should take a step further and create import Pools as well as export Pools. Only by that means will the profiteers be brought to their knees. The fixation of prices has never been a success, and is particularly difficult in Australia, because of one State being dependent upon another. Queensland is not a manufacturing State; nearly all its foodstuffs are imported from other States. I hope the Ministry will look into this phase of the question, and provide, at the earliest moment, for the creation of import Pools.
– I rise to thank the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) for his candid admission that the amendment submitted bythe Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is only so much camouflage.
Mr.Tudor. - He was wrong.
– The Leader of the Opposition and his followers are really anxious because the Government’s doing too much on the lines followed by a Government of which he was a member. The honorable member for Maranoa, who is always fair in his criticism, and just in his treatmentof his former colleagues on this side, has told the Committee what object the Opposition have in view in submitting this amendment. If we thought it could serve any useful purpose I am sure that every honorable member on this sidewould support it.Its sole object, however, is to imperil the usefulness of the measure. I hope that before the next general election we shall have ah amendment of the Constitution, giving this Parliament increased powers, so that the people will be able to realize who are their friends. It is deplorable to have to listen to speeches such as those made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). Both, apparently, desire to wreck the Bill. It was most unfair for them to suggest that this Governmenthad done nothing while in office. During the war it had little or no opportunity to introduce new legislation, but with the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who has made a name, not Only for himself, but for Australia, we shallbe called upon to deal with many important proposals. In the opinion of many people there is really very little to be done in the interests of the producer and . consumer in Australia. More has been done for the people in Australia than in any other country. Professor Trueblood, who is associated with Seattle University, visited Australia recently, and, when interviewed upon his return, said - “You want to know whatkind of a place Australia is? Well, I have just come from Australia, so I guess you have struck the man that can tell you.” And he went on tosay that Australia is a country in which the Government is everybody’s grandfather and grandmother, and father and mother, and uncle andaunt,and everything else. In Australia, he explained, the Government ‘does everything for you, and you have only to look on and see how nicely it is done. When you are born you find the Government waiting for you with ahandsomebonus–
– Order! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the amendment.
– I should have liked to quote further from this interview, in order toshow what a distinguished visitor thinks ofgovernmental action in this country. The Leader of the Opposition, no. doubt,is disappointed that his prophecy at the last general election in regard tothe National party and Labour institutions has not been fulfilled. . Not one stone in the temple of Labour has been displaced by this Government, and this Bill is designed merely to enable the continuation and completion of certain govermental activities.I shall vote against the amendment, believing that if carried it might tend to render the measure unconstitutional.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that the Central Wool Board has gone beyond its jurisdiction in controlling the whole of the wool supplies of the country. There are no Government contracts entitling the Board to control sheepskins as it does.
– Order ! The honorable member must confinehis remarks to the amendment.
– This Bill is designed to enable certain contracts entered into with the British Government to be completed. Amongst those contracts is one relating to wool, and I am endeavouring to show that in connexion with it the Wool Board is controlling skins in respect of which there is no contract, so that if the Billbe passed as it stands, it will be open for the fellmongers to question its validity on the ground that it goes beyond contracts that were in existence at the termination of the war. The Government should not allow the Wool Board to controlskins and wool-tops. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) who is a bit of a squatter, has championed the cause of the pastoralists. He has said that city industries can look after themselves, and that the Wool Pool has proved a blessing to the country. I do not wish to depreciate the labours of, that Board, but I would point out that it is dealing only with the interests of the primary producers, while secondary industries which require some consideration are ignored.
– The manufacturers are being supplied with all their wool at a special rate.
– There are fellmongery works in my electorate standing idle at the present time. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in announcing the creation of the Wool Board declared that every secondaryindustry was tobe kept going at full speed. The Wool Board’ is neglecting that part of its duty. No doubt it has done good work for the squatters, but it has not been ofany service’’ to -our secondary industries, and I contend that if this Bill is to remain in force for twelve months, we should, insert in it provisions that will allow those industries to thrive.
.- The Honorable member for South Sydney. (Mr. Riley) has just asserted that the Wool Board has done nothing whatever for the secondary industries. Does he not know that manufacturers in Australia are buying their wool at a rate below that atwhich it is being sold abroad ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That point cannot be discussed at this stage.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) said that if the time during which this measure is to remain in operation were extended, we could bring manufacturers under its provisions. If that contention were correct”; if I thought that by extending the duration of the Bill we could extend the powers conferred by it, I should be very much inclined to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mir.. Tudor.)-., It seems to me, however, that that argument will not stand. The Bill is simply to enable the completion of certain contracts that were entered into with the Imperial authorities during the period of the war, and those contracts will terminate simultaneously with the operation of this measure. Whilewe have power, to pass the Bill as it stands, I think the position would be altogether different if we attempted under it to provide for new contracts or to extend the operations of these governmental activities beyond the period atwhichthe contracts already entered into will terminate. This afternoon the- Leader of the- Opposition (Mr, Tudor) toldus that he had prevented the exportation of butter, and led us to believe thatby doing so he had made the price of butter to the consumer much lower than it would otherwise have been. But this is exactly what happened : , When the export of butter was prohibited, and the price was held down, the dairy farmers of New South Wales protested that they could not produce butter and make it a paying proposition with the price of fodder as it was at that time. The Government then fixed the price of hay. As a result, people did not cut their lucerne or other crops to make hay, but turned stock on to the green fodder, and sold them to the butchers. Thousands of dairy cows were dried off in New South Wales, when, in ordinary conditions, they would have been allowed to continue producing milk.
– The New South Wales Government may have fixed the price of hay, but the Federal Government did not fix the price of any commodity, except bread, until after I ceased to be a Minister.
– The Federal Government may not have fixed the price of hay, but the State Government of New
South Wales, following on the footsteps of the Federal Government, went further in order to protect the dairy farmer”, and fixed the price of hay. The result was that the crops were not turned into hay, but were fed off in the paddocks; and that will always be the result of any attempt to interfere with the primary producer.
– It was not very long before the dairy industry produced more than it had previously produced. The dairy farmers are something like the manufacturers, whose industries are ruined, vet they could take trips round the world.
– What happened was that the drought broke and thousands of additional cows came into milking, and, naturally, the quantity of butter produced increased again. But for some months, owing to the prohibition of the exportation of butter by the Federal Government, and the fixation of the price of hay in New South Wales, the production of butter was lowered to a very marked extent, and the quantity obtainable in Australia was considerably reduced. If this Bill is extended, as the Leader of the Opposition desires, with the object of fixing the price of butter, as was done before, at a figure lower than is payable to the producer, thehonorable member will do the consumer, whose cause he is always championing, a greater injury than could be inflicted on him by forcing him to pay higher prices for the time being. Once an attempt is made to interfere with primary production, sooner or later the consumer is made to pay more dearly for the commodities he requires. That is one of the reasons, although not the chief one, for the high cost of living in Australia to-day. In no other great producing country is the primary producer getting such a bad time as he is in Australia, and the sooner the champions of the consumers awake to this fact, the sooner will the cost of living come down in the city as well as in the country.
Question - That the word “ twenty “ proposed to be left out (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the word “ twenty,” line 10, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “thirty.”
If this amendment is agreed to, it will extend the operation of the measure in regard to wool for ten years, instead of ten months. As the war we have just passed through will not permit communities to settle down to normal conditions for many years to come, it is essential that the produce of the great pastoral industry should be kept under Government control.
– I rise to a point of order. The amendment already dealt with, although it merely had reference to dairy produce, governs the whole of the clause.
– The dates are different.
– But the principle is the same.
The TEMPORARYCHAIRMAN (Mr. Atkinson). - The honorable member for Maribyrnong is in order.
– In order to show how necessary it is to protect the consumer and the secondary industries of this country, I have only to quote the price of wool in GreatBritain in April last, and compare it with the price at which it is obtainable in Australia to-day. In the Age of Tuesday appears a comparison of the quotations ruling at the end of the recent series of sales with prices in April, 1919, and July, 1914.
– I rise to a point of order, I submit that the honorable member’s amendment and his speech indicate that his intention is to include the regulation of prices in the Bill, and that this is outside the scope of the Bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), so far as I have understood him up to the present, is using certain material as an argument for the extension of the period of control from 1920 to 1930.
– That is perfectly correct, and if honorable members will do me the courtesy of listening to the figures I propose to quote, they will realize how vital it is to the people of Australia that we should control for a longer period than ten months the materials that affect so much the comfort or discomfort of the community. The table given by the Age is as follows: -
The last figures quoted show that the prices being obtained for Australian wool in England to-day are almost three times what manufacturers in Australia can obtain the same wool for to turn into tweed here for Australian use. The prices here are largely governed by the fact that the WoolCommittee is in existence, and cam carry out certain operations. I contend that to continue the Committee for ten years will give the Australian users of Australian wool for that period the same benefits as accrue to them to-day.
– You want to lock out those men at Botany for ten years more.
– No. I am quite with the honorable member there, and the present is a good opportunity for the honorable member to discuss the operations of the Wool Pool in that regard. I will have to complain later on, as I propose to do now, of the operations of the Pool regarding certain aspects of the wool industry. The big prices I have quoted as obtaining in Great Britain are participated in by the Australian wool producers to the extent of 50 per cent. of the excess above the fixed Fool price, but there are certain sections controlled by the Wool Committee which do not participate in that enhanced price. Take the case of the fellmongers. Who gave the Wool Committee the autocratic power to determine that some sections of the wool trade shall participate in those enhanced values and that others, such as the fellmongers, shall not? That is what the Committee has done, and other complaints can be made against it. At the same time, for the protection of the Australian users of Australian wool, it is advisable to extend the period of control for another ten years. I recognise that I am on rather flimsy ground so far as the legality of the Bill is concerned. It has been said here that its validity is likely to be tested. The wool scourers will most likely test the action of the Central Committee in denying them the right to participate in the enhanced prices obtained in Great Britain. The New South Wales Government may take the same action with regard to wool as they took in regard to wheat in 1914 during the war period. They commandeered the wheat of New
South Wales, and held it, as we thought, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) took the matter to the High Court, which upheld the action of the New South Wales Government. I know of nothing to prevent that Government from commandeering the wool supplies of New South Wales in the same way. They can easily say that they will not deprive the Imperial Government of their share of the wool, but they may claim their right as a. Government to deal with the wool within their own borders. I believe the Bill will be tested in the Courts by that Government, and possibly by other Governments, as well as by private individuals who find that they are suffering injustice under the administration of the Wool Pool. However, we must take all these risks. There is also the possibility indicated by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) and the honorablemember for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) that, if the amendment is carried and the operations of the Pool are extended for ten years, the Australianwool producer will receive for his wool only the price that may be fixed by the Wool Committee for ten years. I should say that would be fairly safe, in view of the present composition of the Wool Committee, because the majority of its members are interested in wool production. That being so, the wool producer’s interests are well catered for. If, however, we remove that restriction, and our wools are submitted to public competition, without any restraint by the Wool Pool or by Parliament, who is to say that the Australian manufacturers of woollens will not have to pay up to 5s. and 6s. a lb. for their wool, or even more, against the competition of eager buyers from other countries ? I am assured, on the most reliable authority, that the finest and best scoured wools we produce in Australia can be bought to-day, not at 100d.,but at 42d. per lb. In asking for this extension of control for ten years instead of ten months, I am taking action that will ultimately prove to be of benefit to the woolgrowers of Australia, and more particularly to the wool users, or consumers of manufactured woollen articles.
Question - That the word “ twenty “, proposed to be left out (Mr. Fenton’s amendment), stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the word “twenty,” line 13, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “thirty.”
The arguments adduced by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) why the period should not be extended in regard to wool - that is, because certain contracts were made and the British Government had not purchased the wool for a period longer than twelve months after the war - do not apply to sugar. The raw sugar millers of Queensland are aware that the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company are not too well pleased with the present position. The general manager of that extensive organization would prefer to he allowed to proceed in his own way; but honorable members representing Queensland know that the Federal management of the sugar industry has proved very satisfactory to the majority of the people concerned.
– The Federal Government only purchased the sugar.
– We fixed the retail price, beyond which no one could advance. We decided that the people should get their sugar for 3£d. per lb., plus the cost of delivery to the retailer. The sugar industry is one in which there must be some £12,000,000 invested to-day, and there are many thousands of people engaged. The efforts of the Commonwealth authorities to establish the sugar industry have been most successful. We have a Tariff which protects the Australian producer, and now we desire a Federal control which will protect the workers and at the same time allow the general public to secure sugar at a reasonable price. We have succeeded in that direction for a certain term ; and all that is now proposed is to extend the term to ten years. The sugar-growers of Queensland prefer Federal control to any other.
– They have not got it. They will not get it under this Bill.
– I Say that they would prefer it. The Queensland Government have assisted the Federal Government; but some day, when another Commonwealth Government asks for full powers, we shall probably have complete Federal control of the industry. It is very difficult to solve the problems which confront us to-day. There is much unrest, and all kinds of schemes have been proposed to deal with production and the distribution of wealth. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has nearly the whole of the business in its hands to-day; its ramifications cover nearly all the continent. Prior to the war one or two men sitting in their offices decided what should be the price of sugar. The company is the most perfectly organized industry in Australia from that view-point.
Mr. Knox, who is, perhaps, the most experienced and capable man connected with the sugar industry in Australia, probably has most influence in fixing the price of sugar. For the reasons which I have stated the sugar industry ‘ is one which is most easily controlled by the Government. After the deliberate and wholesale abandonment of the individualistic principles which have been professed by honorable members opposite for so long, I should think there would be no objection on that side to permitting the Government to control this industry for the term I have mentioned. The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) told us this afternoon that the Government are going in for a wholesale programme of shipbuilding. I believe it was Sir William Harcourt who said, some time ago, speaking, of parties in Great Britain, “ We are all Socialists now,” and doubtless the Melbourne Argus, in view of the statement of the Acting Minister for the Navy this afternoon, will to-morrow sing the same refrain in its leading columns, and “ Ithuriel “ will adopt it for his notes at the close of the week. My amendment should commend itself to the Tories on the other, side who are willing to support a wholesale programme of Government shipbuilding, and who, along with the Bolsheviks, are to bo fought by the Prime Minister (MrHughes) on his return to Australia.
– .The honorable member i’sevidently scared at the prospect of thereturn of the Prime Minister.
– My honorable friend* should be very careful. He may yet see? a coalition of the two forces, and what would he say then ? The Prime Minister has stated that no one ever knows what may happen in politics. A Government prepared to undertake ‘ shipbuilding in such a wholesale fashion as announced by the Acting Minister for the Navy should not object to Federal control of the sugar industry for the next ten years.
– Will the honorable gentleman’s amendment secure that control ?
– Let us try by extending the operation of the Bil] to 1930.
– When the honorable gentleman was Treasurer he did not try.
– I am reminded by the interjection of what happened when the Government of which I was a member fixed the price of sugar at 3½d. per lb. in the face of advice to the contrary from the Crown Solicitor. We interpreted the law better on that occasion than , did the Crown Solicitor.
– And nearly starved the sugar industry in Queensland.
– The price we fixed enabled the grower to secure a good price for his cane, and enabled the raw sugar miller also to obtain a good price. Subsequently, through the influence of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser),’ the Government were prevented from ‘ making a little profit out of the sugar industry, which I thought was justifiable, to enable us to carry on the war. The honorable member and the party opposite made up the money which I would have taken from that industry by taxing the little children on the 3d. tickets of admission to picture shows.- I hope that honorable members opposite will continue on the narrow way thatleads to righteousness, and will adopt our proposal to federalize the sugar industry by extending the operation of this measure for another ten years.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7. £5 p.m.
.- This clause has afforded members of the Opposition an opportunity to propose, under various headings, the prolongation of a temporary organization that was improvized during .the war period as a sort of compromise- between pre-war conditions and post-war conditions. Those producers whose commodities alone are being dealt with in this Bill, were quite willing, in view of the greater needs of the State, to give up for the time their individual rights in order that the State, for its preservation, might set up a form of control for the war period; which may be described as the pooling period. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), no doubt out of his oft-expressed anxiety for the dairy farmers, has shown a desire .that the pooling period shall be extended, but the dairy farmers throughout Australia know what his interest is in their great industry, and are not likely to be hood winked by his efforts. “ Then the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) desires that the control should be extended also in the case of wool, but all that that honorable member knows about wool, either in its raw or its manufactured state, as expressed by him in this chamber, could be written- in a very short volume, and his solicitude for the producers may be easily passed over. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is always worth listening to, but I do not think that he has ever been more interesting than he was this afternoon when he moved an amendment in connexion with the sugar industry. Of course, hailing as he does from Queensland, he can be expected to have no other desire than the welfare of the sugar producers there. But what struck me as unique in the speech of an avowed apostle of the doctrine of Socialism was the great tribute he paid to the genius of 1 private enterprise in his State. In the whole of Australia he singled out Mr. Knox as the man who knows more about sugar than any other person in the country; as the man whose genius, the honorable member told us, is responsible for the organization of the industry on the most highly scientific basis. Mr. Knox, by his own will, and because of the . desire of his company that all should be well with the sugar industry of Queensland, was lent to the Commonwealth during this trying period -in order that the standard of excellence in the organization might be maintained. During the whole of his address, to which I was very careful to listen, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) never dealt with the merits of the industry as an argument in favour of the prolongation of the pooling system, nor with the power of the State to call forth a high effort in the production of more cane or a more refined sugar. This is the only period I can .remember in the history of Australia when black and coloured, and piebald sugar has had to be’ accepted for Al quality, and it is the most unfortunate period that’ the honorable member could have selected for the purposes of his case, for it is the time when all our fruitgrowers of Australia have been clamouring for sugar. The honorable member and his associates from Queensland were much concerned in holding up the industry until they got a special award laying down conditions unheard of in the country before; and to. that end, while Mr. Knox and others should have been able to carry on without interruption, the honorable member’s friends paralyzed the sugar industry.
The honorable member for Capricornia has not advanced one argument to show that we should grant an extension of ten years to the pooling system, nor has the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), or any other honorable member, attempted to show that the advance of the nation would be in any way furthered by the prolongation they propose. All they are concerned in showing is that, under the machinery of the Bill. there might be some kind of hybrid price fixing. Those who have scanned it carefully will recognise that sugar is about the only commodity that the Government have had to hedge round with all kinds of conditions; and altogether it is the most unfortunate commodity that the honorable member for Capricornia could have selected for the purposes of his argument. The wholesale price and the retail price are fixed, and importation and exportation - except by the Government - prohibited, and no margin is allowed as a reward for increased production. ‘ Sugar is the only commodity in regard to which the community has been denied the right to call for what it wants, and has been obliged to take that which is offered.
I must say that during this period of the temporary pooling of Australia’s raw products the producers have never winced. The arguments from the Opposition side to-day have shown such a lack of uniformity - have been so piebald and so mixed - that they cannot but prevent the party from exerting its full weight in support of its proposals. The honorable member for Maribyrnong first attempted to show that the producers were not getting their all, and when we on this side expressed our satisfaction with the sentiment, he said the consumers were not getting that to which they were entitled. However, I shall not traverse those arguments further, but merely say that this “has been a period during which collective bargaining in the primary products of Australia has taken the place of the right of individual contract on the part of the producers. As I said before’, the producers have not winced, but have been prepared to deliver over to the State the whole of their products at a price to be fixed by the State. In spite of the fact that for wool, wheat, and dairy produce fabulous prices have been recorded on the other side of the world, they have never asked the Government to explain how the fixed prices were arrived at, but have been quite content to believe that the Government was acting, not only in their best interests, but in the interests of the country as a whole. “What I am anxious to show - and this has not been recognised by the Opposition, though it has weighed with the primary producers - is that we could not in any spirit of fairness ask that our products might be treated as if they were the products of a neutral country. We in Australia were at war .as much as Britain or the Empire was at war, and the primary producers, feeling that it would not be in keeping with the spirit of the race, have never taken a “ stand-and-deliver “ attitude, or demanded that they should retain their produce and deal with it on a strictly commercial basis. They have never attempted to obtain those higher prices that a neutral country might have got; and, consequently, when the honorable member for Capricornia asks for a continuance of the Pool, it is not in the interests of the men who were content to accept the conditions of the war period in order that their less fortunate cousins in the Old Country - on whose shoulders the burden of the war mainly rested - might get commodities at reasonable prices. I hope that the support to perpetuating the pooling system given by representatives of primary producers on the Government side will not be taken as an indication that the producers have suddenly embraced the Socialistic idea of collective bargaining.
– Do. you believe in shipbuilding ? “
– I do believe in shipbuilding; but if you ask me who, in my opinion, ought to build the ships, I say it is the men who know most about the business.
– I mean Commonwealth ships.
– I do not believe that in shipbuilding the State can rise to that supreme excellence of organization that, for instance, has been attained by Mr. Knox in regard to the sugar industry. Personal genius in private enterprise throughout the world has been eminently displayed both prior to and during the war; and I have not been convinced during the time of temporary State interference that State control has shown any superiority. In the early stages of the, war there was a grand public spirit in Australia in relation to trade, the war, and the welfare of the nation. Any man who had dared to breathe a word against this country would have been hissed off the political platform, if not off the face of Australia, and the profiteer would have found a brick on his head. But by a process of muddling and, in a sense, through temporary State control, this country has degenerated until we find in industrial circles a band of outlaws, and in trade and commerce our public conscience has been dulled. In politics it has been a period when, although it was essential that everything should be clear, straight, and honest, men have been afraid to speak their minds lest they might disturb those that followed them.
.- Although the Government have had control of the sugar industry during the last five years, they have not broken down some of the evil practices built up by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. If the Government profess any virtue in their control of the industry they should endeavour to place every trader in the community on the same basis. Some of the old customers of the company are still alloweda certain rebate on the sugar which passes through their hands, but others who have come later into the business, including a wholesale co-operative concern representing country grocers in this State, have not been able to get from the company the same advantage.
– They have been getting a rebate for some time.
– The rebate used to be 6 per cent.
– The rebate depends upon the quantity of sugar purchased.
– I should like to see that altered. The quantity to be purchased before the full rebate is earned is too high, and, although the co-operative concern to which I have referred handles a considerable quantity of sugar, it has been able to get a rebate of only21/2 per cent.
– That differentiation has been removed.
– I hope it has. I should like an assurance from the Minister that even-handed justice is meted out to traders in connexion with sugar.
– Greater consideration should be shown to the industries of which sugar is one of the chief raw materials, and that can be done without injury to the sugar industry. When this Parliament adopted a certain policy with the deliberate object of freeing the industry in Queensland of kanaka labour, the people of Australia acquiesced without demur, but if we impose a duty of £6 per ton on imported sugar we have a right to expect–
– The people of Tasmania paid £6 per ton on sugar before Federation .
– That is not correct; manufacturers were allowed a rebate to the full extent of the duty on all exports of manufactured goods sent from the State. To many thousands of people in Tasmania and Victoria the small fruit industry is a considerable part of their means of livelihood, and there is no reason why justice should not be done to that industry without injuring the sugar interests in the slightest degree. Tropical Australia is the test market for the jams and preserves which are produced chieflyin Tasmania and Victoria. The makers of jams and preserves in. those States are the largest consumers of sugar. Only a little common sense is required to reconcile the interests of the two industries. There can be no question that the people are paying an exceedingly high price for the maintenance of the sugar industry. The duty of £6 per ton means a contribution by the Australian consumers of approximately £1,750,000 per annum to the sugar industry. During the last few years the small fruit industry has benefited by reason of the high prices obtained for jams required for army purposes.
– There is a duty of about 2d. per lb. on imported jams.
– I have always said that the duty imposed upon preserves is of very little use. The fruit producers and jam manufacturers would gladly see that duty removed if they could have, free of duty, the sugar used in their industry. Why cannot that be done? Nearly every year we have to import a large quantity of sugar, and a great lack of foresight was. shown in that regard during the present year. It was known, many months ago, that we would have to import a considerable quantity of sugar.
– At what price could we buy foreign sugar to-day ?
– About the middle of last year, when I brought this matter under the notice of the Government, we could have bought sugar in Java at £7 . 10s. per ton. We have had to import about 100,000 tons of sugar this year, and it was not good business to defer the purchase until the price rose to £20 perton. Having regard to the fact that for every 1 lb. of fruit used in preserves a similar weight of sugar is used, surely the Government can devise some scheme by which the jam manufacturer can get sugar free of duty.
Several Honorable Members. - What is the price of jam ?
– Any honorable member who will make an offer for a considerable quantity of jam will be supplied very cheaply to-day, I am sorry to say. The Government at present allow a small rebate to the jam manufacturers, and they could, without prejudice to the sugar industry, make a further rebate. In New Zealand, where sugar is not grown, the price is £6 less than it is in Australia, where sugar is produced. We must take into consideration the fact that New Zealand is becoming a big competitor with Victoria and Tasmania as a producer of small fruit preserves. I assure those who are interested in the pro duction of sugar that they cannot expect to continue for all time the present exceedingly heavy levy on the jam industry, which is just as important to some States as sugar production is to Queensland. I suggest that those industries of which sugar is one of the principal raw materials should be able to get their requirements practically duty free.
– What does the honorable member mean ?
– I mean that the Government should sell sugar to the manufacturers at £6 less than the fixed price now ruling.
-What about the housewife who makes her own jam?
– It is astonishing how Free Trade in sentiment some honorable members become when we are dealing with industries in which they are not particularly interested. At present the Government are controlling the: sugar industry, and the selling price is fixed by law. Already they have made a small rebate to the jam manufacturing interests, and I ask them to consider if they cannot make a further concession to manufacturerswho during the present year will be in a difficult position, because the British Government bought largely for Army purposes, and have big stocks in hand. Unless preserves canbe sent from Australia at prices much below those that have ruled during the last three or four years, countries like New Zealand, which are getting sugar for manufacturing purposes duty free, will occupy such a favorable position that the Australian manufacturer will not be able to compete with them.
– I feel constrained to make some reply to the absurd arguments that have just been advanced by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), whose stupid assertions have caused me no little astonishment. The jam industry carried on, not only in Tasmania, but on the mainland, during the war has not merely received the benefit of a protective duty of 2d. on every pound of jam or preserved fruit produced by it, but has been absolutely free from outside competition, since in no other country except New Zealand, which is not competing, have jam manufacturers been able to obtain their sugar at even double the price fixed by the Federal Government. In these circumstances, what reason have the jam manufacturers of the Commonwealth to complain ?
The Government have also been attacked by the honorable member for their failure to provide a sufficient supply of sugar to meet all requirements up to the beginning of next season. I would remind the Committee that it is little more than twelve months since the Federal Government were faced with an actual sugar surplus. When they entered into the last contract with the Queensland Government for the purchase of sugar for a period of two years, they had a six months’ surplus in hand, and were doubtful as to whether or not they should enter into that further contract over so long a period without imposing stringent con- ditions. By reason, however, of severe frosts, followed by cyclones, and, later on, by drought, a great part of the crop that’ should have been harvested and manufactured into sugar, was completely lost. Against such visitations no Government could have provided; and it is to those causes that the shortage, which has been ascertained only of recent date, may be attributed. The Government could not have taken action earlier than they have done to meet the situation, and the jam manufacturers are obtaining all the sugar they require at the present time at as low a price as they could expect to secure it. It is absolutely absurd for the honorable member to say that sugar could have been obtained from abroad at £7 10s. per ton during the last twelve months or two years. No one has been able during that period to land it here for £15 per ton duty paid. When a deputation of jam manufacturers told the Minister for Trade and Customs some little time since that they could import sugar at something like that price, his answer was, “ I am prepared to take 50,000 tons, if you can supply it at anything less than £15 per ton.” I think that was the price named. If it is true that these men could have landed it here for £7 10s. per ton, why did they not accept the Minister’s offer ? These attempts to mislead the public - and such statements are intended only to mislead - are quite beside the mark.- The facts can be easily ascertained. If any honorable member has a doubt on the subject, he has only to apply to the Minister for Trade and Customs for a statement in writing as to the actual position. Sugar from overseas cannot be landed here to-day. under £51 per ton. And at no time during the war have jam manufacturers in the United States of America or Great Britain been able to obtain sugar, except at double the price ruling here.
– What is the position in regard to Java sugar?
– It has not been possible to introduce Java sugar; but, e/en if it could be brought in now, the price would be double that which -the jam manufacturers of Australia have to pay the Federal Government. No industry in Australia is better protected than the fruit and jam industry. Although my honorable friend (Mr. Mcwilliams) denies my statement that, prior to Federation, there was a duty of something like £6 per ton on sugar entering Tasmania, the Hobart press did not deny it when, in the course of an interview, I made the statement, and gave my authority for it. I had large dealings with Tasmania before Federation, and I know that, under the Tasmanian Tariff, the duty .on sugar at that time was from £5 to £6 per ton. Another consideration which should not be overlooked is that, although there is a duty of £6 per ton on sugar, ‘ jam manufacturers are receiving their sugar at about £3 7s. 6d. less than the retailer can obtain it. Their exports compete with jams the manufacturers of which pay twice as much for their sugar ; so that, if there is any complaint to be made, it is that the local jam manufacturers have been treated too leniently by the present Commonwealth’ Government. There is another misapprehension on the part of some honorable members that I should like removed, and that is as to the treatment received by the Commonwealth Government in its dealings with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. As a matter of fact, that company is only work- ing as the paid agent of the Commonwealth. In that capacity it receives£ 1 per ton on the sugar produced by it, and out of that amount has to provide for loss of interest, insurance, depreciation, and other charges. Some honorable members appear to think that a man who buys a ton of sugar, on, perhaps, three months’ ‘ terms, should be granted the same advantage that is extended to a firm which buys a large quantity involving an outlay of, say, £5,000. In the case of the larger transaction, prompt cash is paid, so that the Commonwealth avoids any loss of interest upon that amount, and a good deal of handling is also avoided by it. Those who take delivery of these large quantities are granted an allowance of 6 per cent, and of that they have to pass on to the retail purchaser from 21/2 to 3 per cent. Thus they do not get a return of more than from 3 to 31/2 per cent. for handling these larger quantities, paying cash, and providing for cartage and storage, insurance and interest, as well as incurring the risks involved.No one is able to carry on a big business with the grocers of Australia without running the risk of loss, since small business men often get into financial difficulties through no fault of their own, and in such circumstances their creditors have to take less than 20s. in the £1. Under the system now in operation, the Federal Government take no risk. I thought it only right, since I knew all the circumstances, that I should make these facts clear to honorable members.
.- I am reluctant to interpose in the debate between representatives of Tasmania and Queensland, but, as a representative of Victoria, where we also have large jam manufactories, I should like to offer a few observations. The fruit-growing industry in Tasmania is undoubtedly an important one, but large quantities of fruit are also produced in this State, and we have a. number of extensive jam factories. Some very interesting information on this question appears in an article written by Mr. Pritchard, secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, and published recently in the Sugar Journal in reply to an article which appeared in the Argus. A conference of various industries interested in the sugar question suggested that the duty should be removed. I am confident that the increase in the price of sugar, like that of many other commodities produced in Australia, is not equal to the increase in the prices of imported articles. In support of that view, I would invite honorable members to read the reports of the Inter-State Commission, and particularly the report dealing with rents, in which it is shown that, although the prices of bricks, tiles, hardwood, and other locally-produced building commodities, have increased, the increase is nothing like as great as in the case of galvanized iron. The fruit-growers and jammanufacturers of Australia have reason to be thankful to the sugar industry of the Commonwealth. If we had had to depend upon outside sources for our supplies, then householders, instead of having to pay 3s. 6d. per dozen pounds for sugar, as they do to-day, would probably have to pay the prices that have been ruling in Great Britain and the United States of America during the war.
– What is the price of sugar in New Zealand?
– I understand that New Zealand is practically taking the whole of the sugar output of Fiji.
– Produced by black labour,
– That is so. This Parliament, in 1901, decided for the policy of a White Australia, and in order to secure it we have to pay a duty on sugar. Jam manufacturers here, however, have obtained their sugar cheaper than manufacturers in any other part of the world.
– Only during the war period.
– Quite so. I think the honorable member was right in saying that the duty of 2d. per lb. on jam is of no value to the local manufacturer. I should be prepared to impose a duty of something like1s. per lb. I do not think it would affect the price.
– Would it not?
– No. Those who import jams to-day import nothing but high-class preserves, such as Crosse and Blackwell’s jams, and Kieller’s marmalade. As a matter of fact, the duty on jam is not operative, because the ordinary Australian housewife can make all the jam she requires, and she can get her sugar cheaper than can the housewife in any other part of the world. Let me quote the exports of commodities of which sugar forms the chief constituent for the four years preceding the war as compared with the four years while the war lasted -
These figures speak for themselves.
– How much of the increased value was due to the increase in the cost of tin plating?
– I do not think that that accounts for more than one-fourth of the increase. The ordinary 2-lb. tin of lemon and melon jam, one of the cheapest lines, is sold at11d. or111/2d., and probably the cost of the tin container is about 3d.
– It is a little less than that.
– The contents of the tin represents less than three-fourths of the increased value.
– Does not the honorable member think that after twenty years, and with the advantage of a £6 duty, we have the right to expect that Australia should produce enough sugar for its own requirements?
– I have heard honorable members opposite say that it is difficult to control the seasons in Australia. If our friends in Tasmania occasionally have a shortage of fruit, it is just as likely there may be at times a shortage of cane production in Queensland. At any rate, I understand that there is a greater acreage under cane in Queensland to-day than there has ever been before. The remark that land is going out of cultivation, which we have heard applied to other farming operations, does not hold good in regard to sugar cane. According to the price-lists in the daily press, the sugar-cane farmers have not secured that huge increase in their returns that some other farmers in Australia have been fortunate enough to get.
– Is it a fact that in Queensland sugar-growing is passing into the hands of aliens?
– It is not a fact.
– I have not been through the sugar districts for about eight or ten years, but I understand that Italians are taking up land for growing sugar cane.
– I understand that Russians and Japanese are also taking up land.
– That may be true also, and the only way in which ‘ we can deal with these people is for the Commonwealth Parliament to secure power to prohibit certain persons from doing a particular class of work. If they are prohibited from owning land, others ought also to be prohibited from employing them, and using them as cheap labour. 1 hope that honorable members who believe that we should put the sugar industry on a permanent basis will vote for the amendment. As there is no export of sugar, the primary producer of Australia will get the whole of the benefit of the extension asked for.
– We have to buy the sugar from the Queensland Government? Will the Bill provide for that?
– It will give us the opportunity to make a contract with the Queensland Government. Sugar is harvested during the next few months, and the season will terminate towards the end of. the year. If this Bill is not extended the growers in future will not be sure of the destination of the cane they may plant or of the price they will get for their product. Honorable members will simply be saying to these people, “ You are all right until the end of September, 1920. and after that you can fish for yourselves. We shall endeavour to fix the price to the end of September, 1920, but after that we throw you to the wolves.” The legislation already enacted by this Parliament has placed the sugar industry on a firm footing, but it will be on a much firmer basis if the amendment is agreed to.
Question - That the word “ twenty “ proposed to be left out (Mr. Higgs’ amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided’.
Ayes . . . . . . 31
Noes . . . . . . 14
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the word “ twenty,” line 16, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “thirty.”
This would extend until 1930 the time for which the Act would operate with regard to flax. I said on the secondreading that the Government were selling the people a gold brick, inasmuch as they pretended that they had full powers to deal with flax, wool, wheat, butter, cheese, and sugar, but no power to deal with any other commodity. Evidently it is not the intention of the Government now, or at any future date, to deal with any commodities other than those covered by the Bill. If the Government believe that it is good to extend these controls, why do they extend them only until next year? That is the test of their sincerity. The contracts which have been mentioned do not apply to flax.’ If the pooling system will help the new flax industry in Australia, it should be given, a reasonable chance to operate. “What is the good of this Parliament attempting to help an industry if on the 31st December, 1920, the whole of. the assistance ceases ? Are the men who put their capital into the industry to be left utterly dependent on themselves after havingbeen sold a gold brick by the Government? The Government tell the potential flax-growers of Australia that they will give them certain assistance, supply them with seed under “certain conditions, guard their interests, and pass a Bill dealing with the subject;but after the men have sunk their capital in the industry, they are to be told that with a certain period they must do the best they can for themselves. Why do not the Government show their sincerity by giving them a reasonable time to develop flax culture? The industry is totally different from wool growing, cheese manufacture, or sugar production.
Question - That the word “ twenty “ proposed to be left out (Mr. Blakeley’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Continuance of War Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) regulations).
.- I have given notice of an amendment on the schedule. I want to be sure that I shall be permitted to move accordingly, even if this clause has been passed.
-The honorable member can move an amendment on the schedule.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Continuance of War Precautions (Wool) Regulations and War Precautions (Sheepskins) Regulations).
– I desire to call the attention of honorable members to the fact that the Commonwealth has entered into contracts with certain companies, and that, according to those contracts, the Government take 50 per cent., or, in the event of- war profits taxation, two-thirds of the profits. It is my intention to move an amendment but, in doing so, I have no desire - since the case is sub judice -to discuss the merits of the pending litigation between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. I wish to keep out of this debate any question whether the Commonwealth is entitled to £280,000, for which it is suing, or whether the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is justified in its refusal to pay that sum.
The Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the ColonialCombing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and with Messrs. S. W. Whiddon and Company, in March, 1917, under which the Commonwealth Government were to receive 50 per cent. of the profits made by those companies as the result of carrying on the wool-top making industry.
– If the company were engaged in legitimate trade, why should it agree to hand over a percentage of its profits ?
– I shall deal with that later. The amendment which I shall presently move will, of course, enable the Auditor-General to inspect the books, vouchers, accounts, and documents of those companies.
– Is that not done now ?
– No. That is the reason for my proposed amendment.
– The books of those companies are audited by an auditor who is nominated by the Government.
– That is not so. The auditor was appointed bySir John M. Higgins, as Chairman of the Central Wool Committee: Sir John Higgins was asked by the then Commonwealth Treasurer (the late Lord Forrest), and by the Auditor-General himself, to permit the latter to examine the accounts of those companies. But Sir John Higgins said, “No! I do not think that would be as sound an arrangement as the one at present in operation.” He made a most extraordinary statement as to the reason why he would not accept the services of the Auditor-General. He stated that the members of the Central Wool Com- mittee, being technical men, were in a better position to decide on matters connected with that business than the Auditor-General.
There was no reason why the AuditorGeneral should riot have had the assistance of the members of the Central Wool Committee, if he or his officers so desired, in deciding any matter connected with those agreements. But, as I have stated in this House before, Sir John Higgins is a would-be Czar; he was able to defy ! both Lord Forrest and the Auditor-General.. Far from carrying out his desire expressed to me in a letter, namely, that the Central Wool Committee courted the strictest investigation into all these matters, Sir John Higgins appears to have taken up the position of one who finding .that he has been outwitted by a man as clever as himself, is unwilling to allow the Auditor-General to inspect those accounts for the reason that it would’ show the extent to which he had been caught napping as Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
Some days ago the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) read an affidavit, by Mr. Mackenzie, who was the voluntary liquidator of F. W. Hughes Limited. I have previously stated in this chamber that that firm had gone into liquidation in order to break certain contracts entered into with Japan. In making that statement, I should have said it was rumoured at the time that that was the reason.
– You should not repeat a rumour of that kind unless there were some reasonable ground upon which you believed it to be true.-
– The honorable member is quite right; and I shall give the reason for my assumption. His homily affords me an opportunity of saying that I will support my impression by documentary evidence. The firm of F. W. Hughes Limited was originally a woolscouring fellmongering company. Then it occurred to Mr. F. W. Hughes that it would be a good idea to manufacture wool tops. He’ issued a. prospectus to the. general public headed “ The develop ment of industries in Australia - a bonus of £50,000.” That was the bounty which he had induced members of the Federal Parliament to grant his company by saying that he was going to ‘ establish an industry which would give a great deal of employment to skilled labour. I am speaking of matters which occurred in or about 1908. Members of this Parliament, anxious to establish a local industry, granted him a bounty. He was not satisfied, however. After enjoying the bounty for some five years he approached the Inter-State Commission with a request that the Federal Parliament should renew the bounty for an unlimited number of years and make the amount £20,000 per annum. The Inter-State Commission decided that there was no reason for granting the bounty under the circumstances; that this gentleman had deceived the Commonwealth Parliament when he had said he was going to give employment to skilled labour; that the skilled labour employed, on account of the automatic machinery installed, was very limited; that 80 per cent, of the work was done by the woolscourers and the fellmongers. However, by the use of the prospectus, in which he said the profits would be £50,000 per annum, he floated the new company, F. W. Hughes Limited ; and he was making wool tops, not for anybody in the British Empire, but for Japanese manufacturers, who were competing with the manufacturers of Bradford. That was one of the reasons why the. Inter-State Commission recommended to this Parliament that the bounty should no longer be paid. It was considered that the bounty enabled F. W. Hughes Limited to give an advantage to the manufacturers in Japan as .against those in Britain. , The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) has, by way of interjection, on several occasions endeavoured to show that I am not acting rightly in attacking this company. I ask him’ whether he approves of Mr. F. W. Hughes’ action in disadvantaging the Bradford manufacturers by availing himself of Australian money to send Australian wool tops to Japan.
– Do you say that the Japanese manufacturers were sending goods to England?
– I asked the honorable member a question. I request him to give me an answer, and not to ask another question. TheInter-State Commission considered that it was wrong to grant a bounty. Does the honorable member for Illawarra approve of what the Inter-State Commission said, or does he hold that we should pay the bounty ?
– I want to know the facts before expressing an opinion.
– I have given the facts, and I challenge the honorable member to disprove them. At the time when P. W. Hughes Limited applied to the Inter-State Commission for the continuance of the bounty the firm was making wool tops for Japanese manufacturers at 2s. 5d. or 2s. 6d. per lb. The company had certain contracts with Japanese manufacturers. When war broke out some of the members of the company put their heads together and said, “ What are we going to do? “ I say that the evidence goes to show that they decided to go into liquidation in order to break those contracts. The company was paying an average dividend of 6 per cent., and there was no other reason for going into liquidation.
– The honorable member is avoiding a very important piece of evidence which was read by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd).
– There is nothing in that evidence which disproves what I am saying. The gentleman concerned states in his affidavit that the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company assumed responsibility for all existing and uncompleted contracts entered into by F. W. Hughes Limited, and, particularly, for certain contracts for the sale and export of wool tops to Japan. The company assumed responsibility for those contracts because, through the price fixed by the Army Contracts Committee in the Old Country, it was able to get 6s. per lb. for wool tops as against the sum of 2s. 6d. per lb. which it had been getting from Japan.
– Does that explain the satisfaction of the Japanese buyers, as set out in the affidavit?
– They decided to form this new company, the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, to take over the assets, liabilities, and contracts of F. W. Hughes Limited, As stated in the affidavit, the new. company was formed in 1915, and consisted of the following persons: -
Philip Henry Moreton, 1 share paid up to £1. .
Fred. Wm. Hughes, 5,001 shares,I paid up to £1, and 5,000 paid-up to 5s. per share.
Fred. Y. Wilson, one pound share.
Mrs. F. Y. Wilson, one pound share.
Mrs. F. W: Hughes, one pound share.
John Christian Watson, one pound share.
E. R. MacLean, one pound share.
Directors - F. W. Hughes and J. C. Watson:
This Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, with a paid-up capital of £5,008, took over the assets, liabilities, and contracts of F. W. Hughes Limited, a company of 180,000 shares and a paid-up capital of £167,152 2s. 6d. This company, consisting of a few persons, was able to obtain contracts, as I say, through the influence of the Hon. J. C. Watson, and with the approval of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds during the first six months, and amounting probably to millions of pounds since the 1st March, 1917. There were about four of these contracts in the first six months, and the sales were-
That accounts for a total of £721,391 13s. 4d. within a period of six months. When honorable members bear in mind that the company was getting an average of 6s. per lb. for wool tops, whereas only 2s. 6d. was received before the war, they will understand what an enormous concession Sir John M. Higgins was giving to this company and S. W. Whiddon and Company under a private arrangement that was not advertised in any newspaper, and was concluded secretly.
– What were these contracts?
– Contracts with Japanese merchants and manufacturers.
– Why does the honorable member say that Sir John Higgins or the Hon. J. C. Watson had anything to do with the contracts?
-Will the honorable member support me in a request for a Royal Commission to inquire into this whole matter to discover who was the mover in the business, and how it was that the Central Wool Committee did not advertise publicly their intention to give such gilt-edged concessions?
– The Hon. J. C. Watson was not in the firm when the first contracts were made with Japan. He came in later.
– He came in about the time the company concluded its agreement with the Commonwealth Government.
– The Central Wool Committee did not get a single pound’s worth of contracts for F. W. Hughes.
-I do not say that they’ did, but they gave these concessions to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and S. W. Whiddon privately and secretly. The information had to be dragged out of them by questions put in this House. It was reluctantly given by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, who, while professing a desire for the strictest investigation, placed every obstacle in the way of the Auditor-General or any one else inquiring into these contracts.
– What were the concessions ?
– If the honorable member is really seeking for information, I can tell him that the very great concession lies in the fact that, whereas Japan before the war was permitted to obtain greasy and scoured wool from this country, the Central Wool Committee, while we were professing to be friendly to Japan, prevented that country from getting any wool at all unless it purchased it from Australia in the form of wool tops, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and S. W. Whiddon were the only people manufacturing wool tops in Australia.
– Is the honorable member not aware that the’ whole of the wool was sold to the Imperial Government, who were dealing with it, and so he can hardly charge the Central Wool Committee with preventing Japan from getting it?
– The honorable member knows that Japan was prevented from getting wool from Australia.
– Not by the Central Wool Committee.
– Who was able to move the British Government in the matter ?
– The Director of Raw Materials.
– Who was able to operate the matter so that Japan was not given the right to get this wool whilst other countries, and amongst them even Russia, were allowed to obtain it?
– That was done by the Imperial Government.
- Sir John M. Higgins, in his report on the Australian wool clip for 1916-1917, .presented here on the 25th July, 1917, has this to say in paragraph 22, of the report -
Continuous audits are conducted under the direction of the Auditor-General’s Department of all business transacted’ through the Central Wool Committee and all State Committees.
That statement is not accurate. He says, “all business,” and I contend that these agreements are a part of the business transacted through the Central Wool Committee. Now what does the AuditorGeneral say about the .matter in his report for 1917-18? He says-
On the 1st March, 1917, agreements were entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Whiddon Brothers Limited, of Sydney, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, of Sydney, respectively, under which these companies were authorized to purchase wool for the purpose of manufacturing wool tops. It was .provided that all the. books, vouchers, and documents in the possession, or under the control, of the respective companies, relating to the purchase, manufacture, or sale of the sheepskins, wool, and wool tops, referred to in the agreements, should be produced to an auditor nominated by the Commonwealth Government for that purpose,’ and it was also provided that any nomination or other communication by the Commonwealth Government to the “Committee should be deemed to be duly given if signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by the chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
The chairman of the Central Wool Committee was Sir John M. Higgins. That is an extraordinary power to give to any man. Sir John’ M. Higgins, a man responsible to no one but himself, is to sign a document, .and it is then deemed to be signed by the Government of the Commonwealth “ of Australia. .That is too. absurd. Sir John M. Higgins is a very clever man. We have been told repeatedly about the work which he has done for the Commonwealth ‘ for four years for nothing, but I venture to say that there are a thousand people in the Commonwealth who could give £10,000 to obtain a title. Sir John M. Higgins has got his title.
– The honorable member must know that is a very unfair aspersion to cast upon Sir John M. Higgins.
– He got his. title, anyway. I am not suggesting that he paid money for his title.
– That is a very unfair suggestion to make.
– It is about as fair as the honorable gentleman’s attack on the Honorable J. C. Watson and others associated with this matter.
– I am pointing out the reward that Sir John M. Higgins got for services rendered. The Auditor-General in his report proceeds-
In pursuance of this provision the Central Wool Committee- and not the Government, as stated by the Attorney-General - appointed a* Fellow of the Australasian Corporation of Public Accountants to conduct the audits. Subsequently the right honorable the Treasurer (Lord, then Sir John, Forrest) submitted his opinion that these audits should be conducted under the control of the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth, and suggested that the auditor appointed by the Central Wool Committee should act under an appointment made by the Auditor-General, under the provisions of section II. of the Audit Act - should the Auditor-General be willing to make such appointment.
I was quite prepared to do this, but, upon the matter coming ‘under the notice of the Chairman of the Committee (Sir John M. Higgins), he declared that such an agreement would not be as satisfactory as the then procedure.
– He had more power than the Treasurer of the. Commonwealth.
– Yes, he had more power than the Treasurer, and he told the Treasurer and the Attorney-General that he did not think the AuditorGeneral’s supervision of these matters was as good as the audit of a gentleman in Sydney appointed by himself - an auditor named Mr. Allard.
– A good man.
– Quite a good man, I believe.
– As good as the Auditor-General, and more experienced in commercial enterprises.
– I do not believe that; but I say that, however good Mr. Allard might be, an ordinary clerk in his office did most of the auditing in connexion with these accounts.
– That would occur under any other system of auditing. The honorable member would not expect the Auditor-General to go into the office of the company and do the actual work of auditing himself.
– When the honorable member spoke of the ability and experience of Mr. Allard as an auditor, I thought it as well to remind him that Mr. Allard did not do the whole of the word of auditing in this case. If it was work which required special capacity he should have done it himself, or should have consented to be attached to the Auditor-General’s Department. The Auditor-General further says in his report -
Upon receiving the balance-sheets of the auditor appointed, the Treasurer (Lord Forrest) asked for further information with respect thereto, but it was pointed out by the auditor that his reports were final, and that if further information with respect to accounts was required this should be obtained from the companies direct. It is evidently desirable that in any future similar agreements, or in any regulations governing the agreements under review, provision should be made for such control by the Auditor-General as would enable the Treasurer and the Auditor-General to obtain all the information that may be desired. ‘ The position with respect to these audits has been fairly set forth in a memorandum prepared by the Assistant Secretary to the Treasurer, and, as it agrees withmy own views, it is published under Appendix D.
– What is the date of the document to which the honorable gentleman is referring?
– It is the AuditorGeneral’s report for 1917-1918, and what I have read is followed by a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary to the Treasurer, dated 8th August, 1918, which reads -
From many points of view this business is in a most indefinite and unsatisfactory position.
– What does the Government say to that ?
– I hope the Government will say that they have no objection to the amendment providing that the AuditorGeneral shall audit the accounts.
– (Mr. Atkinson). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
No other honorable member rising,
– Why should Sir John Higgins take any exception ? What reason can Sir John Higgins advance, after his writing to me complaining of my asking questions, and saying that the Central Wool Committee welcomed “ the minutest and most searching analysis of the contracts,” and that “ the more exhaustive the investigation the better the Committee would be pleased ? “ Why; after saying that, does Sir John Higgins object to the suggestion that Mr. Allard should be attached to the staff of the Auditor-General to carry out these duties ? But he takes exception, and for reasons thus set out - remarking that he did not think that the arrangements would work as satisfactorily as the present procedure, and that, in the conduct of the manufacture of wool tops many technical processes are involved, and the trained members of the Central Wool Committee should be better able and more competent to control same. He also stated that divided supervision cannot be recommended. . . .
Surely the assistance of the Committee ought to be given to the Auditor-General just as readily as to Mr. Allard -
That is my case with regard to the first portion of my amendment, and I move -
That the following sub-clause. be added: - “ (4.) Notwithstanding anything appearing to the contrary in any Act or regulation or agreement, all books, vouchers, and documents in the possession or under the control of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, and Whiddon Brothers Limited, and relating to the purchase, manufacture, and/ or sale of the sheepskins, wool, and wool tops referred to in any agreement made or to be made with the said companies by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, shall be produced to the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, who shall inspect, audit and examine such books, vouchers, and documents; and shall from time to time prepare and sign a report for submission through the Treasurer to both Houses of the Parliament. And the said companies shall facilitate in every way the checking by the said Auditor-General by a continuous audit of all calculations made by the said companies in ascertaining the net earnings of the companies for the purposes of any agreement. It shall be the duty of the Auditor-General to decide what amounts should be credited and debited in order to ascertain the net earnings of the companies, and his decision shall be final and binding on both parties. The Auditor-General may disallow any items, and such items shall be omitted from the accounts. The AuditorGeneral may by writing under his hand appoint any person to exercise such powers and perform such duties of the AuditorGeneral under this Act as he thinks fit.’-
There is a second paragraph, but it deals with another matter, and as my time is exhausted, and I cannot move another amendment, I shall ask another honorable member to move it separately.
– I think the Government ought to make quite clear to the Committee what are their grounds of opposition to the amendment, for it is one to which I think honorable members will be inclined to agree. I take it that the object of the amendment is to obtain information for Parliament, and likewise to insure that this business is under the supervision of persons occupying responsible positions. However able those other gentlemen mentioned may be as auditors, there may be a tendency, if they represent any public companies, to refrain from giving utterance to opinions that might be very useful from a public point of view. Surely the Government have every confidence in the. Auditor-General. I am sure the public would be better satisfied if this business were in the hands of some public official, responsible to Parliament and the Government.
– I ask the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) not to press the amendment. The subject-matter is embodied in existing agreements; . that is to say, contracts have been made, two of which are now current, one with Whiddon Brothers Limited and the other with the Yarra Falls Company. I have not got copies of those contracts here, but I am informed that there is the same arrangement for the auditing by Mr. Allard, who is admitted to be a proper person for the work, in the contract of Whiddon Brothers Limited. I am also informed that ona previous occasion the Treasurer, in a letter, agreed to concur in the appointment of Mr. Allard if no objection were raised. That was on the25th April, 1918. Mr. Yeo, the accountant appointed in the Yarra Falls Company’s contract, is, I understand, an official of the Auditor-General’s Department, who has been loaned to the Wool Committee, so that he is really a public servant. As these matters are subjects of contract it would hardly be just for us to override the arrangements made. This Committee has not much longer to run, seeing that it is only necessary to cover the season’s clip after the cessation of hostilities.
- Mr. F. W. Hughes would not object to the Government auditing the books.
– I am not dealing with that point now, but merely urging that as contracts have been entered into with these two firms, it would not be just to practically override them.
– What objection have the Wool Committee or Sir John Higgins to the strictest investigation by the AuditorGeneral ?
– The honorable member is on another point. At the present time the whole of the Wool Committee’s accounts are audited by the AuditorGeneral. That is quite a different thing. The honorable member for Capricornia seeks power to have an audit by the Auditor-General of the accounts of certain firms which have made certain contracts with the Central Wool Committee.
– A lot of Government money is involved.
– The Treasury Department made certain protests on the subject.
– The honorable member for Capricornia desires his amendment to cover contracts which contain a clause providing for an audit.
– As the companies and the Government share the profits, the Government should have the power to conduct an audit by their own officers.
– That is correct, but the contracts made with Whiddon Brothers and the Yarra Falls Company contain provision for an audit. The amendment practically seeks to override those contracts,but we intend to abide by them.
.- I hope that the Committee will insist upon the amendment proposedby the honorable member for Capricornia. A contract has been made between the Central Wool Committee and certain manufacturers of wool tops, and the Acting AttorneyGeneral has forgotten to tell the Committee that the Commonwealth is a partner in the operations of those firms.
– I thought the Committee were quite aware of that fact.
– That is an important point, and the Committee should see that Parliament and the community are protected. In his last report the AuditorGeneral asked that his officers should have special powers to audit the transactions under this agreement. The late Lord Forrest, when Treasurer, demanded that the Auditor-General’s staff should be employed to audit the accounts of these companies, but apparently the chairman of the Central Wool Committee has more power than the Auditor-General, backed by the Commonwealth Treasurer. Before this Bill leaves our hands we ought to insert the provision that the accounts of every Pool shall be subject to audit by the Auditor-General.
– These accounts generally are audited by the Auditor-General.
– Why not insert in the Bill a definite provision to that effect?
– There has been a continuous audit in connexion with the Wool Pool.
– Then why was a protest made by the Auditor-General and the late Lord Forrest?
– The Auditor-General stated that Lord Forrest demanded a certain inquiry, and was refused.
– The Treasurer is in a position to demand the fullest particulars of these transactions.
– He is not, because Sir John Higgins is the czar.
– The agreement made with Whiddon Brothers provides -
If the earnings of the company in any accounting period during the continuance of the agreement shall become taxable under any special taxation imposed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth on profits earned in war time, then the Commonwealth Government shall refundto the companyan amount equal to one-half of the war-time profits tax which shall be payable or shall have been paid by the company in respect of such accounting period, and if in any accounting period the amount so to be refunded, when added to the amount retained by the company (after payment of the war-time profits tax), makes a sum less than one-third of the total net earnings for that period, then the Commonwealth Government will also refund to the company such further amount as shall be sufficient to make the total sum to be retained by the company equal to one-third of the total net earnings for the period.
So that, no matter what legislation this Parliament may have passed in regard to war-time profits taxation, the Commonwealth Government must, under this agreement, refund to the company a sum sufficient to insure that certain profits are made by it.
– That matter is the subject of litigation at the present time.
– I am showing the Committee the sort of agreement that was made by the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, who puts himself above this Parliament. Now he wishes to carry on without the AuditorGeneral having power to examine the books and documents of the Wool Committee. I hope that the Government will insert a. clause to provide that the accounts of all the Pools shall he audited by the staff of the Auditor-General.
– The Committee should act carefully in this matter. These various Committees were appointed during a time of war, following the precedent of the Old Country, where a patriotic appeal was made to the merchant princes to give their services for the benefit of the country. They did that ; I do not say that they did not make money at the same time. The principle has always been recognised by this Parliament that we ought not to pass legislation of a Paul Pry character. We have no right to probe into the private business affairs of any person or company. The Auditor-General is appointed to supervise the expenditure of the various public Departments, because the money for them is voted by Parliament, which is entitled to a guarantee that the votes are expended in a regular manner. If the amendment is agreed to, we shall give to somebody a right to pry into people’s private affairs. I know the chief purpose of the amendment is to give power to inquire into the affairs of F. W. Hughes and Company. The operations in connexion; with the manufacture of wool tops are of so technical a character that few persons are able to understand them, but there is a general impression abroad that however much the Government may have gained by that mixed-up transaction, Hughes and Company have certainly not lost. But assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Commonwealth has made a loss on that contract, it is better that we should bear that loss than that we should depart from the principle of not prying into people’s private affairs. If there has been amy scandal in connexion with this or any other transaction, Parliament can order a judicial inquiry by a properly consti tuted Commission. I shall support the Government in resisting the amendment. We must be careful not to trench upon the principle of individual freedom unless we are confident that it is necessary to do so in the public interests. We have gone far enough in that direction, and we should cry a halt. Under the pretence of doing something in the interests of the people we ought not to claim the right to poke our noses into the private affairs of any company or individual.. Certain powers of inquiry are given to the Government in connexion with the collection of revenue, but all such investigations are governed by a pledge of. secrecy. There is to be no secrecy about the inquiry proposed by the amendment; anything disclosed by the audit may be published throughout the country.
– The audit is to he by a Government officer.
– Under the existing law the Auditor-General can make an investigation into any transaction in which Government money is involved.
– That is not so.
– The amendment seems to be aimed principally at the contract made by the Commonwealth Government with F. W. Hughes Limited, and I think that it is far better that we should adhere to the old principle of not probing into private affairs than that we should sanction any inquisitorial departure such as the amendment proposes.
– I regret that this amendment has been framed to deal with one individual case, but I should certainly support it if it would bring the whole of the transactions of these Pools under the supervision of the Auditor-General. This is not a proposal to pry into the business of private individuals. Having regard to what is appearing in the daily press relative to the operations of the Wheat Pool in New South Wales, and to rumours on every hand as to the Metal Exchange, will any one say that it is unreasonable to urge that the accounts of all these Pools should be subject to the scrutiny of the AuditorGeneral? Whatobjection can there be to the Auditor-General dealing with them just as he deals with every item of departmental expenditure? Under war conditions much has been done, not only by Governments in Australia, but in Great Britain, the United States of America, and, on the Continent, which, in ordinary circumstances, would not have been sanctioned by any Parliament. For the successful prosecution of the war it was necessary that the Government should be given power under the War Precautions Act to engage in various operations, and members of Parliament on every hand jettisoned their tenets of political economy to sanction much which they would not otherwise have permitted. Under this system there have grown up in Australia a number of Trusts, Pools, and Combines, with which this Parliament will have to deal in the near future. The whole of the transactions of the Pools which have been created by the Government should be subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. In the AuditorGeneral we have one of the most trustworthy public servants in the Commonwealth, and I do not know why these Pools should object to their accounts being scrutinized by him.
– What Pool is objecting to a Commonwealth audit?
– I am informed that the Wool Pool objects.
– I am informed by the officers that theaccounts of both the Central Wool Committee and the State Wool Committees are subject to a continuous audit by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral.
– What about the contracts ?
– That is another matter.
– The contracts entered into by these people should also be open to examination by the AuditorGeneral Is it not in the interest of the Pools themselves, and the good name of Australia, that they should be so examined ?
– I am advised that in the particular case covered by this amendment the contract itself makes provision for an audit in respect of both Whiddon Brothers Limited and the Yarra Falls Company.
– I do not believe in legislating to deal with individual cases.
– But this amendment, if passed, will affect the two contracts which have been entered into, and in which provision is made for an audit.
– It would be a good thing if all contracts made by the Pools were subject to examination by the Auditor-General. I do not approve of this amendment, since I think it unwise to pass laws dealing with individual cases, but I should like the Minister to frame a clause bringing under the supervision of the Auditor-General the accounts of all the Pools created by the Government, as well asall the contracts made by them. That would be a wise precaution to take. I do not think any of the Pools would object to such a provision as long as it was general in its application.
– If the Defence Department entered into a contractwith a woollen manufacturer for the supply of 10,000 yards of flannel, would the honorable member say that the Auditor-General should have power to examine the accounts of that manufacturer?
– Not at all. All that I suggest is that where any of the Pools created by the Government enter into a contract either to buy or to sell, that contract,as well as the whole of the accounts, should be subjected to the supervision of the Auditor-General.
– That is already done.
– I am informed by the officers that the accounts of both the Central Wool Committee and the State Wool Committees are subject to a continuous audit.
– But not thecontracts.
– The honorable member was referring to the accounts of these Pools. The accounts of the Butter Pool have also to be audited.
– I am aware that in the case of some of the Pools there is a special provision that their contracts shall be subject to examination by the
Auditor-General. Can the Minister tell me now that the same provision applies to the Metal Exchange?
– That is on an entirely different basis.
– Unless we have some provision that the whole of the contracts and pools shall be subject to the examination of the Auditor-General, we shall wake up to find that abuses have crept in, and that great scandals have occurred.
.- We are indebted to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) for putting forward this amendment. As the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out, the Government are financially interested in these concerns. Seeing that the taxpayers’ money is involved, surely there can be no objection on the part of the Government to the amendment.I heard the honorable member for Capricornia pointing out that it was the desire of the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of the transactions in regard to wool tops, but honorable members did not seem to understand this clearly. The Auditor-General, whose reports ought to be our guide in financial matters, has furnished a reportupon this matter. If we are not to take notice of his reports, he might just as well be out of existence, and the cost of printing the reports avoided. On page 229 of the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1918, the Auditor-General says -
Manufacture of Wool Tops - Audit of Accounts.
In pursuance of this provision, the Central Wool Committee appointed a Fellow of the Australasian Corporation of Public Accountants to conduct the audits. Subsequently the Right Honorable the Treasurer submitted his opinion that these audits should be conducted under the control of the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth, and suggested that the auditor appointed by the Central Wool Committee should act under an appointment made by the Auditor-General - under the provisions of section 11 of the Audit Act - should the AuditorGeneral be willing to make such appointment.
I was quite prepared to do this; but upon the matter coming under the notice of the chairman of the Committee, he declared that such an arrangement would not be as satisfactory as the then procedure. Upon receiving the balance-sheets of the auditor appointed, the Treasurer asked for further information with respect thereto, but it was pointed out by the auditor that his reports were final, and that if further information with respect to accounts was required, this should be obtained from the companies direct.
– Who appointed that auditor?
– The Central Wool Committee; but when the Treasurer of the day (Lord Forrest) asked for further information, like the man playing cricket, the umpire gave him “ out “ ; and he was out. He was told that the report submitted was final, and that if he required further information he must seek it from the company. Although the Commonwealth Government are partners in the matter, they can go a certain distance, but no further. They are up against a stone wall. It seems to me that some further supervision is required in regard tothe wool tops contracts. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), who is interested in the industry because it is established in his electorate, and the honorable member for Capricornia, who has a close knowledge of it, are quite satisfied that some control other than that which we have now should be established over it. We shall not be doing our duty to thetaxpayers if we do not properly safeguard the Commonwealth activities which have been called into operation during the war. I am aware, from a telegram I have received, that the contributors to the Wool Pool are very well satisfied with the man- agement of the Pool; but this matter of wool tops manufacture is a transaction in which the Commonwealth Government are associated with people who are making fairly substantial profits. The honorable member for Capricornia, backed up by the honorable member for Dampier in very temperate but convincing language, has made out a good case for the Commonwealth Government exercising more control over these contracts, and if we are to do our duty to the taxpayers, we. should agree to the amendment.
– The proposition of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is not as innocent as it might appear to be on the face of it. Whether the Wool Committee was right or wrong in making the agreement with these wool-top manufacturers, and in inserting in it certain provisions for auditing, Parliament would be entirely wrong, theagreement having been made,’ in legislating with the object of breaking it. It is singular that from the time when the Hon. J. C. Watson became a member of the board of directors of this company it has been subjected to a constant and relentless fire from the Opposition in this chamber. Time after time the most serious charges have been made against the persons responsible for the management of the company, only to be refuted in the most solemn way a few days afterwards, and then to be followed by equally grave charges, equally unfounded. We have had another instance of this to-night. The honorable member for Capricornia a few days ago came down with a statement regarding the reasons for the company being reformed. He was met by the sworn affidavit of the official liquidator of the company, which refuted his statement at every point. To-night he comes along with an explanation of the rumours and circumstances that created in his mind the belief that this thing had been done. When he is challenged to read the affidavit, he reads a couple of portions of it, and omits any reference to the fact that these contracts have been fully performed to the satisfaction of the Japanese firms concerned. I have seen the original letters from those firms in Japan, expressing the utmost satisfaction with the. way in which the contracts have been carried out; yet the honorable member would have us believe that people who had to pay more than twice as much for their wool are still satisfied to deal with the person who worked that swindle on them. I know nothing of the circumstances beyond what is in the affidavit, and I know little about the internal management of F. W. Hughes Ltd. But what I resent about the whole business - and in this I am in accord with the objection to some of the methods of the chairman of the Central Wool Committee - is that the firm has been singled out for treatment that has not been attempted towards any other firm in the Commonwealth. I am not here to justify the profits made by this concern; but if the Government are prepared to take the profits made by the firm during war time, because they are excessive, their duty is to take the profits of every other firm in the Commonwealth made in similar circumstances. They have no right to do to this firm anything they are not prepared to do to others.
– Do not the Government get half the profits under the agreement?
– Yes ; they have taken half the profits. From what other industry in the country have they taken so much? Why are they entitled to take half the profits of this firm, and not of any other?
– Is not that part of the contract?
-Yes ; but the contract was forced upon them by the refusal of theCentral Wool Committee to allow them to carry on their business unless they agreed to it. Here is an important part, that must not be forgotten. Early in the development of this matter the carcass butchers of Sydney sent over to the WoolCommittee a special legal representative to argue for them against the first contract. In the course of his statement to the Committee, he said - and this is interesting to the Labour members who have been supporting the persecution of this firm - that the agreement was most unfair, because it placed P. W. Hughes Ltd. in a position to go into the market, purchase stock, and then sell the carcasses in the markets at rates which made it impossible for the carcass butchers to compete with it. He said he had been assured by people in Melbourne and Sydney that the effect of these operations in the market by F. W. Hughes Ltd. was to bring down the price of meat to a level at which the firm’s competitors could not continue to compete with it.
– The effectwas exactly the opposite here.
– That is a statement of the paid legal representative of the carcass butchers.
– I have the word of Reynolds, one of the leading wholesale butchers in Melbourne, that, through F. W.Hughes Ltd. coming to Melbourne to buy, the price of mutton was raised at least1d. per lb. to the consumers in Victoria.
Mr.HECTOR LAMOND. - We can make our choice between the two statements. I prefer to believe that of the gentleman who was paid high fees to’ come over here and put the case of the carcass butchers to Sir John Higgins.
– What did F. W. Hughes Ltd. buy here?
– Stock. That is the whole cause of the trouble, in this House and outside, in regard to E. W. Hughes Ltd. This is an Australian industry. That is why I am interested in it. I have no other interest in the concern. I did not know Mr. Hughes until these matters came up, and I have no interest in his enterprise, except that it is an Australian attempt to establish an industry which ought to be established here. If I had my way, not one pound of wool would go out of this country until it was manufactured at least into tops. But what sort of encouragement has this man received to pioneer the industry? I admit, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) suggests, that he has made a fair amount of money.
– A fair amount, do you call it? What about all these accusations of profiteering?
– From whom has he made the money? The honorable member for Capricornia talks about furnishing the Japanese with a means of meeting British competition. He must be very hard up for arguments when he comes to an intelligent Parliament with such a story, even with his carefully phrased sentence, which creates the impression that the Japanese are going into the English market, and beating the English manufacturers there. What the Central Wool Committee has done for the British manufacturer has been by refusing this company the right to export its wool tops to Japan at a critical time, to force the Japanese manufacturers to put spinning machinery into their factories, and to-day the work that was previously done by Australians in Australia is being done in Japan by the cheap labour of Japan, with the support of the honorable member for Capricornia.
– Quite true. The Wool Committee has been a great friend of Japan.
– The. Japanese are now attempting to develop the manufacture, not only of wool, but of many other things. The profits made by Mr. F. W. Hughes have been made out of the Japanese, who have been prepared to pay him highly for the work which he employed our people to do. Is that such a crime that this industry should be singled out for this special treatment, because the company sells to another nation, and brings into this country money from abroad ? If that is the treatment which industries are to get which are living, not upon us, but upon other countries, and bringing money from other countries to be spent here, I do not wonder that we hear of Australian workers being unemployed, who ought to be engaged in developing our industries. So far as I can understand it, the “ head and front “ of the offending of this firm is that it saw a way of avoiding some of the processes in the manufacture of tops from wool, and, in doing so, came into conflict with some of the big parasitical interests of this country. The man who takes the skins and sells them, and obtains a commission for doing so, was out out under Mr. F. W.Hughes scheme. Mr. Hughes wanted to go direct to the carcass butchers and the firms who killed stock, obtain the skins from them, fake them direct to his factory, and convert the wool into wool tops. . He was able to do that for some time; but suddenly some of the brokers, who are. so strongly represented on the Wool Committee, discovered that they were not getting a commission on the sales of sheepskins. They set themselves, as they were entitled to do, to devise ways to prevent Mr. Hughes from getting the skins, and succeeded’ in forming a combination that prevented him getting skins without paying commission to them. Mr. Hughes, however, is a man of some resource, as those who met him on the Wool Committee know, and he set himself to keep his business if he could. He formed a company, and went into the market as a purchaser of live stock.
– He beat the Wool Committee and the whole lot of them.
– This business goes back some years before the Wool Committee. Mr. Hughes used to kill stock before ever there was a Wool Committee in this country.
– Who said he did not? If the honorable member would listen he would not make such interjections. .
– The interjection of the honorable member for Yarra was very relevant to your statement.
– So far as I can see, it is no more relevant than that of the honorable member now interjecting. I have not said anything as yet about the Central Wool Committee. The position of the industry was that it was established in the manner I have described; and it met with the opposition which I have indicated. Thus it was forced into the market to buy stock, and as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) tells us that an interested butcher in Victoria told him something different, I beg leave to remind honorable members that Victoria is not Australia.
– Neither is New South Wales.
– New South Wales is rapidly becoming a mere suburb of Victoria;but we shall alter that before this Parliament is very much older. Mr. Hughes established his industry in the manner I have described, and he operated in the markets of Sydney and Melbourne, and got his skins, and so on. Then the war broke out and the Central Wool Committee was formed. The first document which I saw in connexion with that Committee is most interesting. It had to do with the occasion when a representative of the carcass butchers came to Melbourne to object to the agreement then existing. In the interview between that representative and Sir John Higgins, as Chairman of the Committee, the latter laid down the principles which he held should guide’ the Committee; and he defended that first agreement to the last ditch. That is to say, he defended the agreement against the carcass butchers and in favour of the wool-tops people. Then came a sudden reversion. Mr. Hughes must have offended somebody, and we all know that to offend persons having autocratic powers sometimes costs one a great deal of money. Thereafter followed the decision that Mr. Hughes would have to conduct his business in an entirely different manner from that which had been his custom! He would not be allowed to derive any advantage from going into the stock market–
– Why should he not be excluded from sending his skins away? Every one else in the community was.
– The honorable member is right and wrong. The position which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has set out is one which has been voiced already to-day. Undoubtedly, they did close up the woolscourers in the country, and I have seen no justification for that.
– It was a monstrous act of tyranny.
– That was so ; and I voiced my objection to such a proceeding, and, indeed, in regard to similar activities of all the Committees. We have certain powers because of the war; but the exercise of those powers should have been confined to the objects of the war. These Committees have no right to impose their will on any industry. As the hour is late, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. Leave granted; progress reported.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I ask honorable members to assist me in expediting the passage of the measure which has just been discussed. A good deal of latitude has been permitted to-day to enable honorable members to express themselves on the general principles involved, and I think I am now entitled to ask that they shall restrict their further remarks as far as possible so that the Bill may be passed to-morrow.
– You have no other business.
– There are important Bills waiting. There is one dealing with the moratorium, and another relating to science and industry; and there are still others which are quite ready to be submitted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190724_reps_7_88/>.