7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Preparation for a General Election.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he, or any person acting on his behalf, has given instructions to the electoral officers to prepare for. a general election on 6th December next, or on any other date?
– I cannot tell the honorable member everything that I do, but I should be a very careless administrator if I did not tell him to prepare for any possible eventuality.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs have prepared, if it is not already available, for the information of honorable members, a list of the articles that are admitted free of duty under the headings of “ Tools of Trade “ and “ Machine Tools,” setting out what alterations have been made during the last three years?
– I shall ascertain whether the presentation of such a return would involve very much work. If possible, I will give the House the information at the earliest possible date.
-Canthe Minister for Trade and Customs give the House any further information as to the result of his negotiations with the Imperial Government, with respect to the provision of refrigerated space on oversea vessels for the carriage of our frozen meat?
– The latest cable messages to hand from the Imperial Government lead us to believe that, as a result of representations by the Commonwealth and State Governments, a very large increase has been made in the allotment of refrigerated tonnage originally contemplated by the Imperial Government. I am unable at present to say exactly what that allotment of space is, but I feelsure that it will be sufficient to, at all events, remove the acute position that would otherwise have arisen.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy, as Australia’s second delegate at the Peace Conference, whether he will explain the Fisher Pact of 1915, which agreed to the Marshall, Caroline, and Ladrone group of islands being annexed by Japan. Will he say whether the. presentGovernment were consulted about the matter at any time prior to the Australian delegates leaving for London on the last occasion?
– I suggest to my honorable friend that the question should properly be addressed tothe Prime Minister. He will recognise, I think, that since it relates to a matter of supreme vital importance, notice of it should be given.
– Will the Minister in charge of shipbuilding inform the House who supervised the construction of wooden ships in America on behalf of the Australian Government, and what were his qualifications?
– I will obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer state whether a deputation ofBendigo farmers waited upon him some time ago, to protest against any alteration of the Tariff, and, if so, what reply he made to that deputation?
– I have no recollection of any such episode. If the honorable member will supply me with particulars as to the date I will ransack my memory and the records.
– In view of the promise made to me about a fortnight ago by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who was then Acting Leader of the House, that the question of whether or mot permission should be given for the export of base metal ores would be dealt with immediately, as an urgent matter, I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government have come to a decision, and, if so, whether they have agreed to permit the export of these metals from Western Australia, subject to their being sent to approved countries?
– With the concurrence of my honorable colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), I shall reply to the honorable member’s question. The matter, as he knows, was brought before us when we were in Western Australia recently by a deputation, introduced by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), which discussed it in all its aspects. It is at present receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, but until a further conference takes place between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and those of his colleagues, who have gone into the question, it is impossible to arrive at a decision. We expect, however, to do so at an early date.
Mr.GREENE. - In answer to a similar question, I intimated some little time ago that already there were being erected in Australia works which should be capable of drawing all the wire necessary for the purpose, and that it would then be a comparatively simple matter to galvanize the wire and weave it into netting. Since then, I understand, further negotiations have taken place, and it is proposed very shortly to erect, in addition to the works now carrying on the industry in Australia, a very large manufacturing establishment which, I think, will be able within a reasonably short time to provide all the wire netting that will be required in Aus tralia. The price, I believe, will, be a reasonable one. It will be, at all events, very much less than those now ruling.
Remission of Sentences
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Cabinet has yet considered the question of the remission of sentences imposed upon men in the Naval and Military Services, many of whom are suffering imprisonment for trumpery offences. Numerous representations have been made onthe subject, and promises have been given. I desire to know whether those promises have yet been fulfilled?
– I suggest to my friends who are asking a series of questions of the utmost importance the desirability of placing them on the notice-paper. It is not fair to expect questions of this character to be answered without notice.
– When does the Minister for Trade and Customs propose to introduce a Tariff Bill having for its object the protection of those industries inaugurated during the war which the Ministry admit have been subjected to the fiercest competition ?
– I have already stated that in the interests of the public weal it is not considered right that the date of the introduction of a Tariff Bill should be made known.
– Can the Minister representing the Attorney- General inform the House why the prosecution of Mr. Free, the member for South Brisbane in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, for a breach of the War Precautions Regulations, has been so long delayed?
– The prosecution in this case took place at the end of April or the beginning of May, and the magistrate reserved his decision. That decision has not yet been given, but the matter will probably be mentioned to him in open. Court, and he will be asked when thedecision is likely to be delivered.
Sentences for Breach of Discipline
– Since the return of the Minister for the Navy has the matter of the sentences imposed on members of the crew of H.M.A.S. Australia for breaches of discipline been brought under his notice, and will he take into consideration the desirability of releasing the men as a humanitarian act and as an act of justice?
– The matter has been brought under my notice since my return, and I wish to say, in general terms, that at whatever cost the discipline of our Navy must be maintained. Having made that general statement, I would like to say to my friend that the constant agitation in the House for the release of these men does not help matters at all, and I suggest, in the interests of the men themselves, as well as in the interests of the maintenance of discipline in the Navy, that honorable members should allow this matter to rest, with the assurance
Opposition Members. - No; No
– May I say to my friends opposite since they will have it that way, that all the statements they care to make in the House will not influence the Navy to the extent of a hair’s breadth in the maintenance of discipline.
– It is a pity some of them do not sink the ships in Sydney Harbor. That is what they ought to do. It would make the Navy take notice of them.
– Order! Order!
– That is a very strange suggestion.
– It is what I would do.
– Order ! I have several times called for order. If the practice of continually interrupting Ministers when replying to questions asked without notice is persisted in, the opportunity for asking such questions will need to be restricted very considerably. Questions without notice are not usual in the House of Commons, except on matters of urgency, I understand, and our Standing Orders make no “ special provision for them, except that, when notices of motion are called on, questions may be asked relating to public affairs; but these should be of immediate importance. A rulinghas been given by a distinguished Speaker of the House of Commons, that questions, if they are important, should always be placed on the business-paper. If they are not important, they should not be asked. In any case, when a Minister is requested to reply to a question he should have extended to him the courtesy of being heard without disorderly interruption.
– May I now complete my sentence?
– Hear, hear; you need to do so.
– May I suggest to my friend, that he is not behaving, this morning, with his usual fairness by interrupting me inthe middle of a sentence. I was speaking of the discipline of the Navy.
– Hear, hear ! We believe in discipline.
– Very well, then we are agreed on the point - and I need not labour it any further - that nothing must be allowed to interfere with the proper discipline and efficiency of the Navy.
– Hear, hear!
– Therefore I suggest to my friend, and those who are interested in these men and their fate, that they should allow the matter to rest for the present, with my assurance that the whole matter is, being looked into.
– Why did not the Minister say so before ?
-! would point out that the Minister was not permitted to do so through the noise of a chorus of interjections shouted across the chamber.
– I am not aware of any way in which I can complete a sentence if the honorable member seeks to prevent my doing so. I ask honorable members to accept my assurance that the case of these men will receive every consideration consistent with the maintenance of the discipline of the Navy.
-Can theMinister for Trade and Customs say what progress has been made in regard to the inquiry into the continuous increase in the price of foodstuffs?
– I am not aware that any inquiry has been instituted by the
Commonwealth Government further than the work which is being done by the Chief Prices Commissioner. We hope to be able to give the House the result of his inquiry in the course of a day or two.
-Some weeks ago, in answer to a similar question, I stated that Cabinet had decided to grant gratuity in cases of deceased soldiers to beneficiaries who were dependant on soldiers, or stood to them in the relationship of parents, wives, or children.
– Is it a fact that the appointment of Mr. Griffin, the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, is just about to expire, and that the Government have extended his period of service only until 1st January next? Does this mean that after the 1st January next the Government propose to further slacken up in the work of building the Federal Capital?
– As Mr. Griffin’s term of appointment would expire in October, I saw him, and arranged with him to extend his period of service until the end of the year.
– Because of an announcement to be made by the Government, in due course, in respect to the Federal Capital.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact, as rumoured, that it is the intention of his Department to reduce the commission paid to private vendors of stamps from2½ per cent. to 1 per cent. on the 1st October?
If such a reduction is about to be made, what is the reason for it?
– The reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, Yes. The reply to the second part of the questions is : In order to bring the practice of the Department into line with most of the postal administrations the world over.
– As I presume that the Minister for the Navy will speak in the debate on the Peace Treaty - and I hope will deal with some of the important matters which were omitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - and as the honorable gentleman was present when the Shantung settlement was being considered, I ask him whether, in the event of the United States of America refusing to agree to the annexation by Japan of theShantung Province of China, and hostilities arising between the other Allies and the United States of America in connexion with the matter, he believes that under clause 10 of the Treaty, we should be called upon to go to the aid of Japan as an Ally against the United States of America ?
– Have we not something better to do than to set up cockshies of thiskind? Really, I do not think I am called upon to answer a hypothetical question like that put by the honorable member.
Method of Voting for the Senate.
– I should not ask this question without notice were it not for the great urgency of the matter in view of the answers received recently from Ministers to questions put to them. I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he proposes to introduce, before the general election for the House of Representatives, aBill to provide for proportional representation in the Senate.
– That, as the honorable member knows, is really a question of policy, which the Speaker has ruled should not be answered. However, I promise the honorable member that a Bill will be introduced to deal with the method of election for the Senate. I cannot go beyond that.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories if it is a fact, as stated here last night, that officials of the Electoral Department are engaging public offices for elections to be held on 6th December ?
– I have heard the statement made, but it is not correct.
Advances to New South Wales Farmers
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question without notice relating to the overdue payment in connexion with the 1915-16 Wheat Pool. While in New South Wales recently, I was told that this Victorian Parliament was keeping back the payment of advances to New South Wales farmers. Will the Minister assure us that that is not so, and will he inform honorable members when the last payment of about 2 l/16d. per bushel is to be paid?
– My honorable colleague has asked me to deal with this matter. It is not true, of course, that any delay in the payment is due to the Victorian Parliament.
– I may explain that in New South Wales they call this Federal Parliament the Victorian Parliament.
– The honorable member can only refer to a few of the Tooleystreet tailors of a certain capital that need not be named. If the honorable member desires an exact statement as to the position of any particular Pool, it can be supplied; but I cannot tell him, at present, what dividend is likely to be paid in connexion with any of the Pools. A general question will be answered later on to-day dealing with advances to farmers who have wheat in the Pools.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House when wo may expect to have his Budget speech?
– I think that my honorable friend, who, as an ex-Treasurer, is bowed with the weight of a responsibility, more or less indifferently discharged, will know that it is impossible to definitely fix the date of the Budget speech. I will, however, answer him frankly and fully by saying that it will be delivered very shortly.
asked the Minister for the Navy,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
It is not a light matter to remove the College from its present position, when vested interests such as these have been created. I may say, on this matter, that I have always held that the College was misplaced. I did my best, when Minister for Defence, to prevent itever being established where it is. I think it has not been a good thing for the country that the College should be placed so far away from a centre of population. However, it is there now; we have spent £370,000 on it; and we cannot pretend to talk of removing an establishment of that kind now.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Country Mail Contractors - Cadet Mechanics
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he has come to a decision in regard to the numerous applications of country mail contractors for assistance, rendered necessary by drought conditions and the consequent high price of fodder, and when will this very urgent matter be finally dealt with?
– Yes. Instructions are now being issued in the matter. Each case will be dealt with on its merits and in. accordance with the procedure governing similar relief in 1915.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
On 28th August, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) asked me the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following, information, which has been obtained from the Acting
Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner : -
” Sydney Morning Herald.”
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Whether it is a fact that the present high export value of rabbit skins is finding employment for thousands of mon, women, and children in Australia, especially in the droughtstricken areas, and that the high prices prevailing are at present keeping the rabbit pest in check? 2., Whether it is a fact that rumours are. current that it is proposed to place an embargo on the export of rabbit skins, to enable Australian hat manufacturers to purchase skins below the London and American parity?
Whether he will give an assurance that there will be no interference with the open market for rabbit skins?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follow: -
Before permit to export is issued, shippers must satisfy the Department that the skins have been offered to local manufacturers at current market prices and have been declined by the latter.
-On the 28th August, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On 27th June, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) asked the following question: -
Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the somewhat sensational statement in the press this morning, to the effect that German employees in various parts of America are engaged in poisoning canned foods that are subsequently sent to the British Dominions? In view of the possibility of such an occurrence, I desire to ask him whether he will cause stringent tests to be made of all such articles so that the public mind may be set at rest?
I promised exhaustive inquiries, and am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
In compliance with the promise made, a cablegram was despatched to the Commissioner for Australia in the United States, drawing attention to the allegations made, and a reply has been received to the effectthat it had been ascertained that it was extremely probable that the allegations are without foundation, in view of the fact that all food is inspected by American and British authorities before being allowed to be exported.
It was further stated that nothing had appeared in the press in the United States on the matter, and that the San Francisco correspondent of the Auckland Star could not be traced.
– On 28th August, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) asked the following question: -
In view of the statement made by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, that it will be permissible to use second-hand bags in this State in connexion with the ensuing wheat harvest, will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether that permission is to be extended to all the States?
I promised to make inquiries from Senator Russell, who is in charge of the Wheat Board, and am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It has been ascertained that this is a question that willbe dealt with by the proper State authority in each State concerned.
– On 28th August, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) asked the following question: -
In view of the statements that have been made recently about the alleged shortage of wheat in the various Pools of the Commonwealth, will the Minister who deals with the wheat question give instructions to have a stocktaking of the wheat made at once, so as to allay any unrest which may have been caused in the minds of the farmers ?
I promised to bring the matter under the notice of Senator Russell, and endeavour to have the action taken which the honorable member suggested. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
From inquiries made, it has been found that the Australian Wheat Board has instructed the State Wheat Boards to ascertain as nearly as possible the approximate quantity of wheat in stock, and the necessary action will be taken at once by the Boards concerned.
The following papers were presented : -
Peace Treaty - Protocol supplementary to the Treaty of Peace, Signed at Versailles 28th June, 1919. (Paper presented to British Parliament. )
Germany. - Further reports by British Officers on the economic conditions prevailing in Germany, March and April, 1919 (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Papua. - Ordinances of 1919 -
No. 7. - Criminal Code Amendment.
No 8.- Land.
Parliamentary Attendants’ Salaries - Queensland Teachers Union - Finance - Cost of Living - War Service Homes - Troopship “ Bahia Castillo”. - Military Force: Instructional Staff - Rabaul Naval and Military Force: Decorations - North-South Transcontinental Railway: Offer to Construct - Export of Horseflesh - Russian Deportee - Ship and Submarine Construction: Employment of Australians - Taxation of Primary Producers - Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms - Entertainments Tax - Soldiers’ Dependants - Old-age Pensions - Repatriation: Hand-woven Tweed - Naturalizateon : Illiteracy - Soldier Settlements : Pacific Islands - Commission on Sale of Stamps - Dairy Produce Pool : Butter - Profiteering: Amendment of Constitution - Development of Oil Resources - Blythe River Iron Ore Field - General Elections - The Prime Minister and a White Australia - Wheat Pool Advances - Peace Loan - War-time Profits Taxation.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 10th September(vide page 12206), of motion by Mr. Poynton -
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1919-20, a sum not exceeding £6,088,542.
– I do not propose to pay much attention at this stage to the policy of the Government, as there seems every possibility that we shall have a fair number of public opportunities to do so before long, which will be very eagerly and gleefully accepted. Wehave to thank honorable members opposite for providing us with a suitable and effective supply of ammunition for that purpose.
I regret that I have to refer to one matter in the absence of the Speaker, because it affects the staffof Parliament House. Some time ago, in conjunction with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), I interviewed the
Speaker and placed before him a petition that had been signed by every member of the non-clerical staff of the House of Representatives, seeking some increase in their salaries; to which there was no doubt they were justly entitled, in view not only of the high cost of living but of their years of service. So far as I am able to understand, the matter has not yet been considered by the House Committee, but I wish to enter my emphatic protest against a circular letter which has been sent by the Secretary of the House Committee to the members of the staff, in the following terms : -
Memorandum for the Non-clerical Staff of the Joint House Committee.
With regard to a letter addressed to the President and Speaker, signed by the nonclerical employees, requesting increases of pay, which letter was presented to them by two members of the House of Representatives, I am directed to inform you of the following minute by the President and the Speaker on the subject: - “ We concur in the opinion that such a method of procedure, besides being a breach of regulations already laid down, is highly improper, and we insist on observance of the rule that any communications from employees of the establishment shall be made through the head of the Department. “ It will be advisable for you to inform the members of the staff of your Department that due consideration will be given to any representations made through the proper channel, viz., the head of the Department, but that political influence will not be allowed to affect the judgment of the Presiding Officers of the Parliament in dealing withthem.”
Please note the above and initial this memorandum.
Secretary, Joint House Committee.
That letter was a gratuitous insult, not only to the honorable member for Fremantle and myself, but also to the members of the House staff who signed the. petition. Thewages being received now by the members of the House staff are no credit to this House. Other Parliaments have increased the wages of their staffs, and we should, at any rate, set a good example, and not beput in an inferior position. To tell the members of the staff that they are acting improperly because they choose to represent their case to members of the House is not only unfair and unreasonable, but insulting. Those officers are accused of using political influence, when, as a matter of fact, an honorable member from each side of the House was present at the interview with the Speaker. It was a mere effort to get for those men some reasonable consideration in regard to their remuneration. The Speaker met us with every courtesy; he was most considerate, and made every effort to explain the position of affairs. For that I express to him my gratitude; but the fact remains that these men are not having their complaints redressed. They are being kept at a low rate of wages, which is no credit to the House or to Parliament as a whole. I again urge the Speaker to give some reasonable consideration to this case. The men are deserving of generous treatment,, and it is not fair to hold against them any suggestion that in approaching honorable members they acted improperly and should be penalized.
– Are we supposed to be attended to by sweated men without protest ?
-.- There is something in the honorable member’s question ; but to threaten these men with disabilities because they chose to represent their case through others than the heads of Departments is very obnoxious. We thought that we had advanced beyond that state of affairs. Unfortunately, the view put forward by the Secretary of the House Committee was somewhat strengthened by the clear and unequivocal statement of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) this morning, that no representations made on behalf of the boys on the Australia, who are suffering punishment on account of the trouble at Fremantle, will alter the attitude of the Department by a single hair’s breadth. The adoption of that attitude towards employees cannot be tolerated. It is a survival of the old idea in regard to the method of approaching employers that, in a democratic community, is at variance with the general mind of the population.
Yesterday I asked a question of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wi?e) in regard to the troopship Bahia Castillo, which, according to newspaper reports, has been obliged to put back to Durban on ‘ account, of faulty conditions. The Minister replied that certain complaints had been made. with regard to the accommodation on that ship before it left England, and that Senator Pearce had given orders that the conditions complained of should be remedied. The consequence was, according to the information which the Assistant Minister has received from
Senator Pearce, that the munition workers notified the inspection committee that everything possible had. been done to make them comfortable, and they did not expect any further discontent would arise. Further discontent did arise, and 1 ask that when that vessel reaches Australia immediate inquiries shall be made as to the reasons for the faulty conditions. The Australian public has had enough of this sort of thing. In the early days of the return of our soldiers from the Front one of the most painful experiences of honorable members was to listen to the complaints of soldiers regarding the bad accommodation on the transports. I am sure it- is not the desire of the Government that these conditions should exist, but somebody is responsible for them, and an effort should be made to sheet the responsibility home to the right quarter. The sole purpose of my question yesterday, and . of these remarks to-day, is to ask that before the men who are returning by the Bahia Castillo are dispersed in Australia an inquiry of such a far-reach-, ing character shall be made as will enable the blame to be placed on the officer responsible, so that he may be suitably punished. After all our soldiers have done overseas, of which honorable members on both sides express grateful appreciation, surely the least we can do is to guarantee them a reasonable and comfortable passage back to Australia !
I desire to discuss a matter affecting the Instructional Staff of the Defence Department ; but it is difficult to deal with questions in the absence, of the Ministers concerned. The Minister who is in charge of the Supply Bill can only take very brief notes, which may or may not reach the Minister whose attention we are claiming.
– It is not the first time we have had to complain of the absence of Ministers.
– That is so. It is= but another illustration of the degeneracy of parliamentary institutions. Thing, have come to such a pass in this Parliament that honorable members may talk and talk, and be’ told that that is what they are paid for. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) rightly said the other day that there was far too much talk. The reason is that Ministers are so busy attending to departmental affairs outside the House that they have no time to attend to affairs in the House, and honorable members have to talk on the same subject over and over again until they manage -to get for a fleeting moment the attention of the Minister concerned. This House is the place in which questions should be. discussed, but in the absence of Ministers discussion seems futile.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - The Minister will read the ‘honorable member’s remarks in Hansard.
– He will not. I am sure the honorable member is under no misapprehension that Ministers spend time in reading parliamentary speeches. If the Minister does read my speeches, I congratulate him, for I am sure they provide mental food which he will be able to digest, and from which he will obtain much benefit.
Almost since the commencement of the war I have been corresponding with the Defence Department in regard to the Instructional Staff. This was because of the embargo placed on the enlistment of those men, many of whom had seen years of active service, and were possessed of eminent qualifications. But for departmental reasons, to some extent, possibly, justifiable, these men were detained .here to train new recruits of no previous experience. In consequence these members of the Instructional Staff were penalized. Because of their not being allowed to go to the war they lost all chance of promotion and advancement. Further, they were retained at a salary not at all commensurate with their work, or with the salaries of the men they were training. However, as a result of my persistent . correspondence - at least I hope it had some little effect - an alteration was made in regard to conditions and emoluments. I wish honorable “members to notice how absolutely farcical the whole thing has been. Now that the war is over, we have again to depend on the Instructional Staff to. play a most important part in our Defence system, in the way of training our future soldiers, and maintaining the reliability and efficiency of the Forces. These men, I submit, deserve much better consideration than they are receiving.
For instance, a recently issued regulation provides that for warrant officers, Class I., the pay shall be £255 instead of £254, the old rate. In other cases, the salary has been raised from £244 to £245 - an increase of £1 per year. Where the wage is £234, it has not yet been decided whether it shall be £230 or £245. In other cases, again, the salary has been raised from £222 to £230, and from £210 to £230. In Class II., the wage has been raised from £204 to £210, from £192 to £200, from £180 to £200, and Acting StaffSergeantMajors remain at £156. There was an allowance of 9d. per day during the war, but that has now ceased; and while
Borne have benefited to the extent of £20, others have only had an increase of £1 per annum. Obviously this is farcical; the increases are no recognition of either the work of the men or of the facts of the ‘ case as they are to-day. Honorable members are sufficiently aware of the position of affairs economically in this country to know that men engaged in active work, who are expected to maintain a decent position, and to provide a home for a wife and family on £156 to £200 per annum, are being asked to accomplish an almost impossible task.
– Is there no provision for pensions ?
– No. Another objectionable feature is that no allowance is made for length of service. A new man may join, and, under the regulations, may in twelve months be enjoying the same rates of pay as a man who has been for seven years on the job. I have here a letter from a personal friend of my own iri Brisbane, who has been on the staff for that length of time. This man will not get an increase until April, 1921, and yet a man who joined this year may be paid the same rates, and enjoy the same status. This is no encouragement to men . who have spent years in making themselves efficient as warrant officers. Further, on the Instructional Staff at the present time there are a number of men who have seen active service abroad, and have very fine records of military experience. These men are naturally eminently qualified to fill positions on the Instructional Staff, and yet the regulation to which I have referred is the latest governing the matter.- I say, without hesitation, that the position of the staff is not worthy of the Department, and, if the facts were well known to honorable members, not commendable to Parliament.
I wish now to refer to another matter that has had my attention for about four years. In regard to this I have bean quite unable, through correspondence and in- terviews with. Ministers, to accomplish anything, and now I am compelled to bring the matter before the House. Some time ago, it was announced that the 1914 decoration, known as the Gallipoli Star, was to be presented to members of the Forces who took , Dart in the Gallipoli campaign. So far so good ; not a. word other than by way of commendation of such a proposal could be said. But, after some effort and agitation, it was decided that representations should be made to the Imperial authorities to include in the 1914 decoration men who were also engaged in the campaign of which Gallipoli was a particular incident, but only one incident. It was finally agreed by the Imperial authorities that the 1914 decoration should apply to a. large number of men who were engaged in various theatres of the war. According to the Melbourne Herald of 10th January, 1919, these various, theatres of war were to include the Western European, the Balkan, the Gallipoli, the Egyptian, the Asiatic, and the Australasian. It is in connexion with the last mentioned that I wish to say a word or two. In 1914, there sailed from Australia what was known as the 3rd Battalion, Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, under General Pethebridge. These men were enlisted for service, and were sent to take charge of the Marshalls, the Carolines, the Ladrones, and other islands. As honorable members are aware, however, when this Force reached the islands they found that the Japanese had preceded them by five days, and were in possession. The Australian Force was then sent to Rabaul, and were invited, to volunteer for service in Egypt. Every man volunteered, but that order was countermanded, and the Force was sent to finish up the work in German New Guinea. For quite a considerable period this Force was occupied in this effective and useful work, for which they received considerable encomiums - useful work in the way of solidifying our occupancy. But honorable members will be surprised to learn that, although every other Force, and every other arm of the service engaged in the Pacific, received the 1914 decoration, this particular Force has been repeatedly denied any consideration. The officers in charge were mentioned for meritorious services, but so far as the men themselves, and the Force as a whole, are concerned, every effort to secure the same recognition as was paid to others, engaged in similar work elsewhere has been refused. The matter has gone so far that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has been asked to recommend to the Imperial authorities that this Force shall receive the recognition which is their due. But the Minister refuses even to submit the matter to the Imperial authorities. Honorable ‘members are well aware that the granting of these decorations is not a matter for Australian decision. The decision lies in the hands of the Imperial authorities. It seems to me that the case which could be put forward on behalf of the Force which acted under the late Colonel- Pethebridge is at least worthy of being presented to those authorities, with a view to affording them an opportunity of deciding whether the men composing it should receive this particular decoration. The argument advanced against the recognition of the Force is that it was not engaged in the theatre of war, because, after General Holmes had signed the armistice with the then Governor of German New Guinea, it i» urged, the war there was over. Yet this Force was engaged for months in digging out nests of Germans, and of natives whohad been armed by the Germans for the defence of this particular territory. I again express the hope that either the Minister for the Navy or the Minister for Defence - because it was a combined Naval and Military Expeditionary Force which operated in German New Guinea - will submit this matter for the consideration of the Imperial authorities. It is ‘ not a’ fair thing that these men should be excluded from participating in this decoration. I do not complain of those who have already received it, but why a discrimination should be made against the Force to which I refer is beyond my comprehension.
I wish now to refer to a number of men who seem to be deserving of special consideration. The matter was brought under my notice by the Queensland Teachers Union, and it relates to the men who, before the war, were engaged in the particularly interesting and valuable work of training the youth of Australia. Large numbers of them enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and rendered very excellent service during the war. A number of these teachers, in common with the members of other professions, have come back to Australia suffering from wounds, from injuries to their eyes, and from shellshock. One has merely to mention these facts, and to recollect the work at which they have to earn their livelihood, in order to realize how heavily they are handicapped by these disabilities. The statement presented to me by the Queensland Teachers Union is set out in’ a couple of paragraphs, the first of which reads : -
We refer especially to members of our union who, through injury to their eyesight - not involving blindness - to their nervous systems, or to other disabilities, sire forbidden by the medical authorities to devote themselves to study. These are chiefly young men who were at the commencement of promising careers as teachers, some of whom would, by passing the successive examinations required for promotion, eventually have risen to the top of their profession. They nobly risked this prospect in their country’s cause. They have now returned, and are able to resume their work of actual teaching, but only in that grade to which they would have attained had they remained in the service of the Queensland Department of Public Instruction during the period of their absence at the war.
In another paragraph they say: -
We would respectfully suggest that, in cases in which the facts are medically established, your Government should supplement the departmental salaries of these young men by a pension sufficient to make up the difference between their actual salaries and the salaries attached to the successive grades to which they would probably have attained in the future, had they not received in the war those injuries to which we refer.
The main trouble is that the doctors have forbidden a large number of these men to again take up their studies, on the ground that, owing to shell-shock and the injury to their nervous systems, they are unable to continue the hard studies which are necessary to equip them to discharge the duties of their profession - that is, if they are to become efficient and to secure that promotion which they naturally desire. So far, the Government have refused any special recognition to these men. Yet the latter are not asking anything, unreasonable. All that they ask is that for the time being the Government shall make up to them the difference between the salaries they are now receiving and the salaries which they would have been receiving’ had their studies not been interrupted. These men are doing a service of immense value to the future of
Australia, and one cannot but sympathize with them ‘because of the disabilities under which they labour, owing to their experiences at the war. They are comparatively few in number, and, consequently, the financial burden that would be imposed on the Commonwealth by acceding to their . claim’ would be exceedingly small, whilst the moral effect of such action would be very great indeed.
– That disability is not peculiar to teachers.
– Probably not.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is not often that I address honorable members from tile floor of this chamber, but a matter has been raised here this morning which seems to demand a reply from me. It has reference to the salaries which are being paid to the non-clerical members of the parliamentary staff. I am sorry that the subject has beer brought forward in this, way, because, at the very inception of the Commonwealth Parliament, owing to a general recognition of the evils which had been associated with the exercise of political influence in the Public Services of the States, steps were taken to prevent that evil’ from creeping into our Public Service. A Commissioner was appointed in order that our Public Service should be placed entirely outside the sphere of political patronage or influence. The same rule should, of course, and does, apply to the officers of this Parliament. The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate stand in the same relation to the employees of Parliament as the Public Service Commissioner stands in relation to the employees in the Public Service generally. When I was a private member, I know that from time to time different employees of the parliamentary establishment came to me with their grievances, and requested me to see Mr. Speaker, with a view to getting those grievances remedied. I always regarded the procedure as au objectionable one, because I held that the proper channel of communication between them and the President and Mr. Speaker was through the heads of their Departments. That is the procedure laid down by the Public Service regulation bearing on this matter to-day, and it has, I understand, always been the procedure here since it was inaugurated by Sir Frederick Holder and Sir Richard Baker as Presiding Officers respectively of each House in the first Parliament. I have insisted upon the application of that regulation to parliamentary employees’ because, in my opinion, it would not be right to allow them to go over the heads of their own Departments, and to endeavour to see the Presiding Officer without first intimating their intention to the heads of those Departments, and without even informing them of the nature of the grievances of which they complained. This would be subversive of discipline and authority, and, moreover, the temporary Presiding Officers of Parliament could not in the nature of things be expected to have personal knowledge of the work and circumstances associated, therewith: of every individual employee of the establishment. Something was said, I think, about threats having been made of punitive action against the men who had signed the letter. There is no justification in fact for that statement. .For the special bene-1 of the House I shall read a communication written in reply to a letter presented to me by two honorable members of this House, which simply points out the method of procedure. It is as follows : -
A letter addressed to the President and Speaker, signed by tlie non-clerical employees of both Houses of the Parliament, requesting increases of pay, was presented to me by two members of the House of Representatives. . The President and myself concur in the opinion that such a method of procedure, besides being a breach of regulations already laid down,- is highly improper, and we’ insist on observance <5>f the rule that any communications from employees of the establishment shall be made through the permanent head of the Department. The use of political influence iri any -form is strongly deprecated, and will” not advance the cause of those having recourse to St. The Presiding Officers of the Parliament will give due consideration to representations when made through the proper channel, and these will be considered on their merits. i will be glad if you will inform the members 13f your staff of the views of the President and myself on the subject.
I think honorable members will admit that that was a strictly correct attitude to adopt, and it is the attitude which Parliament adopted in regard to the whole of the Public Service. It was, moreover, the attitude which prompted the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, in order to avoid this very kind of thing.
So far as the employees of the establishment are concerned, personally, in view of the high cost of living, and long before anything was said by any one else to me on the subject, I felt that, perhaps, some increase might be made, or some recognition shown of the disabilities under which they are labouring. I had a conference, with the President of the Senate on the subject. I think it was in February or April - but it was before the Estimates were submitted. I discovered during my occupancy of the chair on a previous occasion that when I raised the salaries of a number of the lower-paid members of the establishment, in 1913, I invited a protest from another quarter. I found that whatever -was done in this’ branch of the Legislature touching matters of salary had a reflex action on the Senate staff. Why it should be so I do not know, because the work done on this side is, in my opinion, generally speaking, more arduous and strenuous than that performed on the Senate side. There are a great many more holidays in the Senate, the members of the staff there have a, smaller number of members to look after, and, generally speaking, the conditions on the whole are easier, while, on the whole, .they are not very badly done by in either House. But so soon as the salaries of the staff employed in this Chamber were raised there was an immediate request for the salaries of those employed in the Senate to be raised similarly.
I was not at the time aware that in the first Parliament the arrangement was arrived at between the officers of both Houses that no increase or alteration in salaries of employees of either House should be made without a consultation between the Presiding Officers, and a joint agreement being arrived at. In this case, I find there is not likely to be agreement in regard to a general increase, and I am hampered in carrying out what would be my own decision in this regard had I been free to act without reference to the effect of my decision upon the position of officers in another branch of the Legislature. The difficulty is emphasized by the demand of the Treasurer that the Estimates must be reduced to the lowest possible limit. We have had our Estimates returned once or twice with a request that further reductions should he made, and it is rather unfortunate at a time when the country is overburdened with taxation, and the Treasurer is hard-pushed in the matter of finance, and requests are made to cut down expenses, that this time should be selected for making an application for increased salaries. At the same time, we have to realize that the cost of living has greatly increased of late, and I have naturally a very great feeling of sympathy, particularly with the lowerpaid members of the staff. It is something to be thankful for that so far we have escaped the. necessity for reductions all round.
With a view to arrive at a fair estimate of the position, I thought it desirable to see what was being paid for similar services in the State Parliament. Through the courtesy of the Clerks of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of Victoria I have been supplied with a statement of the salaries paid to the whole of their employees on the nonclerical staff. By comparison, I am bound to say that, although the amounts we pay are not by any means excessive, and perhaps inadequate, as I think some of them are in the present abnormal condition of prices, they are in nearly all, if not all, cases in excess of those paid in other Departments of the Public Service and those paid in the Parliament of Victoria for similar services. Moreover, there is a good deal more work expected from some of the employees in the State Parliainent. For instance, the work done by cleaners in this Parliament is done by doorkeepers in the State Parliament. They have neither cleaners nor charwomen on the State staff, and their remuneration is almost in all cases below the maximum and minimum rates paid in the Federal parliamentary service. I havenot the time to quote all the rates from the comparative lists, although I have the information and reports before me.
Mr. President and myself still have the matter under consideration. We have had several consultations concerning the matter, and it has not yet been finally determined. It is rather late, perhaps, to alter the Estimates ; this request should not have been made several weeks after the preparation of the Estimates. There must be same general approximation of the rates of remuneration paid for similar services throughout the whole Commonwealth service, otherwise we would have in our Parliament officers who were receiving a higher rate than men who were performing similar service, say, in the Prime Minister’s Department. Our rates, whatever they may be, more than favorably compare with those paid in other Departments. I do not say our rates are high enough, but they are higher than those paid in other Departments, even taking into consideration the increases recently given in the State Public Service. It has been said, by interjection, that wages must be low in other Departments. They are, in my judgment, in many cases too low. A general review of the whole position should, I think, be made, and I am not sure that it would not be good policy to place our parliamentary employees under the Public Service Commissioner.
– They have the right to approach the Arbitration Court.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.Have they that privilege now?
– They have that same right now.
– I think not.
– I think so.
Mr. W. ELLIOT . JOHNSON.Other public servants have; but not the parliamentary officers.
– There are no regulations that deny them therights which other public servants possess.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken. It is a matter, however, into which I shall inquire.
– Do you not think Parliament can deal with its own servants ?
– If Parliament is going to do so, then, I say, let Parliament do so. But if Mr. Speaker and the President of the Senate are to do so, they must do so, and they must be guided by the Public Service conditions generally, for they are in the same position, under the Public Service Act, as the Public Service Commissioner. Personally, I would like to get rid of the responsibility. It is a matter which I have before me almost constantly from one end of the year to the other.
– I was not suggesting, of course, the superseding of the proper duties of Mr. Speaker and the President.
– I understand that.
– The point is that these officers have no association, and they cannot appeal.
– I appreciate the point indicated by the honorable member. Perhaps, that is so. I realize that. As Public Service officers under the Commissioner they would be in touch with the association, and the Arbitration Court would be open to them. I am not sure that it is not open to them in any case. What I propose to do is to try to get over the difficulty in another way - and the President, I think, is agreeable to this course - by asking the Treasurer to place a sum upon the Estimates by way of a bonus, in the same manner as last year, only, perhaps, increasing the amount of bonus to a larger sum on this occasion. In that way, although the officers concerned will not be getting an increase in salary from month to month, they will receive a lump sum which will be equivalent to an increased rate of pay spread over the whole year.
– A bonus is never satisfactory.
– It may not be; but the Estimates were prepared in May last, and those Estimates have gone on to the Department of the Treasury. It would be a very awkward matter to ask for their return, and to revise them, especially in view of the fact that there may not be complete agreement, perhaps, between the President of the Senate and myself with respect to what ought to be done in this connexion.
– The bonus given last year would not make up anything like the increase which these men ought to get.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.That may be so. The honorable member, I think, was not present a few minutes ago when I stated that there must be some sort of general approximation with respect to the rates of pay throughout the whole of the Public Service - throughout all the various Departments. He may not have heard me remark, further, that in the Federal Parliament the rates paid do more than favorably compare with the rates of pay in other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service, or in the
State Public Service. I do not say that under existing conditions those rates are altogether adequate. On the contrary, I do not think they are; but I do not see how that can be remedied at present, except in the way I have just suggested. It is rather late to do anything at this stage, but something might be done by the Government to bring about a general revision of salaries paid to officers of the Commonwealth PublicService, in the lower grades particularly, if the present abnormal cost of living is maintained. I am not so much concerned with respect to the higher grades, because, in some cases, at any rate, I think that they are adequately paid; most are sufficiently paid. Some, I think, are not. I am more immediately concerned with the interests of those who receive salaries ranging from £150 to about £200 per annum. Those officers, the heads of families, must find the cost of living a very great and serious problem. I am fully in sympathy with them; but my own hands are to a large extent tied. I cannot do what I would desire, for reasons which I have already stated. I think I should state that some of the increases of salaries which have been enjoyed by the staff were granted during my previous occupancy of the Speakership. I increased the rates of remuneration, but I found myself unexpectedly in conflict with the situation regarding officers in the Senate. I did not consult with the President, as I had no knowledge of the arrangement in existence as between the Presiding Officers of both Houses, but because of the action which I had taken in raising salaries on this side, wages on that side were raised. That position is not satisfactory. The work of the officials upon this side is, of course, very much heavier than that of those employed in the Senate, and it does not appear to be altogether equitable that the rate of salary ruling in regard to the House of Representatives should be the same as that on the other side. To compensate, as far as possible, for disabilities in that respect, I have endeavoured to give to employees on this side as much time off as has been possible, whenever a reasonable opportunity has offered. It has been my endeavour to grant as many holidays as has been within my power. Apart from whether that has proved of any advantage, it does not, of course, get over the fact that the cost of living has greatly increased. To some extent, however, the ‘added leave has provided recompense, I hope, in ether respects.
– If you live horse, you have got to eat oats !
– I quite see the force of that allusion. I propose to make representations in the form which I have just indicated, and I need scarcely emphasize that my action will be taken quite apart from anything that may be said upon the floor of this Chamber. Indeed, as I said earlier, I considered the matter in consultation with the President of the Senate weeks before the meeting of the House. While I am prepared to listen, and to pay due heed to the views of honorable members, I am bound to assert that, quite irrespective of such expressions of opinion, whatever action I may see fit to take will be taken’ because I believe it to be right, and will not be in any sense due to any pressure which might be brought to bear upon me. If I do not believe a certain course of action to be proper I will not be persuaded to adopt that procedure.
I view the position of the messengers sympathetically, and, so far as I can do so, I shall endeavour to meet their case. That, however, can only be done by recommending that an increase be granted in the form of a bonus ; that is, unless I can come to an arrangement with the Presiding Officer in the other Chamber, to adopt some other course. I have reason to think the President will be fully in agreement with me in regard to recommending a bonus of a rather more substantial nature than was granted last year.
.- The Committee appreciates ,the motive of Mr. Speaker in expressing himself as he has in regard to employees of this Parliament. I am personally able to state that they are a capable and obliging staff, and I feel strongly that some recognition should be given them in view of the increased cost of living. Mr. Speaker has pointed out that it is scarcely possible now, in view of the fact that the Estimates were returned to the Treasury some months ago, to revise those Estimates; but he has indicated that a recommendation will be forwarded to the Treasurer that a lump sum be granted’ by way of a bonus. That is not very satisfactory, but, of course, it is far better than nothing at all. What was a fair salary four or five years ago is really inadequate for the support of a family to-day. I am glad that something is to be done to assist the members of the staff to cope with the increased cost of living.
Honorable members are asked to agree to a Supply Bill covering a period of three months. I have raised my voice in Committee before, and shall .do so again, in protest against the delay, year after year, in bringing the Budget before Parliament, and dealing with the Estimates. Honorable members were told, when the last Supply Bill was introduced, that it was the intention of the Government at a very early date in this financial year to place the position of the finances before Parliament. We are now well into the third month of the current financial period, and that promise has not been redeemed. We are asked to grant three months’ Supply, although we have not the slightest idea of the intentions of the Government with regard to the financial position, which, in my judgment, is appalling. It is admitted on all sides that the amount of taxation imposed upon the people has almost reached the limit, and yet our obligations are increasing, from week to week. Though the war is over, . certain obligations, such as the repatriation of our soldiers, war pensions, and housing schemes, arising out of the war, and involving the expenditure of millions of pounds, have to be provided for. It is possible, if rumour be true, that we may have an election before the financial position is disclosed to the people ; but I cannot bring myself to think that any Government would be so foolish as to commit suicide by appealing to the people before the finances of the country are properly adjusted. It is probable that the present may be considered a suitable time for this appeal; it is quite possible that the Government and their supporters believe they are on the rising tide of public favour, and that it would be just as well to go .to the people in the hope of being returned with power to carry on the government of the country for another three years; because if this appeal were delayed and the real position revealed to the people, the result, might be different. How are we going to discharge our obligations? How is the load of taxation to be apportioned in the future? It is the clear duty of the Government to make all these things plain to the people, because it will be found that, if an appeal be made in the near future, there will be very searching inquiries into the true financial position of the Commonwealth. The people will want to know exactly how much money we owe, and how much wc are likely to owe within the next two or three years to discharge the heavy obligations, arising out of the war, to which I have already referred. Is it the intention of the Government to remove a great deal of the direct taxation which during the war was imposed upon the richer people of this country, and place heavier burdens on the masses of the people? What are the indications? The people who during the war did not raise much objection to direct taxation being imposed upon them are to-day holding meetings in different parts of the Commonwealth and agitating for relief. They are declaring that the direct taxation is too heavy to bear. We want to know exactly what the Government intend to do. So far as direct taxation is concerned, I believe we shall have to go further, and that we have not yet reached the limit of our possibilities. But we cannot place any additional burdens on the poorer people of the country. Those with the most wealth will have to bear the major portion of the war costs. It is very evident, from the statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that Australia will get very little, if anything, in the way of war indemnity or reparation, so apparently we shall have to bear the entire cost of the war ourselves. It is appalling that the Government should carry on the administration of the country month after month without taking Parliament and the people into their confidence. Never in the history of the Commonwealth was our financial position so unfortunate. It is just as well that I should place on record in Ilansard the Prime Minister’s own words. In the course of his remarks yesterday he said -
The problems before Australia are difficult and complex. We have a huge debt. We have a debt as great, I think, as that of Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland put together, or very nearly so.
What are we going to do to meet that debt? The Prime Minister has been talking, about increased production, and I say at once that the people of every country must produce more if they are to be in a flourishing position in the future. But while we are talking about production in Australia, it is unfortunately true that thousands, of men, who ought to be producing, are unemployed. What avenues of work are being opened u.p for them ? I have heard it said that Australia is afflicted with the “ Go-slow “ policy, but I assert that in regard to production the Australian worker compares more than favorably with the worker in any other part of the world.
– Then, why do we need Protection ?
– Because we want to see successful’ factories established throughout the Commonwealth to absorb those thousands of unemployed to whom I have referred. This duty lies before the Government. The war has taught us that, in order to be secure, Australia must be a self-contained nation, and I am sur- . prised to know that there are one or two honorable members who, apparently, have not learned that lesson. We must provide for our own requirements, and we must encourage our industries by a protective Tariff. What are the Government doing in regard to this matter? Tho Tariff has been spoken of frequently, but I believe that after this three months’ Supply has been granted, we shall get tho Estimates a little later, as well as the Bills for the amendment of the Constitution, and the Government will go to tho country without doing anything in tho way of Tariff reform. The Government, as I have said, believe that they are on the rising tide of public favour ; but mistakes have been made in the past, and they may be made again. It is folly on the part of the Government to rush to tho country before they place their own house in order. There is plenty of work for this Parliament to do before we go bofore the people. Personally, I arn not much concerned at the prospect of an appeal, but I feel that we have a duty to discharge before we go again before the electors. We have a right to protect our people. Up to the present this has not been done. Three weeks ago I asked questions of the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in regard to the continuous increase in the price of hoots, and I was informed that an inquiry would be made. Last week, again, I asked if the inquiry had been commenced, and the honorable gentleman said he had brought the matter under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). To-day I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs what stage the inquiry had reached, because this matter of the everincreasing price of boots is of vital importance to the people, and the Minister informed me that he had sent it on to the Inter-State Commission. It will take that body some time to make an inquiry and bring in a report, and the futility of the whole business lies in the fact that the Government can, or will, do nothing. We have reports already in regard to quite a number of other matters, and nothing has been done, because, so we have been informed, the Government have not power under the Constitution to take any action. I believe the Government have power to-day, as during the war. On the outbreak of hostilities a proclamation was issued declaring this country to be in a state of war, and the Government proceeded immediately to exercise certain powers of control. I contend that whatever powers the Government and the Parliament had during the actual period of the war must continue until the Peace Treaty is ratified. In these circumstances there can be no excuse for the failure of the Government to deal with the high cost of living. The facts in relation to these matters should carry weight. During the war period the price of boots, amongst other things, was regulated, and reasonable rates were maintained. But in May last, owing probably to influence brought to bear by those directly interested, the Government abolished the whole of their price-fixing machinery. Boot manufacturers and others were given a free hand, and the price of boots immediately went up. Ever since then prices have been increasing. Why did the Government relax this power, and thus give profiteers a free hand? Why did they not take measures to prevent profiteering? If they have lost the power which they were able to exercise during the war - and I claim that they have not - it is still open to them to control the export of hides, and pressure should be brought to bear in that direction to bring down the price of boots. The Government could say to dealers in hides, “ Until the people of Australia are able to obtain boots at the prices which ruled prior to May last we shall not permit the export of hides.”
– If that were done, where should we find the money to pay the war debt to which the honorable member referred a few moments ago?
– The people would be better able to assist in liquidating the National debt if the cost of living were brought down to what it was in 1914.
– If we are to prohibit the export of hides and everything else, let us start by prohibiting the export of coal.
– Start where you like so long as the principle is applied all round. If the cost of living were reduced to what is was prior to the war, the working people of Australia would cheerfully contribute to the liquidation of the war debt. They are unable to do so to-day owing to the action of certain individuals who, by reason of their power and influence, have been able to secure to themselves practically the whole of the wealth of the community. The poorer classes are not even able to-day to pay their family bills.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has practically suggested that we should apply to all exports the principle of control. If we have not the power to fix prices we must either control the export of all commodities until our own people are able to satisfy their wants in respect of them at reasonable rates, or we must raise the wages of our working people.
– The latter is the more reasonable proposal.
– The honorable member admits that something must be done. Statistics in regard to increases in house rents and the prices of foods show that the purchasing power of the sovereign to-day is 7s. 6d. less than it was in 1914. Honorable members opposite say that something should be done to bring down the cost of living, yet they continue to support a Government which will do nothing in that direction, and is endeavouring to make the people believe that without an amendment of the Constitution it can do nothing. On the two occa- sions that the Labour party, when in power, submitted amendments of the Constitution to the people, they met with the opposition of honorable members opposite, who say to-day that the Federal Parliament needs to be clothed with additional powers.
– The trouble was that the Labour party asked for too much.
– We shall probably have the same objection raised once more. It is quite possible that if the Government do bring forward Bills providing for the amendment of the Constitution, those measures will have to -be modified to meet the views of many of their supporters. I maintain that this Parliament could not have too much power. It is stated in this morning’s newspapers that a witness, after giving evidence before the Victorian State Commission yesterday in regard to the price of boots, said that it would be impossible to fix, with any degree of satisfaction, the price of boots in any one State. It was, he declared, a Commonwealth matter; and I certainly agree with him that we must have uniformity throughout the Commonwealth.
In dealing with, the increase in the cost of living, we are guided largely by the statistics laid before us by Mr. Knibbs. I would remind honorable members, however, that his figures in regard to the increase in the cost of living cover only food and rents. In respect to those items, he shows that there has been an increase of between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent, since 1914; but increases in the cost of clothing - a very important matter to heads of families - amount in some cases, to 100 per cent.
– And our soldiers, after fighting for 5s. per day, on coming back, have to pay these increased prices.
– That is so. Very few of oar boys on returning to Australia have suitable civilian clothing Many of them find that they have grown out of the clothes they left behind, while others discover that their civilian clothing during their absence has become moth eaten. Two or three returned men told me recently that, being anxious to get into “ civvies “ as soon as possible, they thought of buying a suit or two in England, but prices there were so high that they determined not to make any purchases until they reached Australia. They were surprised to discover that clothing here was as dear as it was in England, and in some cases dearer.
– Although we produce the wool here.
– Although we produce the wool and everything else required for the manufacture of clothing. Manufacturers of clothing on the other side of the world have to depend upon us for their supplies of raw material, and yet they can sell, in many cases, at prices below those ruling here. Our soldiers, to whom - as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, yesterday - we owe a debt that we can never discharge, find that the whole of their deferred pay,, amounting to £20 or £30 each, is absorbed in the purchase of new clothing outfits. In my district, they have to pay nine guineas or ten guineas for a tailored suit, and the prices of underclothing; boots, and everything else they require are also exceedingly high. This is not a fair position in which to place our returned men. They did not expect to find these prices ruling in Australia; and they prevail to-day only because of the ineptitude and inaction of the Government. Had the Parliament desired, it could have prevented these increases from the very outset of the war. As it was, we had regard to only one section of the community. We endeavoured, by the creation of Pools and the appointment of Boards, to protect and regulate various industries; but, unfortunately, interested persons were appointed to those Boards, and throughout this war they have carefully studied their own interests. They have made the most of the war period. I say, without the slightest hesitation, that many of those interested persons who during, the war prated of their loyalty, were at the same time taking every shilling they could out of the pockets of the people and the soldiers who were fighting for us abroad. The contributions which some of the wealthiest men in this country have made to patriotic efforts, and the amounts they have put into our war loans, are practically infinitesimaL Yet during the whole course of the war they have been reaping great benefits; every day they are amassing wealth; their bank accounts are growing. On. the other hand, the poor are becoming poorer, and are unable to provide necessaries for their families. These are questions which require immediate attention, but they get none. It is quite probable that at a very early date an effort will be made- to send honorable members to the people, but when the electors realize what little use we are making of the power we have to protect them, they will do the only thing it is possible for them to do in. the circumstances, and that is to bring about a change of Government. The newspapers are endeavouring to create a certain atmosphere for the purpose of securing an election which will return to power the party now in office, the proposal being to postpone the adjustment of the finances until after the elections. If the present party are returned to power, we shall find that the greatest load of taxation is placed on those who can ill-afford to bear it - on the poor, and even on those brave men who have returned to our shores, many of them maimed and many suffering from shell-shock. In my opinion, men who have served their country in the war have done their part, and should be relieved of all taxation, at any rate of income taxation. The income tax -was imposed for the purpose of liquidating the debt incurred in defending the country, and if our returned soldiers are called upon to pay it, they will be levied upon to pav back the very money which we borrowed in order to pay them for their services. The income tax should be ear-marked f or the purpose of paying the debt on the war, and the men who went abroad to fight while we remained behind in perfect security should be exempted from paying it, and people who made an exceedingly great amount of wealth during the war should be called upon to contribute more than they are paying. The time has arrived when a return of the wealth held by the people of- Australia should be prepared, and all persons in the community should be called upon to pay according to their wealth. It is not fair to go on year after year accumulating a war debt without making some effort to reduce it. Our boys have played their part away from Australia. Our part has now to be played, and steps should be taken at once to meet the obligations incurred by the Commonwealth as the outcome of the war. In the six months or nine months before this Parliament expires, we ought to be able to accomplish a lot of good work, particularly in the direction of reducing the cost of living.
We have established a scheme whereby soldiers can borrow up to £700 for th purpose of building homes, but, ,as a matter of fact, a house which costs £700 to-day could have been built for £450 before the boys went to the war. We are asking these men to repay £250- more than they are entitled to do, because profiteers have increased the prices of material during the progress of the war. These are the questions which are staring us in the face, and yet we burke them. Some honorable, member may say, “ What about the cost of labour ? “ According to the evidence given by builders before the Inter-State Commission, the sum of £14 17s. represents the increase in the cost of a cottage due to the increased wages given to .the labour employed. The whole of the extra cost of a cottage beyond that £14 17s. is due to the higher prices of materials, and the Inter-State Commission shows that there are combines and monopolies throughout Australia which fix the prices of articles to suit their own interests. We have no longer the freedom of trade about which people used to talk. It is no longer a question of supply and demand. These individuals form associations ‘to look after their own interests and filch as much as they possibly can from the general public. Some honorable members may say that we have no power under the Constitution to deal with soldiers’ homes, but without an amendment of the Constitution the Government can cut timber in their own forests in Papua, and they can establish brick yards in various States, and in this way they can reduce the cost of timber or brick cottages for the “soldiers. However, no effort is made in this direction to protect men who have done so much for the country. We claim that we are looking after their interests; but, if an election is held, the position will be made very clear to them. When they know exactly what has been done, they will be thoroughly ashamed of the Parliament which is in charge of the affairs of the country, for which they have fought. The cost of living is a vital question. I do not speak about it week after week just for the sake of talk- ing. My object is to draw the attention of the public to it. I claim that the Commonwealth Government have the power to deal with it, and that within the next few weeks we ought to see a change brought about; but I know that I cannot hope to see it done, because here we are up against so many vested interests.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I understand that the Budget speech will be made very shortly.
– That is so.
– Then I shall take only a few minutes to-day, because what I have to say I would much prefer to say on the Budget after we have learned certain things that we do not know now, rather than to take up time on this Bill, which the Government are anxious to get through for the payment of the public servants. I wish to call the attention of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) to two matters.
The first is an offer made to the Government by Messrs. Timms and Kidman to construct the North-South railway from Oodnadatta to the Katherine River. All I know about the matter is what I have read in the public prints. I have not seen either of the gentlemen.
– I saw Timms.
– I have not, and do not want to see either of them, because I do not wish honorable members to think that I am in any way representing them in the remarks I am about to make. If the Government have received an offer on the lines laid down in the newspapers - although, of course, these were somewhat vague - I sincerely hope they will not turn it down without giving it full and proper consideration.
– I can assure the honorable member that no such offer has ever been before Cabinet.
– I can quite understand that. I want to know if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), or any other member of the Government, has received such an offer.
– I should imagine that if an offer of that kind had been received by a Minister he would have brought it before his colleagues.
– I know that; but it is quite possible, and not at all unusual, for an offer to be pigeonholed. I do not think that leading articles would be written on what is assumed to have been a serious offer, without that offer having beau submitted to some member of the National Government.
– I think there is something in it.
-I am pretty sure there is. It is inconceivable that most of the metropolitan dailies should have referred to it in this way if there had not been something in it. Some of them have already written leading articles on it. I, therefore, assume that an offer has been made, but I am not surprised that it has not come before Cabinet. It is quite natural that a matter even of such importance might have been held over owing to the early arrival of the Prime Minister back from Home. If an offer has been made to construct a railway and to provide the money - in other words, to take Government bonds in paymentI do not want that offer to be turned down without the fullest and most complete consideration being given to it.
– It should be quite easy to find out whether the offer has been made.
– I dare say it is.
– The only Minister who is at all likely to have received an offer of that kind is the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn).
– I am satisfied that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) knows nothing about it.
– That is so.
– I sincerelyhope that the newspapers are correct, and that such an offer has been made.
– I am not denying that an offer has been made.
– But the Minister says he has no knowledge of it.
– Is this another Norton Griffiths affair?
– No. The basis of the offer, if the reports in the public press are correct, is entirely different from, and very much more attractive than, the offer made by Norton Griffiths to the State of New South Wales.
– If these men can do it, why cannot the Government do it?
– I shall tell the Committee the difference between this and the Norton-Griffiths affair, which was taken up by New South Wales, and dropped like a hot potato.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) does not stand for Norton-Griffiths.
– I am not sure what men stand for in these days.
– Do you stand for NortonGriffiths?
– No ; I stand for this country. I always have done so, and always will. This is not only not a Norton-Griffiths offer, but it is something that is conceivably better even than the construction of the railway by the Government themselves. The offer has been made broadly on the principle that a price is to be agreed to between the parties. The Government might want competition and open tender. Probably that would be the best course, because it would settle any vexatious strife that might arise afterwards when other railway builders, as they always do, come along the day after the fair, saying that if the work had only been open to tender they would have been in it, and would have given the Government better terms. However, that is a matter of detail, which must be considered. My point is that if a tangible offer has been made, it should not be treated like a previous offer by Mr. Joseph Timms to complete the construction of the East- West railway. That was a genuine offer, backed up by a very substantial sum of money.
– After what had already been done. ‘ »
– I know the Department had already done £2,000,000 worth of work, and the offer was to complete the line for another £2,000,000. Substantial backing was forthcoming, but the offer was turned down, because, according to the Minister of the day, the then Engineer-in..Chief said that be could do it as cheaply by day labour. That is true, and is in Hansard, in the speech of the Minister who “was responsible for accepting that assurance and turning down the offer. . To-day we have a railway completed at . a cost, not of £4,000,000, but of more than £7,000,000. I know that war conditions arose, but I know approximately how much they meant in the matter of cost, because most of the material was already secured at prewar prices. I shall not go into details, because I promised only to indicate rather than to elaborate these matters. I do not want, nor do I think the Committee wants, a repetition of what occurred then. I therefore repeat that any offer made in regard to the NorthSouth railway, not only ought to have the serious consideration of the Government, but is such a big national question that the Government should not turn it down on its own initiative without giving the House some say in it. This is a big matter, and big national matters should be considered by the House. We, as a Parliament, have been very considerate since the war began. It has been largely necessary that the Government should be practically all powerful, and able in many respects to act on their own initiative.
– You have given the profiteer a fair chance.
– If I had time to deal with that I would tell my - honorable friend both sides of the profiteering question. He would get some gospel, good for his political soul. The time has gone by now when any Government has a right to conduct the affairs of this nation without the authority of Parliament, as provided by the Constitution. I hope we are going to get back to constitutional lines, and trust that before any such offer is turned down by the Government the House will have an opportunity to say something about it.
There is ano titer matter which concerns the Acting Treasurer, because he is the representative of portions of South Australia which are more particularly interested. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) referred last night to the question of the exportation of horse flesh from Australia to the Continent.
– I know that there are stupid prejudices on this question, but they are baseless. I understand the position the honorable member takes up. I am surprised at such an objection coming from my honorable friend, who represents a State which is more concerned than even South Aus- tralia in this matter. It is not our business to say to certain people on the continent of Europe what their staple food shall be.
– In London, the other day, men would not load horseflesh for Belgium.
– Why not?
– I do not know.
– The honorable member’s reference to some objections raised in London to loading this stuff should not stand in the way of the consideration of the question which I am putting before the Acting Treasurer. Men will not load the best meat on earth, and a lot of other things, nowadays. They are very funny in the matter of what they will and will not load. On the continent of Europe this particular commodity is a staple article of food, and has been for centuries, and possibly will be for centuries to come. We have in Australia tens of thousands of fat horses.
– And they are absolutely useless
– They would make excellent meat, and the objection of English people to the quality of this food is only a matter of prejudice. Let me remind honorable members that it would have been a God-send-
– I have eaten it many a time.
– And the honorable member was delighted with it?
– Oh, no!
– But the honorable member would sooner eat it than have to take his belt up another hole or two. So would a good many people.
– The German prisoners in England went on strike because they were given beef, and could not get horse-flesh.
– There is further testimony. My honorable friend has done good work on the other side, and brought back some useful hints. I hope the Acting Treasurer will bring this matter before the Cabinet, and if there are certain . Continental people, our own Allies, to whom horse flesh is one of the staple daily foods, and they desire to purchase that commodity from us, the opportunity ought not to be lost because of a stupid prejudice. I regard it as a national duty to call the attention of the Committee to the question. We are not asking that the Government should permit the export to any foreign country of anything that is not acceptable to that country.
– Horse flesh would compete with the product of the squatter.
– The squatter is the man who is raising horses. Horse-breeding is one of the factors of wealth in the interior of Australia. There are parts of the interior where, particularly in the dry seasons, only horses can be run. It is impossible to raise sheep, and it isalmost impossible to raise cattle, owing to the distance they would have to go for water ; but horses can be depastured because they will travel 20 and 30 miles to water. We shall not be giving fair consideration to Australian production if we do not seriously entertain this proposal, which I commend to the Committee.
.- I claim the attentionof the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) to the case of Mrs. Zuenko, wife of a Russian deportee. As Acting Prime Minister, the honorable gentleman agreed that this woman should be allowed to leave Australia to join her husband. I have been informed that the husband has been sent to Alexandria, whilst his wife, who is in a delicate state of health, has been sent to Bombay. The officials knew the condition of the lady, andsurely a little extra care should have been taken to see that she was able to rejoin her husband. But I understand she is stranded in Bombay friendless and penniless. I know that the Treasurer was prepared to do the right thing; but, evidently, there has been a serious departmental blunder. It is an inhumane act to send a woman in her state of health to a place like Bombay, whilst her husband has been sent to Alexandria.
– How did she get to Bombay?
– Her husband is a Russian who got into trouble in Brisbane. He was brought to New South Wales, and subsequently deported. His wife followed him from Brisbane, and as she had some little difficulty in getting access to her husband, she interviewed me. She told me that if her husband were deported she would like to be allowed to accompany him. That request was only fair, for, even though the Government deal with persons who advocate views which are not acceptable to them, there is no reason why inhumane treatment should be meted out. to women who are guiltlesss of any crime against the ‘ Commonwealth.
– Is she an Australian woman ?
– No ; she was bom in Russia. Owing to some blunder, she was prevented from leaving by the same boat on which her husband travelled, and the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) gave instructions that she should be allowed to follow by the next boat to a place where she could join heT husband. Through some bungle, she has been landed at Bombay.
– Does the fault lie with the shipping company?
– I am not allocating the blame; I am merely stating the facts. I attach no blame to the Treasurer, because I believe that had his instructions been carried out, there would have been no complaint. I feel sure that he will make inquiries and see that the wrong is righted. The case is of such an urgent nature that some effort should be made by the Government to get into communication with some responsible person in Bombay so that the sad plight of” this woman may be relieved.
– Is the information that she is in Bombay authentic?
– It came to me fr.om a very reliable source, but I will not swear to it.
– The instructions - of the Government were that if she did not travel with her husband she should be allowed to join him, and I thought that had been done.
– My informant is a lady, who claims to have received a letter from the woman.
– I shall have inquiries made. What -the honorable member has stated is news to me.
– Another ‘matter to which I wish to refer is the treatment meted out to young Australians who were sent to Great Britain to learn submarine construction and shipbuilding.
From about . 700 applicants in all parts of Australia,, the Navy Department, after a thorough examina tion of the qualifications and credentials, selected nine young Australians of brilliant attainments to be sent to Great Britain in order to gain further experience in the great shipbuilding yards of that country. The idea was that they would return with enhanced knowledge, and enable Australia to build up a competent technical staff that would be capable of carrying out the construction of submarines and war-ships of all descriptions in our own dockyards. Having undergone their course of training, the young men returned to Australia, and I propose to tell the Committee what has happened to them. One of them, C. Hutton, is a Diesel engine expert. Honorable members know that a Diesel engine expert is a most important technical workman in connexion with submarine construction. Hutton had not been back in Australia more than two or three weeks before he received an intimation from the Navy Department that his services were not required, because the Government did not intend to proceed with submarine construction. He has now been snapped up by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company, of Quincey, Massachusetts, United States of America, at a salary equal to £1,000 per annum. The Navy Department was to have paid him £250 per annum. If Hutton was not an expert worthy of a responsible and well-paid position he would not have been engaged by such an up-to-date firm as that I have mentioned. The country has lost his services, because the Government said they did not intend to proceed with submarine construction. Why did they spend thousands of pounds to send this man to Britain in order to gain experience and knowledge ? Another member, of the party was H. Kidd, an engineering draughtsman. On his return he was left in an ordinary position at Cockatoo Island Dock at a salary of £250 per annum. This man has been snatched up by Dalgety and Company of Sydney, at a salary three times greater than that paid to hi in by the Commonwealth, which has now lost his services. We spent thousands of pounds in sending these young Australians abroad to be technically trained, and when they return the Commonwealth, apparently, has no use for them, and allows them to go into private employment. Then there is the case of Mr. J. Duggan, electrical expert, who, out of 700 applicants, was selected for technical training. When he returned, he was taken into the employment of Siemens Brothers, also at a greater salary than that paid to him previously by the Commonwealth. This firm stands so high in the electrical world that they do not require any but experts in their employ ; and to those experts they pay large salaries. They evidently knew the value of this brilliant young Australian, and employed him at the first opportunity. The latest of all the cases is that of Mr. W. Hoskins, boiler-making expert, and the one boiler-maker out of the nine men who were sent Home for training. When he came back to Australia he was given an ordinary job at Cockatoo Island at £250 a year, but to-day he is under engagement to Messrs. Poole and Steel to take charge of the practical work of ship construction at their shipbuilding yard in South Australia. I have mentioned four nien out of the nine who, within a few months of their return to Australia, after being technically trained at the expense of the Commonwealth, were “taken into private employment. And while this is going on, what does the Commonwealth do? As a matter o.f fact, we have imported from Great Britain Mr. David Pickering, Shipyard Manager at Williamstown, ait £600 a year. We first imported Mr. Curchin at £2,000 per annum, and then Mr. Pickering at £600.
– They caine out together.
– Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth brought these men out each under a three-years’ engagement?
– I was merely correcting your statement that we first imported one and then the other.
– Did the Minister agree to the importation of these men?
– They were engaged long before I caine into office.
– While we were importing these nien we had those brilliant young Australians at our disposal here. Another case is that of Mr. H. Hewison, who was brought out as Chief Draughtsman at £520 per annum, although there was Ihe young Australian expert of whom I have spoken as going into the employment of a private firm. Mr. Thomas
Wallace was brought out as Foreman Ironman at £400 per annum under a three-years’ engagement, although at the same time we were paying Australian exports of the same class £250 per annum. Mr. A. Grant was brought out under a three-years’ .engagement as Foreman Shipwright at £400 per annum, although men whom we had sent Home to be trained in this branch of the business were knocking about Cockatoo Island yard doing ordinary shipwright work. Mr. Kenneth Watson was brought out as Chief Marine ‘ Engineer under a threeyears’ engagement at a salary of £.1,000 a year. It is pst . about time that the public of Australia knew the treatment that has been meted out to the clever young men of this country. The moment a young Australian shows any ability or brilliancy he is shoved on one side, and some one is imported to take his place. Young Australians are not regarded as of any value simply because they are Australians, but, as our soldiers have shown themselves to be the best in the world, so will our technical experts; all they need is the opportunity to prove their value. I shall not deal with’ this matter further., but. simply wait for the Minister’s reply.
.- The tax-gatherer having just finished his work for the year, this seems to me rather an opportune time to bring under the notice of the Committee some of the difficulties under which the taxpayers are labouring. For many years it has been evident to any one interested in primary production that the taxing of the man on the land is of a more grievous nature than that of any other section of the com’munity. He has to pay State and Federal land taxes, State and Federal income taxes, Crown land tax, shire tax, and the Pastoralists’ Protection Board tax. It is not so much the number of the taxes of which I complain as the form under which the taxes are collected. It has been stated here, and quite rightly, within the last few weeks, that wo could do much to relieve the situation of the man who has to pay all those taxes if the Federal and State taxation were unified. This would mean a tremendous saving in’ time and money-,’ and would relieve the man on the land of much of the burden which to-day is interfering with his efforts in the way ofprimary production. But, as I have said, it is the form of the taxation that is the chief trouble; and I should like to lay before the Committee the form which is issued to graziers, large and small, as that on which they must furnish their returns. As far back as 1905 I dealt with this matter in the State Parliament of New South Wales, and I drew the attention of the Commissioner of Taxation to the fact that the primary producer was being most unfairly taxed in that he had to pay on his natural increase, which very frequently he could not realize on. The man on the land is taxed in such a burdensome way that it takes up a great deal of his time, causes him much annoyance, and interferes with production to a dangerous extent; and yet this is a matter which could be very easily amended.
I desire to lay before the Committee some of the troubles which the man on the land experiences in this connexion. On18th October, 1905, I received from the Department of Taxation in Sydney the following letter: -
Referring to your recent interview with Mr. First Commissioner Spiller, when the question of the departmental method of treating as income the natural increase of flocks and herds born during the year was under discussion, I have to inform you that the Commissioners, having considered the vews set forth by you - inter alia. - “ that a taxpayer in being assessed on the natural increase, as above, would pay tax on an assumed income which might never be realized, as some, or perhaps all, of the increase might die before any sale could be made,” will be prepared to concede an allowance in respect of the deaths which have subsequently occurred in the natural increase if the value of the said natural increase has previously been taken into account in arriving at the net income. The claim in connexion with the death of any of the lambs to be made a charge against the year in which the value of the said lambs had been taken into account as income.
That was, as I say, in 1905, but the Government have gone on all these years collecting the taxation in the same old way. A man who has a natural increase has to pay on that increase whether he realizes on it or not, and under no conditions can he deduct the loss from the income tax. In the form issued to landowners and graziers for income-tax purposes, the Commissioners give a sample case on which they are to work; and the formula this last year reads as follows : -
So that, even on the Commissioner’s own figures, the grazier is taxed on £1,867 which he never received.
– Are those values drought or normal values ?
Mr.FLEMING. - In assessing income the Commissioners fix upon 10s. per head in respect of the natural increase of lambs in New South Wales and 9s. per head in Queensland. The total thus arrived at in respect of the value of the natural increase is added to the price paid for sheep purchased during the year, and, on the average price thus obtained, the taxpayer has to pay. Every practical man will recognise that this system is unfair, since the amount on which a taxpayer has to pay depends entirely upon whether his purchases exceeded the natural increase in his flocks. Another important factor to be borne in mind is that the whole of the natural increase might possibly die before the owner could realize on it. The only fair method of taxing the man on the land, who is producing, to a greater extent than is any one else, the wealth of Australia would be to call upon him to pay on the natural increase of his flocks or herds only when he realizes. Sooner or later the money must come into the exchequer. The Commissioner will say that if that system were allowed, the man on the land might be adding to his capital by adding to his stock every year. In the end, however, the result to the Department must be the same. When a man realizes on his stock, he must pay taxation on his income. I do not think honorable members on either side would for one moment support the system’ adopted by the Commissioner of Taxation under which a man may be, - and is, called upon to pay a tax on income that he has never actually enjoyed. It is only fair that a man should not be called upon to pay income tax in respect .of the natural increase in his flocks or herds until he has realized on that increase. While a grazier, is carrying sheep, he has to pay income tax in respect of the income which he derives from the sale of their wool, and he has also to pay the stock tax.
Another objection to the present system is that the man on the land, is not allowed, any deduction in respect of deterioration of his cattle or horses on account of age. He is the only class of taxpayer who is not permitted to write down the depreciation of his stock. Viewed from every stand-point, the man on the land, who, in the aggregate’, is producing the greatest amount of the wealth of Australia, is being taxed most unjustly, and he is getting tired of .the job. The position is becoming serious. A number of these men are beginning to find the burden of taxation too heavy. I know quite a number who are thinking of giving up .primary production because of the appalling burdens which are being thrown on them by this unfair system of taxation.
– Melbourne shopkeepers also say that they want to give up business.
– Do you believe them?
– I do not believe either.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) does not think that many men contemplate giving up primary production. I give him my word of honour that quite a number, known to me personally, are thinking of giving up primary production because of this burden of taxation. They will put their money into Government stocks or city investments. The graziers are quite willing to pay income tax on what they make ; but the .point is that they are being called upon to pay income tax in respect of natural increases in stock on which in many cases they never realized.
– That is unjust.
– It is; and I think that the honorable member, as well as honorable members generally, will support my view when they fully appreciate the incidence of this taxation.
I have here an actual return sent in in respect of the. financial year just closed. The details are as follow : - Stock on hand 1st July, 6,594 sheep, at lis. lid. - which is the average value, according to the Commissioner’s method of assessment - £3,929; 46 cattle at £6, £276; 58 horses at £8, £464. Purchases for the year - 2,061 sheep, £2,480. Sales for the year- 1,963 sheep, £2,961; 9 head of cattle, £121; seven horses, £36. Killed for rations, 186 sheep at 13s. 10. 8d., £129. Thus the gross income of this taxpayer according to the Income Tax Commissioner’s formula amounted to £8,961, and the deductions in respect of stock on . hand killed and used amounted to £7,149,- leaving a. net income of £1,822. The actual result in practice, however, was as follows: - Sales for the year, 1.963 sheep, £2,961; killed .for rations, 186 sheep, £129; sales for year, 9 cattle, £”121; seven horses, £36; total, £3,247. Deducting purchases amounting to £2,480, the net income from the year’s transactions thus amounted to £767. The income from increase at the average value allowed for stock on hand was as follows:- 523 sheep at 13e. 10.8d., £363. I should point out in passing that these sheep should have been put down at 10s. per head, so that the actual income in respect to them amounted to only £261 10s. Value of six cattle at £6 per head, £36. This gives a total of £399 to be added, in respect of increase, to sales. As against that total, there-was deducted’ £8 in respect of one horse, bringing down the total to £391. The actual income from the year’s transactions amounted to £767, and the accrued income from increase in stock totalled £391, so that the net income thus amounted to £1,158. From that total a sum of £100 should rightly be deducted since the- increase of lambs was allowed, for at the average value of the whole of the stock for the year, whereas it should have been included at a value of 10s. per head. It will thus be seen from these figures that the net income of this grazier, according to the return which had to be furnished upon the Commissioner’s formula, was £1,822, whereas the actual net income, including natural increase, was only £1,158. Thus, observing the Commissioner’s formula, the taxpayer had to pay income tax on the sum of £664 in excess of the income actually earned by him, even allowing for taxation upon the natural increase.’
I am sure that no honorable member would support such a system of taxation. It is grossly unfair. It is damaging the prospects of the community; is unjust to the graziers, and has a detrimental effect upon the general wage fund of the people. If the men on the land have to pay more taxation than they should be rightly called upon to bear, . they have less money to distribute in the shape of wages. Every man is naturally anxious to improve his property, if it is worth while doing so. The average man on the land is interested, not only in making money, but in improving his property, and in increasing production. Whether he holds freehold or leasehold country, he takes a pride in increasing its productivity. It is a sort of professional pride to be found throughout the length and breadth of Australia. If the taxation of the men on’ the land is placed on a fair basis, they ‘will continue to do their utmost to increase production, not merely from a sense of duty to the country, but because of’ the personal interest and pride that every man takes in his own property.
I hope the Government will see that better methods of assessing the man on the land are adopted in the future. I am aware that the Graziers Association of New South Wales is urging that income shall be taken, not as for one year, but on an average of three years. They think that the adoption of. their proposal would enable them to a certain, extent to equalize their losses. I wish, however, to make the point, and to emphasize it, that no system of taxation will be fair under which a man is taxed on the natural increase upon which, in many cases, he never realizes.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has referred to the” prohibition of the export of horse flesh. No man in Australia is a greater lover of a good horse than I am, but I think it monstrous to prohibit the export of horse flesh having regard to what that prohibition means. Those who go into the back country in many cases will see fat horses running about, arid practically wasted. In the inner districts of New South Wales horses are just being kept alive in these days of drought at the expense of sheep and cattle. If the ex port of horse flesh were allowed these animals would be kept in good condition, and would not be . as they are to-day - mere skin and bone, being just kept alive until the rain comes. Another point is that a horse requires the very best feed. He picks out the very best grass, and is the most delicate and dainty feeder of any animal on four legs. He is also the hardest of all animals on country. The rural districts of Australia are suffering to-day. Graziers in the dry country are trying to keep their horses alive until the rain comes, and, consequently, their sheep and cattle are on short commons. Had. they been allowed to export horse flesh when their stock was in good condition - when the graziers saw that a drought was approaching - a great many of these animals would ‘have been turned into meat and sent abroad.
– If we allowed the export of horse flesh, would it not lead to an increase in the price of horses locally ?
– The honorable member need have no fear in that regard. The lifting of the prohibition would merely enable a man to dispose of his surplus horses. It would also encourage many who are giving up horse breeding to go on with the work. Unless a man can work a horse it is a most expensiveluxury. Horses are the most unprofitable form of live stock in Australia today.
– Then why do we breed them ?
– The honorable member represents a country constituency, and he knows that it is the aim of every bushman to ride or drive a .good horse. In the effort “to secure one good horse, a man often breeds forty or fifty culls, and these culls, which are being wasted today, could be turned to profitable account if the export of horse flesh were permitted.
There is another aspect of this question which appeals to me as a lover of horses. In ‘all our capital cities we see poor old horses, many of which have done big things in their day, being practically worked to death between the shafts of vans and cabs. We can see these good old faithful slaves being gradually worked to death in this way by heartless men until’ they are finally sent to the Zoo. If the export of horse flesh were allowed these horses would be kept in good condition instead of being gradually starved and at the end of their working days would be mercifully destroyed. It grieves me to walk about the streets and see these poor old horses working. Game as pebbles, but gone in the knees and bung in the fetlocks, they are being knocked about by men who know no more as to the treatment they require than do the animals in the Zoo, where ultimately these poor old beasts go. Instead of permitting them to be worked until they drop dead in the streets, I want to see opportunities provided for the owners to treat them well and fatten them up so that when they are in good -condition they can be killed and sent abroad as horse-flesh. An old horse well fattened would be just as good eating as an old bullock in good condition. I hope that this stupid prejudice against the exportation of horse-flesh will be wiped away. Australia will be the gainer by thousands of pounds in the place of a few score pounds we are making out of the years of misery to which our old horses have now to submit.
.- The extraordinary speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) is only in keeping- with that made just previously by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). The honorable member for Robertson was quite illogical. He says that these horses are extraordinarily expensive to keep, but when asked why they are bred, he says that it is for a purpose unknown, and which he could not explain. As it may be thought that the whole of the Chamber is in favour of the exportation of horse-flesh if the arguments put forward by the two honorable members who have preceded me are allowed to go without protest, I take this opportunity, as representing a portion of a State which grows beef, and exports perhaps more beef than all the other States put together, to say that once the exportation of horseflesh from Australia is permitted under any conditions whatever, a death-blow will be dealt at the exportation of beef. I can readily imagine why the honorable member for Wakefield is in favour of the exportation of horse-flesh. It is because in his State horses are bred, and very few cattle. One can also imagine the capital that would be made by the American Beef Trust out of the exportation of horse-flesh from Australia.
– It is not proposed to export it as beef, but as horse-flesh.
– It would be argued that the consumer could not tell the difference between the horse-flesh and beef. Horse flesh can easily be made to pass for beef, and once the knowledge that Australia is exporting horse-flesh goes abroad, our beef trade will be irredeemably ruined. In any case, it would take years to live down the prejudices created, especially in Great Britain. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) . says that he has partaken of horse-flesh at the Front, but he did not do it voluntarily.
– I ate it voluntarily. It is quite good.
– What would our men in the trenches have done if they had been fed on horse-flesh?
– We are not asking them to eat horse-flesh.
– At any rate, I protest against the exportation of horse-flesh, and I hope that no Government will consent to it in any shape or form. If the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) were present, he would support my protest. .1 know that the honorable members for Maranoa (Mr. Page) and Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) hold the same views as myself on this question.
– The beef producers are asking for permission to export horseflesh.
– It is a reflection on Australia for the .honorable member to say that, for the sake of earning a few extra pounds, we should seek to fatten up old broken-down horses in order to kil] them and send the flesh away.
.- I think that the exportation of horse-flesh would tend to injure the status of our splendid foods, but the difficulty might be overcome by canning horse-flesh for the people of Europe.
– Then it would be very hard to tellthe difference between horseflesh and beef. When horse-flesh is frozen, one can tell the difference between it and beef.
– That difficulty could be overcome by strict supervision, and by preventing the factory from canning any other kind of flesh. Then such a thing could not happen as occurred in connexion with Angliss’ abattoirs, from which vile and filthy diseased meat was sent to our soldiers. I am, perhaps, the only honorable member in the House who has eaten horse-flesh, and if I knew of a restaurant which would provide it at the present time, I would like to renew an acquaintanceship of my student days. So much as to horse-flesh being a good article for human consumption. I remind the honorable member for Robertson that there is a very strong organization in Melbourne for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and he has only to call for the assistance of a policeman to have any cruelty to horses he notices prevented at once.
I am astonished to find that the employees of Parliament are not considered as human beings. Some gentleman in high office has indited a letter in the following terms: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Joint House Committee,
Melbourne, 8th August, 1919.
Memorandum for the Non-clerical Staff of the Joint House Committee.
It is not their fault that these men are on the non-clerical staff. They would very much like to be on the clerical staff. There is too much nonsense creeping into all our Departments about the difference between the clerical and non-clerical employees.
With regard to a letter addressed to the President and the Speaker, signed by the nonclerical employees, requesting increases of pay-
How dare they ! which letter was presented to them by two members of the House of Representatives,
How dare they !
I am directed to inform you of the following minute by the President and the Speaker on the subject: - “We concur in the opinion that such a methodof procedure, besides being a breach of regulations already laid down, is highly improper, and we insist on observance of the rule that any communications from employees of the establishment shall be made through the head of the Department. It will be advisable for you to inform the members of the staff of your Department that due consideration will be given to any representations made through the proper channel, viz., the head of the Department, but that political influence will not be allowed to affect the judgment of the Presiding Officers ofthe Parliament in dealing with them.”
That is very nice, but I do not know that any member of the non-clerical staff is drawing a double salary or allowance which other officers of the Commonwealth Service are drawing. The following paragraph appeared in the Age of the 19th April, 1919 : -
The payment of sundry special allowances to leading officials of the Commonwealth Departments was announced in the Commonwealth Gazette onThursday. Approval has been given for the payment of an allowance at the rate of £200 per annum to Mr. T. Trumble, Secretary of the Defence Department, to take effect from 1st July, 1918. A war allowance at the rate of £200 per annum as from 1st July, 1918, has been granted to Mr. J. R. Collins, Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury. Approval has also been given to the payment of war allowances as from 1st July, 1918, at the rates per annum mentioned to the following members of the Postmaster-General’s Department: - Secretary, £150; Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, £100: Deputy Postmaster-General in Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart, £75. An allowance of £100 has been granted to Mr. R. M. Oakley, of the Trade and Customs Department, for services rendered as. Acting Controller-General of Customs from 29th October, 1917, to 28th April, 1918. Thus the Federal salary list increases.
Some of these officers have had their salaries increased during the year by more than the non-clerical or common individuals receive for the whole year.
In regard to the Refreshment Rooms, I accuse the same Committee of robbing the whole community of about £1,500. I endeavoured to get from the Assistant Clerk the exact amount of loss, but I gave him such short notice that he was not able to supply me with the figures. I, therefore, speak under correction; but if the loss is £1,500 it means that 12,000 meals, at2s. 6d. each, are thrown away, or 30,000 meals at1s. each, and there have been a lot of hungrypeople in Melbourne lately.
– I am a member of the House Committee, and I say that you are wrong.
– How much is it?
– Nothing like that.
– When I last made inquiry I was told that it was over £1,500.
– You are on the wrong tack.
– If the honorable member is a member of the Committee, and knows the facts, why doeshe not inform the Chamber of them? Is the loss £1,000, or is it not?
– Nothing near it. Guess again.
– It is not half that.
– I am not guessing. Perhaps the Assistant Clerk will be able to supply me with the exact figure before I have finished my remarks. I will then be able to correct my statement if I am wrong. Is any payment being made out of that for rent, or for lighting, or for the table cutlery, or the splendid linen that we use, or the crockery, or glassware?
– What payment?
– It has to be renewed.
– What restaurant in Melbourne would not like to start on the same lines ? Are there any officers getting a special sum of money for looking after the Refreshment Rooms, and mismanaging them at a loss ?
– They are not mismanaged.
– I say they are mismanaged, and run at a loss, which the people have to pay, and we are accused outside of getting our meals for nothing.
– They nearly all think that outside.
-I can get an equally good meal outside cheaper than I can here.
– I want the Refreshment Rooms tobe run on business lines.
If there is any clerical officer getting a big salary and drawing an allowance from this room, which is being run at a loss, then it is an infamy.
– But there is not.
– Is there no one drawing an allowance and at the same time obtaining a big salary as a clerical employee of Parliament? If such an officer is drawing an allowance from this mismanaged portion of our service, it is a disgrace.
– You should postpone your remarks until you get the facts, and know something aboutthe subject.
– Honorable members who benefit by the Refreshment Rooms come here to jeer and laugh, although there are hungry people outside who help to pay the loss, so that members can get cheaper meals. Is that straight enough talk for them ?
– That is a scandalous statement for you to make.
– It is the truth.
– It is most untruthful. The controller of the Refreshment Rooms does not get a single penny for his services.
– Who does not?
– Those who do the work get it.
– I want the men who do the work to be paid. Why not let the rooms by contract to the chef, or the manager, or the waiters ?
– That is just where the money goes.
– Let them have the management of it.
– Why do you not get the particulars before you come here to mislead the public?
– I have had the particulars for a long time. The honorable member for Wakefield is in entire ignorance of the facts, although he is a member of the Committee. Is there a loss?
– There is, and a very small one. I do not know the last return, but it is a very few hundred pounds, if you want to know the real loss.
– The honorable member was responsible for getting the Refreshment Rooms-
– I was; and I dare say I pay more for alcohol there than the average member does.
– The prices upstairs for many things are equal to the highest prices in the city.
– I said so; but the honorable member’s “ barracker “ on this side (Mr. Page) does not agree with my statement that I can get a cheaper meal outside, for the money. If the loss is £1,000, that means 8,000 half-crown meals.
– But it is not £1,000, or half a thousand pounds.
– It is not £500.
– A loss of £500 means 4,000 half-crown meals.
– And if it is a “ bob,” that is one feed.
– Then, why do we not pay more for our meals, if the honorable member is so willing ?
– Let us all go down to that cheap restaurant of yours.
– I do not think that name would apply to Richardson’s Cafe Francais. I still say that you cannot get the meal you get down there for the same money here. Let the management be handed over to the chef, the steward, or the waiters ; let them supply our meals, and then we will not have this loss. Another way would be to run the Refreshment Rooms in connexion with an establishment outside. That would do away with the unnecessarily large waste of food that takes place from time to time when the Houses rise unexpectedly early. The answer I got to my query was, “ The accounts for 1918-19 have not yet been audited and published.” That is not a very satisfactory answer. Although the year closed three months ago, I am still waiting for the information. If I could get the accounts for the year 1917-18, which are over a year old, I could show what the loss was then. My point is that the Refreshment Rooms could be run without a loss, either in connexion with a restaurant outside or by letting those who do the work run them on a co-operative basis, eliminating every one else who has any controlling influence.
– Would. you like to see the rooms shut up, and all those men thrown on to the labour market?
– The honorable member knows that that is farthest from my wish. I want to give them a chance to make more than they are making now. They would not manage the Refresh ment Rooms in the present ridiculous way. One man, who was a waiter here, has opened a very fine restaurant in Lonsdale-street, and the meal he gives there cannot be equalled here at the price that he charges. I do not want to rob the men who work here, and I do not want the people to be robbed ifI can stop it.
We have heard a lot about profiteering, and the increase of prices, but nothing is done, and the thing is allowed to go on quietly. The vile and infamous tax upon children’s amusement tickets is still collected, as my leader (Mr. Tudor) has reiterated time and again. The children have to pay a tax of 33 per cent. on a 3d. ticket. If a kiddie goes to a show his father has to give him an extra1d. to pay the amusements tax. Yet, although the prices of admission to dress circle and stalls have been increased at other places of amusement during war time, the tax there is only 1d. in the1s. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) felt ashamed when he pressed the amuse- ments tax on the House. Honorable members will recall that he said that the tax on children’s tickets could be reconsidered later. When is that opportunity coming ? These are the headings that have appeared in some of the papers regarding it: The Argus, Melbourne, called it an arbitrary tax; the livening News, Sydney, a mean tax; the Melbourne Age, a dangerous tax; the Sunday Times, Sydney, an inequitable tax; the Truth, Sydney, a detrimental tax; the Age, Melbourne, a rough-and-ready tax; the Daily News, Perth, an objectionable tax; the NorthEast Despatch, Wangaratta, an aggravating tax; the Labour Call, Melbourne, an iniquitous tax; the Argus, Melbourne, an unjust tax; the Triad, Sydney, an infamous tax; the Mirror, Sydney, a discouraging tax; the Herald, Melbourne, an unfair tax; the Advertiser, Adelaide, an unjustifiable tax; and the Graphic, Melbourne, a hard-hitting tax. Has there ever been a greater amount of sarcastic criticism of an infamous impost? The proper way to collect the money was by means of the income tax. The Government should charge the incomes made out of the amusements, but they chose a mean and contemptible way by sneaking 33 per cent. on the child’s 3d. ticket, although they imposed a tax of only 8 per cent. on the ticket of the lady and gentleman who go into the dress-circle.
It is the same all along the line. Take the case of soldiers’ dependants. I have received a letter, which I shall afterwards hand to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), because it came from his electorate. I trust I have his permission to quote it. I always reply in a case of this sort stating that I have sent the letter on to the honorable member for the district, and try to say a good word or two for him. This is the letter -
Could you please give me any information in this matter? I am the wife of a returned soldier, who now has deserted me twelve months past. Word came through the Young Men’s Christian Association that while my husband was in England be had committed bigamy, and when he knew the news had come to Australia he disappeared. I then issued a warrant for his arrest, but the police have failed to trace him. Sir, I and his infant son have been left destitute; the only money I had coming in was the war pension of 4s. for self and 2s. 3d. for child, and when my husband failed to appear before the Board they cancelled it, leaving my child and me to do the best we could. I pleaded, but oil in vain. I begged for assistance from the Repatriation Fund, but it was useless. It meant that I had to give up my home and everything. I might mention that the Recruiting Committee still holds £10 - wages due to my husband - also the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions holds a sum of money uncollected by him; but they say I have no claim on it. . Sir, it is this that I am wanting to know: Is there no help for the deserted wives of soldiers in Australia? I sec that English women, wives of our Australian soldiers who were deserted, are getting assistance from the Repatriation in England. Sir, I am one of the unfortunate women whose husbands went astray while abroad; but surely there is a little help from the Repatriation for his son. I have a good character, and I do not deserve the treatment I have received from the military. I was willing that my husband should do his duty to his country, and now I am left to suffer. Through worry, my health has broken down, and I am unable to work. I am depending on my widowed mother, who is not in a position to keep the child or myself.
If that poor mother had lost her husband, she would ‘have been entitled to a pension, but in this case something worse has happened to her. Sorrow for death can often be tempered by kindly thoughts and memories, but there are some things even worse than death. This lady was offered by the Department a miserable pittance, for no one can say that a child can live on 2s. 6d. a week. The offer was so. contemptible that if the Government would take the House into its confidence, we could, in one short half hour, make impossible actions such as this, and so remove the continual trouble from those who have suffered, and the larger number who know of the injustice done, >and are constantly seeking to have it remedied.
Surely we can increase the old-age pension to fi per week. There is no honorable member on either side of the House who will say that an old-age pensioner can live on 12s. 6d. per ‘week at a time when the purchasing power of. the sove-‘ reign has decreased to 12s. 6d. in some cases, or even to 10s., as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said in the course of his speech yesterday. If this matter were put to a vote of. the House honorable members would surely grant an increase of the old-age pension to 20s., while the high prices of food and clothing continue. How the treatment of these pensioners contrasts with the generosity to others ! According to an answer to a question I asked, the Commonwealth Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, drew in salary to the 30th .June last, £55,087. He has drawn a little more -since that date. He has been drawing for twentyfive years a salary of £3,500 per annum, making a total of over £87,000. I endeavoured to get information in regard to the total amount of allowances paid to him. The answer was one that hides what the public should really know as to how much this high-placed gentleman has cost the country. “ No expenses were paid to the Chief Justice,” I was told, “ on account of the expenses of himself and associate when travelling to discharge the duties of his office, but there were paid such sums as the Chief Justice certified to have been actually expended.” Honorable members will recollect that I have stated before that if Sir Samuel Griffith had lost his money by unwise speculations, and was really in need of financial assistance after his retirement, I would be willing, on account of his achievement in having translated Dante’s Inferno into English vernacular verse, to contribute yearly an amount equal to my income-tax payment last year. But I have yet to learn that he is in the unfinancial position that a person receiving such a pension should be. The Old-age Pensions Act allows a pensioner to own a home, but if he possesses the value of that home in cash or in war bonds, for every £50 thus possessed £1 is deducted from the pension. Sir Samuel Griffith was eminent in the law ; he possessed one of the keenest legal minds that has ever graced our
Bench, and he has probably the greatest literary knowledge of Italian of any person who has ever been in Australia; yet, he is willing that the hat should be sent round to the Government to collect for him a pension of £5 per day. I ask for only £1 per week for those who have contributed in minute fractions to the enormous salary that he has received. His great work in translating Dante will live, but it may not earn nun anything in royalties. I give him full credit for that achievement, but I desire to read to the Committee a resolution which was carried at a public meeting last night -
That this meeting of citizens representing the people who pay for the whole cost of government views with righteous indignation the granting of an old-age pension of £5 per day to the late Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith; also, in view of the fact that he received from the Commonwealth oyer £55,000, in addition to a large sum from the Queensland Government, if the said Chief Justice -accepts such pension, in view of his seeking and accepting the Chief Justiceship of Australia, and by such acceptation legally agreeing that no pension was attached to the position, we consider him a profiteer, and a parasite, and only worthy of being associated with the vermin who batten upon a people in - their hour of need when burdened with the greatest war debt of history.
That motion has been carried at four meetings, and. it will be moved at, every meeting that I address, at all events, until the old-age pensioners are getting a fair payment, or I am convinced that Sir Samuel Griffith is in absolute need of this money. If he is in need, let the rich people come to his assistance, and I will hand into the fund an amount equal to that which I paid in income tax last year. Sir Samuel Griffith is the only man in the. world’s history who has occupied the position of Chief Justice of a continent. It is time we stopped greasing the fat pig. I have read to the Committee the unfortunate case of the soldier’s wife and children who had been deserted. What a. contrast there is be- i tween her lot and that of Lady Bridges? I have nothing to say against the widow of General Bridges; but this Parliament paid her a sum of £3,500. Was it through Government House influence that she received such treatment? I am sorry that her husband paid the supreme penalty together with nearly 60,000 of our men. The greater is the pity that there is such a cursed thing as war. I think £30 per week is the salary of a general. He ro- ceives, also, a field allowance of 25s. per day. Surely Lady Bridges could have saved more than the wife of Private John Brown, who only gets 6s. per day. I propose to give notice to-morrow of a motion dealing with this matter. ‘
The Repatriation Department has done a great deal of good, but it has not accomplished all that it should have done. I accuse the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) of doing his level best to hinder the Anzac hand- weaving industry. All I ask is that the Government mills shall supply the Anzac weavers with good yarn at so much per lb. Had the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), with his keen common sense, been in charge of Repatriation, such assistance would have been given to the Anzac tweed industry that the cloth would havebeen sold to the public at 10s. per yard double-width, and a large number of men would have been earning £4 10s. to £5 10s.. per week. I ask honorable members to consider the answers given to questions I asked yesterday, and then to wonder at the present high prices of clothes charged to the people outside. I asked -
Answer. - Civilian suiting is issued to the Department at 4s. 4d. per yard by the Government Woollen Mills and sold to the contractors by the Department at 4s. 6d. per yard.
Answer. - 3J yards.
Answer. - 25s. 6jd. to 32s. per suit.
Assuming the average price of those suits to be 30s. each, why cannot the people outside, who pay for everything,who pay us our wages, who pay the GovernorGeneral his salary, get that tweed at a 50 per cent, increase?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Some days ago I asked the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) if the Government contemplated introducing a Bill to amend the Naturalization Act in order to allow of the naturalization of illiterates. I believe that such an amend- ment should be made in consonance with the principles of Democracy, fair treatment, and common-sense. Tinder the existing law an illiterate person cannot be naturalized, and “ illiterate “ is denned as meaning inability to read and write in English. It matters not how highly educated a person may be in any other language. I know that it is difficult to pass any legislation that will cause no hardship. There are, however, some persons whom this provision in the Naturalization Act hits very hard. I shall content myself with referring to one which is typical of many others of which I have knowledge. There is a German lady, now seventy-five years of age, who landed in Australia when she was- twenty years of age, and spent the whole of her life in the back-blocks. She was unable to attend any school at which she could learn English. Some of her sons fought in the recent war. She reared a very respectable family, and- within the last few years has inherited property in Australia. Naturally she desires, before taking her departure from this world, to settle her- property upon her children. It is only reasonable’ that she should be allowed to do that.
– Has the honorable member brought this matter under the notice of the Minister for Home and: Territories (Mr. .Glynn) ?
– Yes, and he referred me to’ an amendment made in the Senate to the last Naturalization Bill, which precludes the naturalization of this lady and others similarly situated.
– The Government ought to further amend the Act.
– My object in speaking to-day is to urge them to do that, so that this paltry excuse shall not continue to- stand in the way of the naturalization of estimable citizens. This lady can read and write in her own language. She is a German by birth, but an Australian by adoption, and has served this country well for the last fifty-five years. She has sons who went to the Front to fight for our liberty, and now she finds she cannot dispose of. a little property that has been left to her.
– She is a good citizen?
– She is. I do not wish to enlarge on the matter, but rely on the common sense and fair play of hon- orable members to say that, because she is illiterate, this lady should not be prevented from taking out naturalization papers.
The other day I asked the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) the following question: -
Will the Minister for Home and Territories state if it is a fact that a Commission has been appointed to inquire into the future government of the Pacific Islands? If so, have its members been given any instructions to inquire into ‘the suitability or otherwise of those islands for soldier settlement?
The reply I received was -
No Commission has been appointed that I know of to inquire into the future government of the Pacific Islands. The Commission recently appointed is dealing with New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago, on outlines that have already been- prepared.
There is not much information in that reply. In the first place, the Minister tried to dodge the question by suggesting I had made a mistake in referring to the Pacific Islands instead of to New Guinea ;. but if New Guinea is not a Pacific Island,. I do not know what it is. As a matter of fact, I think the Administrator of the Territory holds his commission as Administrator of the Pacific Islands. I do not wish to argue that point, but merely to show one phase of the question at this particular juncture. It was our soldier boys who wrested these islands from the enemy - who fought for them and cap,tured them, and has enabled us to retainthem, ever since. If there is anything in. those islands, of which our returned soldiers would like to take advantage in the way of settlement, the way ought to be made smooth for them. I would not ask. soldiers to go there if they have no desire to do so, but I am given to understand that there is room for a very large soldier settlement, and that, without asking the men to- spend the whole of their time there, a very decent living could be provided for at least 1,000. I have no complaint to make in regard to the personnel of the Commission, but there is the danger that these islands may pass into the hands of big companies or combines, whose only interest would be to develop them so as to provide openings for large speculations and exploitation. For the information of the Committee, I should like to read a few extracts from some matter written by Mr. H. N. Leach, who has been several times in New Guinea, and has resided there permanently for about two years past. I know that gentleman personally, and I discussed the matter with him even before the war broke out. He went over there to report on the islands, and since his return, after giving some assistance in administrative work, he has written several articles on Rabaul. I shall not weary honorable members with the whole of ,what this gentleman has written, but only select some portions to show what a great heritage we have, which might be utilized for the benefit of our returned men.
– Would you expect soldiers to take their wives to settle there as they would in Australia?
– I do not desire to force any one to go there, but’ if there are “any bones to be picked.” let the returned soldiers have the “picking.” Mr. Leach says -
In further explanation of the proposal contained in a recent issue of the Queenslander, that a carefully selected class of returned soldiers should be given preferential treatment in the matter of taking over the established German plantations in German New Guinea, some additional information is here given. Many people fail to realize the extent of our new . territory, or its productive capabilities, and these may be better impressed on the mind by a comparison’.
German New Guinea has an area of 74,200 square miles, while Java has only 50,000 square miles. Yet the population of Java is given at 36,000,000, including 76,000 white people and 563,000 Asiatics, while German New Guinea has about 500,000 natives, 500 Asiatics, and 1,000 whites. The exports from Java are valued at £72,346,378, while from German New Guinea they are £604,340. Both countries are in the same latitude, have similar soils, climate, and natural conditions. Why, then, /should not German New Guinea be developed into a prosperous condition equal to Java? It is only a matter of generalship (in another word, intelligence) that is called for.
The following table will explain’ the statistical relationship of the two countries at the present time: -
Java is perhaps the most flourishing producing country in the world at the present day, and that has been brought about during less than a century’s administration.
I quote these figures to show how splendid is the heritage we have in New Guinea, and I take the opportunity to put in a word for our boys who assisted in the capture of the islands from our enemy.
– I think that if there was freehold in Queensland the returned soldiers would prefer going there.
– It has been stated by Mr. Leach, and confirmed by others, that there is an immediate possibility of settling 1,000 returned soldiers there. There are 250,000 men returned, or returning, from the Front, and amongst those I am quite sure we could get 1,000 adventurous spirits prepared to take advantage of such an opportunity.
This morning I asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), what was the reason for reducing the commission on the sale of postage stamps from 2-J per cent.” to 1 per cent., and the reply was one which I do not think proved satisfactory to the House. The honorable gentleman told us that he desired to get Australia into line with the rest of the world. My own opinion is that, if we can “go one better” than, the rest of the world, we ought to do so, and set an example. Goodness knows, 2^ per cent, on the sale of anything is not a big profit - it certainly cannot be called profiteering. This decision to reduce the commission will affect country places very severely, for it is a difficult matter to persuade people to undertake the sale of postage stamps. It means that a shopkeeper may have to make anything from 20 to 300 trips per day to his counter in order to sell postage stamps; and, from the departmental point of view, the proposal of the Postmaster-General is not sound business. If the commission is reduced, it will result in increasing me cost of running the Department, as, I think, I can prove by a statement furnished from Ipswich, which is one of the principal cities in my electorate. It has been contended by the Department that the selling of stamps by stationers and others brings trade to their shops; and I have in my hand a record kept by a vendor of his transactions for a fortnight. The following are the figures: -
These figures show that, in order to make a profit of 6d. per day, these vendors, if allowed a commission of only 1 per cent., would have to serve 600 customers per week. Speaking from memory, there’ are in the city about eight such vendors of stamps, and some remain open until 8 p.m. I venture to say that they will refuse to sell stamps on a commission of’ only 1 per cent. If they do, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will have to employ another counter-hand at the local post-office, and the salary payable to such an officer would far exceed what the Department would have to pay the vendors on a basis of a 2^ per cent, commission. If a man takes to the postoffice a sheet of stamps which he has received in some business transaction, he does not get their full face value. The Department deducts 10 per cent. It considers that 1 per cent, is sufficient to allow vendors of stamps, but those who wish to sell stamps at the post-office have to submit to a deduction of 10 per cent. I want the Postmaster-General to review this matter with the object of ascertaining whether he is doing justice to. the people who purchase stamps, or to his own Department, by reducing the commission to the niggardly amount of 1 per cent.
There is one other matter to which I desire to- refer. Honorable members today have received a cartoon, which, no doubt, is very instructive. It bears no imprint, and I am thinking of reproducing it, and sending it out with some comments of my own. Whether I do so or not, I shall make a few comments upon it in this House. The cartoon is intended to represent the old DairyProduce Pool, and the object of those responsible for its issue is to adversely criticise the proposed new scheme. It is hardly necessary for me to say that it has been issued by the agents - the persons who, according to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), “ farm the farmers.” The position in regard to the old Dairy Produce Pool is that last year it exported butter to the value of £5,159,472, at a cost, so far as the administration of the Pool is concerned, of £9,882, or less than one-fifth of 1 per cent. Had there been no Pool in existence, this butter would have been exported through the ordinary channels .at a cost of 3 per cent. - the ordinary commission charged by agents. That would have amounted to £154,784; so that, deducting the Pool’s commission of one-fifth of 1 per cent.”, we have succeeded in saving in interest - without hurting the consumers or any one else - £144,902 in respect of one year’s transaction. Another point is that when the Pool was first created, the proclaimed price of butter locally was 149s. 8d. per cwt., while the Imperial contract price was 1516. per cwt., plus one-half the profits made in London. Under that agreement, we received back from the Imperial Government £19 per ton, or over £575,399, and that amount was distributed amongst the producers’, thus bringing up the price of butter exported to 170s. per cwt. I would ask the people of Australia to say whether, if the agents had bought this butter at 151s. per cwt., and on sending it to London had made a profit of 19s. per cwt., they Would have returned that profit to the producers ? In addition to the saving of commission, to which I have referred, the Pool, or “ the grab “ depicted in this cartoon, were able to return to the producers a sum of over £575,399, representing onehalf the profit made in London under the Imperial contract.
– I desire to refer to the speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) in regard to the cost- of the parliamentary refreshment rooms. I am convinced that his remarks will convey to the public quite a wrong impression as to the actual position. Having been a member of the House Committee for a good many years. I ‘challenged his statements; but, not having seen a balance-sheet recently, I was not prepared at the moment to give the exact figures as to the loss, if any, involved in conducting the refreshment and billiard rooms. I had a very fair idea, however, of the actual position, and felt assured that the statements made by the honorable member -were calculated to convey a wrong impression. Since then, I have refreshed my knowledge by a perusal of the balance-sheets. The balance-sheet -relating to the last financial year has not yet been audited, and, therefore, I shall not quote it. I shall refer only to the figures for the preceding year ; but I may say that the result in. respect of the last twelve months will be found to be very similar. The position is that no loss is involved in connexion with the refreshment and billiard rooms and the afternoon tea-rooms, which are available to members and their constituents. Every one knows that this is essentially a teadrinking Parliament.
– We pay good value for all that we get.
– I will not say that. I desire simply to give the facts, and I repeat that last year, instead of the refreshment, tea, and billiard rooms showing a loss, they showed an actual profit of £173. In arriving at that result, I do not allow for wages.
– It would be absurd to bring in wages costs, and to say that the parliamentary refreshmentrooms should be regarded in the light of an ordinary city refreshment-room, where three meals a day are served for six days in the week. We have to keep up a big staff of. waiters, and any loss sustained is not in respect of refreshments that are bought and paid for by members, but in relation to wages. There are no salaries involved. It is merely a matter of the wages of workmen engaged in connexion with the rooms. We have to maintain a staff to provide luncheon and dinner for a full House; but, as honorable members are aware, the rooms are not fully used, on the average, for more than two days a week, and even then they are used for approximately, only six months in the year! The full staff is not maintained during the recess, but a considerable proportion of it has to be retained during the whole, of the year. If we had to show a profit, after providing for wages, we should have to dismiss all the men engaged in connexion with the supply of meals, and close down, and honorable members would have to pick up a meal wherever they could obtain it in the city.
– These men do other work.
– That is so; and, even if the refreshment- rooms were closed to-morrow, one-half their number, perhaps, would have to be retained. I wish particularly to direct public attention to the fact that members of the Parliament pay for all the provisions obtained by them here. We pay the full cost.
About five or six years ago it was found that the cost of providing meals was such that, unless increased charges were made, we were likely to get nearly, if not entirely, on the wrong side of the ledger. That was before the cost of living had increased ; and the House Committee then insisted that the dining-rooms should be made to pay their way. We, therefore, increased the tariff. When we increased our prices in certain directions, only one or two took exception to our action.
– Mention , their names.
– No; I have no desire to be personal. There was practical unanimity in accepting the position. With the soaring of prices, the House Committee determined that honorable members who made use of the rooms upstairs should pay everything their refreshments cost. Honorable members have done so, and I understand that this year the profit will be very similar to that which was made last year. In the matter of the balance-sheet, and as regards the conduct of the rooms, we compare more than favorably with any other Parliament in the Commonwealth. Nobody has been keener than our House Committee in exercising economy. The only alternative to our present system would be to copy what is done in South’ Australia by allowing a caterer to take over the whole of the refreshment rooms. But in that case we should have to find the crockeryware, furniture, and services, and the caterer would merely find the provisions, mak- ing his profit out of them. I do not think we would be a penny better off. I am sure that the other members of the House Committee will join with me in saying that there is no waste, and that no item of expenditure could be eliminated.
– To-day the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) drew attemtion to the profiteering that is rampant in this country. It is the most vital matter affecting the people of Australia to-day.. Every housewife knows that day and night the profiteers are robbing her. The evidence taken before the Inter-State Commission when they inquired into the cost of groceries has been in the hands of the Government for twelve months, but no effort has been made by Ministersto protect the public. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) and other honorable members representing country constituencies will agree that the increased charge for kerosene and benzine is purely profiteering.
– Hear, hear! But that is the result of the operations of the Standard Oil Trust. How would the honorable members propose to get at them ?
– I am not prepared to answer that question directly, but will later; but I take the opportunity of pointing out that there is no duty on this article. The remedy that Free Traders suggest for defeating the operations of profiteers is to open our ports and deprive the local manufacturers of their local trade. They claim that in this way the public would geta cheaper commodity. But here is a case in which there is absolute Free Trade, and yet in no other commodity is the rural community being pillaged as it is being robbed by the Standard Oil Company and other oil firms in the matter of the price of illuminants and motor power.
– Would a duty on kerosene reduce the price?
– No. I am merely pointing out that, although there is absolute Free Trade in regard to kerosene, the people have to suffer in regard to that one item alone.
I quote the following from the InterState Commission’s report on groceries: -
The trade in kerosene and petroleum spirits for the Commonwealth is in very few hands.
The following table worked out on a percentage basis shows for 1916 the proportion of trade done by the companies who, between them, do practically the whole trade:-
It will be seen that the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited and R. W. Cameron and Company, distributing agentsfor the Texas Company, of the. United States of America, control 88 per cent. of the sales of kerosene, while the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited and the British Imperial Oil Company control over 95 per cent. of the sales of petroleum spirits. Together they control 98 per cent. of the oil trade of Australia.
The Vacuum Oil Company have a fair trade in merchandise contingent to their oil business, such as stoves, &c., but, in the opinion of the Commission, this would not materially affect the result. The following table shows the position of the company during the years 1912-17:-
I notice that the people of New South Wales have been protected to some extent from the depredations of these oil companies by the Necessary Commodities Commission, which was appointed some years ago in that State, and which has declined to permit of any considerable advance in the price of kerosene.
– The Commonwealth ought to take the necessary action. While we exercised certain powers under the War Precautions Act to run down people who waved the red flag, we did not take action against the profiteers - worse than Huns or Bolsheviks - who sought to rob our soldiers’ wives and dependants.
The Inter-State Commission’s report on groceries continues -
It will therefore be seen that the prices have risen since August, 1914: -
Kerosene, from6s.11d. to 14s.6d. per case;
Benzine, from 13s. 4d. to 23s.8d. per case.
Since that date there have been further increases in prices, and I suppose I am safe in saying that, in round figures, kerosenttoday costs £1 and benzine 30s. per case -
The oil question is one of great importance to the Commonwealth, as the annual value of the oil products controlled by the companies mentioned is nearly £4,000,000.
Just in order to show how thesepeople behave, let me read this comment from the Inter-State Commission’s report-
A director of the Vacuum Oil Company, Mr. Hamilton, giving evidence before the New South Wales Commission on 30th December, 1915, swore that the profits during the last halfyear on petroleum spirits, &c., were less than they had ever been.” The total profits for the company’s financial year ending 30th November, 1915, were, in fact, over £400,000, a sum much greater than the profits in any preceding year of which the record has been made available. When we examined Mr. Hamilton on his statement to the New South Wales Commission, he attempted to justify it by saying that there had been a strike in New South Wales, and that the expense of handling goods in New South Wales is greater than in other States. ‘He also said that he had in mind the cost of importation of goods then about to arrive or to be landed, although his evidence unmistakably related to a period then past. Mr. Hamilton had previously stated to the New South Wales Commission that he was unacquainted with the financial side of the company’s business, and there is, in our opinion, no doubt that, with whatever intent his statement as to profits was made, the effect was to mislead the New South Wales Commission very seriously in a matter of prime importance.
That is how one of our so-called honest, reputable traders purposely misled the New South Wales Necessary Commodities Commission in giving sworn evidence. It shows to what length these men are pre pared to go, and how necessary it is to have legislation to control them -
The Commission viewed very seriously the applications made for increases of price, especially those of 1915 and 1916. During those years the company’s turnover was equal to £5,159,534. Out of the profit made it could have paid a dividend of 10 per cent., quite ample for any company during the war, and been able to reduce the sale price of its products by £821,000, equal to 16 per cent. on its total turnover.
Will honorable members on the other side, who wish to defend the monopolist, listen to this -
The company was supplying the public with necessary commodities; it was in a position almost of monopoly; and its disregard of the public interests in seeking increases of price, whilst still making excessive profits, amounts, in our opinion, to profiteering.
The company has stated that it ran a great many risks, especially with regard to the heavy freights which it was from time to time compelled to pay in order to keep up its stocks and supplies. In the opinion of the Commission, the company ran no risks against which it was not adequately insured by its large accumulated profits. At the end of 1914, these accumulated profits exceeded £400,000. The company not only passed every risk on to the consumer, but was able, during 1915 and 1916, on a capital and reserves averaging £1,500,000, to make a net profit of £981,000.
One method of dealing with these people is to follow the example of France, which, like other countries engaged in the war, now finds itself in a very serious financial position. Its Government is carrying out all the distribution of benzine and kerosene for the French people, and making the profits which the companies were previously making -
It is suggested that, unless the Vacuum Oil Company and the other companies who are now supplying the Commonwealth with kerosene and other oils, can be brought under some arrangement by which only a reasonable profit can be charged, the Commonwealth Government might consider the desirability of undertaking the purchase of, oils from the refining companies in America and the distribution inAustralia, in order to save to the community the large profits now being made.
That is my idea as well as the idea of the Inter-State Commission. In one year the companies could have paid a 10 per cent. dividend to their shareholders, and still saved the people of this country nearly £1,000,000 by giving them oil at a reduced rate.
– Would the American people sell it?
– I should think so. They are selling it to the French Government, unless the French Government have oil wells elsewhere. Instead of loosening their grip on the community these people are going to tighten it bybringing the oil supplies of the world intostill fewer hands, and, God knows, they are in few enough hands now. Here is the proposition as recently published in the press: -
Some American bankers have purchased 750,000 shares of common stock of the Shell Transport and Trading Company, the largest petroleum concern which is interested in most of the oil-producing centres of the world. It occupies much the same position in England as docs the Standard Oil Company in America. The price paid is said to be about 25,000,000 dollars, and the shares involved are of British denomination, having a par value of £1 and are worth in London to-day £8 per share, which is equivalent to about 33 dollars in American currency. The Shell Transport and Trading Company’s common stock outstanding amounts to £12,000,000, and its joint operations resulted in a strong combination of interests in oil lands in the Far East, Russia, Roumania, Mexico, Venezuela, and other countries. According to a recent official statement, the Shell Company’s cash resources amount to £24,000,000; its annual disbursements to shareholders, from 1913-1018, were 35 per cent., and last year a60 per cent. stock dividend was paid. The tendency of the times seems to concentrate the control of petroleum more and more in a few hands, which is not in theinterest of the consumers.
– Can we do anything bo prevent that?
– No, the American bankershave now bought practically all the interests of the British people in oilproducing wells, or, at any rate, have a commanding shareholding influence in the companies. That means that those bankers will associate with the Standard Oil Company of America, and practically one man, like Mr. Knox inconnexion with sugar in Australia, will control the whole trade, and tell the world that it must pay the price he fixes for kerosene, benzine, and other necessary articles.
– Can we do anything to prevent it?
– The Government can make the distribution of those commodities a Government monopoly in Australia. I hope a little later that we shall produce oil ourselves.
Some time ago the Public Accounts Committee presented to the House a report pointing out the absolute necessity of the energetic development of our oil resources, particularly in Papua. A month ago the Department of Home and Territories presented a memorandum to this Parliament regarding negotiations on the subject between the British and Commonwealth Governments, and containing the following passage: -
A scheme was then drawn up in England, the outlines of which were cabled at the end of February. The main points of this scheme were: -
1 ) A sum not exceeding £100,000 was to be provided by the two Governments in equal shares.
The Australian Government was to submit the proposed sites for boring, with all information as to geological surveys.
The undertaking to be directed by a General Manager of British nationality, to he nominated by His Majesty’s Government, and appointed by the Commonwealth Government.
Mineral oil and other products, if dis- covered in commercial quantities, to be worked in such manner as might be mutually agreed for the joint benefit of both Governments.
If the results are negative, plant and other material to be sold and proceeds divided.
There we have an opportunity to develop the oil resources of one of our own Possessions in a much more energetic way. Neither this nor any other Government should rest on their oars until they know thatthe best experts have been employed, and that the best men are working there. If the Government are not prepared to go ahead now, they should have been. They were warned, as every country was warned, to be ready for the aftermath of the war, and the situation that would arise when the soldiers were demobilized. In connexion with oil, however, we are almost as far back as we were seven or eight years ago. Steps should be taken as early as possible to stop these people from preying on the public as they are now doing.
The people are warned by the medical profession to have nothing to do with patent medicines; those panaceas for all ills, but the people go on buying them, and I admit that some of the preparationsare very good. I am a purchaser of them myself, and thatis my experience. I refer particularly to Zambuk, an ointment which is very good indeed for cuts or sores. The proprietors of many patent medicines are making huge profits, as is shown by the following list: -
Some of those medicines may cost a little more now than the prices I have quoted. A lot of profiteering is going on in that matter, and the users of these cures are paying many hundred per cent. over and above the real values. The Government would do well to take in hand that question, and the oil question, which is most serious, both to those who use oil as an illuminant and those who use it for motive power. Oil is going to play a very important part, not only now, but in the near future. Our vessels, both naval and mercantile, will be mostly propelled by oil power, and so will our industrial machinery. This is a great opportunity for the Government, if they and their supporters profess in the smallest degree to be friends of the rural producers, to benefit the farmers by pouncing upon what has been declared by the InterState Commission to be a monopoly, and rescuing the public of this country from the claws of the monopolists.
.- While agreeing with a great deal of what the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) has said, I still think it is time that honorable members opposite gave us a few suggestions as to how to cope with profiteering. Every member of the Committee desires to see the profiteer laid by the heels and treated as he should be, but we are a long time in getting at anything like a remedy. I do not think the Government are doing all they might do in the matter. It is time they got into closer touch with the State Governments. If a convention representing all phases’ of political thought in the community, and not necessarily comprised wholly of politicians, were called together, they could decide what changes were feasible and necessary in the Constitution.
If that were done, I believe the States would be onlytoo glad to cede to the Commonwealth the powers recommended. That is on the lines of the platform of the National Federation, and offers the quickest way of arriving at definite results. It would be far preferable to the Government bringing down proposals for a whole lot of referendums, or a very drastic referendum for constitutional changes. The State Parliaments would possibly fight them if they took the latter course, and the referendum might ask formuch greater powers than are necessary for the work in hand. A convention such as I suggest would probably devise the right amendments to make in the Constitution in order to give this Parliament the power to deal with profiteering as it should be dealt with.
– Do you not think this Parliament should be supreme?
– I do not know that I do.
– You ought to be in the
State House. That is your place.
– Not at all. We are working under a Constitution, and I think the best friend of the Commonwealth, and. the States, too, is the man who will work according to his contract, and not attempt to grab from another agent, who is also working for the public, that which is not rightly within his grasp. If the Government proceed in the way I have suggested, they will get the powers they need, and very much more quickly than by means of a referendum. Suppose a referendum were taken without any arrangement with the State Parliaments, andthe vote went against the Commonwealth? The whole question would then be put back for goodness knows how long; but if a convention were convened, and, the State Parliaments ceded the powers we asked for,the position would be entirely satisfactory. If we launch out without consulting those who ought to be consulted, and without having regard to the benefit of the people, we shall have only ourselves to blame if our proposal is not accepted.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has given some salutary and very good advice with regard to increasing production. We can only do that by all setting earnestly to work. There is no royal road to success. The same road that has always been trodden must be tra- versed. We must increase our production in order to meet our liabilities, and we must see that we get a proper return for the expenditure of our public money. We cannot afford to allow our latent minerals and oil resources to lie dormant for all time. If we do not display enterprise in this direction, I do not know where the Government will get the money required to meet all the claims that are pressing upon us. I am not satisfied with the action of the Government respecting the development of Australian oil-fields. Some years ago they entered into a contract with the Tasmanian Government to take 8,000 tons of oil per annum for naval purposes, but the Bill intended to enable the Government to do this failed to pass the Tas- manian Parliament, and when war came the Australian warships went to the other side of the world, where they did so much to uphold the honour of Australia. Subsequently, when the Commonwealth Government were approached to renew the contract, they declined to do so. Our Fleet is now back in Australian waters, and the Commonwealth Government are paying, I understand, more than £6 per ton for oil fuel. The people interested in the proposition to which I refer are anxious to renew the contract, and are hopeful of being able to float a company if the Commonwealth Government will give them a contract for 8,000 tons of oil per annum at a reasonable price, £4 10s. per ton being about the sum mentioned. This, of course, is considerably under the present price. I understand, also, that the oil now being used is no better, if, indeed, it is as good, for naval purposes as the Tasmanian product. The successful establishment of this company will lead to the employment’ of a large number of returned soldiers and other people in need of employment. We are only beginning to feel the pinch of our financial obligations. The worst, I believe, has yet to come. Our taxation burdens are not likely to be lessened, and, moreover, our resources are likely to be curtailed, because money which, in normal times, is used for the development of industries, is now required of the people for other purposes. I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Government do not give this company a little more encouragement. They appear to adopt a “ standoffish “ attitude towards this Australian industry; but I hope that I am mistaken, and that in a short time the Government will show that they are really interested in its development. I believe the Government will have to spend a tremendous amount of money in Papua before they get much of a return, though, if they strike good oil, they will soon’ get all their money back, and very much more, too. But, so far as I can learn, no oil suitable for naval purposes has ever been found in Papua. It is far too valuable for that.
– Is the Tasmanian product shale oil?
– Yes, and very fine fuel oil. I believe the user can get more out of the gallon for motive purposes than out of the oil which is ordinarily used, and if Dr. Wade’s estimate is correct, there is a big future for the Tasmanian shale proposition. I am speaking not only for the Tasmanian shale oil propositions, but for the entire oil resources of Australia. An earnest attempt should be made to exploit all our possibilities in this direction. We should see what stores of’ wealth are available to the Commonwealth, and develop them accordingly. Oil and the development of electrie power are the lines of progress for the immediate future. I intend to hammer at this subject of our oil propositions until I get some satisfaction, and I hope it will not be long before the company to which I refer has an opportunity, of proving its ability to fulfil the contract it is asking for. The Commonwealth Government might enter into a tentative arrangement. They would soon be in a position to know if the company could complete the contract suggested. That would give the company some encouragement. It would know that if it could fulfil its contract the Commonwealth would take supplies from it..
– Why not pay a bounty on all oil produced ?
– A bounty is paid now. I suppose Parliament will shortly be called upon to renew it, and I hope that it will do so. I supported the Oil Bounty Bill when it was first introduced, and I shall have much pleasure in voting for any extension of it. That would be another form of assistance to any person or company that had an oil .proposition to develop.
I do not think the Government are doing what they ought to do to locate and open up all the latent resources of this country. If we are to meet all the obligations into which we have entered, we must not only economize, but must produce extensively. If there is wealth in thecountry, now is the time to develop it, in order to lighten the burden that will press all too heavily on the community.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– The company to which I am referring has a good oil proposition, and is asking the Commonwealth to enter into a contract to buy oil. The Government should give the company some encouragement, but at present they are not prepared to enter into a contract until they are certain that the supplies will be forthcoming. I suppose that the reason for their hesitancy is that they fear that they may jeopardize oil supplies from other sources. I suggest that a tentative arrangement should be. made, and if the company is able to show within a reasonable time that it can supply the oil, a contract should’ be given. If, on the other hand, it is demonstrated that oil cannot be supplied from that quarter, the Commonwealth can cancel the arrangement, and get its supplies elsewhere. If the Government are really sympathetic, and desire to give latent industries the fillip they need, they will easily overcome a little difficulty such as presents itself in connexion with this case.
– When the Commonwealth called for tenders, did the company put in a tender ?
-The Tasmanian Government had a contract with the Commonwealth Government, but the Bill authorizing the former to deal with the shale was defeated in the Legislative Council. The Tasmanian Government applied to the Commonwealth for a renewal of the contract, but that was refused on the ground that our Fleet had left Australian waters. Now theFleet is back in home waters, and the Department is paying over £6 per ton for oil. The Tasmanian company is prepared to supply oil, of perhaps superior quality, at a lower price.
– Up till about a week ago the companyhad not submitted any tender.
– How can the Government consider a tender that is not submitted ?
– I know that certain negotiations have taken place, and I say that the Commonwealth Government ought to be prepared to enter into a tentative arrangement. Let the company know that if it can produce a certain quantity of oil a contract will be given. Instead of doing that, the Commonwealth Government asks the company to prove that it has the necessary supplies of. oil.
– The Government must have oil. Mere promises of oil will not drive the ships.
– If the company cannot prove in a reasonable time that it has the supplies of oil, the tentative arrangement could be cancelled. The company needs £150,000 in order to proceed with developmental work, and if it had some idea that the Commonwealth would stand behind it, it would be able to raise that money much easier .
– The company wants to get a contract, and then raise money on it.
– It has done de velopmental work up to a certain stage, but a large amount of capital is necessary in order to insure the success of the venture. The shale yields a certain quantity of oil per ton, and Dr. Wade says that the quantities of shale are not overestimated.
– Do not take too much notice of what he says.
– He is the Commonwealth expert; I do not know whether or not he is a competent geologist.
– He has been a long time in New Guinea without getting anything.
– I know nothing about that. The Commonwealth should encourage the development of these deposits. There has already been one contract for the supply of 8,000 tons of oil per annum.
– Was thecontract completed ?
– No, because the Tasmanian Parliament would not ratify the agreement. Now the company hopes to raise the necessary money with the assistance of the Tasmanian Government. The Commonwealth Government has not been even sympathetic to the proposition.
– I am sure the Government would sooner get oil from Tasmania than from America.
– Then, why not enter into a tentative arrangement? At present the Commonwealth Government are buying oil, not at a contract price, but in quantities as it is needed, and are paying the World’s price, which is very high. In Tasmania there is a chance of developing an industry which would provide work for a great many returned soldiers and others, and if it proves to be the permanent proposition that geologists predict, it will be not only a big asset in itself, but the foundation of other industries, which will add to the general wealth of the community.
The development of iron ore deposits is another matter to which the Government should turn attention. The authorities took an option over a big deposit. I have visited the Blythe River iron ore field, which struck me as being an immense proposition; but, as to how much iron there is there, and its quality, I am not prepared to pronounce an opinion. The point is that the experts who have made investigations on behalf of the Commonwealth, have not reported favorably, and the Commonwealth Government has surrendered its option.
-YourState geologists say that the Commonwealth experts did not go down deeply enough to gain a proper opinion of the deposits.
-That may or may not be the case. I know that the deposit was inspected quite a number of years ago by Mr. Darby, who had been sent out from England by interested parties, at rather considerable expense. He reported that the field contained a very extensive deposit of best quality iron. He, at any rate, was well satisfied. The Commonwealth, however, has been advised otherwise, and has given up its option. The Commonwealth authorities appear to be anxious to secure iron. That being so, I call their attention to a deposit at Ilfracombe, near Beaconsfield, in the neighbourhood of the Tamar. There is said to be a great quantity of good iron in that neighbourhood. Commonwealth representatives can take up a lease from the Tasmanian Government, and, at very little expense, can ascertain whether the deposit is worth while. If they are not satisfied with that field, there is still another large iron deposit in a different part of my electorate for which it is claimed that the quality is excellent. It is asserted, also, that there are still further valuable deposits in parts of the west coast of Tasmania.
– There are tremendous deposits in South Australia.
– Thatis so. Since iron and steel and oil are becoming more and more important to the commercial outlook of the world, the Government should put forth every effort to assist in the discovery and development of natural deposits. Nationalization cannot be undertaken with any shadow of success in. these days; but that should not prevent the Government from helping, to its utmost, any enterprises of the kind in which private individuals are concerned.
– The Commonwealth authorities burned their fingers over the Blythe River option.
– Yes; but it would cost almost nothing to exploit other deposits which I have mentioned, and to ascertain whether those fields are worth developing in the interests of Australian manufacture. I presume that the Government requires iron. Personally, I shall be prepared to forward all information available regarding the extensive fields within my own electorate.
– I am satisfied - after that speech - that there is an election due.
.- If what is in the mind of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) is correct, namely, that there is to be a general election at no distant date, then it is only natural that every honorable mem- ber should seize the opportunity to tell his constituents what he thinks of the past actions of the Government, and of their proposals for the future. If we are to go before our constituents very shortly, and are to be judged by the sins of omission andcommission of which the Government are guilty, Icannot help feeling that there is a hot time ahead for those who have supported the present Administration upon those issues which have loomed so large in the public mind in recent months. It maybe remarked that I am in the happy position of representing a constituency in which there is very little to fear. I hope such is the case, at any rate; but, apart from that, I care not whether it is considered necessary, in the interests of the proper government of the Commonwealth, that a mandate should be obtained from the people. . If a mandate is necessary, it does not appeal to me that it must be secured at the earliest possible opportunity. Personally, I cannot see any reason for the Government desiring to obtain a mandate. Matters have not so vitally altered since the present Government took office. The people have more than once, since then, expressed themselves upon what should be the duty of the Government in respect to outstanding Australian affairs to-day. We have fought and won the war. We have paid tribute to those who fought and won. We have given credit to the full. Adulation has been unstinted.
– We have given lots of adulation, but nothing solid.
-I am glad of that interjection.
– It is not correct, as a general statement.-
– I could mention any number of cases where returned men have sought billets, which have been given to other people.
– I am glad the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has .returned. I am not going to cavil at his representation of Australia overseas. He holds the best interests of Australia as deeply at heart as does any other person who could have been sent to the Old Country to endeavour to do the work which he has done. He has conscientiously performed his duties in the way which appeared to him. to be best, as a true and loyal Australian who has. always placed Australia first.
I commend the Prime Minister for having kept a stiff upper -lip when- it came to talking about and defending that Australian ideal, which is so near and dear to the hearts of all of us, and which means so much to our national development, namely, the maintenance of a White Australia. If the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) were present, I would offer a suggestion which has a bearing upon our White Australia ideal. Without any disrespect to our Sovereign, King George V., I suggest, in view of the fact that the maintenance of a White Australia is so vital to Australians, that we revert to that good Australian symbol which formerly appeared upon bur postage stamps, namely, the figure of a kangaroo on a white Australia. I merely make that suggestion by the way, and I hope it will be remembered by the PostmasterGeneral, to whose poetical mind it must appeal with all its patriotic significance.
I desire to compliment the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) on his speech to-day, which is one of the best that has been delivered in this House. It dealt with a question which the Government have to face, and to answer. The Adelaide Register denies that there has been any profiteering,- and asks where it can be found; but we all know the enhanced prices we have to pay to-day, and it is useless to requote figures on the subject. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) gave us figures which are the result of investigations made by the Inter-State Commission ; and if no action is to be taken on the report, why was the Commission ever appointed? The newspapers- to-day rightly condemn the Government and Parliament for not putting a check on the expenditure of the Commonwealth. We have had commissions of inquiry into what were sometimes really silly matters ; for instance, the Com-‘ mission appointed by the Senate to inquire into the effect of drink on our troops represented an absolute waste of money. As I have said, we all know from practical, personal experience- that there is profiteering in groceries, clothes, house rents, and so forth, and the fact is made clear, not only by such statements as those of the honorable member for Hunter, but in the bi-monthly reports issued by Mr: Knibbs. From these we learn that the cost of living has gone up by 50 or 60 per cent.
– The cost of living, is lower here than on the other side.
– That argument does not appeal to me, and I do not think our standard of living should be gauged by the English standard. I am sure that the honorable member would not like the valour, physique, and accomplishments of our soldiers at Gallipoli and in France to be measured by those of the British soldier. The Prime Minister (Mr.’ Hughes) yesterday focussed our minds on a big rout of the Britishers, and then drew attention to the handful of Australians who went through the Britishers, and held up the hordes of Huns. The policy of conscription in England revealedan appalling percentage of unfit men amongst the 2,000,000 of conscripted troops ; and I oan only hope that . the English standard will never be our standard.
– Far from it; but if you restrict our exports you will starve the English people even more.
– I beg to announce that the Commonwealth Government has made financial arrangements to enable further advances to be paid in respect of the various Wheat Pools, namely - 1915- 16 Pool- (New South Wales- Id. per bushel. 1916- 17 Pool - Victoria and Western Australia - 9d. per bushel, less rail freight. 1917-18 Pool- New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia- 9cl. per bushel, less rail freight.
The amount involved in respect of all the Pools is about £4,000,000.
The detail arrangements are now being made by the Australian Wheat Board, and it is expected that the money will be available to the wheat-growers a fortnight hence. I hope I shall be in a. position to-morrow to announce the exact date.
I also wish to announce that the respective Governments are to be asked to raise a guarantee for .the 1919-20 crop to 5s. per bushel at sidings. I asked leave to intervene at this juncture, because I understand that telegraph ‘ messages cannot be sent to the country after 6 o’clock, and it is desired that this ‘ announcement shall be made known to the public.
-. - Is there no allocation in Victoria for 1915-16? .
– No; the only one for that year is New South Wales.
– Is that final so far as Victoria is concerned ?
– I do not say that.
.- I presume that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) in his interjection referred to the prohibition of export of hides.
– I referred to foodstuffs.
– To whatever the honorable member may refer, it is hardly fair that the Australian should be placed in the position of the bootmaker who makes good boots, but himself wears the worst. Some method should be devised whereby the people of Australia shall enjoy that prosperity which is their due, and not be compelled in the midst of plenty to pay exorbitant prices for all they require. I heard Sir William Irvine say that thefarmer, if need be, must make sacrifices, even to the point of putting a fire stick into his standing crop instead of harvesting it. We were led to believe that the war period would mean a time of travail to Australia and its inhabitants generally, and that production during that period would seriously decline. The with’drawal from industry of 400,000 men for the fighting line, alone, not to mention, those who formed contributory arteries to it, naturally involved some measure of sacrifice. Let me ask why the people of Australia should be bled in the way that they have been ? Many persons have submitted to it under the impression that the war was responsible for it. Only a few nights ago I happened to pick up a back number of Hansard, which was published during the early days of the war, and in it I read an interjection by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) to the effect that there were contractors making huge fortunes out of the war. Yet the Commonwealth is going to pay 5J per cent, upon borrowed money, which is to be expended in helping the “digger,” and the Government have the audacity to print a poster depicting a “digger” with the brass badge upon, his coat and. with his hand . in his pocket to finish the job. Quite’ recently the South Australian Register, in an article caning the Labour party generally, and the Bolsheviks in particular, said that the present loan would prove a great success. It affirmed that the money required would be subscribed. Of course, it will. I recollect reading an article written by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) before he left for the war - an article which was published in the newspapers of all the States - in which he stressed what » gilt-edged security was the 4J per cent, war loan which was then being floated. He said that he was going to put his money into it.
– I did put some money into it.
– I know that that is a fact. The Register went on to say that there had been an increase in the deposits in the trading banks of £102,000,000 as compared with the deposits held by those banks prior to the war. During the seamen’s strike the same journal quoted the amount on deposit in our Savings Banks with a view to showing that the people of Australia generally were not so badly off as was represented.
– The honorable member does not think that those deposits represent real money?
– A similar interjection was made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) on a former occasion. In reply to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) I say that if I owned those deposits they certainly would mean that I would be safe from want for all time. For all practical purposes in regard to the financing of the Commonwealth they can be used. If not, there is a Compulsory Loan Bill before Parliament which contains the means for enforcing contributions to the Peace Loan if that course should be deemed necessary The honorable member for Robertson knows perfectly well that, in the words of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), the question of finance is one of financial legerdemain. The South Australian Register, in backing up its statement that the loan will be subscribed, quotes the increase of £102,000,000 in the trading banks deposits. If those deposits do not represent funds which can be used-
– I say straight out that they do not represent cash.
– I admit that I always read the South Australian Register with interest, as well as the Labour daily which is published in Adelaide. There is a gentleman engaged in writing for the former journal who was at one time chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. His name is Arnold Davey, and quite recently, in speaking generally of the war debt of the world, he stated that it amounted to £40,000,000,000.
– Even then he was only guessing.
– He was only taking the computations which he had read. He said that the war debt of the world amounted to £40,000,000,000, but that there was not sufficient cash to liquidate one-fifth of that liability.
– What has that to do with the question of high prices?
– It is the inflation of the currency which is the cause of high prices.
– I do not admit that. I told the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) some time ago that for a smaller wool clip the wool-growers of Australia were receiving£2,500,000 more than they had previously received. In reply, the Minister pointed to the Wartime Profits Tax Act. I looked up that measure, and was interested in ascertaining the precise amount of revenue collected under it. I found that in 1917- 1918 the amount thus collected was £680,008 from all sources.
– I did not make that statement.
– No; but the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott), who was supported by the Minister, said that the major portion of this extra profit was mopped up by the wartime profits tax.
– And income tax.
– The income tax is different from the war-time profits tax. This report shows that something like £2,500,000 was made by those engaged in the wool industry over and above the profits made by them during any other period.
– A great deal of that was paid away by way of income tax.
– Some of it, no doubt, did find its way into the Treasury through the medium of the income tax, but even then the graziers and others had far too much left for themselves.
The suggestion that the inflated currency is responsible for the increase in prices means that profiteers have been fastening on to thegeneral body of the people, including our soldiers and their dependants. We have had more money in circulation, because of the fact that our men who went to the Front made provision for their dependants, and a separation allowance was also granted. Because of the inflation of the currency in this way, the cormorant ofcapitalism has come down and stuck its talons deeper than ever into the people. . Mr. Knibbs shows that the increase in rentals and the cost of food since 1914 is between 50 and 60 per cent., whereas the increase in wages amounts to only 26 per cent. In other words,Mr. Bigvestedinterests ‘ ‘ has increased his income to the extent of between 50 and 60 per cent. by exacting increased prices from the general community, merely because, in the matter of wages, they are a little better off than they were a few years ago. Honorable members opposite will have to show the people why it is harder to keep the wolf from the door than it was before we had an inflated currency We should have done better had we refrained from borrowing to finance the war. I regret that I did not follow the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), when he moved as an alternative to Mr. Fisher’s first war loan proposal that we should obtain a credit or £20,000,000, as was done in Great Britain. As it is, the Government has been juggling with the credit of the capitalist for the benefit of the capitalist. The Government and their supporters may try to bulldoze the people, but they will find it difficult to do so. They have a knowledge of what is going on. They take an interest in the affairs of this country, and the time is coming vhen they will demand to know the reason why we have to pay 5½ per cent. on money borrowed to repatriate our men. I am watching very carefully for the first member of the Ministerial party to enter the chamber wearing a celluloid war loan button. I expect to see every honorable member opposite wearing that button.
– Let the profiteers wear them.
– They ought to do so.
– I shall obtain one this week end.
– Good! I shall not. I said at the start that 1. would not subscribe to a war loan, because I did not believe in the principle, and I have kept my word.
– You will have to subscribe.
– I shall not. I already wear a “button” - the returned soldier’s badge - which exempts me from the compulsory provisions of the War Loan Act; but I expect to see every member of the Ministerial party wearing the war loan button. They should not leave it to the”digger “ to subscribe.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 5.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190911_reps_7_89/>.