8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and road, prayers.
(By leave). - I wish briefly to direct the attention of honorable members to the manner in which I have been misrepresented in this morning’s Argus, by reading the following letter which I have sent to the editor of that journal, which explains the position : -
To the Editor of the “ Argus.”
The following extract from this morning a Argus notes on the Political Crisis “ is very offensive to me:— “Althougha full meeting of the Country party was not held yesterday, it was asserted by some of those who claimed to have inside knowledge that each one of the eleven members is pledged to support Mr. McWilliams’s amendment. With the 2.5 members of the Caucus party and Mr. Higgs this would give an aggregate of 37 votes against the Ministry. But experienced politicians predicted last night that when the division is taken several Caucus members will be absent. They expressed the view that the Caucus party does not want an early election, and they particularly mentioned Mr. Higgs. An election now would probably mean the political end of Mr. Higgs.
A statement which I beg leave to doubt. “ His only hope is that he may have three years in which to justify himself in the eyes of his constituents in Capricornia, and the view was expressed last night that rather than vote for a motion which might lead to an early election he would remain away when the vote was taken. “ If Mr. Higgs stays away and all those who havebeen classed as Nationalists by the Ministerial whips vote with the Ministry it will have a majority of one.”
On reflection, I think you will agree that no man who has fought for thirty years in the interests of the poorer classes of Australia when he might have done the other thing with much more social, political, and financial advantage to himself, and who had the courage to criticise a powerful party machine, as I did, at the declaration of the poll at Rockhampton on the 2nd January last, could possibly be such a coward as therein suggested. And if you can persuade these “ experienced politicians “ who made such mean suggestions to give me their names, I shall be glad to publicly contrast my record with theirs, and at the same time make some appropriate remarks thereon. Kindly show the “ experienced politicians “ this letter, and if they have a spark of manliness in their composition they will answer my challenge.
Debate resumed from 3rd March (side page 159), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Upon which Mr. Tudor had moved -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted: - “the Government be censured for (a) their failure to deal with pro fiteering; (b) their injudicious expenditure; (c) their control of. shipping and of wheat, wool, metals, and other products.”
– During a long political experience I have never known a party leader to adopt the course proposed by the Leader of the Opposition last night. No doubt the circumstances in which the honorable gentleman finds himself excuse much. Yesterday’s proceedings suggested an utter lack of discipline in his party, where, if there is not discipline, there is nothing. A gentleman who, whatever may have been his expectations, has certainly no claim to be regarded as the spokesman or leader of his party, endeavoured ineffectually to signalize his election to this House, but as it was evident that the salvo with which he had intended to make his presence felt had failed to explode, hisleader took this action, which, to say the least of it, was unusual. He has challenged the Government under circumstances which are unique in the history of parliamentary institutions. The facts of the late election are well known, both to those who have survived and to those who fell in the fight. I see on the benches opposite some who were my friends, and others who are there for the first time. But it is a scattered and scanty array, holding, as the Germans did during the late days of the war, their line very thinly. I feel assured that they now realize that it would have been well had they acted otherwise than they did. But they have no right to complain of the verdict of the people. They put their programme before the electors, and the electors have judged them and their policy. They cannot now say, as they did after the election of 1917, that they were prevented by the censorship, or by any application of the War Precautions Act, from putting their case fully before the people. They said what they pleased. No one can fairly accuse them of having left anything unsaid. The result is, and must be, only too obvious to them as to all men. There surely never was a party that went to the country with such boastful assurances of overwhelming victory and came back so discredited, with its policy so utterly repudiated by the people. Yet this party has now dared to refuse this Government, behind which is the support of the overwhelming bulk of the people of this country, expressed in the most deliberate way, even an opportunity to ask for Supply. Had there been some extraordinary reason for doing this - had the Government been guilty of some act which called for unusual action on their part - we could understand this move. But the honorable gentleman, having ample time at his disposal - for he did not act hurriedly - has framed his vote of censure in relation to matters that are many Parliaments old. “We heard him last night make out his case. If there is a single man on either side who can say it was a convincing case, I am much mistaken. I listened to him with a very sympathetic ear, because, naturally by temperament and disposition, I am against Governments. But I could hardly conceive myself with so bad a case as not to be able to make out a better one than did the honorable gentleman. What did he say? His motion of censure is a tripartite one. He censures the Government because it has failed to act effectively in regard to profiteering, because it had been guilty of extravagant expenditure, and because it had done something, although what he did not say, in regard to certain pools. Let me deal with these charges in the order in which they are stated in the amendment. Both the honorable gentleman and the other members of the Opposition who spoke - and no one can say that they had not an opportunity from me to make out their case, for I never interrupted them by even an interjection - contrived to lash themselves into a perfect frenzy of words, for I cannot think that there was anything more than impassioned words upon a pattern worn threadbare in their utterances over profiteering. The Leader of’ the Opposition told us of the stirring deeds he had done to Toy and Gibson, venturing so far as to brave them at the convivial board. Greater courage than this hath no man. And he had done that, mark you, not in some distant outpost of this vast continent, but in his own electorate. Then he passed on from this heroic deed, or perhaps he returned to it, for his discourse,’, in its meandering, resembled nothing so much as the Hampton Court maze. He gyrated round and about this, question of profiteering, saying in effect, and, indeed, I think directly, that this Government was the protege of the profiteer, whilst the Opposition, on the other hand, were the fearless knights-errant who went out at the most unearthly hours, and under most disadvantageous conditions, to destroy him utterly. Let us look at this question in the light of what was said by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who now, probably, is not disposed to be referred to as the “Labour campaign director.” Certainly I should not be had I conducted the campaign that he did. The measure of the honorable gentleman’s ability as strategist and leader may be fairly gathered from the position he occupies to-day. Those whom he led have condemned him. That he was not condemned more effectively is because there remain so few on his side to condemn. He said yesterday, as he had said many times before, that the Government has ample power to deal with profiteering ; but for the first time he disclosed his reasons, and we know upon what shifting sands he has built up his shining edifice. He says the Government has ample power to deal with profiteering under the Trade and Commerce paragraphs of section 51, and he referred particularly, I think, to paragraphs II., V., and XI. I shall not weary the House by referring to them. Honorable members may study them at their leisure. They will find but cold comfort in such a reference, and certain, and, I think, convincing, proof that, whatever else the honorable gentleman knows, he certainly knows nothing whatever about constitutional law. Not only does he not understand constitutional law, for which he may be forgiven ; but he does not understand the platform of the party which he has lately honoured with his presence. That party has been committed for many years to an amendment of the Constitution, and the reasons it gave for desiring that amendment were that the Federal Parliament had no power to deal with, prices, trusts, combines, corporations, and industrial matters. I am now going to show, by very brief reference to debates which took place during 1911-12 and 1915, that the very reasons which were then given- by me - acting in those days as the mouthpiece, and, only too frequently, as the only mouthpiece, of that party upon this matter - were that we had no power to deal with prices and that in order to get that power we must have an amendment of the Constitution. Upon page 562S of the bound copy of Hansard (covering the period 12th November-5th December, 1912), I made specific reference to this matter. I was dealing with corporations, in the discussion of “A Bill for an Act to amend the Constitution “ specifically in respect to corporations. The measure was designed in order to give us power over corporations. I said -
I am not contending for one moment that the high prices now existing are caused wholly by the Trust. We are not now discussing the causes of high prices at all, but the fact that the prices are fixed, not by competition, but by persons who control industry, and that the consumer has to pay .what the Trust or the Combine declares. “Whether prices are high or low does not afreet that question. But, in any cose, we have no means of dealing with high “prices at all.
If any honorable member is curious he will note, by reference to the Hansard record, that when any member upon the Labour side spoke he supported the Bill. But, for the most part, as I have just indicated, I was the sole speaker. I put the matter for the whole party and the whole party supported me, for every member contended and knew that we had no power over matters vital to the interests of the people. The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) spoke of what wc can do in regard to prices. He says we have ample power under the Constitution to deal with them. Let me turn again to these debates. On page 5612 of the same Hansard volume I stated that as we had no power over corporations - not any of them, excepting to the very brief extent set out by the High Court - we therefore had no control, and could have no control over profiteering. On page 5611, and that following, I pointed out certain further facts. These bear upon the honorable member’s statements, which, while given in good faith, no doubt stamps him as one whose ignorance of the Federal Constitution is monumental. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) says we have power under the paragraph of section 51, dealing with statistics, to secure a return showing the profits made by . various companies. Here is evidence upon that; and - as a lawyer, and a very good one, too, in things other than those relating to the
Constitution - he, I think, will admit that it is vital to his case. It was impossible,. I pointed out, to obtain even a list of companies; and the information which I managed to obtain was very meagre. I showed, however, that there was not less than £300,000,000 of capital invested in public companies in Australia in 1911. Assuming this estimate to be correct, it is fair to say that to-day there cannot be less than £450,000,000 - probably more - invested in public companies in the Commonwealth. I speak, of course, at large; but seeing that there was a. sum of £300,000,000 invested before 1912, there cannot be less than £400,000,000, at any rate, now invested. And over this wide field this Parliament has no power at all. Even in connexion with those companies which are listed on ‘“Change,” whose shares are daily quoted in the press, there waa in 3912 a paid-up capital of £41,291,000. Over those companies we had, and have, no control. In regard to manufactures the position is not very different. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) hold3 that, under the powers within: the Constitution “we could make these people give information. Here is something which may interest him. I remarked, on 19th November, 1912 -
When my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, sent out circulars to the various manufacturers of Australia, who were urging an amendment of the Tariff, asking them for confidential information, I do not think that 5 per cent, of them gave the particulars required. They say, “ We will not give information.”
And there was no power to compel them to do so. Further, when I proceeded against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and appointed a Royal Commission to endeavour to obtain from that company certain information, it declined to answer relevant and vital questions; and, in its refusal, the company was upheld by the High Court. It is necessary to emphasize this fact in connexion with the powers of the Parliament over profiteering, and over matters relevant to it. I need’ hardly remind honorable members that our authority is wholly derived from and rests upon a Statute. Whatever we have cornea from that Statute; and, further, in the interpretation of that Statute the word of the High Court is final. From that it follows that those powers which the Hight Court says we have, we have ; and we have no more than those powers.
I turn again to the debates during 1915. The Official Labour party, which had not then the benefit of the constitutional lore of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), and had not had experience of him as a campaign leader, was anxious, as it had been for many years, to amend the Constitution. This was during the war. I want honorable members, and even more particularly the people of this country, to follow this argument, because it shows the hollowness and hypocrisy of these gentlemen in their railing against the profiteers. In 1915, then, during the height of the war, when the War Precautions Act was in full operation, and prices were rising rapidly, the Official Labour party was most strongly of opinion that it had no power to deal with prices under the Constitution, and that, therefore, it was essential to amend the Constitution without delay.
I shall show this House that when they had the power which the honorable member for West Sydney says we have under the Constitution, to say nothing of that under the War Precautions’ Act, they did nothing. And they held to their opinion, despite the power to deal with profiteering under the War Precautions Act which many honorable members declare we have. If we have this latter power, they had it in 1914, in 1915, in 1916. What did they do ? I shall show you.
– They did nothing ; never meant to.
– I invite the honorable member to go and deliver another lecture about the world going to chaos; and I invite him to put himself well at the forefront, for a better leader tb chaos never existed. Now, in 1915 I said, quoting from page 4244 of the Hansard volume covering the debates from 26th
May to 21st July -
I have said that the High Court is the interpreter of the Constitution. When, therefore, we are asked what our powers are, we have not only to look at the Constitution as it stands, but to look at it in the light of the rules of interpretation which the High Court has laid down, and in the light of the decisions which the Court has made in accordance with those rules. If, then, we are asked what the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are, we have to say that they are those enumerated in the Constitution as interpreted by the High Court. Beyond that we cannot go, for the High Court is the final arbiter of our powers.
I have shown that the High Court has said we have no power over Trusts, Combines, or Corporations, no power to deal with industrial matters, and no power to touch prices. That decision is final and unassailable, and because the Labour party accepted’ it as such it desired an amendment of the Constitution. When my friend says, then, that this Parliament has ample power under the Constitution - I speak not now of .the War Precautions Act - to deal with profits, Trusts, Combines, and Corporations, he stands condemned by the party to which he now belongs, who proved by their actions over a long series of years in unsuccessful endeavours to amend the Constitution, that, in their opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to deal with these mighty forces that shape the destinies of the great mass of mankind. The workers owe a great deal of their present troubles to the honorable member for West Sydney, for despite the plain evidence of the lamentable position in which the Commonwealth finds itself, and in face of the plain declaration of the plank of the fighting platform of the Labour party that it is essential to amend the Constitution in order to deal with high prices, Trusts, and Combines, he advised the people to vote against the referenda. In the circumstances he cannot now complain of the position in which this Parliament finds itself, a position which ought to, and must, be deplored by every thinking man in the community, no matter what) his political opinions may be. Honorable members who followed the advice of the honorable member for West Sydney may seek to excuse themselves - I speak not at all of those who, whatever references they may have made to me, voted for the referendum and urged the people to vote for it - but of those who followed the advice of the honorable’ member for West Sydney. Surely it must be admitted that it is a lamentable thing to find a great Parliament confronted, as every honorable member on both sides admits, with most difficult problems, but. denied the power to deal with them. That it has not the power is clear by the action of the Official Labour party since 1910. It is proved
by their efforts to amend the Constitution in 1915, during the1 war.
Now I come to profiteering itself. This is the tour de force of my friend opposite, who dipped the bucket of his memory into the depths of the abyss and brought out various things in the Auditor-General’s report. Before I sit down I shall give him enough AuditorGeneral, but for the moment I leave it on one side. His talk wa3 simply the tinkling of cymbals and the beating of drums, mere empty sound signifying nothing, but I shall answer him because sound and fury sometimes, if unanswered, captivate the unthinking.
The honorable member asked what the Government have done in regard to profiteering. We have done a great deal, but before I show what we have done I wish to put a question to my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), because for two years and four months he was my colleague, and by a singular dispensation of Providence was placed in control of that very Department whose function it is to deal with prices and profiteering. At that time the powers of the Commonwealth were as the powers of the Commonwealth are now; that is to say, whatever power it has under the Constitution to-day it had then, and whatever power it has under the War Precautions Act now it had then. But if I ask the honorable member what did he do when he was Minister, what will his answer be? He did little or nothing, and he found excellent reasons for doing nothing. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is smiling, but it has to be said of him that he was always of the opinion that something should and could be done. I am dealing with the Leader of his party now. Although my honorable friend was the Minister who had been placed by his party in a position where he was expected by the people to safeguard their interests, he did nothing. He says now that he had the power to safeguard their interests. He contends now that he could have prevented them from being exploited. Why, then, did he not do so? Last night he tore our hearts by his pathetic story of ihe fireman who had to wash’ himself in the alley-way or in some more secluded spot, and he attempted to harrow our tender souls with! the piteous though apocryphal stories of the poverty of the masses. I have fought the battles of the people all my life. Were, they not as poor in 1914, 1915, and 1916? Did not the fireman have to wash himself in the alley-way or lavatory then? Of course he did. But was the climate on , this side of the House so soft and balmy as to have lulled the passionate desire of’ the honorable member to help his downtrodden brother into lethargic indifference? For it is certain that when he, could - according to his present statement - have helped them, he did not do so. Whatever the reason was for the honorable member’s inaction, the honorable member did nothing from 1914 to 1916!
He says that the cost of living has gone up by leaps and bounds, yet we do nothing. But it went up by leaps and bounds in 1914, 1915, and 1916. What did he do? Why did he not act? Was it not that he found that with every desire to do something he found himself, owing to the limited powers of the Constitution, powerless? He says that we ought to have regulated prices. He told us in so many words that as soon as the National Government was formed by an amalgamation of those who were for putting the war first, there was some infamous bargain made by which prices were no longer regulated, and the people were exploited. The facts are that during the greater part of the honorable member’s regime . the prices of only four commodities were regulated - bread, flour, bran, and pollard; subsidiary products, as regards three of them, of wheat. On the 20th July, 1916, the Prices Adjustment Regulations were superseded by the Prices Regulations which came into force mainly after the honorable member left office, and under those Prices Regulations the prices of eighty-eight articles were regulated, and the regulation of those eightyeight articles continued until the Armistice - that is, until the war was over, when, I think by general consent, at any rate, after a very strong expression of opinion, the War Precautions Act wag relaxed in regard to most of these commodities. Two of these, however, aTe still regulated. From the time the first Hughes Government was formed until the Armistice the prices of eighty-eight articles were regulated. whereas while the honorable member was Minister under my Government and under the Fisher Government the prices of four articles were regulated. That is my answer to the Leader of the Opposition.
It may be said that prices did ,not increase materially in the early part .of the wax period. That, unfortunately, is not in accordant with facts. From the end of 1914 to the end of 1916 - that is to say, during the regime of my honorable friend as Minister for Trade and Customs - the prices of food and groceries in Melbourne increased to the extent of 7s. 5d. per £1, while from 1916 to 1919, while the affairs of the Commonwealth were controlled by Governments of which I have been Leader, they increased to the extent of only 3s. 2d. per SI. When prices went up to the extent of 7s. 5d. per £1, my honorable friend, the tireless worker on behalf of the downtrodden masses, was silent and inactive. When the waves of adversity or circumstances washed him from his firm hold on the rock of office, he became once more the tireless advocate of the downtrodden multitude. He asks of us, “What have you done ? “ My answer is that when he left us we increased the governmental control over prices from four to control over eighty-eight articles. When I, in turn, ask him, “What did you do when in office?” what can he say? What can he say in face of these facts?
In regard to the rise in house rents and the prices of food and groceries, the weighted average for the period 1914-16 was 3s. 8d. per £1, while from 1916-19 it was also 3s. Sd., so that, during the latter period, the increase in the cost of living was no greater than during the former /period,- when the honorable member was with me, and, although Minister for Trade and Customs, did nothing. At that time the ranks of Tuscany were silent. The sole exception was the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who then, as ever, continually pointed out cheerfully and optimistically the way to chaos. I say that by his own actions from 1914-16 he admits that the Commonwealth had no power under the Constitution to deal effectively with high prices and profiteering. If he had the power which he now says we have, why did he not act?
The Leader of the Opposition, couching a lance on behalf of Eis late campaign leader endeavoured last night to show
Ifr. Hughes. that, under the benign influence of the Ryan regime in Queensland, those disastrous consequences that were referred to so frequently and effectively during the campaign by misguided persons on this side of the House, were mere hallucinations, and that, as a matter of fact, every one in Queensland had done very well. The facts are, however, that in Brisbane the cost of living from the end of 1916 to the end of 1919 increased to the extent of 8s. per £1, whereas in Sydney it rose to the extent of only 5s. 7d. per £1, Melbourne 5s. 9d., Adelaide 5s. 6d., and Perth 3s. 3d. It is perfectly true, of course, that the cost of living in Brisbane in 1901 was less than in any other State. That, however, was not due to any act or policy on the part of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). It was not even, due to any act of the Denham Government. It was due entirely to Providence. Providence has made Queensland a rich and fertile land. It is easier to live there than in any other State, I suppose, because the earth gives forth its fruits so abundantly. But for man, Queensland would have been a paradise, but the serpent entered into this Eden, and I repeat that, under the regime of the honorable member for West Sydney in Queensland, the cost of living increased to such an extent that goods which could be bought in 1914 for 20s. Id., in 1919 cost 30s. lOd. That is an effective answer to any one who, looking at the question fairly, asks what the honorable member did for the downtrodden masses of Queensland during his term of office.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney both endeavoured to prove yesterday that the Government of the Commonwealth in. some mysterious way, divested as it is of the power to deal with profits, nevertheless puts itself between the States and any action they might like to take in the direction of protecting .the people from the exploitation of the profiteer. The honorable member for West Sydney, by constant reiteration of the same misstatement, hopes at length to drive home into the minds of the people the belief that during the war the States had no power to deal with profiteering. Nothing can be farther from the truth. .There was nothing the
States could 11Gt do. There was no combine so great that they could not tackle it; no corporation so powerful but that they could follow and destroy the tentacles that permeated the flesh of the body politic in Queensland. They could regulate all prices. They could curtail all profits. There was nothing that the State Government of Queensland could not do in these matters, and there was nothing, that they did do. The honorable member says that the reason he did nothing was that the Commonwealth Government did nothing. What logic ! What a trumpery excuse ! The States all through have been most jealous of any interference on the part of the Commonwealth with their domain. It is perfectly well known that in nearly every State except Queensland - and perhaps also in Queensland - there have been Price Fixing Boards which acted throughout the war. There is one in New South Wales. At the present time there a Prices Commission is sitting. There was, and is, nothing under the War Precautions Act, nothing inherent in the Constitutions of the States or the Constitution of the Commonwealth to prevent the States dealing with prices during the war. So much is undeniable. Thus all the wailing against profiteering indulged in by the honorable member is a wail long drawn out - an echo of that which proved so disastrous for them.
I come ‘now to another point. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) sought to show that the cost of living has increased so much as to press more heavily on our fellow-citizens than on the people of other countries. But that is very far from the truth. I have shown that during the honorable member’s regime the cost of living in Queensland increased at least as much as during our regime, and that he did nothing- to prevent it, whereas we have done a great deal. Let me now remind ‘honorable members that the Australian consumer is the most fortunate man in the world. The cost of living in Australia is less than in any other belligerent country - very much less.. Even now the cost of living here is’ much less than in England, where the increase in the price of food, rent, clothing, fuel, and light has reached 120 per cent., and the average increase, in price of the main essentials of life is from 110 per cent, to 115 per cent., and the position in other countries is not dissimilar. High prices are a world-wide consequence of war. When the honorable gentleman was making out his case it is a pity he did not tell his fellow-citizens that during his own regime, when he had the same power as we have, he did little or nothing. He sheltered himself behind that firm bulwark - for it was a firm one then - that he had no power until ‘the Constitution was amended. The reasons he gave were amply sufficient for him until he got a seat on the Opposition side of this Chamber.
I have shown quite clearly that this Government has, by its actions in regulating the prices of eighty-eight articles, been the means of preventing their rising very much higher in this .country than they otherwise would.’ The- Prices Commissioner has made an estimate - necessarily it can only be an estimate - that as a consequence of the application of the War Precautions Act to prices, the cost of living during the currency of the regulations has been reduced by a sum of no less than £4.771,000.
I now come to a statement also made by, I think, the honorable member for West _ Sydney (Mr. Ryan), that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made huge profits under our regime. Apparently the deduction to be drawn from what he said - he did not say that that was so’ - was that the company had made such profits either with our connivance or, at any rate, with our tacit approval. There is no truth whatever in this. Here are the facts, showing the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, so far as its Australian operations are concerned. Honorable members, and the public, should know that this company is made up of two companies, one of which controls Australian activities and the other of which controls the over-sea activities in Fiji. The company may make high profits in Fiji ; but I shall show that the profits it has made here in Australia since 1915, when the’ Government took control, have been such as to leave no room for criticism In that year an arrangement was made with the Government of Queensland and the company by which the Commonwealth was to buy the cane of
Queensland, and ito guarantee a price of £18 per ton for the raw sugar. Since then the price has been increased to £21, and the company have been working under an agreement of a fixed charge per ton for refining. Under the agreement in 1915 the refining charge was 26s.; in 1916 it was 2Ss. 3d.; in 1917 it was 33s. lOd. ; and in 191S it was 32s. lid. The result of the four years’ operations under the agreement is a net loss to the company of £25,468. That is the position as disclosed by information supplied to me by the company, and it is a complete answer to the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney, not made directly in a manly way as a charge, but by innuendo, that the Government had not only permitted, but encouraged, this great corporation to exploit the people and make extortionate, profits. This Government has done what lay in its power to prevent profiteering.
– There is 7s. to be added for distribution.
I come now to the charge that the Government has permitted the coastal shipping companies ‘ to make huge profits at the expense of the people. I give that charge an unqualified denial. For the first time in the history of Australia there has been Government control over the shipping companies of the country, and I shall show to what extent that control went. The ra:te of charter money is fixed by regulation, and the whole of the shipping since the control was imposed has been vested in the Commonwealth. This charter rate is about one-third of the world’s charter rate for British vessels, which is about 35s. per ton dead weight per month, and less than one-fifth of the charter rate paid to neutral tonnage, which is about 50s. per ton dead weight per month. Recent inquiries in London to charter vessels for the Australian coast were practically resultless, only one vessel being offered, and that at 32s. 6d. per ton dead weight, plus the extra expenses incurred on the Australian coast. With regard to the rates of freight on the Australian coast, the following is a comparison of the Australian rates with the rates paid out of the United Kingdom: - Coal from Newcastle to Melbourne, 3 days’ run, 9s. 6d. per ton; Cardiff to
Antwerp, 3 days’ run, 65s. per ton; Cardiff to Liverpool, 12 hours’ run, 17s. 6d. per ton; Newcastle to Fremantle, 10 days’ run, 18s. 3d. per ton; Cardiff to Genoa, 10 days’ run, 70s. per ton. This shows that shipping companies on the Australian coast are charging freights ranging from less than one-fourth to one-seventh less than the rate charged by British companies, and about onefifth the rate paid to neutral tonnage. Yet, notwithstanding the low requisition rate on the Australian coast, the present freights are insufficient, as the loss sustained by the Inter-State Central Committee in connexion with Inter-State vessels was for the eighteen months ending 30th September, 1919, £300,477. I wish honorable members to realize that, notwithstanding the fact that we have secured vessels at one-third below the British charter rate, and one-fifth below the world’s rate, the Government, which, as I have said, now. controls coastal shipping, is at a loss of over £300,000 as a result of eighteen months’ operations. As an offset there was a profit during the same period of £265,000, which was earned by about 2 per cent, of the requisitioned coastal fleet making several trips overseas whilst under requisition. Owing to the present accumulation of cargo on the coast, vessels cannot be sent overseas, and this source of revenue is no longer available. It is essential, therefore, that the present freights should be materially increased.
– How long were the vessels tied up in consequence of strikes?
– That has not been taken into account.
I have now dealt with the question of profiteering. I have shown conclusively that the Labour party has recognised for the last ten years that we have no power under the Constitution to deal with profiteering. I have shown that so late as 1915 it recognised and accepted this position. Secondly, I have shown that the Government, which I have had the honour to lead since my honorable friend and I parted, have used the War Precautions Act to prevent the exploitation of the people. And I have shown that we have done this to a much greater extent than during the Labour regime. In this connexion it is not without interest to to- mind honorable members that the honorable member was quite willing to abandon the opportunity of amending the Constitution when the offer was made by the representatives of the State Governments to grant the powers necessary for the purpose. Yet he now censures us for not doing those things which he himself admitted he could not do without amending the Constitution ; and condemns us also for trying to get the Constitution amended. I now come to another matter. The honorable gentleman lashed himself into a fury of indignation over the Navigation Act. He told us in hoarse tones the tragic story of the fireman who stood in the alley-way. While we are saddened at the story of this poor unhappy individual, exposed in all his nudity, and by the thoughts of the down-trodden masses, suffering under the burden of high prices, we cannot help recalling the fact that for two years the honorable gentleman stood idly by without making any effort to improve their position. I am prepared to give him credit for the fact that he was as much interested as I was in the introduction of the Navigation Bill. For years we worked together on it, and without exhibiting any undue egotism, I may say that we know more about that Act than most men. The Bill at last became law, but it was not proclaimed pending the Royal Assent, which was not given owing to the outbreak of war. The honorable member was in office, for two and a half years during the war, and was administering the Department in charge of the’ Navigation Bill. What did he do for the poor fireman in the alley- way? The Act is now proclaimed, and in a little while the firemen and seamen will have better conditions.
I now come to the question of extravagance. The honorable member charges the Government with extravagant expenditure. My two honorable friends who have made this charge stated they did not object to judicious expenditure. Why should they? I would be surprised to learn that they objected to any expenditure. Do they think the people of this country are fools? Do they not remember the manifesto signed by Mr. Frank Tudor, and, I think, by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), compared with which the efforts of De Rougemont or the stories of the Arabian
Nights are as nothing? They scattered tens of millions with reckless hands, and pictured a glorious paradise into which all might enter. It has been shown by my right honorable friend the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) that had these gentlemen assumed office it would have required about £78,000,000 to give effect to the promises they submitted to the people. The soldiers were to get a cash gratuity, and the old-age pensioners promised conditions - by inference, if not in set term3 - that would make them rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The poor were to have the burdens of high, prices lifted from their shoulders, and the producers were to have great benefits conferred upon them. There was something for all, excepting the hated capitalist, who, apparently, was the person who had no vote, or,- if he had one, was not likely to record it in their favour. Where all these millions were to come from none knew ! And yet these are the gentlemen who come down now and say that they object to extravagance. They censure us because they consider we have been extravagant. They believe in judicious expenditure! I would suggest that when honorable members opposite prepare another manifesto, they should get the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) to compile it, because he would do it much better, and what is more, there would be nothing in it.
Leaving the manifesto, I come now to the record of this censor of extravagance. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) said something yesterday about an “ orgy “ of extravagance. He did not adorn his tale with concrete illustrations, except his references to the building of wooden ships in America, with which’ I shall deal in a minute or two. He affirmed that we have been guilty of an “orgy” of extravagance. If anybody is a judge of financial orgies, the honorable member is. I have here the report of the Auditor-General of Queeusland. The Auditor-General of that State, poor man, is broken down with much journeying on a flinty road, but “ there is life in the old dog yet,” and his last report makes distinctly interesting reading. In the four years of office in Queensland of the honorable member for West Sydney, the yearly expenditure of that State out of revenue rose from £7,200,000 to £9,588,000, an increase of £2,388,000. I wish honorable members to mark that no war expenditure is included in this increase. During his long tenure of office the honorable member spent, I think, the sum of £5,000 on war. Of course, I speak not at all of that expenditure, no doubt, incurred in raising the Ryan Thousand - which, unhappily, he was unable to muster on parade. The number mustered, I fancy, did not exceed sixty; at any rate not many appeared for the full-dress parade before General Pau in his office. I speak, then, not of war expenditure, but of the ordinary expenditure of the State. A comparison with the expenditure by the Commonwealth may now be instituted. In 1913-14, the year before the war, the total Commonwealth expenditure amounted to£23, 160,733. Last year it was £45,135,876, of which £23,530,960 was duo to war expenditure, increases in the old-age and invalid pensions, and payments to the States. This leaves a decrease in the ordinary expenditure of the Commonwealth amounting to no less than £1,555,817, whereas the ordinary annual expenditure of Queensland during the honorable member’s term of office increased, as I have already remarked, by £2,388,000. When he assumed office in 1914-15, the Queensland railways had a surplus of £48,651. But the very first year of his Premiership, my honorable friend - this champion of economical government - managed, as the result of ‘his indefatigable efforts, to get a deficit of £508,244. The next year, benefiting by his experience, and seeing many ways in which money could be spent, which he had not observed previously, he contrived to increase the deficit to £737,388, and in 1917-18 he still further increased it to £1,028.008. I come’ now to the present year, when the deficit was concealed from the public until after the Federal elections. Whether my figures relate to this year or last year I am not sure, but the deficit had increased to £1,421,328.
– Those were the figures for last year.
– Yes. These facts speak for themselves. The total successive deficits under the Ryan administration amount to £3,694,96S. Every mile of railway in Queensland last year produced a loss of £225. These are the proofs of the honorable member’s ideas and practice of economy. Then the cost of living in
Queensland increased between July, 1914, and December, 1919, by 62.6 per cent. In New South Wales the increase represented 51.4 per cent., in Victoria 45.5 per cent., in Tasmania 48 per cent., in Western Australia 38 per cent., and iri South Australia 36.7 per cent. Under Mr. Ryan’s Premiership the taxation in Queensland increased in four years from £954,000 to £2,772,000- an increase of 190 per cent.
– And the unemployed increased, too.
– Yes! The AuditorGeneral of that State says -
It is obvious, if the financial stability of the State is to be maintained, that the gravity of the present situation, and the risk in regard to the future, call for thoughtful reflection.
We heard the honorable member’s reflections on the necessity for economy yesterday. Bad he indulged in them when he was in office, Queensland would have been a happier and richer country to-day. But they have come too late. He has turned economical only after losing office,’ and when he has no longer the power to indulge in financial orgies. In Queensland the taxation rose from £1 8s. 2d. per head in 1915 to over £5 per head in 1920. The deficit accumulated by the Ryan Government in five years amounted to £835,000, whereas the deficit for the previous fifty-five years totalled only £1,618,000. The amount collected from income tax in Queensland in 1914 was £472,918, as against £1,677,336 when the honorable member for West Sydney relinquished the Premiership of that State.
I come now to the last charge: that relating to the various Pools. Yesterday the honorable member wanted information. He was consumed with a devouring thirst for knowledge. He wanted to know all about the Wool Pool, all about the Wheat Pool, all about the Metal Pool, and all about the purchase of ships for the Commonwealth - indeed, all about everything. I am not at all surprised at the honorable member wan-ting to know all about these and other things relating to the activities of the Commonwealth, for during the election campaign he showed that his need for information was appalling. He proved that he knew nothing whatever about Federal politics.
Now lie wants to know all about everything ! Yet, when the people of Queensland wanted information about matters which they were fully entitled to know, how did he treat them ? Surely they had a right to know where they stood financially. Were they told? No. Why? Because there was a Federal election pending, and so the Budget for the State of Queensland was kept back. It was presented immediately after the Parliament of that State re-assembled, subsequent to the Federal elections. Why was the presentation of that Budget delayed? The honorable member for West Sydney, Mr. Ryan, was the campaign director of the Labour party, and that particular Budget might fairly be taken as the measure of “his capacity as a Leader. The. reason for the delay is therefore obvious. The Treasurer of Queensland has told us that the estimated expenditure for 1919-20 is £10,414,000, and the estimated re> venue £9,321.000, leaving a deficit of £1,093,000. Consequently, the Government that the honorable member led for so many years, and which has a record unique in the history of Australia, where so many Governments stand convicted of reckless extravagance, occupies a position that is unchallenged and unchallengeable. Nothing like it has ever been seen in the history of government in this country. Yet it is he, above all men in the world, who has the temerity to stand up in his place and to hurl against this Ministry charges of extravagance. He wants the government of the Commonwealth carried! on with due regard to ‘the ancient traditions of honour and integrity! I have shown the way that his own Government observed those traditions. They were covered with the shame of their misdeeds, deficit after deficit chasing them like the ghosts in Macbeth.. They must have money, and how do they get it? They repudiate a solemn agreement made with the pastoral lessees of Queensland, and in order to get that repudiation through Parliament they swamp the Upper House. The repudiation of an agreement is an honorable thing to do, is it not ? If they had been able to say that “ We did this because some great national need called for it,” it might have served as an excuse. But it was not for the sake of the people that they did it, but for their own. Had they governed Queensland wisely, and’ with due regard for economy, this shameful thing need not have been done.
My honorable friend wants to know all about the ships. He says that the Government have not given the information to which the Auditor-General draws attention about the wooden ship contracts in America. Let me deal with the matter briefly. It ought to be familiar to most honorable members, but to some it may not be. In the year 1917, in the height of the submarine campaign, shipping was the very soul of our being. Ships were necessary in order that we might live, and in order that we might win victory. All sorts of experiments were made, and recourse was had to the patching up of old ships, to new methods of building, and to the use of new materials. Ships built of concrete were suggested, and in some places were actually constructed. Wooden ships were being built in England and in America. The Government of the Commonwealth, failing utterly to obtain the shipping necessary for the welfare of this country by chartering from Britain or elsewhere, and the need for shipping being urgent, decided to go in for a policy of shipbuilding here and in America. It was impossible to get ships built in England, every yard being then taxed to its utmost, and America had not then come into the war. Orders were placed with two companies in America - one with the Patterson MacDonald Shipbuilding Company for the construction of ten wooden vessels at Seattle, and the other with the Sloan Shipyard Corporation for the construction of four cargo motor ships, with Diesel engines, at Olympia. The full particulars, together with the contract prices, are set out in the AuditorGeneral’s remarks.
Had these vessels been completed within the contract time - the first by the 30th January, 1918, and all the Test within that year - the transaction would have shown us a handsome profit; but misfortune dogged the heels of this businessright through. Strike followed strike. America came into the war, and the Government immediately commandeered all the yards and all the material, sending the price soaring sky-high. It became impossible for the contractors, owing tostrikes and the rising cost of material, to complete their contracts within the- schedule time. Our Commissioner, Mr. Braddon, was detailed to inquire most closely into the matter, and to endeavour to make the best arrangements possible for early delivery. He went into the matter carefully, and recommended that, as the law stood in America, we should have no good case in an attempt to force delivery, or to sue for breach of contract in the event of non-delivery. He advised that we should pay the extra amount which, under the Macey award, was being paid in every one of the American yards. We had’, in fact, no op. tion but to do this. The war, happily, was terminated by the Armistice in 1918. With the end of the war there was a glut of wooden vessels. The American Government, which had been building steel vessels very rapidly, decided to sacrifice all its wooden ships, and did so at an average loss of £13 3s. 4d- per ton. Acting on the advice of our experts, we decided to cancel our contracts. Some of the vessels were already in commission, and these were sold. The others that were nearly completed were sold to a client, who took the contract over : and, as is shown by the AuditorGeneral, we lost £326, 000 over the whole transaction.
It is easy, as my friend the Leader of the Opposition says, to be wise after the event. Had we known that the war would finish in 1918, or had we known that there were to be strikes and delay in American shipbuilding yards - whose reputation for fast work had spread over the earth - we should have placed our contracts differently, or abstained from placing them at all. But, looking back at things as they were, I say that if I had to meet the same circumstances again, I would do the same thing. At the time, vessels could not have been bought too dearly, and had we obtained these ships, they would have paid splendidly. The proof of that is the fact that the first of the two vessels actually completed earned £45,805 in less than two months. She was launched before the war ended. Had all those vessels been launched before the war ended, or had the war gone on, they would have paid for themselves very ‘ handsomely.
I come now to the contract for the construction of wooden vessels in Australia. These were made with Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh; Messrs. Hughes, Martin, and
Washington; and the Wallace Power Boat Company, for sixteen vessels altogether. Two of these only were completed, and we cancelled the rest, being advised that the first loss was the best, as these vessels were totally unfitted to compete with steel vessels. The total amount of compensation paid to Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh was £52,000; to Messrs. Hughes, Martin, and Washington, £72,500; and to the Wallace Power Boat Company, £56,128, a gross total of £180,000. This loss, together with the loss on the American ships, came to £506,628. This, then, is the position in detail. I say emphatically that the contract with the American companies was most carefully drawn. The Auditor-General says that there was misapprehension on the part of the contractors. That cannot be held to be a ground for criticising us, who properly protected the Commonwealth’s interests. It is not suggested that there was any misapprehension on our part. We made concessions because we were advised by our experts that we could not recover against the contractor in a Court of law, the American Courts having allowed substantial increases to all American contractors after the Macey award. We have been censured because in these new contracts we made a loss of half a million. I have shown that this was unavoidable, that the contracts were fully justified, and that the circumstances that led to the loss could not have been foreseen. And it is only fair to mention, as a set-off against the loss of this £506,628, that the profits of the “Austral” line up to 30th June came to £3,520,320, and we have made profits in working the ex-German steamers amounting to £2,783,473, or, in all, a total profit of £6,303,793. I ask any fairminded business man to show a better Return.
The Government have been criticised for the Pools that were organized to meet the conditions created by the war. Honorable gentlemen opposite had not a word to say -against these Pools at the time of their establishment.’ Nor did the honorable member give one reason for condemning their operations. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has said something about the arrangements in regard to wool, but it would have been better had he been silent on the subject, as he displayed an utter ignorance of the facts. The wool contract was a very good one. It was decided at a meeting of representatives of the pastoral industry called by me, and held in the Cabinet room, some time in December, 1916, that a firm offer of the whole of the Australian clip, crossbred and merino, should be made to the Imperial Government at lod. per lb. That was the price at which I was authorized to offer the clip, and which the woolgrowers would have been perfectly satisfied to get. But the price I obtained was 15 1/2d. per lb. plus half the profit on the sale of the wool. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was present at the meeting, and knows that what I say is correct, and the files support my statements. As to the renewal of the wool contract for two years, no doubt had we then known what we know now, the terms would have been different. Had we known that the war was about to end, and that prices would soar, the contract would not have been renewed. But we had not that knowledge. We had to deal with the position as it then existed. It was most critical. There was then only one buyer in the world, that could give us money for the wool before it was shipped, and no one else was in a position except that buyer to ship the wool. I do not recede from the position I then took up. Had I then known as much as I know now, I would not have renewed the contract, but under the circumstances it was a very good thing to do. Take them by and large, all the pooling arrangements made by the Government were greatly to the advantage of Australia. With the meat contract, I had nothing in particular to do, beyond giving effect to the instructions of the Committee. As to the metal pool, I say that no act of the Government during the war was more necessary or has been more beneficial to the country. Through our action, great and flourishing industries have sprung up in this country. It is true, of course, that disabilities have been imposed upon certain persons, but these we are removing. The general policy of Pools throughout the war was one which should commend itself to all fair-minded men.
In conclusion, I say that the Government has been challenged by a party that-, comes from the people dishevelled and discredited. It has been challenged be fore it has been able to expound its policy, and even before it could obtain Supply. It has been charged with extravagance by men whose own records speak for themselves. The voting at the last election is our title to the confidence of this House. These are the Senate figures: There were 863,761 votes polled for Nationalist candidates fori the Senate, 795,858 for Labour candidates, and 181,052 for Farmers’ candidates. The polling for candidates for seats in the House of Representatives was -. Nationalists, 951,117 ; Labour, 794,535; Farmers, 136,972; and Independent, 26,607. The great majority of the people voted in support of the Nationalist cause. The policy of the Government was put clearly and in detail before the people, and it has received their clear and emphatic endorsement. On most questions the views of members now sitting on the corner benches coincide with those of the Go,vernment. Here and there we differ, and we must agree to differ where we cannot walk along the same path. But one thing is undeniably clear. The Opposition has been deliberately and unreservedly discredited and repudiated by the people. It has no right whatever to challenge the position of the Government. In the name of the people, I ask that we may be given an opportunity to can y out our programme. We could take no exception to being censured for wrong action, and shall be willing at all times to listen to criticism, affording to every member, no matter where he sits, the fullest opportunity to express his views; but we claim now our right to give effect to the Nationalist POliCy
– I rise, without any’ sense of diffidence, after the speech that has just been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I recognise that his utterances this afternoon will be heralded with great satisfaction by the profiteering interests of this country, but will be received with but little satisfaction and very little comfort by the great populace of the Commonwealth, who are subjected to undue imposition by those controlling the commercial and financial affairs of the country. The speech which the right honorable gentleman has just delivered will not convince either . the members of this House or the people of Australia, that the Government have not been wanting in their protection of the interests of theprimary producer and of the people generally. He has made statements which I believe can be challenged very effectively. No doubt they will be challenged by honorable members as this debate proceeds.
I should like to have a word to say with respect to thepowers which the Government possess, and which the Prime Minister has endeavoured to make us believe they do not poscess. I have here the work of an authority upon the powers of the Government under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Prime Minister may endeavour to induce honorable members to believe that he holds a monopoly of knowledge of our constitutional law, but I am not prepared to concede such a claim to him. I find that Sir John Quick, who, was at one time an honoured and esteemed member of this Chamber–
– And a member of the Federal Convention.
– Quite so ; and a gentleman who would probably be supporting the present Government if he were here to-day. This esteemed and learned authority has stated that -
Under existing Commonwealth powers the evils of profiteering could be combated by the following alternative methods: -
Taxation. 2’. Fixation.
The Prime Minister mentioned that he had largely been the mouthpiece of the Labour movement at the time when the Labour party were endeavouring to alter the Constitution. He would have us believe that he represented the whole combination of intellect directing us upon constitutional affairs. He went to Great Britain in 1916. Prior to that he had been endeavouring to make honorable members believe that under the Commonwealth Constitution, or the emergency measure known as the War Precautions Act, there was no power which the Government then possessed to enable them to deal with profiteering. But we find that during his absence in Great Britain the Cabinet then administering the affairs of this country had a case cited in. the High Court of Australia. I refer to the case of Burvett v. Farey. Burvett was a detective employed by the Commonwealth Department dealing with the matter of price- fixing. The case was heard before Chief Justice Griffith, and I find that a decision was given in favour of the Commonwealth Government, or in f avour of the contention that they did possess at that time the necessary powers to deal with those matters.
As the Prime Minister resumed his seat this afternoon he appealed that the Government should be given an opportunity to carry out their policy. I say that the Government have had that opportunity during the past three or four years, and have proved their ineptitude.. They have proved that, from the stand-point of administrators, and also, shall I say, of legislators, they have not the acumen necessary to enable them to effectivelyprotect the interests of the great Commonwealth of Australia.
There has been a great orgy of profiteering during the last four or five years. I have before me the docket of the prosecutions that have taken place under the War Precautions Act in respect of all the charges that were brought against different citizens of Australia for offences alleged’ to have been committted. I find that the total number of cases brought under the Act was 3474. Of that number only 217 were cases brought against those who had sold in excess of the maximum price allowed for the sale of particular commodities. In these 217 prosecutions, the number of convictions secured was only 188. The total amount of fines imposed in those cases was £1,182 10s. This amount is exclusive of costs. Nineteen cases were struck out. During the same period the great capitalistic institutions of Australia were able to augment their bank balances to the extent of £272,000,000. That is something which needs explanation. It proves, I think, that the Government have not been sincere in their endeavour to deal effectively with the profiteer. They deserve the severest censure of this Legislature, which hold’s the destinies of this country in its hands. It should, in the circumstances, be prepared to say that the Government have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
– The electors did not say so.
– My honorable friend, like myself, will probably recognise that he cannot claim to be a star in this firmament at the present moment. Rather, like a meteor, he may be a flash, and nothing more. Time will prove the accuracy or otherwise of that prophecy. There can be no excuse for the exorbitant prices which the people are required to pay today and the inactivity of the Government in coping with the situation. The Prime Minister this afternoon quoted some statistics. I do not know where he obtained them, but from the quarterly summary of Australian statistics issued by Knibbs I find that the increase in the prices of groceries from July, 1914, to December, 1919, was 57.6 per cent. During the same period, wages increased to the extent of only 21.8 per cent.
– That is a misleading comparison. Quote the figures regarding the total cost of living, instead of only a few items.
– The right honorable gentleman has been for a number of years an opponent of the Australian Labour movement, and I cannot expect that the comparison he desires me to make will be of any advantage to thecase I am presenting.Food and groceries are the essentials of life, and the figures I have quoted indicate the great disadvantage under which the working classes labour owing to the exorbitant cost of those necessaries. I have been through the school of practical experience. As a worker, I have experienced the great disabilities imposed upon the people by the profiteering concerns in this country. I and those in my household have known what it is to go short of necessaries, and I speak with a good deal of warmth upon this question, because I feel that the standard of living is not as high as the Australian people have a right to demand. Still quoting from Knibbs, I find that, from 1914 to 1919, the weighted average of the normal weekly Tate of wage payable to the adult workers increased by 21.9 per cent, in New South “Wales, 18.2 per cent, in Victoria, 32,6 per cent, in Queensland, 20.3 per cent, in South Australia, 12.9 per cent, in Western Australia, and 17.3 per cent, in Tasmania. The average increase for the Commonwealth was 21.8 per cent. According to that return, the position in Queensland compares more than favorably with that in any other State. The Commonwealth employs a man to compile accurate statistics, and those I have quoted reveal a condition of affairs that cannot be justified by the occupants of the Treasury bench. If we require any further proof of the profiteering that has been taking place during recent years, we may find it in the reports presented by the Inter-State Commission, which has been dealing with the question of prices generally. In those documents we find conclusive evidence of the great inroads made upon the earnings of the people by the financial and commercial concerns. It is idle for honorable members opposite to endeavour to convince the people that existing conditions can be justified when the majority of people find themselves unable to meet their ordinary liabilities. Statistics show that 62 per cent, of the people do not possess a pennypiece more than the wages they earn from week to week, and 1 believe that 80 per cent, of them do not possess £100 in either cash or personal effects. That is a very undesirable condition of affairs. Surely we desire the advantages of this great country to be made available to the great majority of the people, and especially to the workers who produce the wealth? They have a right to their fair proportion, and I am hoping that in the near future we will have a Government imbued with the sincere desire to deal effectively with this problem, which must be regarded as the most important question confronting us to-day. As the custodians of the people’s welf are, it is our duty to do something to overcome the present difficulties. The Prime Minister does not justify his position by pointing to alleged misdoings or shortcomings of any particular State Government. We must deal with circumstances as we find them, and the Prime Minister, I repeat, has not done that. He dealt with the position in a way that suitedhis own personal interests and the interests of his Government, and the case presented by him was of the flimsiest character.
– He tried to show that some other Government was as bad as his own.
– Quite so. The Prime Minister enlarged upon the shortcomings of State Governments, but did not point out that State Labour Governments have been confronted with a most hostile Opposition in the Legislative Councils, which invariably, represent the vested interests of the country. I can speak authoritatively of the position in South Australia, because, although the Labour party administered the affairs of that State for a time, they had not real power because of the Opposition in the Legislative Council. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Government have had an overwhelming majority in both Houses, and, if they so desired, could have dealt effectively with the present situation. Not only were they fortified by authority under the Constitution, but they had additional power under war emergency legislation, and had supreme control over the whole concerns of the Commonwealth. They used this authority in a most dictatorial manner recently against the marine engineers by endeavouring to deprive them of the means wherewith to obtain food and clothing. The wives and families of the en-‘ gineers also suffered by this action, as they, equally with the engineers, were involved in the trouble. But, while the Government made use of this power under the War Precautions Act, they have done nothing to deal with those who, for the past three or four years, have been making such inroads upon the happiness and comfort of the people. And so I say the Government arc deserving of the most severe censure. I have a personal knowledge of poverty that exists amongst many of the workers in Hindmarsh division, and I have no doubt that similar conditions obtain in other industrial constituencies. When I see suffering amongst the working classes, the men and women who are endeavouring to do the honorable thing as citizens of the Commonwealth by rendering faithful service to the community, I feel it is time to voice my protest at the ineptitude of the Government in not protecting the people from the profitmongering institutions of the Commonwealth. In the Melbourne Age this morning there appeared a report of an increase in the price of boots to the extent of 50 per cent, during the last eight months. If this continues. I do not know where we will be landed ultimately.
– Bare feet.
– I have seen bare feet already, and I know that children from some families are sent to school without the necessary food because the breadwinners are not receiving an adequate wage to meet the exorbitant cost of living, I can cite the case of one man, a Government employee in South Australia, with a wife and nine children. He is in receipt of the minimum wage. He desires to conserve their interests and to be a faithful husband and father. I said to him, “ I suppose you will be attending the Eight Hours celebrations tomorrow 1” but he replied, “ No, I will not be able to do so.” I said, “ Surely you are a good unionist, a good labourite?” “ Yes,” he responded, “I am that, without doubt; but where I am unable to take my wife and children I am not prepared to go myself.” I pointed out that there was nothing in connexion with the Eight Hours celebrations that should hinder him from taking his family to witness them, to which he answered, “ Of course not, but the fact is that I am unable to provide my children with shoes and stockings in order to make them presentable enough to go into the city.” That father of nine children is suffering under a great disability, owing to the extent of his family. Australia needs population, and the best kind of population consists of the babies born in . this country. I do not wish to be accused of advocating a great influx of immigrants without first looking into the employment conditions of those already here. Before going in for any extensive policy of immigration we should see that ample employment, amply remunerated, is provided for Australia’s present citizens. We should demand that the people of this country shall be able to live in reasonable comfort and happiness. The case which I have cited is typical of numerous family situations throughout the Commonwealth. Instead of the Australian populace having the advantage of the country’s natural resources and flourishing production, we find that a privileged few, backed by the powers possessed by the Government, are able - whether constitutionally or not - to make impositions upon the people. The fact is that not only do the Government endeavour by constitutional means to cover and hide the position of those privileged few, whose servants they are, but they do not hesitate even to employ unconstitutional methods. In Brisbane an endeavour was made by certain financial and commercial magnates to create a state of disorder. They sought to employ their financial influence with this Government to bring about an uprising against constitutional government in that State. T have the particulars before me, and, if necessary, I could cite the whole of the circumstances surrounding this charge which I definitely and emphatically lay against the Government, namely, that they are the agents, and sometimes the secret agents, of disorder.
– They were responsible for the last two big strikes.
– Since my introduction to “Federal politics I have heard much of industrial unrest. What is it that creates industrial unrest and precipitates strikes? Do the people revolt because their conditions are satisfactory, comfortable, and congenial?
– -Very often.
– Certainly not. The parties responsible are those who have little or no sympathy with the conditions of the working people. Industrial unrest is the responsibility of those in actual control of the Commonwealth - the Employers Federation, and such organizations.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) remarked this afternoon that there was hypocrisy and hollowness in the attitude of honorable members on this side toward constitutional amendment. In the ranks of those opposite, who support the Prime Minister, are such as the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), the honorable member for Wakefield. (Mr. Foster), and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). It is marvellous that they should be found supporting the Constitution amendments recently advocated by Mr. Hughes, and, in the circumstances, I have grave reason to doubt the genuineness and effectiveness of such amendments. While the Prime Minister was speaking to-day there were those who, from the galleries, indicated by subdued applause their approval of ‘many of his statements. But I noted that those people obviously did not belong to the working community. Those folk, who were so desirous of displaying their agreement with the utterances of the Prime Minister, were not of the type who are compelled to live upon the minimum wage. Neither, probably, have they large families to keep.
– -They are on a maximum wage, with a minimum family.
– Yes. Since the 13th December last, there has been a rapid rise in the price of commodities which are necessaries, and the primary producer has not been free from the impositions of profiteering magnates, because a sharp rise has taken place in the price of superphosphates. There is quite a list of articles which could be enumerated in regard to which there has been a sharp rise in price, such as flour, bread, milk, clothing, boots, bran and pollard. Yet there has been no effort on the part of the Government to endeavour to combat this imposition on the people; in fact, Ministers have allowed these increases to pass without comment. This afternoon not one word was uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in rebuke of those who are the agencies of profiteering. It is surprising to me that the people have allowed themselves . to be deluded by the misrepresentations of those who are opposed to the interests of the great working community of the Commonwealth.
The Government ought also to be censured in respect to the great extravagance displayed in their administration. In fact, the)’ have indulged in an orgy of extravagance unparalleled in the history of Australia. It is .impossible to imagine a more damaging indictment of the ineptitude of the Ministry. I have no desire to see economy effected at the expense of progress. The Commonwealth should be given every opportunity to expand. I want to see its natural resources developed so that we may be able to justify our claim to determine its destinies. It is freely stated that there is danger of Eastern aggression, and I believe that there is an understanding in international affairs that when any country finds its territorial limitations prevent the expansion of its population, it is entitled to look to distant lands and claim the right to enter them for “the purpose of working out the destiny of the race. If such a set of circumstances should face us, the, best way we could overcome them is by the people of Australia, through the medium of the Government, proving that they have a moral claim to this continent of ours, and are justified in demanding the right to work out their own destinies by developing the resources of the country, and by inviting to our shores desirable immigrants from among our own kith and kin. If we allow ourselves to drift into that very undesirable position of bankruptcy to which, apparently, we are fast drifting, we can put forward no moral claim to the right to further work out our own destinies. It is our duty to prove ourselves as good Australians, but far too often have the interests of this country been subordinated to those of outside commercial and financial institutions. This is a fact to which the attention of the primary producer should ba drawn. It is little satisfaction to him to know that the American and Canadian wheat-growers were paid 9s. 2d. per bushel for their wheat, while he was compelled to accept 4s. 9d., and probably less, for his wheat. With a Government in power prepared to act judiciously in the matter of expenditure, and to see that public moneys are expended in order to give’ a just return to the Treasury and keep the country solvent, we shall be on the high road of progress; but we cannot expect the present Government to do this. The total public debt of the Commonwealth is £7lS,323,726. The population at the end of last year was 5,140,000. The debt per head of the population is £139 15s. as against £66 3s. 9d. in 1913; and the taxation per head is £8 18s. today, as against £4 13s. 9d. in 1913. From 1913 to 1919 the liabilities of the people of the Commonwealth have doubled. Last year the expenditure exceeded the revenue by £67,079,405. While we allow this condition of affairs not only to prevail,, but to be even further accentuated, we must expect additional difficulties leading inevitably to still greater confusion.
The Defence proposals of the Government are of a very elaborate character. In the Estimates for the current financial year we have provision for a total expenditure of £77,233,625 in respect of war services. And this notwithstanding that Peace has been proclaimed. This is the proposed expenditure in respect of a nonwar period. The people of Australia cannot afford to allow to go unchallenged a Government that is prepared to go on building up a great unproductive debt and to incur further liabilities which must throw additional taxation upon the working community. Whilst it may be claimed by some that the greater part of the burden of taxation has to be borne by the primary producer, I hold that directly and indirectly the working community are called upon to shoulder the greater part of it.
I understand that, included in the Estimates for the current financial year, is a proposed expenditure of £6,000,000 hi respect of war pensions. Against that expenditure I have not a word to say. My desire is that those who have rendered service to the country shall receive their just due. When the War Gratuity Bill is presented to the House it will receive my support, and I shall endeavour to secure proper recognition of the services of a number whose claims may not be recognised by the Government. I do not know whether they intend to bring within the- scope of that measure the nurses, and also the munition workers, who went to the other side of the world, but if they do not, I shall endeavour to extend its application to them. While I approve of the war gratuity, I feel that there can be no justification for building up a great unproductive debt by way of Defence expenditure. We can best defend Australia by morally justifying our claim to it, and by encouraging to this country the most desirable class of population.
– The Germans, had they won, would have thought a lot of an attempt on our part “to morally justify our claim to Australia.”
– I am not concerned with what the Germans “ might have thought,” nor with the opinions of my honorable friend. My concern i3 as to the views of the people. I certainly do not believe that they approve of the attitude of the Government and of its indifference respecting the high coat of living.
– What is the opinion-
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) was only returned by one vote.
An Honorable Member. - -And under the wings of sectarianism.
– I shall have something to say as to sectarianism, since I am, perhaps, in a better position to deal with that question than are many other honorable members.
I want it to be clearly understood that I am an advocate of the interests of the poorer classes of the community. My desire is that those who have to combat the great difficulties of life shall receive at the hands of the Government that assistance and sympathetic consideration which they have a right to expect. We are told by historians that the rich, in the later stages of national progress, are continually getting richer and the poor poorer. That is true of every age. The fall of Rome has been traced to the long continued operation of such a pernicious tendency, and philosophers have told us that thegreatest benefactors of the people are those who can devise means to prevent it. Will the Government lay claim to having done anything to relieve the difficult position of the great working community of the Commonwealth? Can they point to anything they have done in that direction?
– They hang their heads in silence.
– And should hang their heads in shame.
– These latter-day saints !
– It would be well if my honorable friend could lay claim to some of the principles which I profess.
– I was fighting for the workers before the honorable member was born.
– That may be so ; but at the inception of my public career, I am pleased to be able to say that I entered Parliament by the front door. I shall go back to the people by the same way. No exception can be taken to the political propaganda or election tactics of which I have availed myself; but that cannot be said of honorable members opposite. Even in my own electorate, although I happen to be connected with a religious institution there, I had to combat sectarianism in a somewhat pronounced form. I am a lay preacher in the Methodist connexion of South Australia.
– You have a monopoly of the virtues!
– I do not claim a monopoly of the virtues, but concede to my honorable friend his full share.
– It is a wonder you were not called a Roman Catholic, like every other member on this side !
– Even in the constituency of Hindmarsh, where it is my duty to conduct many services on behalf of the church to which I belong, I found that persons who were opposed to me were so insidious, and yet so daring, in their methods as to say, “Makin is a Roman. Catholic, and you must be careful of him. We know he is a Roman Catholic, because he has a sister in a convent.” It is not my good fortune to have a sister, but for the period of the election campaign I was given the privilege by my opponents. Such are the tactics resorted to by those who are opposed to Labour.
– They have not a monopoly of such tactics!
– Would the honorable member accuse the Country party of tactics of the kind?
– I had to meet the same kind of misrepresentation as the honorable member had.
– Then I am sure that misrepresentation was not on the part of members of the Australian Labour party, who concede to every one full right to worship in what religious belief he desires. The Labour party has no desire to place an embargo on any citizens of the Commonwealth, or deprive them of the full advantages of citizenship, because of any religious “belief they may have. I was a Protestant who was fighting an opponent, also, I believe, of a Protestant denomination, and yet the assertion was made that I belonged to the Roman Catholic communion; although, of course, the logic of circumstances was against the truth of the statement. On the other hand, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), whose opponent was Mr. Glynn, the ex-member, a member of the Roman Catholic denomination, was declared to be controlled by the Orange institution.
– Our opponents “want it both ways.”
– They catch us both coming and going.
– I found thatI was believed to be an Orangeman in one house and a Roman Catholic in the next!
– The honorable member’s experience is not of , an isolated character, because every member on this side of the House had to contend with the same misrepresentation. When public men in this country appeal to the prejudices and passions of the people, they do not display becoming evidences of statesmanship, and it is little credit to the people to allow themselves to be so influenced and misdirected in matters which have little or no concern’ or significance in the discussion of public affairs.
I have been a member of the InterState executive of the Australian Labour party, and I am a member of the State executive. I have attended Inter-State conferences and taken part in many of their deliberations; but never on one occasion have I seen the semblance of undue influence exercised in matters concerning the movement. Any person, man or woman, who makes the assertion that the Labour . party, or any member of it, is controlled by a certain religious organization, makes an assertion that is grossly untrue.
– That is a very sweeping statement.
– It is, but it is quite correct.
– Did you see those remarks by Dr. Mannix about the Labour party recognising the services of the Catholics?
– I am not .concerned with what Dr. Mannix or -anybody else may have said; I am concerned with the situation as. I find it and know it. There has never been the least trace of interference by Archbishop Mannix, or any other member of the clergy, in: the deliberations of those concerned in the Labour movement.
– Honorable members opposite know that very well, but it does not suit them to admit the fact.
– That is so.
– Evidently the Archbishop had some reason for making the statement.
– The honorable member, who in the last few years has fallen from grace in his relations with the Labour party, knows that the same tactics were resorted to when he was associated with the movement.
I have in my possession a copy of the official organ of the South Australian Liberal “Union for 1913, which is of special interest to honorable members on this side of the House. The publication contains a cartoon depicting a gentleman, who happens now to be prominently associated with those opposed to us, occupying a pulpit and pleading to the people of a Protestant congregation not to allow themselves to be divided on the sectarian issue. Only recently I was reading a book written by the Bight Honorable J. M. Robertson entitled Bolingbroke and Walpole. In the first paragraph the writer states -
Two hundred years ago, the outstanding political forces in England, as in other countries of Western Europe, were those two correlatives - sectarian and dynastic sympathies and antipathies.
The writer goes on -
Only in the rebellion did conditions arise in which local activities had a chance *of becoming general through a blending of ideas and ideals, and time was still lacking for any- . thing like popular political education on lines of economic, thought.
Those circumstances prevailed during the last election. This writer continues -
The sectarian spirit - the element of religious hate - is a special psychological growth, tracing historically from the East, through the small hotbed of Jewry, to the Christian creed and church: but it is recognisably generated in certain political conditions and a certain state of culture in all periods.
I do not wish to make myself objectionable to honorable members by speaking at undue length. I recognise that those who have been intrusted with the responsiblity of representing the electors in the Commonwealth Parliament have a very arduous and important duty to perform owing to the complex nature of the situation. I do not ask for any privileges or undue consideration, but I demand attention to those matters which I deem should, be brought before this Parliament on behalf of those whom I represent. It shall be my endeavour to further in every way the interests of my country, and to further its general prosperity and progress by assisting those who are labouring under great disabilities in consequence of the hardships I have already enumerated. May I commend the following to honorable members, which is to be found in a publication entitled The Progress of the Nation, by G. R. Porter :-
For the progress of a civilized nation is to be judged more by the improvement in the condition of the working classes than by any other test. And this improvement depends on the growth of real wages.
During the last few years this country has been in a state of retrogression. The position of the people has become very difficult owing to the heavy burdens placed upon them. I trust that by judicious expenditure, and by removing the causes that are creating distress, hunger, and discontent, we can assist in making Australia really great.We should feel that we are entering upon a new era of peace and prosperity, and are going to enjoy a greater share of those opportunities and privileges to which we are entitled. If we can accomplish that, we shall be able to say -
These things shall be, a loftier race
Than e’er the world hath known shall rise,
With flame of freedom in their souls
And light of knowledge in their eyes.
Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed, shall live as comrades free;
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.
.- I am pleased that my maiden effort in this House is to assist in the endeavour to remove from office a Government that can very well be dispensed with.
– You are right so far.
– Yes; and if the honorable member follows me he will probably find that I will be right in other things. I am pleased to have the opportunity of assisting to defeat a Government that came into power under a smoke screen in the form of the sectarian issue. When we have leading us a body of men who are lacking in reverence, and who do not scruple to play upon sectarianism, I say unhesitatingly that they should be ousted from their positions of place, pay, and power. Although I am a new member, I do not ask any consideration from honorable members opposite. They are standing behind the Government, and they must accept responsibility for the acts of Ministers. I am delighted to be able to stand here, and in my own weak way to attack the Ministry for some of their misdeeds. Reference has been made to the sectarian question, and my name has been mentioned in connexion with it. It has even been claimed elsewhere that I belonged to the Orange Lodge and the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the weapon of sectarianism was used against me in a double way during the recent campaign. I wish, therefore, to place upon record the fact that I belong only to three organizations, namely, the Waterside Workers Union, the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows, and the Australian Labour party. I mention this matter because, in the absence of such a declaration, some people may think that I am one thing, whilst others may imagine that I am another. At the same time, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not irreligious. I have had sufficient opportunity to delve into matters and to become convinced of certain great truths. Whilst I do not worship at an altar as large as that at which I used to worship, I still have an altar at which I do worship. Only the other day a statement was made to me by an honorable member of this House which gave me food for much thought. He said, “ It does not matter what you may say, others will not believe that you are sincere. They will think that it is all a matter of political tactics. There is not a man in the House who cannot be bought if the requisite price be paid.” That statement has provided me with food for considerable thought, and I confess that it has worried me greatly. The latter portion of it I cannot accept. 1 believe that there are as many honest men in this chamber as are to be found amongst any seventy-five men outside of it. But I admit that it hurts me to be obliged to apply the term “ honorable “ to some honorable members whom I regard as hypocrites. Yet I have to do it or get out of the chamber. I am already beginning to wonder whether there is not some truth in the statement that nobody in this House will believe that a man is sincere. When honorable members upon this side of the House have referred to the high cost of living and have dwelt upon the privations which the working classes endure under existing conditions, it has not been the satire of the’ Prime Minister that has hurt me. What hurts has been the careless look upon the faces of honorable members opposite whenever these things were mentioned. It is this circumstance which induces me to believe either that they think we are insincere, or that they themselves must be ignorant of what it means to be obliged to live to-day upon a wage of from £3 to £4 per week. It is all very well for the editors of the Melbourne newspapers to endeavour to maker it appear that there are no profiteers in our midst. It is all very well for Ministers who receive £40 per week, and for honorable members who receive £12 per week, to sneer at profiteering. But if our wages were only £3 or £4 per week we should indeed know that the cost of living is high, and that profiteering is one of the causes of it. When I left this building last evening, being unaccustomed to Melbourne, I was struck with the crowd of humanity which was flowing down Bourke-street and with the tributaries that were pouring out of the places of amusement. The thought at once occurred to me, “ Well, there must be money available for amusement.” When I took a view of the crowd, I said to myself, “Although boots are 35s. a pair, hats about 25s. each, and suits from £8 8s. to £12 12s., the people were never better dressed in their lives.” Then I took a closer view of them, and recognised that they represented only the younger portion of the community. I knew then that I was upon safe ground, because it has been my privilege, as a greengrocer with a round, to move amongst people who have families. Whilst I admit that the single men and women of to-day are enjoying better times than they have ever previously experienced, I know that persons with families are suffering severe privations. Let me tell honorable members that during the past twelve months I have noticed that many families have been gradually’ dropping off buying fresh . vegetables during the week. Pour years ago it was customary for them to purchase vegetables each time I went my round, but during the past twelve months I have observed that many working-class families take fresh vegetables into their homes only for Sunday. I know of one family of fair size whose purchases have been limited to three oranges and three bananas at the week-end with a view to providing a fruit salad for the Sunday evening’s meal. If we wish to learn where the shoe is pinching it is necessary for us to go into the homes of some of these people, and to have business relations with. them. The point that I wish specially to emphasize is that the larger the family the heavier does the burden fall upon it. Yet the Government have not attempted to afford them any relief whatever. I know that the Prime Minister has said that the prices of certain commodities have been regulated. I listened attentively to his statement, but I am still of opinion that the Government has done practically nothing to deal with profiteering, compared with what it might have done. I desire to attack the Government first on this ground: It is put on to the Treasury bench for the purpose of managing the affairs of the community in the interests of the whole community. It is put there to consider, not only the interests of the nation for to-day, but its interests of to-morrow; and I contend that any Government that leaves unremedied anything which discourages the natural increase of our population is neglecting its national duties. I have three little children in my own home, and I admit that when the last one came, and’ I had b0 foot the bill, for a little while the temptation to race suicide entered into my mind. It was only for a_little while, for I banished it, because I recognised that to practise race suicide is to be disloyal to one’s own country, and to the Creator that made us and told us to increase and multiply and replenish the earth. But, as the result of the excessive cost of living, many men and women are being forced to restrict themselves to the pigeon-pair family, or something a little larger. This Government, with a smile on its face, can sit back indifferent to this danger, and yet claim that it i& considering the interests of the community.
The second ground on which I would attack the Government for not dealing with the profiteers is that the excessive cost of living is having a tendency to break down thriftiness in the working classes. Many a one has said to me, “What is the good of trying to save; what is the use of trying to make ends meet? The more I try the worse it gets, and I am becoming sick and tired of the whole thing.” A thrifty, saving people are the backbone of any community, although I know there are some who do not hold that economic idea. This Government has allowed the thriftiness of the people to be broken down for the last three years. It is written, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” and if the Government is going, for three years longer, to allow the saving spirit to be crushed in our women folk, particularly among the poorer classes, then it is permitting a blow to be struck at the home, and where the home life suffers, the national life will suffer afterwards.
In the third place, I attack the Government for not trying to prevent profiteering, because, in my opinion, profiteering i3 one of the causes of the high cost of living, and the high cost of living is the main contributing cause of the industrial unrest in the community. I know the other side, with’ their superior knowledge, will laugh at that statement. They will claim that whatever else may bring a man to risk a strike, whatever else may make him feel that he wants to fight with all the strength that is in him, whatever else will spur him to a sense of righteous indignation, it is not the sight of his wife and kiddies without enough to eat. They think that that never moves a working man. They think that the class from which we come, and from which many of them have sprung, and which they have betrayed and almost crucified, cannot have those feelings; but I am convinced that the high cost of living is one of the main reasons of industrial unrest. It is the duty of the Government to see, as far as it can, that the wheels of industry are kept going. Wo are told to produce, and I am not going to fall out with that statement, because I know how wise it is. Yet the Government sit calmly back and make no attempt to deal with the profiteers, although they know that the high cost of living causes industrial unrest, and so interferes with production.
The last ground on which I attack the Government for not dealing with profiteering is that profiteering not only makes itself felt in the pocket of the individual as an individual, but has its effect upon the conduct of the finances by the Government; and that, of course, comes back upon the individual. Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, recently used a rather clever little argument in regard to the increased expenditure in New South Wales. He said it was caused by the general increase in the cost of commodities. That may be quite true, and it is the duty of the Government, if it seeks to protect the finances of this country - .although I never accuse this Government of seeking to do any such thing - to try to protect itself, and, of .course, the people for whom it should act.
I expect that some honorable members opposite say, “ The high cost of living is unavoidable.” One must admit that when about 20,000,000 men- and that is rather an under-estimate - are removed from industry and from works of construction for four or five years, and devoted to works of destruction, there must be a shortage of raw material, and an increase in the price of many articles must follow. I am quite willing to concede that point, as I am sure the members of my party are, and as are also the workers of this country. By the workers, I do not mean only the men earning wages; I mean the big majority of the people of this country - for they are workers. They recognise that, through the withdrawal of sp many men from production, they must pay more in many ways, and they do not mind paying what is fair; but the thing that hurts them is that so many unfair charges, are put upon them. I have had men working in warehouses come to me and say, “We had a line of towels come in at 7s. 6d. We are charging from 20s. up to 30s. for them to-day.” Orders were cancelled, and customers were told that the firm were out of the articles. But the goods were held for a rise. When I was in the greengrocery trade, people came to me and said that potatoes, which were £12 10s. ai ton, were going to rise to £15 per ton ; and they did. Shortly afterwards, I learned from the same source, when potatoes were £17 per ton, that they were going to be £24 per ton; and they jumped to that price within a week. How did my informant know exactly what would happen?
– He was one of those who “ farm the farmers.”
– Yes, and who “ garden the gardeners.” No one likes to be taken down, and naturally we object to controlled prices. I know from experience that the time for manipulating prices is when there is a shortage. I have seen it done in the vegetable markets in Adelaide; but a Government worth its salt will try to protect the people. This country has now to provide £25.000,000 a year more than was formerly needed - not a good thing to lie in bed and think about. It means £5 a year more for every man, woman and child in Australia, and the position may well cause us a good deal of thought. I believe that there is a way out, though I do not entirely agree with Comrade
Anstey that we must go through chaos before we can arrive at a better state. 1 think that what was in his mind was the saying of the Carpenter of Nazareth : “ I am not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and that he was drawing attention to the need for great suffering and effort to win through to something better. That is true of life as a whole. There is a way out, but it is a way of sacrifice. The sacrifice, however, should be made equally by all. I am prepared to accept my fair share. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) took exception to an interjection I made yesterday about hiding behind the flag. My tutors in the Church of England day schools, and at the college to which I afterwards went, took every care to instil into me reverence for the Union Jack, so that even now I cannot look at that flag without a sort of thrill, though, of course, my ideas concerning it and the Empire are not now exactly those that were taught to me. I have seen too much of the so-called British justice meted out by this Government to Australians of German origin to think that the flag stands for nothing but glory and justice. But if there is a man, or body of men, whom I detest, it is those who have changed the meaning of the word “ patriotism,” and who skulk, as it were, behind the Union Jack to gain or keep political position, to get business, and to make their way into so-called society. The honorable member said that my interjection was a brave remark.
– It was a most improper remark.
– I am glad to. deal with the honorable member, because he has been the first to pick me out; because, too, he is, I believe, one of the most wealthy men in the House, for which I do not find fault with him, it being his good fortune; and ‘because he has an English cast of features, which shows that he can well take care of himself. .
– The honorable member is showing a most generous disposition in attacking those who have not attacked him. He insulted meyesterday.
– The honorable member says that I insulted him, but he put the cap on his own head.
– The honorable member implied that I was sheltering behind the flag, a most insulting remark.
– I did not intend to insult the honorable member, and did not mentionhim by name, but as he drew the fire upon himself he must put up with the consequences.
– I must insist on the call for order being obeyed by honorable members, no matter where they sit, and I ask the honorable member for Grampians to restrain himself. I can understand that he may feel impelled to interrupt, but I remind him that the honorable member for Angas is a new member, and it is usual to allow a new member to make his maiden speech without interruption.
– Then I apologize, sir, but he insulted me.
– It is grossly disorderly for an honorable member to interrupt immediately after the House has been called to order. If the honorable member feels aggrieved at anything said by the member now addressing the Chair, or if he has been misrepresented in any way, he is entitled to the first call when the member now speaking has finished, in order that he may make a personal explanation to set matters right.
– Then I desire to make a personal explanation.
Mr.Fenton. - The honorable member cannot do so now.
– The speech of the honorable member who is now on his feet cannot be interrupted by the making of a personal explanation, but immediately it is finished the honorable member for Grampians will be at liberty to make an explanation. I ask the honorable member for Angas to abstain from addressing honorable members directly, and to address himself to theChair, instead of making personal allusions.
– I thank you, sir, for seeking to obtain leniency for me on the ground that this is my maiden speech in this Parliament. But I stated, in opening, that I did not ask for such consideration, nor do I ask for it. I am prepared to take all that is given me, on the condition that others take back what I give-
– The honorable member is entitled to consideration, and it is my duty to see that the Standing Orders are obeyed.
– I thank you again, sir. I had no intention or desire to insult the honorable member for Grampians.
– I am very glad to hear that.
– That was not my intention. All that I said was that if he felt that my remark applied to him, I would let it stop there. I was referring to the fact that we have to raise £25,000,000 more every year now to meet our indebtedness than we were called upon to raise hitherto. I have said that there is one way out of the difficulty, and it is the way of sacrifice. I mention this because of the interjection about bravery which was made by the honorable member for Grampians, and I want to say that, so far as bravery is concerned, I am quite willing to submit to a wealth levy in common with others. My wealth is not great, but I am thankful to say I have a little. I am not on the rocks. I am willing that there should be a wealth levy of 5 per cent, imposed upon me for a period of five or ten years to remedy the fin ancial position. If the honorable member for Grampians is so brave-
– I do not claim to be brave.
– If the honorable member is brave, he will do his best to induce the wealthy capitalists of this country to agree to a similar sacrifice, and consent to a levy of 5 per cent, on their wealth and property each year for a period of five years. If they agree to that, that will be evidence of their willingness to make some sacrifice; and when we have that evidence from the honorable member and his class, I shall be prepared to, say to the workers of this community, “ These people are ready to make a! sacrifice to find a way out of our difficulties, and I, therefore, appeal to you to go short, even of some things that you need, and also make a sacrifice in order that our financial difficulties may be overcome.”
I remind honorable members of the saying of the Carpenter of Nazareth. He said, “ He that loveth his life shall lose it.” That is true of the individual. The man who seeks happiness by the way of selfishness will never find it. What is true of the individual is true also of the community. I repeat that the way out of our financial difficulties is the way of sacrifice. Seeing that the honorable member for Grampians is an authority on bravery, I recommend him to appeal to the capitalistic class, the big squatters, and commercial men of Australia, the people who have had most saved to them by the result of the war, to be prepared to make some sacrifice to enable us to meet our indebtedness. The squatters, with their wool and their meat, have made big profits as the result of the war. Many of the merchants of Australia, because of circumstances born of the war, have also made big profits. The extra £25,000,000 a year which we have to meet is largely the result of the war. I ask whether it is not a fair thing that those who had most protected should not pay most to meet the cost of its protection. Of course it is fair. To meet our indebtedness by a wealth levy is a fairer way than to put the burden of the additional £25,000,000 a year on my wife and children and the wives and children of other working men in this country, through the Customs. Let those people whose weal th has been protected pay a fair sum for its protection. I would start with a minimum of £500 of wealth or property, and according to the property or wealth which an individual owns I think he should pay to meet the cost of its protection. If the honorable member for Grampians is brave let him take that suggestion to the capitalistic class to which he belongs.
– I never said I was brave.
– It would need a brave man to go to the association that brought five trains to Melbourne in connexion with a deputation concerning meat supplies and talk to its members like that. There is a good opportunity here for the honorable member for Grampians to show his bravery, and to show at the same time his statesmanship. It will show that there are some grounds for his desire to lead a party in this House that is, I hope, in due course, going to supplant the present Government. I am sorry that my remarks should have brought about the little breeze that Ave have had, but I have said what I thought it necessary to say.
I have spoken of the one way out, which is the way of sacrifice. I say, in all seriousness, that if the way of sacrifice is not followed by all classes in Australia there is certainly trouble ahead of us.
– Did the honorable member make sacrifices during the war?
– Yes; I made the sacrifice of standing by my wife and kiddies, so that they might not be the doormats of others and be compelled to put up with the dirty insults of the like of the honorable member. That is the sacrifice I made.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw his reference to the honorable member for Parkes.
– I made a sacrifice during the war.
– In deference to you, sir, I certainly withdraw my reference to the honorable member. If I cannot refer in that way to honorable members I will say that a man standing for what he believed to be right had to put up with insults, and particularly from the followers of the party to which the honorable member for Parkes belongs. I remind the honorable member that those of us who were anti-conscriptionists could be just as sincere and could love this country just as much as those who were conscriptionists.
– By stopping at home.
– We have this satisfaction, at any rate, that the people of this country were not foolish enough to put upon themselves the curse of militarism, and yet the war has been won. We have the satisfaction of knowing, also, that great as may be our financial embarrassment to-day, it would have been incomparably greater if the conscriptionists had had their way.
– Did the Hun vote put the honorable member in ?
– I ask honorable members generally to converse in lower tones while the honorable member for Angas is addressing the House.
– I believe that the interjector said “ The Hun vote put you in.”
– I asked did it put the honorable member in.
– I will take the interjection in that way. I want to tell the honorable member that, so far as I know, there are no Huns in Australia, unless it be those people who have used their power to persecute and ill treat many of the Australian-born Germans in this community. I propose to deal with that question in due time. I came into this
House partly returned here by the votes of Australians of German origin, and I am proud of their votes. They are a fine people, and if some of the people who persecute them were as fine, we should all be the better for it. I tell the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who is interjecting, that when I was seeking the votes of the electors of Angas I did not say to the German settlers, “I am a great admirer of Luther, Schiller, and Goethe; I love German music, and the finest man I met in no-man’s-land was a man of German origin.” But if the German vote in Angas was good enough to return Mr. Glynn to this House for twenty years, what is wrong with it today? Politics is a selfish business, and people, when they cast their votes, are influenced by selfish motives. They return to Parliament the men who they think will look after their interests. Could the Australian settlers of German origin in Angas vote for a man who was a member of the Government which had deprived them of their votes during the war?
I have already said that the way out of the difficulties of to-day is the way of sacrifice. What will be the position if the different sections of the people are not prepared for that sacrifice? The burden must be borne, and I know the commercial and capitalistic section well enough to be sure that they will not carry the burden if they can avoid it; the history of previous wars teaches us that the working class will be compelled to carry the main burden. Unless we all are prepared to make sacrifices, the greatest portion of the burden of taxation will be placed upon the shoulders of the workers ; then, either the workers will sag at the knees or they will take the risk of some change in the social and political system. But if wise counsels prevail, and we adopt the doctrine of sacrifice in social, economic, and political affairs, our future will be safer and happier.
I desire to say a few words in regard to the so-called Country party - I say socalled because I am not clear as to the reasons which inducedthe party to adopt that name. The word “ country “ can be applied in a national sense, and if honorable members on the Ministerial cross benches have adopted their present party title on that ground, they axe in conflict with those other honorable members opposite who call themselves the National party. I fail to see the necessity for a Country party if both can be grouped under the word “ National.” But if, on the other hand, they have adopted the name of Country party because they claim to represent the rural areas particularly, I remind the House that there are on this side, honorable members like myself, who represent as faithfully as they do districts that are essentially rural. There are honorable members on both sides of the House who question the need for the existence of a third party in this House.
– We could be more justly called the workers.
– I shall deal with that interjection later. If the Country party exists for the purpose of buttressing commercialism, and what we in South Australia call “King William-street Farmerism,” it will be of very little use. If its object is to form ah alliance with the representatives of commercialism and capitalism, and, to vote with them repeatedly for the purpose of throwing the extra burden on the wage-earning section of the community, it is unnecessary, and it will disappoint the hopes reposed in it by some of its supporters. . But if it came into the House with the object of protecting the primary producer and the wage-earner against unjust exploitation, there is room for it, and this debate will afford it an opportunity to disclose its mission. If not on this occason, at some other time, I hope the Country party members will show that they recognise that their interests are not identical with those of McKay, the big iron merchants, and those firms who sell sacks and superphosphates, in the price of which there has lately been an increase.
– The Prime Minister has the Country party under his thumb.
– I do not say that. I hope for great things from it. I trust that it will prove itself worthy of its place in this House, and if it does that, I shall not begrudge it an increase in its numerical strength. There is one very good reason why the Country party should throw its weight on the side of the Opposition in fighting the evil of exploitation. I do not question the claim of the honorable member for Swan (Mr.
Prowse) that the farmers are workers. I know how they work, and how hard is the lot of any man who is working for himself and trying to make ends meet. The profiteers get at the wage earner through foodand clothing prices, and rent. And what about the farmer? They get at the farmer also in prices for these commodities, as well as in regard to his superphosphates, his bags, his twine, and his harvesting machinery. In fact, almost everything the farmer uses comes from the hands of the profiteers. 1 “hope, therefore, that members of the Country party will be alive to their own interests, and will not be found on the side of the crowd who have been dipping into their pockets all this time. I ask them to throw their weight in with us and help the majority of the people to shift the exploiters off the backs of the people.
I wish to refer to another matter now that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr Wienholt) has returned to the chamber. I was very glad indeed to hear his remarks concerning the position of Australians of German parentage, and I commend him for his moderation. If I had in my veins some of the blood that is flowing in his I should not have been so moderate in my statements concerning some of the oppressors of his race who are sitting here. I want to make my position perfectly clear. In my veins there is not a drop of blood that is not of English origin, though my Hebrew name might suggest otherwise. My people come from Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire, and honorable members will realize, therefore, that anythingI may say in defence of these persecuted Australians of German origin is not due to any racial ties. I feel very strongly on this matter.
– They put you in.
– And I am very thankful to them for putting me in. But the honorable member must not measure my corn by his bushel. I have always taken this stand with regard to these people of German parentage and I hope I always shall. All through my life I have been out to help those who most need it. The position of all oppressed and persecuted people appeals to me. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), I notice, is smiling. I expect that during my parliamentary life we shall have some exchanges, because he so frequently interjects across the chamber when an honorable member on this side is speaking.
– I was not “smiling at your eloquence, at all events.
– The “ honorable member can smile at me if he likes. I judge him to be one of those who desire to ostracize me.
– It is not nonsense. I was told about this before I came here, but it does not concern me very much. I do not mind the honorable member smiling at me when I stand up to defend these people; but, all the same, I am surprised at him.
– Mr. Speaker; I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has just accused me of having smiled at something which he was saying. That is not so.
– Order] I must ask honorable members to support the Speaker in enforcing the rules of the House. I have called several times for order, and if honorable members do not obey I shall certainly take other steps to enforce the authority of the House.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7. $.5 p.m.
– I desire to make some further remarks with regard to internees during the war, particularly since the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr ) has suggested that I entered this House on the “ Hun “ vote. I wish to refer most particularly to the actual persecution of certain people of German origin. Many of those who have undergone persecution during the war are Australians; some of them are Australians of the second and third generation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may be interested to know that some of the internees are even more Australian than himself. I will not say that they .are more British, but they are certainly more Australian. If they were asked to express their attitude towards this country, they might be expected to reply, not “Wales for ever best,” but “Australia for ever best.” As an Australian, I resent the insults heaped upon fellow Australians. I resent their persecution, no matter whether instigated by a Welshman, an Irishman, or a representative in this country of any other race. The
Prime Minister should know that if he tackles one Australian he tackles the whole of us. We as Australians cannot afford to let any section of the community be attacked with impunity, and I would say to those who desire to make political capital out of any such action, that they had better beware. In some Celtic natures there is a tendency to great bitterness. I hope we shall not allow some Celts in our midst - imbued with many fine qualities though they may be - to vent their bittterness in measures of injustice. If rebellion were to break out in Ireland, and if there were members of this Ministry antipathetic to Ireland, would we calmly look upon Australians of Irish origin undergoing persecution, as in the case of these Australians of German origin? It would be a bad day for the Government if they “ took on “ that kind of thing; but the fact remains that if one section of the community can be unjustly treated, so also can another, in given circumstances.
I desire to refer to two or three specific cases, beginning with that of the late Emil J. Roesler. Honorable members who sat in the previous Parliament will recall the name. The former honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who, I regret to say, is not now a member of this House, fought ably and well on behalf of Roesler. and subsequently in the interests of his widow and children. Roesler had been an employee of the Postal Department for thirty-one years, and during that period he had never had one day’s sickness. He must have rendered good service to have been retained so long by the Department; but he was accused of disloyalty, and, on the evidence of two women and a detective, against eight others - all of British origin - Roesler was interned. I have read the particulars of his case, and I know the magistrate who tried it. The latter individual was supposed at one time to have defended me upon an occasion when such a course became necessary; and, knowing him as I do, I state, without hesitation, that the bulk of the evidence was not against this former postal employee, but rather in his favour. Roesler. before he was interned, had been taking his fortnight’s leave. He was requested by the postmaster at North Adelaide to return at short notice to duty. He obliged the Department by coming back, and in so doing he gave up eleven days of his leave. This was about ten months prior to his internment. From that day to this, neither he nor his widow has received any recompense for the eleven days’ lost leave, although the widow has had to toil over the wash-tub to earn a living for her children. Here is a note despatched by the postmaster at North Adelaide to Mr. Roesler. It is dated 28 th September, 1915 :-
Staff section just rang up. Wants to know if you can return to duty to-morrow morning without inconvenience. If so, please let me know by bearer. Balance of your leave will bc added to next year’s.
Then follow the initials of the North Adelaide postmaster. After Mr. Yates had been beaten in. the campaign for the Adelaide seat, I took up the case of the deceased internee, and communicated with the South Australian Deputy PostmasterGeneral. He sent me a letter, as follows : -
With reference to your letter of the 9th February, I have to inform you that eleven days’ recreation leave was due to the late E. J. Roesler: but before the leave could be arranged, he was interned by the military authorities, and consequently dismissed from the Public Service.
It has been ruled by the Public Service Commissioner that it cannot be recognised that recreation leave has a monetary value, and that there is no provision in the law which would countenance such a view; consequently no payment can be made to Mrs. Roesler in lieu of the recreation leave not taken.
Had the man’s name been Brown, his widow, whether engaged at the wash-tub battling for herself and her children or not, would ere this have received some monetary consideration at the hands of this Government; but, because Roesler happened to have been an Austrian by birth, it is, apparently, impossible to secure justice for his family. Will the Government continue to withhold compensation from this poor woman? Will they defraud her of eleven days’ pay by way of recompense for her husband’s lost leave? I have been watching the face of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise). It is a kindly face, and I am hopeful that his natural kindliness will outweigh any antipathy he may have towards the widow and family of this deceased internee.
The next case with which I wish to deal involves the Tanunda Club. This is an ordinary kind of club, longestablished in the town of Tanunda. I have been told by its secretary that on the first occasion of its enforced closing, the reason given was that it was a German club. Its officials were able to disprove that charge. All the minutes are recorded in English, and all the business is conducted in English. They were able to prove that they were not a German club, and were allowed to open; but, subsequently, they were again closed, because it was stated that a resident of Tanunda was in the club on a Sunday morning with twelve German reservists. However, the gentleman was able to prove that he was not in Tanunda on that Sunday, and the authorities again allowed the club to be opened. Since then it has been closed once more, and it remains closed, and the people do not know what the charge is. I am hopeful that my appeal to the Minister with the genial countenance (Sir Granville Ryrie) who represents the Minister for Defence will be successful, and that the members of this club will be given the opportunity of enjoying ‘the companionship and environment that can be obtained in good clubs, particularly seeing that they are a decent class of people, who, I am confident, are not disloyalists.
There is another matter in which injustice has been done. A religious paper called The Lutheran has been refused, registration. Papers of a similar character belonging to other denominations are registered, and The Lutheran, when printed in Victoria, was registered and was permitted to be transmitted through the post for many years; but when its publication was . transferred to Adelaide the opportunity was taken of refusing reregistration. I could quote other instances of injustice. The wonder to me is that these people have submitted to them and to the insults that have been hurled at them.
Honorable members know well that Australian-born citizens have been robbed of their franchise by a Cabinet containing former members of the Australian Labour party, who used to claim that they were out to give the freest and fullest franchise, but now seem to have abandoned all their old principles. Let me quote to them an authority which will be acceptable to them. The Honorable A. H.
Peake, the Premier of South Australia, speaking in the South Australian Legislative Assembly on the 27th September, 1916, said-
Taking away a man’s vote is taking away a man’s property, because it is the only constitutional method of preserving and protecting one’s property.
I impress these words on honorable members opposite, who are the defenders of property, so long as it does not belong to some one on whom they have a little bit of a “ derry.” In robbing these people of the right to vote they were not taking the franchise away from persons who had recently arrived from Germany, but were depriving Australians of a sacred birthright. Surely honorable members are not in favour of tearing up a scrap of paper. England went to war because of a scrap of paper, yet honorable members disfranchised people without any trial and without any proof of disloyalty. The man who is disloyal to the country that shelters him and protects him and in which he earns his livelihood, deserves all the punishment he gets; but these men and women were robbed of that to which they were entitled, and it was done without any trial by jury. If the Australian Cabinet will do this, thank God there is still some one left in the British Empire who is prepared to care a little for British justice. Late in 1915 the Privy Council tried the Tight of two Privy Councillors to retain their membership in that body, and I quote the following from the cablegrams which appeared in the daily papers at that time: -
The High Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the lower Court in respect to the retention by Sir Edward Speyer and Sir Ernest Cassel of their rank as British Privy Councillors. The King’s Division of the High Court, which in June, 1915, granted orders calling upon Sir Edward Speyer and Sir Ernest Cassel to prove they are entitled to their membership of the Privy Council, on 17th December gave judgment in their favour.
The applicant alleged that neither was horn within the Empire of English parentage, and hence neither was capable of belonging to the Privy Council.
The Court decided that Sir Ernest Cassel and Sir Edward Speyer, as naturalized subjects, possess all the rights and privileges of British-born subjects, and were, therefore, entitled to be members of the Privy Council.
The fact that these men were not born in the British Empire did not stop them from being; members of the highest Court
Mr. Go&6. in the British Empire. I hope the Prime Minister will take heed of the decision of the Privy Council, and that it’ will soften the feeling that, in my opinion, he seems to have towards these people whom he has disfranchised.
In conclusion, I wish to bring before honorable members the character of these people. I propose now to make one or two quotations from Early Experiences of Colonial Life, a book written in 1878 by “John Bull,” who landed in South Australia two years after the arrival of the first immigrants there, and -who has something interesting to say concerning the ancestors of persons of German descent now in South Australia. These people have been there from the beginning, and they are practically woven into the very fabric of the State. They have endured many hardships, and, until the outbreak of war, were always regarded as good citizens. I could, if necessary, give honorable members opposite quotations from speeches made by members of their own party in. South Australia regarding the good qualities of these very people. This is what “ John Bull “ says-
The arrival of Pastor Kavel, in the year 1838, with a flock of German Evangelical Lutherans, must not be forgotten as a valuable addition to our population.
He states further -
The influence of Pastor Kavel was very great, his personal exertions on behalf of his countrymen were untiring, and with a perfect forgetfulness of self, so that he could not fail in establishing a community remarkable for probity and respect for our’ laws,
Have honorable members opposite caught that statement concerning the stock from which these people sprang? as the annals of the Supreme Court bear witness that there has been no single instance in which one of his flock has been convicted of a serious offence.
What a grand character to be given these people! These emigrants from Germany landed in South Australia in 1838, and “John Bull,” writing in 1878, was able to say that not one of them had been convicted of a serious offence in the State. 1 wish that could be said of all of English blood who have come here. This, then, is the stock from which sprang the people that the Government have been persecuting. I have here another quotation from the same authority regarding the loyalty of these early settlers. After referring to their competition with workers of English origin, and to their saving and frugal habits, he went on to say, “ At all events, they all, young and old, prove themselves good and loyal subjects of our gracious Queen.’’ There was nothing of the politician about the writer of this book. The book is too honest to suggest anything of the kind.
These people of German descent, who have been persecuted for four or five years, cannot stand up for themselves. I have moved amongst many of those who were interned, and I do not hesitate to say that the one chief reason for their internment was their ability. The Government picked out the best men, and interned them, in order to cow the rest. These people are worthy of better consideration, and I hope that the Government will give them a fairer, cleaner, and better deal than they have had in the dark days - dark in more senses than one -that we have just put behind us.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. “When I entered the House this ‘ afternoon I thought that I had, perhaps, committed a crime in daring to come here as a member of the Australian Country party, since I heard what I considered to be a most unwarranted, unjustifiable, and vindictive attack upon myself. The result was that I made several interjections. I recognise that that was an unpardonable offence, because, in the first place, the honorable member who was speaking was new to this House, and, secondly, because all interjections, according to the Standing Orders, are disorderly. My personal explanation relates to the reason for my interjections. Yesterday, while an honorable member was speaking, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) made a remark which I regarded as exceedingly offensive to members of the Country party, to which I have the honour to belong. Looking towards us, he said, in a very bitter tone, “ These are the people who shelter themselves behind the flag.” I then interjected, “ That is a very brave statement to make.” If the honorable member takes any offence at that remark, I apologize to him and the House, and withdraw it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
Visit of the Treasurer to London.
– (By leave). - The urgency of the matter that I desire to bring before honorable members is my excuse for taking the very unusual course of interrupting the debate on the motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply. The circumstances are such as, not only to warrant this action, but to compel me to put the House at once in possession of the information which I shall now give them.
The Cabinet has recently devoted much attention to the financial position of the Commonwealth, particularly the condition and outlook with regard to loan moneys, and our indebtedness to the British Government.
As is well known, Ave finished the war with a huge national debt, represented by our stock and bonds. But besides that we owe the War Office £33,000,000, for which no bonds have been issued, and for which no definite arrangement has been made. To this amount must be added £8,750,000 for various Avar payments, made on our behalf by the Imperial authorities, who are pressing for early repayment. These are large sums, and, in the present condition of the world’s money market, it is not easy to meet their wishes
We have, in addition to these obligations, to find many millions to continue and complete the land-settlement and housing of our returned soldiers.
If Australia could, without serious disturbance of its producing and employing agencies, furnish its Government with substantial loans, the solution would not be hard ; but, as everybody knows, that is unfortunately not the case.
The situation is important and urgent, and, recognising this, the Government has requested the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) to proceed to London as early as practicable to deal with and, if possible, settle these matters.
The Treasurer has further been commissioned to go thoroughly into the question of the profits on wool, out of which Australian growers have every right to expect a large bonus above the flat rate provided in the wool contract. He will also represent the Commonwealth in the Imperial Cabinet in connexion with several important aspects of the Peace Treaty, including the German indemnity and the mandate for the Pacific Islands.
The Treasurer will avail himself of the opportunity of inaugurating in Britain the immigration policy of the Government, and I am hopeful that, asa result, a regulated, but steady, flow of British settlers to Australia will be encouraged.
This is a business mission of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth, and I take the earliest opportunity of acquainting Parliament with the objects and intentions of the Government.
I have to-day received a telegram from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pointing out that as the end of the British financial year is the. 31st of this month, and as he has made provision in his Budget for the inclusion of the repayment of £8,750,000, one of the amounts to which I have referred, he is pressing for payment in order that he may not be compelled to make a statement to the House of Commons which would disclose the position. I need not point out how very serious it would be if our credit were affected in any way. The Government find it impossible to discuss this matter at arm’s length, and have decided to send the Treasurer, who is in every way the most suitable man for the purpose, to London. The Government hope that the visit of the Treasurer will, in all these matters, particularly in regard to the loan matters to which I have referred, be successful. The Treasurer, if he goes - and the Government had made arrangements for him to go before the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had tabled his amendment - must go almost immediately. Under the circumstances, I thought it proper to make this statement in order that I might inform honorable members that, subject, of course, to the Government having the support of the majority in this Chamber, the Treasurer will leave for England at the beginning of the week after next.
– As a point of order, I should like to know whether we have not the right to discuss the statement made by the Prime Minister? What is the good of a statement being made if we are not to discuss it?
– The statement can only be debated by leave. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) got leave to make the statement, and it would not be in order at the present time to interrupt the debate to specially discuss the statement as such; but there is no objection to references being made to it in the course of the debate now proceeding, and to which the matter is relevant.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson) laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Charlton, Mr. Fleming, and Mr. Watkins to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
– I desire to say, by way of personal explanation, that in quoting the figures relating to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company this afternoon, during the Supply debate, I omitted some which are certainly both relevant and important. I omitted to say that, in addition to the amounts that are paid to the company for refining and for freight charges, and the 7s. per ton for the cost of distribution, we have paid, and are paying, to the company, under the agreement, £1 per ton of sugar handled to cover managerial expenses, use of plant, and financing the sugar business.
Debate resumed from p. 193.
Sr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [8.20].- I am grateful, as a new member, for the opportunity this debate presents of, to some extent, defining my position in the House. It was almost by accident that I strayed into the by-paths of politics, and I am glad to be able so early to have an opportunity to state in a general way where I stand in regard to certain points. I do not hope to bring to the House any very great initiative or political experience; what I hope to bring is the fair average opinion of the ordinary nian in the street. If one can tlo that, perhaps one’s presence here may be of some value.
During the course of the debate to-day I heard frequent references to the recent referendum. There were arguments on both sides as to what the actual voting meant - what it connoted in the public mind in regard to what could be done with or without its being carried. I should like to say, as one who has been independent in politics the whole of mi life, that while I have always consistently voted for Liberals in Federal politics, I have voted in the affirmative on every occasion on which questions of the extension of the constitutional powers have been submittted to the people. My reason for this affirmative vote is that I believe the National Government of Australia should have complete control of all national activities. During the last campaign I had the honour of being associated with men who were working earnestly to defeat the referendum proposals in the State of New South Wales; and, in my opinion, their opposition was due, not so much to any objection to the referendum proposals as such, as to a fear on their part that the Government which might control the referendum powers, if these were granted, would be one that could not be trusted by the primary producers. I venture to think, for many reasons, that if the electors of New South Wales, of which State I am most cognisant, had been certain there would result the position we have in this House to-day, and that there would be a Corner party practically holding the balance of power, and able to control the despotic acts of any Government, there would have been a majority in New South Wales in favour of the referendum proposals, not only in New South Wales, but also throughout Australia. There is no opposition of any magnitude in the northern’ part of New South Wales to the enlargement of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. Though there wa3 in my electorate a vote of 14,000 against as contrasted with about 6,000 for, and a similar result in New England, I know that in the northern areas there is an intense feeling in favour of increased constitutional powers being given to the Commonwealth.
In fact, the people of New South Wales are so anxious for a change that they do not favour waiting for the Convention the Government intend calling, but propose calling a Convention of their own to hasten it along. Their attitude has been determined largely by the experience of members in the last Parliament, and the actions of this Government, which have been referred to in stronger language than I would care to use, by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who, when speaking in Adelaide about four weeks ago, at a meeting of producers, was reported in the press as follows : -
He made an appeal for the restoration of parliamentary authority to end what he termed the Bolshevik regime. He said that war conditions had made Parliament a cypher, and uncontrolled Cabinets had become intoxicated with their own unlimited authority; and in the absence of effective criticism and proper parliamentary safeguards often drifted into demoralization. The people were staggering, under outrageous prices, unionists were striking in a rebellious and criminal fashion, while all conceivable means for conciliation and the adjustment of disputes were ‘ contemptuously ignored and defied. The Government had been spineless and powerless, and the direct actionists and go-slow brigade were disrupting society and threatening general disaster. There was one remedy left, and that was a vigorous determination “by the people that Government be supreme and parliamentary authority restored.
That was an expression of opinion by the honorable member for Wakefield before some of his constituents, and we have since ascertained that a huge majority in that honorable member’s electorate was opposed to the referendum proposals. Under the conditions then present, no one was justified in trusting a Government which, by reason of its huge majority, was able to dragoon any measure through the House. It was felt during the whole of the recent campaign, particularly in northern New South Wales - I do not know the opinion held in the southern portion - that the proposal put forward by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in connexion with the referendum and the calling of a Convention, were two distinct proposals. We were informed that whether the referendum was carried or not it was understood a Convention would be called the following year.’ The opinion expressed by many farmers’ representatives on country platforms was that it was better not to have any patch-work amendments, but a complete revision of the Constitution, by which all matters that required attention could be adjusted by a properly elected Convention. It was freely stated on public platforms that such a Convention should not be a nominee, but an elective body based on sound principles of representation. It was suggested by the Victorian Farmers Union, and also by many farmers in Victoria, that the election of members to the Convention should be f-n the proportional system. Tn New South Wales they went further, and said that to secure proper country representation on the Convention it would be necessary to subdivide each State into electoral districts. We find in connexion with the Senate that the city votes monopolize the representation in that Chamber, and that the country districts are really without representation. In consequence of that, and not because the people of New South Wales desire a continuance of the present conditions, the referendum proposals were defeated by au overwhelming majority in that State. It was felt by the primary producers of New South Wales that if the referendum proposals were carried they might be used against them. The Country party, to which I have the honour to belong, is absolutely opposed to price-fixing in any shape or form. It was felt by many producers that if the Government were given the power, to continue price-fixing they would be in the same position as they were in under the War Precautions Act.
This afternoon the Prime Minister boasted of the fact that the consumers in Australia had been saved something like £4,700,000 in the prices they had paid for certain products. Out of whose pockets did that saving come? When reference is made to cheap butter and other such commodities we have to realize that the consumer is receiving an advantage to the detriment of the primary producer. We object to placing any Government in unrestrained power - especially a Government such as this - which has, to a large extent, been demoralized, and which, during the war period, was really a dictatorship. We object to placing unlimited power in the hands of any. Government till we have a Constitution framed to properly safeguard the interests of the people. We are in favour of proportional representation of rural interests in both Chambers, and the primary producers of Australia are not prepared to grant any Government unlimited power until we can. secure proper representation of rural interests in both Chambers.
– It has. been said that men differ more concerning words than anything else - the important thing is to agree on the principle. The members of the Country party know exactly what they require, but they may differ in the terms employed in expressing their needs. As a representative of the Country party, I think it desirable to. say, at the outset, what we favour, because we are prepared to stand or fall by our actions. We advocate the abolition of price-fixing, a policy of real economy, and the restoration of the prerogatives of Parliament. All the speeches I have heard since the debate was opened, including the statement just made by the Prime Minister concerning the approaching departure of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) for London, convince me of the necessity for the action which this party is taking to secure parliamentary control of Supply. We owe between £700,000,000 and £800,000,000 sterling, and have to meet an annual interest bill of £30,000,000, or twice the total revenue the Commonwealth was receiving from all sources at the outbreak of the war. That is the position we have to face, and it is idle to denounce past extravagance when we should be looking to the future. Whether Queensland has been more extravagant than the Commonwealth is not a matter that should worry us. We have to consider whether this Parliament is going to be extravagant in the future. It is time parliamentary government was restored, and the control of the public purse properly placed. We expect assistance in this direction from honorable members in this corner, and from others who ought to be here. Ever since I entered this House, I have been reminded of Browning’s lines, as my glance runs along .the Government benches -
Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat;
Found the one gift of which Fortune bereft us,. Lost all the others, she lets us devote.
But besides those honorable members there are many men upon my left who have repeatedly insisted upon the principles for which this Corner party stands. We expect those honorable members to support us in this matter. It seems to me that the first step towards economy is for us to consider how much is to be spent, and then to insist that it shall be spent wisely. The Country party has adopted the attitude that it should exercise some control over the spending power of this Parliament, even though there is very little of the current year now left. It has been forced to that attitude by looking up the records of the present Government. I find that during the past three years the Estimates have been presented at a very late period indeed. Only in July, 1917, were the Estimates for 1916-17 passed - a month after the financial year had ended. The Estimates for the following year were not submitted to the House until the 14th June, 1918, whilst the Estimates for 1918-19 were not passed until the 25th December, or Christmas Day. I take it that the debate upon them did not occupy long on that occasion.
– It has been the same ever since 1901.
– In 1919-20 what is the position? It is now March, and we have not yet considered the Estimates for the current year. They were presented to the House in October last, but there has never been a full discussion upon them. The Country party asks for very little. It seeks an assurance that the Estimates shall be considered within a reasonable time, and that next year they shall be submitted for our consideration at an early date, so that our expenditure may be made to fit in with the revenue that is available. During my life I have not had time to read too much upon the subject of political economy, and what I have read has only tended to confuse me. But I have picked up one rule from Dickens, which is a very sound one - the rule laid down by Micawber, that if a man has an income of £1 a year and spends only 19s. 6d. the result is happiness, whilst if he spends 20s. 6d. the result is misery. According to the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) the conditions of which I complain have existed ever since the inception of the Commonwealth in 1901. Whilst good times were being experienced the practice was, perhaps, permissible. But now that we are faced with the possibility of having to repudiate a liability, of £30,000,000, surely it is time for every party to consider what taxation should be levied, and also the way in which our Commonwealth revenue shall be disbursed before it is spent.
We want to get down to bedrock in this matter, because, after all, this question of Government expenditure is one of the prime causes of the high cost of living and of industrial unrest. Profiteering is always with us, though it reaches its zenith only upon occasions when there is either a natural or artificial shortage in production. It is practically admitted that the high cost of living is due to three causes, namely, the inflation of the paper currency, the expenditure by the Government of huge sums raised, either by taxation or by loan, and the diminution in production in every country in the world consequent upon the withdrawal of so many men from the ranks of industry for the fighting line. Perhaps another reason is the addition to the overgrown Civil Service departments, which every Government within the British Empire has sanctioned during the war. This is not a matter in which the Commonwealth ‘ Government alone deserve either censure or pity. To an extent, perhaps, it was inevitable on account of the numerous activities in which the Government had to engage. But the Estimates for the current year provide for an expenditure of £4,500,000 upon war activities, notwithstanding that the war ended many months ago. In regard to the inflation of the currency, we cannot accomplish much at the present time, except by restricting the issue of further paper money. Whether we shall gain much by the issue of 5s. -notes without any tangible backing for them, is to my mind very questionable. But the expenditure by the Government of huge sums raised either by loan or taxation is a matter with which we can deal immediately, and is one which this Parliament alone ought to control.
Then there is the question of the returned soldiers, those who ‘ have been taken into our big Departments, especially the Army. I am pleased indeed to see so many returned men amongst the members of this House, because I believe that from them will be obtained some practical solution of the problem of repatriation which will enable our returned soldiers to get a much better deal than they are getting, however well intentioned towards them the Government may be.
During the war a practice has grown up in our Civil Service which, to my mind, militates against the efficiency which it was possible to obtain previously. In pre-war days each reproductive Government Department had the right to draw up its own estimates, which were usually based on the maintenance of its supplies for the previous year. But during the war these Departments have been starved, with the result that every one of them is now living from hand to mouth, and the postponement of the consideration of the Estimates until late in the year tends to perpetuate this evil system and to prevent the responsible officers of the different Departments from purchasing their supplies in a favorable market, and thus keeping their stocks up to the required standard.
We all know perfectly well that adequate provision has not been made for the establishment of country telephone lines and postal services. This is a matter which has not received the attention that it deserves, seeing that it constitutes a most important factor in the settlement of people upon the land. As a -practitioner who has been under the necessity of visiting many outback places, I know that the absence of facilities, especially for telephone connexion, is one of the biggest factors in driving people off the land. Dozens of families live under a horrible sense of fear of impending calamity. Time after time I have known people’s lives to be jeopardized. In two cases I have known women to die when left absolutely alone, while the husband was riding 20 miles away to try to find a telephone to ring up a doctor. That sort of thing should not be possible in a civilized community, and ought to be absolutely impossible in a Christian community. It should not be tolerated in a land like Australia, which, as regards its rural population, in proportion, sent more men to the Front than any other part of the Empire. These men and women are the producers of our wealth, and deserve, and should receive, proper consideration. Because of the absence of early consideration of the Estimates, we find that a line is approved after much agitation - in fact, too much agitation - and then, after a. long wait, the intimation is received that there is no material available to construct the line. The best way to settle people on the land is to liberalize the whole question of postal and telephonic communication. The only reason that seems to me possible for what has been going on is that the Estimates have been brought down in too blank a form, or, surely, the country members who have sat in thisHouse would have insisted years ago that if the Sydney telephone system could lose- £420,000 in five years, the Department should not refuse telephonic communication which would serve a hamlet of fifty or sixty families, and on which the loss might not be more than about £10 a year.. From the form in which the Estimates have been brought down, members do not know where the money is going to bespent. The Estimates are rushed arid closured through frequently in a coupleof days. That has been done by a Government which, for the time being, has had the good fortune to have an overwhelming majority in the House - a thing which I hope will not occur during the life of’ this Parliament. Under a proper system, I hope that we shall be able to get Estimates that will disclose the fullest information to members, who are sent here to see that the country’s funds are . properly disbursed.
As regards the immigration proposal which the Government have in mind, it is quite useless to attempt to bring to this; country immigrants from overseas unless some provision is made to alter completely either the governmental methods or the system of government. Before the war the State authorities were bringing into New South Wales a number of picked agricultural immigrants. Mr. Knibbs, the Federal Statistician, found that 85 per cent, of these men settled down to farm on 20-ft. allotments in Kingstreet, Newtown, or in ten-story buildings in George-street or Pitt-street, Sydney, and that only about 15 per cent, went to the country. Of that 15 per cent., it would be found that 12 per cent, went on to the various navvying works undertaken by the State Government, and practically the whole of these men enlisted when the war broke out. They told me, when I was in charge of several big camps, that unless country conditions altered very considerably in Australia they were never coming back. I understand that the same thing takes place in Victoria, and that although in the last sixteen years the population of Victoria has increased by 190,000, the population of Melbourne has increased by 212,000. It is of no use to bring these men out unless some provision is made to make the land attractive, and get them on to it. Honorable members have noticed the maps placed in the Queen’s Hall by the North-West Railway Development League. All I have to say about that proposition is that it will have my earnest support if it is a good country development proposition. I draw particular attention to the map of Canada, which shows that through the increase of railways and the provision of cheap electric power and decent telephonic and postal facilities, there has been an enormous increase in the rural population. Country interests have been given proper consideration by the Government of the day in that Dominion, and now we find that under the farmers’ Government in Ontario there is a tremendous increase in land settlement, and a very satisfactory stream of immigration.
The party to which I have the honour to belong, while it stands for economy, stands for real and not for pinchbeck economy, which simply means passing men out because they are drawing big salaries or because they seem to be too numerous. The right thing to do is to obtain the proper value out of the men we employ. What is needed more than anything else in the Public Service is a reasonable decentralization of authority. We find high-salaried men who have not the right to spend a .penny of public money. This applies both in State and Federal Departments. In a country town in New South Wales, a storm blocked the telephone line. It would have cost ls. for a man to go down and separate the wires, but, because there was no provision for the postmaster to spend any money, he had to wire to Lismore at a cost of 9d., and they had to wire back to him at the cost of another 9d., which meant an expenditure of ls. 6d., to allow the post master to spend ls. on an essential work. I have known the whole telephonic communication of the north coast to be hung up for three days, simply because it would have cost 8s. to send a man out to cut a tree off the line, ‘and the official in charge had not the power to spend the money. The same thing applies in the higher grades of the Service, and all the Government Departments seem to suffer from the disease of wanting to indite memoranda. The main thing seems to be to become a good minute writer. What is necessary is exactly what the Economy Commission has suggested - a commission of management of business men, who will insist that each officer shall prove himself worth his salary, or be disrated. That is the only ‘ w;a.y in which real economy is ever likely to be obtained. If that is done, we shall not find .such statements as the following in the Economy Commission’s report regarding the Navy Department : -
This Commission, as yet, has been unable to inspect more than a small part of the Department’s activities, but evidence supplied by highly-placed and reliable officers is of a most disquieting nature, indicating that in many of the branches of the Department’s work no attempt whatever is made to check unnecessary expenditure and extravagance. In the words of one officer, “ There is no administrative control, and as a consequence no one considers the question of cost.”
That is the class of economy which the members of this party would support, and I, for one, would like to receive from the Government the, assurance that we shall get it.
– Do you not think that the Commission should tell us “something about the matter ? What you have read is all that we know about it.
– When a Government appoints a Royal Commission to make an inquiry at great public expense, it is its business to secure capable men for the job.
– They simply say that they have not inquired into this matter.
– What we desire is honesty and straightforwardness. The interests of the primary producers, and then of the secondary producers, must be thoroughly protected and encouraged. Any Government that gives such encouragement and protection, and shows that it has at heart the welfare of the public and the best interests of the nation, will receive our support; but a Government that does not do these things will find us opposed to its continuance in office,
.- It ma-y clear the air somewhat if I state at the outset that I represent vast’ landed interests. My constituents are practically all farmers. They are farmers of an advanced school of thought, and of more than average intelligence, and know what they want, and how their interests will be best served. Therefore, they have sent me to this House as a move towards putting . into power the Australian Labour paTty, which they wish to see administering the public affairs. I shall deal briefly with the three counts of the indictment against the present Government, namely, the encouragement of profiteering and undue sympathy with the moneyed interests, maladministration in connexion with the handling of our primary products, and injudicious expenditure. This Government has done iti best, not to prevent profiteering, but to assist the profiteers. There are fruitgrowers as well as farmers in my electorate, and during the past few weeks I have been inundated with letters asking me to get something done for them. It is thought by many that immediately a man is elected to Parliament he can do a great deal. Were the Labour party in power, of course the Government policy would aid these people, and they would have had relief by now; but, unfortunately, the Labour party is in Opposition, and therefore I cannot get much done for then. They point out that their fruit is rotting on the ground because they cannot get sugar to preserve it. In the past, they have been accustomed to preserve large quantities of fruit for their own use, and to turn the surplus into cash. Apparently, the Government is assisting the larger storekeepers in the cities. The statement has been published in the newspapers, and I have not seen a refutation of it by those who could refute it if it were incorrect, that certain persons are keeping back between 26,000 and 30,000 tons of sugar for a rise in price. It is useless for the Government to say that it can do nothing to prevent this sort of thing, because it has a big controlling influence. Country storekeepers allege that they are being unfairly treated, because big city firms are allowed to get more sugar than they should get, and can thus take legitimate business from their country competitors. This morning I received the following letter. I shall not make public now the name of my correspondents, but I think that there would be no trouble in getting authority to do so -
For the past six months, the sugar shortage, as no doubt you are aware, has been most acute. It has been with the utmost difficulty possible for us to keep our trade together during that period. We have been hoping that as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company overtook the demand caused’ by shortage arising out of the seamen’s strike that our supplies would reach somewhere in the vicinity of normal. However, we have been only able to obtain one-third of our normal supplies. We are prepared to vouch that large quantities of sugar are being forwarded by Sydney retail houses to customers who ordinarily do their business ‘ with us. It has reached the stage now that customers inform us that by forwarding their grocery orders to Sydney they are able to obtain their full requirements. Undoubtedly, you will see the grave injustice that is being done to the’ country trade on account of the supplies coming .from the city. It seems to us that one of two things, or both, is happening, viz.: The city retail houses are obtaining more than normal supplies of sugar in order to do this’ business, or they are curtailing their city customers, in order to obtain new business in the country. We have approached different channels, with a view to having more equitable distribution; but up to the present we have failed. At the present time, we have been without sugar for a week, -and all the time sugar is rolling in to the customers who were doing a large business with us. We shall be glad if you will use your endeavours to have this injustice remedied. We know that many traders in the country are in the same position as ourselves, and we would not force this question if we felt that every one was being treated alike as far as shortage is concerned. If this position continues much longer,’ it will “mean ruination to a large number of country storekeepers.
I am further asked to place certain questions upon the notice-paper, and that T have already done. The writers of that letter are not talking wildly. Their experience is the experience of the trade, with which I was connected for a good while myself. I know that everything in the letter is true.
– It means that if a £5 order is sent to the city, a bag of sugar is returned with the goods.
– Exactly. The facts speak for themselves. If Ministers do not wish the present feeling against them to gain strength, and desire to avoid being turned out of office neck and crop at the next election, they will give more attention to the interests of those in the country, and less to the bolstering up of the big, fat city interests.
I am not satisfied with the Government administration of another large interest. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald of 18th February the following statement, which has not been contradicted, and which I, therefore, assume the Prime Minister stands by: -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, was yesterday asked if it is a fact that the Federal Government was bearing the expenses incurred in the laying-up of shipping as a result of the strike. The Prime Minister replied, “ In regard to both its own vessels and idle shipping generally, the Government is incurring very heavy loss.
In this connexion I yesterday asked the following questions of the Prime Minister: - .
I direct attention to the fact that the answer given to those questions by the Prime Minister does not bear out the statement I have quoted from the Sydney Morning Herald. , The Prime Minister replied to my question -
The shipping companies’ expenses have been borne by themselves, the Controller of Shipping recognising only such liability as he incurred under the regulations relating to the requisitioning of Inter-State ships and the charter party under which such ships are running.
– That is the point.
– Yes; that is where the camouflage comes in. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
So far no hire has been paid to the owners of requisitioned vessels, but the expenses of watching and safeguarding cargo will have to be paid by the Inter-State Central Committee out of revenue derived from fares and freights.
I have said that answer is not in keeping with the statement quoted from the Sydney Morning Herald. It is rambling and vague, and is capable of almost any interpretation, and in that respect is characteristic of the answers which the Prime Minister gives to any charges made here or by any organization in the country.
The right honorable gentleman, in his address to this House, referred to the wealth in this country, and we have tonight had the business of the House interrupted in order to enable him to make a statement to the effect that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is going for an international joy-ride to America and England. I suppose he is to go cap-in-hand to the capitalist interests of those countries to get cash to carry on the affairs of Australia. There are those in Australia to-day who know as much about finance as does the Treasurer or the Prime Minister, who are of opinion that there is sufficient accumulated wealth in this country to enable us, if it is properly used, to finance ourselves. I claim again that the Government have deliberately prevented that fact being made known to the country. In my reading I came across rather startling things recently. Honorable members will recollect that when the war was on we took a census of the man-power of the Commonwealth, and also of its wealth. Somebody was rather inquisitive, and I suppose too inquisitive for the Government, and wanted to know what was written on the wealth census cards. Information was desired to discover what the total of the accumulated wealth of the nation was, and the source of the incomes of allthe people of this country. This person wrote to the Commonwealth Statistician, who, no doubt, was the best authority to consult, to secure this information. I shall quote an extract from his letter. On the 27th March, 19.19, he wrote to the Commonwealth Statistician -
Following on advice contained in your letter of 20th ult., I obtained the books mentioned therein : but I am unable to find the whole of the required information. I desire to know the sources of all income of all persons in Australia To this end, could you tell me where or how I can obtain the total of all the answer’s to all the questions contained in the wealth and income cards in respect to income?
On 3rd April Mr. Knibbs replied in the following terms: -
With reference to your letter of 27th March, I regret to say that the particulars in respect to income required by you as to details of the wealth and income cards were not tabulated at the war census.
Why? I claim that the reason was that the information the cards contained was so startling that the Government would not permit it to be tabulated and published. There -was some other information that was tabulated and given full publicity, and. that was information as to the man power of the. nation. We could have all the. information that we desired where the lives of our, people might be at stake, but we should know nothing about. the wealth of the nation. I state again my absolute conviction that this course was deliberately followed for two reasons. The first was to protect the huge wealthy interests of this country, and the second reason was, that the answers given to the questions on the wealth census cards were so startling that had they been published they would have caused great trouble in this country. This, in my opinion, is another proof of the charge contained in the amendment that the Nationalist Government have deliberately set themselves up to support vested, interests and bolster up profiteering. They have not only done, nothing to prevent profiteering, but have deliberately laid themselves out to assist it.’
Having some regard for the feelings of honorable members, I shall not, by quoting figures of the injudicious expenditure of the Government, weary them by the repetition of matter which has already been before them; but I want to say that while money . has undoubtedly been lavishly expended, and the interests of the taxpayers and the people generally have not been conserved, some public expenditure has been very judiciously made in chair- eis where a little liberality would have carried comfort and cheer into homes which, because of Government cheeseparing in this connexion, are desolate. I refer to the’ administration, for which the Government must hold themselves responsible, of .the old-age and invalid pensions, and the war pensions of soldiers and soldiers’ widows. I have had a number of ‘ hard cases brought under my notice which l. W111 not weary the House by referring to in detail, but which, if my statement ‘is questioned by honorable members opposite, I shall be prepared to produce. Instances have been brought under my notice in which pensions have been refused, or have been paid’ only in part for paltry’ reasons, or for no apparent reason at all. It seems to me to have been’ the deliberate set policy, of- the Government in the administration of this Department that the dependent: position of persons in receipt ; of these pensions must be always kept before them. They must be among the humble and bear upon themselves and in their homes the brand of poverty. If they hang a new picture above the mantelpiece or wear a new suit of clothes or seek to make their homes attractive some spy reports the matter and their pensions are reduced.
Much has been said in regard to primary production and the position of the man on the land. One honorable member sitting on the sub-Government benches made a rather touching statement about people flocking from the land to the cities. I indorse the argument of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that to some extent the in flux into the cities is due to the hard conditions under which country people live owing to the lack of proper means of communication with their fellows, and their remoteness from doctors and other advantages of civilization. No man outside of a lunatic asylum Will say that increased production is not necessary, not only for Australia, but for the whole world. Both primary and secondary production must be increased, and it is the man-power of a nation that does most of the production. Four years ago Ave were told that Ave had to win the Avar in order to save Australia and the world from slavery, or something akin to it. We have done that, and it seems to me that the mandate to our manhood now is: “ You Avon the Avar, you did very wel : you saved Australia. Now put your heads down and work like the devil to pay for it.” The only way in which Ave can produce the wealth necessary to stabilize our finances and counteract the influence of the over-issue of paper money is by making production worth while. In order to do that Ave must eliminate the large element of gambling that is part of the incidence of primary production. I claim that it can be eliminated. The primary producer must be made secure; he must be protected against the present unfortunate conditions. Go through the electorate I represent, go to places hundreds of miles beyond sunset, and you will not wonder why the .people, are flocking to the cities.’ ‘It is not because of the .absence of telephones” or railways, butbecause the settlements are only piles of dust and sand. ‘ This -is ‘a time for the doing of big things, and a’ Government which claims the admiration and support of the people of Australia must be prepared to embark on large ventures that will appeal to the imagination of our own people, and the people of the whole world, and attract population from overseas. The Prime Minister to-day talked about the money the Labour party were to expend. Every penny of that expenditure would be returned tenfold. There are certain pressing problems which are so large that they can be handled only by this Parliament. We must go in for the conservation of water. The Egyptians 7,000 years ago could have taught the present National Government a lesson in looking after the interests of the people They controlled their country better in the interests of the primary producer and the people generally than the Commonwealth Government are doing to-day. The droughts are a good thing for the parasitical middlemen who batten on the primary producer and the worker. To the gentlemen who control cold storage, and whose stores are chock full of meat that the Australian people cannot get, what matters it if three sheep die in the far West so long as they can get for one in cold storage the ordinary price of four? Cold storage is too large a thing to be controlled by private individuals. We must, as a nation, control it, and build national storehouses at whatever cost, so that in years of plenty, when Providence blesses the land with a bountiful rainfall and rich harvests, we may lay aside a surplus for use in the lean years. We can allow the primary producer to export, but we must conserve in Australia one-seventh or one-tenth, or whatever proportion of our products may be necessary, as a reserve. We can pay the producer the market rates offering in good years, and then when the time of famine comes the national storehouse will be full, and from them the producers can be supplied with what they require to keep their starving stock alive. -To-day they are obliged to pay £10 or £12 per ton. for hay which they had to sell for £3 or £4, and because some persons had a little spare cash with which to buy up stocks when prices were low, they are now able to make hundreds of thousands of pounds out of the distress of others. So it was in connexion with the war. I am not a vindictive man, but
I have noticed that the only element in human affairs that made no sacrifices in connexion with the ‘ war . was wealth. Wealth accumulated while human life was being wasted. I use the word “ wasted “ because, although we all admit that the sacrifice was necessary, life was wasted. At the same time wealth was being piled up. Now, while men are making all the sacrifices that can beasked of human beings, those men who raise produce from the land, who are pioneering the out-back portions of the country, and are building up its prosperity - they and the secondary producers in the city factories, are the only ones who are deriving no benefit. They are getting practically nothing. Indeed, they are probably worse off than they were many years ago. Two classes in the community - the primary producers and the consumers - have to bear the whole burden of taxation, and the bulk falls upon the wage-earners, because they are unable to pass it on.
I desire now to refer to a glaring anomaly in the administration of the electoral law. I refer to the provisions regarding postal voting. I was returned with a fair majority, and, but for the anomaly to which I refer, the number of votes in my favour would have been considerably increased. It appears ‘that there is no provision to meet the case of illiterate or enfeebled persons, who are unable to write their own names, and who desire to use the postal vote. It seems strange that the mark of an illiterate person, if witnessed by an accredited person, should be ‘ regarded as valid in a will disposing, perhaps, of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of . property, and yet in some circumstances it should be valueless in connexion with the postal vote. Those who had inside information, and took the precaution to have the marking of the ballot-paper witnessed by a justice of the peace, were in a happier position, because their votes were accepted, but I know that at least twenty votes in my favour were turned down because the ballotpapers were not witnessed in this way. This appears to me to be a fraud on the Electoral Act, and, if this Government are in power at the next general election, I hope the anomaly will be removed It is essential that we should have men of integrity in charge of the electoral machinery, and accordingly it is desirable that they should ‘be amply remunerated when they are called upon to work night after night in preparation for an election. The amount allowed to Returning Officers and their assistants is not .sufficient. The Government should consider the advisability of providing for overtime payment, as in the case of other civil servants.
It seems to me that very little is being done to lift this country out of its present chaotic condition, and, in my opinion, the Government should not be’ granted the full amount of Supply asked for without some adequate guarantees concerning the future. I am very much afraid that, if Supply is granted for three months, the same old policy of drift will be adopted, and that the Government, like Micawber, will still be waiting for something to turn up. They appear to have embraced the doctrine of the fatalist, and say, in effect, “ What matters tomorrow, if to-day be sweet?” During the election, wonderful things were promised by the Prime Minister and members of the Nationalist party. The people were promised heaven before election day, and they appear to have got the opposite since then, as they are now at the mercy of the profiteers. All the alleged statesmanship and ability of the Prime Minister and his colleague, the Treasurer, seem to have dissolved in thin air. The Government are inert and helpless. The Prime Minister’s promises are so much dead-sea. fruit in the mouth of the nation. The Prime Minister said members upon this side of the House had always supported proposals for the alteration of the Constitution.’ He knows, however, that there was no likeness between the propositions placed before the people at the time of the last election and those involved in the previous referenda. In the first place, there were conditions attached to the recent questions which had never been associated with the Constitution proposals of the Labour Administration. And it was for the. reason that I had no faith in the present. Government and its purposes that I, for one, told my constituents that they would be .very, foolish if they voted “Yes” in the expectation of securing anything useful. I warned them that the Government would use their powers to tyrannize still further the rank and file of the people, whose interests they cared nothing about; and I advised the electors that if they agreed to the proposed amendments of the Constitution the Government would merely take the opportunity to further strengthen and uphold the profiteers. When Labour placed its Constitution, amendments proposals before the people the profiteering press of Australia strongly opposed them. The capitalistic interests of the country, were antagonistic. These are the interests which spend much money at election times, but take good care to recoup themselves over and over aga.n by charging high prices. These same interests opposed the present Government’s recent Constitution amendment proposals - at any rate, they indicated opposition. I remember reading in a newspaper that the Prime .minister had addressed himself behind locked doors - a Star Chamber affair - to a very exclusive circle of capitalistic interests in Victoria known as the Employers Federation. The press report stated that after hearing Mr. Hughes those present formally resolved that they were satisfied that the proposals were of a very limited character, that the suggested additional powers were circumscribed, and that, therefore, they would support the Government. That fact in itself made me suspicious, and another consideration with me was ‘ the promise of the Government that if the referendum proposals were agreed to and the Government failed to call a Convention before the end of 1920, the conceded powers would automatically lapse. We have lately experienced what ‘has virtually amounted to government from overseas. What would have happened if the Government’s proposals had been agreed to? Honorable members opposite know pretty well that nothing is done while Mr. Hughes is away. Obviously, then, if the Prime Minister saw fit to absent himself from Australia a Convention would not be called. Mr. Hughes, no doubt, would have taken good care to go away instead of Mr. Watt at this juncture, and thus the promised contention would have been blocked. The vote of the people would have been rendered useless, and probably they would have become so disgusted that they would refuse for another twenty years to favour any further proposed alterations of the Constitution. i Reading the programme of the Government, as set out in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I was amazed and at the same time depressed. There was no genuine effort either promised or foreshadowed to . cope with the alarming condition of affairs in Australia to-day. It is, I suppose, the irony of fate that those individuals who control the public business of the Commonwealth include several who have been adopted by this generous country, and who have been elevated from insignificance to offices of responsibility. Now they mock her in her hour of” trial; they play a joke upon this land in the terms of their miserable indication of policy. They proffer only a pretended cure for .the hundred ills, economic, political, .social, and industrial, that afflict the country. When I look upon the strong forces entrenched behind the Government benches, and upon the subGovernment benches flanking them; when I realize what these supporters of the Government are prepared to do in order to satisfy their outside masters, the avaricious profiteers, I am forced to exclaim, with a throb that is a pain in every fibre of my being, “ God help my native land !”
.- I rise with pleasure to support the motion of censure upon the Government. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) stated yesterday, the sins of omission and commission for which this so-called National Government are responsible are so many and far-reaching that the greatest difficulty confronts one in deciding which deeds and misdeeds to select for criticism. I intend to deal with ono or two matters which flagrantly affect every section of the community.
The Government richly deserve censure for their failure to take steps, prior to the closing of the last Parliament, to pay the soldiers’ gratuity. It is a matter which has been delayed too long, and for which the supporters of the Government must accept a share of responsibility. There was no genuine reason why Parliament should have been dissolved last year before the war gratuity question had been settled. There was no reason why the gratuity should not have been paid in cash. Honorable members on this side regard the gratuity, not as a bonus - which is what honorable members opposite consider it - but as a just recognition of a debt due to our soldiers, as the fulfilment .of a promise made to them when they enlisted; but not so far honoured.
That promise was that the lowest paid among those who enlisted would receive 6s. per day. I maintain that the men have not been paid that amount. They certainly received their 6s., but the Government and their supporters allowed the profiteers so to raise the prices of commodities that the purchasing power of 6s. at the close of the war only equalled the purchasing power of 4s. 6d. at the outbreak of hostilities. Consequently, I maintain that the lowestpaid soldiers were deprived of at least ls. 6d. per day, and that it is the duty of the Government to see that the gratuity is paid to them. There is no justification for the Government saying that it is their intention to pay this gratuity in war bonds. No reason has been advanced for not paying it in cash. The men are entitled to the money, and the least we can do’ is to insist that it shall be paid to them in cash, allowing them to do what they like with it. If they care to spend it in paying deposits on- homes, or in buying furniture, or, as one honorable member on the other side said during the election campaign in my electorate, in hotels, it is their money, and they can do with it what they please. The money should have been paid to them before this, and the Government are richly deserving of censure for failing to pay it. Some honorable members have said that the money required for paying this gratuity in cash cannot be found, but seeing that we were able to mortgage the credit of Australia to the extent of, approximately, £400,000,000 to carry on a work of destruction during the war, surely it is not too much to ask that £25,000,000 should be raised for the purpose of assisting in the work of reconstruction? I mean what I say when I speak of our war debt as something which was incurred to carry on a work of destruction. Every honorable member will agree that war is destructive in the truest sense of the word. Not only is the manufactured wealth of the country destroyed on the field of battle, not only are ships laden with merchandise torpedoed and sent to the bottom of the sea, but the most virile of the nation’s manhood lay down their lives on the battlefield or were crippled and maimed for life; and it matters not what may be the excuse or justification for war, if it be to make Democracy safe or to guarantee the small nations the right to govern themselves, war, after all, is a work of destruction. If we were able to raise the money necessary for carrying on the war, the Government should and could easily have raised the money required to pay the gratuity to the soldiers. I told the soldiers in my electorate that I would avail myself of every opportunity to force the hands of the Government to pay the gratuity as speedily as possible and in cash.
There were men who called themselves patriots, who marched down to the water’s edge with the soldiers who were going away and waved flags and cheered on their departure and their return, but who went to the water’s edge only and then returned to their offices and places of business, and under the glittering cloak of patriotism exploited the people, the soldiers who were away, and their dependants who were here. I say it is the duty of the Government to impose a levy on these men who out of the war and through the war made fortunes they never previously dreamt of in their richest dreams of avarice. A levy should be imposed on them to force them to disgorge some of their ill-gotten gains, in order to see that the just claims of Australian soldiers are not overlooked. By that means the Government could have raised the money required to give effect to this very important project before now. I hope they will not survive this motion of censure. I am sure they will not if honorable members belonging to the Country party are true to their election pledges, and are desirous of proving their earnestness in this matter of economy, on which they set so much stock when fighting the election campaign. I have no doubt that they will vote for the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and prove to the farmers and the primary producers of Australia that they are not a wing of the National party, that they were sincere when- they said it was their intention to see that sane government was restored in Australia, and that a judicious policy of economy should be brought about. But, should the Government be fortunate enough to survive the vote of censure, and should Australia be so unfortunate as to witness that survival, when the matter comes before the House again I shall take the opportunity of pressing the claims of the soldiers, feeling satisfied from the num- ber of returned soldiei’3 I see on the Ministerial benches that I shall have every assistance, and that the Labour party will be supported in an endeavour to amend the Bill in order to provide for a cash payment When goaded by Labour members during’ the election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that provision would be made to pay the gratuity in cash to all those whose cases were necessitous, but when one realizes that at least S8 per cent, of the men who went to the war came from the ranks of the toiling and struggling masses, it may fairly be claimed that the increase in the cost of commodities’ will make almost every returned soldier’s case a necessitous one, and I am sure that we shall obtain the support of honorable members opposite in our endeavour to insist on a just recognition of the soldiers’ claims. Some of them find it very difficult indeed, not to live comfortably, but to exist. Their wives and dependants are not living as women and children should live in a civilized community. The majority of them, in common with the workers of Australia, are simply existing.
The Prime Minister, in his election campaign and in his election manifesto, said that the Government would take steps to deal with profiteering, and, at Durban, on his way out from England, he said that he was going to fight the profiteer and the . Bolshevik tooth and claw ; but the Governor-General’s Speech contains no reference to profiteering, or to the methods to be adopted by ;the Government to deal with the evil. In defending his Government’s want of action, the Prime Minister stated to-day that they had no power under the Constitution to deal with profiteering. He even went so far in his egotism as to quote himself as an authority on the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, and endeavoured to lay the blame at the doors of the Labour party. Quoting from statements made by himself when, he was a representative of Labour, several years ago, he maintained that because, in his opinion, there was no power under the Commonwealth Constitution to deal with such a question at that time, there was no power to deal with it to-day. In other words, he claimed to be infallible, and put forward the view that since he had made the statement it could not be denied. While the war was in progress, however, the Government had ample power under the War Precautions Act to deal with every question that could possibly arise in Australia. We find that during the recent engineers’ strike the Government discovered that they had power under the War Precautions Act to prohibit the men on strike from using their own funds. The Prime Minister exercised that power to prevent the men on strike from using, as they were justly entitled to do, their own union funds. But he now tells the House that because he said several years ago that the Commonwealth had no power to deal with profiteering, it has no power to deal with it at the present time.
The profiteering that is rampant in Australia, and the increased cost of living, constitute the most vital, pressing and important problem that confronts the people of Australia to-day. On every hand we see evidence of plenty and luxury, but we see also evidence of the direst poverty amongst the workers. Although the war was fought to make the world safe for Democracy - although it was fought in defence of freedom and liberty - we find that during the conflict the rich grew richer, and the poor poorer. The private wealth of the community has increased by almost- £400,000,000 since the commencement of the war. Profiteeringhas been responsible for the increase. It lias been responsible for the rich growing richer, and the poor poorer; and, as has been said by another honorable member, it is the chief cause of the industrial unrest which prevails to-day. I well remember a statement made by the Prime Minister just before the election, that his Government intended, if returned to power, to appoint a Royal Commission to ascertain whether profiteering was going on, and whether or not the people were being robbed. There is no occasion for such a Commission, since it is well known to honorable members, and the public generally, that profiteering is rampant.
– One has only to read the Inter-State Commission’s report on the subject.
– That report proves up to , the hilt our contention that profiteering is rampant. It is unnecessary, however, to go to it for proof, since we have the experience of our own households. Many honorable members find it almost -impossible to live on their scanty allowance of £600 a year. If that be so, is it reasonable to expect the workers to maintain themselves, their wives, and their families, at a reasonable standard of comfort on a comparatively small wage, and to remain satisfied with their lot? So far as I am concerned, the appointment of a Royal Commission to ascertain whether profiteering is carried on is unnecessary.
I thought I knew something of what poverty really meant; but it was a revelation to me to see, as I did last year, the poverty that exists in the homes of many of the workers. It was my lot during the influenza epidemic in June and July, of 1919, to go into the homes of many workers in Sydney. In home after home that I visited, I scarcely saw a stick of furniture. In many of them, mattresses were thrown on the floor, and there was no food whatever. I realized then something of what poverty really meant. I realized then more strongly than ever the evils of profiteering. I was more than ever convinced that the fortunes made during the last few years had been won out of the suffering, the misery, and the poverty of the people. Ministers, and those who sit behind them, must shoulder their share of the responsibility. Whether they care to admit it or not, they must realize that every day during which they allow this sort of thing to go on, while they have power to prevent it, they are morally responsible for the misery which prevails- They are responsible, also, for the industrial unrest which, unfortunately, exists to-day.
We have heard again and again, both in this House and outside, of the necessity of giving effect to the policy of greater production. We are told on every hand that if Australia is to carry on, if she is to meet the obligations incurred as the result of the war, and to take her rightful place amongst the nations, she must give effect to the policy of greater production. With such a sentiment I am in entire accord. Honorable members on this side of the House realize, perhaps to a greater extent than do honorable members opposite, the need for greater production. I arn a representative of the most important farming electorate in New South Wales. From an agricultural stand-point, the electorate of Calare is the most important in the State.
– The people of the electorate have proved that by returning the honorable member.
– And I hope they will continue to return me. The party carried me through. The people elected me as their representative because they realized that the party to which I belong is the only true Country party.
– The honorable member is an improvement on his predecessor.
– My predecessor did his best, I believe, on many occasions to induce the Government to attend to the wants of his constituents. The electors, however, thought that the party to which I belong was an improvement on the party with which he was associated. I am satisfied that had he only “ seen the light” in his younger days - had he belonged to the party I am pleased to be associated with - he would have been the representative of Calare for many years to come. I have been through the mill, and I thoroughly understand the trials, troubles, and tribulations of the man on the land, for I have been on the land since childhood, and I own land to-day. I have had to fight bush fires, floods, bad and worse legislation, wheat pooh, and overseas’ sales of wool whereby we were robbed of a large percentage of our produce. I claim to be a true representative of the farmers; and I say that the only way in which effect can be given to a policy of greater production and land settlement, which must go hand in hand, is to make the cond:tions of life of the men, women, and children on the land more favorable than they are to-day, and also see that they are not robbed of a large share of their produce as at present. To those who do not represent country districts, it will mean a great stretch of the imagination to picture the conditions of life. Men and women, in many cases, are isolated in the bush, far removed from the large towns and places of recreation or amusement and schools, and their children have to walk from three to five miles in order to obtain a meagre education. I ask honorable members to imagine such conditions, and to ask themselves whether the people so living are going to be content with their lot.
The present evils which I have described must be remedied. The reason why men are being forced off the land., and that production is decreasing, is because they find it impossible to carry on at a profit. We need only refer to the report of the Commonwealth Statistician to realize the decrease that has taken place in productivity in wheat and other cereals. In his latest report the Government Statistician shows that in the 1914-15 . period there were 12,4S4,512 acres of land under wheat in Australia, whereas by the 1919-20 period this had decreased to 6,570,402 acres. What has been responsible for the result? Some honorable member interjected yesterday that the drought is responsible, and it certainly is to a very small degree. I know that in the wheat-growing districts, and particularly in my own electorate, the people are suffering from a most disastrous drought; but this is only a minor cause of the great decrease. The principal reason is to be found in the fact, as I said a while ago, that the men on the land are not receiving that en.couragement they should, and arc not getting a fair return for their labour in the shape of fair prices for their products. They placed reliance on the unfulfilled promises of the Government during the 1917 election campaign, when they were told they would receive a plentiful supply of wheatsacks at a reasonable rate. All these causes have contributed to the great and unfortunate decrease of the area under cultivation ; and we must insist on the farmers receiving sufficient for their produce to enable them to carry on. If they desire to have their wheat placed in a pool, or if they desire to see their wheat sold overseas, it must be done; but we must not have a repetition of the conditions of the last few years, when the wheat of the Australian farmers was sold to the Imperial authorities at less than half its world’s parity. We have been told that we received an excellent price, and that we should go down on our knees and thank God and “Billy Hughes” that the sale was effected. Hut the farmers, and I, as their representative, feel that there is nothing to be thankful for. Their wheat was taken from them and allegedly sold at 4s. 9d. per bushel, and up to the present time they have not been paid. Even if they were paid the whole 4s. 9d., it would be cold comfort, when other wheat in the world’s . market is bringing as high as 12s. They were told that they were under an everlasting debt to the British Government for buying their wheat and wool during the war period; and those of us who felt that the farmers had not received justice, but had been robbed of the greater part of their products, were referred to as disloyalists and traitors, who were endoavouring to cripple the Empire in her darkest hour and. greatest need. At the same time, however, in the House of Commons, the - Australian farmers were being held up to the f armers in England as models of patriotism - as men who had sacrificed the greater share of their profits in order to assist the Empire.
The same remarks apply to wool, which was compulsorily acquired and sold at an average price of ls. 3$d. per lb. Although honorable members opposite have stated, by way of interjection, that that is a very good price, and that the woolgrowers are well satisfied with the sale, seeing that they are. going to receive 50 peT cent, of the profits, if any, made by the Imperial Government, I maintain that, so far as my electors arc concerned, they arc far from being satisfied.
– It is the same in my electorate.
– It is so in every producing constituency in Australia, and that is why almost every country electorate in New South Wales returned a member of the Labour party. The wheat-farmers and the wool-growers of the Commonwealth are very dissatisfied with the sales that have been effected on their behalf. Although honorable members have stated that the producers generally support the arrangements made by the Government, every, honorable member knows that a very strong feeling of dissatisfaction exists. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) stated yesterday that the Prime Minister had said that had he known as much before the sale of the wool clip was effected as he knew afterwards the sale would not have been made over such a lengthy period. The statement made by the honorable member for Hume has been contradicted by some, but the Prime Minister, when attempting to-day to justify the action of the Government, in a long and rambling statement, in which he avoided the vital issues, used almost the same words as were used by the honorable member for Hume. What an admission to come from the Leader of the Government! What an admission on the part of a Minister who claims to be one of the world’s greatest statesmen ! He admitted having sold the Australian wool clip over a period of years, which, in view of subsequent events, proved to be unwise. Would any business man make a deal of such colossal proportions, covering a period of four years ? Any reasonable commercial man, having in view the magnitude of the sale, would have made arrangements for one year only, in order to take advantage of future favorable developments. The wool growers of Australia are now told that they are to receive 50 per cent, of the profits. There is no justification for the British Government, -any Government, or any individual taking 50 per cent., or even 1 per cent., of the profits rightly due to the men who own the wool. Only this morning I noticed in the Melbourne Age that greasy wool in England was bringing 109d. per lb. , and while I ‘ admit that it is the highest price at which greasy wool has been sold, I know, as do other honorable members, that on the 10th November, 1919, when greasy wool was sold in England from 83d. per lb. upwards, the Australian grower was compelled -to Bell at 15 Jd. We have been told that we should be grateful to the Imperial Government for agreeing to return us 50 per cent, of the profits when we are entitled to 100 per cent. Having in view all the circumstances, I feel sure that every new member of the Country party will ‘vote against the present Administration when the vote is taken. I know it will need a good deal of courage on the part of new members and those members of the Country party who supported the Nationalists in the last Parliament. It will bo a difficult matter for some to alienate their support, because they, in association with the Prime Minister and other Ministers, were responsible for .perpetrating this jobbery. In this evening’s
Herald I notice a statement by General Lassetter, the managing director of Lassetter and Company, of Sydney, who is travelling on the Osterley to. Sydney to attend the celebrations of the centenary of the business. The report reads -
OPTION ON WOOL CLIP.
£40,000,000 Loss Alleged.
He said, in an interview, that business affairs under Government control had been woefully mismanaged in Britain, and he deplored the fact that Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, had granted the Imperial Government an option on the 1919-20 wool clip. At least £40,000,000 had been lost to Australia through the action of the Federal Government.
Mr.Parker Moloney. - Notwithstanding that, some honorable members say that the wool-growers are satisfied with the deal.
– It is preposterous to submit such a contention. The producers are dissatisfied, and that is one of the reasons why those in New South Wales have sent so many Labour representatives to watch their interests in this Parliament. They have sent us here because they recognise that the Labour party is the only party prepared to watch the interests of the primary producers. While I have the honour to represent a farming constituency, I am going to fight with all my might to see that justice is done to the men on the land. For many years the primary producers throughout the Commonwealth have been merely carrying on, and smarting under numerous injustices. It is my intention to fight for their rights, not merely because I represent a country district, but because I realize that they have long been deprived of proper representation.
I hope that when the motion of censure is submitted we shall not find honorable members representing the so-called Country party supporting a Government responsible for much of the misery, commercial robbery and piracy, that is rampant throughout Australia. It will be their duty to cross the chamber and record their votes with us in our endeavour to defeat the present Government. If that course of action is followed, they will be assisting in electing to the Treasury bench a Government composed of men prepared to courageously tackle the problems that are facing this great continent. The questions that are confront ingus to-day need all the wisdom and foresight that can be brought to bear upon them to restore to Australian homes that peace and prosperity which prevailed before the recent disastrous conflict.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10,25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200304_reps_8_91/>.