8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Export Freight and Charges
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Messrs. J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commonwealth Bank. (b) 3½ per cent, on the price of each contract for plans and specifications and supervision of construction. This rate was fixed at a time when the rate charged by private architects was 5 per cent., and was fixed subject to revision at the end of December, 1919 .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Sir JOSEPH COOK (for Mr. Hughes). - My colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, has furnished me with the following replies : -
Commonwealth Auditor-General, referred to in 5. 7, 8, 9, and 10. I cannot say.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will reconsider its decision in reference to the manufactured cost of rifles at Lithgow, and instruct that the annual report shall show clearly what the manufactured cost is?
-There is no objection to manufacturing details being supplied confidentially to the honorable member, or any other honorable member desiring the information. It is not the practice of any countryto publicly disclose the resources of munition supplies within the country. If manufacturing costs are so disclosed, a simple calculation would reveal the number of rifles available. For these reasons it is decided not to make the information public.
Retention of Divisions
Mr.MAKIN asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The whole question of the future schemes of defence of the Commonwealth is at present receiving the consideration of the Government, and as soon as a decision thereon is arrived at Parliament will be fully informed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Preliminary arrangements were made for the acquisition of certain land, comprising some 450 acres, on the north side of Corio Bay, Victoria, for aviation purposes in connexion with a scheme of air defence under consideration last year, but no conclusive stage was reached.
Issue of Clothing
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I shall obtain the information and lay it upon the table of the House in the form of a return.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government will lay upon the table of the House the report of the Committee comprising Sir C. B. White, Major-General J. E. Legge, Major-General Sir J. W. McCay, and Mr. G. Swinburne, which was appointed to advise concerning the future military requirements of the Commonwealth of Australia?
– The report in question has not yet received the consideration of the Government as a whole. Certain portions of the report deal with matters that are necessarily of a secret nature. When the report has been considered by the Government, the question of making available such parts of the report as can be made public will be considered.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House the agreement or agreements made between the Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company during the years 1918 and 1919?
– I shall lay on the table of the House a copy of the agreement asked for by the honorable member.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Tenders for the sale of Sealark were invited on behalf of the British Admiralty, and the highest tender was accepted.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Effect of Peace Treaty
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What are the total amounts received by the Commonwealth Government from the War-time Profits Tax to the 31st December, 1919?
– Two million two hundred and ninety-six thousand seven hundredand thirty six pounds.
Position of Former Enemy Subjects
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.GREENE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cost of Cloth
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Various kinds of cloth for uniforms are made at the Government Woollen Mills, North Geelong; but, in view of question No. 2, it is assumed that civilian cloth is alluded to. Civilian suiting is being manufactured at the Government Mills for sale to returned soldiers,’ sailors, and nurses only. The distribution of the cloth will be carried out by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, who will purchase it from the Mill at the following rates: -
Quality No. 1 (grey tweed), 5s. 6d. per yard.
Quality No. 2 (grey tweed), 6s. 6d. per yard.
Quality No. 3 (indigo-blue tweed), 7s. 6d. per yard.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Commonwealth Indebtedness to British Government
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I am having the information compiled, and it will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the serious and ever-increasing interruptions of the cable services, will he take steps to create a wireless service?
– This matter is now receiving the consideration of the Government.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. During the debate on the censure motion onFriday last, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) challenged the accuracy of a statement made by me to the effect that a proclamation had been issued by the Queensland Government acquiring, under the Sugar Acquisition Act, all the meat that went through the meat works in that State. In order to remove any doubt on the subject, I propose now to read the proclamation, omitting only the technical details. The proclamation, which was issued on the 7th November, 1919, reads : -
Whereas by certain proclamations under the Sugar Acquisition Act of 1915, published in the Gazette, and dated the fifth and seventh days respectively of November, 1919, it was, among other things, declared and directed that, with certain exceptions, all meat now or at any time thereafter during the years One thousand nine hundred and nineteen and One thousand nine hundred and twenty, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, and One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, in Queensland, at or in any meat works, or freezing or chilling works, or stores, or other place used in connexion with any such meat works, was and had become and should remain and be held for the purposes of, and should be kept for the disposal of, His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland by all persons in whose possession the same was or thereafter should be for the time being, and that all the title and property of the existing owners thereof, or of the owners thereof for the time being, as the case might be, were and should be divested from such owners, and were and should be vested in His Majesty’s said Government absolutely freed from any mortgage, charge, lien, or other encumbrance thereon whatsoever, and that all the title and property of such owners were and should be changed into a right to receive payment of the value thereof in the manner and to the extent to be thereafter determined and declared by a further proclamation or proclamations: Now therefore I, Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams, the Governor aforesaid, by and with the advice of the Executive Council, do by this my proclamation, hereby determine and declare that the prices of sound wholesome meat so acquired payable to such owners shall be as follows: -
Notwithstanding any quibble that may hereafter be raised, I desire, in further explanation, to point out that in substance and effect, under this proclamation, the meat was for all practical purposes acquired.
The following papers were presented: - .
Sugar - Agreement made between the Com monwealth Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. - dated 31st January, 1919.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 33, 34, 35.
No Confidence Amendment.
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure - Commonwealth Public Debt to Imperial Government - Post Office Balance-sheet - Public Service : Board of Management - Loan Repayments - Ship Building and Cancellation of Contracts - Adjournments of Parliament: Visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales : Easter Holidays - Profiteering: State and Commonwealth Powers - Metropolitan and Country Telephones - Commonwealth Police : Investigation Department - Moratorium Duration - War Gratuity Bill - Amendment of Repatriation Act - Taxation Returns - Immigration - The Government and Primary Producers : Wheat and Wool Sales ; Rabbit Skins : Cornsacks and Chaff Bags : Meat Prices - Visit of the Treasurer to England - Australia House and High Commissioner : Agents-General - Federal Capital : Commissioner Blackett’s Report - Anzac Tweed Industry - Government’s WarPolicy - Election Results - Australian GovernorGeneral and Governors - Conditions on s.s. “Osterley” - The War and The “ Ryan “ Thousand.
In Committee of Supply:
.- I move-
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1919-20 a sumnot exceeding £5,727,180.
The Budget which was brought down last October laid the lines of finance for the year ending the 30th June next. In ordinary circumstances the Estimates would have been considered, and the Appropriation Bill passed, before December, but the conditions of last year, as honorable members will remember, were not ordinary. On the return of the Prime Minister from Europe, Parliament was called on to devote considerable time to matters arising out of the Peace Treaty and to the passage of several measures extending certain features of the War Precautions
Act, chiefly relating to the Pools and’ controls that had arisen during the war. Then followed the dissolution, when the hooks were opened and the “ quick and the dead “ were judged. Consequently, the only Estimates passed by the last Parliament were ‘those relating” to public works to be undertaken out of revenue or loan moneys, amounting to £397,144 and £1,460,221 respectively.
With the termination of the last Parliament, the Estimates lapsed, but they were revived on the 26th February, in this Parliament, by the message of the Governor-General .
The total of the Estimates, as resubmitted’, is exactly the same as that of the Estimates originally introduced, and there are no new items. There is, however, one alteration* to which I desire to direct the attention of the Committee. . The Treasurer’s Advance is increased from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000. The Committee will understand, however, that this does not alter the total, as the Treasurer’s Advance, being merely money temporarily lent to the Treasury, is always deducted. The main reason for this is the increase of war pensions. The Estimates provide £5,450,000 for war pensions for soldiers and’ sailors; but it is now seen that the pensions will total £6,200,000, which is an increase of £750,000 above what the Treasury expected it would be for the financial year that closes on the 30th June nest. This is due chiefly to the rapidity of the demobilization work, bringing in a greater number of claims in a given time to the counter of the Treasury, and also to’ the rapidity of the discharge system accomplished in the later days of demobilization by the Defence Department. Although this involves an increase of £750,000 for this financial year, it is estimated at the Treasury that the extra sum of £500,000 granted ‘by the Committee of Supply will be sufficient to enable us to finance the increase with the savings made in other directions. 1 would like, with your permission, sir, and the patience of the Committee, to give some idea of the revenue position and prospects, of the expenditure conditions of to-day, and also of the loan position so far as honorable members wish to hear it at this stage. First of all, as to the direct taxation yield. Most of the revenue, as old -honorable members, particularly, know1, from direct taxation, such as land and income tax, war-time profits taxes, and estate duties, comes in towards the last period of the year, most of it during the last quarter. Therefore, it is not possible at this stage to give any useful comparison of the actual receipts with the estimate, nor to give interesting matter comparing other years with this year! It is expected, however, by indications in the Taxation Office, that the revenue from direct taxation will be as much as was expected and stated in the Budget, notwithstanding the considerable relief which must be given to persons who have suffered from drought during the period covered. I remind’ honorable members that both in the Income Tax Act and the Land Tax Act there is provision by which those who have suffered from causes of this kind beyond their control may state their case for a reduction or postponement of taxation, and machinery is provided for hearing such cases.
– It gives very little satisfaction.
– It may be that the decisions have not been sufficiently liberal, but machinery is provided in the Act by which that- can be accomplished, and already the Department is anticipating that between now and the 30th: June substantial remissions will be made in accordance with the principles decided by the Legislature in this direction. Notwithstanding this, however, the taxation advisers of the Government report that they expect the net yield to be up to the estimate in the October Budget. .
As to indirect taxation, the Customs Department is ‘ in this position : In the past eight months, from the 1st July, 1919, to 1st March, 1920- that is, twothirds of the year - the Customs and Excise revenue combined has been £1,400,000 more than the estimate. It is expected that the amount yielded from these two sources for the full financial year to the 30th June will exceed the estimate by £2,000.000. That is the expectation and’ outlook to-day.
As to the Post Office, the revenue in the eight months referred to was £208,000 more than two-thirds of the estimate for the year; that is to say, it was over £200,000 more than the expected amount for this year. It is anticipated that by 30th June the actual receipts will be found to have exceeded the estimate by approximately £300,000.
The Government are administering the Departments with due regard to all possible savings in expenditure. The. Royal Commission on economies is still at work, and a further progress report from it is expected soon. In order to give practical effect to the recommendations of the Royal ‘Commission, and to carry out further economies, the Government will as early as possible introduce a Bill for the appointment of a Board of Management of ‘the Public ‘Service. The economies which it is anticipated will follow the appointment of the (Board are all the more necessary in view .of the fact that rising prices are affecting Government expenditure just .as they increase the outgoings of individuals and all spending bodies. Generally, the House and the country may feel assured that the whole question of raising and spending the moneys of the people is receiving the strict .and unremitting attention of the Government.
I would like at this stage to deal with one phase of Post Office finance. The estimated expenditure of the Postal Department for 1919-20, including new works, is £23.,456 above ‘the estimated revenue, as honorable members will see by consulting the figures of the Budget. That expresses the Treasury view, which, of course, takes into account only cash inwards and outwards, as .a ‘banker does. The Postal Department, however, issues, after the close of each financial year, a commercial balance-sheet, which does not charge . capital expenditure against the revenue of that year, but debits, the Department with -only the ‘ interest on the capital expenditure. In these commercial balance-sheets, which., I think, .a«re wisely drawn by the Postal Accountancy department, are certain interesting figures which will afford food for reflection by honorable members. About two years ago., in order to test the basis upon which the Post Office balance-sheet was drawn and presented to Parliament and the people, I asked the Auditor-General to carefully consider the whole of the principles embodied in that balance-sheet, and to certify, if he conscientiously could, whether it was framed on sound principles and afforded all the information that Parliament might desire to know. Speaking from recollection, the certificate of the Auditor-General stated plainly that the balance-sheet was correct, and its principles thoroughly tenalble from the stand-point of ‘accountancy. “Taking two of those commercial balance-sheets, 1 find that for the year 19 17 -IS the Postal Department’s profit is shown to have been £387,000, and for the year 1918-19 £524,000, according to the most expert principles of balance-sheet ‘building. In arriving at these results, revenue from war postage is not included. For the information particularly of those honorable members who were not in the House during last Parliament, when the War Postage Act was passed, I remind the Committee that we deliberately instituted as part of our war finance % taxing system through the Postal Department. We lifted the postage rate here and abroad by a definite sum. That was regarded as a tax to be paid by .the users of the ‘Post Office, and the proper yield of that tax goes dissect to the Treasury., and is therefore ‘not included in the receipts for the Postal Department. Therefore, those figures aire -excluded from -the results for the two financial years mentioned. To earn a profit in a large Department of this kind during the war period was, in my opinion, quite justifiable; but the ‘Government are of opinion that the Post Office, in its ordinary working, apart from war postage, should not continue to be used as a taxing machine. The ‘Government, therefore, nave given consideration to the condition of telephone and mail services in country districts and are engaged in the development of a scheme which will provide additional facilities of this nature for rural residents. We hope to thus increase the contentment and prosperity of our primary producers.
The Budget estimate of expenditure ‘out of revenue this year -on .account of repatriation was £2,644,885. It is -doubtful if we shall be a)ble to keep the expenditure within that limit. Signs of excess appear that will have to bie. faced by the Treasury before the end of the financial year. For houses., land settlement, ‘and other repatriation disbursements payable from loan the estimate of expenditure for this year was £12,360,000. It -appears now that the actual expenditure in this case also will be -above the estimate. I remember that when some of the original repatriation estimates were presented, and’ when Supply in the earlier portion of this financial year was being requested from the late Parliament, some honorable gentlemen, on both sides, I believe, said’ that we had no intention oi spending so large an amount as was placed in the shop window ; others doubted whether such expenditure would be necessary ; and a third lot doubted whether we would be able to expend that amount. It is perfectly plain that the outgoings from both loan and revenue tills will exceed the amount which’ was estimated in the earlier part of the financial year as necessary for repatriation purposes. If this were ordinary .Departmental expenditure, I should feel disposed, and I think the Committee would probably be desirous of insisting, that full particulars of the excess be given; but I take leave to make no apology for this expenditure. So far as I, as Treasurer, am able to judge, it is being wisely administered’. The complaint, if any, is that the expenditure is not sufficiently generous, but the fact that we are likely to exceed the expenditure from both sources that we previously thought necessary is clear proof that the repatriation machinery is working swiftly and is dealing with a large number of cases. As one who believes that our repatriation system is at least as generous as any devised amongst the belligerent nations, I regard this expenditure as a matter for congratulation. Whatever moneys Parliament has raised through taxation or can raise from the pockets of the people by loan should be, if wisely expended, cheerfully expended to repatriate and restore to civil life the men who fought on land and sea ; and I say quite plainly that the expenditure from both revenue and loan sources will have to be exceeded at the end of the financial year.
– Does that excess cover both homes on broad acres and war service homes?
– Both, because these are both provided for out of the loan moneys authorized by Parliament to be expended by the Government.
I come now to another feature of interest, dealing with the debt of Australia to the Imperial Government at the present time; and my immediate purpose is to make a little more clear - if it should be thought necessary - some of the figures supplied by the Prime Minister to this House last week. The Budget of October last disclosed that the Commonwealth required £40,000,000 to be raised by loan during the present financial year to meet- war and repatriation expenditure. Just about the time the Budget opened a loan of £25,000,000 was issued. The balance of £15,000,000 has not yet been raised. I remind honorable members that we raised that £25,000,000 with considerable difficulty, in respect, particularly, to the last £5,000,000. Even after an extension of dates, after as vigorous a campaign as the Government could devise or its organization carry out, and after definite statements by the head of the Government and the Finance Minister, that unless the amount was raised compulsion by Statute would follow, we were still about £3,000,000 short after the, extension of time had’ closed ; whereupon the associated trading banks of Australia, including the Commonwealth Bank, undertook to take their share, and thus we were able to find the £25,000,000. The £15,000,000 has not yet been raised.
Since this amount of £15,000,000 is required, in part, for payments to the Imperial Government, it is desirable to set out- the position of the war indebtedness of Australia to. Great Britain. During the early stages of the war we borrowed in actual cash from the United Kingdom £47,500,000 sterling, and we used it in our general war expenditure. The British authorities stipulated that the principal of the indebtedness should be increased in accordance with any additions caused to the war debt of the United Kingdom by conversion operations. That total of £47,500,000 has, as a matter of fact, become already £49,000,000 by the successive conversion operations conducted by the British authorities in accordance with the requirements of the time, and the original arrangements with the Australian Government. Now, this £49,000,000 is really a bonded debt, repayable to the British Government at various dates, ranging from 1925 to 1947. Quite apart from this bonded debt to the British Government,, we owed, on the 30th June last,. £37,000,000 for moneys paid by the War Office directly for the maintenance and equipment of our Australian Forces. That £37,000,000 is a book debt, or what might, be popularly described as an overdraft, obtained by the Australian Treasury, by permission of the War Office, from theBritish Exchequer ; and, although no definite arrangements have been made for repayment, the British Government has indicated that it desires earlysettlement. A further sum of £2,250,000 is due to the Admiralty in respect of transports, and repairs to and maintenance of Australian warships. We also owe the British Government £2,500,000 which has been advanced for urgent payments since the Armistice, when exchange upon London was unobtainable.
In part settlement of all the transactions, we have been urged, and, indeed, have undertaken, to repay £8,750,000 to the British Government as soon as possible. This total is made up thus: The sumof £2,250,000, which is due to the Admiralty in regard to transports and for maintenance and repair in the matter of our warships before their return to home stations; the item of £2,500,000, advanced urgently when exchange was unprocurable; and the amount of £4,000,000, which we had formerly agreed to repay, for which provision is made on the Estimates of this year, as explained to the Committee of Supply when the Budget was introduced. This total of £4,000,000 is part of the £37,000,000 to which I have already referred.
To speak quite frankly - because I believe in being as frank as possible in all circumstances in connexion with money affairs, and in which I always believe there are no politics, if the subject is properly understood - we are not able to redeem these promises at the moment. Honorable members will appreciate the difficulty of the situation with the Imperial Government. The question of financing the whole of the indebtedness to the British authorities, other than the bonded debt of £49,000,000, is receiving the earnest consideration of the Cabinet; and although there are other reasons, I speak quite plainly when I say that the most urgent reason why the Commonwealth Government has requested its Treasurer to go to London at this stage is the matter, and the matters, upon which I have been speaking.And I hope, if the conditions of public and financial affairs in Britain permit, to be able, not to provide, but to suggest, a solution which will keep the credit of Australia, as it should be, above suspicion and without tarnish, and, at the same time, relieve the pressure upon us at present to find the money either here or abroad for that purpose.
– What is the aggregate of these amounts? Something like £90,000,000, is it not?
– That is so.
– Do not the States owe us part of that sum of £49,000,000 ?
– I am not worrying about the bonded debt of £49,000,000; neither need this country worry. There are included in the £49,000,000 - and one could elaborate this matter almost ad infinitum - sums of money which we had intended to pay out of the Notes Fund. That fund then became available for loans to the States and we hold their paper. A maturing debt for which provision by bond or stock has been made does not cause the authorities involved so much worry as in the case of an overdraft in regard to which pressure is being exerted. I would recommend the honorable member for Yarra to read again that hymn, most famous of all the ages, probably, composed by Cardinal Newman–
– Yes, I know what you mean, and I think I could repeat it now.
– No doubt; and there is one portion which I trust is engraved indelibly upon the capacious memory of the honorable member-
I donot ask to see the distant scene;
One step enough for me.
This is not a memory competition, but a repetition of the whole hymn would afford a useful moral and intellectual exercise. However, I did not come here to preach, but to outline the financial position.
– I do not think the hymn-writer was dealing with finance upon the occasion in question.
– No; but we take our lessons from the high idealists of the world.
– I thought you had been reading Micawber and would have had a different principle altogether to enunciate.
– The honorable member is the best exponent of Micawber in politics whom I know. But, do not let us turn aside to exchange comments upon matters which may lead us off the track and divert the attention of honorable members.
Attention is being given also by the Government to the loan requirements for the next financial year, and I speak here of the period beginning on 1st July next. Before long it will be necessary to raise more loan money, either here or abroad, to provide for the payment of our belated war expenses, for repatriation, land settlement, and housing, and for the shipbuilding programme which has already been announced. Honorable members will see that these problems are not easy of solution with interest rates rising throughout the world, and the abnormal conditions of international exchange at present ruling.
Our shipbuilding requirements have hitherto, in. quite a natural way during the war, been included in Loan Bills under the general heading of War Expenditure, as they were, I understand, in Great Britain and in the United States of America when they undertook a big maritime programme, but in future the amounts required for this particular class of work will have to be shown separately in the schedule of a Loan Bill for the consideration of a Committee of the House.
The Supply granted by the last Parliament has sufficed for all payments up to the 5th March last, and, while on some votes there are small balances, other votes are exhausted. The amounts in the present Supply Bill are sufficient to cover the needs of the Treasury to 31st May next. If this Supply is granted by the Committee, Parliament will then have authorized the expenditure for eleven out of the twelve months of thefinancial year terminating on 30th June next, leaving one month unprovided for, and for which special provision will need to be asked later in the ordinary way.
I should like to outlineto the Committee the chief reasons which have induced the Government to request the Supply for this period and for this amount. The first is that the AddressinReply to the Speech from the Throne has not yet been adopted, and we are unable to say how long the debate upon it is likely to occupy. Furthermore, there are two definite promises made by the Government in the enunciation of their programme for the consideration of the people, which must be redeemed. The first promise was that the original measure to be introduced for the consideration of this Parliament would be a War Gratuity Bill. We intend to keep that promise if permitted to remain in office.
– We will all honour that promise Ihope.
– I am sure we will,some perhaps in different ways, but still we will all honour it. The Bill is now ready, and when honorable members see it they will conclude that it has been a difficult measure to frame, providing as it does for all cases and all classes of cases; and that it should appropriately receive very careful, even if leisurely, consideration at the hands of Parliament. The amount involved, as will be explained by the Prime Minister or Acting Treasurer when the measure is introduced, is a large sum, and for that reason and’ another, namely that of doing decent justice to the recipients of the gratuity, I am sure honorable members will desire to give extensive consideration to the measure.
The second promise which must be honoured with equal facility is that the next measure to be brought down for the consideration of the House would be the Tariff, and although it is not conceivable that Parliament will, as soon as the Tariff proposals are laid on the table, proceed to the consideration of them - it is likely to require some little time to review the schedules while they are operating - yet it would be idle to place before honorable members a reconstructivemeasure of that kind, and leave it for any considerable time without giving it attention.
We cannot shutour eyes to two other facts of transcending importance. The Easter holidays will occur at the end of this month and the beginning of April. I have had no opportunity of con sulting the wishes of honorable members as to how long an adjournment those who come from the more distant States are likely to ask for or wish for.
– You sent us away to those long distances pretty suddenly.
-It is those who did not come back who should worry, the men for whom the resurrection still waits. The honorable member need not worry, his resurrectioncame swiftly. This islikely to be a long session. If all the important measures in the Government’s programme are to be seriously tackled by Parliament, I can well conceive the session stretching nearly to the end of the year. Then there will arrive later on in the period covered by this Supply the Heir Ap- parent to the Throne, His Royal -Highness the Prince of Wales, and I say plainly that the spirit of welcome which I believe the people of Australia will extend to him will be shared by every honorable member irrespective of party, and that it is inevitable there will be a natural desire that Parliament should adjourn to enable sufficient honour to he shown to him. It would be most inconvenient if Parliament had to meet during that particular time to vote Supply and was unable to join in the festivities of welcome which every part of the Empire the Prince has visited has so freely offered him.
The total of this Supply Bill is £5.727.180. made up as follows: -
The amounts are based on the Estimates which were laid on the table on 36th February. Omitting war services, Treasurer’s Advance, refunds of revenue and special appropriations, the sums included in the ordinary estimates total £10,930,981. The proportion of this amount for eleven months is £10,020,066. The amount in this Bill, together with Supply previously granted in this financial year by the late Parliament, is £9,450,052, which is £570,014 less than the eleven months’ proportion. Therefore, we are noi asking the Committee to overvote the proportion of eleventwelfths of the total Supply.
In concluding, I desire to refer to one other matter which I think it my duty to introduce voluntarily, because of the controversial history surrounding the whole question. I refer to the question of munition making, or a munition plant or arsenal for Australia. I hope honorable members will realize that Supply is not asked for in this financial year under this heading, but a commitment has been made which will extend itself into the finances of next year, and, therefore, a Committee of Supply, although not voting anything by this Bill-, should be in possession of all the facts.
Arrangements have been made to take over from the British Government certain munition-making machinery at a price of £150,000. If this plant were purchased from the makers of such machinery, it would cost £600,000~.
– Is the plant new ?
– It is quite new. The British authorities estimate the disposal value at £300,000, which is half the cost value, and decided to offer it to Australia at half its disposal -value. or one-quarter of the cost value. This offer, after careful consideration and advice from the best experts, was deemed to be too advantageous to miss, and the Government have accepted it, because it could not be held open indefinitely when so many similar plants are being scrapped. This plant will enable the Commonwealth, with the plant we already have, to manufacture munitions for field guns, and will make it possible to furnish our Defence Forces with the requisite equipment. The necessary provision will be made on next year’s Estimates. I can readily .understand that there may be a difference of opinion, irrespective of party politics, on this transaction. The Government take full responsibility, because they consider it a prudent and necessary action. To those honorable members who may consider it otherwise, I may say that no Government could occupy the Treasury bench of the Commonwealth Parliament under present conditions and have no defence policy. I do not think it practicable for a Government to retain the confidence of this House, or of the electors, without such a policy. Whatever the policy may be, it is plain to every man, as the sun is at high noon, that we must have the plant land material Ito equip our field forces, without which they would be of no use in defending the country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has intimated that at the proper time the defence policy of the Government, which is now being prepared by the Council of Defence and its expert officers, will be submitted to Parliament for consideration, and, I hope, decision. Whatever defence policy is evolved, we must have plant of this nature, and I trust the House, after due consideration, will approve the precautionary measure of obtaining these essential pre-requisites for the protection of our country.
– It is a very good purchase.
– It will be many months before the plant arrives, as it will be despatched in sections. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), as Chairman of the Public Works Committee, has given very close attention to the arsenal question, and doubtless realizes the wisdom of the purchase.
– You are touching him in a very soft spot.
– Honorable members opposite are not fair to me. I came into this Parliament inexperienced in its ways, and many who have been here since, its inception do nothing but ridicule my insignificant efforts. The sums the Committee are asked to vote are essential for the continuation of the Public Services of the Commonwealth. As I shall not be permitted, I believe, to speak again on this matter before I leave for London, I take this opportunity of recommending the votes to the earnest and careful consideration of the Committee, and of thanking honorable members generally for the attention and courtesy they have always shown me.
– In terms of the notice of motion previously given I move -
That the proposed sum be reduced by £2,863,590.
The object is to limit the term of Supply to six weeks. I think it is desirable that I should take this early opportunity - the first real opportunity that I have had - to inform the Government, their supporters, and the members of the Opposition of the exact position of members occupying the cross benches, and who constitute the Australian Country party, which has done me the great honour of electing me as its Leader. I may say at the outset that the Country party is an independent body quite separate from the Nationalists or the Labour party. I think it my duty to let honorable members of this House and the country generally know exactly the position in which we stand. We occupy our own party rooms, we have appointed our own Leader and other officers.. We take no part in the deliberations! of Ministerialists or of the Opposition. We intend to support measures of which we approve, and hold ourselves absolutely free to criticise or reject any proposals with which we do not agree. Having put our hands to. the wheel, we set the course ‘ of our voyage. There has been no collusion, we crave no alliance, we spurn no support; we have no desire to harass the Government, nor do we wish to humiliate the Opposition. We have not entered upon this course without giving the matter the most grave consideration. It is no. light matter for men who, for two decades, occupied seats on this side of the House, and who, prior to the last election, sat behind present Ministers, to have deliberately taken this course. We have recognised - as have other honorable members and a considerable number of electors - that drastic action was necessary to secure closer attention to the requirements of the primary producers of Australia than they have hitherto received. The primary producer is determined that he shall now take his proper place. We have no quarrel with the consumers in the cities. We regard them, in part, as our best customers.
I desire to take this opportunity of stating that members of the Country party, as the direct representatives of the primary producers, have declared war against those Trusts and Combines whose prosperity has been gained alike at the expense of the farmer and of the consumer. We have entered deliberately upon a campaign against unnecessary intermediaries. We seek to bring the consumer and the producer into closer touch, so that the farmer may obtain a fair return for his products, and the consumer be able to purchase at fair and reasonable prices. Hitherto the man in the middle has waxed fat at the expense of the two extremities. In pre-war days the people of the cities had cheap bread, cheap meat, cheap milk, and cheap butter. But at whose expense ? Go into the dairying portions of Australia, ask the children of the dairy farmer, who are up at daylight in the morning to handle cows in the slush and cold of winter, in order that the people of the cities may get milk at 4d. and 5d. a quart. Ask the wheat farmer at whose expense the people of the cities were furnished with a cheap loaf. Ask, also,- how much of the prices paid has hitherto been obtained by the producer. When these matters are put fairly before the consuming public of Australia, I am confident that a sense of justice will prevail. “We must combat the inconsistency of people who submit calmly to an increase of 50 per cent, in the price of tobacco and protest at an advance! of -Jd. per lb. in the price of bread. As a party, we intend to point to the inconsistency of men who are prepared to pay 6d. for half-a-pint of beer, and yet hold indignation meetings because milk is 5d. or 6d. per quart. We are out to secure a fair deal for the man on the land. I know this will not please all my honorable friends, but this is the course we have set ourselves, and we shall steer straight ahead without hesitation, accepting any and every responsibility that may accrue from our actions as a party. Honorable members know that a declaration of war against Trusts and Combines is no new conversion on my part. p0r years I have warned them of the operations of Combines that were gripping the people of Australia by the throat. I have made no secret of the position as I saw it, but, unfortunately, I did not receive that support which I had a right to expect in regard to the shipping Rings that were crucifying my State. My firm conviction is that the only weapon that can pierce the armour of Trusts and Combines is co-operation, and I here pledge the Country party to fight them to the last ditch.
There are other planks in our platform which I shall briefly outline. We stand for economy in public administration. For tha last ten years the Commonwealth has indulged in a veritable carnival of financial folly. We have borrowed largely j we have spent unwisely. We have issued paper money until we have almost submerged the Plimsoll mark of financial safety. As a party, we have made up our minds that the time has come to cry a halt, and put our house in order by a reduction in Departments which have become unwieldy and expensive to a degree that would be ludicrous were the matter not so serious. The overlapping of Federal and State administration must receive immediate consideration. And, above all, there must be a return to parliamentary control of the public purse. The war, thank God, is over, and the earlier this Parliament returns to the traditions of responsible government the better it will be for the country and the easier for the Ministry. All expenditure of any magnitude should be authorized by this House, and reasonable opportunity should be afforded for its proper consideration. Parliament must immediately resume the absolute control of the public purse.
In trying to put before the Committee the opinions of members with whom I am associated, I have studiously avoided saying anything that could be fairly construed as a threat. I have deemed it proper, in fairness to the Government, to myself, to members of my party, and our constituents that I should take this early opportunity of defining the attitude and aspirations of the Country party. We ask no favours, and we shall submit to no indignities. We seek no quarrel with the . Government or with the Opposition. I trust that we shall fully recognise our responsibilities, and so conduct ourselves in this House as to win the respect of all parties, and of the electors of Australia. We shall do all that is possible to advance the interests of all classes of the community.
I have deemed it advisable, so that there may be no misunderstanding of our attitude, to put our position clearly before the Committee. I am satisfied that the course we have adopted in submitting the amendment is the correct one. Were it dealt with on its merits, probably one-half of those honorable members, representing country districts, and now sitting behind Ministers, would be found following us into the lobby ; but I have been informed that the amendment will be regarded as a vote of want of confidence. In that case, the party whip will crack, and probably by scouring the highways and byways of this House, the Government will obtain a majority against my amendment. I have, however, the consciousness of having acted in the best interests of the people of Australia. I believe that out of possible defeat now will .spring certain victory, so far as the principles we are advocating are concerned. I venture to say that during this debate such a lamp will be lighted that its rays will spread -over this continent from gulf to gulf and from sea to sea, and that the cursed system of centralization, under which hundreds of thousands of pounds are squandered in our city Departments, whilst necessary adjuncts to civilization, in the way of telephonic communication and mail services, are denied to the residents of our back-blocks, will be stopped for ever.
Jil-. James Page. - My word,, the hon orable member, is a statesman.
– what shall i say of the shipbuilding: fiasco ? I have on a former occasion, stated, in this House that, shortly after the war broke out, an offer was made by a responsible man and a first-class shipbuilder to construct of Tasmanian bluegum two fore and aft schooners of from 1,000 to 1,500. tons, to equip them with Deisel engines, and, under a heavy penalty,, to hand them over to- the Government within a period- of. nine months for a total cost of £25’ per ton. The life of those ships would be, bar accidents, at least fifty years.. That offer was made to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for the Navy. They rejected it.
– The honorable member’s vote last week approved of their action.
– Had- that offer been accepted,, those ships would have paid for themselves long ago. They would have relieved the whole of the congested traffic between Tasmania and the mainland, and they would have brought into the market thousands and thousands of tons of primary produce, some of which has since rotted irretrievably on the wharfs of that State, and some of which is still rotting on the farms there. But, having turned down the Australian ships, which could have done the work, two years later the Government entered into contracts for the construction of Yankee schooners, which were to. be built of Oregon, pine, and1 the life of which cannot possibly exceed eight or ten years. It is a well-known fact that there are vessels built of Tasmanian bluegum Tunning round out coast which are seventy or eighty years of age. I desire to know a little more about the contracts for the building of these Yankee schooners. We know too well their rotten condition. We know that the pumps had to be kept going incessantly on. their maiden voyages, that they had to be docked and recaulked on their arrival here, and that at least one of them had to be partially replanked. We should be informed who checked the specifications for these ships - these fraudulently built sea-sieves - for that is what they are. We should be told who superintended their construction, and who accepted delivery of them.
Honorable members interjecting ,
– I must again appeal to honorable members to allow the honorable member for Franklin to proceed without interruptions.
– I learn from the report of the Auditor-General that the Yankee wooden schooners have cost 8,900,000 dollars,, notwithstanding that their original price was 5,300,000 dollars. I learn from good authority that the contracts were so faultily drawn- that even the cabins and other internal fittings, of the most ordinary nature were charged, and paid for, as extras. This is a very serious charge.
– It is a wonder that the honorable member did not vote for the motion we submitted last week..
– Will the honorable member tell me why he supported the Ministry during the last Parliament, when all these matters were well known to him?
– In British money these figures mean, that the original contract price of these vessels was £1,060,000, whilst the price actually paid for them was £1,740,000 - an increase of £680,000, or 66 per cent.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr.. Mahony) made a speech regarding this matter about twelve months ago..
– Order ! I have repeatedly appealed to honorable members to preserve order, especially upon a matter of this kind, and I must again ask them to cease from interrupting.
– If you want to interrupt, sit on the other side.
– Order !
– i think that we ought to know who drew up these contracts, and who perused them on behalf of the Government. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has quoted from the Privy Council judgment in the historic case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That judgment discloses the disquieting fact that the Government lost its appeal and its right really to deal- with this huge profiteering company, not on the merits of the case, but because the Crown: Law officers hae? committed an unpardonable blunder. In these two cases, our Legal Department has been guilty of extraordinary and unpardonable remissness. Our AttorneyGeneral’s Department costs the Commonwealth. £67,000 a year. We have, therefore, at least a right to expect that our legal work will be performed with ordinary skill and care. Of the cancelled Australian ship-building contracts we shall probably hear more in the future. But in passing, I would like to have proof of some inquiry of the ability of the contracting parties, prior to the contracts having been entered into, to fulfill their obligations. I am credibly informed that in one case the contracting party had not even a ship-building yard. Other statements of an equally serious character have been made. It will be sufficient for me to say that for the cancellation of these unfortunate contracts, the Government have to pay to the Wallace Power Boat Company Limited £51,892; to Messrs. Hughes, Martin, and Washington Limited about £70,000; and to Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh, for cancelling the building of four ships out ofsix, for which a contract was made, about £52,000; a total of £173,839. Eight of the Yankee ships, five motor boats and three steamers, have been sold, disclosing a loss on the transaction of £326,000. With the Australian contracts, there is thus a total loss on the cancellation of the contracts of halfamillion sterling. What it will cost to get out of the contract for the construction of the balance of the Yankee ships is necessarily mere guesswork. Probably it will amount to £500,000 - and the whole of these contracts were entered into without the authority of this Parliament.
The Treasurer is always so interesting and so pleasant when he delivers a speech that one scarcely cares to criticise him. But what is his proposal for getting out of that stupendous blunder, the present management of the Post Office? The creation of another Board. The Government appointed theEconomies Commissioner to investigate the administration of some of our public Departments. It has dealt with the Post Office, and I venture to say that so condemnatory a- report as it has submitted has never previously been presented to any Parliament in Australia. These are a few extracts from the Commission’s report -
The overseers of postmen (suburban) . . . spend practically every afternoon, and fre quently one hour before lunch time, in their office drafting and writing lengthy reports addressed to inspectors in adjoining rooms.
– Do you not think that report suggests the necessity for a board of business men?
– I think it suggests that we should know here and now when effect is to be given to the report of the Economies Commission. It is also stated that many unnecessary records are kept, references made and returns prepared. It is further stated that -
Supervisory officers, including mail officers, instead of doing their own proper work, have been provided with clerks and (or) assistants to undertake such duties for them. … It is apparent to me that the correspondence section is considerably overstaffed; and the mere fact that four officers could be spared without relief, and without any pressure on the part of the remaining staff, is ample evidence of this fact.
The writer of that minute then recommends that four or five officers, whose salaries total £1,214, be dispensed with immediately. I am quoting from the report of a body which, it should be remembered, is not a hostile Commission, but one appointed by the Government to deal with the public Departments.It is also stated -
That a telephone staff could be so overloaded as to permit of a saving of over £22,000 a year being made, whilst at the same time improving the efficiency of the service, cannot be deemed otherwise than the gravest reflection upon the diligence and intelligence of all officers concerned, and it is only reasonable to suggest that, in addition to the late manager of telephones and the assistant manager; the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector of New South Wales, the officers of the Central Office, Postmaster-General’s Department, and the officers of the Public Service Commissioner’s office, were all guilty of grave dereliction of duty and negligence in this matter, and all concerned should have been suitably dealt with.
That report has been out now for six months.
– The writer does not know much about the telephone office in Sydney. The Commission walk through the office, and know all about it in a day!
– Then what is the use of going to the expense of appointing these Commissions if, as the apologist for the Sydney Department declares, their members walk through an office, know nothing about it, and then bring up these reports ?
A “ case in point “ in which the Minister for the Navy will be interested, is the following : -
A case in point is chocking the stock-sheets of stocktaking of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard as at 1st July, 1916. These stock-sheets, complete, did not leave the Dockyard until March, 1919.
It therefore took two years and ten months to get those stock-sheets into the hands of the officers to whom they should have been delivered -
An officer in the Sydney office is now– and has been for over a month past - checking additions and extensions, and making inquiries into the deficiencies and surpluses. . . That full need exists for a close watch on stores work is shown by the fact that deficiencies amounted to £53,000, and’ the surpluses to £43,000, a net deficiency of £10,000 on a total stock of £120,000.
– That arises through understaffing the Stores Branch.
– Does it? I heard of a party of visitors who could not land ait Cockatoo Island for the people who were running about on the island. 3?ive years ago the then Government appointed Sir’ Robert McC. Anderson to report on this undertaking, and he reported that savings to the extent of £510,000 per annum were possible. Up to the time when this Commission was appointed, effect had been given to none of his recommendations.
– The Economies Commission were -pretty severe on the country non-paying services. Remember that, as a member of the Country party.
– i wm give the honorable gentleman who has just taken charge of the Postmaster-General’s Department a little information ‘ on that point. I venture to say that, after honorable members have studied this report, he will be a bold Postmaster-General who will have the effrontery to ask a few seidlers out in the black-blocks ‘to guarantee a prospective loss on a telephone line while nearly £100,000 a year is being lost on the telephone exchange in Sydney. The honorable member talks about the losses on the country telephones. I will give him some of the losses on the city telephones.
– I did not talk about the losses on the country telephones. I said your Economies Commission talked about them, and very severely, too.
– i wm give the honorable member what the Economies Commission said about two or three of the city telephone systems. In five years there was a loss of. £420,000 on the network of telephone exchanges in Sydney, a loss in Melbourne of £102,500, and. a loss in Perth of £120,000. In the same five years there was a profit in Adelaide of £41,500, in Brisbane of £73,500, and in Hobart of £3,000. This country has been standing behind the wealthy cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth to the extent of £640,000 odd in five years, while the wretched policy of this Department is that a few people out in the backblocks of any State in Australia have to put down their hard cash to guarantee that there will be no loss on a telephone line which they need to make their conditions endurable.
– Order! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– If no either honorable member desires to speak, I will take my second period now. Whatever may be the result of the division on this motion, the facts which will be placed before the country during this debate will sound the death-knell of that rotten system, at least. If we are to stand a loss of £150,000 to £200,000 a year on the telephone networks of our big cities, the Department which has been squandering money in this way can no longer have the effrontery to ask the men who go out into the back country all over Australia to guarantee, out of their poverty, a few pounds before they can be given one of the necessary adjuncts of civilization in the shape of a telephone.
I am one of those who are confident that profiteering does exist in Australia. The one thing I know about law is that I know nothing about it; but even to the layman it is quite clear that this Parliament has the plenary power of taxation, and recent investigations have disclosed that some of the great business firms of this city have deliberately evaded the express determination of this Parliament that they should pay at least their fair share of taxation. We now learn that these firms and business houses have passed on their taxation to the consumers of their goods, who have paid it in the higher prices that they have been charged. This Committee should be informed, before a division, of the steps that the Government intend to take to give effect to the intention of Parliament in this matter.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), an acknowledged constitutional authority, has declared that this Parliament has power to legislate in respect of the cost of Hying, and has offered to draft a Bill in exercise of that power, which, he pledges his reputation, will stand the scrutiny of the High Court. .The Government would not injure its dignity by accepting that offer, and I, on my part, am prepared to make a further undertaking. The Prime Minister expressed the opinion at a conference of Federal and State authorities held two years ago, that any individual State can voluntarily surrender to the Commonwealth any of the powers reserved to it by the Constitution. The doubt was raised whether the differential provisions of the Constitution would permit of the transference of powers to the Commonwealth by one or more States, it being thought to be necessary for all the States to take common action on specific matters. But the Prime Minister at the Conference combated that idea. I can, I think, guarantee that if the necessary legislation be prepared, it will be agreed to in Tasmania at least, and I have before declared that if the Commonwealth, instead of presenting the pistol at the head of the State Governments by submitting referenda, had sought their individual co-operation, we would have saved a great deal of money, would have avoided several futile elections, and would have obtained much more satisfactory results.
– The States were asked to surrender powers, and declined to do so. _ ,
– Because- if I jim correctly informed - there was the. implied stipulation that they must all agree in the matter.
– That is so. Unless they all agreed, the Commonwealth could not act, because, under our Constitution, the laws of this Parliament must be uniform.
– At the Conference to which I have referred, the Prime
Minister successfully argued in favour of the contrary opinion.
We cannot now discuss the Estimates for this year, but there is an item there which I hope the Government will not ask us to pass, and the Committee, if necessary, will strike out. During the last financial year, £6,421 was voted for the Commonwealth police, and £3,666 of that amount was expended. It is now proposed to expend £7,102 on an “Investigation Department,” which is a new name for the Commonwealth police, and, if my information be correct, other new appointments are to follow. If the ambition of the Crown Law Department eventuates we shall find ourselves ‘within two or three years saddled with another costly Department engaged in duplicating work which is now being satisfactorily performed by State Departments. This is a Cabinet usurpation of the rights of this Parliament, and I warn the Government not to enter into further cornmitments in regard to this embryo body, because Parliament will not agree to its perpetuation.
I have no wish to pose as a pessimist, but it would be wrong to avert one’s eyes from the financial situation. The figures setting forth our national debt, which have been given by the Treasurer, are sufficient to make us pause. We have one cause for thankfulness in regard to the debt, and that is that we do not owe money to foreign countries. ‘ Great Britain herself has, during the war, for the first time for centuries, borrowed abroad, and she is straining every nerve to get rid of the obligations she has thus incurred, because her foreign indebtedness is proving injurious to her trade and commerce. Her position should be a warning to us. Whatever finanical obligations we enter into should be under the British flag.
– They will- be under the Stars and Stripes.
– I sincerely hope not. Creditors occasionally act with great harshness towards their debtors. After four awful years of warfare, with its terrible expenditure and destruction, Australia has fallen upon troublous times. Unfortunate industrial disturbances have caused our people great losses in earnings, and by interfering with our commercial .activities, and, especially, by delaying the carriage of perishable. produce, have caused the community to lose many hundreds of thousands of pounds. A disastrous drought, affecting a very large area of the Commonwealth, has sadly reduced the returns from primary production during the past two years. The loss in sheep and lambs, including that in natural increase, amounts to from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 head. The acreage under wheat has been reduced by over 4,000,000 acres. The decline in the production of butter and sugar cannot fail to seriously injure those engaged in dairying and sugar growing and the community generally; and, last, but not least, the baneful influence of the shipping rings, with their unholy increases in freights, cannot fail to have a far-reaching and detrimental effect upon commerce and industry, and cause a disastrous decline in our national revenues. We must insist upon a reduction of our national expenditure corresponding with this decline.
Having, as fairly asI could, and withholding nothing, placed the position and the views of the Country party before the Committee, I come again to the amendment. I have been told that the Government will regard it as a motion of want of confidence. If that be so, I regret it; but no action of others can relieve this partyof its responsibility. We have no desire to take the business of Parliament out of the hands of the Government, but we declare that the control ofthe public purse should be restored to Parliament. Let us view the circumstances leading up to the moving of the amendment. We are asked to grant Supply for the current financial year which will cover the public expenditure to the end of the eleventh month. Upwards of eight months of the financial year have expired. Last year Parliament was suddenly dissolved - unnecessarily and unwisely, I think -eight months before the expiry of its term, so that membershad not an opportunity to criticise the Estimates. It may be said that Estimates can be dealt with at any time on a Supply Bill, but that is not so. Supply Bills are based, not on the Estimates for the year with whose expenditure they deal, but on the appropriation of the previous year, it being customary for the Treasurer on introducing a Supply Bill to assure honorable members that it contains nothing new, nothing that was not covered in the last Appropriation Act. Supply thus granted is merely an advance for the purposes of the current year based on the rates of expenditure sanctioned for the previous financial year. While technically it might be possible to discuss the Estimates on a Supply Bill, actually and practically it is not. The expenditure of the Departments can be criticised only when the Estimates are before us.
– Does the honorable member say that no money will be expended except in accordance with last year’s Estimates ?
– The moment we pass a Supply Bill we practically give the Government a blank cheque to be filled in and spent as they please. The Government take, or should take, the full and complete responsibility for that expenditure when they next meet the Parliament.
– Will the honorable member tell us what we are all anxious to know, and that is, in what way his proposed reduction will overcome all the difficulties of which he has been speaking?
– I do not say that the difficulties associated with our war indebtedness, the drought, and much of the financial strain now pressing upon our people, can be overcome by dealing with the expenditure of the year at the proper time. But I do say that the system which has been going on for some time, and for which there was some reason during the war, should no longer be continued. We admit that during the war Ministers and the House generally had to do many things that were opposed to constitutional practice, andagainst which the good sense of honorable members rebelled. More than twelve months have elapsed however, since the cessation of hostilities, and our party hold that it is necessary at once to restore this Parliament to pre-war conditions. There must be no more expenditure without the sanction of Parliament.
The report of the Economies Commission points out that in the Telephone Office, Sydney, there are 263 unnecessary employees, and that the work ofthe office would be better performed without them. That means that, allowing for a minimum wage of £3 per week, over £39,000 per annum is being thrown away in the Telephone Office, Sydney. We have no right to ask the people to pay additional taxation and at the same time to deprive many of the people in rural districts of reasonable postal and telegraphic facilities whilst money is being squandered in this way. Wehave had a report in regard to the position of the Postmaster-General’s Department, but when reports are put beforeus in regard to the expenditure on transports and in connexion with the Naval and Military Departments generally, we shall have our eyes opened. If any justification were required for my amendment, it would be found inthe statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes)last week and in that put before us to-day by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt).
No better man than the Treasurer could be chosen for dealing in England with the financial position of Australia.; but his services will be sadly required here by the Government. Every honorable member sincerely hopes, not only that his mission will be successful, but that the sea trip will greatly improve his health, which we know has been subjected of late to a very severe strain. I wish him good luck; but on some future occasion we shall certainly have to discuss very seriously the position with regard to the High Commissioner’sOffice. We have a High Commissioner, receiving £5,000 a year, while his Department in London costs us £45,000 per annum; yet, whenever there is any work to do at Home on behalf of the Commonwealth, it is necessary to send one Minister or more to deal with it. Either the Commissioner and his Department are or are not fit for the work that should properly devolve upon them.
– What is the High Commissioner’s work?
– What is he there for?
– I have never been able to find out.I say deliberately that the Parliament , and the country will have very seriously to consider shortly whether we should continue in London a Department costing £45,000 per annum with a High Commissioner at its head receiving £5,000 per annum, if it is necessary practically every few months to send a Minister to England to attend to matters that should be dealt ‘with by the High Commissioner. Should it not be the High Commissioner’s duty to deal with finance matters on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
– I should hope not.
– Then what is his work ?
An Honorable Member. - He is there on behalf of the primary producer.
– Some supporters of theGovernment were very glad of the help of the primary producers at the last general election.
– And the Country party would not have been returned but for the support it received from the Nationalist party.
– Some members of the Country party were glad of the Nationalist party’s support.
– I certainly received a very divided support.
The Parliament has a right to know now to what extent the recommendations of the Economies Commission have been and are to be given effect to.
– We have been given that information this afternoon.
– Not at all. It is true we have been told that a Board is to be appointed in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department; but if the honorable memberthinks that this Parliament is for ever to shelter itself behind the appointment of Royal Commissions, I can only say that he has mistaken the tone of this House. As to the Postal Department, I would remind honorable members that nearly three years have elapsed since an opportunity was afforded us to discuss its Estimates. In 1918 the “guillotine” was applied, and the whole of the Estimates were passed en bloc. In the previous year, while the Estimates were under consideration, the then Postmaster-General was deliberately taken out of the House before the Estimates of his Department were reached. As soon as they were called on the then Treasurer took charge, and was unable, of course, to supply any information relating to them. The Postmaster-General himself did not re-appear until his Estimates had been dealt with. We have now reached the ninth month of the current financial year, and the Estimates have not yet been considered. We are just now coming to the awakening.
There is .one other matter of vital importance to which I desire to refer. The .unprecedented tightness of the money market, together with the effect of the drought and recent strikes, cannot fail to have a disastrous effect financially on the people, and especially upon our rural population. It is at this critical moment that -the moratorium is to, be lifted. I was instrumental in securing the introduction of the original Moratorium Bill, and I was instrumental last year in securing its extension for a further period of six months.
– The honorable member means that he was one of those who were instrumental in securing the extension.
– When I entered the House after a visit to Tasmania, I found that the Repeal Moratorium Bill, which did not provide for any such extension, -had practically been passed, and I am convinced’ that had I not risen at once it would have been passed as it stood. I urge the Government with all the emphasis at my command to extend the period of the moratorium .until the financial crisis shall have passed. If that be not done I am confident that many hundreds of thousands of pounds of English money now invested in Australia will be immediately withdrawn. How that money is to be replaced I cannot conceive. I urge the Government to deal immediately with this matter; otherwise disaster and’ ruin will engulf thousands of our small property-owners in town arid city alike.
In conclusion, I have only to thank honorable members on both sides for the patient and attentive hearing they have given me. Mine has not been, perhaps, the easiest of tasks, and I am just beginning to realize that the position of a freelance, in a Parliament such as this, has many attractions. I confess that I have felt, and do feel, the responsibility of a position such as that of Leader of a party and I am., for the first time, beginning to realize what such a position means. But I can truly say that I have studiously avoided personalities. We, the .members of the Country party, seek no quarrel with either side; we have no personal ambitions to serve ; but we wish our position to be made perfectly clear. We claim that before any taxation be levied, before any additional burdens are placed on the people, economy in administration, and parliamentary responsibility, shall be strictly enforced as allimportant. We are convinced that the necessities of Australia demand honest, just, immediate and drastic economy in the national expenditure. That is the present object of this motion, and is one of the planks of our platform. On the principles that I have tried to explain, the Australian Country party will stand or fall.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr.’ Mcwilliams) has set out his views, and the views of his. party, quite clearly; and I am glad that I have had an opportunity to hear them. I shall detain the Committee for a very short time with my remarks by way of reply.
The gravamen of the honorable member’s criticism - if I may put it so - of the Government relates to the departure by the Government from the system of parliamentary control of the public purse- That is the foundation of his criticism. I have been in Parliament a very longwhile, and when I entered Parliament almost the first debate that impressed itself upon my mind had some relation, 1 do not know what, to the Estimates. My earliest recollection of Parliament was that of a place where a member sat up all night, voted where he was put, and went home in the morning frightfully tired, but elated by the conviction that he had done some great thing necessary to his country’s safety, though, if one were going to be crucified, he could not say precisely what that was. Time has tempered the youthful enthusiasm, born, perhaps, of inexperience, of my early parliamentary life. I have come to see that Parliaments are prone to talk much and. do little. They are full of men who criticise, and very rightly, those shortcomings of Parliament which, I am afraid, are inherent in parliamentary government. But they do not temper their criticism with helpful constructive advice. In any business -I say nothing of a great business like that of the Commonwealth, but of a. small retail business - what would be said! of a man who attempted to conduct it in the way in which Parliaments all over the world are wont to do?
The honorable member has criticised* the Government. It would have been “better had he directed his criticism against parliamentary methods. The fact of the matter is that for the last five years, without going into ancient history, we have been living under conditions absolutely abnormal. I put it to the honorable member for Franklin in quite a friendly way that it is not altogether fair that criticism should be directed to the Government for doing those things which it was essential it should do in the circumstances in which it found itself Honorable members know perfectly well that no matter what Government was in power during the war - whether the Fisher Government, the .first or the second Hughes Government, or the Government which the honorable member for Franklin supported - so far as the Estimates were concerned, practically the same procedure was followed. I am not going to defend that procedure; in fact, I should be very glad to range myself with the honorable member in demanding that Parliament shall have what the people obviously desire - the power to control in an effective way public expenditure. But 1 should like to say, not by way of extenuating any fault of the Government in the last Parliament, but by way of explaining the position, that that Government, like all Governments during the five years of war, had to deal, as I have said, with abnormal conditions, and faced those conditions as best they were able. In every country it was found, by general consent, that parliamentary government, if it was to be followed out to its logical conclusion, was not a convenient and suitable instrumentality of government during war-time. In the House of Commons, a most jealous mistress of her privileges and rights, a condition of things was, perforce, adopted, not essentially differing from that which existed here.
One other point having direct relation to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin needs very special emphasis. Whatever this Government has done or failed to do in regard to affording Parliament an opportunity of discussing the Estimates was done in former Parliaments and not this. We must not forget that we live under a democratic form of government, and that the supreme authority is the people. We have been to the people, before whom the issues were quite clearly put. The honorable members sitting in the Government corner, and honorable members sitting (Opposite, put their views, as we did, before the people. I neither censure nor attempt to explain, or even comment on those views, though I could say much in regard to them if I chose. But I say that the people, having the choice of one of the three parties, chose the party which I have the honour to lead. The results of the election speak for themselves. A great majority of the electors supported the Government and its policy. It cannot be said that the people were not informed as to the very many shortcomings of the present Government in former Parliaments. Whatever charge may be laid against honorable members opposite, it cannot be said that they did not tell the people how far the Government fell short of perfection; and that can be said of some, if not all, of the members in the Government corner. But the people deliberately chose the party I have the honour to lead, and, this being a democratic community, the Government comes here with the imprimatur of the people; and has an absolute right to an opportunity to carry out its policy. The honorable member made his charge against us in relation to a previous Parliament. I am not going to defend, or even comment upon what was done in previous Parliaments in this matter. All that is past. The people knew of it, and, knowing all the facts, they chose this party and this Government to govern the country. As to the future, and in so far as the honorable member’s criticism is directed at the procedure to be followed in this Parliament, I range myself alongside him., and I say to him and to this Committee, as I said when speaking last week, that ample opportunity will be given to every honorable member to express his opinions and criticise every act of tha Government, and the expenditure of every penny of money. Further, I promise that a full opportunity will be given this House to discuss the Estimates before wo again ask for Supply. That opportunity has not been given to honorable members for the last five years, so far as I know, to say nothing of the preceding years. So far, then, as the honorable member’s criticism relates to Parliaments that have gone, I say nothing. I simply take my stand on the fact that a majority of the people have returned us, and we have a right, since the people have deliberately intrusted to us the onerous duty of attempting to govern this country, to be given an opportunity to give effect to our policy.
But the honorable member refuses to give us this. The honorable member for Franklin has moved an amendment to reduce the amount of Supply by one half. He has. said that he has no intention of taking the business out of the hands of the Government. The honorable member did not come into Parliament yesterday; he knows that there is no more effective and direct way of taking the business out of the hands of the Government than the method he has chosen. Therefore, the honorable member will not be surprised when I tell him that the Government cannot accept his amendment. But if he desires to effect a great reform in this Parliament, he will. I hope, join with me, or I will join with him, in giving the House (in opportunity of discussing the Estimates. That, I have promised, shall be done.
– When will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the Estima.tes?
– When the House realizes- that it was elected not to talk, but to- work, that opportunity will be given.. This Parliament was elected to carry out the policy of the Government, which is, firstly, to pass the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill and the Repatriation Bill; and the sooner we get through that work the sooner we shall reach the Estimates. This is. the third week in which the House has been sitting, and we have done nothing but talk. So long, as the Government have the honour of holding the Treasury bench
Wb shall endeavour to get work done in this “House, and if any honorable member in. the Ministerial Corner or elsewhere in the House desires an early opportunity to discuss- the Estimates,, they must agree to do -more work and less talk.
I was asked when effect will be given to the report of the Economies Commission. In essentials the Government’s policy does not differ from that which the Leader of the Country party has indicated to the Committee. Indeed, I. have never known a party or Government that was not in favour of economy. I have yet to- hear of a Government that deliberately branded, itself as extravagant. I have never heard of an Opposition that did not do everything in its power to cut down the Estimates. The cry we have heard to-day is nothing new; it is as old as parliamentary government. But I believe that the Public Service of this country is in urgent need of reform ; it is a cumbrous, costly, and ill-managed instrumentality of government. The Government propose to introduce a Bill for the amendment of the Public Service Act which will enable us to give effect to a great many - the major portion, perhaps - of the recommendations of the Economies Commission. I shall not say one word now by way of further criticism of the Public Service, except to declare that we must have twenty shillings’ worth of value for every pound we expend. We expect that from the Public Service, and we must have it. On the other hand, it is only fair to say to them that if they give us twenty shillings’ worth of value they shall receive fi in return. We ask no man to work for less than a fair reward for his labour. On the other hand, we have a right to expect that he shall give us full value for the money he receives. I cannot conceive of any suggestion that might be put’ forward by any honorable member on another side of the House in the direction of bond fide economy which the Government will not be glad to adopt. We are now considering to what extent we can put the recommendation of the Economies Commission in force, and legislation will be introduced where necessary to assist us to do so.
The -. mover of the amendment said something about the shipbuilding, policy of the Government. I do not know that there is any necessity for me to dwell at length on the subject at this stage. Last week I explained, as well as I was able, the circumstances in which we were when the American shipbuilding contract was entered into. No doubt, as I’ said then, it has not been a good business for the Commonwealth. I declare, however, that if I were thrown into the same circumstances again,, not being able to see any further forward, than I saw then, which was as far forward as anybody else could see, I would- do as T did. In thisconnexion the honorable member has not dealt quite fairly with the Government.. When one is criticising a balance-sheet” he does not merely point out the losses,but strikes a fair balance. The honorable member did not do that.. He pointed to one item in the balance-sheet, but did not say a word about the fact that we had made profits ten times asgreat as the loss to which he referred. He stated that we had incurred that expenditure without the authority of Parliament. That is quite true. But it is also quite true that we bought all the Commonwealth Fleet, and earned an immense profit without the authority of Parliament. I think the honorable gentleman might have pointed that out, because, as he said, he is mat a hostile critic of the Government, but wishes merely to. point out in what respects we have fallen short. The honorable member said that, had we followed his advice, the shipping shortage would have practically disappeared. I do not recall all the circumstances to which the honorable gentleman refers.. As far as I remember, however, the honorable member made a suggestion that two ketches, or schooners, of about 1,000 or 1,500 tons, should be built in Tasmania. They were to be of shallow draught, and were to go up the rivers. That was the honorable member’s remedy for the acute shortage of shipping from which the Commonwealth, in common with all belligerent countries, was suffering. I do not wish to labour this matter; but will any honorable member say that, if I had authorized the building of these little schooners, the shipping problem would have been solved? It would have been a drop in the ocean, and a very insignificant drop at that. The honorable gentleman said, further, that the shipbuilders in Tasmania were prepared to construct those two schooners with hardwood for £25 per ton, instead of agreeing to which, the Government had gone to America, and paid more than £25 for vessels made of oregon. As it happens, at the very same time that we placed those orders in America for ships to be built of. Oregon, we placed orders in Australia for eighteen vessels of 2,600 tons to be constructed of Australian hardwood, and. also for twenty vessels of 5,500 tons to be built of Australian steel. So that we did incomparably more for shipbuilding, in Australia than the honorable member suggested. As ‘honorable members have been told, the Americans, despite their reputation, turned out to be very dilatory and unsatisfactory workmen. The Australian workman is sometimes said to be one who is always on strike. I have stated over and over again that the Australian workman is one of the bestin the world; and I invite honorable members to contrast what he did with the performance of his American fellow workman. As I have said, we not only placed orders in America, but also in Australia, for wooden ships.Now six of the steel ships which were placed on order here are in the water, and very good ships they are, too. We could make £50,000 profit on each to-morrow by selling them for coastal or for deep-sea trade. The honorable member for Franklin did not say anything about these facts, but he mighthave done so, because, after all, they were the product of Australian labour and Australian material. As for the wooden ships, the orders f or building which were placed here-, they were to cost £26 a. ton - about the price, by the way, which the honorable member for Franklin quoted to me in relation to the construction of the two schooners. They were to be propelled by Diesel engines. We gave orders to three companies - the Wallace Power Boat Company, the firm of Hughes, Martin, and Washington, and Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh.. That was before I went to England, nearly two years ago. The honorable member said that the two schooners he spoke of would have been built in nine months. Whether they would or not I cannot say. All I know is that none of the Australian companies with whom we placed our orders for wooden ships carried out their contract on schedule time. Up to date, only two vessels of the eighteen have been completed, and they are without any engines in them. Now, the honorable member said that if I had placed an order with this firm in Tasmania, it would have put its two schooners into the water in nine months. As I say, whether they could or not, I do not know; but I know that I gave an order to a Tasmanian firm, and that it is the only firm which has produced nothing at all - absolutely nothing..
– You are quite wrong. The Wallace Power Boat Company did not produce much.
– Those Tasmanian shipbuilders are the only Australian firm, which you have not bought out.
– Well, what have they got to sell? We offered to finance them, we did everything; and all we asked in return was that they should give us some ships. They did not. The honorable member may say that that is business; but I do not. I do not know whether he is prepared to stand up in this chamber and compliment that Tasmanian firm upon its activities. However, I will leave the matter at that. We shall have an opportunity, when the Estimates are brought down, to show that this Government’s record in relation to shipping and shipbuilding will stand comparison with that of any Government in the world throughout the period of the war. We have done very well for the people of Australia. We have done very well for the primary .producer in keeping freights down, and we are the only steam-ship line who have done so. The honorable gentleman might have said that also, but he did not.
Now, I turn to the matter of country telephonic and telegraphic communication and of postal facilities. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). We should certainly do our utmost, to make life in the country attractive. We should have cheap telephones. I would be prepared to lose half a million sterling a year if it were demonstrated that by making available cheap telephones, and by extending postal facilities, people could be induced to leave the cities and go upon the land. I have said, not once, but a thousand times, that it is poor policy to starve the country for the advantage of the city. And I will say this, further, in behalf of the Government, and for my colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) : that the policy of the Government is to give every facility- telephonic, telegraphic and postal - to the man on the land. I think it only proper to say that the honorable member for Franklin was a little unfair to criticise my honorable colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, seeing that he took possession of the Department only a few weeks ago, and that during that time he has met two deputations and has, I think, satisfied them that he intends to follow out the policy which I have just indicated. Speaking for the Government, I assert that we are going to pursue that policy to an extent which, I feel sure, will meet with the approval1 of the honorable member for Franklin and his colleagues.
Then the honorable member said something also with respect to profiteering. This word has become something like “ Mesopotamia.” It is a blessed word, signifying, I will not say, ‘ nothing, but having in different minds different meanings. Certain honorable members on the other side will say that the man on the land is profiteering; others rail against Trusts and Combines. And of remedies there are no lack. The honorable member says he would be prepared to take advantage of the offer of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to draft a Bill by which we may capture the profiteer: and he advises the Government to accept that offer. I am a simple-minded sort of person. I do accept the offer, and will be very glad to see the measure. As a matter of fact, I have been looking for such an offer ever since I came here.
– Will you undertake to pass the Bill?
– I would have to see it first; but I will say this, that if it is any good I will put it through. But if it is a Bill to abolish profiteering by cutting off the people’s telephone and telegraphic facilities, I shall not commit myself to its acceptance. I am in favour of more telephones. I could not agree to cutting off telephones because some one alleged’ the parties using them were guilty of profiteering. The honorable member for Franklin said it would have been better had we proceeded, not by way of a referendum, but by arrangement with the States. He overlooks the fact that we did do the very thing, he advocates in 1916. We made an arrangement with all the States, and not one of them, except New South Wales, honoured its promise; although I understand that in the honorable menu ber’s State of Tasmania the necessary legislation passed the Lower House, but failed to pass the Legislative Council. It is not, therefore, upon us that censure should fall in this matter, but upon the States.
I donot propose to enter into any detailed argument about profiteering and the powers of the Constitution in relation to it.I content myself by saying this : at the best, there is a very great difference of opinion as to what are our powers under the present Constitution in this regard; but no man will deny, that if the powers asked for by me at the last referendum had been given, then we should have had power to deal with profiteering. Yet, the honorable member was one of those who went about advising the people of Tasmania to vote against the referendum. I amvery sorry he did so. However, he did it, and that is the end of it.
Extension of time granted.
– One word more and I have done. The honorable member for Franklin claims that the moratorium is useful legislation, and that it is undesirable it should expire because it protects a large number of men who, from the effects of the drought or other vicissitudes of fortune, are in straitened circumstances. I do not know what power the Constitution gives in’ relation to the moratorium, other than the Defence power. I would not like to say offhand that we have or have not the requisite power independent of the War Precautions Act, but as long as the War Precautions Act is in force - the honorable member knows the conditions under which it expires - I will take steps, if no insuperable difficulty presents itself, to continue the moratorium in force, and see, if that Act expires, say, before a period of six months, if it is possible to extend the moratorium under the Constitution for the remaining portion of that time.
I have nothing further to say, except to suggest to the honorable member for Franklin that he should not insist on his amendment, seeing that the object for which he moved it has been gained by my plain declaration of the intention of the Government to give ample opportunity to honorable members to discuss this year’s Estimates. Let me add this before I sit down, that after the 30th June next we shall give honorable members an early opportunity of discussing the following year’s Estimates. The honorable member has stated that he has no. desire to embarrass the Government, or do any thing but preserve the interests and safeguard the welfare of the people of the country and restore parliamentary control of the public purse. The guarantee and assurance I have given should surely satisfy him that all he desires will be done. I hope that, in the circumstances, he will not insist on his amendment.
– I regret that a certain amount of time has been spent in discussing matters which are really far away from the amendment, and I desire to confine my remarks, as far as possible, to it. It is gratifying to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) state that it is the intention of the Government to give honorable members an opportunity of discussing the Estimates; but while he was speaking, I committed the unpardonable sin of interrupting him, although ina courteous manner, and’ interjected “When?” In reply, the right honorable gentleman did not tell us when we were to have the opportunity of discussing the Estimates, but he informed us that this House was sent here, not totalk, but to work.
– He did more than that.
– Yes; he did a great deal more. He elaborated very fully the purpose for which he considered this House was sent here. I took down his exact words. He said, “ This House realizes that it was sent here, not to talk, but to work. Let us have less talk and more work.”
– Surely that was not all he said! He said a great deal more.
– He said a great deal more; but I do not propose to quote the whole of his speech for the benefit of my honorable friends on the Ministerial bench. I have given them a fair extract from that part of his speech.
– It was not a fair extract.
– All I have to say to the honorable member is that I have great pleasure in differing from him. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) was not submitted with the object of challenging the Government, or with a desire to take control out of the hands of the Ministry, but was simply put forward for the purpose of inducing or persuading the
Government, in the most courteous and considerate fashion we could devise–
– The honorable member knows that no self-respecting Government could retain office if the amendment should be carried.
– If the members of our party had had the benefits of the considerable parliamentary experience of the honorable member, we might, perhaps, have adopted a different course.
– If I were leading a Government when such an amendment was carried, I would get out.
– I gave the honorable member for West Sydney credit for more judgment than is implied by his interjection, because if he were Leader of a Government when a similar amendment had been moved, I do not think he would act in the direction he has indicated. He would have given some assurance as to the time when the Estimates would be brought forward. This is what the Prime Minister has not done. In reply to my question as to when the Estimates would be submitted,he said that we were sent here not to talk, but to work. No doubt the Government will bring down the Estimates and give honorable members an opportunity to discuss them when every penny of the money has been spent.
– That is not correct; you areto have them after the two Bills mentioned.
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) has said that my statement is not correct, and that we already have had two Bills mentioned. Surely that is sufficient justification for moving the amendment. Although I am speaking to men with longer parliamentary experience, and possessing greater political wisdom than I possess, it seems conclusive to me from the Prime Minister’s reply that the Estimates are not likely to be submitted until every penny has been expended. We have heard from the Prime Minister some most interesting reminiscences, and no one living better appreciates such reminiscences than I do. He informed us that in the very first Parliament in which he sat he voted as he was directed, and had he been crucified he could not have told the subject on which he voted, but he felt convinced that he had helped to save his country. It seems quite obvious that on that occasion the present Prime Minister was a Ministerial supporter, and it seems, from what the Prime Minister has said to-day, that that will be the position of many Ministerial supporters during the present Parliament. When a division is taken they will vote as directed, and will go home fully convincedthat they have aided in saving the country without, however, knowing how.
Honorable members interjecting.
– I shall not attempt to reply to the numerous interjections which are being hurled at me. There is a time for all things. Occasionally during the deplorable dulness that sometimes characterizes debate in this chamber., interjections are of some interest, but when honorable members are seriously endeavouring to consider the position with which this country is confronted, it is not right for honorable members to bombard me with ridiculous interjections.
– Will the honorable member tell me this–
-At present I will not answer the honorable member, because I do not intend to reply to what I consider frivolous interjections. I say this with due respect to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. AustinChapman). I now assert that we are faced with a serious position. I shall not dilate upon the gravity of the financial outlook, because that has already been expatiated on in this House. This is a new Parliament, returned, as the Prime Minister has stated, fresh from the country. We have to face a most serious financial situation, and the sooner it is faced the better.. The position will not be effectively met by a continuation of the policy of bringing forward ‘Supply Bills and perpetually postponing the only occasion on which we can effectively discuss important questions of national expenditure.
– Why did not the honorable member censure the Government during the last Parliament?
– I do not intend to refer to the motion of censure which was defeated last week. I am not now here to deal with what may be considered the sins of the past, so much as to consider the problem’s that are at present facing us. They are of sufficient magnitude to demand the whole of our attention. The issue which the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) has placed before the Committee is simply this : It is a means to endeavour to per- suade the Committee to reduce by onehalf the period for which Supply is granted, lt is not an attempt to reduce the amount of Supply, although the amendment, according to parliamentary practice, may make it appear in that form. Instead of coming to Parliament and asking for Supply, it would have been more advantageous if the Treasurer had come1 forward with the Estimates. We are simply asking for the restoration df parliamentary control over expenditure. Upon a Supply Bill, such as the present one, we might discuss this matter till doomsday if the forms of the House permitted, which, thank God, they do not. .We could rend the air with our cries, and invoke the anger of the gods on the Ministry, on account of this or any other of their proposals. But on a motion for Supply, such as” the present one, we could not exercise one iota of control over expenditure.
– What item would you reduce?
– The honorable member for West Sydney knows perfectly well that the only way in which this Committee can exercise control is to oblige the Treasurer to come down with his Estimates* and ask Parliament for their approval before the expenditure has been incurred. I am glad to be supported in this view by such a distinguished authority on parliamentary procedure as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald).
– But I should like to know what item you would reduce.
– I have said plainly that the object of the amendment is not to reduce the expenditure on any item, but to limit the period for which the Government are asking for Supply.
– Then how do you propose to effect economy?
– The only way in which economy can be effected is. by enabling Parliament to have an opportunity to discuss and revise the expenditure before the last penny has been disbursed. The proposal of the Ministry is that Supply be granted for twelve weeks from 5th March, and the amendment seeks to reduce the period by six weeks.
– How could the War Gratuity Bill and repatriation matters be dealt with in the limited time ?
– It is always an easy matter to draw a red herring across the track. If this Committee were lying prostrate at the feet of some Government majority, and rejected all overtures to discuss and control finances, I can well imagine the honorable member for Illawarra if he were on the earth twenty or thirty years hence asking some such . question. It is a futile argument to bring against the amendment. We do not propose to postpone tho passage of any of these measures to which he has referred. If the war gratuity and the repatriation proposals prove good ones, there will be no more enthusiastic supporters of them than my friends of the Country party. I say this without reflecting upon any member of this Committee. We are anxious to discharge our obligations to the people who sent us here, and I feel satisfied that every’ member on the Ministerial benches recognises that we are right in asking for some control over parliamentary expenditure. Our wishes should be met in some way other than by the statement made by the Prime Minister.
– He treated you very cavalierly.
– I do not say that, and I have no reproach to make against anybody. I believe every member here has an honest intention of doing his duty. That is what we are sent here for.
– You have not waved the flag this afternoon.
– The honorable member’s remark is quite irrelevant at this moment and in this chamber. I was about to remark that the Prime Minister said, in effect, that he could not defend the present practice; that he really agrees with everything we have done, but that, for the moment, it is not convenient for him to indorse our action. That is the only conclusion I could draw from his remarks. I am not here now to raise any issues of the past. The question for the Committee is not whether the Prime Minister defends this lack of parliamentary control so much as whether he is prepared to take this opportunity to amend it and restore to Parliament this much-needed control over expenditure.
– Didn’t be say: “Don’t shoot; I will come down”?
– I followed the Prime Minister very closely, and I cannot say I heard him make .use of that expression. He said that the Government had a right to carry out their policy, and that the people had returned them for this purpose. Of course, the’ Government have a right to carry out their policy ; and if the policy is right, he will find no warmer supporters than members of the Country party. It is, however, the wish of a section of the people to secure economic and efficient administration, and -this can best be achieved by restoring parliamentary control oyer expenditure. We have been told that the amendment could not be accepted except as a vote of want of confidence in the Government. I can only say - and I think I can speak for every member of our party, which I might call the Australian Eleven - that it should not be regarded in that light. Every sportsman accepts defeat in the same spirit in which he enjoys victory. J3ut there is practically no one in this House who repudiates the doctrine that parliamentary control should be reestablished. There are many honorable members who, perhaps, do not note very carefully the precise dates upon which the Estimates have been brought forward from year to year, and also the date upon which they have been actually passed. I wish to emphasize that if the Estimates for the current year are not submitted until the period indicated by the Prime Minister, they will probably be presented upon a later date than ever before. It has been made quite, clear to us that Parliament will adjourn early in May on account of the impending visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in. which we all rejoice. If we adjourn on the 14th May it is obvious that unless we pass the Estimates before that period it will be quite impossible to approve them until probable August next.
– One month after the whole of the money has been expended.
– Why does the honorable member say that? He has been told distinctly by the Prime Minister that ample time will be given to consider the Estimates within this year.
– I listened very carefully to every word uttered by the Prime Minister, and I took a note of what he said.
– That is what he said.
– He said that we should have ample time to consider the Estimates, but, so far as I can. recall, he did not say “ within this year.”
– Yes, he did.
– Then I never heard him, although I was listening most attentively to his remarks. He told us that we were not here to talk, but to work. Seeing that we are practically certain to rise in the .middle of May, and that we shall not resume until the end of July, if the Prime Minister’s statement means that we shall have ample time to consider and pass the Estimates before the 14th May, we ought to have a definite pronouncement on the subject from some member of the Government. We have had no such pronouncement,and I am not at all certain that the statement of the Prime Minister meets the case. I ask honorable members, “ Is it of any use discussing the Estimates after the money for the financial year has been spent ? “ I propose to put upon record a few dates, in order to sh.ow the period at which the Estimates have been discussed in years past,- and those upon which they have been approved. In 1913-14 they were presented-
An Honorable Member. - The Labour party was in power then.
– But I do not find much difference between the practice of the Labour party when in power and the practice of other Governments. In 1913-14 the Estimates were presented o.n the 2nd October, and they were passed before Christmas. In 1914-15 they were submitted on the 3rd December, and were passed on the 17th July, 1915. I admit that the war was a sufficient excuse for that delay.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have always been taught that the elasticity of the English language is such that two persons possessed of average education can at least make themselves understood of each other. But evidently it is impossible for the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country party on the one band, and the Prime Minister on the other, to make themselves intelligible to one another. The Leader of the Country party, with a carefully prepared manifesto, has cried aloud to the heavens that he has not the slightest intention of hurting the Government.. He would not give them one minute’s cause for uneasiness, and he has assured them that the last thing he and his colleagues desire is that this country should lose their services. He told them that his party desired that the amount required by them for carrying on the public services of the Commonwealth should be reduced by onehalf, but that he had not the slightest wish to harass them by forcibly taking the control of the public business out of their hands. After this carefully prepared manifesto had been delivered, in which the Country party affirmed their desire not to take from the hands of Ministers the control of the finances, the Prime Minister rose to reply. In a very diplomatic speech he sought to learn just what they wanted. He said that he would afford the House an opportunity of considering the Estimates as soon as possible - as soon as honorable members stopped talking, and began to work. I have yet to learn how a Parliament can work without talking. Of course, the Prime Minister and the Government may constitute themselves judges of the lineof demarcation between talking and working. But I am not competent to say where talking ends and working begins. Probably criticism of the Government would be deemed to be talking, whilst adulation of Ministers would presumably be working. I suppose, too, that talking would be regarded as the task of the politician and working that of the statesman. Evidently the promise made by the Prime Minister was not just that which the Country party desired. Though they did not say so definitely, they evidently require from the Government a promise that the Estimates will be presented to this House either on the 18th March, 19th March, 20thMarch, or 21st March, as the case may , be. That would be an easy way out of the difficulty. Then why all this talk? The duty of the Government is clear. It has merely to name a date, and so save us from going back to our masters, the electors. I am indeed surprised that there should be so much mystery about the whole thing. It now appears that the bomb which was carefully prepared, primed, and set alight by the Leader of the Country party, means nothing.We are assured by the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country party that itis not the intention or the desire of the party to harass the Government in any way whatever. If so, what is the meaning of it all? Many of us on this side of the House have important engagements to help the Labour party in New South Wales, and we are kept here merely to hear the juggling of compliments between the Country party and the National Government.
-Some of us have engagements in New South Wales, too.
– Then why not have a yarn with the Prime Minister and decide the date on whichthe Estimates shall be brought down? It is only, apparently, that these gentlemen do not understand one another. There is no desire on the part of the Country party to harass the Prime Minister and his Government. If the Prime Minister, even at this stage, said, “ I will give you the Estimates in one month’s time,” the Leader and members of the Country party would be evidently only too pleased to say, “Very well; we shall withdraw our motion.”
– We want a good deal more than that. We want a complete statement–
– I can only go by what the honorable member and his Deputy Leader said. Both those gentlemen made it unmistakably clear that if the Prime Minister would fix a date on which the Estimates would be brought down, the motion, which we are assured means nothing, would not bepressed.
– I never mentioned that. I do not take the slightest interest in discussing Estimates when the money has been practically spent.
– Then what is the honorable member taking this course for? We are, apparently, eliciting a little more information. It appears as though another factor has disappeared or come up, and that it is not so much now a question of the Estimates for the current financial year. Well, what Estimates does it concern? If the Prime Minister were to say that the Estimates for the coming financial year were to be placed upon the table b’y July nest, would that satisfy the Country party? Apparently it would. I would not say that the Country party are not honest regarding tfe question, but I would say that at least they are not in earnest, if that which they have moved means nothing. They have assured us that it does mean notching.
– That is only your inter pretation of it.
– I have heard the honorable member’s Leader and Deputy Leader crying aloud for some word to be given them in order that they may be removed from the position in which they find themselves.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– That I am quite right is proved by the fact that when the Country party had an opportunity of protesting against the shipping scandals, against the wilful waste of the money of this -country, when companies, started with practically no capital, were subsidized by the Government by being given a credit in the Commonwealth Bank, in order that they could obtain timber to get their dockyards fixed up and their slips erected, so that they should not be embarrassed in dealing with ‘the timber merchants, and should be enabled to pay their wages - when all this was done by an overdraft created for such companies by the Commonwealth Government, that party refused to take the opportunity. “When the Labour party moved a motion of no-confidence in the Government for the way in which they had carried out matters appertaining to shipping, the honorable member and the party who follow him had an opportunity of protesting in a practical manner by voting with us against the Government. Instead of doing so, they voted with the Government. They refused to take a practical opportunity of voicing their objections to the way in which the shipping of this country has been managed, and now at a later stage their Leader, evidently with the concurrence and approval of his followers, attacks the same Government for the way in which the shipping business has been handled. In the circumstances, we are justified in- questioning their earnestness. What does it all mean? I do not pretend to know much about parliamentary procedure, ‘because I have been here quite a short time, but to me it is astounding that the Leader and Deputy Leader of a party, and the party itself, should on one occasion vote with the Government when a no-confidence motion dealing with a specific case had been launched against them, and then at a later stage bring up exactly the same thing as one ‘of the reasons why the House should have no confidence im the same Government. After all, why should there be any anxiety? I do not think the Prime Minister or his followers are much perturbed. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) never looked more complacent than he does at present. He is not at all worried, nor are his followers worried about this motion. Why should they be? They know perfectly well that it means nothing. Only last week the Leader of the Country party said that it would be no fault of the Country party if the Government were not defeated. He has cooled off considerably since that time. He has no desire to defeat the Government to-day. Even if the whole of the Country party voted against the Government, the Government would not be in danger. If the Government were subject to the slightest danger, if there was the slightest cause for uneasiness, I venture to say that some of the Country party would either stay conveniently away or become sick.
– You know that is not true.
– I am talking frankly to the Country party as a friend. I am supporting them. I wish they were more in earnest on this matter. I could wish that they were as much in earnest as I am. The Government apparently will be saved by a successful coalition with one man, who was with us. but whohas now departed. I can see the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) peering into these pools around which frogs disport, and looking eagerly f or what is going to happen to the Government. I can see the Prime Minister at last leading the gentleman from Capricornia into the promised land, and no doubt he will be far better there. I have no doubt that an arrangement will be come to whereby the consciences of both will be, to a certain extent, salved. I listened with a good deal of interest to the speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt). I am sorry indeed that the Treasurer’s health is such as to necessitate a long sea voyage. I have no objection to him going for a sea voyage, because I believe that of all the members of the National Government he has probably worked the hardest and had the greatest strain placed upon him. I do not object to the honorable gentleman taking a holiday at the expense of the people of Australia, but I do object to the unnecessary camouflage in connexion with his proposed trip. The financial crisis which was announced last week, as though it had struck the country suddenly, has been known to the Government and most honorable members to be approaching for quite a long time, yet the Prime Minister has seen fit to announce that there is only one man in this country who can save the Commonwealth from financial perdition; that Mr. Watt alone possesses the suavity and other qualifications essential to dealing successfully with British financiers, and thathe must proceed to London at once to prevent the Imperial Government from putting in the bailiffs upon us.
The Treasurer this afternoon stated that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission to deal with the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I desire an elaboration of that statement, so that we may know exactly what is to be done. Is the dream of the late Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) coming true, and is he to be the Chief Commissioner, or one of the Postal Commissioners ? A re we going to place the Post and Telegraph Department under business control, which he said should be done? Personally, I do not think that those living in country districts would get better treatment from a Postal Commission than they got from the late Postmaster-General. Telegraphic and telephonic communications have been reduced, mail services have been diminished, country post-offices have been starved or done away with, official post-offices have been degraded to the rank of non-official post-offices, so that those wholive in the country and those who represent country electorates have to-day nothing but condemnation for the administration of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral. City constituencies have not suffered inthe same way, because of the great political pull that they possess. The remedy for the present state of things is easy, at least in this Parliament. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has told a deputation that his policy in regard to telegraph and telephone services will differ from that of his predecessor, but he will have practically to revolutionize his Department if he is going to improve the positionof those who live in the country. According to the latest report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which was ordered to be printed on the 23rd July last, there was, in 1917-18, in New South Wales, one official post-office opened, and seven were closed, the total number of official offices in the State thus being reduced that year by six. No semi-official offices were opened, but eight were closed; forty-three allowance offices were opened, and thirty-eight were closed. Those figures show the extent to which retrenchment has been carried in the Department, although there should have been no cutting down of mail services and electric communications. No true economy is made by reducing telephone, telegraph, and mail facilities in country districts.
But I question altogether the earnestness of the Country party, and I am very sorry that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is to help the party to a way out. I may be wrong, but if the action of the honorable member in voting with the Government last week is an indication of what he intends to do in connexion with the amendment, my guess will be a correct one. In my opinion, nothing will happen to the Government at the hands of the Country party, and I base that opinion on the conduct of its members last week, when an opportunity was afforded to them of defeating the Government.
Sitting suspended from. 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
.- In rising to speak to the amendment, I desire, at the outset, to point out that the object of the Country party in submitting it is not so much to criticise the past deeds of the Government as to insure an immediate return to parliamentary responsibility. I appreciate the point made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he said that, good, bad, or indifferent, more Nationalists had been returned to this Parliament by the electors than members of any other party, and that this justified their occupancy of the Treasury bench. I do not know whetherit is information to the extreme Opposition, or the so-called Labour party, but we felt that if we voted with them on the censure motion, we should be displaying, not only a want of confidence in the Government, but a want of confidence in the electors of Australia.
– And in yourselves.
– We, too, would have displayed a want of efficiency by voting in that way. In referring to the Opposition, I used the words “ so-called Labour party” advisedly. Honorable members of the Opposition have presumed to refer to us as the “so-called” Country party, and, picking out one or two of our members, have questioned whether we are all wheat-growers. I do not know that honorable members of the Labour party are all labourers.
Several honorable members interjecting.
– I must again direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that all interjections are disorderly, and also remind them of the time-honoured custom to hear in silence the first speech made in this House by an honorable member.
– This is not his first speech.
– The practice is well known, and I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– Our object in submitting this amendment is to carry out, asfar as we can, a pledge that we gave the electors at the last general election, and which we believe was made by every honorable member on both sides of the House.
The war is over. Certain things had to be done during the war, and undoubtedly, mistakes were made. It would, indeed, have been marvellous if mistakes had not been made during the war in the administration of theaffairs of the Commonwealth, having regard to the tremendous volume of additional work with which Ministers had to deal. Even the mistakes made in connexion with the shipbuilding contracts might have been made by any one; but it does seem that certain inexcusable neglect was shown in connexion with those contracts. The shipping items in the Commonwealth balance-sheet - those relating to credit and. debit - look all right; but the whole business of the country is appalling. We were warned this afternoon by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) to keep the credit of Australia above suspicion and without tarnish. It is because of such a desire on our part that the amendment has been submitted. The Treasurer’s statement revealed the fact that there is an item of £90,000,000 that we owe the British Government. I do not know how much of that has to be added to the £700,000,000 which this country has already borrowed.
– It is all included.
– That is some little consolation; but not one pound should be spent unnecessarily by this; or any other Government, while such a tremendous debt lies upon our shoulders.
I fail to understand why the PrimeMinister is not prepared to accept a reasonable proposition. We are not proposing to reduce Supply by a farthing. It may be said that, in a parliamentary sense, we are proposing that it should be reduced by one half; but what we are really urging is that the period in respect of which Supply is sought shall be reduced by one half, in order to give the House an opportunity to consider the Estimates, and so to fulfil the promise made by every one of us to our electors. That is the position in a nutshell. There may be technicalities of parliamentary usage which the learned members of the House may be able to explain; but, with due regard to the interests of the Commonwealth, I do not think that any one should be so thin-skinned as to be unprepared to give the House an opportunity to fulfil its pledges to the people. We refused to vote to turn the Government out of office immediately after the people of Australia had said to them, “You go in.” But I am certain that the people did not say to the Government, “ Continue tospend and to squander as you have been doing.” That is the point with which we are concerned. The people did not say to them, “ Continue to squander, as the Economies Commission says you have been doing.” Our desire is that there shall be no further squandering of public moneys. That is the point for which we are contending, and for which we must contend. The Prime Minister has given certain indications of what is to be done. Two important measures - one providing for the war gratuity, and the other relating to repatriation - are to be passed before we deal with the Estimates, and it seems to me that the consideration of those two measures will extend over the period in respect of which the Estimates have been drawn up.
– Not at all.
– It may not; but the suggestion of the amendment is that six weeks’ Supply be granted, and that in the meantime an opportunity be given Parliament to deal with the Estimates. If the House is prepared to go to the country on that issue, then the whole matter rests with the Government, and not with our party.
It would appear that the Supply, amounting to over £5,000,000, which we are asked to grant on this occasion, is based on the ratio of previous expenditure. We already have evidence from the Economies Commission that the basis of expenditure was altogether extravagant. We feel, therefore, that some thousands of pounds might be saved by even a consideration of the Estimates at this juncture. We had no definite promise from the Government that they were going to economize on the lines laid down by the Economies Commission, nor have we any definite date set down for the consideration of the Estimates by this House. If there are .those who think that the members of the Country party are willing to accept “a pig in a bag5’ those who have that estimate of them will find themselves altogether mistaken, because we feel that we, as representing very large sections of the electors of Australia, should have the assurances I have suggested.
I do not propose to occupy more time. I merely desire to emphasize the points to which I have referred, and to show the difference between the vote of censure that was before the House some days ago and the amendment now under consideration, one being on a retrospective basis, while the other has in view the future, with which we are the more concerned. We in this corner realize, with every one in the House, or professedly -so, that’ no expenditure of any magnitude should be entered into without the consent of Parliament.
.- I do not propose to address myself to the question at any great length. The members of the Country party are laying down a very good principle, which should be followed by all Governments, namely, that the Estimates should be laid before the House in reasonable time, so as to afford every member a fair opportunity to discuss generally the financial position of the country. During the last years of the war we have been prone to allow things to drift, and, in view of the great general danger, to allow the Government to exerelse practically a free hand, without being too carping in our criticism. But, as rightly pointed out by representatives of the Country party, the war is over; and now is surely the time to start to put our house in order. Surely the Government do not intend to go on with the reckless spending of money, showing an Utter disregard of the opinions of honorable members. Hitherto, after the money has been spent, the Government have thrown the Estimates on the table, and, in effect, informed honorable members that, although what they complained of was probably wrong, all had been done under stress of circumstances, and matters could not be altered. As I say, I believe the Country party are enunciating a sound principle; and if the effect is that the Government are forced to introduce the Estimates in time to afford ample opportunity for their discussion, some good will result to the country generally.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), the Leader of the Country party, referred to the wooden shipbuilding contracts; and I am, indeed, pleased that at last he and the members of his party have “seen the light” in this matter. Twelve months ago, from this side of the chamber, I pointed out very much what the honorable member for Franklin has pointed out to-day in reference to these contracts ; but no notice was taken of my remarks. I warned the Government, and honorable members generally, of the reckless, wilful waste of public money in persisting with these so- called contracts; and there is certainly grounds for the most searching inquiry into the whole of the circumstances. The
Wallace Power Boat Company is a firm of “men of straw,”asis well known incommercial circles in Sydney. The firm, however, was given a contract involving a huge sum ofmoney, and this contract they were unable to carry out. I should explain first, that at length the Government realized that this firm consisted of “men of straw,” and had to come to its rescue by guaranteeing it at the bank.
– Did this firm have a shipyard?.
– They had no shipyard, but only a little yard for repairing motor boats. The firm, as I say, had no financial standing at all, and the Government had to come to its rescue; whereupon the firm went on with the contract, knowing that they were on a “good wicket.” Owing: to the faulty way in whichthe contracts were drawn, and to the faulty administration of the shipbuilding construction branch of the Shipping Department, and owing, further, to the alteration of the design of the ships, it became evident that the vessel they were building would be utterly unfitted for any sea-going trade at all ; and, ultimately, the Government found itself in such a position that they had to cancel the contract. These transactions ought to be thoroughly investigated by a Select Committee of the House; and I hope the Country party will support a proposal for the appointment of such a body.
Let me point out a little detail in connexion with the contracts. The first design was for an ordinary big well-deck, but an alteration was made: in the design providing for ‘tween decks; and anybody who is at all acquainted with shipping matters knows that immediately ‘tween decks are provided for. the vessel is utterly useless as a cargo boat, especially for. the class of cargo which these ships would have had to carry to render any service to the people of Australia. There were several other alterations which rendered the position ridiculous, and as I say, the result was that the Government, in order to “ save its face,” had to cancel the contract. This firm, which had no financial backing, and had to be guaranteed, were paid by the Government a sum of £55,000 as compensation for the cancellation of the contract. Here, surely, is something that requires the most searching inquiry.
It is no use the. Prime Minister (Mr: Hughes) in his airy, and probably very charming, manner, saying that the electors have approved of this cancellation. The people have not approved of it; because the people never knew the details of it, andI doubt if they would tolerate it if they did.
Mr.Fenton - It would be interesting to know the political colour of those people.
– I am not, concerned with that, but I am concerned with the enormous loss in which the people have been involved owing to the faulty administration of the persons in charge of the ship construction department.
– Does the honorable gentleman know who was in charge of those works for the Government?
– So far as I can gather, the arrangement was a sort of “go as you please.”
– Were there any shipbuilders among the contractors?
– Prior to accepting these contracts, the Wallace Power Boat Company had not engaged inship construction at all. I am devoting my attention particularly to this firm, because I know more of the details of its contracts. The firms of Hughes, Martin, and Washington, and. Kidman and Mayoli, were paid sums of £72,500 and £52,000 respectively for the cancellation of their contracts. About the financial position of those two firms I will say nothing; but the Government ought to produce the whole of the papers and. letters from certain individuals, upon the basis of which the final terms of cancellation were arranged. Nothing short of an inquiry into this matter by a Committee of this House will satisfy the people. I may mention, as another instance of the utter incompetence of the persons in charge of the ship construction branch, that the contract speed of these vessels was 4 miles per hour.. I know that to be a fact, because I have seen the contracts.. If a gale was blowing, a vessel having, a speed of only 4 miles an hour would go backward faster than forward, yet these are the boats in regard to which the Prime Minister told us that if he were again in the same position as he was when these contracts were made, he would adopt the same course. The head of a Government who would allow a contract to be made for the construction of sea-going boats having only that rate of speed does not know much about shipbuilding. I think I have said sufficient to warrant at least an inquiry into the matter. We need more information as to how it happened that a firm which started with no capital received a payment of £55,000 for the cancellation of a contract.
I have a few words to say regarding the ships built in America.
– The sieves.
– The first of those vessels to arrive in Australia was the Cethana, which, after putting into various ports en route from America to have repairs effected, was docked in Sydney, and the preliminary overhaul after her maiden voyage involved an expenditure of over £6,000. The Government were supposed to be employing men in America to supervise the construction of these ships. In answer to questions, I was told during the last Parliament that certain individuals were receiving £500 per annum to supervise and examine the work. Yet every one of the boats arrived in Australia in a leaky condition. The boilers had to be removed, and the vessels completely refitted. Inquiry ought to be made as to the services for which we were paying men in America £500 per annum. It is time that honorable members told the Government distinctly that they insist upon knowing a little more about these matters.
– The bill for extras exceeded the contract price.
– Every one of the boats built in America cost thousands of pounds for repairs after her maiden voyage. Not only that, but the original workmanship was so faulty that on the return voyage to America the vessels had to put in at almost every second port in a disabled condition in order to effect further repairs. In this way thousands of pounds of money was absolutely thrown away. The people ought to be told who was responsible for these blunders, and the “Government should give a practical assurance that such things will not be allowed to occur again. All that we on this side of the House can do is to give them our advice, and the benefit of whatever knowledge we possess, and if they are not prepared to accept it, the responsibility is theirs. We have at least the satisfaction of knowing that we are making the people acquainted with the rottenness of the financial management of this country.
The reasons for putting the Commonwealth to the expense of adopting the Isherwood type of vessel is another matter that should be- thoroughly investigated. No other Government in the world hasadopted that type.
– Was the Dromana built on that design?
– Yes. Let me explain, for the benefit of new members, that the Isherwood design is a new type of vessel, in which the framing is built on longitudinal instead of transverse lines. The firm that holds the rights of this patent does not engage in steel shipbuilding; it is merely the patentee, and anybody adopting the Isherwood principle has to pay the firm a royalty of 3s. 4d. per ton. That royalty was paid on every ton of shipping built in Australia. I repeat that no other Government, and no shipbuilding firm of any standing, has adopted that type of construction, although it is in use for oil lighters on the American lakes. The most damaging and sinister aspect of the whole matter may be perceived when ‘ we know that experts who were imported from Great Britain, and who are receiving thousands of pound’s per annum to manage the ship construction for the Commonwealth, adopted a standardized design. The blue prints for this design cost some thousands of “pounds. Everything had been put into working order for the construction of a ship fit to be built for or by any Government in the world. But the design was rejected, and the Isherwood principle was accepted by the Australian Government. I want to know why, and so do the people. Another damaging fact is that the British Government, after consultation with the leading shipbuilding firms of Great Britain, adopted a standardized type of ship construction which was not based upon a longitudinal frame, such as is the Isherwood design. This officially adopted design would have been given to us by the British Admiralty. Had the Imperial authorities been impressed with our requirements, and satisfied that we would have built ships upon that design, they would have been only too ready to make it available to us, without requiring one penny by way of royalty. This whole matter should be thoroughly investigated; we have a right to know whether there is anything behind it. Who is responsible? I want to know why Isherwood’s manager should have been imported from Great Britain, together with three or four other officials employed by that firm, to take control of shipbuilding here. There may be nothing in the business ; but at the least there is ground for inquiry.
– How many thousands of tons of shipping have we built in Australia to date? Would it amount to about 60,000 tons?
– Roughly calculated, the 3s. 4d. royalty per ton works out at about £500 per ship of the smaller type, such as we have been building.
– The amount is about £850 on a 5,000-ton boat.
– That is so. It is a species of poll tax handed over to Isherwood and Company for doing nothing, or, at least, for doing only that which we could have done for ourselves by accepting a gift from the British Admiralty. And in these times of financial stress every pound is a pound to the people of Australia. We do not wish to throw sums of £500 about recklessly.
– Are the ships of the Isherwood type better than others?
– There are about a dozen different firms in Great Britain which advertise that they hold the patent rights of some particular design of construction, and which claim the same advantages for their type as do the Isherwood people for theirs. If the honorable member will look at the Shipping Gazette, he will see those advertisements for himself. But the British Government, after interviewing the authorities in the shipbuilding world, didnot adopt the Isherwood system. They decided in favour of the ordinary transverse method of standardized ship construction. That fact in itself should be sufficient, or enough, at any rate, to warrant a thorough inquiry. I hope the members of the Country party will support my effort to secure the appointment of a Committee to investigate the whole of the particulars surrounding, first, the cancellation of the wooden shipbuilding contracts in Australia and America; and, secondly, the adoption of the Isherwood principle of steel ship construction in the Commonwealth.
With regard to the sale of wool overseas, I propose to read an interesting interview with Brigadier-General H. B. Lassetter, C.B., C.M.G., who has just returned from Great Britain. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 9th March he relates that, after a full study of the f acts and figures available, he is convinced that the losses suffered by the Australian woolgrowers, through the (Federal Government’s contracts with the British Government, are in the region of £60,000,000. I do not propose to quote the whole of the interview, but desire to emphasize that General Lassetter has made public certain views which call for a reply from the Government. The people of Australia should demand a reply. These are his remarks -
The position with regard to the contracts made with the British Government does not seem to be understood by the wool-growers. In October, 1916, the basis of wool was fixed at15½d.; it was renewed in the middle of 1917 for another year, then extended in 1918 to cover clips for a year after the war. This has since been interpreted to mean all wool shorn up to June, 1920. For English and Scottish wool the initial price was in 1914 advanced 55 per cent.; in 1917, 50 per cent.; and in 1919, 60 per cent. But in 1919 the English farmers asked for an 80 per cent, advance. After prolonged consideration, the Government decided to abandon the purchase of the Home clip, and the wools have been sold, in the normal pre-war manner, through the country wool fairs. Prices realized showed an advance of from 100 to 200 per cent, on pre-war rates. The English and Scottish farmers were much too shrewd to hand over their wool to the Government.
General Lassetter then adds -
What I complain about is that nobody in Australia seemed to protect the interests of the grazier.
These are astounding facts to me. I am looking for information. Is it not remarkable that while we in Australia who produce this wool should lose £60,000,000, the English and Scottish farmers who are right on the spot and have a free sale for their wool at country fairs, can obtain an increase of 200 per cent, for their wool, without any talk of having to share their profits with the British Government ? If it is good enough for the English and Scottish farmers to get a full return for their product, surely it ought to be good enough for the Australian pastoralist to do likewise? If there is any explanation of the facts put forward by Brigadier-General Lassetter, let some member of the Cabinet make it. During the war if one dared to say a word about lifting the Pool- he was accused of working hand in hand with Germany.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The position in which the Committee finds itself seems to me rather unusual, and I want briefly to try to analyze it in quite a moderate way in an endeavour to show, particularly my friends who sit in the Corner, what would be the result of carrying their amendment, and the attitude of the Government towards the producing interests of Australia. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has dealt at some length with the question of wool, and it is really very amusing to hear him upholding the “ poor downtrodden pastoralist.” Among other things, he told us that he stood for the producers getting the full return for their product.” Where does the poor consumer come in of whom we hear so much from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) ? At one time we hear that the consumer is being robbed by the primary producers.
– You have never heard me say so.
– I have heard the honorable member say on many occasions that the consumer was being placed at the mercy of the producer.
– I said that he was at the mercy of the middleman.
– If the Leader of the Opposition says that he has not made that remark, I do not wish to pin it on to him unfairly, but we hear it- said constantly by honorable members of the Opposition that the consumer is paying too much for the articles he purchases, and that the primary producer has been getting more than a fair return. Now, honorable members opposite claim that the primary producer should get the full value for his product.
Although, as it were, we have come back to this House with the sins of the past wiped out, this debate has been merely a recapitulation of what are supposed to have been the misdeeds of the Government during the last Parliament. Considerable attention has been devoted to the question of shipbuilding, but every honorable member knows that the contracts for shipbuilding were entered into under the stress of war, and every honorable member also knows, or should know, that every civilized country in the world entered into contracts during the war which it would have ‘been glad to get out of after the war was over. America lost very much more on its shipbuilding contracts than Australia did. Australia no more than any other country could foresee that the war was going to end, and the Government took the wise precaution of preparing for the worst. Had the war continued a year or two we would have heard the ship-building contract and many other things now condemned lauded to the skies as the height of statesmanship. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said, very properly, that no man could see through the veil at that time; and whatever Government was in power would have been recreant to its trust and false to its position if it had not put in hand the contracts necessary to enable this country to keep going and send its produce to those other countries which came perilously close to the verge of starvation. The country would not have been able to see its way out of the financial position brought about as a result of the war had it not been for these contracts having made it possible to realize on our products.
We heard ‘from the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams) a great deal about the Post and’ Telegraph Department.
– You are a country member. .
– My political interests are just as truly country interests as are those of honorable members sitting in the corner. The same vote returned me as returned them. There are some honorable members who were returned on the double nomination. I informed my constituents that I was bound only by what I told them on the platform, and that I was not bound to any party in this House, and never would be. I told them that all they could hold me to was what I told them on the platform, and what I interpreted for them myself. I said that I would- not be bound by what other men- said. Honorable members, if they care to do so, can see the newspapers’ comments upon my attitude in that regard. I made my position perfectly clear. Although I had the nomination of both parties, I held myself free to support whatever party I considered best in the interests of Australia, and I wish briefly to show why I consider the National party is the best in the interests of Australia at the present time.
– The honorable member will not get the nomination of both parties again.
– I have come here, as I went into the State Parliament of New South’ Wales, pledged only to what I told my constituents. I am in no way bound by any other pledge, or any other man’s statements; and so long as I occupy a seat in this House it will be on those grounds. If the people of my electorate decide that it is not satisfactory to them to have a man here to act according to his own conscience, they will find some other representative.
We heard a good deal from the Leader of the Country party concerning the condition of the Post Office; but I do not think the honorable member was quite fair in his comments, because, although I doubt whether he meant it, the interpretation one could put on his remarks was that the losses in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department had occurred in the cities, whereas, as a matter of fact, they have occurred just as much, if not more, in country districts. The loss on the telephones in cities has. certainly been heavy, but the telephonic and postal losses throughout country districts have also been heavy, and every honorable member knows that the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) is prepared to conduct his Department on a much more liberal scale than that adopted by his predecessor. Already there have been two deputations to him within a few days, and in both cases he has stated that he proposes to liberalize the position of country people to a great extent. He will not do so before it is needed, and many honorable members behind the Government feel as strongly on the matter as do the members of the Country party.
– They will continue feeling, too.
– They will continue acting long after many members of the Country party have ceased to be members of this House.
There are two good reasons why every honest man from a country constituency who is not pledged to the policy of the Opposition should support the present Government. What was it that we pledged ourselves to support before anything else during the recent campaign? Every candidate pledged himself to keep faith with the promise made to the returned soldiers. There is not a member on this side of the House, whether a supporter of the Nationalists or one who occupies a seat on the cross-corner benches, who did not say definitely that the first thing to be done when the new House met would be to pass the Soldiers Gratuity Bill. The Government have told us that the very first measure to be submitted is one to give effect to that promise. I know honorable members opposite are not very much concerned as to whether that promise is fulfilled, but the members of the Country party are rendering it difficult for the Government to carry out their pledges.
The Government have also undertaken to amend the Repatriation Act. Every honorable member, whether representing a country or city constituency, knows perfectly well that our present repatriation scheme needs recasting, owing to altered conditions. Many returned soldiers are experiencing difficulties in various forms, and the Government intend meeting them by amending the Act. Could anything be fairer?
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) referred to the question of taxation, and the members of the Country party have definitely stated that the Government should do something to , remove the present difficulties experienced by taxpayers who are now compelled to submit returns to both Federal and State authorities. Have not the Government promised to overcome these difficulties by introducing an amending measure during the coming session?
– The Government do not always carry out their pledges.
– Honorable members behind the Government have been re- turned by a majority of the people, and the items contained in the Government programme cannot possibly be objected to by any member of the Country party. The Government are in a position to carry out their promises to the electors only if they have the numbers behind them. Why should the Soldiers Gratuity Bill, the Repatriation Bill, and an amending taxation measure be hampered by the Country party? Why this danger or assumed danger with which the Government are faced? Why not allow them to go on in the even tenor of their way? I do not think there are many honorable members who doubt for one moment that the Government can retain the support of a majority of the House. Many honorable members criticising and opposing the Government would regret their action in the event of an adverse vote being recorded.
It is also the intention of the Government to encourage immigration. Is there any member of the Country party, or a reasonable-minded man on the Opposition side of the House, who is opposed to immigration on a satisfactory basis? I think that it is generally recognised that the only way to hold this country for white men is by adopting a sound immigration policy and by, increasing production.
Frequent reference has been made during the debate to the Pools controlled by the Government during the war period. Every honorable member knows that the Government entered the commercial arena during the stress of war, and a majority of honorable members supported them in that connexion. It has now been definitely stated by the Prime Minister that it is the intention of the Government to allow primary products to flow in their usual channels, and many of us now supporting the Government would withdraw our support if that promise were not fulfilled. The Government have already released control of some commodities, and are doing all that is humanly possible to allow primary products to be handled as in pre-war times. What more can we expect from a Government when they have already commenced honouring the pledges given to the electors? What more can the Country party expect?
– We ask for the Estimates; that is all.
– The Government have offered to deal with the Estimates in a constitutional way. We know that during the war period it was frequently necessary to follow an unusual course, and it is time this wearying criticism, which is being indulged in just as it was twelve months ago, ceased. The same old sins are being resurrected. It is time Australia opened her eyes and commenced to face the changed conditions, as is being done by other countries. The whole world is crying out for our products, and as a producing country we are perhaps more favorably situated than any with the exception of America. The Government have submitted a reasonable programme.
– It is absolute perfection.
– It is not perfection; but the honorable member, who, I believe, has had experience in the State Parliament before he was elected to this House, must realize that it is a good programme.
Every honorable member, whether a supporter of the Nationalists or of the Country party,’ knows that the Government pledged themselves to fittingly reward the returned men at the very earliest opportunity, and the very first Bill, of which notice of introduction has been given, is one to give effect to that promise. And then we have all this captious criticism from members of the Country party concerning the Wheat and Wool Pools, which have been administered by men who think just as much as they do of the position of the producer in the country. I admit that mistakes have been made, but now we have a Government, prepared to carry out their pledges, bringing down a programme which, to my mind, will undoubtedly make for the prosperity of the country interests. Notwithstanding this, the first serious challenge that they get comes from those who should support them. It is time Australia woke up to the gravity of her position. We are facing new conditions, and must give the Government a fair chance of settling down to work. I am convinced that the great majority of members have been sent into this House by their constituents in the belief that they would give this Government a chance. In national affairs we cannot very well have a purely Country party, because the issues are too great, and the outlook too large. This is not like a State Parliament. We have to regulate our affairs and shape our policy in keeping with the outside world. Just as in the case of an individual, no country can live to itself. We have to pay regard to the broader issues of world affairs. I hope, therefore, that this Parliament will rise to the occasion and give the Government a reasonable chance to carry out what appears to me to be an excellent programme, fulfilling all those pledges made to the men who have done so much for Australia.
– The amendment before the Committee threatens to cause considerable uneasiness in the ranks of the Government, and, indeed, among members of the Country party. They got into power by denouncing the Government, and so it is somewhat hard to realize the change of front that has taken place since last week. If one looks up the speeches which members of the Country party delivered in their constituencies during . the election, one will find that they condemned the Government administration of the various Pools, but when they have an opportunity to give effect to their dissatisfaction by a vote in this House, we shall, no doubt, find them solidly behind the Government in order, as the honorable member for Robertson (Mr.Fleming) has just said, that Ministers may go on the “ even tenor of their way.”For my part, I can only hope the “ even tenor of their way “ will not be in the direction of continuing to grind the country interests in the future as in the past. I can speak with full knowledge as a small producer of the condition of affairs from which we have suffered during the past few years under the administration of the National Government.
The honorable member for Robertson spoke just now of the “ captious “ criticism of the administration of the Wheat and Wool Pools. I am afraid his remarks will not be very acceptable to the people in his electorate, for no man representing a country constituency can say that the primary producers have received a fair deal from this Administration during the past three years. We are now carrying a financial burden, in the shape of our public debt, that is variously estimated at from £725,000,000 to £800,000,000. We can get no definite information from the Government as to the exact amount, and electors sent me here as a protest against the Government and the administration of the Postal Department. There is dis- satisfaction, not only amongst the people, but amongst the employees of that great Department. We cannot get any definite information of the various contracts that have been made, as the Government refuse to lay them on the table in order that they may be investigated and we may learn whether our interests have been safeguarded or not. Can any man say that the position is good when we do not know to within £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 how much our national debt is? While we have been piling up our war debt we have not been receiving war prices for our primary products, and we have not yet started to pay our war debt. Here we are, with a population of 5,000,000 people, carrying a burden £300,000,000 greater than was the national debt of Great Britain prior to the war. And we must not forget that in the proportion of population, Great Britain had nine pairs of hands to every pair of hands in Australia. Moreover, the Mother Country is highly developed, and prior to the war was receiving £400,000,000 annually from foreign investments, whereas Australia is a borrowing country and must send millions of pounds’ worth of primary products overseas in order to maintain her balance of trade. We are in the position of a man who has increased the mortgage on his propertyfrom £3,500 to over £9,000, with the result that he has to carry more than three times his former financial burden. And now we are told that we must produce more in order to meet our heavier obligations. But what encouragement is given our farmers to produce more?
In the seasons 1915 to 1918 we grew more wheat than ever before in the history of Australia. What became if it ? To-day, when we are on the verge of a wheat famine, we have to realize that our wheat grown during the war period was sold for less than it was worth in the marketsof the world. Thus, confidence has been destroyed in the breasts of the primary producers that they are going to get a square deal from the Government. This condition of affairs is causing concern to everybody who cares to think of the future - since all wealth comes from the land - because the small men are not prepared to carry on. Speaking as one of them, I say we cannot go on. We have thousands of pounds locked up in property and plant, and are unable to finance in order to cultivate, this year, for next sea- son’s crop. Honorable members must bear in mind that farmers cannot grow wheat in five minutes. Unless we can be sure of better treatment at the hands of the Government, the cost of living must inevitably rise still higher. We cannot get away from the logical sequence of events. If we cannot produce what we require in our own country, we shall have to import at high prices, and so the cost of living must mount still higher. The farmers must get better treatment than they have had during the last three years.
The fact that in New South Wales, the mother State of the Commonwealth, the representation of Labour in country districts has been increased to fourteen in twenty-seven, points to the necessity of wiping out the Government which is responsible for the bad condition of affairs that exists here to-day. Unless we can obtain . redress I very much fear that the bailiff with whom we are threatened from Great Britain, and whom the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is being sent to London to placate, will make nas appearance in Australia, with disastrous results to all concerned . Whether we can weather the financial storm is a matter for the future consideration of the Ministry. I hope that they will do all that they can to insure that the primary producers shall get a squarer deal in the future than we have received in the past.’
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that our wool-growers are to receive 50 per cent, of the excess profits on the resale of our wool by Great Britain. Upon the other hand, it is alleged that only a series of cables passed between the Commonwealth authorities and the Imperial Government in regard to the socalled .wool contract, and it is significant that the Government are not prepared to lay that contract upon the table of this House. It is further alleged ‘that only 50 per cent, of the excess profits upon the re-sales of wool to countries outside Great Britain and her Allies aTe to come back to Australia. If that statement be correct, it means that our wool-growers will not receive any excess profits whatsoever, because .no Australian wool has been sold outside of the allied countries. It is unfair to ask our wool-growers to give their wool away for less than it is worth, seeing that it has not been sold to the Governments of allied countries, but to private individuals. Consequently the people of those countries will not reap the advantage of our sacrifices, but private individuals in the persons of woollen manufacturers there will gain materially.
– The honorable member’s statement about the wool contract is not correct.
– Then, why is that contract not laid on the table of ‘the House in order that the fullest publicity may be given to it? There are members of the Ministry who have never seen it. Our primary producers are having their goods disposed of under the contract, and in such circumstances why should its provisions be kept dark? Apparently the dictatorship which has existed during the past four years has blinded Ministers to the fact that the wool is not ‘theirs, but that of primary producers in Australia who have a right to know the conditions under which it is being disposed “of. I venture to say that if the terms of the wool contract had been made clear to the people prior to the recent elections the Government would not have been again returned to office. A similar remark is applicable to the sale of our wheat. Concerning the Commonwealth line of steamers, I was under the impression that they had been purchased in order to keep down freights. But I now find that those vessels have charged the same freights as have been charged by privately-owned shipping lines. In other words, they have been used to bolster up high freights.
There are certain other primary products in regard to which we have been penalized by the unintelligent action of the Government. Take the case .of rabbit skins as an example. It is common property that in connexion with the sale of these skins a policy of “ keep it dark “ has been observed. An embargo had been placed on the export of rabbit skins for the purpose of allowing manufacturers to hoard stocks, and thus make enormous profits when the embargo waslifted. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has stated that this embargo has now been lifted, but that the Government intend to reimpose it in May next. By reimposing it at theperiod suggested, they will hit a big body of workers in this country very hard indeed, because the latter will be prevented from getting; the higher prices for the skins that they otherwise would get. Rabbits are on the increase in Australia, and it costs our primary producers hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, to keep them in check. “We were getting rid of them, and large numbers of men were being provided with employment owing to the sales of rabbit skins. But when the Government placed an embargo upon their export, hundreds of men knocked off trapping, because they were not prepared to be crucified by the middle-men here who were being protected.
This unintelligent interference on the part of the Government has had disastrous effects upon the producers. I need only mention, in this connexion, the Ministerial action in fixing the price of meat. I will give my own experience as an illustration. The margin between poverty and a living on a small area of land is a very narrow one indeed. As a small primary producer I have never found that the payment of wages was likely to break me; but I do know that the excessively high prices exacted by the Government have been responsible for placing many producers in a position of financial embarrassment. The action of the Government in fixing the price of meat was responsible for a drop of £2 10s. per head in the- case of store stock that we had purchased for £12 10s. per head; and I know one station owner who lost 1,100 head of stock as the result of the action of the Government in fixing prices at that particular time of the year. As the wageearner has only his labour to sell, and is not able to make provision for a rainy day, discontent must manifest itself amongst the workers, because the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician prove that, although we have spent enormous sums upon war activities, the deposits in our banks have increased very considerably during the war period. The Government are not prepared to tax those who have large bank balances, and naturally, with the increased cost of living, and the higher burden of taxation which has to be borne by the small men, discontent is increasing, whilst constant strikes are a source of loss to both sides. The Labour party do not stand for strikes, but for a policy of arbitration. Every day that capital and labour are at strife with each other, national loss is incurred which we cannot afford. No small primary producer can ever say that wages are likely to break him, because he does not employ sufficient men to produce that result. I have purchased bags at 18s. per dozen, although those bags had cost the National Government only 9s. 5d. per dozen. They refused to sell to the farmers’ representatives, and sold the bags over their heads to the middlemen of Sussex-street, Sydney, and the middlemen of other States. Many other instances of a similar nature could be quoted. Under the National Government the Necessary Commodities Commission fixed the price of chaff bags at 8s. a dozen, but at the same time refused to commandeer supplies, although that is the logical outcome of price-fixing. If you fix prices you must be prepared to commandeer supplies at that price. We could not get supplies. Stocks were held up, with the result that men had to pay 14s. a dozen for second-hand bags that were net worth 4s. 6d. to put their chaff into to save their stock. Yet gentlemen in the Corner party indorsed the action of the Government last week by voting for them. Never was there such a right-about-face as has been displayed by that party in their actions during the past two weeks.
The outlook for the whole of the people of Australia is not bright. If we on the land are not doing any good, no other section of the community is doing any good. You may continue to do as* has been done in the past; mortgage your country year by year in order to provide employment, but an end must come to that sort of tiling, as is shown by the insistent demand from Great Britain today that we shall meet our obligations, whether they amount to £8,000,000, or £48,000,000, or £90,000,000. The man is calling to-day for his money, and we have the spectacle of the Treasurer himself being sent to England in order to placate those who desire to be paid, in spite of the fact that we keep Australia House in London at a total cost of £100,000 per year. We have to face the position, and we must carry our burden of debt. We do not know what we are going to receive from the Wheat Pools or the Wool Pool. No man can say to-day what he is to get for his 1915-16 scrip. One man the other day offered 8,000 bushels of it for £5 at Glen Innes, and could not get a buyer. Why do not the Government finalize the Pools so that we may be able to see where we stand and know definitely whether or not it will be possible for- us to carry on as we have been doing, or whether we shall have to finance in other directions? I would particularly urge the Government, if they remain in office, to see at once that liberal advances are made to small primary producers, wherever they are situated in Australia, in order that the millions of pounds of capital which they have invested in land and plant may not be allowed to remain idle, simply and solely because they are not in a position to put it into working order to grow wheat for Australia during the next twelve months. It costs us to-day practically 30s. an acre to sow wheat, and nearly 10s. per bushel to land seed wheat on our farms, notwithstanding that millions of bushels have been sold by the Prime Minister at from 4s. 4d. to 4s. 6d. in the last (three years.
The Government say they have had no power to deal with profiteering. Could any greater power be held by any Government than was held by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who could take my wheat and go to Great Britain and sell it for whatever he thought it was worth ‘i Yet he could not compel the man who was selling bags, twine, oil, or machinery to me to charge fair and reasonable prices. So when the representatives of the Country party, as they are called, in the Corner, say that they are out to do the fair, thing by the man on the land, I say to them, “ Use your influence and your votes to see that men on the land do not have to pay the excessive prices that are charged to-day.” We have to pay £60 for a binder of which the sworn value coming into Australia is £17 10s.
– We have to pay £85.
– I have not had enough money to buy one for the last twelve months, and for all I know they may he up to £85, or even £100. Whatever the price is, we have received no protection from the Government in that direction. Plough-shares, Which used to cost 6s. 6d., are now 18s., although there is only 6 lbs. of steel in each ploughshare. In the face of facts like this, can any one say that there is no profiteering? The reason why Labour gained seats in New South Wales in the primaryproducing districts was the dissatisfaction felt by men’ on the land with their treatment at the hands of the National Government. We are here to do all we can to see that redress is given to the people in the country districts, in order not only that the country districts themselves may be saved, but that the people of Australia may be saved in the years ahead of us, when we shall have to carry this enormous burden of debt. Unless something is done, the confidence of the primary producers that they would receive a fair deal will not be restored. They had that confidence until the National Government took over the administration. Unless it is restored, all the other legislation that the Government may carry will be futile, because they will have destroyed the source of wealth, and the only alternative will be to continue to borrow. That cannot be done for any extended period, since Great Britain to-day has practically hung up the sign, “No more money available here,” and is already demanding that we shall meet our obligations, however great they are. The position is very serious for every man in the community, and requires the earnest and sympathetic consideration of the Government. I hope that the Administration that has proved so disastrous during the past three years will be changed, and that the incidence of taxation will be placed on the shoulders of those best able to bear it - those who have reaped enormous profits through Australia -being at war.
.- I am sure that every honorable member who listened to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Cunningham) will agree that he knows his subject, and has made a good impression in his first speech in the House. I speak as one who tried to be a farmer forty-seven years ago, and whom a kind Victorian Government sent - a poor, miserable little bank clerk - to take up land 10 miles south of Warragul, among the big trees of Gippsland. In those days we put our hut on the division line, so that one could sleep on one block and one on the other. From our hut I counted twenty-five trees over 8 feet in diameter on a single acre. I ask any man who has been >a farmer what earthly chance I had there. I certainly developed a big chest through swinging the axe, but it would have been better had tie Victorian Government sent- me to Pentridge, if they had given me books to study, than to send me up there. However, from that time I have always had sympathy for the in&n on the land. Wherever I spoke in Victoria I said, “If you have not a Labour man to vote for, vote for a man who lives among you, and is working on the land.” I, therefore, welcome the Country party to the House. There is a new party on the opposite side of the chamber whose members are more honest than the members of the old party.
When the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) said that he was going to England, I remembered the occasion when he was going there in company with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He did not seem very anxious to go then; but what a difference in his feelings now ! Then he had his doubts; now he has none. In the name of common sense, what is the use of our sending a man to England at great expense to represent us when we have there already six AgentsGeneral and a High Commissioner ? If they cannot do our work, they should be brought back, and the cost of their upkeep saved . The expenditure of £1 ,000,000 on building Australia House was a serious waste of money, especially in war time. Can any honorable member make any defence of it? I lived in London for five years as a student, and I do not know that any Agent-General ever did any good to Australia. After I had got my diplomat-had received what has been called a “licence to kill,” though I hope that it is not that in my case - I thought that I would apply to the Agent-General for assistance in getting a ship; but when ushered into his presence, he said to me, “ We cannot do anything like that. Such a thing is not part of the duties of the Agent-General.- The representative of the Queensland Government, however, was kind enough to help me to get a ship, and I returned to Australia. The electors of the constituency in which I was born subsequently returned me to Parliament, and in 1891 I again visited England. My record with the shipping company waa so good that I had already earmarked a ship for the voyage back; but, nevertheless, I went to the Victorian Agent-General, and again asked him for assistance in getting a ship. Again he said. “ Oh, no, we could not do that.” Thereupon I took out my card, which showed me to be a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and had you seen his face when he read it yon
Would have laughed. He at once promised to see what he could do. My reply Was, “Don’t trouble; I have got a ship.” I have asked artists- two of the greatest are in Australia now-- and merchants, who have visited London, but they have not been able to give any reason for the existence of an Agent-General. If honorable members wish to know the real reason why we have Agents-General, it is that wealthy Australians visiting London . with wives and charming daughters may obtain introductions to the King, for which purpose the High Commissioner and the Agents-General are useful. They are generally introduced to a member of the aristocracy, who for a *douceur of so many pounds will teach the lady to kick her skirts behind when bowing to the King and walking out of his presence; and will teach the gentleman how to carry a court sword, deport himself in silk stockings, and kiss the King’s hand. We in Australia do not need that sort of thing. Let us save the cost of our six Agents-General, the High Commissioner of Australia, and the up-keep of Australia House. If we sent commercial travellers Home on a fair salary, plus commission, they would do more for Australia in selling our products than all the Agents-General with which Australia- has been burdened have done:
I should have been very glad had the Treasurer, or some other Minister, been man enough to put on the table a certain report. Mr. Commissioner Blackett blamed certain officers of the Home Affairs Department for wasting money at the Federal Capital, and two officials were appointed to vise his report. No man has seen their report, which has been pigeon-holed and hidden. Is the Treasurer, or is the Government, ashamed of it? Every man in the Department who was blamed by Commissioner Blackett has had his salary increased. They are men who were accused of wasting £250,000 at the Federal Capital, and men who tried to ruin one of the greatest brains that ever came to Australia, that mighty architect who won against the world in .a contest for a design for the laying out of our capital. I would like to see the report that has been hidden, but the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has camouflaged it. I am sorry that he is not here to-night to hear me ask him if he is man enough to put it on the table so that honorable members may see it. It was a piece of impertinence to appoint officials of the Department to criticise and vise the findings of a Commissioner. It was like asking the clerk of a Police Court to vise a judgment of the High Court of Australia.
I smiled somewhat when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went into the prist history of politics. One very fine phrase he uttered was that the House of Commons is a jealous mistress of her rights. The House of Commons was never treated as this Parliament was treated during the war. We were 12,000 miles from the scene of conflict, and yet it was thought necessary to close our mouths. If it was necessary, was it not much more necessary to close the Parliament at the Seat of the Empire, which was so near the frontier? During the war, the Government had us called together, and had measures passed, which I am glad to find the Country party letting light into now. What is the use, they say, of criticising the Estimates after the mi:ne,y has been paid away? Thirty years of experience has taught me that a Government with a brutal majority “can force its business through, and this Government is prepared to do that. The whip has been cracked. The Prime Min.isted said that the Government had been placed in complete power by the dominance of the, people. Was there ever a moi? garbled falsehood? The people of this country can control Parliament on only one day in three years. They are the creators of Parliament; but once Parliament has been created, its members can, during three years, do what they like, snapping their fingers at the electors. This country has been ruled by a dictator, who has been supported by the GovernorGeneral. Never in the history of legislation has a man in power done what he has done. The idea of giving a man the right to form a Cabinet when he had only four teen supporters in a House of seventy-five members! It is known outside that Governor-General Denman would not do the work that this man was sent out here to do. When the real record of the present Governor-General is made by a formal motion in this House, the people of Australia will wonder why they stood him so long. The Prime Minister spoke of the great Nationalist party. That party faced the electors fifty-two strong, and today has a majority of one only over the other parties in this House when combined.
– We do not know yet that it has a majority at all.
– It does not deserve to have any majority. Thirty -eight Nationalists, fourteen ex-Labour men, and twenty-three Labour men faced the electors, but at the poll nine Nationalists lost their seats. Six ex-Labour men were defeated, though the party gained the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), its one ewe lamb.
– What about the Senate ?
– The Government would have obtained the same result here as in the Senate if it could have “ faked “ single-member electorates as it “ faked “ the Senate electorates. No man of honorable instincts can approve the infamy of what occurred in connexion with the Senate.
– Will you help to secure proportional representation?
– I will, gladly. The Country party alone secured any great gain. They took more from the so-called Nationalists than from any other party. Labour came back twenty-six strong. Where, then, is this great victory of which the Prime Minister spoke? Out of the party of fourteen, with which the Governor-General allowed him originally to constitute his humbugging Cabinet, only six remain in the House to-day. Mr. Archibald, Mr. Jensen, Mr. Spence, and Mr. Webster, all members of that Ministry, were defeated at the last general election; as were Mr. Lynch, the New South Wales farmer; and Mr. Heitmann. Of the original fourteen, those in the House to-day are the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), the Chairman of Committees (Mr.
Chanter), the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), and the Honorary Minister (Mr. Laird Smith). All these hold salaried offices. There are, in fact, one and a half members to one paid office. On the other hand, the Country party consists of eleven members, not one of whom occupies a salaried position, although some of them might have done had they listened to the voice of the tempter. At the 1917 elections, the Hughes party gained three new supporters. Of these, Mr. Heitmann has disappeared. I hope he was not defeated because of the wild and woolly statement reported to have been made by him that he did not care whether Australia was white, brown, or brindle. Foolish words of that kind are never forgotten. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), another of the trio, is here to-day, as well as the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), who also occupies a paid office. Of the original wonderful fourteen, only six remain. Yet the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) said that, generally speaking:, the Government had every reason to be proud of its glorious victory. One is’ reminded of the statement attributed to Pyrrhus, “ One more such victory, and Pyrrhus is undone.”
– Give us the tally for the Senate.
– The honorable member, who can tell us how to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, may go to the Senate if he chooses to do so.
As one who has had occasionally to hit the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) fairly hard, I wish to thank him for what he has done on behalf of the returned soldiers engaged in hand-weaving. We should have had 1,000 men so employed, and earning from £4 to £5 per week, but for the action of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), who did every thine he could to assist Flinders-lane, and to ruin the returned soldiers engaged in the industry.The suit I am wearing is of hand-woven tweed made by returned men. I have worn it for two years, and no one could wish for a better article. The only complaint I now have against the Government in regard to this industry is that, whereas they are cutting out the warehousemen, and relieving the public of their unjust profiteering extortions, a man who wishes to get a suit length of hand-woven tweed must obtain it through his tailor, who will be supplied with it at a cost of 15s. per yard, double width.
– What would the suit cost?
– My tailor .would make the suit for £3 10s.; the honorable member’s tailor might charge him £5. The returned soldiers engaged in this industry have been vilely treated, but they are now getting a fair deal. Why, however, should not the public be able to obtain a suit length direct from the weavers? The “Blighty” tweeds that are woven in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh can be purchased in suit or costume lengths direct from the factories by the general public. Why should not the same practice apply here? When I brought the matter before the Treasurer, he asked why the tweed should not be sold at 10s. per yard if it could be made for 7s. 6d. per yard. I fail to see why it should not be sold direct to the public instead of the people being robbed. I showed Senator Russell the offer of a reputable firm to start with 500 suits, and supply what are known as half and quarter sizes, at £2 2s. per suit; or, if a tailor-made suit were required, for £3. The infamy of the prices now being charged for suits of clothing may be estimated when I tell honorable members that -1 lbs. of greasy wool is sufficient to’ provide for a suit of clothes. The Government are supported by the profiteers who found their electioneering funds. Men were paid £750, and, in one case, £1,250, to organize the political campaign on behalf of the Government, who, however, came back with their numbers reduced from fifty-two to twenty-nine. Another victory like that, and I daresay the Government will disappear from the Treasury bench - a long-wished-for result on my part.
Why should we not get rid of cur six State Governors ? What good are they ? I have had a splendid meal at Government House, but I never met there a man or woman whose belly was empty with hunger. Only one Governor-General had the common decency to meet with the common folk, and that was Lord’
Hopetoun - God rest him ! He was man enough not only to go amongst the humble, but to feed the hungry.
– He gave them 500 bottles of champagne, did he not?
– He doubtless thought it right that those in humble life might taste that which only the rich can buy. Champagne is a good wine to drink, and I do not see why on holidays even the humblest should not have some, as they would if I had the power. Compare some of the Governors in Australia with one in- Western Australia. He was paid only £600 a year, and he built his Government House at his own expense. At that time butter was 5s. a pound, but he never let any one go past his door who was hungry. That Governor was Sir James Stirling, who left this life many years ago; but his record is unsurpassed amongst Australian Governors.
I think there was some laughter from honorable members opposite when General Lassetter’s name was mentioned, but I cannot allow that gentleman’s name to be so greeted so far as I am concerned. At General Lassetter’s request in February last year, I went down to the Osterley, and there saw branded in big letters on the steel girders, the words on the men’s quarters, “Room for thirty-two seamen.” When the Orient Steam Navigation Company was fighting the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company for twenty-five years it had a friend in me; but there were some forty men crowded into that accommodation for thirty-two, and the shipping authorities wished to accommodate 100. But against this the men struck in dock. This is what I said in the Herald in reference to that matter -
Dr. Maloney, M.H.R., stated that he had been shown the words “ Licensed for 32 berths,” stamped on each side of the stewards’ quarters, giving a total of 64 berths, and yet between 80 and 00 mcn were expected to live in the tiny place. The men did not have a table provided for them, and as a result they did not have a single sit-down meal on the whole voyage.
I asked the Government whether the Board of Trade regulations were to bo observed, and they said they were, but nothing was done. The first class single fare was £128, as high as £90 for second class, and £47 steerage; and the space was wanted for passengers. One of those angel women who act as nurses - a sister of General Lassetter - drew my attention, to the conditions on the ship. I am proud to think that an officer of such high standing as General Lassetter, in order to show me how things were, went down these narrow ladders into the bowels of the ship where the men were accommodated, and where, as we know, the chief danger lay in case of mines. In the event of any mine -being struck, not one of the seamen could escape up these ladders; and the children in the steerage ran great risks, and would have fared very badly but for the humanity of the ladies in the saloon who shared their, milk food with them. Yet at the AgentsGeneral’s offices and the High Commissioner’s offices, it was thought that everything requisite was provided. The following is a letter sent to me by Miss Lassetter : -
Before this voyage the stewards struck for better sleeping accommodation. Ninety men were to be squeezed into an area suitable for about sixty. No one would sign on until some nien (about ten) were placed elsewhere to sleep. Hours usually called 4.45, and off duty about 0, on their late evening 9 p.m. No table, no forms for their meals; eating standing; very injurious to their health and digestion. The sleeping quarters, besides being badly ventilated, overcrowded, are so noisy owing to the winch which works Saturdays and week days, that it is a torture for a sick steward ordered, by the doctor to remain in his bunk. Aa the men had not enough uniforms to last out the voyage, they had to wash and iron them in their time off duty or in the night. The stewards get an hour before each meal to get clean and ready to serve the meal. The work is sweated work, owing to the gross selfishness of the passengers, and the carelessness of the Une. Many passengers, who are lazy and not ill, have all their meals in their cabins or on deck, so doubling the labour of the stewards and stewardesses. This ought to be stopped, except under doctors’ orders. Hence the cabins cannot be cleaned in their proper hours, making it impossible for the stewards to get through their work. The bathroom stewards and stewardesses, who ought to have their bathroms cleaned in the middle of the morning, are still giving and preparing baths. A charge for all passengers who have meals in their cabins, except under doctor’s orders, would reduce this labour. It is a well-known fact that many passengers romain in their cabins, and cause extra labour, who would not do it if charged extra if not sick. I personally consider the life and work of a steward to bc sweated labour.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Much has been said to-night, and I should like to add a word or two in support of the Government who desire to carry this Supply. Bill as presented. I may say “ that, as a new member, I have been absolutely disgusted with the way in which honorable members have deliberately wasted the time of Parliament since we started our sittings. According to the Governor-General’s Speech we were sent here to deal with matters of great moment to the country, yet we now find ourselves, after a fortnight, just where we started. A censure motion, submitted by the Opposition, occupied us for a week. We then started to try to get something done; but the Country party, in their desire to carry on the affairs of the country, have decided to hold up Supply still longer. It is absolutely necessary that the Government should get the Supply Bill passed. We do not want to go over past history, and criticise what the Government did during the last Parliament. Opposition members surely gave enough of that during the election campaign. I certainly heard enough; I. had to answer for the sins of Governments for the last ten years. If honorable members would bring forward something new for the Government to deal with, we ‘ might get ahead with the business. We are told that one of the reasons for the Country party’s proposal for the reduction of Supply is that it insists upon the Government exercising due economy. We have in this House a combination of the. Opposition and the Country party in an effort to browbeat the Government. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), in his speech last week, gave an illustration of what he desired for the economical working of the country. He insisted that the Government were spending too much money; but, at the same time, asked that 200 employees who have been discharged from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory should be continued in their employment, although we do not now want the rifles produced. To-day the honorable member for . Dalley (Mr. Mahony) criticised severely the persons who were sent to America by the Commonwealth Government to supervise the construction of wooden ships. The honorable member evidently forgot that it was urgently necessary, when the contracts were made, that we should have more ships, regardless of whether or not they were in a proper condition.. It was more important that Australia should have ships in some condition, in order to get her produce away, than that the launching of them should be delayed at the shipbuilding yards on technical grounds. I could not help smiling when the honorable member said that those supervisors were receiving £500 per annum practically for doing nothing: I started to mentally compare them with some of the politicians, to the great disadvantage of the latter. In regard to the criticism by General Lassetter, the remark made concerning an honorable member in this Chamber might be applied to him, viz., that he is looking at Australian conditions to-day with the eyes of 1914. General Lassetter might be put in the same position, and be absolutely unable to answer’ for the opinions of the wheat and wool-grower? at the present time. A remark was also made that the British Parliament was not treated during the war period as this Parliament was. I was in England in 1915, and the squeals from the British Parliamentarians were almost as loud as those we have heard from members of the Opposition to-night. The British Government found it necessary to carry on the work of the country and ‘to practically suspend the rest of the Parliament. If we could do the same in Australia, allowing a few strong men to carry on the affairs of the country, instead of having a lot of members talking and wasting time, the country might be the better for it. Exception was taken by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to the remarks of the Prime Minister that this Parliament was elected to work, and not to talk. I -could hardly understand the honorable members objection to that remark. Prom the way he was speaking, I judged that he thought that honorable members were returned to talk, and not to work.
– We are asking Parliament to work and take the responsibility.
– The Government are prepared to take all the responsibility for what they have done and what they propose to do.-
– I did not take any exception to the Prime Minister’s remark except on the ground that it was not a reply to my question as to when the Estimates would be submitted to the House.
– The House will get the Estimates when they are available.
– We may get them sooner than the honorable member thinks.
– I hope so. If we are to have this wrangle every six weeks about the Estimates and Supply, the country will suffer very much in consequence. I think the Government are justified in resting on the laurels they won during the last Parliament. We on this side are prepared to stand by the past record, and, if given a chance, to carry on the work of the country economically and in accordance with the pledges we gave to the electors. It is the intention of the Government, if they are permitted to do so, to carry out those pledges in their entirety. The first Bill they propose to introduce is that for the payment of a gratuity to the soldiers. I know that thousands of returned soldiers are anxiously awaiting that payment; indeed, they are worrying about it, for tosome of them it may mean practically life or death. Every honorable member returned to this House is pledged to do his utmost to have the gratuity authorized by this Parliament as early as possible. Yet we find the Country party and the Opposition deliberately delaying the payment. Honorable members may disclaim that intention, but actions speak for themselves. The Government were prepared last week to bring in the Bill for the payment of the gratuity, but the Opposition deliberately moved a vote of noconfidence, which prevented the consideration of the Bill last week, and now we have from the Country party an amendment for the reduction of the Supply Bill. Naturally that amendment is regarded as a declaration of want of confidence.
– That is the Government’s funeral.
– No ; it is the funeral of honorable members ‘ in the Ministerial corner. The payment of the gratuity is being deliberately delayed another week by the action of the Country party in attempting to reduce Supply. I wonder what the soldiers will say when they are able to make their voices heard on this question.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest to the Opposition, and to the Country party also, that they quit the policy of “Win, tie, or wrangle,” and endeavour to get on with the business for the despatch of which -they were sent here.
.- It had not been my intention to address the House until such time as I had imbibed to the full extent the usages andi proceedings of. this Chamber, and, at the same time, had become saturated with the atmosphere of this august council. It will take a while yet to accustom myself to parliamentary procedure, but I have assimilated sufficient atmosphere during the last five sittings of Parliament to carry me on for the three years which we are to occupy in attendance on these benches.
– You do not know but that there may be a general election in .a very few weeks.
– An honorable member has just interjected. I claim the privilege of a newcomer with respect to responding to interjections. I was informed by an honorable member this morning that, having delivered one’s maiden speech, one became fair game from all sides, but that during one’s initial effort special consideration might be looked for. In this regard, I would like to inform honorable members, that after a somewhat strenuous period in the Navy, I have come back with a .legacy which I do not appreciate. I am a sufferer from shell-shock and have broken ear-drums, as an outcome of shell fire, necessitating the use - as in, the case of that little superman, the Prime Minister - of the accousticon. .But I entered politics as a returned man, determined that no matter what disabilities we might have come back with we should not sit down under them if we thought for one moment that we could render some further service to Australia. I mention these matters, not to gain the sympathy of honorable members, but to avoid, if possible, the charge, either inside or outside of this chamber, of discourtesy in not replying to interjections or responding to conversation.
Naturally, the war having ended, I have not noted in the speech of the Governor-General reference to such matters as recruiting or of obtaining men by any means for war service. Of course, there are still items having’ to do with defence, naval and military; but I would like to say something at this point in fairness to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) as regards the “Ryan Thousand.” I think I am safe in saying that no honorable member can speak of the “ Ryan Thousand “ from quite the same point of view as I am able to do.. When I came back in June or July of 191S, on short leave from the North Sea, I was asked by the State Government in New South Wales to proceed on a lecturing tour for the purpose of obtaining recruits for our depleted battalions. We were somewhat successful on the northern rivers; and on reaching Murwillumbah I received a wire from the Minister for Recruiting, desiring me to proceed at once to Brisbane and report to Mr. Ryan, who was then Premier of Queensland. Upon arriving in the Queensland capital I was received with every mark of courtesy, kindness, and consideration by Mr. Ryan, together with certain of his Ministerial colleagues. I recall at that very meeting his saying to me, “What do you think of the idea of my being asked to put my name down for a Ryan Thousand?” I said I thought it a very good idea, because we had to get men for the Queensland battalions, two of which had been scrapped for lack of reinforcements. I think that my saying what I did influenced the Premier in according his consent to the proposal. I see now, however, that we both made a mistake. No politician should lend his name to the project of raising any battalion or division of men. I went right through Queensland and secured a large number of recruits. I am going to say something now that I would really rather not make public, because it is something against my honorable friend, the honorable member for West Sydney. As each man enlisted I asked him whether he desired to join the “ Ryan Thousand.” In every instance, I believe, the recruit replied, “ No, I do not.” I asked why, and the invariable reply was, “ I think it is up to Mr. Ryan to enlist himself.” That is why we did. not fill the “ Ryan Thousand.” I have not made these statements with any intention of discourtesy, or to hurt the honorable member for West Sydney; but these are the facts, and they demonstrate clearly that no politician should lend his name to projects of this nature, although I admit that I advised Mr. Ryan at the time that he should do so. We were both wrong.
With regard to Supply, I do not know whether there is anything in the Bill to indicate that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is to be furnished with a good wad in his hip pocket for his tri,> to England. Possessing a very intimate knowledge of London - having made some ten voyages to the Old Country - I can say that the conditions in the capital of the Empire are somewhat peculiar. They are very expensive conditions, and I trust that when the Treasurer goes to London he will not be hampered for lack of necessary cash in his task of upholding the dignity of Australia. I am quite sure that honorable members attached to the Country party - the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) particularly - would be the last to propose the cutting down of expenditure in respect of the Treasurer’s trip Home.
I desire to touch upon one other point in particular. I have seen no sign within the House as yet, and have not discovered outside of Parliament, any earnest endeavour on the part of all Australians to “get together” in order to solve those problems which are ahead of this great country. There is only one way to settle the industrial unrest of today, and that is by co-operative effort, and, in my opinion, by the principle of profit-sharing. The time is long past when the working people of this country should have received a fair share of the wealth, they produce. Every honorable member, I feel sure, no matter what his party, will agree with me. And we will not bring about that condition of affairs unless - to repeat an American phrase - we do “get together.” I respectfully say to honorable members opposite, “Give honorable members on this side the benefit of your helpful, practical advice.” An honorable member at my side has remarked that we do too much talking. Perhaps we do. I trust that I shall not; because I hope to get as much work done as possible without recourse to talking. It is our all-important task to bend t our best efforts upon a study of the awful difficulties facing the Commonwealth to-day, and upon the effort to make Australia what she ought to be, and what she un- questionably will be some day - foremost amongst the greatest nations the world has ever seen.
I again ask for the forbearance of honorable members, and for their help and guidance in the discharge of the duties pertaining to a new member of this Chamber.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I hope that honorable members will cooperate with us in trying to close this debate to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200310_reps_8_91/>.