8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council -Financial Year 1918-19- Dated 4th February, 1920.
Excise Act -Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 32.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under at Bankstown, New South Wales (2).
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 10th March (vide page 289), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That there he granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1919-20, a sum not exceeding £5,727,180.
Upon which Mr. McWilliams had moved -
That the proposed sum be reduced by £2,863,590.
– The standing order is quite clear. It reads - 257a. No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of “ no confidence,” or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and thirtyfive minutes. In Committee of the House, no member shall speak for more than thirty minutes at any one time, or more than twice, on any one question before the Committee: Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Hill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or to any member during the proceedings in the Committee on the Tariff, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
Therefore, no honorable member can now speak more than twice, and not for more than half-an-hour on each occasion, on any question before the Committee.
.- As there appears to be some doubt whether the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin is or is not a motion of want of confidence, I hasten to say that I shall support it in any event, because I should not like to run any risk of not opposing the present Government.
I wish to say a word or two to my friend’s of the Country party. I have not used the objectionable words “ socalled,” and I now declare them to be the Country party, and baptize them as such. We have been so long accustomed to the honorable and amiable member for Franklin ploughing his lonely furrow with a good deal of perseverance, and no little ability, that it takes us some time to appreciate him as a new Napoleon in the realms of politics. Some people have greatness thrust upon them, and, doubtless, greatness has been thrust upon the honorable member for Franklin, and it does not lie with me to say that he does not deserve the greatness he now enjoys. I have said that I shall support this amendment,and I realize that what I am saying may be more or less injurious to the Country party, but that is their look out. The mover of the amendment says that it is not a vote of want of confidence ; the Government say it is, and the Temporary Chairman seems to be in some doubt as to whether it is ox not, hut I think the matter has been settled in the saying of Shylock that “you take my life when you do take the means whereby r live.” Applying that maxim to this amendment it is perfectly clear that if the Country party propose to take from the Government the means whereby it lives they thereby take its life. I am sorry that the Country party should, in approaching u3 coyly, rather be inclined to trifle with our young affections. I think they are relying, at all events, as far as I am concerned, on the insatiable animosity of certain honorable members of the Opposition towards the Government, and, therefore, feel perfectly certain that whatever motion they may move, if it is critical or condemnatory of the Government, will have the support ‘ of most, if not all, of honorable members on this side.
I have a serious complaint, politically though not personally, against the Country party and its Leader. I read ,with very great interest their propaganda on the platform during the election. In fact, among the “ farmers “ in North Fitzroy, and the southern part of Carlton [ found that the reading of long passages from the Farmers’ Advocate, telling of the misdeeds of the Government, and of the difficulties and hardships under which the farmers labour, was a potent influence in winning sympathy for my side from the residents and electors of those great “farming” areas. The Country party attacked the Government. They said, and said truly, of it that it had wasted and mismanaged the public finances. They have said this in the House. They said, and said perfectly truly of the Government, that it had acquired cornsacks at about 8s. 6d. a dozen, and traded them off to the unhappy farmer at a price which was more than twice that amount. They said of the Government that it had overcharged them for carrying their produce on more or less leaky ships to the other side of the world, and that when their produce arrived there the primary producer had received less than that to which he was justly entitled, having regard to the prices which were being won by producers in other parts of the world. They said that the Government was constructing vessels through which the men engaged in their construction were admir- ing the seascape at one end, while at the same time workmen were engaged at the other end caulking up holes with putty and various other materials in order to enable the vessels to float a little longer than was necessary to go from the surface to the bottom. They said all these things about the Government, and I am not going to suggest that any one of them was an exaggeration, or that they said anything too harsh. On the contrary, much as they have said, and well said, I contend they have understated the case against Ministers. Still, apparently, they have not lost confidence in the Government, and do not promos© to vote against it, at least with a view to its defeat. May I draw a comparison between honorable members of the Country party and another practical farmer, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who has succeeded the noetic exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) ? While the. honorable member for Gwydir has stated the case well and ably, as they also have stated their case against the Government, he, unlike them, will be found taking the responsibility of recording his vote in accordance with his arguments and convictions. After all, it is immaterial what these gentlemen in the Corner think about the Government or say about it if they are not prepared to make good their words by votes against the Government.
The right honorable gentleman (Mr. Hughes) who leads the House makes no defence. What he does is to plead guilty with a number of mitigating circumstances. He has said and repeated that in the same set of circumstances he would do the same again; that is to say, he would enter into these wasteful contracts again that have cost the country so much money, and he would still sell the wool at prices which return to the producer something less than the Country party think they should be obtaining. The Prime Minister does not deny the charges made against him, but he says that he had not, as none of us had, the foresight to see how circumstances would develop, otherwise he would not have done what he did so foolishly as the Leader of the Commonwealth Government. Notwithstanding all these things, the Country party propose to support the Government in its folly and wastefulness.
Apparently ‘the real reason is that if they did other than that they would be liable to be charged with having some measure of sympathy for the Labour party. May I tell them with candour that most of them owe their presence in the House to votes of Labour men, a fact which they should keep in mind? After all, they ought not to be animated by a craven fear of being great. If they do not desire the Labour party to come into power - and I am in no great hurry that they should; I am certainly not the least ambitious for office - what would be wrong in their moving a motion of no-confidence and accepting an invitation from another quarter to form a Ministry themselves? I ask the honorable member for Franklin not to blush at the suggestion. He would make a most amiable, tactful and able Prime Minister, and would certainly get more cordial support from honorable members of the Opposition than they would ever be likely to give to honorable members sitting behind the Ministry at the present time, or the Ministry itself. There may appear to be some practical difficulties in the way. The numbers of the Country party are comparatively few, but with support they would not seem so few. I have indicated that the honorable member for Franklin would make an admirable Prime Minister. As for his Attorney-General, I have a curious suggestion to make. One of the lessons of the war is that we must have no more secret diplomacy; therefore, I say in public that if the honorable member for Franklin were to approach the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), who, I understand, is .a Nationalist, and were to suggest to him that by accepting the office of, say, AttorneyGeneral, he might find a ready means of getting rid of a certain “ calamitous mountebank,” I think it very likely that he would accept at once a suggestion so practical and pleasing. Then there is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). It may be said that he has pledged himself to support the Nationalist party. My answer to that is that he has also pledged himself to support the Labour party. I, therefore, see no reason why he should not pledge himself to support’ the Country party. In this way, difficulties that I have indicated as, perhaps, insuperable, would prove to be by no means so.
Coming to the questions of economy and profiteering, I may say at once that I am not a reckless’ supporter of mere catch-cries, even when the catch-cry is that of economy. After all, one want3 to know just in what way the proposed economy is to be secured - whether we are to obtain it by sacrificing efficiency, whether it involves the underpayment of some men, or subservience to some outside influences which occasionally alarm politicians, and even statesmen, into taking a course of action with which they do not altogether agree. Still, economy is a very useful and proper ideal. As to the method by which we link up proper economy with our campaign’ against profiteering, I remember that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) once said at Balaclava that a great deal of nonsense was talked about profiteering. The right honorable gentleman, like the Prime Minister, and many others, generally dismissed the whole subject by declaring that there was a great deal of nonsense spoken in regard to it. It is true, no doubt, that there was. The world has not become any richer as a result of the war. It is perfectly true that we cannot have a war such as that through which we have just passed without paying the penalty. We cannot withdraw millions of men from useful avenues of production without reducing the fruits which the labours of these men would otherwise have won for the world. We cannot carry on such a war without loading with debt the people of the country for which it is carried on.
It is useless now to recapitulate my views in regard to the war. We went into it and have piled’ up lour debts, strewn the world with dead, and filled the various belligerent countries with wounded. We must pay the penalty in shortage of commodities, and also by way of the huge debt in which the war has involved us. My greatest regre!t is that those who did most to foment the waT, those who were the most bitter in their animosity and hostility towards those who would say or do anything to mitigate its ferocity, are, for the most part, those who have drawn the largest dividends out of the war. They set out to make the world safe for Democracy. They have made it so safe for Democracy that many of them who shouted very loudly for war are afraid now that the world has been made too safe for Democracy Democracy is going to have something to say about future wars that will not be altogether too pleasing to them. We were also told that it was a war to end all waT. But the Treasurer yesterday assured us that he was able to come into this House, like a lady from a bargain sale, proud to declare that he had bought up in the Old Country some secondhand munition machines, and was bringing them over here as an earnest of economical administration’ on the part of the Government for the next twelve months. I can only hope that some friendly storm will sink those munition machines in the ocean.
It is very likely, if one might mix profane matters with sacred, that the pursuit of the profiteer is as difficult and a3 complicated as was the pursuit of the Holy Grail. One of the methods by which the Prime Minister proposed to secure, pillory, and punish him was an amendment of the Constitution. And it is to that subject that I wish specially to devote my attention for the next few minutes. When the Prime Minister, after his trip abroad, reached Australia, he declared, even before he arrived in the eastern States,- that he was going “to wage war against two classes in particular - the Bolsheviks on the one hand and the profiteers on the other. At that time “his two notes of condemnation were of equal strength and fluency. As the election campaign went on, however, his note against the Bolsheviks began to rise in a gradual crescendo until it reached a perfect shriek of denunciation, whereas his note of condemnation of the profiteer began to fall in a gradual diminuendo until by the time election day came round it was no moTe that a gentle cooing such as he was accustomed to hear from his friends of the Australian Women’s National League. He did come forward, however, with a definite proposal to deal with profiteering by means of an amendment of the Constitution. It has been said that those of us who recommended the electors to vote against his proposed amendments of the Constitution took up a position inconsistent with our attitude to previous proposed amendments, and that we did so merely because the people were asked to sanction these amendments by ‘the Prime Minister, with whose ‘policy generally we disagreed. I declared at the time that was not so, and gave reasons for my point of view. As a matter of fact, it was not correct, although if we had taken that course we should not have been without high precedent. A super-Nationalist, now on the Supreme Court Bench of Victoria, whom we may not criticise in that position, but whose actions when he sat in this House as the member for Flinders we aTe open to discuss, once declared his whole-hearted approval of amendments of the Constitution proposed by Labour, but he would not consent to them because, he said, pointing to a Government led by the present Prime Minister, he would not trust the Government then in office. In these circumstances we should have had precedent for any such stand as fiat wrongly attributed to us. I was not prepared to follow that precedent. It has been the unanimous attitude of the Labour party to declare their readiness to give a wider and more generous interpretation to the Australian Constitution, to make it a better and more wieldy instrument, trusting the people to use their own unlimited discretion as to whom they should place in charge of the affairs of the countryLet me say that there was no essential difference at all between members on this side of the House. My honorable leader, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), expressed himself in favour of giving a vote in the affirmative on the referenda, but the honorable member - just like myself in this respect, at all events - declared that the proposals were quite unlike the Labour proposals, and were inadequate and a sham. The only difference between him and myself was that, while he thought that some small measure of good might possibly come from the adoption of the referenda, I felt that even that small measure “would not be derived.
I do not forget that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) came to this Chamber the other day, and when he was asked what he had done, or what he was going to do, to relieve the people from the crushing burden incidental to the present cost of living, his answer was that it was a deplorable fact that the people had rejected the referenda. His proposal was to amend the Constitution for a maximum period of three years. That in itself was ‘an insult to the intelligence of the people of Australia. That is my first declaration. But the proposal wa3 more ridiculous than is involved in that one fact. He proposed, also, that if a Convention were not called within twelve months after the referenda Bills had received the Royal assent, then the amendments in the Constitution would fall to the ground. Thus we had the perfectly ridiculous position that the Constitution was to be amended for a maximum period of three years, and the Government were pledged that if they did not promise, by means of the election of a Convention within twelve months to alter the alterations which ‘had been made, the amendments would automatically fall to the ground in twelve months.
The view I put to the people, and the view I put to the House now, is that if those proposals for the amendment of the Constitution had been accepted, and if Acts had been passed to give effect to the wider powers thus given, we should have had a condition of confusion, and, perhaps, revolution. possibly without parallel in the history of the country. It is to be remembered that the laws passed under the extended powers would also have fallen to the ground automatically at the end of that time; every industrial effort that had been made by reason of the promises given in an amended’ Constitution would have ended in confusion and failure; and even every commercial undertaking - though I am not speaking particularly for commercial magnates - would have been carried on in trembling and fear of loss incidental to changes which might come in twelve months, and which must come, at all events, at the expiration of three years. Therefore, on the merits, I came to the conclusion,’ and I am still satisfied that the conclusion was a right one, that the proposals were preposterous and wrong, and could- have no useful result.
But the right ‘ honorable gentleman says that it is deplorable that the referenda were not carried in the affirmative. If it was deplorable that they were not carried, it was more deplorable that he did not have the courage to make them a test question with his own Ministry and party, and fall or stand by the result of the popular decision.
– What did Mr. Fisher do and say?
– I am speaking of what the Prime Minister said. The honorable gentleman has said that he went to the country eight months before Parliament expired, in order to deal with the question of profiteering as expeditiously as possible, and he declared’ that the only instrument available for the purpose was an amended Constitution.’ The honorable gentleman asked for an alteration of the Constitution, not as the Labour party did, at our leisure, with deliberate purpose of dealing with longstanding problems, but to deal with this emergency of .profiteering; and if it were the main issue at the election he ought to have had the courage to make it a vital question. If it was deplorable that the country rejected the proposals, it was deplorable that the men associated with the Prime Minister scarcely troubled to give him an ounce of support to carry these proposals.
– That does not happen to be so.
– The honorable member knows that the men associated with the Prime Minister in the Ministry gave him only luke-warm support in regard to these proposals; more than that, the right honorable gentleman himself hardly remembered or thought about an amended Constitution until just shortly before the elections. If we studied the hoardings, we found what was the real issue on which Nationalism was fighting the election. The Nationalists were fighting the election on a statement that “Ryan spells ruin,” and on a declaration that the electors must not return supporters of I.W.W.’ism, Bolshevism, Sinn Feinism, and various other isms, They were fighting the election on the declaration that the Empire was in danger, and that the loyalty of honorable members on the Opposition side of the House was questionable or non-existent. But what the honorable gentleman now declares to have been the real issue was scarcely mentioned.. At the eleventh hour, just beforetheelection, I began to see occasional and modest invitations extended to the people? to vote “Yes.” Of course, at tie same time the right honorable gentleman’s friends and supporters were telling the people to vote “No,” and they did vote “No.”
– Not all his supporters.
– Quite a sufficient number to defeat the Government on the referenda. If this were the policy and main plank in the Prime Minister’s platform, he should have stood or fallen by his success or non-success with the referenda. We went to the country, as the Country party did, and put before the Government some matters for explanation and consideration. We pointed out that there was a vast exportable surplus of wool, which we were growing and sending by contract abroad, and that, at the same time, the price of clothing was mounting by more than 100 per cent, almost every year. We submitted that this was a matter to which the Government might well address itself. It could not be said that there was a shortage of wool.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My first speech in this chamber is for the purpose of supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party. That party has come in for some criticism, a few jeers, and many taunts from honorable members on both sides of the House regarding its attitude generally towards other parties. Last evening we were treated to an excellent lecture from the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), in which, addressing himself particularly to the Country party, he dwelt at length upon the necessity for remembering our national ideals and our duty to our constituents. That honorable member ought to be the last of any sitting on the Ministerial side of the House to talk to the Country party about our duty to our constituents. He, like several other honorable members on the Ministerial side,, to whom the present unfortunate Government are looking for rescue in the present crisis, and any other crisis that may arise, is suspended in mid-air like Mahomet’s coffin; he is between the devil and the deep blue -.sea.” The honorable member for Robertson spoke about the broadness of his political ideals. His political ideals are so broad that for two long months nobody knew to what party he belonged, and even to-day some of his constituents are still wondering about the same thing. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby), who criticised both the Country party and the Opposition, made one remark to which I take strong exception, namely, that the Country party, in moving to reduce the amount of Supply, aimed deliberately at delaying the payment of the war gratuity and the proposed repatriation. expenditure. In order to make clear to the House the reasons that actuated the Country party in taking that course, I cannot do better than quote from the manifesto issued during the election campaign by the Victorian farmers’ organization -
At this juncture “wild-cat” vote-catching schemes of any individual or party at the expense of the Public Purse, and with the taint of bribing the electors and debauching the electorate, should be denounced by every honest man and woman, and unceremoniously rejected by the people.
After increased production, Australia’s great need is economical government. The primary producers of Australia think a greater proportion of the new wealth they annually create will henceforth be absorbed in taxation and the discharge of war obligations, including the welfare of our soldiers and their dependants. They willingly accept the burden with the other sections of the community. But they absolutely oppose the continuance of the riotous domestic or ordinary expenditures of the Commonwealth and States, and outside war purposes.
I could quote a good deal more in that strain, but’ what I have read is sufficient to show conclusively where this party stands on the question of public expenditure. Peculiarly enough, we do not stand alone in regard to economy. I quote now from the Prime Minister’s speech -
Economy in expenditure is as essential as increased production. We must produce more and spend less. The Government intends to introduce into the Departments of the Commonwealth a Board of Management, as recently recommended by the Economies Commission. This, we believe, will promote economy and efficiency and a higher level of administration.
I could quote a good deal more to that effect also, but I do not desire to waste time. I proceed now to read from the manifesto of an organization which calls itself the Labour party - a manifesto which, like many others, may have been forgotten -
By the exercise of the most rigid economy, we propose to put an end to the present era of wasteful and unnecessary expenditure, while at the same time making provision for adequate remuneration for all Commonwealth public servants. lt appears as if all the members of this House are pledged to the principle of economy, which is our motive in moving the amendment to the motion for Supply. I have culled from statistics a few interesting figures with regard to the public debt-
Further; the Treasurer told us yesterday that the Mother Country had sent in a bill for £41,000,000, and that it was necessary for him to go to London in order to “endeavour to make arrangements for the renewal or repayment of the debt. ‘We are sending the honorable gentleman home with empty pockets. In addition to the debt I have mentioned, there is an annual liability for war pensions of £6,000,000, which I do not think any honorable member would attempt to cut down or repudiate. We have also wargratuity and repatriation obligations to meet. These matters, and many more which I could quote, bring one irresistibly to the conclusion that the financial state of our affairs is such as to cause very great anxiety to every Australian who thinks anything of his country. Take the last War Loan Bill. The honorable the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) told us the other evening that even with the threat of compulsion the amount asked for was not obtained.
It is well known that the greater part of our huge debt must be met by exports, and if we look up our 7 ear-Book statistics we shall find that our principal exports are primary products. That being the case, let us see where we stand. Let us consider, first of all, what is the condition of the great wheat industry. I quote now from statistics issued by the Australian Wheat Board, dealing with the wheat handled up to the 1st March, 1920. The total received into No. 1 Pool, season 1915-16, amounted to 163,000,000 bushels; No. 2 Pool, season 1916-17, 138,000,000 bushels; No. 3 Pool, season 1917-18, 103,000,000 bushels; No. 4 Pool, season 1918-19, 65,000,000 bushels; and for the last Pool, season 1919-20, there had been received, up to 1st March, only 32,000,000 bushels. I do not desire to create a false impression, as I believe that the amount to be received into the last Pool may be supplemented by another couple of million bushels. But there are the facts. The production in wheat has fallen from 163,000,000 bushels in 1915-16, to about 32,000,000 bushels for the present season. And the position with regard to wheat is reflected in other products. The oat crop, for instance, in 1915-16 yielded 16,000,000- bushels.
– The honorable member is hardly fair. He does not mention that for the earlier Pools the seasons were good, while for the latter drought conditions have been prevailing.
– Then to satisfy the honorable member for Wannon I shall quote the acreage. Does he deny that the total area under cultivation is nearly 4,500,000 acres less than formerly? What does the honorable member say to that?
– The answer is-
– The honorable member can get up when I sit down and supply his answer. I was about to point out that the oat crop fell from 16,000,000 bushels in 1915-16, to 14,000,000 bushels, in 1916-17, and in 1917-18 it was down to 10.000,000 bushels. Later figures are not available, but I think the honorable member will .agree with me when I say -that the total oat production this year is considerably below 10,000,000 bushels. The same position is disclosed in the figures relating to hay. In 1915-16 the total yield was 5,600,000 tons; in 1916-17, 3,500 000 tons; and in 1917-18, 2,700,000 tons. I venture to predict that the figures for the years following, when available, will be lower still.
All these facts show quite conclusively that we cannot go on spending money at the present rate and producing less wealth in the way of primary products.
Without desiring to lecture honorable members^ I feel impelled to say that it is the duty of every citizen of the Commonwealth to practice the most rigid economy, and the duty of the Government is to set an example. The position simply has to be faced. At present money is plentiful, but financial men, and, indeed, most people, know quite well that the pendulum is always swinging, and that after a period when money is plentiful there comes, sooner or later, a period of financial stringency. If the opinions of leading bankers in the Commonwealth are a guide this time of financial stringency is near at -band. I understand the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), in the course of a lecture recently, stated that financial and industrial chaos was inevitable. I do not know that I quite agree with him, but I feel confident that if we go on at our present rate we certainly shall be in grave danger. Nothing is more certain than that.
The present Government ask to be allowed to carry out their policy. I am quite prepared to do that, but when the Prime Minister declares that the Government have secured a mandate from the electors, all I can say is that it is a very flimsy mandate indeed, and I thought he was a better tactician than to talk in this Committee about the result of the recent elections.
– He said they had an overwhelming majority.
– Some honorable members opposite can claim a large increase in numbers as the result of the recent election, and the little party to which I belong can claim ito have had a very satisfactory increase.
– With the assistance of this party, sir.
– Also of this party.
– I can only say that I got very little assistance from the Nationalists. I am here to-day as the result of the support I received from working farmers and working men and women of Wimmera. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) gave figures which I had intended to quote regarding the state of the parties in this Chamber, and he aptly put it that if the last elections were regarded by the Government as a victory for the Government, then God help the Government if they were to win another such victory !
– They happen to be still in power.
– I will reply to that interjection after the vote has been taken.
I desire to say a word or two now regarding honorable members opposite, and respecting particularly, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), whose remarks were re-echoed by certain of his colleagues. We, in this corner, were charged with inconsistency in the casting of our votes as a party the other evening. I deny the charge of inconsistency. The position was that the Government took a certain line of action. Our leader, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), on behalf of this party, indicated his intention to move an amendment, which amendment, the honorable member for West Sydney declared, could not be regarded in any other light than as a motion of noconfidence.
– I said, by any selfrespecting Government. I do not consider this a self-respecting Government.
– honorable members opposite, however, adopted the attitude that they would get in first, and they launched their motion, forestalling ours. Then, in an endeavour to win the support of the Country party, they said certain things, but, unfortunately, .those remarks were accompanied, so far as certain members of the Opposition were concerned, by jeers and taunts. They began to question the claims of our party. I shall quote from Hamsard the words employed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and if those words do not constitute a jeer and a taunt, I would like to know what do. The honorable member said -
I said to the electors that I believed - and I still believe - that the members of the so-called “ Country party “ are a mere wing of the Nationalist party, and this amendment enables them to prove whether my statement is correct or not.
Similar opinions were re-echoed by several other members of the Opposition, one of whom coined a rather original phrase when he referred to us as “ the sub-Government party sitting upon the sub-Government benches.” What do honorable members opposite take this Country .party for?
– For part of the National party.
– Is thatso?
– What do you take us for?
– I will tell the honorable member something, at any rate. He and his colleagues appear to think they are the sole champions of the poor, the down- trodden, and the oppressed. They dwell upon the dire conditions of the masses. They speak as though they were the only people qualified by experience to represent and mouth the claims of the struggling masses.I challenge their claim to be the sole rightful representatives of the masses of the people.
-Hear, hear ! Now you are talking.
– If having shared the hardships and misery of the working classes, if having taken one’s part in doing the lowly work of the world gives one the right to speak for the workers, there are one or two members in the Country party who possess such claims and have as much right as any honorable member opposite.
To get back to the actual matter before the Chair, I desire to say that we did not wish, when we moved our amendment, and neither did we think, that the Government would have accepted it as a challenge. However, the Government have done so, but they made certain promises. If we would not persist in ouramendment they would be prepared to make certain concessions and take certain actions. The assurances which they gave, or thought that they were giving, are not sufficient for me. The Country party is out to put an end to the political dictatorship which has existed during the past five years. We have been furnished with no definite date regarding when the Estimates are to be brought down next year. The Government have merely made a string of promises in order to weather the present storm, and when another storm arises we shall be furnished with a further string of promises in order to survive that.
– Hear, hear! Now - as the Minister for the Navy has put it - ‘ ‘ you are talking. ‘ ‘
– We strongly object to many of the actions of the Government. I do not want to go into them in detail, and to refer specifically to such as are involved in the Wheat Pool, the
Wool Pool, and allied considerations. But, if there is one matter to which we more strongly object than, to any other, it is the present attitude of the Government concerning embargoes upon certain exports and imports - an attitude which is ruining some of the citizens, while, atthe same time, lining the pockets of others. Our sole object in taking the action which we have adopted has been an honest endeavour to carry out on the floor of this House the pledges which we have given to the people of Australia.
– I fear that by this time the Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has discovered that it is a somewhat dangerous pastime to play with fire. In an attempt to illuminate the continent, after the manner described by him yesterday, he now stands in imminent danger of bringing about those awful results which the honorable member who has just resumed his seat appears to expect in the event of the Opposition coming into power. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) considered that one of the faults of the Government was that they would not relax control of the import and export of the primary products of Australia.
– I did not say primary products.
– Well, all exports from Australia.
– Imports and exports.
– Very well. I also understood the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) to say that he resented interjections, so perhaps he will be somewhat lenient towards me.
The honorable member objects to any interference with exports from Australia, yet he and the members of the party with which he is associated are taking a course which may result in bringing into power the Opposition,whose avowed policy is to stop all export of primary products until local requirements are met. It is interesting, indeed, to watch this finesse between the two parties in an endeavour to discover which has the other in its pocket. We had the challenge from the Labour party in the form of a censure motion, and now an endeavour on the part of the Country party to remove the .Government from office. The members of the Country party refused to support the members of the Opposition because they wished to move an amendment which, if carried, would entitle them to the credit for defeating the GovernmentToday or to-morrow we shall have a decision one way or the other which will give us an opportunity of seeing whether Labour members are in the pockets of the Country party. They could only be there by the same sacrifice of principles which enables the Country party to seek to assassinate those whose indorsement they sought and received in the recent election.
– The honorable member is only toying with principles.
– The laugh that follows the suggestion that we are toying with principles does not come well from an honorable member on that side of the chamber.
On the question of principles, I am reminded that we have been making more history in New South Wales, reminiscent of the time when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the rest of us were illegally and improperly expelled from the- Labour movement. One of the high priests of the movement at that time was Mr. Minahan. an ex-President of the Political Labour League in that State, who, with bell and book, celebrated the expulsion of many of the leading members of the Labour movement in that- State. Two or three days ago Mr. Minahan handed to the New South Wales press an exposition of the powers of the Labour executive, which, T may say, is also a clear statement of the position as it existed when Mr. Hughes and others were expelled from the party. The executive had no legal power to do what they did on that occasion, and they have no power to do what they have done to Mr. Minahan. His real offence is not set out in the indictment. In a moment of extreme frankness he mentioned some facts which are well known to many members of this House. He declared, that during a critical stage of the war the people who were opposing the compulsory service proposals of the Government were also preparing to assist in establishing a Republic if they failed in their efforts to defeat the compulsory service referendum. Mr. Minahan knows very well the extent of that agitation, and has either said too much or too little.
– Why do you not say the rest? You know you are telling lies!
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) to withdraw those words.
– I know there Ls no foundation for the honorable member’s statement, but I withdraw.
– I ask honorable members on both sides to observe the Standing Orders, and to allow the honorable member to proceed without interruption. If honorable members persist in interjecting I shall be compelled to adopt a different course.
– The fact that Mr. Minahan was a prominent official in the Labour movement for many years enabled him to speak with some authority as to what was being done in New South Wales and Queensland at that time.
– He was not an official.
– He was the treasurer of that huge fund of £17,000 or £18,000 spent on that occasion, and one of the men who asked a German merchant to subscribe to the funds. Mr. Minahan speaks with some authority, and as his statement is supported by facts, it demands further attention. However, the future will show the real position in connexion with these historic :times.
– The executive acted wisely in putting you out.
– Order! I ask honorable members not to interject.
– I shall leave the chamber, Mr. Chairman, to make sure that I do not offend again.
– Reference has been made to ‘.the question of profiteering, and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has stated that the Constitution gives the Government ample power to deal with this acknowledged evil. Indeed, he went so far during the recent referendum campaign as to advise the Labour electors to vote against the Government proposals. The honorable member for Batman (Mr.
Brennan) nas given some reasons why he adopted a similar course. Mention has been made of abandoning principles, and it is a most inopportune time to make any such allusion. The fact that honorable members at present in Opposition submitted similar proposals to the electors, and advised them to support them, should be sufficient. The powers .they were asking for on every platform were then said to be necessary to enable the Commonwealth to deal with price fixing and industrial conditions generally.When the opportunity presented itself, what became of the vaunted principles of which we heard so much? The present members of the Opposition threw them to the winds, because, they saw an opportunity of getting even with one of Australia’s greatest statesmen. The reasons given were that these proposals were inefficient, inadequate, and a sham; and if that were so, then the Labour movement of this country on two occasions went to the people with proposals that were inefficient, inadequate, and a sham. They were then supported by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– The honorable member must have misunderstood what I said.
– The proposals are identical with those submitted on previous occasions, with two or three exceptions. The essential objection of the honorable member for Batman was that there was a limitation attached to them. The Government was bound, if the proposals were adopted, to convene a convention to determine what the future Constitution of Australia should be. If that convention is to be an elected one - and the proposal of any other in an Australian Parliament can hardly be imagined - what Democrat can take exception to the project? There is urgent need that the people of Australia should review the operation of the Federal Constitution, and make such amendments in it as will provide for its more efficient operation. This Parliament is to-day without power to pass legislation that is essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth. The little matters about which honorable members are talking are not the things which mostly concern Australia’s future. What we have to determine is, shall there be in any institution in Australia sufficient power to deal with the various pressing questions affecting industry and commerce.. I could not help smiling when members like those representing Hume and Dalley and other Labour constituencies, shed crocodile tears because of the woe3 of the poor oppressed pastoralist. Their pretence was so hollow that it is a wonder that -they thought it worth making. To-day the pastoralist is getting twice as much for his ‘wool as he received before the war. They regret that he is not getting five or six times as much.
An Honorable Member. - He wants his own.
– I have some sympathy with that argument; but I think that a great mistake was made in the management of our finances - the blame for it does not attach to one Government more than to another - in failing to take advantage of the profits which the war created, while loading the people of the country with the burden of the losses that were its inevitable result. The war has given to the pastoral industry of this country something like £10,000,000 a year in extra profit. We were .very glad, at the time it was made, to enter into the arrangement with the British Government, and it therefore ill-becomes us to grumble now if the other party makes something out of what did not seem, at the time, to be a profitable bargain. If, however, we realize what the British Government have realized under a perfectly fair and legitimate arrangement with the Commonwealth, between £10,000,000 and £14,000,000 will be added to the profits of the pastoralists wholly as a result of the war, and without any increased effort or expenditure on their part. These profits are war profits, and no source o? revenue could be more aptly drawn upon for meeting part of our public debt than these enormous increases in the value of our primary produce which are due solely to the war. Instead of taxing these profits as we might have done, we have not taxed even as much as Great Britain has done. When complaints are made of the taxation in Australia resulting from the war, regard should be had to the price paid by other countries who took part in the fight for the liberty which we enjoy. It is easy to carp at this or that item of war expenditure; but what criticism worthy of consideration have “we heard during these debates? Reference has been made to the loss on shipping contracts, yet many of the critics were, during the war, imploring the Government to do its utmost to increase our shipping. It is an easy thing for new members, who bore none of the responsibilities of the war, to criticise those upon whose shoulders the burden was borne. During the war we saw men, hale and hearty when they commenced the task of administering our public affairs, suffer so much, by reason of the heavy strain of office after a few months, that they were forbidden, to come to the House until their health had improved. To urge, as a reason for changing the Government, the miserable petty criticisms on expenditure here, ot mistakes there, made during the war is absurd; and if the result of the amendment were what some members hope, and an appeal to the people followed, the matter would be very definitely settled, and we should see to what party really belong those gentlemen who went as Nationalists and Farmers, and got in on the Labour vote. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. ‘Stewart) quoted from one of those marvellous productions hinting at bribery and corruption on the part of the Government which were circulated during the election campaign. No man has a right to repeat insinuations of that kind unless he is ready to back them up with, definite charges. The honour of public men is too precious to be the mock of an evil tongue, and it is deplorable that men should, on the public platform, laugh and joke about the honour and honesty of those in public life.
– I wish to know what got rid of Ready.
– He was one of the honorable member’s crowd.
– The honorable member is referring to rather ancient history, and an election was fought largely on the Ready case. Personally, I resent the continual insinuations of bribery and corruption by men who have not the courage to place their fingers on the spot. They have no right to malign public leaders and to degrade the public life of this country by seeking to create the impression in the mind of the people that to be a politician is to be a rogue, a thief, and a scoundrel. If the document which the honorable member for Wimmera quoted furnishes the reason why certain honorable members think that the Government should be put out of office, no man. who values the reputation of our political leaders will vote for the amendment. I am a little in doubt as to the reason for the amendment. The Leader of the Country pasty said that it was moved with no intention of injuring the Government. The honorable member for Wimmera, however, rejoices in the prospect of the Government being displaced. The honorable member for Corangamite made charges of maladministration and corruption, and yet says that he would keep the Government in power. What sort of conduct is it for an honorable member who thinks that the Government has been scandalously wasteful of public money, and that its administration has bordered on corruption., to say that he is willing to keep it in power ? If I believed one-half of what these gentlemen have said about the administration of this Government, I would not vote to keep it in office for a moment. The honorable member for Yarra quoted from a speech in which the honorable member for Corangamite charged the Government with all the extravagance, that the most imaginative Labour man could conceive of.
– I quoted a speech in which the honorable member said that the Government is kept in office by a gang of profiteers. There was nothing in the quotation about maladministration.
– I shall vote for the Government, because I believe that during the five years that the war lasted they rendered great service to Aus, tralia, and that the Australian people recognises that fact. Had those who are attacking me had more political experience, they would be less willing to follow the lead of gentlemen who all through the war showed a readiness to pounce upon the little mistakes of administration. What is it that members of the Country party wish to be done? Our Commonwealth Parliament has been in existence now for all but nineteen years, and it is said that responsible government should be restored. Has one instance been quoted during the existence of Federation in which Estimates were passed at the beginning of a financial year, before the money for whose appropriation they provided could be spent? Do honorable members wish to restore the responsible government of 1913, when the Estimates were nine months late; of 1912, when they were eight months late; of 1904, when they were seven months late, and of similar years ? They have not given any indication of what they want. In this matter, Parliament is where the honorable member for Wimmera said another party was, that is, between the devil and the deep sea. If the Estimates were brought in in May, and were passed then, the Government would have a year hi which it could do what it liked. The control of Parliament over the Government exists only while the Estimates have not been passed; the moment a Government gets its Estimates, Parliament ceases to have any real control over it. Notwithstanding the inconvenience of Supply Bills, I prefer to have a Government asking Supply for three or four months at a time, because this provides opportunities for criticism of its administration. What greater pretence could there be than that honorable members really wish to debate every item of the Estimates? I believe that Sir George Turner on one occasion kept the nose of honorable members to the grindstone week after week in the consideration of Estimates; but none of those who were here then would like the prospect of a similar experience. Unless those who criticise the Estimates in detail have »as much information as the Minister himself, most of their talk is directed against the things that are not. Criticism must be based on big general principles. We want to know the big principles upon which the Departments are being run and the big items upon which the Government money is being expended. Knowing this, we want to secure men we can trust to carry out those principles and spend that money. If we reach the position put by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that we do not trust the Government to spend the money, but are going to look after it ourselves, the sooner we get rid of a Government that we cannot trust with the people’s money the better it will be for the country.
– The Country party trusted the Government last week.
– If we have no confidence in the men to whom we intrust the task of government after we have told them what we want them to do and the principles on which we desire them to govern the country, our clear duty is to ge.t other managers in their places. Between these two courses Parliament has little or no choice. I hope we shall have an end to these debates when the division is taken on this motion, and that we shall be able to get to that work which the members of the Opposition, the Country party, and the National party alike declare to be urgent. That is the work of dealing with the soldiers’ gratuity. There are very few members in this House who are not pledged to give the soldiers the gratuity as promptly as they can. The discussion of motions of the same nature week after week on the question of whether the Government should remain in office or not, simply delays the realization of the promises made to the electors.” It is our duty to get on with the work of the country as quickly as we may.
.- I wish to define the position in which I stand, because I think I have been quite as enthusiastic as most of my honorable friends in the corner on the subject of the restoration to Parliament of the control of the finances. I consider it absolutely vital that that control should be restored. We may blink our eyes to the fact, and some people may not believe it, but there is no doubt that during the period of the war, for what I believe were necessary reasons, a certain amount of the proper and due control of the country’s affairs by Parliament had to be handed to the Executive, and acts had to be sanctioned after they had been done which, in the normal course of affairs, would have been a proper subject for full consideration and discussion by Parliament.
Holding these views as I do, and having expressed, them throughout the election, I want to make my attitude towards this motion perfectly clear. My view is that this is a new Parliament just returned by the electors, with a new Government to whom the country has given a mandate. The least the House can do is to give the Government a chance to show whether they are going to redeem the pledges which, heaven knows, were plentiful enough during the period of the election. I am prepared to give the Government that chance, but I unhesitatingly say that I shall be a violent supporter of my honorable friends in the corner if those pledges are not to be redeemed. To attack the Government straightway on a motion like this - for, rightly or wrongly, I hold the view that no self-respecting . Government could permit such a motion, taking the conduct of the business of the House out of their hands, to be carried without regarding it as a vote of censure - seems to me rather like shooting a man without giving him any sort of warning. There is a sort of decent feeling that one does not shoot a man without mentioning that one is going to do it. The Government ought to have been given some sort of warning before being shot at. It seems extraordinarily like shooting a bird sitting. They ought to be given a chance, and for that reason I certainly think we should hold our hands, while very clearly indicating that we expect Ministers to do the various things that they have undertaken to do.
– We gave them notice at the elections.
– The people gave notice at the elections of what they wished us to do. They returned the Government with a majority, and now we desire to see the result of the Government’s pledges. Until something is done which is a breach of the pledges given to the people, I am prepared to support the Government and give them opportunity to show the House and the country what they propose to do. It seams to me that the Country party has scored an extraordinarily brilliant success, if they will only be content with what they have pulled off. They have obtained a statement from both the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that their words have been heard and heeded. Both honorable gentlemen have placed the Government under certain obligations to do certain things with regard to bringing down the Estimates, not only for the present financial vear, but for the next. They have undertaken also- that the Government will not ask the House again for Sun-4 during this, financial year without first bringing down the Estimates. After these three months have elapsed, they must ask for Supply again for the last month of this financial year. I do not think that what the Government have undertaken to do is in any sense due to the action of the Country party. Rather it is due to the pledges they gave to the people at the election. At the same time, the Country party are quite entitled to take to themselves the advertisement and the kudos that they have made the Government do a great number of things. Having done this, and having taken the action they have taken, and scored what I think they can claim as a success, it seems to me that they will be rather throwing away that success if they persist in seeing this motion through and conceivably putting the Government out. That is a side issue, if you like, but it might happen. The present situation reminds me- very much of what used to happen in the early days of the war, before we became so scientific in the conduct of battles. No doubt a number of honorable members remember, as I do, the early days of 1915. When an attack was to be made we were given, in the same way as obtained at the end of the war, an objective to take. Every unit had its objective, but, in those early days, if a unit secured an easy and bloodless victory, such as I suggest that my honorable friends in the corner have now secured, it was very apt, instead of sitting down on its objective, to go on and try to take something further. Many men have gone under through that fatal tendency. It was only realized later on that it was a grave mistake not to be content with your original objective, and to go on further and try to get too much. I suggest that that is very much the position of the Country party now. They have done all they wanted to do. They have indicated their presence in the House in a very pronounced way, and they will throw away a great part of the victory they have achieved if they refuse now to accept the pledges that they have been so successful in obtaining. While I am distinctly pledged to efficiency and economy in the conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth, and above &11, to the restoration of parliamentary control over the finances, I am quite prepared to give the Government an opportunity to redeem the pledges they gave to the people, and will vote for them on this motion.
.- It is very appropriate that a party which owes its return to the House mainly to the votes of the primary producers should challenge the Nationalist party which, if it represent anything, represents the big middlemen interests of the great cities and centres of Australia.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), Leader of the new party, is to be congratulated upon his choice of the subject upon which to challenge the contempt - in regard to public expenditure - with which the Government has treated Parliament for the last four or five years.
I wish to deal with the outrageous robbery of the primary producers of Australia by great capitalistic interests on the other side of the world, whose chief instrument was the present Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. There should be an independent inquiry to ascertain what Australia has lost through the so-called bargaining of the Prime Minister in the sale of Australia’s products, particularly wool, wheat, meat, rabbits, rabbit skins, butter, cheese, fruit and jam, hides, and metals, including gold, tin, platinum, bismuth, and wolfram. If these could be figured and aggregated, it would be found that Australia has been sacrificed to the extent of at least a greater amount than the total cost of her participation inthe war.
There may not be time to substantiate every point in that charge with the abundant evidence I have at my disposal, but I shall endeavour, in the time available to deal with the two main items of wool and wheat.
In the Budget statement delivered on 8th October of last year, the sale of Australia’s products for the whole period of the war was set out in the following table: -
During the absence of the Prime Minister in London upon the last occasion, the Go vernment, in an unguarded moment, lifted the press censorship, and for the first time there came trickling through the cables evidence of the gross robbery of this country which, during the whole period of the war, had apparently been suppressed under the War Precautions Regulations.
The Budget statement showed that the payments made for Australian wool under Imperial contract were as follows : -
Mr. O. C. Beale, the well.known Sydney manufacturer, and ex.president of the Chamber of Manufactures, upon his return from England, is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 27th March, 1919, as saying -
England paid Australia1s. 3?d. per lb. for wool, and America1s. 9?d. per lb. for cotton. Our wool was being sold in London at four times its purchase price. England paid Australia 5d. per lb. for prime meat, and paid America from1s. to1s. 6d. per lb. for lower grade meat. England paid America ?168 per ton for electrolytic copper, and Australia ?108 for a better article. Freight on copper at the time was ?6 per ton. Canada was paying off its debt to Britain by receiving a fair price for its products. Not so Australia.
On the 5th November, 1919, Mr. Beale again stated in Sydney, in the presence of the Prime Minister -
Our greasy wool purchased by the Imperial Government in Australia at the rate of1s. 3d. per lb. was sold in London at 6s. per lb. Australian producers received less for their meat, wheat, and wool than any other country, including Argentine, United States of America, and Canada.
According to the Budget speech of the 8th October, 1919, Australian wool for 1916-17, 1917-18, 1918-19, and 1919-20 had been sold to the Imperial Government at a flat contract rate of1s. 3?d. per lb., plus?d. for handling charges.
According to the Sydney Sun of the 17th November, 1919, Australian wool was sold in London at 8s. 3d. for greasy, and according to the Evening News of the 17th November, 1919. scoured wool was sold at 10s. 3d. per lb. This shows a range of prices for greasy wool of from 6s. to 8s. 3d.
Re Freight. - Mr. Beale, according to the Sydney. Morning Herald of the 4th April, 1919, and, again on the 16th April, 1919, replied-
Australia had the most magnificent fleet of coastal ships in the world, and she handed it over for war purposes, and placed herself at the mercy of the salesmen of her produce. . .
It is not the lack of freight space that caused absurdly low prices for Australian wool, grain, and metals. There are other explanations for the very bad bargains that were made, and under which Australia suffered bitterly.
We shall all be interested to hear the “ other “ explanations of these bad bargains.
As a matter of fact there were freights ; for the robbery had taken place respecting large tonnage of goods delivered in London, *nd they could not have been delivered there unless freights had- been available.
Fisher, Unwin, and Company, the great London publishers, in a book entitled “ Mr. Hughes,” just issued, state that he was the “ instrument of the great English profiteers.”
With grave yet irreconcilable facts thrown in his teeth, after the censorship had been abolished in his absence, is it any wonder that the Prime Minister became excited and lost his head?
The Daily Telegraph of the 17th September, 1919, reports him as saying -
The last wool sales were made behind my back, and if it had not been sold Australia would have been in a better position.
But this “ pooled “ his own Treasurer (Mr. Watt); and there was nearly a Ministerial “burst up.” So the Prime Minister had another try, for on the 24th September, 1919, seven days later, he had to eat his own words, since he told the Melbourne Argus -
I myself was responsible for the sale of the wool in question.
Where is that balance of 4s. 8ii. between the ls. 3 1/2d. per lb. and the 6s. per lb., which was the minimum figure quoted by Mr. Beale, that has not reached the Australian people?
Having failed to substantiate his claim that the sales had taken place behind his back, having broken down like a perjured witness under / cross-examination, the Prime Minister attempted a miserable
Mr. J. H. Catts shuffle. In the Daily Telegraph of the 6th November, 1919, he said-
Criticism levelled at me in Australia at a critical time prevented me selling Australian wool to the best advantage. Those who levelled these criticisms must pay the price, and in consequence millions of money were lost to Australia in wool alone.
What an indictment! The goose screamed at its clumsy plucker, and had to pay for its whistle. Millions of money were lost to Australia because some one here criticised the Prime Minister. How dared they? At any rate, this is how, on the third or fourth attempt, he ,came to account for the large amount of money which the primary producers of Australia had lost.
But he made yet another attempt. On the 24th August, 1919, he said -
Had I known before what I know now, I should never ‘have sold the wool other than for the period of the war.
– He said that again the other day.
– Apparently, after four attempts at an explanation, on consideration, he has decided to hang on to the last.
Besides putting his own Treasurer in the ditch, and nearly bursting up the Cabinet, and having to turn round and eat his own words, the Prime Minister also put “ Farmer “ Falkiner in serious trouble - -this great squatter, who sits on the directorate of the great Bank of ‘ New South Wales, whose address is London and Australia, and which bank, may be, was getting its “ cut “ out of what was happening on the other side, as well as out of what took place over here.
Although he belonged to a certain persuasion, “Farmer” Falkiner smiled up his sleeve when Mr. Critchley Parker, the Prime Minister’s other friend, issued sectarian pamphlets in an endeavour to divide the masses of the people; he had no disagreement with that action so long as there was a combination of capitalism for the purpose of driving a wedge of dissension into the great mass of the consumers.
Mr. Falkiner/ however, fell out with the Prime Minister over his statement of August last; and speaking’ in this House, as reported on page 12613 in Hansard, of the 19th September, 1919, he, as a member of the Central Wool Committee, said -
We did not ask the Imperial Government the price; we simply asked them if they would take our wool.
He was the trustee of hundreds of million of pounds’ worth of the primary products of Australia, and yet, when he proceeded to sell it, he did not ask the price, but simply said, “We do not want to know the price; we merely want to know if you will take it.” Every wool-grower and primary producer should read the speech of this “ Woolhara Point farmer,” so illuminating upon his business acumen, and the faithfulness with which he regarded his trusteeship of these hundreds of million of pounds’ worth of Australian products. .
The Prime Minister then turned round upon his faithful henchman, and he said that Mr. Falkiner “ represented the great vested interests of Australia,” and had opposed “ every good thing “ in Parliament.
Mr. Falkiner replied by publishing a slab of the Case for Labour, by William Morris Hughes.
The Treasurer (Mr. Watt), more discreet than either of these gentlemen, maintained a wise silence. “ Farmer “ Trethowan and T. I. Campbell, president and general secretary respectively of the Farmers and Settlers Association - who both agreed with the famous Georgeson contract in connexion with wheat - indorsed “ Farmer “ Falkiner as the farmers’ candidate for the Senate.
And the League of Good Citizenship blessed them all !
When the Government commenced to get into difficulties over the sale of this wool, and the facts began to percolate through the cables, we were told for the first time that there was to be a division of the profits; and so we were told, on the 8th October, in this House -
That the Australian wool was sold to the Imperial authorities for naval and military requirements; and that respecting any sales made otherwise, 50 per cent, of the profits would be returned to Australia.
But “ naval and military requirements,” it is understood, included the “requirements of the Allies.” Australia was to sUPply Great Britain and its great continental Allies with wool a.t this fabulously low price of ls. 3id. per lb., when the minimum ruling price was 6s.; and only after those requirements were supplied was 50 per cent, of the profits made by sales effected by the Imperial Government to be divided.
General Lassetter, who has just returned from England, states he thinks there will be very little of the profits available for our wool-growers.
– What authority has the honorable member for saying that the military requirements of the Allies were first to be supplied? The official statement, which I was reading a few minutes ago, in the Sydney Morning Herald, states the contrary.
– I would like to see it. I have seen statements in the press time after time that our wool, and our products generally, were sold to meet the requirements of Great Britain and her Allies.
– But in this case no mention was made of the military requirements of our Allies.
– I understand that the position is quite different. The honorable member might have a look at what General Lassetter says. ‘
– What does he know about it?
– He knows a bit more than does the honorable member. He has just come from there, and he is one of the smartest business men in Australia. He says that there is no contract in regard to the sale of the wool in existence.
– And Sir John Higgins says the same thing.
– That is a very definite statement by the chairman of the Central Wool Committee. Surely it is time this matter was put on a different footing from that of mere press statements. If there be a contract in existence, why cannot the Government explain the terms to Parliament?
– It was all given the other day when the honorable member was not here.
– I have read in Hansard the statements which were made, and I say that the information was not given the other day. 2fo copy or the particulars of any contract have been produced. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) is not very accurate in many of his statements.
After the Government had decided that a general election should be held, and not before, we were told that the Imperial authorities would consider the interests of Australian wool-growers, and would share with them any excess profits made on the re-sales of that wool. But why should not our primary producers get the full value for their products? Why should the British Government, if it is really the British Government, scoop the cream off the milk?
When fabulous prices were ruling for primary products such as Australia could supply, why did the Prime Minister take the Commonwealth line of steamers off our coast and send them to other parts of the world for the purpose of profiteering in freight?
Why were Australian ships engaged to carry goods from other countries to Great Britain and her Allies instead of being employed in lifting our Australian products, and thus benefiting our own producers ?
Was any reciprocity exhibited by Great Britain in regard to the sales of other classes of goods? No. When Australia required steel plates for the construction of our warships she was compelled to pay Great Britain the full market price for them. She was not given an opportunity to obtain them at a quarter of their value.
Figuring upon the greasy basis alone, the sales of our wool have been shown, at1s. 3d. per lb., to total £113,628,000. Calculating 16 lbs. to the £1 sterling, our wool, at 6s. per lb., should realize £545,000,000.
– The honorable member does not expect our wool to average 6s. per lb.?
– I do, seeing that it went up to 8s., 9s., and 10s. per lb.
– The honorable member knows nothing whatever about it.
– I have a voluminous list of cables from the press giving evidence upon evidence of the sale of our greasy wool at higher figures than 6s. per lb. I know that there is such damaging evidence against the Government in connexion with the sale of our primary products that an inquiry into the whole matter is warranted. While the Honorary Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) has been absent from this country, there has been a suppression of the facts. The censorship has been used to prevent any criticism of the conduct of the Government in regard to these sales.
– As a woolgrower, I was more than satisfied with the contract when it was made, and so were the other wool-growers.
– As a Minister, could the honorable member be expected to say anything else? Of course he could not.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This House occupies a somewhat anomalous position in that it is now engaged in discussing the second want of confidence motion that has been launched within a very few days Only on Friday last my honorable friends in the corner voted their abiding confidence in the Government. But now, a little later, they turn round and submit a motion which they affirm is not intended to be loaded. They say that the motion has been tabled merely for the purpose of enabling them to elicit information. If my honorable friends are sincere in this matter - and I hope that nothing I shall say will cause them to think that I doubt their sincerity - I ask them whether the Government have not yielded to their solicitation to give a pledge that economy will be exercised in connexion with the Estimates?
– I do not suppose that anything I can say will satisfy my honorable friend, but I think that a number of other members of his party will admit that the Government have endeavoured to meet them by giving them the assurances which they sought. I speak as an old politician, with an experience ranging over thirty years, and Ihave heard this wild craze for economy voiced during the whole of that period by every political party in Australia. So far as rigid economy is concerned, no member of this House is more anxious to secure it than I am. But I wish to tell my honorable friends of the Country party that there is no more difficult question to deal with than that of economy. I make that statement as a Minister of nine years’ standing, and as one who was a member of a subcommittee whose duty it was to insure the exercise of economy in the Public Service of this State during very trying times. I ask them to accept my assurance that the Government are as fully impressed with the absolute necessity for economy as are they themselves. Ministers would be ignoring public opinion if they were not. They have been impressed with the need for economy for quite a long period, and they have been stimulated by the injunctions of their supporters. What have they done in these circumstances? They have adopted the only practical means of securing economy. They have appointed a Commission of business experts whose special duty it is to recommend how economies can be effected without impairing in any way the efficiency of our Public Service, and the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. This Commission has been, and indeed still is, engaged upon that work. Will my honorable friends say for one moment that they are more competent to deal with the question of economy than is the Commission whose special function it is to recommend for our consideration the methods which can best be followed to secure the end in view?
An Honorable Member. - We have not been assured that the Government will accent the advice of the Commission.
– My honorable friend is doing the Government an injustice. I have heard that assurance given by the Treasurer upon two occasions, once before the recent dissolution of Parliament and again the other night. If the honorable member will refer to Hansard he will find confirmation of my statement. Further, a similar assurance has been given by the Prime Minister himself. If this motion was launched with the object of gaining assurances of that kind, they have already achieved their objective, because not only have Ministers promised that economy will be exercised, but in their recent finan cial statement they have put into direct operation recommendations of the Economies Commission. I therefore urge the members of the Country party to accept theassurances that have been given by Ministers in the spirit in which they were tendered. As a matter of fact, members of that party must know - particularly the Leader of that party, who has been in this House for a number of years - that no Government could accept a motion of this character which seeks practically to take the administration of the affairs of the country out of their hands.
– The Government of. which the honorable member was a member accepted a similar motion.
– Never at any time has that been done . Of course, I am aware that on numerous occasions motions of this kind have been launched. But they have been submitted with the direct object of securing certain assurances. If my honorable friends do not desire to eject Ministers from office, I urge them - particularly having regard to their vote of confidence in the Government on Friday last - to withdraw the motion, and thereby enable us to get down to real business. The motion has secured the objective for which it was framed–
– Is it not fair to ask the Government to name a date upon which they will submit the Estimates for our consideration ?
– My honorable friend cannot take exception to the measures which the Prime Minister has stated must be dealt with, before the Estimates are presented. The Government have given an assurance that at an early date honorable members will be afforded the fullest opportunity of discussing the Estimates. The Prime Minister has also declared that the recommendations of the Economies Commission will be followed so far as those recommendations are practicable. I respectfully suggest, therefore, that my honorable friends in the Corner have scored heavily. They have secured the assurance they set out to obtain, and they must not attempt to force acceptance of a motion of this kind upon the Government. Ministers are bound to fight it.
– Is the honorable member acting as counsel for the accused?
– We cannot ignore the significant fact that the Government are in power on ‘the verdict of the people. They were returned to this House with the most numerous following. No other party can claim so large a following as the Government have.
– The honorable member belonged to a party which remained in office for years, although it had the smallest following of any party in the Parliament.
– We received the necessary support, otherwise we could not have remained in office. After the fullest investigation of precedents, I submit to my honorable friend that the only course open to the Government was to accept his amendment as a motion of want of confidence. Have honorable members of the Country party realized that an adverse vote on that amendment would mean the defeat and ejection of the Government? If not, they must reconsider the whole question from that standpoint.
I would also submit that, in dealing with the subject of finance, they have not been quite fair to the Government. From the statements made by some of them, it would appear that the Government during the war period were completely oblivious to the necessity for rigid economy in connexion with our ordinary expenditure. As to our military expenditure, I can only say that the experience of Australia has been precisely that of every belligerent country. Blunders were made, and were the necessary outcome of emergent conditions. Work of an abnormal character had to be carried out; blunders were made, and extravagance was indulged in to an extraordinary extent. I, therefore, do not for one moment suggest that the greatest economy was exercised in connexion with our military expenditure during the war; but I do put it to the Committee’ that, no matter what Government had been in power, extravagance and blunders of a similar character would have occurred. While that is so, may I remind the Country party that, in respect of ordinary expenditure, apart altogether from war expenditure, the Estimates for the current financial year are £1,500,000 less than was the ordinary expenditure for the year 1913-14.
– A wonderful achievement.
– It is. We must be fair to the Government.
– What proportion of that ordinary expenditure has been transferred to war expenditure?
– During ‘ the war period no less a sum than £46,000,000 was paid out of revenue towards the liquidation of our war expenditure. That was a very creditable performance. My honorable friends of the Country party may say that the estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £4,500,000 in excess of the actual expenditure of last year. But, while that is so, it is well to point out that that sum of £4,500,000 comprises £3,690,000 war expenditure, £400,000 -representing increased payments in respect of invalid and old-age pensions, and £305,000 in connexion with the per capita payments to the States. I challenge members to dispute the wisdom of that extra expenditure. Another salient point is that the estimated ordinary expenditure for the present financial year is £45,000 less than the actual ordinary expenditure last year, and this- notwithstanding that provision is made for an outlay of £690,000 on inevitable items. But for those inevitable items of expenditure, the estimated ordinary expenditure this year would be £700,000 less than was the ordinary expenditure for 1918-19. These are facts which may be readily verified by a study of the Budget papers.
– We are asking for an opportunity to study them.
– The Budget papers are on. the table, and honorable members may examine them for themselves. These outstanding facts are indisputable. The £690,000, which I have referred to as relating to inevitable items of expenditure, is made up of election expenses which had to be provided for this year, whether the elections took place in December or May; increased wages awarded to public servants by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, increased cost of mail services, and interest and sinking fund payments. Not one of those items can be disputed by my honorable friends, and the facts I have set out clearly indicate that the Government have not been unmindful of their duty to practise economy.
As to the naval and military expenditure, we have the assurance of the Government that the present Estimates are based upon the recommendations of the Economies Commission. The first outcome of the adoption of those recommendations is that, whereas the ordinary military expenditure in pre-war years was something like £2,769,000, the proposed military expenditure - apart altogether from the war - for the current year is £1,930,000, or some £800,000 less than the ordinary military expenditure during the pre-war period. In other words, the current year’s Estimates in respect of,the ordinary military expenditure show a decrease of 30 per cent. The ordinary naval expenditure during the pre-war years was something like £2,200,000. The estimated expenditure this year shows an increase of something like £227,000, or about 12 per cent. ; but it is proposed on the recommendation of the Economies Commission, and is unavoidable, since we have a larger number of vessels to maintain. All these are factors of which the Country party must not lose sight. The figures can be verified by a close study of the Budget-papers. I have studied them carefully, and it is open to every other honorable member to do so.
The iona fides of the Government having been established in this way - since not only have they acted already upon the recommendations of the Economies Commission, but intend to go further - what more can be desired in that respect ? I am with the Country party in regard to some reforms which I think can be secured. I am with them in the belief that, so far as possible, we should have a uniform Taxation Department, and uniform taxation methods for the Commonwealth and States. I am also with them in regard to uniform electoral laws and’ adjustments as to electorates so far as possible, and also as to the War Service Homes scheme. I have had occasion to complain very strongly of what has been done in that direction. It certainly does no credit to the Department or the Government. The States Savings Banks are equipped with Departments of wide experience, whose special duty it is to finance and supervise the building of homes. It was originally the intention of the Government to take the fullest advantage of those Departments, and to have homes for soldiers at once built under their supervision, and in their own economical way. They subsequently saw fit to allow the Commonwealth Bank to step in, and to create a new. Department to administer the War Service Homes scheme. They have also created a Department of the kind within the Repatriation Department itself. I have strongly protested against this system, and I trust that the Government will give the whole matter the most careful consideration.
– They have already promised to do so.
– That is so. I would point out to honorable members of the Country party that, even if we were to debate the Estimates for a year, we should not in that way do much to secure economy. Economy can be obtained only by the closest investigation on the part of experts, and such an investigation is now taking place. The instructions given to the Economies Commission are so wide and far-reaching as to enable their inquiries to cover everything; and, .while the debating of the Estimates might enable us to get a great deal of information, it would not effect the Teal economies which we are all anxious to obtain. I shall say no more on this subject, since time will not permit me to develop my argument.
There is another matter to which, in a few words, I desire to refer, and- which has occupied the attention of Parliament for some considerable time. I understand that the honorable member f or West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has undertaken to draft a Bill that will enable the Government to deal with profiteering.
– I said I would draft such a Bill if the Government would undertake to pass it. They have refused that offer.
– If the honorable member’s contention is that he could prepare a technical Bill having the objective stated, I quite agree with him. We have plenary powers to deal with taxation.
– The previous Parliament endeavoured to deal with this same subject by the passage of the Wartime Profits Tax Act; and there never was passed bv a Legislature a more hideous failure. It ultimately was permitted to die an ignominious death. After an experience like ours, they repealed a similar Act passed in New Zealand.
– A taxation measure could be drafted to make profiteering unprofitable.
– My honorable friend has great confidence in himself if he thinks he could achieve successful practical results.
– Could you not do it yourself ?
– Yes, of course I could; but the practical operation of such an’ Act would result in. absolute disaster to the industrial and commercial interests of this community. This has been our past experience, and it is the experience that would inevitably follow another Act of the kind. It would be crushing to industry, as was the wartime profits tax, and prove the sorriest measure that Parliament could possibly enact. The fixing of prices must be ‘a prominent and a deciding factor so far as profiteering is concerned. I am not quite sure whether it has been said by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), but it has been said by a number of honorable members, that we now have the constitutional power to fix prices. Of course we have, under the War Precautions Act, but in time of peace I say we have not the power.
– Are we in a time of peace or in a time of war now?
– We are supposed to be living in a time of peace. May I make one quotation from the greatest legal authority in Australia - a man whose brilliant legal attainments everybody must acknowledge ? Here is what Sir Samuel Griffith, the ex-Chief Justice, said, in the case of Farey v. Burvett, at page 440 of C.L.R. -
No one disputes that an attempt by the Commonwealth Parliament to fix the price of food in time of peace would be a trespass on the reserve powers of the State. It is contended it is, therefore, equally a trespass in time of war.
– That decision was actually given in a time of peace, after the war.
– It is too big a . question to discuss now, but the honorable member knows that the only powers that this Commonwealth* Parliament had in this connexion were those broad powers which follow incidentally to defence, defence, of course, forming the foundation under section 51 of the Constitution.
– There is a more effective way to deal with profiteering than by price-fixing
– Price-fixing has at all times been held out as a factor.
– Who held it out?
– -Innunerable members of this House, and it has always been regarded as a factor, so far as profiteering is concerned. It has been urged against thu Government, that they have the fullest power to -fix prices, and that they have never exercised it.
– Do you not admit that there are more effective means of con.trolling profiteering than price-fixing ?
– Yes; personally I do not believe in price-fixing. I mean to say that it is difficult of practical achievement.
– The prices have been fixed of quite a number of things.
– Of course; in regard to some eighty-eight articles, but in many respects the experience has been a very sorry one.
– The honorable member’s time lists fin “p i !* ec
– If a stranger had strayed into the House during the address of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), he would have come to the conclusion, whether he knew the honorable member’s profession or not, .that the honorable member was a special pleader. Throughout his remarks the honorable member indulged in pleading and pleading again, to the point of reiteration, asking the Country party, for heaven’s sake, not to press the amendment, but to allow the Government to go on the even tenor of its way. The honorable member, as a consistent supporter of the Government for many years, knows that the Government have given assurances by the score to carry out certain reforms; but, as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) is aware, they seem to have taken extreme pleasure in running away from their assurances. So far as I know, they have never given effect to some of the pledges they have made; and I think that, at any rate, .the older members of the Country party are not inclined to accept the promises of the Government; they require something more, and wish to see the Government in action.
I do not think that any considerable economy can be effected while we allow seven Parliaments, and fourteen Houses of Parliament, to continue, with all their frippery and accessories. We complain about the dual system in connexion with income, land, and other taxation returns, and also of duality in electoral matters; but we can never hope to save anything like a decent sum for the people of Australia until we arrive at the conclusion that this population of a little over 5,000,000 is considerably over governed.
– Better abolish this Parliament !
– No; the honorable member knows as well as I do myself - quite apart from our being members of this Parliament - that the people of Australia would never return to the State system of government. This Parliament can never be a potent factor in the government of the country until we have what I term the unlimited powers that every National Parliament ought to possess. I believe that the policy of the Labour party is the only really effective policy of economy.
– What do you mean by that?
– We had a reply given the other day to a question which sought to elicit from the Government whether the Citizen Forces were to remain without military clothing; and in this ‘connexion we see some of the trumpery and tinkering ‘ retrenchment. For the most part, it is the children of the working classes who are subject to the drills under the Defence Act, and their fathers and mothers have to bear the expense of the clothing which the children wear for the drilling. This is because the Government have declared that for some time no more khaki is to be issued. I believe in economy of the proper kind, but not in economy which means the creation of unemployment, though that is the kind of economy in which the Government would like to indulge. If honorable members on this side of the House were to give the slightest hint that the Government had carte blanche in effecting, economy, the first thing the Government would do would be to stop public works and put men out of employment.
– Do you not think, Mr. Chanter, that we ought to have a Minister in charge of the House?
– That is for Ministers themselves to decide.
– There is not a Minister in the chamber, and it is a scandalous state of affairs.
– It is amusing to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and others declaring, over and over again, that the so-called Nationalist party represents a majority of the people of this country. All I can say is that that statement does not represent the facts. The Labour party, the Country party, and independent members each received a certain number of votes, which, put together, placed the socalled Nationalist party in a minority of 200,000.
– The Senate does not look like that.
– The position in the Senate has been brought about by a peculiar system of voting - by trickery. This House is the more important, and is supposed to have charge of the public purse, and here the so-called Nationalist party does not represent a majority of the voters. The votes cast against the present Government numbered over 1.000,000, with only 800,000 in their favour.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who professes to be a friend of the members in the Government corner, says that he is out for economy, and that if the Government do not listen to. the demands of the Country party, he will join that party later on. At the election, that honorable member had a triangular fight, with a Labour candidate on one side, and the Farmers’ candidate on the other; and, as reported in the press, he said he was “ out to fight the Farmers Union like hell.” It seems very peculiar, under the circumstances, that that honorable member should today seem to be sidling up to the Country party. Perhaps coming events cast their shadows before.
– There is no harm in that
– I do not know; the honorable member conducted his election in a very peculiar way, and he is one of the best campaigners, from his own point of view, that I know of.
– He was a good campaigner at the Front.
– I do not take much notice of some honorable members who were at the Front, and who, though they talk a great deal, did not do much when there. I give the honorable member for Flinders, however, every credit for the distinction that he obtained when at the war. An important portion of the Treasurer’s mission relates to finance. Some honorable members may disagree from me, but I think that the British Government has made a very unfair demand, as it has done remarkably well out of the products of Australia.
– I should like to see the cable demanding the payment of this money. ,
– It does seem rather peculiar that the cable should be sent at the present time, because in all their utterances .public men in Great Britain have paid a remarkable tribute to what Australia did during the war in the military, naval, and financial spheres. Now we are told that the British Government has cabled that, owing to the financial year ending on 31st March, it is essential that certain payments be made at once ‘by Australia to the Mother Country. That cable–
– If it actually came.
– I would like to see the exact terms of the cable, if any .was actually received, because I understand that the war is supposed to have done away with secret negotiations, whether between the British Government and the overseas Dominions, or between nations. This Parliament should know just exactly the terms of the cable.
– The Prime Minister was always very adept at getting a cablegram when he wanted it.
– That is so. I know that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) prior to and since his entry into this Parliament, has not enjoyed the best of health. Quite likely he has earned a holiday, and he ought to go abroad ito recuperate his health.
– At his own expense.
– At his own expense. But when, he arrives in the Old Country all he will be able to do will be to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he desires to raise more money he will be absolutely dependent upon the advice tendered to him by the financial experts, and all that he need do is to cable to London to ascertain whether he can or cannot get the money within the time when it is required. If a cable was received from the British Government, I presume that a reply has been sent to the effect that the money is not available in Australia just now, but that the Treasurer will shortly depart for London, and on arrival there will give satisfactory explanations in regard to the liability in question.
According to the announcement by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer is to go to London on a financial mission. There is a considerable amount of moonshine in that statement, and1 1 am afraid that when he arrives on the other side of the world he will indulge in what was termed by certain British journals en the occasion of his previous visit, “spreadeagle oratory.” I shall quote to the House what the honorable gentleman said when he visited London as the Premier of Victoria. There is a danger in allowing a man holding such views to represent the Commonwealth Government .without a protest by this House, because if honorable members remain silent the Treasurer may be accepted in England as representing the views of this Parliament. When he was in England in 1913 he attended certain functions and gatherings, some, of which were arranged to hear his views on public questions. Amongst other gatherings, he attended the anniversary meeting of _ the League of Empire. The chairman of the meeting was Lord Grey - not the present Earl, formerly Sir Edward, Grey - who delivered a speech, in the course of which he said: -
It was now being recognised^ both in the oversea Dominions and in the United Kingdom, that the time was fast approaching when some form of organic union between the selfgoverning Dominions and the Mother Land would be essential to the maintenance of the EmpireThe only way in which the self-governing Dominions could ultimately share the burden of Empire in a manner conducive to their selfrespect was by establishing some form of organic union in which there would be an equal sharing of rights and responsibilities.
Mr. Watt seconded the motion proposed by Lord Grey, and in the evening” at a meeting, under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Lucas, he gave a sketch of the Australian Constitution and its working, and said that -
The more he studied the question the more he was persuaded that the organic development of the British Empire would probably follow the line of thought which recommended itself to Australia.
His support of Lord Grey and his speech on the same evening indicate to me that certain people in the Old Country and in Australia have in the present Treasurer a champion of what is known as Imperial Federation. Therefore, there is a danger in allowing such a man to go to London without this. Parliament placing some restrictions upon his utterances; he may again propound theories such as he voiced in 1913. In this connexion I would draw the attention of the Committee to , the report of a Privy Council decision published in this morning’s paper. Incidentally, that decision proves the inaccuracy of the statement made by the Prime Minister concerning the honorable member for We3t Sydney (Mr. Ryan), for it adds one more to the several other decisions previously given in indorsement of the actions of the former Premier of Queensland. The Privy Council decision was delivered by Lord Birkenhead - probably better known to honorable members by his former name, Sir F. E. Smith - who belongs to the Tory party in English politics, and is known to be one of the most brilliant lawyers in the United Kingdom. At a comparatively young age he had achieved the wonderful distinction of being made a member of the Privy Council. In the case to which I refer, the Full Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia had decided against the Queensland Government, but the Privy Council has upset those decisions and indorsed the advice given by the honorable member for West Sydney. In announcing the decision of the Privy Council, Lord Birkenhead said -
It was not the policy of the Imperial Legislature to shackle or control in the manner suggested the legislative powers of the nascent Australian Legislatures. Consistently with the genius of the British people, those powers had been given completely and unequivocally in the belief that such would be fully justified, by the event that the young communities would successfully work out their own constitutional salvation.
My point is that if the Treasurer goes to London, ostensibly to look after financial affairs, he will from time to time deliver addresses, and I can imagine the League of Empire asking him to speak on the lines of the addresses he delivered in 1913, when he supported the idea of an organic union between the overseas Dominions and the United Kingdom. Yet, Lord Birkenhead has said that the legislature of Great Britain believes in allowing the self-governing colonies to work out their own salvation unhindered by any outside authority. Those of us who have any knowledge of the early political history of Australia recollect the fight put up by the Radicals in the State Parliaments against domination by the Colonial Office. It is a common fact of history that owing to wrong decisions and actions on the part of the Imperial Government, the British Empire lost the American Colonies. Colonists would not tolerate dictation from England in regard to certain matters, and if I understand aright the temper of the Australian people, they will resent very strongly indeed any interference with their selfgoverning powers. They will not be forced to accept any responsibility outside their own, area. Voluntarily Australia helped in the recent war to a greater extent than did any of the other oversea Dominions. We did that with- out any dictation from the other side of the world, and if a sisterhood of nations within the British Empire is to be maintained, there must be no interference with us by the Imperial authorities. In allowing Mr. Watt to go to London without protest from this House we shall be regarded as sanctioning his advocacy of ideas which, if not repugnant to the Australian people, will, at any rate, provoke their very strong opposition.
– What justification has the honorable member for saying that the Treasurer will bo prepared to hand Australia over to the Imperial Government?
– I am guided by what the Treasurer said in’ 1913. He will associate with those individuals who wish to bring Australia into some kind of partnership that will compel us to bear additional responsibility beyond, as well as in, Australian waters. The acceptance of any responsibility of that kind must be only at the dictates of the people and Parliament of this country. We desire no promises to be made by the Treasurer that may lead to action which will be very strongly resented. I therefore take this opportunity of entering my protest against the Treasurer, by his speeches, committing the people of Australia toany scheme of this kind. It was a piece of impertinence for Lord Grey to say as he did in 1913, that “ The only way in which the self-governing Dominions could ultimately share the burden of Empire in a manner conducive to their selfrespect” - mark the language - “was by establishing some form of organic union in which there would be equal sharing of rights and responsibilities.” That is Imperial Federation in essence. The Treasurer seconded a resolution proposed with that speech, and in the evening stated that he believed in a certain organic union between Australia and the Motherland. We should not allow these so-called missionaries to go abroad with*out some definite information as to the views they may enunciate.
Another matter specially mentioned by the Prime Minister as likely to be discussed by the Treasurer in London was that of immigration. I believe that the waste places of this continent should be filled as quickly as possible with a virile population, and I believe that our best type of immigrant is the Australian-born baby. The utmost care should be exercised in handling this important problem of British emigration, because, according to cable information in the press of this city, an Imperial Board has been instructed to watch the situation so that special efforts may be made to retain in
Great Britain those people who are most likely to help the Imperial ‘ Government to discharge the enormous financial responsibility incurred during the war period. Now, what does that mean ? It must mean, of course, that if people desirable from an Imperial point of are to be prevented from leaving Great Britain, then people undesirable from the Australian point of view will be encouraged to leave.
– Do you not think the idea is to keep the desirable immigrants within the British Empire instead of allowing them to go elsewhere?
– No. If the honorable member will read the recommendations of this Board, he will find they have recommended that Great Britain should endeavour to unload some of her 2,000,000 surplus adult female population and juveniles, but principally girls, on to the overseas Dominions. Australia should not become a dumping ground for the surplus womenfolk from other parts of the Empire.
– We will not get them all.
– If we did we would have an addition of 2,000,000 females to our population, and I for one would not tolerate that. If we got one-fourth of Great Britain’s surplus females there would be too many for us. We do want healthy manhood, and I believe a considerable number of ex-service men are ready and willing to come from the Old Country to Australia. When the war ended a responsible officer from the Victorian Government, a man who served as a major in the Army, was allowed to remain in England for many months to inquire into this matter, and he reports that there is a good number of very desirable men with a fair amount of capital ready to come ‘to Australia. That is the class of immigrant we should endeavour to get.
– Would you not allow them to bring their children with them?
– Of course I would. Whole families can come here so long as there are men at their head. The point I am stressing is that the Imperial Board is urging that steps should be taken to assist the surplus female population to emigrate to the overseas Dominions; and that an endeavour should be made to keep within the United Kingdom all those men who are likely to play some part in contributing to the productivity of the United Kingdom, and thus help the Imperial Government over their financial difficulties.
– You do not blame them for that, do you?
– No; but the Prime Minister announced that the Treasurer, when in London, would be asked to pay particular attention to immigration; and I am sounding a note of warning that we do not want this country to be made the dumping ground for Great Britain’s surplus female population. We should be particularly careful in this matter, because it is apparent that the physically, and perhaps the morally, unfit will, from the Imperial point of view, be regarded as desirable emigrants. Australia will not indorse that view. I am reminded by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that Australia, like Great Britain, lost a considerable number of its manhood. This is another reason why the subject should receive the most careful consideration. I have not recently examined the statistics of Australia; but I think that the males and females are about equal in number.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I was rather surprised at the remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond). He appeared to lecture honorable members concerning their duty in this House, and so I feel it necessary to ask him what he considers is the duty of a member of Parliament? Is it simply to intrust all responsibility to the Government and take none? If we accepted his advice, that would be our course of action; but I conceive my duty to be something entirely different. While certain power must be given to the Government of the day, members of this House have their especial privileges’ and duties, and those who fail to insist on these are traitors to their constituents. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) appears to think that we, as a party, will gain something by the action we have taken, but that we ought now to give way, in view of the promise made by the Prime Minister. I think, however, that the honorable member for Flinders and other honorable members have somewhat missed the point. We claim, and properly so, that there should be some explanation and debate in connexion with the financial position, and that members should have the privilege of saying what money shall be expended. We also claim other privileges; and I object to any Government usurping them. I am not talking now of war-time conditions, because the war is over. If I had been in a position of Ministerial responsibility I would have assumed certain of these arbi trary powers myself during war time. But it is a long time since hostilities ceased, and still we find the Government administering affairs in that autocratic and tyrannical manner, which, during the war, caused so much resentment. At the present time the Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) is actually using his authority; under emergency legislation, to place an embargo both on the importation and exportation of goods. Under this system many evils can arise; and I say it is the duty of this Parliament to determine what shall be done or not done in that and other regards.
So far as the Country party are concerned, surely the recent debate and the vote on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) indicate that there can be no doubt as to our position. The decision of the country in the recent election was emphatic enough. Honorable members opposite know what my position is. I ask for no quarter, and I shall give none, so far as they are concerned. The reason for the debacle was plain. People have come to realize and resent the tyrannical Prussian methods of many outside organizations. They object to this parliamentary representation being governed by any irresponsible body. On many occasions honorable members, to my knowledge, have not acted in accordance with their convictions, for the simple reason that they have been governed by some outside and irresponsible authority. There is also the conviction that during the war many of the leaders of these outside organizations were disloyal to this country.
– Who ruled Senator Shannon ?
– He had the opportunity of going before the people at the recent elections if he had so desired.
– But not as a Liberal candidate.
– The organization simply stated that it could not support him. So far as I am concerned, I give my conscience into the keeping of no person or party.
There are many reasons for this discontent on the part of the people, among them being the increase in the cost of living, difficulties in connexion with the war, and faulty administration. But we can all be wise after the event. Honorable members opposite may- be reminded that for the first two years, a Government supported by them had control of the Treasury bench, and were loyally supported by the Liberal party. No effort was made to baulk them in their war policy. The War Precautions Act was passed by a1 Labour Government.
– And the Liberal party supported it.
– We gave all the help we could. The honorable member will admit that. I recall for his information the pronouncement by the late member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) that the War Precautions Act gave absolute power into the hands of the Government of the day; so if honorable members opposite are complaining to-day some of the blame at all events should be laid at their own doors. When the time came for the formation of the National Government, so that the turmoil of party should cease and all could fight for the sake of the country, honorable members opposite were asked to join, but they refused, and did everything they could to hinder and neutralize the efforts of those who were making sacrifices for the men at the Front.
– Is this amendment against the Government or is it aimed at honorable members of the Opposition?
– There can be no doubt about that. I am now only endeavouring to show how our efforts were destroyed when unity was so much to be desired.
When people talk about the high cost of living, it is just as well to know something of the causes. In 1916 the los3 in wages through strikes amounted to £967,000,, and in the following year, to £2,594,000. In three years and nine months the amount of wages so lost was, in round figures, £6,000,000. Let that be capitalized so that we may see what it would mean. Honorable members opposite have been through troublous times before and have been careless with regard to who has suffered. In Broken Hill there are meru who are glorying in living on charity for the past nine months.
– They have been fighting for their Tights, and good luck to them every time, say I.
– The honorable member wishes them good luck, but all that he and many other Labour leaders are doing is to assist to create in Australia enmity and antagonism between employer and employee and build up a loafers’ paradise.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the tirade delivered by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) when ‘he was speaking of the request of the Imperial authorities for the payment of portion of the money owed by Australia. We do not forget, and never shall, what we owe to the Old Country, not only in the financial sense, but in the sense of our national well-being. And not only have we been under this debt during the war, but ever since Australia has been inhabited by the British race. For the past hundred years and more Australians have been, able to build up this new land without a moment’s fear of foreign interference or aggression.. We owe our immunity wholly and solely to the British Navy. Were not our woolgrowers more than ‘.satisfied with ‘the Imperial contracts made on their behalf ? We have actually borrowed £49,000,000 from Great Britain, and owe them also nearly a similar sum. We have received millions of pounds sterling from the British authorities for wool which has never yet been sent away, and for wheat that is still here. I do not know how many millions are involved.
– A good deal more than £300,000,000.
– Why did not the English and Scottish woolgrowers permit their wool to be sold under the control of the Imperial Government?
– I would rather not talk of things concerning which I have no knowledge.
– But it is a question that ought to be answered.
– True, but I am not here for that purpose, and cannot explain it. ‘I do know (that the Australian woolgrower was more than content with the contracts made in his behalf. The unfortunate fact is that while Canada was able to help the Mother Country - not only by sending troops as did Australia, of course, but financially also - and while New Zealand has managed to carry on satisfactorily, in Australia there has been chaos. A good deal of that chaos has been due almost entirely to the attitude adopted by the leaders of the party opposite. The Country party indicated its position clearly when Parliament met, when .the Opposition moved its motion of want of confidence. We demand a return to parliamentary and constitutional government. During the war many things were done which we have been compelled to overlook; but the war is ended, and there is no reason why we should permit the government to be carried on as during the war. There is no excuse for autocratic rulership any longer.. The action of the Ministry in sending Parliament to the country was solely a matter of Government responsibility, for which there was no sufficient excuse or justification. We were sent before our constituents during the height of the harvest period. What is to be the position during the remaining months of this financial year? Sis Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is expected to be in Australia very soon. There will then be a cessation: of political activities, and, obviously, the whole of the financial year will have elapsed before Parliament will have secured an opportunity to consider the financial situation. Surely now is the time to deal with the Estimates.
There is undoubtedly great need for economy. Many promises have been made with regard to the repatriation scheme - promises which must cost Australia an enormous sum of money. Then, also, the pensions echeme must be remodelled. A boy who enlisted on his eighteenth birthday went to the war, and did a man’s work. I am citing an example, but it is an actual case. He was slain on the field of battle. The mother was asked what were the earnings of her son during the year prior to his departure for the Front. Of course, they were nil. The mother was then granted a minimum pension of 7s. .per week. Her heroic lad had gone away to do a fullgrown man’s work, and in doing it he had given his all. Surely the mother should be granted a pension based, not upon the remuneration of a boy’s labour, but on that of what he would have been worth on his return. In regard to recruiting, expenses, of course, have come to an end; but so far as the Defence Department is concerned there is still great expenditure going on; and until a definite .policy is placed before the country we know that there must be considerable further outlay. I quote the following from the progress report of the Economies Commission: -
If it be decided that civilian training as now laid down by law must be proceeded with, together with the scheme for providing an arsenal and aircraft service, the country must be prepared to see an immense increase in defence expenditure - tooth capital and revenue expenditure - as compared with what it was before the war, and a consequential lessening of financial power available for the internal development of the nation.
I .emphasize that, until we gain some knowledge of the Government’s intentions regarding such matters as defence, aviation, and naval activities, we must not cease from impressing the absolutely urgent need for economy. The Economies Commission has indicated to the Government that there must be “ a consequential lessening of’ financial .power available for the internal development of the nation “ unless the specific economies’ pointed out are undertaken. The Commission has pointed to enormous sums that can be saved to Australia; and it calls for the determined attention of Parliament in insuring that the Government shall make full and proper investigation under the various heads of expenditure set out by the Commission. This country depends tremendously upon internal development. The curse of Australia is the huge concentration of ‘population in the cities. More than half the” population of New South Wales is now dwelling in Sydney. In Melbourne there is to be found about one-half of the population of Victoria.
– The facts are the other way .about in respect to the two capitals..
– It has only recently been announced in the press that the population of Sydney is 1,010,000^- the total population of the State numbering 2,000,000. Primary production during the year before last was valued at £280,000,000, and secondary production between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000. There is something wrong. If we are going to pay our way, if we are going to produce greater wealth and increase our population - which is the only sound way of getting out of our difficulties - there must be a change of policy. An almost intolerable burden confronts us. “We should have in this chamber a full and exhaustive financial debate, in the course of which the Treasurer should set out clearly what are the Government’s obligations in regard to repatriation loans to the States, and so forth, and how they intend to help and build up primary production.
If Australia continues along the lines of depleting its rural population and swelling the numbers of city dwellers, there is bound to be disaster. We have been told that, in regard to our complaints concerning postal administration, we should be satisfied now, in view of the fact that a new Minister controls that Department. But it should not be forgotten that for the past three or four years, night after night, as opportunity has offered, a few honorable members - among them myself - have fought and pleaded with the . Government to give greater consideration to people in the back country. I pointed out the huge losses sustained by the Department in regard to the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan exchanges. I stressed that the inhabitants of those cities were not asked to furnish a guarantee in order to cover and make good the losses. Yet, out in the bush, people who have asked for telephonic facilities in order that they may get into close touch, for example, with a doctor in case of emergency, have been informed that they must first guarantee a certain sum, otherwise they will not get their telephone. There must be a big change brought about in the regulations controlling the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, especially in relation to facilities afforded in the bush. I will cite three typical facts among innumerable causes of complaint. A case came under my notice having to do with the construction of a small section of telephone, the cost of which was to be £340. In response to an appeal to the Department, we were told that if we could advance £320 we would be furnished with the telephone. Another instance has to do with the expenditure of a quarter of a million sterling on the part of a State Government in the building of a railway, the making of roads, and the opening up of a new territory generally. In reply to requests for telephone facilities, the Commonwealth au.thorities made investigations, and ascer- tained that the cost of installing telephonic communication along this line of railway would be £5,500. They refused to undertake the work on the ground that it would not pay. A third instance involves a number of people living in an out-back neighbourhood who are served with a fortnightly mail service, which is carried on at a loss of £40 per annum. They were notified that unless they guaranteed £20 per annum the mail service would be forthwith cancelled.
– One hears the same kind of thing all over Australia.
– That is true, but one hears at the same time of the special advantages afforded to people living In the cities, who are already furnished with every facility for the enjoyment of life. Yet, throughout the regime of the late Postmaster-General nothing was done to conduce to further settlement in the bush. I quite believe that the Government will be prepared to promise to do all that is possible in the direction of granting facilities for the out-back country.; but the fact remains that for years past we have been fighting and pleading for greater consideration, and I cannot help feeling sure that it will still be necessary to fight in the interests of the settlers. I hope the Government will make every effort to fulfil their promises in this regard, not to pacify honorable members, for I do not desire them to take action based upon that point of view at all, but because they realize the necessity for inducing settlement away from the centres of population.
I have noted with pleasure a line upon the Estimates covering the outlay of £12.000 or £13,000 for an agency in New York. No doubt good work will be done if Australia is represented bv a capable man. A good sound business agency, both in London and in New York, from which sources Australia may receive advice respecting the markets .of the world, and so be able to take full advantage of the world’s parity for outproduce, is a matter upon which no one would hesitate to expend a reasonable sum of money. I feel sure that the Government can do good work in this direction, and it is only by giving sound, businesslike attention to the requirements of the country that we may look forward to a prosperous future.
I paid a visit to Shepparton a little while ago, and gained considerable information with respect to a number of co-operative concerns. I was enabled to make close investigation of the cooperative movement in regard to various lines of production. The people, by their own co-operative freezing works, were doing a very valuable thing for themselves and the country ; and the same may be said with regard to the cannery also. Last year they had been getting as little as 10s. 6d. a dozen for their canned fruits, but this year the price is 21s. per dozen, and it is hoped to turn out £180,000 worth of canned fruits from that one co-operative cannery. The same successful note was struck respecting the bacon-curing factory in that locality. In these co-operative organizations the producer is afforded the advantage of the world’s parity, and obvious prosperity is created. Such facts as these are attractive. People, instead of concentrating upon the cities, are induced to settle in the country, where living is cheaper than in the city areas. By the building up of prosperity in country communities we are erecting a basis of wealth for the whole community. *I hope that while we are .pressing the necessity for economy the Government will realize how urgent it is that something should be done for those who are opening up the out-back areas.
To strengthen my argument I propose to point out an incident which came under my notice last year in regard to the operation of the wartime profits tax. Let us say that two men have been left a sum of £10,000 each. One has a love for country life and goes out-back and expends his £10,000 in employing labour upon developmental work in the bush. He is faced and hindered by fires, floods, and droughts; and, as a result of these encounters, he is forced to borrow large sums of money to carry on. I am citing an actual fact. ‘ Up to the time of the beginning of the war he had not shown any profit whatever. In his first war year he showed a book profit of £1,200, and, for the next year, a book profit of £4,800. I remind honorable members that a book profit is such that one may lose most of it in the following’ year’s operations. This man had not only to pay land and income tax, but also a war-time profits tax, amounting to £2,750; and he had to borrow the money to pay the tax. Take the case of the other man who says, “ I am not going to take any risks, but am going to put my £10,000 out on mortgage. I will have an income of £600 to £700 for the rest of my life, and shall not incur any risk.” He started as a commission agent, and, perhaps, sold the property of the other individual, who, apart from endeavouring to benefit himself, was assisting the country as a producer. The man -who started as a commission agent, who took no risks, and produced nothing, was not asked to contribute a single 6d. in the form of war-time taxation, even if he had made £20,000 or £50,000, because he had made his money with his brains. That is the legislation we have on our statute-book to-day, and no greater scandal has ever been perpetrated by any Parliament. I have already stated that it is the desire of the members of the Country party to place the finances absolutely under parliamentary control, and. we object very strongly to the autocratic and tyrannical methods that have been adopted by the Government in their administration.
May I direct the attention of the House to the embargo placed on the exportation of base metals? I wish to impress upon the Government that when the vote for the Attorney-General’s’ Department is being considered in connexion with the Estimates it is my intention to moye for a reduction in that vote unless we have a definite assurance from the Government that metals are to be free from that embargo. The war is over, and the illegal and improper control that has been exercised by Ministers under the authority of the Government must cease, as there is no valid reason for its continuance.
In dealing with importations, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has possessed extensive powers,and has really been introducing a new Protective Tariff without Parliament expressing an’ opinion on the rates imposed. Is it right for the Minister simply by regulation - I am not attacking the Minister personally - to fix the duty on all importations from overseas? . If this present practice is permitted to continue a high Protective Tariff may gradually be introduced without Parliament being consulted. The importation of sheep dip has been freely discussed from time to time, and Mr. Leggo has stated that he was promised that the sheep dip market would be free to him for a whole year, thus relieving him of any fear of competition during that period. An importer of British goods was informed by the Prime Minister that sheep dip ordered prior to 31st March would be. admitted into Australia, but before delivery was given the consignees would have to enter into a bond agreeing to pay any duty that Parliament might impose. It was wrong for the Prime Minister, or any other Minister, to state that any duty that might be imposed would have to be paid. The consignees agreed, and the sheep dip, which was placed in bond, has only recently been released.
– They are now commencing to manufacture in Australia.
– That may be so; but the Minister, whoever he may be, should not have the power to issue regulations imposing certain duties or restraining trade without Parliament being consulted.
-(Hon. J. M. Chapter). - The honorable member has reached the time limit.
Extension of time granted.
– It is not my intention to deal at length with import duties, as that matter can be thoroughly discussed when the Tariff Bill, which we hope to have before us at an early date, is under consideration. I have taken from the Argus a list of goods on which an embargo has been placed, and I shall endeavour to show, if time permits, the extent to which the Department has gone. I have in my possession a letter from a softgoods firm, enclosing a communication from the Acting Collector of Customs, Western Australia, in relation to yarn. We all know how the price of hosiery has been increased, and the communication from the Acting Collector, which is of particular interest, reads -
In connexion with your application of 13th January, 1920, for a licence to import hosiery yarn, the necessary licence is enclosed herewith. With regard to future importations of proclaimed goods, you are recommended to procure a licence before ordering same, as the issue offuture licences will depend upon inability to obtain supplies from Australian manufacturers.
Is that right?
– A new Tariff by Ministerialedict.
– Exactly; and Parliament should be consulted before such a policy is adopted. It is my intention to oppose arbitrary and unconstitutional methods.
– Is the honorable member expressing the policy of his colleagues ?
– Surely the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman), who was a Minister for some years, does not support a policy of Tariff by regulation ! I am sure that when the honorable member was a Minister of the Crown he never favoured Customs regulations being framed without parliamentary authority.
– Who makes the Tariff - the Government?
-The Tariff is framed by Parliament, and every honorable member has an opportunity of expressing his views. It is our desire to protect our own people and at the same time to give employment to the greatest possible number. We all agree that it is necessary to develop our own industries and to encourage suitable immigrants to make their home in the Commonwealth. But we should not think of imposing a high Tariff until we have a population of at least 20,000,000, when we will have a good local market for our manufactures. The communication I have just read is of great importance, and to enable honorable members to be quite clear as to its contents, may I repeat that it states that in connexion with future importation of proclaimed goods, importers are recommended to procure a licence before ordering such goods, as the issue of future licences depends upon inability to obtain supplies from Australian manufacturers. They are not allowed to import unless they are unable to obtain supplies from a local manufacturer. Nothing is said about the price to be paid. Is that how we are going to make this country self-reliant?
– Does the honorable member favour placing farm implements on the free list?
-We should handle our own raw material instead of sending it overseas.
– An embargo was also placed on the importation of shovels because some firm commenced to manufacture them here on a small scale. The Imperial Government placed an embargo on the importation of chemicals, and the decision given by Mr. JusticeSankey in December last is interesting, and was to the effect that such an embargo by regulation was ultra vires.
– Thehonorable member knows perfectly well that prior to the war it was stated that we could not manufacture steel in Australia.
– All sorts of stupid statements have been made, but the moment the keystone of an industry is destroyed by imposing heavy duties the whole undertaking is detrimentally affected. Had I time I could show how the war has helped manufacturers by importations being valued at English prices.
There are many directions in which the Government can economize, and a genuine effort should be made to adopt a uniform system of taxation. At a Conference of Taxation Officers a workable proposition was framed, but when the Bill embodying their proposals was submitted to Parliament the recommendations of the taxation experts were departed from.
– The State authorities were in favour of collecting the tax on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– A scheme suitable to both the Commonwealth and State authorities could easily be evolved. I know there is a keen desire on the part of some members to destroy State interests and State rights ; but we must admit that the State authorities have an effective and economical system of collection, and it is time some reform was introduced to relieve taxpayers of present inconveniences. The forms that taxpayers are compelled . to complete are so intricate that many have to engage outside assistance when making up their returns. The States, with their superior organization, should be able to collect taxes more economically and effectively than the
Commonwealth. It is only necessary to refer to several acts of the Governmentto show how faulty has been their administration. Let honorable members go to Cockburn Sound, where, although £700,000 odd have been spent, I defy any engineer to show value for an expenditure of more than £150,000 or £200,000. There is the sworn evidence of the officer in charge of the works that they were carried on for two years before” the plans of them were approved. We know, too, the class of men who were put in charge in the early stages of the work. I remind honorable members, also, of the money wasted at Flinders, where there was a wharf to which no water came, and much other extravagant expenditure. The other day I tried to ascertain from the Defence Department what was proposed in connexion with the acquirement of new aviation grounds. At Point Cook £92,000 have been spent on a flying school, and yet now negotiations are being entered upon for the purchase of some 420 acres of land near Geelong for aviation purposes. Another illustration of the careless extravagance and the remissness of the Government is the management of the Small Arms Factory. A large sum was placed on the Estimates for the construction of an arsenal at Tuggeranong, on a site which, as I said on a former occasion, would be a magnificent one for a monastery, but where I cannot understand any engineer proposing to establish an arsenal. The Minister told me yesterday, in reply to a question, that the Government could not make public the cost of constructing rifles at Lithgow.
– Why should we not make our own rifles? Does the honorable member wish to send to Japan, or elsewhere, for military supplies?
– Of course, we should make our own requirements; but we should see that we get value for our expenditure, and we should make certain that the articles manufactured are of good quality and efficient for their purpose. I would not have cared much what our rifles cost during the war, so long as they were good rifles; but, as I have said in this chamber on previous occasions, we were at one time sending boys to the Front with rifles so bad - some of them, not all- that the lads might as well have had their arms tied behind their backs. There are four honorable members who can confirm that statement.
– Is it the policy of the honorable member to import everything ?
– It was estimated in the first instance that rifles could be made under Australian conditions for £3 9s.1d. each, but the Auditor-General, in his report, states that the rifles are valued at £8 17s. I have been told in confidence what the actual cost of these rifles is, but why cannot the House be informed of it? All the figures are given by the AuditorGeneral.Four months after the war started we were not sending a rifle out of Australia. When the war commenced, we were making rifles for mark-6 ammunition, and when the British Government adopted the mark-7 ammunition, our pattern became useless. Yet it was not until three months before the armistice was signed that we altered ours. There has not been a machine gun made at Lithgow, and though we spent a great deal of money on shells, not one of the shells that were made was put into a cannon. In the face of all these facts, the Government a couple of years ago, proposed to spend from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 on an arsenal, away out in the wilderness. I also draw attention to the mismanagement of the Cockatoo Island dockyard. I shall not now go into the history of the Brisbane; there may be an opportunity to do so when honorable members are more inclined to listen. I think the Government should let the people know what happened in connexion with the building of the Brisbane. They might explain the difficulties that occurred, the fire that broke out in the engine-room, and contrast the cost of the vessel with that of her sister ships, and state the loss of effective life through the delay in construction. If the public were informed of these facts, they would realize how greatly, in the early stages of the war, we were being hampered by a certain section of the community. I do not think it would do much harm to the Government to make the facts known. When they were known, there would be very little further demand for the nationalization of industries.
– You might tell us how many submarines the Brisbane sank. Say something of the good work that she did.
– When I wish to deal with the Brisbane further, I shall draw attention to the report of the Finance Committee which was laid on the table. A majority of the members of the Committee belonged to the Labour party. That report condemns the administration of the dockyard from beginning to end, and shows how scandalously things were conducted there.
The only statement in the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that appealed to me was his remark about profiteering, and the need for action by the Government in regard to excess war profits. During the war there were many persons who did everything they could by means of personal service in the hospitals, in the Red Cross depots, and elsewhere, and gave everything they could, to help the boys who were overseas fighting for us. But there were others, many of whom were constantly waving the flag, and talking about the Empire, who were robbing the community as much as they could. In my opinion no big concern should have made excess profits during the war, and we might seriously consider the advisability of retrospective legislation in regard to such profits. Shipping companies and all other big concerns should share with the rest of the community the losses which the war brought upon us, and the obligations which it has left with us. I do not see why these big concerns should be permitted to put away huge profits made during the war. We should seriously consider whether retrospective legislation could not be brought in to take away their excess profits to help us to meet our war debts. I know that the question is beset with difficulties. We would have to consider the case of new concerns, and would have to determine what should be regarded as a fair rate of interest on capital. We would have to take into consideration the position of those who, by originating new ideas, have helped to buildup industries.
– Some of the big firms insured against the taxation of their profits by putting money into the political funds. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) “blew the gaff” on that.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– I had all bub finished when, at the last moment before the suspension of the sitting, I understood the Leader of the Opposition to interject when I was talking about profiteering, that much of these profits had gone back into the party . funds. I do not know if that interjection contained an insinuation. If it did, all I have to say is that my experience of elections for the past ten or fifteen years is that the Labour party have always been more amply provided with funds than any other party that I know of. Where those funds come from I have no knowledge.
– Now the honorable member is posing as a humorist.
– No, I am giving broad and solid facts. When I find the members of the Labour party travelling round the country by motor car, while I have to go round by train, 1 can only come to the conclusion that the party funds are fairly extensive and well organized. I am quite satisfied that the Leader of the Opposition feels, as most others feel, that neither this nor any other party is favorably disposed towards those who have been unduly using their position for the purpose of exploiting the people during the last few years. Their numbers are few indeed, and there can be little sympathy with them. I hope that my remarks this afternoon on that phase of the question will be seriously considered by the Government.
I am sure that many members sitting on this side of the House are fully in sympathy with what I have said regarding the need for parliamentary control of our work. Time after time huge sums of money have bean expended without parliamentary authority. At present embargoes are being imposed on importations and exportations without any parliamentary control or authority in any shape or form. While we should be prepared to forgive mistakes that have been made in war time, because it would be absolutely impossible for a Government to try to do things and not make mistakes, we have a right to demand a return to the system of parliamentary control, particularly when we receive the reports of Royal Commissions such as have recently been placed before us, and when we know that money has been wasted. Although I have now no doubt, from what I have heard, as to how the division will go, I hope the Government will take heed of what has been said, and see that we get back to pre-war conditions and to that control of our parliamentary institutions, of which we have had so much reason to boast in the nast.
.- The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), in speaking in support of the amendment put forward by his party, saw fit to devote most of his speech to an attack on the members sitting on this side of the House. Incidentally, he mentioned that he gave no quarter, and expected none. I am of somewhat the same temperament, for I also expect no quarter from members on the opposite side, and intend to give them none. The honorable member also saw fit to make a dirty attack upon those Broken Hill miners who are fighting for their lives and the. lives of their children. It. comes with e very bad grace from the honorable member, who, I understand, occupied at one period the position of Minister for Mines in a Western Australian Government, and who should, therefore, know something about the conditions in the mining industry, to make such an attack upon the Barrier miners. One would certainly suppose that, from his Ministerial experience, he would have known something about the conditions of lead mining, and the hardships imposed on the men who go down into lead mine3, risking not only their own lives, but the lives and health of their children also. There are 3,760 miners on strike in Broken Hill.
– For how long?
– The strike is now in its eleventh month. Official figures show that the dependants of those men comprise 2,570 women and 4,371 children. To listen to the honorable member and those of his ilk who criticise those miners who are fighting for better conditions in Broken Hill, and putting up the greatest fight that has ever taken place in the industrial history of Australia, forced to it out of sheer necessity, one would imagine that going on strike was a peculiar pastime of these workers, and that the men who go on strike in Australia or any other country do so out of sheer perversity. Those honorable members never imagine that the men have any grievance worth mentioning.
– That widow who had trouble over there laid it out fairly strong.
– I thought the honorable member was talking about the “ widows “ and “ orphans “ who comprise the shareholders in the mines. The honorable member knows the old wheeze. The unfortunate widow he now refers to does not happen to be connected with this particular dispute. The honorable member should know something of the facts regarding the Broken Hill dispute. He should also know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has been asked, and has taken no steps whatever to bring the mine-owners, the directorsof the mining companies, and the men who are on strike “ together at a roundtable conference, where this matter could be threshed out. The men have asked repeatedly for a Royal Com- mission to be appointed by the Government to inquire into the conditions prevailing in the mines at Broken Hill, with full power to examine the mining companies’ balance-sheets, profits, and rebates. They have been refused that Commission. I thank the honorable member for affording me the opportunity of placing the facts about the Broken Hill strike before honorable members. 1 shall leave them then, if they can do so, to dare to talk about these ‘ ‘ loafers ‘ ‘ in Broken Hill. By the time I have concluded, the honorable member, if he has any manhood in him at all, will be sorry for the remarks he made this afternoon about the “ loafers “ in Broken Hill, who are living on public charity in a “ loafers’ paradise.”
– I said you people were desirous only of building up a “ loafers’ paradise.”
– In this connexion, Dr. Birks, medical superintendent of the Broken Hill and District Hospital, who is not likely to be prejudiced on the side of the men, seeing that his brother-in-law is manager of the Broken Hill South Mine”, stated distinctly that a man who works for five1 years continuously in the ordinary stopes at Broken Hill is “settled” through lead poisoning. I do not say that Dr. Birks is biased on the side of the companies by reason of his family relations, but at least honorable members will admit that he is likely to be unbiased, and that that statement comes with added weight from him. It is backed up also by Dr. Burn ell, who is also a medical officer in the Broken Hill and District Hospital, and is further confirmed by Dr. Steven, a medical practitioner up there, and by the evidence of Dr.’ Booth, who examined men working in the Broken Hill mines for military purposes during the war. Dr. Booth told a Royal Commission in 1914 that in his capacity as examining medical officer for the Commonwealth Military Forces, he frequently found young men on the threshold of manhood broken down in health because of the terrible conditions they worked under in the Broken Hill mines. Dr. Steven examined 178 miners at Broken Hill, and said -
My examination of the miners at the Amalgamated Miners Association office some time ago showed that 78 per cent, of those examined were suffering from slight lung consolidation to advanced phthisis.
– Is not that an argument that the mines ought to be closed altogether?
– They are closed very effectively at* present, and are likely to remain closed until those who are sent here to look after the interests’ of the citizens of Australia take steps to give the men a fair deal.
– If the death-rate is so .heavy as that, the mines should not be opened at all.
– The death-rate for infants at Broken Hill is the -highest in the Commonwealth. I have here the most eminent medical testimony obtainable. It is that of Sir Thomas Oliver, an expert on industrial diseases. The medical men at Broken Hill vouch for the truth of his statement that the infantile mortality is directly traceable to the effects of lead poisoning on the fathers, due to their occupation in the mines. At page 200 of Sir Thomas Oliver’s book on Diseases of’ Occupation, he states -
It is an interesting fact that while a man who has suffered from plumbism takes a long time to recover, even after withdrawal from the lead works, a woman who has been a lead worker, and in whom during all the period she was in the factory each pregnancy ended in a miscarriage or still-birth, will, if she gives up working in lead, probably go to the end of term in her next and succeeding pregnancies, and give birth to healthy children, who survive. The effects of lead in this particular direction are worse when both parents are affected, next when it is the mother alone who has been brought under the influence of lead; but there is evidence to show that lead impregnation of the male is also extremely prejudicial to the offspring. Rennert has attempted to express in statistical terms the varying degrees of gravity in the prognosis of cases in which at the moment of conception both parents are the subjects of lead poisoning; also where , one alone is affected. The malign influence of the lead is reflected upon the foetus and on the continuation of the pregnancy 94 times out of 100 when both parents have been working in lead, 92 times when the mother alone is affected, and 63 times when it is the father alone who has worked in lead. Taking 7 healthy women who were married to lead workers, and in whom there was a total of 32 pregnancies, Lewis tells us that the results were as follow: - 11 miscarriages, 1 still-birth, 8 children died within the first year after birth, 4 in the second year, .5 in the third, and 1 subsequent to this; leaving only 2 children out of 32 pregnancies as likely to live to manhood.
That is where the father alone was engaged in lead mining. The author also states -
One of the principal things to bear in mind is that it is the continuous entrance of very minute traces of lead into the body rather than the occasional entrance of a larger dose that induces the most severe forms of plum- bism.for it is of the nature of lead to act slowly, and thus gradually to undermine the health.
The local medical testimony bears out this evidence, and there has been no attempt on the part of the mining companies or their henchmen, political or otherwise, to controvert these facts. In order to show that the expert testimony of these medical men was in harmony with the facts, I asked the Commonwealth Statistician some time ago to furnish me with a table comparing the infantile mortality in the various capitals with that in the mining fields of the Commonwealth over a period of years, and the table forwarded to me proves that by reason of the conditions prevailing at Broken Hill the infantile mortality there is the highest in the Commonwealth. The table is as follows : -
The average infant rates of mortality in the cities and mining fields mentioned for twelve years were - Melbourne, 82.76; Sydney, 75.416; Adelaide, 72.833; Lyell, 70; Kalgoorlie, 82.50; Mr Morgan, 74.583; Broken Hill, 114.166.
These figures conclusively prove Dr. Oliver’s statement backed up by the testimony of the medical gentlemen in Broken Hill. They show that the children of the lead miners of Broken Hill are being deliberately murdered. The fathers work in- the mines, not only at the sacrifice of their own health,_ but also at the risk of their children’s lives. Not only do they have all the disadvantages and run all the dangers incidental to mining occupations, but there is the added possibility that their children will die from lead poisoning. The medical men at Broken Hill declared that pneumonia is an industrial disease at that centre, because lead poisoning renders the miners more susceptible to this disease than is the case in any other centre, and a State Royal Commission in 1914 also declared that Broken Hill was recognised as a locality where pneumonia could be regarded as an industrial disease. The Royal Commission also found that for the eighteen months preceding 1914 no less than 33 per cent, of the employees at Broken Hill had met with accidents. The North mine, which employed 1,055 men, had registered 811 accidents in the same period, and the South mine with 1,000 employees during the six months preceding the visit of the Commission . had a record of 25 per cent. of accidents. The significance of this high percentage is all the more apparent to honorable members when they learn that no mishap was classed as an accident unless the sufferer was absent .from his work for at least three days.- If a man meets with a minor mishap which may keep him away from his work for two days, it is not classed as an accident in the figures I have quoted. During the period covered by the Royal Commission 15^ peT cent, of the membership of the Miners Union averaged a loss of four weeks and four days’ wages through severe accidents. From 1893, when the StatS of New South Wales first began to tabulate these figures, to 1917, the Broken Hill mining companies had killed outright 390 men. God knows- how many others were lead’ poisoned, or how many died from other diseases which the medical authorities say are the direct result of their systems being impregnated with lead. Let honorable members place themselves in the position of a miner of Broken Hill, with a wife and family. He runs the risk of cage accidents, premature explosions, falls of ground, miners’ phthisis, pneumonia, and lead poisoning, and he knows that his children are condemned to death before they are born by reason of his own occupation. Yet we hear cheap sneer3 from the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who say3 that these men are trying to establish a “ loafers’ paradise” in Broken Hill. The men are not trying to establish a loafers’ paradise there. They are trying to get rid of the loafers who are battening on them and their children. No less than £26,000,000 sterling has been wrung from the corpses of the little ones and the miners who have been done to death by the mining companies of Broken Hill. Not to the extent of one iota have those companies given way to the men. When the latter did not strike for better conditions, they were locked out. ‘ In 1909 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company shut down their mine for two years rather than pay the rate of wages awarded by the Arbitration Court. When the companies met the men in conference a few months ago, they denied there was any truth in the statements with regard to lead poisoning, and when the medical authorities came to our rescue and showed conclusively that our contentions were true, they refused to have anything further to do with the men, simply saying, in effect, “ Get back to work and pile up dividends.” Yes, pile up dividends, and also tombstones in the cemetery there, but do nothing to interfere with the profits of the mining companies. What care the mining companies, or honorable members opposite, how many little ones go to the grave, or how many men are killed in the mines, or die from lead poisoning, and its sequela, or how many die from pneumonia? The honorable member for Dampier also made mention of munition factories that, as a matter of fact, did not turn out a single shell ; but he was as silent as the grave, and voiceless as the tomb, when the men had to fight the Broken Hill Mining Company and their bogus munition factory, which was never used except for the purpose of arousing the patriotic feelings of the community against those who were striving for better working conditions, and which, being a bogus munition factory, was pulled down and scrapped when the fight was over, having served its purpose.
Honorable members say, “ Why do not the men go to the Arbitration Court?” The manager of the British mine, Mr. Cyril Emery, according to the official statement of the miners, told the men that if the Arbitration Court granted their claim, the mines would shut down. The men are asked to toss with a doubleheaded penny. If the companies win in the Arbitration Court, the men are expected to go to work. If the men win in that Court, the companies will follow the example of the Broken Hill Proprietary in 1909, and shut down the mines. What honorable member on the Ministerial side is prepared to arbitrate as to whether he is going to the grave in five years, six years, or ten years, as a result of lead poisoning, or as to whether his children shall be sent to an untimely grave, or even have a chance of living at all? The Broken Hill men do not intend to let this state .of affairs continue; and with the help of the working men and women of Australia, despite the cheap sneers of the emissaries of the mining companies, and the protagonists of the Trusts and Combines, we will win out. The women of Broken Hill are prepared to stand staunchly by their men, and, if necessary, undergo starvation, and are even prepared to let their children suffer rather than send the husbands and fathers back to the mines to be lead poisoned. The humanitarian men and women throughout Australia are rallying to their assistance ; but the so-called “ as good as Labour men,” the heroes of hundreds of industrial fights, whom I see opposite, are quite prepared to sit down and do nothing. They decline to ask for the appointment even of a Royal Commission to inquire into these conditions. I have just returned from a visit to Tasmania, where I have spent a full month. What did I find there? That humanitarian men and women, who have never voted Labour in their lives, are now sending their contributions to the World newspaper in Hobart to aid the Broken Hill miners in the fight which they are putting up. But what does the Government, which is supposed to look after the interests of this country, do? When Mr. Brookfield asked the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to send second-hand blankets and boots to Broken Hill to relieve some of the distress existing there, he was promptly told that no boots were available. It is true that a thousand, or a couple of thousand, blankets were forwarded, but with strict instructions that even a second-hand blanket was not to be given to any striker. Yet the present Minister for Defence is the individual who used to stand on the Yarra-bank and discourse upon social revolution.
– Tell us about those two unions.
– It would be useless to tell the honorable member anything, because he would not understand me. I might have been able to impress him in his early days, when he was connected with the Labour League at Horsham. The only thing that the workers of this country are receiving from the so-called “ as good as Labour men,” from those who, according to their own statements, left our party because of the high regard for principle which they entertained; from those who, like Brutus, are all “ honorable men “-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank honorable members for the courtesy which they have extended to me. I was about to remark that the only thing which the working men and women of Australia ever receive from these some-time representatives of Labour is an intimation that the war is over. Honorable members opposite are continually drumming that fact into our ears. They are constantly stressing the obvious, viz., that the period of reconstruction and peace has arrived. Despite the fact that peace with the German Empire has been officially declared by the Imperial Government, Australia is still being ruled under the provisions of the War Precautions Act. That Act is be ing utilized on every possible occasion for the purpose of bludgeoning members of the working classes, and members of the working classes alone. I had expected to see in the no-confidence motion some mention of the latest act on the part of the Prime Minister in connexion with the marine engineers’ strike. He has used the War Precautions Act,” not for the purpose of “ winning the war” against Germany, but for the purpose of assisting the shipping profiteers in .their fight against the marine engineers. Our representatives of “ Democracy “ are continually prating about democratic government and constitutional government. These phrases sound well. But, coincidently, we have representatives of the Country party telling us that it is high time we got back to constitutional government, and restored the democratic control of Parliament. Yet, whilst the war was in progress, they did not dare to mention the matter. They sat silently and complacently behind the Hughes Administration and allowed the Prime Minister to do exactly what he thought fit. During my term iia a representative in this House I have witnessed the spectacle of Bills being presented for our consideration and of honorable members opposite, not knowing what they contained. Honorable members who have left the workingclass movement, and who have joined the plutocrats, are merely doing the same as other erstwhile representatives of Labour have done in every other country in the world. These miscalled representatives of Labour are not peculiar to Australian politics. They are to be found in France, in England, in America, and in Italy.
We hear a good deal of talk about the high cost of living, and many methods have been mentioned for dealing with the abnormal economic conditions which exist to-day. But everybody knows that those conditions are not peculiar to Australia or to any country in the world. Everybody knows that the ramifications of international capital are responsible for the conditions under which we live to-day. In spite of all the talk about the League of Nations or any other capitalistic concern, it is the position taken up by any party towards labour - no matter what that party may label itself - which is the touchstone to where it stands.
– What does the honorable member think of this amendment?
– I think that it will afford me an opportunity of recording my vote against the Government. For that reason I welcome it. I. shall oppose the present Administration and any other Administration which carries on in the same fashion. I thank the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for his interjection, because it enables me to. say that as between honorable members who have submitted this motion and those who are so wroth with them for their action, it is a case of tweedledum and tweedledee. Another reason why I shall enjoy supporting the amendment is that, whilst I happened to be the guest of His Majesty, one honorable member opposite took advantage of the fact that he was out .and I was in to remark that he could not consider the possibility of representatives of the Country party sitting on the same side of the House as Mr. Considine. I shall, therefore, watch with some degree of satisfaction that honorable member lining up with me when a division is called for upon this motion. I also derived a certain amount of satisfaction from listening to the temporary representative of Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) last evening. That honorable member gave us the benefit of his best parade ground style in a dissertation upon our duties as representatives of the people. He told us that we should devote more time to work and less time to talk. Having said this, he at once proceeded to occupy as much time as he is allowed under our Standing Orders in pointing out how very much better we could work under his dictation.
I also gain some consolation from the knowledge that those honorable members who were so vociferous in declaring in the last Parliament that I was the representative of a minority in my constituency, now find me the representative of a majority. I have gained that position simply by adhering to the plan of campaign which ( I outlined to the electors when I was seeking a renewal of their confidence. I told them on that occasion that, if elected, I intended to pursue the same policy that I had pursued during the two and -a half years that I had acted as their parliamentary representative. I shall fight just as strongly and sincerely for the men and women of the Barrier who have again honoured me by returning me as their representative, whether I am inside this House or outside of it. The best assistance which I can render to the men and women who are putting up such a noble fight for better industrial conditions in Broken Hill is by giving the lie direct to the slanders which have been circulated by so-called representative men and by the lying press of the Commonwealth. Only a little while ago the Argus sent a special representative to Broken Hill to inquire into the industrial conditions which obtain there. But he never went near the miners who were out on strike, and in conversation with him I learned that he had attended a picture show, at which he had seen a lot of well-dressed people. As a result he had reached .the conclusion that there was no poverty in Broken ‘Hill. He came back and said that there was no poverty in Broken Hill. He did not attempt to ascertain from the working men of the Barrier what were their grievances and what they were fighting for, nor did he attempt to learn from medical men whether their statements as to the effect upon their health of working in the mines were right or wrong.
– For what are they fighting ?
– I have already told the Committee; but if the honorable member has just wakened up I will give him the information. They are fighting for conditions calculated to improve the health of themselves and their children. They are fighting for a six-hours day. They are asking Mr. Baillieu, one of the directors of the North , Broken Hill Mining Company, who, in the columns of the Melbourne Herald, recently waxed eloquent as to a new world for labour, with six hours a day, to put some of his precepts into practice. Mr. Baillieu quoted Lord Leverhulme and Lord Pirrie as pointing out that a sixhours day was advantageous to the employers, since the men could produce a greater return in six hours than in eight. The Broken Hill miners have been driven, by sheer necessity, to ask him to use his influence with his fellow mining directors to give Broken Hill an instalment at least of the “ new world for labour.” The main points for which they are contending are a six-hours day, the abolition of the contract system, the abolition of night shifts, and a wage of £1 per shift. It is urged by them that a six-hours’ day, with two shifts of six hours each,instead of three of eight hours each, is necessary, in order that the mines may remain idle for a certain period every day, and thus allow the fumes of the fracteur that is utilized in bringing down the ground, to be pumped out, as well as to give time for the lead dust to settle so that the men will not have to inhale it. Under the old system of three shifts of eight hours each per day, it is impossible to properly ventilate the mines and to allow the lead dust to settle. In Broken Hill the week’s work commences at midnight on Sunday and goes on continuously for the round of the clock each day until mid-day Saturday. Honorable members will realize that the night shift commencing duty on Sunday at midnight has a far better chance, from a health point of view, than has any shift following it, since the mines have been idle from 12 noon on the previous day. During this time the mines can be ventilated; the foul air can be pumped out and fresh air pumped in, while at the same time the lead dust has an opportunity to settle. It is claimed by the men that every shift should have the same chance. That can be secured only by working two shifts of six hours each per day, so that the mines remain idle for twelve hours out of twenty-four. The proposed abolition of the night shift is bound up with this objective. With a six-hours day the men would be able to have at least two hours per day in the open air, and thus be able to clear their lungs of the foul air from the fracteur fumes inhaled by them while underground. In the face ofthe medical testimony that a man working in an ordinary stope at Broken Hill is, so to speak, “ settled “ in five years, surely it is sheer callousness on the part of the Government to refuse even aRoyal Commission of inquiry. Not one member of the Government party has attempted to induce the Cabinet to inquire into this matter. They are prepared, while still drawing their dividends, to allow the men to starve and then to accuse them of starving their own women and children.
In the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday last the following cablegram appeared: -
Europe Looks to Broken Hill
London, 4th March
The city editor of the Times states that the impaired lead production of America, Spain, and Mexico makes Europe more dependent than ever on Broken Hill. A resumption of operations there, he says, is urgent to prevent a grave scarcity after the long strike, which is probably an Australian record. He adds that it is to be hoped that the labour difficulties will be bridged in the near future, otherwise the lead-manufacturing industries will be placed in a serious position.
A further cablegram published in the same issue is as follows: -
The Times financial expert states that the position in regard to lead is grave. Europe is more than ever dependent upon the resumption of operations at Broken Hill. If the work is not resumed there, there will be a great scarcity. Unless the strike differences are speedily adjusted, it will lead to manufacturing industries being placed in a. serious position.
Europe, we are told, is crying out for lead. The miners on the Barrier are appealing for a chance to improve their health, and prolong their lives and those of their children. The world wants the lead, and I want to know from the Government why every request I have made for the contracts between the Imperial Government and the mining companies of Broken Hill to be laid on the table of the House has been refused on the ground that it would be against Imperial policy to do so. I desire to know what influence is at work. Who is controlling the Government? Who is it that will not allow the Government to move in the desired direction? I believe it is the people mentioned in the book published recently by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). It is the people of the kingdom of Shylock. The mining magnates and financial institutions, and not honorable members opposite, are the real Government of Australia. They will not allow the Government to move in the direction that we ask. The workers of the Barrier and their children are to be crucified unless the men themselves will go back to work in the mines under conditions which mean the sacrifice of their own lives and those of their children. I tell the Government and the Committee that the workers of the
Barrier are not going to return to the mines until they have extended to them some of the much-prated-about British fair play. These men want an impartial inquiry into the conditions prevailing there. A Royal’ Commission appointed by the Government of New South Wales conducted an investigation in 1914, and its testimoney is absolutely damning to the mining companies; yet nothing has been done to improve the conditions. Time after time the men are forced to strike for better conditions, and to sacrifice themselves and ‘their children to the wolves of starvation. They are forced now to appeal for help to their working brothers and sisters throughout the Commonwealth. As for ourselves we receive £600 a year, and some honorable members do not know what it is to be out of work and out of funds. Some of us, on the other hand, do know what it means. I intend, as long as the strike lasts, to devote more . attention outside Parliament to the work of relieving the necessities of these people who are putting up a splendid fight for their rights, and I am convinced that with the support of the humanitarian people of Australia we shall yet force the Government to- do something. We shall force them to have an inquiry, and until justice is done not an ounce of lead will be produced, no matter what the necessities of Europe may be. bv the miners at Broken Hill.
.- No serious objection can be taken to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) by any one who realizes how very far we have drifted from the correct attitude of representative government. It was somewhat ungracious for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to commence his speech yesterday with a sneer at the futility of Parliament, since, undoubtedly, the length of rope given him by his party, and therefore by Parliament, was granted largely because of a feeling of patriotism and a confidence in the ability of the Prime .Minister, about which, I must confess, I have had all along some serious doubts. His handling of the present position, I think, fully justifies me in still entertaining those doubts. The right honorable gentleman went on to complain of the time that was being wasted in this debate. Almost three weeks of more or less valuable time, he said, -had been wasted, and he was very anxious- to push on with the work that had been waiting so long the attention of the Parliament. This right honorable gentleman who thus takes exception to a waste of time extending over three weeks is the very individual who packed off the last Parliament to the country without the slightest justification, and thus wasted three months. One of the most necessary steps to be taken by this Parliament is to prevent itself being sent prematurely and improperly to the country by any one individual, whether he be Prime Minister or Governor-General of the Commonwealth. Even already the threat of dissolving Parliament has been whispered round. What is more, it has even been shouted aloud, if a newspaper may be said to shout through its leading columns. Members of Parliament should resent these threats, and if they feel as I do, they will take steps to protect the Legislature from improper influences of this kind.
I feel sure that this debate will serve a very useful purpose in indicating to the Government the necessity of taking heed of those matters about which honorable members have talked so long and done so little. The country expected that the Tariff would have been dealt with by the last Parliament, for if the Government was pledged to anything, it was undoubtedly pledged to a revision of the Tariff. But in spite of the work that had to be undertaken - that was crying out to be performed - Parliament was sent to the country by the Prime Minister, for no other reason than the furtherance of his own political interests. I say, again, that that is a power which ought not to be exercised in this or any other democratic Parliament by any one individual. We ought to go to the country only when our proper time comes, or, failing that, only when by a majority of the members of the House it is felt desirable that the people should be consulted. At any rate, Parliament ought to be master of its own destinies in this regard during its term of existence. To an old parliamentary hand like myself, who realizes how often members have been “brought to heel,” it appears high time to secure that Parliament shall retain to itself power to determine when it will go to an election at any other time than when its natural term of life has expired.
– Would you not push that idea a little further?
– I think I .have pushed it far enough, even for my honorable friend, who has intelligence enough to grasp what I mean. Of what was said from the various platforms in the Eastern States during the election campaign I have not a very correct idea; but in Western Australia we heard echoes of some great sectarian issue that was being determined. 1 am very glad to say that we had very little of that in my own State, whatever may have been the state of affairs elsewhere. Speaking for myself, I had to go very largely on a policy of my own, because, except for the voluminous promises of the Prime Minister, which I could hardly echo in view of past experience, there was nothing else. It is just possible that in going to the country the Prime Minister had an idea of getting rid of some folks like myself, who had occasionally spoken rather too frankly of some of the faults and imperfections of the Government, and even of the faults and imperfections of the head of the Government. But it is one of the most singular happenings in the whole course of my political career that, after having a Nationalist opponent put up against me, with the object of pushing me aside, I should not only be returned to this House, but am actually the Government majority. I hope that, under the circumstances, I shall be given credit for some little generosity.
– I do not mind saying that if the Government take your vote after this speech they can accept my amendment!
– I hope to make my position quite clear before I sit down, even to the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams), who seems to have some mistiness about it in his mind at the present, time. However, as I was saying, a train was being laid to get me out of the Perth seat for a good many months before the election took place. First of all, a General at work, not at the Front, but, I believe, in London, was approached with the suggestion that he should come forward as a candidate. He made a few inquiries, and decided that he would not take up the task. A second person, an ex-member of the State House - and a very estimable gentleman in every way, who, probably, would have made a very strong candidate - was approached to contest the seat with me, but he also declined. Then a third gentleman, was approached, and undertook the job, and undoubtedly put up a very good fight. He, however, “gave the show away “ quite honestly, by stating to his friends that he was being brought forward by Senator Pearce in order to get rid of the present occupant of the seat. Of course, Senator Pearce denied this ; but a gentleman who could lie so brazenly as he did about his projected trip, to Europe, as honorable members will recollect, would have very little compunction, indeed, in denying a fact of that kind. However, as I say, I am back here again, and I am prepared to give the Government every assistance to carry out the numerous promises they have made since I bade them “ Good-bye “ to contest the last election.
It has been suggested that that election was a victory for the Government; but, even so, it was rather a doubtful victory, on which I cannot congratulate the Ministry. It was a victory that does not reflect much credit on the astuteness of the Prime Minister,’ seeing that he comes back with seriously, weakened forces. One of the results of the elections, I hope, will be the restoration to this Parliament of full functions as arepresentative body charged with seeing that the Government do their duty in accordance with the wishes of the majority. So far from the election being a victory for the Government, it was, in my opinion, a victory for the National party in spite of the Government, or, to a large extent, in spite of the leadership of the Government.
I have been surprised since I came back to the eastern States to find, not only amongst my friends opposite, and their supporters, but in all classes of society, a general opinion that the Leader of the Government (Mr. Hughes) has outlived his usefulness. I, of course, have held the opinion all along that, as the Leader of the party, he never had any particular usefulness to outlive, and now the general feeling of the community, and of his party, is exactly the feeling of the American backwoodsman who gripped a catamount ‘ on one occasion, and immediately found that his great anxiety was bow to get rid of the critter.” That, I believe, is the attitude of the country towards the present Leader of the Government; and I am sure, also, that there are not a few members of the National party in the House to-day who realize with me that his leadership has not been of any advantage to the community, but has in many ways placed it in a false and humiliating position.
Although I am going to vote to-night with my friends of the National party, I wish it to be distinctly understood that, in doing so, I am voting for the National cause, and that I shall endeavour, with the members of the National party, to see that the Ministry come up to my expectations in regard to the work that has to be performed. I shall continue to give the Government) the benefit of my advice, and even of my criticism; and I am pleased to find, for once in my life, that I am in a position in which my voice may be of some little effect.
So far as my own State is concerned, in addition to my duty to the country at large, I shall probably be heard speaking in its interest in more than one matter. I shall endeavour, for instance, to secure that over-sea vessels trading between Western Australia and the eastern ports shall still be allowed to carry on the small amount of trading that has been permitted them in the past, especially in view of the fact that the Inter-State shipping is still unable to cope with the requirements of trade at the present time. It seems an ill-chosen moment for the proclamation of that portion of the Navigation Act which affects those vessels ; and I shall do my utmost to prevent such an interference with the Western Australian trade from coming into effect.
Then there is the prohibition of the exportation of base metals from Western Australia. I am glad to find that a certain amount of relaxation is to be allowed to those persons in that State - both capitalists and workers - who have been so “‘hard hit” by the war-time regulation which prevents the direct exportation of base -metals. If there were some justification for the prohibition in the war period, there has been none since the war ended. Until lately, at any rate, the Government gave every indication of maintaining that grip on the Western Aus- tralian base metal industry which has been so seriously crippled by it in the past. If the Government are wise, they will realize that, as soon as possible, this and all other restrictions upon the trading capacity of Australia must be put an end to ; and I am glad to hear that, among the members of the Country party and the National party, there is a generallyexpressed hope that the Government will do away with as many as possible of the war restrictions, which, while tolerated during the war, are quite unnecessary at the present time.
There is one suggestion that I have read with amusement, and it is a suggestion which has been repeated in the House, namely, that the recent election has blotted out all the past record of the Government - that the Government begin with a clean sheet, and that we have no right whatever to recall any of their mistakes in the past. I am afraid that “ won’t work “ quite as effectively as might be wished. We cannot blot out the very heavy expenditure piled up by the Government; we have to pay for that sooner or later. Mistakes were made by the Government during the war which will remain a blot upon the history of Australia ‘ for all time. There has been a series of blunders, and of worse than blunders as they appear to careful onlookers, in regard to the administration which reflects very gravely upon the responsibility of Parliament and the ability of Ministers. Since the present Prime Minister has been at the head of the Government his ideal in regard to the appointment of Ministers is expressed by Lord Melbourne’s statement concerning the Order of the Garter, “ that there was no damned merit about it.” I am afraid that in the filling of offices by the present Prime Minister there has been very often no consideration of merit at all.
– That is why the honorable member is supporting the Government.
– lt is not; it is why I am trying to get from the Government as much efficiency as possible. I wish to give them the benefit of my advice and my little experience, and if they do not take it I may have to reconsider the position I take up.
Another trouble that looms ahead is the financial situation. Any person who lives at the rate of ,£1,000 a year while his income is only £400 will inevitably find himself in insolvency before long. That is approximately the position of the Commonwealth at the present time, and although the ‘Ministry have shown some little desire to meet the wishes of the country and to carry out their pledges in regard to economy, their actions still fall a long way short of the necessities of the situation. I read with regret that the Prime Minister stated that after him and his Ministry would come the deluge. When the right honorable gentleman takes that view it is the duty of the House to make up its mind to avert that deluge if possible. There is only one way to do it, and that is by all honorable members and the House collectively realizing their responsibilities, particularly in regard to the financial situation, and’ determining that as soon as possible we shall make both sides of the ledger balance. lt will be a very heavy task, but not an impossible one. In this connexion I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is going to Europe, and is taking with him the permanent head of the Treasury. How we are going to get along in regard to financial reform in the absence of those gentlemen, I do not know, for I cannot see amongst the present Ministry any one in whom I have a great deal of confidence to handle the financial situation. But the position must be faced, if not by the Ministry, then by the party supporting them, and in the last resort by Parliament itself. I hope we shall all realize our responsibilities in that regard.
I have just a word to say with regard to profiteering. To hear the Prime Minister express his anxiety to deal with profiteering now after having allowed his power under the War Precautions Act to lie dormant is somewhat amusing. It is a long time since I made suggestions to “v member of the Government which, if they had been carried out, would, I believe, have had an excellent effect in putting an end to much of the profiteering. But just before the last Parliament was prorogued, in a debate that took place on this matter, I was rash enough, or, at any rate, took a risk which, perhaps, no layman should take in matters of law, to attempt to indicate that this Parliament had a considerable amount of power to deal with profiteering. I was therefore more , than delighted to find during the late election campaign that, perhaps, the greatest authority on constitutional matters affecting the Commonwealth, Sir John Quick, had published a volume in which he had stated his opinion that undoubtedly the Government had powers under the present Constitution to deal with profiteering to a large extent. I ask the Government why they do not use those powers, or, if they believe they have not got them, why they do not put the issue to the test? I can- assure them that however profiteering may be disposed of in an off-hand way in, some quarters, the question is becoming a live one with the general community. Wherever one goes amongst the middle classes, he will find bitter complaints regarding the inordinate increase in the prices of many of the common household necessities, and I warn the Government that for the first time in the history of Australia, the middle classes are seriously considering their attitude towards their present political leaders. They are making up- their minds that something must be done to put an end to profiteering, and if the National Government will not do it, they can take my word that those people will not hesitate to vote for any other party from which they think they will get the relief to which they are entitled. The way in which the middle classes have stood behind every Liberal and National Government, voting solidly for them, and, as a rule, asking for no favours but only ordinary fair play, is almost pathetic. Now many of them are beginning to realize that they are not getting fair play, and it is about time the Government and their supporters became wide awake to the seriousness of the situation, because undoubtedly if the middle classes desert the National party and the Government there will be no hope whatever for- them. Unless something is done to make the living of the community a little more tolerable than it is at present, the Government may expect at least that the solid support accorded to Nationalists and Liberals in the past will be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the amendment. The arguments advanced by the honorable member for Perth t (Mr. Fowler) were sufficiently grave to compel me to vote against the Government on this matter.
I paid particular attention to the speech of the honorable gentleman, which was very eloquent, and certainly condemned the Government in every way. He accused the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) of incompetence, and of being an absolute failure as a Leader; he condemned the whole of the Ministry, and concluded by saying that he. could see no one amongst the Ministers in- whom he had sufficient confidence to intrust to him the care of the finances during the absence of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt). The honorable member told us how the Government had bungled in the past, and he related many of their sins of omission and commission, and wound up by saying that he would vote for them once again. He told us that the Prime Minister had . been instrumental in putting the country to enormous expense by hurrying forward a general election. “ But,” said he, “ I will give him another opportunity to go to the country.” One fact that appeals to me more than anything else is that the honorable member had set himself up as the dividing range in this House. The only suggestion I can make to him is that to-morrow morning he should put his vote up to public auction, the highest bidder to become the purchaser. He distinctly told us that he was opposed to the Government in regard to everything the” have done, and vet he is quite satisfied to support them.
– I distinctly said I would vote with the National party, to which I belong.
– The honorable member said that it was his intention to effect, if possible, reforms in the financial administration, and to raise the Parliament to a greater efficiency than it has hitherto displayed. I suggest that the honorable member be designated henceforth “ the Minister for Efficiency.”
Everybody recognises that the amendment before the Chair is a direct vote of censure on the Government because of their maladministration, extravagance, aDd their many sins during the last four and a-half years. While the opportunity presents itself, I desire to refer to a few matters of vital concern. The first is the Treasurer’s projected visit to the Old Country. I take it that in the ordinary course of events this House would have an opportunity of discussing the honorable gentleman’s mission abroad.
We were told that the Treasurer is going to London because the Commonwealth is practically on the verge of bankruptcy, and it is necessary to make certain arrangements in connexion with finance, also immigration, which has been spoken of for some considerable time. I should like to know what immigration policy the Treasurer proposes to adopt; whether he intends to flood this country with people from Great Britain under our present conditions, or whether something will first be. done to improve the state of affairs here. Before we embark upon any immigration policy we should throw open :the avenues of production, and find employment for the people who are already here, and to accomplish this we must see that more land is made available. Australia is not in such a flourishing condition as to be capable of absorbing any considerable influx of population from overseas. As a matter of fact, quite a large number of people are unemployed at the present time. I sincerely hope that we shall not be face to face with any grave unemployment problem in this connexion in the near future as the outcome of the Treasurer’s representations in London on this subject. Thousands of men and women, quite willing to work, cannot obtain employment in Australia now.
– And many employers want men, but cannot get them.
– I know of none, and I have studied the industrial position fairly well. There may be isolated cases of dangerous or unhealthy employment which is not attractive to men; but, speaking generally, the unemployed question is becoming a menace. Tt is necessary, therefore, that the whole of our own population should be secured in employment before we start to fill Australia with immigrants from overseas.
I desire now to refer to the statement made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in connexion with the manufacture of rifle3 at Lithgow. It appeal’s to me that the honorable member takes every opportunity available to him to criticise the Lithgow workshops. I have heard him repeatedly make statements that are far from favorable to that establishment. He said to-day that the. rifles manufactured at Lithgow were not used at all on active service; and he is very anxious to know their cost. I have no objection to the cost being disclosed, but I do object ;to his condemnation of the rifles, because they were used by men on active service and were highly spoken of.
– In Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine, and Syria.
– They were used for firewood in Gallipoli.
– Men who belonged to the honorable member’s own party have informed me they did use the rifles.
– The pattern was changed.
– I understand that originally the rifles were designed to use the mark 6 ammunition, and that subsequently the pattern was changed so that mark 7 ammunition could be used.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– If the rifles were used for firewood on Gallipoli, as stated by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby), then all I can say is that it was most extraordinary, because I know men who used the rifles, and spoke most favorably of them. I trust, therefore, the honorable member for Dampier will not persist in ‘these wild and extravagant statements which are calculated to prejudice the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, the employees in the industry, and, in a measure, are a censure on the Minister responsible for their manufacture.
All honorable members who have taken part in this debate seem to be agreed that more production is the solution of all our present difficulties, but they seem to have concentrated their atten<tion upon the need for increasing primary production. In my judgment, there are certain important secondary industries, notably oil, iron, wool, cement, and lime, to which attention might well be given. Shale oil production under efficient Government supervision should become a flourishing industry. This appears to be impossible under private control, largely because of outside influences. In 1914 a Commission was appointed to inquire into this particular industry. At that time the Commonwealth Oil Corporation was in existence, and I think the amount expended in the development of the shale-oil deposits amounted to about £1,250,000. The shale area is estimated at about 200 square miles, and the seams, which average from 2 feet to 4 feet in thickness, produce from about SO to 120 gallons to a ton. It has been stated that owing to the low price of benzine and kerosene hitherto, the deposits could not be worked profitably, but as there are from seventy-five to eighty by-products from shale oil, and as the price of benzine and kerosene has increased very considerably of late years, it is highly probable that the deposits in the Wolgan Valley could now be profitably developed. Mr. John Pell, an expert in the oil industry, stated before the Commission that it was possible to produce oil at ls. 6d. per gallon. On present prices he would be receiving about 35s. per case, and perhaps more with the bounty. I remind the Government that this industry is in operation but under somewhat loose management, and that a more satisfactory development could be expected under Government control. The business could then be run for the benefit of the whole community and -not for the benefit of the American Oil Trust. The same remarks hold good in connexion with the iron and cement industries. Prior to the war corrugated iron could be purchased at £30 per ton. During the war it rose to £95, and I understand it can be manufactured at Lithgow for £30 per ton and show a reasonable profit. AH the raw material is close at hand, and the facilities are available for its manufacture there. I hope the Government will take some action in connexion with this industry.
I am sorry the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) is not present, because I wish now to say something concerning the position of discharged transport and naval wireless telegraphists. When these men were, ‘ engaged their term of service was governed by an agreement, which stated that they were engaged for the voyage from Australia and return, and any other voyage they might be required by the chairman of .the Australian Naval Board to make during the existence of a state, of war. These men informed me that they have received no recognition as naval wireless telegraphists. They were in the danger zone. They were also bound by certain regulations which the Naval Board brought into operation. Some among them had put in two, and three, and four years of war service, and yet they were discharged and received no recognition. They have not even got a badge - not that a badge will do them very much good. From the statements which I have received it appears that from time to time they have made applications to the Naval authorities, but have received no satisfaction. They have asked to be granted some form of recognition of their services. I understand that they will not even be able to participate in the war gratuity.
– Does the honorable member refer to men who saw service in Rabaul and the other islands 1
– My complaint refers to discharged transport and naval wireless telegraphists. They have certainly served outside of Australia; they could not be classed as Home Service men. They took the same risks and bore the same responsibilities as the ordinary troops. But they are a lone body and have been granted neither badge nor certificate to demonstrate that they took an active part in the war. I bring their complaint under the direct attention of the Minister for the Navy, and hope he will take steps to adjust their legitimate grievance.
Another matter on which I desire to make some comments has to do with war pensions. I have repeatedly made applications for invalid pensions in the expectation that the moment an application was made the applicant would be legitimately entitled te a pension. I have applied to the Department concerned, but have received answers to the effect that the applicants concerned were not permanently incapacitated. It appears that, although a returned man may be condemned for the remainder of his life to getting about on one leg, or with one arm, the medical referee will not certify that he is permanently incapacitated. The result is that a pension cannot be granted.. I have personally known cases where men have lost one limb or another, or the sight of an eye, and have failed to secure a pension because the medical referee would not grant a certificate. Why cannot the authorities grant a temporary pension, to hold good until such time as the pensioner is able to secure suitable employment? There would be no diffi culty in the police authorities making occasional inquiries. They could notify the Registrar of Pensions that the pensioner concerned had secured employment after which the pension could be taken away. No honorable member will say that a man who has lost a limb is in a position fairly to compete with an ordinary man. No one will say, either, that an individual bereft of an arm or a leg is not entitled to a pension. But, no matter what arguments may be adduced, the medical referee will not certify to the total incapacitation of injured men of this type. I know a returned man who has one leg and a portion of a hand, and has lost an eye. He cannot secure a pension because he is able to get about and eat his meals. No one will employ, him, however, because he is obviously not in a condition to undertake work in equal competition with a man possessed of all hia limbs. I appeal to the Government to give more generous consideration inregard to invalid pensions.
– I intend to content myself on this occasion with an expression of regret that honorable members in the corner should have signified their entrance into Parliament as an independent party by taking a course of action which could be considered in no other way than as a distinct challenge, which must be accepted by the Government and regarded as a motion of want of confidence. I can quite believe that the members of the Country party had no intention, as a whole, of having their attitude interpreted in that manner. Nevertheless, their amendment was couched in. the plainest terms; it was launched, in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), in quite an aggressive fashion. The honorable member betrayed a narrowness of vision altogether inappropriate in a representative of the great producing interests of this country. The interests of primary production are so big, so momentous, so inseparable from the progress and prosperity of the nation that they commend themselves to the consideration, not of a section, but of the whole community. It was refreshing to listen to my old friend the honorable member for Franklin in his new role. He spoke with great gusto, although he had very carefully committed his speech to paper, and read it. It was obviously his intention to give the impression to people who did not know otherwise that he was introducing something absolutely new, in the shape of a party which had constituted itself the watchdog of the interests of production, and of the farming community generally. The honorable member was ungenerous, also, in that he posed as practically the only useful man in this Parliament during the past. He alone had done this, that and the other; and he had not either the courtesy or the policy to admit any good in anybody but’ himself. The only new thing revealed in his speech was that marvellous light which he intended to create, and which was to penetrate to the interior of the continent, and radiate from sea to sea and from shore to shore. I wonder that he did not say, unto the ends of the earth ; I suppose that that stage would come later, however. I remind the honorable member, and would inform new honorable members, that in previous Parliaments there have been representatives of the people who have stood for all that those now in the Corner party are pleading.
– But they did not get results.
– I will give the honorable member some idea of the results which they achieved. There are honorable members in the Country party with whom I hope to have pleasant and profitable intercourse during the life of this Parliament. They are men of wider vision than was indicated by the very carefully prepared speech of their honoured Leader. I am quite sure that when we come to know each other they will realize that many of the older members have for years past desired more unity and consolidation rather thai; disintegration in respect to keeping careful watch over the producing interests of this country. The idea of a. Country party is not a new one. Twenty-five years ago. when I entered the South Australian Parliament, there was a Country party in active being. It was not a party of narrow vision ; it did not create itself an exclusive body within the Parliament, but it put up such a record of reform in regard to agriculture and production generally as has never since been equalled in Australia. That party sat behind the Go vernment of the day, just as this Corner party is supposed to sit behind the Government. . The members of the Coun- try party in almost every instance announced to the electors last year that they would support the Government until there was reason for withdrawing their support. I submit with the greatest kindness and sympathy that such reasons do not exist at this moment, and that the statement of the Prime Minister was of such a character as to furnish an assurance that what they desire is a very proper request, and would be conceded. The Prime Minister has stated very clearly-
– But you have a majority.
– I am not concerned about majorities, but am more particularly interested in many vital questions that should be considered at the earliest possible moment. In the first place, let me inform my honorable friend that the question of economy is one that has been pursued by many of us for a long time, and by me during the last tea years continuously.
– Is that what has made you bald-headed?
– It was quite enough to make any one baldheaded, especially during the period between 1910 and 1913, when the great orgy of finance was rampant, and from the effects of which this country has not yet been delivered. We have continuously aud persistently worried Governments year after year to effect economies, and the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) have been amongst the most persistent critics in this respect. They know perfectly well that there have been some results.
– Does the honorable member stand by the speech he made in Adelaide about three weeks ago?
– I stand by every word of it, and that speech is an expression of my conduct in this House during the last ten years. I stand as strongly for those .principles to-day as ever, and at- the proper time I shall deal with them more fully. I wish to make it clear to the members of the Country party in particular that I desire to deal with bigger issues in the interests of the producers, and to show that consideration of this year’s Estimates at the earliest possible moment is not the only question of importance. Let me inform’ honorable members, especially the new members, that in response to continuous appeals for economy a Commission of outside experts was appointed to inquire into the Naval and Defence Departments. We also succeeded in arranging a Commission of inquiry to investigate the Federal Capital, with the result that further waste of public money has ceased. We were also successful in curtailing the expenditure of public money on Naval Bases until, as a result of the war, the Government had more reliable information as to what was necessary in the interests of the country. There is also the prospect of further light being thrown on questions of vital importance such as the Northern Territory, but one cannot deal with that at length as the matter is sub judice. The Government have also decided to appoint a Board of Management of business experts to inquire into and control the public Departments of the Commonwealth Service. I have no hesitation in saying that, whilst some Departments are exceptionally well directed and conducted, there are others in which great improvements can be effected. There was never greater need for expert business men to have authority to organize and control public expenditure in con nexion with our Commonwealth services than at present. We recall the remarks of the British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George), who, when confronted with a similar problem in Great Britain, said that if heads of public Departments did not do their work efficiently, he would secure some one else to do it for them.
– -‘The honorable member will be up against them before they are in office a month, and it will serve him right.
– Probably the honorable member has no more regard for public expenditure than he had in 1910 and 1913.
The Government are anxious to proceed with the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill, an amendment of the Repatriation Act, and a Tariff Bill. Although it is generally admitted that the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill should be one of the first measures to be dealt with by this Parliament, I think it is desirable that the amending Repatriation Bill should first be considered. Before the Tariff is introduced there is another matter of great importance that should be discussed, because the Protective Tariff that has been in force during the war period is likely to continue for another year or two. 1 refer to the question of industrial unrest, and the necessity for a complete revision of our arbitration and conciliation laws. The industrial situation is one of the most pressing questions with which this country is faced, and even Labour supporters are saying that the country is drifting to ruin. Many of our industrial leaders have freely admitted that the Arbitration Courts of this country have been a lamentable failure, and so they have. Reference has been made to the action of the Government in using certain powers in connexion with the engineer’s strike when they were never intended for such a purpose. But when men become industrial outlaws, and threaten the liberty and well-being of this country, firm action is necessary, and it is regrettable that Parliament has not embodied in our Statutes a permanent power to deal with such disputes. In the absence of such authority, the Government would not have been worthy of their position had they not used the powers they possessed to grapple with a problem which was really an aftermath of war. The Act under which the proclamation was issued was framed to deal with enemies abroad, and no exception can be taken to the Government for putting it into force to deal with enemies within. In 1917 the Prime Minister said that effective legislation would be introduced to deal with this question, but that has not been done.
So far as the producing interests are concerned, my particular concern is in considering the possibilities of a future outlet for our produce.
– Is not the honorable member considering the next election?
– I do not trouble about elections, although I do not court them. When I am facing the electors I tell them exactly what I think, and that is why I am here to-day against all comers.
When the present Pools are dissolved, and normal conditions return, we want to insure an outlet for all our produce. We have to remember that for a considerable time we have given Great Britain a generous preference, and properly so, too. That preference should not only be continued, but extended, and it is time we regarded it as a business deal. There should be some return and some reciprocal consideration on the part of the Imperial authorities, which, up to the present, has not been forthcoming. In connexion with meat, dairy, and other produce, we have never been on even terms with the producers in America and in the Argentine.
– I was called disloyal when I made a similar statement.
– There is nothing disloyal about it - it is the essence of loyalty. Every one is speaking of a self-contained Empire, and surely after what this country has done in giving, as she did, the flower of her manhood to help to secure a victorious peace, she is entitled to more consideration. Surely a British community that has done so much, and whose soldiers have been praised by the Imperial authorities, should be at least on even terms in the markets of the Old World with the producers of America and of the Argentine. This opens up a very complex question. I know the power of the American Meat Trust, and its ramifications through the industries of Great Britain. It can never be properly and effectively dealt with until the Imperial Government steps in and, in concert with the Governments of the Dominions of the Empire, provides for preference to their products over those of countries outside the Empire. I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is going to London, because no better man could handle this question. I am a Britisher, and love my country beyond everything else; but it is not inconsistent to say that if we cannot get the sympathetic consideration from the Imperial Government which we should get, we will get it from the British people, who only need to be educated on the subject to be of our way of thinking. I hope that the visit of the Treasurer to London, reinforcing the work done by the Prime Minister when there, will result in the establishment of preference within the
Empire, and that Australia House will cease to be merely an ornament and will become a great trading centre.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has explained to us that Australia has not had a fair deal in the sale of her products to Britain, and I ask what he did as a representative of the producing interests to see that Great Britain gave for our products at least as good a price as she paid for those of other countries.
If there was bungling and maladministration, or worse than that which took place in connexion with thesale of our wool, it was in connexion with the sale of our wheat crops. It must be borne in mind that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) did not act in ignorance in these matters, for he was in London for approximately half the period of the war. He was away from this country from January to August, 1916, and again from April, 1918, to August, 1919. He knew perfectly well the price of wheat in the markets of the world, and yet permitted the Australian crops to be sold to Britain at a most disastrous sacrifice. This was done at a time when, we were told, the primary producers enjoyed representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. If they did, their representatives abused their trust in the most outrageous fashion.
In the Budget-papers which were laid on the table on the 8th October last, I find the following table: -
According to these Government figures, 108,476,000 bushels of wheat were received from the Australian farmers and delivered to the Wheat Pools, but could not be accounted for.
Senator Pratten, using the returns of the Australian Wheat Board, proved that 24,000,000 bushels were missing prior to the publication of the tables I have read, and showed that 6,000,000 bushels were missing in New South Wales alone, it being admitted that in that State in all probability the deficiency would amount to at least 10,000,000 bushels. He showed by an analysis of the figures of the Pool that on 19th August, 1919, Australian wheat scrip was quoted above its market value to the amount of £506,393, which meant that, following on the confiscation of the Government and the coercion applied under the War Precautions Act, the stock-jobbers who were trafficking in wheat scrip had inflated its value by their gambling on the Stock Exchange. Mr. Barton, an accountant of the Wheat Board in New South Wales, stated that he found that £608,000 had been paid in excess to scrip dealers for 1916-17 scrip. He said that the mouse plague cost £1,780,000 in wheat lost, and that the damage to other wheat brought the loss to £2,389,000. Those figures relate to New South Wales wheat alone. The discrepancy at the lower figure of 24,000,000 bushels estimated by Senator Pratten, represents a loss, valuing the wheat at the lowest mark, the confiscatory price paid by the Government, of £6,500,000.
I explained ‘at St. Arnaud in March, 191S, that I knew of offers for Australian wheat at 12s. 6d. per bushel, Chicago, which were refused in the middle of 1916. The American wouldbe purchasers, representatives of Armours, offered to provide freight to transport the wheat to America. ‘It was estimated that the cost of landing in Chicago would be about 2s. 6d. per bushel, and, for a very considerable parcel of wheat this would have netted 10s. per bushel to the Australian farmer. However, the offer was turned down, and our wheat was sold at from 4s. to 4s 9d. per bushel, f.o.b.
At this time the Prime Minister was pretending to the Australian farmers that they were getting the full market price, for their wheat. The Australian farmer has never received the full price for bis wheat from the outbreak of the war, but has been unmercifully robbed to the extent of at least £50.000,000, as I shall prove.
– If you knew what you were talking about you would know that the Australian Wheat Board, and not the Prime Minister sells the wheat
– The Prime Minister himself made these sales, and has said so himself time after time. My honorable friend can excuse himself to his constituents in any way he likes for sitting behind the Government and agreeing to everything they have done, including the suppression of information under the War Precautions Act, but I shall give the honorable member incontrovertible evidence from Ministers in . the British Parliament,, who admitted that our wheat had been sold to Great Britain at an absolute sacrifice, and that they were paying better prices to every other country in the world from which wheat was brought.
Mr. Prothero, Chairman of the British Board of Agriculture, speaking in the House of Commons on 7th February; 1917, said-
The Australian farmers had sacrificed their profits to feed Britain.
Who authorized this Government to sacrifice the welfare of the Australian farmers to feed Britain? We were never informed of that in this Parliament.
May I remind the honorable member who just interjected of the book recently issued by the great London publishers, Fisher, Unwin, and Co., and entitled Mr. Hughes, in which that gentleman is described as “ the instrument of the great English profiteers.” Mr. Prothero, speaking on behalf of the British Government, in the House of Commons on 8th February, 1917, said -
We have made in times past an appeal, for instance, to India, to Australia, and, indeed, to Canada, to send us their wheat at a lower price than they would get in the world’s market, because we are their own kith and kin, and they have done so. Last year, I believe, an approach was made to Canada. It was made too late, and they did not come into the proposal, but two very prominent Canadian farmers told me this. They said - “ We should object to taking less than the market price so long as the British farmer -sticks to his price, and takes all the war profits which he can get.”
Mr. Outhwaite said in the House of Commons, as reported in the British Hansard for 16th March, 1917, that-
The Australian farmers last year (1916) were paid 4s. a bushel, or 32s. a quarter for their wheat, whilst the British farmers were guaranteed from 64s. to 80s. - that is, 8s. to 8s. 6d.
The rate of carriage from Australia to London was from ls. Sd. to ls. lOd. per bushel, giving a London parity of about 6s. 6d. Yet this Government at that very time, with the full facts within the knowledge of the Prime Minister himself - as he was in London at the time - sold our wheat for from 4s. to 4s. 9d., when the London parity of that wheat in Australia was not less than 6s. 6d’.
Captain Bathurst, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Food, said in the House of Commons, as recorded in the British Hansard for 30th April, 1917-
Questions of this character are greatly to be deprecated, and render the negotiations for the purchase of wheat in other countries somewhat delicate and difficult.
The official report for 1917- of the British War Cabinet, which honorable members have in their possession, stated that the Ministry for Food early in 1917 fixed’ the price of wheat to the British producers at 9s. 4d. per bushel.
This would mean an Australian export parity of 7s. 6d., whereas the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) sold our wheat for a maximum of 4s. 9d., f.o.b.
On 16th July, 1917, according to the British Hansard, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry for Labour said -
Purchases of 500,000 and 3,000,000 tons of Australian wheat were made on behalf of Britain, Trance, and Italy, under contracts dated October 3, 1916, and December 4, 1916, at prices equivalent to 4s. and 4s. 9d., f.o.b.
So that our Australian wheat was not only supplied to feed Great Britain at approximately two-thirds of its market price, but the British Government also bought it for foreign countries at this immense sacrifice to the Australian producer.
Mr. Lough stated’ in the House of Commons on 24th July, 1917, that-
The Parliamentary Secretary of Shipping Control said he had bought a great deal of cheap wheat - 3,000,000 tons - in Australia; the price paid was 4s. and 4s. 9d. per bushel, and the freight was 13s. per quarter, or ls. 8d. per bushel, which, made the landed cost 6s. 3d.
At this very time they were guaranteeing to the British farmer 9s. 4d. - a deliberate robbery of the Australian farmer to the extent’ of 3s. per bushel.
Mr. Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, said, in the House of Commons, on 24th July, 1917-
The large purchases of wheat made in Australia were made on terms generous to the Australian Government and to the Australian farmer, and both got something out of it, and certainly the Australian Government got something out of it.
He also said on the same day -
The price of wheat in the United States was 2.25 dollars, or about 10s. a bushel, and the American growers were making larger profits than they ever anticipated out of the privations of Europe.
At this very time the British Government were buying wheat in America at 10s. per bushel, and paying the Canadian farmers 9s. 2d. on the farms in Manitoba, and had to deliver it themselves in the British ports.
According to the Baily Telegraph of 17th November, 1919, the Prime Minister admitted the charge that in 1917 Britain was paying the Canadian farmers 9s. 2d. on the farm at a time when it purchased Australian wheat for 4s. 9d. f.o.b., and paid a maximum of ls. lOd. per bushel in freight to London.
Even at that early stage of the game the Australian farmer was unmercifully robbed of not less than 43. per bushel.
I come now to freights. Not only was the Australian farmer unmercifully robbed direct, but when the Government obtained control of the vessels for carrying the wheat to London they doubled the prices on the Australian farmer for carrying his wheat in Government vessels, and in that way robbed him of millions of money in excess freights.
I have evidence here of wholesale misrepresentation and falsifying of the rates by the representatives of this Government. I have statements made here as to the freight upon Australian wheat, and statements made at the same time in the British House of Commons, which show that the statements made in the Australian Parliament were not true.
In the’ Melbourne Argus of 9,th October, 1919, the Prime Minister was reported to have said -
Regulated freights on British steamers were 225s. per ton, whilst uncontrolled freight was 31 os. per ton. The Commonwealth vessels, by charging only 150s. per ton, were saving the farmers from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per bushel in freight.
At this statement the Argus reported that there were enthusiastic cheers, yet in the same issue of the paper appears a statement from one of the directors of the oversea shipping interests that the freight for the carriage of wheat from Australia was only 105s. per ton. There is a discrepancy between those statements of about one-third.
In the House of Commons, Sir Leo Chiozza Money, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry for Shipping Control, stated, as reported in the British Hansard of 28th March, 1917-
Liners were being paid 70s. per ton freight for the carriage of wheat from Australia, which was Blue-Book rates, and worked out at the rate of ls. 10 1/2d. per bushel, and this was the rate being paid.
In the Australian Senate, Senator Russell, speaking as Vice-President of the Executive Council and Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, stated on 22nd May, 1918, that in August, 1916, the rate of freight for wheat to London was 95s. per ton for steamers and 120s. for sailers: that the steamer freight paid for full cargoes was 122s. 6d. per ton for the Continent in August, 1917, and that the rate at present - 22nd May, 1918 - was 150s. per ton. On the 29th May, 1918, Senator Russell stated in the Senate that the freight from Australia to Great Britain, in 1914, was from 19s. 6d. to 32s. 6d. per quarter; in 1916, 85s. ‘to 130s. per’ ton; in 1917, by Commonwealth vessels, 122s. 6d. to Prance; and in 1918, the freight by Commonwealth vessels from Australia to Great Britain was 150s. per ton.
This does not compare with the statement made by Sir Leo Chiozza Money that the price paid for the liners for carrying wheat from Australia was 70s. per ton.
Mr. Oman, the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, is reported in the Melbourne Argus, on the 12th September, 1919, to have said -
The freight charges for 1917-18 on the Commonwealth ships for wheat to London amounts to £7 10s. per ton, which means that the Australian farmer paid the capital cost of the ships. “ Our products here,” said the Minister, “ have suffered more than any other country.”
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) admitted the mild impeachment on the 6th October, 1919, by saying -
Freights on the Australian ships showed a profit in two and a half years of £2,065,000, the amount of their capital cost, and still showed a surplus of £500,000.
An expert calculation disclosed that the Prime Minister made the fanners pay 4s. per bushel for freight when, on his own showing, 2s. was ample. -He paid the whole capital cost of the ships within three years, and still is £500,000 to the good; but there is no talk of disgorging even that £500,000 to the farmers.
According to the Daily Telegraph of the 17th November, 1919, our Prime Minister gave an excuse for the small price of 5s. 6d. obtained for the last big sale of Australian wheat. He said -
I could have done better, only that Australian wool had just been sold without consulting me.
So the wheat goose had to help in paying for the whistle of the wool goose, though the latter did suffer, for its temerity, the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds.
Mr. T. Ryan, M.L.A., of Victoria, a special apologist for the Prime Minister, who had just returned from London, is reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 10th September, 1919, to have said -
Australia had not extorted 2s. or 3s. extra for wheat, as America had done.
That was an admission that Australian wheat was being sold at 2s. or 3s. per bushel less than the American price.
According to the issue of Land, the organ of the farmers and settlers of New South Wales, dated the 10th October, 1919, the price of wheat in America on the 8th August, 1919, was from 16s. 6d. to £1 per bushel, at the very time that our Prime Minister had effected a sale of Australian wheat at 5s. 6d. per bushel.
Mr. Boyd, formerly a member of this House, stated, on the 16th July, 1919, that he had evidence that Australian flour was being hawked for sale around the Balkans; and it is well known that the Balkan price for Australian wheat was 16s. per bushel.
I have not the time to refer to the eoi?/spiracy of silence by which all criticisy of the gross administration of the ‘by vernment was suppressed ; but, on the 7it]] March, 1918, a conference of Vic’ farmers was held at Ouyen, an ch so addressed by Mr. Giles, the repres affirm, of the growers on the Australian anths Board; and by Mr. Rees, M.L.C., who had just returned from London. They told the farmers of the gross and outrageous manner in which the Government were sacrificing their wheat, and of the enormous amounts that were being paid to agents - in the vicinity of £45,000 in one case, and £75,000 in another case. A report of these utterances was made, but a Military Order was issued to the editor of ‘the Ouyen Mail, instructing him not to publish the statements. I laid on the table of this House the Military Order, which went out to the Ouyen Mail and the Melbourne Age, in which any damaging criticism of the Government was absolutely suppressed under the censorship regulations issued under the War Precautions Act.
I have not the slightest doubt that if. the representatives of the producers insisted on probing the matter, and on having an inquiry, they would be amply repaid for their trouble.
Sir Joseph Carruthers, who may be looked upon as a representative of the wheat farmers, stated in the Daily Telegraph of the 31st July, 1919, that the secrecy of the Wheat Board administration had caused great sacrifice in wheat scrip.
And, according to the Daily Telegraph of the 20th September, 1919, Mr. Beeby attended a conference of farmers and made some startling disclosures, which were referred to the executive for private inquiry, because they could not be made public. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th September, 1919, the. honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), president of the Farmers Union of Victoria, said -
My tongue is tied by an understanding with regard to active developments. Information is being withheld for political reasons.
Speaking in Sydney, Mr. A. H. Pitt, manager of the Australian Wheat Board, referred to certain cables, the major portion of which were prohibited from publication, and said that the Prime Minister had made the following statement : -
If it appeared that Australian wheat could be bought other than through me, I would lose my best weapon.
The Prime Minister said something of the same kind about wool.
Evidently this policy of hush and secrecy must be followed. Everything must be done in the dark. Wheat must be sold without any press criticism. Press cables from overseas must not be allowed to see the light of day. The Prime Minister did the same with the graziers. He met them with regard to the price of meat, and made the arrangement with them that no one else was to tell the story to the public. He did the same with the soldiers’ executive about the gratuity. He went to them and said that no one must tell what was proceeding but him. Later on, they contradicted some of his statements. He made the same arrangement for secrecy with the State Premiers. He saidthat no one must tell what was happening in regard to the referenda but himself. He did the same in 1917 when he interviewed the Labour executives of Australia with regard to conscription, and as a consequence we were led to believe that something else had occurred in another part of Australia. By these means of secrecy and suppression, a great deal of the fine work has been “ put in.”
According to Sir Joseph Carruthers, the London parity for Australian wheat was at no time less than 8s. per bushel in the open market. That statement will be found in the Daily Telegraph on the 29th October, 1919. I have references in my notes to some sales of wheat up to 16s. per bushel. A portion of the Australian wheat, which has been bought by the British Government at a ridiculously low price, has been re-sold to Continental countries at huge prices, and we do not know what has become of it.
Taking the total export of Australian wheat delivered overseas at 200,000,000 bushels, and estimating it on the conservative basis of 8s., a value which is certified to by responsible men like Sir Joseph Carruthers , and Mr. Oman, the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, and supported by a mass of evidence, showing that infinitely higher prices could have been obtained, there is a difference of over £50,000,000 between what the farmers will have received when they get the whole of the money for their wheat at the ridiculously low prices at which it has been sold and what would have been rightfully theirs.
This kind of thing has occurred not merely in respect of our wool and wheat, but in respect of all our primary products, including meat, rabbit skins, jams, and metals such as gold, platinum, tin, and copper.
No wonder that the Prime Minister refuses to table the contracts under which Australian metals have been sold to Great Britain. The present is a glorious opportunity for the members of the Country party to force the Government to lay the information we seek upon the table of the House.
Every effort made by members of the Country party to improve the conditions of the Australian farmer will command my whole-hearted support. Having had some experience as secretary ‘ of a farmers’ organization, I know that the farmers, as well as the consumers, are mercilessly plundered by the middlemen profiteers, who are represented on the Government benches. If there be any natural affinity between classes, it Ls certainly to be found between the primary producers and the great body of Australian consumers, arid we must join together to cut out the plunderer and the parasite.
.- I have no desire to prolong this debate. But a great deal has been said, and figures have been quoted-, by the honorable member who has just resumed his scat, in reference to the prices which have been obtained for our wheat and other primary products. During .the latter portion of 1917 I was in New York, where I discussed with the Minister for .Shipping and Mr. Robson, who represented the British Government as grain buyer in America, this very question. Upon my return from New York I was authorized by the farmers and settlers of New South Wales to send a cable to the British Minister, offering a quantity of wheat which was then in Australia, and which wc were unable to -get away owing to the lack pf shipping. This is the cable that I despatched : -
About 100,000,000 bushels fair average qualify wheat available here. Can be bought 6s. f.o.b. See Hoover at once. Make desperate effort for shipping. Robson informed me British-American Governments were arranging ship 300,000 tons to Pacific coast to release American wheat for Europe.
At that time a discussion was proceeding between the British Minister and the British grain buyer with a view to transferring a large quantity of wheat from the Eastern States to the Pacific coast in order that American wheat might be released for Europe. Having discussed this question with, those high authorities, upon my- return I at once consulted the farmers and settlers of New South Wales with a view to disposing of some of bur surplus wheat, and I have already quoted the cable which I sent. The reply which I received was to the effect that shipping was unavailable.
– Because our ships had been sent to foreign waters to engage in profiteering.
– During the period of the war the chief trouble we were up against was our lack of shipping. Probably I have been, associated with primary undertakings in this country as long as has any honorable member of this House. My generation has been identified with primary pursuits in Australia for a hundred years, and I devote my life ‘to those who are engaged in these undertakings. I have visited, a great many countries in Europe, with a view to advancing the. true interests, of the Commonwealth, and I say at once that ‘during the early period of the war there was nobody who could advise us what we should do with our surplus products. Having completed my shearing at the time of which I speak, I found that there was neither a financial nor commercial house which could advise me whether I should keep my wool or sacrifice it, because the doubt existed in every reasonable man’s mind that our remoteness from the markets overseas precluded us from the advantages that were enjoyed by other countries. When we entered the war the essential thing for us was to win it, and we had to buy the products required to win - it at any cost. We had our munitions to provide and our soldiers to feed, and if the British Government, could send a ship to America or any other country where its requirements were available, and that vessel could make three or four trips in the time that would be occupied in accomplishing only one trip to Australia, surely it was the proper thing to so employ her. The British Government had to consider the men we had sent to win the war. They had to endeavour to save their lives by feeding them and providing them with necessary commodities.
Concerning our wool, about which so much has been said, I confidently affirm that up to three or four months ago every wool producer in this country was quite satisfied with the price that he was being- paid for it. If I sell a horse to the Acting Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Eyrie) for £25, and the honorable gentleman wins the Melbourne Cup with him, it is .useless for me to declare that he is a profiteer, because I was perfectly satisfied at the time I sold the animal: - It is equally idle for the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) to raise the question of the price that the British grower receives for his wool. The British grower was on the spot, and was thus able to negotiate in a market that we were unable to approach. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us that the daily bill for interest alone amounts to £5,000. Those who are engaged in the wool industry know that the British Government have in Australia to-day 1,500,000 bales of wool, much of which is not of the best quality. As a matter of fact, a great deal of it is of inferior quality. It is impossible, therefore, for anybody to arrive an an accurate calculation of what will be the ultimate profits of the British Government upon the re-sales of our wool. I am perfectly satisfied that .had it not been for Great Britain and the assistance she rendered us, we might not now be living under the flag which we all adore. Even if Great Britain has made something out of our wool, we should surely be grateful to her for having provided shipping to carry our produce to market and also money for our products before they were able to remove them from Australia. But for that action on the part of the British Government, what would be our position to-day? Is it not idle for any one to ask me to hold my clip for a year or two in order that I may reap the full harvest? The primary producers of Australia ought to be supremely grateful for all that has’ been done for them. I know that grave mistakes have been made, and I personally have suffered very considerably as the result of lack of judgment on the part of the Government. But I do not complain. I admit that huge mistakes have been made with regard to our wool, but I am sure honorable members will agree with me that in the circumstances those responsible for the government of Australia acted with the very best of intentions. Mistakes were inseparable from the situation. War was- an undertaking to which we were not accustomed. Without a moment’s notice this country, without any preparation, and the Government, without any knowledge of war, became involved in one of the greatest tragedies and one of the biggest undertakings the world has ever known.
I have been warned that it is wise for a new member to take an early occasion to address the House. I entered this House as a farmers’ representative-
– And the honorable member has slipped.
– Many men have slipped, and if some are not careful will probably slip again. There is no honorable member who desires more earnestly than myself that the production of this country shall be carried along proper lines. We want increased production. We were asked by the Prime Minister to produce more, and we answered his call. Eleven representatives of the farmers at all events have been returned here to do 6heir best to influence increased .production, and thus the farmers have responded to the Prime Minister’s appeal. With a knowledge of Australia from the Gulf to the southernmost part of Victoria, I am convinced that there are one or two essentials to be attended to before the production of this country can be increased. I should not like to attempt to estimate the millions of gallons of water every day rushing to the sea, which should be utilized to increase the productivity of the soil. It is useless to attempt to settle people on the land and to ask them to produce unless we give them reasonable security of ample water supply. If production has gone down - if the area under cultivation has been reduced from over 12,000,000 acres to 8,000,000 acres, it is easy to discover the reason. My own view is that a great many acres went into cultivation that should not have been cultivated.
We know that hardships are endured by the men on the land ; we know what their sufferings are. My own electorate is similar to a number of those represented by honorable members opposite, and in two Parliaments of the Commonwealth it was represented by Labour. It discovered, however, that Labour did not supply the representation it required, and so it made another choice. I believe that before very long some of the electorates responsible for the return of my honorable friends opposite will discover that Labour should not be their choice, and .that they will return men more intimately associated with primary production and more earnest in their undertakings. We shall never succeed in increasing the productivity of Australia unless we apply to production the sacred principles of knowledge. The countries which have succeeded in raising production to the highest level are at the present time the United States of America and Canada, and they have done so by the application of science to industry. I have heard more than once in this House the expression, “ Two blades of grass “ ; but the quotation has never been completed.
– The honorable member does not know the history of it.
– I do. If the honorable member will read Dean Swift he will know all about it. The full quotation is -
Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.
I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer. Whatever sins the Government may have committed I hope we shall at all events try to prevent them committing any grave sins in the future. If we are going to increase production I hope that in the very forefront of all their undertakings will be a determination to fit people to settle on the land by equipping them with the necessary knowledge for their job, as well as a determination that they shall be protected and guaranteed in complete security.
– Despite the special pleading just indulged in by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), it cannot be denied that during the war Australia was made the scapegoat, and that our primary producers consequently suffered very severely. The honorable member has declared that the lack of shipping to carry our produce to market was largely responsible for the reduced prices obtained for it, but the prices quoted by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) as having been accepted by the Government were in respect of Australian produce that had actually been landed in Great Britain. Not only were we paid less for our commodities than was Canada or any other country, but Canada received from Great Britain millions of pounds for the manufacture of munitions.
She supplied fewer men, and not ‘ the quantity of produce that Australia did, and we could never get any information as to how we. stood financially with Britain. When I said on two occasions that we were supplying munitions and accoutrements essential for an army, while Canada was not, and when the exmember for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) asked whether such a statement was correct, it was neither answered nor denied by the Government. Very little has been said about the £92,000,000 in regard to which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is going Home to make arrangements, and I cannot understand why we have not received full information. We were told in an airy-f airy way that, as to £45,000,000 out of the £92,000,000, we need not trouble about it, because it was money that had been loaned to the States, and for other commitments that had been arranged for ; but there is yet £47,000,000 still owing in regard to which no arrangements have been made. We have never been able to get from successive Treasurers a statement of the amount of money for which we have become indebted to Great Britain during the course of the war. Whom I made statements in public regarding these matters I was threatened with prosecution under the War Precautions Act, on the ground that the statements were not correct, although they really were. In 1915 I .asked the then Treasurer (Mr. Fisher), and I asked each of his successors - the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), and the late honorable member for Swan (Lord Forrest) - what it was we owed Great Britain for commitments for the Australian Forces, but could get no information; and there has been the same result in the case of the present Treasurer (Mr. Watt). Now, however, we are told that the amount is something like £92,000,000.
Economy is in the air, and the Government party, the Country party, and the Labour party are all advocating it, though the Labour party make the condition that men shall be paid proper wages for their services.
– Men in the Public Service only.
– Men outside the Public Service can get what they desire by means of strikes, whereas public servants cannot strike. It is peculiar to hear sections of the press howling economy, while, at the same time, they are every day robbing the public of Victoria by having their newspapers sent to country towns at a great loss to the railways. Then, again, we have commercial men howling economy because parcels and newspapers are not brought over by train fromWestern Australia, but by sea, because the latter is the cheaper. In my own division, I have a nice lot of old ladies and gentlemen - very estimable citizens, thoughthey are opponents of mine - and they, too, are howling economy; but when the Victorian Government economizes by putting out of commission the boat which ran between Port Melbourne and Williamstown, these ladies and gentlemen howled more than ever. As a matter of fact, both the Government supporters and the Country party advocate economy for “the other fellow.”
Since 1916 Australia has been misled and made a scapegoat of; and the reason we could not get to know what we owed was that the Government did not want the public to know what they were spending. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) has to-night quoted figures showing that, while the Canadian farmer was receiving 10s. a bushel for his wheat the Australian farmer was receiving only about 4s., . and, at the same time, the Canadian workers had hundreds of millions of pounds spent on them in the manufacturing of commodities. Yet we were told by those amongst us who “ wave the flag” that Australia was not doing her share,though, as a matter of fact, she was doing more than Canada. If the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), as a farmer’s representative, is satisfied with “what the Government have done in the past, and does not, while a member of this House, condemn the Government if it should continue as hitherto, the farmers ofNew England will not require him much longer.
I wish to know from the Government supporters and from the members of the Country party whether they are willing to accept, in the near future, another little bill for £47,000,000 of which we know nothing. If those honorable members would exercise some economy in this direction, and not only in the matter of wages, they would do more good. But, of course, if they did that, they would be only common politicians, whereas they wish to be statesmen who always talk about “the country” and the “flag under which we live.” If they gave more consideration to the people who produce commodities than they do to the “ flag “ greater benefit would accrue to the community.
Question - That the sum proposed to be reduced be so reduced - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution ofWays and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time..
.- Although there has been a lot of discussion upon the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), there has been no discussion upon the Bill itself. I know that it was the intention of some honorable members to move amendments to the Bill. Do the Government propose to endeavour to pass the Bill through all its stages to-night, or will they be content if the Bill passes to-morrow before the departure of the Inter-State trains?
– The Bill is for the purpose of enabling the Government to meet expenditure necessary to carry on the Public Service of the country, and it is essential that it be passed this evening in order that the Senate may have an opportunity of dealing with it to-morrow.
– Does that mean that we shall have to sit all night?
– I hope not. I have no information on the matter at all. The honorable gentleman has asked me a question, and I have given him my answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £5,727,180),
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [11,13]. - There is not the slightest hope of the Bill being passed before midnight, as several items have to be discussed, and therefore I am prepared to sit longer. Quite a number of items to which I object are included in the schedule of the Bill . There is, for instance, the proposed further expenditure on the Bureau of Science and Industry. We have not yet passed the Bill authorizing the establishment of that institute, and yet the Government propose to spend more money in connexion with it. There is also the expenditure for the Commonwealth Police Force, which was established at the whim of the Prime Minister. There are quite a number of other items which, in my opinion, should be dealt with in detail. There has been a very fair amount of discussion upon various aspects of the Supply Bill, but, so far, honorable members have had no opportunity of dealing with particular items. Some honorable members purposely refrained from occupying the time allowed under the Standing Orders on the original motion, and now we are expected to pass the Bill in globo granting Supply for three months, and authorizing a total expenditure of nearly £6,000,000. If there is one thing that needs to be discussed, it is the financial position of this country. In the Postal Department alone, the accumulated grievances would take a considerable amount of time to place before the new Postmaster-General, in order that some redress might be obtained. We have had a speech in general terms from the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), but no information with respect to some of the most important items in the Bill. The report of the Auditor-General discloses an unfortunate state of affairs. Certain matters referred to by him can only be elucidated in a detailed discussion on this Supply Bill. It seems, however, that, notwithstanding the protest made by honorable members of the Corner party, we are going to be subjected to the same treatment that has been meted out to us during the last five years; but if there is anysubstance at all in our protest - I am referring now to the thirty honorable members who voted against the Government in the division that has just been taken - it is about time we gave evidence of it.
– There is the proposal to spend £3,000 in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry. The Prime Minister has not yet taken honorable members into his confidence as to the future of that Bureau, although a considerable sum of money has already been spent upon it. It is about time that some concrete proposals were submitted to this Committee. If, however, honorable members are going to remain silent while millions of pounds are voted away, all that I can say is that if I were the editor of one of our metropolitan journals, I would certainly comment caustically upon the insincerity of honorable members of this House who, while protesting against the action of the Government, failed when they had an opportunity of insisting upon a scrutiny of- the finances. The Treasurer has gone. I presume we shall not see him again in this chamber for sometime. I have no doubt he is smiling at the thought of having indulged in an admirable piece of bluff, and at having left the Prime Minister to bluff honorable members a little further; because honorable members appear ready to take the lash whenever the Prime Minister cares to administer it. It is time that not only was a partial protest madeby one section, or by two sections of the House, but that such honorable members as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and others who have been loud-mouthed in their protests during the course of this debate should demonstrate the genuineness of their criticisms. It is up to them to vigorously challenge various items contained in the schedule. If they lot this opportunity slip through their fingers the Government will naturally and readily turn round and say, “ We have a meek and humble and contented set of followers.”
– Order! The honorable member is going right outside of the clause altogether.
– He has never been init.
– It appears to me, sir, that onecan discuss almost anything underthe sun when addressing himself to this clause.
– The honorable member will have ample opportunity at the proper time to discuss the various items contained in the schedule; but the opportunity is not afforded at present.
– I do not wish to fall foul of you, sir, so early in the history of this Parliament, but I beg to disagree.
– Order! Will the honorable member resume his seat.
– I see before me all the elements of an intolerable tyranny.
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to be silent when the Chairman is standing. The Chair has no desire to limit honorable members’ rights or privileges, but the honorable member for Maribyrnong ought to be well acquainted with the forms controlling discussion in Committee. This clause is for a specific purpose, and the honorable member may deal with that purpose, and with that only. He will have his opportunities to refer to other matters when the Committee is engaged upon the various items contained in the schedule. I ask him, therefore, to restrict his remarks at this present stage.
– I am aware that if I wished to challenge any item, I would be compelled to wait until it came before the Committee in the ordinary course of consideration of the schedule. Nevertheless, it appears to me that clause 2, which sets out the specific sum desired to be issued and applied, is sufficiently wide to cover all that I have hitherto said or propose to say.
– You were doing good work. That is why you were stopped.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw that statement; it is a reflection upon the Chair.
– I withdraw it.
– And I ask him not to repeat it.
– That is a direct threat.
– This clause appears to invite discussion of a general character. The first intimation that I had that the Government intended to put the Bill through followed upon the division just taken. I had felt sure that, the fate of the Government having been decided in its favour, the Prime Minister would naturally look for a little respite. It appears, however, that he intends to force an all-night sitting.
– If the honorable member can tell me, speaking as one human being to another, how this measure is to be put though both Houses by to-morrow, he will be free to go home now.
– I point out that the Government will not require to have this measure passed through the Senate tomorrow. They have until Thursday next at least to deal with it. There is no need to pay before Friday next one penny of the amount set out in the Bill. The Treasury officials will confirm that.
– I think that is a fair proposition.
– I do not know whether it is fair or not; but it is very late, and the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong have carried the conviction to my soul, and I cao see that if he intends to proceed in the way he has started we shall be here a long time. If I am given an understanding, however, that we shall get through the Bill by 4 o’clock . to-morrow afternoon I will be prepared to adjourn now.
– We will agree to that.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200311_reps_8_91/>.