8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
purchase of sugar - manufacture of Wool Tops.
.- (By leave) . - As honorable members are aware, there has existed for the past five years, between the Governments of Queensland and of the Commonwealth, an agreement whereby the Queensland Government has acquired the crop of sugar-cane grown in that State, and the Commonwealth Government has made arrangements for the refining and distribution of the sugar. Originally the price ofraw sugar was fixed at £18 per ton, 94 per cent. net titre, but during the past two years the price has been £21 per ton. It has been represented to the Government that, owing to the increased cost of production, resulting from the increase in the wages paid in the industry, which are responsible for 80 per cent. of the total cost of production, this price is now inadequate, and recently a deputation waited upon me to ask’ that it might be raised to £30 6s. 8d. per ton. This request raises a question of very grave importance to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Sugar growing is an industry which occupies a peculiar position in this country. No other industry is so directly connected with the White Australia ideal, to which all political parties, and at least 95 per cent. of the citizens of the Commonwealth, are com- . mitted; I hope irrevocably. It will be within the memory of honorable members that many years ago Parliament determined upon a policy for the encourage-; ment of growing sugar in Queensland with white labour, and thus silently, but surely, effected a great industrial reformation. It was said at the time that sugar could not be grown successfully with white labour, but events have shown this prognostication to be ill-founded. Whitegrown Queensland sugar could, but for the Customs duty, compete successfully against the black-grown sugar of Natal before the war. Of course, the tremendous increases in prices caused by the war have created here, as elsewhere, an entirely new position. Australia is to be congratulated upon the condition she has enjoyed under the agreement to which I have referred. During the past five years it has insured the consumers of the Commonwealth an abundant supply of sugar at 3½d. per lb.
– Not an abundant supply. It has been difficult at times for a housewife to get any sugar at all.
-During the past five years Australia has had an abundant supply of sugar, though there was a period when, owing to the seamen’s strike, the sugar that was produced in abundance in Queensland could not be made available to the consumers in Victoria. For that the sugar workers of Queensland are not to blame. So far as I know, there never was a time when the consumers of sugar in this country could not get abundance of sugar, though white sugar may not have been available to them. We have grown very fastidious in these days. I remember when I thought myself fortunate in getting a ration of sugar so black that to-day honorable members would turn up their noses at it. Any interruption during the past five years’ in the even flow of an abundant supply of sugar to all parts of Australia has been due entirely to causes for which the people of Queensland are not to blame, and, as every one knows, was the result of the seamen’s strike. Consumers of sugar in other parts’ of. the world have during this period been in a position very different from that of Australian consumers. Outside Australia the price of sugar has been very high, and supplies very scarce. I know from personal experience the effect of the rationing of sugar inGreat Britain. There, as in most other belligerent countries, sugar has not only been very expensive, but very scarce. To-day sugar in America costs retail between 23 and 25 cents per lb. The price of sugar in this country is 7 cents per lb. In England somewhere about 7d. to 9d. per lb. I come now to another point of great importance. Owing to thecauses over which the Queensland grower had no control, the supply of locally-grown sugar has, during the lasttwo seasons, been insufficient for our requirements, and it has been necessary to import. Therefore, in considering the sugar problem to-day, we ‘have to consider the world’s price. When I tell honorable members that in the last season of 1919-20 we had to import over 100,000 tons of sugar, they will see very clearly how important a factor the world’s price is to us.
The present position may be shortly stated, and it will, perhaps, make as clear as anything can what the prospect is that confronts the people, and what is the alternative to the acceptance of the agreement which I propose to lay on the table. Owing to the shortage of the last Queensland crop, and the lateness of the present or coming crop, it has been necessary to import a considerable quantity of foreign sugar. When I tell honorable members that the averago price at which we are importing, or, rather, purchasing, at the present time is £81, they will perhaps understand in what a relative paradise they have been living.
Mr.Fenton. - What aboutFootscray?
– This has nothing to do with Footscray ; I shall come to hides in a moment. The Government to-day are selling sugar at £27 7s. 6d.- the amount the Government actually receives while it is paying £81! I do not think it requires very much argument to show that we cannot go on doing this. There are two courses open to us. One is to release control - to refuse the proposals of the Queensland grower, and allow him to get the world’s parity for what he is growing or has grown, leaving to private enterprise to supplement the next crop’s shortage, which is estimated to be somewhere between 100,000 tons and130,000 tons, and leaving the public to pay the world’s price. The world’s price has, as I have said, averaged £81. I should say, speaking entirely at random, that this means something in the neighbourhood of1s. per lb., or more.
– Of course, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) knows all about these things.
– I do not profess to “know all about these things,” but any child could work it out at much less than1s. per lb. ; £84 per ton means only 7½d. per lb.
– The price is £81 f . o.b. Does it cost nothing to bring the sugar here, to refine it, and to distribute it?
– You could get sugar cheaper. .
– I venture to say that the price I have mentioned is the price the public would be asked to pay if they were compelled to buy sugar retail at the world’s parity; and we must pay the world’s parity or enter into an agreement such as subject to parliamentary approval, I have accepted.
The terms of the agreement may be shortly set out. First, in order to show the circumstances under which the agreement was arrived at, I think I ought to say what bodies were represented at the Conference. The Commonwealth Government was represented by myself, and the Queensland Government by the Premier (Mr. Theodore) and the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gillies). The Colonial Sugar Refining Company was represented by Mr. E. W. Knox; the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association by Mr. G. H. Pritchard,Dr. J. Reed and Mr. A. Innes; the United Cane Growers Association was represented by Mr. T. W. Powell, Mr. P. Hoey, and Mr. H. Cattermull; and the Australian Workers Union by Mr. J. W. Dunstan, Mr. W. J. Riordan, and Mr. M. Harland. Colonel Oldershaw, who is in charge of the Commonwealth Sugar Department, attended for consultation purposes.
– Who represented the public?
– I represented the Government and the public.
– You did not represent the consumer.
– I am not suffering from diabetes, and I eat a great deal of sugar, so that I was there as a sugar consumer.
– And so was Mr. Theodore.
– Mr. Theodore enjoys excellent health, and he is also a large sugar consumer; and as only a small section of the Australian Workers Union, which was represented by Mr. Dunstan and his colleagues, consists of sugar workmen, the consumers were also represented by these gentlemen. The Conference assumed that a substantial increase would take place in the labour costs as the result of the impending State award, and it considered, therefore, that the price for raw sugar should be £30 6s. 8d. per ton for 94 per cent. net titre sugar. It was considered, as I insisted, that parties at the Conference should determine how this increased amount, £9 6s. 8d., should be allocated, and it was decided that they would accept and abide by the decision of the Court in regard to the wages to be paid to the workers, and that £4 per ton should go to the sugar millers, and £5 6s. 8d. to the growers. It was agreed that the agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government be for not less than three years, the fixed price of sugar for the first year to be £30 6s. 8d., and that price to be the minimum for each of the succeeding years. It was agreed that a council consisting of representatives of the canegrowers, millers, sugar workers, the Queensland Government, and the Commonwealth Government - the Commonwealth representative to be chairman - shall, in February of each year during the currency of the agreement, review the price of 94 per cent. net titre raw sugar, and may, if it thinks fit, grant an increase, provided that any increase shall in any case not exceed the increased cost of production due to higher wages paid to the workers through the increased cost of living.
I ask honorable members to follow this very closely, because it is of the utmost importance.
The wages to be paid to the sugar workers during the present and succeeding years shall be as prescribed by the Queensland Industrial Arbitration Court, and shall not be liable to alteration during any season. The wages and conditions for the 1920- 21 season shall be fixed by the Court upon the basic wage, as determined by the full Bench of the Queensland Court of Industrial Arbitration, 15th March - or such basic wage as may give effect to the finding of the Federal Basic Wage Commission - subject to such increases as the Industrial Court may award to the workers owing to the seasonal nature, or other circumstances of the industry.
No increase upon the wage awarded under the preceding paragraph shall be made by the Court during the currency of this agreement except such as is necessary to meet the increased cost of living.
The Queensland Arbitration Court shall, in deciding the wages and conditions of labour during the currency of this agreement; have regard to the terms of this agreement, so that the stability of the industry may not be disturbed by any award inconsistent with the price paid to growers, and millers under it, but that the interests of the growers, millers, workers and consumers may all be safeguarded.. (Season means period of the year during which the cane is being cut and the mills are crushing.)
It was agreed that the conditions of the present agreement prohibiting legislation relating to cane prices were to stand for this season, provided that the Queensland Government may introduce amendments of the existing Cane Prices Act, to give effect to recommendations made by above Council or by a conference to be called by the Queensland Government, and to be constituted as follows : -
Six representatives of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association.
Six representatives of the United Cane Growers’ Association.
The Chairman of the Queensland Government Cane Prices Board, who would act as chairman of the conference, and who would have a casting, but not a deliberative, vote.
It was agreed that the amendments made by the Council or Conference constituted as last mentioned were not to become operative until after the end of the 1920-21 season.
The terms of the present agreement other than that relating to the erec tion and removal of mills, are so far as they are not inconsistent with above to stand and be embodied in the new agreement. The Queensland Government agrees not to legislate or to do any administrative act inconsistent with or prohibited by this agreement, and to do all such things as are necessary to give full effect to it. A properly drawn agreement setting out in detail the intention of the parties is to be drawn up immediately and signed by the parties.
A properly-drawn agreement setting out in detail the intentions of the parties, is to be prepared immediately, and signed by the parties.
– Does that mean that the sugar-millers will be allowed to enlarge their mills? They were prohibited from doing that last year.
– Yes. The matter is a complex and difficult one, and I ask the indulgence of the House while I endeavour to make it as clear as I can. First of all, the agreement has been drafted by all parties engaged in the industry. For the first time in the history of this, or, so far as I know, any industry in the Commonwealth, the workers had as much to say in the matter as had anybody else. Messrs. Dunstan, Riordan, and Harland, who represented the workers in the industry, had no opportunity to consult their executive or members, and were naturally not in a position to accept the agreement offhand; but they themselves approved of it, and telegraphed the full context to Queensland, with a recommendation that it be adopted. The Premier of Queensland also recommended the workers to agree to it. Under it, the interests of the workers are safeguarded, and the stability of the industry, so far as it is within the power of man to render things stable in the present fluid state of industrialism, is assured. I think the workers are much more likely to work peacefully and harmoniously under an agreement to which they are parties, and in regard to which they were consulted, than under an agreement which had been forced upon them willy-nilly. The same remark applies to the growers and the millers. They are not in the position of having to fight over the allocation of the increase, “ since they have already come to an agreement; they have already agreed as to that. And both parties have undertaken to accept the award of the Industrial Court as to wages and conditions in the industry, and to work harmoniously under it. That is to say, whatever wages the Court fixes, the growers and millers will pay out of the price of £30 6s. 8d., and that price cannot be increased during the 1920-21 season nor thereafter, except to the extent of any increase in wages, due to .the higher cost of living, as determined by the Industrial Court each year. The -position, then, is that we are agreeing with the growers of Queensland to take their sugar at a fixed price for three years, and the only factor that can vary the price is .the increased wages paid to the . worker to meet the increased cost of living. I think the agreement one that ought to be accepted by this House. It rests upon sound principles. I ask honorable members to look at this matter fairly. If they want stable conditions, and deliberately shut their eyes to inevitable effects, the increase in the cost of living upon the wage earners, if they expect nien to remain quiescent, accepting a wage which will buy less twelve months hence than it buys to-day, they are living in a paradise of fools; they are expecting something they will never get. Under this agreement, the wages, once they are fixed, will rise only as the cost of living rises. The real wage will remain the same. It is only the nominal wage that can rise. I do not think any honorable member on either side of the House can take any exception to such an arrangement. At any rate, it represents a principle in which I believe-as I believe in the Gospel - and- I strongly recommend it to the House.
In regard to the agreement itself, it may be urged against it that it involves an increase in the price of sugar to the consumer. Of course it does, and if we had any alternative, there might be great weight in the argument that we ought not to accept, the agreement at all. But what is the alternative? Although we shall have to pay more for sugar under this agreement, we shall have to pay still more without it. “We must treat the sugargrowers fairly. We must either say to them, “ We will take your crop and give you a fair price,” or we must say, “You are entitled to a price approximating to the world’s parity.” The fixed price of £30 6s. 8d. does not nearly approximate to the world’s parity. It does not represent even one half of the world’s parity. Other primary products receive much better treatment. Take wheat, for example. It is sold in Australia at 7s. 8d. per bushel, and the world’s parity would be about 10s. - possibly a little more or a little less. We propose to pay for sugar here £30 6s. Sd. a ton, when it costs £81 on the average in the overseas country of origin. That is to say, we shall have to pay for sugar obtained overseas over two and a half times the price we pay for locally grown sugar. Therefore,, when the white sugar grower asks for £30 6s. 8d. for his product he is not asking for more than he has every right to expect.
I recommend the acceptance of the agreement. Honorable members will have the opportunity of discussing this matter fully on the Address-in-Reply. It would not be fair to me, or indeed to the House, if later on I should not be in a position to clear up any points raised in the discussion on the matter. In the meantime, I do not propose to deal with ali the phases of this difficult question. The agreement is a good one.- It is good for Australia generally, for consumer and producer alike. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) asks, “ What about the consumer V The agreement will protect the interests of the consumer. At the same tame, it will encourage a great Australian industry. If any industry is entitled to be called an Australian industry this one is. This industry has always been recognised as entitled to consideration because it has to meet the competition of black labour. There is no white-grown cane sugar anywhere in the world except here. The agreement is a good one. It will stabilise this great industry. It will encourage the producers to put more and more sugar land under cane, and we may fairly hope that within the next two years Australia, will be growing all the sugar for its own requirements. 1 do not deny that the world’s price of sugar may in i921, 1922, or 1923 fall below £30 6s. 8d.
– Hear, hear !
– On the other hand, it may not.
– Hear hear !
– All I do know is that the position to-day is that the price of. sugar overseas is £81 a ton, while we have bought parcels at £99 per ton, f.o.b.
– In Java’
– Yes. As an illustration of the difficulties of the position I may mention that as much as £20 per ton has been paid on exchange alone, and in one or two cases the rate of exchange has been even higher. If I followed my own inclination I would prefer to put this burden from me and “ allow trade to follow “ what some of my friends are in the habit of calling its “ natural channels.” It would be a difficult matter to navigate, or even recognise, those natural channels to-day. They are all silted up. They are the lairs of wild and fearful beasts. Where once was a placid ever-flowing stream, to-day we find nothing but quagmires and cataracts; and in any case, whatever may be said of trade generally, if we are to follow the natural trade channels in sugar to-day, the price of sugar cannot be far from £81 per ton; I ask the house to approve the purchase of the Queensland crop at £30 6s. 8d. per ton, that the deficiency should be made up with foreign sugar, and that all should be pooled and sold to the public at an even price. ,
– As the right honorable gentleman represented the consumers at the conference, can he say what he expects his clients will be called upon to pay for sugar ?
– I do not know what the price of sugar will be to the retailer. All I say is that the Commonwealth Government does not seek to make any profit - it has not made a penny profit out of the business - but, of course, it must make it pay; it cannot lose over the transaction.
I recommend the agreement. It is a good thing for the whole body politic. It is a good thing for Australia. It will encourage production in the great State of Queensland, and will insure to the people of Australia cheaper sugar than they can get in any other way.
Before I sit down I may be permitted to make one further remark. As honorable members may claim that the price of sugar will fall very rapidly, that probably within a year or two we shall be reverting to normal prices, I desire to quote from a report upon the condition of the European beet-sugar industry by
Mr. Hannibal J. De Mesa, a special envoy of the Cuban Government. It gives some very valuable and startling figures. First of all, it shows the amazing extent to which consumption of sugar has grown during the last few years. For instance, whereas the consumption of sugar per capita in the United States of America was 53 lbs. in 1887, it had increased to_85 lbs. in 1913. Mr. De Mesa points out that the East is beginning to consume sugar. Armies containing millions and millions of men who previously did not look upon sugar as a ration, have now become accustomed to it, and to better ways of living. They require meat, sugar, jam, and other things, and are determined to have them ; and I think they will get them. ‘Not only has consumption of sugar grown, but production decreased, and he gives some startling figures to show to what extent production has fallen while the demand has increased: -
As is well known to all the world, the production of European beet sugar has fallen off from 8,189,291 tons for the last crop previous to the war, viz., that of 1913-14, to 3,654,000 tons ‘ (estimated) for the crop of 1918-19, which is a shrinkage of over 4,500,000 tons, or about 55 per cent.
Complex and difficult as the sugar question is to outsiders, it does not require very much knowledge to understand what these figures mean. It is impossible to replace this tremendous shortage of beet sugar by cane sugar immediately, or to put under cultivation very many of those areas which grew beet prior to the war. The greater portion of Northern France, which was devoted to the cultivation of bed. cannot grow it now. Any honorable member who has been through golddredged country will realize the conditions to be seen in Northern France today, with the subsoil turned right over, unfit for cultivation. I have seen dozens of beet factories utterly destroyed. Perhaps they can be rebuilt in eighteen months or two years, but it will take years to bring the ground which grew the beet into a fit state for cultivation. Experts estimate that there will be for some years a great shortage of sugar. I ask honorable members to remember that fact when they are criticising this agreement which I have the honour to lay on the table. I recommend it to the House, and ask honorable members to approve of it.
I now come to a quite different matter - the manufacture of wool tops. I have to announce that, after protracted and difficult negotiations, the Government have come to an agreement with’ the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company for the manufacture of wool tops. The main conditions of that agreement I shall set before honorable members in order that they may comment upon them as they please. “ The contract with the Imperial Government, which ends on 30th June next, covers the surplus of the wool clips over local requirements.”
I desire to emphasize that point since on the first day of the Conference which was held, and as the result of the deliberations of which the agreement with’ the British Government was made, there was specifically excluded from the sale all the wool necessary to keep the local manufacturers fully employed. “ Local requirements have throughout been held to include the manufacture of wool tops for export as well as manufacture of woollens for Australian consumption. The woollen manufacturers buy their wool at appraised prices, and sell in the local market. Three or four wool top manufacturers are making tops as agents for the Commonwealth at a poundage rate of 4jd. They pay for their wool at appraised prices plus a. pre.centage equal to the dividend, when ascertained, on wool sold to the Imperial Government. As these companies are paid on a poundage rate, after recoupment of their costs, the price of wool does not affect them, but it naturally affects the Commonwealth and the Pool.”
Difficult as the sugar problem is, this is -far more intricate. When honorable members think that they understand it perfectly, as I did at Que time, they is ill come without warning to bottomless pits, quagmires and mazes, and it will be brought home to them, unless they are particularly egotistical or optimistic, that they understand very little about it. I have no doubt that what I have said will apply to the paragraph I have just read. “ The Colonial Wool Combing Company worked for some time under agreements with the Commonwealth and the Central Wool Committee, under which they took a percentage of the profits. Those agreements are the subject of pending litigation - an action by the Commonwealth, and a cross action by the com pany. This being sub judice, cannot properly be discussed. “ The differences between the Commonwealth and the Colonial Wool Combing Company have lasted for a long time, and the various proposals have been submitted to the company. The company’s works have been for the most part idle for the last year, with the result of unemployment, industrial loss, and loss of revenue.”
As honorable members know, a number of deputations have waited on me, and have pointed out that hundreds of men are, and have been, out of work for the greater part of the last two years, in consequence of the closing down of these works, which contain the most up-to-date machinery for the manufacture of wool tops that exists, perhaps, in any part of the world. Few, if any, larger works exist ‘anywhere. Hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of machinery have therefore been lying idle, and as stated in the last paragraph read by me, the Government of Australia has suffered a very considerable loss of revenue, while the country has suffered much loss of wealth which otherwise would have accrued to it from the manufacture of the raw wool into tops. “The Government has been making strenuous efforts to secure an arrangement by which, pending decision of the questions in issue, the works can be restarted. The chairman of the Central Wool Committee was consulted in the early stages of the negotiations, but said that his committee had exhausted all possible means of coming to an agreement with the company, and suggested that, failing other settlement, the Prime Minister should enter into whatever agreement he thought fit and proper for the support of the wool tops industry, so far as it related to the Colonial Wool Combing Company, but the members of the Central Wool Committee should not be parties to the agreement, or be responsible for it in any way.”
Honorable members will, therefore, understand that this is an agreement for which the Wool Committee is not responsible. The Government is responsible for it, and puts it before the House so that honorable members may freely express their opinions regarding it. “After much difficulty the Government has completed an agreement with the company for re-starting the work3
Which it considers’ fair to all parties interested. It has not been found possible at this stage to settle the outstanding litigation as to the past, but the new agreement prevents the claims of either party to the action from running on into the future. “Shortly stated, the agreement allows the company to select at appraised prices wool up to the full capacity of their works, till 30th June, fixed by the agreement at 10,600 bales. “Out of the net profits to be assessed by an independent auditor, 80 per cent, is to be paid to the Commonwealth Government and 20 per cent, is to be retained, subject to State and Federal taxation by the company. “Any payments to the company under the agreement are to be in reduction of any moneys which may be ordered in the action to be payable to the company, and the. receipts of the Commonwealth, under the agreement, are to be in reduction of any moneys - other than the claim for the sum of £282,000 odd- ordered in the action to be paid by the company. No claims are to be made by either party to the action in respect of the period after the resumption of work under the agreement; otherwise the rights in the action are not affected.”
I lay the agreement on the table. Shortly put, the position is that the industry has been at a standstill for practically two years. It i3 one which is peculiarly suited to Australia. It treats its most valuable staple product in such a way as to very materially increase its value; and exports it in a more commodious and suitable form. If the whole of the clip, or such portions as are suitable for combing, could be so treated, the wool clip of Australia would be worth at least two or three times more than as raw wool. During the war the manufacture of wool-tops increased very materially. It i& to the interests of Australia to encourage that manufacture. It gives employment to very many men and women. It provides light employment, for example, for returned soldiers who are unfitted for more arduous occupations. It is an activity which is the foundation of the woollen industry. Its output may be said to be half way to yarn, which, in itself, is half way to cloth. Owing to the unfortunate misunderstanding, or disagreement, between the company and the Wool Com- mittee, this valuable industry has been - as I have just remarked- at a standstill ; that is to say, so far as this incomparably largest company of wool-top manufacturers is concerned. Its capacity, I might add,, is over 6,000,000 lbs. of wool-tops per annum’; ‘.that must be nearly, if not quite, three times as much as is the output of all the other wool-top companies combined. I may be wrong in these figures, «but its- proportion of output is, . at any rate, not much less than that which ‘ I have indicated. Now, it must not he- thought for one moment that I am in any way reflecting on the Wool Committee in this matter, any more than that I am reflecting upon the company. It is my happy fortune to know and esteem both the chairman of the Wool Committee and the head of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company; and, although it is not an easy thing to do, I have succeeded in retaining the esteem of both, despite their mutual differences of opinion. And I am still able to call both of them my friends. I shall deem it a very happy stroke of fortune if I can persuade both of those gentlemen to reconcile their differences and to call each other friends, because they are two of the ablest men in the Commonwealth. As I have said, owing to this misunderstanding the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Com?pany’s mills have been idle. My business has been to get the industry going again. I. must not be held to have cast a reflection upon either the ‘Committee or the company; but here is an agreement upon which the Government and the company are prepared to work. It will provide immediate employment for hundreds of men; it will bring to this Government hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue which we badly require; it will bring wealth to this country which it badly needs. It is an agreement which is entirely without prejudice to the rights of the parties in the action about which we are to say nothing ; and, so, I recommend that honorable members approve of it. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) can speak from bitter experience concerning the consequences of this dispute upon numbers of his constituents.
– How long will this agreement last?
– Only to the 30th June of this year.
– And they will get 4Jd. a lb.?
– No; the basis of 4£d. per lb. is the arrangement made with the other companies. They work under an entirely different arrangement. The position is that under this agreement the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company buys its wool at the appraised price - as does anybody else - and sells at the world’s price, wherever it can do so. It gives 80 per cent, of the profits to the Government. Out of the 20 per cent, remaining it pays its State and Federal taxes. That is the position, and the company so carries on until the 30th June, when, of course, matters will revert to their ordinary channels. The Government have had to deal with this matter. It was an urgent matter. The Government has settled it, and I have put that settlement before honorable members, immediately upon settlement, .in order that they may express their opinions.’
The agreement with respect to sugar is entirely, contingent upon the approval of this House. If honorable members do not approve, the Government will let it alone. This must be quite distinctly understood. If this House disapproves, the Government will have nothing to do with the proposed sugar agreement.
The wool-top agreement is in a different position. We have completed it and submit it to the House. I emphasize the fact that the men are out of employment ; the industry is shut up. We have therefore made this agreement, and we are going on with it. If honorable members think we have done wrong, it is for this House to censure us. But this agreement covers a matter of two or three months, while that in regard to sugar extends over three years and involves us in an expenditure of millions of pounds, concerning which the House has a right to express its views.
I have, perhaps, detained’ honorable members too long, but I make no apology for so doing, since I feel sure that honorable members will say I have adopted the right course in taking the earliest opportunity to consult them. I leave it, inviting honorable members to employ the fullest opportunity in order to express their opinions.
– When will this agreement begin to operate?
– Theoretically it is. now in operation, and as soon as the company gets to work it will be actually in operation.
– When will the men get a. start?
– They can . make a start any time they like.
I lay upon the table a memorandum in regard to sugar, from which I have been quoting. It is, however, very far from being full and complete. Honorable members will, perhaps, excuse that fact, seeing that it was finished last night,, at 7 o’clock. It ‘had been typed hurriedly, and I caught the train for Melbourne at ten minutes past 7. Mr. Theodore was to leave Sydney to-‘d’ay. Theagreement in detail will have to be properly drawn up, of course. If the House approves of the principle, however, the agreement will be drafted in complete detail, and will be laid on the table for inspection.
– Will the honorable the Prime Minister have it printed immediately, so that honorable membersmay peruse it and devote attention to it in the course of the Address-in-Reply debate ?
– I shall have a number of copies typed. I am not now moving that this document be printed, but will provide honorable members with the freest available opportunity to discuss the matter. Later, after we have been able to take the “ sense” of the House, the document will be put into proper form, and when I lay the Sugar Agreement finally upon the table I shall movethat it be printed.
– Has the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, made the offer of a guarantee of 5s. 4d. per bushel for the wheat produced during the coming season; and, if so, is it intended to continue the Wheat Pool to cover the period of the guarantee?
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) recently asked me by what machinery we could give effect to this guarantee. I have stated that the Government does not intend tocontinue the Pool as such; but I am willing to give the House the fullest opportunity to discuss the whole subject, and I shall be guided largely in what I shall propose to Parliament by what honorable members may say in regard to such matters as the establishment of voluntary pools, the defects of such machinery, and the impossibility of an effective guarantee without the establishment of .a pool of some sort. We wish to encourage the wheat-grower just as we wish to encourage the sugar-grower; but I must be shown a clear way of doing so, and one not inconsistent with our policy, and not imposing upon others restrictions which the growers decline to have imposed on themselves. My position is extremely difficult. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked me the other day, in effect, to remove all restrictions on the metal industry, and. the same day, or the next day, his party urged me to impose restrictions in regard to wheat. How one can thread his way through such a maze, I do not know. No doubt, a John the Baptist will arise who will go into the wilderness and prepare a way.
– Is it the intention of the Government to allow Sir Ross Smith to fly to South Australia with the aeroplane which he brought from England ?
– The honorable member reminds me that I have left Sir Ross Smith waiting in my room for an hour and five minutes, and if he will allow me to return to him, I shall give him an opportunity to put the question to me, and will subsequently let the honorable member know my answer.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), on the ground of ill-health.
Training in Station Mechanics - Expenditure.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether provision will be made for men who are waiting for the allotment of land by the State Departments, and receiving sustenance allowance, to have a course of training in station mechanics?
– Under the agreement between the Commonwealth and the several State Governments relative to the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, provision is made for the State Government to provide such training for land applicants as they deem requisite and suitable, the Commonwealth bearing half the cost to the States of such training.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
No. Although the instructions provide for an average of 56 hours per week, the day staff actually average only 48$ hours, the night staff 50 hours, and the night switch attendant 55 hours per week. A private is paid 5s. per day for seven days per week, with rations and quarters. Married men, in addition, receive 2s. per day separation allowance, and 6d. per day for each child.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (for Mr. STEWART asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether the Government is spending additional sums upon the rain-making plant near Hopetoun, Victoria?
If so, what amount?
What is the total amount already spent?
What results have been achieved?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The Government is continuing the rain stimulation experiments at Hopetoun, at a cost of about £500 per annum.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I have been unable to obtain any information in regard to the shipment referred to, but further inquiries are being made.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the following information: -
The amount expended from the election advance account of each Divisional Returning Officer throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with the 1914 poll, and also similar information re the 1919 poll?
The amount expended (a) for staff and other overtime; (b) for temporary clerical assistance by each Returning Officer in connexion with the recent general election and referendum ?
– Yes; a return will be laid on the table at a later date.
asked the Postmaster-Gene ral, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth
Bank of Australia—— Aggregate Balancesheet at 31st December, 1919; together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired under, at -
Bruce Rock, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Kuridala, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Waikerie, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Appointments of. J. K.. Davis and R. E. J. Cromwell, Department of Trade and Customs.
Rainfall Stimulation Experiments - Report by J. G. Balsillie.
Sugar - Memorandum of Conference between Representatives of the Queensland Sugar Industry, Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, Sydney, March, 1920.
Wool Tops - Agreement between Commonwealth and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, dated 12th March, 1920.
Debate resumed from 26th February (vide page 57), on motion by Mr. Kerby -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- I do not intend to repeat on this occasion the performance I put up on the last AddressinReply motion by not speaking at all, because I think it is well to address a few words to the House. May I be permitted to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion on their maiden effort? I am not hypocritical enough to say that I welcome their presence here, because I am no more glad to see them here than they are to see me and the members of my party. I congratulate them, however, on their speeches, because I realize that the occasion of one’s first speech in an assembly like this is something a little out of the ordinary. I congratulate, too, the other new members who have spoken since we first assembled; members such as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Browse), the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), the honor-‘ able member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), and others who have made splendid maiden efforts on the censure and no-confidence amendments on the Supply motions, which gave opportunities for speeches which would otherwise have been made on the present motion.
The last member for Flinders, the present Chief Justice of Victoria, once referred to the programme of a Deakin Administration as a “ gelatinous compound.” Had he described it in the words’ of some of my electors, he would have said that it was wobbly, like jelly. The present speech may be similarly characterized; it contains a very wobbly programme. In several paragraphs the announcement is made that Commissions are to be appointed to deal with matters with which Parliament itself should deal, and there are several other paragraphs which are merely congratulatory. The Government say, in effect, “ Sir William Birdwood has been here, hurrah! The Prince of Wales is coming, hurrah ! “ This is a Hip Hip Hurrah speech, and contains as little as any that has been read by a King’s representative, not excluding that of the Reid Government, which consisted of four lines, and merely made the announcement that the Government intended to go before the electors again. There’ was more in the Reid Government’s speech than there is in this. Indeed, the announcement made to-day by the Prime Minister respecting the sugar agreement is much more important than anything in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The proposal to extend the wool-top agreement for three months is like the use of a steel hammer to crack a nut. I am glad, however, that the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) realize the importance of getting the wooltop industry going again. I read in the newspapers when in Sydney the other day that the Prime Minister had received a report from the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, in which it was proposed to treat much more of our wool in Australia - I think one-third of it, or about six times more - than has been the case in the past. I certainly expect that in connexion with the wool-top agreement, or some addition to it, the Prime Minister will tell us something of the intentions of the Government in this regard. In common, I hope, with the majority of honorable members, I am very anxious to see the secondary industries of this country extended. At the present time we are sending away 95 per cent. or more of our wool to be treated abroad, only treating about 5 per cent. here in the way of hosiery or tweed.
– The amount is 3½ per cent.
– I am looking forward to the time when we shall make up a great deal more of our own wool into finished articles. Messrs. Foy and Gibson, of Melbourne, are turning wool into tops and afterwards into yarns and hosiery, and I believe that another mill in Victoria, and, perhaps, mills in New South Wales, are carrying on similar work. Those with any knowledge of the woollen industry realize that to-day we get better value in Australian tweeds than in any other tweeds, and, as those who have been abroad recently tell us, at a much lower price.
I should now like to refer to the sugar agreement. In the Governor-General’s Speech we were told that it is the Government’s policy at the earliest possible moment to divest itself of the present pools and controls, and permit the trade of the Commonwealth to revert to nongovernmental channels, while affording the primary producers every assistance in extending their co-operative organizations. I am wondering under what Act this sugar agreement has been drawn - whether the Government have power thus to deal with sugar, and to fix an agreement of thekind for three years. If the
Government have this power in regard to sugar, what is to stop them exercising it in regard to a hundred and one other .commodities? Of course, the Prime Minister will tell us that no Act is necessary in view of the consent of the growers, the millers and the workers.
– I shall not say that we have not power, but I do say that power is not necessary, because all the parties, including the .Colonial Sugar Refining Company, are quite willing.
– I have in my mind another association which approached the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in reference to an export embargo on dried fruits. This association, I believe, deals with 95 per cent, of the production of dried fruits in Australia. However, I know something of the sugar industry; and I feel convinced that amongst the gentlemen who waited on the Prime Minister yesterday, not more than 95 per cent, of the producers were represented. If an agreement of the kind can be made in the case of sugar, why not in the case of other commodities.
– I shall tell you. The Commonwealth Government are not the people who acquire the sugar; that is done by the Queensland Government, which has power to do so. We do not make any arrangement with the State of New South Wales.
– We are told that this agreement will be of benefit to the producer and the consumer, and that that is possible on account of the action of the Queensland Government in acquiring the sugar; it would seem, therefore, that it is an advantage to have such a Government as there is in power in that State at the present time. I am g3ad to have the commendation of the Queensland Government from the Prime Minister.
– It is an advantage to have a Government like the present in power in the Commonwealth.
– Of course, I have no doubt that the Government feel quite safe for at least five minutes at the present time. If I were Prime Minister just now, with the support of the honorable member for Capricornia- (Mr. Higgs) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), I could go home and sleep at nights, knowing that these gentlemen could be relied on, in addition to some one else who might be brought in, if occasion required, to make up the numbers. I remember once Sir Thomas Ewing, when a member of this House, saying to me, as we were leaving on the Friday afternoon, “Thank God, Tudor, we are right until Wednesday !” ; and I have no doubt the Prime Minister finds a similar source of satisfaction at the present time.
We have not been told by the Prime Minister what the sugar consumer will have to pay under this agreement. If the initial price goes up a penny a lb., the consumer will at least have to pay an extra penny, because, as a rule, the retail price is more than the initial increase. Retailers in Victoria, and I believe in other States, are complaining that they have not received a fair deal in regard to the price-fixing- in sugar. If the Government have abandoned the price-fixing provisions of the War Precautions Act, what power have the Government to safeguard the consumers under the agreement? We might say to the retailers that they must sell this sugar at 3Jd. per lb., but there is hardly a shop in Melbourne - and I am assured -it is the same in Sydney - where it is possible to be freely supplied. People who are accustomed to buy 12 lbs. of sugar at a time are handed 6 lbs. of white and 6 lbs. of brown; indeed, very often they are given only 4 lbs. of white and 4 lbs. of brown.
– There is more sugar being issued per week now than at this time last year. The real trouble is, of course, that everybody, anticipating a rise, is engaged in the unholy business of hoarding.
– They must be like the honorable gentleman himself, who put two pieces of loaf sugar in his pocket. The Prime Minister must have been “in the know,” having arrived at this agreement with Mr. Knox, managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the representative of the Australian Workers Union, th9 growers and producers. But those of us who are outside could only guess as to what might happen. Further, a number of people, whether grocers or not, were also apparently “in the know.” I am informed that there are 15,000 tons of sugar in bond at the present time in Sydney.
– There is not a pound of sugar at the present time in bond that does not belong to the Commonwealth, or is Fiji sugar, brought to Australia to be refined and sent to New Zealand.
– It was stated in the Sydney press on Monday or Tuesday that there was this quantity of sugar in bond in Sydney, while people were anxious to be supplied. New Zealand seems to be “ on velvet,” and, under an agreement or understanding with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, to be able to import sugar at £20 a ton.
– Not now.
– How much is it now? It was £20 a ton within the last twelve months.
– We imported at that price.
– It could have been bought at £11 some twelve months ago in Java.
– Could it?
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) stated so in the House.
– What he stated” was quite wrong.
– As nearly as I can remember, sugar twelve months ago was £33 in Java.
– We bought sugar at £19 in November twelve months. It then went up to £22, and has been steadily rising.
– I have followed the subject pretty carefully.
– Then you “have been running along way.
– No doubt the honorable gentleman is anxious to put his own side of the case, but having at one time occupied; the position of Minister for Trade and Customs, I have followed the sugar question with great interest. This House was informed that the Government had purchased 90,000 tons of sugar in Java at less than £20.
– There is not one word of truth in that.
– Then, perhaps, the honorable gentleman will inform us as to the facts. The position is that an increase of1d. in the price of sugar means an additional cost of £2,600,000 to the consumers - more than we have obtained from the war-time profits tax in three years. Some places, and some industries, may be in a better position than others to obtain sugar; at any rate, I know of many industries that have had to close down from time to time on account of inability to obtain it. This is a serious matter for people who are competing in business, though I realize that at present sugar is cheaper here than elsewhere, and that the jam manufacturers have been very fortunate. But this agreement is for three years, and it is quite possible that sugar may drop in price in other parts of the world. Before the war we could buy beet sugar at £9 per ton, and there is no reason why that price should be increased more than double. Even if that price were trebled, it would be only £27.
– It would mean £27, plus beet sugar duty - how much is that?
– Our beet sugar duty is £10 per ton. If our jam manufacturers and others had! to compete with manufacturers in other parts of the world, they would be at a considerable disadvantage. That is why I say that it may be a doubtful policy for the Commonwealth to enter into ‘this agreement for such a length of time. The statement by the Prime Minister, that there has always been an abundance of sugar, is not correct.
– It is absolutely true.
– I know of many householders who could give a flat contradiction to that statement. During the last election campaign I introduced to Colonel Oldershaw a deputation of retailers. Grocers who had been selling about five or six bags per week could not obtain more than one bag- per week, which would supply only half-a-dozen customers with 12 lbs. of sugar each. The grocers in Melbourne and suburbs have been unable to obtain sugar. I was informed that the same condition of affairs obtained in Sydney. So far as the ordinary consumers are concerned, there has been no hoarding, because they have not had either the opportunity or the cash to get more sugar than they required for immediate use.
– The hoarding has been done by the Sugar Company in anticipation of a rise.
– I cannot say whether or not that is correct. If . the making of this agreement means that the consumers will have to pay, at least, an extra1d. perlb.-
– What is the use of the honorable member talking about Id. per lb. when I tell him that we are 150,000 tons short of requirements, and the price of foreign sugar is £81 per ton ?
– Last week the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked a question of the Treasurer regarding the revenue derived from the wartime profits tax, and he was informed that to the 31st December last the total amount received was £2,296,736, and that from land tax the total receipts for the last financial year were £1,700,000. If the price of sugar is advanced by Id. per lb. the consumers will pay on that increase alone more than the total amount received from the war-time profits tax.
– How can they avoid’ it?
– I do not think they can avoid it, but I desire that the people who own the rich lands of Australia shall pay more of their share of the burden, and not keep passing it on to the consumer.
– But some sugar will have to be bought abroad.
– L know it will,, and one reason is that the present Government prevented any effort at extending the sugar industry in Australia.
– The honorable member cannot deal with any question without introducing politics into it.
– The Prime Minister should be the last man to talk about any one seeking to get a political advantage for h’s own side. I am referring to the agreement made in 1918 by the present Treasurer (Mr. Watt) in the absence of the Prime Minister, which contained a clause providing that the Queensland Government should not erect, enlarge, or encourage the erection of any mill during the currency of such agreement. The Government have admitted, by omitting that clause from the present contract, that it was a wrong proviso to insert in the 1918 agreement. What was the object of that clause? lt was that the greatest advantage might be gained by those mills which were in a good position. Other mill-owners, who desired to bring their establishments u,p to date, were prevented from doing so. Last year the Government told us that every ounce of our energy should be devoted to increasing production. Yet the Government forbade any effort to improve the sugar industry by the erection of new mills or the extension of existing- ones; That agreement prevented the ‘ Queensland Labour Government from giving encouragement to the sugar industry to produce more sugar. Mr. Theodore, the Acting Premier of Queensland, protested against that iniquitous proposal, but. had ultimately to sign it under protest. It was the intention of the Queensland Labour Government to erect modern crushing mills for the treatment of raw sugar, as well as to assist several small growers’ co-operative mills to insta’l more modern machinery with a view to increased Dra duction. and to enable them to compete on more favorable terms with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That company has practically a monopoly. of the sugar industry: it handles 85 per cent, of the Australliangrown sugar.
– The agreement did not prevent the erection of more refineries. The Queensland Government could have erected a million refineries.
– I shall read to the House that clause in the last agreement which has been drooped from the new arrangement. If the clause was good in itself, why has it not been inserted in the new agreement ?
– I never saw the clause until somebody draw my attention to it, and then I dropped it. Bt,t Mr. Theodore stated yesterday. in answer to a question, that it had had no effect on the production of sugar.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition any objection to the omission of a bad clause?
– No: I con “rat-i late the Government on having dropped it. They have now done what Mr. Theodore wanted them, to do more than twelve months ago. It is a good thing for Australia- that there is iri Queensland & Labour Government which enables the Commonwealth to mike those advantageous arrangements of which the Prime Minister has spoken. The following is a cla,ise in the 1918 sugar agreement, the insertion of which was ‘insisted upon by the Commonwealth Government: -
No. 2. That in view of the large financial responsibility incurred by the Commonwealth Government under this agreement. and in order to avoid as far as practicable the production of raw sugar in excess of the normal requirements of Australia, the Queensland - Govern- ment must not during the said seasons 1918 and1919-
Erect, or assist in, or encourage the erection of, any new mill for the treatment and manufacture of sugar cane into sugar; or
Remove or assist in, or encourage the removal of any sugar mill from its present site; or
Alter, enlarge, or extend, or assist in, or encourage the alteration, enlargement, or extension of any sugar mill so as to increase its present crushing capacity.
On the 18th June, 1918, Mr. Theodore, as Acting Premier of Queensland sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister : -
Re proposed sugar agreement. We are compelled to accept conditions you have laid down, although we regard some of them as grossly unfair. You stipulate that we must not, during the currency of the agreement, allow any alteration, enlargement, or extension of any sugar mill, so as to increase its capacity. That condition will have the effect of preventing a number of mill-owners from increasing efficiency of their mills, and thus prevent them from being in a position to pay as high a price fer cane as other more highly improved mills. You further stipulate that you will not allow any alteration of Sugar Cane Prices Act during currency of agreement. By this embargo you will prevent Queensland Parliament from making effective cane price legislation, which was designed to protect growers from exploitation at the hands of proprietary millers. The Act at present requires amendment to prevent certain large millers from evading its provisions. However, the mills are crushing, and sugar must be disposed of, so wo have no alternative, and must accept your terms; but I urge you to give further consideration to these important matters. The agreement, with alterations, giving appeal from refinery manager, as agreed to by you, will be signed and returned to you forthwith, and necessary proclamation will be issued at an early date.
It willbe remembered by honorable members that about four weeks after the commencement of the war the Labour party of which the Prime Minister and I were members was returned with a majority, and he and I were members of the Cabinet. Within twenty-four hours of the Fisher Government being sworn in an embargo was placed on the export of sugar from Australia. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher), who, I believe, knew more about sugar than all the other members of the Cabinet combined, was most anxious that that . prohibition should be issued, and his action on that occasion saved the consumers millions of pounds.
– In that year there was a surplus of about 20,000 tons available for export. Had there been no legislation to prevent the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from exporting sugar more than the 20,000 tons might have been sent away, and the price of sugar in the Australian market would have risen to nearly the price obtaining in other parts of the world.
– Nonsense! The honorable member has stated that sugar could be obtained for £9 or £10 per ton. At that time sugar in Java could be bought for £10 or £11 per ton.
– It could not.
– It could be bought for £15 per ton.
– It could not be bought at that price. The Prime Minister, like an auctioneer, is raising the price.
– The honorable member said a few moments ago that the price of sugar abroad would drop so low that the fixed price of £30 6s. 8d. in Australia would be too high.
– I said that that was probable.
– And the honorable member said that we could buy sugar from Java for £11 per ton.
– That statement was made in the House by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). The Fisher Government prohibited the importation as well as the export of sugar, and it was impossible for any person to bring into Australia sugar from Java or anywhere else, even if the article had been given to him. The only authority that could import sugar was the Commonwealth Government.
– What relationship has all this past history to the new agreement?
– I desire to give credit to Mr. Fisher for the embargo he placed on the export of sugar in 1914. That gentleman represented a sugar-growing district, and had sat in the Queensland State Parliament, and it was natural that he should know more about the industry than did other members of the Cabinet. Mr. Fisher’s action was beneficial to the Common weal th. When I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) what legislation would validate this agreement, he said that the Common- wealth could take the sugar over only because of the Queensland Government’s action in acquiring it, and had no control over the New South Wales crop. The position might be perfectly legal, and, of course, if the manufacturers can secure sugar cheaper under the agreement than by purchasing from overseas, no doubt they will not question its validity, but I am confident that once they find they can buy sugar cheaper from outside, some among them will raise doubts as to the agreement.
I am at one with the Prime Minister in saying that the sugar industry should be maintained. . It is one of * our most important industries; at, any rate it is so far as the north is concerned. If we do not keep the north populated by the encouragement of the sugar industry, it will be difficult for us to people it in any other way. Therefore, it is in the interests of a White Australia to carry out this arrangement. But once the sugar is acquired by the Queensland Government, and the Commonwealth takes control of it, and has it refined by the various sugar refining companies, what power have we to fix the price at which it shall be sold by the retailers?
– I do not know that we have any power; but, of course, we have the power to refuse supplies.
– Not long ago I saw a report of a meeting held in Melbourne at which grocers threatened to go on strike, and not sell sugar unless they vere given a greater return for it. They claimed that it did not pay them to sell sugar at the existing retail price.
– I have to see into that matter.
– I hold no brief for them more than for any other body.
– Every one must get fair treatment.
– Undoubtedly. We ought to see that the consumer gets fair treatment. The Prime Minister claimed that abundant sugar was available, but I queried the statement. There was a great shortage of sugar in January last, and yet I saw a newspaper paragraph stating, in effect, that in accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise, the fruitgrowers of Harcourt, in the Bendigo constituency, had each obtained two bags of sugar for the purpose of making jam. If it is right for the fruitgrowers of Harcourt to get sugar for the purpose of making jam, it is equally right for the women of the Yarra electorate who wish to make jam to have sugar for the same purpose. No individual should be favoured in this respect.
– I have never interfered nor am I interfering now in the distribution of sugar. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is distributing sugar quite fairly, I believe. At any rate, if it is not doing so, it is no fault of mine. I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers.
– I am merely stating what appeared in the press. If it occurred it was very reprehensible.
– It did not occur. I have not interfered in any way with the distribution of sugar.
– It was very wise to call representatives of the workers to the conference which the Prime Minister attended. I trust the good example will be followed in the drawing up of other agreements. The Prime Minister has admitted that it was quite impossible for the workers’ representatives to get their executives together, because they did not receive the invitation until Saturday, but the other participants in the conference were warned long before. I think the representatives of the workers should receive just as much notification as is given to the others.
– That will be the case in the future, because, if they accept the agreement, they are permanently members of the Conference.
– I take no exception to that proposal. Apparently, the only power the Government have in regard to the price to be paid by the consumers is that they may refuse to sell sugar to persons who will not distribute it at the fixed price.
– I do not say that. I am never one to belittle the powers of the Commonwealth. The honorable member knows that I have always been one of those who, when put to it, have found quite a number of powers possessed by the Commonwnealth ; but, frankly, I do not know what they are in this regard.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will find ample power to see that the consumer is not “ jockeyed “ out of a fair deal in regard to sugar
When speaking to my censure amendment, I dealt with the question , of the basic wage. The Prime Minister interjected that it was to be hoped the Royal Commission inquiring into the basic wage would hurry up. I have received from Mr. Maurice Blackburn, secretary and solicitor to the Conference of Federated Unions, the following communication: -
I draw your attention to the following points: -
The Commission’s primary task is not to find a wage in terms of money. If it were, it is probable (as you say) that its recommendations would be of little value at the end of the inquiry. I append a copy of the terms of the Commission -
The actual cost ofliving at the present time, according to reasonable standards of comfort, including all matters comprised in the ordinary expenditure of a household, for a man with a wife and three children under 14 years of age, and the several items and amounts which make up that cost.
The actual corresponding cost of living during each of the last five years.
How the basic wage may be automatically adjusted to the rise and fall from time to time of the purchasing power of the sovereign.
The Commission is engaged upon the task of finding what is a reasonable standard of comfort for the normal Australian family. This standard is to be expressed in terms of commodities giving quantities and quality. The report on this matter will be of value not only in a year’s time, but until there is a revolutionary change in the needs of human beings living in Australia. The minor task of the Commission is to suggest a means by which that standard may be from time to time expressed in money.
The position may be restated thus: Hitherto the work of Industrial Courts has been to find whatsum of money is, at the date of the inquiry, necessary to purchase the commodities required to maintain a worker’s family. That sum of money has remained fixed for a more or less definite period, but the prices of the commodities have varied from time to time within that period.
Now the inquiry is what quantity and quality of commodities are required to secure a reasonable standard of comfort to any family. That quantity and quality of commodities will remain fixed; but the money required to purchase it will vary from time to time.
On the old basis of inquiry nominal wages remain fixed, but real wage’s vary. On the new basis real wages will remain fixed, but nominal wages will vary.
The Prime Minister’s statement that the unionists “are taking up all the- time,” and that the “ other side has not had an opportunity of stating its case,” is incorrect. The ease is disposed of in compartments. Both sides have a month ago completed their case on housing. And to-day both sides completed their case on clothing. 4: Your own statement that the Commission commenced taking evidence before Christmas is substantially incorrect. It is true that Mr. Sutcliffe, the Commission’s secretary, gave evidence before Christmas, but no more witnesses were examined till 5th January, and the employees’ case did not open until 13th January. For the delay no one is to blame. It was caused by our difficulty in getting evidence. This difficulty was occasioned partly by the coming of the holidays and partly by the common misunderstanding of the Commission’s scope and objects.
In the main that misunderstanding has been dispelled. Hobart and Adelaide Trades and Labour Councils are at work preparing the case for their cities. A committee of the unions, with paid investigators, is at work in Sydney. In Brisbane we have supporters of considerable influence; and SenatorFerricks has agreed to act for us there.
I have no desire to belittle the work of the Royal Commission ;I believe it will result in good ; but there is in certain quarters an anxiety to limit its scope, and in another place the hope was expressed that it would be wound up. I quote this letter in order that there may be no misunderstanding.
A little while ago I pointed out that an increase of1d. per pound on the retail price of sugar would amount to millions when dealing with the 280.000 tons consumed in Australia. Let us take another article which has considerably advanced in price during the last six months. I refer to boots. Imoved the adjournment of the House in September last in opposition to the relaxation of the embargo on the export of hides and leather, and pointed out that it would mean an increase of at least 10s. a pair in the price of boots. Unfortunately, my prophecy has become only too true; and as the boot factories of Australia produce about 11,000,000 to 12,000,000 pairs of boots per annum, which are practically all purchased in Australia, an increase of 10s. per pair on the retail price means that the Australian consumers are paying £6,000,000 more for their shoe leather than they were paying six months ago. But that does not end the bill. Most members of the community are compelled to have their boots repaired to make them last as long as possible, and as the cost of repairing is ever so much heavier on account of the price of leather, the extra amount required from the consumers is a great deal more than £6,000,000. These are the things which the Prime Minister apparently had in his mind when he said that, so far as the sugar agreement was concerned, if there was an increase in the cost of living, wages must go up. lt is for that reason I welcome the inquiry of the Basic Wage Commission. If there are increases in prices the workers will gain some corresponding increase, instead of feeling that they have no redress because their wages ha ire bean settled by a Wages Board or Arbitration Court for a fixed period. They are dissatisfied with the present position. It is the main reason lor the existing industrial unrest.
I have heard honorable members opposite say that there would be no strike if the opportunity were given to the unionists to ballot as to whether a strike should be declared or not. There is no foundation for any such statement. When the rank and file have an opportunity to vote on the question of whether or not there should be a strike a strike takes place. The seamen’s strike, for instance, was decided upon, as the result of a ballot by the rank and file. As to the recent marine engineers’ strike, there was a fairly general belief .that the majority of the executive of the union were willing to come to terms, but the rank and file decided by their votes to go out on strike. No one knows better than does the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the difficulty of union officials in the past has been, not to induce men to go on strike, but to keep them at work. I make that statement as the result of my experience as a trade union official, not only in Australia, but in England and the United States of America. The difficulty which a union official experiences is not in creating industrial unrest, as is suggested by some honorable members opposite, but in keening the wheels of industry moving, and in maintaining contentment on the part of employees
– The executive of every union tries to keep its men satisfied.
– I have held fairly high official positions in the trade union movement both here and elsewhere, and that is my experience. It is usually as the result of a general meeting that members of a trade union decide to stop work.
I desire now to refer to the scandalous way in which the sectarian issue was raised during the last election campaign, and 1 regret that certain honorable members are not present, since I should have liked to put to them a few pointed questions. It has been said by a section of the press that the sectarian cry was first raised by a certain gentleman who arrived quite recently in Australia. My reply to that statement is that as far back as 1906, long before he arrived here, I was opposed on the sectarian issue, but the attempt to raise it against rae was unsuccessful. I have here a copy of a pamphlet entitled The. Roman Catholic in the State, and I understand that 250,000 copies were printed by Varleys Proprietary Limited, . Melbourne, and were on sale at 2d. per copy. In this pamphlet some awful statements are made concerning Roman Catholics in the Public Service. Here, for instance, is one paragraph -
In the post-offices, the telegraph, and i.he railways, Romans act as spies, and are guilty of treachery and mean conduct in all branches. They open letters, neglect to deliver letters or parcels known to be Protestant, they inform priests of the contents, they copy telegrams, note clown telephone messages, and carry them to the priest - they neglect duties in the railways, hoping that Protestants will sufferthey purposely mislay parcels sent by, or intended for, Protestant organizations. All as part of system to help the church. . . .
Who believes any of these statements? It was “ literary “ trine of this kind that was issued during the last election campaign.
– Who signed that pamphlet?
– The author’s name is not given. It was distributed broadcast throughout Australia during the campaign. Does the Honorary Minister (Mr. Laird Smith), who knows something of the work associated with the telegraph and telephone branches of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, believe that officials engaged in those branches have any time in which to note down telephone messages or the contents of telegrams ? .
As I said on the public platform, I absolutely refuse to favour or penalize any one because of his religious belief. A man’s religious belief is decided for him before he is born. He drinks it in, so to speak, with his mother’s milk; but the people were urged to vote against certain candidates because they were Roman Catholics. Statements to the effect that I was a Roman Catholic were circulated about me, but those responsible for them met with many rebuffs, since my electorate is a comparatively small one, and most of the people are personally acquainted with me. In this State big posters were displayed bearing the words, “Protestants be loyal. Vote Nationalist.” 1 remarked during the campaign that I heard that another poster was to be issued with the words, “ Protestantism in danger. Vote for Paddy Glynn and Paddy Lynch. They will save it.”
I am glad that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has just entered the chamber. I have every respect for him as an individual, but he, like many others, is, I think, following wrong lines. I should like him to say whether he believes in the statements issued in this pamphlet. Does he, for instance, believe this statement?
The Custom Houses, the Land Tax Offices, and the Income Tax Offices, are overrun with Roman Catholics.
In the Custom Houses they endeavour to stop importation of any books dealing adversely with the Roman Church. In the Revenue
Offices they pry into information, and communicate to priests the position and operations of all citizens.
When the honorable member held office as Minister for Trade and Customs, was he ever asked by a Customs officer to prohibit the importation of any books dealing adversely with the Roman Catholic Church? I held that office for six years, longer than any other Minister has occupied it, and I can certainly say that no such experience fell to my lot. I have never asked and never will ask any person what his religion is, and I think it disgraceful that a pamphlet of this kind should have been published with the object of trying to influence the electors. It is an appeal not to reason, but to passion and prejudice. I would denounce any attempt to influence an election by raising the sectarian issue, no matter by what religious section of the community it was resorted to. It is absolutely disgraceful that in this the twentieth century such matter as this should be circulated. I am prepared to meet any opposition on political grounds, and to stand by anything I have said or done, but a man’s religious faith is something entirely apart from his politics. I would sooner have dealings with a religious man, no matter to what religious body he belonged, than with an irreligious man, and I do not hesitate to say that some of those who were responsible for the raising of sectarianism during the election campaign have never darkened the doors of a church.
I was asked earlier in the afternoon whether it was the intention of our party to press for a division on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I do not think it is. I rose principally to deal with the question of the sugar agreement, and to point out that the interests of the consumers have not been considered. I hope that they will be.
I ask the honorable member for Kooyong whether he was ever invited by Customs officials, when he was at the head of the Department, to stop the introduction of certain books? On one occasion, while the war was in progress, I prohibited the importation of some books at the instance of the Defence Department. On another occasion the Hon. Allan McLean, than whom no more honorable man has ever held a seat in this House, prohibited the importation of certain books, and an attempt was made to place on my shoulders the responsibility for that action. It was said that it had been taken at the instance of suchandsuch a church, but when I was able to show that Mr. McLean, who belonged to the other side, and was a Roman Catholic, had issued the order, my accusers sheered off. In 1906 I was opposed by Mr. Vale, who fought me solely on the sectarian issue, so that this trouble arose long before the arrival in Australia of the gentleman said to be responsible for its introduction. I shall always refuse to ask any ,person who seeks my assistance what his religion is. I am prepared to assist any man if I can do so, without regard to what his religious convictions may be. It is suggested in this pamphlet that Roman Catholics are after place and pay in the Public Service ; but every one knows that it is impossible to become a permanent member of the Public Service without passing a prescribed examination. The publication of such matter should be prohibited, and I trust that those responsible for the issue of this pamphlet are by now heartily ashamed of it.
– As the representative of a sugargrowing district, I believe that the sugar agreement which the Prime Minister has laid on the table of the House to-day will be found, on the whole, eminently satisfactory to growers. Its most important feature relates, not so much to the guaranteed price, for which it provides, as to the guarantee of .the time within which the industry will be restored to stable conditions. In my own electorate, in the absence of such a guarantee, many of the growers were prepared to seek other avenues of primary production. During the last four years they have had a very bad’ time, and many of them had decided to go out of the industry unless they could secure a condition of affairs which would allow them to look forward with some hope to the future.
I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in his statement that the Governor-General’s Speech was absolutely barren. Among the various measures and activities proposed, there is one which is the most important among all that could come before this House - most important, indeed, among the whole of the subjects which have been dealt with by this Legislature since the advent of Federation. I refer to the proposal to call a Convention to discuss the revision ‘of the Constitution. From past experience, one is justified in saying that unless some revision of the Constitution is secured as an outcome of the Convention, most of the other matters suggested in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech - not even excepting the proposal for the revision of the Tariff - will prove barren of results. After twenty years’ experience of Federation it has been impressed upon very many people that we should go back to the advice and experience of the men who first thought of federating the Australian Colonies, and that we should carefully study universal experience concerning the soundest basis upon which a federation can be built up.
If we consider any of the questions which may engage the attention of this Parliament, it will be found’ that none can be dealt with in decisive fashion until some alteration of the Constitution !m? been made. For example, the most direct and effective way in which to attack the problem of economy will be to abolish those offices which are controlled in duplicate by State and Federal authorities. But is there any probability of bringing about the abolition of this present duplication ? Conference after Conference between State Premiers and
Federal Ministers has failed to do away with various duplicated public services.
Let us consider the matter of immigration, which has been put in the forefront of ‘the Government’s policy. What prospects are there of a satisfactory influx of suitable immigrants until and unless something is done to control and overcome the tendency of Australia’s population towards centralization 1 Not merely is this factor of centralization operating against a satisfactory system of immigration, but competition is continuously going on in London between representatives and agents of the various States. If the State authorities at Home are not actually decrying each other, they are, at any rate, vaunting their own particular State to the detriment of sister States. Nothing can be satisfactorily achieved in regard to immigration until an alteration of the Constitution has been brought about by which the Commonwealth shall have control of the whole business. In New South Wales, for the last normal year before the outbreak of war, Mr. J. B. Trivett, New South Wales Government Statistician, gave the total population as numbering 1,832,456; the population of Sydney and suburbs for the same year - namely, 1913 - was 725,400. That is to say, the metropolitan population was more than two-fifths of all the people in the State. The city hat been increasing at the expense of the country almost without ceasing for years, and the margin is getting wider. Based upon the Government Statistician’s figures, I have the following interesting information : -
The total increase of population for the State for the like period was 53,494. Of this the metropolis was responsible for 30,600, while the residue of the State was credited with an increase of only 22,894, the relative increase being 4.4 in favour of the city, as against 3.01 in the rest of the State. When the year’s figures are analysed even more startling results are revealed. The natural increase for the whole State (excess of births over deaths) was 32,402, leaving the balance. 21,092 (or 114 in every 10,000 of the total State population) to be accounted for by increases by means of immigration. The figures for Sydney are 30,600, being natural increase 12,597, and immigration 18,013 (or 248 to every 10,000 ) ; while those for the rest of the State altogether are : Natural increase 19,305, and immigration 3,089 (or 27 to every 10,000). In other words, the net result of our immigration policy is that Sydney is absorbing’ nine times the proportion of immigrants that the rest of the State receives. Yet we are told that the object of immigration is to people the country districts - and the bulk of the immigrants are agricultural labourers.
Since then, during the five years of the war, there has been an increase in Sydney and its suburbs to a total of 920;000 persons, while the whole of the rest of the State numbers practically only 1,100,000, which total signifies actually no change at all in the same time. And, although there have been thousands of acres of Crown lands alienated for the purposes of closer settlement, and despite the fact that many estates have been resumed for the same form of settlement, there are actually 5,000 fewer settlers on the land in New South Wales than there were ten years ago.
– They have all made too much money, and have retired.
– We who live in . the country know that such a condition of affairs is entirely due to the fact that the whole State is run in the interests of the capital city, and not in those of the rural population and of primary production. In every State of the Commonwealth there is a decline in the numbers of the rural population, and a consequent decrease in the bulk of primary production.
– The trouble is that the farmers are amongst the biggest offenders, in that they are retiring, and wending their ways to the cities.
– The fact is that there are no inducements, no attractions; there is nothing to induce a man to remain on the land. He is naturally attracted to reside in the city. There i3 a serious decline in production throughout Australia, and especially in New South Wales, and there will continue to be such a retrogression among the rural population and, consequently, in primary production until some effective change by way of amendment of the Constitution has been brought about.
Take also the question of industrial unrest. For the past ten years Premiers’ Conferences have met, and have come to conclusions to the effect that something must be done to provide uniform control over (he whole industrial situation. That most bitter “ State righter “ in all Australia, Mr. Holman, has himself admitted that the Commonwealth should have complete control of all industrial affairs; he has said that he is willing to hand such matters over to the Commonwealth.
But there never can be any satisfactory agreement arrived at along these lines until some change has been effected in the Constitution which will alter the re,lationships between the big States and the Commonwealth authority, and which will tend to alter the disproportion at present existing between the large and the small States.
There is, further, the question of our future control of the Pacific Islands, to which subject the Governor-General’s Speech refers. What respect are we to expect, as a National Government, from the inhabitants of the islands when the people of these possessions realize that we are not even masters of our own household? In the past five years the war has demonstrated without doubt that the Constitution is faulty in very many respects. It is absolutely unworkable ; it has proved so under stress of war conditions. We could not have carried on but for the powers provided under the War Precautions Act. And now, when the problems of repatriation and reconstruction are looming before us for settlement and solution, the Government still hangs on to that Act, because it knows that without such a Statute it would not be able to carry on its functions at all. This is an appropriate time for us to return to the track which the fathers of Federation blazed for us, and which the experience of the whole world leads us to look upon as the only true path of progress. Now is the opportunity for us to secure a system of federation in which the component elements of that federation shall not be discordant in factors such as extent of population, or of wealth or resources. Only those Federations which have approximations to equality among their various elements have remained stable. If one preponderates in size, history has provided such examples as the German Confederation, wherein the State of Prussia has dominated and controlled the policies of the remaining States of the Federation.
– That is .what the “ Ma “ State is doing now.
– Without doubt. The politics of Sydney practically control the Commonwealth. We have in Australia, with an area of some 3,000,000 square mile3, only five Governments upon the mainland. Our country furnishes the most striking example of centralization in the whole world. What is the experience and lesson of history in this matter? Is there any other Federation which has presented such a condition of affairs as that which exists in Australia to-day? Brazil is a Federation a little larger in area than Australia. Within its boundaries there are twenty Governments. Argentina has an area about one-third the size of Australia, namely, 1.153,000 square miles, and a population of 8,000,000. The Argentine comprises fourteen provinces, ten territories, and a Federal district; that is to say, there are practically twentyfour different Governments. In India the authorities do not attempt to govern so huge an area after the manner of Australia with its five Governments. India has thirty-five different Administrations over an area of 1,800,000 square miles. In the United States of America, having an area a little less than that of Australia, there are forty-eight different Governments administering the whole territory.
It has been recognised for many years by every man who has taken an interest in the early days of Federation that the extent of the Australian colonies, and of the present States, was bound to militate against growth and prosperous development. Mr. Macrossan, in the Federal Convention of 1890, said -
I believe also that power should be given to the Federal . Parliament - as it is given to the Imperial Parliament - to out up, if thought necessary, the different existing colonies of Australia, and form them into smaller States. I consider that the colonies of Australia are. too large for good government. Some of the existing colonies, such as Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, are far too large for good government.
Large States are never so well governed as small ones, and therefore the Federal Government ought to be empowered to cut up the larger colonics into smaller colonies, as the Federal Government of America has cut up the larger States into smaller States when it lias been deemed expedient and just to do so.
Sir Henry Parkes, who followed Mr. Macrossan in the same debate, remarked -
But as enunciations of doctrine and theory on the founding of new States, his views may he accepted as laying down as a fundamental principle that excessive area is not necessary, but positively detrimental, to national growth and development. In that general view I entirely concur.
As a matter of reason and logical forecast, it cannot be doubted that if the Union were inaugurated with double the number of the present colonies, the growth and prosperity of all would be more absolutely assured. It would add immeasurably to the national importance of the new Commonwealth, and would be of immense advantage to Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland themselves, if four or five new colonies were cut out of their vast and unmanageable territories.
– If you were to cut Tasmania in two we would lose it altogether.
– Tasmania affords a very fair example of what the extent of an Australian State should be. In America it has been found, as a matter of experience, as Dr. Lang pointed out eighty years ago, that an area of 40,000 to 60,000 square miles was a proper extent of territory for a separate independent State, and that much of the happiness, comfort, and progress of the American people depended upon their consequent ability to have their government, in all the more important concerns of life, brought, so to speak, to their own doors through such division. The system which has been universally adopted by all satisfactorily governed federations might surely form a basis for the improvement of our Constitution.
– Does the honorable member anticipate such a happy result from the manner in which the Convention is to be arranged?
– Before I sit down I shall deal with the manner in which the Convention should be called together. The experience of other countries is very much to the point in this connexion, and our position at the present time absolutely requires that something shall be done. It has been said that “ finance is government and government is finance.” The total indebtedness of Australia is something like £746,000,000, of which, in round figures, the Commonwealth owes, in London, £106,000,000, and the States £392,000,000; about £200,000,000 being owed to Australian creditors. Whatever may be thought about the innocuousness or otherwise of internal debt, external debt must be controlled and reduced, as it involves a constant interest drain. The Commonwealth has a heavy obligation in its annual per capita payment to the States, in its pension fund, and in its repatriation and reconstruction policy. In addition, there must be found in the immediate future funds for a national railway policy to prevent the loss of assets such as took place recently, when £50,000,000 worth of stock perished by reason of a drought; and for large schemes of water conservation and power production, which we must have if Australia is to keep its place in the race for commercial and industrial supremacy. During the war, the loan indebtedness of our States was increased by something like £80,000,000, though their Governments were not concerned with the running of the war and there was special reason for economy. Some method must be devised for controlling the borrowing of the State Governments if we are ever to get out of the financial impasse which we are now in. An amendment of the Constitution to which the people of Australia have agreed - and I think it is the only amendment which they have sanctioned - provides for the consolidation of the debts of the Commonwealth and the States. That was carried in 1909.
– The fact is mentioned in Knibbs’Year-Book for 1917.
– No doubt it is in the Year-Book, but no effect has been given to it.
– During the last session of the last Parliament, the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) brought forward a scheme for pooling the debts of the Empire yet he has to-day left for England without giving us a scheme for pooling the debts of the Commonwealth and the States, which is urgently needed. The Commonwealth, if we are to improve our financial position, must control the finances of Australia. During the war, the Commonwealth tried to control the borrowing of the States, and all the States, except New South Wales, which was under the administration of Mr. Holman, consented to borrow only through the Commonwealth.
– New South Wales did not play the game.
– No. I was ashamed, when in France, to hear that a New South . Wales loan was being floated on the London market. Means must be found for curbing the borrowing of the States. Economy in Commonwealth administration will be useless if the grossest extravagance continues to prevail in State administration; you cannot fill a bag that has the bottom out of it. But the only way in which the States can be controlled is by the adoption of a constitutional alteration upon the lines suggested by Sir Henry Parkes, Mr. Macrossan, and other men who thought upon the matter and were not influenced by considerations of State rights. Speaking in 1895, Sir Henry Parkes suggested the setting up of machinery for the division of the existing States into smaller areas which would equalize the distribution of political power, and thus save the Federation from such difficulties of this nature. He proposed originally - my authority is Wise’s Making of the Commonwealth, page 119 -
The appointment of a Commission, to devise an equitable scheme for the distribution of the public lands and the satisfying of existing territorial rights such scheme keeping in view both the necessary strength of the National Government and the just claims of the respective provinces. Had such a clause been adopted, not only would the Central Government have been provided with a permanent and increasing revenue from the unoccupiedlands of Northern Queensland and the Northern Territories of Western and Southern Australia, which would have made it independent of the Customs House, but machinery would have been set up for the division of the existing colonies into smaller areas, which would have equalized the distribution of political power, and thus saved the Federation from many difficulties. It is not unlikely that the next great constitutional reform will be in the direction of Sir Henry Parkes’ rejected proposal.
That was his considered opinion a very few years before the inauguration of Federation. The experience of the United States of America has proved that, even without the Federal control of State borrowing, in small local-governing communities the people take a hand in these matters. Viscount Bryce speaks thus of what occurred in the United States of America as the result of the condition of things which followed upon the ending of the Civil War. At that time American conditions much resembled our present conditions. The various authorities were borrowing on every hand ; railways were being constructed in every direction ; and other developmental works, as they were called, were being carried out -
The disease spread till it terrified the patient, and a remedy was found in the insertion in the Constitutions of provisions limiting the borrowing powers of State Legislatures. Fortunately the evil had been perceived in time to enable the newest States to profit by the experience of their predecessors. For the last half century, whenever a State has enacted a Constitution it has inserted sections restricting the borrowing powers of States and local bodies, and often also providing for the discharge of existing liabilities. Not only the passing of Bills for raising a State loan has been surrounded with special safeguards, such as the requirements of a two-thirds majority in each House of the Legislature; not only have there been prohibitions ever to borrow money for, or even to undertake, internal improvements (a fertile source of jobbery and waste, as the experience of Congress shows) ; and not only also almost invariably a provision that whenever a debt is contracted the same Act shall create a sinking fund for paying it off within a few years, but in most Constitutions the total amount of the debt was limited,’ and limited to a sum beautifully small in proportion to the population and resources of the State. Thus Wisconsin fixed its maximum at $200,000 (£40.000); Minnesota and Iowa at $250,000; Ohio at $750,000; Wyoming at 1, and Idaho at 1½ per cent. of the assessed value of taxable property; Nebraska and Montana at $100,000; prudent Oregon at $50,000: and the great and wealthy State of Pennsylvania with a population then exceeding 5,300,000 (Constitution of 1873, art.IX., par. 4), at $1,000,000. . . . New York named a million of dollars as the maximum.
– But America encourages private enterprise.
– That is what we hope Australia will do. If we did so, we should get ahead faster. It is also found that in the small governing areas of the United States of America the various Parliaments are managed very economically, though they are more numerous than those of Australia.
– Surely not in proportion to population.
– No. These are the measures which have been adopted in America to secure economy in the working of Parliaments. Bryce, page 491-
In all States the members of both Houses receive the same salary. In some cases it is fixed at an annual sum of from $150 (Maine) to $1 500 (New York), the average being $500. More frequently, however, it is calculated at so muchfor every day during which the session lasts, varying from $1 (inRhodeIsland) to $8 (in California and Nevada) per day ($5 seems tobe theaverage), besides asmall allowance, called mileage for travelling expenses. These sums, although unremunerative to a man who leaves a thriving business to attend in the State capital, are an object of such desire to many ofthe representatives of the people, that the latter have thought it prudent to restrict the length of the legislative sessions, which now generally stand limited to a fixed number of days, varying from 40 days in Georgia, Nebraska, and Oregon, to 1.50 days in Pennsylvania. The States which pay by the day are also those which limit the session. Some States secure themselves against prolonged sessions by providing that the daily pay shall diminish or shall absolutely cease and determine at the expiry of a certain number of days, hoping thereby to expedite business and check inordinate zeal for legislation.
It was formerly usual for the Legislature to meet annually; but the experience of bad legislationand over legislation has led to fewer, as well as shorter, sittings; and sessions are now biennial in all States except two, Alabama and Mississippi, where they are quadrennial -
And in six others, all old States, where they are annual. The feeling in the United States of America is that the less often a State Parliament meets the less harm will it do, it being seen that what is needed more than legislation is good administration. What we need in Australia is, not more legislation, but better administration. Is there any probability of the economy which is being urged by the press being effected unless some such suggestion as I have made be adopted by the Convention that is to meet? What is our experience in regard to the tax-collecting departments ? The officials have met, and conferred at great expense. They have admitted that a huge sum could be saved by the adoption of a uniform schedule, and the substitution of one collecting agency for seven ; but nothing has been done, and nothing will be done to effect this reform while New South Wales and Victoria have their present preponderance of population compared to the Commonwealth.
– A uniform Bill was drafted, but the Commonwealth Government would not allow it to be presented.
– There were too many jobs in danger.
– We must try to get men out of useless jobs, and put them into reproductive employment. I do not wish to quote ad nauseam the experience of America, but what has happened there shows what could be done here if we had the mind to do it -
The State, having determined what income it needs, apportions this sum among the counties, or, in New England, sometimes directly among the towns, in proportion to their paying capacity - that is, to the value of the property situate within them. So, similarly, the counties apportion not only what they have to pay to the State, but also the sum they have to raise for county purposes, among the cities and townships within their area, in proportion to the value of their taxable property. Thus, when the township or city authorities assess and collect taxes from the individual citizen, they usually collect at one and the same time t hree distinct sets of taxes - the State tax, the county tax, and the city or township tax, retaining the latter for local purposes. They hand on the two formerto the county authorities, who in turn retain the county tax, handing on to the State what it requires. Thus trouble and expense are saved in. the process of collecting, and the citizen sees in one taxpaper all he has to pay.
The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has pointed out that probably £1,000,000 could be saved by the public in the preparation of returns if we adopted a uniform system, and, in addition, there would be a saving made by the abolition of superfluous departments. Again, there is the Electoral Office. During the war, two years ago, the chief electoral officers of the State and the Commonwealth met, and went into the question of a common roll and common officers, and they found that £45,000 a year could be saved by a uniform system. Has anything been done, or is anything likely to be done, in that direction under present conditions ? I do not think anybody is so foolish as to think it possible for any change to take place when the present sovereign rights of the various States are so jealously prized.
Then we have to consider the matter of the Agents-General of the States. These officials cost about £66,000 a year, and there is, in addition, something like £50,000 provided for the High Commissioner’s office. Surely this duplicate representation is not necessary. Then, again, there are the various Bureaux of Science and Industries - State bureaux and Federal bureaux - and the work being done by all these agencies would be very much better done by one, thus preventing overlapping and unnecessary effort. These are all matters in which it seems to me economy could be effected. But the great economy obtainable by the subdivision of Australia is not monetary or financial in these small wavs - it is the real economy obtained by a proper marshalling of the national resources of the continent by secur ing real country development, by reason of the fact that the control of local resources is in the hands of men who know exactly what they are dealing with. To me a reduction in the number of parliamentary representatives is not the only ideal to look forward to. What we really need is efficient representation, for only with such representation are we ever likely to receive that administration and government, and that knowledge as applied to government, which this country requires for its proper development. Even under present conditions, if there were a subdivision of New South Wales or Queensland with the same number of members of Parliament - that is to say. if in New South Wales, for instance, there was a subdivision into three States, each with a parliamentary membership of 30 - the country would receive immediately a much finer representation than at present. In the New South Wales Parliament there are 90 members, 48 of whom are. city men, and 42 from the country. Northern and southern New South Wales each sends about twelve members, and the remaining members are made up of those in Sydney and immediately west of Sydney. If there were three Parliaments, the northern area would return 30 members, which means that areas of enormous extent, almost as large as England, which form single electorates now, would have better representation than at present.
– Have you considered the unfair proportion of country members in the Victorian Parliament?
– That is a condition of affairs that Victorians will have to consider very seriously. The principle of one-man-one-vote must prevail, and as soon as it does, I venture to say that in Victoria there will be the same ardent desire for separation from Melbourne as there is in New South Wales for separation from Sydney.
There are many important results in regard to representation which subdivision would bring about. It is univer-. sally recognized by all historians and students of politics that self-government, such as would be possible under subdivision, stimulates the interest of people in the affairs of their neighbourhood, sustains their local political life, educates the citizen in his daily round of civic duty,and teaches himthat perpetual vigilance, and the sacrifice of his own time and labour, are the price that must be paid for individual liberty and collective prosperity.
In every case of subdivision we find, not merely in Australia, but practically in every other country, the immediate result to be that, in the first ten years, there is an increase of population of anything from 200 per cent. to 400 per cent. When Victoria separated from New South Wales, the population of Victoria increased from 77,000 to almost 300,000, while the population of New South Wales increased at the same time. When Queensland separated, it had a population of 16,000, which increased to somethinglike 80,000 within the first ten years. The same thing is true of all the American States where subdivision has taken place, and I should like to quote a few facts in this connexion, showing that
States which separated, some over 100 years ago. and some only in the last ten or fifteen years, experienced an enormously increased population, and that this increase affected not only the areas which separated, but the States which were subdivided.
– What about the Northern Territory?
– I believe that the Northern Territory should have a Government of its own. In America, the State of Iowa, which separated in 1840, increased its population in ten years from 4,000 to 192,000; Kansas, separated in 1860, increased its population in ten years from 107,000 to 364,000; Kentucky, separated 130 years ago, increased its population in the same decade from 73,000 to 220,000; and Oklahoma, separated in 1890, increased its population in ten years from 61,000 to 398,000, and now has a population of 1,700,000. The reason is that self-government secures the good administration of local affairs by giving the inhabitants of each locality due means of overseeing the conduct of their business. In all the States mentioned there followed an improvement in the transport, educational, and post and telephonic facilities, and accompanying this improvement was an enormous increase in production over the whole area. For instance, we find that, in an area like Iowa, which is about one-sixth the size of New South Wales, there is produced 340,000,000 bushels of maize whereas New South Wales pro duces only 5,000,000, and the, American State produces 169,000,000 bushels of oats, as compared with the production of 1,000,000 bushels in New South Wales. The United Kingdom, which is not regarded as a cattle country, and is only about one-third the size of New South Wales, has 12,500,000 cattle and 30,000,000 sheep, whereas New South Wales has only 2,750,000 cattle, and about the same number of sheep as England. The reason is that in England there is no loss on the natural increase, there being transport facilities to enable food and fodder to be brought to where the stock are, or vice versa. At a time in Australia’s history when the crying need is increased production and population, surely the merits of subdivision should have the first claim on the politicians’ attention. We can see similar results in the case of a farm. If there is a station with large river flats, a few bullocks can be grown there for beef; but if those flats are cut up into dairy farms’, and forty or fifty farmers find their homes there, the production of wealth is increased enormously. What is true in this respect of small things is true of nations.
Quite apart from increased production, ability to attract immigration, and provision of local facilities, which mean great increase in rural population, there is a national aspect that has to be considered in relation to the revision of the Constitution. There is no doubt that in the twenty years since Federation was consummated, the importance of the work of the National Government has increased enormously as compared with the work of the State. If we require an illustration of this, we have only to remember that the expenditure of the Commonwealth was, at the beginning, estimated at between £300,000 and £700,000, whereas the expenditure of last year amounted, I think, to £45,000,000. That is sufficient to show the importance of the activities which the Commonwealth has taken over. We find that Australia, by reason of its position, its activity during the war, and by the action of the Prime Minister and his colleague at the Peace Conference, has practically come into the comity of nations. Australia is to be given a vote in the League of Nations - though this the Americans are trying to prevent - yet, while we have the position and status of a nation, we find that we cannot take any fresh step unless we have the approval of the States. For instance, if the Commonwealth wished to enter into a treaty or an obligation with another country, as to the prohibition of the dangerous business of the manufacture of phosphorous matches, it could not do so except on the understanding that it would get the concurrence of the States. That is surely a very undignified position for a National Government to be in. During the early days of the Commonwealth an instance was provided by the arrival of the Dutch ship Vondel on which the crew had mutinied. The Dutch Government applied to the Commonwealth for the extradition of the mutineers; and the Commonwealth asked the South Australian Government to extradite them. The South Australian Government, however, stood on its dignity, holding that it ought to have been consulted by the Dutch Government, or by the Imperial Government on behalf of the Dutch Government, and refused to extradite the men ; and it was found that the bulk of the evidence was on the side of South Australia. That is the position in which the Commonwealth may find itself in much more important matters.
Quite apart from external activities, the national activities of the Commonwealth have enormously increased. It is agreed that there is necessity for a national railway system which knows no State boundaries in its incidence, and which is constructed and conducted with the definite idea of the conservation of the natural resources of the. country. A transcontinental railway through the southern part of Queensland, through New South Wales to the Riverina, and from there to the east coast of Australia, is essential for the salvation and preservation of our flocks and herds in the central districts. Such a railway is more likely ,to result in the provision of cheap meat for the big cities than the fixing of prices by the Government. It is very .necessary that there should be a national railway policy which will completely obliterate the old State boundaries. It is recognised in America, Canada, Germany, Argentine, and every other Federation, that the greatest factor in unifying a country - in making the people of the country be- 2>r. Earle Page. lieve that they really belong to a nation, and not to a separate province - is the fact that their railway systems are not limited by State borders. As Bryce says : -
Still more important is the influence of railway communication, of newspapers, of the telegraph. An American State traversed by great trunk lines of railway, and depending on the markets of the Atlantic cities and of Europe for the sale of its grain, cattle, bacon, and minerals, is attached by a hundred always tightening ties to other States, and touched by their weal or woe as nearly as by what befalls within its own limits. ‘
In America we have big private railway companies running through State after State, and the same conditions prevail in Canada and every other country, except Australia. Two years ago I was in Chicago, and I mentioned to a merchant whom 1 met that I was an Australian. He gave me a very pleased look, as if I recalled some memory, and said, “Oh, yes, I remember; that is the country which has more railway gauges than it has States, and where, on a journey, you are always getting out of one trail, into another.” That was, apparently, the only fact he could remember about Australia; and such an advertisement for us. should be rendered impossible at the earliest possible moment. The fathers of Federation advocated very keenly a proposal that the railways from the start of Federation should be under the control of the Commonwealth Government; and I venture to say that 90 per cent, of the electors who voted for Federation did so with the distinct impression that the railways would be included in the Federal compact and there would no longer be any differential freights and rates such as we still have.
About four months ago, northern New South Wales was .supplying Queensland with wheat, the latter State having had a pretty dry time. The town of Guyra is 150 miles from the Queensland border, and 350 miles from Sydney. The freight from Guyra to Sydney is 13s. 2d., and from Guyra to Wallangarra, on the Queensland border, 15s.; and it paid the grower to send his wheat through to Sydney, and there ship it to Brisbane, rather than send it by train across the border. Such a condition of affairs was never contemplated by the people when they voted for Federation, and it should not be tolerated for a moment longer. Australia was the only country in which, during the whole of the war, the railway system was not under the control of the central Government. In France, England, America, and Canada there are private companies; but throughout the war control was unified for defence and national purposes. But in Australia at the State borders travellers are turned out of their carriages, and “ digger “ after “ digger,” either travelling to or returning from the war, have to pay double fares,’ because the military authorities had forgotten to give two passes which would cover the two railway systems. Nothing keeps the provincial spirit alive more than this division of control.
The conservation of water is a national problem. The Darling-Murray waters touch four States, and there w:ll be no development as rapid and full as it should be until the whole problem of water conservation is placed under national control. The problem of the more effective use and control of the Murray River waters was a stumbling block at the Federal Convention, and the big scheme upon which a commencement has at last been made would not yet be started but for the action taken on behalf of the Commonwealth by the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) in 1914, when he induced this Parliament to hypothecate £1,000,000 as a Commonwealth contribution toward* the cost of the scheme. Another problem that has increased in importance during the last twenty years is the development of power. All over the world that is recognised to be a function of the central Government. In England the people have marshalled their forces, and instead of over 600 separate power stations there are now sixteen, and millions of pounds are being saved by the economies that are being effected. In Australia power production must be a big factor not only in the establishment of secondary industries, but also in bringing about more attractive conditions in rural life. Practically all the important water-power stations in the Commonwealth will be Inter-State in situation and influence, and they ought to be controlled in some measure by the National Government. I do not think any one will dissent from the view that industrial control should! be a matter for the Commonwealth Go,vernment. Mr. Holman, Mr. Beeby, and other leading men in New South Wales, who have studied this matter, and who at one time fought against national control in the Caucus meetings, are now agreed that it should be brought about. The establishment of secondary industries, whether by subsidies, bonuses, or the Tariff, should be, to a great extent, under Federal control, so that the workers throughout the Commonwealth may receive the same benefit from whatever assistance the National Parliament imparts.
The proposal for the greater subdivision of Australia is nothing new. It has received the approbation and’ endorsement of history. It was advocated by the fathers of Federation, and it is justified by the experience of our own history. There is no question that if the scheme promulgated by Dr. Lang in the early days of New South Wales, for the further division of the States, had been effected, and we had five or six eastern States instead of three, the whole destiny of Australia would have been altered for the better.. We should have had a population of 20,000,000 instead of 5,000,000, and should have sent a couple of million men to the war instead of only 400,000. In the words of Dr. Burgess, whom Sir Robert Garran quotes in his annotated edition of the Constitution -
In fact, it looks now as if the whole political world - that part of it in which the centralized form of government obtains, as well as that part still subject to the Federal form - were tending towards this system of centralized government in legislation and Federal government in administration. I do not feel sure that this is not the form of the future, the ultimate ideal form, at least for all great States.
Those words, though uttered twenty years ago, have equal force to-day. And Mr. Macrossan said, in New South Wales, in 1890-
Centralization has no terror for any one who thinks upon the subject if sufficient local automony is left to the local Legislatures. If we were to have a legislative union, it would be a different matter; if we were proposing ., to destroy the local Legislatures, it would be a different thing entirely; but if we leave sum.cient authority. as we ought to do, to the local Legislatures, Federal government, or centralization, can only have the effect of making men believe that which we wish them to believe - that they are, first Australian, and then
Queenslanders, South Australians, or Victorians. it may be said that I am advocating a policy of Unification. I am advocating unification of control in national affairs, but. local automony in local affairs, because local automony is the basis upon which every successful nation has been built. I am afraid that at the Federal Convention that fact was largely overlooked by the framers of the Constitution.
– The honorable member’s proposal would eliminate what are known as State Governments.
– It would eliminate them in their present form to some extent, but we must not overlook the fact that in America there has been a system of local government from the very inception of settlement. The American nation was first founded by men settling on various rivers in locally controlled and self-contained settlements. Those settlements, as they grew, coalesced and gradually formed a State, but they have always retained their local automony, no matter what powers they have handed over to the central Government. In New South Wales, and in Victoria and Queensland to a lesser extent, there has always been a definite centralization of governmental authority. Although there is in New Strath Wales a Local Government Act, thereis not in that State any such thing as real local government. Because the initiation of government in that State started from a centre subsidized by the Imperial Government for twenty or thirty years, and every extension from which looked to the central Government for the making of roads and other conveniences, there has never developed that sense of local automony which has been an essential factor inthe successful working of the American Union. That is why conditions in. Australia have become so strained. The State Parliaments do not really represent the people of those States; they represent, to a large extent, only the city populations, and for that reason, during the war, the Constitution proved an unworkable machine, and this Federal Parliament could not have functioned but for the War Precautions Act. For that reason, too, the post-war problems of reconstruction and repatriation cannot be undertaken as they should be. It is, therefore, proposed by the Government that a Convention shall be held to consider the amendment of the Constitution. Mr. Holman has suggested a nominee convention.. I understand that the Federal Government propose a convention partly elected and partly nominated. We, in the country, believe that the Convention should be entirely elective. If any member of a State Government has sufficiently won the confidence of the people in his State to secure election to the Convention, he will be entitled to be a delegate, but not otherwise. We go further, and say that, judging by the results of the last Senate election, the election of delegates to the Convention by States polling as single constituencies may result again in the swamping of that body by city men.
– Not if they were elected by proportional representation.
– There are not too many representatives of the farmers in the Senate.
– If we had had proportional representation in connexion with the last Senate election, Mr. Falkiner would have been one of the senators elected for New South Wales.
– I believe in proportional representation, and I hold the view that the Convention should be representative of every important industry of any magnitude in Australia. That is the only way in which there is likely to result from the Convention a smooth, rounded and efficient instrument of government to take the place of the clumsy machine which we have operated during the last twenty years. Whatever compromise is effected will be based on a full knowledge of the facts instead of, as has been the case in the past, in deference to State jealousies and personal ambitions. We say, further, that, in order to secure proper rural representation in the Convention, each State should be divided into constituencies for the election of delegates.
– How many constituencies ?
– If the States were divided into three constituencies, the big city interests might control one of them, but not the other two. We think there would be a possibility of dividing New South Wales into five constituencies.
– The honorable member’s idea is to have in the Convention two rural delegates to every one from the city.
– The rural industries are the most important at the present time. The secondary industries that will be developed can only be built up upon the basis of successful and prosperous primary industries, and only if there is provided a sufficient market by a teeming population of primary producers. I would like to impress upon the Government and the House that no considerable progress is likely to be made unless the vexed question of the respective powers of States and Commonwealth is definitely settled in such a way that no revision of the Constitution will be necessary for the next hundred years. I suggest that next in order to the Tariff and the control of the finances, this important matter should receive consideration at the earliest possible moment, so that during this year, at any rate, we may take some steps to secure a revision of the Constitution.
In conclusion, let me say that we must not consider the interest of the primary producer, or the secondary producers solely, or State interests or local interests where they conflict with the interests of the nation. In the words of Sir Henry Parkes -
We cannot become a nation anil still cling to conditions and desires which are antagonistic to nationality. We cannot- become one united people and cherish some provincial object which is inconsistent with that of nationality.
– He was a great old State Righter
– He favoured the further subdivision of New South Wales, and that is sufficient to satisfy me.
– But he wanted to make New South Wales Australia.
– I trust that an opportunity to discuss the constitution of the’ Convention will be given the House; and if the question is discussed on nonparty lines, we shall be able to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that the rural population, and every interest of any magnitude, should be given an opportunity to secure proper representation.
.- It seems to be the general practice for new members to be asked to give their first impressions of the House; but, although a world’s great writer essayed the task of writing a book on Australia after being here a week, I do not propose to endeavour to lecture honorable members or give my first impressions, because some are good and some are indifferent. I thank honorable members for the courtesy extended to me as a new member, and I hope that, after I have been here for some time, at least during this Parliament, I may be able to retain the good opinion of honorable members on both sides. I listened with great interest to speeches made on the two censure motions, but when, on paying a visit to my home at the week-end, I was asked what we had been talking about, I said that I had great difficulty in finding out just what it was. One of my impressions is that the harder an honorable member talked against the Government, and the more he pulled them to pieces, the more solidly he supported them, while those who spoke very favorably about the Government, and praised them for all their actions during the war, were those who voted against them. Of course, I do not say that this occurred in all cases.
The Speech from the Throne includes a large number of proposals which will need the careful consideration of honorable members of all parties. I do not like honorable members opposite saying “ the so-called Country party,” nor do I like the expression “ the so-called Labour party.” The National party is equally representative of the farmers, and has their interests at heart as much as any other party has. One thing that struck me in the speech of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was his declaration that we, in Australia, need unification of industries and railways, and so forth. But, at the last election, the honorable member’s party had a golden opportunity of bringing it about by voting in favour of the proposed alteration of the Constitution. They did not avail themselves of that opportunity, and even went so far in New South Wales as to bring out a candidate to oppose the Nationalist and Labour Senate nominees for the primary purpose of inducing the people of the State to vote “ No “ on the proposed amendments.
– The farmers did not do so in Victoria.
– The farmers of Victoria used their best efforts to turn down the proposed amendments. I believe that shortly, the time will come when it will be absolutely essential for the well-being of Australia to have unification in many directions. The legal members of the House seem to differ considerably as to the powers of the Commonwealth. Some of them say that we have certain powers ; others say that we have not. It is all very confusing to a layman, but, at any rate, we can all claim that if we have not the necessary powers now, we have the right to ask the people to give them to us. They were asked for at the recent election.
– Hear, hear!
– Why did not the honorable member work hard to get the people to vote “Yes”?
– I did my utmost in that direction. In the Grampians electorate we had a large majority for the amendments.
– I am glad to hear it.
No member will oppose my claim that the Post Office needs urgent and careful attention, but we have to recognise that the engineering portion of the Post and Telegraph Department .is “up against things “ very solidly owing to the lack of material. I speak from some years of experience in the Department when I say that this is a golden opportunity for the Post Office to commence manufacturing in Australia all its telephonic and telegraphic requirements. We have in Australia workmen equal to those of any other country, and there are men in the Post and Telegraph Department who can manufacture the articles required if given the opportunity to do so.
Repatriation is another problem that has to be faced. It was taken in hand during the war by both parties, and our Repatriation Act is the best legislation of its kind in the world. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) and his staff have administered the Act, and dealt with the soldier in almost every instance to his advantage. In fact, I think that on both sides we can concede to the Minister all the credit to which he is entitled. He has devoted days, hours, weeks, and months to the betterment of the lot of the returned soldier.
– Why is he asking kiddies to live on 3s. 6d. a week ?
– Of course there are individual grievances If there were not honorable members would not have so much to undertake in regard to complaints. But the grievances are a very small percentage when compared with the number of men repatriated.
In a few days we shall be dealing with the War Gratuity Bill. Some honorable members are ir> favour of a cash gratuity, but even if the Government are agreeable to paying the gratuity in cash, let me say at once that I am opposed to such a proposal. I speak as a returned soldier. Every man who has been away from Australia has become unsettled in his mind. He has been taught to forget those things he learned here. I have heard an honorable member opposite say that when a soldier joined up in Australia he was taught to forget the things he had learned in civil life, that when he went to England he was taught to forget the things he had learned in Australia, and that when he went across to France he was taught to forget what he had learned in England. That statement was correct. Our men, through their war service, became very unsettled, and need our very careful and sympathetic handling. It is a pleasure to me to see so many returned soldiers in the House. My only regret and I say it without any unkindly intent, is that there are no returned soldiers on the Opposition benches to complete the representation of all part es in the House, for no matter how sympathetic we mav be, no one knows the returned soldier better than he does hims If. Todav, in’ al1 the cities of Australia, we find ‘ returned men holding up the verandah posts of hotels. and spending their nension money, instead of using it to keep’ their families. It is the duty of men in public life to endeavour to lift these men up from the gutter and put them on the right track in life.
We have heard a lot of talk about the Tariff. It is a matter that will receive considerable discussion during this Parliament, but I shall listen to the debates with interest rather than take part in them, until, perhaps. I have heard an expression of the opinion of the older members of the House.
The co-ordination of taxation returns is another matter requiring the attention of the Government. Outside the House we frequently hear the opinion expressed that the present system of running two De- partments to collect the returns when one could do the work, not only leads to duplication, but also to a waste of money. The same remarks apply to the Electoral Department. Why cannot we devise a scheme whereby the one set of electoral officers may do both State and Commonwealth electoral work ? I am certain that if authority were given to the Commonwealth Parliament to control all these various matters, one of the first actions to be taken would be to bring about the co-ordination of the Commonwealth and State taxation and electoral work. Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Coming to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I should like the Postmaster-General to endeavour, if possible, to minimize the delays at present associated with the telegraph service. I speak more particularly with regard to the situation in the , Sydney Central Office, with the details of which 1 am familiar. The public of Sydney have come to realize that it is almost futile to think of sending a telegram with any likelihood of its reaching its destination sooner than would a letter. I could give a number of instances where a letter has reached its destination prior to the arrival of a telegram sent to the same address on the same day. The Sydney te’egraph office is very much undo manned. Operators who are supposed to cease duty e-t 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. are invariably called upon to remain at their post until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. in order chiefly to deal with lettergrams. They are paid overtime rates.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Central Office, Sydney ?
– Yes. Having regard to the amount paid by way of overtime, the Department would be well justified in increasing the staff, since in that way. more satisfaction would be given the public.
Another question which vitally affects this country, isolated as it is from the rest of the world, is wireless telegraphy. Wireless telegraphy has not had a fair chance in Australia, and in respect of it we are very much behind other parts of the world. The Department relating to it needs to be put on a better business basis and under proper control. While it was highly desirable during the war that the Navy Department should control our wireless service, that necessity has now ceased to exist, and the service should be placed under a Department likely to make of it a commercial success. If it is to be made a success in Austraia the service must be put upon a sound bas s. Doubtless most honorable members would like the control to remain in Government hands, but I think the present system should be so extended as to give firms and private individuals an opportunity to experiment, in this branch of sci. nee. By that, means we should secure increased competition and greater efficiency. During the war period, when the:e was always a likelihood of our limited cable communications being cut, we had no wireless station sufficiently powerful to enable us to communicate with’ countries some distance from our shores. That defect should immediately be remedied. Wireless telegraphy advanced bv leaps and bounds during the war. Indeed, theadvances made by wireless and aviation were greater than in respect of any other branch of science. We should r. cognise here, as it is recognised elsewhere, that wireless has become part and parcel of our commercial activities, and we should give an opportunity to firms and private individuals to experiment, to open up new works, and generally to advance and make more efficient this m:ans of communication. B- giving opportunities to persons outside the Government to experiment, we should make the Government service itself more efficient. Competition is always desirable. Neither the Australian nor any other Government owns the ether which surrounds this sphere of ours. We all admit that telegraphic and postal services should be controlled by the State, but wireless is in a wholly different category. If firms or private individuals are prepared to open up wireless communication between our thickly populated centres and the outlying districts, they should be allowed to do so. The Government are doing nothing in that direction, and they ought certainly to give facilities to those who are prepared to supply the people of the back country with this means of communication. Some outback stations by the expenditure of from £25 to £100 could install small wireless sets, which would enable them to communicate not only with various parts of their runs, but with distant parts of the Commonwealth. Why should not that right be conceded to private firms? If the owner of a station in, say, Victoria, desires to open up a special means of communication with another station owned by him in New South Wales, he can, if he is wealthy enough, erect a private telegraph line. Why should he not be allowed to put in two small sets of wireless installations ? It would simply be a matter of the adjustment of two wave lengths.
On my return from the war, I was astounded to learn, from statements in the press, that the then PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) was negotiating in America for the introduction of a system that would enable wireless sets to be used in connexion with our telegraph lines for wireless purposes. In the war zone, telegraph lines were so used throughout the conflict. I had an opportunity, on that part of the field of operations in which I worked, to carry out experiments, and by the use of small wireless sets on an old telegraph line which was being used for single messages, we were able to put ten or a dozen additional messages through at the onetime. Every one knows how our telegraph service is blocked, and communications held up because lines between the capital cities of Australia will not carry the work required of them. By the introduction of this new system, which would enable us to send ten or a dozen messages over the one line at the same time, we should get rid of the congestion of business. I interviewed Mr. Webster, and told him that if, instead of paying Americans £12,000 for an improved system, he would avail himself of the services of myself and a fellow officer who served in the Forces we would do all that he wanted free of charge.
– What would such an installation cost?
– From £50 to £100 per set.
– Would such a system operate as well as the old telegraphic system?
– Yes. The one line could be used for the two systems. By means of different wave lengths, several messages can be transmitted at the same time. I have talked over a line which was being used in that way without those concerned in sending the messages knowing of it.
Another matter of vital interest to Australia is aviation, the importance of which has been brought prominently under our notice by the recent arrival of Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith. It is proposed by the Government to appoint an
Aviation Board to control this science in Australia.. I would impress upon’ the Government the necessity of appointing to that Board men with engineering and wireless experiencs. It is suggested that reports on the subject be obtained from the Defence Department and the Department of the Navy. My contention is that it is essential that an engineer with experience and a wireless expert should be members of the Board. Wireless and aviation are closely co-ordinated, and are of equal importance to the pilot who drives the machine.
A statement has been made that the Lithgow rifles used during the war did not compare favorably with those produced in other countries. That statement is partly correct. An honorable member has said that Australians left here armed with Lithgow rifles, which were found unsuitable, and had to be exchanged for others. He forgot to tell the House, however, that the rifles substituted for those taken away by our men were also manufactured at Lithgow. One type of Lithgow rifle was exchanged for another.
– But relatively very few Lithgow rifles went to the Front.
– I object to that statement.
– It is true.
– Every man who served in Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and right through the Allenby battles up to Aleppo, where our operations were so successful, was armed with a Lithgow rifle. We have in this House honorable members who have handled that rifle. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) are fair rifle shots, and all have told me that they did just as good shooting over there with Lithgow rifles as they have ever done with any other class of rifle in Australia. The statement has been made that the bolts of the Lithgow rifles blew out on various occasions, and that as the result of the explosions men were injured. That statement is correct, but it should be explained that the same thing happened in connexion with rifles of other manufacture. As the result of the use of high-velocity ammunition by the Germans, the Allied forces had also to use high-velocity ammunition, and it was the use of such ammunition in low-velocity rifles that led to the explosions. Orders were issued by the Allied War Council that Mark VII. ammunition was not to be used in Mark VI. rifles. It was because some Mark VII. ammunition was used in the first Australian rifles that explosions took place. British rifles used in the same way also exploded. We had to change the rifles first issued for rifles of later manufacture which would withstand the higher velocity ammunition. Honorable members will recognise that to extend the range of a rifle, one must increase the explosive charge, and the rifles have to be increased in strengh to withstand the extra charge.
I do not know what is the cost of rifle production at Lithgow, but mistakes and some unnecessary expenditure are inseparable from the establishment of a new industry. The Government or private firm that never makes a mistake never makes anything. No doubt many mistakes have been made in connexion with the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, but as the result of experience they will be overcome. I am satisfied that Australian workmen compare favorably with those of any other country, and I expect our men in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory to turn out a rifle equal to that produced in any other part of the world.
I wish now to refer to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The matter is one with which we shall be able to deal more fully when the promised Bill to amend the Public Service Act is before the House. We all admit that not only public servants, but also the general public, have grievances associated with the Service. In dealing with the proposed amendment of the Act, we must have regard to the wants of the public as well as those of the Service. There are public servants who are suffering grave injustice, and I am hopeful that if the Government carry their proposal to place the Service under a Board of Management, the members of the Board will be chosen from the best business brains in the community. We need men who, while looking after the interests of the public of Australia, will also safeguard those of its public servants. It has been stated, and I believe correctly, that the Prime Minister is ‘ prepared to give preference to re turned soldiers in all- grades of employment, not only outside of the Service, but inside as well ; and that he is desirous of safeguarding the interests’ of public servants who went to the war. While that may be so, I can give concrete cases where such has not been the outcome. I know of men who went to the war and who, on returning, discovered that others, who had remained behind, had gone over their heads. So long as I have a voice and the opportunity I will be heard in this Parliament in protest against that sort of thing. It is my purpose to help the returned soldier in every manner possible, and as vigorously as I can. If war should ever recur we must emphatically see to it that our fighting men shall have preference in the Public Service over eligibles who remain behind.
A matter which affects the whole Commonwealth has to do with the break of gauge on our railways. In 1914 the Cook Government brought the matter of uniformity of gauge before the Inter-State Commission. Now, this is a controversial subject, for each State thinks its own railway gauge is the best. I understand that a board of experts reported that one particular gauge was the best for all purposes in Australia, and that the Cook Government requested the InterState Commission to go exhaustively into the matter and report, making recommendations concerning the allocation of expenses, and deciding whether the cost should be borne by the States or by the Commonwealth authority. If the lines were to be used for defence purposes the Commonwealth Government, of course, should be prepared to accept a large proportion of. the cost of bringing about uniformity of gauge. While in my State we have the standard gauge which the railway experts approved, I would say that the people of the whole Commonwealth, including those of New South Wales,’ would not object to bringing about a universal railway system, provided the Federal Government . bear a large proportion of the expense.
Another matter upon which I feel sure . most honorable members are in agreement has to do with the completion of the Federal Capital.
– Do you suggest that all honorable members favour that?
– I admit that it appears to have taken the breath away from some of the Victorian representatives in this Chamber; but I draw attention to the fact that when Federation was promulgated the people of Australia agreed upon at least three vital matters. One was the promise of the inhabitants of Western Australia that if that Colony came into the Federation they would get their long-desired transcontinental railway. The Commonwealth has given effect to that promise. To-day Western Australia is connected by rail with the Eastern States, and a very useful work it has proved, and will continue to be. Then a promise was made to the people of South Australia that if they came into the Federation they would be relieved of the incubus of administering the Northern Territory. I have never heard a South Australian citizen raise his voice in protest against the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. Then there was a third promise, which has not yet been honoured. It has relation to the establishment of the Federal Capital within the boundaries of New South Wales. An honorable member said the other day that the Australian people could not have had Federation unless Tasmania had come into it. I do not think there is any honorable member who would have wished to see Tasmania, or any other State, remain outside of the Federation. I do not intend to say anything against Tasmania, for the reason that my father was a native, of the Island Colony. It is true that he improved in wisdom with the years, and eventually settled in New South Wales. But the point is that this third promise on the part of the people of Australia has not so far been kept. Honorable members will agree with me, I am sure, that Federation would have been impossible without New South Wales. That State conceded many points in coming into the Federation - as it had a right to do. It was only fair and proper that the natural wishes of the smaller. States should have been granted in every .reasonable direction ; but now I want the promise made to the most important State honoured. The Commonwealth is twenty years old, and the promise has still to be made good. It is regrettable that so many honorable members apparently treat the matter as one for levity and ridicule, but it should re ceive most earnest and serious consideration; and, if it is approached in a nonparochial spirit, it will not be very long before the Federal Capital is established at Canberra. Certain Victorian members have said to me, “ What about removing the Capital to Sydney for a spell?” I am not in favour of Sydney becoming the Federal Capital. I do not favour the idea of any of the State capital cities becoming the Federal Capital. Although I have had only three or four weeks’ experience as a Federal member, it is obvious to me that there is too much Melbourne influence brought to bear upon the Federal Government. The first men who came to see me upon my arrival here were members of the Melbourne press. They asked, “ What are your views concerning the Federal Capital?” I promptly told them that I had come here to fight for its establishment for all I was worth. That was enough. They never said a word about me or it. A member of the Government has publicly indicated that the Victorian people favour the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, but that it is only the Melbourne press which opposes the proposition. Those were, in effect, the remarks of Senator Russell, and I am going to keep him to his word. I believe that as honorable members have witnessed the honouring of all the other promises made, they will be unable for much longer to see why they should not honour the important promise made to the largest constituency of the Australian Federation. I would not be game to go back to the blue ribbon constituency of Australia - the largest of all in point of numbers of electors, for there are almost 74,000 names upon the roll for the electorate of Parkes - and tell them that I have never put in a word for the completion of the Federal Capital. I am looking for an early opportunity to be given this Parliament to consider the question, when I feel sure that all honorable members will join forces in honouring this, the third, of the promises made at the inauguration of Federation.
– But does the honorable member think it is an urgent matter?
– I do. I know that an objection has been raised that the scheme will cost too much. If the Commonwealth cannot afford, to raise the necessary loan, several honorable members in this chamber will undertake to raise in New South Wales a sufficiently large loan to build the Federal Capital, or a portion of it, at any rate; and they would be prepared to charge the Commonwealth authorities a low rate of percentage. A proposition has been made for a syndicate to take over and finance the project. I do not believe in any syndicate coming into a national concern, but if the Commonwealth cannot raise the money, we will raise it in New South Wales.
One other matter which requires much consideration is that of the war service homes. I suppose every honorable member, has met with numerous complaints in regard to the delay in housing our returned soldiers. We realize, of course, that there is a scarcity of labour and material. But, seeing that the cost of material is so high to-day, why should the amount which mav be advanced by way of mortgage to the returned soldier remain at such a low figure? Will any one say that a returned man, with a wife and half a dozen or more children, could purchase for .£700 a home capable of housing his family? If any person were to announce that he could provide a returned soldier and family with an. adequate home for £700, he would be swamped with applications. I trust that the Government will raise the grant to soldiers to a much higher sum than thatobtainable to-day.
The pensions being paid by the Commonwealth authorities compare favorably with those granted in any other country in the world ; but there is one phase which requires more liberal consideration. I refer to the case of a mother of a fallen soldier who had been deserted by her husband. Prior to the. war the son had been supporting her. Then he enlisted, went to the Front, and lost his life. To-day that mother receives no pension consideration. If she were able to prove that her husband had deserted her, and that her fallen son had been supporting her, surely this country should be ready to look after her welfare. I trust the Government will give this point earnest consideration, and insure that justice is done.
I desire to bring forward one other matter in conclusion. I do not wish either to praise or blame the New South Wales Government at this juncture, but I am compelled to remark that no Go vernment in Australia has done as much for the returned soldier as has the State Government of New South Wales. Every matter which the returned men have put before the Ministry, and which they have been able to back with facts, has met with sympathy and support. One such point was that the child of a fallen soldier should be granted a bursary in the public schools without being called upon to compete for one with other children. The Government approved. Thereafter we asked the Government if it would give to a dependant of any soldier who had fallen that same privilege, and again the Government approved. In regard to providing returned men with land, the Government has very successfully handled the matter so far. At the present time, there are just over 4,000 returned men settled on the land in New South Wales. I have visited the various soldier settlements there, and 99 per cent, of the men seem satisfied with their conditions. They have one or two minor grievances, which could be easily rectified, but, generally speaking, they have been impressed by the generosity and sincerity of the State Government.
Every one will admit that immigration is necessary for the progress of Australia, and I understand that one of the questions with which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will deal when in England is how to promote immigration. There are three reasons why we should favour immigration. One is that Australia requires a bigger population, so that she may produce more. We should get the right class of immigrants, who will assist us to open up the country, and increase our -production. It is only by increasing production that we can reduce the cost of living. The second reason why we need immigrants is that by increasing our population we shall be better able to safeguard our interests, and to defend the country should it ever be attacked. Lastly, we need population - and perhaps this is the most urgent reason - because we have a national debt of between £700,000,000 and £800,000,000. This is now borne by a population of 5,000,000. Were our numbers doubled, the public debt per head of population would be halved.
I hope that the various matters which I have brought under notice will be threshed out later. I believe, from the experience I have had here already, that the members of all parties are ready to join forces to see that our returned men get fair treatment. I thank the House for the manner in which my maiden effort has been received, and I hope that I may deserve the same courtesy in the future.
– That old bogy with which we have been menaced for years has been trotted out again in this debate: I refer to proportional representation. It was brought before us by a new member, who admitted that he had not much political experience. Evidently he was egged on by the old foxes of his party. I ask honorable members who support proportional representation if they have ever considered what would be the effect of adopting it. To secure proportional representation in Parliament it would be necessary to treat each State as one electoral division; indeed, to be quite sure of getting it, Australia should be made one electoral division for the whole House. But if each State were an electoral division, and there were twenty-one seats set apart for the representation of Victoria, there would be about 90,000 candidates. How is proportional representation possible under an electoral system by which a division returns only one representative? In New South Wales, each division is to return five representatives, and it would be no great stretch of principle to make a State an electoral division : Only thus could true proportional representation be attained. If we had proportional representation, how would the House be composed ? God help us ! We should have Worrall and Woodfull here for two, and perhaps Dr. Mannix. The Chamber would become a bear garden through religious differences. There would be representation of that narrow-minded crowd who compose the temperance organizations ; the liquor trade would be represented; there would be the Protectionists, who say that smoking chimneys mean prosperity, and that nothing else must be considered ; and there would be the Free Traders, who say, “ Let us open our ports, and buy everything as cheap aswe can. Why should we not get ten pianos for the price of one?” Every section of faddists would be represented. I could enjoy the situation that would thus be created, but it would not be one productive of good for the State. The newspapers advocate proportional representation, because they see in it an opportunity to secure representation for themselves. We should have representation for the Age and for the Argus.
– And for the Herald.
– Possibly, though it is not a political newspaper. Those who have had experience of politics - the men who have tried to do things in Parliament -know that there is room only for twopolitical parties. If every set of faddists were represented here, corruption would spring up. There would be no such thing as getting a Government composed of persons of one set of ideas. Things are bad enough under present circumstances. The members of this party hold divergent views on many subjects, but have to sink their personal opinions for the sake of solidarity, and it is the same with the members of other parties. Some people say that there is corruption to-day, but though I have been in Parliament for nearly fourteen years, 1 nave not seen, nor have I heard, of, any corruption. If I had done so, I would have exposed it. If, however, there were fourteen different parties in the House, there would be underground engineering to secure Ministerial office, and we should soon have in power a fine, broad, national, cum Free Trade, cum Protection, cum Methodist, cum. Anglican, cum Roman Catholic Government. I hope that the good sense of the people will not consider the suggestion to adopt proportional representation.
– In New South Wales an election on the proportional representation system is to be held next Saturday.
– And what will happen ? There is an article in to-day’s Age which makes plain the manipulation and underground engineering that is now taking place. I have heard it said by representatives of the Labour movement that the five Labour candidates for a division are each looking after his own interests, and not considering the party. No candidate cares for his mates, so long as he can get in himself. No doubt, this is true of the candidates of other parties. The proportional representation system is separating men from their parties.
– The object of an election is not to return a party, but to get the best results, the best principles.
– What are the beat principles is always a political question. In the past we have had experience in this House of the effect of having three parties, and I ask any man who has studied economics, whether as a member of Parliament or as a leader-writer, whether much is to be expected from the combination of parties just elected in South Africa?
– The South African election was not conducted under the system of proportional representation.
– I am speaking of the effect of having political bodies composed of a number of parties. In the South African House there are six parties, and no good legislation will be passed by it. Each party will start to -offer itself for sale in order to secure something for its own particular fad. The Labour party made no bones about selling itself for concessions when it first came into Federal politics. We sold our numbers to the party that would give us something for the Labour movement. Every political party will do. this, and proportional representation will accentuate ins evil. The day when we have proportional representation in our electoral systems will be a bad one for Australia. Honorable members who have had political experience here or in some State House know that what I say is true, though they have not the courage to say so publicly, for fear of a castigation from their party or from the newspapers. All who have considered the subject from the standpoint of the public welfare feel sure that proportional representation would breed corruption.
– Has it done so in Tasmania ?
– There they have a hybrid system of proportional representation.
– The best in the world.
– The honorable member is supposed to be an authority on proportional representation, and has written articles upon it. I do not accept him as an authority, because I have read much of what he has written, and consider it clap-trap. The writers of letters in reply to him have wiped the floor with him.
– Only one letter was published in reply to mine.
– I believe there were three, and that the writers of them differed from each other, and differed from the honorable member, too. Proportional representation has on many occasions been spoken about on the pu’blic platform, but I hope that our people will never’ agree to it, because it could not be productive of good.
The great question of economy is narrowing itself down to a desire for economy, always, of course, from “a broad national stand-point.” The main idea seems to be the co-ordination of State and Federal Departments, and I do not suppose anybody will object to that, except, perhaps, State and Federal officials, who themselves wish to “ run the show.” When, however, the people, or their representatives, come to a decision on the point, such an economy will be good for the country. I am gratified to hear allusions to the reduction of our military and naval expenditure, and the more so because such allusions are made on both sides of the House’. This is a much-needed reform, and represents true economy. I represent a constituency where, if there is a navy in Victoria, that navy is situated at present, though how long the Naval Depot will be at Williamstown, I do not know. If, however, after this war, which we were told by the Government was to do away with the necessity for military and naval expenditure, we are now told, as we really are, that it is to be 500 per cent, more, then the Government have misled the people of Australia. Before the war our expenditure under this head was £1,000,000 per annum, and now we are told that it has to be £5,000,000. Can any honorable member tell me that that increased expenditure is warranted?
– What does that £5,000,000 cover?
– It covers, I believe, the whole of the naval expenditure as recommended by Admiral Jellicoe ; and I point out to the Country party that this is a direction in which they can apply their much-desired economy.
– The best economy is to be ready for any emergency that arises.
– That is the old cry of the military and naval caste.
– It is a pity we do not have more of it.
– I was reared in the army, and I wish to see the military caste go for ever. If the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) has not had enough of militarism during his term at the war, I wish he may have an opportunity of getting more in another country.
– When there are other opportunities he will take them.
– I hope the honorable member will not try to disseminate in this country the militarist views he holds.
– He is going to be ready for anything- that comes, and it is a pity that other members are not the same.
– The honorable member happens to be one of those honorable members with whom I do not desire to get into a discussion. This war, amongst other things, has shown the workers of the world that flesh and blood count for more than anything else; but, further, it has engendered in the minds of many young Australians a desire for blood that I am sorry to observe - a desire for that military caste which all Democracies and civilizations should endeavour to do away with. We have noticed the enormous expenditure that has taken place in Britain since the Armistice because those connected with the defence forces persist in hanging on to their jobs. We have some such men here in Australia; indeed, we have more generals now than we had sergeants before the war. They are all holding on tenaciously to their places, and really I do not blame them, for they worked veryhard for the ranks they hold. As a representative of the people, however, I desire to see the military caste wiped out ; and whether a man may have been a full private or a general, he ought now to resume the plain “ Mr.”
We have heard many suggestions as to what should be done with regard to the strength of the military units of Australia. If military men. have any say, and if their advice is sought and followed, we will have a much bigger army than ever, and our defence expenditure will be so large that we shall not be able to bear it.
– If the advice of the military had been followed, all the expenditure would have been finished in 1918.
– Many do not watch passing events, but it is apparent that the military section is trying to main tain strongly the expenditure that prevailed during the war. If those who fought, and especially those who fought side by side with the armies of other countries, desire to see the military system .perpetuated here, they cannot claim to be Democrats. Wherever there is a military system, there we have the military caste in its full strength. Let us hope that no man who went to the war will express a desire to see that caste continued in Australia.
– What defence does the honorable member advocate?
– I believe it is a waste of money to clothe and train boys on more than a primary system before they are eighteen years of age, and that it is unnecessary and unfair to the individual to keep up the training longer than from the age of eighteen to twentyone. Australia, if any country has done so, has shown how unnecessary is the training that was imposed on men before the war in order to make them soldiers. If a boy is drilled at school, and put into training from the age of - eighteen to twenty-one, he can be made a soldier at any time that soldiers are necessary. This was proved by the fact that many men who joined the Army for the Front d’d not know how to form fours, but became officers in a very short time. Many of these, of course, got a “ push on,” but most of them, I believe, gained their promotion by merit. As I have sa d, our present system is not fair to the individual. Why should a man, because he is physically fit, be called upon to bear all the disadvantages of training for the defence of the country ? When compulsory training was proposed I opposed it, and pointed out how adversely it would affect, for instance, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, and others connected with the building trade. A man mav be called up for three weeks’ training, just in the middle of a job he may have obtained for four or five weeks, and we know that if an employer is aware that a man is likely to be called away for training there will be no work for him. This I regard as unfair to the individual, because others, who may be flat-footed or soft-headed, escape.
– It is not fair that a man should be called upon to fight for his country if others stay behind.
– If the people of Australia owned Australia I should have ‘ been in favour of conscription, but, as a matter of fact, the people do not own the country.
– The Trades and Labour Councils said that 80 per cent, of the Forces were trade unionists.
– That, I think, is about right. These men went because of that peculiar spirit of the Australian who loves a fight, and looks for it. As a policeman said to me at Fort Melbourne after the Gallipoli landing, “ They told us that our men would not fight, but I knew they would if they had a chance; they used to fight me when they had no chance.” There were many that went away knowing nothing about “ fighting for the flag,” but simply because they knew there was a “ scrap “ on.
As I have already said, the enormous expenditure that is foreshadowed on our naval and military defence is unnecessary, and I recommend the Economy party to look well into the matter before they talk of reducing expenditure on public utilities, or of reducing the wages of those who work for the Government.
The abilities of the Government and their administration are very limited, especially in the matter of repatriation. It is not because the Government or the Minister does not desire to do the work, or cannot do it, but it is because vested interests prevent him, and have prevented him, from achieving what would have been the true repatriation of our soldiers. Two years ago I introduced a deputation of employers and employees in the textile trade to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), to ‘whom the suggestion was made that the Government should provide for the handling of the whole of the wool in Australia, from the sheen’s back until it was made into commodities for export, and that the returned soldiers should’ be trained to do this new work, even if the training cost £20,000.000, so that they might not displace their fathers and brothers, and thus, at the same time, benefit both themselves and the country. We are told that other countries will not take our wool in the form in which we desire to export it, but other countries must take our wool in some form. It is not a question of what they want, but what the people wil1 have. I read on Monday that those engaged in the woopen industry in Great Britain were objecting to certain demand? that were likely to be made by Austra lians. They do not take our wool because of the thin thread of kinship between Australia and the Motherland, or because the flag flies over both of us, but because they need the wool.
– They lent us money when we could not have got it elsewhere.
– The interjection compels me to remind the House once again that Britain lent us money in order that we might engage in the war. Why did not Canada do the same as Australia did? I shall continually place before the House and the country the view that Australia was made a scapegoat during the war, and made sacrifices that were not made by other British dependencies. Even though the British Government lent us money we are obliged to pay interest on it.
– They did jolly well out of Australia.
– And the Mother Country did very well by Australia, too.
– It is unnecessary for me to reiterate the statement made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) that the primary producers of Australia were robbed by either the British Government or the British capitalist, in connexion with the commodities we sent to Europe. The whole world wants our wool. We sent our men to the war, and now we are endeavouring to repatriate them. There are men who are drawing £2 2s. per week from the Repatriation Department for walking about the streets. Tt would be better to employ them at some work, and even pay them £5 5s. per week so ‘ long as they were learning to produce something. Instead of that we are making a lot of them lazy; they do not wish to work, although they are young and able to do so. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will agree that quite 4 or 5 per cent, of the returned soldiers are not the jolly fellows they ought to be, but are quite willing to continue living on £2 2s. per week so long as they can draw it. But the fault lies w;th the Government. I have always admitted that repatriation is” a bie question, and that the Minister in control means well. He would’ not accept the suggestion I made regarding the woollen industry, because the present Government represent those who have vested interests in that industry.
– Is that the reason why the Prime Minister is trying to arrange for a number of private firms to engage in that great industry?
– It is a very belated effort. I know that the Prime Minister has difficulties in connexion with the matter, and he endeavoured to show us to-day how complex a question it is.. He doubted whether any honorable members would understand what he meant after he had explained the situation to us, but I understood enough to know that the manufacture of wool tops in Australia was prevented because vested interests did not desire it to take place. The Government are up against the profiteers of Australia, who put them in office. Dog -does not eat dog, and the Government do not like fighting the crowd that placed them in power. The vested interests of Australia united to secure the return of the National party, and to that end fought honorable members in the Ministerial corner almost as bitterly as they fought honorable members on this side of the House, so that the Government might continue to reap benefits for the interests they represent. What is our position in regard to woollen by-products? In proportion to population Australia produces more wool than any other country in the world. Australian wool is a factor in the markets of the world, and yet we are payin? £2 ‘5s. per yard for material that in 1914 was bought for 10s. per yard.
– And yet -the manufacturers are getting the wool at only 50 per cent, above the 1914 price.
– Tiat is what hurts. If the graziers had received the extra profit, I would not have minded so much, because we could have taxed them anc! got a fair amount of it back. But the profit goes to somebody else. The importers control all the locally manufactured woollen goods.
– That is true.
– Of course, the warehousemen have been telling the tailor and the draper fiat the market is upset because there is likely to be a new Tariff. If any profit is to be made out of the woollen goods that are iri hand, the warehouseman is as much entitled to it as is the tailor or the draper. But the trouble is that the tailor cannot purchase woollen goods direct from the mills, even if he offers to take a large wholesale consignment. If a mill did sell direct to a tailor, its trade would be so restricted by the warehouses that he would soon be in the Insolvency Court unless he agreed to place himself once again in the tentacles of the importers. Last year, after I had made an attack upon the importers, and incidentally upon the manufacturers, two mills sent to me samples of their woollen goods. Some of the material was rather good. The manufacturers admitted that their prices were 40 per cent, above prewar rates, yet the dearest bit of material amongst the samples was priced at lis. per yard. That was the rate at which it was sold to the warehouses; but it could not be bought wholesale under about £1 per yard, so that a profit of nearly 100 per cent, was made by the warehouses. Those gentlemen are flag-wagging patriots, and they are availing themselves of the present system to pile up the shekels; but it was the duty of the Government to see that these methods of restraining trade by men who were intent on making profits for themselves only were discontinued. If the Government say that no such action could be taken, they disclose their poverty of mind.
The Government could also promote the establishment of other industries, particularly the timber and pottery trades and the manufacture of motor-car chassis and engines. The Government said they would spend millions on the repatriation of the soldiers; so they ought to do, but the money should be spent in the extension of these industries. I do not think that 10 per cent, of the woollen goods worn in Australia is manufactured locally, and when we know the enormous Quantity of woollen goods that is worn we can calculate fairly well the number of men who would have been employed if the Government had taken the acton I suggested. 1 hope that something in this direction will be done, because every returned soldier argues that employment must be found for the men who have returned from the Front. I agree that it is the duty of the Government to find occupation for every returned soldier, but they have no right in doing that to put the father or brother of a soldier out of h’s job. It is the duty of the Government to find work for every man and woman as well as the returned, soldier. If the returned soldiers adopt the attitude of insisting that nobody but they should be considered they will engender a feeling of bitterness amongst the growing population - those who were too young to go to the war but who five years hence will be wishing to take their place in the ranks of industry - the result of which will be appalling. Therefore, not only should the returned soldiers claim as their right to be found employment in which they can earn a decent living, but they should also admit that every man and woman in the community has a right to rely upon the Government for the same protection.
The Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act is admittedly imperfect. I propose to deal only with the question of invali d pensions to-night. A man fifty-five years of age who lives in. my electorate sustained a paralytic stroke. He owned a house. His wife was working to earn her living. He was in receipt of an invalid pension of 12s. 6d. He was medically advised that living near the coast was not beneficial for him and he accordingly moved to Broken Hill. With the proceeds from the sale of his house at Port Melbourne he bought another in Broken Hill, but after a while found the climate unsuitable and had to leave. He could not sell his house but his daughter agreed to purchase it by paying off 15s. per week. The house was worth £300. Because he receives the payment of 15s. per week £10 per annum has been knocked off his pension, and he and his wife are required to live on a pension of 10s. and the 15s. income from the house. Will any honorable member say that that was the intention of this Parliament?
– It is the law, all the same.
– Unfortunately it is. I thought I had obtained from Mr. Fisher when Treasurer, and later from Lord Forrest, an assurance that the Commissioner for Pensions (Mr. Collins) had been empowered by them to deal with the cases on their merits according to the spirit, and not the letter, of the Act. In justice to Mr. Collins I must say that he has handled there cases in the most humane way possible while having due regard for the duties he has to perform as principal official of the Treasury. There is another case in which a man, who is over sixty years of age, and is earning £3 5s. a week, has a son suffering from tuberculosis. This son has been in several institutions, but has been told that his case is beyond cure. Because the father prefers to keep his son and not turn him out to earn his own livelihood the son cannot get a pension. I could enumerate hundreds of similar cases which the Commissioner of Pensions has not the power to deal with in a sympathetic manner. I am sure that honorable members would not spend very much time in passing a Bill to give him that necessary power. I do not like bringing forward these cases so often. Other honorable members have numbers of similar cases brought under their notice.
– I think that honorable members opposite would cavil at the idea of a crippled son of a very rich man getting an invalid pension.
– I do not think so. There is such a thing as being taunted with your dependence. There are many cruel fathers, and many a son might say that he would rather live on his rights as a citizen of Australia than on his father’s charity. However, what I want is to give the power to the Commissioner of Pensions to deal with these cases on their merits. Seven or eight years ago I thought that I had secured it, but I find that it is not the case.
– Is the honorable member sure of that, becauseI have got three or four similar cases through ?
– So far as I am concerned, I have not been able to get this sympathetic treatment of cases. I know two invalid girls who cannot get a pension because their parents will not turn them out into the street to take care of themselves.
There are many phases of the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act that need serious consideration, especially the provision dealing with earnings. I know a man, sixty-five years of age, who earns about £2 8s. a week, and because his wife is an invalid and cannot move or do anything for him, is compelled to employ some one else to do the housework, yet the wife is not eligible for the invalid pension because the husband gets £2 8s. a week. Cases like these I have mentioned ought to be decided on their merits.
All our troubles in connexion with the textile portion of the woo len industry arise from the fact that the importers govern the locally-manufactured article. This is a state of affairs that cannot be good for the industry. It may exist in connexion with other commodities, but a little investigation on the part of the Government will prove that it certainly applies to the woollen industry. It ought not to be allowed to continue.
– The woollen mills in South Australia will not sell to the wholesale houses, but that is the only case to my knowledge.
– The woollen mills at Geelong are compelled to send their goods to Melbourne. Although there are large retail firms at Geelong which could buy £10,000 worth of textiles from one mill - a larger order, perhaps, than a city warehouse could provide - they have to make their purchases in Melbourne. If the manufacturer attempted to sell to the local retailer the Melbourne warehousemen would close down on him. A hatmaker once attempted to deal directly with retailers, and was almost compelled to resort to the Bankruptcy Court.
– Can the honorable member suggest a remedy?
– Yes. There is supposed to be in existence an Act to prevent all restraint of trade. We ought to make it a live measure, and apply it. If a warehouseman can go to a woollen factory or a hat factory and order £10,000 worth of goods, surely I should be permitted to do so?
– Is there anything ‘to prevent you from doing it?
– We have heard a great deal about the powers we are supposed to have.
– We have thepower to rectify that evil.
– Honorable members know that the position I am putting forward is the correct one, and is the cause of all the trouble. I am sure the people would give us the requisite power to deal with it, if we do not already possess it.
.- 1 appreciate the business-like undertaking that has been entered into by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in connexion with the sugar industry, but we ought to know something in regard to the stocks of sugar already held. Whether they be small or great, they have been purchased under the original agreement, and, a.s neither the growers nor the mills will get any advantage out of the increased price, all sugar that has passed through the mills should go into the hands of the public, or, at any rate, of the Commonwealth, at the price previously prevailing. I take it that the agreement is not retrospective. It is a wise one. It will stimulate the production of sugar in Australia. lt is manifest an advance in price was necessary. Owing to the advance of the times in prices generally the price fixed in the old agreement has proved quite insufficient to compensate the growers for their labour and expenses, and, as the Prime Minister has shown, we are getting a better deal than other parts of the world.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), but I was wondering which of the three parties he would expect to go out of the House, in order to have two remain. He could achieve his object in this way: His party has had a very considerable innings here, and he might, in British generosity, make room opposite so that we could sit in Opposition. As I explained the other day, we want sound government without sole regard for the interests of parties. We consider that there are more interests to be served than those which two parties can serve; and as we find just as much bigoted Conservatism among honorable members opposite as is to be found on the Ministerial side, we are forced to enter the Chamber as a .party whose aim is to protect those industries which ‘we believe are to save Australia.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) also referred to invalid and old-age pensions. My brother and I have contributed to the maintenance of an aged mother, whom we do not wish to take the oldage pension, but when we make out our balance-sheets for taxation purposes, and show that we have contributed thi3 amount, even although we restrict it to the sum she could have drawn by way of pension, it is struck out of our assessments as an irregular deduction. Such things as these cause people to realize that they are not in a generous community; but doubtless the Government have only to be reminded of the injustice of such a case to have it remedied. It is a form of expenditure which should not be levied upon as an extravagant payment. Other people may waste their substance in riotous living and allow their parents to be maintained at the public expense.
In the Speech of the Governor-General I would like to have seen some practical suggestions for the stimulation of production in Australia; but, of course, the Speech does not pretend to disclose the intentions of the Government in detail. However, the amount provided for the proposed Bureau of Commerce and Industry, £2,530, seems to me totally inadequate, considering the volume of the work the Bureau will be expected to do in stimulating industry and in making suggestions to the secondary and primary industries of this great Commonwealth. Beyond the salary for the Director there is just £1,030 for a staff. Such a small outlay does not seem to d:splay any great sincerity on the part of the Government. If more money cannot be provided for so important a Department, it might as well be wiped out altogether. In America and Germany considerable stress is laid on matters of this kind. Every State in the United States of America has a bureau for the stimulation of commerce, science, and industry, and the people are so educated that their efforts are put to some direct purpose for the development of the country, and the increase of production. I hope the Government will take seriously into consideration the importance of this Department, and not weaken it by withholding from it the necessary funds. I have visited the bureau, and find that the principal officer next to the director is working about sixteen hours a day. The Director and staff have many ideas which they cannot develop because of lack of finance.
I wish to take this opportunity to refer to the war gratuity. The people of Australia feel that the returned men deserve the gratuity, and every one is in favour of it. I consider, however, that if the Government, instead of announcing a gratuity in the form proposed, had considered the best interests of the men, just as a wise father would do in preparing his will, or making over his money to his sons, they would have decided to form a company with a capital of £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 in which all our returned men would be shareholders to the extent that ls. 6d. per day, for the period that they were at the Front, would represent. These men have fought for Australia, and they would thus have had a stake in Australia. They would have had not only a gratuity, but a gratuity in perpetuity. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has referred in the House to-day as matters of business to his sugar deal, and to the arrangement made with the Colonial Wool Combing, Weaving, and Spinning Company, under which another three months’ lease of life is to be given to that concern. No doubt it is a wise arrangement, but I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts to be able to pronounce a decision upon it. Will honorable members consider for a moment the power of thirty millions of money invested for the greater part in enterprises for the manufacture by our returned men of the raw materials of Australia into finished articles? Who are better fitted to be the manufacturers - the business men of Australia - than the men who have fought for it? Journeying across to the West the other day I saw in a newspaper the heading, “ The richest city in England - Bradford.” Made the richest city in England by manufacturing our raw materials! It was possible for the Australian people, by providing from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000, to establish our returned men in an enterprise which would have made them the possessors of the industries of Australia throughout their own lives and their children after them. The company could have developed not only the woollen industry, but the lanoline trade, the fellmongery trade, and the hide, leather, and bootmaking industries. The jam-making trade could also have been taken up by it. -In this way we would also have secured the increased population which we so much desire.
In order to convey some idea of the possibilities of this scheme, I propose to put before the House a few facts. I mention the matter now, not for the mere sake of saying something. I recognise that, politically, possibly, the die has been cast, and that it is now too late to carty out the complete scheme. But even if it is too late to carry it out in toto, it may not be too late for this House to suggest that all returned men who are willing should put their war gratuity into an enterprise of this kind. We might thus establish a company with a capital of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000. That would be a most powerful concern. When the Government, under the War Precautions Act, commandeered the twenty-two woollen mills carrying on operations in Australia, they were capitalized at £1,114,000. During the three years that they were operated by the Government they produced goods to the value of £1,177,000, or, in other words, paid off the whole capital, plus £63,000. That was just a little tinkering with the industry compared with the scheme which I suggest; but it goes to show the possibilities of a little corner of the trade. One-third of the wool of Australia’ could be manufactured, for a start, at a cost of slightly over £16,000,000. . That expenditure would allow of the establishment of a woollen mill in every State of the Commonwealth. But the total of £30,000,000 would have easily provided for the manufacture of one half of the wool produced by Australia. In this way we could have overcome the repatriation difficulty, done away with “ slow-down “ principles, and have overcome the difficulty of which we hear so much in regard to our workmen not having any interest beyond that of their mere wages in the industries in which they are employed. All our returned men would have been shareholders in a business which would go to make not only themselves but Australia. It would have been well if the Prime Minister, when deciding to grant a gratuity to the noble sons of Australia, had determined not to hand out the cash, as a foolish father would do. I believe that within six months it will be as difficult to gather as would be a handful of sand strewn in the street. There will be an effervescent prosperity as the result of the gratuity, but there will remain an added obligation in the form of our increased national debt, leaving no real asset.
– Does the honorable member think that the soldiers themselves would have been satisfied with his scheme when the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), on behalf of the Labour party, was bidding for their votes by offering them cash down?
– Had we thought independently in this matter we would have done the very best for the men themselves. I mentioned this scheme during my own election campaign, and it was well received. I have discussed it with soldiers from Sydney to Perth, and have not met one to find fault with it. I recognise that there are a few who would bc greedy for the cash, but I prefaced my remarks with the statement that a cash gratuity should never have been mentioned.
To manufacture even one-third of Australia’s wool would mean at least an additional 400,000 persons in Australia. Of our present population only 25 per cent, are producers. Out of every 100 there are only twenty-five producers; the remaining seventy-five depend upon the twenty-five. Australia with such a scheme as this could have readily provided for another 400,000 people, while primary production would have teen stimulated in a way beyond conception. I hope that the House, while it may feel that we must go on with the gratuity proposal in the form proposed by the Government, will decide that some encouragement shall be given to our returned men, in the interests of the country for which they fought, as well as in their’ own interests, to establish in Australia, with the money at their disposal, a company of soldiers to oommence primarily the manufacture of our raw wool into the finished material, and to develop the by-trades associated with the industry.
There are other directions in which such a company could operate. Doubtless some honorable members are aware that some French people sought to buy up the Western Australian State Saw-mills, for which they offered a very excellent price. Recognising that there is a world’s timber famine, their intention was that much of the timber that we burn to-day in the pits should be utilized in the manufacture of table legs, table-tops, panels, and other things which could be made out of odd pieces, and to ship the material to those parts of Europe where a timber famine prevailed. A leading business gentleman, who has recently been round the world - the Government know the man to whom I refer - reports that there is a world’s timber famine. Another important business man returning from a trip around the world says that anything that Australia can make up will sell like hot cakes in other countries. What an opportunity we had to use this money in the. best interests of our boys, and in the best interests of the country itself, in the way I have indicated ! The wool industry is possibly the greatest in Australia. We take the rough of it by the sale of our raw material ; but we would get the cream if we manufactured it into the finished article. And what is more, we need no Tariff to protect such an industry. Our merino wool, at all events, governs the world’s market. We would have no competitors if we manufactured our merino wool in Australia.
I come now to the other primary product that may readily be accepted as second in importance to that of wool. I refer to wheat. If we wish to stimulate wheat production, and to make more prosperous our rural producers in that industry, would it not be wise for the Government to assist the States or the producers themselves, either by giving them authority to borrow, or by advancing to them part of the money necessary to bring them up to date? All advanced countries provide ‘ themselves with the most uptodate methods of handling. The United States of America and Canada handle their wheat on the bulk system. In Western Australia alone this year we practically threw away half-a-million in money on wheat sacks. It costs just on 6d. a bushel to wrap our wheat in them, and the wrapping all went just like a pipeful of tobacco, and did not give nearly as much pleasure. It went to India. We wrapped our wheat -up, and away went the money for the wrapping, which cost- us ls. 6d. a bag. If the bulk-handling system had been in vogue, the item of interest and the sinking fund ‘ would not have amounted to 1 1/2d. per bushel. Can we consider ourselves as being anywhere but in the ruck of progress when we fail to readily see the importance of rushing on with these matters in order to stimulate production and retain in Australia the money made from .our natural wealth instead of sending it away to India? Projects such as I have mentioned are positively within our reach. They are in no sense Utopian. They have been tested.
– But bulk handling is a State proposition. New South Wales has already inaugurated it.
– That is so; and, as a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government undertook to arrange to borrow money on behalf of the States for the purpose of financing bulk handling. Producers would be glad to have portion of that money advanced to them. Indeed we, in Western Australia, are prepared to raise a very considerable amount today, and would like to have the remainder borrowed for us so that we might pay it off and eventually become possessors of our own plant and scheme of bulk handling. Bulk handling of wheat in Western Australia would mean something in the region of £400,000 saved for this year alone. When we know the quantity of wheat which has been handled in bags throughout the Commonwealth this year, we can understand something of the cost of sacks. It is a waste of money which should be no longer tolerated.
– Would the bulk-handling plant be an expensive item?
– No; the plant necessary for Western Australia has been variously estimated to cost between £500,000 and £1,000,000. But the objection has hean in respect to the erection of the silos with jarrah instead .of with concrete. If concrete plants were constructed the cost would be considerably heavier; but it has been the question of the insurance of the jarrah plants which has hampered the whole scheme. Seeing that the jarrah is there, however, that objection ought to have been overcome.
Not only is the bulk-handling system most up to date and expeditious, but an important factor is that the wheat is cleaned when elevated into the silos. Only the purest and cleanest of grain is placed in the silos for export. Thus, with a bulk-handling system, Australia would secure a name and reputation for the highest quality wheat in the world. She really holds that good name to-day for the quality of her wheat; but we would possess a reputation par excellence if we shipped our wheat, cleaned, graded, and in bulk. To-day we ship away with our grain thousands of tons of rubbish. On the item of freight alone for that huge tonnage of rubbish the bulk-handling system would mean a marked saving. I hope that the whole of Australia’s exportable wheat will not be shipped, but only so much of it as we cannot sell in flour. We should sell our product as flour, retaining the offal for the further enrichment of the people of Australia.
.- I have the pleasure of representing one of the constituencies of the “ tight little island,” and I arn sorry to have noticed, judging by the nature of many interjections, particularly from members of the Opposition, that in this Chamber the “tight little island “ does not stand for very much. I hope, that such a feeling does not exist, at any rate, on this side of the House. An honorable member to-day referred to the early prospects of the Australian Federation, with Tasmania standing out. If one may draw a line from the experiences of the past couple of years, one should be forgiven for thinking that Tasmania has actually been outside of the Federation. We have been isolated on three occasions during the past two years, and the monetary loss to our State has been almost incalculable. We are only a small community, but are one of the wealthiest in Australia. We have been blessed by nature with a wonderful productivity, and if we could only get our products to their markets, if we could only get the Federal Parliament to insure us an uninterrupted shipping service, Tasmania would very soon become the manufacturing centre of the Commonwealth. We can offer manufacturers that which no other State can provide at present - that is, cheap, hydro-electric power. Tasmania has already spent between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 upon the provision of this form of power; but now, when we are inviting manufacturers to establish industries in our State, the first question put to us is, “ What arrangements can you promise us in regard to shipping into Tasmania our necessary raw material, and in exporting our finished product?” Western Australia has been given its east-west railway. South Australia has had that white, elephant of a Northern Territory taken off its hands. New South Wales is out for the establishment of the Federal Capital within its boundaries. I want to know what Tasmania ig going «to get. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) says we are not going to get anything. We hope to get justice, at any rate. We are entitled to uninterrupted shipping communication with the mainland, and so long as I am a member of this Chamber I shall use every opportunity to .see that that measure of justice is furnished.
I was pleased to note many of the items contained in the Governor-General’s
Speech. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) did not touch upon more of the matters referred to therein. The honorable member described the speech as a gelatinous compound. He said that it was wobbly. I would have liked to hear his views concerning the amendment of the industrial disputes section, of the Arbitration Act. I would have been glad to hear him upon the matter of a buoyant revenue for the Commonwealth, upon increased enterprise in Australia to-day, and upon such considerations as water conservation and public works. But the honorable member passed over all these, and contented himself with a discussion of the sugar situation. The time is now ripe for the extension of our industries. That can be .assisted by a revised Tariff. Honorable members on the other side of the Chamber should be able to give their support to such matters as the extension of the application of science to industry. The other evening the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) held tip the House upon that very question. Instead of expressing his opposition to expenditure upon such a matter he should have held up both his hands in demanding twenty and thirty times the amount of outlay upon that item. The honorable member evidently forgets that the free application of science to industry would help more than any other factor in advancing Australia to-day. Such a huge engineering achievement as the Panama Canal would not have been possible but for the application of science to industry. With its extended application in Australia labour could be lightened, and manufacturing activities quickened without tiring the workers. Better wages could be paid; and, altogether, the prospects are so attractive to labour generally that the principle should have the support of every member of the Opposition. In addition to the establishment of a bureau of science and industry, the Government should make available to the States, on a population basis, £50,000 or £100,000 a year to advance industrial and technical education. It will be of no use for Parliament to agree to a revised Tariff in order to assist industries if we do not couple with that policy an expanding system of technical and in- dustrial education in order to provide skilled workers. The trouble in Australia to-day is that we have too many unskilled workmen. The sooner we make the balance tend in the other direction the better it will be for the Commonwealth. We need more decentralization. At present the whole of the commerce of Australia is being dragged practically to two great cities.
The question of railway gauges has been mentioned this evening. If uniformity were brought about in that respect the primary producer would be enabled to ship his products to the nearest port, and thus save an enormous aggregate sum in freight costs, and do away with the wasteful haulage of produce over hundreds of miles of railway. With respect to the application of science to industry, I feel sure that the honorable members for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) and Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) must appreciate its advantages in the matter of decentralization. A few years ago Ballarat was entirely dependent on goldmining, but the secondary industries which have sprung up have made it today a wealthy inland community. Newcastle a few years ago was solely dependent on coal, but the Broken Hill Proprietary Company expects this year to dispense over £1,000,000 in wages at the Newcastle Iron and Steel Works; and subsidiary industries have been built up around those works which will ultimately make Newcastle the biggest industrial centre in Australia. I envy the honorable member for Newcastle his constituency. I wish it were mine, because I believe that I am the only direct representative of the manufacturing industry in this Chamber. The honorable member has promised to take me through the Broken Hill steel works, and to other similar places in his district, and the visit will be a very pleasant one for me.
I have spoken about the Tariff, and about the need for the application of science to industry. Honorable members generally are prepared to eulogize Australian products. Our soldiers say that the rifles they used were as good as any, and they were the best shod, the best clothed, and the best hatted force at the war. Australia has shown herself great in war, and we can make her great in industry. As a manufacturer, I regret that our shopkeepers often ask that the local manufacturers shall not put their brands on their goods. My contention has always been that the words “ Made in Australia” stand for quality, and it would be a good thing for this Parliament to insist upon every article made in Australia being so branded. I think, too, that we might follow the ‘example of Great Britain, and refuse to grant patents except when the patented article was to be manufactured in this country. That would increase the number of our industries.
I was pleased to read in the Speech the reference to the River Murray waters agreement. It is time that we woke up to the fact that Australia is by no means a wet country. We need water conservation; and I commend to honorable members a prayer published, I think in November last, by Mr. Clement Wragge, who thinks that every Australian should ask for sense to realize that water conservation is our only way of salvation as a primary producing country. We ought also to conserve water to provide cheap power. Industries naturally go where power is available, and the provision of cheap water-power, will thus bring about the decentralization that we so urgently need.
We have heard a great deal about profiteering. It seems to me that the best way to get rid of profiteering is to establish the cotton industry here, and as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has suggested, to put the woollen manufacturing industry on a proper footing. Although we import millions worth of woollen goods, Australian woollens are unquestionably the best in the world, and even though high in price, are, I believe, cheaper than woollens produced elsewhere. If there must be profiteering, let it be here, where we can tax the profiteer. If profiteering cannot be prevented under the present laws, the brains of this Parliament should be able to frame a measure which would effectively deal with it, and I trust that such a measure may be passed.
I regret that, while the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs, nothing was done regarding the Tariff, although in 1914 his party go: into power on the Protection issue. Nearly six years have since elapsed, and’ the Tariff is still to be dealt with.
I trust that; when introduced, it will have the honorable member’s support.
– Does the honorable member say that nothing was done while I was in office?
– Industries which should have been protected were not given an increased duty. Was there an increase of duty during the war?
– Certainly there was.
– Then my informa tion must be wrong. I have’ based my remarks on a Bulletin paragraph, which I shall be glad to show to the honorable member.
– I never worry about what appears in the newspapers. I can show the honorable member our actual legislation.
– This evening the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) interjected, in respect of the simplification of taxation returns, that nothing would be done, because there were too many jobs in danger. When Richard Arkwright invented his spinning machinery, the hand operators smashed his machines and burned down the works in which they had been erected, because they feared that the new invention would deprive them of employment, Its effect, however, has been to create the biggest organized labour force in the world. The honorable member and the members of his party should support the application of science to industry. Many years ago a man in Australia tried to show how three or four times as many bricks could be laid as are laid under the present system, but his device was not tried, because bricklayers thought that it would throw them out of work. It is forgotten that if you can produce cheaply you can sell your products more rapidly. The effect of Arkwright’s invention has been to cheapen the production of, and to increase the sale for, woven material, and were it possible to greatly increase the rate of laying bricks, a house which now costs £800 could probably be built for £100 less, and more people would build houses.
I wish to direct attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) on the subject of proportional representation. The State from which I come was the first to adopt that electoral system, which has absolutely justified itself. If members will analyze the figures, they will find that each political party is there represented according to its numerical strength. It was ridiculous for the honorable member to say that each State should be an electoral division to give effect to the principle of proportional voting. What is needed is proportional representation for the Senate. Then the party in a minority would secure at least one of the three seats. Any system that does not provide for the representation of the minority is unfair. When we have proportional representation for the Senate, and preferential voting for the House of Representatives, we shall have an ideal electoral system.
The honorable member, in speaking about our universal military training, said that the cadets are taken too young, and forget much that they are taught. I agree with him that it would be sufficient to train our lads between the years of seventeen or eighteen and twenty-one. He says that after such a period of training it would not take long to make the lads proficient in arms should soldiers again be needed in Australia. I hope the time may not come when we shall have to fight again, but we must be prepared to defend ourselves. It is idle to say that we must get rid of the military. An American verse-maker has written -
Thrice armed is he that hath his quarrel just,
But six times armed is he who gets his blow in fust.
Certainly there is nothing like being prepared.
Every member of the House and every citizen of Australia will agree that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to our sailors, soldiers, and nurses for what they did in saving Australia during the recent war. I feel certain that the Bill providing for the promised war gratuity will be put through promptly, and I trust that our friends of the Opposition will give the Ministry all the help they can with it. If some financial genius can show that the gratuity can be paid in cash I shall be pleased to support a cash payment, but I am not sufficiently optimistic to think that we are in a position to pay £25,000,000 in cash at the present time.
I thank honorable members for the way in which they have received my remarks, and, like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), I trust that I may receive the same treatment on all other occasions when I address myself to the House.
It is my desire to show how millions of money could have been saved for Australia, and how one of its cities could have been prevented from losing population. A letter which I wrote to the Age newspaper on the 12th August, 1914, a few days after the declaration of war,- when silver was worth 2s. an ounce in the Home market, epitomises my views on this subject, and therefore I shall read it. It is as follows : -
Sir, - On my opening night I suggested that, to prevent the Broken Hill and other mines dosing down, and so penalizing not only the 40,000 people of Broken Hill, but also the 70,000 human beings dependent upon the various mines (as mentioned by Mr. Baillieu), that, in consideration of these mines keeping in full work, and so saving untold misery to the city of Broken Hill and other places, it would be wise on the part of the Commonwealth Government to agree to purchase all the silver at the market price before the declaration of war on 30th June, viz., 2s. per ounce, as shown in your issue of to-day. As each ounce of silver coins into 5s. 6d., there would be an .immediate profit of 175 .»er cent, (less expense of coinage) for all moneys expended by the Commonwealth Government. In plain words, £1,000,000 spent to buy £1,000,000 worth of silver won by Australian workers from Australian mines would give an immediate profit to the Commonwealth of £1,750,000, less cost of minting. As minting in England cost 3 per cent, for silver, if a deduction of 5 per cent, be made for all charges, including minting the total of £2,750,000 of silver coinage, it would leave in the hands of the Commonwealth Government a grand total of silver coin amounting to over £2,012,500 for every £1,000,000 expended upon the purchase of silver.
Whilst recognising that our Australian notes, guaranteed by over 30 tons of gold minted into sovereigns and guarded in the Government strong rooms, and further guaranteed by the Australian continent, which notes are the safest perhaps in the world, yet it is fair to argue that a large number of our citizens in times of trouble would prefer to have their money in silver coins rather than in paper money. The lead, tin, and other products of ‘ the various mines could be arranged to be taken over by the Commonwealth Government at the ruling market rate on 30th June last. The Commonwealth having agreed to purchase the various mineral products on these or similar lines, with a view to prevent unemployment of the workers,” with its consequent misery, poverty and dis-‘ tress, the States, in their sovereign power, contingent on the mine owners refusing to work the mines, should be prepared to take possession and work the mines at the risk of the owners. The law of eminent domain is as powerful now as in the days of Blackstone, endowing each State in its hour of need to take possession for the benefit of the com munity. Should any profit be made by the State working the mines, such profit could be handed over to the owners; and, if a loss occurred, the mine owners must accept that misfortune as a penalty for closing down their mines and depriving the workers and all dependent upon them of their means of existence. There should be small possibility of loss in the case of the State working the mines, for they have not to provide any interest on the plant, &c.
In conclusion, whilst I am grateful for the efforts made by the various companies, I consider that true patriotism would be shown by their keeping on full time, and not on half time or less.
The Age honoured me by inserting that letter in one of its most prominent columns. A discussion arose on the matter, and the Broken Hill Proprietary, through Mr. W. X. Baillieu, asked me for an interview, which I gladly accorded. Mr. W. L. Baillieu is a millionaire, reported to be making his second million, and I do not mind how much he earns, because he was man enough to say that the war-time profits tax does not affect people like himself. After several conversations, I was empowered by Mr. Baillieu to make an offer to the then Treasurer, Mr. Andrew Fisher, on these lines : -
That if the Commonwealth Government would purchase all the silver and metals, the Broken Hill mines would accept the London prices before the declaration of war, less 30 per cent.
Silver, which on the 30th June, 1014, was quoted at 2s. per ounce, -this would cost, less 30 per cent., 10 4-5d. per ounce, and as every ounce of silver coins into 5s. 6d. currency, £1,000,000 in Commonwealth notes would have purchased Australian silver that at the price of 16 4-5d. per ounce would have minted into shillings, sixpences, &c, £3.028,571, less 5 per cent, minting, £196,42S - £3,732,143.
The cost of minting would, of course, be less if the silver were kept in bars without, minting. English cost of minting is 3 per cent. 273 per cent, profit after minting would have given huge profits. Let my readers judge what the profits on the other metals would be by comparing the following prices before the war in 1914 and then in 1918-
This means that the Broken Hill Proprietary were willing to accept the London prices for the metals before the war, less 30 per cent. For1s. 4d. and four-fifths of a1d. per oz., the Commonwealth could have purchased the whole of the silver of Australia, and the value of this offer will he appreciated when we realize that the price has risen as high as 7s. Of course, in the case of gold, as honorable members will recognise, the fixed price was purely fictitious, it being kept at that figure, because otherwise it would have appreciated just as much as did the other metals. Had my beloved friend, Mr. Andrew Fisher, accepted that offer, Australia would have had the whole of the profits on these metals, the value of which has risen from 200 per cent. to 300 per cent. However, the then Under-Treasurer, Mr. Allen, would not look at the offer in wide perspective, but harped on the fact that our currency in silver was very small. As a last argument, I pointed out to Mr. Fisher that if our Navy were to fail as our Army did in South Africa - and it did fail, or we should not have been compelled to send a soldier for every man, woman, and child in the Boer Republics - and the German Fleet were to come to Australia to take possession, our notes would be of no use, seeing that a simple proclamation would render them not of the slightest value. I told Mr. Fisher that, next to God, the people of Australia would thank him if under such circumstances they could draw their savings out in silver, if only to plant them in their back yards. However, I could not persuade the then Treasurer, whose honesty in politics has earned him the name of “ Honest Andrew Fisher” throughout Australia, and so the golden opportunity was lost. My object primarily was to keep the Barrier going. No one has had more experience than myself of unemployment, and I know that nothing so shakes the credit of financial institutions. Those who remember the crash which followed the land boom in Victoria, and the misery that followed, will understand why I was so desirous that the one town which exists absolutely on mining should not lose its population. I wrote to the Chief Secretary of New South Wales (Mr. Black) asking for some information, and he sent me the following: -
From an Age cutting of the 30th January, 1915, we learn that the estimated loss of population by people leaving Broken Hill amounted to 10,000.
If great profits were made by the Broken Hill Proprietary when silver was only 2s. an ounce, how much greater profits could have been made by the Commonwealth on the terms that were offered? Honorable members will, I think, join me in thanking the Bulletin for showing that the accountants had gone keenly into the matter, and that it was very unlikely the Proprietary would lose by the war-time profits tax, because the increase in value would make up for the loss. In other words, the mine today is a huge bank; the metal is there, and if they take out a smaller quantity, and sell it at 200 per cent. or 300 per cent. more, the other metal remains for future operations. The Bulletin of August, 1917, stated that in 1914 the Proprietary reserve was £188,000, and this in June, 1917, had risen to £751,000; but not So much ore had been used to obtain metals as when they were at a smaller price.
I have here a very interesting return from our Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, showing the estimated quantity and value of the silver yielded by the mines of New South Wales. From this it appears that to the end of 1900 the yield was, in round figures, worth £28,000,000; for 1901-4it was about £1,000,000; for 1905-09 the average was £1,250,000 to £1,500,000; for 1910-13 it ranged from £1,404,000 to £1,757,000; for 1914 it was £1,451,000; and for 1915 it was £869,000. I also obtained from the Mint the following letter on 16th May, 1918: -
In reply to your letter of the 15th inst. inquiring what one ounce of silver will mint in currency, I have the honour to inform you that the standard weights of silver coins are as mylor: -
Coined silver is therefore current at the rate of 5s. Gd. per ounce.
It is interesting to know that an offer was made by the Mint - and protested against in letters to the newspapers - to buy old silver at 2s. per ounce. Any one who looks at the figures must see that even in the days when silver was only 2s. an ounce every ounce was worth 5s. 6d. coined, while this morning it is quoted at 6s. 6d., so that minting must be earned on at a los3. But .that is no reason why if we introduce a nickel or any other new coin we should not make a fair profit. “Ultimately we might control the whole of the silver and gold output of Australia. There can be no disputing the fact that next to gold silver is the best for coinage, and we should control it too, although if we minted much now we would incur a heavy loss. I ask honorable members what business man who could by the mere purchase of material, get a profit of 285 per cent., would not immediately engage in the enterprise? The Government, however, do not- seem to care to do anything further in connexion with coinage.
I yield to no one in my desire for the defence of Australia. In the first week of the war I offered to go to the Front, and although I have, perhaps, a better thatch than the Honorary Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), the recruiting authorities accepted him, but rejected me. My sixty years was the stumbling block. However, when I took the recruiting platform I did not ask anybody to do. what I myself had not attempted to do. I was the only member of the Victorian Recruiting Committee who remained a member from the first to the last, and sometimes I smiled when I saw men who posed as recruiting enthusiasts appear on the platform in order to preside over a meeting, and then disappear after a few attendances. In trying to look into the abyss of time and visualize what this Australia of ours will be, I see it a great ‘ powerful and glorious nation whose symbol will be peace and whose aim will be to reach the highest standard that civilization has ever achieved. We can realize that vision only by preventing the mixture of’ races. One of the greatest factors in the future of nations will be oil fuel. Coal is not to be mentioned in the same breath as paraffine for that purpose. Most of the uptodate vessels are burning oil fuel. We have not yet discovered payable oil in Australia, but we have untold wealth in the various products from which alcohol can be produced. The Bureau of Science and Industry may make mistakes sometimes by printing things that edge the appetite of criticism, but, if only for their article on alcohol fuel, published in the bulletin issued by the Council, I give that body my thanks.In Queensland, that State of all others, whose potentialities no one can calculate at the present moment, millions of gallons of molasses from the sugar mills are wasted. It could be used as food, but it is being turned into the rivers or burnt. Yet molasses ranks as fifth amongst those of our vegetable products that would yield good alcohol, commonly known as methylated spirits. Sorghum grains yield 87 gallons to the ton, maize 85 gallons, wheat 83 gallons, barley 70 gallons, and sugar molasses 55 gallons. Methylated spirits will be. found useful for internal combustion engines, and’, with slight differentiation, equal to paraffine. It seems infamous that this asset is being- allowed to go to waste. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company should not be allowed to waste more of the molasses, but out of its huge dividends - camouflaged as they are so that no one can tell how much capital has actually been handed back to the shareholders - it should provide proper machinery for the extraction of alcohol.
We have heard a great deal of criticism about the ships that were bought in America. The simple word ‘,’ rotten “ would explain the great loss that the Commonwealth incurred owing to the cancellation of the contracts. But one ship which was found to be in a scandalous condition, was not bought in America; it was bought either in Australia or in South Africa. I allude to the Speedway, which was supposed to have been built of pine. As a matter of fact, it was built of spruce, a wood that is very susceptible to the attacks of the teredo worm. It had hardly got outside the Port Phillip Heads before it had to return in a leaking condition. Honorable members can see from this piece of wood, which was sawn from the second plank below the load-line, the condition in which the timbers of the ship were. What man was responsible for the purchase of this vessel ? No matter how high his position he should be exposed and punished. I do nob know who was to blame, but whoever he was, from the Admiral downwards, he should be made to explain this transaction. No member of the Government will deny that the officer responsible should be at least severely censured. We have splendid woods in Australia, particularly those from Tasmania, Gippsland, and Western Australia, with which seaworthy and enduring ships could be built. I do not wish to absolutely humble a man, but I know that if the blunder had been committed by some poorly-paid man his tender feelings would not be studied so much. I urge the Minister in charge of the Department to discover who recommended the purchase of the Speedway, and, if he made an error of judgment, the Minister should apportion criticism and censure. If men who profess to be experts do not know their work let them be placed in such positions that they will not be able to buy ships again. No business man would continuein his employment for one moment an officer who, though supposed to understand his work, had committed his principal to such an unsatisfactory purchase as this was to the Commonwealth, or if he did retain the services of that man, they would be utilized in some other more satisfactory capacity.
I desire to know from the Government how much money is being spent on the rain-making experiments. If this man Balsillie did not have to leave the Navy Department it is at any rate a blessing that he did leave. I wish to know if he is allowed to buy outside the Government sphere, and sell to the Commonwealth. If so we might have an inquiry into some things that happened in the Navy Department. If he is still out on his experimental station along the East- West railway, how much money is he receiving for this work? If he could actually produce rain he would be worth all the gold produced in Australia in any one year. Let him explain his ideas to the Council of Science and Industry, and if those scientists indorse his experiments and say that they should be continued, I shall have no objection. .
– I think that only £500 was spent last year.
– That is not much, but even that amount ought to be vised by the Council of Science and Industry. If those men of science will indorse his ideas in regard to the producing of rain, good luck to him ; I shall not care if the expenditure is ten times as great. Any one who has travelled between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie will declare that a rich province will be added to Australia when that area is supplied with water, from either artesian or sub-artesian sources, or, as I think very unlikely, from the clouds.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Robert Cook) adjourned.
– I desire to read to. the House the following letter : -
I have this morning received the beautifully bound copies of the resolution passed by the members of the House of Representatives conveying to me and my family their sympathy to us in our great loss.
These copies will be highly treasured by each one of us. Will you convey to the members our heartfelt thanks for their kind sympathy and thoughtfulness, which has done so much to soften our great grief.
Yours very sincerely, Jeanie Barton.
Message recommending an appropriation reported.
OrderofBusiness: War Gratuity Bill.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I understand that the Gratuity Bill will be the first business to be dealt with tomorrow. No honorable member on this side of the House will object to the Prime Minister making his second -reading speech immediately after the first reading, provided it is understood that the adjournment of the debate will be granted so that honorable members may have an opportunity to study the Bill and the right honorable gentleman’s speech.
(10.30]. - The proposition made by the honorable member is quite fair, and there will be no trouble whatever about that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200317_reps_8_91/>.