8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to answer to-day the question which I asked yesterday about Sir Eoss Smith’s flight to Adelaide t
– I understand that Messrs. Vickers and’ Co. have instructed Sir Boss Smith and their agents here to hand over to the Commonwealth Government the Vimy machine which, under his pilotage, flew from England to Australia, and have refused him permission to continue his flight from Melbourne to Adelaide. When Sir Boss Smith saw me yesterday, he asked if I would take delivery of the machine on behalf of the Commonwealth, and I promised to do so as soon as I could, but have not yet “been able to And time. I told him also that I would give him permission to take the machine on to Adelaide.
– I ask the Prime Minister when the Inter-State Commission’s report on the sugar ques tion will be available, and if honorable members will have an opportunity to peruse it before the sugar agreement is finalized.
– If the report is available, I shall lay it on the table to-day; but I have explained quite clearly every fact material to the proposed agreement, and -honorable members will have ample opportunity to discuss it during the dabate on the Address-in-Rep’ly. It is im- ‘perative that the Government should know the opinion of the House on the subject, and the sugar growers must know where they stand, because they have to make their arrangements for milling. I shall therefore expect the House to declare its opinion with regard to the agreement before we adjourn to-morrow afternoon at 4 o’clock. My suggestion is that, to put th© procedure perfectly in order, I should, on the conclusion of the debate on the Address- in-Reply, move, by leave, that the paper which I laid on the table yesterday be printed, and that a division, if necessary, should be taken on the question forthwith, because members will have had an ample opportunity to criticise the proposal during the discussion of the AddressinReply. “We cannot have two debates on the subject, as the matter is one of urgency.
– I do not wish to speak again on the subject, because I have said all that I have to say regarding it.
– The Government is content to abide by the decision of the House, but it is entitled to expect the House to make a decision.
– I presume that it will be necessary to make a fresh agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. “Will the Prime Minister give the House an opportunity to learn how the present agreement with the company will be varied, and what price the consumer is likely to be charged under the new arrangements.
– It will be necessary to make a fresh agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The matter has received the full attention of the Conference, and every item of the proposed charges was subjected to criticism before the Conference approved of the scale.
– If there has been a variation in the charges the Prime
Minister might perhaps supplement his remarks when moving that the paper he printed.
– I do not desire a discussion on the motion, and therefore I shall send for the information now.
– I am now in a position to mention that the total charges made by the Colonial SugaT Refining Company under the existing agreement amount to £5 4s.0d. per ton, made up as follows: - Freight, based on actual cost, £1 12s. Od.; selling commission, 7s.; managing cost, £1; refining charges, £1 0s. l1d.; hags, at cost price, 16s.; coal, 7s. 3d.; these items making a gross total of £5 4s. Od. Out of that sum an amount of £2 7s. l1d. was payment direct to the company, and the remainder was money paid by the company for various services rendered, shipping, bags, and coal. The estimate under the proposed agreement is £6 2s. 6d. per ton as against £5 4s. Od., and it is made up thus: - freight, &c, £2. This is an estimate upon the actual cost. Honorable members will understand that the company has nothing to do with the matter except to engage and pay for freight. It simply pays whatever freight is current. At present, and for some time past, as honorable members may know, the freight has been s.s fixed by the Government, and the Government is responsible for losses and gains. So far there have been all losses and no gains. And, as honorable members also know, increases in wages and costs of running the steamers have been very material, and, consequently, freights will be still higher. It ig estimated that freight under the new agreement will be £2, as against £1 12s. Od. The selling commission this time is 7s., as it was previously. The management item is £1 2s. 6d., as against £1 in the previous agreement. The explanation is that the company now has to finance on a £30 6s. 8d. basis instead of upon the £21 basis and, consequently, has to find some millions sterling of additional money, for which, of course, it must be paid. Refining charges are £1 3s. Od. as against £1 0s. l1d. - an increase of 2s.1d. This is accounted for by the increased wages paid in the refineries. Bags, it is estimated, will cost £1, as against the previous cost of 16s. The charge for coal is now estimated at 10s., as against 7s. 3d. under the present agreement. The company receives, therefore,only 2s. 6d’. more than under the present agreement. It is now called upon to finance this scheme and pay interest on capital on a basis of £30 6s. 8d. instead of upon the £21 basis.
– Does the Inter-State Commission which inquired dnto the sugar industry support the proposals which have been agreed to by the Prime Minister
– I do not know. I have not read the report of the Commission, and so I cannot say. But, of course, this House is the supreme tribunal, and the people look to this House to express an opinion. At one time and another I have been subjected to censure because I have not taken this House into my confidence. I now take it into my confidence. I do not care two straws - if I am asked frankly - what the Sugar Commission says. I come into this House as a representative of the people, being given by them authority to protect their interests, and being expected to take the full responsibility for my acts. And other honorable members are in the same position. Upon them rests the full responsibility for all that they do. If there is anything upon which I have not given information, and concerning which honorable members may care to ask a question, I will endeavour to furnish an answer. But I am not going to divest myself of my responsibility - and I hope no other honorable member will do so either - by sheltering myself behind the report of the Royal Commission on the sugar industry. I do not know what the Commissioners said, and I am not going to commit myself to adopt their decision under the circumstances. I do not think any one would.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to accede to the request made some time ago by representatives of the miners at Broken Hill for the appointment of a Royal Commission, having full powers to inquire into the conditions existing in the mining industry at the Barrier?
– I understand that the miners did make that request, and what I said in reply was that if both parties wished it, I would accede to it. There are the Courts, and both parties are at liberty to go to those Courts. If both parties say they are not satisfied with them, then we will appoint a Royal Commission. Otherwise, the Government must fall back upon the law of the land.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the high cost of living, the Government will increase the war pensions paid to totally disabled non-commissioned officers and privates, and widows of noncommissioned officers and privates?
– Yes, in accordance with the Government’s pre-election pledges.
Alleged Breach of Public Service Act
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Prime Minister’s Department were on loan to the Defence Department for special duty.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, as profiteering is one of the contributory causes of the high cost of living, it is the intention of the Government to immediately introduce legislation dealing with profiteering?
– Owing to the defeat of the Referendum proposals, legislation dealing with profiteering is outside the ambit of the present powers of the Commonwealth.
Proposed Visit of Prince of Wales
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to increase the pension of blind war pensioners?
– Yes, in accordance with the Government’s pre-election pledges.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The necessary action has already been taken in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has his attention been called to a statement made by Brigadier-General H. B. Lassetter, managing director of Messrs. F. Lassetter and Co., in the Evening News of the 8th March? In connexion therewith - 1.Is it a fact that some of the British wool spinners were making as high as 3,100 per cent. profit, mainly on Australian wool sold under contract to the Imperial Government by the Commonwealth at a flat rate of 151/2d. per pound?
Is it a fact that English wool realized between 100 and 150 per cent. above 1914 prices, and Scottish 150 to 200 per cent., whereas for the corresponding clip our growers were paid the flat rate of151/2d.?
Is it a fact that the British Government sold 70’s at 33d., which fetched at auction 60d. per lb., to supply the standard clothing, which was not made. Thus the manufacturers get all the profit at the expense of our growers?
Is it a fact that at the end of December last the profits made by the British Government out of wool was £66,000,000, at which time one and three-quarter million bales of wool had been disposed of, and there was still three times that quantity to sell?
Is it a fact that this profit is a loss to the Commonwealth in the form of incomes and excess profits tax, and a loss to the growers in the form of returns for this wool?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 to 5. I have not seen the statement referred to by the ‘honorable member. I am, however, looking into the question mentioned by the honorable member, and am in cable communication with the British authorities in relation to the matter. Statements published in the press not coming from official sources must be accepted with reserve.
I may add that all matters relating to the wool sale will be fully investigated by my colleague, the Treasurer, during his forthcoming visit to Great Britain.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The whole question is now receiving the consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Shortage in Western Australia.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
N avy Contract.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the financial interest and responsibility of the Commonwealth in connexion with the question of the settlement of soldiers on the land, he will obtain the following information from the various State authorities, and make such information available for members of this House: -
The number of returned soldiers in each State, up to the latest available date, who have been placed upon the land through the agency of the respective State’s machinery in connexion with the repatriation scheme?
The average purchase price in each State of the properties acquired for such purpose?
The average number of valuations of tained in respect of such properties prior to their acquisition?
The average amount paid for valuations in respect of each such property?
Whether the amount paid in respect of such valuations is added to the purchase price of the land to the soldier?
– The several State Governments will be requested to supply the particulars desired.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the 26th of April is Anzac Day, as well as Eight Hours Day. both being gazetted public holidays, will he, under the circumstances, grant to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in, Victoria a holiday on Easter Tuesday?
– No. It is not considered to be in the public interest that Government offices should be closed for four days at Easter.
– On the 12th March the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked a question in connexion with the shipment of tallow. I then replied, giving him certain information, and promising to furnish further particulars as soon as possible. I am now in a position to supply the honorable member -with the following additional information in regard to paragraphs Nos. 3 and i of his question:-
From Melbourne. - City of Winchester, sailed 2nd December, 1919, 386 tons for London.
From Sydney. - Bahia Castillo, sailed November, 1919, 403 tons for United Kingdom.
From Brisbane. - Suevic, sailed 27th September, 1919, 100 tons for United Kingdom.
When space for general cargo is available, it is equitably apportioned between the different States, and amongst the different shippers of each description of cargo.
The following papers were presented : -
Referendums 1919 - Result of - Statements, dated 29th January, 1920, of the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, indorsed on the writs for the submission to the electors of proposed laws for the alteration of the Constitution, entitled “ Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) 1919 “ and “ Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) 1919.”
Shipbuilding - Agreements between the Commonwealth and (a) William Beardmore and Co. Ltd. and (b) Vickers Limited - in connexion with the construction of ships in Great Britain.
Debate resumed from 17 th March (vide page 504), on motion by Mr. Kerby -
That the following Address-in-Eeply to the Speech ofHis 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 shall be very brief in the few remarks I have to make on the AddressinReply, and these are actuated to some extent by reading in this morning’s paper an accusation by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) against the combination of the Country party and the Labour party in holding up the Gratuity Bill. I must, in the first place, however, compliment the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply on the speeches they delivered. I am pleased to see that the oft-repeated promises of cooperative assistance hy the Prime Minister to the primary producers are included in the Governor-General’s Sp’eech. I happen to he one of the eleven members of that party which is called the “ Country party” - a party that has been much abused and much criticised, and, probably, rightly so in some respects. The Prime Minister, in his remarks at Wangaratta during the election campaign, made reference to the Country party as being the “ tail end of the Ryan dog.” That is not a very complimentary remark, nor one that adds any great prestige to the Prime Minister of Australia. But what did the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) say? He said, on the floor of this House, that we in this comer were the “ tail end “ of the Nationalist party. It would be seen that both gentlemen agree that we are the “tail end” of some party, and my advice, taking it for what it is worth, is that we get on with the business of the House and the country generally, or the “ tail end “ may be the head of both parties in the near future. As a new, though not a very young, member, I have noted the debates that have taken place here, and I assure honorable members that I feel convinced there is a considerable waste of time. It will be very wise to abolish Hansard. Honorable members would not then be so fond of talking to empty galleries, and from what I know of the two leading Melbourne newspapers not much publicity would be given to their speeches.
The cost of living is the topic of the hour, and there is no doubt that it is a burning question. It claims the gravest consideration of every man in this House and of every Parliament in the Commonwealth. The industrial unrest that is abroad will increase unless active measures are taken to prove that we are at least in earnest in attempting to deal with this important problem. We ought to consider, firstly, the cause of the high cost of living, and, secondly, the means of prevention’. Chief amongst the causes is the lamentable world-wide war. For four and a half years the world has been engaged in slaughter, and the whole energies of the Empire have been devoted to the manufacture of destructive machinery. Belgium, which was in the forefront of industrial advancement, has been practically blown to pieces. France is crippled industrially, and England, is struggling under a huge debt of £8,000,000,000. Parts of Germany, from which, prior to the war, we received millions of pounds worth of cheap goods per annum, are on the verge of starvation. Industrial wages in Europe have risen 100 per cent. ; shipping freights have trebled. Having regard to these facts, it must be many years before we can expect to get from the Motherland goods at their pre-war rates. In my opinion, the prices of imported articles will be very much higher than they are to-day. At the present time, Australia is the cheapest country in the world to live in. The problem of the high cost of living can be solved to some extent by co-operative efforts, and I am pleased indeed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has advocated co-operation right through the piece. During the last four and a half years the workers of Australia have, on account of strikes and other causes, lost abo>ut £6,000,000 in wages alone. If the money that is wasted on strikes were put into co-operative enterprises by the industrial workers, lj and I believe all primary producers, would be ready to deal directly with them. I regard the industrial workers as the finest asset that the country possesses, and it is the duty of the House and the country to give them all reasonable assistance. If they established butcheries and bakeries, and the primary producer dealt directly with them, the profiteer in foodstuffs would be at their mercy. If skilled men were appointed to the management of these concerns, I have no doubt that the success they would achieve would be of greater benefit to the workers than are strikes, which hold up industries, and penalize the whole community. Strikes have caused an enormous loss of capital, and that loss has gravitated through all classes, so that practically everybody has been penalized more or less. Any system of cooperation that will obviate these disastrous disputes will be welcomed most heartily by the members of the Country party.
The matter of the duplication of Federal and State services has been referred to by nearly every honorable member who has spoken. Senator Fairbairn stated last year that co-ordination of Commonwealth and State activities would result in a saving of £340,000 per annum. I quite believe that estimate. The co-ordination and amalgamation of Departments should receive the earliest consideration of the Government, and I am pleased to know that this matter is a plank in their platform.
I find myself obliged to cross swords with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) on the subject of defence. I am convinced that the future of this great continent will be dependent upon an efficient defence scheme, and that any money that is judiciously and economically expended on that object will be wisely spent. We must remember that the teeming millions of Asia are at our doors, and that we have only 5,000,000 people to hold a continental island greater in extent than the United States of America, which has a population of 100,000,000. How can we keep this continent clean, white, and wholesome unless we adopt an effective system of defence? That eminent naval warrior, Lord Jellicoe, who has had experience of the aeroplanes and submarines and all the other menaces to’ capital ships has reported that he still pins his faith to the Dreadnoughts. That means that Australia will require to expend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 annually for some years on naval defence. That expenditure is worthy of consideration, and the Country party will support the Government in any sound and economical policy for the defence of Aus- “ tralia. In the crisis through which the world has just passed the British Empire was our salvation. But for the protection of the British Navy what would have been, the fate of Australia? We must look to the British Navy in future to a large extent for our safety, and if we are to prove ourselves worthy of this great continent, for which 60,000 of our brave warriors, in addition to hundreds of thousands of our Allies, laid down their lives, we must not stint or grudge the expenditure that may be necessary in order to give effect to a bold and comprehensive system of defence on right lines. I believe that in the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) we have a man who will keep a shrewd eye on the best interests of Australia in that regard.
In regard to the Federal Capital I think the Prime Minister stated that there was to be no ceremonial stonelaying. I hope there never will be anything of the kind. I shall vote against the wilful, wanton, and extravagant expenditure of money on the establishment of a Federal capital. We are told that it would cost upward of £3,000,000 to create a temporary bush capital. Having just emerged from the struggle of the war, we should be guilty of nothing but criminal folly if we increased our present debt by incurring this enormous waste of money. From what I can gather from brainy men throughout Australia, I understand that it would be a huge mistake to proceed with the building of the Federal Capital. In the meantime I am prepared to allow the Seat of Government to be transferred to Sydney for a term of twenty years. In the course of that period we would probably be found to have a little more brains and possibly a little more money. At any rate, we would be in a better position to know just exactly where the Capital should be.
I would like to continue speaking at greater length, but I feel that I am merely beating the bush. Already unnecessary time has been occupied by this somewhat useless discussion, but still the general feeling is that a debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply enables an honorable member to “ get a little off his chest.”
What the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) said the other night in regard to the conditions in the Broken Hill mines impressed me very much, because I lived in a mining town and have the greatest sympathy with the miners. I have heard of a hell on earth, but never previously of such a hell underneath as the honorable member has described. I feel that if his statements are correct, we have only one of two courses to pursue, either to shut the death traps down for ever, or to make them as free and open as their output . will possibly permit for the men working in them.
The Farmers party has no desire to harass the Government in any shape or form, but while affording them the freest assistance to carry on their administration, we want reasonable assistance extended to the rural producers. Surely they are entitled to that reasonable consideration, seeing that they produce 76 per cent, of the wealth of Australia, and representing 50 per cent, of the population, pay one-third of ;be annual war interest bill of £30,000,000. If reasonable consideration is given to the country districts, the towns can look after themselves. We want a bold developmental policy to be pursued. Expenditure of money in that direction will receive our hearty support. It will be money spent in the truest and best interests of Australia generally.
I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) upon coming to a definite decision with regard to the manufacture of wool tops. Many people in my constituency, engaged in the manufacture of wool tops, have been out of employment for the last two years, a fact which did not reflect much credit upon the Government, or speak highly of their intelligence. The matter could have been settled long before this, and should have been, because the wool-tops industry is one of the largest in the country. The establishment in which the industry has been carried on in my electorate is most up-to-date, yet, through some misunderstanding between the Central Wool Committee and the company, it has been shut ‘ down for some time, creating a very unfortunate position, not only for the employees, but also for the country generally. I have nothing to say about the agreement which has just been drawn up; I understand that Sir Robert Garran and other legal officers of the Crown have been engaged in the task; but I hope that now the trouble has been settled, prosperity will return to the Botany district, and we shall all do our best to “produce more,” as so many people advocate should be done. Here was a large industry producing nothing, but we hope now it will make progress. At any rate, at the end of June, when the War Precautions Act ceases to operate, and the control of the Central Wool Committee will terminate, I hope to see large woollen industries springing up all over Australia.
– What has been the ‘best market for these wool combings ?
– The Japanese market. The manufacturers have made a. good deal of money out of Japan, and we should encourage them in that regard.
– That was always the bugbear raised about the exportation of metals.
– The arrangement now concluded is only a preliminary step in connexion with the development of the woollen industry. I hope that Australia will lead the world in the production qf woollen goods. Here we have the finest wool. We do not need to send it away. Buyers come here from all parts of the world. We should be able to produce and sell blankets and cloth and all other woollen goods in the world’s markets, and I hope that that will be the policy of this country, irrespective of the consideration of party interests.
The Prime Minister has said that on account of the Constitution Alteration Bills not receiving the indorsement of the people, he could not deal with profiteering; but I have with me a copy of the manifesto at Bendigo, in which the following occurs : -
We shall protect the consumers against exploiters.
There is no mention there of any need for an alteration of the Constitution to deal with exploiters. I am anxious to see industrial peace, but if the cost of living is to keep soaring up there must be some end.
– What does the honorable member suggest ?
– I have suggested nothing so far. If the cost of living goes up, wages will have to go up, and as wages increase, so does the cost of living soar. Where is the end of it all ? Any practical man who wants to solve the problem would suggest the regulation of the prices of commodities in the interests of every member of the community. We have attempted to fix prices, but we have started at the wrong end. We have attempted to fix the price of boots without any effort at fixing the price which the manufacturer has to pay for his raw material. I maintain that if we seek to fix the price of boots we have first to fix the price of hides, and then the price of leather, and ultimately the price of the manufactured article.
– Does the honorable member regard the price of hides as too high?
– Yes, in comparison with pre-war rates.
– How would the honorable member cheapen hides ?
– By fixing the price. Before the war ended a deputation of master tanners from the Botany district waited upon the Government and said that they could not get rid of their leather, and asked for facilities for shipping it overseas. Some relief was given to them. There was plenty of leather in the country at the time. No sooner had the Armistice been signed than Americans came here and bought up our hides and leather, with the result that to-day the people of Australia have to pay 100 per cent. more for their leather than was demanded of them before the war. Who is reaping the advantage of these increased prices? I do not think it is the man on the land, who raised the beasts. The position is that speculators have stepped in, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has allowed our leather to be exported to the disadvantage of the people of Australia.
– Why did they not make it up into boots, and secure the advantage for themselves?
– Because ships were not available even for the export of boots.
– What nonsense !
– The leader of the honorable member’s own party night after night complained in this Housewhile the war was on, and long after the Armistice was signed, that ships could not even be obtained for the Tasmanian trade. The whole of our coastal shipping was disarranged owing to the withdrawal of many vessels for service overseas. The problem must be faced in this country as well as in other parts of the world. The Government mustchange its methods. It must deal with the raw material, and see that the people of Australia have their requirements satisfied at a reasonable price before exports are permitted. I should like our primary producers to get the world’s parity for all they can export. But no one who justly claims to represent the people would allow the country to be depleted of its raw material, and then say that, because of that, the London parity should be paid for all that we require locally. That is not a fair thing. While I want the primary producers to obtain the best possible prices for all they can export, we should see to it that the raw material required for home consumption is obtainable at a fair price. I do not think the Farmers’ party would object to that. As it is, we are in the hands of the exploiters.
– The honorable member would allow the primary producers to obtain full prices only in respect of their exports.
– Yes ; that is a fair thing.
– The honorable member insists upon fair prices for local requirements, and the best possible prices for everything sent overseas ?
– That is so. I do not wish to cut down the prices obtained by our producers, but we should have a fair price in respect of the raw material required for local use.
– The honorable member would regulate prices by an export duty.
– I would, and an export duty will yet be passed.
I deeply regret the ill-health of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), and hope that he will be greatly benefited by his trip to the Old Country. At the same time, I think that it was unnecessary to send him to England. He said a few evenings ago that he was going to London to create an. Australian sentiment in Australia House. What were the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) doing if they failed to represent Australian sentiment in England during the twelve months or more that they were there? Why should it be necessary for the Treasurer to go to London for the same purpose?
– It is said that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy were uot on speaking terms while in London.
– That is a matter which they can settle between themselves. I hope that the Treasurer will put before the people of Great Britain the true Australian view. It is time that the statesmen of Australia took action in that direction. We incurred an expenditure of over £300,000,000 in assisting the people of Great Britain in the great war, and 60,000 of our sons gave up their lives in the struggle. In return, sections of the people of Great Britain have been profiteering in our wool, butter, rabbits, skins, and everything else that we have sent to the Old Country. They have been, and are, making immense profits in this way. It is alleged by Colonel
Lassetter and others that, in respect of one year’s wool clip alone, the British Government have made a profit of £60,000,000. Our squatters very generously fixed a flat rate for their wool ; the British Government bought at the flat rate, and by re-selling to other countries, made a profit of £60,000,000.
– Of which we are to receive one-half.
– I was going to mention that fact; I wish the honorable member would not be so impetuous. It is proposed that one-half of the profits shall be returned to the squatters of Australia, and I certainly do not object to their getting their fair share. Mr. Beeby, speaking recently at a public meeting, said that, in respect of one parcel of Australian butter, the British Government made a profit of £38,000. They have been dealing in our butter for the last five years, and must have been making very large profits. Yet we are told by the Prime Minister that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, has sent a cablegram to the Commonwealth Government demanding repayment of £8,000,000 of loan money at the end of this month. I cannot believe it. If such a cablegram was ever despatched from the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it must have emanated from an “understrapper.” I do not believe that the British Government would be so ungenerous as to make a peremptory demand for £8,000,000, in view of the fact that they have been doing so well out of the people of Australia. “We are to be called upon presently to deal with the War Gratuity Bill. I want to know what the British Government intend to do with regard to that matter. We sent ourmen overseas to fight for the Empire, and we taxed the people of Australia to meet the obligations cast upon us by reason of the war. The British Government have paid their own men a gratuity. They have made millions of pounds out of this country, and it is up to the Government of Australia to put it to them that they should make some grant to Australian soldiers as an indication of their gratitude.
– Is that not a good point in favour of the Treasurer going to London?
– No. The British Government will not take the Treasurer as an equivalent for the £S,000,000 we owe them. Then, again, if it is correct that they have demanded payment of that sum by the end of this month, the Treasurer will not be in London in time to square the deal. We have not only supplied the people of Great Britain with our raw material at a reasonable price - and I do not object to our having done so - but we have depleted the country of bullion. Nearly every ship that went overseas with our troops carried gold and specie to Great Britain. I do not object to that; but I do object to the British Government making a peremptory demand for the immediate payment of a debt which we incurred in assisting them. I believe the demand has been made by a mere “understrapper.” I hope that the Treasurer will tell the British Government of the Australian view. I hope he will remind them that we have spent over £300,000,’000 in connexion with the war; that we have given the British Government our raw material at limited prices; and that there has been a great deal of profiteering in connexion with our raw material in the Old Country. He should tell them that we expect them to take all these matters into consideration, and not to be so exacting in their demands.
– That is a huckstering spirit, hardly worthy of Australia.
– I should like my honorable friend to say what he thinks of the supposed cablegram.
– Do not destroy what Australia has done.
– I do not desire to do so, but it is time that some one spoke on behalf of Australia, instead of our shutting our eyes, opening our mouths, and swallowing everything that comes from Great Britain. Canada spent some £300,000,000 in assisting the Empire during the war, or £37 per head of her population, but Australia also spent £300,000,000, though in doing so she burdened her population to the extent of £60 per head. Therefore, it cannot be said that what we did was paltry. I would be the last to begrudge anything that was done, because nothing that could be done should have been left undone; but now that the war is over, and we are squaring up accounts, Australia’s view should be put before British statesmen. They should not insist on us paying the last penny of debt that we owe. Canada made money out of the war, but Australia made nothing out of it. Our primary producers sacrificed themselves by allowing their produce to be sold to the Old Country at low rates, and our coal-miners were deprived pf their livelihood for many months because of the taking to the North Sea of ships whose, consumption of coal provided them with labour. Our whole people made sacrifices during the war, and yet we are told that we are being pushed to find £8,000,000 at the end of this month. This is most regrettable. Had I been the Prime Minister, I would not have read to honorable members the cablegram the effect of which he made public.
The right honorable gentleman said that one of the reasons for the scarcity of sugar was the strike of the marine engineers. That may be so, but his own action in trying to confiscate tho funds of their union prolonged that strike for at least a fortnight. Had the marine engineers been as vindictive as he was, they would have made a counter move. Only the Inter-State trade was affected by the strike, but the engineers on all the coastal steamers and’ on the ferry steamers are members of the engineers’ organization, and had the desire been to injure the people of the country, they could have been called out. As an instance of the manner in which the marine engineers acted, let me make it known that a gentleman connected with the Navy went to them and said, “ At Rabaul we are in difficulties for food, and the natives are dying for want of medicine Would you agree to the putting of food on a ship for Rabaul?” Their reply was that the men would sign on for ls. a month, but that the rates of wages that were being demanded would have to be paid. A start at loading a steamer was made, but the Prime Minister heard of it, and stopped it. The gentleman to whom I have referred then went to the engineers again and said, “ I am sorry that Mr. Hughes will not agree to what is being done.” The engineers’ reply was, “ We will pay the men their wages if the people of Rabaul are in such straits, and we will sign them on at ls. a month.” They did that, and the ship that was sent is now on her way back from: Rabaul. What did Mr. Hughes care about the people of Rabaul, so long as he won a victory over the men? His spitefulness towards them shows a bad spirit. During the war these men worked on our coast, although they could have got higher wages in other parts of the world. When the war was ended, they applied to the Arbitration Court for higher wages, but Mr. Justice Higgins - I do not know what is the matter with him of late - turned down the application. They were, therefore, justified in striking. Any impartial man will say that their demands were fair, because there were firemen who were getting more than some of the engineers. Yet the Commonwealth Government tried to starve them ‘into submission.
– They tried to starve other people into submission. They were starving the people of Queensland.
– When you know where a man comes from, you know his opinion on the Federal Capital question. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) said that to build the Federal Capital would be to throw money away. Some of the new members of the House do not realize what we have in the Federal Territory. That Territory covers an area of 900 square miles, and the cost of housing this Parliament at the Capital could be met out of the rentals that would be paid if a township were established there. The land was given to the Commonwealth Government by the Government of New South Wales, in pursuance of the compact embodied in the Constitution ; but Victorian influence has kept the Parliament here for some years. The present arrangement suits Victorian members, because it enables them to get to their homes every night, whereas some of the legislators from other States have to travel for weeks to get here.
– Let us have our meetings in Sydney.
– My desire is to see the Federal compact carried out. Money spent on the Federal Capital would not be wasted. We hs-ve there already a splendid water supply and an electric lighting plant, which would also supply power for factories. There is also a brick works. The people of New South Wales could find the money for the Capital, but the influence of Victoria has hitherto been too strong to allow us to get anything done. We are told that the question cannot be discussed now in view of the visit of the Prince. After he has gone, some other excuse will he made. All the time we are increasing the rent we have to pay in Melbourne, where we are not in the proper Federal atmosphere.
– You are badly treated.
– The honorable member for Kooyong does not wish to move out of Melbourne, but I hope that the R epresentatives of New South Wales, irrespective of party, will see that the Federal compact is carried out.
– Would you live at Canberra 1
– Yes. I have been there on several occasions. It is one of the healthiest districts that I have been into. Every building requisite is available - limestone for cement, the best clay for bricks, and beautiful granite. I hope that the Minister who represents here the Minister for Defence will use his influence in the Cabinet to have the matter settled.
– How would it be for us to camp there in tents?
– We would require some permanent arrangement, though camping would be healthy enough.
I thank honorable members for the attention they have given me, and join with those who have expressed the hope that we shall do good business this session, and particularly that we shall do the best we can for our returned men and those dependent on them.
– I listened with great interest to the various speeches that have been made during this debate and on the censure amendments in connexion with Supply, and I agree with a member; who. has spoken this afternoon that a good deal of time has been wasted since we first met. In saying that I do not reflect upon any individual member. It is in the interests of the people at large that Parliament should do its business expeditiously. As a new member I speak with some nervousness, because municipal experience is quite overshadowed when one enters this arena.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) declared that the remarks of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) demand the immediate attention of the Government. I share his opinion. Throughout my public life I have held that national health means national wealth. Without na tional health we cannot’ have national wealth. The remarks of the honorable member for Barrier made it clear that the coming generations are likely to be affected by the lead poisoning and other diseases which are at present connected with mining operations at Broken Hill, and I feel sure that when the facts have been placed before them Ministers will deal with the position in the national interest. The health of the community is a matter which concerns all alike, irrespective of politics. We may be inclined to think at times that the mine-owners make larger profits than they should make, and to a certain extent d’o so at the expense of the workers.
I have read a great deal in the newspapers, and heard a great deal in this chamber about the political crisis, which - I think to the great relief of the community - is now at an end. Attempts to overthrow this Government, . which has the support of the people, have been made too early in the life of the Parliament. The older members of the House may laugh at that statement, but I tell them that I am not concerned with what has happened in former Parliaments. I have come here to assist in passing legislation of a national character. .1 have the honour to represent the premier constituency in this House.
– We all do that.
– I thought yesterday that there were more electors on the roll of Henty than for any other constituency, and I was surprised to learn that one member represents a constituency for which 74,000 electors are enrolled. There are over 60,000 electors in my constituency. The responsibilities of new members are by no means light, and when matters of moment are introduced it is essential that they should have a full opportunity to study them before being called upon to vote. I congratulate the National Government, although its majority is not so large as formerly, upon having been returned to power. Its majority is a workable one; and, if it has smaller numbers behind it, that may not be altogether a matter for regret, seeing that better work is likely to be done as a result. The Government will now need all the votes it can possibly get ; and when it ‘brings forward matters of importance it will be more likely to be influenced by the views of this House than has hitherto been the case, perhaps. I have pledged myself to support national measures, and I shall be found backing the Government in all propositions that are broad and fair to all classes of the community - measures, in fact, which are truly national.
In regard to my conduct so far, I desire to make an explanation. I owe no apologies, and do not intend to make an apology; but it has been brought home to me that honorable members are sometimes called upon to cast their votes upon matters which have not previously come tinder their legislative notice, and which have not come up for adequate debate in this Chamber. During last week 1 cast a vote in accordance with a promise made to my constituents; and I hope that, so long as I remain here, I shall keep my pledges in every particular. The matter of the Commonwealth police was hurriedly and unexpectedly mentioned; and, since I had promised to vote in favour of the abolition of the Commonwealth police, I did so. Much to my surprise, the Melbourne Herald came out with a great heading - “ The Government challenged “ - and it announced that Mr. Francis was the only Nationalist member who had voted against the Government. After the vote had been taken T was somewhat surprised to learn that the term “ Commonwealth police “ had been misrepresented. I was given to understand by the speech of the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth police were a. band of men engaged to keep down disloyalty and Sinn Feinism. I assure honorable members that, if a body of men is necessary to suppress disloyalty and Sinn Feinism, I will always be prepared to vote for the continuance of that body. I have entered this Chamber as a loyal subject of the King, and I do not desire that it should be said that I voted in favour of disloyalty.
I listened with great interest to the Governor-General’s Speech. His Excellency rightly said that we, as a British people, were glad indeed that the great war had terminated. Much has been said in this Chamber about the Union Jack and concerning the part which Australia played in the war. I know that Australia did its noblest and best, and that there is hardly a man or woman who in his or her heart of hearts, does not feel grateful for the successful termination of the conflict. It may be out of place for me, as a new member, to strike a note of warning, but I point out that in other parts of the world the condition of warfare has not yet ended. As an Australian people we may yet be expected to defend our shores, oven from within. Australia’s defence policy must be carried on in all seriousness by this National Parliament. We cannot afford to be caught sleeping. The eyes of other nations are on Australia; we must train our men to defend these shores, and to be prepared if ever the time of peril should come. The part played by the women of this land is a matter upon which this Parliament’s heartiest thanks should be accorded. The war work of our women was magnificent, and we should take the earliest opportunity to pay tribute to their great a.nd noble efforts.
I congratulate the Government upon its promise to amend the repatriation legislation. I have had the honour to represent the Minister for Repatriation upon the Malvern Committee since its inception, and I know from personal experience that the repatriation Statute must be improved. Mention has been made during this debate of the position of a deceased soldier’s mother who has been, deserted by her husband. Under the present Act the bereft mother has no claim for assistance whatever. I know personally of a mother who was deserted many years ago by her husband. She sent her only two sons to the Front. Without doubt, she had. depended upon them for her living. Both lads were killed. I have pleaded with the Repatriation Department time and again that assistance should be granted to her. The answer has been, however, that since she has a husband, he is supposed to look after her. I sincerely trust that the amending Bill will provide for cases such as that.
As a municipal councillor I have been brought into close touch with local conditions, and I am convinced that in several respects the repatriation legislation can be considerably improved upon. I know of a case of a returned soldier who has seen four years’ active service. He desires to re-establish himself in his former occupation. He has purchased a block of land, and intends to build an office in which to carry on his business. He has found, however that he’ cannot secure building materials in order to get a start.-
I have approached the Repatriation Department on his behalf, and have asked whether it is not possible for him to be given preference over others in respect to bricks and cement. To-day he is “ on the rocks,” because he cannot secure a building in which to carry on.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be a wrong policy to grant preference to one returned soldier over another?
– I did not intend that. I meant that this returned man should be given preference over outsiders with regard to the distribution of bricks and cement. It has been rumoured, by the way, that the Repatriation Department is holding large stocks of cement. I have been given to understand that, somewhere along the wharfs, there is a store in which a good deal of cement is held for the Repatriation Department. If such is the case it is the duty of the Government to release the stocks, and, if possible, provide bricks also for the requirements of our returned men. The man to whom I. have referred has work to do, but he has been compelled to borrow money right and’ left in order to maintain an existence..
The vocational training scheme is another important matter. It has been said in the course of this debate that technical education is a great asset to the community. In most. parts of the world technical education has been a proved success; it has been the means of teaching young people their trades, thus providing adequate numbers of skilled workers. A slipshod workman is no good to anybody. Efficiency is absolutely necessary. Economy is all right; I stand for a policy of economy, and have pledged myself to do all in my ; power to further it. But I stand’, also, for efficiency. It is of no value to use the pruning knife ruthlessly upon our great educational system if it is to be at the cost of efficiency.
I should like, asa new member, to give my impression of this House; and in doing so I ask honorable members to believe that there is nothing in my remarks of a personal nature. It has been said by interjection that economyis all right so long as it does not affect one’s self. I find here the Country party, and, indeed, honorable members in all parts of the chamber, talking economy; but it is an economy that suits their own pockets, and is not of a general character. I venture to say that if the Country party could get £1 per bushel for their wheat, they would grab it. However, I believe those honorable members in the corner are a good party, and are going to be of some advantage in this Parliament. The party, no doubt, has created a good deal of annoyance to the National Government at the outset of the session, but 1 believe they will help to a very great extent in keeping the Government intact. However, we of the National party are not in any way dependent on them for support in the way of votes. A Government that calls itself a National Government should be prepared to stand firm, determined not to give way on this or that question, at any rate on any question that vitally affects the people. I take it that on any measure of vital importance the Government will consult this House before proceeding.
It is a pity that the War Gratuity Bill has been delayed, and apparently it will be delayed until this evening if honorable members will not stop talking on the Address-in-Reply.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– This is the first time I have had “a show,” and, apparently, there is a desire to shut me up. However, we may feel sure that the Government will introduce the War Gratuity Bill, and that it will prove satisfactory to our soldiers and sailors. We must remember, also, that munition workers deserve some consideration, though I am not prepared at this stage to say what we are prepared to do. I know of one munition worker, who, leaving his wife and family behind, went to the other side of the world, and returned with the sight of both his eyes gone. In my opinion, that man, when he lost his sight, was working in the interests of the country, whether he was on the battle-field or in the factory. It is quite likely that he was in a more dangerous zone than many men on the field of battle itself; and any one who will say that such a man does not deserve great consideration for services rendered, ought to get out of the country.
As to war service homes, I think I can speak of building operations with as much or more experience than any member of the House - when it comes to a matter of building I feel quite at home. The War Service Homes Branch is, in my opinion, making a great and unfortunate mistake. It is surprising, and worthy of criticism by this Parliament and the public generally, if a member of the firm of architects which has been engaged for this work is a son of a prominent official of the Commonwealth Bank. It has been so stated in the House, and it is a matter that requires looking into. This firm is conducting the business in its own. way, and even a member of Parliament, when he seeks an interview regarding the work, is coolly told that it has nothing to do with him - that the Kirkpatrick firm controls the matter. However, I am not very easily shaken off, and I had occasion to interview a representative of the firm, whoever he may be - some bit of a boy - in connexion with a home that is urgently required for one of our “ digger “ boys. The firm, in the plans and specifications, made an error in laying down the foundations; they went too far on one side, thus leaving insufficient room for a vehicle to enter. My interview was with the connexion of the Commonwealth Bank official ; and he went on reading his papers, saying, “ It has nothing to do with you; we are running this business; it has nothing to do with the Commonwealth either.” He received me very coolly, indeed ; and I may say that I told him what I thought of him. This may cause spine laughter amongst honorable members, ‘but it is no laughing matter for this “ digger “ who is being humbugged about his building. He desires to get married, but the building is in the same state to-day that it was five months ago. These are all matters the Repatriation Department should look into: and certainly, in my opinion, at any rate, this firm should be “ sacked.” I wish to emphasize the point that if this partner in the Kirkpatrick firm is a son of Mr. Miller, of the Commonwealth Bank, it is a standing disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– He is a son-in-law.
– Well, it is all the same; he is connected with the family - he has got “ a leg in.”
We hear of Royal Commissions being appointed for all kinds of purposes - to inquire into the price of foodstuffs, intothe sale of ties at 6s. 6d. - a price which by the way I cannot afford - indeed, we hear of Royal Commissions which have rendered themselves ridiculous, and become a laughing stock. If a Royal Commission is necessary, it is in connexion with the administration of the War Service Homes Branch. Before we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds belonging to my constituents, and the constituents of other members, immediate and definite inquiries should be made. It is said by those in control of the branch that houses can be built by day labour at. £200 less than they can be built by contract. That, I think, is a very farfetched statement; in the near future honorable members will get the shock of their lives when the accounts come in for the erection of the war service homes. We hear of a six-roomed brick house for £700 on land bought, in some cases, at £3 per foot. In other cases, land is bought at 35s. a foot, when the price that should be paid- is £2 10s. In my constituency some land has been acquired by the Department for soldiers’ homes. Two or three years ago a thrifty working man there secured a block of land on the terms system, and determined that, as soon as he had paid for it, he would raise a loan and erect a home for himself. Such a man. ought to be congratulated and helped by us as a Parliament; but the War Service Homes Branch, through lack of supervision, or lack of valuation knowledge, deliberately acquired this land, as it had other land, at less than had been paid for it by the original purchaser. In some cases I raised a protest, and had the prices considerably advanced; and there is a determination that in the case I have cited there shall be a further advance before the owner parts with his land. We, as representing the people of the Commonwealth, have no desire to penalize any particular person on the plea that war service homes are required. It should be, and I believe it is, the desire of the Government to do justice, if they only knew the facts, and I wish it to be understood that I am not blaming the Government as a whole. This is a matter of departmental supervision into which they should make, immediate inquiry. . The cost of the building of the war service homes should be equally distributed over the whole of the people, and not borne by a few. I repeat, in order to impress the fact on the House, that as soon as the War Service Homes Branch are finished with the muddle, we should get a Bill for the building of houses, not at £700 each, but at a considerably higher price. It is impossible for £700 to secure land and build a brick house fit for a “ digger “ to live in.
The question of the Federal Capital has been raised. It was said by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby), in bis speech on the Address-in-Reply - and I desire to congratulate both that gentleman and the seconder of the motion on their maiden speeches - that the Government should not entertain any proposition for the spending of millions of money at Canberra. This matter affects honorable members from other States very considerably. It may be said that the objection of Victorian honorable members to expenditure on the Federal Capital is due to a disinclination to travel to and from Canberra. That is not my reason for urging that the Government should not at present proceed with the expenditure of ‘millions of money upon a bush capital. It is quite on the cards that Canberra will eventually become the Federal Seat of Government, but we must have regard to the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. We have had to send the Treasurer to the Old Country in order to make arrangements to meet the financial obligations of the Commonwealth, an’d why should we involve ourselves in an , expenditure of £3,000,000, or £4,000,000, in order to keep a compact made in the Constitution? That compact has remained in abeyance so long that it can surely be deferred for a few more years. Possibly, after we have dealt with the problems that have resulted from the war, Victorian members will agree that the creation of the Federal Capital is necessary. When this compact was made there was no idea of war intervening, but conditions have changed during the past five years, and all our energies are now required in order to cope with the aftermath of a great war. We have big pro”blems to face.
– Would you face them by repudiation ?
– I am not in favour of facing anything by repudiation. I shall always stand up to my obligations, but I cannot see that a further postponement of the Federal Capital scheme will amount to a repudiation of any debt or compact. Because of the war we have had to postpone many projects, and there is no suggestion of repudiation in deferring the expenditure on the Federal Capital for the time being.
Much has been said regarding profiteering. I, like most other honorable members, am pledged to do what is possible to reduce the high cost of living. During the recent election I urged the people to vote in favour of the referenda for the alteration of the Constitution, and I was glad to know that, in my constituency, there was an affirmative vote. That fact reveals the very high class of people whom I represent in this Parliament.
– Every Victorian con,stituency gave a majority in favour of the referenda.
– I am glad that. that was so. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), when speaking on the subject of profiteering, said that, in his own business as a greengrocer, he had to purchase potatoes at £15 per ton because he was informed that the price would increase to £24. I am sure that, although the honorable member sits in opposition, if he could buy potatoes at £15 per ton, with the knowledge that the price was likely to increase, he would hold them and sell at £24. During my election campaign I was not assisted in any way by the profiteer. I had to fight my own battles. I was opposing a Government candidate, and I had not the support of the National Federation, or other Nationalist bodies, or the profiteer.
– I notice that the honorable member associates the two.
– I do not, in any way, associate the Nationalists with the profiteer. In my opinion, a Nationalist is one who does all he can for the benefit of the nation. In answer to a question to-day the Prime Minister stated that the Government were unable to introduce legislation to prohibit profiteering, because the people had recently refused them the necessary powers. As a layman, I may not understand much about constitutional matters, but I claim to have a certain amount of common sense, and I believe that if this Commonwealth Parliament is supreme it undoubtedly has some power of checking the profiteering that is taking place.
– “Unfortunately, this Parliament is not supreme.
– The sooner it becomes supreme the better. Of course, I recognise the difficulties that stand in our way. I do “not say that the constitutional amendments asked for ‘by the Government are not required. They are required, and because we lack the powers they would have conferred we cannot do all we would like to do in order to check profiteering. Sir John Quick, who is supposed to be a great constitutional authority, says that the Commonwealth has power, by means of taxation and the fixation of prices, to deal with profiteering, and I urge the House as a whole, regardless of party divisions, to join together in an effort to relieve the people of the burden they are at present bearing. It is ali very well for the people who are in receipt of large incomes to say that it is not necessary to interfere with the profiteer or that profiteering does not take place. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has informed the House of the profiteering that takes place in the tweed industry. Instead of the consumer being able to purchase the material from the manufacturer, he has to purchase it through a merchant, who increases the price by nearly 100 per cent. That evil is so simple and obvious that an ordinary municipal council, let alone the National Parliament, could deal with it. I shall not be satisfied until something is done to check profiteering, in regard to which I shall have something more to say at a later date. Although the hands of the Government are tied to a great extent, they must do something to afford relief to the people. If time permitted one to mention the increase that has taken place, in the ordinary essential household commodities, one could emphasize more strongly the present burden of the high cost of living.
In regard to the Tariff, I am pledged to my electors to vote for the assistance and establishment of local industries. That policy is essential to the well-being of the Australian people. I was Surprised during a recent study of the statistics of imports and exports to find that local industries are not being fostered as they should be. I agree with the honorable member who said that the export of raw hides is disastrous to this country. I know that the Government are pledged to bring down a Tariff that will be helpful to local [industries. Of course, there may be a danger in a high Tariff. It may happen that the Tariff remedy will prove worse than the malady, but we must take the risk. We must raise a protective wall about our industries, and if those who benefit do not supply the people with their requirements at fair and reasonable prices the Government will be obliged to take other measures.
I listened with interest to the discussion that took place with regard to the new sugar agreement. I hold the opinion that on any conference convened to fix the price of any commodity the consumers should have representation, apart from the Commonwealth Government. It has been, said that the salvation of Australia lies in building up an export trade, and’ not in pursuing a policy of importing from other parts of the world. I have interested myself slightly in the papermaking industry, in which hundreds of thousands of pounds are now being spent in order to increase the output of the mills. In this connexion it is regrettable that the Victorian Government recently saw fit to send to America for supplies of paper, ignoring, and, as it were, stagnating, the local industry for the sake of saving a few pounds. Possibly the Government did save a little money, but, no matter what saving was effected, I am always ready to vote for the establishment of local industries, even if the price of their output should exceed the cost of the imported article. It is the only way in which we can eventually produce commodities at prices below those at which we can ‘purchase from the outside world. We have heard it said that when we sent away our wool and wheat we secured a return far below the prices which other nations secured, but if we were ready to sell our produce at such ridiculously low rates we cannot blame the British Government, as some persons are disposed to do. Great credit is due to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for the magnificent work he did during the war, frequently faced, as he was, with great difficulties. We should be pleased that we havo him among us to-day. Certainly mistakes were made, but we ought not to worry over what is past. Our chief concern now should be the requirements of the moment and the future.
It is unnecessary for me to utter any warning in regard to America and Japan. . When they settle their local troubles they will be looking to Australian markets. Already we have suffered very considerably from their trading operation;; here. The trade mark “ Made in Australia,” referred to- by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), will do for me, as it should do for other honorable members.
Another matter that the Country party should take in hand is the development of the fruit-canning industry. I am not in the Farmers party, but I have many farmers in my constituency and many fruit-growers. At present half of the Australian fruit crop ‘is grown for the benefit of the middleman, or merchant, or for the payment of railway freight, and it would be a most excellent step to establish and encourage the canning industry in various country districts.
I hope that the’ men who will be appointed to take control of the islands over which Australia has a mandate will be experienced men. We read of persons being sent to fill such positions who do not understand’ the local conditions, and are inconsiderate of the inhabitants’ of the islands under their care. We should see that men of the very best character, and’ kindly men, are appointed to take charge of territory which undoubtedly, if managed correctly, will become a valuable asset to the Commonwealth.
I am glad to note that the cotton industry is to receive the immediate attention of the Government. This is essential, because we are obliged to pay profiteering prices for cotton. Possibly the dividends of the cotton manufacturing companies are not very large, merely a few million pounds per half-year; but in any case cotton growing should be encouraged in Australia.
I thank honorable members for their close attention to my remarks. I can assure them that so long as I remain a member of the House I shall endeavour to carry out my obligations to the people who sent me here, the only persons to whom I am responsible for my conduct in the House. I am prepared to go before my electors at any time the Government choose, and I shall not be bludgeoned into giving my vote in any particular way by the threat of an election. At the same time, I think it would be a great pity to have the Commonwealth Parliament everlastingly appealing to the people at the cost on each occasion of hundreds of thousands of pounds. We should strive to regard the business of the country as a national con cern and to avoid the great expense of too frequent elections. It is undoubtedly our duty to do what the people have sent us here to do, and that is to administer the affairs of the country for the good of the community generally.
.- The compliments paid by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) to the Country party do not seem to have been too well received in the corner. For my part the Country party should be welcomed. Its appearance is certainly not premature; and I echo the hope expressed elsewhere that its members will use their influence to restore the responsibility of Ministers to the House, and also to restore constitutional government in this country. By joining with the Opposition, I hope they will endeavour to insure that no undertaking committing the country to a large expenditure is entered into without being previously submitted to Parliament for ratification.
I understand that the Country party has come here mainly for the purpose of enforcing economical administration. For that reason also I welcome its advent. But I think it has made an inauspicious start. It had a fine opportunity of enforcing the theory of economy at the very beginning of this Parliament, when it was announced that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was to pay a health trip to the Old World. For it is only pretence to contend that it is a visit on public business. A remarkable coincidence in regard to that trip was the unanimous approval given to it by the principal newspapers in’ Melbourne and Sydney. This unusual unanimity suggests a pre-concerted arrangement. It had been arranged for and canvassed, as was formerly the practice in Victoria before the Commonwealth Parliament came into existence, such visits having first to be approved of by the gentlemen who dictated the policy of the country from their editorial sanctums. The singular unanimity of the press approval of the visit of the Treasurer to the Old World raises the suspicion in the ordinary mind that objection which would have been raised in the natural course of events had previously been removed by some private agency. One reason why I object to this visit is that we already have in London a gentleman of very high qualifications for Uhl mission which the Treasurer has been given. He is well paid, receives £5,000 per annum, knows Australia from end to end, and is thoroughly familiar with all Australian requirements. And even if the presence of Mr. Andrew Fisher, the High Commissioner, should not be competent to fulfil requirements in this regard, we have housed in London six Agents-General and their staffs attending to the wants of Australia, and carrying out the wishes of their respective ‘ Governments. This being the position, why should the Country party connive at the action of the Government, keeping their tongue, in their cheeks when the announcement was made that the Treasurer was to go to London at the cost of several thousand pounds to do work which could be done better by other men? Furthermore, the Treasurer is required here. “We are to deal with very important financial proposals during the next few months. Money has to be found for the war gratuity and for repatriation purposes, and this financial genius ought to be here in this House in order to give honorable members the benefit of his experience and reputedly valuable advice.
Another opportunity of enforcing economy which the Country party has lost is in regard to the recent appointment of an Administrator for the late German Possessions. Any one who has given thought to the matter is aware that these Possessions could be administered quite well by Judge Murray, the Administrator of Papua, a man of high character and ability. He is perfectly familiar with the conditions of these territories, their wants, and their development, and is quite capable of undertaking the extra duties of administering these islands without any additional cost to the Commonwealth. The Administrator appointed at Rabaul will be surrounded with’ secretaries and other officials, thus adding to the costly administration expenses of the Department. I observe, by the way, that objection to Judge Murray’s administration of Papua has been raised by some of the people of Port Moresby. I hope the Government will pay no attention to the resolution reported to have been carried by an alleged majority at a mass meeting there.
– The new Administrator of Rabaul has been appointed for only a certain period.
– Whatever the period may be, his salary and the salaries of his staff will have to be paid.
– Brigadier-General Johnston was also up there.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. When Brigadier-General Johnston left, the position became vacant, and could have been taken over by Judge Murray, a man of proved capacity and experience, with ample time to> devote to the work.
– No one knows better than does the honorable member that I have nothing to do with German New Guinea.
– I have not suggested that the honorable member has. But the Government, of which he is a member, had something to do with the appointment which has just been made.
Here, then, were two occasions when the Country party - this alleged Economy party - had an excellent opportunity to enforce its policy of economy.
– The members of that party did their best.
– In that case their best is very poor.
– Do not say that.
– Then I may say something more uncomplimentary. While I welcome the appearance of the Country party, and think they should have been here ten years ago, I hope that they will not labour under the delusion that they are the John the Baptists- the first apostles - of economy in this chamber. They do not pave the way for economic government or for resistance of impositions upon the people of Australia. There were in the first Federal Parliament men who watched over the interests of the producers as well as any of these honorable members are likely to do. It is necessary, from some of their utterances, to remind them that they are not altogether pioneers in the representation: of the producing interests in this HouseThe interests of the producers had effective advocates in this Parliament longbefore they appeared here, or even thought of entering politics.
– But those advocates”cut no ice.”
– If the honorable member had at that time cut his political wisdom teeth’, he would know that they “cut a good deal of ice.” They stood here against the Federal Tariff introduced by the first Commonwealth Government of which the late Lord Forrest was Treasurer, and which Tariff imposed heavy burdens upon the farmers and other primary producers. If the honorable member, who now represents the constituency which formerly returned Lord Forrest to this House, will look up the records he will find that my statement is correct.
– That merely goes to confirm my statement that those to whom the honorable member refers “cut no ice.” The balance was against them.
– If the honorable member means that by reducing the burdens which it was then attempted to place on the primary producers, they “ cut no ice,” he is completely wide of the mark. A reference to the debates on the first Federal Tariff and the divisions on the various items in that Tariff will show that there were in this House men who could “ cut ice,” and who did look well after the primary producers of Australia.
Another failure on the part of the Country party makes me suspicious that they are not genuinely in favour of economic reform. Only last week, when the Supply Bill was before us, the question of the pay of the Commonwealth Police was raised. If ever there was an administrative scandal - I would almost speak of it as an outrage - it was the creation of that force in Australia. There was no occasion for it. It was merely a salve to the wounded vanity of the Prime Minister. Some one threw an egg at him, and from that egg there emerged a force of policemen which costs this country some £8,000 per annum. If the Country party were out for real economy, it would have assisted us to wipe out that item. It would at least have voted for a substantial reduction. Since it did not do so, I am inclined to impeach its sincerity, and to say that it is only a bogus party. Had it meant business, it would have been with us in resisting that vote.
I do not intend to deal at length with the record of the present Government. There is so much to be said in their condemnation that it would transcend the opportunities given to honorable members. I shall therefore leave them to he dealt with by the people, as I think they will be eventually, for the disgraceful manner in which they obtained office.
The people, deceived by their campaign in press and on the platform, will indubitably deal with them for the malicious lies, fabrications, and foul passions which their base sectarian appeals aroused in the community.
I should like now to refer to the sugar question. There were some peculiar omissions from the speech made yesterday by the Prime Minister in dealing with the subject. I would recommend the Country party, and new members generally, to look up the history of the sugar question in the records of this Parliament, before they agree to any increase in the price of sugar to the Queensland sugar-growers. I may offend some of my Queensland friends in speaking in this way, but I have taken a keen interest in the question since it first came’ before the Federal Parliament,- and I feel constrained to draw attention to certain matters relating to it which ought to be considered before the agreement is ratified. I agree with the Prime Minister that the sugar industry in Australia is in a peculiar position, since it is essentially the only industry here which is carried on with white labour in competition with black labour employed in the industry elsewhere. The original intention of this Parliament in granting bonuses to the sugar-growers was to effect a transition from black to white labour. For that purpose various devices were employed. This Parliament, in a very generous mood, gave to the sugar-growers of Queensland a Tariff advantage of about £5 per ton, which covered the larger part of the period from 1902 to the present day.
– It was paid out of Excise.
– Here we have a Free Trade Minister telling the House that the bonus was paid out of the Excise. But who paid it? It came out of the Treasury., and undoubtedly Excise was collected on the sugar. But for every £4 collected by the manipulation of Excise and Customs duties the sugar-growers received £5.
– Was it not the other way about?
– No. The Customs Tariff on imported sugar was £6 per ton, and the Excise duty was £4 per ton. The sugar-growers had, throughout the whole period, a net advantage of about £5 per ton. I have dealt with this matter so often in the House that the main figures, which have never been contradicted, have been impressed on my memory. I may refer the House to some statistics obtained from the Commonwealth Year-Booh. Honorable members who have just entered the House and are not familiar with the subject may bo advised to study the position as set out in Vol. VI. of that publication by Mr. Knibbs.
When dilating upon the increased charges to be borne by the growers and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Prime Minister did not tell the House that the sugar -growers had already received enormous benefits from the rest of the people of the Commonwealth.
– Nothing approaching what they have given to the people of the Commonwealth .
– We shall see. The complaint of the sugar-growers to-day is that they are not receiving for their sugar the world’s parity. They want the people of Australia to give what the famishing people of Europe are paying for their sugar.
– They do not.
– What do they mean when they ask for the world’s parity ?
– The world’s parity is ls, per lb. They are not asking for that.
– I have no objection to any producer receiving the world’s parity if he does not at any time impose extra prices on the Australian consumer. What nave these growers done? What was the price of sugar before the Federal Parliament came into existence? I appeal to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) to say whether sugar was not then on sale in Perth and Fremantle at £14 per ton.
– The price was something like that.
– It was perhaps even less. We now have a proposal to charge £30 odd per ton for it. I could understand the desire of the Queensland sugargrowers to obtain from the Australian public the world’s parity if they had in the past produced their commodity without Tariff protection, without leaning upon the rest of the people of Australia.
– With black labour?
– They obtained a concession from. Australia for the transition from black to white labour. That, however did not satisfy them. I mention this fact only to show the honorable member and others that the industry has leant considerably on the Commonwealth in past years.
– The assistance given then was to enable us to carry out our obligation in respect of the White Australia policy. It was not their obligation.
– It was all very well to carry out the White Australia policy, but we paid a good deal for it unnecessarily. In any event, the honorable member’s interjection does not affect my point, which is that if the sugar-growers of Queensland claim the world’s parity for sugar-
– But they do not. They are asking for only about one-third of the world’s parity.
– I wish to show that they have leant on the rest of the people of the Commonwealth, that their industry has been subsidized to a substantial extent, and that, therefore, they should not now attempt to put up the price of sugar in Australia. What has Australia paid for the protection of the sugar-growers and to encourage their industry ?
– And for the protection of those concerned in the preserving of fruits and the making of jams.
– It is impossible to arrive at an exact estimate of what Australia has paid, because not merely have we given bonuses direct to the sugargrowers, but we have also allowed rebates to the manufacturers of jam, condensed milk, and other commodities containing about 50 per cent, of sugar. These manufacturers have paid to the sugargrowers increased prices for the sugar which they have used, but’ when they have exported their manufactures the Government has given them a rebate of 50 per cent, of the duty on the sugar contents. New South Wales has participated in the bonuses to sugar-growers, though not to a great extent. According to Knibbs, the total quantity of sugar produced in 1901 was 112,492 tons. Strangely enough, he omits the figures for the period between 1901 and 1905, and also those for the period between 1906 and 1910. If we take into consideration only the period between 1910 and 1918 we find that the production of sugar in those years totalled 1,422,042 tons. Now, the net protection given to the sugargrower is JE5 a ton, so that in those years the sugar-growing industry received from the consumers of the Commonwealth £7,110,210. Surely, then, there should be no complaint from them because they are not getting the world’s parity for their sugar.
– They have not been allowed to produce sugar as cheaply as it can be produced in the countries with which they compete.
– Had they been able to do so, we should not have given them a bonus of £5 a ton.
– We wanted a white Australia, and we ga.ve them that to obtain it.
– And we deported the kanaka, who was the least dangerous menace to a White Australia. I am notgoing to discuss black-birding, with which the honorable member is so well acquainted. The less he says about the kanaka the better.
– I am not ashamed of anything I have done in regard to the kanaka.
– I am not criticising the honorable member personally, but the less the members of his party and his constituents, or, more particularly, the electors further north than his electorate say about their treatment of the kanaka, the better.
– The honorable member does not know much about the subject when he talks like that.
– I know enough about it to say that if they had any humane feelings, they would be ashamed of the way in which they treated the kanaka, and of the methods by which he was captured and brought to Australia.
– Those stories were untrue.
– What rubbish ! Has every one been lying about the Queensland black-birders?
– Yesterday when I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) who represented the Commonwealth at the Conference to which he referred, he was, as usual, facetious, and replied that as he does not suffer from diabetes, and is a large consumes of sugar, he was there as a representative of the consumer. I think that the House took the statement at what it was worth. My contention, like that of the honorable member who preceded me, is that the public should have been represented at a conference called to determine the price of sugar, because sugar is a commodity for which we have no substitute-, and is consumed largely in every house in the land. Every man, woman, and child in Australia is concerned in the fixing of its price. Therefore, the consumers, those who pay the piper, should have been represented at the conference, and should have had something to say in the fixing of the price of sugar.
– If we turn down the proposal which has been made, we shall have to pay £80 a ton for our sugar instead of £30 a ton.
– -For how long?
– Probably,- for two or three years. ‘
– I am prepared to do that if the sugar growers will refund what the Commonwealth has paid in bonuses to keep their industry alive.
– Those payments were made in accordance with an agreement.
– How does that affect the matter ? The money went out of the pockets of the taxpayers, and they are now being asked to dip their hands still deeper into their pockets for the further subsidizing of the sugar industry.
I have no desire to prolong the debate, especially as the Prime Minister pretends that the Country party and the Opposition have by their tactics delayed the consideration of the war gratuity measure. T am anxious to have the proposal brought forward, and I desire also to obtain a little more liberal treatment for our soldiers in the matter of repatriation and the provision of homes. Did I want to occupy time by the discussion of administrative matters, I could quote numerous cases in which very great hardship, if not actual injustice, has been inflicted on men who spent years at the war. But I wish to see made good some of the fine promises of the Prime Minister and of the other honorable members on that side of the chamber. They should see that the Repatriation Department, -which threatens to become bound hand and foot with red tape, is more expeditious in its methods, and more generous in its interpretation of the law. One case is typical of the stupid regulations of the Department. They have great scope for their reforming energies in the RepatriationDepartment, judging from cases submitted to me. This is not a time to deal in detail with such cases, but I may mention one curious regulation. Our railway transit is supposed to be available to returned soldiers desiring to settle on the land. The regulation was so interpreted that the soldier could not inspect the land before settling on it. He would be #iven a free pass only to proceed to settle on land already selected.
– Was it the Repatriation Department or the State authorities that were responsible?
– The Repatriation Department. I may add, in conclusion, that the House should see that full justice is done to the men who risked life and health in the great war, and that the people will judge all by the manner in which we discharge our admitted obligations to them.
– I am perfectly in accord with the wish expressed by the Prime Minister that we should not unduly delay the introduction of the War Gratuity Bill and others that are to follow. But it appears to be a time-honoured custom that in a debate on the Address-in-Reply at least new members should address the House, and, with the exception of myself, I think that nearly all the new members have already taken part in the debate. I do not intend to take up very much time, as honorable members may consider that a great many other speakers have said the same thing, and may be watching the clock anxiously when the close of the time allotted to me is approaching. I heard the criticism yesterday that many” honorable members who attacked the Ministry most severely have voted with, them, and that others who have spoken- well of them have voted against them. Perhaps that is also a custom of the House, and at this stage I am not going to criticise its customs. Although I may have become a little sleepy at times in my snug corner, listening to the debate, I have attended the Chamber pretty regularly, because I have been most anxious to hear the opinions of all honorable members on the various questions which have been touched upon during the debate. In life generally. I consider that all men’s opinions should count, and in this House I certainly shall, personally, adopt the principle that the opinions of all members of it should’ count.
I wish to deal briefly with a few of the matters in the Governor -General’s Speech. First of all, I should like to say that I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) did not address himself a little more’ fully to one or two points. The same regret was expressed by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), and I agree with the honorable member. I refer particularly to the question of industrial unrest. I consider that it is one which concerns Australia as much as any other that could be mentioned, and it is perhaps the most important question with which we have to deal. If we are to have any system of arbitration that will be approved of and adhered to by both employers and employees, both parties and interests must come together in the consideration of the form of arbitration and conciliation that we are to have. I am sure, therefore, that the House would have benefited in its consideration of this matter if we had been favoured with the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition and of other honorable members opposite as to what, in their view, are the best means to overcome the great difficulty of industrial unrest.
I always believe that when an honorable member expresses an opinion he is perfectly honest in its expression. If we do not accept that view as a basis of discussion, it is an absolute waste of time for us to debate anything in this House. I presume that honorable members opposite voice the opinion of industrial people, at least in the cities, and. I should, therefore, like to know how they hope to solve the great problem of industrial unrest in the Commonwealth. Personally, I consider that the two different interests of employer and’ employee should be represented on any Commission that is to inquire into this subject. Unless we can get both sides to come together, and discuss the matter honestly, without bias or party prejudice, we cannot hope to arrive at any decision that will be satisfactory to both.
During the debate on the censure amendment, an honorable member opposite said that if we are not to have industrial unrest the workers must be given more of what they are entitled to than they now receive; they must have more comfort, and better facilities in every way to enjoy the products of their labour. The honorable member asked whether there was ever a strike because the worker was too comfortable or had too much. I interjected rather often, and my action brought from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) the retort, “ The honorable member knows absolutely nothingabout the conditions of workers in Australia.” Perhaps I do not know as much as does the honorable gentleman about the conditions of workers in. the cities. Although I have wandered about the cities a good deal in idle moments, have worked in cities, and have seen something of the conditions that exist there, I do not put my judgment against that of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the liberty, comforts, . and privileges which city workers enjoy, or can reasonably expect to enjoy. But when the honorable gentleman asserts that I know absolutely nothing about the conditions of the workers in Australia I do say that I know a good deal about some classes of workers in Australia. I know something of the conditions of those whom I consider to be true workers, such as those who work down in the mines, and out in the forests and fields in the country districts of Australia. I know that many of these men do not enjoy any of the privileges and comforts that many of the strikers enjoyed before they .struck. The workers to whom I refer cannot afford to strike, and so I say it very often happens that those who enjoy the best conditions are those who strike.
Will any honorable member say that the marine engineers responsible for the last strike did not enjoy more comforts and more of . the privileges of life than ‘did some of those who suffered, and suffered very severely, because the engineers had recourse to direct action? As the Leader of the Opposition is now present, I mayinform him, perhaps a little belatedly - because I had no previous opportunity ; T am now answering what he said when T interjected - that very often those who enjoy the best conditions are those who strike, whilst those’ who enjoy the worst conditions are not able to do so. The honorable gentleman then said that I knew absolutely nothing about the conditions of the workers in Australia.
– I candidly admit that I do not remember either the interjection or the reply referred to.
– I remember both, and that is why I am alluding to the matter.
– I know sufficient about, the workers to know that their conditions are absolutely awful.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman, and I am going to allude to the awful conditions of some of the workers with whom I am familiar. I do not wish all honorable members to laugh at the same time when Tasmania is mentioned, but I may be allowed to say that in that State there were thousands of real workers in the electorate I have the honour to represent who. were practically made ruined men because of the -strike. They are not men who ever earned £5 per week or enjoyed the comforts and privileges which the marine engineers and certain: city workers enjoyed. Of course, the marine engineers did not want to punish these people, but the effect of their action was that men who had toiled on the land through many bad seasons, men who had hot received good prices for their products, and had frequently failed to raise good crops - what with Irish blight in their potatoes and occasional visitations of drought - and who were now looking forward to a good season in order to make up some of their losses, were confronted with a disastrous strike. They could not shift their produce; they could not sell it. I know of scores of these unfortunate producers who have been ruined. There are few land workers to-day who can afford to go on strike. As a rule, what with their heavy expenses in these times, they have not much, if any, money put by to carry them through weeks of idleness. That applies to the working people of Tasmania in all parts, and particularly to our miners - the tributers and prospectors on our West Coast. They live from hand to mouth, week by week, and just manage to keep plodding along. When we consider the question of industrial unrest, and the means by which every worker, as well as each employer, shall have justice, the plight of the people of Tasmania should not be lost sight of. In the view of many so-called Democrats majority rule is democracy. If our democracy is ever to be worthy of the name the minority must have representation. Its interests must be considered when such matters as the settlement of industrial disputes, and the amendment of our arbitration laws, come before the _ Commonwealth legislature.
Mention has been made, during the debate, of the proposed convention to consider the amendment of the Constitution. It has been remarked also that the only effective means of bringing about national economy will be by doing away with our numerous State Houses. Six State legislatures and a Commonwealth Parliament have been said to be too many for Australia’s requirements. On the surface, that appears to be the case; but we have to consider what would be the effect of their reduction. I listened with pleasure on Wednesday to the speech of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), wherein he dealt so ably with the proposed convention. With his remarks in regard to decentralization I am in full agreement. I assure those honorable members who hold that the only way ,to effect real economy is to bring about Unification - is to do away with the State Governments^ - that the people of Tasmania will not vote for the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth. During the election campaign I was often asked what I thought of the Constitution Referenda. Upon all occasions I replied that Tasmanians should consider the matter very seriously before they voted to grant increased powers to the Federal Parliament. Tasmanians know only too well that in the past they have been outvoted by the larger States. They have not participated in the benefits accruing ‘ to other States by a huge expenditure of public money therein. Under the present interpretation of democracy the small community in Australia does not get a fair deal. Can it be wondered at that a large section of the people of Tasmania should advocate cutting the painter? They know what has been the effect of Federation upon Tasmania. They are aware that, during the recent maritime disputes, and in other directions, serious attention has not been given by the Commonwealth Government and Parliament to Tasmania’s just claims. The reason for that is that Tasmania is- a small State, and its influence in this House has not been, and never can be, great. It is only natural that Tasmania should seek to secure some of the benefits which have been freely given to mainland States.
– Tasmania is taking £75,000 from the Commonwealth this year.
– Yes; and the honorable member is one of those, I think, who assisted in granting that small measure of justice. After all, the grant was no more than her due. It is but an offset against that which was really a serious leakage in the Customs. If the goods brought into Tasmania had been imported direct, instead of having to pass through the Customs Houses of Sydney and Melbourne, Tasmania would have gained the varying annual amount from the beginning. The total sum involved in the grant is not on a par with the enormous expenditure which has been incurred upon such a project as the EastWest railway, linking up Western Australia with the Eastern States. It cannot be compared with the amount of money that will have to be spent if the Federal Capital is to be reared within the boundaries of New South Wales.
Mention of the Federal Capital reminds me that that project was alluded to in the Governor-General’s Speech, and has been, freely discussed during the debate. His Excellency referred to the appointment of a Commission. It’ appears that an investigation is to be undertaken concerning what use shall be made of the Federal Territory. Underlying the proposed appointment of a Royal Commission, one fact is obvious, namely, that activities in the matter of constructing the Federal Capital are bound to be postponed for a few years longer. A great portion of the Territory is suitable for the settlement of returned soldiers, and I am pleased to know that it is proposed to set aside land for this purpose. I understand it is not the policy of the Government or the wish of the people to “art with the freehold in any part of the Federal Capital territory, and I take it that if land is settled by returned soldiers it will be under a ninety-nine years’ lease. By the time the leases will have expired the future of the Federal territory might very well come up for consideration, and by that time, let us hope, Melbourne and Sydney will have outgrown some of their childish jealousies, and the subject may then be considered from an Australian standpoint.
Touching upon the war. gratuity, I may say that we are all anxious to have the Bill before us, and I am quite sure, from the assurances that have been received from members of all three parties, that every facility will be given to expedite the passage of the measure. We are all interested in seeing that returned soldiers are well treated, and it will be our purpose to give the very best advice possible to the Government so that the Bill, in its final form, may be fair and just to all returned soldiers and their dependantsI may add, in passing, that I am not in agreement with the remark made bv the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) last alight when he said that he did not approve of the gratuity being paid in cash. During the election campaign I always said that if the financial position of Australia would permit I would favour a cash payment.
Returned soldiers as a body are as much interested in the welfare of the Commonwealth as any other section of the community, and as a class they are prepared to take into consideration the financial state of the Commonwealth and the difficulty of raising sufficient money to pay the gratuity in cash. When I hear some honorable members and others say that they do not approve of cash payments because a number of men would not know how to spend the money wiselv, I feel that they have an altogether wrong impression of the character of our returned soldiers. We regret that there are a few who’ waste their money, but they are in the minority, and, I think, are to be seen mainly in the streets of our principal cities. I believe, therefore, that those who think returned soldiers are unable to spend wisely and well the amount of war gratuity to be paid to them have an altogether false conception of the real character of our soldiers, because, no doubt, they have not come in touch with those of our returned men who have really gone out to take up the work of civil life again.
Coming now to the subject of the Tariff, I want to say that I am perfectly willing to support a Tariff that will give fair protection and encouragement to Australian industries. I do not want to labour this question, because it has been fully debated already, and no doubt when the new Tariff is before the House there will be ample opportunity for detailed discussion. I think, however, that if we give any industry the benefit of a high protective Tariff we should insure that the consumers’ interests are adequately safeguarded and that provision is made for sale direct from the manufacturer to the retailer. I shall give no support to a protective Tariff that does not insure the manufacturer selling to the consumer at a fair and reasonable price. There should be no sole agencies and no long line of middlemen gaining benefits from a protective Tariff at the expense of the consumer.
The question of improved postal facilities i3 one that very largely affects my electorate, which, in the main, is a country district. The Government have agreed that the outlying portions of Australia have not had liberal treatment in this respect in the past. Better facilities are now promised, and I believe the House is going to demand them. I will be as patient as I can with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), as I am convinced he has a great deal of work ahead of him in remodelling and perfecting the new policy of the Administration. But we want to hurry along. It is little satisfaction to some people - and I know quite a number of them - who have been waiting for years to get telephone or mail services, to be told that the PostmasterGeneral has a lot of work to do. This question of telephones and cables affects Tasmania very seriously. At present press messages are much delayed in transit. During the past week we had an example of this difficulty, a press message occupying six hours in transit from Melbourne to Launceston, because the cable was so overloaded. There may be other reasons for the delay. It is said by some honorable members that the Postal Department is overmanned, and requires < a complete overhaul ; and it is often the case, where, too many men are employed, that the work is not done so expeditiously as it would otherwise be; but I am not in a position to say whether in the Postal Department the fault lies with the staff. At present, the facilities for sending cable messages from the mainland to Tasmania are not sufficient; and this, of course, is a great drawback to all concerned. If we are to develop Australia - and it is by this means alone that we can reduce the cost of living,’ and be prepared to meet our great indebtedness - we must realize that facility of communication is one of the chief factors. In the matter of the cables I am not speaking without knowledge, because I have the advantage of going into an office in Tasmania and seeing the business transacted. When cable messages reach Launceston, they are ‘despatched from there to their destination, and, in the case of one message which came under my observation, -it took some six and a half hours Jo go from Launceston to Burnie. Would any of the larger cities of Australia tolerate without protest such a condition of affairs? It must be remembered that this has gone on for some six or ten years in Tasmania, and I feel convinced that not one of the leading newspapers on the mainland would accept the conditions without such a protest as would quickly result in a remedy.
I congratulate the Government on their decision to divest themselves of Pools and controls, leaving the primary producer, by means of co-operation, to handle his product and place it on the market to the best advantage. No matter how well goods may be handled by a Government Department, satisfaction cannot result; and the Government are wise to throw the onus on those most concerned. We are told that the Government intend to encourage co-operation in every possible way, and that announcement is gratifying to those of us who are primary producers. Of course, there are great difficulties in the way of reaching the consumer directly. It appears to be the opinion of the average citizen that it is the duty of the producer to take his produce to the consumers door, and sell it at the cheapest possible Tate. I wish to see consumers - and by that I mean all who are not primary producers - receive the necessaries of life as cheaply as may be, and to-day that is the great aim of the representatives of every party in Australia. My trouble, however, is that the primary producer is expected to accomplish all this in the absence of any co-operation from the consumer. What is required is that the two shall come together - that the consumer shall assist the producer to sell his produce in the most expeditious and cheap way. If we can evolve a scheme with that result we shall have gone a long way towards getting, over the great dissatisfaction caused by the high cost of living. It is a notorious fact, however, that those who mark their goods the highest do the most trade; we can see illustrations of that fact every day in the city. For instance, an, attempt is made to give the people cheap fruit; and I, myself, have purchased fruit at 2s. a case, while fruit no better, if as good, was being sold at 4d. per lb. in the retail shops, and 3d. per lb. on the stalls. At the same time, we find that the shops are doing, the bulk of the trade; the average citizen will go to a retail shop rather than to a fruit barrow. A very small proportion of the fruit consumed in Melbourne isbought from the co-operative places,, where it could be obtained at about half the price that is paid in the shops. As. I say, we require co-operation between the consumer and the producer - we must have the consumer’s assistance, or we can never have a perfect system. There are many other matters regarding which I have notes, but, as I am getting ratherhoarse, suffering as I am from a cold,, and as an expression of opinion from me regarding them would possibly not assist the House, I shall not occupy time with them. I sincerely hope that members, on whichever side they sit, will give the House the benefit of their experience, so that we may deal effectively with the problems that confront us, more especially the problems of industrial unrest and profiteering. Unless honorable members on all sides, without party bias or prejudice, seriously consider these problems in the interests of the whole of the community - whether they represent those who work in the city, the mine,, the fore-t or the field - we can never accomplish our task. Earlier in the debate, young members opposite reminded young members on this side of the great responsibility that lay upon them as representatives, and asked them, to deal with the questions that are to come before us, fairly and justly, without party bias. In the same spirit I’ assure those honorable members oppositethat such will be my desire and effort at all times. I have no prejudice because of any past experience in this House, but I recognise that it is very hard for older members to escape a feeling of the kind. T look to the future, andI take second place to no one in my desire to do what is best for Australia, and make her the great nation she is designed to be if we honestly do what we consider right, and legislate for the benefit of the community as a whole.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, and only do so because of a remark of the Prime Minister, reported in the Argus this morning, chargingthe two parties opposed to the Govevr-ment with delaying the introduction of the War Gratuity Bill.
– Quite right, too.
– If ever there was a born actor it is the Prime Minister, and nobody knows him better than I do. If betting were permissible here, I would lay ten to one that he has not the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill ready yet.
– Let the honorable member sit down, and see.
– I will wager a “ fiver “ with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that the Prime Minister does not introduce the Bill tonight.
– I am afraid that an offer to make wagers is quite out of order here.
– At any rate, I am not going to be bluffed by the press of Melbourne. The newspapers 9f this city have not me in the bag, even if they have some local members there. Every honorable member is here as a matter of right, and his only asset is his ability to talk. Even you, sir, are occasionally obliged to vacate your pedestal and to speak from the floor of this chamber. It is the inherent right of every honorable member to freely express hisviews here. If any real need exists for the feverish haste with which Ministers wish to deal with the public business, why was not Parliament called together at the end of January? Honorable members upon this side of the chamber are anxious to get to work, and nobody knows it better than do you, sir.
– The honorable member was talking about actors just now.
–A.nd while I was doing so I had the Minister for Trade and Customs in my mind. Although honorable members occupying seats on the Ministerial corner benches designate themselves the Country party, they are merely the left wing of the Nationalist party. So far I have not heard a democratic speech from any of them. This afternoon the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) told us that he is looking for economies to be effected, and he added that since his advent to this House honorable members have indulged in too much talking. Yet he was the only offender in that respect at the time he was making his statement. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) also told his tale, and told it well. But he afterwards accused us of talking for the purpose of preventing the introduction of the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill. We are used to that sort of twaddle. We have played the game ourselves.
– Oh !
– We know the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) - this farmer of farmers. When the honorable member for Indi has cut his political wisdom teeth he. will fall into the same groove into which the rest of us have fallen. I recollect that when I entered’ this House I used to be a whale on the Defence Department. I habitually stuck to it through thick and thin. Some time later an old political friend in Queensland told me that I was really beating the air, and that if I remained in Parliament for a few years I would realize the truth of his statement. His prediction was verified much earlier than I anticipated. As a matter of fact, I entered this House with the idea of reforming the world. I was going to put everybody on the right track, just as after every election new members rise to tell us the track that should have been blazed’ and the eggs which should have been sucked.
– Honorable members upon both sides of the chamber -
– Oh, yes. I am not referring to the members of any one political party. But after new members have been here a couple of years they just drop into the groove into which the remainder of us have fallen. We have been told that, although there have been country representatives in this chamber, they have accomplished no good. Time will reveal how much good members of the Country party will achieve.
– They will do just what they are told.
– Very often they will. The honorable member for Indi stressed the need for economy, but in the same breath he told us that he does not mind hew much is expended upon an expansive defence ,policy. My conscience ! Nobody knows better than you, sir, how the Defence Forces can expand themselves. Yet the honorable member, who is supposed to be the apostle of economy, is going to give the Defence Department a free hand. Wait till he sees the Defence estimates. I would like to be at the Country party’s meeting after its members have examined those estimates. If there was one thing more than another which used to frighten me in the early days of Federation, it was the blossoming of the Defence Department. That Department blossomed in the spring, and matured in the summer, but so far it has experienced no winter. It still retains all its generals-
– They did not do too badly over there.
– But we are not now at war. Nobody can say that I condemned a single action of the Defence Department whilst the war was in progress, and God knows I could have condemned a lot !
– If there had not been a Defence Department there would not have been any army to go overseas.
– That raises another question. It seems peculiar that such a strong bond of freemasonry should exist amongst the permanent officers of our Defence Department. If ever men distinguished themselves in the field of war, the citizen soldiers and officers of Australia did.
– How does the honorable member know ?
– Only a few weeks ago a man named Monash returned to Australia, and the world acclaimed him as a general.
– I am a citizen soldier, and I say the honorable member does not know what he is talking about. .
– I was soldiering when the honorable member was in his mother’s arms.
– I apologize.
– Why not compare Chauvel and Monash?
– Chauvel is a good’ permanent officer - one of the best, and a Queenslander, too. There are other good permanent officers, but, God knows, there are also some duffers. Not only Australia, but Great Britain too, is proud of our citizen soldiers. I remind honorable members of the comments by General Birdwood, who, I suppose, knows what he is talking about.
– He did not say anything against the permanent officers.
– I am not saying anything against them. But I have great faith in our Citizen Army, and I wish to give credit to those men who were not professional soldiers, but who, when the day of trial came, stepped forward and proved themselves, as I often predicted before the war they would do. We, as citizens, apart from the Government, are not doing enough for that illustrious soldier, General, Monash.. If the time comes again when military leaders are required, General Monash will be one of the first to be sent for. I have never met him, I do not even know him by sight; but he is one of the few citizen soldiers of Australia to whom I would raise my hat.
Some honorable members think that we ought to continue spending a lot of money on defence. The whole system of defence throughout the world is disorganized. How I used to admire troops marching and counter-marching on a field day on the plains of Aldershot and the parade grounds at Woolwich, when artillery, cavalry, and infantry were manoeuvring together. When I arrived in Australia I. was astonished to note the time and money which men of means were devoting to the Citizen Army that was being trained in Australia. I remember hearing at a review in Sydney on one occasion, when some of our noble defenders were engaging in a sham fight, one officer say to the umpire that the fight Was not being conducted according to the tactics of Kelly -Kenny- The tactics of Kelly-Kenny and other great generals in the Boer War, and in the wars in India and elsewhere, were thrown to the winds during the recent war, and on the field of battle the Australian citizen soldiers proved more adaptable than the machine-made soldiers. When I used to read the cabled accounts of the doings of our men in battle my blood tingled, and I wished I was with them. Not only did the Australians prove to be good soldiers, but their officers proved to be good leaders, and to-day Australia is recognised as one of the first-class military nations of the world. I wish to see a good defence system established in Australia. A country worth living in is worth defending.
– Now the honorable member is talking sense.
– T think every man on both sides of the House desires to get the best possible value out of the Defence Forces, and it behoves all of us to .put our heads together, and thrust our factional differences aside, when we are dealing with defence. The Government are proceeding warily at present, and rightly so, because the whole.question of armaments is in a state of .flux.’ From all we have read and seen, the two great defensive arms of the future will be the aeroplane and the submarine, and so long as I am in this Parliament I shall vote to keep those services up to an efficient standard.
It has afforded me a great deal of amusement to hear the wailing of honorable members on my own side about the poor squatter. How interesting ! The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) represents, not sheep -growers, but sheep-eaters. My esteemed friend, “the Duke of Melbourne Ports” (Mr. Mathews) represents another great pastoral industry in the form of meat eating. To-day we had the spectacle of the farmer from Botany Bay (Mr. Riley) complaining about the Imperial Government robbing the squatter of so many millions of pounds. If there is any man in Australia who is able to look after himself he is the squatter.
– And he does.
– He does, and good luck to him ! I suppose that my constituency t in which the majority of the voters are squatters, is one of the wealthiest in Australia, but throughout my peregrinations in Western Queensland, I never heard one sheep-grower, large or small, complain about the Imperial Government’s handling of the Australian wool clip. The Central Wool Committee has been a god-send to the pastoralists, graziers, ‘and small farmers in Queensland. The small man with 2,000 sheep receives as fair a deal as the pastoralist with 250,000 sheep. Why should any one complain ? The Central Wool Committee has been the salvation of the pastoral industry in Australia. There is no doubt about that. Where would this great industry have been had it not been for the Imperial Government coming to our rescue and offering us a flat rate of 15£d. per lb. for our wool, and, at the same time, providing ships to transport it away? We had no more hope of shipping our wool clip during the waT period than we had of sending it to Great Britain by aeroplane. If the man who is selling the product is prepared to allow the Mother Country to act as an intermediary, why should others complain ? I have discussed this matter with pastoralists in Western Queensland, and I have not heard one complaint concerning Great Britain taking 50 per cent, of the excess profits. Their only concern is when they are to receive their share of the additional profit.
– It is the same right through Western Australia.
– It is the general opinion of the wool-growers that if the Imperial Government had not acted as it did, the industry would have been crippled. It is mean, and contemptible in the extreme for persons to complain of the action of the Imperial Government and to say that the pastoralists of Australia, are being penalized. Consider the hundreds of millions that the Old Country has spent in connexion with the war. Had Great Britain not entered the conflict, we would not have been privileged to sit in this chamber; and surely that is worth more than the paltry £S,000,000 it is asking us to pay. Australia does not wish to avoid paying her debts. She will pay the Old Country all she owes, and I trust more. It is ridiculous for the narrow-minded individual to .compare Australia with Canada, as such comparisons are beneath contempt. During the war period I often thanked God that I was privileged to live under the protection of the British Flag. In the disposal of our wheat, wool, hides, tallow, and, in fact, all our produce, Great Britain has acted as a mother to her son. I have felt it very keenly when I have heard honorable members belittling the Old Country, because she has not treated us unfairly, and the least we can do is to be grateful for the consideration shown. Those who are always prepared to cavil at the actions of the Central Wool Committee should devote their time to more- important issues. Honorable members must not overlook the fact that the members of the Central Wool Committee do not receive any remuneration whatever for the important duties they are performing. They have done their work gratuitously in the interests of Australia, Australians, and Great Britain.
– I told the electors that on every platform during the recent elections.
– The members of the Central Wool Committee are devoting their time and giving the best of their intellect in the interests of the wool producers of the Commonwealth. In some instances they have even given their money to forward the work of the Committee. The Imperial Government is showing us consideration at every turn. I have often listened with interest to the Prime Minister and to Mr. Watt, when he was Acting Prime Minister, when papers were being tabled or cables were submitted, because the contents of such messages clearly indicated that the Imperial Government was giving us every consideration. I have often felt that it was. a U ./.-0….. to have such a Government behind us. Quite recently the Queensland Government floated a loan of £2,000,000 at 6 per cent., and it cannot be said that the Imperial Government is treating Australia unfairly when we realize that it facilitated the flotation of the loan at a time when its own finances were in such a disorganized state that the best financial experts in the world were being called together to insure financial stability. It is the desire of Great Britain that the Dominions shall grow up in strength and be self-supporting. It has also been shown how the Imperial authorities recognise the necessity for self-government, as when some people in Queensland cabled to the Colonial Secretary objecting to further appointments being made to the Legislative Council of that State, the Colonial Secretary clearly indicated that he wished to have nothing to do with domestic legislation, and that the Imperial Government intervened only when constitutional questions were involved.
– I notice there are no cheers from honorable members opposite.
– It is a fact, nevertheless.
– It was a Labour Government that did that.
– I mention these matters because I do not like honorable members saying that the Imperial Government is endeavouring to obtain £S,000,000 to which it is not entitled. It is a mere business arrangement, and if we ourselves needed £8,000,000 or £80,000,000 we know where we would have to go for it. These are points that honorable members should consider in a broad, national way. The blessings of tens of thousands of men, women, and children have been showered on the Central Wool Committee for its work in the interests of the wool producers.
We were paid a flat rate of ls. 3Jd. per lb. for our wool - we had never had such a time in our lives - and that amount was paid right in the middle of the war. It was a prompt cash payment, just like a transaction over the counter.
– Yes, and without the delivery of the goods. _
– As soon as the appraisements were made, the Imperial Government accepted them, and the cash was paid. We had never previously got cash for our wool. If there is one class of men who can, and do, look after themselves more than any other-
– And who did look after themselves as well as they could.
– Some honorable members are complaining that the Imperial Government has “ done them in.” If a man is being robbed, as some honorable members say the wool-growers are being robbed, and is content to be robbed, then let him be robbed ; and, furthermore, if he does not squeak, but, on the contrary, says, “ Do it again “-
– He has not been robbed. He has looked after himself.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) says that the wool-growers have been scandalously robbed.
– I cannot understand such statements, because the smallest man engaged in the wool industry in Queensland gets just as square a deal as does the richest squatter. He has never had such treatment previously. There are no star lots to-day. These are the facts; yet we hear nothing but curses for the Imperial Government. “ This is the Government,” they say, “that has stuck us up for £8,000,000.” Glory! If the Imperial Government had only said, “We cannot pay you for the whole of your clip this year in cash,” that £8,000,000 would have been wiped out very speedily. But, no. The generosity of the Home Government towards the Australian primary producers will stand as a monument for ever and ever. Amen !
Mr.Fenton. - And so you have come to the end?
– Yes. I do not wish to labour the question, but I think that the public should know the truth; they should know that the Imperial Government are not the lot of thieves that some persons would try to make them out to be, and that, instead of “ having “ us, they are really assisting us at every turn. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - Several honorable members have pointed out the inconvenience of the present arrangement for the dinner adjournment to those who are obliged to go some distance to and from the House for their meals. The interval is hardly sufficient to enable them to have dinner and return here in time for business. After consultation with the Government, I have decided to conform to the wishes of the majority of honorable members, and extend the adjournment for a quarter of an hour. In future, I shall resume the chair at 8 p.m. instead of 7.45 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
The following paper was presented: -
Sugar Industry -Report of the Royal Commission; together with evidence.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– On behalf of the small growers in Western Queensland, I tender to the Australian Wool
Board and Sir John Higgins our sincere thanks for what they and he have done in regard to the wool clip of the smaller men. engaged in the pastoral industry in our State. Members of this House have been members of the Wool Board, and gave their services ungrudgingly, and without fee or any hope of reward, and the thanks of the small men in the industry are due to them for their services up to the conclusion of the contract with the Imperial Government. To show what the men running the Wool Board think of the industry, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when making his speech yesterday emphatically stated that the Chairman of the Wool Board had said that, so far as they were concerned, they would make no contract with Messrs. F. W. Hughes and Company, of Sydney - that is, the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company - that they could not Tecommend the Government to take it over, and that if there was any onus in the matter it would be thrown on the Government. That showed to me that the Chairman of the Board was unselfish, and that he had no feeling of vindictiveness towards the company, because those of us who know the inside working of that business with the company are aware of the forces that were brought to bear to bring the Australian Wool Board to heel, so that the company could play “ ducks and drakes “ with the wool for its own purposes.
On the question of sugar, I wish to compliment the Prime Minister on the business deal he has made for the people of the Commonwealth. Australia, notwithstanding what the newspapers and certain individuals say, is the best-off country under the sun. We are the best and cheapest fed, and the best clothed and best-off people on God’s earth. Everything in connexion with living and clothing is cheaper by in some cases 100 per cent. than it is in other countries, particularly in Great Britain. When we realize that fact, and the social unrest that exists in other countries, we ought to congratulate ourselves on being Australians and living in Australia. I consider that what the Prime Minister has done in regard to sugar is superhuman. I never expected that we would get the deal we have got. I see that the Sugar Commission’s report recommends a price of £22 a ton. Honorable members know what the position would be if we offered £22 per ton for sugar to-day. The Prime Minister, at the price of £30 6s. 8d., has made a good deal for the Commonwealth. Not only has he made a good deal for the consumer, but he has made it also for the sugar-grower, and for the sugarworker. Taking it all round, we are to be congratulated on the conclusion of such an agreement.
One honorable member asked us this afternoon to solve the problem of industrial unrest. I only wish I had the magic wand whereby that could be done. In this sugar agreement, we have the beginning of a really sound and fine system. The memorandum on the Conference states that the following were present : -
For Com mon wealth Government -
Eight Hon. W. M. Hughes
For Queensland Government -
Hon. E. G. Theodore,
Hon. VV. Gillies.
Australian Sugar Producers’ Association -
Dr. J. Reed,
United Cane-growers’ Association -
Australian Workers’ Union -
Colonial Sugar Refining Company -
Colonel Oldershaw, and others.
There must be some clerical error there, because I am confident that Colonel Oldershaw is not a representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– It does not say so. He is included under the heading, “ Colonial Sugar Refining Company,” but that, as I say, must be a mistake. The whole of the people interested in the industry were represented at that roundtable conference. Some honorable members said that the consumer was not represented. If we in this Parliament do not represent the consumers, whom do we represent? The whole of the people were represented, and the Prime Minister in his statement to the House, rightly said that sugar is a commodity which is in every household. As we represent the people of the Commonwealth, we are here to guard the consumer, and from what I know of the temper of the House now, particularly of gentlemen in the Ministerial corner, I am satisfied that the consumer is to get a fair deal in the sugar business. The fact that all interests were represented at that round-table conference, and that the whole of them came to a decision, augurs well for the future settlement of disputes in any one industry. I am a believer in voluntary arbitration. In the old days, ‘when anything went wrong in the shearing shed, we heard the men’s grievances on a Saturday afternoon. In several instances I was chairman of the 3hed. The difference between us and Parliament is that Parliament has a “grievance day” once a month, andwe used to have a grievance day once a week, and God knows there were some grievances. When the shed first started, the cook was handsome, but after we had been there a week, and the men had begun to get their kidneys lined, the cook was a “ rotter.” From that moment out we had grievances, if not against the cook, then again3t the man over the shed, or against the sheep, and at last, before the shed cut out, there were grievances among the men against each other individually. We had a committee, which met every Saturday after the men’s grievances had been heard. It was my privilege to have to meet the bosses every Saturday nightor Sunday morning, and, as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) knows, I was not always received with open arms.
– Was he a bad boss ?
– We had no trouble with him, but we had with his managers. I can safely say that although there was a good deal of barneying at these conferences, we invariably arrived at an amicable arrangement. The reason was that we knew each other and were familiar with the industry. The men knew what they wanted, and the bosses knew how far they could afford to go towards meeting our requirements. Although on occasions some lurid language was used on both sides, everything was all right by Monday morning, and the shearing was carried through with satisfaction to the men and the bosses. If we could make these arrangements in the early days of unionism, although the men and the employers were dead up against each other, why should we not be able to make them to-day? Voluntary arbitration was a success in the early days, and it is the only solution of the present industrial unrest. Employers and employees in each industry should meet and settle their differences without the intervention of lawyers.
– The honorable member wants the Whitley Commission.
– I know nothing about that commission, but I do know that we made satisfactory arrangements in the way I have mentioned. I remember that on one occasion when we waited on Mr. A. J. Rodgers, who was manager of Barcaldine Downs Station, he said, “ I would sooner fight you than give in to you.” On the very day that he was going to fight three, or four of us, the owner of the station (Mr. Charles Fairbairn) arrived ‘on the scene and said, “ What I want is not prize-fights, but the wool off the sheep.” In ten minutes we had settled our differences. If voluntary arbitration was a success in those days why should it not be a success to-day ?
I welcome the agreement with respect to the sugar industry, because it is the dawn of a new era in industrialism. It is the beginning of a new way of dealing with the industrial unrest, and, therefore, even if it results in people having to pay an additional Id. per lb. for their sugar, it is worth while. The agreement will give consumers in Australia an assured supply of sugar for the next three years. What would not the people in other industries be prepared to give to secure stabilized conditions for the next three years ? For these reasons I congratulate the Prime Minister on the agreement that he has arranged.
This afternoon another representative of Tasmania, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), gave us a dose of the hysic supplied to us last week by theonorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson). He assured us that there was a movement on the part of Tasmania to break away from the Federation, and he proceeded to set out that Tasmania, as the result of Federation, had suffered enormous losses. We have heard the same tale in this House from the inception of the Parliament.
– Then it surely must be true.
– As to that, I can only say that some years ago several representatives of Tasmania in this House represented that ‘that State was on the verge of insolvency, and that unless the Federation came to her rescue something serious would happen. The Federal Parliament in the most magnanimous way responded to this appeal. It said, in effect, to Tasmania, “We believe that, as the result of Federation, Tasmania has lost a lot of her trade to Victoria, and New South Wales, and we are, therefore, prepared to help you with a straightout grant of £900,000.” X am beginning to think that the representatives of Tasmania are out for another £1,000,000. Let Tasmania, if it likes, cut the painter for three years, and let us, if she does so, put an export duty of £30 per head on all tourists leaving Australia for that State. What would poorlittle Tasmania do in that event? I am satisfied that, separated ,from the mainland States, she could not exist for fiveminutes. Why should the people of Tasmania wish to kick away the ladder by which they have risen? If Tasmania is not doing well, the fault rests, not with the Commonwealth Parliament, but with its own State Government.
– The State Government was not responsible for the shippingstrike.
– ‘Surely the honorable member would not make the Federal Government responsible for it?
– But this Parliament can break down the isolation.
– How ? By building a bridge between Tasmania and the mainland? I can well understand the representatives of that State speaking as they have done, since, by reason of its isolation, it suffered severely duringthe shipping strike. It was unfortunate that that strike should have taken place in the middle of the Tasmanian appleseason. Other States, however, have also suffered. Not only have many Queensland industries been forced to close down,, but many people in that State have had to go to bed hungry because of the shipping strike. Since it was possible to build a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, why should we not build a bridge from Point Lonsdale to King Island, and thence to Tasmania? Such a proposition is just about as feasible as that put before us to build railways all over Western Australia. If Tasmania goes in for separation and afterwards re-: turns to the fold, it will come back, not as a State, but merely as a suburb of Melbourne. My advice to the honorable member for Bass is to tell the separationists of Tasmania that they had better drop their grievances. This talk of leaving the Union is all “bunkum,” because the Federal tie is indissoluble, and there is no possibility of any State getting out of the Federation. Tasmania may as well accept the inevitable, peacefully and contentedly.
I am glad that the Government is to introduce a Bill to amend the Repatriation Act. There are many anomalies and man,7 grievances that need remedying, but I plead now for better treatment for those returned men who are down and out. The normal man can always get somebody to look after him, but the down-and-out man is “ nobody’s dog.” Every one despises him, and no one wants him. Yet we must not forget that he went from these shores a good man, and that he fought to make it right for the rest of us. Had it not been for him, and the likes of him, the debates of this Parliament might now be carried on in a foreign tongue. At the present time the only place for the habitual drunkard is the gaol. My God, Mr. Speaker, is that the best place that we can find for returned men? Is that the only treatment we can give the man who has succumbed through sheer weakness? All men are not equally strong. I thank God every night when I go to bed that I am a teetotaller, because I see what drink is doing for so many. I wish to get something done for the returned soldiers who have become the victims of drink. Let us establish an asylum of some sort to which they can be sent, and where means can be taken to restore them to decent citizenship. Recently in Brisbane a returned soldier who had won the military medal was convicted for habitual drunkenness. And what did they do with him? They sent him to the Island, in Moreton Bay, and there he committed suicide. That is all they could do for him ! If we cannot do something for our incapables, we should at least let others try to assist them. There are persons in Queensland - many of them are women - who are able and willing to take these men in hand. When the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) spoke today about passing a vote of thanks to our women for what they did during the war, I felt that the war produced even more heroines than heroes in Australia, and for these we cannot say too much. They were not flag-waggers, or band-players, or singers of God save the King merely; they went out and did things. There are men and women in Brisbane who are willing to assist the incapable returned soldier, without any cost to the Government; but under the existing law they cannot do anything for him. When the Repatriation Bill is introduced, I shall try to put into it a provision which will enable us to take advantage of their goodness and capacity.
Another matter that is dear to my heart is the provision of telephonic and mail communication in Western Queensland. Whether in Parliament or out of Parliament, I shall always champion the cause of the people out there, because no one knows better than I do the disabilities under which they live. Let me read a letter which I have received from Mrs. Laura Duncan, of Mooraberri Station. Honorable members will, know her name, because of a case that was taken, recently by the Queensland Government to the Privy Council.
– Is she another “poor squatter “ ?
– She is a dashed brave woman, and a good one, too. This is her letter -
Dear Sir, - Mr. H. Chatterton has spoken to me with reference to your efforts to secure a telephone line to Birdsville. If this thing could he arranged it would be a monument to your credit, and a great life-saving scheme. My only son was lost through my being unable to secure medical advice, and quite recently I had to send 60 miles with knocked-up horses, to wire to a doctor when lying myself at the point of death. The telephone, if erected, would assist a very large population of earnest workers; many of them having a very rough life, and taking great risks. ‘ Wishing you every success in this fine ‘ effort.
I remain, Sir,
– It is in a district such as that that wireless telegraphy would prove advantageous.
– The Department might do something in that way.
– If they would be advised by those who know.
– When the honorable member has been in the House a little longer, lie a ill find that when heads of Departments are approached they try to show how not to do things, and place hurdles and other obstacles in the way of or ogress. Their first question, when asked for an extension of a service, is, “Will it pay?” Would the backblocks of Queensland be settled to-day had men like Sir Thomas Mcllwraith and Sir Samuel Griffith asked that question thirty years ago, in regard to the telegraph line running through Queensland from East to West? Had they done so, the line would never have been erected, and the country would still be unsettled. This lady lives between Mooraberri and Birdsville, on Cooper’s Creek, in that part of the ‘country where Burke and Wills lost their lives. She has a cattle station, and it was the seizure of her cattle by the Queensland Government that brought a certain case recently before the Privy Council. Out where she is battling for a living one does not see a strange face once a month. There used to be a monthly mail service there, but this cruel Postal Department cut it out because there was not a sufficiently low tender submitted. Now the mail goes as far as Mooraberri; but there is a stretch of about 400 miles between that place and Birdsville without a mail service. If the people there had not me to champion their cause here, what chance would they have of getting any mail service at all? It will be my desire, as long as I have a voice and a vote in this Parliament, to do the best I can for these people in the far outside districts. I hope that the new Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) will do what he can to assist these people. The honorable gentleman has already pro.mised to do so, and, in this connexion, I should like to say that - although I am sure he would not offer me an insult; and what I take exception to may be the result of a mistake on the part of the departmental officials - I think that I am the only member of the recent deputation to the Postmaster-General to whom a certain circular has not been sent.
– I did not receive one.
– Nor I.
– I did not get one, and I think that every member of that deputation, and, indeed, every country member, should receive a copy of it.
I am sorry not to be able to read the circular, because I should like to say that even what is proposed in it is not entirely satisfactory. Almost every man in Australia, and certainly almost every parliamentarian, wonders why people do not go out back, why they do not go and settle on the land, and why they make for the cities and centres of population. I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that one family, settled in the country, is worth twelve in the city. The primary producer settled on the land is doing something, and the twelve residents of the city could not live if it were not for his efforts away out in the backblocks. I am told that the country people will still have to pay for postal facilities.’ Why should I, because I happen to live 200 miles away from civilization, have to pay ls. for a letter, whilst people in Melbourne enjoy four deliveries a day and pay only ltd. per letter? From what I know of the temper of the House I am satisfied that it is the desire, even of honorable members representing city constituencies, that the country people should not be penalized. I remind honorable members of a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the other day when replying to some remarks of a member of the Country party on the subject of country telephones. He said that, so far as he was concerned - and I know he meant it - he would give £500,000 for telephones, if only by doing so he could induce people to leave the towns and go out into the country. I feel that we have a good chance now of the expenditure of money for improving the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts. I hope that- other honorable members will join me in contending that people should not be penalized for living in the country, and that, on the contrary, they should be given every facility that can possibly be afforded to them. We want no favours, but only justice, for the residents of outside districts. Those who live in the country want only some of the facilities that are enjoyed by those who live in town. You cannot give us the picture shows, the theatres, the conservatoriums of music, and the concerts that are enjoyed by the residents of the city, but we should be given some of the facilities that are enjoyed by people residing in Melbourne.
I desire to express my gratitude to my honorable friend, the member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), for two reasons. One is that he has again pressed forward in most forcible terms, and with a wealth of illustration, the claims of the people who live in the country for better postal and telephone facilities than they now enjoy. If I say a word on this subject it is not because I have any doubt whatever that the present Government and the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) are likely to be deaf to the appeal of those who live in the country, but I feel that, however amiably disposed to the claims of those who live in the far-back districts the Government may be, the matter touched upon by the honorable member for Maranoa is one which cannot too often or too strongly be pressed upon their notice. From personal knowledge I can indorse practically all that the honorable member for Maranoa has said of the far-distant places to which he has referred. There is another place whose claims I believe he has in hand at the present moment. Although some of these people in the outside districts write to me for assistance, I remind them that they have a very good member in the honorable member for Maranoa. The people at Mr Howitt Station are complaining of the lack of a mail service. What often happens in these outside places is that they may get a mail service, and three or four months later, for one reason or another, the mail contractor is unable to carry on, and the mail ceases, and there is a gap of four months or six months when these places have no mail at all. At Mr Howitt the people are faced with the difficulty of themselves sending for their mails 90 miles to one place or 75 miles to another. That has been going on. now for several months, and is likely to continue for some months longer. The trouble is that in the past there does not appear to .have been any one in the Department able to realize what the conditions in the back country are, and an attempt has been made to apply to the far-distant places principles that are applicable only to such centres of population as are the suburbs of Melbourne.
I wish also to express my gratitude to the honorable member for Maranoa for what he said on behalf of the Central Wool Committee and’ the action of the British Government in the matter of the purchase of the Australian wool clip. Honorable members can well understand that it has been rather painful to me to sit here during the last fortnight or three weeks and listen to the harsh reflections and adverse criticism of the action of the Central Wool Committee in connexion with the sale to the Imperial Government of our last three clips of wool. I have understood, but I am afraid many honorable members do not realize, that the people who have been loudest in making these complaints are not wool-growers, and do not represent wool-growers. Some honorable members who have complained may have managed to enter this House as the representatives of constituencies which contain some woolgrowers, but I do not hesitate to say that they do not represent the wool-growers in those constituencies. My experience in this matter has been exactly the same as that of the honorable member for Maranoa, and I have not found one woolgrower during the last four years come to me - and I am certainly accessible enough - and say, ‘ ‘ I consider your administration of the wool scheme has been wrong.” As I have just mentioned, I have felt very deeply these adverse criticisms, both of the British -Government and of the Central Wool Committee, but I have not felt that it was my duty to rise in this chamber and champion the Committee. None the less, however, I am grateful to the honorable member for Maranoa for having spoken as one interested, as a wool-grower, who understands the subject, and for having plainly indicated his approval of the activities of the Wool Committee and the Imperial authorities.
I should hardily have ventured to rise at this late stage of the debate but for the very interesting statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) yesterday with regard to the settlement, or the temporary adjustment, of the dispute between the Wool Committee and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. It is a matter of very grave importance, and one which it is only right that honorable members should thoroughly understand. I was greatly relieved, upon entering this cham ber yesterday afternoon, without knowledge of what had been proceeding in Sydney with respect to a settlement, to learn from the Prime Minister that an arrangement had been made by which that great industry in Botany, principally owned by Mr. F. W. Hughes, was to be put into active working order again. I do nob propose to reflect, either favorably or adversely, upon the terms of the settlement which the Prime Minister, in his, wisdom, has seen fit to draw up. I know that he was actuated by the very highest intentions, and has done his best in handling a very critical situation. There is, indeed, every reason to congratulate him upon having succeeded in’ starting the industry once more. I do not expect you to’ recall, Mr. Speaker - but, nevertheless, it is a fact - that the very first occasion on which I rose to address this House, about two years ago, was in order that I might endeavour to explain the position as it then stood with respect to the wool-tops industry. I did not take an unfriendly view of Mr. F. W. Hughes, or of his considerable interests at Botany; and I emphasize that I do not now propose to say anything about the terms of settlement except to draw attention to one exceedingly important feature. The terms are, particularly as they affect the wool-grower, that between now and the 30th June the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is to receive a quantity of wool, fixed by agreement, namely, 10,600 bales; and that this quantity is to be purchased by the company upon what are known as the appraised prices. Mr. F, W. Hughes will be able to sell his tops at the world’s parity. Wool tops - I need scarcely remind honorable members - are wool in a semi-manufactured state. For all practical purposes, wool tops possess rather more than the value of raw wool of the very best quality. It is estimated, roughly, that the class of wool which will be purchased by the company, namely, merino, is worth in the London market - and that is to say the world’s markets - three times what it will pay for it in Australia. I have some knowledge of the class of wool which the company will use, and of its weight per bale and its value; and I estimate that the average weight per bale will be 320 lb. Let me say - and I do not desire to be taken as laying down exact figures - that the price will be 2s. per lb. That is to say, the company will probably buy the 10,600 bales, each weighing, on the average, 320 lbs., for £32 per bale. Every bale which the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company purchases will be worth in London to-day £96. Thus, Mr. F. w. Hughes is given under this agreement power to transport wool from a market where it is worth £32 per bale to one where its value is £96 per bale. It should be remembered that nobody in Australia can export his wool and receive £96 for it; he must sell it. here, at £32 per bale. I repeat that this company is to be allowed to buy at £32 per bale, and sell in the London market - in a semi-manufactured state, I admit - where the commodity is worth £96 per bale. In other words. Mr. F. w. Hughes will sell his tops in competition with manufacturers who have to nay for their wool, not £32, but £96 per bale. It will be readily appreciated, then, that in a world which is scrambling for manufactured wool, the Botany company will reap an advantage of nearly £64 on every bale. This is an amount which will go into Mr. F. w. Hughes’ pocket as a competitor with manufacturers of wool tops whose works are established in any part of the world outside of Australia.
– And at the expense of our wool-growers.
– I do not propose to express it in that way, but that is the point to which I am coming.
– But is not the Commonwealth to get 80 per cent. ?
– That is the very point up to which I am leading. I hope I have been able to make clear the prospects of the company, quite- apart from the profits which it will derive from the process of tops manufacture - a profit to which it is quite legitimately entitled and which is very liberal and generous. And, by the way, it must not be overlooked that in selling its tops in the London market this Australian company will be very favorably competing with firms which are making enormous profits on the other side of the world. Owing to the difference in price, £32 per bale in Australia and £96 per bale in London, the profit on 10,600 bales will be £678,400, less cost and charges, and we were informed by the Prime Minister yesterday that 80 per cent, will be paid to the Commonwealth Government and 20 per cent, retained by the company to meet State and Federal taxation demands. I am not taking exception to Messrs. F. W. Hughes & Co. retaining this 20 per cent., because I know how exceedingly difficult the position is, and I assume the Prime Minister made the best bargain that he could. But I find that the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Co., otherwise F. W. Hughes & Co., will get, for a little over three months, £135,680 of this difference in the value between Australia and London, apart altogether from manufacturing profits.
– For State and Federal taxation purposes-
– I have said that, and I take no exception to it, because I believe the Prime Minister made the best possible bargain, and desired to get the works going again. The expression used by the Prime Minister was that this 80 per cent, would be paid to the Commonwealth Government; but he did not say the Government were going to keep it, and that induced me to rise, in order to place the true position before honorable members. The amount to be paid to the Commonwealth Government, I calculate, would be £542,720, a very large sum of money indeed. And how will it be obtained? There need not be the slightest doubt about the quality of the wool; and it must be remembered that it will not be sold at the world’s market price, but at £32 per bale, for the special purpose of top manufacturing. I do not take exception to this. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) knows that I have always stood up for this industry, and it is my desire to see a multiplication of such establishments in the Commonwealth. But I do want to know by what right, and on what grounds, the Commonwealth can hold one penny of that £542,720.
– You mean that it ought to go into the Pool?
– Absolutely. And I thank my honorable friend for anticipating what I was about to say. Obviously that money ought to go into the Pool, because it does not belong to the Commonwealth Government. The Government have, as their source of revenue, the ordinary means of taxation, and have no right whatever to this money. It properly belongs to the Wool Pool. Mr. Higgs. - That was the price paid for the concession given to F. W. Hughes & Co. That is to say, the company were allowed to make wool tops under a private agreement with the Government - an agreement which was not entered into with other people, who ought to have been allowed to make wool tops also.
– How do Whiddon Bros, and the Yarra Falls Company fare under this agreement?
-JE thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. The -position ought to be made perfectly clear. Whiddon Bros., the Yarra Falls Mills, and other top-making companies, accepted an agreement, arranged by the Central Wool Committee, to manufacture wool tops on a poundage basis, at a profit of 4£d. per lb.
– How does that arrangement compare with the agreement with F. W. Hughes & Co. ?
– The two agreements are as wide apart as the poles are asunder,
– Do Whiddon Bros, and the Yarra Falls Company export tops?
– Only as agents for the Central Wool Committee.
– Do they export the whole of their products?
– Practically; but they agreed to do so on a poundage basis.
– Why was not the same arrangement made with F. W. Hughes & Co.?
– Because they would not do it.
– F. W. Hughes and Company shut up their works and threw their people out of employment.
– I am glad to know that I have been able to make the position clear to honorable members. F. W. Hughes and Company refused to manufacture for the Central Wool Committee, they closed their works, and threw a large number of people out of employment.
– And, because they refused, they are now placed in a position of great advantage.
– Their position is much better, as I have shown.
– What is the difference in the amount of profit made by the Yarra Falls Mills and Whiddon Brothers and the profit to be made by F. W. Hughes and Company under this agreement?
– The difference in the profits is colossal; so great, indeed, that, although the Commonwealth Government will get 80 per cent. F. W. Hughes and Company were delighted to accept the agreement.
– What a condemnation of the Government this is.
– I am not here to condemn any one. The position is most complicated, and I give the Prime Minister credit for having done his best in very difficult circumstances. At all events, he can say that the works are running again.
– Can the honorable member explain away the failure of the Government to use the War Precautions Act against F. W. Hughes and Company, who refused to work under that agreement, and their activity under the War Precautions Act against the marine engineers ?
– The honorable member has asked me a question which I think should be addressed to the Prime Minister.
– It is a question that ought to interest you, at all events.
– I do not wish to be diverted from the purpose for which I rose to speak. I repeat that there is no possible reason, consistent with justice, why the Commonwealth Government should retain this colossal sum of £542,720. This is the sum I have arrived at on the figures given. It might vary a little according to circumstances, but I am satisfied that I have not overstated the amount, which represents value created by the wool-growers of Australia, who, like .other citizens of the Commonwealth, have to pay land and income tax. I am glad that the Prime Minister has returned to the chamber.
– What was the profit on the wool sold bv the Committee, manufactured at.4id. per lb.?
– Very considerable, but I have not the figures with me, and do not care to quote them off-hand. I desire to congratulate the Prime Minister on having carried out the very difficult task, indeed, of coming to an agreement with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. The machinery is now running, and men and women are employed. I may mention that in the statement made yesterday it was said that out of the net profit, to be assessed by an independent auditor, SO per cent, will go to the Commonwealth Government, and 20 per cent, be retained by the company, subject to State and Federal taxation. I do not take exception in any way to the form of the contract as regards the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company; but I estimate that the 10,600 bales of wool, of 320 lbs., at 2s. per lb., which will cost the company about £32 per bale, will be well worth in London £96, and this difference will be in addition to the manufacturing profits, the tops being sold in competition with people who have to pay the latter price for wool of the same value. That represents a concession of £64 per bale over and above, as I say, all the manufacturing profits, which I do not begrudge in the slightest degree. Of the amount of £678,400 the company, according to the statement made yesterday, retains 20 per cent., or £135,680, over a period of a little over three months ; and to that I take no exception. The wool on which this profit is made is grown by the wool-growers of Australia, and in reality the money should go to the Wool Pool ; therefore, I see no reason why it should be retained by the Government, which compels wool-growers, like other citizens, to pay income, land, and other taxation. It is important that the Prime Minister should be made aware of the views held by honorable members, because they are views held practically by every wool-grower in the country.
– Does the honorable member see any objection to the British Government getting a share of the profits arising out of the sale of the wool ?
– That is part of the contract, and when honorable men, whether business men or otherwise, enter into an agreement it is their duty and their pleasure to carry it out to the letter. I, therefore, see no objection to the Imperial Government getting 50 per cent, of the increased price on wool which comes within their contracts. I have had an opportunity during the past few days of coming into contact with representatives of the wool-growers from every part of Australia, and I have not found one who takes any ‘ exception to the contract into which the Prime Minister entered three or four years ago.
– It was not my intention to speak in this debate’, but it seems proper that I should be permitted to make some reference to the criticism by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) of the agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. Unfortunately, I was not here during the early portion of the honorable member’s remarks, but I think I have gathered sufficient to understand the gravamen of his objection. Unfortunately the honorable member catches me -at a time when 1 have not my papers at hand. I must, therefore, rely upon my memory. J.n order to enable honorable members to understand the position, it is necessary to go back to the genesis of the contract, which was made, I think, about four years ago. I was the representative of the Government at that time. I had been to England, and had had several conversations with the British Government in regard to wool. Partly as the result of those conversations, the British Government- made representations in the nature of an offer to the Commonwealth Government for the purchase of the entire wool clip - merino and crossbred - of Australia. I called together representatives of all sections of the industrygrowers, brokers, and manufacturers - in . order to discuss the proposal of the British Government. It was clearly understood, when it was decided by this most representative conference to accept the offer, that there was to be excluded from that sale all that wool which was necessary for Australia’s local needs, including the maintenance of its manufactures at their full capacity. I hope before I sit down to be able to quote from the minutes of that gathering, but I am reasonably well versed in the matter, and in the meantime, make that statement with a certain amount of confidence. We never sold to the British Government the wool which was required either to be directly consumed in Australia or manufactured here for export. That is my first -point, and it is most material because the agreement which I have laid upon the table of the House is one which has been made in respect of wool manufactured in this country, and which is to be exported in’ its manufactured state.
It is said that this agreement’ is a good one, that it will settle a longstanding dispute about the merits of which I offer no opinion, that it will provide employment for hundreds of men, that it will create much-needed wealth in abundance - indeed in superabundance - and that it will bring to the Commonwealth urgently required, revenue. I do not know how much revenue it will produce, but the honorable member for Grampians has .calculated it to be £542,000. He has affirmed that that money rightly belongs to the Wool Pool. I say that it does not. It belongs to the Commonwealth. That wool was never sold to the British Government - it was expressly excluded from the sale. At the conference at which the original agreement was made, not only were wool-growers present, but manufacturers, scourers, fellmongers, and the representative of this very company, which is one of the parties to the present agreement. Vicars, of Marrickville, were represented there, as indeed were nearly all the weavers and spinners. At that conference I said, “ Is it clearly understood that there is excluded from this sale the wool necessary for the maintenance and encouragement of the manufactures of Australia at their full capacity ? Because if it is hot, now is the time to state your objection.” I shall show, if necessary by laying on the table of the House the shorthand report of the proceedings, that no objection was taken to that condition, and that it was clearly understood, that the wool required for local manufacture was expressly excluded from the sale, including the wool’ necessary for the manufacture of wool tops. The honorable member for Grampians says in effect : ‘ ‘You have made a good agreement; you have caused the desert to blossom like a rose. Where there was nothing previously, you now have something. But that something belongs to us.” I say that the onus of proving his contention rests on the honorable member. For the past two years it has been open to him and his friends to surest some modus vivendi whereby 400 men in this country could obtain work. It has been” open to’ any honorable member interested in the matter to see that this great industry received some encouragement. But nothing was done. I make no criticism upon that inaction. But now that action has been taken, I think it is a little hard that the
Commonwealth, at this critical juncture, when it is on the very eve of dealing with the great problems of repatriation, should be denied some small share of the blessings of peace which have been won for us by our soldiers, whose efforts alone have enabled every one of us to be here to-night in security. I do not begrudge the wool-grower all that he gets, but I would remind the honorable member for Grampians of what he and every other wool-grower owe to me. The honorable member has said that he and his fellow wool -growers want this £542,000. The whole of the wool-growers represented at the Conference to which I have referred were prepared to sell their wool at a flat rate of 15d. per lb. I sold it for 15 1/2d. per lb., not as the result of any suggestion on their part, but after they had definitely decided that 15d. was a very satisfactory price. They did not even suggest an increase upon that amount. That increase of 1/2d. per lb. upon the four wool clips represents a sum of at least £6,000,000. Then, again, the wool-growers themselves were perfectly content to sell their wool for ls. 3d. per lb. without any half-share in the ‘ profits accruing from re-sales. That half-share of the profits has been given to them, not because of any efforts of their own at all. Now the honorable member says : “We want that £542,000, and although the Commonwealth is entirely responsible for setting the machinery in motion which will earn that money for Australia, itshould come to us.” I do not think that is fair. I do not think that the woolgrowers of Australia, if they were polled to-morrow, would say that it is fair. During the past four years, and particularly during the last two years, the honorable member has uttered no protest in regard to the delay on the part of the British Government in handing to the wool-growers of Australia their half-share of the profits accruing from re-sales of their wool.
It is only fair that both sides of this question should be heard. The honorable gentleman speaks as a wool.-grower - as a very large wool-grower. I have no wool, I am very sorry’ to say. A little while ago the British Government sold 450,000 bales of the best wool that Australia produces at issue prices. Although I have not the prices at my fingers’ ends, I believe that the issue price in relation to auction price is as one to three or- four; that is to say, that those 450,000 -bales were sold at from one- third to one-quarter of their true value. There was not a word of protest because the wool-grower had not received one penny by way of his half-share of the profits of the wool sold cither at the issue price or at the auction price, but so soon as the Commonwealth Government sets in operation machinery for the creation of wealth and the encouragement of a great Australian industry, a representative of the great woolgrowing interests - and, mark you, though the honorable gentleman has sought to speak for all the wool-growers of Australia, although I venture to say that they would not elect him as their spokesman - makes a claim for the whole of the amount of £542,000. Speaking on behalf of the people of Australia, and as the custodian of their money and their interests, I say that that amount, if it is as great as the honorable member states - I did not know that we had made so good a bargain - clearly belongs to us.
Let us see what the position is in regard to the arrangement that the other wool-top manufacturing companies should be able to buy their wool at the appraised price, and manufacture it on the basis of, T think, 4 1/2d. per lb. The tops, are sold, and the profits, if any, are paid into the Pool. What has happened there? Owing to the arrangement by which wool tops were sold forward and the subsequent rise in the price of wool, there was no margin of profit, and the Government is’ a loser to the extent of £200,000. or thereabouts. “The Pool must not lose, and the Government must make good that, amount of £200,000. But the honorable member for Grampians says that we may not recoup ourselves from the other amount of £542,000; he wants the Commonwealth to bear all the losses and to get none of the profits. I think’- the honorable gentleman and the woolgrowers of Australia will admit that they owe something to their country, and to all the interests in it, .not merely to their own interests. I think they will admit that I have been a very vigilant watchman over their interests during the war. The British Government would not say that I have been a sluggard in insisting upon the rights of every wool-grower and wheat-grower in Australia. However much our achievements may have fallen short of what every producer would have liked during the war, no fault is attributable to me, and I remind the honorable member that I obtained for the growers the extra id. per lb., representing at least £6,000,000, and that there is coming to the growers, through the action of the Government, half of the profits on the re-sales, amounting to some millions of pounds. “What the exact amount will be we do not know.
I ask the honorable member for Grampians, as one who is able to take a large view of the question, to look at the transaction from an Australianpoint of view. He says the Commonwealth Government have powers of taxation. “We have; and I ask the honorable gentleman whether he wishes to suggest that we should use these for this purpose? Will he compel us to take this money by way of taxation? I say deliberately that I cannot conceive of the honorable gentleman saying that the Com- monwealth is to be denied some consideration in regard to its finances at this critical juncture. I hope the honorable member will not press his criticism of this proposal any further. If he had been content even to say that, in regard to this matter, he would place us in the same position as the British Government occupies, he . might have been on better ground, for the British Government has been allowed -to retain half the profits made on re-sales; but he will give us none. He is content that the British Governmentshall have half the profit, but from the Commonwealth Government he requires all. I repeat, firstly, that this wool is altogether outside the agreement with Great Britain. From the beginning it was excluded from the sale, so that a sufficient quantity might be reserved to keep all the manufactories of Australia going at their full capacity. Therefore, the honorable gentleman’s argument fails at the outset. Secondly, as the honorable member knows perfectly well that, under the arrangement made by the Wool Pool, there will be a shortage which the
Government will have to make good, and which, although I am not able to state the amount precisely, will not be far short of £200.000, it should not be asked to bear all the losses and yet be denied a share in the profits.
– I did not know that; this is the first I have heard of it.
– The manufacture of wool tops is a great industry. It has been idle for nearly two years. Men have been unemployed who could have been employed; money has been lost which could have been circulating throughout Australia, and adding very much to the pool of wealth which is so much needed at the present time. It is not we in Australia who will pay this money, but some people outside this country.
I read the other day that the British Government look favorably upon the high prices charged by the exporters- of goods from Great Britain, because they receive 80 per cent, of the profits, and the foreigner pays. In that case, we are the foreigner; we pay. The figures in the published balance-sheet of J. and P. Coats Limited are most suggestive, and make most interesting reading. If the profits on the retail price of a reel of cotton are now lOd. in excess of pre.-war profits, then the British Government take 8d. We are all contributing to this, vet there is no outcry by honorable members, although we pay; while whatever profits are made under this arrangement, not one penny will be paid by the Australian consumer. The overwhelming bulk of these wool-tops, will be sold abroad. I trust the honorable member for Grampians will remember the spirit in which that agreement was made, and realize that, not only the growers, but the manufacturers came together and determined to work for the benefit of Australia. It was a fundamental condition of the agreement that the manufacturers of Australia should obtain the wool at the appraised price, and that such sales should be quite apart from the Pool. In the absence of documents, I have endeavoured to put the position as clearlv as possible. I trust that honorable members and the wool-‘ growers of Australia generally will consider this matter in the broadest possible manner, and not forget how the Government safeguarded their interests during the war period.
– I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the proposed sugar agreement submitted to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I am somewhat reluctant to delay honorable members at this hour, but, in view of the far-reaching importance of this question, affecting, as it does, every household in Australia, and more particularly the increasing fruit-growing interests of this country, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without closely analyzing the conditions.The Prime Minister has informed us that the only opportunity we shall have of discussing the agreement is during the present debate, and that when that is concluded he proposes tabling the document in a formal way, and, if necessary, taking avote to ascertain whether the agreement has the indorsement of Parliament. The Prime Minister has further stated that after that is done the responsibility of the Government will cease. 1 am not prepared to take the responsibility, on the information available to honorable members, of opposing this agreement. I am quite aware of the abnormal and unprecedented world conditions prevailing in regard to sugar, and I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the agreement, not so much in the light of world prices as in relation to conditions surrounding this Australian industry, which has been protected almost since its inception. The Queensland people - I do not know whether the sugar producers or the Queensland Government are to blame, but I fancy the latter - have pressed their claim to the point of making a hard and unsympathetic bargain. If it were an agree-‘ ment for one year it would be different, but it is to cover a period of three years. Recent quotations for refined sugar indicate that the price per ton in London was £77, and in the United States of America £80. I do not think any honorable member would take the responsibility - he would rather leave it to the Government - of opposing this agreement, because it is evident on the face of it that if an agreement were not entered into there would be chaos for one year at least. We cannot say to what figuresugar may go. This agreement has no relation to the war period, and it seems that a statement made at the recent Conference should be very closely examined. According to a report of that Conference it would appear that the Queensland people have not aimed at securing the world’s price for their product, but have been influenced in demanding an increase principally owing to the peculiar industrial conditions obtaining in Queensland. The price demanded at the Conference for raw sugar is double that ruling before the war. and if an increase were sought owing to the war conditions and world’s prices we could understand it. In the first para graph of the report of the Conference, it is stated -
That the Conference assumed that a substantial increase would take place in the labour costs as the result of an impending State award.
At the time the Conference was sitting no new award had been made, and honorable members probably recollect that the last award was a peculiar one, more ‘ particularly in relation to the conditions surrounding it. It has been generally recognised that the last award was a generous one, and related more to, the conditions prevailing than to the wages paid.
– That was varied.
– To what extent ?
– To a considerable extent.
– I shall be glad to know in what way it was varied. But in spite of any variation, it was a very generous award. Assuming that an award is to be made during the first year of the agreement, it is evident that it is likely to be a very liberal one. The wording of the paragraph in the agree-, ment pins the increase in the price of sugar solely to the altered industrial conditions in relation to the cost of production, and any award necessitating an addition of £9 6s. 8d. per ton to the price of sugar must be a pretty substantial one.
We must regard this sugar agreement in the light of the Austrailan consumer, not only from its present aspect, but also from what it may imply in the future. Although there is a guarantee that, if the £9 6s. 8d. per ton is paid to the cane-growers in addition to the price previously paid, there will be no further industrial troubles during the first twelve months, resulting in an increased cost of production, our experience during late years shows that the conditions of some industrial agreements, no matter how binding they are supposed to be, are ignored entirely by those concerned, and in the most aggravating fashion. Not only have we a generous industrial award recognised even before it is completed, but there is an implied invitation in this agreement which makes possible a second award during the second year of its currency. I know that it will be limited to such additions as may properly be given as a. result of an increase in the cost of living, but our experience has shown us that we cannot trust some of the States to be particularly conscientious as to the latitude they are prepared to give to the principle which is here laid down. Therefore, in the second year of the agreement, there is a possibility of another award being made, involving we do not know what increase in the price of sugar. Then there is a third year to run, with the possibility of still another award.
The conditions in regard to sugar production are abnormal and unprecedented, but in some countries these right themselves within twelve months. Perhaps it is not possible in Cuba, where the conditions are peculiar, the soils having become so impoverished that’ there is no possibility of restoring sugar production to its full capacity, but in Queensland an exceedingly, favorable season next year might produce all the sugar Australia requires.
– That we have not been able to do as yet.
– I remember that, not long ago, Queensland had an enormous production in one year in comparison with the previous year. But here we are binding ourselves to these possible increases for the two years succeeding what might turn out to be an exceedingly productive twelve months. And not only do we bind ourselves to take all that Australia requires, we also agree to take any surplus above local requirements. I do not think that there is any possibility of a surplus, but in a business transaction we have to look for such possibilities.
I am sorry that the Government were not in a position to give approximately the price the consumer will be called upon to pay, but it seems to me that there is mighty little possibility of it being under 51/2d. per lb.
– It may be much more.
– The price will depend entirely on the quantity of sugar we have to import and the market price overseas.
– Assuming that we. need to import up to 220,000 tons of sugar, the price to. the consumer will not be much under 6d. per lb. I would like to know whether the advice of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who have been handling sugar under the direction of the Government during the last few years, has been taken, and whether they are in unison with the Government in regard to this agreement?
– They are parties to it.
– I can.; conceive of them being a party to an . agreement which they would not make for themselves. I never miss an opportunity of contradicting the wickedly misleading criticism we have had in this country for many years concerning the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In my opinion, it is one of the most efficient and honorable commercial concerns in the world. The more the people of Australia understand the operation of the company, the more they will be convinced that it has been a positive benefactor to the Commonwealth and the industry.
– Why would they not allow us to know their operations when we asked for information on that point?
– They will let any person who really wants the information know their operations, but I cannot reply to the interjection better than by pointing out that, when the Fisher Government, in 1910, appointed a Royal Commission, which the people of Australia expected had for its object the wiping out of the company and the nationalization of the sugar industry, the Commission, although containing a majority of Labour men, unanimously re- . ported that the Government should not, under any circumstances, attempt to nationalize the sugar industry, because no Government could produce the commodity at the price at which the company were placing it on the market.
I regret I have not the time to give my friends some facts and figures in regard to the profits of the company, and how they make them.
– Did the honorable member say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would answer questions put by any proper Commission?
– I am not going to be misled by the honorable member. Lest people outside should be misled, let me tell him that the questions the company refused to answer concerned chiefly the secrets of their trade, and were therefore such as no decent people would ever expect anybody to answer. The company never attempted to make more than 16s. or 17s. a ton profit, and their big dividends of £450,000 a year come from their enormous turnover. It is a combine - one of the few- that is a positive boon to the people of Australia.
I say with all respect, and in no spirit of carping criticism, that the sugar business is now in a disorganized condition. When the Colonial Sugar Refining Company take it over again, it will never be possible for them to give the same results to Australia as would have been given if there had been no interruption. We shall never get back to cheap sugar. It is one thing to put the price up, and another thing to bring it down.
We have increased the cost of production’ in this country through playing the fool, because we have been doing nothing else. In fact, we are wrecking our industries. I warn honorable members that if we do not have our house put in order, if we do not get things straightened up industrially, there will be mighty little chance for Australian industries. We have been promised for a long time that our house will be put in order, but the reform has not come yet. Those who were responsible for the change of policy in a long-time- . past Parliament put all their money on the possibility of the sugar business being a commercial success in Australia under new conditions; but I want to tell the people of Queensland that they are very seriously jeopardizing the interests of the industry, in which labour receives 80 per cent. of the value of the raw sugar. We have in Australia vast unoccupied areas of country capable of tropical production. Under the mandates that are to be, we are going to increase enormously Australia’s responsibility in that direction. . If Queensland is not careful and cautious in regard to her sugar industry, not only will she wreck it, but she will make further tropical development on commercial lines an utter impossibility. The time is coming when this big question will have to be reviewed. Most honorable members, if they would speak from what they know, would admit that no tropical development is possible in this country on the lines that have been adopted for the last ten or twelve years. We must admit that members know, but do not like to admit the fact.
– More kanaka labour !
– Well, I will put it in another way. It is a question that men have to face, and they ought to have the courage to face it. The highest moral right of ownership is to occupy and use. There are enormous tracts of the richest country on earth under our control”, and if we have not wisdom, statesmanship, and. courage to adopt a proper policy, then we ought to let somebody else have this country.
– The House has reason to be thankful to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) for bringing forward certain points in connexion with the wool industry, because his speech elicited considerable information from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The Prime Minister was able to present to the House what might be called the other side of the picture. Under the influence of the persuasive eloquence of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), and the ringing cheers that greeted his sentiments from the other side of the House, nearly all of us went to tea believing that the squatters of Australia were amongst the most self-sacrificing patriots that ever existed. But the claim made by the honorable member for Grampians, ostensibly on behalf of the woolgrowers of Australia, and the reply of the Prime Minister, presented the woolgrowers in quite another light. The united chorus of the other side of the House before we went to tea to-night was that the wool-growers were abundantly thankful for what the British Government had done for them, and for the price paid to them; yet, as soon as there is £500,000 which they think is hanging in the balance, their spokesman very soon puts in his plea on behalf of those who, after all, are among the wealthiest in the community. In the first place, the hon-. orable member for Maranoa said, “ The British Government obtained freight, sent ships to Australia, put on board bales of Australian wool, took them to the other side of the world, and, without any grumbling, paid a flat rate of1s. 31/2d. per lb., and afterwards an arrangement was made that if the wool was sold at an increased price on the other side of the world, the wool-growers of Australia should participate in the increase in price to the extent of 50 per cent.” As a matter of fact, everybody knows that not only the British Government, but the whole of the Allied countries, needed Australian wool, and found freight for it, and took it to the other side of the world. The woolgrowers of Australia have done exceptionally well, and if they received not one fraction more than ls. 3£d. per lb. for their wool, they would have done handsomely during the war. If some of them were the self-sacrificing patriots they claim to be, they would have been satisfied with even a lower price during wartime, notwithstanding the world’s parity.
I have a complaint to make against the Prime Minister. When speaking last night about the arrangement made with what I call the “ Hughes Wool Top Company “ - I believe it has a much longer name - he told the House that it was not only a thousand pities that that industry had lain idle for nearly two years owing to the dispute, but that it had involved almost a criminal loss of wealth to the whole Commonwealth, and had kept a large number of men out of employment. To-night the Prime Minister wanted to know why the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) did not do something to set the company going, and why some other individual member of the House did riot do so. The natural query which I felt inclined to put to the Prime Minister was, “Why did not the Government start the industry themselves, if it was essential for the production of wealth in Australia, and give employment to hundreds of men ? “ If it was essential to make wool tops here, and export them to another part of the world, why did not the Prime Minister take action under the War Precautions Act, under which he did so many disagreeable things, to commandeer the company’s plant, and allow the Commonwealth Government themselves to manufacture wool tops? Had he done that hundreds of men and women would have been kept in employment, the Commonwealth Government would have secured additional revenue at a time when they were sadly in need of funds, and whatever differences of opinion existed between the Government and the company could have been settled after the war was over. It was the bounden. duty of the Government to take action, bur. they remained indolent, and did nothing to reopen the industry.
I commend the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), and others, for the views they have expressed with regard to the importance of the woollen industry. We produce the finest wool in the world, and should be turning more of it into the finished article than we do at present. Any scheme for the development of the woollen industry, whether it be under governmental or private control, will receive my support, since I am most anxious that the industry should be firmly established and expanded. We can make woollens equal in quality to the best that is imported, and sell them at prices ranging from 30 per cent, to 50 per cent, below the imported article. The honorable member for Swan last night submitted a very ingenious scheme for the formation of a company for the manufacture of woollens, the shareholders in which would consist of returned soldiers, the interest of each in the company being equal to the amount of the proposed gratuity payable to them. 1- recognise that it would be difficult to induce a large body of men to arrive at a common agreement as to the investment of their money. Many , of our returned soldiers have their own individual views, just as we have, as to what should be done with the war gratuity. Many of them will make use “ of it to advance the particular lines of business in which they have already started operations.
– The scheme should have been taken in hand by the Government in the first instance.
– I admit that the idea was entirely new to me, and had a very pleasing effect upon my mind. We are to pay a vast sum of money to out returned men, and I agree with the honorable member that, under proper management, the investment of that money in the way suggested by him would’ have been better for the country and for the men themselves. The press this morning referred to it as a rather belated suggestion, but said it was worthy of consideration.
If it should be possible for us some years hence to obtain the true history of all the Pools that have been operating, and of their transactions, I wonder what will be our opinion of them and theirmanagement.
– I am questioning the legality of the agreement made. by the Government with the Sydney firm.
– There are many things that might be questioned. If it was possible for the Prime Minister, last week, to meet the people engaged in the wooltop industry, and to come to an arrangement with them, why did he not take action two years ago? Had he done so he would have prevented much suffering on the part of hundreds of men and women who were thrown out of work on the closing down of the industry.We shall have to make greater strides with the woollen industry than we have done.
-We all agree with that.
– As the late Sir John Madden said some years ago, our merino sheep, thanks to the efforts of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and others engaged in pastoral pursuits, have been brought to such a stage of perfectionthat the quantity of wool obtained from each of them is double that which could be secured some time ago. I give every credit to those who have been breeding merino sheep in Australia for the improvements they have made. To-day we are getting far more wool from our merinoes and cross-bred sheep than we thought possible some few years ago.
In the past we have been content to export our raw material instead of working it into the finished article for ourselves. If we undertook the manufacture of woollens on a large scale we should be able to sell the finished article at a lower price than is possible by sending the raw material 12,000 miles overseas to be made up for us. My view is that finished woollens are too much in the hands of the importers. We should be making more woollens than we are at present.
In reply to a question put by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) a few days ago, the Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth woollen mills at Geeloog were turning out woollens for the use of soldiers and their dependants at 5s. 6d. per yard for the No. 1 quality, 6s. 6d. per yard for No. 2 quality, and 7s. 6d. per yard for No. 3 quality. Three and a half yards is sufficient for a suit of clothes, so that a suit length of the best quality would thus be obtainable at a cost of £1 6s. 3d. The best tailors in Melbourne will provide all trimmings and make a suit for about £4, so that if the people could buy their suitings direct from the Commonwealth mills they would be able to obtain, at a cost of about £5 8s., a suit for which they have now to pay from £10 to £12. How can we account for the difference? I take it that the Commonwealth mills are working at a profit”. If the Government can supply woollen goods from their own mills to our returned soldiers and their dependants, what is there to prevent them from extending the business and supplying the ordinary public ?
– The Constitution.
– Then how is it possible for the Government to sell direct to soldiers and their dependants? Will the honorable gentleman say that, notwith-, standing that these men deserve the best at our hands, no one would challenge the Government’s right to sell to them if they had not constitutional authority to do so? Does the honorable member suggest that the Government have not sufficient power to withstand any such challenge? If they can withstand a challenge, they can go further, and protect the people against profiteering, saving them hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some objection was raised to the establishment of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills by the Labour party, but now the mills stand as an insurance against profiteering, and show what can be done in the manufacture of woollens. I think that the Government should go further. As soon as they are able to supply the demand of the soldiers and their dependants, let them sell their manufactures to the general public, and let the merchants of Flinders-lane, or any other interested party, challenge their action in the Courts. Should the High Court in such a case, decide against the Government, that would be a challenge to a higher court, the people of Australia, who, finding that the Commonwealth Government could not do what was necessary to relieve them, would vote for an amendment of the Constitution to give them more power.
I congratulate the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on his speech, which embodied splendid testimony to the worth of that plank in the Labour platform which deals with the amendment of the Constitution. His ideas on the subject are almost identical with those of the Labour party which were advocated during the elections, and are held by the members of the party here.
– They were not advocated at the last election ; at any rate, not by every Labour candidate.
– Every man standing in the Labour interest signed in favour of a proposal for the amendment of the
Constitution similar to that of the honorable member for Cowper.
– The facts show how impartial we are.
– I hope that honorable members will prove impartial, and will accept a good suggestion from whatever side it may come.
When the farmers began to take a hand in politics, I said to some of my friends that the new Parliament would not be quite so good from a Protectionist stand-point as the old, and I am ‘ glad, therefore, to hear new members say that they are prepared to vote for a reasonable and proper Tariff’ to establish industries which will give employment and increase our prosperity. I hope that we shall be found voting together for the protection and encouragement of industries.
I may be told that the Government have already taken steps to promote the growing of cotton in Australia, but we move so slowly that it is not enough for the Government to guarantee a certain price for cotton. What is needed is a propaganda, not a mere Gazette notice of the offer of the Government. The people of Australia, particularly those living in localities suitable for growing cotton, should be told that the Government are ready to stand behind them in any effort’ to grow cotton. I am informed that there are districts in which cotton grows wild. * ‘
– There is any quantity of it ‘in Central Queensland - good cotton, too.
– If cotton will grow where it is not cultivated, there is no reason why, with proper cultivation and management, Australia should not in. a few years be supplying herself with cotton.
– The securing of labour for picking is the difficulty.
– Mr. Finlayson, the last member for Brisbane, who had made a considerable study of the subject, informed the House that the difficulty in procuring labour would not be a serious hindrance.
– The .picking of cotton is the difficult thing to provide for.
– Even if we had to pay a little more for our locally-grown cotton at would be a long time before our charges reached the level of those of Coats and Company, who are piling up millions at the expense, as they have had the audacity to declare publicly, of their customers overseas. I have an order to get -some cotton before prices go higher.
– Is the honorable member a profiteer?
– No, but when I hear that tea, or sugar, or other commodities are about to increase in price, I try to save by purchasing as much as I can before the rise. During the electoral campaign we predicted a rise in the price of sugar.
– Our screws have not gone up.
– No, and those who receive fixed salaries suffer more than any others in the community, because they cannot evade taxation in any way. I have to pay whatever the State and Federal authorities ask of me. There are many persons, however, who can pass on their taxation. In normal times the land-owners are not of this number, but recently they have been able to fix the price of butter, wool, and wheat, and have thus passed on their taxation to some extent. ,
I regret the absence of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), because I should have liked to inform him that I opposed the establishment of the Bureau of Science and Industry solely on the ground that the Government, in trying to establish that Bureau, are indulging merely in the duplication of work which is being carried on under the State Governments. In the various States we have working men’s colleges, technical colleges, agricultural colleges, expert Government analysts, and universities, and quite a number of institutions which, under State auspices, are doing work almost identical with that which it is proposed the Commonwealth Bureau of Science and Industry shall do. We receive the journal of the Bureau, and I want to say that little or no benefit has accrued to Australia from its operations. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) may tell me that the’ Bureau is making investigations in. connexion with the destruction of prickly pear; but he is well aware that successive Queensland Governments have ‘in the past engaged experts to carry out investigations for the destruction of that pest.
– Take the matter oft the hook-worm, and the valuable discovery which has been already made by the Bureau.
– I do not know that the Bureau can claim to have made that discovery. It has acted upon the results of investigations that took place before it came into the field. The . question of nodules in beef has also been investigated by experts in other countries. I say that, in view of our present financial position, we should be very jealous of any expenditure upon a mere duplication of Government activities. I have before now contended that the Federal Analyst, Mr. Wilkinson, has not been properly treated. I should be prepared to spend several thousands of pounds in providing him with a well-equipped laboratory. He was able to do valuable work for Australia during the war. I understand that the cheesemakers of this country would be in a very sorry way if Mr. Wilkinson had not come to their rescue by manufacturing an essential element in the production of cheese which was, during the war, unobtainable from overseas. I am aware that he is a member of the so-called Bureau of Science and Industry. In this connexion, I should like to remind honorable members that during the last three or four years the Estimates presented to this House have contained votes to defray the expenses incurred by the Bureau of Science and Industry. The reason I held up the last Supply Bill for a time was that we have not yet passed a measure establishing the Bureau, though we have been expending money upon it every year. The Bureau should be established under proper legislative action. If that course were followed we would have an opportunity to discuss whether the establishment of such an institution is worth while. I make bold to say that thousands of pounds have been wasted upon the Bureau because it has been doing work which, in many cases, was done in the States years before its establishment. That kind of expenditure ought to be guarded against. Honorable members object to the duplication of the Taxation Departments of the Commonwealth and the States, and they object also to the duplication of the Electoral Departments, but they appear to be ready to accept the duplication of the work to he carried out by a Bureau of Science and Industry, though it in volves the unnecessary expenditure of thousands of pounds.
If we were to establish woollen mills, steel works, and cement works that would supply Australia’s requirements, we. might give employment to nearly 1,000,000 more people, and to what extent would we increase the wealth of this country by the employment of those people? If private enterprise will not supply the necessary capital to start woollen mills, we should not be satisfied with one Commonwealth Woollen Mill at Geelong, but should establish similar mills in every State. Why should we allow the’ financial and manufacturing magnates to grow rich at the expense of this country when the Government might derive a very considerable revenue by taking in hand the manufacture of our raw materials, and placing the finished articles in the hands of the public at a cheaper rate than that at which they can now be obtained ? I repeat my statement that the Geelong mills are producing the best of cloth at 7s. 6d. per yard, and it pays them to do so. If I went to a wholesale house in Flinders-lane I should be charged 30s. a yard for the same quality of cloth.
– The robbers went up as high as 40s.
– Some of them did; and they may go still further if they get the opportunity. Why should not honorable members on both sides demand that we should carry on these industries, and find employment for our returned soldiers, and for the immigrants we are going to bring here, and who, I hope, will be of a desirable class?
There are many other matters with which I should like to deal, but I will, not further delay the House at the present stage, as I understand that there is a desire that some other business should be taken up. I hope that honorable members generally will not be narrow in their views. If any honorable member on the other side makes what I regard as a reasonable and proper suggestion to advance the interests of the country, I shall readily accept and support it, and I ask that honorable members opposite shall treat suggestions from this side in the same way. Let us not be concerned that the life of the Government might. be trembling in the balance. Governments come and Governments go, but what this country wants is progress. If the Government impede the progress of the country we should remove them, and replace them by a Government that will be prepared to legislate upon lines that will lead to its prosperity. , I repeat that I shall be ready to give my support to any proposal calculated to advance the best interests of the country without respect to the persons who may, for the time, occupy the Treasury bench.
.- But for the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) with regard to the wool-tops compact, and the sugar compact it was my intention to follow the suggestion of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron), who seconded the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. The honorable member made the very useful observation that matters which may be discussed in the debate on the AddressinReply can be more usefully considered when the actual measures affecting them come before the House. The question dealt with by the Prime Minister yesterday seems to me to make it necessary to say a few words. We have heard this evening a good deal about the wool-tops contract, and it is not necessary that I should touch upon that. With regard to the sugar agreement, I feel not only that I should make certain observations, but that it is the duty of some one to make them. The agreement that has been entered into is nothing more than a commercial transaction. I suggest that if it is we should endeavour to carry it out on something approaching commercial lines. The contract is to cover a period of three years, and involves the expenditure of many millions of money. It is a buying forward at a fixed price, which may be increased slightly, but which cannot be reduced. It must have been a matter of very grave consideration to the Prime Minister when he attended the Conference to determine whether it was wise and businesslike to make an agreement to pay the price embodied in the sugar contract: The problem which the Prime Minister had to face is exactly similar to those which had to be dealt with during the war period by commercial houses practically every day. It happens to be my particular job to handle propositions of a very similar character at present; and, in this connexion, a close parallel may be drawn between this Parliament and the Prime Minister and an ordinary commercial trading company which has a managing director. The Prime Minister stands in the position of managing director, and this House is nothing more than a board of directors, so far as such a transaction as the sugar contract is concerned. For the purposes of illustration, honorable members will, perhaps, allow me to cite cases which 1 have had to consider, decide upon, and submit to my board of directors; for I also - like the Prime Minister - happen to hold the position of a managing director. It has been necessary for me to solve matters, certainly not involving enormous figures such as in the case of the sugar contract, but figures which are serious enough to us in our small way, and which have to do with contracts for cotton and woollen goods dating as far in advance as two years from this period. When one is called upon, as managing director, to advise the placing of orders of which one’s company will not take delivery for a matter of two years, and in respect to which one must settle the question of price forthwith, one takes care to make a recommendation only after securing the fullest information. When a managing director submits his proposition to his board of directors it is not sufficient for him to make a bald statement that it will be wise to take such-and-such a course of action and to supplement that merely with a few general reflections regarding what the position of cotton, for example, may be in the period ahead and has been in the past. One is bound to secure detailed and concrete facts. One is called upon to dig down to the root of things, and to be able to furnish chapter and verse regarding why one considers it wise and necessary to commit his company to a big contract two years in advance. The managing director must ascertain all particulars of the output of cotton in pre-war days, and must consider how far cotton production has been sufficient to meet the world’s demands. Since I am taking cotton as an example, I may state that prior to the war, when
America had a large crop, cotton production was in excess of the world’s demands. When America had a small crop the world’s production was not quite lip to world requirements. With respect to wool the proposition is very different. Prior to the war the supply of wool, even when really good seasons were being enjoyed in all wool-producing countries, was only just equal to the demand. To revert to the illustration of cotton production, a managing director during the war had to consider what would be the consumption of cotton on the part of all the Great Powers involved in the conflict. One had to ascertain how many bales the Allies would be taking for the purposes of munition production. One, then, had to consider the supposition of an armistice being declared, and had to estimate what would be the effect of the cutting off of the demand for cotton for munition purposes as an outcome of the armistice. There would be, indeed, ‘a thousand and one factors to consider.
The point which I am desirous of stressing is that a managing director had to get his subject thoroughly prepared; he was called upon to make his decisions only after he had gained full knowledge of his subject, and was equipped with a good working idea of future probabilities. All that information was requisite if one expected to secure a directorate’s sanction for an extraordinary expenditure. Now, that is exactly the position in which honorable members find themselves in regard to the sugar contract. I have no doubt, and I certainly sincerely trust, that when the Prime Minister went to Sydney to settle the contract he was in possession of all the knowledge available with regard to sugar - the world’s production and consumption - the present position, indeed, set forth in clear and tabulated form. I hope the Prime Minister had given those particulars fullest and weightiest consideration before venturing to enter into a contract extending over three years upon a basis of certain specific prices. But even before devoting consideration to those facts and figures it was necessary for him to determine the question of entering into a three years’ contract. The only explanation with which this House has been furnished in that regard is that a contract covering that period would give stability to the industry. I quite agree that it might do so; but it seems to me that chapter and verse are required for asserting that such a term would stabilize the industry. One naturally wants to know the probable outlook in a normal season, and what are the possibilities with respect to new mills being erected.
I am merely submitting new, in accordance with what I understand to be the Prime Minister’s expressed wishes, points which he mav consider and reply to. I suggest that upon the question of the necessity for an agreement extending over more than one year we have been given no other information except that contained in the one vague statement that it will furnish stability for the industry. I am fairly confident that a sound case could be stated upon the necessity for the contract to run over a three- year term; but unless this Parliament is provided with complete information it should not be expected, as a board of directors, to sanction the action of the Prime Minister in his capacity of managing director. Honorable members should not be called upon to take responsibility upon their shoulders and off the shoulders of the Prime Minister and the Government generally.
Apart from the matter of the period of contract, I stress that probably no honorable member present would venture to describe himself as a sugar expert. Possibly there are some who know a great deal about the industry; but I doubt if any honorable member will say that he has the sugar industry at his fingers’ ends in the same sense as I am required, in pursuance of my job, to have the wool and cotton markets of the world at my fingers’ ends. I question if any honorable member is in a position to decide whether or not a forward contract over a long period would be wise’ and prudent. I have jotted down a few points which I feel that I would be called upon to place before my directorate if I were in the position of the Prime Minister, and desired to receive sanction for the contract to which I was a party. These points are directed to an endeavour to secure a review of the position of sugar throughout the world before the war, and of the position to-day, and the probabilities in the future, lt is obvious that one should know first the sugar production and consumption of the world in pre-war days, before there was an abnormal demand and prior to the dislocation of trade consequent upon the war. Having got at the facts with respect to those items, one then would need to know where the sugar came from, and in what proportions it was cane sugar and beet sugar. Thus one would be in a position to judge concerning those parts of’ the world in which the beet sugar industry has been hampered or wiped out. In this regard the Prime Minister did indicate something about beet sugar. He stated that it would be impossible to grow beet sugar in northern France for many years to come. But that, after all, is not very useful information so far as I personally am concerned, since I do not happen to know how much beet sugar was grown in northern France in pre-war days; and so I am unable to estimate how far the present position in northern France is likely to affect the world’s production. The very phrase, “ a number of years to come,” is obviously vague and inadequate as the basis for a commercial computation. Honorable members are entitled to all information of this nature in order to judge the position generally.
We should also be informed of the present estimated stocks of sugar throughout the world. Only a few months ago the Government purchased Java sugar at £15 per ton, and we have been told that the price has since risen to £60, £70, £80, £90, and even £100 per ton, but we have had no information as to whether the increase in price is due to a shortage of production or to an abnormal demand following the close of thewar. and when producers were able to get sugar away from Java again. These are, perhaps, minor points, but I venture to say that not very many honorable members are able to answer them off hand-. Anotherpoint that occurs to me. is that full details ought to be available as to the probable harvest of sugar the world over. With regard to cotton, when the first ginning reports come in, one is able to form an estimate of production ; but concerning the position of the sugar industry, we have no information such as I have to place before my directors when I am trying to steer them through any difficult course. Then there is the question of the demand for sugar. The Prime Minister stated that a larger number of people were now consumers of sugar than in pre-war days. It is well known that soldiers, and particularly those in the Balkan States, lived on a higher dietary scale than in former years, and they are now greater consumers of sugar. , But the Prime Minister gave us no information as to the effect of this increased consumption on the world position. I. agree it is a very difficult problem, but if we are expected to determine the price for the next three years we should have some information as to the probable consumption and production. We ought to know, too, what effect the present price of sugar is likely to have upon future production, and how far new areas will be made available.
I have indicated only a few points that immediately occur to me as matters which, had I, as a managing director been responsible for the contract, I would have endeavoured to place before my board of directors. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister had all these matters in his mind, and that the officers whose job it is to advise him armed him with the necessary information before he went to the Conference. The whole object of my remarks is to endeavour to bring home to honorable members the fact that it is impossible for us to be experts upon everything. We all know something about our . wn particular business affairs, and in order to enable us to arrive at a correct judgment upon this sugar contract, we should be placed in the possession of the fullest details, because as I have already said, this is nothing more than a commercial agreement to which we should apply ordinary commercial standards of judgment. There is no possible reason why my illustration of a managing director and a board of directors should not be applicable to a Minister who asks honorable members to approve an agreement on a matter like this. That is to say, we should be supplied with all such information as it is necessary for every managing director who knows his job to place before the board to whom he is responsible.
.- As one who has been closely associated with the sugar industry in Queensland, I listened with much interest to the remarks made bv the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). But I think it is possible he is not aware that the sugar industry has been controlled by the Commonwealth Government for some years,’ and, therefore, they are in possession of the fullest information regarding the position throughout the world. I doubt if any company is in a better position than the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company to furnish reliable estimates as to the world production and the provision necessary for the requirements of the Commonwealth. Let me say at the outset that the sugar industry in Queensland is in a very precarious state. If ,it is not properly supported, hundreds of thousands of acres now under cultivation, and hundreds of thousands of acres that could be put under crop, will be absolutely idle. We have to remember, also, that certain neighbours have already drawn attention to the fact that we are in .possession pf an immense area of rich agricultural land in the northern parts of this great Commonwealth, but are not utilizing them, and that we are depriving them of the opportunity to provide for their surplus population. They remind us that we did not buy this country; or win it by war, but took possession of it from the aborigines, who were the rightful owners, and’ that if we cannot utilize it ourselves it is only logical that we should make way for those who can. The industry is in jeopardy. On the 29th July, 1919, Mr. Christoe secretary of the Bundaberg and District Manufacturers Union, presented to the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry a compilation prepared from returns sent in relating to the seven factories in the Bundaberg district, including Millaquin and Qunaba, Fairymead, Bingara, Invicta, Baffle Creek, and Gin Gin Central. He pointed out that connected with the seven mills there are no less than 29,134 acres under cane; that in the mills 759 persons are employed, and, in cultivation, 2,390; that the capital invested in 1918 in the mills and other works was £910,000, and in the land, cultivation, and plant, £720,960, or a total of £1,639.960; that for the period of six years ending with the crop of 1918-19 the expenditure was £3,795,577, and that the value of the product was only £3.687,922. leaving a deficit of £107,655. These figures refer to the seven mills alone, and to only one portion of my electorate. This industry employs 70,000 to 80,000 people, directly and indirectly, and involves an outlay of many millions of pounds, while the average annual value of the crops is about £13,000,000” per annum.
I should like to deal with the question raised by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) as to the construction of fresh mills. At the time the last agreement was made, I pointed out to the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) how absolutely unnecessary was that clause prohibiting the provision of fresh plant, or additions to plant. I then saidI was perfectly certain that ho private enterprise would put up a mill in Queensland under existing conditions, and that the Queensland Government had already put a large sum of money into the industry on which they were receiving an unsatisfactory return. This is not on account of the absence of sugar land, for there are hundreds of thousands of acres just as good as those under cultivation, but because there is no inducement to erect mills.
Just now I interjected that we very seldom had any surplus of sugar in Australia. I only know of a single instance of a bond fide surplus, and that was one of 9,000 tons in 1907-S. In the following year that surplus had not” only been wiped out, but there was a deficit of 110,000 tons. The only other surplus was in the very year that we entered into the last contract - 1918, when it was said there was six months’ surplus on hand. But what happened? That six months’ stock was not a legitimate growth of sugar for that year. In the previous year fully 50 per cent, of the farmers refused to cut their cane under the Dickson award, and it was held over until the following year, when there was at least the growth of one year and a half milled, resulting in the “ surplus.” But that was wiped out, and this year there is a deficit of over 110,000 tons. Has anything been done by the Government to encourage more production? Nothing whatever! Wages have gone up <to such an extent that, as the Prime Minister stated yesterday, 80 per cent, of the value, of the sugar is represented by wages. I may point out that before the agreement was entered into, officers of the Prime Minister’s Department obtained the information which, so far, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has been looking for.
One report which has come into my possession was prepared at the instigation of the Cuban Government, which desired to know the position of the beet sugar industry. This report was on the conditions of the European beet sugar industry, and was prepared by Mr. Hannibal J. De Mesa, special envoy of the Cuban Government, and is of the utmost importance to sugar consumers in Australia. That gentleman points out that there has been a shrinkage of over 4,500,000 tons in beet sugars alone. What prospects are there of the beet sugar industry expanding again within the next three years? Very little. Most of the countries that produce beet sugar have to a large extent been depleted of the facilities for carrying on the industry successfully; and in the cane sugar industry there has been practically little or no expansion, in face of a severe shortage.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) referred to the rise in price of Java sugar from £15 a ton to £80 a ton in two years, with an exchange somewhere about 30 per cent, or 40 per cent. There was plenty of sugar in Java to sell, but no vessels to take it away; and as soon as vessels were obtained and the markets were opened, up went the price, to which has to be added exchange, freight, and other charges. What prospects are there of the supply of sugar in the world overtaking the demand? It is shown conclusively in other reports that the consumption of sugar is rapidly increasing, while the supply is decreasing enormously. If land were put under beetroot again in Europe, it would have to a large extent to be manured. The price of phosphates has increased enormously during recent years, as has also the cost of machinery. In Queensland to-day we are paying higher wages than we ever paid previously, and they are not likely to be reduced. We have the effects of cyclones, floods, frosts,, and droughts to contend with, and we shall always* have to face these drawbacks. Further, it is necessary to plant new lands with cane each year, because the ratoon lasts only for four or five years. This necessitates constant planting. The cost of everything required for mill work, for field work, and for machinery has increased bv at least 55 per cent. The price of locomotives, which have to be used on the sugar plantations, has advanced from £1,500 to £4,500. A new mill, which could have been constructed for £250,000 a few years ago, could not be equipped to-day for less than £500,000. What is taking place in Australia is typical of what is taking place in every part of the world. According to the latest available information, there is no chance whatever of any material decline in these prices within the next three years, and if we wish to encourage the sugar industry we must insure that it shall receive fair play. Had the world’s parity been niven to our sugar-growers two or three years ago, we would have had a great deal more land under cane, and we should not have had to purchase sugar at a cost of more than £80 per ton - black-grown sugar, the balance of our requirements. We should not have had to pay over £30 6s. 8d. per ton during the next few years. It was lack of fore- sight on our part in failing to offer the cane-grower the encouragement to which he was entitled which is responsible for the present position, a shortage of supply. No expansion in the industry has taken place during recent times, and in many districts in Queensland .there is less cane grown to-day than there wa3 three years ago. The quantity of beet sugar in Europe amounts now to only about 3,654,000 tons, or a shrinkage of over 4,500,000 tons, and in such circumstances, what can we expect but still higher prices? The agreement which we are discussing constitutes a splendid bargain for Australia and for those engaged in the manufacture of jams and tinned fruit, because it will insure to them sugar at a less price than it can be purchased by their competitors in any other part of the world except New Zealand. Had we been wise in our generation, and encouraged the industry three year3 ago, there would have been no necessity for importing sugar to-day. The difference between £30 6s. 8d. a ton and £80 would then have been saved, and it would not have been necessary to raise the ,price of sugar to more than 4jd. or 4 3/4d. per lb. I am satisfied that no managing director of any business enterprise could have got together more accurate or more up-to-date information than was obtained by the Prime Minister and the staff which was associated with him regarding the sugar industry.
.- I would not have spoken but for the observations made by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in regard to wool tops. It seems to me that he accurately stated the position, and 1 fail to understand how the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) can take up the attitude that the £540,000 which will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue of this country, under the new agreement with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, does not actually belong to the wool-growers. The right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that, approximately, £200,000 had been lost by certain firms as the result of wool top3 being sold at 4i’d. per lb. As a matter of fact, the basis upon which the manufacturers were paid 4d. per lb. was that of scoured wool, and not of greasy wool. To me it seems incredible that £200,000 was lost by the sale of wool tops at that price. But if such losses are being sustained it is time that a stop was put to them. I hope that fuller information will be given to the House as to how this particular loss was brought about. I feel certain that the £540,000 referred to by the honorable member for Grampians rightly belongs to the Australian wool-growers.
– The agreement distinctly provided, and the wool- growers agreed to it, that wool required for local purposes should be outside the Pool.
– But it still belongs to the -producers. I was indeed astonished to find so many champions of our primary producers on the other side of the chamber. I was very pleased to hear the fine speech made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page). He touched upon many matters relating to primary production, and he knew what he was talking about. He advocated the extension of postal and telephonic facilities to the residents of our back-blocks. Now, as the result of several deputations which have waited upon the PostmasterGeneral, a promise has been made that £100,000 will be appropriated for the purpose of providing these facilities for agricultural areas. What is the good of £100,000 to provide facilities for the men of whom the honorable member spoke? Having regard to the fact that the Postal Department made a profit of something like £500,000 last year, I think that at least that amount of money should be spent on those services that are so necessary to keep people away from the large centres of population. We have the continual drift of population to the cities, coupled with a reduction of production. About 4,000,000 acres have gone out of cultivation for wheat. Certain statements made by me in regard to the dairying industry have been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). The statements I made were correct. The dairying industry, like wheat-growing, is going backwards day after day. There are in Australia to-day 200,000 less cows than there were in 1913. I remind honorable members, particularly those who sit in Opposition, that they must be prepared for a great increase in the prices of both butter and meat. There is a standing offer from the Canadian Government to the Victorian Minister of Agriculture of 2s. 6d. per lb. for the whole output of Victorian butter, and, if the sale is confined to the output of certain districts, an increased price will be paid. The position which has arisen in my own district owing to the low price of butter prevailing to-day is appalling. A great quantity of the milk from that district is condensed, and Nestles Company at the pre-ent t:me ii using about 250 tons of sugar per week for the manufacture of condensed milk. The company is able to pay a higher price for the mills than can be paid by the butter factories in the district, on account of the price of butter being fixed. The prices that I quoted, and to which reference has been made, were correct. The fixed price for butter for home consumption is 175s. per cwt.; for second grade butter for the Orient, 205s. per cwt.; and for the small trade done with South Africa, 243s. per cwt.; whilst the fixed price for Great Britain was 253s. per cwt. The open price in Great Britain is something like 300s. per cwt. So that the Australian dairyman is receiving £100 per ton less for butter than the open prices in Great Britain. These fixed prices will obtain until the end of August. I say nothing about the contracts into which the Government entered in the past. We made those arrangements, and we must carry them out honorably; but in the future we must make arrangements to get the best price for our commodity that the world offers. A statement has emanated from the Opposition side that we producers must expect the placing of an export duty on our products.
– That statement was made by ‘one man.
– It was made also by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– I did not say that.
– The inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s remarks was that an export duty would be placed on wool, hides, and so forth. If the primary producer is to have no benefit from duties on imports, and is to be required to pay export duties on his produce, I do not know what will happen to him. The only way to reduce prices is to increase production.
– Does the honorable member wish to profiteer?
– The farming community has not had the opportunity to profiteer. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) stated that an export duty should be placed on certain articles, and I take strong exception to that.
The position in regard to meat is very interesting. I understand from an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question I asked the other day that no fresh contracts will be entered into with the Imperial -Government. I do not know whether that statement is final, but, at any rate, it is final for the time being. We must, therefore, study the existing position in regard to meat. I quote the following remarks made by Mr. C. A. McCurdy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, on the 13th December : -
As regards meat, there is a surplus at the moment in this country. We must not be misled by the fact into assuming that our supplies for next year are assured. Perhaps a plain statement of the facts with regard to meat will be of value. Before the war the population of the United Kingdom ate 2,100,000 tons of meat every year - 175,000 tons every month. The British farmer supplied 1,360,000 tons, and 750,000 was imported every year. Owing to the stoppage of emigration, we shall have more people to feed next vear than in 1913. Where is it to come from? The home supplies will be about 1,000,000 tons. Assuming that our people eat no more than they did before the war, we shall want an extra 360,000 tons from abroad to feed them. We shall want 1,100,000 tons of imported meat instead of 750,0.00. Now all the meat in the world which the meat-producing countries can export next year out of the year’s production is estimated at about 1,210,000 tons; add to that stocks of 120,000 tons in hand in New Zealand and Australia held over from past years owing to the submarine war and shipping difficulties, and you get 1,333,000 tons in all. At our pre-war rate of consumption we shall need 1,100,000 tons, and that leaves for the United States of America and the Continent of Europe only 222,000’ tons. The United States want half that, and that leaves 110,000 tons in all for the Continent of Europe. V hen I tell you that the meat supplies of the European countries, apart from Russia, are 3,500,000 tons short, and many of their people are actually starving, you will agree that 110,000 tons is not much to meet any demands which they are able to make. France, Italy, and Belgium have already asked for 500,000 tons, which they are not likely to get. If we could assume that a hungry Europe will get no imported meat at all, there would be just enough for everybody else, but that is rather a risky. assumption. There will be, beyond any doubt, a world shortage of meat next year - at least 3,000,000 tons less meat in Europe than our neighbours used to eat before the war.
That is the position in regard to meat. When the open contracts are restored, which must happen about 10th April, it will be found that very much higher prices will be paid for meat in this country. About 9,000,000 sheep have been lost in New South Wales in consequence of the drought, and as there is a small number of sheep in Victoria, only a good rain is required to increase the price of sheep in our own markets by 6s. or 7s. per head. We must expect to pay higher prices for butter, meat, and other primary products. The Prime Minister stated the other day that the primary producer must increase his production in. order that Australia might meet its obligations on the other side of the world. I hope that if we do as he suggests, we shall get the high prices now offering abroad, because that is our only means of meeting the vast obligations created by the war.
In regard to repatriation, a great deal has been said about wool and the manufacture of woollen goods. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) went into this matter very fully. I merely desire to refer briefly to the statement made by the Prime Minister that he intended to ‘ make an effort to organize the woollen industry in Australia, so that three-quarters of our wool might be converted into manufactured goods in this country. It is one of the greatest opportunities this country has ever had of repatriating some of its returned soldiers. It has been stated, in connexion with the establishment for this purpose of a woollen factory, that a capital expenditure of approximately £100,000 is required. If such an industry were established, it would employ, at least, 500 men, and it would require only that number of shareholders contributing, say, £200 to provide the necessary capital. If we were to place 500 men on the land, a much larger expenditure would be involved. The establishment of such an industry in each State would ‘provide employment fox many returned soldiers, and would enable them to make handsome profits. I do not suggest the nationalization of the industry. I believe that a number of returned soldiers -would be prepared to invest their war gratuities in it, but, failing that, the Government could advance the money, as is being done in connexion with land settlement. It is well known that in placing returned soldiers on land established settlers are being bought out to accommodate returned men. I. do not wish to criticise the administration in this direction too severely, because it is really a State matter. In many instances, farmers’ holdings have been purchased by the authorities, and the settler who has been displaced simply comes on the market again in open competition with the Government. In consequence of this practice being followed throughout the length and breadth of Victoria and New South Wales, the land has appreciated in value approximately £2 per acre. In my own district, during the last fortnight, twelve different families have left their holdings, and these are now to be worked by returned soldiers. The natural consequence is that the farmers, who doubtless have sold at a good price, aTe again coming into the market and forcing up the price against the authorities, who are purchasing on behalf of the discharged men. Much of the land is being offered to the Government at very high prices, and it would be interesting to see how the prices realized compare with those at which it is valued for taxation purposes. I could quote instances where farmers have purchased land at £7 per acre, and have offered it to the Government for repatriation purposes at from £10 or £12 per acre. It would be interesting to know the value on which land tax has been paid in connexion with these particular estates.
I trust that my brief remarks have not : hindered the passage of the Soldiers’ Gratuity Bill. I can assure the Government that those occupying the corner benches and honorable members opposite are just as anxious to support the passage of the Bill as are honorable members sitting behind the Government. I feel confident that, had the Government been sincere in their desire to pass this measure, it would have been disposed of last session without a murmur.
.- It is my intention to confine my remarks to the sugar question. I listened with interest to the very clear statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and I regret that this important question was not brought forward in a more satisfactory manner. It is hardly fair to introduce it at this stage, and to expect honorable members to discuss it on the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– You can discuss it on the question that the paper be printed.
– Probably it would then be too late. The Prime Minister made it clear that if Parliament opposed the agreement the Government could not attempt to handle the sugar question at all. It would have been practicable for the debate on the Governor-General’s Speech to have been postponed to allow the sugar agreement to be discussed in detail, and if that course had been adopted we would have had an opportunity of obtaining further information on certain important points. We cannot expect the Prime Minister to submit all the details in a brief speech, but I believe he has made a very good deal. From what I have read, it is reasonable to assume that there is likely to be a sugar shortage for at least one or two seasons, if not longer. If that is so, we are bound by this price for only three years, and there appears to be little prospect of the public being unfairly treated. While I am prepared to take the responsibility of supporting the agreement, I must say that it is time the Government - if they remain in office - began to look into the sugar question a little more closely than they have been doing. I have always been in favour of Queensland receiving liberal treatment in connexion with the sugar industry, as regards not only the industry itself, but also the general conditions surrounding it: We cannot, however, blink our eyes to the fact that the Government have been receiving £1,250,000 for many years on an annual consumption of 200,000 tons, and this amount has been of great assistance in keeping the industry going. It must be admitted that the industry is not making much progress, and that it does not meet the Australian demand. There are thousands of acres of sugar-producing country in Queensland, and if the industry is not to expand under the present favorable conditions it is time a different policy was adopted. The sugar-growers should not only endeavour to meet the Australian demand, but should produce sufficient to enable them to market supplies overseas. The Australian people cannot allow the present conditions to continue indefinitely, and I trust that the sugar-growers will take advantage of this set .term of three years, and make a strong effort to increase the area under cultiva-.tion. I am prepared at all times to look at this matter from the Federal standpoint and to treat the industry generously, but if it is to be capable of merely meeting the Australian demands we have to consider whether the industry is worth fostering.
– Has the honorable member considered the details of the last award ?
– Yes; the conditions are peculiar, and higher wages still will have to be paid.
– A basic wage of £10 per week.
– The rate to be fixed will doubtless be a heavy impost. It is to be hoped that when the three-year period embodied in the agreement has expired conditions will be normal. If sugar is then to cost £30 per ton locally as now, we shall have to consider whether it will not be more advantageous to import our supplies.
If the area of land suitable for the cultivation of cane is extended, there should be sufficient sugar to meet the- demand. It may not be for twelve months, but what is a year or two in the life of a nation? The Queensland producers cannot expect this Parliament to go on protecting their industry for ever unless they make a reasonable advance on what they have been doing for the last twelve years. In regard not only to sugar, but also other tropical products, Australia has to face the question of indentured labour. There are vast tracts of country in the north which ought to be producing, but I do not see any prospect of having white people employed there unless we have labour which is suited for the particular industries which might be carried on there.
– Where will you get that labour?
– I understand that in Fiji labour i3 secured from India. If we treat indentured labour properly, say, by employing it for terms of two years, or three years, only, and keeping one lot passing out while another lot is coming in, there will be no danger of interfering with the White Australia, policy. It would be far better to have these industries carried on in this way with white men as overseers, and in clerical positions, than to have the vast tracts of country in the north lying idle. I am afraid they would not remain idle very long, because, if we neglect to utilize them, I am sure a more virile people will come along and do so.
It is about time this Parliament took into consideration the advisability of abolishing the useless waste of time brought about by debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I can see some excuse for such a debate at the beginning of a Parliament when men are new to the House, because it gives them an opportunity of finding their sea legs, or breaking the ice, but, apart from that, the debate is useless. Furthermore, it does the Government no good, because, anticipating that about a week, or a fortnight, will be taken up in this way, they are quite unprepared to bring forward legislation, as occurred last session, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) permitted the debate to be concluded long before the time anticipated by the Government. In the circumstances I do not propose to take up any more time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply, and inform honorable members accordingly. There is still business for the House to do, and I am not aware what time will be occupied in doing it, but I suggest that, when we do adjourn, we should adjourn until noon to-morrow. Therefore I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 12 noon to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– According to the arrangement I made with honorable members I now desire to move -
That the memorandum of the Conference, held at Sydney, between representatives of the Queensland sugar industry and the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, be printed.
In order to make the intention of the parties clearer, we have inserted at the end of the last paragraph but one of the agreement, the following words: -
And it is agreed by the parties that, under the above clause, the Conference cannot recommend any increase in the price of cane beyond that provided for in this agreement.
In my remarks I shall be very brief. I am afraid that I cannot follow the very admirable advice of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), to adopt the practice of directors at a meeting of shareholders. Perhaps honorable members who have not been in the House very long do not appreciate the difference between Parliaments and private enterprise. But there is a fundamental difference. One difference becomes apparent when I recall to honorable members the fact that we have been here nearly a month and stand to-night with not a single thing to our credit. We have practically spent the whole time in criticising that which is past. Private enterprise would hardly be guilty of such procedure. I do not blame Parliament. I have been too long in it, and I know what all Parliaments are, and what I suppose they, will all be to the end of time. But when I am asked to deal with a matter such as this in the way that I would deal with it if I were myself buying sugar, or if I were the head of a company buying it, I must point out the circumstances in which I find myself. If I were buying the sugar myself I would have acted without delay. 1 would not have talked about it. I would have made up my mind whether it was a good deal or a bad one, and would have taken all the risk there was in it. It would have been a purely commercial transaction. But, of course, a Parliament finds itself in a very different position, and hesitates to do or to decline to do that which a private individual would do or refuse to do without hesitation. He would make up his mind one way or the other. In private enterprise I need hardly say that only those men succeed who are able to make up their minds quickly. And in’ private enterprise men have’ to- consider only whether a proposed course is commercially profitable and Parliament has to consider many other things.
I am confronted with this position: I have, in the first place, to consider not merely the question of acquiring sugar at a certain price and selling it at a profit; not merely the factors of the world’s supply, and the possibilities of fluctuations in prices and in demand, but also what effect the transaction will have upon Australia, and upon one of the greatest industries in it. In this matter we are in very much the same position as we were in regard to wheat. We gave a guarantee’ of 5s. 4d. per bushel for wheat, although we did not know whether the price of wheat next season would be high or low. The Government had to take that risk, and did so willingly, deliberately, and .rightly, because it is essential, whether the price of wheat falls below 5s. 4d. or not. to encourage people to grow wheat, in this country. Even if the price of wheat outside fell to <2s., it would still be a sound policy to encourage men to go on Australian lands and grow wheat. It is also profitable to encourage people to settle on the northern sugar lands of Australia by guaranteeing a fixed price for cane and sugar, even if the price of sugar does fall outside. Of course, for this season this is clearly a good agreement on the face of it, I mean good from a commercial standpoint, but if for the following two years the people of ‘Australia have to pay more than they would otherwise have paid, still Australia as a nation will pay only that which is essential to ensure its national and industrial welfare.
The honorable member for Flinders put some very pertinent questions to me. He wanted to know what were the possibilities of the beetsugar industry recovering in the near future, and of foreign-grown cane sugar so overtaking the demand as to bring about a glut. I do not know anything at all about those things of my own knowledge. But, of course, I know what is said by experts about them. There are experts who will satisfy you either way. The report of the Commission contains most convincing evidence on both sides - that there will be a glut, and that there will not. be a glut; that prices will keep high, and that prices will fall. You can get expert opinion on both sides. We have to take some risks. On the other hand, there is the certainty that if we do not accept this agreement sugar will be from 2d. to 4d. per lb. more in this country during the next twelve months than if we do. Secondly, if we do not accept this agreement the sugar industry of Quensland willi be disorganised and will languish. - There will be no inducement for men to launch out and put fresh land under cane. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) put the thing very fairly from his point of view, and from mine too. He said he hoped the Queensland sugar-grower would regard this agreement as an earnest of our efforts on his behalf, and put more land under cane. The representatives of the sugar - growers have assured me that they , will put more land under cane. We want more people in this country. We do not want them in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, or Perth, but we do want them in the country. Well, we must pay for it, and what better inducement could we offer to the right kind of immigrant than to make agriculture in one of its varied phases profitable? We may spend millions upon a policy of immigration, but the best policy of immigration is to make this country desirable to live in. What we must do is to settle the country. The cities will look after themselves. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) put the matter very well. The cities, after all, live on the country. They merely handle, treat, manufacture, and sell the things that are produced in the country. This is a rural industry upon which we have spent millions, if you like. Still, we have something in return. Our rich northern sugar lands are being cultivated by splendid types of Australian citizens. We are the only country in the world that grows sugar by white labour, and we must not forget that during the late war thousands of men, the sons of sugar planters, went and fought for this country. If Queensland had been a country in which sugar was grown by black labour, we could not have drawn on those splendid men who fought for us. These are all phases that do not enter into a mere commercial deal, but) ithey are’ of immense importance. They go to the very root of our national being. We have not to consider a deal of this sort merely as a man in business does. He looks at it. from the point of view of whether it will pay or not pay . I do not hesitate to say that this deal would pay even if it were a financial loss, because the alternative would be most disastrous to one of the greatest industries in one of the greatest States of the Commonwealth.
I want honorable members to understand clearly that I have not taken the course of attempting to share the responsibility with the House because that is the way I prefer to do it, but because the House has shown me in the clearest possible way that that is what it wants me to do. When I do it, honorable members say that before they can take the responsibility they must know more, and do this or that. I say, “ You must make up your minds at once,” because the mills must prepare for the crushing, and a prompt decision must be arrived at. If the Government had made this agreement, as it did’ formerly, without consulting the House, it would have taken the responsibility gladly ; but when before the country I said we would consult Parliament and honorable members have stood up and requested that we should act in this way, take the House into our confidence, and seek its advice and guidance. This we are now doing.
I cannot give the House any assurance whatever that the price of sugar outside Australia will not fall. I can only say that I do not believe that sugar will fall to its pre-war price. Speaking candidly, I do not think anything will until money values readjust themselves. The real cause of high prices, apart from scarcity, is that the sovereign now as compared with pre-war days, is worth only 12s. Consequently, when we say that wool to-day is worth1s. 31/2d. per lb. flat rate, we are only saying that wool is worth, say, 9d. or l0d. per lb. on prewar values, since 9d. before the war would buy as much as1s. 31/2d. will purchase to-day. And this applies not only to prices of commodities, but to wages of labour. I cannot give the House any guarantee that the price of sugar will not fall. But I can say that we are able to buy sugar from the Quensland grower at a lower price than that at which it can be obtained anywhere in the world. I am able to say that under this arrangement we shall be able to sell sugar, so far as I know, at a price below that at which it is obtainable in any other part of the world. If we do not make this agreement, sugar will be very much higher than it is. I hope that one of the results of the agreement will be that we shall never be compelled after the coming season to import sugar from outside. Being satisfied that the agreement is in the best interests of Australia, that the welfare of the consumer, the worker, the grower, and the miller are alike safeguarded under it, I commend it to the House. For the first time in the history of industry in this country, at all events, all the parties interested in the arrangement were present at the Conference at which it was arrived at, and every phase of the industry was submitted to criticism. The workers for the first time were told exactly what the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was going to charge, and were invited to criticise the proposal. They knew also what the miller and the cane-grower were to receive. No one asked what the Government was to get, because that was expressed by a minus quantity. Much may be said against tying ourselves up for three years, but the alternative to Scylla is Gharybdis. I do not know which is Scylla and which is Charybdis, but I recommend the House to accept the agreement.
– It is not fair to the House or to the people of Australia that we should be called upon after midnight to deal with one of the most important questions that is likely to be put before us this session. That some agreement is neces sary I freely admit, but I make bold to say that we shall secure a reform in connexion with the sugar industry of Australia only when this Parliament tackles it where it should be tackled, and that is by assisting the cane-grower to deal with his own product, and to get rid of what is and always has been a millstone round his neck. I refer to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Sydney, which the Government propose to “ dig in “ under this agreement. I believe that a proper agreement could be arrived at under which the Queensland cane-growers could be induced to cooperate, and so to secure for their labour a far better return than they have hitherto done. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is to have a big cut out of this arrangement.
– £1 2s. 6d. per ton.
– I know what it is to receive. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has from the first defied the Federal Parliament. The Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry reports that the company refused to give any information.
– Not at all.
– The company supplied information which was of no value to the Government, but when the Commission sought to obtain information which would enable it to determine what profit the company was making out of the industry it refused to supply it. I have the report here, and it contains the statement that the company refused to give information which the Commission sought. We also know that a previous Commission met with a similar refusal, and that owing to the faulty manner in which the Royal Commissions Act was drafted, the Government was beaten when it carried the question into the Law Courts.
– Has the honorable member read the report of the Commission ?
– I have. It distinctly recommends that the price should be brought up to £22 per ton.
– Ask the cane-grower what he thinks of thatproposal.
– I have talked with the cane-growers, and have the most complete sympathy with them. I want to help them, but I am sure that we shall not assist them by any such patchwork arrangement as this. The sugar cane grower, like all other primary producers, can be effectively helped only by a general system of co-operation backed up by this Parliament, which would enable them to get rid of the incubus of Rings and Trusts that have fastened on to every industry, and have been most pronounced and fatal to the sugar industry.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays a dividend of only–
– But how often has it watered its stock? If it has not made the huge profits attributed to it, why is it the one company which has refused to supply a Royal Commission with information sought to be obtained?
I want to see the industry prosper, and recognise that it would be a bad day for Australia, and especially for northern Australia, if it were injured. The Prime Minister has very properly pointed out that the industry is a splendid one, and deserving of encouragement. He states: “We are dealing with an important industry.” Here we are really dealing with two industries in one. The smallfruit growers of Victoria and Tasmania will be swept out of existence if this agreement is passed, unless provision is made in it for their protection. This practice of hastily entering into contracts is a wretched one. I thought that our experience in connexion with the shipbuilding and one or two other contracts would have been a lesson to us not to enter into hastily-made agreements entailing a cost of millions of pounds and threatening the existence of important industries without this House having ample time to consider the subject. The Government should have had proper time to consider this agreement.
– Who says that this arrangement has been hastily arrived at?
– The information given here to-night is the result of hasty consideration. Will the right honorable gentleman tell me what is to be the retail price of sugar under this agreement?
– This agreement, relating to one of the staple food’s of Australia, affects the raw material of a kindred and equally important industry, and surely we ought to know what is to be the retail price of sugar. I have been told by fairly good judges that the retail price of sugar will be raised to 51/2d. or 6d. per lb. If they are right, the small-fruit industry of Victoria and Tas mania will be killed. In a very able report prepared by Mr. Martin, a Government official who was at the time Assistant Price Fixer, it is stated that small fruits cannot be grown profitably in Tasmania and Victoria for less than 3d. per lb.; and, as a pound of sugar and a pound of fruit is required to make two pounds of jam, it will be impossible for Australian preserves to compete in the world’s markets with sugar at 51/2d. or 6d. a lb. I think that, if proper consideration were given to the matter, it would be possible to insert in the contract provisions which would give the cane-grower the assistance heneeds without crushing those in otherindustries. There is no antagonism between the canegrower and the fruit-grower; but the middleman gets all the profit from the industry of both.
– How does the. middleman come in here?
– Immediately this agreement is sanctioned there will be a demand for increased wages, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will go for its cut. While the consumers of sugar will pay more for that commodity, the unfortunate cane-growers will benefit but little by the increase in price. In America, they are trying to get over the difficulty by using what is called there “ near-white sugar, which, I believe, is what is called in Queensland “ millwhite” sugar, that is sugar just a stage short of refined sugar. I understand that such sugar can be used for the making of preserves; but the semi-brown sugar we have been getting ferments, and is useless for preserving. I desire that the canegrower may get full value for his produce, instead of having to ship it to Sydney for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to take their cut out of it. Is it too much to ask that the Government shall tell us what effect the proposed arrangement will have on the retail price of sugar before we commit ourselves to it? About eight months before the armistice was signed, some of our merchants informed me that they could buy any quantity of sugar in Java at £7 10s. a ton, and I then urged the Government, mentioning the matter specially to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) and to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), to buy Java sugar, seeing that we would have to import 100,000 tons. I showed
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200318_reps_8_91/>.