8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave). - Pursuant to the decision of . the House the other evening, the Government has taken steps to adjust the price and re-arrange the conditions, as from to-day, under which sugar is sold, and I desire to state for the information of honorable members and of the public exactly what has been done. I may preface my remarks by saying that, owing to the high price of foreign sugar, we have been losing £20,000 a day by retailing sugar at 3½d . per lb . Obviously we cannot continue to do this, and neither ought the people’ to permit its continuance. For, while the public have been buying sugar at 3½d. per lb., as taxpayers they must make good the loss of 2½d. We propose, therefore, to increase, as from today, the retail price of sugar from 3½d. to 6d. per lb. Before dealing with the new prices and arrangements, I may remind the House of the conditions which prevailed under the old agreement. Hitherto the rate for 1A sugar per ton has been, in Queensland and New South Wales, £29 5s.; in Victoria, £29 7s. 6d.; in South Australia, £29 15s..; and at Fremantle, in Western Australia, £3015s. It is proposed now to substitute for these rates a uniform rate of £49. Thus the wholesale price of 1A sugar will henceforth be £49 per ton in all the capital cities of the five States and inFremantle, Western Australia, less a maximum discount of 5 per cent., or £2 9s., making the net amount received by the Commonwealth Government £46 lis. per ton. The retail grocer will buy his sugar at £49 per ton, less a minimum discount of 3 per cent., or £1 9s. 5d., the net cost of the sugar to him being £47 10s. 7d. Selling it at 6d. per lb., he will realize £56 per ton, and make a profit of £8 9s. 5d. per ton, which is equal to over 16 per cent, on the turnover, and nearly 18 per cent, on the cost. Some general observations on the figures I have quoted may be of interest to honorable members. In the first place, the maximum discount has been reduced from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent. Under the old agreement the discount to wholesalers was 6 per cent., subjectto a rebate to the retailer equivalent to 2i per cent., leaving them with 3^ per cent. On the same basis they now receive a net discount of 2£ per cent. The grocer under the former arrangement sold at a profit of £4 0s. 6d. per ton, according to his calculation, or of £4 4s. 6d. per ton, according to our calculation; his profit will now be £8 9s. 5d. per ton. Protests were received from grocers throughout Australia to the effect that they were being asked to sell sugar at a price that was unprofitable to them. To meet the case, the Government have increased their profit to £8 9s. 5d. per ton. The Grocers’ Association is not satisfied with the proposed arrangement, but asks for a 20 per cent, profit. To that, however, we cannot agree. The grocers have been treated very fairly under the new agreement] which allows them to make :twice as much profit as under the old agreement. Furthermore, as we do not charge for the bags in which the sugar is carried, although 70-lbs bags cost ls. each, and sacks ls. 3d. each; the grocer oan increase his profit by 16s. per ton by selling the bags, secondhand, for 6d. each, and the sacks for ls. each, making his gross profit £9 5s. 5d. per ton.
I direct attention now to another alteration made by the Government, which, I hope, will meet with the approval of this House. Under the former agreement retailers were not permitted to buy direct from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It is now proposed that any grocer. may buy a ton of sugar or more, subject to the same conditions as a whole- saler. He will be entitled to precisely the same discount as the wholesaler, and, so far as I know, there is no insuperable obstacle to his dealing direct. The amount of finance involved is not great. A ton of sugar costs £49, and the retailer has seven days in which to sell that quantity and pay the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– What discount will he get when he has purchased direct?
– Exactly the same as a wholesaler; all persons will be treated alike. The discount is, I understand, granted upon a seven-day credit. The amount of discount depends upon the quantity purchased, but the point is that the same discount will be given to the retailer as to the wholesaler. I think the proposal is fair, and I hope this House will support tha Government in its action. As far as it has the power to do so, the Govern-‘ ment is desirous of .preventing any act in restraint of trade. It is necessary to emphasize that the increase in the price of sugar to 6d. is mainly due, not to the contract made with ‘ the Queensland Government for purchase at £30 6s. 8d., but to the high price of at least 100,000 tons of foreign sugar which we have bought, or shall be obliged to buy, to cover the deficiency of local sugar that will exist at the end of the coming season. This is . the main cause of the increase, and I hope that the pre3S, which criticises the action of the Government in having, made a firm agreement for a period of .years for the purpose of encouraging a great Australian industry, will not condemn the contract as one which will have the effect of exploiting the consumer. If it were not for this contract it would be impossible to sell foreign sugar under 8d. or 9d. per lb.-
I will now read the two regulations which have been framed for the purpose of at once protecting the consumer and of fixing - as far as we are able to> do so - the price of sugar-. The first has been made under the War Precautions Act, and reads -
Regulation 49e of the War Precautions Regulations, amended to this date, shall not apply to sugar purchased from the Commonwealth, whether hy the vendor or by any other person, after the date of the making of this regulation.
In plain English, that means that the only regulation made under the War Precautions Act has been for the purpose of repealing the existing regulation under the War Precautions Act. The regulation fixing the price has been framed under the Commercial Activities (Sugar) Regulations, issued pursuant to the Commercial Activities (Sugar) Act passed last year. It reads as follows: -
I will now explain very briefly the meaning of these regulations. Clause 1 recites the authority under which the regulations are made. Clause 2 simply repeats the verbiage of the present regulation and will have the effect of preventing sugar being sold at a higher sum than 6d. per lb. in any of the capital cities of the Commonwealth, except Perth, exactly as the similar regulation under the War Precautions Act prevented a person from selling sugar at more than 3½d. in the capital cities. Clause 3 requires no explanation. Clause 4 relates to sugar already in the hands of persons who have purchased at3½d., and it prohibits the sale of such sugar at a higher price than 3½d. The Premiers of the various States have been informed of what the Commonwealth Government intends to do. They have been asked to support the Government by issuing regulations, or taking such other action as may be deemed necessary to prevent the exploitation of the public, both in regard to sugar and to jam, confectionery, and condensed milk, the sugar contents of which have been purchased at 3½d. In the State of Victoria, as I think honorable members are aware, such action is being taken, and I apprehend it will be taken in every State. The Commonwealth clearly has power to deal with sugar itself, but, in my opinion, sugar already sold - now the property of other persons, and forming one of the main ingredients of such commodities as jam, confectionery and condensed milk - is outside the direct control of the Commonwealth ; and the public must look to the States for such protection as the Commonwealth cannot give. At the same time, the Commonwealth will give every protection in its power.
. - I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “The price of sugar to the consumer.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
– I did not know until the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) rose that he intended to make a Ministerial statement in regard to the price of sugar. This is an important question to the consumers of sugar in Australia. As I pointed out last week on the AddressinReply, an extra1d. per lb. means an additional outlay by thepeople of Australia of £2,600,000. I am not quite sure what proportion of sugar is consumed in the homes, and how much by the manufacturers of jam and confectionery, brewers, and so forth, though I believe brewers do not use relatively so much as do other manufacturers. I understand that about 60 per cent, is used in the homes and about 40 per cent, in manufacturing purposes. However, an increase of 2½d. in the price, on the 280,000 tons which is the estimated amount consumed annually in Australia, means an extra outlay by the people of £6,500,000, because they will pay the increase in any case. It is a serious matter to raise the priceof sugar to this amount.
– It would otherwise have been 8d.
– The honorable member suggests that it would have been 8d. had the Commonwealth not entered into the agreement; and it is possible, according to the Sugar Commission’s report, that it would have been at least that amount, perhaps more. At the present time confectionery factories, jam factories, and other places are hung up for want of sugar.
– The Prime Minister told us the other day that there is plenty of sugar.
– There is not.
– They have been living from hand to mouth.
– At any rate, there has not been sugar in abundance, as was stated here.
– Each factory has had exactly the same quantity as last year.
– Some factories have started in the last year, and other factories, which last vear used only, perhaps, half a ton a week, now employ five times the number of hands, and require five times the quantity of sugar.
Like my right honorable friend the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and many others, I have been to a party meeting this morning, and persons interested in sugar have not been able to get in touch with me; but in the short time that was available I had no fewer than four telephone calls from trade union officials and manufacturers, informing me that factories are closed’ owing to the lack of sugar. The average consumption per head of the population is rather more than 2 lb. per week, and an extra 2½d. will mean an increase in an average family of a husband, wife, and three children, of over 2s. per week. If the producers of sugar need this extra cost in order to provide fair and reasonable conditions of employment, there would not be so much to com,plain of. We must bear in mind that grocers, who we are told, are obtaining more sugar than others, will sell exactly the same quantity as before, only they will get nearly double the profit, or more.
– Grocers said’ they were selling at a loss before.
– We have heard of that; and when I was Minister for Trade and Customs I told many deputations in my room at the Customs House that I had heard of more ruined men there than in any other part of Australia. Some of these men were so upset at this that they had to go for a trip round the world in order to recover. I must say that I am a bit doubtful about the ruin such people allege they suffer.
– There is the Insolvency Court to prove the facts.
– We have heard ‘much of those people, and, as has been said’ before, I suppose they sell below cost, and make their profit on the paper and string which they give away. . However, if the growers and the millers are to receive only Id. per lb., as the agreement provides, the public desire to know where the other 1½d. is going. Is it going to the refining company, or is it going to the distributors ? Is it going to the Government to balance the account? I know that the British Government have been subsidizing various industries, and I read the other day that they were paying £25,000,000 to keep the bread at lOd. or ls. per loaf.
– ‘It was £50,000,000.
– Whether it was £50,000,000 or not, we are told that in the case of sugar we are losing £20,000 per day, which means £120.000 per week, or £500,000 per month. How long has this been going on ? It has gone on only since the amount of sugar produced in Queensland last year has been in consumption. A lot of sugar was harvested last year in Queensland, and not converted from raws into refined, and I wish to know who will get the advantage.
– The Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth, and only the Commonwealth?
– We own it.
– The Queensland crushing is finished about the end of December, and in nine cases out of ten the employees are paid off by the end of November or December; and I again ask who is going to get the advantage. If the money is to square the account, the Commonwealth Government have so much in hand which they could use to reimburse themselves for the loss. It has been stated that the Government purchased 90,000 tons of sugar in Java at. I think, £21.
– I have denied that four or five times, and no doubt my colleagues have also denied it many times. I now deny it again.
– The House has never yet learned the quantity of sugar that was purchased in Java on such favorable terms. In July or August last the Minister must have known how much we were short of sugar for the season. In the present month of March we cannot estimate what the crop will be for this season, but by August, when the growers commence to deliver at the mill, we ought to be able tj estimate within 10,000 or 20,000 tons what the shortage will be. Of course cyclones may come along and wipe out the crop, hut that is not the season when we may expect them.
– We had to buy 26,000 or 27,000 tons this year from overseas.
– I was fairly near the mark when I said that the shortage could be estimated within 20,000 tons, and in my opinion the Government should have provided for that contingency, at least to the extent of purchasing from overseas what Australia would require for the season ending in June next. The cost of living has become so high that the people will want to know why the Government did not make the necessary arrangements, and, furthermore, where the 2½d. per lb. is to go. They will want to know whether the people who are handling the sugar are not getting too much. The Government say that the consumers will have to pay 6d. per lb. to reimburse them for the loss now being sustained through purchases overseas, but this .loss could have been obviated if they had looked ahead.
– Will the Government reduce the price if the sugar-growers of Australia supply the full quantity next season ?
– I take it that th© price of 6d. per lb. will practically stand for the period of three years.
– The honorable member has no right to assume any such thing.
– I am pleased to hear that the people of Australia have a possibility of getting sugar much cheaper - that is, assuming that the Prime Minister’s interjection means that the price is not likely to go higher. I sincerely hope that any alteration that takes place will be down and not up.
– It all depends on whether Queensland produces the sugar or whether we have to buy it abroad, and, furthermore, whether > we have to pay more or less if we are obliged to buy it abroad.
– I hope that it will not be dearer. I notice that four vessels are expected to arrive early next week with sugar from abroad. At the present time our industries are short of sugar, and cannot be kept going, and housewives cannot buy any at any price in the district where I live. I suppose they will be able to get it once the price goes un. but the people will naturally say that the sugar only came to hand when the price went up. A question was asked in another place recently in regard to another commodity, but dealing with’ the same aspect. People will say that these sugar vessels hung off the coast for the purpose of seeing whether the price would go up.
– What vessels ?
– There are vessels coming into Melbourne next week with sugar.
– I will give the people of Australia the option of taking that sugar at what it costs us or adopting the agreement. They cannot obtain the sugar on those vessels under lOd. per lb., but if they prefer it they can have it.
– At 6d. ?
– No, at 10d., or they can have this agreement, whichever they like.
– The price is to be 6d. for an indefinite period.
– Indefinite up to three years.
– When the Commercial Activities Bill was before the House I moved that the operation of the provisions of that measure should extend for ten years in regard to most of the commodities dealt with, claiming that if .Parliament had the power to deal with one article for twelve months, it had the power to deal with a hundred articles for a lengthy period. The Commercial Activities Act will cease to apply to sugar in December of this year.
– We own this sugar, having acquired it from people who had the right to acquire it, namely, the Queensland Government, and as we can make any law we like in respect to something we own, we can renew the Commercial Activities Act so far as it applies to sugar.
– I am pleased to hear that statement, because, if the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to do what the Prime Minister indicates can be done within the limitations of our Constitution, it is very good for those of us who believe in an extension of the powers of this Parliament. It will at least give us a foothold from, which we can proceed to deal with other commodities we may acquire, and the result of the New South Wales State elections shows that it is quite possible we may soon be able to acquire other commodities.
– Why not buy up the wool, and make a big profit out of it?
– Yes ; if Queensland and New South Wales, the big wool-producing States of Australia, can acquire commodities and hand them over to the Commonwealth Government, we may be able to make a very nice little sum with which to relieve those who are most hardly pressed in the community to-day. My surprise is not that there is so much industrial unrest, but th’at, with the high cost of living, there is not much more of it. How on earth the average housewife can bring up a family in decency and comfort as things are to-day I do not know!
What is to happen to those persons we heard something about on Friday last who have been hoarding sugar? In om case we were informed that one manufacturer had bn.en discovered hoarding about 100 tons of sugar. Will they be able to reap the advantage of the increased price ?
– Clause 4 of the agreement provides -
These regulations do not authorize the sale, at a higher price than 3*d. per lb., plus such sum as represents the cost incurred by the vendor in respect of the delivery of the sugar to him, of any sugar purchased from the Commonwealth, whether by the vendor or by any other person, on or before the date of the making of these regulations.
– Then those people who have been hoarding sugar will be in the same position as those who have not hoarded it?
– No. If they have hoarded sugar they will be punished. I made that perfectly clear.
– And I made it perfectly clear that every honorable member in the House would be with the right honorable gentleman in seeing that they were punished. However, by hoarding sugar, some manufacturers will be able to charge the public extra, because it would be impossible to follow the commodity once it is converted into jam. In the ordinary socalled 2-lb. tin of jam, which really con-_ tains not more than li lbs., there is at’ least 4 lb. of sugar; so that the increase In the price of each tin of jam will be fully 2d. By the time the jam is boiled and evaporation takes place, a certain amount of weight is lost. The grocer will demand his increased profit on jam as well as upon other commodities. I ask the Prime Minister to promise that as soon as the Australian crop is such as to allow a reduction in price the Government will bring about a reduction, so that the people will not continue to suffer from lack of foresight on the part of the Ministry in failing to import supplies when they were obtainable at a reasonable price, and when they knew what the shortage in the Queensland crop was likely to be.
– Last week I entered a protest against the House being called upon, practically at midnight, to deal with the contract entered into with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In fairness to the House, when an important statement of this kind is contemplated by a Minister, copies of it should be issued an hour or two beforehand so that honorable members who are deeply interested in the subject may be able to grasp its full effect. This is one of the most important matters that we shall have to consider this session, and the proposal to practically double the price of sugar to the consumer will be viewed with the utmost concern. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that we ought to know where the profits derived from the enhanced price are to go. The cane-grower is entitled to the full sympathy of Parliament, and he certainly has mine. The more I go into the matter the more convinced I am that the cane-growers have never had a fair share of the profit resulting from their labour, and never will have as long as we continue the present patch-work system. We have a right to know what increased return will be secured by the cane-grower as a result of this new arrangement.
– The canegrower is well able to look after his own interests.
– Representatives of the cane-growers have interviewed me and have put their case before members of the party which I have the honour to lead. We, as a party, are satisfied that drastic steps will have to be taken to enable the cane-growers of Queensland to get a fair deal. This new agreement means that the people of Australia will pay something like £15,750,000 per annum for their sugar. In view of the exceedingly high cost of living, and the fact that the prices of all commodities are steadily going up, this represents a very serious burden, and will bring sorrow upon the people.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest ?
– The whole of our arrangements in regard to sugar supplies have been bungled for the last three or four years. A few months before the armistice was signed representations were made to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), that they could obtain in Java all the sugar they required at from £7 to £7 10s. per ton. They knew of the anticipated shortage in the Queensland crop, but they refused to buy then, and later had to import from 80,000 to 100,000 tons, at from £20 to £21 per ton. When these representations were made to them sugar was practically going to waste at our doors. The slightest foresight on the part of the Government should have led them to buy up the surplus for a couple of years.
– Was that proposal actually made to the Government?
-Yes. I came over from Tasmania specially to put it before Ministers. Had they bought the sugar then, when they had the opportunity, in that one year alone they could have made a saving of £1,500,000. If, as common foresight should have dictated, they had contracted for at least a twoyears’ supply they would have saved from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000, or would have been able to give the people sugar at something like a reasonable price.
– Where is this statement by the honorable member to be found ?
– I deliberately came over from Tasmania to put it before Ministers.
– Is it to be found in Hansard?
– No ; Parliament was not in session at the time.
– Would the honorable member agree to an action of that kind being taken behind the back of Parliament?
– I would have taken such action without the consent of Parliament had I been in office. Merchants were refused permission to buy and import at that time.
Another aspect of this agreement is the effect it will have upon the small fruit industry of Victoria and Tasmania. It will certainly be very serious.
– To the jam manufacturer?
– The result will not be so serious to the jam maker as to the small fruit grower. The Minister for Trade and Customs empowered one of his officers to make inquiries into the small fruit industry, and the report of that officer will show that it is impossible to grow small fruit under 3d. per lb. The grower cannot live on a return of less than 3d. perlb. We have been manufacturing jam on the dual basis of 3d. per lb. for fruit and 3d. per lb. for sugar. If the price of sugar is to be increased to 6d. per lb. I dread the effect upon the small fruit industry.
– It may close up the industry.
– I am afraid it will. For some years I have held the view that the whole question of the position of the sugar industry should be grappled with. I speak as one who desires to help the sugar industry. It would be a calamity to Australia if an industry which gives employment to a large number of people in that part of Australia where we most need settlement were crippled. We shall put it on a firm basis only by encouraging a system of co-operation, backed by Government support, and ridding the industry of the incubus in the shape of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which ‘has been penalizing it as far back as I can remember.
– The cane-growers do not say that. They get a better price for their cane than they did before.
– The same statement was made a few evenings ago, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid a better price for cane than did the co-operative companies. A sugar-grower from the electorate of Wide Bay called me out of the chamber, and told me that the statement was false, and indicated where I could get printed evidence in support of his statement. In the hopeless and helpless condition into which we have been allowed to drift, I confess I cannot see any alternative to the agreement we have accepted. We can do nothing else, but my complaint is that this country should never have been allowed to drift into this position. Especially do I say that there was no possible excuse for the insertion in the agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments of a clause, the deliberate object of which was to prevent an extension of cane growing in Queensland.
– It was not operated at all; it was withdrawn within a month.
– i am informed that that is not correct. From the inception of Federation there has been an annual shortage of sugar. i stated last week that there had been a shortage in every year but one. i was immediately corrected, and told there had been a substantial surplus in one year, and in another year a bare margin above the requirements of the Australian people. Having that knowledge i cannot understand why, unless the Government were misled ‘by those whose object it is to keep Australia always on the border-line between supply and demand, why that clause was inserted in the agreement, bearing in mind that its obvious intention was to prevent the extension of the cultivation of sugar. We are paying to the sugar industry a bonus of £6 per ton, which raises the price of the commodity to the public enormously, and the Commonwealth Parliament and people have a right to ask that an industry which is receiving such favorable consideration should at least produce enough sugar to supply local requirements.
– It would not suit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to do that.
– of course it would not. i do not know one of the shareholders in the company; i know nothing about them personally, but having made a careful study of the sugar question i have always regarded the. Colonial Sugar Refining Company as the curse of the industry in Australia. Holding that view; i should not be the man I think I am if I had not the courage to express it. i repeat that in view of the heavy burden we are imposing . upon the people of Australia there should be an immediate attempt by the Government to see if it is not possible, <by a thorough system of co-operation amongst the growers themselves, assisted by the Commonwealth, to place- the industry on a firm and substantial basis, so that those engaged in it may be able to operate it profitably to themselves, and at the same time supply the people of Australia with sugar at a fair and rea;sonable price.
– However we regard this agreement, it means the placing of an extra burden upon the people of at least £5,000,000 per annum; indeed, it seems to be a new method of taxation. To most of the people the burden has already become too heavy, and I believe that if commodities continue increasing in price the people themselves will rise before long, and demand that steps be taken to release them from the clutches of the exploiter. By this agreement we are looking three years ahead, and apparently we are to, proceed in the same haphazard fashion for that period as we have done during the last few years, and probably we shall be in a worse position three years hence than we are to-day. Parts of Australia are admirably adapted for the cultivation of the sugar-beet. If the Commonwealth Government were to take the sugar problem seriously in hand, in regard to the growing and treatment of both cane and beet sugar, we might, in two years’ time, be able to supply our own’ requirements. I find that in 1913-14 we produced 10,000 tons of sugar more than we consumed. For the next three years, the production was considerably less than the consumption; but in 1917-18, there was an excess of production of about 50,000 tons. Since that date, the Australian grower has nut been able to meet the local demand. From to-day, at any rate, the responsibility in regard to the sugar production and supply will rest, not only upon the Government, but upon every member of this Parliament, unless, we are prepared, at some early date, to take some decided steps that will lead to Australia becoming self-contained in respect of this important commodity.
– What steps could we take?
– The Government have been losing thousands of pounds per day in trying to provide our people with sugar at reasonable prices. Would it’ not be better to expend that money in trying to extend the cultivation of sugar cane and beet? There are two ways in which we can do that. If we cannot see our way clear to revive cane planting to an extent that will insure local requirements being supplied, what is there to prevent the Commonwealth Government, or the State Governments, or Federal and State Governments combined, doing something to stimulate the cultivation of beet sugar? It is estimated that the world’s consumption of sugar is about 21,000,000 tons per annum; the estimated production in 1917-18 - the latest year for which particulars are available - was 17,556,000 tons. Those figures, which have been compiled by an expert, were published in the Victorian Journal of Agriculture. Whilst honorable members on different sides of the House - including the Prime Minister - have stated that there has been a decline in sugar production, this article shows that such has not been the case. Figures showing the world’s production disclose the fact that during the currency of the war there was a considerable rise in the production of sugar.
– In 1919 the production, in round figures, was 17,000,000 tons; in 1914-15, 18,000,000 tons; in 1915-16, 15,000,000 tons; in 1916-17, 17,000,000 tons; and in 1917-18, 17,500,000 tons.
– But you have said that the world’s consumption is now 21,000,000 tons, so that, according to your own figures, there is now a shortage of about 4,000,000 tons.
– The point I am making is that, instead of there having been a decline in the production of sugar, there has been at least no falling off in the production. In Australia we should do all we can to increase production. If three years hence we have 100,000 tons or 200,000 tons more than we need for our own requirements, we shall be in a better position than if we ‘had then less than is sufficient for our needs. Whatever our political views, it is our bounden duty to increase the production of sugar in Australia, whether from cane or from beet. We must to-day be the laughing-stock of other peoples, seeing that we could produce our own requirements, but do not do so.
– Why does the honorable member decry Australia?.
– I am not decrying Australia. What I say is that people in other parts of the world, knowing what vast areas of productive land we possess, must laugh at us for leaving ourselves at the mercy of speculators outside Australia. I trust that the Government, now that it has increased the price of sugar from 3½d. to 6d. per lb., will do all it can to increase the production of sugar in Australia, until the supply at least meets the demand.Unless it does that it cannot call itself a National Government.
.- It is amusing to hear the honorable member and others talk about the desirability of increasing the production of sugar, when we know that they are always leaving it to the other fellow to bring about the increase, and know nothing at all about the industry. Some time ago the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.Ryan) made a statement, that was repeated by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), to the effect that the action of the Commonwealth Government in restraining the production of sugar had brought about the present scarcity of that article. I was one of those who waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Prime Minister in reference to this matter, and it was then pointed out that at that time there was a surplus of between 50,000 tons and 60,000 tons of sugar, and every prospect of that surplus being increased by the good season to come. But the good season did not follow, and the surplus was changed to a deficiency. The production of sugar has never been restrained in any sense of the word. The honorable member for West Sydney will know that the Invicta mill was moved into the Haughton district from further south during the time that he says restriction was in operation.
– Why was the clause put in the agreement if not to restrain production ?
– I am going to show that it was never operative. Those acquainted with the sugar industry of Queensland are aware that at no time recently has sufficient cane been grown to keep the mills fully employed.
– Why was the clause put into the agreement?
– To please the honorable member’s Government.
– The Ryan Government protested against it.
– The honorable member for Yarra knows nothing about the matter.
– I have read the agreement and Mr. Theodore’s telegram.
– The Invicta mill was a white elephant, because there was not cane to supply it, and it was therefore moved to another district, where it could be used to better advantage; but every mill in Queensland could have crushed more cane than has been offering. Of course, there has been stand-over cane; but every year there is such cane, not because of the inability of the mills tocrush all the cane offering, but because of climatic conditions. When the season is late, the cane is slow in maturing to a proper density, and cannot be crushed until late in the year, and then the wet season may set in, and reduce the density too much to make the cane worth crushing.
– But that is not why the clause was put into the agreement.
– The agreement was made with the connivance and sanction of the Government of which the honorable member was the head. He knew the nature of it.
– That Government objected to it.
– The honorable member for West Sydney did not object to it.
– That is not true. The objection was in writing, and can be produced.
– The honorable member and his Government could have had anything they chose inserted in the agreement.
– Did not the honorable gentleman’s Government buy the whole sugar crop of Queensland, and take absolute and sole control of it? They could have done anything they chose regarding it. In this matter, I am in the position of Iago when he says of Roderigo -
Now whether he kill Cassio,
Or Cassio him, or each do kill the other,
Every way makes my gain.
Thus it matters not to me whether the agreement is finally ratified or otherwise. If the agreement stands the growers will get all for which they asked, and possibly rather more than they expected.
– For anything I know to the contrary, the honorable member was responsible for the Commonwealth putting in that clause.
– It is all very well to try to turn the tables on me in that way, but the honorable member knows that his statement is not correct. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) could tell him that I, with Senator Crawford and one or two others, waited on them on the subject. We pointed out, in reply to the statement about a surplus then exist ing, that there was likely to be a scarcity shortly.
– What did the Prime Minister say to you when you protested against the clause in the agreement?
– It is not necessary to repeat his exact language. The point that I wish to emphasize is that the restriction never operated upon the output of sugar.
I have been as severe a critic of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as any man in this House, and have never been a friend of the company, but to give it its due, I must say that the company has treated its cane-growers better than the Queensland Government has treated the growers who have supplied the Government mills. When, in 1918, a cyclone destroyed a great quantity of sugar, and practically ruined many plantations, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a grant of, I understand, as much as £400 to some of its cane suppliers, to re-establish them, but the Queensland Government did nothing of the kind. Furthermore, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company gave higher prices for the cane grown to supply their mills at Hambledon, Goondi, and, I believe, on the Herbert River than the Queensland Government gave to the growers who supplied the Government mills at Babinda and South Johnstone. In getting £30 6s. 8d. for their sugar, the growers will be getting as much as they expected to get, and possibly more; but if Australia does not agree to pay that price, she will have to buy her sugar at a much higher price, and the growers will get still better terms. The trouble in the North has been, not with the growers, but with the workers. The honorable member for West Sydney, when Premier of Queensland, had considerable trouble with the workers of Northern Queensland. There was a strike on the railways, which he and his Government were afraid to tackle.
They had a lot of evidence taken, and sent all the papers in connexion with the trouble to New Zealand for a Judge there to express an opinion on the question whether the men were right or wrong, but the Judge who was appealed to declined to have anything to do with the matter.
– The honorable member is evidently misinformed.
– The honorable member may make his own explanations, but he knows that no action was taken by his Government in connexion with that strike. The Queensland Government, of which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was the head, had trouble on the railway also when they tried to send police to quell the disturbances at Townsville. These disturbances in the north have not been caused by the canegrowers; they have always been the victims of the workers. And the weak point in this agreement is that, no matter what may be the nature of its clauses, no matter what specific clauses may be inserted in any agreement or arrangement made with the Australian Workers Union, they will not control the men. They snap their fingers at their own organizations.
– From the moment when trouble of that sort is precipitated this agreement breaks down.
– That may be so, but it does not affect the fact that as soon as this agreement is ratified, and crushing commences next season, the men will want a good “ cut “ of the added price. There may be awards; and some of the men may obey them, but that does not matter to the workers as a whole. The wage is 17s. a day, according to the award, but the award does not control output. Whether a man cuts his half a ton or 2 tons a day , he gets his 17s. ; but it is nearly all done by piece-work. The chairman of the shire council at Port Douglas told me that he had had a gang cutting cane, and that an inspector had notified him that he would have to turn out more cane. That is to say, he would have to put on more cane-cutters. So he took on two extra men, but their union organizer came along. The employer had been giving 9s. a ton for cutting, but the union official told him he would have to pay these extra men at the rate of 13s. They would not begin work until they got that amount, so the employer was forced to pay the two at the rate of 13s. per ton. So soon as they received that wage all the rest of the cane-cutters demanded the same; and they got it. Sometimes curious things happen in the cane country, Generally, purely by accident, of course, a fire-stick gets into the cane if the price demanded by the men is not paid. The cane must then be cut within a given time or it will ferment, after which it will not be worth cutting. I know of an instance where a man was offering £1 a ton to get his burnt cane cut, but the men, who knew full well the urgency of his requirements, demanded £2 a ton. That is the way they will deal with this agreement, notwithstanding whatever the executive of the Australian Workers Union may say or do. The men have said openly that they have no time for Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts. The South Johnstone mill is a very fine institution ; it is a Government mill, well managed; but the trouble is that the manager really has no control at all. The individual who rules there is - I was told when in the district - a cook’s mate. When any trouble breaks out he wires down to the Treasurer, and the deadlock is settled in the way in which the cook’s mate desires. So far as the situation at Babinda is concerned, the hotel is an exceedingly fine place; it cost about £24,000 without its furniture. The manager, who is the right man in the right place, told me that employees in the district could get board and lodging for 30s. a week. That being so, where does the high cost of living come in ?
– Do the boarders get any home comforts ?
– At any rate, they may be obtained within a reasonable distance of them.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made observations many of which are inaccurate, while some of them, in addition, are quite irrelevant. I think I can claim, notwithstanding his assertions to have been the head of a Government which did more for the sugar growers and sugar workers of Queensland than did any other Government in the history of the State. I can also speak with knowledge of the circumstances under which the sugar agreement was entered upon in 1918. When previously speaking in this Chamber, I referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Government had insisted on the insertion of a clause in that agreement with the Queensland Government - but inserted under protest by the Queensland Government - which prevented the extension of the milling capacity in that State during the currency of the agreement. I asserted then, and emphatically repeat now, that the clause was included at the behest of the Commonwealth Government, in order to prevent the production of sugar increasing in Queensland. If there had been any doubt upon the matter, it is at once removed by the fact that the negotiations, as far as they are relevant to my statement, are in writing, and so cannot be contradicted. The clause to which I refer sets forth -
That in view of the large financial responsibility incurred by the Commonwealth Government under this agreement, and in order to avoid, as far as practicable, the production of raw sugar in excess of the normal requirements of Australia, the Queensland Government must not during the said seasons 1918 and 1919-
1 ) erect, or assist in, or encourage the erection of, any new mill for the treatment and manufacture of sugar-cane into sugar; or
. remove, or assist in, or encourage the removal of, any sugar mill from its present site; or
alter, enlarge, or extend, or assist in, or encourage the alteration, enlargement, or extension of any sugar mill so as to increase its present crushing capacity.
That is a very definite clause, which was so drawn as to provide a complete prohibition, not only against the Government extending the milling capacity in Queensland, but also against their encouraging any one else to do, or endeavour to do, the same. The inclusion of that clause was insisted upon, although I personally protested to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). And. subsequently, when the agreement was reduced to writing, a protest was lodged in a telegram despatched by the Acting Premier of Queensland (Mr. Theodore). This is the message which was sent from Brisbane to the Acting Prime Minister : -
Re proposed Sugar Agreement.We are compelled to accept conditions you have laid down, although we regard some of them as grossly unfair. You stipulate that we must not during the currency of the agreement, allow any alteration enlargement, or extension of any sugar mill, so as to increase its capacity. That condition will have the effect of preventing a number of mill-owners from increasing efficiency of their mills, and thus prevent them from being in a position to pay as high a price for cane as other more highly improved mills. You further stipulate that you will not allow any alteration of Sugar Cane Prices Act during currency of agreement. By this embargo you will prevent Queensland Parliament from making effective cane price legislation, which was designed to protect growers from exploitation at hands of proprietary millers. The Act at present requires amendment, to prevent certain large millers from evading its provisions. However, the mills are crushing, and sugar must be disposed of, so we have no alternative, and must accept your terms, but I urge you to give further consideration to these important matters. The agreement, with alteration, giving appeal from refinery manager, as agreed to by you, will be signed and returned to you forthwith, and necessary proclamation will be issued at an early date. 18th June, 1918. ( Sgd. ) Theodore,
Now that telegram embraces absolute, complete, and irrefutable evidence of the truth of my assertions in this Chamber.
– Was that embargo removed ?
– It was not. One little mill was permitted to be removed, but the embargo still remained.
– The Queensland Government were informed that the Commonwealth Government would no longer insist upon that condition.
– When was that? Let us get at the exact date. There was a strong insistence on the part of the Commonwealth Government that the clause be placed in the agreement, in order to prevent theproduction of sugar in Queensland from being increased.
– I will tell the other side of the story.
– The Minister may do so; but here it is in writing. Can he get away from it? Here it is in black and white that the Commonwealth Government, and the Minister for Trade and Customs particularly and individually, were most insistent upon the insertion of this clause. The Minister seemed to know a great deal about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. No doubt it was in the refiners’ interests that the clause had been drafted for insertion in the agreement. Not only that, but the Commonwealth Government insisted that no alteration should be made in Queensland legislation, which had been designed for the protection of the growers as against the millers. It is regrettable that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company should have been allowed to secure agreements between the growers in Queensland and some party who lives outside of that State who is not agrower. These agreements were for the purpose of selling their cane to this person, and then for a re-sale to be made from that buyer - who is outside the jurisdiction of Queensland - to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills, in order that the company should be in a position to avoid the necessity for paying the prices for cane which had been fixed by the Sugar Cane Prices Boards under the Queensland Cane Prices Act. Now that is something which the Commonwealth Government have permitted!, and will the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) or the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) deny it?
– The fact remains that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid higher prices than you did.
– In that arrangement which I have just indicated there is a direct evasion of the Sugar Cane Prices Act of Queensland; and it was in pursuance of a clause which the Commonwealth Government hadinsisted upon slipping in - namely, that there should be no alteration of the regulations or of the legislation - which enabled the company to evade the spirit of the Sugar Cane Prices Act.
– Why was that put there?
– I will tell the honorable member why.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay may be able to do so, but the effect of its insertion has been to deprive the grower of the protection of an Act passed by the Queensland Parliament specifically for his protection.
– And which about 96 per cent, of them wanted.
– No; the growers wanted the Sugar Cane Prices Act, and they wanted it without any fettering, and they wanted the prices which Had been fixed by the Cane Prices Boards under the Act. In my opinion, what we have heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon - namely, that sugar is to be raised to 6d. per lb. as from to-day - is an illustration of the incapacity and bungling of the Government as administrators in the past. It shows also that they have not been candid with the publics - that there has been a suppression of the real facts. How long has all this been going on? How long have we been losing £20,000 a day? Why were the people not told all the facts when the election campaign was on in December last ? They were told there would not be a rise in the price of sugar; but it was then, no doubt, the intention of the Government to make a rise such as has been announced this afternoon - a rise which will have the effect of compensating them- as interjected by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) - for what they have already expended in respect of sugar.
– No, my interjection was to the effect that it would make a balance.
– That it would make up for what the Government have lost before to-day? The Government should represent the people of Australia, and no doubt the expense will eventually fall on the people. If I had my way, when a sudden temporary rise of this sort is made - a rise which falls particularly on the workers with large families - I would rather place the burden upon the shoulders of the taxpayers generally. The method adopted by the Government means taxing the poor people with large families instead of, as the much fairer way, placing the burden on the whole community. The method of the Government of meeting the situation gives opportunity for profiteering. I do not care what precautions are taken, or what precautions the Government allege they are going to take, to prevent profiteering, the inevitable result of this rise in price will be that, in the case of stocks of sugar already obtained at a cheap rate, and in respect of confectionery and other commodities made from such sugar, there will be profiteering. There is no doubt that jam made from sugar purchased before the rise will be sold at a higher price, and that profiteering will go on.
– Hear, hear !
– I am pleased to hear the Leader of the Country party support what I am saying. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that this rise in price is not due to the last agreement. I am quite satisfied that the Queensland Government would not insist on a price that would be too high or unjust so far as the grower is concerned. But there are portions of the agreement which do not altogether meet with my approval, and I doubt whether they would even meet with the approval of the Queensland GovernmentI refer to the charges paid to the refiners and also to the millers. This is a matter which should be reviewed very carefully indeed, before coming to a final opinion, I should like an opportunity to peruse every clause in this agreement, and to carefully study the statement which the Prime Minister has made this afternoon. I agree with the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mc Williams) that more time should be allowed for the consideration of an important statement of this kind. Under present circumstances it is assumed, subsequently, that every member agrees with the proposals of the Prime Minister ; but we should be given a full and fair opportunity of perusing all the clauses and of coming to a deliberate opinion. This sort of agreement should not be allowed to go forth, or be binding, without the approval of Parliament. The Prime Minister, it appears to me, brings down some agreements which he asks Parliament to approve in a hurry ; but there are other agreements which he makes without reference to Parliament, merely informing us of the fact, as he has done this afternoon. As I understand the Prime Minister’s statement, the proposal is to raise the price of sugar with or without our approval. This the Government have decided to do, and, in my opinion, they have decided on a method which, as I say, shows their bungling incapacity. It is a method not calculated to meet the situation, which they have allowed to arise, in a way that it ought to be met, in the circumstances. So far as I am concerned, I shall leave no stone unturned in my endeavours to remove the present Government from office, even if that be done on a motion of this sort. We ought to have Ministers in control of the Treasury benches who are able to clean out the Augean stable, and let us. have a real, straight look at how the affairs of the country stand.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) stated that under the agreement the Queensland Government were not to extend or allow the extension of sugar plant during its currency. To that statement I do not object; but the honorable member should have given the House the whole facts, which I, myself, know from A to Z. When I applied to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to enter into this agreement early in 1918, I had before me figures supplied by Colonel Oldershaw, showing that there was then at least six months’ surplus sugar in hand, and that was so in June, 1918. So far as my recollection goes, this represented somewhere about £6,000,000; and Colonel Oldershaw was afraid, and the Government were afraid, that if they entered into a two or three years’ agreement they might be landed with another surplus of six months’ supply, aggregating twelve months, which would not be to the interests of the Commonwealth. I tried to persuade them all I could that such a thing was not likely to happen. They then decided to make an agreement for two years, but desired to make some other restrictions in it, but I persuaded them not to do so. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) asked me whether there was any objection to restricting the construction of more machinery; and I replied that, so far as private enterprise was concerned, no man would be such a damned fool as to put more machinery into the industry under present conditions, and that, so far as the Queensland Government was concerned, I thought it had advanced quite enough to satisfy itself. However, the Treasurer insisted on the clause, and, of course, he had the right to do so. I think that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) would have been only just if he had stated what subsequently took place, as appears on the records of this Parliament. Shortly after this agreement was entered into, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he would still insist on the clause to which I have referred. The reply of the Minister was “No”; and he said that if the Queensland Government approached the Government to get permission to allow further plant to be constructed, or any alterations to be made to plant, it would not be withheld under the altered conditions. The altered conditions were, as I have pointed out, that in the coming season there was no further chance of any surplus. The answer I received to my question was sent to the sugar districts of Queensland in order to let those interested know that if they desired to extend their plant they’ could do so. I know that a plant was allowed to be moved from Bundaberg to the north, and re-erected there, without any objection being taken.
The honorable member for West Sydney has made a very strong statement in connexion with the Government objecting to the Cane Prices Board’s recommendation.
– It was a scandal.
– What the Queensland Government attempted was a scandal. The farmers, after experiencing cyclones, in which their buildings were, in many cases, nearly destroyed, some of them completely, and their crops blown .out of the ground, necessitating replanting, approached the mill-owners, who said they would advance money for two years if the farmers would give them an agreement for that period to supply their cane at current prices. When the farmers went down as a deputation to the Queensland Government to ask permission to enter into such an agreement, the Minister for Agriculture turned down the proposal, and told them that if the refusal rained them, it could not even then be allowed.
– That is not true.
– I have the facts from the farmers themselves, and they came down to see the Prime Minister about the matter. When such an advantageous offer is submitted as that the rates shall be the current rates, and that there shall be no call for a single penny return out of the first year’s crop, but only out of the second year’s, why should it be turned down? Why should the farmers not. have a chance to replant and reerect their buildings ? That is enough on that score.
– It is enough; for it is quite inaccurate.
– It is quit* accurate, as I can prove to the hilt. It has been suggested that I am advocating the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; but, as a matter of fact, I have no interest whatever in that company. When I read in the report of the Royal Commission, brought into existence by a Labour Government, a statement to the effect that, instead of interfering with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, it was in the interests of the community to allow it to conduct the business, and when I read in the report of the latest Royal Commission, just now tabled, that the Colonial Sugar RefiningCompany pays a higher price for cane than either the Queensland Government mills or the Central mills, somebody has to convince me that the company is the enemy of the grower.
It has been stated in the public press that, after this agreement was entered into, Mr. Knox, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, stated that his company had not made 3 per cent, profit on their agreement. Of course, it may be said that it is easy for the representative of the company to make a statement of that kind ; but we must remember that the Auditor-General’s officers audit every transaction of the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and that such a statement, if not true, is not likely from a man who has any respect for his own word. Under these circumstances, we have the fact that sugar was handled under the agreements- at far less than it could have been by any other company. We have also to remember that when the company was prepared to enter into an arrangement like this with the Government, neither the millers nor the growers objected, showing that the men most interested were satisfied that it was the best under all the circumstances ; but the price was the trouble. I wish to impress on honorable members that no blame should be attached to the Government in connexion with the agreement, in view of the fact that the Government were faced with a surplus of six months’ supply from the previous - season.. I pointed out that the reason for this was, largely, that in the previous year -the notorious Dickson award had come into effect.
Many of the cane-growers would not cut- their cane under that award, so it was held over till the next season and created the surplus. It is all very well for the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) to say that sugar could have been bought in Java at £7 per ton. The price was never lower than £15 per ton, and, besides, there were no ships to take it away. Furthermore, the price was low in Java simply because there were no vessels prepared to take it away, and there was np Government handling the crop or financing the growers, as the Commonwealth Government have handled the sugar crop here, and financed the growers of the Commonwealth. As soon as the armistice was signed, and ships were allowed to go to Java, the Javanese growers secured the world’s parity. It is also all very well for honorable members to say that the sugar production of the world approximates the consumption, when we have it on the authority of the representative of the Cuban Government, who was sent to Europe to obtain statistical information, that the shrinkage of beet sugar production is about 4,500,000 tons, or practically 55 per cent., in comparison with pre-war years. Where is that shortage to be made up in a year or two? Some honorable members object to the fact that the agreement is to cover a period of three years, but let them bear in mind that an arrangement for three years is necessary in order to encourage men to put more land under cane. Even now, if they put more land under cane this year, they will only have two crops during the currency of the agreement.
– For how long were the growers willing to make the agreement in 1918?
– In 1917, I endeavoured to have the price raised to £22 7s., and I believe that if the growers had been offered that price, and the agreement had been made for five years, there would have been such an extension of the industry that the full requirementsof Australia would have been supplied, and- we should not have been purchasers of sugar abroad at a landed cost of £81 per ton. The rate of exchange to be paid is 20 to 25 per cent., and when insurance and freight are added it will be seen that sugar cannot be landed in Australia today at less than £81 per ton. If the agreement is not entered into, what will be the result? The cane-growers and the mills will produce sugar, and put it on the market at the world’s parity - they will be just as free to do it as are butter producers, or producers of other commodities - and our jam factories will be obliged to pay anything from 9d. to lOd. per lb. . They will be deprived of the advantage they have over outside competitors, who cannot get sugar at anything approaching 6d. per lb. Is that the desire of honorable members who oppose this agreement? The arrangement entered into is good for the consumers, and good for the manufacturers of jams and confectionery, and it is fair for the cane-grower, the sugar refiner, and the labourer of Queensland.
– I may be permitted to say a word or two on this matter, by way of comment on some of the statements that have been made by honorable members. I shall not waste the very little time at my disposal in dealing with references to the 1918-19 agreement, to which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has drawn attention, but shall confine my remarks to the broad aspects of the question. First, then, as to the agreement itself. No more eloquent tribute could be paid to the agreement which the Government have made with the Queensland Government and all the parties concerned than that no one in the House has condemned it.
– I am prepared to do so. i
– But it is alleged by irresponsible persons - irresponsible because upon their shoulders rests no responsibility - that the Government could have foreseen the conditions that exist in the world to-day, and have provided against them. It is alleged that the Government are responsible for the fact that the people of Australia are to-day asked to pay 6d. per lb. for sugar, and that had they been gifted with that clairvoyant vision of the future, which is the privilege of certain honorable members, they could have avoided it by buying sugar at £7 10s. a ton and storing it here against the wrath that was to come. Let me deal with this point. In 1917-18 the Government had a surplus of sugar, but it was destroyed by a great cyclone, which cost the Government £250,000. At least that was the sum which the Government paid by way of compensation to the unfortunate sugar-growers whose crops were devastated. Is it contended that we could have foreseen that cyclone? Passing on to the latter part of 1918, it is alleged that we could have foreseen the end of the war. Is there any one here who did foresee the end of it? There are plenty who prayed for it, but none of us foresaw it, except, perhaps, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who, we are told, came all the way from Tasmania to tell the Ministry that the end of the war, or of the world, was approaching, and that they ought to buy sugar. He says we ought to have foreseen the end of the war, and that we could have bought sugar at £7 a ton. But he did not tell us, and he cannot tell us, how it was that when sugar was, as he says, £7 per ton, America, Great Britain, and all the countries in the world were paying a much higher price for their sugar than the Australian consumer, although we had to pay £21 for our supplies. Here was sugar which, according to the honorable member, was to be had almost for the asking, yet America was paying 5½d. and 6d. per lb., and Great Britain still more. How did this state of affairs come about? Why did not the authorities in the United States of America and Britain buy this very cheap sugar ? Was it not owing to the fact that the sugar lying in Java could not be shipped for love nor money? The position of the Javanese sugar-growers was very much the same as that of the Australian wheat-growers, who were glad to accept 4s. 9d. per bushel for their wheat because they could not get more, and do not make half the noise that the honorable member does because we did not see that which could not be foreseen. The honorable member says we ought to have bought cheap -sugar. But that is the very thing we did do! It may be that honorable members are not aware of the fact, although the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has referred to it, that we did buy cheap sugar, though not in exactly the quantities indicated or at the price mentioned. We bought a lot of cheap sugar, and the people of this country have been eating it for many months, and have thus had the cheapest sugar in the world. But it has now all been eaten. The jam-makers of this country have been able to extend their business enormously owing to the fact that, through the action of the Government, they have had the cheapest sugar in the world. If any one has a right to be satisfied with regard to what the Government have done in regard to sugar it is the small fruit-growers and jam-makers. It is sufficient answer to the criticism of the Government in this connexion to say that we now export ten times as much jam as was exported before the war. The price of sugar has now to be increased to 6d., because it is’ impossible to buy the commodity abroad at less than £80 per ton, more or less, and we have exhausted all the cheap sugar we purchased. The honorable member for Franklin says that the agreement is the best we could do in the circumstances, but that we ought to have foreseen the increase of prices. I have set out the facts; they speak for themselves. Any one who could have foreseen the end of the war does not deserve merely to be Prime Minister, but is destined for a very much higher position. We could not foresee the end of the war.. We could not foresee the disastrous cyclone or the shortage due to drought. Two months before the news of the Armistice came upon us the Imperial Cabinet was discussing the 1919 and 1920 campaigns, so that the wisdom of the world at that time was in darkness on matters which the honorable member for Franklin foresaw so plainly.
For the first time the people of this country have had put before them quite clearly where every penny they pay for sugar will go. They know how much the grower the worker, the miller, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will get. They know, too, how much the wholesale houses and the grocers will get; but they do not know what the share of the Government willbe. The Government will get what is left, and if the people work out the figures they will see that it will amount to very little. We do not know what we will have to pay for sugar at the end of the year any more than we could foresee the vagaries of the Queensland crop. If it had not been six weeks late, we would have been very many thousands, perhaps a million, pounds in pocket. Had the estimate of the 1919 crop not been too high, we would have been in a much better position. But all these things are not only beyond the control of Governments, but of mortals generally. We cannot help the position. But I say to the people of this country that if the price of foreign sugar drops, the consumers will get the benefit of the reduction directly. There will be no margin except the mere margin of overhead administrative expenses for the Government. The whole of the profit on this deal goes to the encouragement of one of the great industries of Australia. Surely in this matter we can put on one side all party political considerations and look at the agreement fairly. The best assurance the fruit-grower can have is that he will get his sugar for his jam at a price which is 2d. or 3d. per lb. less than what he would be called upon to pay if there were no agreement. I invite the House, even at this eleventh hour, if it likes to vote against the agreement by voting for the motion for the adjournment of the House to do so - and I ask the honorable member for Franklin to be one of those to call for a division - and if having the whole of the information at the disposal of the Government before them, honorable members elect to reject the agreement, the responsibility will rest, not on the Government, but on the House.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
If the law in Victoria is useless to prevent frauds on returned soldiers, as stated by Mr. E. Notley Moore, P.M., in such cases as reported in the Age and the Argus of 17th March, in connexion with which the bench denounced certain agents’ methods, will the AttorneyGeneral look into the matter and see if the Commonwealth can protect the returned soldiers and sailors and other citizens from such cheating?
– I have looked into the matter. If the referendum had been carried the Commonwealth could have dealt with such cases. Under the Constitution as it stands, it cannot.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Representation in the Assembly.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The whole question of Australia’s representation will shortly be carefully considered, and full information will be supplied to Parliament as early as possible.
asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
Whether he will supply a list of the bonuses paid to employees in the Public Service of the Commonwealth during the period of the war?
– The information desired by the honorable member is now being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Subscriptions and Interest Payments
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he consider the advisability of removing the embargo on the export of mares?
– The question is at present under consideration, and a decision is expected shortly.
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 -
Will he inform the House what is the price of sugar, wholesale and retail, in New Zealand?
– The information is being obtained from New Zealand.
Recommendations of Sir Robert Anderson
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr.WISE. - I have not yet had an opportunity of looking into this matter, but will do so as early as possible, and endeavour to furnish the information asked for by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is his intention to strictly enforce the Commerce Act of 1905, particularly in regard to the weights and quality of tinned meats, butter, jams, and other foods and condiments?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of a statement made by him that the Ministry have decided to introduce a Bill to amend the Public Service Act so as to grant a second period of furlough to Commonwealth servants with forty years’ service, will officers whose services amount to thirty-nine years and eight weeks be entitled to participate in the second furlough, or will they be able to obtain a proportionate share?
– The intentions of the Government will be clearly set out in the amending Bill which it is hoped to introduce at an early date.
Employmentof Returned Soldiers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The output of yarn is governed by the capacity of the spinning plant of the mill. Men cannot make yarn without machines.
The employment of additional men without the requisite machines would be of no avail. The quantity of yarn which the Department has undertaken to supply to the Anzac Tweed Trust, together with the requirements of the weaving plant of the mill, fully absorbs the capacity of the spinning plant.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, 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 Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Commonwealth Indebtedness to British Government
– On the 10th inst., the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked the Treasurer the following question: -
Will he supply the following information: -
The total amount of loans bearing interest payable by the Commonwealth Government on the 31st December, 1919.
The amount of the requests made on the Government by the British Government for the repayment of amounts expended in connexion with war operations.
The amount of the requests made on the Government by the British Government for the repayment of amounts expended since the armistice.
The amount of interest due annually by the Commonwealth Government on all loans.
The amount of interest paid by the Commonwealth Government on the 31st December, 1919.
The balance of interest due on the 31st December, 1919.
The Treasurer replied thathe was having the information compiled, and that it would be made available as soon as possible. I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following additional information: -
– I will lay on the table of the Library the correspondence asked for recently by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in regard to the wool tops case.
– In reply to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Franklin in regard to the moratorium, I have had prepared the following statement setting out the position : -
On the l0th November, 1916, regulations were made under the War Precautions Act providing, inter alia, that a mortgagee shall not, without leave of the Court, call up or demand payment from a mortgagor of the principal sum secured by a mortgage, or exercise any power of sale or take steps for foreclosure.
Had not subsequent action been taken, these regulations would have terminated on the ex piration of the War Precautions Act, and mortgage debts, the repayment of which had been postponed by the regulations, would have become repayable simultaneously upon the date of such expiration.
In 1919 it was decided to amend the regulations to provide for a sliding scale in relation to the dates upon which the mortgage debts should fall due. The mortgage debts which, under the scale, were first repayable, were those the repayment of which had been longest postponed by the regulations.
The amending regulations were made on the 4th June, 1919, and provided, by regulation 13, that a mortgage which, apart from moratorium, fell due prior to 1st January, 1915, should be repayable in August, 1919. Mortgages falling due at various dates subsequent to 1st January, 1915, and prior to 30th June, 1919, were made repayable on a corresponding date between August, 1919, and May, 1920. Mortgages falling due after the 1st July, 1919, and prior to the termination of the war, as declared by proclamation, were made repayable in June, 1920.
As it was considered that the War Precautions Act might expire prior to the dates fixed for repayments, as set out above, a Bill was submitted to Parliament providing that the regulations should continue in force until the latest date for repayments fixed by the sliding scale. This Bill, which is now the Moratorium Act 1919, contained the whole of the moratorium regulations in a schedule, and became law on the 3rd September, 1919.
When the Bill was before Parliament it was considered by members that the first date fixed for repayment by the sliding scale (regulation 13) was too early, and amendments were madeboth in the regulations and in the Bill, so that the dates for repayment of mortgages are now as follow: -
The regulations also contain a provision whereby a Court may, in cases of hardship, extend the prescribed dates for repayment for a period not exceeding twelve months.
It will be seen that the period within which repayments are to be made, as prescribed by regulation 13, is now running.
The following papers were presented : -
Beer Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 40.
Distillation Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 41.
Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 39.
Public Service Act - Promotion of H. McHugh, Home and Territories Department.
.- I move -
The third paragraph in this motion is now unnecessary, since, by the rules of the House, I am permitted to submit the whole question for discussion to-day. I had hoped that the Government, which is almost wholly dominated by the Nationalist party, would make the referendum and initiative a plank of their platform. The Nationalist Association in Victoria has adopted the principle, and also that of the recall, whilst that great organization, the Australian Natives Asosciation, which did more to bring about Federation than did any other, has time after time urged its adoption. It has for many years been a plank of the party to which I have the privilege to belong, and the principle of the recall has been made a plank in the platforms of two State Labour parties. With such a combination one might reasonably have expected the Government to take this matter in hand. By the Age more than by any combination of newspapers, the public of Australiahas been educated on this subject. The Age has unceasingly urged the passing of legislation to give effect to these principles, and one of its chief arguments has been that practically from the inauguration of this Parliament the people outside have been fooled by it. In every new Parliament there has been a majority of members pledged to a Protectionist policy; but only to-day have we before us a Tariff which it is suggested may be up to date. Heaven only knows how much longer we should have had to wait but for outside circumstances, and for the growing public opinion that either the Parliament has become an effete institution or we, the created thing, will not give our creators, the people, fair play. I have only to remind honorable mem bers of the awful indictment of the Government made to-day by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) in regard to the sugar question. If the people outside had the control of Parliament, as they should have, they would not allow the Legislature to continue fooling with this question as we have done. Not only the general public, but the men who fought to retain our liberties, and the women and children who lost their breadwinners at the Front, are being robbed by the profiteering that is rampant to-day. Sugar is a necessity of life; it is one of the best foods we have, and the intentional reduction of the output was an infamy. I wish the people outside had the power of recall. There is nothing to be found in nature, science, or literature analogous to the position this Parliament occupies. God Himself has never made anything more powerful than He is. No man has invented anything which cannot be equalled or counteracted by the invention of some other man. Why should Parliament be the only created thing which, being elected on one day in every three years, becomes superior to its creators, and can do anything it chooses to them ? Why should not they, the creators, have controlling power over the created thing, not for one day in every three years, but for every month and! every year that Parliament exists? If that were done we should soon dispose of the absurdity of having six State Governors. What good do they do? Has any man who has ever attended the splendid entertainments at Government House seen a hungry man or woman at the festive board ? I have seen lots of robbers of the people there. I have enjoyed a good meal at Government House, I admit, but I abhor the frippery and nonsense. The predecessor of the present Governor General would not grant the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) a double dissolution because there was no precedent to guide him. He was recalled, and the present occupant of that office was appointed in his stead. The people of Australia, who pay for everything, including the salaries of the policeman and the GovernorGeneral alike, had no say in the matter. I propose to read one little quotation to show what has been achieved in Switzerland, which is known as “ the school house of Europe” - a little land embosomed in the Alps, where three different nationalities live in harmony, although the homelands from which those nationalities sprang were recently embroiled in that form of wholesale murder which is called war. There the Frenchman, the German, and the Italian will each fight for his beloved country against all others. The three nationalities are able to live in peace, because the laws of Switzerland are founded upon justice, and not upon fraud and chicanery. The reason for that is that the people have control of the Parliament under the twenty-six different forms of government that are utilized in the twenty-four cantons, half cantons, and the Federal Government. The thirty-seven Governments that were signatories to ‘the Geneva Convention paid Switzerland the honour of deciding that the symbol of the Red Cross throughout the world should be the shield of Switzerland with the colours reversed. No decent, self-respecting enemy or belligerent ever fires intentionally upon that flag. Switzerland is the home of the bureau system, out of which was evolved universal postage, the parcels post, and other services which are managed from the International Bureau in that country by the unanimous desire of the civilized nations which contribute to its upkeep. The Government of Switzerland conceived the idea of bestriding the great continents of Europe and America by sending an agent to establish a branch of the bureau in the “United States of America. The highest salary to be paid to one officer in “Washington was £400, and the other expenses would not have been great, because the Swiss Consulate in Washington would have provided office accommodation. I think that enterprise should have been carried out. At any rate, I would have voted for it had I been a member of the Swiss Parliament. But the Swiss people had not been consulted, a petition for a referendum was immediately drawn up, the scheme was re jected, and the officer was withdrawn from the United States of America. Had the people of Australia been possessed of the same power, I wonder if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) would have been allowed to go to Europe to instruct that civilian soldier (General Monash), the greatest general that Australia has produced, how to organize and manage soldiers! The absurdity of such a mission being undertaken by a man who had never managed anything! Never before have I heard of a man being retained in a high position for spending £60,000 on a phantom regiment. The same Minister dismissed upwards of 2,000 brave men in New South Wale3 who had volunteered to go to the Front, but who made a fuss because they resented the action of Major-General McCay in increasing their hours of drill and shortening their leave. Instead of sending them to the Front immediately the Minister for Defence discharged them from the Australian Imperial Force, and a few months afterwards he was yelling for recruits.
If the- United States of America be divided into two equal parts by a perpendicular line, there is not on the western side one State that has not the referendum, initiative, and. recall in some shape or form, whilst on the eastern side, which comprises the older settled parts of the Union, all the States but two operate the principle in some form. The old insult that used to be hurled at the United States of America with more or less truth that it was the home of bribery and corruption is ceasing to be true, for graft is being absolutely eliminated from no less than 457 cities, which are being managed and controlled by Commissioners who are subject to recall. I have always found that a person who is given a fair chance would rather be’ honest than dishonest, and the reputed dishonesties in the cities of America were due to the fact that the public officers were controlled by the big Trusts and Combines, and were not permitted to go straight. To-day corruption is being eliminated from municipal life, and one big politician of Canada whom I met in London at the coronation of the present King assured me that except in two States there was more bribery and corruption in Canada than in the United States of America. What has brought about the change? Nothing but the initiative, referendum, and recall, and it is a noteworthy fact that the strongest supporters of those three magic words are the members of the Country party in the United States of America. The principle of the referendum and recall is strongly supported by the farmers’ unions throughout America. It may be only because of its recent formation that the Country party in this House has not added the principle to its platform. Out of .forty-five questions submitted to the vote of the people in the State of Ohio, no less than seventeen pertained to the farmers’ interests. I propose to read to honorable members a quotation which indicates the rapidity with which the principle of initiative, referendum, and recall is becoming the law in the United States of America. If Switzerland can be justly called the school-house of Europe, the United States can certainly be said to be the school-house of the American continent. I wish our beloved Australia to become the school-house of the world, for it has greater potentialities than has the brave little land in the Alps. Honorable members will understand the truth of that when I tell them that the only natural product which Switzerland is able to export is asphalt. All other exports comprise goods which have been manufactured from imported material. The following particulars, taken from a book issued by the American Academy of Political and Social Science, show that in thirteen years, from 1898 to 1912, fourteen States in America have adopted the referendum and initiative, though some had to have it adopted twice by their Legislatures before it could be submitted to the people.
Progress of the Initiative and Referendum in America. 1897. - South Dakota legislature voted to submit an initiative and referendum amendment to constitution. 1898. - The electors of South Dakota adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 23,876 to 16,483. 1899. - Oregon legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Utah legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution. 1900. - The electors of Utah adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 19,219 to 7,786. 1901. - Oregon legislature a second time, as required by constitution, voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Nevada legislature voted to submit referendum amendment to constitution. 1902. - The electors of Oregon adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 62,024 to 5.668. 1903. Nevada legislature a second time, as required by constitution, voted to submit referendum amendment to constitution.
Missouri legislature voted, to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution. 1904. - The electors of Nevada adopted referendum to constitution by vote of 4393 to 702.
The electors of Missouri defeated initiative and referendum amendment. 1905. - Montana legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution. 1906. - The electors of Oregon adopted supplemental initiative and referendum amendment to constitution by vote of 46,678 to 16,735.
The electors of Montana adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 36,374 to 6,616. 1907. - The electors of Oklahoma adopted a state constitution, including provisions for the initiative and referendum, by vote of 180,333 to 73,059.
North Dakota legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution. The following legislature failed to submit amendment as required by constitution.
Maine legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Missouri legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum’ amendment to constitution. 1908. - The electors of Missouri adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 177,615 to 147,290.
The electors of Michigan adopted a constitution containing provision for referendum on laws and initiative on constitutional amendments by vote of 244,705 to 130,783. 1909. - Arkansas, legislature voted to submit initiative referendum amendment to constitution.
Nevada legislature voted to submit initiative amendment to constitution. 1910. - The electors of Arkansas adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 91,367 to 39,111.
Colorado legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
The electors of Colorado adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 89,141 to 28,698. 1911. - California legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
The electors of California . adopted initiative and referendum amendment by vote of 168,744 to 52,093.
Nevada legislature a second time, as required by constitution, voted to submit initiative amendment to constitution.
Washington legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Nebraska legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Idaho legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Wyoming legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
Wisconsin legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
North Dakota legislature voted to submit initiative and referendum amendment to constitution.
The electors of Arizona adopted a constitution containing provision for the initiative and referendum by vote of 12,187 to 3,822.
The electors of New Mexico adopted a constitution containing provision for the referendum by vote of 31,742 to 13,399. 1912. - The electors of Washington will vote on adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election.
The electors of Nebraska will vote on the adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election.
The electors of Idaho will vote on the adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election.
The electors of Wyoming will vote on the adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election.
The electors of Wisconsin will vote on the adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election.
The electors of Nevada will vote on the adoption of initiative and referendum amendment at the November election,
The electors of Indiana will vote on the adoption of a constitution, containing provision for the initiative and referendum, at the November election.
The constitutional convention of Ohio has submitted a series of amendments to its constitution, including one providing for the initiative and referendum. These will be voted on at a special election, September third. 1913. - North Dakota legislature will consider, the second time, amendment to the constitution providing for initiative and referendum.
I urge the House to adopt these proposals. As the Nationalist party of Victoria have adopted them, and the Australian Natives Association and the Australian Labour party have them on their platform, and as that great paper the Age is fighting for them, I feel sure that the herald of victory is within sight.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That a Select Committee, consisting of seven members of this House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the conditions of the Australian overseas and Inter-State sea carriage.
The shipping of Australia is controlled by the Commonwealth Shipping Board and the Inter-State Central Shipping Committee. The first of these bodies consists of : Engineer Rear-Admiral Sir William Clarkson, Controller of Shipping; Senator Guthrie; Colonel Oldershaw, representing the Commonwealth Government; Sir. Owen Cox, of Birt and Company; Mr. Wesche, of Macdonald, Hamilton and Company; Mr. Newman, of Howard Smith Limited; Mr. Hunter, of McIlwraith, McEacharn and Company; Mr. Bright, of Gibbs, Bright and Company; Mr. Brodie, of John Sanderson and Company; Mr. Eva, manager in Australia of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers; and Mr. Dowdell, branch manager of the Orient Line. All our oversea shipping is in the hands of this Board, whose arrangements have been most unsatisfactory to the people of some of the States at least. In Tasmania, the secretary of the local Board is the servant of one of our biggest exporters, and there the conditions, to state the fact mildly, have been the reverse of satisfactory to the shippers and the trading companies. The Inter-State Central Shipping Committee consists of : Engineer Rear-Admiral Sir William Clarkson; Mr. Hunter, Deputy-Controller of Coastal Shipping; Mr. Appleton, of Huddart, Parker Limited; Mr. Hughes, of the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand; Mr. Newman, of Howard Smith Limited; Mr. Northcote, of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company; Mr. York Syme, junior, of the Melbourne Steam-ship Company; and Mr. Turnbull, of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company. It will be seen that the members of this committee, like the members of the Board which controls the oversea shipping, are all managers of shipping companies interested. When the composition of the committee was announced to Parliament, I was sitting behind the Government, but I at once rose in my place and urged that representatives of the public should be appointed to the committee. It was pointed out that that was not possible, and then I asked that four members of the House, two chosen from each side, should be appointed to the committee, to look after the interests of the public. That has not been done, and I say now, deliberately, that the committee’s control of our shipping has been the reverse of satisfactory.
– These men have exercised the control in their own interests, of course.
– By way of illustrating the way in which our shipping affairs are being mismanaged, let me instance what occurred in connexion with the recent strike of marine engineers. That strike should never have been allowed to break out. The engineers, had been treated most unfairly, because there were tin the engine-rooms of our steamers men who had paid considerable sums for their engineering education, and had spent years in learning their business, and yet were receiving less than the pay of stokers, while their accommodation was disgraceful. Had half the terms that were offered afterwards been offered before the strike commenced, with the right of an appeal to the Court, there would have been no strike. I blame the engineers for not accepting the Government offer, because it was a fair one; but there would have been no< strike had tilings been better managed. I came across Bass Strait on the Oonah on 18th December last. Her crew had then two months to run under their signed articles. They had signed on in Sydney, and so long as the vessel was running between Melbourne and Tasmania, the engineers and others on board her were compelled to keep to their duty. I am not betraying a confidence when I say that those engineers were willing to remain at work, and had the full and complete sanction of their union for doing so. Before the steamer arrived at Melbourne, there was some trouble with the cooks and stewards, and her crew .was paid off. Although the difference with the cooks and stewards was quite unimportant, as the Oonah was at that time the only steamer of any size trading between the mainland and Tasmania, this meant that Tasmania was thus absolutely cut off from communication, with the result that between 500 and 600 persons, among whom were many women and chil dren, were stranded in Melbourne under the most painful circumstances. After some time the Tasmanian Government allowed their tourist bureau here to pay the board and lodging of these persons pending a settlement of the trouble; but although I had intended to remain only two days in Melbourne, I had to stop here for two months, because I could not leave all these persons unassisted. In the end, they were taken across on small boats. The Grace Darling, which was working under the same conditions as the Oonah, continued to be run.
– Who paid off the engineers on the Oonah 1
– The Inter-State Central Shipping Committee.
– You do not blame the engineers for that?
– No; I am trying to put the blame where it should lie. There was no reason why the crew of the Oonah should have been paid, off, because from the captain downwards, those on board were prepared to keep running her, as the Grace Barling was being kept running, and, until she returned to Sydney, the engineers could not give notice. But a telegram was sent to Burnie by the Shipping Committee, asking the captain and officers to stand by the vessel, and saying that the rest of those employed on her would be discharged on her arrival in Melbourne. What is the position of affairs to-day? It is not now possible to run a boat between Tasmania and Queensland. For some years I have been trying to secure direct communication between these two States, for the reason that, the one being the most temperate, and the other the most tropical, State, there is a great basis of trade betweenthem. The difficulty, however, is that we are compelled to ship ;prod’uce from Tasmania to Sydney. “We have to discharge perishable produce upon the Sydney wharfs, and it must lie there until a boat is going to Queensland. Then the produce has to be transhipped into the Queensland vessel, and taken on to a port in the Northern State. If the people of Tasmania desire to import maize or sugar or any other product from Queensland, we cannot do so direct. The stuff must be brought down to Sydney and discharged on the wharfs. Then it must be transhipped to Tasmania. Why ? Because there is an honorable understanding between the shipping companies to the. effect that one firm shall not trespass upon the preserves of another.
– The whole of the Inter-State shipping should he nationalized.
– i win not say that; but, to the extent that shipping has been nationalized, we have secured far worse terms. for the people than ever before.
– The best course would be to let matters return into the hands of the shipping companies.
– i think so, too - with such provisions, however, as this Parliament ought to insist upon. Will the Minister, for example, defend the action taken by the Shipping Board with regard to the Oonah?
– You made a good deal, and you know it.
– Then, if we have had a good deal, God help those who have made a poor deal !
– The honorable member has no consideration for the difficulties of the situation at all; he is always carping.
– I say deliberately that the Shipping Board does not give a fair deal to the people of Tasmania. The whole of the InterState trade has been placed under the full strength of the War Precautions Act and its regulations, and, at the same time, the Government have commandeered the Inter-State fleet and placed those vessels in the hands of the companies themselves. What is the position now ? Here are telegrams from my own State. Producers cannot get supplies of manures. Sowing has had to stop. I have had messages from two of the biggest firms in Tasmania, intimating that it is impossible for them to supply farmers with manures, and that, as a result, the industry is practically held up.
– We have handled a very much greater quantity of stuff than was ever handled before, and with fewer ships. Nobody knows that better than the honorable member.
– This is the first time within my knowledge that the farming operations of my State have been held up for lack of manure. I suggest that the Government reconstitute the Shipping Board’ if it is to continue in existence. I will recall to honorable members what happened with respect to quarantine. Hundreds of Tasmanian women were stranded in Melbourne, and the Shipping Controller would not allow one of them to depart for home. I was informed that the reason for this prohibition was that there was no quarantine accommodation available in Tasmania.
– Your own State held up shipping. Your own authorities insisted upon a ship remaining for seven days and longer
– I am now dealing with the Shipping Board and with their hold-up. These women could not sail for Tasmania because the Shipping Board said there was no quarantine accommodation. I knew that that excuse was inaccurate, because I myself had inspected the Tasmanian quarantine accommodation. I sent a telegram to the Federal Health Officer in .Tasmania, who informed me that there was quarantine accommodation available. In order to make my case absolutely sure I despatched a “ wire” to Dr. Goddard, in charge of the quarantine station at Bruni, and he replied that there was accommodation for thirty men and twenty-seven women. But the Shipping Board would not allow the women to travel. In the case of some of the stranded families ruin stared them in the face. I know of one instance in particular where a man was compelled to take passage for Tasmania in order to save his affairs, but the only way in which he could do so was to ship as a steward, and for his wife to engage as a stewardess. This Board has crucified my State.
– What does the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) say to that?
– i believe that the honorable member has used his influence, both before and since his connexion with the Ministry, very much in the same direction as myself; but I realize that when a member of Parliament enters a Ministry he is not in a position to speak quite so freely as if he were untrammelled. Tasmania is absolutely at the mercy of Inter-State carriage. All I ask is that upon the proposed Shipping Board there shall be proper representation of the commercial and trading community, and the primary producers of the Commonwealth. When the Government objects that there is no one whom they can select for the Committee,
I point out that it could be a nominee Board. I have made a fair offer. I suggest that two members . be appointed from each side of this House. I do not care who they may be, but am satisfied that they would give a fair deal.
I am not at all satisfied with the oversea shipping arrangements. Last year three firms in Tasmania secured the cold storage space available for the export of apples. The fruit-grower had had a bad time. The whole of his pear crop had rotted in the orchard; a good portion of his apple crop was rotting. When the orchardist was offered from fs. to 7s. 6d. per case for his fruit in Hobart, he found he was compelled to sell for 6s. per case to those people who had monopolized the shipping space. “What would producers upon the mainland think and do if wheatgrowers were offered 6s. 6d. to. 7s. a bushel, but were compelled to sell to some party for 5s. or 5s. 6d. per bushel, because that party had secured a monopoly of the shipping space?
– But the Government are taking no notice of you.
– My only hope is that the House will take notice.
– Hear, hear! We will help you.
– Is it not a fact that I assisted the honorable member very considerably to secure shipping space for Tasmania ?
– I have always said so, and I regret that the Minister should have left the Department.
– Is it not a fact that I got double the space which Tasmania had had before?
– Well, i think i did something toward securing what we have got. The. fact is that we have not got nearly the extent of freight space that we had before. The average quantity of apples shipped from Hobart to England for the four years prior to the war was about 840,000 tons. The total shipping space likely to be made available to us this year, I am afraid, will not exceed 600,000 tons. The Government should agree to the appointment of a Select Committee. If I am not wanted upon its personnel I will willingly stand down and leave the Government free to choose from whom they like. It has been truly said that those who control transport govern the community. Tasmania, being an island State, is absolutely at the mercy of the shipping companies. Before the war we were paying 2s. 6d. to 2s. 9d. per bushel for freight to England. During the war, while submarining was at its height, and when ships were being sunk every day, the then Minister for Trade and Customs fixed what was described as a fair price for the freight upon apples, namely, 3s. 6d. per bushel. The war ended, and last year the freight rate was raised to 7s. 6d. per bushel. This year it has been raised still further - to 8s. per bushel.
– What reasons have been furnished for these huge increases ‘(
– I cannot get any. The Wiltshire left Hobart a couple of days ago with 140,000 cases of apples on board. The freight rate was 8s. per case. That is to say, she is carrying in fruit freight value alone what would’ have been practically equivalent to the worth of the vessel before the war.
– Was this one of our ships ?
– Then what is the use of referring to it?
– I desire an inquiry into the whole of the circumstances connected with our shipping freights and charges, because I believe that good, and certainly no harm, can result.
– You submit the motion in a kindly spirit?
– i do. I have said privately, and I say publicly, that, while the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) was in control of the shipping, he, in my opinion, did his best to get what shipping he could for overseas. I wish to know what the shipping people are making out of. this deal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated the other day that the Government had lost about £30,000 on the Inter-State shipping trade, and I see no reason to doubt the figures.
– The increase in wages, and the new conditions, meant £600,000.
– I believe that the loss to the Commonwealth was due to the length of time the boats were hung up. During the last twelve months, speaking from memory, we have had one strike of fourteen weeks, and one of eleven weeks, thus accounting for more than half the year when the boats were earning nothing, although the Government were paying full charter.
– Apart from the strikes, we were as well served as when the influenza epidemic was on. What boats were taken off the coastal trade?
– TheRotomahana was one that was taken off. For cargo boats of 4,500 tons, the Government paid a charter of 14s. a ton per month, or £54,000 a year. I believe the rate has been considerably increased since; and there ought to be no loss on such figures. For smaller boats of 1,500 tons, the Government paid £14,888 per annum, and, again, there should beno loss.
There are other matters which are more of local concern. Under the Federal contract with the Union Steamship Company and Messrs. Huddart, Parker, a certain amount is paid for the carriage of the mails to Tasmania, a condition being that fares shall not be increased without the consent of the PostmasterGeneral. When the first strike to which I have referred was on, the companies did not increase their fares, but, on the ground that they could not guarantee return passages, they did not issue return tickets, and made passengers pay full single rates both ways. This plan the shipping companies have continued ever since. When I asked the PostmasterGeneral, in Parliament, whether his consent had been obtained to this alteration in the fares, he said that it had not, and that he knew nothing whatever about the matter; and it is certain that the companies have evaded the spirit, if not the letter, of the contract. Since then there has been another increase, and I am informed that still another is about to be made.
– How do you account for the majority of Tasmanian members, who support the Government, allowing this sort of thing to go on ?
– I do not wish to import political considerations into this question; and I appeal to the House whether I have not tried to put the case fairly and moderately. I feel very sore about the present condition of affairs, because I have seen people in Tasmania crushed by rings and monopolies, in whose grip we are. It is not creditable to the country that it is now impossible to trade directly between Queensland and Tasmania. These States have more in common than any other two, and present many reasons for direct trade, in view of the fact that one is the most tropical, and the other the most temperate, in Australia. Goods sent from Tasmania to Queensland, or vice versa, have to be transhipped in Sydney, and are left exposed on the wharfs until some other boat comes along, and all because of this “honorable understanding” amongst the. shipping companies.
There is not an export port in Tasmania that is not absolutely clogged with produce which is urgently required in other States. The honorable member for Darwin can bear me out when I say that the wharfs in his electorate are laden with potatoes, that deteriorate in the waiting so much as to be scarcely worth shipping; and similar conditions can be found at Burnie and Devonport. I am not asking too much from the Government when I move for a Select Committee to thoroughly investigate the overseas and Inter-State shipping conditions of Australia, because the result must be to the best interests of the whole of the community.
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the motion. There may be actually nothing wrong with the control of shipping, but there are many suspicious circumstances which it is desirable should be cleared up for the sake of the public and the good name of the Government. As an instance, let me cite the case of the Five Islands, a steamer which was lying idle in Sydney at a time when we were supposed tobe suffering seriously owing to lack of shipping. The vessel had been idle, not for days, but for many weeks, and a small firm in Sydney obtained a charter to carry from Darwin to southern ports certain goods that are urgently needed here. The charter was one which would return those concerned only reasonable interest; and it was considerably to their astonishment, and to the astonishment of the owners of the goods which they had in view, when the Controller of Shipping ordered the charter to be cancelled, and informed the charterers that, instead of going to Darwin, they would be called upon to carry coal from New South Wales ports to Adelaide and other South Australian ports. I do not insinuate that there was anything wrong in what was done, but, at the least, the facts are such that some investigation is desirable. The charterers of the Five Islands were ordered by the Controller of Shipping to carry this coal at a price which showed an actual loss per trip; and, as an indication of the rottenness of the control, they were not allowed to bring one ounce of back cargo from South Australian ports to enable them to turn the charter into a payable one. I am indebted to the persons who chartered the Five Islands for the facts I have stated, and I am informed that the result was a loss of hundreds of pounds, while goods in Darwin were hung up there because no shipping was available. Honorable members from Sydney, who come in contact with shipping people, know of many instances of boats being laid up for weeks, and also know that the moment any attempt is made to charter -them for trade the Controller steps in and stops proceedings. It would be interesting to know what happened in connexion with the chartering of the Gabo when she was lying idle. A charter, obtained by certain people, was cancelled by order of the Controller, but it would appear that certain other people were able to charter her for a trade which took her away from the Australian const. Of course, everything in this transaction may have been right and legitimate, but there is room for inquiry and explanation. It is a remarkable thing that the Inter-State shipping companies are allowed to do the very business that the . small ship-owners desire to carry on, while the Five Islands is given the non-paying business of carrying coal to South Australian ports without return cargo. Whenever there was a chance of a trader securing a return on a charter of a boat, the charter was nearly always cancelled.
– Was the Five Islands under commission ?
– When this person secured a charter of the Five Islands the vessel was lying idle in Sydney Harbor.
– We had no control over vessels which were not in commission.
– What a lovely admission of incompetency from the Minister! He admits that the Government had no control over boats that were lying idle, but immediately private individuals sought to put them in commission the Government could step in and prevent them from endeavouring to carry on trade.
– I admit nothing of the kind.
– When the Minister rose to secure the adjournment of the debate, he evidently feared that facts such as I have mentioned would see the light of day. Knowing that honorable members have heard the admission of the Minister, I am prepared to resume my seat.
– It is a most deliberate misstatement of what I said.
– Will the Minister repeat what he said?
– I always endeavour to be fair, and I gave the Minister the opportunity of correcting me; but he has refused to repeat his statement. However, honorable members heard what he said, and, in the circumstances, I feel sure that they will vote for the motion moved by the honorable member for Franklin.
Motion (by Mr. Atkinson) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I did not anticipate that this very important motion would be called on to-day-, and, in the circumstances, I am not prepared to say all I want to say on it. If the adjournment had been allowed to go through on the voices, so much prominence would not have been attached to the motion as has been given to it by the division just taken. In the meantime one could have ascertained whether the Government were favorable to the appointment of a Select Committee.
The motion is wide enough to embrace the whole question of shipping control. I have already said during this session that the Government, would be well advised to get rid of their control of shipping; but I do not think that some of the public who are now complaining would be too well pleased if it were done, because immediately the Government control is lifted, freights and fares on the Australian coast will rise considerably. As a matter of fact, the Government are losing money hand over fist on shipping. On one occasion last year I had to spend seventeen days in quarantine owing to influenza breaking out on a vessel on which I was travelling, and although it must have cost at least 10s. per head per day to keep the passengers and ship’s crew, the Government’s charge for our upkeep was not more than £1 lis. 6d. per head for the whole period,
– The honorable member for Wilmot* has already moved a specific motion, namely, for the adjournment of the debate. He has spoken already during the debate, and therefore cannot be in order in speaking again.
– An honorable member who moves the adjournment of a debate is always entitled to the first call when the debate is resumed. The honorable member for Wilmot, having moved the adjournment of this debate, is perfectly in order in speaking now that the debate has been resumed!. The moving of. the adjournment of the debate does not amount to a speech on the substantive motion.
– The traders in many parts of Australia desire the Government control of shipping to cease. But for action taken by the Controller of Shipping, a number of vessels of less than 1,000 tons register would have been able to run on the Australian coast during the Marine Engineers’ strike. It is true, as the honorable member for Franklin said, that great dissatisfaction with shipping conditions has existed for a long time in Tasmania. Owing to the influenza .epidemic, the occurrence of strikes, and other causes, we have had a great shortage in transport facilities, and our producers have suffered heavy losses. They are naturally indulging in hard words against the control. Shortly before I left Tasmania, a large number of producers representing the north-west coast met in conference, and decided to send a deputation to Melbourne to interview the Prime Minister and the Controller of Shipping. That deputation has n’ot yet arrived. I am very anxious that producers and others who have reason to complain should learn first-hand what the Government have to say in support of the position taken up by them. In that way, many misapprehensions would be removed. My desire i6 that this motion shall be carried.
– Then why not let us go to a division on it?
– It is useless to vote on the motion until we hear what the Government have to say on the subject. My own view is that a comprehensive inquiry would clear up what appear to be a number of suspicious circumstances, that have made an impression on the minds of many people. I do not believe there is any foundation for many of the complaints that are being made. I have been in touch with the Controller of Shipping for some time, because, in my electorate, there are important ports from which large quantities of produce are shipped to the mainland. I am satisfied that, having regard to the shipping available, the Controller has done his best to meet our requirements*.
– Why talk out the motion ?
– I am not. Had honorable members remained quiet, I should probably by this time have concluded my remarks. I am not to be put down by a little popular clamour.
– The honorable member is not acting in the interests of ‘the State of which he is a representative.
– I have a better knowledge of the interests and requirements of my State than has the honorable member. The people of Tasmania are not likely to think that the honorable member is trying to help them; his real object is to “ sting “ the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member entitled to reflect upon the honorable member for Angas ( Mr. Gabb) by suggesting that, in voting against the adjournment of the debate, he was actuated only by a desire to “sting “ the Government?
– Owing to the number of interjections, I did not hear what the honorable member said, but he would not be in order in reflecting on another honorable member.
– If I cast any reflection upon the honorable member, I certainly withdraw it. I do not wish to delay the determination of this question. I moved the adjournment of the debate because I desired to speak to the motion, which was unexpectedly reached this afternoon, and was unable to obtain some notes I had prepared on the subject. I support the demand for an inquiry, and shall vote for it on a division.
– Is that why the honorable member moved the adjournment of the debate?
– I was not ready to proceed with it.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! While an occasional interjection may be overlooked, I cannot allow these constant interjections to continue.
– It was only due to the courtesy of the Minister that the honorable member for Franklin was able to submit his motion this afternoon. It was not anticipated that it would be reached.
– The Minister tried to block it.
– He could have blocked it had he wished, but he did not.
– In their own interests the Government would be well advised to grant the Select Committee for which the honorable member for Franklin asks. It would enable us to obtain much reliable and valuable information for our future guidance, and would certainly clear the air.
Several honorable members again in
– I have called for order on several occasions. The continual making of audible comments while an honorable member is speaking leads to gross disorder, and cannot be permitted. I ask the House to assist me in carrying out the Standing Orders, since it is only with the support of honorable members that the Chair can insure the orderly conduct of debate.
– It is only right thatthe public should know the history of the Shipping Control. The Government are losing a great deal of money in connexion with it. At the outset, they derived considerable revenue from it in connexion with the overseas trade, but all the money so obtained has been spent, in addition to hundreds of thousands of pounds in continuing the control, and the Controller will have to ask Parliament for a substantial sum to enable him to carry on. If the control is removed there will undoubtedly be an immediate increase in fares and freights, otherwise shipping will leave our coast. The shipping companies are not likely to carry on under existing conditions. On the other hand, the Government themselves cannot continue the control without increasing fares and freights if they are to have due regard to the welfare of the general body of taxpayers. Thus from every point of view it is in the interests of the Government that there should be a thorough investigation, and that they should divest themselves as soon as possible of the control of shipping. No matter what they do, there are many people who will find fault with them, and they would certainly get into calmer waters by allowing the shipping trade to revert back to the old system. Merchants and others are asking for the control to be lifted, and they must not complain if, as a result of the granting of their request, their position instead of being improved becomes worse.
The honorable member for Franklin has often in this House drawn attention to the position of the primary producers in his electorate. In my own electorate as the result of the shipping strike the people have lost thousands of pounds. While the strike was in progress the price of potatoes in Sydney was very high. Producers in my electorate who, on the whole, had secured a good crop, would have been able to obtain excellent prices on the Sydney market had shipping been available. As it is, hundreds of tons of potatoes will, never be dug. The eel worm, the grub, and various parasitic growths have got into them, and they are now not worth digging. The Controller has done his best .to meet our shipping requirements, but he has had a very hard row to hoe, and I think he will be well pleased if the control is speedily lifted.
I had intended to put before the House some figures relating to this question, but since the motion was called on unexpectedly I have not been able to obtain my notes, and have had to be content to roughly outline to the Government tho position in Tasmania to-day.
.- I voted for the continuation of this- debate, because, as a Queensland representative, I have certain complaints to make against ‘the manner in which the shipping has been administered. I say nothing against Admiral Clarkson; I believe he is the most capable man that we could possibly get for the position. I know that it is necessary to increase the rates of freight in order to make the shipping business pay; the people of Queensland offer no objection to that, but they do object to the present differential treatment. If we have shipments from Adelaide, and we cannot get through freight to the port of discharge, the goods are transhipped at Melbourne and Sydney, and finally at Brisbane, if they are destined for Rockhampton, Maryborough, Townsville, or other ports, and the consignees are charged short-distance freights, plus transhipment charges, which increase the cost to the consumer by as much as 33 per cent. Some alteration has been promised to the extent that, if through freight, is booked to Maryborough or Rockhampton, by a through steamer through freight rates will . be charged. Admiral Clarkson has promised to try to arrange for vessels to run right through to the port of discharge, but there is no guarantee that he will be able to do that. In the meantime, the people of Queensland are taxed by the short-distance rates and the extra cost of transhipment. If the Government would only make some arrangement which would enable the Queensland merchant to know what his goods will cost before they arrive, he would be prepared to pay a higher rate, but he desires to know in advance what the rate will be, so that he can calculate his costs and quote the storekeepers for the goods with which he will supply them on arrival. So far, I have not been able to get a promise that that will be done. The Chambers of Commerce have written asking me ‘to urge that this relief be granted. I desire from the Minister controlling shipping an assurance ‘that Queensland merchants will be able to get through rates of freight from any port of shipment to the port of discharge. In connexion with shipments from overseas, we used to get bills of lading to the port of final discharge, and by that means were able to at once calculate our costs; but to-day our goods from London are discharged in Melbourne or Sydney, and we have to appoint agents to take charge of them, make fresh entries, and see that the consignments are removed to another wharf for transhipment to Queensland. All that expense could be saved by reversion to the old conditions that obtained when the shipping business was carried on by private enterprise without any interference from the Government. Wow it is hard to calculate what additional charges we shall have to pay on our overseas goods on account of the employment of agents at each port of transhipment, additional insurance, and fresh Customs entries, cartage, and so forth. Why should not the officers who are connected with the Inter-State shipping be employed to carry on the work under the old conditions, and thus obviate some of the extra cost to the Queensland merchants ? Why cannot we now revert to the conditions that obtained before the war? Large shipments are now coming from overseas, and we desire to know what treatment is to be meted out to consignees in Queensland in respect to goods landed in Sydney and Melbourne. In the past the Inter-State shipping companies took charge of transhipped goods, and forwarded them at the earliest opportunity to the port of final discharge, without making any extra charge. I quite understand that while the strike continued it was impossible for Admiral Clarkson to accept the full responsibility for goods, which had to remain on the wharfs for an indefinite period, and were liable to pillage. Under the old conditions the companies which accepted goods for carriage were responsible for losses by pillage; but what chance has a merchant in Queensland now of recovering losses in this way, when it is impossible for him to ascertain whether the pillaging took place on the voyage to Australia or between Australian ports? Losses by pillage are serious to the merchant. The shipping companies stated some time ago that the claims they had to pay in Sydney alone for pillage amounted to £100,000 per annum. If the merchants are obliged to bear that loss which formerly was borne by the shipping companies the cost of living must be increased considerably. This matter is of such vital importance to the people that an opportunity of discussing it in the House should not be withheld. I ask the Min ister to look into the matter in conjunction with the Controller of Shipping, and endeavour to arrange that even-handed justice is meted out to the people of Queensland in common with the people in the larger capitals. The people in Victoria and New South Wales are hot subject to the disabilities I have mentioned, and do not seem to care to help their less fortunate fellows, but the present conditions are serious for Queensland merchants who are buying goods from overseas or from South Australia or Tasmania, and who cannot say what the goods will cost until they have been finally landed and examined. The people of Western Australia must be experiencing the same disability, and I should like the honorable members who represent that State to join with me in impressing upon the Minister the necessity for investigating the matter. I have tried by letters and by interviews to secure attention to the grievances of the people of Queensland, and I now take this opportunity of appealing for the consideration which has hitherto been withheld. The people of Queensland have suffered enough through the strikes without having this further disability of short-distance freights and additional handling charges continued.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– Before the next Order of the Day is called on, I should like to mention to the House that, strictly speaking, the motion which was under discussion when the sitting was suspended at the dinner hour should dis appear from the business-paper; but under a practice which has been followed before, instead of being taken off the business-paper, it will be put at the bottom of the list. That has been done before under similar circumstances, and the practice will be followed in the present case.
Debate resumed from 24th March (vide page 784), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- At the conclusion of my remarks I propose to move the following amendment: -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted: - “in the opinion of this House there should be incorporated in the Bill the following election pledges made by the Prime Minister but not now provided for -
Payment of the war gratuity in cash to -
soldiers who have lost an eye;
soldiers who have lost an arm or leg;
Commonwealth employees who are returned soldiers.
The undertaking made with the Prime Minister ‘by the State Governments of Queensland, Victoria, andNew South Wales for the payment of cash in exchange for the gratuity bonds of their returned soldier employees.
The undertaking made with the Prime Minister by certain banks, insurance companies, and other employers for the payment of cash in exchange for the gratuity bonds of their returned soldier employees.
The issue of gratuity bonds generally, negotiable at the banks.”
The amendment has the approval of my party. I wish to direct special attention to the final clause of it, which, if adopted, would make the war gratuity a cash payment, for if bonds are negotiable at the banks - and that, as I shall show, the Prime Minister promised they would be - the payment would become a cash transaction.
The right honorable gentleman, in moving the second reading of the Bill, placed the onus of any disapproval that might be attached to inalienable bonds upon the Returned Soldiers League, and insisted over and over again that the conditions provided in the Bill were those asked for by the representatives of the soldiers themselves. He said the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League adopted the views (1) that a cash payment would be impossible; (2) that a cash payment may be made in certain limited cases; (3) that a Board or authority would be appointed to which the Soldiers League would nominate one member; and (4) that the scheme of bonds not negotiable was approved by the soldiers themselves. That is the onus of responsibility placed on the Soldiers League.
The Prime Minister further claimed (1) that the people had rejected a cashpayment to the soldiers; and (2) that he was keeping his pledges ‘both in the letter and in the spirit.
Into his speech the Prime Minister wove a very nice little fairy tale based upon selected portions of his election utterances; but, as I shall show, he omitted later important statements.
If the soldiers and those associated with them voted for the Government at the election, they voted for them on these later specific pledges. That statement I shall support with evidence regarding each part of the amendment.
The Brisbane Policy. The Prime Minister went to Brisbane on the 21st October, 1919. He there first announced the gratuity policy, and returned to Melbourne. On the 30th October a meeting was held in the Sydney Town Hall. It was convened by Captain Carmichael, the head of an organization called the Soldiers and Citizens” Association, for the express purpose of obtaining the soldiers’ indorsement of the Brisbane announcement.
Captain Carmichael had just previously been upon a visit to the Prime Minister, and the Sydney Town Hall was engaged by the Liberal Association in Sydney through Mr. Archdall Parkhill. But the upshot of this endeavour to obtain support for the Prime Minister was a unanimous chorus of indignation from the meeting, which rejected with scorn the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister at Brisbane.
As a consequence of this, the Prime Minister issued an amended policy on the 2nd November. It was from this amended statement, which, as he said in his speech, appeared in the Brisbane Courier on the 4th November, that he wove the little fairy tale in his speech.
But there were other developments. The soldiers were still dissatisfied. The right honorable gentleman came back to Sydney on the 6th November. He was, by arrangement, to address a mass meeting of the soldiers there in Martin-place, and he had the Town Hall engaged for a meeting to which only certain exclusive persons were given admission by ticket, the soldiers themselves being prevented from attending. But he had not the courage to face the meeting of soldiers in Martin-place, who, having carried resolutions denouncing him, marched in a body, thousands strong, and demanded admittance into the Town Hall. After his speech there, however, the Prime Minister left by a door on the southern side of the building, and ran like a hunted hare to his motor car in Bathurst-street Thereupon the mob of returned soldiers marched to the Grosvenor Hotel, and battered down the door.
– I saw the crowd. They were not returned soldiers.
– I shall furnish evidence in support of my statements. The soldiers’ dissent from the proposals of the Prime Minister produced an uproar’ and disorder and disturbance unprecedented in the history of Sydney.
The Goulburn Policy. Mr. Hughes travelled to Goulburn, and there, on the 7th November, issued a third statement.
The Adelaide Policy. The Prime Minister then travelled to Adelaide, where, at a meeting held on the 10th November, he announced that cash would be paid to the soldiers through the banks.
At Ballarat, on the 11th, he repeated the statement that the gratuity bonds would be negotiable with the banks.
The Sydney Policy. 20th November, he was back again in Sydney, and met the returned soldiers at a mass meeting in the Protestant Hall, where he confirmed the payment of cash over the counters of the banks.
That briefly shows the development of the gratuity policy of the Government, progressively, widening its benefits until the people of Australia and the soldiers themselves believed that the Government were absolutely committed to the payment of a cash gratuity, or to the issue of negotiable bonds, for which cash would be given over the counter in all the banks of Australia. I shall now proceed to proof.
– The League did not believe that, and it is the only body that represents the soldiers.
– I shall quote presently from a speech made by my honorable friend to support my case. I have his statements here.
The Brisbane Policy. This is the policy announced by the Prime Minister at Brisbane, as reported in the Age of the 22nd October last: -
Gratuity for Soldiers - Eighteenpence a Day to be Paid in 5¼ per cent. Bonds.
Brisbane. - In the course of his speech on Tuesday night, at the Exhibition Hall, Mr. Hughes announced that, as the result of a conference between the executive of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League and himself, the Government proposed to pay a gratuity to soldiers on the basis of1s. 6d. a day, in interest-bearing bonds, non-negotiable, carrying 5¼ per cent, interest. These bonds would not be transferable except with the Treasury Department’s consent. Special arrangements would be made for redemption in cases of hardship or urgency, or for widows on re-marriage. The indemnity to be paid on or before May, 1921, would be used for the purpose of redeeming from 20 to 40 per cent, of these bonds. The bonds wouldbe taken by the Commonwealth, and presumably by the States, in payment for houses, land, and other matters coming under the heading of repatriation. Arrangements as to when payments should commence, and other details, would be announced later.
The gratuity, proceeded Mr. Hughes, involved the Commonwealth in a liability of somewhere between£ 23,000,000 and £25,000,000 of money. It was impossible to raise that money at the present time. If the Government did raise it and withdraw it from enterprise and production, it would be doing infinitely more harm than good to the soldiers. The Government had just attempted to raise £25,000,000, but had not succeeded. It was only because it had fallen back on the banks that it had been able to get the money.
As this House was then sitting, I moved in this chamber, on the 23rd October, the following motion: -
That this House directs the Government to pass legislation before it rises to honour the promise of the Prime Minister at Brisbane on 21st October, in regard to soldier pensions, and the payment of war gratuities to soldiers and the widows of deceased soldiers.
In support of that motion I pointed out that this dodge of making a promise to the soldiers on the eve of a general election was a repetition of what was done under similar circumstances in 1917, when the Government had promised concessions to returned men amounting to £29,000,000, and I showed that, on 8th October, as the House was dissolving to go to election, £25,000,000 worth of those pledges was still unredeemed.
Sydney Soldiers’ Meeting. Now I come tothe meeting in the Town Hall, at which Captain Carmichael was the chief speaker. The hall had been taken by the Liberal Association, to boost the policy of the Government, but the funds for the so-called Soldiers and Citizens’ League, which had been created, were provided by the graziers of’ Australia. That was admitted subsequently by Captain Carmichael, when the graziers refused to pay over any more money. At this mass meeting, resolutions were passed demanding that the war gratuity should be paid in cash. That is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 31st October last. Following this demonstration, the Prime Minister issued from Melbourne an amended statement of his policy.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I anticipated the honorable gentleman’s anxiety to prevent a vote being taken on the Government’s breach of its soldier pledges. I have not moved the amendment to which, apparently, the Minister is aboutto take exception. I merely gave notice of my intention. The time is not yet ripe.
I do not propose to repeat the statement of the 2nd November, upon which the Prime Minister has based his speech in this House. It is there upon record, however; but I emphasize that even there the Prime Minister states that there will be progressive redemption of the bonds in very large amounts. His exact words on this point, as recorded in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, are -
Treasury to take up at least £500,000 per annum. In May, 1931, the whole of Australia’s share of the indemnity payable by Germany to the Allies, which may be estimated at anything between £7,000,000 and £15,000,000, to be ear-marked for the redemption of gratuity bonds. If the indemnity actually received on or before May, 1921, does not reach £10,000,000 the Government to make good the deficiency up to £10,000,000. The Government to redeem the balance of outstanding bonds after May, 11)21, in not more than three equal annual instalments.
Those promises of progressive redemption are not provided for in this Bill.
The Prime Minister having amended his proposals upon several occasions, a mass meeting of soldiers was held in Sydney on 2nd November, and this is the way in which it was reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 3rd November -
A crowd of about 4,000 returned soldiers, presided over by Mr. Cortis, President of the Soldiers and Citizens Association, in the Domain yesterday afternoon, carried resolutions requesting: -
Payment of cash gratuity from the date of enlistment to the signing of Peace.
And so on. The report continued -
Mr. Cortis announced that a mass meeting of Diggers would be held in Martin Place at 7 o’clock on Thursday evening next to afford Mr. Hughes an opportunity, before his Town Hall meeting, of saying “what the devil he intended to do about the gratuity.” If Mr. Hughes failed to attend at the soldiers’ meeting they could form their own conclusions.
Mr. Hughes did fail to attend the mas3 meeting in Martin Place, where there were, approximately, 10,000 returned soldiers waiting to hear from him. Upon this point regarding the demand for cash, and in answer to those who misrepresent the returned soldiers by saying that they do not demand, and do not want, cash, let me say that there have been .mass meetings in the Sydney Town Hall, in Martin Place, in the Domain, and in the Sydney Protestant Hall, and meetings also in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, and elsewhere demanding that the gratuity should be a cash payment.
I now refer to the great meeting in tha Sydney Town Hall, and to the enormous crowd of returned soldiers ‘in Martin Place on the same evening, and I will show how. the right honorable gentleman misrepresented this matter. In the Sydney Sun of the day following these meetings there is a report of the Prime Minister’s visit headed, “William the Conqueror,” “Drama in Three Acts,” “ Grosvenor Hotel Stormed.” At the huge meeting in Martin Place, Lieutenant Eileen, President of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association, in Sydney, and a thick-and-thin supporter of the Government, said, in making the announcement that Mr. Hughes would not be present at the meeting -
He gave us a message. Hear his views before you criticise: - “Soldiers, I had hoped to address you this evening, but pressure of public engagements lias made this impossible. Bonds will be distributed on the assembling of Parliament. They will be taken by the banks -
Then comes Act 2 of the drama, as described by the Sun. This records the manner in which the soldiers crowded about the Town Hall in an effort to gain admittance to the Prime Minister’s meeting, and to have this trickery out with him face to face. Act 3 refers to the Grosvenor Hotel incident, and the Sun describes it thus: -
Outside Grosvenor Hotel. Crowd in roadway, surging and tossing. The one-legged soldier is at the head of the men at the hotel door. Crowd clamouring, “In there, Hughsie Come out and talk to us.” They storm the front door, battering at it and shouting. But the door is stout. It only gives in with a crash when dozens of men push in against it. The door opens, the crowd hesitates at the step. A few are pushed into the hall.
Lieutenant Cortis on this very date reads another statement which has been handed to him by the Prime Minister to read to the soldiers; and it is recorded thus in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th November -
Mr. Cortis said he had received a statement from Mr. Hughes to read to the meeting in regard to the .gratuity. According to this, Mr. Hughes promised: -
Immediate distribution’ of bonds on the assembling of Parliament.
Bonds will bc taken by banks and Repatriation Department as the equivalent of cash in purchase of land and houses.
Cash. will be paid in all urgent cases, and where a soldier marries or a soldier’s widow remarries.
The Government will redeem in cash by May, 1921, not less than £12,000,000 sterling.
The amount is rising!
Mr. Hughes pointed out that the bonds cashed by the banks and Repatriation Department would probably amount by that date to £10,000,000, so that the Treasury would have to arrange for the redemption of over £20,000,000 in this period.
That is, by May, 1921. We have arrived now at the point where promises have been made that the banks would negotiate the bonds for the redemption of £20,000,000 in approximately twelve months from to-day. Mr. Hughes also sent the soldiers this message, as recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7th November -
I shall be back in Sydney in a fortnight’s time, and will be glad” to meet the returned soldiers and discuss the gratuity with them in all its aspects. All that is humanly possible to make the amount available in cash we intend to do.
The last act in this drama has to dowith Mr.Hughes’ departure from Sydney, and I draw upon the record of the Sydney Sun of the 7th November. The item is headed: “Well Guarded.” “Prime Minister and Police,-“ “Mr. Hughes’ Departure.” The Prime ‘Minister left Sydney under escort of a large body of police.
– Commonwealth Police?
– Ordinary Sydney police, as well as private detectives and the Commonwealth Police. The Prime Minister then went to Goulburn and stated that the disturbance at the Grosvenor Hotel had been created by supporters of Mr. Ryan. Now, here is a statement, reported in the press on the 10th November. It is headed “War Gratuity,” “Mass Meeting in Domain,” “ Rowdyism Denounced “ -
One of the largest meetings in the Domain yesterday was that addressed by Mr. Killeen. He told the soldiers that the way in which they demonstrated last week in Martin-place and at the Grosvenor Hotel only did harm to their cause.
There is the admission that that demonstration was made by the returned soldiers themselves.
– How many of them ?
– I did not count them, but I know that there were in the vicinity of 10,000 men at the Martinplace meeting, and they demanded admission to the Town Hall, but as the tickets to that meeting had been distributed to selected persons these returned soldiers were excluded.
As good as cash. The Sydney Evening News of the 7th November has the headings : “ Acceptable Gratuity,” “ Soldiers and Mr. Hughes’ Offer.” Its report is as follows : -
Lieutenant Cortis this morning said with regard to his negotiations with Mr. Hughes and the gratuity question: “The Prime Minister gave us a lot of his valuable time yesterday, and took the trouble to secure the advice of leading bankers, who said they were pre pared to accept the bonds as collateral security against their client’s account in the purchase of houses, land, &c. This, to my mind, makes the bond equal to an order for goods.”
The Prime Minister went on to Goulburn, and, after having stated in Sydney that the bonds would be negotiable at the banks, as Lieutenant Cortis had put it, the Prime Minister at Goulburn slipped back a little. This is taken from the report of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, published on the 8th November: -
A prominent business man suggested to me yesterday that business men might accept these bonds, hold them, and pay cash for them.. These bonds carry5¼ per cent, interest. They are easily the most lucrative investment in the country, paying more interest than the lust war loan, and the banks, 1 think, would take them. I hope to be able yet, when I have consulted my colleague the Treasurer, to come to an arrangement with the bigfirms of Australia, and private banks generally, to receive these bonds, and hold them so that those of the soldiers who want cash may get it, the banks to hold them, and we to redeem them from the banks. I make no promises, mind you, but it is my desire to place no obstacles in the way of reputable banks and employers, not money lenders, who are prepared to take these bonds and advance the cash value of them and hold them. If we can arrange that, all the difficulties will have been smoothed away, and we will be able to pay the soldiers that which they consider a vital matter, and at the same time not injure the country.
Then the Prime Minister went on to Adelaide. Here is the Adelaide scheme, according to the telegraphed report of Mr. Hughes’ utterances contained in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 11th November, and headed : “ Cash Over theCounter,” “The Gratuity Bonds,” “Banks Will Pay,” “Prime Minister’s Announcement “ -
Bonds will be issued which will be reserved for repatriation purposes. The banks will also receive bonds as collateral security.
That was not enough, though. This additional extract is set out by the Daily Telegraph in bold black letters -
The Government has made arrangements with the Savings Bank and all the Associated Banks by which the soldier who wants to cash his bond through other than the Repatriation Department will be able to go to the banks and get cash for it. (Loud applause). . . A soldier who wants cash can go. and get it over the counter of the banks. (Prolonged applause.)
The Sydney Morning Herald, of the 11th November, 1919, report is asfollows: -
– The policy of the Government is preference to returned soldiers, but there are cliques in the Departments, who will not give the soldiers a fair show. . . . The Government has made arrangements with the banks whereby the soldiers who want cash for their bonds can go there and get it.
There is the testimony of two great daily newspapers. The Adelaide Daily Herald and the Adelaide Register of 11th November both confirm these statements in extended form.
Mr. R. H. Chambers, the chairman of the Associated Banks, contradicted the statement, and said that the Prime Minister had not even been near the banks, and no proposal whatever had been made for the cashing of the bonds. Therefore, the Prime Minister made an amended statement, according to the Evening News -
Questioned at Ballarat to-day concerning the war gratuity, Mr. Hughes said that he was not correctly reported at Adelaide in saying that he had made arrangements with the banks to cash war gratuity bonds. What he did say was that he would make arrangements with the banks, and not that he had.
Then in the Sydney Sun of the same date the Prime Minister is reported as saying
I did not say that I had made arrangements with the banks to cash the bonds. What I said was that I will make arrangements with the banks, and most certainty I will.
Now we come to the point when Mr. Dyett, the Federal President of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, made a protest. He said that the Prime Minister had placed the executive -in an awkward fix in relation to the soldiers. According to Mr. Dyett, the Prime Minister told him that it was absolutely impossible to find cash, and that now the honorable gentleman, with the pressure of the soldiers, were deserting the executive of the league, and telling the soldiers that he was going to pay in cash. This was despite the fact that the Prime Minister had induced the executive to assure the soldiers that cash was an absolute impossibility. Mr. Dyett, in the Daily Telegraph of the 12th November, quoted from the draft statement of the Prime Minister himself in support of Mr. Dyett’s utterances. Then the Prime Minister, in reply to’ Mr. Dyett, is thus reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 12th November -
Mr. Hughes quoted extracts from the .verbatim report of the conferences he had with the soldiers’ executive in support of bis con- tention that1 not only had he granted everything they asked for, but in the way they asked for it.
At this stage, the honorable member for’ West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) at Bathurst pointed out to the soldiers exactly what was happening. As reported in the Sun of the 12th November, 1919’, Mr. Ryan said -
The Prime Minister and the press .are engaged in a collusive attempt to impose on the soldiers with the statement that the Government intends to have the gratuity paid in cash, but when the’ Australian soldier recollects the long list of. broken promises and pledges, and the Government shuffling and backing and filling with regard to these bonds, he will know what to do.
There was a conspiracy on the part of the Government and the press to lead the soldiers to believe that they were going to have the bonds paid in cash. Two days later Mr. A. H. Chambers, chairman of the Associated Banks, as reported in the Sun of the 13th November, 1919, said that his statement that no arrangement of any kind had’ been entered into in relation to the gratuity still held good.
Still “arranging for Cash.- The Prime Minister issued another policy statement in relation to the gratuity on the 20th November, and that statement was sent to all the Nationalist associations and candidates so that they would have before them the further revised scheme. It is printed in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th November, 1919, and in the course of it the Prime Minister said -
The Treasurer is proceeding with negotiations with the banks, and it is hoped that a still more liberal system of cashing bonds will be arranged in the course of the week. “With the air filled with talk of cash for soldiers, the Prime Minister met them once more at mid-day at the Protestant Hall, Sydney. As reported in the Sun of the 20th November, 1919, the Prime Minister had issued a statement for publication in the Sydney press on the morning of that date, setting forth that negotiations were going on about the cashing of the bonds at the banks, so that the soldiers attending the meeting would go there with a more favorable opinion than that which they held on the last occasion. This is what the Prime Minister said at that meeting
For those who enlisted and did not embark, they would get a shilling a day for six months^ from the date of enlistment. The ls. 6d. a day would also be paid to Imperial reservists and Australians enlisted in England, after deducting whatever gratuity they received from the Imperial Government. It is in the form of a non-negotiable bond that will be cashable at Treasury - (1) in case of hardship, (2) subsequent marriage of soldier or widow. A Board will be formed consisting of two soldiers and one civilian to decide what are hardships. Then, as you already know, the bonds will be taken by the Repatriation Department and as by collateral security by the banks.
There is the negotiable bond again, to be cashed ‘by the banks -
I am now negotiating with the banks for further concessions. I expect to hear from Mr. Watt as to the result to-day. As to the rest of the bonds, we shall pay £10,000,000 in cash in Hay, 1921, when the German indemnity is paid - if the indemnity is more, then you will be repaid as much as it is - if there is no indemnity, you will still get the £10^000,000. That means that you will get £17,000,000 out of the £28,000,000 war gratuity in eighteen months.
In relation to military offences the Prime Minister is thus reported -
Mr. Hughes said lie looked with a lenient eye on meir guilty of offences against military discipline, in so far as they did not impair the efficiency of the army or involve desertion in the face of the enemy, or a crime against the civil law.
The prohibitions in the Bill go a long way further th’an that pledge of the Prime Minister.. When it was pointed out to> him that in a Labour pamphlet it was stated the Prime Minister’s party would not stand behind his pledge to see that cash was paid, and that the great daily newspapers in certain States were writing leading articles denouncing a cash payment, this is what the Prime Minister said, according to the Daily Telegraph of the 21st November, 1919-
A Labour leaflet says that all the Nationalfist papers refuse to support the gratuity. iV hat do I care about that? Do you mean to say that the Nationalist papers were any concern of mine during my absence in England? When .1 was fighting the battle of a White Australia, for a fair deal for Australia, I had few friends here. These gentlemen would bo pleased if they had anybody else to vote for, and they are only voting for me because they cannot get anybody else. If you think they can make a tool of me, vote for another tool.
It may be noticed that from the galaxy of talent on the Government benches, no other man than the Prime Minister can be obtained as their Leader. In the Sun off the next day, the 23rd November, 1919, Captain Carmichael, the special barracker for the Prime Minister, said -
There is one small matter of detail which at the present moment we are endeavouring to have rectified, and that is in regard to the limbless men, who have placed before the Prime Minister a very strong case why they should be included in the special cases of preference mentioned by the Prime Minister. We have every reason to believe that this addition will also be made.
Then there is another statement made by the Prime Minister, as reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 22nd November, 1919 :-
The Prime Minister announced last night that arrangements had been completed with the banks to find the sum of £6,000,000 for the payment of the war gratuity in cash to the following classes. . . .
Employers have also agreed to accept bonds.
The Commonwealth Government will do likewise with its employees.
The State of Victoria is believed to have fallen into line, and it is hoped that other States will adopt a similar course.
In that statement, the Prime Minister says that money will be provided for totally incapacitated soldiers, as well as for other classes of cases. In the Sun of the 22nd November, 1919, Mr. F. Kil.leen. President of the Limbless and Maimed Soldiers Association, is reported as saying -
Mr. Hughes informed him that members of the association who were classed as totally disabled would be able to immediately cash their gratuity under the provision already made. The Prime Minister also said that he would give instructions for men who had a leg or arm amputated, or who had lost an eye, to be treated as necessitous cases by the Board or Commission which would deal with the question of converting bond3 into cash.
There is no provision for those cases in the Bill. The Prime Minister went further when he was asked what about the large number of unemployed soldiers who were in necessitous circumstances. According to the Sun of the 28th November, 1919-
Asked this morning with regard to employers cashing bonds for employees what was the position of unemployed returned men, the Prime Minister pointed out that they would be treated as cases of hardship, and obtain cash for their bonds.
These men are not provided for in the Bill. In the Daily Telegraph of the 11th December, 1919, there appears the following : -
Mr. Holman informed a questioner, at a meeting here (Tumut) to-night, that the State
Government would gladly arrange to cash war gratuity bonds for all soldiers in the employ of the Government.
Then, in the Daily Telegraph of the 12th December, the Prime Minister is reported as saying -
Arrangements with the banks, Repatriation Department, estate agents, and insurance companies will result in the absorption of a very large number of the remainder.
This means the remainder of the bonds after others had been cashed by the State Governments.
In regard to Commonwealth employees, the Prime Minister, in the Evening News of the 8th December, 1919, is reported to have informed the Acting Secretary of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ League, that the gratuity bonds of soldiers in the Commonwealth Service would be cashed by the Government. But there is no provision whatever in the Bill for carrying out those pledges.
The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, made reference to the fact that a large number of private employers had promised to pay cash to their soldier employees in exchange for gratuity bonds, and I propose to read the list of firms, so far as Sydney is concerned. I have no doubtthat there are other firms similarly situated in every capital - those great firms which are assisting the Prime Minister to get the soldiers’ vote. Although the Prime Minister has said that these promises were made in his speeches, there is no provision in the Bill under which these firms can be called on, or even allowed, to cash the bonds. Indeed, section 15 specifically prohibits it. The bonds are inalienable, and the firms are prohibited from cashing them. The following is a list of the firms which undertook to cash’ the gratuity bonds, according to the Sydney newspapers: -
Employers Who Cash Them. (Sun, 26th November, 1919.)
Australian Mutual Provident Society.
Howes and Howes.
Colonial Wholesale Meat Company Limited.
James Sandy and Company Limited.
David Jones Limited.
Gardiner and Company Limited.
William Brookes and Company Limited.
John Vicars and Company Limited.
Tillock and Company Limited.
Sydney Snow Limited.
Beard, Watson Limited.
Grace Brothers Limited.
Morley Johnson Limited..
Williamson, Croft, and Company.
Colonial Combing,. Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited.
Arthur Cocks and Company Limited.
Charles Anderson and Company Limited.
James and Murdoch.
Sydney Woollen Mills Limited.
Marcus Clark and Company Limited.
Invicta Stores, Petersham.
Gowing Brothers Limited.
Farmer and Company Limited.
Eastway Brothers Limited.
Dalgety and Company Limited.
The Civil Service Co-operative Society.
Robert Reid and Company Limited.
Edwards, Dunlop, and Company Limited
Feidheim, Gotthelf Limited.
McMurtrie and Company Limited.
John Keep and Sons Limited.
Gordon and Gotch (Sydney) Limited
Lazarus, Rosenfeld, and Company.
Elliott Brothers Limited.
Petersen, Boesen, and Company Limited
Alexander Moir and Company.
Arthur Rickard and Company Limited.
Frank Howes and Sons.
Holdsworth, Macpherson, and Company.
Salkeid and Wallace Limited.
Hill, Magill Limited.
Henry Bull and Company Limited.
Alcock Brothers Limited .
Paterson, Laing, and Brace Limited
Briscoe and Company Limited.
Wright, Heaton, and Company Limited
Australian Drug Company Limited.
Southouse and Long.
Alexander Cowan and Sons Limited
Parsons Trading Company.
Gibbs, Bright, and Company. (Sydney Morning Herald, 1st December, 1919)
Bulletin Newspaper Company Limited.
Scott, Henderson, and Company.
Joe Gardiner Limited.
Lever Brothers Limited.
Robert Harper and Company Limited.
The McArthur Shipping and Agency Company Limited.
Swinbourne and Stephan Limited.
James Bell and Company.
John Walker and Sons Limited.
Fresh Food and Ice Company Limited.
Angus and Robertson Limited.
HaymarketBuilding, Land and Investment Company Limited.
The Mentor Advertising Company.
Goodlet and Smith Limited.
Weaver and Perry Limited.
Aerated Bread Company Limited.
Russell, Wilkins, and Company.
Birt and Company Limited.
Snowball and Stone.
Kodak ‘(Australasia) Limited.
Ammonia Company of Australia.
Pontifex and Company.
Harrison, Jones, and Devlin Limited.
George Morgan and Company Limited.
John Andrew and Company.
Nettleton, Son, and Company.
Kirton and Earnshaw Limited.
Bennett and Wood Limited.
Motor Traders Association.
Pitt, Son, and Badgery Limited.
Sheldon Drug Company Limited.
Arthur Yates and Company Limited.
Australian Wood Pipe Company Limited.
Charles R. Barton.
Gibson, Battle, and Company Limited.,
Australian Jockey Club.
Arthur Muston and Sons.
Charles Markell and Company.
Rexona Proprietary Company.
Intercolonial Investment, Land and Building Company Limited.
Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants’ Association. (Daily Telegraph, 28th November, 1919.)
Motor Traders Association of New South Wales.
Continental Paper Bag Company of Australia Limited.
Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited.
Wormald Brothers Limited.
Newcastle Chamber of Commerce advocating co-operation in above scheme.
Hood Brothers Limited.
Gilbert Lodge and Company Limited.
Stott and Hoare Limited.
Perpetual Trustee Company.
Finding The Cash. (Daily Telegraph, 27th November, 1919.)
Mr. C. McDonald, secretary of the Northern Colleries Association, says that proprietors all over the State are heartily supporting the movement.
Concerted action is being taken by shipowners, underwriters, and other organized bodies of employers.
Bonds for Insurance.
The directors of the Australian Mutual Pro vident Society, at their meeting yesterday, decided to accept at face value from soldiers holding policies with the society gratuity bonds issued to them, if they wish to use same in payment of their premiums.
Upon occasions when it was pointed out that rents were being raised against returned soldiers, the Prime Minister said, “We shall pillory these men.” But they were never pilloried; not one word was said about them. Again, when it was pointed out by the Sydney Municipal Council that big employers in Sydney were refusing to employ their men on their return, the Prime Minister was very indignant, and said, “We shall pillory these men.” But not one of them was pilloried. I want to know what is to be done with this long list of employers who promised to cash the bonds for. the soldiers. There is no provision in the Bill tomake them stand up to their obligations, and I am ready to say that not many of them will carry out their promises unless the strong arm of the law compels them to do so. But the Government and this Bill both wink at this repudiation of a solemn pledge given to the returned soldiers.
Now we come to some verifications from honorable gentlemen opposite. According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 4th November, 1919, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), said of the soldier -
This year the Government expected to spend on his behalf from £40,000,000 to £45,000,000 -for repatriation, landpurchase, war service homes, and other things, £15,000,000; for war pensions, £5,450,000; and. for gratuities a sum of from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000. Our total war obligations for the year 1919-20, including gratuities, would amount to close on £100,000,000.
Here is confirmation of the statement of the Prime Minister that these gratuities would be paid in 1919-20. “We propose to spend,” said the Minister, and our total obligations for the year 1919-20 would amount to close on £100,000,000. There was no doubt raised about finding the cash in that speech.
The Country party, in their manifesto, have something to say about this gratuity, for, according .to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Sth November, 1919/ it contains the following paragraph : -
While taking exception to the manner in which .the war gratuity to soldiers was promised, the Country party is prepared to vote the amount involved in the Prime Minister’s scheme to the soldiers and their dependants.
The Country party will have the opportunity of voting the amount by supporting my .amendment.
Lieutenant Marks, now honorable member for Wentworth, speaking in the Coronation Hall, Bondi Junction, at a meeting of Wentworth electors, is reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 12th November, 1919, to have said -
I was delighted to see that the gratuity debentures will be cashed by the banks if the “Diggers” want the money.
Those remarks were made in the presence of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to a large number of returned soldiers, and were not contradicted. They were accepted by the soldiers in the Wentworth electorate as the Government’s pledge to provide cash.
Major Marr, Secretary for the Sailors and Soldiers’ Federation, who is now honorable member for Parkes, is reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 26th November, 1919, to have said -
Regarding Mr. Hughes’ proposals, we know that already many of the big city firms have expressed their willingness to cash the bonds at their face value. This is only the commencement. In a little while every firm in the State with money behind it will come -Along and offer cash for the bonds. I, as one returned soldier, at all events, reckon that the decision of our city firms to cash the bonds is a feather in Mr. Hughes’ cap.
To hear that same gentleman speaking in this chamber one would never think that he had ever heard of the proposal to pay the gratuity in cash. Yet here he was offering every inducement to the returned soldiers by pointing out that they would get cash through the energies of the Prime Minister, in order to secure their votes for the Ministry at the last election.
I could quote other honorable mem”bers. Nearly every man in the House supported the cash payment.
In order to show that the newspapers took the same view, let me quote the Sunday Times, a great National news paper. In a leading article of its issue of 23rd November, 1919, it said -
Mr. Hughes received a somewhat turbulent but typically cordial reception from a bi: crowd of Diggers in Sydney on Thursday. Tho matter of the war gratuity was again touched on and explained. As it stands, any man needing immediate- cash for any good purpose will be enabled to negotiate his bonds, which is really all that any reasonable man can expect to receive. In a statement on Friday Mr. Hughes announced the proposals of the banks for negotiating the bonds, and the scheme, coupled with the concessions already made, provides for the immediate realization of a very considerable proportion of the bonds. Practically the whole of the remainder will be redeemable within two years.
To-day the Prime Minister told us that when he was in London the Home authorities were discussing the 1920 war campaign against Germany. If that was the case, the Government knew perfectly well that they would have to raise large sums of money to carry on the war in 1920, so that the statement that this paltry £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 cannot be secured in cash is all nonsense and bunkum. We have raised £200,000,000 in Australia for the purpose of carrying on the war, and if it had continued another £100,000,000 would have been raised this year for the same purpose; yet we are told that there is not £25,000,000 procurable in Australia for the purpose of paying the soldiers a gratuity.
Plenty of Wealth. According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 3rd November, 1919, a summary of the Commonwealth production statistics for the years 1907-8 to 1917-18, issued from the .office of the Commonwealth Statistician, showed that the value per head of the mean population had increased from £40 5s. 4d. in 1907 to £57 17s. in 1919.
War Loan Moneys. When we were endeavouring to raise the last war loan the Sydney Daily Telegraph printed an article setting forth the attitude of the mayors of several- Sydney suburban municipalities. The Mayor of Drummoyne complained about the very small quota allotted to the wealthy suburb of Hunter’s Hill; but said that, although it was unfair to place Drummoyne on the same footing as Hunter’s Hill, which was ever so much more wealthy, Drummoyne would guarantee to raise the amount of the quota allotted to it, and would challenge Hunters Hill to get its amount before Drummoyne did. The Mayor of Hunter’s Hill, Alderman Windeyer, said that the quota allotted to his municipality was merely a flea-bite, and that it could raise many times the amount. Then the Mayor of Manly came along and said, “ What are you grumbling about? Manly, which is merely ‘one suburb of ‘ Sydney, will raise the £9,500,000, the whole quota allotted to the State of New South Wales.”
Next we have an article in the Sydney Sun of 7th August, 1919, headed -
Then follows a statement that there was an enormous amount of money in the Stock Exchange of Sydney, and that the wealthy people of the State did. not know what to do with it for investment purposes.
On the 25th August, 1919, the Sydney Baily Telegraph, quoting from the Insurance and Banking Record, pointed out that there was a’ gain of £3,027,000 in banking deposits, and that in the June quarter of the year 191.9 the bank deposits amounted to £111,217,751,. as. against £96,110,936 in the corresponding quarter of the preceding year, an increase of £15,096,815.
Dean Talbot, a returned soldier, speaking under the auspices of the Social Problems Committee of the Church of England, said, referring to the soldiers’ gratuity - lt was an insult to the intelligence of the people that the elections should be fought upon’ such an issue. It should, never have been introduced into the campaign, and he condemned the action of the man who was responsible fbr its introduction. Enough money had been made in Australia to pay for our portion of the cost of the war and a war gratuity. The country’s problem was in too few hands. The producer was not getting it, and neither was the consumer- it was the middleman;
The Sydney Sun in its issue of 26th August. 1919, printed an article headed -
In the course of the article it pointed out. that Mr. David Storey, a New South Wales Minister, one of the leading commercial men in Sydney, had said. that. there was any amount of money available for war purposes, and that - -
Australia was a land of wonderful potentialities. Its accumulated wealth amounted to> £1,600,000,000, and its annual earnings to* £250,000,000. Surely from those great sums’ £50,000,000, or even £100,000,000, could easily’ be raised, .particularly as the investment was’ a good one.
From this large amount of £250,000,000.. of annual earnings, apart altogether from the stationary wealth, we are told by this» great national patriotic Government that £25,000,000 cannot be found to carryout their pledges ,that a cash gratuitywould be paid to the soldiers and made available through the banks.
At this very moment a loan by the City Council of Sydney for £850,000 is oversubscribed locally many times-.
We were told by the Sydney Daily Telegraph* of the 21st November, 1919, that the Diggers themselves would have a. say in the appointment of the men on the Board to deal with necessitous cases which are not referred to in the general cash payment; andwhen at the Sydney soldiers’ meeting the men asked the PrimeMinister about any disputes arising as to the matter, he said -
I am perfectly willing to leave that to theLeague or the men.
There is no provision in the Bill either for the League or. for the men to nominate-, the Board, or1 for any matter- to be left to them.
Let me emphasize’ to’ the returned soldiers and the- public of Australia that this . proposal of the Government is merely to issue a scrap of paper called a bond, which will return, to them £5 5s. annually in the shape of interest on.- £100 - face value of bonds, and very few war gratuities will reach £100. The date of redemption is to be 1924 just a little after the next election. We had an election in 1917, at which the soldiers were promised £29,000,000, of which £25,000,000 had’ not been redeemed on the expiration of the Parliament then elected.
Last year (1919) £25,000,000 to . £30,000,000 was promised to the soldiers on the eve of an election as part of the Government’s policy. The soldiers were led to believe they were to get it in cash, but it is not to be paid in cash, and we now find that the payment is to be putoff until 1924, just after the next election. So the Government hope for the third time to fool these soldiers and those associated with them.In 1923 theywill say, “ Now, gentlemen, come along and vote for us, and we shall provide you with the cash for these bonds as soon as the election is over.” And thus they will seek to get another three years of office. In its issue of the 23rd October, 1919, the Sydney Daily Telegraph described these promises and the method of payment of the gratuity very well by saying -
Mr. Hughes’s proposal to satisfy the returned soldiers’ claim for a gratuity by giving them £25,000,000 worth of I.O.U’s., redeemable out of the more or less hypothetical German indemnity, has a Micawberish flavour about it that bespeaks somewhat immature consideration. The debentures are to bear 5¼ per cent, interest, and from 20 to 40 per cent, of them will be payable in 1921, out of German money. Where Germany is to get the cash is not yet clear. Depreciated marks would not be much use, and we are not likely to take it out in trade. The question, therefore, is: Does the Government see its way to honour the bonds in eighteen months’ time in the event of Germany’s default? Besides, what use is a five and a quarter per cent, security for £50 or £100 to a man in want of ready money?. It is what it will sell for in the market. But it is proposed to make the bonds not negotiable. It is like offering a thirsty man a drink in a bottle corked so tightly that he cannot open it.
That is an accurate description of the policy of this Government.
I come now to the amendment which I foreshadowed. I move -
That after the word”That”, the following words be inserted: - “in the opinion of this House there should be incorporated in the Bill the following election pledges made by the Prime Minister, but not now provided for-
From the Prime Minister’s, own statements, I have given evidence, point by point, in support of every line of this indictment. It really crystallizes the election policy of this Government - a policy which the Government now repudiate in the Bill before us. The Labour party promised not only that, if returned to office, they would pay the war gratuity in cash, but that they would do everything within their power to see that a cash payment was made if the present Government won the elections. I promised the soldiers in my electorate - and there are a very considerable number of them - that when the flag-flapping and the band-banging of the Nationalists had ceased, they would find, myself and other members of the Labour party demanding in this Parliament that the politicians who had wrapped the Union Jack about them, and prated about their loyalty, should carry out their pledges. That is where we find ourselves at the very opening of the Parliament.
The Government have not carried out their election pledge. I believe that the returned soldiers’ votes turned the scale at the election ; that the Prime Minister, by constantly impressing upon returned soldiers, and especially their women folk, the promise that they were to get cash, induced them to vote for his party, and thus turned the tide in his favour. I saw soldiers going from meeting to meeting dissatisfied with the Prime Minister’s promise. I found afterwards that many had decided to vote for his party, and had arrived at that conclusion because of these promises, starred in the newspapers, that the bonds would be such that any recipient could hand them over a bank counter, and obtain cash for them.
These promises are not carried out in the Bill. I have taken this opportunity to crystallize the Prime Minister’s pledges in an amendment which will be placed on the records of Parliament, and which may be read, not only by the returned soldiers, but by the general public of Australia. When the next electioncomes along - when the Government are again appealing to the soldiers on the ground that they will redeem these bonds when the new Parliament meets in 1924, they will be faced with this damning evidence, which will be on the records, and which should destroy the chances of this so-called patriotic Government, not only with the returned soldiers, but with the people of Australia as a whole.
.- The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) has made a characteristic speech, and has shown in his closing sentence exactly the object that it is designed to serve. He has told us that he has made his speech with an eye to the next election. Once again, we see him attempting, as other members of the Labour party have done, to use the returned soldiers for party purposes. The returned soldiers’ answer to such attempts is to be found in the person of the occupants of the back Ministerial benches. Every man in this House who wears a returned soldier’s badge is satisfied with the provisions of this Bill. We are satisfied that the Government are carrying out their pledges in introducing it as the first measure to be considered by the Parliament. The honorable member for Cook has made quotations from many newspapers, and has thrown over them all that baleful light which he knows so well how to accumulate. I desire to read to the House the, actual classes of persons who, according to the Prime Minister’s own statement, were to have their bonds cashed. I propose to quote from the statement issued to candidates who were supporting the Prime Minister, and on which I, as well as other candidates belonging to the Ministerial party, fought our election, so far as the war gratuity was concerned.
– Is the honorable member going to quote from the statement made in Adelaide by the Prime Minister?
– This statement was made by the right honorable gentleman in Sydney on 21st November last, and appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the following day -
The Prime Minister announced last night that arrangements have been completed with the banks to find the sum of £6,000,000 for the payment of the war gratuity in cash to the following classes: -
Widowed mothers of unmarried deceased soldiers.
Other mothers of deceased soldiers who were dependent upon deceased soldiers.
Totally incapacitated and blind soldiers.
Soldiers who have married since discharge, or are about to marry.
Necessitous cases not included in the foregoing.
Let us now see what provision is made in the Bill. Clause 13 provides that pay ment shall be made in cash if desired by the persons entitled to the gratuity in the case of -
That provision in the Bill now before us covers the whole of those whom the Prime Minister said would be able to cash the bonds. It covers all included in the statement on which the right honorable gentleman’s supporters fought the last election. The honorable member for Cook, of all men, comes here and attempts to pose as the champion of the returned soldier, while at the same time he calmly states that he has his eye on the next elections.
– The honorable member was growing cabbages while on service.
– And the honorable member was growing something worse. I was growing cabbages because I was told to do so.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order! This loud shouting across the table is distinctly out of order. The honorable member for Cook was practically subjected to no interruption during his speech, which extended over an hour and five minutes, and he is not in order in shouting (acrossthe table at others. Honorable members must observe the Standing Orders, and allow the honorable member addressing the House to proceed without unnecessary interruption.
– The other side cheered first.
– I must again remind honorable members that it is distinctly out of order to interrupt the Speaker.
– The honorable member for Cook interjected that I was growing cabbages during part of the time of my service overseas. I am proud to say that I was. I can tell the honorable member for his satisfaction, or probably it will be to his dissatisfaction, that the cabbages which we grew in camp in England were so good that we were called upon to send an exhibit to Australia House in order to show the people what Australians could grow there. When we had finished feeding the troops there we were sent over to be with the troops in France. How does the honorable member know what I was doing there? . He was a long way off, although he was just as able to go as I was.
– - But he does not wear a badge.
– Thank heaven, he does not wear a returned soldier’s badge.
The honorable member for Cook and others of his party have told us that since this country would have found the money necessary to carry on the war had it continued, it should be prepared to find the money necessary to pay the war gratuity in cash. Every returned man knows that Australia would have bled itself to the last drop to win the war. Those who stayed at home have no right to try to make the returned soldier believe that those who risked nothing are going to drain this country to the very dregs for his sake, when what they really have in view is the general election of 1924, which the honorable member mentioned.
– I know many men who went overseas, but risked nothing.
– Many were not allowed to go where they desired, but every man who left Australia’s shores ran a risk. He knew that once he placed himself under military orders he would have to do what he was told, and would no longer be his own master. It matters not whether a man went to England or France. In -either case he did his job, and those who did have the right to come here and speak on behalf of the returned men.
– I represent thousands of them.
– I understand that the honorable member does not represent many who did their job. There were some who went overseas and did not do their job. He represents them. The returned men in this House are satisfied with the Bill because it is generous in its provisions. The Government brought it in at the very earliest opportunity. It is as wide in its scope as any reasonable man could expect, and it protects those who, unfortunately, need protection. In every way the Bill meets the requirements that would be laid down by any genuine returned man.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), in discussing this measure yesterday, referred to the great increase in bank deposits as affording certain proof that Australia was in a position to pay the war gratuity in cash. It is hard to believe that the honorable member could seriously put’ forward the argument that the increase in bank deposits is a sound reason for paying the gratuity in cash. As a matter of fact it is the very opposite. The increase in bank deposits is but a sign of the swollen finances of the community. These deposits in the banks do not consist only of cash. In most cases they are securities against which advances have been made. The tremendously swollen amount of deposits in our banks to-day is our greatest financial danger, yet the Leader of the Opposition tells us that it is proof that the country is in a position to pay the gratuity in cash. I should like the House to hear what Mr. McKenna, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is now chairman of the London Joint City and Midland Bank, had to say on the subject of. bank deposits. In the *Statist of 21st January last he is reported to have said -
We have seen that any other cause of an increase in deposits, except bank loans, is not large, and we have concluded that bank loans have been responsible for an increase of £1,100,000,000 in bank deposits.
The loans to the States have led to an immense increase of deposits.
That is the danger existing here at the present time. ‘Our currency is so inflated by the exigencies of war that the banks are overloaded in many cases with war bonds and other securities against which they have made advances. These deposits, which the honorable member quotes as proof of our soundness, afford the most complete proof we could have of the danger that would- accrue to Australia attempting to pay the war gratuity in cash. Our soldiers, having had their vision widened by their experience overseas, having seen a good deal more than they would have seen had they stayed at home, realize the dangers of the situation. The returned man knows that the cost of living to-day in Australia, high, as it is, is nothing like as high as in other countries,and he does not wish to do anything that would cause it to rise to the extent that it has elsewhere. He knows that if we expand our finances to a greater extent than is necessary we shall increase the cost of living, and in nine cases out of ten he is therefore anxious that this gratuity shall be paid in the way of bonds. Ample provision is made in the Bill to cash the bonds where real necessity exists, and the genuine returned soldier asks, for nothing more. But he. does resent men like the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) trying to drag him into party politics with a view to making use of him at the next election.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seathas introduced into the debate a very undesirable feature, because it ill-becomes any honorable member to indulge in personal recrimination regarding the services which men on this side of the House may or may not have rendered in certain circumstances. We occupy our seats in this House in accordance with the will of the majority of the electors in the constituencies we represent, and upon all questions each honorable member has a perfect right to express himself.Of course, there are some persons whose vision in regard to service is so narrow and limited that they give no credit to anybody else for having Honorable intentions and a desire to do that which is right. Every member of this community, especially the working classes, has had to make sacrifices’ by reason of the many disabilities imposed by the war - disabilities which the aftermath of war has even accentuated, so that many people find it difficult to contend with them. Although the Government endeavour to take a great deal of credit to themselves for the introduction of this measure, it represents no new departure. A similar course has been followed by victorious nations in the past. By the terms of this Bill, a large section of “the Diggers” will not receive cash, and they do not know when they will receive anything more than the interest on the gratuity which is promised. I quote from the Diggers’ Gazette, which is the official organ of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of
Australia, and was published in Adelaide on the 15th November, 1919 -
It is also bad to place on posterity the obligation to pay a debt which we in this generation acknowledge. . . . There is only one safe and sensible way to liquidate a debt, and that . is to pay it- pay it out of our present assets if we can, and, if we cannot, tooverdraw on our future revenue. But for a nation to pay in promissory notes a debt of honour is, to say the least, unsound. . . . Winning the war meant literally defending, the business, and the property, and the capital in Australia. . . . Whatever method of payment we adopt, we must see that the man who fought is not compelled to pay also. But the” digger “ will, as a taxpayer, have to pay his share of the5¼ per cent. on his own paper bonus, just as hehas to pay his share of theinterest on all other war loans. But, if wepay in hard cash, we can get it by a direct wealth tax and a tax on war fortunes. This is the only just and feasible way. It is logical, too, for, if the result of the war had been other than victory, it is they, and they alone, who would have suffered financially. And is the wealth of Australia sufficient to stand a £ 25,000,000 levy ? The figures speak for themselves. Here they are: -
Fifteen thousand persons own a quarter of the total wealth of Australia. None of this favoured few own less than £10,000 in assets: -
According to a reply I received from the Treasurer, up to the 31st December, 1919, a total of £29,826,267 had been paid in interest on war loans. If money can be found to pay interest on war loans to financial institutions and those who are favorably circumstanced in life, the men who rendered war service abroad are at least deserving of equal consideration. It is a strong indictment against the Government that they are not prepared to give to the returned soldier in recognition of his ‘ services during the crisis through which the Empire has just passed the same consideration as they are giving to the financial magnates. Under the proposed system of paying the gratuity in non-negotiable bonds, men who have given three or four years’ war service will draw in interest, which is the only monetary consideration about which they can have any degree of certainty, £3 or £4 per annum, or ls. 7d. per week, or 2½d. per day. We on this side of the House assert that if men are to be given recognition for the services! they rendered, they are justified in expecting the cash payment. The only cash they can be sure of receiving is the interest upon the bonds which are to be given to them. They should, however, receive full recognition, by the payment of a cash gratuity, of the services which they rendered.
The Bill contains no provision for the payment of a gratuity to many who have just claims for consideration, and makes discriminations that are not just or equitable. A body of men who rendered very valuable services were those who went abroad to assist in the manufacture of munitions, and to do engineering work on the other side of the world. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), when addressing the House yesterday, told us that workmen in industries were as necessary to a nation as warriors in the field, and that equipment was as essential as men. While the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was speaking, the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Groom) interjected that munition workers were not subject to risks. That statement is not correct. When travelling at sea, they ran the same risks as the troops j and the secretary of the munition workers at Adelaide (Mr. Tate) has declared that there were forty-five air raids over the place at which he was located in England during his employment there, and, no doubt, his experience was only in keeping with that of a majority of the munition workers. A member on the other side of the House has suggested that the munition workers earned good wages while ;away; but the Leader of the Opposition lias shown that their wages averaged only about £2 a week.
– I was speaking of certain cases. That was all they received from the time they left here until they returned.
– The average wage paid to munition workers in England was £4 10s. per week of seventy to ninety hours, and those who went from here received, in addition, only an allowance of £5 for the voyage to Great Britain. They had two homes to keep going, having to make provision for those dependent on them whom they left behind, and to keep themselves in Great Britain. Therefore, their average pay- would be equivalent to about the sum stated by the Leader of the Opposition. The majority of those engaged in munition making did not earn princely salaries. -Furthermore, I understand that many of them were called upon to help in the repairing of submarines, and to make trial trips in these vessels, when they took the risk of. being submerged, and the ordinary dangers of warfare in the submarine service. The services of a number of these have been recognised, but those for whom I am making a claim are not dealt with in the Bill. Some of them were engaged as members of repair gangs behind the lines, and helped to supply the equipment which was essential to the men who were engaged in the fighting. It would be useless to place in the field an army without equipment. These men have a just claim to consideration, and I hope that in Committee favorable consideration . will be given to it. . For the sacrifices they have made, and the risks in which they have been involved, they are justly entitled to participate in the gratuity.-
Another class of men to whose claims I direct attention are men who desired to go abroad, but were told by. the authorities that their duty was to remain here to assist in operations of local defence. I speak now of those working in the naval-radio sections, who, upon the outbreak of hostilities, were given a certificate which ran as follows : -
Mr. is employed in wireless tele graph work. In the opinion of the Naval Board (Australia), so long as he is so cm- i ployed, he is doing his duty for his King and country, equally with those who have joined the Forces afloat or ashore.
This card is issued by authority of the Naval Board to those who sign an undertaking to join the fighting Forces if called upon.
To that an official signature is attached. A man who possesses that certificate has a just claim to consideration. It is not the fault of such a man if he remained in Australia. He offered his services for use where they could be best employed.
– And was employed at a nominal rate of pay.
– Quite . so. Furthermore, these men signed an undertaking to join the fighting forces if called upon to do so. There are others who ought to be included in the Bill, but their claims will be advanced by other members of the Labour party. I hope that it will be generally recognised that it will be better for us to err on the side of generosity in dealing with this measure than to refuse to recognise rightful claims, and thus cause persons who have done service for thecountry to feel that they have nob been properly treated. My contribution to the debate has been made with the desire to see justice done to my fellow-citizens. If the Government is prepared to do the right thine, they will recognise the claims of all who directly rendered service in the war to this country and to the Empire. But if the provisions of the measure are so circumscribed as to deprive many who ought to enjoy recognition of any participation in the gratuity, a wrong will be. done, and the promises made to the electors will not be kept. It was stated definitely that the gratuity would be paid in cash. The attitude of the Prime Minister towards the gratuity was as changeable as the weather. When he arrived in Adelaide, things seemed rather desperate. This is how he is reported in the Daily Herald of the 11th November last - a Labour newspaper which tells the truth, and is, therefore, I believe, an exception to the general rule of newspapers in the Commonwealth -
The Prime Minister proceeded to state the advantages of his scheme over the one adopted in New Zealand. In those islands a man who did not go abroad did not get anything, to which a number of wounded soldiers interjected, ‘* Quite right! “
– They joined up and were ready to go.
Then the Prime Minister delivered himself of a piece of advice which is particularly brilliant, coming from a right honorable gentleman holding so supreme an office. The report continues -
– Well, if you do not agree, all you have to do is to wait outside the bank and give them a knock on the head when they come out.
The Prime Minister added -
A soldier will be able to hand these bonds over in payment of furniture or for his home. The Government will make arrangements for the banks, including the Savings Bank, to cash the bonds if their holders want money for them.
– Is that contained in the Bill now?
– It is not. Honorable members on this side wish the Government to act according to the promises of the Prime Minister, namely, that the gratuity would be paid in cash. At this same meeting the Adelaide Herald reported an incident as follows -
A Voice. - Suppose we all go to the bank at the same time !
– The banks will hold these bonds exactly as they do the war loan scrip. They are the best security in the world. The point I want to make is this - that you will be able to go to any Savings Bank or any one of the banks throughout the Commonwealth and get cash for your bonds.
Honorable members on this side are merely desirous that the Prime Minister shall act according to his promises made at the meeting of returned soldiers in the Adelaide Town Hall on the 10th November last. The Government. cannot justify their position in proposing now to issue non-negotiable bonds. The private wealth of this country was enhanced between 1914 and 1918 to the extent of £272,000,000. Having regard to those huge figures, the amount involved in the payment of the soldiers’ gratuity is very small. It should be remembered that, while our men were fighting for the safety of Australia, and of her financial institutions’, these latter were receiving enormous advantages as the outcome of the war. It is these institutions, these people made wealthy by the war, who should now be called upon to pay some amountof tribute to those who safeguarded and saved them. The workers of Australia who have suffered under the disabilities due to the war have not hesitated to say that it is only fitting that Australia’s soldiers should be paid in cash ; and the levy should be drawn from those who have been bleeding our people. The wives and dependants of our soldiers have been the victims of profiteers.
– I wish to intimate at this stage that I shall not be able to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Cook in its present form, since to do so would transgress the well-established principle that amendments which anticipate amendments that can be moved in Committee cannot be moved upon the second reading of a Bill.
– Upon a point of order, I would direct your attention, sir, to some well established precedents in” this House. On the 30th August, 1910, the late Hon. Alfred Deakin, in the course of a debate upon the Land Tax Assessment Bill-
– Mr. Speaker, I understand that you have ruled-
– I take it that the honorable member for Cook is about to raise, a point of order.
– Yes, sir.
– Will the honorable member please resume his seat. He is apparently questioning my ruling. If he desires to dissent therefrom, it will be necessary for him to give notice in writing, which motion of dissent must be dealt with at a subsequent sitting of this House. If the honorable member will refer to May (10th edition, page 447), he will note the following -
Nor may such an amendment deal with the provisions of the Bill upon which it is moved, nor anticipate amendments thereto which may be moved in ‘ Committee.
I may add that amendments which may be moved upon the second reading stage of a Bill are very limited in their scope; and this particular form of amendment is expressly excluded in House of Commons practice.
– I have before me several precedents-
– If the honorable member dissents from my ruling, he must take the course laid down under the Standing Orders, and submit his motion of dissent in writing.
Motion of dissent submitted in writing, and, debate thereon adjourned.
– I do not propose to enter into any acrimonious discussion of this measure. I am quite conscious of the fact that many promises from many quarters were made during the period of the election. I am very thankful that I made no promises in the direction of cash payment. In every centre at which I spoke I took the course of leaving the matter of the gratuity until I was directly asked about it, and then I explained that the only business pro position was that which had been suggested in the first promises made by the Government to the soldiers. I am extremely proud of our soldiers, taking them in the aggregate. I am proud’ that they themselves have recognised that the proposed gratuity is a fair thing. I am not saying that I entirely favour the measure. I intimated, when speaking during the Address-in-Reply debate, that in my view it would have been better if the £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 to which the country is pledging itself on the soldiers’ behalf had been given them in a different form from that which is proposed. The Bill is not without its defects, and I hope that we shall” be able to bring forward for the consideration of the Government modifications which appear to be necessary. It has been suggested that the money should be repaid in the same way as the debts which have accumulated owing to the war; that is to say, during our lifetime. Some people have pleaded that posterity should not be burdened with our obligations. No truly National. Government would propose to render any great national service at a huge cost, and ask the people of the day to meet the whole of that cost, the benefits from which will accrue over many lifetimes. Australia will continue far beyond the lifetime of its present inhabitants. Australia is an asset that will balance a huge debt to posterity as well as to the people of to-day. The present generations are prepared to meet their reasonable share of the general obligation, but if the scheme which has been propounded by certain honorable members were carried into effect, it would strangle Australia even more surely than it is being strangled to-day, and further increase the cost of living. I have intimated my intention to move a new clause in the Committee stage, and I have been pleased to note that a returned soldier member of this Chamber has also given notice to similar effect. I daresay we shall be able to come to a reasonable compromise with regard to our proposals. My idea is not only to make the gratuity available to our returned men, but to enable them to so invest it that it will be, indeed, a gratuity in perpetuity. I hope the Government will make provision in this measure to enable them to provide satisfactorily for certain cases that are bound to crop up, but which cannot be included as a whole without bringing in a great number of those whom the “dinkum” soldiers do not desire to see benefiting under the gratuity scheme. I have received only this week a letter from a man who fought in ‘ the South African war and the Zulu war, and enlisted in 1914 fdr the recent war in Europe. He fought on Gallipoli, received, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and was mentioned in despatches by Sir Ian Hamilton. He is a captain, was invalided to England, and ‘ was punished by court martial for being absent without leave, and being found in an hotel drinking, or said to be drinking, with a couple of privates. I am speaking, of course, of this man’s own version, for, as we know, there are always two sides to a story. I am hopeful that the Minister for Defence will have full inquiry made into this case, because a man with a record like this, who, after serving his sentence, went into Flanders and was wounded at Passchendaele, should, I think, be regarded most leniently, even if he has departed from the path of rectitude - a departure which may, perhaps, be excused after the hell fire of the war. I feel sure the Government will give this case reasonable consideration, and I hope the Bill will prove sufficiently elastic to justify the payment of the full gratuity to a man with such service to his credit. I cannot speak so feelingly of the Garrison Artillery, though I think that some consideration should be given to those men who freely volunteered for service abroad, but were not permitted to go. In Western Australia, at the Albany garrison, a number of the men were feverishly desirous to go to the Front, but they were distinctly told that they served their country quite as well in Australia, and that, moreover, it was not known when the enemy might reach our shores. My sympathies are with these men, but as they did not serve in the danger zone I cannot speak for them as I do for the man to whom I have particularly referred. Further opportunity will be afforded honorable members to deal with the Bill in Committee, and I shall not now prolong my remarks. I might say that during the election campaign I ceased, at a very early stage, to refer to the War Gratuity Bill in any way. In one of the most prominent towns in my electorate, the principal officer of the Returned Soldiers and
Sailors’ Association said to me, “For God’s sake, do not refer to the gratuity, we are sick of it, and of the jerrymandering in the business.” We feel it humiliating, and I am sure it is humiliating to the soldiers, to further refer to the matter from a political stand-point.
.- I had no great desire to take part in this debate, and proposed to reserve myself for the Committee stage. The Bill, however, has been most indecently used by the head of the Government. The members of the Opposition in the last Parliament were very anxious that this Bill should be dealt with before the appeal to the people, so that the intentions of the Government, , or the Parliament, might be fully known. In this the New Zealand Government provided a precedent, for their gratuity measure was passed into law before the general election; and, moreover in New Zealand there is a cash gratuity, and the people have been asked to assist in providing the necessary money by means of taxation. I am totally opposed to this gratuity being provided out of loan moneys, unless some provision is made for the repayment of the loan. During the war, of course, it was absolutely necessary that the Government should have to turn to loan moneys to meet our expenditure, but now we should have regard to the financial stability of Australia, and stop further borrowing for war purposes. The community generally should be appealed to for loans, or loans enforced, if the Government pleases, in order to provide the necessary funds. I am not trying to impress on the House any special fad of my own, but remind honorable members that the statesmen of Great Britain, from, the inception of the war, met more than 40 per cent, of the expenditure out of revenue. The financial experts in the British Parliament are now forcing the Government by every means in their power to refrain from raising any more loans to meet war expenditure. Every country that has incurred expense through the war will have to introduce some sane method of wiping out its war debt. No interest is earned by the money spent on war, and we cannot continue in this country to raise further loans when the interest on our existing loans to-day is from 5$ to 6 per cent. We cannot make any progress if we Lave to continue indefinitely to carry the burden of interest, and make no attempt to liquidate our war debt. No member of the House who is engaged in commercial pursuits would conduct his business on those lines, and why should not we, as the custodians of the revenue of Australia, endeavour to apply commercial principles to our conduct of the finances? We are not so impoverished as to have no alternative. No nation on earth has such grand opportunities as Australia has, if they are properly utilized, to meet the claim that has to be met. and yet no attempt is made by the Government to use them.
We all know that the Prime Minister makes no claim to financial ability. The conduct of his own affairs is sufficient proof that he is in no way an expert in finance. As the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) pointed out, from the very inception of this scheme he has gone from one city to another and made a different statement in each of the six capitals. In Adelaide he told the people that he would make arrangements with the banks to pay the gratuity in cash. I presume that when he came back to Melbourne he met the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), Mr. W. L. Baillieu, and a few other men prominent in commercial life, and they drew his attention to the stupidity of the statement He had made. When he went to Sydney he made quite a different proposal. What reliance can be placed on any statement made ‘by the Prime Minister after that experience ? I will make this allowance for him, that an election was looming in the distance, and every man in political life, State or- Federal, rnakes statements during election times in the same way as the Prime Minister did. He is the most reckless politician in our public life in connexion with Federal finance, and it is most unfortunate for the people of Australia that we have as Prime Minister a man with those bad qualities. The returned soldiers were told at the last election that a gratuity would be granted to them, and this Parliament is bound to honour that promise. We are forced into that position, but it would be a mistake, and do a great deal of harm, to give the gratuity in the shape of bonds. I believe it was the honorable member for Adelaide who pointed out that the money could be raised within Australia to pay the gratuity. If we raised it here, and paid it to the soldiers, it would be put into circulation, and then there would be an opportunity for an income tax levy or a tax on capital. If we only had some financial genius on the Government side of the House, a plan could be put forward to pay a great proportion of the cost of the war out of revenue, as has been done in Great Britain. If the Government side cannot find sufficient ability among themselves to do this, let them appeal to the members of the Opposition, and they will furnish it. It is not the duty of the Opposition to lay their plans before the Government, and the Government cannot expect me or my party to give our brains away to such incompetent men. They would simply mismanage the whole affair, and so defeat our object. The . figures regarding what Great Britain did during the war should interest all honorable members on the other side who desire to study this question properly. Our war debt must be wiped out. The State debts are in a very different position. They amount to £300.000,000 odd, but much of that sum is represented by public utilities. That is a vastly different proposition from a war debt, which every country makes a start to liquidate immediately the war ends. We should do that. We should not be continually paying interest only to find, after the interest is paid, that we still have the full amount of the debt staring us in the face. On the 24th January of this year .the amount of the war expenditure of Great Britain was £10,754,962,269. The net borrowing for war purposes was £7,257,000,000, and £3,503,000,000 was raised from revenue. Since the war Great Britain has raised £S24,S55,56S from revenue. What have we done in Australia during the war to reduce our war debt? It was pointed out from this side of the House that the Government ought to prepare for peace as it ought to prepare for war; yet no steps were taken to do it. When the last war loan was raised I pointed out that there was money in circulation. Other honorable members referred to the extravagance of the people. We cannot prevent people from spending money when they have it, but we can compel them to pay taxation on the wealth that has been created by means of the expenditure of loan moneys. No one has made any attempt to deal with that aspect of the question. I am afraid that before very long some honorable members of the Country party will be obliged to hand over a portion of their capital for the purpose of wiping out the war debt. I have endeavoured to get honorable members to wake up to a sense of their responsibilities, and however nauseating my repetition of the misdeeds of the Government may be, I must keep on reminding them that the evil day must be met. In his private affairs no man would leave it to the last moment to prevent his bankruptcy; he would take every care to avoid placing himself in a position of humiliation. Yet, although our Government have been warned time after time to make preparation to Avoid the humiliation of the Commonwealth, they take no heed of the warning, and remain indifferent. ‘Sooner or later it will be necessary for the country to meet its obligations, yet they do nothing. My long experience of political life leads me to gather from their proposal that these gratuity bonds shall not mature until 1924; that they hope, by hook or by crook, and the breaking of election pledges, to occupy their seats a little longer, and then leave it to the Labour party to get Australia out of its difficulties. They dare not impose a heavy income tax, because they know very well that it would be more likely to affect their own supporters than those who support honorable members on this side of the House. Thus it will be left to the Labour party to straighten up the affairs arising out of the war and out of the mismanagement of the present Government. No preparation is being made against the evil day. The only move made is simply to “ borrow, borrow, borrow.” It seems to be an absolute fever, affecting not only the Commonwealth Government, but also the State Governments. As the result of the New South Wales elections a party is now going out of power which declined to impose taxation through the local governing bodies for the maintenance of roads, but preferred to borrow money for the purpose. I urge the Government and those supporting them to cease further borrowing. Loan money spent in Australia goes into the pockets of our citizens, and by means of taxes or a levy upon share capital or reserves, we have every justification for attacking these coffers, and so removing the loan incubus we have -on Australia at the present time. I appeal to honorable members supporting the Government to urge the payment of this gratuity in cash.
When I press for a cash payment of this gratuity I am not asking for the payment of 35,000,000 sovereigns. I am merely urging the extension of the amount of credit to the men who fought so nobly for Australia and the Empire. Everybody recognises this country’s marvellous power of production. Our primary production is already great, but our secondary industries are as yet only in their infancy. It has been estimated by a departmental officer that Australia can produce wealth to the extent of £280,000,000 annually. Why, then, should we embark further upon loan enterprises ? I do trust that my appeal will have some weight with the Government. During the recent election campaign the Prime Minister distinctly stated that our returned soldiers were to be paid this gratuity in cash. Only last night, when I quitted the precincts of this building, I met two returned soldiers, and almost the first question which they asked me was, “ Has Mr. Tudor been successful in compelling the Government to pay cash?” That is the question which is upon the lips of all our soldiers. Where is the utility of offering these men bonds which are not negotiable? If we raise £35.000,000 by loan in order to pay the gratuity, we shall have to pay interest upon it at the rate of 5^ per cent. Why should we not pay cash, and thus save that amount of interest? I ask the honorable member for Flinders to go down amongst lids chums’ in the Lane to-morrow morning and invite them to say whether my proposal is not a sound business one.
– Does the honorable member really think that we could find the amount of cash that is involved in the payment of this gratuity?
– If a Labour Government were in power to-morrow they would experience no difficulty in finding it.
– Knowing what the honorable member does in regard to the financial position of this country, I am surprised at ‘his recklessness.
– I will not answer interjections, because I wish to insure that they shall not appear in Hansard. I note that the men who were members of our permanent military forces prior to the ‘ outbreak of ‘the war are not t:. participate in this gratuity, and I have been requested to bring their case under the notice of this House. These men were permanent officers in our Military Forces. They were the only soldiers in A.ustralia who were really military men.. Many of them endeavoured to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, but the Government refused ro entertain their applications. These men instructed the officers of the Australian Imperial Force who were trained in Australia prior to their departure for the Front. The salaries of these instructors amounted to only 10s. or lis. per day, whereas the officers whom they trained were able, after passing the requisite examination, to command salaries of 20s. and 25s. per day. To quote the words of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), “ The good name of the Australian Imperial Force is largely due to the splendid instruction and training which the officers received at the hands of the Permanent Forces.” I ask that these men shall receive the gratuity.
Here is a statement as to a pledge given by the Prime Minister which should prove of interest. Mr. Percy Markham, organizing secretary of the Bourke campaign, wrote the following letter to Corporal Grenfell, of 69 Munro-street, West Brunswick, in regard to a promise made by the Prime Minister to Sergeant Tracy, who was a Ministerial candidate at the last general election : -
Sergeant Tracy desires me to state that yesterday lie had an interview with the Prime Minister, who stated that ho would grant a wai- gratuity to_ the Permanent Force mon who were prevented from going abroad with the A.T.F. Details as to the exact amount per day that will be awarded, and the period to be covered have not yet been decided
That letter embodies a promise which the Government ought to keep. Promises made by the Prime Minister, however, are not of much value.
Those members of the Permanent Forces who were permitted to enlist justified the action of the Government in allowing them to go to the Front. I find that out of twenty-nine permanent officers who enlisted twenty-four won distinctions. One permanent officer from
New South Wales was on service in France, and the British’ War Office thought so much of him that they recalled him and placed him in charge of Weymouth Camp. He was. created a C.M.G. Another permanent officer who enlisted received an O.P.E., two won the Military Cross, two secured the Distinguished Conduct Medal, two others received the Military Medal, and four won the Medaille Militaire. If other members of the Permanent Force had been allowed to go to the Front I am confident that they also would have secured honours. While they remained in Australia they did not receive more than lis. per day. They ought certainly to receive the war gratuity. I find that twenty-nine out of 115 members of the Engineers Corps who enlisted gained promotion. Two of them reached the rank of major, nine secured captaincies, sixteen were made lieutenants, and two sub-lieutenants. That is a creditable record. The members of our Permanent Forces are men of military capacity. Many of them have a love of military life, and have such high ideals that I am sure that had they been allowed to go to the Front they would have rendered valuable service to the Empire. My request that these men should receive some recognition is not unreasonable.
Earlier in the session, I drew attention to the callous indifference of those in authority to the demands made upon them to deal with the problems relating to our loan policy. There appears to be a desire on their part to stave off the day of reckoning by raising further loans. In answer to a question which I put to the Treasurer, I received to-day a statement showing that the interest on loans paid by the Commonwealth up to 31st December, 1919, amounted to £35.346,397. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) yesterday referred to the loan indebtedness of the States. He said that £35,000,000 would fall due within the next two years, and that, instead of the 3£ per cent, interest payable in respect of them, it would probably be necessary to pay 6 per cent, for the renewals. Not only will this greatly increased rate of interest have to be paid, but the conversion loans may be floated at £98, and, altogether, the cost of flotation will probably amount to another £1,000,000.
This means that every man, woman, and child in Australia must contribute an additional 4s. a year to meet the increased cost of loans that have been in existence for some ten or fifteen years. Parliament should take these things into serious consideration. A sum of £1,000,000 will be added to our expenditure, and our loans will still continue unpaid. I, perhaps, take more delight in dealing with these questions than do some other members of this House! Financial questions are considered very dry by some people, but the calculating mind enjoys their consideration. I am up to the tricks of politicians, and I know that honorable members opposite would like to be in a position ito accuse the Opposition of delaying the passing of this Bill. They will, however, admit that, if an honorable member believes that it is possible to meet in a certain way the expenditure involved in the passing of this measure, he should ventilate the views he holds concerning it. The financial position of the Commonwealth is worthy of serious consideration, as honorable members will learn if they read the Imperial Hansard or the financial journals. The position is giving considerable trouble in Great Britain with its 45,000,000 of people, and it i3 troubling me. It is not the nation in possession of the largest territory or having <the largest population that will come best out of the war, but the nation which, wisely governed, makes the best use of industrial and primary production. I have tried to be a leader of the people, and have attempted to induce honorable members on the other side to tread the path that will lead to progress and help us out of our difficulties. I have always been optimistic rather than pessimistic, and I believe that the people of Australia can pay the gratuity to the soldiers in cash. If we can force <the Government to adopt that course, we shall have done the right thing, and the future will confirm the wisdom of our action. Individually, I have no objection to being in Opposition, as members on this side are free to give expression .to their views; but, from the point of view of the proper administration of the government of Australia, I say that those who come directly from the masses of the people are better judges of their requirements, and of the course which should he followed to get the Commonwealth out of its present difficult position. “ Circumstances have placed us in the cold shades of Opposition, but that does not worry me at all. I love Australia, and I believe that our people will he able to meet their responsibilities. The wealth which some people in this country have accumulated since 1913 would be sufficient to pay half our war debt. It. is not right that the wealth of individuals should be increased in that way when the nation is at waT. The wealth of the country when it is at war should be used to meet the cost of its defence and its efforts in the cause of liberty and justice. The time has gone by for a policy of boom, borrow, and burst, and our children should not be called upon to pay off debts which we should have settled in our own life-time. We cannot pay off all our debts in one year, and I am not so foolish as to suggest any attempt ‘to do so. The first step we should take should be towards the liquidation of our war debt, and the next should be to abandon further borrowing, and to take revenue from those who have wealth - in my view, obtained unjustly, though I do not suggest that it has been unjustly obtained in a criminal sense.
Honorable members must realize the financial position, but I see no indication on the part of the Government that they intend to discontinue the borrowing policy. I do not think that if a referendum of the people had been taken they would have been found to be agreeable to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) going to Great Britain in her hour of trouble to ask for assistance in meeting Australia’s financial obligations. We ought to strike out for ourselves, and prove ourselves worthy of our nationhood. I believe we can raise the money in Australia without making any appeal abroad. The Government did not give any serious consideration to the mission of the Treasurer, but his departure from Australia at this time is more serious than may appear at first sight. Had the Government meditated on the question they would have realized the necessity for keeping in Australia the Treasurer and the Under-Treasurer (Mr. Collins), who are better acquainted with the financial affairs of the country than is any other honorable member on the Government side. The Treasurer deserves a holiday, and I hope he will return restored to health ; but eight or nine months must elapse before then, and that may involve a delay in the presentation of the Budget. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) is Acting Treasurer, but I do not like to say what I think about him as a financier. If he were half a Christian he would admit that he is not a financial genius. He may manage the Department of the Navy very well, but I do not think that he would claim ability to carry the heavy responsibilities of getting Australia out of its financial difficulties.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– I offer that observation with no intention of being disrespectful to the Minister, who has never posed as a financial expert. I have read that the Treasurer is to attempt to borrow £20,000,000 or £30,000,000. Parliament has not been consulted in regard to that loan, and I am opposed to borrowing abroad, because if money is borrowed within Australia the interest is paid to our own people, and our bank balance remains practically the same always; but when we send out of Australia £1,000,000 in interest, that money is lost to the country. The same thing occurs with regard to the old-age pensions. The Treasury pays the pension on Thursday, and I swear that not half-a-dozen of the 60,000 pensioners would be found with any money in their pockets on the Saturday; the money has all passed into circulation again. I was one of those who urged Mr. Fisher, when Treasurer, to float the first Avar loan in Australia. He was nervous about raising £20,000,000 in Australia, and I admit that I was, too. Honorable members opposite laughed at that feature of Labour finance, but during the war we proved that we could raise money in Australia, and the interest on ourborrowings was paid to our own people.
– -Order ! The honorable member is making a general financial statement.
– Perhaps I am. The Government will not be sorry if they take my advice to pay the gratuity in cash.
The people themselves would be agreeable to that course, which would prove a blessing to the soldiers. If we give a man a piece of paper nominally worth £100,he takes it to the bank and is told, “Oh, go to hell! that is not worth anything.” Any man who had that experience would say, “ Good God ! What a Government we have got; they are a lot of rotters to give me a piece of paper that nobody will accept!” To prevent discontent, and to prove that we do appreciate the work which the soldiers have done, we should make a cash payment to them. If they are given a non-negotiable bond they will be cursing and damning when they find they cannot negotiate it. I know their sentiments. I receive letters from them, and have frequent callers at my home to inquirewhen the gratuity will be paid. I reply, “ Ask me something easy. You placed the Nationalist Government in power; the Labour party is only the Opposition. We have no power to help you..”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marks) adjourned.
– (By leave.)- I desire to give notice of the following notice of motion (in Committee) : -
That it be an instruction to the Committee’ on the Bill to incorporate in the Bill the following: -
Payment of the Avar gratuity incash to -
soldiers who have lost an eye;
soldiers who have lost an arm or leg;
Commonwealth employees who are returned soldiers. (b) The undertaking made with- the Prime Minister by the State Governments of Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales for the payment of cash in- exchange: for the gratuity bonds of their returned soldier employees.
The undertaking made with the Prime Minister by certain banks, insurance companies - and other employers for the payment of cash in exchange for the gratuity bonds of their returned soldieremployees.
The issue of gratuity bonds gene rally, negotiable at the banks.”
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that that amendment nas already been ruled out of order.
– That fact would not necessarily exclude its being moved as an instruction. In any case, it is out of order, because the instruction is to the Committee to do something which it already has power to do.
– In moving
That the House do now adjourn,
I hope that we shall be able to dispose of the second reading of the Gratuity Bill to-morrow. It is essentially a Committee Bill, and, in my judgment, it is unnecessary to discuss details at the secondreading stage. I therefore appeal to honorable members not to pursue their rights too closely, but allow us to get to close grips with the Bill in Committee as soon as possible.
– Do you want to get the Bill before Easter?
– I hope we shall have the Bill through before Easter.
.- I do not apologize for speaking at this late hour. I wish to draw attention to the statement made in another place by the Minister representing the Government (Senator Millen) with respect to the invalid and old-age pensions. The question was asked whether provision would be made to enable blind pen,sioners to earn at least £2 a week without any deduction being made from their pension payments, and the Minister said the matter was under consideration, and that a decision would be come to at an early date. I hope that full justice will be done to these people so unfortunately situated in life, and who have to contend equally with the exorbitant prices in the cost of living. One blind pensioner I know of is getting only £2 ls. per week, including a 50 per cent, bonus; another £2 12s.; and another £1 13s. 6d. A basket-maker with thirty years’ experience, and with a 50 per cent, bonus, is only averaging £2 4s. 9d. per week. Each of these persons is married, with dependent families. Blind soldiers are allowed to earn £4 per week with a house allowance. I trust, therefore, that the claims of the inmates of our blind institutions to be able to earn sufficient to place them in a better financial position than at present will be considered, and that the existing restrictions with respect to earnings will be removed, so that their income may more closely approach a- living wage. I understand that the average earning capacity of a blind person is only one-third that of a person with his sight. I may also refer to the case of an old-age pensioner named Ophelia Martin, of Kapunda. She is, I believe, the widow of the person who was a member of the party that conveyed provisions for the Burke and Wills Expedition. This lady owns a house valued at £150, from which she receives 7s. 6d. per week-
– Why not leave this matter over for the present? The hour is late. Surely it is not urgent.
-These cases are urgent. The last Friday that I was present, out of consideration to honorable members who desired to catch their trains, I did not raise the matter, but I desire to do so now. Another person named J. Hore is in an unfortunate position of being an invalid, and unable to obtain a pension
– If the honorable member will see me to-morrow I will undertake to see that these matters are looked into. I believe that something is being done for the blind people. I understand the matter was debated last year.
– But nothing was done with respect to them.
.- I would not occupy the time of the House at this late hour except that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was speaking with reference to the increased price of sugar, and when the time limit had expired, he challenged anybody in this House to disagree with the arrangement.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot, on the adjournment,revive that matter, -which was the subject of a special motion this afternoon.
– Then I desire to make a personal explanation. I want it tobe known to my constituents that I absolutely repudiate the arrangement made by this Government inregard to sugar prices.
– Surely that is not a personal explanation.
– I am misrepresented by thestatement of the Prime Minister appearing in the records of the House. Ho challenged any honorable member present to disagree with the agreement, and I want it to appear on the records that I object to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200325_reps_8_91/>.