8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I rise to a question of privilege. Last night, after the adjournment of the debate on tie War Gratuity Bill, I asked for, and obtained, the leave of the House to give a notice of motion for to-day. Before doing. so, I had consulted Mr. Speaker as to whether I should be in order at that stage in asking for leave to give notice for to-day, and he informed me that I would be in order. When the adjournment of the debate had been carried, he therefore called on me, and, having obtained leave, I gave notice that I would move to-day for an instruction to the Committee on the Bill. But after I had read out my notice of motion, Mr. Speaker ruled it out of order. I now put it to honorable members that, when an honorable member gives notice of motion, it is not for Mr. Speaker to rule the motion out of order. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has, time after time, given notice of motions affecting matters which he thinks ought to be discussed, and those notices have gone on to the businesspaper. If Mr. Speaker had ruled any of the motions out of order when notice was given of them, and had declared that they would not be put on the notice-paper-
-. - Then there would have been a tow. But Mr. Speaker has not done that.
– Mr. Speaker has not the right to decide, at the time when notice is given of it, whether a motion is or is not in order; the proper time at which to say that it is not in order, should it not be so, is when it has been called on for discussion. Mr. Speaker could say, when my motion was called on, that it was out of order, and could not be discussed, and the House would then have the right? to dissent from that ruling if it thought fit. But Mr. Speaker has no right to rule out a motion when notice of the intention to move it has been given, and before it has been moved. By reason of what occurred, I propose to move-
That, in the opinion of this House, Mr. Speaker has infringed the privileges of honorable members under the Standing Orders by ruling out of order a notice of motion given openly in the House after leave of the House had been obtained, and before such notice had been moved, thus preventingsuch notice coming before the House.
Whether honorable members agree or disagree with the motion of which I gave notice is altogether beside the question. What I am asking them to decide is whether the ruling out of order of motions when notice has been given of them, and before they are called on for discussion, is to become the established practice of this House. The whirligig of time brings changes. Honorable members opposite may very shortly be sitting on this side of the Chamber. I have seen these lightning changes occur in this Parliament within the space of a few hours. No matter where an honorable member sits, and no matter how humble may be his position in the House, he has, as the representative of an electoral division, certainrights and privileges, and these should be jealously guarded by honorable members atlarge.
– You must point out what disability you are under.
– That is not the question. The right honorable member is very anxious to side-track the discussion. Heshowed last night that he did not wish a vote to be taken on my proposals. That would not suit him, and it would not suit the Government. But those proposals are not now under discussion, though the right honorable member wishes to divert attention to them with a view to influencing some of the honorable members on his side.
– I wishto hear what the honorablemember’s grievance is.
-The right honorable member desires that his’ followers shall vote on the motion of privilege on party grounds, and not pay regard to its substantial merits. He was present last night when I obtained leave to give notice of motion, and when I gave such notice-
– But it was found that the motion of which you gave notice was irregular.
– The motion was ruled out of order at a time when it should not have been so dealt with. The proper time at which to say whether it was in order or notwas when it came hefore the House. Then, on my rising to move it, Mr. Speaker might interrupt me and say that the motion was not in order. That would be a perfectly regular course to take.
– A motion should he in print before ruled out of order.
– It is not for Mr. Speaker to rule a motion out of order immediately after I have given notice of it, having obtained leave of the House to do so. He cannot wipe out a notice of motion in that unceremonious fashion.
– Does it not save time, when Mr. Speaker has made up his mind that a motion is out of order, for him to say so ?
– There are many ways in which time mightbe saved. The honorable member has given notice of motions in regard to which time could be saved by wiping them off the noticepaper without consideration. Honorable members, however, possess certain rights. Standing order 251 requires that -
An instruction to a Committee of the whole requires notice, and can only be moved before first going into Committee on any question.
I knew that the House would probably go into Committee on the War Gratuity Bill to-day, and that, therefore, my only chance of moving an instruction to the Committee was by giving . notice of my motion last night. Consequently, I obtained leave and gave notice of my motion, in accordance with the terms of standing order 108, which says -
No member shall, unless it bc otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, make any motion except in pursuance of notice openly given at a previous sitting and duly entered on the notice-paper.
My notice of motion was ‘given openly and in the House, and should have been “ duly entered upon the notice-paper.”
The motion of which I gave notice was in the following terms: -
That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Bill to incorporate in the Bill the following: - [a) Payment of the war gratuity in cash to-
soldiers who have lost an eye;
– That has nothing to do with the question now before the House. The right honorable member is . again trying to side track me. The House is not now asked to’ consider the merits of the proposals of which I gave notice. My point is that notice was properly given of my motion, that the motion was couched in parliamentary language, and that it should go on the notice-paper to give the House an opportunity to say, unless Mr. Speaker interfered on a question of order at the proper time, whether the instruction should be given to the Committee.’
– On what ground was the motion ruled out of order?
– It wasruled out of order without any reason being given, so far as I heard.
– I heard Mr. Speaker give reasons.
– I have no desire to state things wrongly. If Mr. Speaker gave reasons, I did not hear them, as there was some confusion at the time. Whether he gave reasons or not does not matter. My point is that he had no right to rule on the subject of the motion at that time. According to May, the notice of motion must be properly drawn. It is stated on page 367 of the 12th edition of May that -
Notice is required, not only of an instruction, but of an amendment to an instruction which, if agreed to, would enlarge the scope of the instruction or convert the same into a novel proposition.
May says too - page 368 - that -
Debate on a motion for instruction must be strictly relevant thereto, and must not be directed towards the general objects of the Bill to which the instruction relates.
If Mr. Speaker was of the opinion that the motion of which I gave notice was directed to the general objects of the Bill, and was, therefore, out of order, the time for him to rule it out of order was when it came before the House for discussion. May says further that -
An instruction to a Committee of the whole House can only be moved when the Order of the Day for the first sitting of the Committee hasbeen read.
This matter does not affect me personally more than it affects every other honorable member of the House; the rights of members generally are concerned. The proper steps were taken by me to obtain leave of the House to move my motion, and thereupon notice was given of it, and an opportunity should be provided for the moving of it. I contend that Mr. Speaker was wrong in ruling the motion out of order immediately after notice of it had been given, instead of waiting until it had come properly before the House. Therefore, to safeguard the rights of members generally in regard to motions, I move the motion which I have already read.
– Even the motion which the honorable member has now moved, a copy of which has been handed to me, is not quite in order as it stands, because it infringes standing order 97, which requires the signature of the proposer and seconder. I return it to the honorable member in order that these signatures may be attached, and the rules of the House complied with.
– I have followed the usual practice. In any case, I did hot hand up the notice of motion; it was taken off my desk. It is useless for you, sir, to try to score a point against me in that fashion.
– I have no desire to score against any one. I assure honorable members that my only desire is to conduct the business of the House in the manner prescribed by the Standing Orders. This matter is of no concern to me personally.
– You are not infallible, Mr. Speaker.
– Quite so; but honorable members will realize that I have merely carriedout the ‘Standing Orders, and that I would fail in my duty if I did not do so. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) certainly did ask leave to give notice of a motion, although such a notice was not regular at that time. The House gave him leave to give notice of a motion, but it did not give leave in respect of any specific notice of motion, because it could not be aware of the character of the notice until it had been given. No previous intimation had been given to me of the notice of motion, or I would have told the honorable member privately that sucha motion could not be moved under standing order 249.
– But it was only a notice of motion.
– The notice itself was irregular, and as such could be, and should be, refused by the Speaker, and should not be allowed to appear on the notice-paper. It is laid down in May, at page 233, the tenth edition -
When a notice, publicly given, is obviously irregular or unbecoming, the Speaker has interposed, and the notice is not received in that form; and he has also directed that a notice of motion should not be printed, as being obviously designed merely to give annoyance.
The notice of motion was not refused on the ground of its likelihood of giving annoyance, but because it was irregular, and transgressed the rules governing instructions to the Committee, as set out in the Standing Orders of the House. I intimated to the honorable member that his notice was irregular, and could not appear upon the noticepaper.
– Will you indicate the grounds of irregularity?
– The notice of motion was couched in terms similar to those of the amendment which the honorable member desired to move to the second reading of the Bill, and related to details that should be dealt with in Committee, including the payment of a war gratuity in cash to soldiers who have lost an eye, to soldiers who have lost an arm or leg, unemployed soldiers, Commonwealth employees who are returned soldiers, and so on. It is expressly laid down by all parliamentary authorities, firstly, that an amendment which can be moved in Committee cannot be made the subject of ah amendment to the motion for the second reading, and, secondly, that instruction to the Committee should not embrace matters which the Committee has already power to deal with. The ground upon which’ I refused the honorable member’s notice of motion was that it sought to direct the Committee to do something which the Committee already had power to do without such notice.
– That- may be a good ground for ruling it out of order when it is moved.
– That is a good ground for not accepting an irregular notice of motion, and I was bound to reject it under our Standing Orders. It would be obviously a waste of time to accept a notice of motion which directed the Committee to do that which it is already empowered to do without such.’ instruction, and it would have been irregular for me to have allowed the notice of motion to appear upon the business paper. If a notice of that kind were accepted the whole of the Committee stage of the Bill could be anticipated, and details debated in an irregular manner. Honorable members will see that my ruling conforms to ‘the rules of this House ‘ and the practice of the House of Commons.
– Will you indicate, sir, when such a notice of motion should be given ?
– In respect of time the notice was in order, for although the regular time for giving notices had passed, the House gave the honorable member for Cook special leave to hand in a notice of motion. Therefore if the notice had been in proper form, and such as I could have received in accordance with the Standing Orders, it would have appeared upon the notice-paper. But as it was irregular in itself, I could not receive it, and it therefore did not appear upon the noticepaper.
– Are honorable members now debarred from giving notice of their intention to move amendments in Committee ?
– No. All the matters which the honorable member for Cook sought to cover by an instruction to the Committee can be made the subject of amendments at the Committee stage.
– As this is a financial measure, will not private members be prevented from moving , amendments which will increase the burden of taxation?
– I cannot say that any such result will happen, for. there is no sum so far fixed or indicated. I cannot anticipate the ruling of the Chairman of . Committees. The notice of motion given by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts)’ covers matters which should be dealt with in Committee, and which the Committee has power to deal with. That is all I nm concerned about.. What the Committee may do with the amendments when they are moved is no concern of mine.
– In my opinion, you, sir, have not touched the merits of the case at all. You have stated many reasons why, in your opinion, my proposed motion should be ruled out of order when it comes before the House.
-The honorable member is wrong. The notice of motion is irregular, and cannot be received.
– I do not think you are infallible, sir, and I beg to .differ from your view. You think that you have the right to declare when a notice is given that it is out of order. I submit that, so long as a notice of motion is couched in parliamentary language, you are not entitled at that stage to refuse to accept it.
– This is not a matter of privilege, but a dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– If I had to ask the Minister for the Navy for liberty to speak in this House, the Government would get the business through very quickly, but we have not quite arrived at that stage yet. I have no feeling in this matter, but we may establish to-day a precedent which will apply to a much more important matter in the future. I desire to safeguard my own rights, and those of every honorable member, and I contend that you, sir, cannot rule a notice of motion out of order when it is given if it is properly framed. The time for yon to give your ruling is when the motion is moved in accordance with the notice. You, sir, have not touched upon that point.
Question , put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, not only on behalf of honorable members on this side, but of all honorable members. The reports contained in the Argus and the Age this morning dealing with yesterday’s formal adjournment of the House upon the subject of sugar prices do not accurately describe what occurred. The Argus states that the motion for adjournment was formally negatived, and that the House then proceeded with the next business. The Age puts it that -
Federal members were morecritical yesterday than they were when the agreement was introduced, but they again consented to the terms on the voices.
All honorable members know that the motion for adjournment could occupy no more than exactly two hours. When’ that period had elapsed no vote had been taken, formal or otherwise. Our Standing Orders provide ‘that there cannot be a vote taken if the time which may be devoted to a formal motion of adjournment has elapsed. The Age, in its ordinary report of the proceedings, was more accurate than in its leading article. It stated -
Amid Opposition cries of “Bluff! Let us have a vote, then,” the discussion then lapsed automatically.
That is accurate, but, as I have pointed out, the leading article in the Age inaccurately states that the terms of the sugar agreement were consented to on the voices. I take it that there will not be an opportunity to discuss the price ‘ of sugar to-day, but I think I am doing the right thing in placing every honorable member - no matter on which side of the chamber - in the right. There was no vote taken or indicated yesterday.
– In order that there may be no misunderstanding, I desire to point out that any honorable member is free to move “ That the House do now adjourn,” and, thereupon, cause a vote to be taken forthwith upon this subject.
Several Honorable Members. - Let us have a vote at once, then.
– I decline absolutely to have the responsibility shifted on to my shoulders. Several honorable members yesterday expressed their dissatisfaction with the sugar agreement. Honorable members will now take a vote, or else they will say-
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order !
– I am prepared to take a vote upon this matter.
– I move-
That the House at its rising adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
In the course of an informal conversation conducted acrossthe table lastweek, between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and myself, it was suggested that it might suit the convenience of honorable members if they met on Tuesday of next week instead of, as ordinarily, upon theWednesday afternoon. Thus, there would still be as many sitting days, but, at the same time, an opportunity would be provided for honorable members who so desired to return to their homes for Easter. I have now moved in pursuance of that understanding. If, at the adjournment on Thursday afternoon next week, it meets with the approval of honorable members, the Gomernment will move for the adjournment of the House until the following Tuesday week, namely, 13 th April. The only point I desire to make further - and it is one, I think, which honorable members generally will approve - is that we should dispose of the Gratuity Bill during next week’s sittings. If that measure is passed there is no good reason why we should not adjourn until 13th April.
– Suppose that the Gratuity Bill is not carried next week. What does the Prime Minister intend to do then?
– I intend to go on until it has been passed.
. - I am in hearty accord with the motion, because I believe that if the House meets on Tuesday of next week an opportunity will be afforded for honorable members who reside in the nearer States, at any rate, to get home for Good Friday. By adopting the Prime Minister’s proposal the same number of sitting days will be provided as in ordinary circumstances, and these should meet with the convenience of honorable members. With respect to the Gratuity Bill, all honorable members are seized of its importance. They desire to discuss it very fully, and to emphasize various phases of the matter, pointing out the circumstances of men who do not come within the scope of the Bill as it now stands. I have already spoken to the full extent of my right, upon the second reading; and I feel strongly that every honorable member should have the same right - for it is a right, and not a privilege. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) said the Gratuity Bill was one which would require “leisurely” discussion in order that honorable members might have ample time to consider it from every aspect. It is only right that our consideration should be unhurried, for we do not want to see the Bill spoiled by the inclusion of anomalies which cannot be amended in another place - seeing that this is a money measure. I agree, therefore, that the House should meet on Tuesday next.
– Why not meet on Monday ?
– I have no objection, but other honorable members may have made arrangements which would prevent their attendance on Monday. However, if the Bill cannot be passed next week, we should meet on the ordinary sitting days of the week following Eastertide.
– I may say that I was not consulted in this matter, but I suggest that honorable members meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. That would suit the convenience of those honorable members who are compelled to travel to their homes by water.
– Why not sit right on to-day and . finish the Bill next week ?
– I would be quite prepared to agree to that. I do not want to take one hour away from the Government, but I do hot think it is asking too much of those honorable members who can return to their homes every week-end to regard the circumstances of those others who are unable to spend any of their week-ends at home. So far as concerns the suggestion that we sit on to-day, I am quite prepared to remain this evening and to sit again to-morrow, and on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday also, up till about 4 p.m. - thus affording honorable members the opportunity to depart home on Wednesday evening.
– Do we understand that if the Gratuity Bill is not through by Thursday it is intended to sit on Good Friday and Saturday ?
– No, I did not say that.
– Some honorable members think that that is so.
– If we do not finish with the Bill we shall have to meet on the Wednesday after Easter.
.- It is unfortunate that there is a rush just now when there ought to be more time to discuss matters of very great importance. There should be time for a thorough review of the sugar question. I see from Hansard - I was not here last Friday - that the sugar agreement was-
– The honorable mem. ber cannot discuss the sugar question.
– I wish to show reasons why there should be more time.
– For what?
– For a proper review of the sugar question.
– What has that got to do with the question before us ? Honorable members are getting the same time.
– We are not. The Prime Minister has said that the House approves of the sugar agreement.
– I have not said anything of the sort.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the sugar question.
– I wish to object to the House adjourning over the E.aster holidays unless the sugar matter is threshed out.
– Very well.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has given notice of his intention to move the adjournment of the House on another question, but if the honorable member will postpone that matter, I shall move the adjournment at brice in order to object to the retail price of sugar.
– This discussion is quite irregular.
– On a motion for the adjournment of the» House the discussion is limited by the clock, and there is no opportunity to find a way out of the trouble.
– On the AddressinReply, and on the motion for the printing of the agreement, there was ample opportunity given for discussion.
– As for the motion for the printing, of the paper, it came on at 34 minutes past 11 o’clock, and the discussion lasted until 1 o’clock in the morning.
– We have been discuss’ing the question for two days.
– There has been no proper opportunity for us to find some way out of the difficulty, and there should be some effort made to find one.
– That has nothing to do with the motion before us.
– Yes, it has. The Prime Minister is cutting out the time of the House.
– I am asking honorable members to sit an extra day.
– You have asked us to adjourn for a fortnight.
– Nothing of the sort. The honorable member comes here rarely, and when he does come he talks a lot of nonsense.
– The motion before us is that the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 o’clock.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in arranging for the Easter adjournment, to make provision f ot a proper review of the proposed price of sugar.
– That is for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to do, not you.
– By way of personal explanation, I may say that I am prepared now to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the question of the retail price of sugar, if the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) will forgo his right, for the time being, to move the adjournment on another question.. If I am unable to move the adjournment to-day, I give notice that I shall do so next Tuesday.
– The arrangement proposed by the Prime Minister may suit certain honorable members who can leave Melbourne on the Thursday night and get to their homes on Good Friday morning, but it would not suit those who have further to go, and who will, perhaps, not reach their homes until Friday night or Saturday morning. I quite agree with the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams) that if there be any proposal to adjourn over the holidays, we ought to meet on Monday.
– Some honorable members wish to sit on Friday.
.- It is no good the Prime Minister talking nonsense of that kind, and he is not going to “ bounce “ the House. I am prepared to fall in with the proposal of the Prime Minister, but, for the future, I suggest that honorable members living ata distance receive more consideration. All that is done here seems simply for the convenience of a few honorable members who reside in Sydney and Melbourne. The House ought to meet on Monday, and opportunity afforded to honorable members from a distance to visit their constituencies occasionally. Personally, I had arranged to leave for “Western Australia on Friday, assuming that we should not meet during Easter week. In my opinion, the House ought to meet for longer periods, when we have reason to anticipate that honorable members will be present.
– -By way of personal explanation, I should like to say that I have proposed what I thought. would meet the approval of the House. Evidently, however, my proposal does not meet with approval. There are several different ideas advanced by honorable members, who may be divided into two classes - those who wish to work on Friday and every day, and those who wish to adjourn over Easter. Let those gentlemen move according to their wishes, and a division can be taken; then, whatever honorable members desire, they can have.
– I am more concerned about the early passage of the Gratuity Bill than about those other matters, which can be dealt with in due course. It is quite open for us to, later on, review the matter, which, I understand, is to be placed before us this morning, or the other matter mentioned by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) ; they will not go stale by being held over. I remember, however, some echoes of a promise made that if sonan people were in power the gratuity would be paid within twenty-four hours.
– In cash!
– The gentlemen who made that promise are the gentlemen who now desire twenty-four Aveeks in order to dis cuss the matter in long-winded secondreading speeches, although it is one that can only be effectively dealt with in Committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) occupied one hour and a half-
– One hour and five minutes.
– I can understand honorable members opposite being irritated AA’hen they are reminded of their promises to the soldiers.
– This debate is going far beyond the question. The only question before the Chair is that the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock. For the present the discussion must be confined to that question, or to any amendment for the substitution of some other day.
– I submit that the object of taking an extra day is to expedite the matter immediately before the House, and it is within the pro-‘ vince of honorable members to point out that expedition can be gained quite as well in another way. If honorable members who profess to be so interested in getting the Bill through will cease their persistent efforts to prolong a useless second-reading debate, and allow us to get into Committee, it will not be necessary to drag honorable members from all over the continent unduly early.
.- May I suggest that we meet on Monday at 3 o’clock, and sit until Thursday? I hope the Government will accept this suggestion out of consideration for honorable members who represent constituencies in Queensland and Western Australia, and who have no more than one or two opportunities during the session to visit their families. For instance, if we work hard in the meantime, it will be possible to allow those honorable members to visit their own States at the time of the visit of the Prince of Wales. Those who live in distant partswould certainly like to work longer in the week, and get the business through. As it is,we have to loaf about the city of Melbourne, Avhile members from nearer States go home and attend to their private business, I move -
That the word “Tuesday” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Monday.”
.- There is a keen desire on the part of every honorable member to assist the Government in getting the Gratuity Bill through, but there is an objection to the measure being rushed. Those of us who usually travel home at the week-ends will have to leave Melbourne to-night, and commence our return journey on Sunday night, or Monday night. I think that most honorable members would be agreeable to work right through to-day and to-morrow, and to meet on Monday to finish with the Bill ; and I venture to say that, under those circumstances, more would be done than if we adjourned tonight and returned on Monday or Tuesday. I shall move, if necessary, to that effect, the House to meet on Monday at 11 o’clock.
– As a point of order, I submit that those honorable members who do not approve of either the motion or the amendment which have been moved, will have no opportunity of voting on the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) . I do not profess, Mr. Speaker, to know how you will be able to get the suggestion of the honorable member for Darling before the Chamber in such a way as to enable honorable members to express their real opinion, but I have no doubt you know a way, and I suggest that it be adopted in order to get the sense of the House. To meet on Monday at 11 o’clock would suit me, and it would also suit me to sit all to-day, and to-morrow as well.If such a plan would please honorable members it would please the Government. On the other hand, when I look round I see some rather lugubrious faces, so that I do not know that the idea receives general approval. One thing I do know, and that is that whatever is done will please nobody, but I suggest that an opportunity be given to the House to say whether it will meet on Tuesday next at 3 o’clock, on Monday next at 3 o’clock, or sit right over to-day and to-morrow, and meet on Monday at 11 o’clock. I am willing, by leave, of the House, to withdraw my motion, so as to allow the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to be submitted; and then if that proposal be rejected, I shall re-submit my motion, to which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) may move his amendment.
– The question I shall put to the House is, “ That the word proposed to be omitted “ - that is, Tuesday - “stand part of the question,” and if the House creates a blank by the omission of “ Tuesday “ it will be open to honorable members to insert any other day.
.- Incredible as it may seem, I wish to support the Prime Minister’s original motion, to sit on Tuesday. If we meet on that day in a good, amiable spirit, as becomes Easter time, we shall probably get the War Gratuity Bill through, but we ought not to commit ourselves to any agreement to rush it through. I am not prepared to do so, but I can give the Prime Minister the assurance that I will lend him everypossible assistance to get the measure through.
– As there is no train from Adelaide on Sunday, it will be impossible for honorable members who go to South Australia for the week end to attend here on Monday. As it waspreviously intimated that there was a possibility of the House sitting on Tuesday, I made very definite and important arrangements accordingly, and several other honorable members have done the same. I shall support the Prime Minister’s original motion.
Question - That the word “ Tuesday “ stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt).
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - I have received from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The agreement for the manufacture and sale of Australian wool tops between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Last week, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a statement in the House announcing that he had entered into a contract with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited for the manufacture of 10,600 bales of Australian wool into wool tops. and the sale of wool tops, I was in my constituency. Had I been present, I would have been afforded the opportunity of putting forward the view that I now desire to place before the House and the Government. At the outset let me say that I am not so much concerned in the political aspect of the matter as I am in safeguarding the interests of the Aus tralian wool-grower, which, I feel, have not been sufficiently conserved in this agreement. I propose to put aside ail those irrelevancies which, in my judgment, have been featured in this business, and which have to some extent obscured the real crux of the position so far as the growers are concerned; but, perhaps, it is necessary, first of all, to traverse briefly the history of the Wool Pool and in particular the manufacture of wool tops, which came within its province. After negotiations with the Australian Government, our wool clip was acquired by the British Government, primarily for the purpose of clothing the armies of the Empire in the field, and secondly in order to safeguard Australia’s greatest industry. I felt as a wool-grower, and I think 99 per cent. of the growers in Australia will say that the Government made what was at the time an excellent sale, and one that has yielded thegrowers very substantial advantages. People at this late date, with knowledge that comes to us of present conditions, are apt to think that the task was a very easy one, but when war cut off the trade and commerce of this nation with the restof the world, the Government were faced with a problem of which history affords no parallel. No country, either at war or in peace, ever faced such a problem in the way that this Government and the Governments of the States had to face it. The producers at the. time were concerned only with the faithful performance of the contract. They did not question it in any respect. They regarded it as excellent, since it enabled the armies of the Empire to be clothed, the industries of this country to be carried on, and, in short, allowed us to conduct a war abroad while at home we had a reign of peace and prosperity.
I come now to the terms of the agreement for the acquisition of the Australian wool clip. A flat price of 151/2d. per lb. was fixed, with a reservation as to the requirements for Australian users, and what is more, a reservation that sufficient wool should be available to keep our own manufacturers going. There are in Australia, roughly speaking, forty-two textile manufacturing plants, and five wool top making establishments. The company interested in the contract under review is the pioneer of the wool tops industry in. Australia. We have the remarkable fact that an industry which could not at its inception be sustained- without a bonus, or some form of governmental asistance in time of peace became, because of the war and its complications, one of the most flourishing in Australia-
– That is not so.
– In the earlier stages of the manufacture of wool tops in Australia it was necessary to pay the company a bounty to keep it going.
– They had overcome, that position before the war.
– Quite so. It is remarkable, however, that this country, which produces the biggest wool clip in the world, was unable in the early stages of the wool top industry to handle it without a bonus.
Without dealing with any irrelevancies, the point I desire to make is that the growers claim that in so far as wool required for Australian use is concerned there has been no acquisition by the Government. The position they take up is that the Government created a central trust to safeguard the growers’ interests. It has placed the entire wool clip of Australia in the hands of the Central Wool Committee, in order to give effect to the Imperial contract and to allow of the manufacture of textiles and wool tops in Australia. For all practical purposes the Central “Wool Committee is regarded by the growers as trustees of their wool. They consider that the committee stands in the position of trustees of the growers’ wool for the carrying out of all contracts for the sale of wool, either abroad or for home consumption. We take the view that there has been no acquisition of the Australian wool clip by the Government. Whatever restrictions upon export have been imposed have been by virtue of War Precautions Regulations, but we say that there has been no actual acquisition, and therefore no vesting in the Government of the right to property in the wool. We say that, in essence and in fact, the wool is the property of the growers, and that they are, therefore, entitled to whatever benefits may accrue from any sales of wool made abroad or at home. I want the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to clearly understand that the wool-growers are not avaricious in their claims. They consider that the wool is their property, and they desire the proceeds of its sale. They have never murmured at the sales to the Imperial Government. They have not questioned the sale of wool to Australian manufacturers at the flat price to meet the requirements of the Australian public during war. They have agreed to the sale of the wool to local manufacturers at the first appraised price. There is a difference between that price and the price for which wool is obtainable bv the wool-top manufacturers. Wool is sold for the manufacture of wool tops at the appraised price of 15 1/2 d. per lb. parity, but wool for home consumption by the Australian manufacturer is sold on the basis of the first appraised price.
– What is that price?
– It depends entirely upon the judgment of the appraisers. The difference between the first appraised price and the 154d. per lb. flat rate parity is that. the first is more or less a trial appraisement intended, of course, to absorb the full 15£d. per lb. Those interested in wool-growing will know that, more particularly on the first clip, there was a large dividend, showing a good margin between the first appraised price and the ultimate 15£d. per lb. parity.
This wool -tops question is a matter to which I gave attention in this House nearly two years ago, and I, therefore, regret that I was not present when the new contract was recently under review. On the 17th April, 1918, I dealt with the question of the Australian growers’ interests in wool tops on very much the same lines that I propose to follow to-day. As reported in Hansard, Vol. LXXXIV., page 3987, I said -
I do not pretend to be in a position to judge rightly the merits or otherwise of the wool tops contract; but I maintain that it is a dangerous policy to pick out any persons in trade and give them an advantage over their competitors.
– That has been done all through the piece.
– It has been clone in the case of the Pools….. In the case of the wool tops contract, an arrangement was entered into which placed the principal in one of the firms concerned in a far better trading position with regard to the purchase of stock than any of his competitors occupied. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has referred to the humanitarian instincts of this gentleman; but with a great big margin up his sleeve to beat his trade competitors he was able to go into the stock market, and overbid them for stock, by reason ot the fact that he had contracts for utilizing the wool on the sheep’s backs.
– His competitors did not object to that.
– I merely wish to point out that by reason of having this substantial advantage he lias been able to do this. In a time of war, when every one is doing his utmost, it is a wrong policy to give any firm a contract which will place it in a far better position to trade than that of others in the same trade.
– Mr. P. W. Hughes was in a much better position before the war.
– I do not know that he was. The honorable member for Grampians has pointed out that the alternative to the wool tops contract was the closing down of these establishments; but we know that the Government had another alternative. Australia has missed the bus for years. There is nothing to prevent us from half manufacturing our wool by converting it into wool tops; but at present a great -industry is going to waste. If from contracts of this firm it was possible to make, in twelve months, the profit announced to-day, we are losing an opportunity of affording considerable employment, and placing Australia in a dominating position in this regard, by so handling all our wool. I suggest to the honorable member for Grampians that, in war time, there is nothing to prevent the Government taking over the business at fixed rates of profit from the gentleman who has been alluded to in the chamber to-day. I object from another point of view to the profits on wool going elsewhere than into the Pool. What right has the Government, who are the trustees and bailees for the growers, to enter into a contract and secure for the Consolidated Revenue a profit of some £64,000!
– I do not think the Government has taken enough of the woolgrowers’ profits.
– That is a stupid kind of statement to make - one I would expect from a man prepared to ratify any contract. The wool-growers are quite prepared to take their share of the burden in the shape of taxation or otherwise. The Prime Minister has made an arrangement by which half the profit, over and above ls. ‘Sid., on the surplus wool sold in other parts of the world shall come back to Australia; yet the profit on the wool that is sold to the manufacturer of wool tops here for sale abroad at a lower price than it can be got abroad, will not go back into the Pool, ut into the Consolidated Revenue. That principle I regard as wrong. The surplus wool sold abroad over and above the requirements of the Army, Navy, and nursing staffs is sold on Imperial and Australian account, and half the profits come back to Australia. What right have the Government to take any portion of the proceeds of the wool we sell here to manufacturers of wool tops?
– In spite of that the honorable member is still a staunch supporter of the Government.
– That is because of some of the dreaded alternatives. I would be sorry to think that the interests of the producers of Australia have had Jo await the arrival in this House of some who have just been returned to it. In that case they would long since have been damned !
– We shall do more than the honorable member has done.
– In order to do more than 1 have done in the interests of the producers the honorable member will have to become a little better acquainted with the real principles in which the great primary producers of this country believe. I claim that there are on this side of the House- -and I do not include myself - honorable members with a reputation as representatives of the producers of which the honorable member will be jealous before he has sat here very long. At the very time that I dealt with this principle nearly two years ago, there were in this House members of the present Country party who gave me no assistance. I had not one supporter, I did not secure even an echo of support from honorable members who are at present conducting the affairs of the Country party.
– But the honorable member did not submit a motion.
– The Leader of. the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams) interjects, and, therefore, makes it necessary for me to say that he was present ou the occasion to which I have referred, but did not join with me in objecting to the principle adopted by the Government.
– You did not take any action.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) proposed that the profits should go to the’ industrials. The honorable member for Franklin did not then move that they should go to the growers.
– I wanted’ 20 per cent, to go to the unfortunate fellmongers.
– The first contract was for the sale of 2,400,000 lbs. of wool, lt was made with the Central Wool Com’mittee, of which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was a member. After its termination negotiations were opened for a fresh contract between- the Committee and the company, and I believe that all possible means were exhausted in trying to fix up a new contract. A poundage rate, a percentage basis, and a commission basis were all considered, but the negotiations failed, and Australia was in the regrettable position of having one of its excellent industries thrown idle, the wheels stopped, and the men unemployed’. There appeared then to be no party able to make an arrangement with the company, except the Government, and I give the Government credit for having done a service to the industry, to those engaged in it, and to the wool-growers, by the -action that it took. The question at issue between the Government and’, the growers is, what is the correct destination of the profits? The contract covers 10,600 bales of wool, and is to terminate on the 30th June next. We take it that the company has the capacity, to deal with that quantity of wool in the time. The Prime Minister takes the view that, the Government having made a contract with the company, is -entitled to 80 per cent, of the profits arising out of it, the balance of 20 per cent,oing to the firm on the terms which he as made public. On behalf of the growers, however, I ask him to reconsider the position, with a view to putting the profits of the Government into the Wool Pool for distribution amongst growers, or, in the alternative, if he cannot see his way to do that, of putting the Australian wool-grower, in, reference to the quantity of wool that is concerned, in the position in which he would have been had that wool been the subject of the contract with” the Imperial Government. Those are the two courses open, and I submit that it is reasonable that the Prime Minister should adopt one of them. He may ask, am I content that the Imperial Government shall get its profit, but that the Commonwealth Government shall get no profit, out of the acquisition of the wool ? To that question my answer, in anticipation, is that the Imperial Government entered into a contract for our wool for what it was worth at the time, and took the risks consequent upon the war, when no one could foresee -what the wool would sell for. The Commonwealth Government, however, has undertaken no’ financial risk. It has done good service in re-opening these works, but I do not think it has the right to take any wool out oi the Wool Pool, except at the price which would have to be paid for that wool under ordinary circumstances. I do not propose to deal with such questions as the placing of one manufacturer in a different position from others. I am concerned now more particularly as to the ownership of the wool. In my judgment, the property in the wool belongs to th« growers. They have put a reasonable case, and have said, “ We did not demur to the selling of wool to mee’t Australian requirements.”
– The whole point is, does the wool belong to the growers?
– Has the Government the right to appropriate wool placed in its hands as trustees for its sale and disposal? If that has been done without the authority of an Act of Parliament, I. for one, am not prepared to stand for it. I do not think that the Government has the right to take wool, make any contracts they like in respect to it, and put the profits arising out of such contracts into the Consolidated Revenue. There has been a lot of talk about the millions that are coming to the wool-growers as surplus profits from the sale of their wool abroad, but so faT not a penny of this money has been received. There may be handsome profits, but no one knows what there will be. To-day, in many parts of the country, the pastoral industry is in a desperate condition ; the straits to which it has been put by reason of the drought, which has lasted for over two years, cannot be exaggerated. There are districts which never before were in so bad a condition as they are now. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the position of the growers under this contract, and to put them in respect of- the wool which forms the subject of it in at least as good a position as they would occupy had that wool been sold to the Imperial Government. If he cannot see his way to do that, will he hand over the profits from the wool, less expenses, for distribution among the growers ?
.- As this debate will lapse at 1 o’clock, I may be permitted to reply to the honorable member at once. He has put his case clearly, and I shall endeavour to unravel this tangled web as be3t I can. When I had the honour of tabling the wool tops agreement I had not my file of’ papers before me, and so was unable to quote from the shorthand report of the Conference, which is the basis of everything that has been done and is being done under the Wool Pool scheme, including the fixing of the price of wool, the allocation of wool for local purposes, and all things incidental to the scheme. As a result of certain negotiations between the British and Commonwealth authorities, a Conference was held at the end of 1916, at which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), amongst others, was present, to consider a proposal to sell the wool clip of Australia to Britain. After long discussion, it was decided that the Commonwealth Government should offer the whole of the merino and crossbred clip of Australia to the British Goment at a flat rate of ls. 3d. per lb. on greasy wool, and that subject to the acceptance of this offer the Commonwealth Government should acquire the whole clip. It is necessary to emphasize the point that authority was given to this Government to acquire the whole of the wool. It was suggested that the British Government might wish to buy wool from individual growers, but after discussion the proposal was vetoed. As honorable members know, the offer made to the British Government was accepted, and all the wool of Australia passed automatically to the control of the Government, to be dealt with as agreed upon by the Conference. Now, it was specifically decided that the wool necessary for local purposes should be retained in Australia, should .be sold to manufacturers at the same price as to Britain, and that this wool should be outside the Pool. Every grower in Australia ‘ is bound in honour to uphold the ‘agreement as a whole arrived at by the Conference, one part as much as any other. The other night the honorable member for Grampians was speaking when I pointed out that there had been no protest by the growers of this country when the British Government sold 450,000 bales of wool at issue prices. What loss that means in money I do not know, but I venture to say that it cannot ‘mean less than ?10,000,000 or ?12,000,000, of which the Australian share would be one-half. The reply of my honorable friend - and I do not say that it was not a good one - was that the growers were in honour bound to uphold the agreement. I agree with him, but desire to remind him that they are also bound in honour to uphold that part of the agreement which provides for the sale of wool to Australian manufacturers. In order to make clear the position in regard to manufactured wool, I shall quote from the shorthand report of the Conference to which I have referred. Mr. Vicars, who represented what may be called the weavers, as distinguished from the spinners and combers, said -
I beg to ask for a little light on one subject, and that is, to what channel will the Australian manufacturers look to get their supplies ?
My reply was -
This will apply to your question. I shall make representations to the British Government that the wool required for local manufacturing purposes be not included in this transaction, and that wool which is required for which facilities exist in this country for scouring shall be scoured in this country.
I further said -
All wool that is not shipped and made into something - woollen, I suppose, is meant - that wool is inside this transaction. Whether wool is greasy ‘or scoured, it is wool. In regard to greasy wool, where there are facilities for scouring that wool, what you ask me to d? is to allow that wool to be scoured in Australia, and then you are done with it. From the manu- f facturers point of view, I shall ask the Government of Britain to regard that wool which is required for manufacturing purposes in Aus- tralia not to be included in this transaction.
Mr. Vicars asked ;
I presume, if the Australian manufacturer wants any of it for his requirements, it will be placed at his disposal for making up here at the: price as fixed on at this Conference?
To that I replied-
If there is a question now of there being two> prices, that is, a price to the British Government and a price for local consumption, ve must discuss it now. If it is the same price, there is no difficulty. If that is not understood, then we must discuss that now.
Mr. Vicars. ; I do not think there is any need to make any difference. Let the price remain the same.
Not one word of protest was made. It was accepted, and from that time to the day I tabled the agreement there was no suggestion that the manufacturers of this country hai not the first claim on all wool; and the right to buy their wool at appraised prices. Nor was one word said then, or subsequently, about any payment to the Pool of half the profits made by the manufacture of tops or yarn or cloth from the wool purchased at the appraised price by the local manufacturers. The British Government acquiesced in the proposal, and - on the 30th November, 1916, specifically notified the Commonwealth Government that wool required for the local manufacturers should be excluded from the purchases made on behalf of the British Government. Three points emerge quite clearly from thehistory of these transactions - (1) that the Commonwealth Government was authorized to acquire, and did acquire, the whole of the clip; (2) that there was to be reserved from the quantity sold to the British Government enough to insure to all manufacturers in Australia an ample supply of raw material; and (3) that local manufacturers were to get their wool at the appraised price.
I wish now to show how the Wool Committee, which was the agency created by the Government to give effect to the agreement, acted, because frequently an agreement may be interpreted by the action of the parties. On the 1st March, 1917, on the recommendation of the Central Wool Committee, the Commonwealth made an agreement with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company whereby, inter alia, the Commonwealth consented to the company obtaining wool at appraised prices for the manufacture of wool tons to carry out the company’s existing contracts, and any further contracts approved by the Commonwealth, and for the purpose of holding the company’s normal reserves. The agreement further provided that one-half of the net earnings should be at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government, with a proviso that the company’s share, after paying war-time profits tax, should not be less than one-third of the net earnings.
– That contract was entered into by the Central Wool Committee.
– That is the point 1 am making. Indeed, I remember well that until the present agreement was mad I did nothing in regard to the wool clip, except on the recommendation of the Central Wool Committee. The first agreement made with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company was the Central Wool Committee’s proposal, and no suggestion was ever made that half of the profits should be paid into the Pool. And of course there was never a suggestion that the Pool had any claim whatever upon any profits arising out of the process of manufacture.
– There should have been.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– Oh, go and die. I am speaking of what was done. The agreement lasted for many months, and the amount due to the Commonwealth was paid into a special account called “The Wool-top Manufacturers’ Account,” and there was no suggestion that there should be any payment or credit to the Wool Pool. Tn 1918, more than a year after the first agreement was made, a difference arose between the Commonwealth and the company, the Commonwealth contending that the agreement had expired, and the company holding that it had not. The result of that difference is expressed in the terms of a very serious action at law, involving a large sum of money. Both parties think they are right; but if the action is allowed to proceed, both parties may have occasion to discover that they are wrong, and the only people who will find themselves quite all right arethose noble members of my profession who have the good fortune to be retained.
I come now to a second proposed agreement, which was, however, not ratified. On the 1st September, 1918, a conference took place between the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and representatives of the Central Wool Committee, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and certain heads of a proposed agreement were drawn up and signed by all parties. Under this proposed contract the company was to be assured by the Treasury of a minimum of one-third of the profits up to 72d. per lb. The balance of the profits were to go to the Commonivealth. No mention was made of half profits going to the Wool Pool. So far as the Central
Wool Committee was concerned, that agreement was actually made, and it only failed to become operative because the company would not sign it. That agreement clearly recognises the right of the Commonwealth to deal with this wool, and to derive all the profits that might be made out of the transaction, less the amount allotted to the manufacturers.
It was proposed to adjust the dispute by allowing the company the share of profits I have stated, while as to the future, the company was to manufacture as agents of the Commonwealth Government, and to receive as remuneration a sum of £64,000 per annum, free of wai profits tax, based on a 6,000,000-lb. output of wool tops. Under these heads of agreement, therefore, the Central Wool Committee agreed with the company that all the profits other than those retained by the company should go to the Commonwealth. Nothing was to go to the Pool.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman claim a share of the profits arising out of the contracts made with the other manufacturers of wool tops?
– I shall come to that point in a minute. What I want to make clear is that every time the Central Wool Committee made, or attempted to make, an agreement with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company it did so on the basis of allowing the company a certain percentage of the profits, and paying the balance to the Commonwealth .
As I shall not be able to complete my remarks by 1 o’clock, which is the hour fixed by the Standing Orders for the termination of this debate, I ask leave to be allowed to continue my remarks for a period beyond that hour, because I think it is important that this matter should be thoroughly threshed out. (Leave granted.)
The agreement made by the Central Wool Committee with the other wool top manufacturers rests upon a different basis. The companies, as agents for the Commonwealth, manufactured on a basis of 4£d. per lb., and any balance of profit is to be paid to the Commonwealth. It is true that the agreement includes a clause which provides that an amount equivalent to the percentage dividend paid by the
British Government on the whole clip - not on the combing wool alone, mark you - shall be paid into the Pool. But the right of the Commonwealth to profits is admitted, and, according to figures which have been supplied to me by the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, profits from this source, amounting to £135,688, have been already paid into, or are available for, the Treasury. The position then is quite clear. At the conference, the principle of only selling to the Imperial Government the surplus left after supplying local manufacturers with sufficient raw material to enable, not only the present plant to be kept fully occupied, but to also encourage the extension of manufacture during the war, and provide employment for the people, was specifically recognised. The Conference agreed that the- manufacturer was to get his wool at the appraised price, that the Commonwealth should acquire all the wool, and that the wool needed for Australian manufactures was to be excluded from the sale to Britain. No mention was made of paying any of the profits of manufacture into the Pool.
That these principles were well settled, and were accepted by the parties’ is proved by the facts cited. The agreement made by the Central Wool Committee with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company rested upon the same foundation as does the one recently concluded, namely, that the company was to obtain wool at the appraised price, retaining 33 per cent, of the profits for itself, paying 66 per cent, to the Commonwealth, and nothing to the Pool. Under the proposed agreement which did not operate, the company was to get £64,000 per annum; the balance of the profits was to go to the Commonwealth. Under the agreement with Whiddon Brothers, Yarra Falls, and other spinning companies, by which they work upon a basis of 4£d. per lb., the Pool has a right, in addition to the appraised price, to an amount equivalent to the percentage dividend paid by the British Government on the whole of the clip, but there is recognised also the right of the Commonwealh to profit over and above that amount.
A few nights ago the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), taking me at a disadvantage because some of these matters had passed from my memory, criticised rather severely the arrangement recently made with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and, as spokesman for the wool-growers, claimed the profits which, according to the agreement, are payable to the Commonwealth. The honorable member was, and is still, a member of the Central Wool Committee. He was a party to the first wool tops agreement, and, speaking in this House on the 18th January, 1918, he said (Hansard, page 3268) -
I have to say, as regards that, that in all these matters the Central Wool Committee, of whom I am one, and the chairman is Mr. J. M. Higgins, takes full and entire responsibility. I know nothing of many things that have been said with regard to the Prime Minister in the course of a recent debate; but I do know that the right honorable gentleman has not taken one step in connexion with the Central Wool Committee, or with wool tops,’ except upon the practically unanimous recommendation of the committee and its chairman, Mr. Higgins. If anything wrong has been done, and I assure honorable members that it is perfectly certain that that is not the. case, then the Central Wool Committee, Mr. Higgins, as its chairman, and myself are to blame, and not the Prime Minister. No shadow whatever of any blame in connexion with the matter attaches to the Prime Minister. All that was done in this connexion was entirely our doing, or that of the chairman, Mr. Higgins, whom we all support.
That agreement was to allot 33 per cent, of the profits to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and 66 per cent, to the Commonwealth. (Now I am criticised because I have made an agreement which allots 20 per cent, of the profits to the company and 80 per cent, “to the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– It becomes quite evident that the principle underlying this agreement is that which was accepted originally by the Conference, and which has, on two occasions at least, received the imprimatur of the Wool Committee. The first agreement differs in no essential, except in the allocation of the profits, with the agreement now tabled. Yet the honorable member for Grampians now condemns the very principle which he formerly commended. It is rather interesting, in view of his criticisms, to glance at the division list upon the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) ; that amendment was, in effect, a condemnation of the first agreement made by the Wool Committee embodying this very principle, under which the profits were allocated on the basis of 33 per cent, to F. W. Hughes and Co., and 66 per cent, to the Commonwealth Government. The honorable member for Wannon has been consistent in his objections to the principle approved by the Wool Committee.. But when he sought support for his views he found very little. In the divisionwere sixteen “Ayes” and thirty “Noes”; and, figuring prominently among the latter, I find the name of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). I emphasize the fact that the honorable gentleman said that for whatever was wrong in the agreement the Wool Committee were responsible. The principles adopted by the Wool Committee are those upon which the present agreement rest, yet the honorable member for Grampians now condemns it. Why? I think honorable members will admit that what was wrong then must be wrong now, and, similarly, that what was right then must be right now. There was a dispute between Mr. F.. W. Hughes and the Wool Committee, and the latter were not prepared to renew the agreement upon exactly the samelines; but the second agreement involves, for all practical purposes, the same principle^ - allocating to the company £64,000, and leaving to the Commonwealth Government the whole of the residuum of profit.
So much for that. I have shown clearly that the principle in this agreement is no new one. It was accepted’ by the Wool Committee. Indeed, it emanated from the Wool Committee, and was re-affirmed by that bodyin 1918, and in the wool -top agreements made with’ the other companies the same principle is re-affirmed.
– But they repudiatethe principle now, and decline to make a contract on the basis of it.
– Of course, and thehonorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has said that, if anything -that was. done was wrong, then it is the Wool’ Committee who are responsible, and notthe Government or the Prime Minister. What they themselves affirmed and reaffirmed was and is the correct principle. I leave that. It is a quagmire in which-. the honorable member for Grampians cac flounder at his leisure.
I turn now to deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). He claims the whole of the profits. By what process of reasoning he supports such a claim we are not told. If that claim were conceded it would affirm the principle that any Government, other than the Commonwealth, is entitled to some consideration. The Government of Great Britain is entitled to half; the Government of the Commonwealth, to nothing. The Government of France is entitled to consideration; the Government -of the Commonwealth, to nothing. The Government of the United States of America is entitled to consideration; but the Government of the Commonwealth is entitled to nothing. Yet, to the Government of the Commonwealth alone is this agreement due; and, since the Government of the Commonwealth is responsible for the agreement, so does the half-profit arising therefromemanate from the Commonwealth Government. To- the Government of his own country, however, the honorable member and those behind him would concede nothing, while to Governments of other countries they are willing to- concede at least 50 per cent. I do not think any citizen will contend that that is a sound, proper, or patriotic position.
This contract is divided into two parts. The one has relation to the purchase- of the raw material. That raw material has been dealt with as directed by the growers themselves at the Conference in 1916. As the result of an agreement entered into by them, it was acquired by the Government to be disposed of as set out in the agreement. One of the terms of the agreement specifically provided that we should export only the surplus of our raw wool, leaving ample for the requirements of local manufacturers, while another provided that they were to get all the wool they required at the appraised price. But the honorable member contends that had the wool gone into the Pool, and been sent to Great Britain, the grower would have been entitled to half the profit on the clip, including, of course, those 10,000 bales. I have shown conclusively that under the agreement they have no claim whatever to any profits on wool retained in Australia for local manufacture, yet the hon orable member claims all the profits, not only on the sale of the wool, but on the manufacture also. It is obvious that to this latter the Pool can have no claim at all. The agreement related to raw material. This contract is something more than a contract relating to the acquirement of raw material and its purchase at an appraised price. It is a contract for the manufacture and sale of wool tops. It is an absolutely monstrous suggestion that the profit received from the manufacture of raw wool into wool tops should go to the grower. If the grower has a claim at all - and I shall deal with that in a moment - it is that this wool shall be treated in the same manner as wool sold to Great Britain, namely, to have one-half of the difference between the appraised and the market price. But for the honorable member to ask for the whole of the profit on the sale of the raw wool, and also all the profit over 20 per cent, which is earned as a result of the manufacture of this raw wool into’ wool tops, is really monstrous. The honorable member does not realize, perhaps, that there is a million pounds’ worth of capital invested in this industry. Is not the labourer worthy of his hire? By what right, then, can any profit made as a result of the manufacture of the raw wool go to any one but the manufacturer? Clearly, then, that suggestion cannot be entertained, arid I do not think that any wool-grower will for a moment contend that he and his fellow-producers have any claim to any profit other’ than in respect to the raw material.
Now for the point raised as an alternative by the honorable member. He says : “ We ask that you put us in as good a position as we would have been had you not taken that wool.” While I contend that under the agreement the wool used for local manufacture is wholly outside the Pool, I am ready to consider the proposal fairly on its merits. The claim ought to be, and must be, considered. More than that, clearly, the honorable member has no* right to ask for. I am prepared to say now, on behalf of the Government, that I will give favorable consideration to the proposal. I want to make my intention perfectly clear. I mean to say that I am prepared to consider whether the grower shall have as much profit as he would have had if the wool had gone into the Pool and been sold to the British Government in the ordinary way.
– Hear, hear! That is reasonable.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has now expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I point out that these works are situated in my electorate, and that it was at the instigation of certain persons, myself included, and in the interests of the workers in my district, that the Government re-opened these works. Consequently, I feel that I have to take a share in the blame, if any, to be allotted. I do not say, of course, that there is any blame attachable.
– Were you after some profits, too?
– I do not happen to have any share in the business at all. There are other commodities manufactured in this country and exported, but the Government are not taking any of the profits from the companies which manufacture those goods-‘-
– Order! The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– No; it is a matter of privilege.
– Will the honorable member for South Sydney resume his seat for a moment. I have on several occasions intimated that it is a gross breach of the Standing Orders for any honorable member to interrupt the Speaker when he has risen to address the House.
– Can we not move for an extension of the time for the debate?
– Not at present; and I repeat that, in any case, it is not in order, while the Speaker is on his feet, to suggest such a course. The time allotted under the Standing Orders to the discussion of this matter has now expired. Actually, the time should have expired at 1 p.m., when the sitting was suspended. The Prime Minister, however, had secured special leave to conclude his remarks after the resumption of the sitting. The debate cannot be carried further, and it is now too late to move an extension, which must be granted before the expira tion of the time limit. It seems to me that the honorable member, under cover of a personal explanation, desires to debate the question. A personal explanation can be made only if any honorable member has been misrepresented or misunderstood in connexion with something that has transpired.
– Perhaps I made a mistake in seeking to make a personal explanation, for what I really desired was leave to make a statement.
– A statement can only be made by leave of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to make a statement ?
– There may be other honorable members who desire to make statements, and I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that he could get over the difficulty by moving the suspension of the Standing Orders. This, I think, would be agreed to unanimously, and permit of the continuation of the debate.
– Leave can only be granted by the unanimous concurrence of the House. Is there any objection to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr Riley) having leave to make a statement i
.- I thank the House for giving me leave to make a statement. I was pointing out that this industry in my district is greatly handicapped, even under the agreement. If those interested were allowed to buy their wool here at the price at which wool is sold in London, they would be in a better position than they are now, when they have to give 80 per cent, of their profits to the Government. For instance, if wOol were sold here at £30, and the same wool were sold in England at £90, and the firm allowed to buy at the higher price in the British market or in Australia, it would make more profit than it is at present, inasmuch as 80 per cent, of the profits would not have to be given to the Government.
– Have those people notmade a better bargain than any other producers ?
– I shall show that they have not. They were much handicapped during the war, before which the industrywas on a good foundation, with big contracts to supply Japan with wool tops-
– There is another side to that!
– Well, we can hear the other side. The British Government, in conjunction with the Australian Government, asked F. W. Hughes and Company to increase the price of wool tops to Japan, with a view to ‘protecting the British manufacturer against the competition of that country, and a condition was that all the profit from that increased price should go to the Commonwealth Government. This company was in the habit of buying sheep-skins, with the wool on, direct from the abattoirs, but the Wool Committee stepped in, and said that, notwithstanding that the company bought the live sheep and the skins belonged to the company, the Committee claimed the extra profit “on the wool taken off the skins. What an absurd position ! The result is that the company has been tied up for over two years, and men and women thrown out of employment. I have not heard the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) say much about these men and women, but he has said much about the “ poor squatters,” to whom I do not wish any harm, but who. in my opinion, are quite able to bear the burden placed upon them.
– How is it that none of the other companies have been closed up?
– They have been, but they have started under the new agreement. We have no right to make any company sign an agreement which they do not wish to sign, and F. W. Hughes and Company were perfectly right in refusing an agreement that did not do them justice.
At Marrickville, in New South Wales, there are large woollen mills, the proprietors of which buy their wool at the flatrate of 151/2d. for the purpose of manufacture into cloth-
– It is good stuff!
– It is, and it is sent overseas.
– No, it is not.
– A member of this House has seen the cloth in America.
– I have asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and he assures me that none of the cloth has gone overseas.
– I do not care what the honorable member asked, or what the Minister for Trade and Customs said; I know what I state to be a fact, and my word is as good as that of the honorable member or of the Minister. The owners of the Marrickville mills are allowed to export their cloth to the United States of America. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) will substantiate me in what I am now saying, for he has seen this cloth on sale in America as tweed made in Australia and regarded* as the best in the establishment. The point is that these manufacturers are not called upon to give any extra profit to the Wool Pool. They buy in the open market at a fiat rate, and any profits they make they keep for themselves.
In Australia, boots are manufactured for export, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) will admit.
– Not many.
– At any rate, 200,000 or 300,000 pairs have been ordered in my State.
– Have you any reason to believe that these Marrickville tweeds have been exported since the wool agreement?
– I cannot say.
– I do not think they have.
– The point is that these manufacturers are making enormous profits on their cloth, and no part of these profits go to the pool.
– They are not exporting the cloth.
– If they are charging the same price for local consumption as for export, they are making huge profits. However, the manufacturer of boots buys his leather from the Australian tanner at a flat rate, and no part of the profits made go to the Government. Why discriminate between the wool-top manufacturer and the manufacturer of cloth or boots? The wool industry has had to fight the meat combines of New South Wales, and has been the means of keeping down the price of mutton in many cases. Every effort has been made to cripple this industry.
– That is not the point.
– What is the point ?
– The point is the taking of the profits by the Government.
– I accept the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government had acquired the wool.
– No, no !
– According to the agreement, as read by the Prime Minister, we have acquired the wool; but even if it be the property of the Australian Government, the British Government has no right to half the profits. The point I impress on the Houseis that here we have an Australian industry, using Australian raw material, and, because it is doing so, it is compelled to give 80 per cent. of the profits to the Government.
We find men in this House who are “ up against “ Australian industry, who say, “We do not object to the agreement, but let the profits come into the Wool Pool.” The “ poor squatters,” of whom we have heard as scarcely able to struggle on, have been doing little during the war but obtain great profits.
– You were defending the squatters last week !
– Of course, they have a right to get what profits they can.
– Why not place all wool manufacturers on the same basis ?
– I am prepared to do that. There is nothing wrong in allowing them to buy at a flat rate, and export at the world’s price; but because they are able to get a higher price for their manufactured article, we find the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and his friends insisting that the producers of the wool should get the profit.
– So they should. .
– The manufacturer, by his processes, adds to the value of the tops, and he, and not the wool grower, is entitled to the profits.
– I have wool-top manufacturers in my constituency, and I must see that they are given the same “giltedged “ security !
– All can be placed on the same footing. I hope the agreement will be continued; and in any case it is only for about three months.
– I desire to ask leave to make a statement.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member lave leave to make a statement?
– I object.
– Under the Standing Orders, when a motion for the adjournment of the House has been disposed of, the Orders of the Day should, properly speaking, be called on. But the practice has grown up, to suit the convenience of honorable members, of, by concurrence of the House, proceeding with the business of the day before calling on the Orders of the Day. I propose, with the concurrence of honorable members, to follow that practice on the present occasion, so that questions on notice may be answered. If there is any objection I shall call on the Orders of the Day.
Bass Strait Cable - Returned Soldiers and “Reject” Volunteers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Sir JOSEPH COOK (for Mr.
Hughes). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. There is no Commissioner or ActingCommissioner. After the resignation of the late Commissioner, Major Jones, of the
Defence Department, was temporarily authorized to exercise the functions of the Commissioner, for the purpose of supervising the gradual reduction of the Force.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the Commonwealth’s financial position, he will take immediate steps to see that the £765,760, Commonwealth land tax and fines outstanding between the years 1911 to 1919 is collected at once?
– Steps are being taken to collect the outstanding tax and fines.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Payof Divisional Returning Officers - Show Day Holiday: Victoria - Payment of Bonus
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the very arduousextra duties imposed upon the Divisional Returning Officers of the Commonwealth, as the result of the preferential system of voting in respect of both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the recent Federal elections, and the simultaneous taking of the referendums, it is proposed to grant a special allowance to these officers in recognition of their exacting labours after official hours which their duties necessitated?
– The duties performed by Divisional Returning Officers at the recent Federal elections and referendums are those appertaining to the position. The status and salaries of those officers were recently reviewed and increased, regard being had to the additional responsibilities imposed upon them consequent upon the introductionof a preferential system of voting.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As Anzac Day falls on the same day as Eight Hours Day, will the Prime Minister arrange for Show Day to be again observed as one of the twelve public holidays for Commonwealth public servants in Victoria?
– The matter will be considered by the Government at a later date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the £10 bonus recently granted to certain Commonwealth public servants as from the 1st August last, will the Prime Minister issue instructions that payment be made before the Easter holidays, as the award has now been tabled thirty days, in accordance with requirements?
Sir JOSEPH COOK (for Mr. Hughes). - Every endeavour will be made to pay, before Easter, the bonuses in connexion with which copies of the Awards will have lain on the table for thirty days.
Use as a Dance Hall.
asked the Prime Min ister -
– I do not know whether the Prime Minister has seen this answer, but I shall take the risk of reading it -
The Prime Minister’s attention has been drawn to the press statement referred to by the honorable member. An intimation was some littletimeago received from the High Commissioner’s office that the Cinematograph Hall at “ Australia House “ was being let for meetings, dances, &c, when not required for official purposes. This matter, with others connected with the administration of “Australia House,” will be the subject of investigation by the honorable the Treasurer during his visit to Great Britain.
– On the 12th March the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked me the following questions : -
Answers to questions 1 and 2 were then furnished; and I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following additional information: -
– On the 24th March the honorable the member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service Act) -
Awards and orders made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in the following cases : -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association - Dated 5th March, 1920.
Australian Letter Carriers AssociationDated 3rd March, 1920 (2).
Mr. J. H. CATTS (Cook) [2.511. - I had intended to discuss the motion of dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling which I submitted in writing last night, the debate upon which was adjourned. It was -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker - That the amendment in its present form was out of order as it transgressed the established rule that the anticipation of amendments which could be moved in Committee could not be embodied in an amendment to a motion for the second reading of a Bill - be dissented from.
However, seeing that I occupied a. good deal of time this morning on a motion similar to this, I do not propose to push the matter any further.
Debate resumed from 25th March (vide page 881), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- With a sigh of relief I say, “At last.” I was listed to speak on this Bill at 11 o’clock this morning, and I rise to do so at 2.53 p.m. But perhaps it is a case of “ better late than never.” No doubt the censure motion submitted by honorable members opposite, and that moved by our friends in the corner, were very interesting and important, and no doubt the discussion of the wool tops question was interesting and important, as also was the debate on the motion to dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling; but where would we have been had it not been for the fact that the war was won through the prowess of the Allied troops, and more especially Australian soldiers? As a member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and as one of the council of that body for a considerable time, I have during the last few days talked to many “ diggers “ in the gallery and in the streets, and I can tell honorable members that these men do not appreciate the delay that is taking place in getting this Bill through. As the only member of the Federal Parliament who served with His Majesty’s Navy throughout the war, I feel that a good deal of responsibility rests on my shoulders regarding any matter that comes before the House dealing with the Navy. The consideration of this Bill makes my responsibility in this regard all the greater, because within the last few days wires have been forwarded to me from all parts of Australia as to the position of the Royal Australian Brigade staff and the Royal Australian Brigade itself. As a rule, new members have certain ambitions, and one of mine was that I should not see my name appearing in the muchdespised Hansard. but if my name is to appear in Hansard in connexion with any measure it is the Wax Gratuity Bill. With a few exceptions, to which I shall refer later, it is a fair Bill, and carries out the promises made by the Prime Minister during many months back. As to whether it was the
Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League or the Prime Minister who first started the ball rolling is a side issue. I know that this month last year, when I was on the other side of the world, the matter was in the mind of the Prime Minister, but undoubtedly it is the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League that has brought us to the present position. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward such a liberal measure. The “ digger “ and the “ digger “ salt did not leave Australia to go across the far oceans and fight on the fields of Palestine, Gallipoli, Prance, and Belgium for a gratuity. When I was in Paris, at the Hotel Majestic this month last year, I met the Prime Minister and his able’ colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), also Sir Robert Garran, and Mr. Deane. who were doing magnificent work in keeping up Australia’s end. I also met a French general, who did not know that I was an Australian, seeing that I was in a British uniform, but said, “ The fighting of the men from Australia was magnificent, particularly at Neuve Chapelle and at the saving of France for the second time at Amiens. France will never forget what these men did.” But these men did not put up that heroic fight in defence and attack for the sake of a gratuity. They went away for one thing only, and that was to fight for the Empire and the flag which we returned men adore, and in particular for Australia and the honour of their women. They fought to keep their women folk free from that awful raping which took place in France and Belgium. I could tell many a story of that, but this is not the time. Clause 8 tells us why the Commonwealth are paying this gratuity. Certain words in it, which ought to be printed in letters of gold, tell us that it is to be “a free gift by the Commonwealth in recognition of honorable services during the Avar with Germany and her Allies.”
Before dealing with the naval side of the question, I would like to reply to one or two statements from honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and others have said, “ Pay the gratuity in cash,” and they propose to move an amendment with that end in view. They say if the war had lasted for a considerable time longer the Government would have had to find the cash. They are quite right ; but there is a great deal of difference between carrying on a war which is a matter of life and death, and for which we had to get the money, and the saddling of the Commonwealth with a huge debt in the form of a war gratuity, which is not a matter of life and death. It is a gift that the Commonwealth is making to its fighting men. He also complained that men who were sick or were injured while in camp, and were unable to go to the Front, would not participate in the gratuity. My reading of the Bill is that under clause 3, paragraph e (2), they will, and that under another part of the Bill the dependants of those who died in camp will also receive a gratuity at the rate of ls. per diem.
There are other points to which the horn- .orable member referred, and as to which I am quite in agreement with him. I am with honorable members of the Opposition in many statements they have made as to hard cases untouched by the Bill, but there are even harder cases than those to which reference has been made by them. Let me tell the House of a case that has been before the Repatriation Department, and which I also brought before the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), but in which no relief can be granted. It is that of a man named Wilson, who lives at Randwick, in my electorate, and who went to one of our camps to enlist. Whilst riding from one hut to another in the camp his horse rolled on him and ruptured him internally. It is a terrible case. The man has a wife and several children,, and they are starving. They have one empty room, without furniture, gas, or heat appliances, which has been placed at their disposal by neighbours, and they have nothing to eat save that which the neighbours are able to supply to them. Nothing can be done for that man, and I should certainly like some provision to be made for him. Cases of this kind might be given ad lib., but the Government cannot cover any of them under this Bill, since there would be no end to attempts of the kind.
The Leader of the Opposition expressed the view that men who had been punished for certain military offences should not be subjected to the further punishment of deprivation of the gratuity or a certain
Dart of it. I would direct bis attention to su’b-clause 2 of clause 6, which is a very wide provision authorizing the prescribed authority in certain cases to waive debarment from the gratuity. It reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, if the prescribed authority is satisfied that in any individual case, having regard to the meritorious service rendered by the member, or such other circumstance as the prescribed authority thinks sufficient, it is inequitable that any gratuity, which would, but for this section, have been payable, should be withheld, the prescribed authority may authorize the payment of the whole gratuity, or of such part of it as the prescribed authority thinks sufficient.
I congratulate the Government upon that provision, since it gives very wide powers to that somewhat unknown entity the “ prescribed authority.” The definition clause tells us that “ war gratuity “ means “ a war gratuity under this Act,” which is very enlightening, and I fail to see why it should not set out what is meant by the “ prescribed authority.” It has been determined, I understand, that the prescribed authority shall consist of a Board of three members, one nominated by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League and the other two by the Government. We should include in the definition clause a statement of, not the personnel, but the composition of the Board. I arn told that the regulations which will be duly made by the Governor-General will deal with the matter. I do not wish to hold myself out for one moment as a constitutional lawyer, ‘because already in this House I have seen two honorable members engaged in a somewhat wordy combat on a question of constitutional law, but as a solicitor qf some years’ standing I certainly feel that in connexion with almost every Bill passed by the Parliament too much is left to regulations. I am sick and tired of regulations. People come to my office in Sydney for advice, and I have always to turn up regulation after regulation-
– And receive 7s. 9d. for reading them.
– Not always. The fee is booked up, but is sometimes unpaid. The Government might very well consider the desirableness of defining in the Bill itself what is to be the composition of the “ prescribed authority.”
I agree with the’ Leader of the Opposition as to the position of those in receipt of war pensions, and trust that the de- pendants of those who were killed at the Front will not have any deduction from their pensions because of the payment of the gratuity. I think we are all agreed on that point. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said the other day that I knew something concerning the Royal Australian Naval Brigade. I certainly do. I have a very great admiration for the magnificent work that has been done on the Australian coast-in our harbors as well as outside, and on shore, by the members of the Royal Australian Naval Brigade and staff. I should like, for the information of honorable members and the general public, to show what is the full meaning of clause 3, which relates to the Naval Forces. I have here a precis which will help honorable members in dealing with the clause, and for assistance in preparing which I have to tender my thanks to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Navy Board. I saw some of our sea-going personnel at work in the North Sea, and I have something to say regarding our middies, or “snotties,” as they are called, who went from Jervis Bay to join the Grand Fleet at the end of 1916, or at the beginning of 1917. A celebrated Admiral one morning said to me, “These are bonny lads, Marks, that Australia has sent us from its training college at Jervis Bay. They are so good, and their training has been so excellent that we have plussed them a year in their course towards a sub-lieutenancy.” Is it not magnificent to find that we have here lads with that sea sense and atmosphere which is so necessary to us as an island power ?
The precis to which I have referred, sets out that the “sea-going personnel” of our Naval Forces manned the fighting ships in the North Sea and elsewhere. The “permanent Royal Australian Navy (Sea-going)” was comprised of officers appointed permanently, and men enlisted for specific periods - generally five or seven years - to man the sea-going fighting fleet. Then we have the “Royal Australian Naval Reserve (Sea-going).” These are officers of the mercantile marine, etc., who perform training in sea-going ships in peace, and who in time of war automatically become part of the personnel to man the sea-going fighting fleet. The conditions of employment in war time, are the ‘same as for the Royal Australian Navy. What will these men receive by way of gratuity? Those who had sea service, which means something more than service on the coast, will receive ls. 6d. per diem from the date of taking up duty on a sea-going ship to the 28th June, 1919. For those with no sea service a gratuity at the rate of ls. per diem will be allowed with a maximum payment of 184 days. The men in the Tingira and at the Naval College and naval depots will, I understand, participate in the gratuity of ls. per diem. I am slightly in doubt as to the position of those in the naval depots. I take it that the men at the depots who will receive ls. per diem by way of gratuity are those of the s’ea-goin,’.; forces whom I have just mentioned, and who for ‘the time being are at the Naval College or in our naval depots. As I shall point out. later on, the Royal Australian Naval Brigade staff and the men themselves are at the dep6t at Rushcutters Bay, and so far as I can see under this Bill they will not receive anything. The next body of men to come under the Bill are the naval members of the naval and military force sent to Rabaul. It is right that they should receive the gratuity. The stunt was an excellent one. They will receive a gratuity on the basis of ls. 6d. per diem from date of embarkation to the 28th June, 1919. We next have the Royal Australian Naval Brigade staff, which consisted mainly of officers and men employed in administrative positions or in connexion with the instruction of the Citizen Forces; the Royal Australian Radio Service - naval - required to man shore stations, whose services were not utilized in the seagoing fleet; and the Royal Australian Naval Brigade, comprising the old Naval Reserve and compulsory trainees under the Naval Defence Act. These are generally allocated to, and utilized for, harbor defence, examination service, guards on wharfs, ships, wireless telegraph stations, etc.; but approximately 200 to 300 were drafted to sea-going ships as (1) part of ship’s company of H.M.A. ships and patrols; (2) gun-layers on armed merchant vessels; (3) naval signalmen on merchant vessels; (4) minesweepers. Finally, we have persons appointed for permanent duty on shore. For the man who had sea service the gratuity will be paid at the rate of ls. 6d. per diem from date of first taking up duty on a sea-going ship to 28th June, 1919. No payment whatever is made for harbor or shore service. Payment is to be made only for the period or periods during which the member received pay - that is to say, periods whilst demobilized, except from last demobilization to 28 th June, 1919, do not count.
I have set out the duties of the Royal Australian Naval Brigade and staff, and I should like to strengthen their position by reading from a signed document I have here from the chief petty officers, etc., and which relates, I take it, not only to those in the Naval Depot, Edgecliff, but to. the various R.A.N.B. depots along the Australian coast. I can only take the document as given to me, because I have not discussed it with the men, but since it is signed by them I take it to be fairly accurate. The statement reads -
On the commencement of hostilities every man on the staff serving here, volunteered for active service. Some were allowed to go on the understanding that the others performed their duties while away, the remainder being told that their services could not be spared.
During the war the staff were employed in the following duties, which, had we not been available, would probably have had to be performed by members of the sea-going Forces, viz.: - Manning the port war signal station, the battery, and Nos. 1 and 2 examination steamers; taking charge of all German and Austrian prize, ships captured and interned here;, doing duty in connexion with ship and wharf guards; performing inside and outside patrol work, and mine sweeping.
I have some doubt as to that. The writers may be referring there to the 250 or 300 men who were taken from their ranks and made a sea-going Force.
We also desire to point out that members of our staff were employed in outside patrol work alongside members of the Sea-going Forces.
– If so, they will get the gratuity.
The gratuity is being paid to the latter, and to men who were in naval establishments and ships who never went to sea, while members of the above staff have not been included.
I shall not dwell on the services which these men performed so ably, but the injustice which they are likely to suffer is the more marked when their treatment is compared with that of the “ digger “ in certain cases. Under paragraph e ii of sub-clause 1 of clause 3, the soldier who went into camp but did not embark will get1s. a day from the date of his entry into camp to the date of his discharge. Why, then, are men of theRoyal Australian Naval Brigade who volunteered for active service, and did patrolling work outside the ports, excluded? Why should not those who worked in our harbors and off the coast performing the duties I have mentioned get a gratuity of1s. a day? I put these illustrations before the Government by way of appeal.
– The distinction, I think, is this: that the Australian Imperial Force men in camp were in process of going abroad ; it was not intended that these other men should go abroad.
– But they all volunteered for active service, and were liable to be sent abroad.
– It was not intended that they should be sent abroad.
– I appeal to the Government to include them in the gratuity. I realize that we cannot give a gratuity to every one who deserved it. I should like to see those who went as representatives of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and the munition workers, too, get a gratuity.
– What about the seamen ?
– I quite agree that they deserve it. Then there are the women of Australia, to whom the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) referred. They did glorious work. But to extend the gratuity to all deserving cases would cost the country £50,000,000, and we could not afford the money. Under clause 3, sub-clause 1, paragraph b, a gratuity of1s. a day is to be paid to naval men who did not serve in sea-going ships, yet the Royal Australian Naval Brigade men, who did go to sea, are excluded.
– The Royal Australian Naval Brigade men who did go to sea will get the gratuity.
– Of course, I accept the Minister’s assurance, but I should like to see that stated in the Bill.
– It is in the Bill.
– I have not discovered that they come into the Bill, though I may be wrong. Certainly it would be useless to argue the matter further, if, as the Minister says, they are included.
Coming to the details of this measure, the definition of dependants raises an important point. I do not know whether honorable members know that “ poor old father “ is left out altogether. The Bill speaks of dependants as meaning the wife or widow and children. Father or widower should be inserted in provisions such as clause 13, sub-clause 1, paragraph b, and paragraph c.
– The honorable member may not now discuss the clauses of the measure; he must confine his remarks to its general principles.
– Then I shall refer to these matters further in Committee. There are some other matters about which I intended to speak, but I shall deal with them, too, in Committee.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) made certain remarks about the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). He spoke of him being engaged during the war in growing cabbages on the other side of the world. Had . the honorable member known what I was doing, he might have had a “ dig “ at me, too, perhaps, because many a time on the Belgian and French coasts I took off my coat and vest and painted the ship with the men, and did other dirty work; because there was little daylight, and we had to carry on for all we were worth in the time at our disposal. I am proud that I did that, and the honorable member for Robertson should be proud that he helped to grow cabbages. Many a time, when mine-sweeping in the North Sea, we had little to eat, and were pretty hungry, and the order was given that vegetables must be grown where possible, and everything done to increase the food supply. I regret that jibes should be made against returned men. They hurt, and I am sure that, other honorable members knowing that, will drop them. As I said in my maiden speech theOther day, we should all pull together.
I wish to reply also to a remark from the same quarter about the war gratuity and the elections. At the Coronation Hall I remember saying something about the payment of a gratuity.
– You made a jolly fine speech.
– I found that references to the gratuity fell very flat when addressed to the “ diggers ‘’ as an inducement to them to vote for any party. One could address hundreds of men in the Wentworth electorate and not get a question about the gratuity. Any mention of it was heard in silence, showing that the votes of the “ diggers “ were not to be bought.
However, I do not wish to delay the Bill or to prevent other members from speaking this afternoon. I am glad to have had the admission of the Minister for the Navy that those for whom I spoke are toreceive recognition.
– It is not my intention to speak at length, because it seems tome that we have had too much talk about this gratuity.
– This is, after all, a Committee measure.
– Yes. It is about the details of the proposal that we disagree, and some of us must be content to disagree. I, for one, think that the gratuity should be paid in cash, but I have to be practical,’ and ask myself how could we get the necessary money. There are, of course, methods of raising the money. I believe that a big lottery loan would secure what we want. Again, much as I am opposed to compulsion, I think that it would be a fair thing to make some of the big “money-bags” who have not yet subscribed to our war loans contribute. If there is one reason more than another that would justify compulsion, it is this gratuity. I know, of course, that it is difficult to reach these people. Yet with the machinery available to the Government some attempt might have been made. It is scandalous that men of moderate means and working men borrowed money to subscribe to war loans while some men with tens of thousands in the bank did not put up a penny. The Government should have made, them contribute something, and it is not yet too late to do so. I am in hearty accord with the proposal to do a fair thing by the soldiers.I regret that this proposal has been dragged in the mud, both here and in the country, as if the “ digger “ could be bought. The last speaker made it clear that the “ digger “ cannot be bought, and we all know that. I think that, as a rule, at the elections the “ digger “ followed the same line of politics as he was following before the war. There are few legitimate soldiers who will not admit that the Government has done well for them. This Ministry did all it could to assist in the effective prosecution of the war. I do not say that there are not members of the Opposition who did not do the same, but some of them did nothing, and I am astonished that some of these have the cheek to gibe at. men like the last speaker. The sight of his badge ought to make them keep silent. Of course, there are lots of men who are not wearing badges, although they would like to be wearing them; they had calls which kept them from offering their services, and it was at the sacrifice of their personal inclinations that they did not go, but no one has the right to taunt those who did go. The honorable and gallant member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), who enlisted and went to the Front, is a married man, and probably beyond the age of military service. There was no compulsion on him to enlist, yet he felt the call and went. I know that he quarrelled with the authorities because he was not put into the firing line as quickly as he would have liked. Yet he has been taunted because he was employed in a civil occupation.
– Did not the Prime Minister taunt two returned men on this side ?
– Is that a reason for taunting an honorable and brave man who did his bit ?
– Why should the honorable member direct his reproof wholly to members on this side of the House?
Mr.AUSTIN CHAPMAN. - I am sorry this has been made a political matter.
– The honorable member’s crowd made it so.
– The honorable member has a great deal to say. Why was he not at the Front?
– I will tell you when I speak.
– Probably for the same reason as I was not there - because I was not able to go. It is a fair question to put to any eligible man in this country, because I believe that men on both sides of the House who were not at the Front would have been glad to go had they been free to do so. I have told men in my own electorate who had dependants that they had no right to go to the Front, that they could do better service in Australia, that the soldiers must be fed, and somebody must remain to produce the supplies for them. I am not taunting any honorable member with not having gone to the Front, but it is a great pity that it has been found necessary to make this a party question. What has been the reason for all the talk ? Each side has been trying to make political capital out of the question as to which party did the best for the soldiers,
– The honorable member admits that?
– I do; nobody can deny it. I do not apply my criticisms to every honorable member opposite. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) fought as hard for recruiting as did .any man on this side of the House. This should not be a party question at all, and we show bad judgment if we try to make it so, because it indicates that we have a poor opinion of the men who fought for us. I do not very much like the proposed form of this gratuity. I would like to see something better done for the soldiers, but the Government seem to have done as well as they can, and that is the test we mustapply to their proposal. Many of the details of the measure can be altered in Committee. For instance, I hope that the old-age and invalid pensioners will1 not be debarred from receiving their full pensions because the sons they sent to the war were killed. I also differ from the view put forward by the honorable members for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). I dc not see why the mother or father of a soldier who died in camp in Australia should receive only ls. per day, whilst the parent of another man who went to the Front receives ls. 6d. This gratuity is not a gift or an act of charity, but is in appreciation of the men who fought for us or who showed their willingness to do so. It cannot be given to everybody; if the area of payment is to be enlarged as some honorable members suggest, wemight as well extend the gratuity to every man and woman who did patriotic service during the war. But the payment ought not to be withheld from soldiers or their dependants simply because they did not get beyond Australia. I know a patriotic father and mother whose two sons enlisted - one died in Goulburn camp, the other died on the field of battle. Did not each of them die in the defence of his country? Why should payment of only ls. per day be made in respect of one, and ls. 6d. in respect of the other? I accord all honour to the men who showed their willingness to go to the Front. The son of the rich man enlisted and fought alongside the son of the poor man. Will any honorable member claim that one fought better than the other? There were no distinctions of social rank or politics in the Army; all men fought together. Thereby they set an example to us in this House. I hope that we shall discontinue this bickering and combine, independent of party divisions, in the endeavour to make this Bill as acceptable as possible, so that it may be of the maximum benefit to our soldiers.
I am sorry that the gratuity has been brought forward in this fashion. ‘ The proper method for the Government to have adopted would have been to pay the gratuity and risk parliamentary approval of their action. Some men might say that they had no right to take that course, but the Government have been courageous in other things, and they should have had the courage to stake their political lives if they believed that the gratuity should be paid. I regard it as a great pity that the gratuity question should have been dragged in the mud. as it has been. I am always ready to give the Government the “ order of the boot” if I think it is justified, but our simple duty to-day is to indorse their efforts and work amicably together, with a, view to making the gratuity acceptable and beneficial to “ the diggers.” I believe that money can be raised to meet the requirements of necessitous cases, and we have an assurance from the Minister for the Navy that that will be done. The circumstances of the poor old-age and invalid pensioners should not be overlooked. They are being starved to-day. A pension of 15s. per week is not sufficient to provide them -with the necessaries of life. Yet we, sitting in our comfortable seats in this House, are prepared to allow them to go with their bellies half full instead of paying them a pension which would enable them to get a square meal. I shall resist to the utmost any proposal to reduce the pensions of old people who lost their sons at the war. Prom what I know of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), I believe that if it is necessary to amend the Oldage and Invalid Pensions Act, he will see that that is done.
– I certainly promise the honorable member that such an amendment will be seriously considered by the Government.
– I am glad to ‘have that assurance, because serious consideration must mean an amendment of the Act in the direction of greater generosity to the pensioners. There are humble homes in this country where old people have not enough food to keep body and soul together, and I know that serious consideration by the Government will mean that any proposal to deduct two or three shillings from an old-age pension because a son lost his life at the Front’ in the fight to keep the flag flying and enable us to live in peace and comfort, will be rejected.
Whilst there are many portions of the Bill with which I am not in love, I believe that it represents the best that the Government has been able to do. They say to us, “This Bill contains what we propose to do; if you can better it we shall allow you to amend it in Committee. ‘ ‘
– I hope they will adopt that spirit in Committee.
– There is no need to hope. We have the power to compel them to do so, but I do not think that compulsion will be’ necessary, because honorable members on the Ministerial side think as much of the soldier and of the poor pensioners, and of the country’s honour, which’ is at stake, as do any other honorable members’’. I know that the Government have had troublous times, and that it is difficult to raise money and to pilot measures through Parliament, especially when they are made party questions by honorable members on both sides of the House. Do not forget that the man who thinks he can gain votes by making political capital out of this question is reckoning without his host. The soldier is not a fool ; neither is he a coward. It is cowardly to attempt to use the soldier for political purposes. He knows no party, and. he will stand by any man who does what he thinks is right, regardless of party adherence. I hope that the Government will see that cash is provided for necessitous cases, because to many that will mean the starting of new homes and a more hopeful existence after the terrible hell they have been through during the war.
.- The honorable member who just resumed his seat, and other honorable members, have said much in deprecation of the introduction of a party spirit into this discussion. But the honorable member by some of his remarks did as much as anybody else to engender party feeling. And how could it be otherwise, seeing that the Bill was conceived’ for party purposes? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he resented the statement by some members of the Labour party during the election campaign that the gratuity was proposed as a bribe to the soldiers. I do not worry to sugarcoat what I have to say, and I repeat deliberately what I said on the platform - not that the soldier was a man who would accept a bribe, but that the gratuity was offered as a bribe in order to secure the soldiers’ vote for the Nationalist party. The Prime Minister said that Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries, were, at the time the gratuity was promised, either granting a similar payment to their men or making arrangements to do so. My complaint is that whilst those nations «gave the gratuity in the ordinary course of events, the Nationalist party promised it on the eve of a general election. Their -action was tantamount to saying to the soldiers, “Put us back in power and we will pay you the gratuity; if you do not, you may not get it.”
– This is a democratic country, in which the people decide these questions.
– When I see the honorable member in the House, I often wonder whether a democratic form of government is the best. I am convinced that the gratuity was deliberately promised in order to win the general election, and after the pledge had served its purpose on the hustings it was deliberately broken, as has been nearly every other pledge given by the present Government. Nobody can deny that the first promise made by the Prime Minister was that the gratuity would be paid only in the form of bonds. When the principle of the gratuity was accepted the Labour party said’ to the soldiers, “We are prepared to give . a gratuity, but not in the form of a piece of paper that will enable somebody other than a soldier to tax the people of this country by drawing interest on it for years; we shall pay it in cash.” The Prime Minister thereupon began to look around, and discovered £6,000,000. This Bill is a proof that the Government maintain their record as the greatest pledgebreaking Government this country has ever known. I have no wish to unduly hurt the feelings of anybody, but if honorable members on the Ministerial side do not wish to have their feelings hurt they must have the same consideration for honorable members on this side. With respect to the interjection about some kind of vegetable, which was levelled at the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), I point out that the honorable member deliberately looked for it.
– He looked for other things, too, if the honorable member did not.
– He looked for a soft job.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to cease from constantly interjecting. An occasional interjection may not be taken notice of by the Chair, but if it immediately leads to a chorus of interjections in reply thereto, disorder reigns, and the honorable member who has the right to address the House is interrupted and harassed. I ask honorable members to be more considerate.
– Apart from breaking its pledges in the matter of the gratuity, the Government have done still further wrong. All honorable members opposite say that the money cannot be secured with which to make a cash payment; they insist that the Government cannot lay its hands upon the necessary funds for another three years, at any rate. If this Government lasts for three years, the bonds will have become due for payment. I do not expect for one moment that the Government will have lasted for so long ; but, supposing it does, I ask how in the name of Heaven it will be possible for the Government to raise the money if it cannot secure cash now?
How can there possibly be money available at the end of another three years’ maladministration if the Government cannot put its hands upon funds today ? As a matter of fact, the Government knows full well that it will not be in charge of this country’s affairs after the next general elections. No doubt, it will be quite glad to leave to somebody else the task of finding this money in payment of the bonds.
– That is one thing which the honorable member and his colleagues will surely welcome.
– I do not know so much about that. The burden may be too heavy for any one to care to shoulder. But, if the money has to be found after the next general elections, in which the present Government will have been ignominiously defeated, its supporters will undoubtedly endeavour to make political capital out of the point that the incoming Government will be unable to make good its obligations with respect to the gratuity.
In the course of his speech, introducing this measure, the Prime Minister said, “ Arrangements have been made with the employers throughout Australia to cash the bonds of their employees.” Are these employers to be allowed to cash the bonds? I hope not; and, if not, why does the Prime Minister mislead the Parliament and people by reiterating such a statement? Of course, the employers will not be permitted to cash the bonds : at any rate, I am certain that if they are, they will never cash them at par.
– Rubbish ! It is a slander upon people as honest as the honorable member himself.
– Then, why does the Prime Minister continue to say that arrangements have been made with employers to cash their employees bonds? I would most strenuously oppose any authority being given to private individuals to cash the bonds.
With respect to the aspect of cash payment, I stated upon every platform during the election campaign that I stood for cash payment to the soldier, and at once. I stood for cash payment in legal tender. Many honorable members opposite have asked where the cash is to come from. Now, this is what I told my constituents - and I think it furnishes one of the reasons why I have been sent into this House. The honorable member for
Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) and others have repeatedly taunted the personnel of this side of the Chamber with respect to non-enlistment; he has held that he has a perfect right to ask any individual why he did not enlist. That being so, I have an equal right to ask any person if he is not prepared to sacrifice a part of his wealth, and why he is not ready to accept a levy for the payment of a cash gratuity to the soldiers who saved his wealth for him. Conscription of life may be sought by a referendum, but not conscription of wealth. I defy honorable members opposite to agree to a referendum being taken forthwith upon the question of raising the cash for this gratuity by direct levy upon the wealth of the country. I do not stand for bonds or for forced loans in any circumstances. Any further inflation of the loans which have been entered into by the Commonwealth authorities, any further creation of fictitious wealth by the payment of the gratuity bonds out of fresh loans, can only add still further to the terribly high cost of living. It would become a question within a very few years, in such circumstances, whether the whole of the gratuity had not been effectually taken away from the soldiers by the eversoaring cost of living. The only way in which to face this matter is to say to the comparatively few holders of the accumulated wealth of this country, “ While our soldiers were fighting in Europe many of their little ones went barefooted because you raised the price of their footwear ; the unclothed flesh on the bones of many of these little ones was seen to shiver because you raised the price of their clothing; the stomachs of many of these little dependants of our soldiers went empty because you profiteered upon the prices of foodstuffs. Now comes your turn. You must give back to the soldiers some of your ill-gotten gains of the war period.”
– The honorable member did not say that kind of thing during his election campaign.
– I made remarks such as those upon every platform, and I stand by them to-day. Sacrifice either of life or of comfort and well-being was made by the vast proportion of our people. But there is one factor of life in this land which made no sacrifice whatever ; that factor is the wealth of Australia. Where money had been accumulated prior to the war it increased by leaps and bounds solely as an outcome of the war. Surely it is not too much to ask to-day that those people who made huge additions to their fortunes because of the war should be forced to disgorge a portion in order to provide the returned soldiers with a gratuity in cash. I stand for a cash payment, absolutely and immediately, by means of a direct wealth levy. I do not suggest that the levy should be upon the man who has not made anything, or that it should be taken from those who have little to give, but that it should be forced from those - and they are a comparative few - who were so callous as to fasten an economic grip upon the throats of their fellow citizens while this country was almost tottering to its fall. Any sacrifice of wealth, either here or in any other country, during the war was made by the class which I represent; it was made by the man who put his shilling or his pound into war funds, and who had no means of getting it back from the pockets of the consumer. People who put up their little sums sacrificed home comforts and many of the necessaries of life. But the big financial institutions, the wealthy wholesale merchants, and the rapidly enriched middlemen, gave their thousand pounds to war funds and took £10,000 away from their fellow citizens by increasing the price of necessary commodities. Wherever possible, they shortened their hands ; they paid less wages. They made promises that they would do wonderful things for the men who had volunteered. Very few of those promises were kept. It is now up to this Government, if it is honest in the matter of the gratuity, to provide the soldiers with a free gift from the pockets of those who can thoroughly well afford to pay.
. -There are clauses in this Bill which I, as well as other honorable members, wish to see amended. We want the measure, when it has been passed, to be as acceptable, both to the returned soldier and to the public, as can be possibly devised. I have indicated my intention to move amendments to certain clauses, and what I desire more than anything else just now is that we should get into Committee, so that the measure may be discussed point for point, and cast into the most acceptable form. At present, we are making no progress. I regret these exchanges which are passing from one side to another of the chamber. I am sorry that the whole question should havebeen dragged in the mud. We are getting nowhere while we are discussing promises made and kept, or not kept, by the Prime Minister. We are doing no good when we revive the bitterness of election contests. And will this character of debate prove acceptable to the public and to the returned soldier, who is more deeply concerned in this measure, of course, than any one else in the land? I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that honorable members should not he “ gagged “ or hurriedupon such a subject as this. There are certain clauses which require very full and careful consideration. I should be perfectly willing to return early next week, or remain here, in order to fully discuss the clauses of the Bill. As a returned soldier, representing returned soldiers as well as the general public, I appeal to honorable members opposite and honorable members generally, to allow the Bill to reach the Committee stage, at which we shall have full opportunity to consider every clause, and thus turn out an acceptable measure.
Debate (on the motion of Mr. Considine) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to express my view that the practice of introducing important documents and making important Ministerial statements such as we have had in the last day or two is not fair to honorable members, who are asked to deal with them immediately. In the case of the sugar agreement, for instance, it was impossible for any one here to follow the figures and grasp fully the arrangement that has been made. I wish to state now that, after the unsatisfactory proceedings of to-day, I shall not consent to any statement of the kind being made unless I know beforehand the contents of the statement.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) that it is very desirable, when important Ministerial state ments are typed out, that copies should be furnished to, at any rate, the Leaders of parties. I am not saying that simply because I happen to be the Leader of the Opposition, for it may be remembered that as a private member I have expressed a similar opinion. It is only right that the Leaders of parties should in this connexion be placed in the same position as that of the Minister. That, however, is not quite possible, for the Minister must always have the advantage of consultation with Government officials beforehand.
I am very reluctant to prevent the continuation of the debate on the War Gratuity Bill next Tuesday, but the Prime Minister has challenged myself or any honorable member to have a division on the sugar question. In view of that challenge, I propose to move the adjournment of the House on Tuesday, and then ask for a vote as to whether the proposed retail price is or is not satisfactory. I promise to be very brief, occupying not more than five or ten minutes.
– Have a division on whether the agreement is satisfactory?
– I shall move the adjournment of the House, and shall frame my motion in my own way.
– Do not forget that you are accepting the Prime Minister’s challenge.
– I shall accept that challenge by moving the adjournment of the House.
– When the adjournment of the House was moved yesterday on the sugar question I was unable to get an opportunity to speak before the expiration of the time allotted to the debate. I did not hear the Prime Minister make any such challenge, as that alluded to, and I should be surprised if he threw out one of the kind. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has a pretty cool political cheek to tell us that he will move the adjournment of the House again next week, when only a few who can “ catch the Speaker’s eye “ will have an opportunity of expressing their opinions. There are other honorable members, like myself, who do not approve of this rise in the price of sugar, and it must not be assumed that we are in favour of it because we are unable to get a chance to express our opinions. However, if the Prime Minister threw out a challenge like that described he is a bigger ass than anybody suspected.
– If you do not talk the motion out on Tuesday, we shall have a vote.
– On what?
– On the question of the price of sugar.
– How can you have a vote on the question of the price of sugar?
– Members may vote for or against it.
– You might as well vote whether we shall have sand or sugar. The honorable member knows that we all protested against the increased price, but, at the same time, we know that the Government has no alternative. It is a pity that, in the debate that followed the motion for the adjournment, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) did not see fit to mention the great body of consumers.
– I did so.
– It seemed to me that’ the honorable member was really debating the matter as it affected the growers, the cane-cutters, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. There are members here who represent the consumers, and it is a bit too thin for the honorable member, and those who support him, to say that those who do not support bini, are in favour of the higher price of sugar. To expect that view to be taken outside is to have a very poor estimate of the intelligence of the people. The consumer is hardly ever mentioned. I was here and listening when the Prime Minister was speaking the other day, and I did not hear him issue a challenge to anybody that he would take a vote next week.
– Yes, he did.
– He mentioned Tuesday.
– Nothing of the kind. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was fuming about the retail price, and trying to put a false issue before the country.
– The Prime Minister said nothing like what has been stated.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that he stood by his proposals, and that he had no other course. . I do not like the proposals, but I accept them, because I cannot get any other as good.
– Honorable members opposite are not “game” to throw out the proposals. .
– The Prime Minister said he would stand by them; so let us take a division on that challenge, and show whether we are prepared to vote in their favour or throw them out. That was the Prime Minister’s challenge.
– No, it was not. The proposal is to give the growers Id. extra, and charge the consumer 2Jd. extra. For whom is the honorable member battling now - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?
– The Leader of the Opposition said he was in favour of the agreement.
– I said I was in’ favour of the grower getting a Id. extra. The retail price was not then mentioned.
– You voted for the agreement.
– I do not like the position into which the sugar industry has got, but it seemed to me that, in the debate, the question was between, the grower, the cane-cutter, and the company. There are as many men on this side anxious to safeguard the interests of the consumers as there are on- the. Opposition side, and my surprise is that honorable members should occupy their full allotted time, and say not a word about them.
The question, as it appears to me, is whether we are to have this agreement or not, and although I do not like it, I am not prepared to vote it out, because I think it represents the best that the Government can do under the circumstances. There is not one honorable member opposite who is “game” to vote it out. I may not have another opportunity, and I desire to make my position clear.
.- This agreement, or the shell of an agreement, was settled, and very unsatisfactorily settled, in the early hours of the morning, when there were only three or four members in the chamber. My “ No ‘’ was amongst one or two of the “ Noes “ against the agreement, and my ground was the insufficient information tendered to the House. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Mcwilliams) and the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in saying that important statements of this kind are sprung on the House, with the result that the time for discussion is altogether too limited. I voted against the agreement when the question was put, about half-past 1 o’clock in the morning.
– Are you prepared to throw it out now?
– Yes ; I am prepared to accept the challenge of the Prime Minister. That honorable gentleman said, “ I am not prepared to take the responsibility on myself, but will throw it on the House; and, if honorable members like, they can throw out the agreement.” I am prepared to vote against the agreement, just as I opposed it in the early hours of the morning. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is perfectly correct when he says he appealed over and over again to the Prime Minister to give him some idea, before this agreement was ratified, of the retail cost to the consumer, and that the Prime Minister declined to give any information, or even a guess.
– Either you or your leader is wrong.
Mr.FENTON. - I have a distinct recollection of what took place, and, if I am alive and well next Tuesday, I shall vote against the agreement.
.- It seems to me that an attempt has been made to confuse the challenge made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The honorable gentleman, both to-day and yesterday, distinctly threw out a challenge with regard to the statement that he had made to the House. He told us that the rise in the price of sugar to 6d. in the cities, and to a higher price in the country districts, was not due to the agreement in connexion with the purchase of the Queensland sugar crop, but was connected with the importation of foreign sugar. The honorable gentleman made that distinction.
– He never said that at all.
– The honorable member will find that in the report of the Prime Minister’s statement.
– I will not find it there.
– I rely on Hansard. I trust that some form of motion will be submitted to enable the House to come to a definite decision which honorable members and the public can understand. Such a motion’ could be easily framed by the Prime Minister, or some other responsible Minister, and submitted from the Government side of the House. On this side we can do no more than move the adjournment of the House to call attention to some specific matter of urgent public importance. The Prime Minister might move the adoption of the statement he made yesterday, and of the agreement, if necessary.
Two distinct challenges have been made - one, to-day - in regard to the retail price of sugar.
– Not so.
– I say it is so.
– I say it is not so.
– I think my word has as much weight as that of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph ‘Cook). I protest against the manner in which very important public business is transacted in this House under motions for the adjournment. This afternoon, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) moved the adjournment of the House, and particular care was taken that he should not be interrupted, so that all his remarks might be recorded in Hansard; and then the Prime Minister, in reply, took up the whole of the remaining allotted time. As a matter of fact, an extension was granted to the Prime Minister to finish his speech; and, apparently, he and those behind him think they have a monopoly of the time of the House. No one else was afforded an opportunity of speaking on such a very important matter. I strongly resent the manner in which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) was prevented from speaking. I do not know whether the Government Whip (Mr. Burchell) came purposely to this side of the House to raise his objection; but, at any rate, he was sitting on this side of the House when he did so.
– It was quite by accident that I was sitting on an Opposition bench.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I believe the honorable member has correctly stated the position, but it was wrong of him to prevent the honorable member for
Swan from speaking. I also wished to speak on the question of the wool tops contract, because there were certain aspects of it which I was anxious to discuss, and in which the public are interested. It was no answer for the Prime Minister to tell the honorable member for Wannon that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) had done the same previously, and might wallow in the mud and get out of it as best he could. Representing a large section of the community, I want to know why a contract was made by the Government with a particular company on more favorable terms than those made with other companies, why this company’s works were allowed to remain idle for so long, why the company was permitted to lock out its employees for a long period, why the Government did not during that time exercise their powers and take over the works, and exactly what profits the company is going to make. It is all very well to say that the Commonwealth Government will take 80 per cent. of the profits, and the company only 20 per cent. Why this company should get 20 per cent. of profits and the other companies cannot get the same terms, is a matter that needs to be investigated. I do not say that I would agree to giving them this 20 per cent., even if the other companies get the same terms. I look at the matter from the point of view of the public, and I want to know whether the profit this company is to be allowed to make is reasonable. The matter lies in the hands of honorable members, unless they are prepared to sit down and allow the Prime Minister to have a monopoly of the say in regard to any matter. We heard the interjection to-day, “ Go and die!” addressed to a member of the Country party. If we allow that sort of thing to continue we are deserving of it. I, for one, do not propose to allow it, and whenever I have the opportunity I shall stand up against it.
– As my name has been mentioned in connexion with an incident that took place this afternoon, it is only fair that I should place on record in a brief form the fact that the whole of the time of the House this morning was taken up by honorable members opposite.
– What rubbish
– For instance, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H.
Catts) raised the question of privilege, and also had on the notice-paper a motion to dissent from the Speaker’s ruling.
– Whichhe withdrew.
– When I objected to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) getting leave to make a statement, the honorable member for Cook had not notified his intention to withdraw his motion, upon which Mr. Speaker naturally desired the decision of the House at the earliest opportunity; also, as I am a representative of, among others, a number of returned soldiers, I felt it my duty to ‘endeavour to have the War Gratuity Bill discussed.
– Why did not the honorable member help us to continue sitting until Tuesday ?
– Because Ministers have work to do in their Departments as well as here. I have no desire to block honorable members catching their InterState trains. I simply rose to make it clear that my purpose in objecting to the honorable member for Swan having leave to make a statement was in order to facilitate the ‘business of the House, and have the War Gratuity Bill discussed this afternoon. .
.- I have no desire to prevent honorable members from catching their trains, but my opportunity for speaking on the sugar question yesterday disappeared when the debate was interrupted by the Standing Orders, and I desire to say a little on the subject. There is a tendency in this House to throw responsibility on the shoulders of the Government and individual members. I am prepared to accept the responsibility of any blame that may be found in the Government or this Parliament in connexion with any increase in the price of a commodity, but I am not satisfied as regards the retail price of sugar. In my opinion, the interests of the consumer have not been fairly represented. I was rather surprised when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) did not answer a question on this morning’s notice-paper, but possibly he will provide an answer next week which may weigh a good deal in the consideration of this subject, if opportunity is given to deal with it on Tuesday next. We, as a Parliament, seek to encourage the cane-grower, but the difference between the price of £30 per ton paid to him and the price of sugar when it reaches the consumer is too great.
I want to know exactly where the difference goes. I do not think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company should get any increase. It has done very well out of the public. Its balance-sheet speaks for itself. It has made huge profits. 1 feel that the grocer ought to receive consideration. We do not desire that the retailer should sell sugar at a loss. But my object is to protect the consumer, and even if I stand alone I propose to do so. If the Minister had answered the question I put to him to-day as to the price we have been paying and the quantity of sugar we have imported into the Commonwealth, the position might have been clearer. Until we obtain that information, or the report is laid on the table so that honorable members - the members of the Government, of course, are specially privileged, and possess this information - may have an opportunity of going into the sugar question, particularly as regards the retail price, dissatisfaction will prevail. We are not so concerned about the wholesale price, because we realize that the industry must be encouraged. There are lots of things one would like to say.
– I agree that we should protect the consumer, but the Government should not be asked to stand under the load.
– I do not expect the Government to stand under the load; but I am satisfied that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company should not receive any increase. That is my opinion, but probably those more closely associated with the company may express a different view. So far as I can judge, the company has had a monopoly of the sugar business for years, and we should not, under any conditions, allow it an increased price. I am prepared to do anything possible to enable the consumer to obtain sugar at a reasonable price without penalizing the grocer, who should obtain a legitimate profit.
– I have listened very patiently to this diatribe against the Government. It appears that whatever we do is wrong. We are shot at from the corner benches, by members opposite, and also from the benches in front; and I can only bow my head before the storm in the utmost meekness and humility.
In regard to the statement made by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams), wherein he said he would not in future agree to the printing of any document which he had not had time to consider, I may say I hope he may have time to consider his documents. I trust, however, that in his exalted position he will remember that this House is master of its own procedure, and he, like the rest of us, must submit to a decision of the House when that decision has been recorded.
In regard to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), I agree with them that every detail of the sugar agreement ought to be published. I believe the more the agreement is investigated, the better it will be for those on both sides who made it. That is my impression.
– Why has it not been done ?
– It has been done. It is all in Hansard now, and the details are available to honorable members.
– Is there any reference in the agreement to a retail price of 6d. per lb.?
– It is not in the agreement.
Six JOSEPH COOK.- That is part of the agreement, at any rate.
– With whom?
– With ourselves. With the Treasury.
– A little family affair.
– I can quite understand the remark of the honorable member for West Sydney. His statement is perfectly clear, but is not in accord with the attitude of his Leader, who has not committed himself to the attitude adopted by the honorable member for West Sydney. He believes that the increase in the cost of growing and producing sugar should be undertaken by the Government on behalf of the people. The honorable member for West Sydney is taking the stand he did during the election, when he advocated dear wheat for the farmer and cheap bread for the consumer in the cities.
– The Minister is misquoting me.
– The honorable member desires dear sugar for the grower and cheap sugar for the consumer, but he cannot have it both ways.
– I said that the retail price was not in the agreement.
– The honorable member cannot have it both ways. We cannot give the farmer 9s. per bushel for his wheat, and at the same time provide cheap bread to the consumer. We cannot expect to pay high prices for labour in the sugar field and have cheap sugar in the cities. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that every detail of the sugar agreement should be made public. I want to see the whole facts laid before the people.
– So do I.
– Because I believe it will prove that the Government have been fully justified in the action they have taken. The Government will take care not to allow the Leader of the Opposition to get away with that part of the agreement which relates to the men working in the field up yonder, and let the Government shoulder the responsibility of making the industry pay for itself. We have not merely to see that the sugar-grower iri Queensland receives an increased price for his sugar, and that the man in the field receives more for his labour, but we have to see that the people who need sugar, and who consume it, are prepared to pay a sufficient price to cover the cost of production.
– You are begging the question.
– I may be, but I do not think so. When people require sugar it is only fair to ask them to pay for the cost of production.
– The cost of production is 31/2d., and the retail price 6d.
– When this agreement is investigated - that may occur next week - we shall take every care that the Leader of the Opposition does not confine himself to one part of the agreement. The Government invites a thorough investigation in the interests of justice and fair play to every section of the community.
– Did not the Prime Minister say yesterday that the retail price of 6d. per lb. was not due to the agreement made with the Queensland Government, but to the importation of foreign sugar?
– It is due to the inactivity and ineptitude of the Government in not foreseeing the shortage.
– Of course, every one knows what an intellectual giant the honorable member is, and what intellectual pigmies we are. That can pass without further comment. The interjection of the honorable member for West Sydney is just as specious as many of his other remarks, and I do not know whether it is worth while attempting to correct it. It is merely a half truth. However, what the Prime Minister did say was that some of the difference between the 31/2d. and 6d., but not all, was due to the importation of costly sugar.
– How much of it? The public want to know.
– All the facts and figures are in Ilansard. It is a simple sum in arithmetic, and the honorable member may reckon it up for himself. Let him reckon up how much sugar we have to import at £80 per ton, and how much we shall produce at the lowerrate, and he will have all the information he wants. Meantime I remind my honorable friend’ that only part of the statement is correct - that part of it which relates to the importation of costly sugar as adding to the added cost of the higher rates which it will cost to produce the home-grown sugar.
– Are the Government also adding the duty of £6 per ton on the imported sugar?
– There is no duty to be added. Why should the Government do that?
– I only know what the Government did before.
– The honorable member knows what his Government did. This is a different Administration altogether. My desire, however, is to allow honorable members to get home. I hope we shall come back next week in a little better mood than that in which we are now separating.
– Not at all; we are quite jovial.
– I shall sit down now that the wind blows in from the west.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200326_reps_8_91/>.