8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Congratulations on Knighthood.
[3.11. - On behalf of my colleagues and myself, and I am sure with the concurrence of all the members of the House, I tender you, Mr. Speaker, the heartiest congratulations on the conferring upon you by His Majesty of the honour of which you have recently been the recipient. You have been a member of this House for many years, and have occupied for a very long time the high and honorable position of its presiding officer. lt is gratifying, therefore, to us that you have been thus honoured, and you have our good wishes in its enjoyment
Mr. tudor (Yarra) [3.2]. - I support the Prime Minister in the expressions of congratulation to you, Mr. Speaker, on the honour that has been conferred upon you.
Mr. mcwilliams (Franklin) [3.3]. -On behalf of th . Country party, Mr. Speaker, I add my congratulations to those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and I express the hope that you and Lady Johnson may both long enjoy the honour conferred on you.
– Mr. Prime Minister, the honorable member for Yarra, the honorable member for Franklin - i greatly appreciate your words of congratulation in connexion with the honour which His Majesty the King has been pleased to bestow upon me. I regard that honour, not only as a recognition of my own public service, but also as a recognition of the status of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and on that account I appreciate it as much as for any personal reason. I thank you, gentlemen, for your commendatory references, and honorable members generally, for the cordial way in which they were received.
[3.4]. - Since the adjournment, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has resigned the portfolio of Treasurer. This matter waa brought by me before the Cabinet; and Ministers, while much regretting that the honorable gentleman could not continue in the Ministry, felt that they had no option but to recommend His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to accept the resignation, and it has been accepted. I propose to make a statement about the matter to-morrow.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to every honorable member, by laying them on the table of the House, tha. cablegrams which have passed between him or any other Minister and the ex-Treasurer, and between any mem ber of the Ministry and the British Government ?
– And letters, if any. ‘
– The course suggested is, so far as i know, without precedent; but my late colleague has expressed the desire that these communications shall be laid on the table, and i shall be glad to make them public, subject, however, to a reservation which will, i think, commend itself to every honorable member. No cables have passed between this Government and the British Government which have gone through any other Minister than myself. But the file is a somewhat bulky one. It contains much matter that is unconnected with the resignation, such as items of news, which were of interest to the honorable member for Balaclava while he waa on his voyage, and it contains also matters of a nature which it would not be in the public interest to disclose. I propose to lay on the table only such communications as may be relevant to the resignation, and the disclosure of which will not prejudice the Commonwealth in its relations with Great Britain or with foreign countries. In order that the people may know that nothing has been suppressed that is material and relevant, except such communications as could not be laid on the table without prejudice to the public interest, I suggest that the file be edited by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Tudor), the Leader of tha Country party (Mr. Mowilliams), and me, and that, when it has been so edited, it be laid om the table, and the papers printed. The correspondence will than be available to the people of Australia, and i shall make a statement in regard to it.
VOIDange of Election - Issue of New WRIT.
The Clbbk laid on the table an office copy of the order of the Court of Disputed Returns declaring void the election, on the 13th December last, of Edwin Thomas John Kerby as member for the electoral division of Ballarat.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) informed the House that on the 8 th June last, he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Ballarat, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow : - Date of nomination, 23rd June; date of polling, 10th July; and the return of the writ, on or before 20th July.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
Parliamentary Allowances Bill.
Oil Agreement Bill.
Committee of Public Accounts Bill.
Appropriation Bill 1919-20.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1920-21.
War Gratuity Bill (No. 2).
War Loan Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Economies Commission Report - Comments by the Acting Public Service Commissioner, and other officers, together with comments by the Hon. W. Webster and the Hon.G. H. Wise, in connexion with the comments of officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
Liquor Traffic in Africa - Convention relating to, together with Protocol. Signed at Saint Germain-en-Laye,10th September, 1919.
Arms and Ammunition - Convention for the control of the trade in, together with Protocol. Signed at Saint GermainenLaye, 10th September, 1919.
Austro-Hungary - Declaration modifying the Agreement of 10th September, 1919, between the Allied and Associated Powers with regard to the cost of liberation of the territories of the former AustroHungarian Monarchy. Signed at Paris, 8th December, 1919.
Proces-Verbal of the Deposit of Ratifications of the Treaty of Peace with Germany. Signed at Versailles, 28th June, 1919.
Protocol signed by Germany, 10th January, 1920, at Paris.
Greece and Bulgaria - Convention between. Signed at Neuilly-sur-Seine, 27th November, 1919.
Italian Reparation Payments - Declaration modifying the Agreement of 10th September,1919, between the Allied and Associated Powers. Signed at Paris, 8th December, 1919.
Poland - Proces- Verbal of the Deposit of Ratifications of the Treaty with Poland. Signed at Versailles, 28th June, 1919.
Roumania - Treaty between the principal Allied and Associated Powers and Roumania. Signed at Paris, 9th December, 1919.
Ordered tobe printed.
Income Tax Royal Commission (Imperial) -index to the seven instalments of the Minutes of Evidence and Appendices. [Paper presented to the British Parliament.]
Customs Act -
Proclamation Prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Cheese (dated 19th May, 1920).
Revocations (dated 19th May, 1920) of so much of Proclamations as relates to the exportation of -
High-speed tool steel.
Manufactures of metals.
Revocation of Proclamations relating to the exportation of acaroid resin and other goods (dated 19th May, 1920).
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 97.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 83, 88, 90, 91, 96.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Cottesloe, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Lismore, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Quairading, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 47, 48, 49, 51, 58, and 81.
Northern Territory -
Ordinance of 1919 -
No. 13 - Supreme Court (No. 2).
Ordinances of 1920 -
No. 2 - Birds Protection.
No. 4 - Dog.
No. 5 - Pastoral Leases.
Papua - Ordinance of 1919 - No. 11 - Native Taxes.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 29, 30, 31, 37, 38, 63, 70, 71, 74, 75,86, and 87.
Public Service Act - Appointments, Promo tions, &c. -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 84 and 98.
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 14 and 15.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 85.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1920, No. 94.
War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 76.-
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at -
Alexandra, New South Wales.
Goulburn, New South Wales.
Normanhurst, New South Wales.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations
Amended- Statutory Rules 1920, No. 68.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the following papers,previously laid on the table of the House, be printed: -
Convention revising the General Act of Berlin, 26th February, 1885, and the
General Act and Declaration of Brussels, 2nd July, 1890, signed 10th September, 1919.
Index to Treaty of Peace between Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, signed 28th June, 1919.
Treaty of Peace between Allied and Associated Powers and Bulgaria, together with Protocol, signed 27th November, 1919.
Motion (by Mr Hughes) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), on the ground of ill-health.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) be appointed an additional member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
– I lay on the table of the House the report of the Public Works Committee, with the minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of mobilization and vehicle stores at Seymour, Victoria.
That the report he printed.
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you are prepared to lay on the table of the House the agreement arrived at between the President of the Senate and yourself in reference to the wages that are to be paid to the messengers and others engaged in menial duties in this House?
– It is not customary for the Speaker to lay such papers on the table of the House); and, as a matter of fact, no documentary agreement of the kind exists. I would remind honorable members that, under the Public Service Act, the control of the employees on the establishment of both Houses was deliberately vested in the President and Mr. Speaker; that the Parliament thus voluntarily divested itself of responsibility in the matter and placed the President and Mr. Speaker in exactly the same position in relation to employees of this Parliament as that of thu Public Service Commissioner in regard to the Public Service generally. The object of this special action was to remove the officers of the Praliament from the sphere of political influence. I may say that there have been of late a number of attempts to bring political influence to bear in connexion with the control of the officers on the establishment, notwithstanding that the Act was expressly passed to prevent anything of the kind.
– We shall have to amend that Act.
– The proper course to pursue is to raise the question when the Parliamentary Estimates are under discussion in Committee of Supply. The whole question can then be fully discussed. It is certainly quite irregular to bring these matters before, the House, as has frequently happened of late, by means of a question addressed to the pre: siding officer. It would be very much better, I think, for the Parliament to appoint some other tribunal to deal ‘ with all these questions of grading, remuneration, &c, affecting the parliamentary attendants, rather than leave them to the Presiding Officers. It would, I think, b© better that, in regard to such questions, they should be placed under the Public Service Commissioner as are other public servants. These officers would then have the benefit of any advantages which other public servants have, including that of any decisions in connexion with the Arbitration Court governing awards and so forth. Generally speaking, I think the position would then be very much more satisfactory. With all my desire to do everything possible to deal justly and liberally with the employees of the House, I find myself continually hampered by various causes, not the least difficult of which is the system of divided control which obtains in connexion with certain Departments of Parliament.
– I should like to ask whether it would be possible to get a clear statement of the wages, grants, allowances, or whatever they may be called, that are paid to each officer pf the House, so that when we do get into Supply, and have an opportunity to discuss the matter, we may have ail the facts before us.
– That can very easily be done. The proper course in such case would be for a request to come from the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government, to the Presiding Officer for the information, and then the Prime Minister, or Treasurer, as the case may be, would be in a position to lay the necessary information before the House. That would be a more regular way of procedure, and I should be pleased to supply the information required.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether it is possible for honorable members to see the report prepared by Mr. McLachlan, the ex-Public Service Commissioner, on the Public Service, seeing that that report was completed nearly six months ago?
– I do not know whether it is possible for honorable members to see the report. I am sorry to say I have not seen it myself, but that is entirely, no doubt, my own fault. However, since the honorable member has directed my attention to what is my obvious duty I shall endeavour to get the report and read it. No doubt it is full of sound advice, some of which probably we shall not be able to take; but still I shall see what the report says. I should like to say, however, that an early opportunity will be given to discuss the whole question of the Public Service on the introduction of a Bill dealing with it; and before that Bill is introduced this report, together with any other information for which honorable members may fairly ask, will be made available.
– According to a news item this morning, Mr. Heitman, the former member for Kalgoorlie, has been appointed Publicity Officer to the Government. I should like to know whether that is a Government appointment, what are the duties of the office, and what is the salary?
– The duties of a Publicity Officer, so far as I understand them, axe those which are suggested by the name itself. There is a great deal of work to be done in connexion with the preparation of documents, and, amongst other things, the preparation of advertisements which are inserted in various newspapers throughout the country. There are many other duties, but I am bound to say that I have never been Publicity Officer to a Government. If the honorable member wishes to ask me a fair question I shall answer it. I am quite sure that this gentleman is doing whatever work he has to do very well.
– Just prior to the rising of the House for the recent adjournment I raised the question of foreign exchanges in reference to Customs duties. On the last day we met, the Prime Minister gave a reply, and said he would invite representations from the Governments concerned. I should like to know whether representations have been made, and, if so, whether the Prime Minister can give any indication when the Government will arrive at a decision on the matter.
– I do not think it would be quite accurate to say that re- presentations by the French Government h ave been made, but it would be true to say that during the adjournment of Parliament representations were made to me by the Consul-General for France. I had a long interview with that gentleman, and asked him to lay his views before’ me in the form of a memorandum. This he did last Thursday, and on Friday or Saturday I submitted it to the Minister (Mr. Laird Smith) who was then acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and requested him to consider the memorandum, with a view of seeing how far the views as there set forth could be sustained, and whether some remedy could be found for the injustice under which the French Government states France is suffering. The matter was again mentioned in Cabinet yesterday, and I think it fair to say that it will be settled without any very great delay.
– Will the House have an opportunity of discussing the question before a final decision is arrived at?
– The intention of the Government is to ask the House to commence the consideration of the Tariff tomorrow, and I think it would be in order for honorable members to discuss, during the Tariff debate, the question of foreign exchanges, because that has relation to the valuation of goods for Customs purposes. If, however, that cannot be done, some other opportunity will be afforded.
Supply of Shipping
– Before the recent adjournment, I urged the Prime Minister to supply shipping for the conveyance of fodder to New South Wales. Has the Prime Minister any report to make as to what has been done, or is being done?
– I gave what I thought was a considered reply to the question referred to at the time it was made. I have not the answer I then gave before me now, but I think I said there were six of our line of shipping on coastal work, and that I had given instructions that one of the Austral liners was to pick up coastal cargo as soon as she touched Australia. I also said that I would cable, with a view to obtaining information as to the price of tonnage which could be made available for coastal work, and submit it to the House. I have received a reply to the effect that the tonnage offered is not suitable, and it is, in my opinion, very dear. ‘But I will submit the matter to the House, and honorable members can express their own opinions about it. I have been reminded by my staff that since I made this promise on the 15th May, 78,000 tons of coastal cargo has been carried by the Commonwealth line. I will supply the House with the other information as soon as I can get it from the official papers.
– I remarked a few minutes ago that I had cabled inquiries regarding further ships. The reply from Mr. Larkin is as follows: -
McKelvies fleet in the market, 5 steamers - Carlo Victoria, ex King John, 6,097 tons deadweight: Rossell, 4,160 tons; Ellawood, .5,800 tons; Hebburn, 6,155 tons; Antonio, 5,250 tons. Average age, 11 years. Asking £800.000. Think might improve if purchased whole fleet. Would sell separately, Hebburn £220,000. Price others, according to age. Deliveries, United Kingdom or Continent, varying two weeks to six weeks. Surveys passed. Imperial Government authority transfer flag still necessary. Other tonnage offering from £27 to £35 per ton, according to age. Time charter for Australian coast very diffi cult., and cost probably 30s. delivery, redelivery United Kingdom; Imperial Government permission also required for temporary transfer register.
I think that covers all the information to hand. The particulars will duly appear in Hansard. Honorable members may there examine them and express their opinions whether or not they think it desirable to buy.
– Is it the intention of the Government to continue the Wheat Pool for the coming season?
– I fancy I have heard that question before.
– But I have never received an answer to it yet.
– I have set out the position quite clearly on many occasions. I, perhaps, more than anybody else, was responsible for the institution of the Wheat Pool. I did what was m my power to help the farmers to dispose of their products, and to find them ready money for goods which were otherwise unsaleable during the war. But some of those who profess to voice the opinion of the farmers were never tired of criticising, not merely the management of the Pool but the Pool itself. I think it only fair to say that nothing would have pleased me better than to have gone to the country at the last election in advocacy of the continuance of the Pool, bub wherever I went I found that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), were never tired of abusing me, and denouncing the Pool lock, stock, and barrel j in fact, those’ statements were their whole stock in trade. I said at Echuca, “ Very well, if you do not want the Pool, do not have it.” Now, when I have agreed to what they wanted, they say, “ Why do you not continue the Pool - that dreadful thing that we denounced up hill and down dale?” I realize to the full now, as I did during the currency of the war, and as I told the farmers of this country, that unless they have some means of cooperative action, they cannot dispose of their produce profitably, because they are’ not yet, and will not be for a year or two, in a normal world - if by that is meant the world as it existed before the war. Nothing would please me better than to continue the Pool, but honorable members of the Country party have placed me in such a position that I cannot continue it.
– That is not correct.
– Very well; let the honorable member tell me how it can be done.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is in existence an agreement between the Commonwealth Government, the Associated Smelters, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited with regard to the smelting and sale of silver, lead, and zinc ? If so, will the right honorable gentleman table the agreement ?
– I cannot, on the spur of the moment, recall any agreement of the kind, but if the honorable member will give notice of the question, I will endeavour to give him a definite answer.
– In view of the widespread fears of a wheat famine, in regard to which I have received a bundle of letters from public bodies in New South Wales, will the Prime Minister, before effect is given to the Imperial contract, submit to the House a statement showing the exact position in regard to wheat supplies for local requirements ‘!
– I shall endeavour to have such a return prepared by the Wheat Board. Some months ago I made a suggestion to the British Government that they should lend us, out of the Imperial purchase, a certain quantity of wheat, which we should return out of the new season’s crop. That they were not prepared to do. One ground for their refusal was that it had not been suggested that there was not sufficient wheat in Australia for immediate local requirements. How far that is true I cannot say, but I shall have inquiries made and a return prepared showing the exact position.
– Bias the Assistant Minister for Defence been able to make any arrangements to continue at work the employees of the Commonwealth Harness and Saddlery Factory? Many of them served Australia well during the war, and the staff includes to-day a number of re turned soldiers. Will the Minister suggest to the Repatriation Department that persons going upon the land should be able to purchase their saddlery and harness from the Commonwealth Factory, the output of which ought to be at least as cheap as any that can be obtained elsewhere, and probably much cheaper.
– The Defence Department is sympathetic towards the factory and the continuance in employment of the returned soldier employees. From personal experience, I know that the material turned out by the factory for use in the field was very good indeed, and I am very anxious that men should- not be discharged. I succeeded a few days ago in inducing the Postal Department to place with the Commonwealth Factory an order for the manufacture of a considerable number of mail-bags, but the bags did not provide much work for men. It was mostly work for girls. However, the Postal Department have intimated that they may possibly have a number of leather bags of a new design made at the Harness Factory, and I have asked the Repatriation Department to endeavour to induce all returned soldiers to have any harness, &c, they require made at this factory, where they can be supplied as cheaply as they can be outside. I shall use every endeavour to see that no more of the employees are put off.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether citizens of the Russian Soviet Republic now resident in Australia are free to return to their native country?
– Yes. Banzai!. Let them. go.
– My question was a serious one, and I wish the Prime Minister to answer it.
– I know nothing about these persons. I have enough to do to deal with Australians without bothering myself .about those to whom the honorable member refers.
– Is it a fact that a first dividend, amounting to £8,750,000, is to be made available in a few days, as the result of the resales of wool overseas?
– At a meeting of wool-growers held in Sydney last week, I explained the position in regard to the resales of wool in Great Britain, and tomorrow I am to meet the wool-growers again, when I shall explain the matter further, but I have no information ito support the honorable member’s statement that £8,750,000 is to be made available. All I can say is that the position is not as he has indicated. I am not at liberty ‘to make a definite statement on the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister in ‘Charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The Commissioner advises as follows: -
Delays - Deputy President
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Ordnance Corps - Compensation Claim of Mr. W. Woolley
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether an Ordnance Corps is about to be formed at the Ordnance Department?
– Approval has been given for the formation of an Ordnance Corps, but no appointments thereto have yet been made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will place on the table of the Library all papers affecting the claim for compensation made by Mr. W. Woolley, of North Fremantle?
– The file has been laid on the Library table.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Most Rev. C. O. Tj. Riley, M.A., D.D., V.D. (two periods of service). - Pay (including allotment and deferred pay) - 278 day3 at 22s. 6cl. per day, 56 days at 30s. per day; field allowance - 27S days at 3s. 6d. per day, 56 days at 5s. per day. The Most Rev. P. J. Clune, D.D. - ray (including allotment and deferred pay) - 149 days at 22s. 6d. per day, 56 days at 30s. per day; field allowance - 125 days at 3s. 6d. per day, 56 days at 5s. per day. The Rev. Dr. J. L>. Rentoul, M.A., D.D.- Pay (including allotment and deferred pay) - 122 days at 22s. 6d. per day, 84 days at 30s. per day; field allowance - 122 days at 3s. 6d. per day, 84 days at 5s. per day. The Rev.
The Most Rev. P. J. Clune, D.D.-
f3S4 9 5 The Rev. Dr. J. L. Rentoul, M.A., D.D.-
The Rev. A. T. Holden, B.A. (two periods of service). - ,
Chaplain-General Riley was attached to London strength on 10th July, 1919, for, approximately, six weeks, but, as records for payment of subsistence are not yet available, it cannot bc stated if this allowance was drawn. iJi’JIil
Chaplain-General Holden was taken on strength of Australian Imperial Force, London, on 12th December, 1917, and would be entitled to subsistence allowance at the rate of 5s. per day until 1st July, 1919, from which date the allowance was raised to 10s. per day. As subsistence records arc not yet available, definite figures cannot be given.
No wages are allowed for batmen or attendants. A. batman (private) is appointed “ in the field,” and draws his pay and rations similarly to other members of his rank “ in the field.”
Administration in Northern Territory.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
If, in view of the fact that there are 150 or more returned soldiers in the Northern Territory, the Minister will bring before the Cabinet the necessity for inaugurating a branch of the Repatriation Department at Darwin?
– The Commission advises that an officer has already been despatched to Port Darwin to deal with the administration of repatriation matters in the Northern Terri-. tory.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Commonwealth Government will, on behalf of the Australian farmers, pur- chase the wheat sacks necessary for next season’s harvest, and distribute the same to farmers at a reasonable rate?
– It is not the intention of the Government to purchase or distribute wheat sacks for next season’s harvest, the trade having been allowed to revert to its usual channels. It may be pointed out, however, that it was intimated to the Government, after the sale of sacks made to them during the war, that the Calcutta merchants were not prepared to sell to the Government in future.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. CUNNINGHAM (for Mr.
Blakeley) asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he procure a return showing -
– Yes. A return giving the desired information will be obtained, and will be furnished as early as possible.
Experiments with “ Yeoman “ Wheat.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– No information is available other than what has appeared in the press, but a cable is being sent asking for full particulars.
Transfer to Canberra: Appointment of Commission
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Poynton).The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 6th May the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The reply then furnished was that the information was being obtained. I now supply the following information: - 1 to 3. The facts of the case are as follow : - One thousand four hundred and ninety cases of dates, the product of Mesopotamia, arrived at Sydney during the first week in March. Upon examination of the consignment at the wharf by an officer of the Board of Health, 216 cases were passed as fit for consumption, and the remaining 1,274 cases condemned as totally unfit for use as human food, being fermented and badly life infested. These dates were accordingly removed from’ the cases and dumped at sea,, the cases being burnt at the Moore Park Destructor.
– On the 12th May the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked the following questions : -
I then furnished replies to Nos. 1, 2, and 4, and promised to obtain particulars in regard to No. 3. I now lay on the Table of the House a statement regarding the repatriation of Italian reservists -
The history of the repatriation of Italian reservists and conscripts to Italy, briefly outlined, is as follows : -
In the latter half of 1915 inquiries were made of the Defence Department by Italian subjects and others as to the position of Italian nationals residing in the Commonwealth in regard to .enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. The Royal Italian Consul was asked to endeavour to obtain the consent of the Government to the voluntary enlistment of his compatriots in the Australian Imperial Force, as it was also represented to the Defence Department that the presence in Australia of so many persons of Italian nationality who had not enlisted was having a prejudicial effect on recruiting. Consent to the enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force of Italians was, however, refused.
In May, 1916, it was decided to make representations to the British authorities requesting that the Italian Government be approached and advised of the detrimental effect on recruiting of the non-enlistment of Italian subjects, with a view to permission being granted for their enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. The Italian Government replied, on the 24th July, 1916, regretting that they could not modify the decision already conveyed through the Royal Italian Consul.
On the 19th September, 1916, and again on the 28th February, 1917, as the position bad in no way been relieved, renewed representations - which, however, proved unsuccessful - were made to the Italian Government, through the Imperial authorities, asking whether, in view of the fact that since last communicated with on the subject, Italy had declared war on Germany, the necessary permission might be given.
On the 13th June, 1917, the Secretary of State for the Colonies advised by cable that the Italian Government had inquired whether Italians in Australia recalled to the colours, who found difficulty in returning home in Italian or neutral vessels, would be allowed to travel to Europe on Australian vessels carrying troops or merchandise. Later cables from the Secretary of State advised that, if the Commonwealth Government could arrange for Italian reservists to be conveyed to the United Kingdom in batches not exceeding 700, their onward conveyance to Italy, through France, would be arranged by the War Office.
The Commonwealth Government cabled to the Secretary of State on 25th Jul v. 1917, notifying them concurrence in, and acceptance of, the arrangements made, and added that it was presumed that the Bovill Italian Consul would be instructed to approach the Defence Department in order to arrange details. Information was also received at this time that the Italian Government had been informed that the transport of these reservists from Australia was subject to the condition that the Italian Consular authorities vouched the bona fides of the reservists.
On the 5th November, 1917. the Royal Tralian Consul called on the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and stated he had received authorization from bis Government to arrange with the Commonwealth Government for the repatriation of Italian reservists and conscripts residing in Australia., and. after having ascertained the legal position of the Commonwealth Government, the Minister placed the machinery of the Defence Department at the disposal of the Royal Italian Consul for this purpose.
In effect, the Commonwealth Government merely acted as the agent for the Italian Government, at the request of that Government, and in full accordance with international law.
– On the 13th May the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked a question regarding the number of officers in the Commonwealth Public Service and the Defence Service receiving salaries and allowances exceeding £600 per annum. A reply was then furnished that the information would be laid on the table of the House as soon as pos sible. I now lay on the table of the House a statement containing the information desired by the honorable member: -
– On 19th May, 1920, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked -
What is the cost of printing the telephone books in each State per annum for the last five years ?
I promised that the information would be obtained. Following is the reply: -
.- I move -
Honorable members may recall that I originally gave notice of this motion at a time when the amounts mentioned therein were the same as were being paid in respect of old-age pensions. It will now be seen that I am again putting the same figures into the terms of my motion as apply to the old-age pensions at present paid. Every writer on economics, every one who studies society, must own that the chain of the present system of society has to be judged by its weakest link, and that, at the present day. that weakest link is poverty - known as destitution. If this motion should be carried and the House were toinsert amending sections in our old-age pensions legislation, the tendency at least would be for the stigma of poverty to be removed from our midst. , The fact of an applicant being compelled to make a statutory declaration should have the effect of placing him within the reach of the law in the event of his swearing falsely. In eliminating the weak link in the chain of society to-day we should be able to look to the future in the hope that this century will make life the highest wealth, in comparison with the possession of property. The troubles which have always existed between labour and capital have caused much destitution in the past. But, just as in the days of old, slavedom was succeeded by serfdom, and, later, serfdom by wagedom, now the time has surely come when wagedom must be succeeded by freedom.
Charity has been defined by Captain. Wilson, the originator of the philosophy of comprehensionism, as the makeshift of the rich to meet their obligations to the poor. It is a mere palliative. We have our Old-age Pensions Act, which is one of the noblest Acts in the world; but the pension rate must be increased, and I hope that when the time comes it will be increased to £1 per week, if not more. The old-age pension gives independence, to a certain extent, to the old people in our midst, and I hope to see the time when the stigma of charity will no longer attach to it. I think I may speak of the late ‘Treasurer as a gentleman who deserted his country in the hour of need. Him I once applied to for an old-age pension, for two reasons: One- was that the people throughout the length and breadth of this land might see that there was no. disgrace in accepting an old-age pension, and the other was to draw attention to the contrast between the position of the late Chief ‘Justice of Australia, who applied for and obtained an old-age pension of £5 a day. The invalid pension also helps, to a great extent, to prevent destitution, and, in addition, we have our hospitals and our benevolent asylums; but, nevertheless, there are persons whom no agency relieves. At one time they had in Victoria what was known as a compassionate allowance : but the Treasurer of this State, one of the meanest men who ever held a position so high, swept it away, thus causing immense distress, as every Victorian politician knows. That allowance was first provided for by the Government of Sir Alexander Peacock, and was continued by subsequent Administrations, until removed by the cheeseparing policy of the present Treasurer. Prevention is better than cure. If any one will look at the tabulated list of deaths, he will see that want and destitution, by lowering the fighting powers, make men and women more inclined to disease than they otherwise would be. When the -fire-fighters are called out to a conflagration, they do not first busy themselves with seeking the cause of it. Should it seem to be a case of arson, they do not look first for the person who has perpetrated that crime. Their business is to play water immediately on the flaming and inflammable material, and to do all they can to put out the fire. I recognise that the adoption of my proposal will not remove destitution, but it will be a palliative, and quite as useful a palliative as those that I have mentioned. When I visited the splendidly-managed Department for Neglected Children which they have in South Australia, I was shown an excerpt from a newspaper published in Great Britain, in which it was stated that in two towns there - West Gorton and another whose name I forget - out of 1,000 children born, 800 died within the first year. To a medical man like myself those figures reveal a terrible state of affairs. But in the institution to which I have referred, a child has a better chance of reaching adult age than has the average child of well-to-do parents. No words of mine can sufficiently express my appreciation of that Department, and I regret that the Government of that State has not more money to place at the disposal of this most deserving charity. When a person sees a bath overflowing, he will, before taking a mop to wipe up the overflow, turn off the tap; but should a child be in the bath and in danger “of drowning, he will first rescue the child. There are those who say that many persons who are destitute will not own to being so, but my experience in London and in other large cities, including Melbourne and Sydney, is that the splendid independence of the human often disappears before the pangs of hunger. I have never felt hungry, but I have been thirsty, and 1 do not know what I should do, supposing hunger to be as bad as thirst, were I to feel hungry and to have those dependent on me also hungry. Charity organizations devote a good deal of their time to the detection of imposition, and I do not blame them; but they can find no fault if the Government does what I suggest. I know that my proposal is a -startling one, but that may be said of every new idea. A few years ago wireless telegraphy and aviation would have been incredible, but the advance of science has made them common-place. Jo one with a Christian heart, no humane follower of Mahomet or Buddha, and no member of that old religion upon which Christianity is based, Judaism, will deny that in helping those who are in want we do God’s best work. I believe that God gave us brains to help one another, and is it not an argument against the so-called superiority of man to the other animals that human beings are left in want by their kind. If we look through the eyes of scientific men, we must, I think, acknowledge that there are three races of intelligent beings on this earth, the humans, the ants, and the bees. Never in the nest of the ant or in the hive of the bee do the workers or the young suffer privations, so long as the necessaries of life obtain there. But we cannot say so much for the humans. Mankind, is gifted with brains superior, we are told, to those of any other form of life, but how callous we often are towards the poor, making no provision against privation and want, even when our harvests are overflowing. As to the prohibitionists, I ask them if there is not positive destitution among the followers of Buddha and among the Mohametans, all of whom are absolute abstainers. That being so, I claim the assistance of the prohibitionists. Every man who calls himself a philanthropist must be in sympathy with me in this matter. There are those who repeat the saying, “ The poor you have always with you”; but to them I say, as I have said on many a platform, that they pay but small regard to the Creator if they do not allow the brains of humanity to be used to build up a civilization under which no man, woman, or little child will ever go hungry to bed. I have a quotation to make from a paper that has been of great use to me. It is addressed to moralists. Before reading it I remind honorable members of the saying of Richard Baxter, who once seeing a man in a cart on his way to execution said, “ There, but for the grace of God, goes Richard Baxter.” So to those who, in the pride of their hearts, look down upon others not so well placed, I say that to all temptation may come. Honour to those who resist. But we must know the temptation before we can condemn the tempted person who falls-
Moralists! Why make conditions as to character? Arc loafers, cadgers, crooks, vagrants, spoilers, dead-beats precluded from the free, though very costly State-provided protection by Navy, Army, police, Judges, and Law Court officers, and from the use, free, of roads, bridges, parks, art galleries, museums, lending libraries, drinking fountains, sanitary conveniences, elementary schooling, maternity allowance, coinage of gold?
The sun of our Maker shine3 upon those who are destitute as well as on those who are wealthy, the air of Heaven is free to all who breathe, and I claim in the name of humanity that means of living shall be made available to all. In large centres of population there should be establishments to which the destitute could go for assistance. In this connexion I desire to thank the Salvation Army for what they have done. I have seen their good work in many countries, and in the slums of such cities as London, Glasgow,’ Dublin, Belfast, and NewcastleonTyne, and I have been told by our soldiers that kindness, courtesy, and help were always given by the Salvation Army officers to those who appealed to them, either ai ‘he front or in the cities. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to my motion. I recognise that it may present difficulties, but if it is fairly considered I shall be glad, and I shall welcome the assistance of the Government and of every honorable member.
– I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion, though I shall not occupy much time in supporting it, because, in common, I am sure, with honorable members generally, I wish to know what the Treasurer proposes to do in regard to it. I cannot imagine any honorable member being against the proposal, which should commend itself to the House and to the country. “When we amend the old-age and invalid pensions legislation, there are many amendments which should be made. I should like the rate of pension to be increased to £1 per week, and I should like to know what has been the effect of increasing the . pension rate from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week? What additional expenditure has it entailed 1 Many applications for pensions have lately been refused, while in a great many cases pensions are being cut down. I hope I am not correct in venturing the opinion that the increase has not entailed a very much greater expenditure owing to this cutting down.
– I will tell the honorable member presently what the increased pension has involved.
-I hope that what is being done in the direction of cutting down pensions is not due to a desire to avoid additional outlay in connexion with the increased rate. In common with other honorable members, I have had great difficulty of late in securing the full rights of old people who are applying for pensions, and whose applications very often are not attended with much result. I do not offer these observations by way of an indictment against the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales, since I know that he is one of the most sympathetic officers in the Commonwealth service. He has, however, to administer the law as he finds it, and to carry out his instructions. So far as he can possibly do so, I am sure he is administering the Act in a sympathetic spirit.
– How can the total expenditure be reduced, having regard to the fact that the pension rate has been increased from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week?
– If, following that increase, there has been a certain cutting down of pensions, and excuses are made for reducing them-
– But I understood the honorable member to say that he was satisfied with the way in which the law was being administered by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales.
– I am satisfied that he is sympathetic, and would not wilfully withhold a pension in any deserving case; but I repeat that he has to administer the law as he finds it, and to carry out instructions as they are given to him.
I shall not deal further with that point, since this motion relates particularly to the granting of a destitute allowance - a proposal that must commend itself to every honorable member. It would be deplorable if any deserving man or woman, or any little child, in this country were allowed to go hungry. We claim to be, from a democratic point of view, the most forward of any country.
– There is a lot of Democracy in seeking in garbage tins for a crust, as I saw men doing recently in Sydney.
– I am led to believe that, in many cases, there is not much to be urged in support of our claim.
– Will the honorable member tell us of a more democratic country in the world?
– A country that is not administered under a War Precautions Act after the cessation of war is more democratic.
– There should be many more democratic countries. During the last five years, much of our experience has been the very antithesis of democratic government, but in regard to legislation of a sympathetic character we claim to be an advanced country; and it is a stigma on the Commonwealth that there are in Australia today hundreds of little children who, when they lie down at night to rest do not know where they are to get their breakfast in the morning. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) referred to children in Sydney whom he had seen searching garbage tins for a crust.
– Not only children, but men.
– Such a thing is a disgrace, and the cause should be removed as soon as possible. We have in this motion a means for removing the stigma, and it has my hearty indorsement. We should stand for the principle that no deserving man or woman, and no child who requires food, should be allowed to go unsatisfied.
I shall not discuss this question further, since I understand that the debate must close at 4.30 p.m., and I wish to give the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) an opportunity to express the views of the Government on the subject. I hope he will be able to regard this motion from a sympathetic point of view. The lives of the future men and women of Australia are at stake; and an ex-Victorian Treasurer once declared that the life of every child born into the country was worth £300 a year.
– The late Richard Seddon said the same thing.
– I do not know how that estimate was arrived at, but it is a very low one. A child born into this country is worth far more than £300 a year. The life of every child is of immense importance to the nation. By giving effect to the principle of this motion we shall do something in the direction of prolonging the life of every child in Australia, guard it from being stinted in its infancy, and so lead to better citizenship.
.- I regret that I am unable to support the motion, but I congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), because I know that it is out of the generosity of his heart that he has submitted it. The honorable member referred to the Christian spirit that was necessary to permit of the carrying of such a proposition, but I do not know that we should be giving effect to a Christian spirit by carrying the motion in its entirety. We have New Testament warrant for the saying, “ If any will mot work, neither let him eat.”
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– For the last twenty years I have not ceased to sit on philanthropic boards in the State in which I have resided. I was, in Western Australia, a member of the Children’s Protection Society from its inception, and have given more to philanthropic purposes - to the helping of the helpless - than to any other object in life. As a member of the Children’s Protection Society, I found that over 75 per cent, of the cases of want brought under our notice were the result of drink. I find, too, that some men, by their manner of life, are simply living up to the old-age pensions and Old Men’s Homes stage. I once said to a worthy workman in my employ upon his return, after a three” weeks’ bout, “ My friend, flesh and blood will not stand this. What is the end to be?” His reply was, “Oh, well, you know, Mr. Prowse, there is the oldage pension and also the Old Men’s Depot.” If we could so regulate matters in this Commonwealth as to save men from themselves it would be well. Where there were real cases of necessity my heart would go out to help them without question, but when we find such stumbling blocks in the way of men - when we see them so lose their own self-respect that they would fall back on a measure of this kind, what are we to do? We are dealing, not with the slums of London, but with Australia, where every able-bodied man should be able to earn his bread and clothes. This motion would apply to all such persons. That being so, while my sympathy goes out to the women and children, it seems to me that the motion would need to be vitally amended before I could conscientiously vote for it.
As I understand that the time has almost arrived when the debate must be adjourned, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 1639), on motion by Mr. Considine -
That a Royal Commission be appointed to investigate and report upon the conditions in connexion with the mining industry at Broken Hill, and more particularly with regard to
cost of production of output; (l>) wages of employees; (c) hours and other conditions of labour; (d) health of those engaged in the industry, and the causes of the undermining thereof; (e) selling prices and conditions of or in connexion with the sale of metals and other output; (/) profits arising from the industry and its method of distribution.
That such Royal Commission shall have power to summon witnesses and examine them on oath, and to order the production of such papers as the Commission may consider necessary for the purposes of the investigation, and shall have all such other powers as the Royal Commission may consider necessary for effectively performing their functions.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), believing that the time has arrived when the Government should do something to determine this dispute, which has been in existence for something like fifteen months. It is the longest industrial dispute of which I have any knowledge, and I do not think it can be denied that- those concerned in it, who have to undergo, as they have done during the last fifteen months, all the consequent privations, are carrying it on only for one reason, namely, that it is absolutely necessary that the conditions of the industry should be improved. They have endeavoured, through both State and Federal channels, to get the matter before a tribunal clothed with full powers to sift the whole of the claims and give a decision. Only recently, since the question was last discussed in the House, an effort was made by the State Government of New South Wales. Judge Edmunds was appointed to make the inquiry, and a conference was convened of representatives of both parties in order to sec if some settlement could not be arrived at. Judge Edmunds, who realized the magnitude of the dispute, and the sufferings that arc being caused, and also tho necessity, in the interests of the country, for a settlement at the earliest possible moment, suggested to the parties in a tactful way that they might consent to agree to whatever wa3 the decision of the conference. The representatives of the men asked for time to consider the suggestion, and after an adjournment they said they were quite prepared to recommend for the acceptance of the men any suggestion made by the conference. That, I think, was a very fair position for the men’s representatives to take up, and it plainly showed that they were desirous to bring the dispute to an end. The representatives of the employers also agreed to accept any suggestions that might come from the conference, and, after there had been a discussion, in which both sides participated, J udge Edmunds made a suggestion that was really in the nature of a compromise. I believe the hours suggested were seven hours for the day shift, and six and a half hours on other’ shifts, but the representatives of the Broken Hill companies repudiated that idea. This causes one to draw the inference that had the suggestion been favorable to the companies, they would have accepted it, but because it was not favorable, they refused it.
Surely the time has arrived when something should be done, if only in the interests of the companies themselves. The women and the children of the community are suffering more than the men directly engaged in the dispute, and it is absurd to suppose that this strike would be continued if they did not think their claims absolutely essential. The most vital point in the claims is that there should be some tribunal to inquire as to the effects on the men of their working in these deep metalliferous mines. I venture to say that if there were such an inquiry, it would be found that the men are justified in asking for six hours a day. I speak as one wi th some knowledge of mining, and I have known men leave coal mining in perfect health to take up mining at Broken Hill, only to find, after some years there, that they were suffering from lung disease, the effect of lead poisoning. The same results are found in all deep metalliferous mines; and the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) when he submitted this motion, adduced ample medical evidence to support what I am saying now. Can we expect these men to work for forty-eight hours a week under such conditions, when they know how injurious it is to their health ? Can we expect their women folk to encourage them to work for that length of time?
In the interests of the country, it is the duty of this Parliament to intervene. Of course, some may ask why the men do not go to the Arbitration Court; but, in my opinion, the Arbitration Court, would not touch the health phase of the question. I have had considerable experience in connexion with Arbitration Courts, and I know that these Courts do not consider the question of the health of the employees. I feel confident that the Arbitration Court would not consider how much money was being made by way of dividends, or who received it, but would confine itself to hours of labour, wages, and so forth. “What the motion desires is that a Royal Commission shall be appointed, with power to investigate the diseases that affect the miners, and’ the causes of those diseases ; and this, as I say, no Arbitration Court would do. As a matter of fact, it is almost impossible to get a case before an Arbitration Court to-day, and, as one’ who has advocated arbitration for a lifetime, I .am beginning to doubt whether it is going to prove effective in Australia. I have noticed constantly since the war that the various companies have placed large sums to reserves and other special funds, and are reconstructing and increasing their share capital. This share capital, of course, is largely fictitious, because it should have been declared as profits; but this might have been found liable to the war-time profits tax. However, the money is there, and similar conditions apply to companies generally. The result of all this is that if cases are taken to the Arbitration Court, the men will be confronted with the fact that large capital has been sunk in the enterprises, and on that basis the award will be made. I can see nothing but disaster for arbitration in the way things are going now, and it would be wise for the Commonwealth Parliament to institute an investigation at the present moment as to the number of companies which have increased their capital, as to whether the new shares are bogus or otherwise, and. in regard to the other point to which’ I have referred. The wealthy, and those who control certain industries in this country, are, it seems to me, so protecting themselves that they are able to- carry on outside the law. I d’o> not know how this is done, and I cannot prove that it is done; but that the companies do seem able to evade the law is self-evident. Under the circumstances, if we desire to maintain the confidence of the men in arbitration, all these matters should be investigated.
– No Arbitration Court could save the lives of the children.
– It is quite true that the Arbitration Court could not save the children who suffer from this inherited disease, and, therefore, the motion should be accepted by the House. The State Government has failed to effect a settlement, and the dispute goes on with disaster to the country generally, for it is not only those who are directly engaged in it that suffer. This dispute seems to be a matter of the purse against the stomach, and the companies, apparently, think they are justified in squeezing the workmen for all they are worth. These companies at Broken Hill have made bigger dividends than any other t companies in Australia, and the accumulated profits are something like £24,000,000. The making of large profits continues, and I suppose that during the war they made even more than previously. Surely, if that is so, the conditions of the industry will bear investigation, and can afford to give healthy conditions to those who are engaged in it? The men, and those dependent on them, are prepared to continue this fight, although, as a matter of fact, their wives and families are dependent on the charity of the public for proper clothing. I am pleased to say that the organization with which I am connected has been contributing to the assistance of the men and their families during the whole of the fifteen months, and they are not doing this simply because they like to .give money away; they contribute because they know they are assisting in a fight for humanity, in the interests of the working people.
How long are we going to allow the present state of things to continue ? Is its continuance in the best interests of the country? The men have made fair offers for the purpose of arriving at a settlement, and’ their whole attitude shows that they believe themselves to be thoroughly in the right. All that is desired is a Royal Commission, with ,power to make a thorough and comprehensive investigation, and I dare say, though, of course, I am not speaking for them, that the men would be prepared to accept the decision of such a Commission, and to return to work in the meantime on the six-hour basis. I admit that the time has arrived when this Parliament should do something. We are not justified in sitting idly by, and sheltering ourselves behind the plea that this is a State matter. The Broken Hill mining industry is as near Inter-State as any industry could be. After all, South Australia and Victoria derive much benefit from this industry, but in South Australia, and also at Cockle Creek, and, I understand, in Tasmania, works are closed down in consequence of the dispute, and hundreds of men thrown out of employment. As a matter of fact, the employees themselves are an Inter-State body, for they are associated with the Coal and Shale Miners Federation, which extends over almost all the States. From both these points of view, the dispute is a Commonwealth matter, and Ave, as the National Parliament, have a perfect right to intervene. As I say, all we are asked to do is to appoint a tribunal, with power to investigate the grievances, and I dare say that any decision arrived at in this way would be accepted. From all I have read and know of the matter, I feel confident that, on the medical testimony, a six hours day would be granted. There seems to me no justifiable reason for asking men to work for forty or forty-eight hours if thirty-six hours a week are ample to give a return on the capital. It has been proved beyond doubt that with a six hours day there would be ample return on the capital invested. That ought to be considered a fair thing. The companies have no right to endeavour to extract the last shilling out of the employees. I admit that the request for a six-hour day is to apply to a week of only five days. I am one who has always believed that five days is sufficient for any man to work underground. When I was working in the coal mines I held that view, and I endeavoured to have Saturday work abolished. What the men at Broken Hill are asking for is only fair. Some honorable members may think that men ought to work for six days, but I hold that five days of six hours each is a long enough week for any man to work in the bowels of the earth, where he has to contend with bad air and other conditions which are in- jurious to health. The returns of earnings and dividends prove that, working five days per week, the miners can produce enough wealth to pay to the companies a fair return on the capital invested. I hope that the Government will favorably consider this motion. The inquiry that is asked for would do no harm; on the contrary, it would do a lot of good. It would set the wheels of industry in motion, and would give relief to thousands .of persons in different parts of the Commonwealth who have been thrown out of employment, although they are not direct participants in the dispute. At Cockle Creek between 700 and 900 men are out of work, although they are not parties to the dispute. By bringing about a resumption of work in this industry we should do much to absorb the unemployed. We ought not to advocate increased production to the jeopardy of the health of those employed in producing. Therefore, if we can get the miners of Broken Hill back to work upon fair and reasonable conditions which will protect their health, the community as a whole will be the gainer. After all, what this country requires is a healthy and virile race, and we cannot have that unless the conditions of employment in the various indus’tries are made such as to conduce to good health. The inquiry which is asked for is in the interests not only of the employees, but of tho country as a whole, and I hope that it will be granted.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) [4.50 J. - The honorable member who has just resumed his seat is quite correct in saying that this strike has achieved a record in point of duration, but I remind the honorable member it is absolutely unjustifiable. That is the opinion of the people of Australia, and of a very large percentage of the miners of Broken Hill. For all practical purposes Broken Hill is a South Australian town, and, therefore, the people of that State know from the mouths of .the miners themselves a good deal about the conditions there. There are not, possibly in any part of the world, companies whose treatment of their employees will bear comparison with the treatment meted out by the companies to the miners at Broken Hill. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to scoff, but some of them know nothing about the question, which has been placed before the House in a shockingly one-sided fashion.
– I represent only one side.
– Exactly, but I wish to deal with both sides. It is and has been for the last thirty years a common occurrence that when strikes occur in Broken Hill the best men leave the town on the following day, and seek employment in South Australia. Being good men, they easily obtain work and they remain in South Australia until the strike i3 settled. Why do they leave Broken Hill so hurriedly? Simply because their only alternative is to remain there idle and speechless; they would not be allowed to tell the truth. Nobody knows that better than does the honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine). ‘ I know those men, and I have seen scores of them at work in South Australia during the currency of this strike. They get employment there, and are appreciated as good workmen. This strike is not the fault of the rank and file miners; it was caused by the officials and a relatively -small section of the miners.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) referred to the sufferings incidental to mining operations, and to the health of the children at Broken Hill. In that regard most unjustifiable and exaggerated statements have been made, as has been proved by the severe resentment expressed by the Broken Hill Municipal Council. ‘That council is a body which would not be likely to be prejudiced against the miners, or to do anything detrimental to the health of citizens and their children. But the council unanimously stated that the statements that had been made were a slander, and that, in respect of health, the children of Broken Bill were a fair sample of the children in any, big Australian town. That is the opinion of a Labour council at Broken Hill.
– There is no Labour council there.
– Not according to the honorable member’s view of Labour; but the ordinary working men in Broken Hill do not indorse the honorable member’s views by a long way. I know that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is as fair a man as there is in this House, and that he would not wilfully make misrepresentations. But the inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s statement is that nothing effective has been done by the State authorities in the interests pf the health of the people and in order to cope with the sickness that is caused by” underground work. The honorable member knows that there is sitting at the present time an ex-pert Committee, ‘ which is conducting one of the most effective investigations that has ever been attempted by any people in regard to industrial matters in relation to health.
– Would not the findings of the Committee be good evidence to place before a Royal Commission?
– This talk about a Royal Commission is all humbug. If a Royal Commission is. required to investigate the conditions of a town in New South Wales, why not apply to the New South Wales Government? In that State a Labour Government is in power, and surely honorable members opposite, can trust their own people. The Federal authorities have no right to interfere in a matter that is purely within the province of the Government of New South Wales. The expert Committee, which has been at work for many months, is now bringing its investigation to a close. This motion was very effectively dealt with by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
– He .was at Broken Hill for twenty-four hours.
– He was there long enough to get a lot of truth that the honorable member did not want him to get, and which enabled him to riddle the honorable member’s arguments through and through. I remember that when the honorable member for Barrier was moving this motion the honorable member for Fawkner was becoming distressed; and I urged him to visit Broken Hill and get the facts for himself, and not be misled by the unfair and biased statements which were being made. The honorable member for Fawkner did go to Broken Hill for the week-end, and he obtained a lot of valuable information. He came back and gave the House his impressions. I have known the conditions on the Barrier for the last thirty years.
– On the Stock Exel lange.
– I have never been inside a stock exchange. Today, South Australia is losing a revenue of £500,000 per annum through this iniquitous strike.
– I thought the honorable member said that this was a matter for the New South Wales Government.
– So it is, because Broken Hill is situated within the State of New South Wales. The revenue of the South Australian Railways from the Broken Hill traffic is a mighty big item in the finance of that State. South Australia has been losing for some time railway revenue to the amount of £10.000 per week; surely that is not in the interests of the people of Australia. Through the cessation of mining operations at Broken Hill for fourteen months, the smelting works at Port Pirie have been idle, and South Australia’s revenue from that source, too, has been stopped . It is my intention to place before the House an authoritative statement concerning this disastrous strike at the Barrier, and I warn the people that such conflicts will have to cease. The working men of this country are beginning to realize ‘that the leaders of their unions are the real menace to the progress of this country.
– We want a better form of arbitration.
– The present arbitration system was placed upon the statute-book by a Government supported by the honorable member’s party.
– But it has been riddled by the lawyers.
– I agree it is about time we had a more effective form of arbitration.
– And I am very glad to know that the honorable member is with me. No question is of greater magnitude than this need for an amendment of our arbitration system.
– How can you oppose direct action on the part of the men, seeing that you raised your own salary by direct action ?
– I did nothing of the kind. I repeat that it ought to be dinned into the ears of the workers that their so-called leaders are leading them to ruin, and this country into grave difficulties. There will have to be a weeding-out of these leaders. If the workers at the Barrier weeded out about 100 of these men, Broken Hill would be a workers’ paradise.
– We would not have anybody to manage the mines then.
– We could manage the mines quite well enough without the assistance of the honorable member. If I had my way, he would be one of the first to be weeded out. If these so-called leaders were removed from Broken Hill, the Barrier, “industrially, would be one of the most attractive places in the Commonwealth. No one knows that better than the honorable member for the Barrier; but he is having a very good time himself.
– Of course I am, and I want others to have a good time also.
– Concerned as I have been for the general interests of my own State, and for those of the men who have made Broken Hill, so many of whom have come into South Australia for work until the mines resume, I urge the House to resist this sham concerning the appointment of a Royal Commission. I think the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has overlooked the fact that an inquiry was made by a costly and effective Commission of skilled specialists; and I may interpolate here that one-half of the cost of that Commission was borne, voluntarily, by these “ wicked “ owners of the Broken Hill mines. In order that the people of Australia may have the truth, I asked the company’s representatives to prepare for me a statement of the real position concerning this record strike.
– A “ cooked “ statement.
– I am satisfied that the verdict may safely be left to the people of this country. The company, in their statement, say -
The stoppage of work at Broken Hill was brought about originally by an inter-union dispute, for which the companies were in no way responsible, and it was only after the mines had been idle for several weeks that the A.M. A. decided to make a strike of it. As a matter of fact, the Federal arbitration award, under which work had been satisfactorily carried on for three years, had still a month to run when the A.M.A. issued a manifesto announcing that it was out on strike for the full demands in a new log it had framed. This log claimed -
The honorable member for Hunter was corrected on that point. I know he would not have wittingly made an incorrect statement on this matter.
The companies’ reply was that the industry could not carry on under these terms, as they involved a reduction of actual working time for miners underground to under 21 hours per week, and the output would be reduced by 60 per cent., viz., 1,180,000 to 472,000 tons per year. The companies, however, offered to give every facility to enable the A.M.A. to submit its case to the Federal or State Arbitration Court, and to make any increases awarded retrospective to 16th June, 1919, the date the old award expired.
The member for the Barrier did not explain that all the suffering by men, women, and children in Broken Hill during the last twelve months has been caused by the A.M.A. refusing to submit these claims to any form of arbitration. Several conferences were held with the leaders of the A.M.A., and the companies made substantial concessions. From first to last the A.M.A. gave no indication of receding from any of its demands, some of which the men themselves admit were utterly impracticable.
In his desire to create an impression, Mr. Considine quoted the total amount of dividends paid by the mining companies in the past. This money, however, has not been banked as a fund out of which future wages might be paid. It has been distributed among the thousands of shareholders in the mines, many of whom are women and wage-earners who have been thrifty enough to save a little money for investment. Future wages must come out of future production. References to the dividends paid in the past are utterly futile. While the companies have never contended that they were unable to pay increased wages, they know that if the A.M.A. demands were granted, involving only 21 hours’ work underground for miners, none of the mines could any longer be worked as ordinary business undertakings.
Reference was made by Mr. Considine to the Broken Hill companies’ investments in other companies. The whole of the mines are owned by public companies, which, under the Companies Act, publish half-yearly or yearly complete statements of their profits and their assets and liabilities. These balance-sheets, of course, carry the certificate of public auditors, whose professional position is accepted by shareholders, ‘business people, and the Taxation Department, as a guarantee of correctness of the information given. In this respect the Broken Hill companies are in the same position as all other public companies, or the Commonwealth Bank; but to a suspicious mind like Mr. Considine’s any business practice established on the world’s accumulated experience is all wrong. It is true that the Broken Hill companies have invested large sums of money in other companies, viz., Broken Hill Associated Smelters, at Port Pirie, and Electrolytic Zinc Company, at Risdon, Tasmania, both of which are essential to protect the silver-lead-zinc mines of Broken Hill.
Without the smelters at Port Pirie to convert the concentrates produced at the mines into market metal, there would have been no work at Broken Hill during the war. Concentrates were unsaleable. In accordance with the policy of making the British Empire selfcontained
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member does not want it to be self-contained.
– The Germans got most of it. The honorable member knows that, surely.
– The honorable member is talking nonsense.
– No, I am not.
– Let me repeat -
In accordance with the policy of making the British Empire self-contained in regard to metal supplies, the Electrolytic Company has been established, and the smelters extended, with the result that the prospects of being able to give continuous work to 10,000 men at Broken Hill and Port Pirie are greatly improved, and employment provided for up to 1,500 at Risdon. The companies’ investments in these allied companies require no other justification.
With reference to the health question, Mr. Considine was not fair or candid. He did not appear to think it worth while to explain to the House that the companies are just as anxious as the men to learn the facts of the position. He might have explained that the companies joined with the A.M.A. in making representations to the New .South Wales Government to appoint a Commission of experts to inquire into the whole subject. The New South Wales Government delayed its decision, and the companies then offered to the A.M.A. and other employees to find all the money necessary to enable a joint medical committee, half of its members to be appointed by the employees and half by the companies, to investigate fully the effect of working conditions on the health of the employees. Arrangements for this committee were under con sideration when the New South Wales Board of Trade inquiry again became a possibility. This purely official inquiry was preferred to the private committee previously arranged for. The Board of Trade estimated that its inquiry would run into at least £15,500, and the late New South Wales Government demurred at the expense. At the suggestion, however, of Mr. A. C. Willis, secretary of the Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation, with which the A.M.A. is affiliated, the companies agreed to bear half the cost, despite the fact that the proposed inquiry is -to cover Cobar, Ardlethan, and other fields besides Broken Hill.
That Commission commenced its investigations at Broken Hill in January last, and during it3 three and a half months’ work has dealt with about 1.700 men, involving 5,000 examinations, made up of X-ray, 1,300; medical, 950; industrial histories, .1,150; and hookworm, 1,600. The Commission is comprised of Dr. H. G. Chapman, Professor of Pharmacology in the Sydney University; Dr. W. A. Edwards, of Macquarie-street, Sydney, roentgenologist; Dr. W. Sawyer, senior State Director of the International Health Board of the United, States of America (Rockfeller Foundation) ; Dr. S. A. Smith, of Macquariestreet, clinician and consultant; and Dr. Halcro Wardlaw, bio-chemist. On the staff of the Commission are Dr. John McKee, Dr. Rosenthal, Dr. Rushton-Smith, Dr. W. T. Nelson, Dr. Packham, Dr. Pfeiffer, and Dr. Waddell, as well as microscopists, laboratory attendants, X-ray photographers, registrar, clerks, &c. The Commission has the most uptodate X-ray outfit in Australia, and there is every reason to believe that its investigation will be more searching and complete than any similar inquiry previously carried out in any part of the world. The intention is to examine all the employees, and the companies will review conditions at Broken Hill in the light of the Commission’s report. Unfortunately the Commission cannot complete its task until the mines resume operations, as the companies and the men desire the Commission to examine the actual working conditions. Thus we have the curious position of the A.M.A. leaders complaining of the health conditions, and yet making it impossible for the Commission to finish its work.
Many improvements have been made in recent years in the methods of working the mines, which are equipped with the most modern appliances for protecting their employees’ health. The companies will gladly take any further steps towards this end that the Commission’s report may indicate. Meantime, the companies have offered to co-operate with their employees in establishing a sickness fund, and are prepared to formulate a scheme on the lines contemplated by the New South Wales Act, under which contributions by the employers and employees may be subsidized by the State. This would, of course, be in addition to the statutory obligations of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Recently the companies, in view of the increasing cost of living and the postponement of judgment by the Federal Arbitration Court in four cases brought by the companies’ employees, decided to review wages and conditions generally. An offer of increased wages and reduced hours was made to all.
A comparison between the rates earned by members of the A.M.A. before this strike, and what tho companies have now offered, should show whether the A.M.A. has taken up a reasonable attitude. The claim of the A.M.A. in respect to wages was £1 a shift for man or boy above or below ground (based on 44 hours). Before the dispute the minimum rate for a miner on wages was 14s. Od. This has now been increased to 18s. for those on day shift, and to 19s. !Jd. for those on afternoon or night shift. The minimum wage for contractors underground was 13s. Id. This has been raised to lGs. 4d. for the day shift, and 18s. for the afternoon shift. Miners on contract previously earned an average of 21s. 5d. a shift, and, in view of the above increases, there will now bc a proportionate advance in the earnings of contractors.
The claim for the abolition of tho night shift was met by the companies agreeing to abolish it so far as the stop in: and breaking of ore was concerned, but continuing it for necessary work. Tho offer of the companies in this regard must be viewed as a substantial compliance with the request of the men.
I ask honorable members to use their own judgment in the light of these figures, and say whether this is not about as handsome an offer as has ever been made in connexion with any industrial dispute. The statement proceeds -
The demand for a six-hours day, bank to bank, five days a week, could not be granted. Previously the hours were 44 underground and 48 on the surface. The companies offered to underground workers a 44-hours week on day shift, and 40 hours on afternoon and night shift. At tho same time it was pointed out to the men that tho Arbitration Court was making an exhaustive inquiry into the question of hours, and the promise was made that, should a further reduction be granted to other unions, the concession would be extended as far as possible to the whole of the employees of the companies at Broken Hill.
In regard to abolition of contract for the production of ore the companies could not see their way to make any compromise on this system which is fair to both sides, and meets with the approval of many of the men. The companies, however, agreed that a joint committee, comprising managers and union representatives, should be appointed to see what improvements could be devised in the existing system.
In addition to the above concessions, the companies agreed to periodically adjust rates of pay in accordance with official cost of living figures, and to finance a co-operative store, to reduce the ruling high prices. They also offered a scheme whereby every employee whose attendance reached a prescribed standard would be granted a fortnight’s holiday on full pay each year.
All the other unions at Broken Hill have gone to arbitration, and their members, mim boring a majority of the companies’ employees, are not participating in the strike.
– The statement needs revision, because the engineers have joined the miners since it was written, a couple of months ago.
– It was not written a couple of mon’ths ago. The statement proceeds -
Amicable conferences have been held with them, and no difficulty is anticipated in mutually satisfactory agreements being arranged, outstanding points being left to the Arbitration Court. The companies’ offer to these’ unions was to reduce hours for surface workers from 48 to 46, and in continuous processes to 44 per week. Compared with pre-strike rates, the basic wage will be increased from 12s. to 15s. per day, and employees will receive 48 hours’ pay for 46 hours or 44 hours’ work respectively. Carpenters, fitters, turners boilermakers, &c, will receive 18s. 6d. per day, as against 13s. per day prior to the strike, and main shaft engine-drivers go up from 16s. 6d. to 22s. On day shift, and 24s. on night and afternoon shifts.
The companies recognise that, in the past, rising cost of living has been imposed on employees for some time before the statistician’s index figures were available, on which to base an increase of wages. To meet this position the companies have taken the latest available figures, and made a generous addition to them to justify the new basic wage of 15s. per day. The companies have endeavoured to grant a wage ahead of rising cost of living instead of having the wage rate dragging behind cost of living. These now rates will be retrospective to 1st January last, and will be reviewed at the end of the year.
In the view of Mr. Considine and the A.M.A. strike leaders, however, the concessions offered amount to nothing, although they will probably involve the companies in increased wages of over £500,000 per year. In addition, all mining stores and machinery have greatly increased in price, but as the reduction of hours offered will, according to past experience, inevitably reduce the production of the mines, it is impossible to estimate the full effect of the new conditions.
Mr. Considine could find only abuse for the companies which have done these things to bring about a resumption of work, and only admiration for the union which has done absolutely nothing in that direction.
Ho applauds the actions of a small body of men who have scorned the principle of arbitration that their own party was instrumental in having embodied in the law of the land, and who have, instead, preferred to take the course of direct action, thereby bringing privation and misery to a thriving city of 30,000 inhabitants solely dependent on’ the mining industry of Broken Hill, as well as inflicting hardship upon a further 70,000 people directly and indirectly dependent on the industry.
I commend this statement to the consideration of honorable members - I know what the verdict of the people of the country will be upon it, and I ask honorable members opposite, who represent the unions, to say whether the concessions made by the companies, are not very handsome indeed. It is about time the people of the country knew where members of the National Parliament who represent :the unions stand, because we are drifting to ruin if we do not pull up. We all know the stringency of the financial position, the burden the country has to bear, and the debts it has to liquidate, but there is no need for pessimism if every man and woman will do his or her duty. If, however, ;the industrial conditions which have prevailed during the last six or twelve months are to continue there is trouble ahead of us, and no one will feel it more than will the worker. It is not to be wondered at that, to-day, the great majority of the industrial workers of Australia are sorting out their men and balancing up accounts after every strike. They are beginning to realize who are their friends and who are their enemies.
– The honorable member was never regarded politically as a great friend of the worker.
– I was never regarded as an enemy of the worker.
– We shall ask some of the South Australian railway men.
– I am prepared to accept their verdict ; not the verdict of the loafers, but the verdict of the workers; and I know what it will be. I have a record, as Minister of State handling the South Australian railways for six years, and I challenge my budding young friend opposite to point to one single instance in which I have done anything against the interests of the railway workers in South Australia. I know them, and they know me. I am proud of the great bulk of them. It is useless for the honorable member to indulge in such talk. If it is a sample of what we are to expect from him, I am afraid his work in this House will not be in the interests of the same railway men, or of any other workers in this country.
.- I have listened with interest to the advocate of the companies at Broken Hill, and it seems to me that if the statement he has read is correct it is a wonder that the strike continues.
– Yes, that is what the country is wondering.
– One wonders why companies who have made millions of pounds in this country would stand out against giving an extra 3d. per day to the men, according to their own figures.
– Is the honorable member taking into consideration the increases offered ? What is the use of endeavouring to bamboozle honorable member’s by referring to 3d. ?
– I am taking the honorable member’s own figures.
– What has 3d. to do with the question ?
– The honorable member pointed out that the companies had offered 19s. 9d., and that the men were demanding £1.
– Give whatever is demanded I suppose?
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) brought it up to a difference of 3d., and it would have been better if he had dealt with this question quite apart from the general industrial situation throughout Australia.
– It would not.
– This question should be considered apart from all other industrial undertakings in this country, because those engaged in lead mines in all countries of the world have to experience disabilities that are unknown to those working in other mines.
– That is admitted.
– The companies are late in admitting it.
– They are not.
– Let me inform the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) that I have seen in my own electorate strong and healthy men who were handling lead go to their graves within a period of three years. That has been the experience in New South Wales, quite apart from what has happened in the Broken Hill mines. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) should know something of mining and the conditions under which the men are employed. I visited the Broken Hill mines, where I saw the men at work, and after my return I described the mines as the “ leaden hells “ of this country.
– When was that?
– A few years ago.
– And they have been improving ever since.
– The companies were quite satisfied to allow the men to work under those conditions at that time. I am informed by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that the wages - apart from the contract rates - of the day men working underground at Broken Hill were 13s. per day. Let honorable members compare that rate with the wages paid in other classes of employment throughout the country.
– Be fair, and deal with the present position.
– I am giving the position when the trouble began.
– It originated in a quarrel between two unions.
– The honorable member is merely endeavouring to side-track the question. Whatever was the cause of the dispute, the fact remains that 13s. per day was being paid to day men working underground, and honorable members know very well that that rate does not compare at all favorably with the rate paid for more attractive work elsewhere more particularly in connexion with other classes of mining in Australia. When we consider the difference in the rate, and the risks incurred - I am not suggesting that the company have not endeavoured to improve the conditions - it must be admitted that it is unreasonable, as there is always a risk incurred by those working in a lead mine.
– That is admitted.
– If that is admitted, why has there been so much opposition to a fair wage and reasonable working hours? The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) pointed out that the wages in future, must be based upon the profits derived from now on, as profits derived in the past have been already disbursed.
– They have all been paid in dividends.
– The Broken Hill companies have made millions of money.
– The admission, then, is that nothing has been put aside to guard against the time when profits are reduced owing to the increased depth at which operations are being conducted, and that, in order that the mines shall pay, whether the yield is satisfactory or not, the men who work by the sweat of their brow must bear the burden.
– Why does not the honorable member adhere to the wages question ?
– I am dealing with the statement of the honorable member.
– It is not my statement, but one supplied by the companies.
– The honorable member evidently supports its contents.
– I submitted it to the House for the information of honorable members.
– Then the honorable member for Wakefield must not object if I reply to certain statements which he read from the document. I do not think any honorable member considers that such industrial troubles as this are of any benefit to the community, particularly to those engaged in the industry. Does the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) expect to convince the House that men are likely to deliberately refuse to go to work for fifteen months, particularly when their refusal is causing hardship to women and children, if they had not a grievance?
– I have told the honorable member that they are not allowed to return to work.
– Does the honorable member think that it is possible for any men, whatever their opinions may be, to keep men from their employment for fifteen months if they believe that they are being justly treated? I do not think it would be possible for any organization, however powerful, to take such a stand under the circumstances I have indicated. Accordingto the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield, it would appear that there area number of philanthropists ready and willing to come forward, not only to improve the conditions of their working people, but to pay them the handsome wages that he has quoted from the report. If that is the position, why should there be any objection to a Commission ?
– Why is it necessary to’ appoint a Royal Commission to ascertain facts which are admitted ? The Commission, if appointed, would be similar to a number of other Commissions.
– What about a Commission in New South Wales, which made certain recommendations fifteen months ago, and nothing has been done?
– Whose fault is that?
– I .am merely drawing attention to the fact, and am not suggesting it is the honorable member’s fault.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) states that the men who are involved in this dispute will abide by decisions of the Commission.
– I did not say that. I am not going to speak for 3,000 or 4,000 men, as they will have to decide that matter themselves.
– It will be admitted, I think, that if a Royal Commission were appointed to investigate the whole question its decisions would go a long way to solve the difficulty that at present exists between the two parties.
– I do not admit that, as the future depends largely on the report of the scientific authorities.
– The scientific report has nothing to do with the question.
– I have no doubt that the scientists will be able to submit some valuable facts regarding the conditions under which the men have to work. The work of raising lead and silver ore is not in any way comparable to that of obtaining stone from a quarry or minerals from other mines. “Under the conditions that exist at Broken Hill it is unreasonable to ask men to work for more than five days a week.
– And’ the underground men have that.
– I was not under the impression that they were working only five days a week at present.
– Five days of eight hours and four hours on Saturday.
– That makes five and a-half days per week.
– The short day on Saturday is recognised everywhere.
– When men working underground in a lead’ or in any other mine commence to perspire it matters very little if they work four or six hours per day; it means another shift. The four hours on Saturday is generally recognised, and is referred to as a shift of work. An effort hae been made in New South Wales to solve this problem, and after some days of deliberation it appears that the companies refuse to act on their own recommendation.
– After agreeing to accept.
– Yes; and it is useless for the honorable member for Wakefield’ (Mr. Richard Foster) to endeavour to place the responsibility upon the State Government in connexion with a dispute of this magnitude, because, if ever there was an industrial disturbance that concerned more than one State, this is one. Tha*; has been proved by the remark of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), who has already pointed out that it concerns South Australia to a considerable extent
– And they have the Arbitration Court to settle it.
– A State Arbitration Court cannot deal with the questions that would be considered by a Royal Commission.
– Certainly not. The question, therefore, comes under the purview of this Parliament. I can see no reason for the Government, or this Parliament, where a trouble such as this has continued for fifteen months, has thrown men out of employment, and has dislocated a great industry-
– Newcastle has had as much to do with that as the Broken Hill men.
– How does the honorable member assert that?
– By providing the sinews of war.
– The honorable member has raised a point which shows me exactly where he stands.
– I stand for putting an end to this kind of thing.
– That is to say, that should any body of men become involved in a dispute, they should not be helped by their fellow workmen elsewhere.
– I did not say that.
– But that should a body of employers become involved it is quite light for their fellow employers in other parts to come to their aid to the fullest extent possible. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has referred to the help which Broken Hill men have been getting from the coal miners of New South Wales. The Coal Miners’ Federation officials set out to try to settle this trouble.
– And well they might, in the interests of their own monetary affairs.
– They were the same officials who, in effect, brought about the conference, which proved abortive. Their efforts in that direction having failed, they and the coal miners behind them are at present helping to the very best of their abilities the women and children of Broken Hill ; and they will continue to do so.
I do not want to depart from the terms of the motion except to deal with one remark uttered by the honorable member for Wakefield in regard to the efforts of Great Britain to become self-contained respecting metal output. Such an assertion makes one think. Prior to the recent war–
– I was not speaking of the period prior to the war. My statement referred to the present moment.
– The people concerned only woke up when it was found that Broken Hill lead was being fired by the Germans at our own soldiers.
– That is no news to anybody.
– There were some members of this Legislature who, years before the war, tried to secure an export duty upon metals, particularly on Broken Hill lead.
– Hear, hear!
– But who was it that fought such a proposition?
– Who prevented Broken Hill lead from getting into the hands of the Germans?
– I am referring to a period long before the war. It was the influence of the mine-owners which got the New South Wales Parliament to quashour efforts in the direction of placing an export duty upon Australian metals. However, it is good to know, even at this late hour, that British people are beginning to wake up and realize that the British Empire should be self- contained in the matter of vital war necessities and similar products.
Anything in the direction of an inquiry, or indeed, any action inaugurated by this Parliament, would be justifiable if it tended to bring about a termination of the unhappy dispute at Broken Hill. A Commission could do no harm to any one, so long as there was nothing to hide, and I strongly press for its appointment.
– I do not intend to discuss the merits of the question at all. I take other objections to the proposal. Inthe first place, it appears to me to be a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to sit on the work of the Arbitration Court.
– That ought not to be an objection from the point of view of the Government, seeing that several times recently the Government has appointed tribunals to settle industrial disputes.
– Quitetrue; but it is not a good plan, is it? We have set up Arbitration Courts which, in my opinion, ought to be obeyed, at any rate, until they are differently constituted. If to-day they are working clumsily and are not securing the ends of justice with expedition; if equity and good conscience are not being administered in these Courts, then their original intention is being departed from. My own opinion is that the Arbitration Courts to-day are not carrying out the original intention. They have become Law Courts. That is the trouble with them. They are no longer Arbitration Courts. They are so beset by rule and regulation that it is impossibleto get through the network in order to take any by-and-large common-sense view of our difficulties as they arise from time to time. I well remember when the first Arbitration Court was set up in New South Wales. I took part, with all zest, in the proceedings having that end in view. I believed that such a Court would be good for the workers of the community, and would tend to bring the two factors of industry more closely together. I regret that the result has been quite the reverse of my anticipations. The Courts have acted, indeed, as a wedge, which has driven the two parties still further apart; and it all emanates from the element of technicality which has crept into the Courts, and which dominates them to-day.
– That is a very good argument in favour of carrying my motion.
– I think not; and, in a few minutes, I will say why not. There are always contending parties. As soon as one group has settled its immediate ‘trouble another trouble arises. One verdict becomes the jumpingoff point for a fresh demand. That is inevitable, of course, to some extent, in progressive community. But the Courts are multiplying troubles in their very efforts to settle disputes along the lines on which they are proceeding at present. These remarks, however, are not a condemnation of arbitration, but- a criticism of the machinery for carrying out the arbitral principle. The first Arbitration Courts in New South “Wales were presided over by laymen, and not by Judges at all. Any honorable member who knows the Newcastle coalfields will bear me out in that remark. In those days the men who presided were possessed of good common sense, and had an aptitude for looking upon a question in the light of its local surroundings; they were men who were able to settle troubles on the spot, imbued, as they were, by a knowledge of the local and immediate conditions. , They were able to end disputes before the rancorous spirit, so noticeable nowadays, could rear its head. The Courts to-day are too cumbersome. They do not attempt to address themselves to a difficulty at the moment of its occurrence, and On the spot. They do not endeavour to consider a trouble in the light of local surroundings and in the spirit of its imdiate atmosphere. Months elapse before a dispute can come before a Court, during which intervening period, perhaps, the whole cause of the actual dispute has been done away with. Nearly every industrial difficulty nowadays arises from some purely local circumstances. In mining, that is peculiarly the case. It may be that affairs are normal one day and abnormal the next, and then again normal a few days after. ‘ But upon that day in which matters are abnormal some trouble arises. What is the use of addressing a Court hundreds of miles away from the scene of dispute, and days and months after it has broken out? There should be a Board on the spot to settle all troubles forthwith. Some method such as that would be worth all our Arbitration Courts - lumbering, cumbersome, ponderous as they are.
I do not know, however, that a Royal Commission would be much more speedy or competent. Royal Commissions without number have been appointed to consider various disputes. One, in 1914, was appointed by the Government of New South Wales in respect of a mining trouble. It was presided over by Mr. B. R. Wise, and those who knew that gentleman must be aware that his -sympathies’ were with the working classes. Mr. Wise was assisted by a representative of the workmen involved, and of the employers. The three inquired into many of the things set out in the terms of the motion before thi* Chamber. What that Royal Commission did not inquire into, an Arbitration Court has inquired into time and again.
– Has the Arbitration Court ever inquired into output, into the health of those engaged in the industry, into the selling processes, and the conditions surrounding sale and output?
– I said that what the Commission had not inquired into the Arbitration Court has inquired into. The Commission inquired into health matters; and there have been inquiries into the same subject since, as the honorable member for Barrier well knows.
– The Minister knows that, while- I have never disputed that there is a technical Commission at present engaged in dealing with the health of the miners, my motion goes a good deal further, and would supplement the work of the Commission.
– Not in relation to health. The very verbiage of the hon’orable member’s motion, so far as it relates to health, is the precise language of the terms of the Commission which made its inquiry at the time I have indicated.
– The honorable member will find, the words “ undermining of health “ in the terms of appointment of that Commission, just as he employs them in his motion.
Tn the first place, therefore. I want to point out that there is to-day the Arbitration Court, with which the men ;H Broken Hill will have nothing to do.
I do not think that we are entitled to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the case of men who refuse absolutely to go to the Court in the setting up of which they had more to do than any other section of the community. From time to time in this House and in the State Parliaments these Arbitration Courts have been adjusted and re-arranged almost out of recognition. The persons chiefly responsible for all these adjustments and rearrangements have been the representatives of these men in the various Houses of Legislature. There is no getting away from that fact, and, therefore, these men and their representatives should not ask us to deliberately set aside the Courts which they have themselves shaped.
– I thought the honorable gentleman said “shaken.”
– No; I said “shaped.” I mean that the legislation which is responsible for the present Arbitration Court is the work in this House of Labour Governments. No one who has been here for any time will deny that statement. On the other side of this chamber some of us have been the critics of that legislation. We have said that it was not likely to work, but our advice was ignored. All my life I have contended for the local settlement of local disputes, and there will never be industrial peace in this community until we get back to that fundamental principle. A local dispute arises out of some local peculiarity, and should be followed up swiftly, and settled at the place where it occurs by some facile mode of inquiry. There are questions affecting industry as a whole which must be left to other tribunals to review. Such questions as rates of wages and hours of labour, which affect industry as a whole, require to be dealt with perhaps at greater length and by other than local tribunals, but I should say that 99 out of every 100 disputes occurring on mining fields arise because of some local peculiarity or circumstance, and should be dealt with as I have suggested.
What the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is asking us to do is to set up a Court of Inquiry to sit on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - for that is what his motion means. He wants the cost of metals inquired into, and also the profits made in the industry, the wages paid, the hours of labour, and the prices of the products.
– In fact, he wants all that he asks for in his motion.
– And a bit more, too, I have no doubt. May I suggest that all these matters - costs, profits, wages, hours, and prices - all come within the purview of the Arbitration Courts, an’l are investigated almost every day in those Courts, and necessarily so, because they are correlated; it is impossible, for instance, to settle the question of costs without reference to prices, profits, wages, and hours a( labour ? The question of costs -involves the consideration of all these other questions.
– The Minister knows full well that the companies’ representatives have on every occasion refused to permit any investigation of these matters.
– I say that under our arbitration laws the Judge of the Arbitration Court has the right to require the production of books, to have them examined by experts, and to satisfy himself as to the whole of the conditions, under which any industry is carried on.
– No. When the matter’ was last before the Arbitration Court, the representatives of the companies said that they did not question the fact that they were able to pay the wages, and, consequently, no investigation was made. I can make that statement confidently, because I was there.
– The company conceded the point as to their ability to pay the wages without investigation ?
– Yes, and thereby evaded an inquiry into the industry.
– Why should the honorable member want an inquiry if the point was conceded ? If the company say they can afford to pay good wages, why does the honorable member want an inquiry into their capacity to do so ?
– Why does Mr. Courtney refuse to have any investigation into the profits?
– It is not for Mr. Courtney to say. That is a matter for the Judge to decide, and not Mr. Courtney.
– The Prime Minister told me, in this House, that if the company would agree to this investigation, he would grant the Royal Commission. The honorable gentleman will find that in Hansard.
– I do not know what the Prime Minister, Mr. Courtney, or anybody else has to do with the matter. I am speaking of a law which permits the Judge of the Arbitration Court to make an investigation whenever, in his opinion, it is necessary to do so. The honorable member asks for a Royal Commission to sit on the Arbitration Court, and all the machinery set up from time to time chiefly through the instrumentality of the section of the community which, he tells us, he specially represents.
There is a further objection to this motion, and it is that it is an attempt to interfere with a State industry. It refers to a State industry. It is of no use to say one thing and mean another, and in my judgment we have no legal right to inquire into this industry in the way the honorable member proposes. What right have we to inquire into the health conditions, for instance, under which a State industry is carried on?
– What jurisdiction has the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to inquire into the industry?
– Surely such an inquiry is a State function. In this Parliament we have nothing to do with the health of the community as such except in the most incidental and indirect way. All these matters are reserved under the Constitution to the State authorities. We do a good many things which perhaps we ought not to do, and the State authorities do not like us to meddle with their concerns. Here we have a proposal to meddle with one of the vital industries of a State over which the authorities of the State have absolute and unqualified jurisdiction. I think it would be wrong for us to do so. .We have no constitutional right to do so.
– Have we not made the Federal Arbitration Court deal with the matter?
– I am not speaking of arbitration, but of conducting an investigation into the health conditions of a State industry.
– The ultimate consequence lias an Inter-State effect,
– It is not a question of the ultimate consequence, but of the cold, hard lines of the Constitution, which sketch for us a line of demarkation, and we are told to keep on one side of it, while the States are told to keep on the other side. On the States’ side of this line is the mining industry at Broken Hill, which is carried on in the State of New South Wales.
Leaving that and coming to another point, I suggest to the honorable member for Barrier that he should not persevere with his motion at the present time, for a reason which I dare say he knows, and that is that I understand that the New South Wales Minister for Mines at the present time is a member of a Labour Government. I’ refer to Mr. George Cann, an old-time and .very much respected member of this House. He went to the State Parliament, and has done very much better for himself there, and I say, good luck to him. He is now in office as a member of the Government of the State of New South Wales. If any man has sympathy with the conditions under which miners have to work, that man is Mr. George Cann. I remind the honorable member that there is also in the New South Wales Government Mr. John Estell, a miner from the Newcastle district, a much-respected and levelheaded man. Surely th.,se gentlemen can be trusted to take charge of this matter, and see that the fullest measure of justice is done to the miners of Broken Hill.
– That is no excuse for shouldering our responsibilities on to some one else.
– I emphatically deny that they are our responsibilities. They are primarily the responsibilities of the men in charge of affairs in the State in which this industry is carried on, and I understand that at the present moment those men are taking steps to discharge their responsibilities in this regard. I understand that they are going to inquire into this matter by means of a compulsory conference or some such method, and I suggest to the honorable member for Barrier that, in the circumstances, he had better leave the matter alone.
– I wish the honorable member would be serious.
– I was never more serious in my life. Does the honorable member say i am joking when I suggest that the two Labour Ministers in New South Wales to whom I have referred will give these men at Broken Hill a measure of justice? Is that what the honorable member calls joking?
– The honorable gentleman evidently cannot understand hip own humour.
– Does the honorablemember not see the implication of his statements ? It is that these men cannot possibly give the miners justice. I do not take that view at all.
– I take the other view.
– The honorable member takes the other view against his own Labour confreres in the State of New South Wales, in which this dispute particularly resides. I suggest to the honorable member now that he should leave this matter to the jurisdiction of the gentlemen to whom I have referred. They are interested in it. They admit their responsibility clearly and definitely, and as I say, they are taking steps to discharge it. Why not leave the matter to them? Why begin tinkering with the matter in this Parliament at the same time that they are dealing with it in their own sphere.
– I propose to ask this House to shoulder its responsibility.
– And I suggest that the House should not accept a responsibility which does not belong to it, and should leave the State Government of New South Wales to shoulder- its own responsibility. I apprehend that honorable members generally will show their good sense by adopting that course. I appeal to the honorable member for Barrier not to take the settlement of this matter out of its proper sphere, and out of the sympathetic hands in which it rests at the present time in the State of New South Wales.
.- I have to reply to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) and other honorable members who have seen fit to oppose my motion. Dealing first with its last opponent, let me say that the Minister for the Navy, after referring to the disadvantages of the Arbitration Court, and to the fact that it is almost impossible for workers seeking the redress of their grievances to obtain justice in that Court today, went on to say that he did not intend to deal with the merits of the dispute, because that was the job of the State Parliament of New South Wales. I say that it is not. Ib is our duty to deal with this matter. We are here as the representatives of the people of Australia. Whether we do it or not we are supposed to look after the interests of - the whole of the people.
– No, we are not. We have only certain things to do as affecting the people of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable gentleman must know that disputes, so far as mining at Broken Hill is concerned, cannot be settled separately, because operations at Port Pirie, Broken Hill, Cockle Creek, and Risdon, in Tasmania, are dependent upon supplies from the Broken Hill mines. When Broken Hill stops work - as it has for the last fourteen months - Port Pirie is in idleness. The right honorable gentleman knows that, in the language of the Arbitration Court, there is an Inter-State dispute, because the men at Port Pirie have made common cause with the men at Broken Hill. The dispute is Federal in its scope and its results. Out of the mouth of the companies’ own publicity agent, whose report the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has quoted, it is made quite apparent that this is not merely a State dispute. The companies say, in this report, that there are from 70,000 to 100,000 people affected by it. If it is not the duty of the Commonwealth to step in and to direct an inquiry to be made into the causes and the results of the trouble, as well as to ascertain a way of settlement, why was a special tribunal set up quite recently in the case of the Seamen’s and the Engineer’s and Firemen’6 dispute? Why did the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in the case of the coal miners’ dispute at Newcastle, appoint a special tribunal? Why did not the Commonwealth Government, in that and many other cases, say, “ This is a matter for New South Wales itself and not for the Commonwealth to take action ” 1 In the past the Commonwealth Government have said that it is their duty to take action in these cases.
– I think it would have been better if they had.
– That is the point.
-The honorable members who have just interjected are quite entitled to their personal opinions; but the House has to decide whether we are to stand by and allow this trouble to continue.
Labour men in New South Wales have not been idle. They have convened a conference with Judge Edmunds. The companies agreed to this conference, and asked the employees if they would abide by the decision arrived at by Judge Edmunds. The employees asked for time to consider the matter, and when, after due deliberation, they said they were prepared to accept his decision, and Judge Edmunds made the suggestion to which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has referred, the companies “ bolted,” so to speak, and refused to have anything further to do with the proposal.
– I understand that Mr. Cann has the whole matter in hand, and is trying to arrange another conference.
– I do not know whether that is so. That step had not been taken when I was in Sydney three weeks ago, and no public statement has been made as to what Mr. Cann is doing in the matter. The right honorable gentleman may have some private information on the subject.
– I heard to-day that Mr. Cann was trying to arrange another conference, but I have no first-hand information on the subject.
– The parliamentary representatives of Broken Hill - both State and Federal - are seeking the powers asked for in this motion. It is useless for any one like the honorable member for Wakefield to come here and prattle about the generosity of the mining companies of Broken Hill, because no case for their generosity can be made out. When I submitted this motion on the 29th April last, I gave honorable members some instances of the “ generosity “ of the companies. I pointed out that where victims of the mines had been adjudged entitled to compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the companies had hired legal talent to fight the widows and children to the very door of the Court. So much for this prattling about their generosity. Where they can, by a legal quibble, avoid their liability they will do so. In my opening speech I quoted from a report from Broken Hill published in the Age of 22nd April last setting out that- ‘
Judge Bevan presided at the District Court on Wednesday, when Mary Ann Scollard proceeded against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, under the provisions of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, claiming f 500 as compensation in respect of the death of her husband, John Scollard, from lead poisoning. . . .
Because of a technicality that woman was absolutely robbed of her compensation. On the occasion in question I gave a list of cases, and yet some honorable members come here and prattle about the generosity of the companies. They say that the companies offered to pay the expenses of a technical inquiry. That offer, however, was made when the Nationalist party was in power in New South Wales. At that time they were going to pay the whole of the expenses; the employees were to have 50 per cent, of the nominees and the companies were to have 50 per cent., and there was to be no governmental interference. But when the question of this technical inquiry came to be faced, the generosity of the companies vanished to the extent of 50 per cent. They were then willing only to share the cost, instead of bearing the whole of it, so that their generosity slumped in that case to the extent of 50 per cent. The technical inquiry proposed by the companies is restricted solely to the matter of hookworm, phthisis, and questions of health. It does not and cannot inquire into the matters I have covered in my motion, such as the hours and other conditions of labour, the selling prices and conditions of the sale of metals and other output, and the profits arising from the industry and its method of distribution. When we were last before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, Mr. Justice Higgins asked the representative of the companies whether they claimed that they could not stand the increase asked for by the men ? He replied, “ Oh, no !” Mr. Justice Higgins, said, “ If you did, I would ask you to produce your books.” The companies evaded any inquiry into their profits by saying that they did not dispute the question of wages. That being so, there could be no investigation into their profits, their method of distribution, or the arrangements generally in connexion with the mining industry. When the representatives of the men met the representatives of the companies here, and asked whether, in the event of our agreeing to go back to work pending the report of the medical inquiry, the companies would agree to an examination of their profits and so forth, they replied that under no conditions would they doso.
We come now to the statements of the honorable member for Wakefield, who, I may say in passing, is rather ill-informed on the subject. He told the House, for instance, that the Broken Hill Council was a Labour council, and that it had repudiated the statement that the health of the children of Broken Hill would compare unfavorably with that of the children of other parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member must have obtained his information from the Argus. That newspaper sent a special reporter to Broken Hill to inquire into the conditions prevailing there, and should be better informed than it appears to be. If the report of its special representative on the industrial conditions of Broken Hill was no more accurate than the subleader which it published a few days ago, in which it stated that the Broken Hill Council was a Labour council and had repudiated the insinuation that the health of the children there was inferior to that of the children of other centres, then we cannot say much for it. The Argus ought to know that the Nationalist party have been in control of the Broken Hill Council for some time.
– But did the Broken Hill Council repudiate that insinuation?
– The Broken Hill Council did carry such a resolution, which was moved by a local building contractor, who said that “ his “ children were quite healthy. That gentleman has. never worked in the mines of Broken Hill. Like many other business people there, he has seen the mines, and may perhaps have been down some of them once or twice; but he has never worked in a mine at Broken Hill, and his system has not been saturated with lead. He says, “ My children are all right,” and claims, therefore, that the children of Broken Hill generally must be healthy, despite the fact that the Commonwealth Statistician has proved that the infantile mortality rates of Broken Hill and Port Pirie are the highest in the Commonwealth. The authorities on industrial diseases - Sir Thomas Oliver and others - say that this high rate of infantile mortality is attributable to the fact that the fathers or mothers have lead in their system, and that the children, consequently, have no chance before they are born. Are we to take the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures and the evidence of the medical authorities on industrial diseases, or are we to accept those of building con tractors, who, in order to back up the political interests of the mining companies of Broken Hill, and, as good party men, carry a resolution repudiating the suggestion that the children of the Barrier are not as healthy as are children in other parts of the State, despite the statistics of the Commonwealth Statistician and the reports founded upon medical inquiry?
Is it to be said by us that, because this dispute has gone on. so long, it shall be allowed to continue? Are we to ‘have, in response to this demand, as the speech by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) suggests, the answer alleged to have been made some thousands of years ago, “Am I my brother’s keeper ? ‘’ It is the bounden duty of this House to order an inquiry. The interests of the people of the whole Commonwealth are bound up with the health of the men, women, and children of Broken Hill. The Commonwealth Government did not hesitate to intervene in the shipping disputes on the ground that they were holding’ up the industries of the Commonwealth. If the Victorian railway men stopped work to-morrow, would the Commonwealth Government say that it was not a Federal matter, and that it could take no action? The whole of the powers of the Commonwealth were brought into play to seize the bank deposits of the marine engineers - the whole machinery of the Commonwealth was used against the seamen and the marine engineers.
-. - But that was an InterState matter.
– It was brought home to the Commonwealth Government that it was an Inter-State matter because it prevented the distribution of commodities needed by the community as a whole. But, because this dispute is not brought home to the Government in the same way, they apparently are determined to say, “ Wc wash our hands of the whole matter.” Judging by the speech just made by the Minister for the Navy, the Government are going to say, “We have nothing to do with this matter, although it affects 30,000 people in Broken Hill, and, notwithstanding the fact that, according to the companies themselves, between 70,000 and 100,000 people are dependent upon the industry.
So far as the Broken Hill miners, their wives, and their children are concerned, if the Government say to them, “We wash our hands of all responsibility in this matter,” they will know what to do. If this, the highest tribunal in the Commonwealth, says, “ This dispute is no business of ours”; if it lays down the doctrine that it owes no duty to these people ; if it says, “ Society owes no duty to these people,” then these people will reply, “We owe no duty to society,” and will act accordingly.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.38 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Greene) read a first time.
– In moving
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to remark that it is not entirely a new measure. For similar reasons to those actuating this Government, and to which I shall presently allude, the Government in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) filled the office of Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced into another place in November, 1914, a Bill which embodied many of the provisions that are to be found in this measure. That Bill passed the other branch of the Legislature in December, 1914, and was placed upon the businesspaper of this House. Honorable members will recollect that just at that time the war began to assume very serious dimensions, and consequently we became deeply immersed in matters relating to the national safety, with the result that it was found impracticable to proceed with the measure. The Government, therefore, postponed its consideration from time to time; and, finally, owing to the prorogation of Parliament, the Bill lapsed.
The primary object of this measure, as of that to which I have already referred, is to make such amendments in the Navigation Act as will enable the Commonwealth to give effect to the provisions of the International Convention for the safety of life at sea, to which all the principal maritime powers of the world are signatories. Its second object is to postpone the coming into operation of the coastal provisions of our Navigation Act, which were proclaimed to come into operation on 2nd March last. In the few remarks which I intend making I Shall attempt to show why that course has become necessary, and why, atthe present time, it is not considered desirable to proclaim those provisions. Incidentally, I think I shall be able to convince honorable members that the seamen, for whose benefit, as much as anything else, the coastal trading provisions were inserted in our Navigation Act, are to-day enjoying, practically in their entirety, the benefits conferred by those provisions. In the third place the opportunity is being taken to make a number of amendments in the Act for the purpose of bringing it into line with recent maritime legislation in Great Britain, and of remedying defects and inconsistencies which have been discovered since the passing of the original measure. It is also proposed to enact certain provisions which experience has shown are necessary to meet the peculiar conditions which exist upon some parts of our Australian coast. As some considerable time has elapsed since the tragic event which led to the calling of the International Conference for the Safety of Life at .Sea, perhaps it will not be out of place for me to say a few words concerning the work of that Conference.
– That was the Conference which was called after the wreck of the Titanic.
– As the honorable member for Yarra has interjected, it was the Conference which was called after the wreck of the Titanic, which, as the result of a collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, brought about an appalling loss of life. At the time, it came in the nature of a shock to the whole civilized world to learn that 1,500 people had been drowned, merely because a vessel which was regarded as the last word in naval construction, and which was deemed to be practically unsinkable, had not sufficient life-saving appliances on board to accommodate more than one-half of her passengers and crew.
– And mainly because the live-saving appliances which were carried were not utilized to the fullest extent.
– That circumstance accounted for a portion of the loss of life sustained, but the outstanding feature disclosed by the inquiry was that there were not on the vessel sufficient boats and rafts to accommodate the whole of the people she was carrying. . At that period, I believe, there was no legislation in any part of the world which made it necessary for ships to provide boats sufficient to accommodate more than a portion of the persons carried by them.
The result of the Titanic disaster was that there was an insistent and worldwide demand that all vessels should carry sufficient boats to accommodate all on board, both passengers and crew. A Conference was, therefore, called by Great Britain, as the leading maritime power of the world, and representatives of all the maritime Powers gathered in London to consider the question of formulating such standards of safety for passenger ships as might be generally accepted. Fourteen sovereign Powers, embracing all the maritime nations, with the exception of Japan, were represented at the Conference which met in London at the end of 1913. Australia, Canada, and’ New Zealand were also separately represented. Though Japan was not actually represented at the Conference, she subsequently announced _ her intention of becoming a party to the Convention. The Convention, however, is not binding upon the countries represented at that gathering until it has been ratified by their several Governments. Some of the principal Powers, including Great Britain, have already given legislative effect to its provisions.
– Have all the Powers done so ‘?
– Not all of them. I am not able to say off-hand exactly how many Powers represented at the Con.ence have since passed the necessary legislation to give effect to the Convention. But I d’o know that the great majority of the important maritime Powers have enacted that legislation, and that Japan, which was not represented at the Conference has adhered to the Convention.
– The British House of Commons amended the Merchant Service Shipping Act just prior to the outbreak of the war.
– Great Britain has passed the necessary legislation.
– Has it been put into operation ?
– So far as I know, yes. To the best of my belief, that has been done. The Commonwealth Government have notified their intention to adhere to the Convention as from the date of the proclamation of the Navigation Act. If that Act is not brought into operation as a whole,- the date of our adherence in terms of our notification will be from the commencement of Part IV. of the Act, which comprises the provisions relating to surveys, equipment, and the safety of life at sea. Honorable members will recollect that a short time ago we put through a brief amending Bill, which empowered us to proclaim piecemeal, if that course should be deemed desirable, the provisions of the Navigation Act. I am not able to say whether the Act will be proclaimed in that way or not. It may be that we shall be able a little later, when the necessary preparatory work has been carried through, to proclaim the whole Act simultaneously. But if it be not proclaimed in “that way, our adherence to the Convention will take effect from the time that Part IV. of the Act is proclaimed. The Powers subscribing to the Convention pledged themselves to the early introduction of legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention, and’, it is understood, practically the whole of the Powers have already fulfilled their obligations in this regard. As I stated just now, the matter was dealt with by the Imperial Parliament in the few months immediately preceding the outbreak of the war. The Merchant Shipping Convention Act of 1914 received the Royal assent on the 10th August of that year. The Imperial Act, however, was not applied to Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, it being left to the Dominions to deal individually with the matter by means of local legislation. The Convention itself, of which there are some few copies available to honorable members who may wish to ,peruse it, forms a very voluminous document, consisting of no less than seventy-four articles aud fifty-one regulations. It deals most comprehensively with the question of securing the maximum degree of safety in ocean travelling, ranging over such matters as the method of construction to be adopted, equipment to be_ carried, fire control, urgent signals, and the drills of the crew. The three outstanding requirements of the Convention, however, may be thus stated - (a) safety of construction, (6) wireless telegraphy, (c) life-saving appliances and fire protection. The heading “safety of construction “ comprises such important questions as the subdivision of ships into water-tight compartments, the provision of double bottoms, , fire-proof bulkheads, auxiliary steering apparatus, and periodical surveys of the vessels in regard to hulls, boilers, machinery and equipment. It must be very gratifying to those who were associated with the framing and passing of our Navigation Act to know that in a number of important matters it successfully anticipated the findings of the Conference to which I have referred and the requirements of the Convention. I believe that at the time the Navigation Act was put through this Parliament it was probably the most up-to-date piece of legislation dealing with navigation in the world. It is certainly gratifying to this Parliament to know that after the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea had deliberated upon these matters the alterations that we require to make in our Navigation Act are not very numerous. The requirement, for instance, of sufficient and efficient manning of passenger ships, referred to in article 15 of the Convention, is fully met by sections 14 and 43 and schedules I. and II. of the Act; the periodical inspection and survey of hull, boilers, machinery, and equipment - article 29 - is covered by sections 191, 193, and 199 ; the provision as to wireless installation - articles 31 and 35 - was covered in all its main particulars by section 231; the prohibition of carriage of dangerous goods on passenger ships - article 55 - by section 254; the requirement that each life-boat and life-raft shall include in its crew a certain number of certificated lifeboatmen - article 54 - i3 to a great extent met by section 41, sub-section 2 of which provides that after the expiration of twelve month’s from the commencement of the Act a seaman - other than a seaman who has not previously served at sea - shall not be permitted to engage in any capacity unless he satisfies the superintendent that he can pull an oar and handle a boat.
– Is that one of the amendments you propose in the present Bill?
– No : what I am endeavouring to show is that in regard to all these things mentioned - most important as they are in connexion with the safety of passengers and crews - our Act has already made adequate provision to meet the requirements of the Convention.
– Our present Act does not provide for what you are referring to now.
– I think it does to a very large extent.
– I am advised by the seamen that it does not.
– However, the whole thing is now met. If in any way our original Act does not comply with the conditions laid down by the Convention, the Bill now before honorable members, I believe, gives full effect to the requirements, and enables the Commonwealth to carry out its promise to adhere to the Convention, as soon as Part IV. of the Act is declared. I have no doubt that at the time our Act was regarded as a model piece of legislation, and that it did influence the members of the Convention at which Australia was represented. Finally, the compulsory boat drills required by article 56 and its related regulations are provided for in section 235. This last-mentioned, section is, however, being enlarged to provide, also on the lines of the Convention, for collision and fire drills. Power is also being taken, under a new section to follow section 217, to make regulations for the issue of certificates as life-boatmen to seamen who qualify, and for prescribing more particularly the crew to be carried by each life-boat and each life-raft on a vessel. Other requirements of the Convention can also be met by regulations under existing provisions of the Act. Of these the most important is that of article 40, which lays it down as a fundamental principle that at no moment of its voyage may a passenger steam-ship have on board a greater number of persons than those for whom accommodation is provided in life-boats and pontoon life-rafts on board. That is one requirement on which the Convention, perhaps, insisted more ‘than any other, and our Act already gives the Minister power to prescribe that it shall be met.
– Docs that apply to boats trading on rivers?
– I think not.
– It is very serious if it. does.
– Does it apply to boats on the River Murray?
– It does not apply to the Murray; at least, I am inclined to think it does not.
– If a vessel engages in both sea and river passage, does that provision apply?
– Yes. I do not wish to be led into long explanation of some of these matters, but I understand that all vessels which cross routes that are traversed by oversea steamers come under this portion of the Act. This, as well as the requirements of articles 41, 50 - which deal with the types of boats and rafts to be carried - and of regulation 51, relating to life-jackets for all, can be fully met by regulation under existing section 215. Similarly the requirement of article 11 that a Morse signal lamp of sufficient range must be carried by passenger ships will be dealt with by regulation under sections 191 and 258, which fully cover the ground. The new sections, which it is proposed to introduce into the Act to meet the remaining requirements of the Convention, may be readily recognised by the reference in the marginal notes to the Imperial Act and to the relevant articles of the Convention. It is unnecessary for me to deal with these at this stage, but an explanation of each will be given when they come to be considered in Committee. If honorable members refer to the memorandum .which has been prepared, they will be able to follow quite easily the sections which it is proposed to introduce into the Act.
– Are we attempting to follow the Convention laws here ?
– Wherever our Act has not already met the Convention’s requirements, the necessary provisions to that end are incorporated in the Bill.
– And the British Parliament has done the same?
– Of course.
– This Bill adjusts matters that were conflicting?
– In many cases, yes. . A word is necessary as to the scope of the Convention, and its application as proposed in the Bill. The Conference was called together for the express purpose of considering the safety of passenger ships engaged in international traffic, in which the vessels at different stages of their voyages would come under the control of different jurisdictions, and in which different Governments would have a direct interest as involving the lives and safety of their subjects. The application of the Convention itself is, therefore, limited - excepting in regard to a few matters of relatively little importance, such as regards ice and derelicts, and the use of signals of distress - to the classes of ships described in Article 2; that is to say, to passenger steam-ships proceeding from a port in a State whichis party to the Convention to a port outside that State, and conversely. The matter of regulating the trade within its own territorial waters has been left to each country itself to deal with. That means that our adherence to the Convention does not make it necessary for Australia to apply these provisions of the Bill to our own shipping on our own coasts, which is entirely under our jurisdiction. We could, if we liked, adhere to the Convention, and leave those provisions out.
– But you do not propose to do so?
– No. The Imperial Act, to which reference has been made, gives the provisions of the Convention a much wider application. It applied them to all passenger steamers, irrespective of whether their trade is within the United Kingdom or to foreign countries. That means ships passing from the jurisdiction of England to that of Prance, Holland, or some other country, and the provision applies to all passenger ships, irrespective of whether they trade within the United Kingdom or in foreign countries. Similarly, the requirements as to wireless are applied to ships and voyages which do not come under the Convention.
– Does the Merchant Shipping Act contain the same provision that our own Act does, namely, that wireless shall be provided for all vessels carrying over ten passengers?
– I could not be sureof that point without looking the matter up.
– Surely the lives of our sailors are just as important as those of the passengers?
– It will, I think, be conceded that if such precautionary measures are desirable in the interests of human life on the short voyages within the waters around the United Kingdom, or even on the somewhat longer voyages from ports in the United Kingdom to European countries, they are even more desirable and necessary on the long runs of from 400 to 1,000 miles between ports in Inter-State voyages along the 10,000 miles of steam-ship routes around the Australian coast.
Our power under the Constitution is, of course, not so wide as that of the Imperial Parliament, and the limitations therein imposed must be regarded.
Generally speaking, however, the provisions of the Convention are applied, under the Bill, and subject to the conditions laid down in section 2 of the Navigation Act, to the following classes of ships: -
It is this power which enables us to control ships which are not registered in Australia, but which embark passengers in Australia for ports beyond the Commonwealth.
– Havewe jurisdiction to control foreign ships which carry passengers on our coast?
– We have jurisdiction over all vessels, whether British or foreign, engaged in the coastal trade.
– That is, trading from one port to another in Australia, and not merely disembarking passengers or landing cargo in this country.
– That is so. I speak subject to correction; but I believe that we have jurisdiction over every vessel which touches Australian shores, and engages in our coastal trade. Of course, if a foreign vessel comes to Australia and passes from port to port, but does not pick up passengers or cargo, I do not think we have jurisdiction.
– That is covered by the coastal trading sections of the main Act.
– Myown impression is that we have gone, in this Bill, just as far as the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth enable us to go. Then, of course, we have to leave to all the maritime powers, which have adhered to the Convention, the control of those ships which come here over which we have no jurisdiction. So much for the provisions arising out of the Convention for the safety of life at sea, and which constitute the most important clauses of the Bill.
– As regards constructional accommodation on oversea vessels, -will it he uniform on British vessels with that on vessels registered in Australia, by reason of the Convention, or otherwise ?
– The Convention deals with the question of construction. If the ship is registered in a British Possession which has adhered to the Convention and passed the’ necessary legislation, or if it is under the jurisdiction of any other power which has done so, then the provision will be uniform; but, of course, in the case of any vessel which comes to our coast and engages in the coastal trade, the coastal-trading provisions insure uniformity.
I wish to explain clauses 3 and 4, which provide for the postponement of the coastal-trading provisions of the Act. Clause 3 provides for the annulment of the proclamation issued in December last, fixing 2nd March as the date on which certain provisions of the Act, commonly known as the coastal-trading provisions, were to commence. Clause 4 similarly suspends the operation of regulations issued under those proclaimed provisions. I believe there is a good deal of misconception, and possibly of ignorance, on the part of the public, both as to the nature of the Navigation Act itself and as to the effect that its provisions would have on shipping facilities in Australia if the Act were proclaimed at this moment. “We often hear criticism directed against this Government, as it has been against previous Governments, for not proclaiming the Act. That criticism I believe to be very largely based upon lack of knowledge as to the shipping situation generally, and as to the effect which the enforcement of the Act would have upon our coastal trade. I was not here through the closing days of the last part of this session, but I believe a good deal was said at that time as to the enormous accumulation of cargo in different parts of Australia and the impossibility of moving it to other parts where it was badly needed. At that particular time the drought was very bad. It looked as if it were never going to break. There were vast accumulations of fodder at various parts of Australia, and it was found utterly impossible to move it. Great pressure was brought to bear on the Government to release some of its overseas vessels and put them on the coastal trade. This position arose in the first place through the war. I think over fifty of our coastal vessels, and the very best of them, were during the war taken off our coast and requisitioned by the Imperial Government. According to the latest statistics available, the Inter-State steam-ship tonnage remaining on the coast is to-day only about two-thirds of what it was at the outbreak of the war in 1914. This deprivation of one-third of our effective transportation service was a most serious loss to the Commonwealth. We felt the effect of it all through the war; and, had it not been for the fact that the ‘ Government requisitioned all the ships and ran them as one line to all intents and purposes instead of a number of competing lines, it would have been utterly impossible, during the period of the war, to meet the requirements of Australia. The position has been accentuated for another reason, to which I am very glad to be able to bear testimony. During the war, owing to the fact that we were shut off from our sources of supply for many things which we had been in the habit of importing, Australian manufacturers got to work, and all sorts of new industries were started in the country.
– Shovels, for instance!
– That was a very small one; but still it was one. The result was that the coastal trade of Australia grew tremendously during the war.
– It just about doubled.
– Not only had we less ships during the war; but, a3 I am reminded by the honorable member for Wakefield, who is a member of a Commission that has been investigating this matter very closely, the coastal trade of Australia has very nearly doubled.
– Is that in tonnage or in value?
– In actual tonnage. That fact, has of course, accentuated the difficulty very much. The position is far from normal, and this abnormality has been brought about, I am sorry to say, by two very serious maritime strikes.
On top of the fact that we were working with only two-thirds of the shipping on our coast that we required, and the fact that our coastal trade had grown to such a great extent during the war, we have had two very serious industrial disturbances, which have led to the piling up at various parts of Australia of an enormous accumulation of cargo, which it has been found impossible to move.
-. - Will not the Minister admit that the influenza epidemic had far more to do with it than the strike?
– I believe that the influenza epidemic, or the action which the States saw fit to take at that particular time, had a good deal to do with it, but by the strenuous efforts put forth by the Controller of Shipping, Admiral Clarkson, we have, to a great extent, got over that trouble, which occurred about twelve months ago. We have, however, not yet fully recovered from the effects of the strikes, because they meant a complete cessation of shipping. Honorable members will see, therefore, that, for the time being at all events, it is absolutely necessary to engage in the trade every vessel that comes to our shores, and is prepared to carry coastal cargo. The object of the coastal trading provisions of the Act was to insist that all vessels engaged in our coastal trade should comply with certain conditions as regards the manning scale, accommodation, pay, and rations, and generally to make tilt condition of Australian seamen very much better than it had been in the past.
– And it needs to be made better.
– It certainly did need to bc. Every one who has looked into this question must admit that the conditions which obtained in our mercantile marine in days gone by were a disgrace to our twentieth-century civilization. The provisions of the Navigation Act are an attempt to put them on a much better footing. It was recognised, too, that it would not bc fair to compel the owners of ships registered in Australia to comply with the coastal trading provisions while allowing ships trading from other parts of the world, and which had not to comply with those conditions, to compete with them. But for us at this moment to ask tho.se vessels calling at our shores, and which are so necessary to carry on our coastal trade, to comply with the coastal trading provisions, would simply result in pushing them out of the trade. Australia’s national requirements are such at the present moment that the Government do not think that would be a desirable step to take. We have, at the same time, the knowledge that, as a result of the conference held at the conclusion of the first big maritime strike, practically all the provisions relating to the comfort, pay, rations, and manning scale on Australian ships are now being carried out; and I believe I am safe in saying that, if the coastal trading provisions of the Act were proclaimed to-morrow, they would not materially alter in any respect the conditions of our Australian seamen engaged in the coastal trade.
– Does that apply to accommodation ?
– The Minister will find that the seamen do not agree with the statement he has just made.
– I can only give the House the information which has reached me from responsible quarters. I believe that, broadly speaking, that is the fact. There are some ships on our coast on which the accommodation has not been altered.
– In some cases it is absolutely scandalous.
– There are some ships upon which the accommodation has not been altered, but, broadly speaking, the statement I have made is, I believe, correct. We cannot insist upon the observance of these conditions until such time as we are able to proclaim the coastal trading provisions of the Act. The disadvantages to this country of doing that at this time would be so great that no Government would be justified in adopting that course. As soon as we are able to do so with due regard to the’ welfare of the community generally, we intend to proclaim the whole of the Navigation Act, including the coastal provisions. When the Government decided some time ago to prolaim those provisions, we were met by insuperable difficulties in several quarters. For instance, the north-west of Western Australia and Thursday Island are entirely dependent upon sea communication, and either no vessels of any kind were calling at those ports, or practically the whole of the trade was being carried by foreign-going ships. Had we proceeded with the proclamation of the whole of the Navigation Act at that time, those portions of Australia would have been isolated entirely, and deprived of all means of communication with other parts of the Commonwealth. Many of the people would have been ruined, and some starved. The owners of the vessels calling at those ports told us that they would not comply with the coastal trading provisions, and would entirely abandon those ports of call. The Government are satisfied that even when the coastal trading provisions of the Act are proclaimed, fresh provision will have to be made to meet those peculiar conditions which exist in some parts of Australia, and whilst it is conceivable, and probably is right, that later the whole of the Australian coastal trade will be catered for by vessels registered in Australia, that consummation cannot be reached for some time. Honorable members will find that clause 96 enables the Minister for the time being to make provisions to meet these peculiar conditions as they arise. There is considerable constitutional difficulty in the way of exempting any part of Australia from the provisions of the Act, because we are not allowed, in our trade and commerce legislation, . to differentiate between different portions of Australia.
– But we did that in the Act by stating that certain provisions should not apply to vessels trading between Fremantle and Adelaide.
– We did that; but the honorable member will admit that the provision is of doubtful constitutionality, and may be challenged later. I believe that by clause 96 we have overcome the constitutional difficulty by giving the Minister power to grant permits to any vessel or vessels to engage in the coastal trade without complying with the coastal trading provisions of the Act. That will meet the circumstances of isolated parts of Australia, and at the same time will enable the Minister, as Australian ships become available to take up the slack of the coastal trade, to cancel permits after due notice has been given.
– The clause insists upon any unlicensed ship being British owned.
– Yes; wherever possible, permits would be granted to British ships, in preference to others. The only other important provision of the Bill which it may be desirable to mention at this stage is clause 5, which introduces into the principal Act a new section (1a), providing that the provisions of the Act expressed to apply to ships registered in Australia shall also apply to and. be enforced on other British ships whose first port of clearance and port of destination are within the Commonwealth. This takes advantage of section 5 of the covering Act of the Constitution, to extend the application of the Act in regard to those particular provisions which it has been thought desirable to apply to “ ships registered in Australia.” The principal object in introducing this into the Act is to prevent any evasion of those provisions expressed to apply to Australian registered ships by the simple expedient on the part of the ship-owner of transferring the registry of the ships to British ports outside the Commonwealth.
– As it has been alleged some owners have done recently.
-Yes. If that is done in future, we shall be enabledby this provision to bring those owners within the purview of the Navigation Act. I shall make further reference to this matter when the Bill is in Committee. I have outlined briefly the principal provisions of the Bill. It is really a Committee measure, and when that stage is reached I shall be glad to furnish honorable members with any further information they require. The Bill is of a nonparty character, and will, I think, make for the welfare of this country. Therefore, I hope that honorable members will facilitate its passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Mr. POYNT0N (Grey- Minister for
Home and Territories) [8.56]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very simple little measure, which does not require much explanation.
– Can any honorable member tell me of any part of the world to which he can go without a passport? The Bill is the outcome of the “War Precautions Regulations. Since the conclusion of the war nearly every country has introduced passports regulations, and today no person can travel to any part of the world without possessing a passport from the country he is leaving. This Bill makes provision for those who wish to travel in other parts of the world. At present they cannot go to any other country without a passport.
– New Zealand?
– Not even in New Zealand could the honorable member land without a permit, although for some time I have been trying to arrive at a reciprocal agreement with the New Zealand Government to render permits between the Commonwealth and the Dominion unnecessary. Provision has been made in this Bill that if any other country does not continue to insist upon passports from Australia they shall not be insisted upon here from persons arriving from that country. Not only do all countries refuse to allow persons to land without passports, but some of them attach certain conditions to travel even with a passport.For instance, a person cannot land in America to-day on a pleasure trip without a passport; and his passport must indicate the nature of his business. Honorable members will see that this Bill is in the interest of those who wish to travel. The Government would be ready to abolish the passport system to-morrow if other countries would fall into line; and we have made provision in clause 4 to dispense with passports to countries with which reciprocal arrangements can be made, just as we have done in the Immigration Act with regard to persons entering the Commonwealth. I invite honorable members opposite to indicate to the House how we can do without this Bill.
– Cannot I take a passage to England, and land there without a passport ?
– The honorable member could not even go to England without a passport. This class of legislation is in operation in practically every part of the world. During the past six months the Department has issued passports to thousands of persons desiring to go to England and other parts of the world, because, if they had not been provided with these permits, they would have been unable to land.
– Did the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) require a passport?
– Yes; Mr. Watt was obliged to obtain a passport for himself and his private secretary, and Mr. Collins, who accompanied the ex-Treasurer, had to get one also. No one can go from Australia to England, America, or any other part of the world without a passport, and so, for travellers’ own protection, we are obliged to introduce this legislation.
– Is it the intention of other countries to perpetuate this system?
– I do not know.
– Is this one of the fruits of the war?
– It is one of the results of the war. In order to prevent citizens of the Commonwealth from being inconvenienced and embarrassed it is clearly the duty of the Government to provide some such legislation as is now introduced.
– Is it possible for any person to land in Australia without a passport ?
– They cannot get out of any other country without a passport.
– But if they could, would the Government allow them to land in Australia?
– No; because it is necessary that we should know something about people who come to this country. In sub-clause 3 of clause 3 there is provision for exemptions which experience of the War Precautions Act has proved to be desirable, and in clause 4 there is provision for reciprocal arrangements . with any other country in the world, the Government of which does not require passports. I can assure honorable members that, under present conditions, this measure is absolutely necessary.
– Then really our legislation is determined by that of a foreign country.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “foreign” country? Would he call England a foreign country?
– Certainly. And so is America. Our Immigration Act and the Passports Bill are based on American legislation.
-. - We should have the right of self-government.
– Of course we have the right of self-government, but I remind the honorable member that it would be poor recompense for a traveller who had been inconvenienced through not having a passport to know that we have the right of self-government.
– That would not pay his passage.
– No. The opposition to this measure is based upon the flimsiest of objections.
– Explain why you propose to fine a person £100 for leaving Australia without a passport if that person cannot land anywhere else.
– That provision in the Bill is for a traveller’s own protection, because he might be called upon to pay £200 for passage money, only to find that he could not land at his point of destination without a passport.
– Do you not think it is about time that we got back to reasonable conditions, so that people may travel from place to place without these restrictions?
– If the Leader of the Opposition can tell me how travellers without a passport can land in England, America, or any other place in the world, then I will confess that his opposition to the Bill is justified.
– What do you want the measure for at all ? If what you say is correct, there is no need for it, because unless a traveller has a passport he is unable to land anywhere. The Bill is only so much camouflage, and you know it.
– It is not camouflage. Hitherto we have been acting under the authority of the War Precautions Act, but we cannot continue that measure indefinitely.
– Long before the war people were able to travel to foreign countries without passports being issued at this end.
– Ten years ago I went through Canada, the United States, and England without a passport, but I could not do so to-day.
– Yes, and nine or ten years ago you would have been opposed to this measure.
– I would not. In my opinion, the man who is opposed to it now ought to have his head read.
– What eloquent language from a Minister of the Crown !
– Any objection to the Bill is based upon the flimsiest of pretexts. I again challenge the Opposition to show how any traveller from Australia can land in any other part of the world without a passport.
– What -was the custom before the war in the case of people going to France, Germany, or Russia?
– I do not think they required passports then.
– I went to France without one.
– We want population in Australia, so what is the reason for requiring people coming here to produce passports ?
– We are enacting legislation similar to that adopted in other countries, and consider it very necessary to do so in order to have somecheck upon those who come here.
– Now we are getting the real reason for the Bill.
– If I were to talk all night, it is not likely I would be able to convince some Opposition members of the need for the Bill. As a matter of fact, certain organizations supporting the Opposition passed resolutions without giving the matter much thought, and sent them on to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and other honorable members. I received copies of those resolutions, and explained why this class of legislation should be introduced. I cannot understand how any honorable member who takes a commonsense view of the situation and knows the whole of the facts, can oppose the measure. If there were any possibility of passengers being able to land in England or elsewhere without passports there would, of course, be no need for it.
– It is an international necessity.
– Of course it is.
– Evidently the Government think it necessary to keep track of all Labour supporters.
– It is mighty necessary to keep track of some men.
– I move the second reading of the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 24th March (vide page 779), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That duties of Customs and duties of Excise be imposed (vide page 726).
.- First of all, I congratulate you, Mr. Chanter, on your restoration to health, and on seeing you again in the chair. I am reminded of the fact that you occupied the same position many years ago, when we were discussing the first Tariff introduced by the late Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston. I thought that the other business on the notice-paper would have kept us busy for at least the first sitting after the recent adjournment, and it comes as a surprise to me to-night to have to discuss the Tariff. In fact, I am not now in a position to do justice to the subject. However, there are one or two principles in the Tariff about which I would like to say a few words. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has pointed out that this schedule differs from its predecessors through having three columns, one containing the duties against Great Britain, another called the Intermediate Tariff, which is to be applied to goods coming from other countries with which we have reciprocal arrangements, and a third containing the General Tariff. There was only one column in Mr. Kingston’s Tariff, and the duties which it imposed operated against every country. However, prior to 1907, we entered into a reciprocal arrangement with South Africa, and in the proposals brought forward by Sir William Lyne a separate Tariff operated against that country which is more favorable to them than even the preferenceto Great Britain. Conferences have been held with representatives of other countries for the purpose of entering into a similar arrangement. It was my privilege to confer with Mr. Foster, of Canada, with a view to arranging a reciprocal agreement with that country, and with the same object I also con ferred with Mr. Fisher, representing New Zealand. I think it is best to place in the first column the duties operating against the countries with which we have reciprocal arrangements. I am not too keen on a three-column schedule, but I am most anxious to have all our Tariff arrangements in one measure. The arrangement with South Africa is apparently covered by a separate measure.
– Once this Tariff is through, all our reciprocal arrangements will be covered by it.
– If we have all our Tariffs in one measure, we know exactly where we are.
The principle of deferred duties introduced in this Tariff is a good one. There are twenty-two items in which the duties are deferred. The Minister has mentioned some of them. For instance, the duty on iron and steel, plate and sheet, up to and including one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness, is set out in the Tariff as follows : -
British Preferential Tariff, free.
Intermediate Tariff, 5 per cent.
General Tariff, 10 per cent.
But on and after the 1st January, 1922, the respective rates will be -
British Preferential Tariff, 65s. per ton.
Intermediate Tariff, 82s.6d. per ton.
General Tariff, 100s. per ton.
Generally we cannot afford to give notice of our intention to impose a duty, otherwise there would be an immediate stocking up. If a whisper should get around that it is the Government’s intention to increase the duty on whisky, there is an immediate clearance from bond. However, in certain lines, such as iron, and many other commodities, it is impossible to stock up to any extent. There might be some cases in which importers would import with a view to filling up their warehouses or yards, but that could not be done to any great extent. On the other hand, by deferring the duty in the way suggested, we give ample notice to any person who intends to manufacture the article covered by it of our intention to afford him certain protection after a specified date. I agree with the principle. There are, however, two items in which a wrong principle has been adopted in this Tariff. Duties are placed on articles which we have never manufactured here. For instance, the duty on cotton hosiery was10 per cent, against other countries except Great Britain, but now it is proposed to impose the following duties on these goods.: -
British Preferential Tariff, 30 per cent.
Intermediate Tariff, 40 per cent.
General Tariff, 45 per cent.
– We are manufacturing tens of thousands of pairs of cotton socks and stockings.
– I shall be pleased to know where they are being manufactured.
– I gave the whole of the information a little time ago in answer to a. question submitted’ by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr Gregory).
– I have never seen any cotton socks or stockings manufactured in Australia.
– I do not think any one else has. It is useless to place a duty on cotton hosiery in order to compel people to wear woollen hosiery. In certainpartsof Australia woollen hosiery could not be worn. I do not object to the imposition of an extra duty on silk stockings - they are more or less a luxury - but I do not think that women will wear merino hosiery. This is an item in which the duty might well have been deferred. For one thing, it is impossible to get machinery for the manufacture of hosiery. That is our greatest trouble today in many of our industries. If we go abroad, and endeavour to purchase machinery for the manufacture of our woollens, we are told by the engineering firms that we must wait two or two and a half years before our orders can be fulfilled. In the circumstances, the imposition of a duty on cotton socks and stockings would be a penalty on Australia.
I took up the same attitude in regard to cotton piece goods when the first Tariff was introduced into this Parliament. I know that in Ipswich, in Queensland, a little cotton piece goods are manufactured.
Mr.Corser. - The people there are turning them out now, and at a profit. Cotton is grown in Queensland, and we ought to encourage it.
– That may be so, but would the honorable member vote to impose a duty on all cotton piece goods to the value of millions of pounds, which we, have to import into Australia, simply because some cotton piece goods are manufactured in Queensland?
– I think the honorable member will find there is a firm manufacturing cotton piece goods in Victoria.
– I do not think so. I do not think that ordinary cotton piece goods are manufactured in Australia. For one thing, there is a shortage of cotton all over the world. I stand with any honorable member in seeking to protect and extend Australian industries, but, at the same time, I do not propose to place a duty on an article we are not manufacturing here. I would rather increase the duties on articles we are manufacturing in Australia, so that the manufacturers may have an opportunity of establishing themselves.
In 1906 the new Protection was brought forward in this Parliament, not only in order to give Protection to the manufacturers, but also to provide something for the workers. We fixed certain duties on harvesters and a few other farming implements, but at the same time we provided that unless the manufacturers paid certain wages to their employees, and sold at a certain price to the farmers, smaller duties would be imposed.
– It turned out to be illegal.
– Yes. As soon as the manufacturers got this additional protection they turned round and fought, not the farmer, but the worker. That is what Hugh McKay did, also Barger, whose case went before the Court, which held that the new Protec ion was ultra vires.
– The manufacturers charged the farmer increased prices.
– Of course. I have dealt with Mr. McKay previously. When we have the men here, it is our own fault if we do not deal with them, because we cannot do so when they are in America, or in some other part of the world. I have greater contempt for the sweater in our midst than the sweater abroad, although they both rob the workers. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) was quite right in a statement he made at Camperdown or Colac that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was anxious to shoot the profiteer, he could do so by pointing his guns in an easterly direction from a window in Parliament House. The honorable member may have been a little wrong in his geography, as he was doubtless referring to Flinderslane, which is in a southerly direction. His statement, however, was quite correct in other ways, as the profiteers in Victoria, at any rate, are nearly all centred in that thoroughfare. There are manufacturers, in places other than Flinderslane, but if they are not in Australia, we cannot deal with them at all.
– Tour party fights them, and the “ cocky “ pays both.
– The farmer is looked after very well, and the honorable member is championing his cause. We read in the newspapers reports of Farmers’ Union conferences, at which resolutions are carried against the workers, particularly those who desire to improve their positions by becoming members of industrial organizations.
– That is not a fair statement.
– We were discussing a motion this afternoon which had previously been moved by the honorable member for Harrier (Mr. Considine) in an endeavour to improve the conditions of the working men at the Broken Hill mines, and where were honorable members who occupy the corner benches when the division was taken? Were they with those who were advocating the appointment of a Royal Commission, or were they supporting the Nationalists in this chamber to whom they so frequently refer?
There is an item in the Tariff imposing a duty of 6d. per dozen on eggs, hut that has, I believe, been increased to about ls. per dozen on importations from China or Japan. Doubtless, country producers have been instrumental in having that increase scheduled. Quite recently, I noticed a good cartoon in a newspaper, The Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, showing a farmer hammering away at the Tariff wall in “an endeavour to secure cheap implements, and at the same time endeavouring to prevent the importation of potatoes from New Zealand, or onions from ‘ any part of the world. When the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has discussed various Tariffs, as I have had the opportunity of doing, he will find that I have done more to protect the classes he represents than he will have done for the section of the community which I represent.
– The honorable member has failed to do that in the past.
– The honorable member for Swan cannot direct my attention to one vote I have given in that direction.
I believe the principle adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in giving notice of the intention of the Government to bring certain items in the Tariff into operation on a particular date is quite right. I do not say that such ‘a principle can be applied to everything in the Tariff, particularly tea, and other items. Although there may be some justification for such action, in connexion with sewing machines, there is certainly none in connexion with cotton hosiery and corsets, as these are items that at present cannot be manufactured here. I think the Minister for Trade and Customs will agree that not 5 per cent, of the corsets used in Australia are manufactured in this country; and probably I would be correct in saying that the quantity does not exceed 1 per cent, of the total number used. It is absolutely impossible to obtain machinery to manufacture corsets in the Commonwealth, and at present about £500,000 worth of cotton hosiery is imported into Australia’: every year. As regards cotton piece-goods, it must be admitted that the- machinery required for their manufacture cannot be made available for some time, and the Government would have been wise if they had given notice in connexion with the items I have mentioned, as they have done in connexion with iron. Owing to the shortage in the cotton crop, cotton piece-goods have increased to four or five times their previous price.
– Owing largely to the action of the Combine.
– The production of sewing cotton is under the absolute control of J. and P. Coats Limited, a firm which has made tremendous profits, and one which is amassing a huge fortune at the expense of every woman who handles a needle. Cotton-piece goods have increased in price’ largely owing to the shortage of raw material, and factories in Great Britain, where it is manufactured - in Lancashire particularly - which were built and equipped with machinery foi £80,000 before the war have been sold for £500,000 within the last twelve months owing to a Combine or Trust obtaining control. . When .the Persian Oil Agreement Bill was under consideration, I informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the money could be made in two ways - either by taking it out of the workpeople engaged in the industry or by fleecing it from the consumers.
– Or both.
– Not so far as the cotton industry is concerned. I was employed in connexion with the cotton industry in England for four years, and I am able to say that the workers in that industry are sufficiently well organized to prevent the manufacturers taking it out of them. I remember a strike in 1891, when those engaged in the industry held, out for three months for an increase which they demanded.
When the first Tariff was discussed in 1901, I went into some details concerning the conditions of the children who were employed in the cotton industry on what was known as the “half-time” system. Little “toddlers” went to work at 6.30 a.m.,.. and after a short break from 8.30. to 9 a.m. for breakfast, worked on until 1 p.m., after which they had to attend school.
– That is what many children are doing on farms.
– Where ?
– In Australia.
– Then it is a disgrace to Australia.
– Has not the honorable member assisted in placing a heavy duty on milking machines?
– If the conditions are as the honorable member suggests, it is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. The honorable member is, of course, very anxious to assist the farmers.
– Why does not the honorable member endeavour to stop the “go-slow” system?
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is like many other honorable members in this chamber, who can see good in every country hut their own. I was present at the Williamstown dockyards when the Dromana was launched, and when the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) went out of his way to compliment the Australian artisans on the way. in which they had carried out their work. I have read a good deal concerning those workmen who came from overseas, and I also worked alongside some who came to Australia in great numbers under our immigration policy. In Victoria, New South Wales, or any other State in the Commonwealth it was found that these mcn were not any faster than our own workmen, and it has been proved conclusively that the Australian artisan is superior to those who have been brought from abroad.
– Of course, he would be if you left him alone.
– It is a doubtful compliment to say that they work harder for a “ boss “ than the other fellow.
– What did your committee report concerning the Cockatoo Island dockyard?
– I do not know.
– We can build ships cheaper here than they can in England.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is always anxious to ridicule the Australian workman.
– He is all right if left alone.
– The honorable member for Dampier is continually “ slinging mud “ at the Australian workman, and is a member of what is known as the “ stinking fish “ party, which oan see no good in anything Australian. These honorable members have never been connected with a trade union, and as many of them were born with a ‘silver spoon in their mouth they have had better opportunities of education than others who have had to struggle f or_ an existence. One would think to listen to the honorable member for Dampier that the trade union officials elected themselves, but he must remember that every member of a union votes for or against their appointment. I have had. as much experience of working as a journeyman in other countries as any honorable member in this House, so that I am better able than most to compare the abilities of Australians with those of workers elsewhere. And I say that, given the training and the opportunity, the Australian is always as good as any other who could he set against him. I am anxious to see the
Tariff placed upon a sound basis, so that our artisans shall be properly trained in Australian industries.
We have, by medium of this Tariff, an opportunity to place Australia’s industries upon a better footing than hitherto.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has stated - comparing the 1914 Tariff, which I had the honour to introduce, with this latest Tariff - that there are 538 items among those inregard to which British preference figures, where the duty will remain exactly as before. Two-thirds of Australia’s imports come from Great Britain; and, in regard to more than 500 of those items, there is no alteration. That fact is important. Since the introduction of the 1914 Tariff there have been five years of war, and to-day there is greater need than ever for Australia to open out industrially in new directions. Yet in 538 items–
– Such as cotton goods, for instance.
– With regard to those, I would do the same as in the matter of corsets and cotton hosiery. I would make them subject to a deferred duty.
– You can get the necessary machinery from the British makers to-day.
– If the honorable member suggests that he can buy machinery for cotton spinning and weaving, I tell him emphatically that it cannot be obtained at present.
– You can get people in Great Britain to send it out here to-day.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. Nobody can get machinery out to Australia to-day for cotton spinning and weaving. No one could get sufficient to equip one mill in this country.
– The arguments which the honorable member is now putting forward are exactly the same as those which were used when the first duty was put on woollen goods.
– That is not so. Since cotton manufacturing machinery was first invented there has never been such a shortage as at present.
– If the honorable member will turn up the record of the debates when the first duty was placed on woollen goods, he will find that exactly the same arguments were used as he is advancing now.
– No such thing ! There has been no serious endeavour to manufacture cotton piecegoods in Australia.
– We are not placing a duty on that line.
– I know that, and it is really a proof of my point. A duty has been placed on cotton hosiery; but, to the best of my knowledge, no such article has been manufactured here.
– I have already promised that I will provide the fullest information available in this matter; but I can say now that, with the machinery which is being installed, plus that which is already in operation, our output within the next twelve months will be over; 3,000,000 pairs of cotton sox.
– That is something for the future. The Minister has promised to furnish complete information, and, of course, we have every right to look for it. But, with all respect to the Minister, I have never yet been able to ascertain where any of these goods are being made.
– I will give full information when the item is being dealt with.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) has already been approached with regard to a protective duty on corsets..
– About 1 per cent, of requirements is made in Australia.
– When the first Tariff was introduced, there was only about 1 per cent, of woollen requirements manufactured here.
– That is certainly not the case to-day. Honorable members lose sight of the fact that during the years, of war more machinery for the manufacture of woollen goods was destroyed than in regard to any other industry. The north of France was the home of the light woollens industry, but the whole of the machinery in that part of the world has been destroyed or taken to Germany. There was one. corset factory established in Belgium which turned out many thousands of articles every day, but during the war the machinery was shifted bodily into Germany.
– What will be the effect of ‘this new Tariff on the poorer people of the community ?
– The general effect will be that, in view of the fact that on more than 500 items imported from Great Britain the duty will remain the same, there will not be very much alteration noted. That is why I believe that even this Tariff could have been improved upon. Let us examine for a moment the item, “Wool felt hats and fur felt hats, 15s. a dozen.” Ninety per cent, of the imported felt hats during the past fifteen years came from Great Britain. It is a fact that probably 90 per cent, of the wool felt hats worn in Australia to-day have been manufactured here, but there are still certain expensive lines imported. In this respect the policy adopted in Canada appeals to me. Why should not those people who insist on purchasing high-priced imported articles, no matter what it may cost them, rather than patronize an Australian industry, be made to pay a form of taxation through the shops which they patronize ? It would be a very good way of hitting those extravagant folk who insist upon having the imported article at any cost. The fact that in the case of 537 items there is no alteration proposed in the duties on imports from Great Britain shows that the Tariff which was introduced by the Labour Government in 1914 may be said to have reached high-water mark. We have since then had five years’ of experience, from which we should have learned something.
If honorable members will look at the. comparative tables supplied to them they will find that the alterations proposed by the Tariff now under consideration are chiefly confined to the last column, under the heading “ General Tariff.” I believe that in some cases mistakes have been made. For instance, I pointed out, when the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced this Tariff, that, in my judgment, a mistake had been made in connexion with the duties imposed upon metals. I suppose that copper, after smelting and refining, is as cheap in Australia as in any other part of the world.
– It is cheaper.
– If we take the cost of freight on imported copper into consideration, it is cheaper, or at least as cheap, in Australia as in any other part of the world. Honorable members will see from item 140 that a duty of 10 per cent, is proposed on blocks, ingots, pigs, and scrap imported from Great Britain, 15 per cent, in the Intermediate Tariff and 20 per cent, on imports from any other country. It is quite certain that these duties will not be operative, but when we come to deal with the duties imposed on copper imported in angles, bars, plates, rods, sheets, strips, and tees, not plated, polished, decorated or further manufactured, but including plain tinned, we find, that it is proposed that the impost should be 25 per cent, on imports from Great Britain, 30 per cent, under the Intermediate Tariff, and 40 per cent, on imports from any other country. It should be remembered that these imports are purely machine production. I do not profess to know anything about the metal industry, but I believe that £3 per ton would cover the whole of the wages cost in the manufacture of these imports. With copper at £80 per ton, the duty proposed upon these imports from Great Britain represents a protection of £20 per ton upon an article which it costs only £3 per ton in wages to produce. There is some fear that this industry may get into the hands of one or two big companies. Within the last week or so we have seen that the Cloncurry mine has been shut clown because its products are waiting at Mount Kembla and cannot be refined. I say that to give more than ample protection, in view of the difference between the wages paid in Australia and in other countries of the world with which our industries compete, must tend to create a monopoly. I am willing to give protection to local manufacturers to the full extent of the difference in wages paid here and elsewhere, but, in my opinion, the duties proposed on the imports of copper manufactured to which I have referred, represent protection to a far greater extent than the difference between the wages cost in Australia and elsewhere in the production of these articles. Whether we are Protectionists or not, we should see that industries are not given into the hands of one or two big companies. The Mount Kembla Electrolytic Smelting and Refining Company should not be given the opportunity to corner the whole of the business and prevent the working of mines as the working of the Cloncurry mines are being prevented at the present time. We saw within the last few weeks that the Commonwealth Bank refused to increase the overdraft of the Cloncurry mines, and they have been closed down. I am aware that the Queeusland Government are making arrangements.to keep the work going, but the mines have been closed down because there is at present so much of the material obtained from them at Mount Kembla that it cannot be refined. I am anxious that copper should be refined here. It is my desire that the natural products of Australia should be brought to as complete a stage of manufacture in this country as possible. I shall be glad to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs give some explanation of the duties proposed in connexion with the imports of copper and many other items dealt with in the Tariff. We should, as far as possible, carry out the work of producing copper in the form of ancles, rods, and even wire, in Australia, but I fear that we shall not do so by imposing the duties proposed in this Tariff, and that their effect will only be to put the business into the hands of one or two rich companies.
– The Mount Kembla people do not do any work except electrolytic refining.
– I understand that there was a proposal that at Mount Kembla they should manufacture copper, and turn out rods, and even wire, for telephone lines.
– That is being done, but not by the Mount Kembla people.
– I understand that that is so. I believe that we should carry out the refining of copper here. Sometimes the impurities in copper are gold or silver, and that should not be overlooked. We should get the fullest information in connexion with these items before being asked to vote upon them. I believe that the duties at present proposed in connexion with imports of copper represent to some extent a blot on the Tariff.
I am glad that under the Standing Orders honorable members will be able to speak as often as they please on the Tariff, because some may have a better knowledge of particular items than all the res L of the members of the Committee, and if they were confined to speaking but once or twice upon an item which they fully understood, they would perhaps be prevented from correcting the misunderstandings of other members of the Committee. I am glad to have the opportunity to consider this Tariff. In 1914 it was my privilege to introduce the highest Tariff up to that time introduced into any Parliament in Australia. We nev:r had the opportunity to discuss it because, owing to the war, it was considered that it was not desirable to do so.
– We had the opportunity of collecting revenue under it.
– That is so. While there may not be much alteration of the duties proposed in the British preference column, there are alterations proposed in the other columns of this Tariff. I have never been anxious that we should collect a great deal of revenue through the Tariff, but that industries should ‘be established in Australia.
– It would’ be very convenient to collect revenue through the Tariff just now.
– That may be so, but it might bring about the position we have recently had ,put before us in the newspapers. It has been shown that importers have added their profits to the original cost of the articles they import plus the duties imposed on them by the Tariff. We have an object lesson in the statement made in to-day’s press that, in the early stages of the gas stokers’ strike, lamps, which were imported at a cost of 4s. Sd., within twenty-four hours changed hands at least half-a-dozen times, and were finally sold at a price five or six times in excess of that at which they had been landed.
– We have been told that the Government are going ito follow up the imported goods, and see that the prices charged are not excessive.
– It was in 190S, or ther abouts, that the policy of the New Protection was passed under which an endeavour was made to secure for the worker in every protected industry a fair wage, and at the same time to protect the consumer. That policy was initiated in connexion with the manufacture of farming implements, and the men who fought the worker on the one hand, and the farmer on the other, in order r.o defeat that legislation were members, not of the Labour party, but of the party to which the honorable’ member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) belongs. The validity of this legislation was challenged in South Australia, as well as in Victoria.
The Minister has done well in providing for deferred duties, and the principle might well be followed up. I do not know whether it has been applied to cast-iron pipes.
– It has been applied, not to cast, but to wrought-iron pipes.
– It should be applied to wrought-iron pipes of small diameter for house reticulation purposes. I hope that, during this discussia honorable members will not hesitate to point to any defects in the Tariff. I shall be quite ready to do so, and I shall be pleased to know that we shall have an opportunity to alter and amend it. No Minister - no matter to what party he belongs - can claim to have that general knowledge of the industries of Australia which is possessed by the House as a whole. The Minister in charge should be glad to avail himself of the combined knowledge of honorable members. Every honorable member has a knowledge of the particular industries in his own electorate, and the extent to which they affect it, and I hope that we shall be guided in our deliberations by a desire to make Australia as self-contained as possible. We have been told by one daily newspaper that we have no right to consider such a matter; but I, for one, care not for the opinions expressed in the newspapers. It is our duty to make Australia less dependent upon other countries than she has hitherto been. During the war we found that we were able to manufacture much that we had never attempted before, and I am convinced that the Australian workman, when supplied with the necessary machinery and tools, can hold his own with the most skilled workers of any other country.
Mr. GREGORY (Dampier) I should like at the outset to refer to a remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who, in reply to an interjection made by me, classed me as one of the “ Stinking-fish “ party, so far as the progress of Australia was concerned.
– If the honorable member objects to the remark I shall have pleasure in withdrawing it.
– I do not regard it as offensive, for I know that the honorable member did not intend it to be. No honorable member has a keener desire than I have to advance the best interests of Australia. I also give the
Leader of the Opposition credit for a de-: sire to improve the conditions of the country.
– There is only a slight difference of opinion between us as to the best way to improve the conditions of the country.
– That is so. When in Sydney recently I saw some thousands; of small parcels of hats which had been sent by parcels post from America. A more expensive way of importing them could not have been adopted. The rabbit skins from which they had been manufactured had been purchased at high prices and sent from Australia to the United States of America at heavy freights. The wages paid in the trade’ in the United States, of America were’ higher than those prevailing here, and’ yet it was possible to bring over this enormous consignment in the most expensive way, and to compete with the local manufacturers. How was that possible? Surely there must be something wrong with the industry here. Again, only a few days ago, at the Parcels Post Office, I, in company with other members of the Public Works Committee, saw” large quantities of goods which had been sent here in the same way, not only from the United States of America, but Japan.
– Australia can produce hats as good as those manufactured in any other part of the world.
– We should be able to do so, and it seems to me to be extraordinary that we are not making much greater strides in regard to the manufacture, not only of hats, but boots. Millions of pounds worth of boots should have been exported from Australia during the war. Industry generally should have flourished here. The fault, rests, not with the Australian workmen, but with the agitators, who got behind them iii the first place and urged them to “go slow,” and put other obstacles in the way of the activities of the Commonwealth.
Coming to the Tariff itself, I thought that, when the present Leader of the Opposition, as Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced his Tariff of 1914 we had reached the standard of Protection required to build up the industries of Australia. For fifteen or twenty years before we had heard it said that, in order to .build up Australian industries, a higher Tariff was necessary. The Tariff was continually increased until, with the introduction of that of 1914, I believed we had a Tariff which would enable local manufacturers to compete with the Test of the world. But we have now submitted to us a Tariff that “ OUtHerods Herod,” largely increasing the duties on almost every article we require. There can be no argument at the present time for an increased Tariff in order to build up Australian industries. We know that, prior to the war, we had been importing large quantities of goods from various countries. Prices have increased enormously, bub still we are, and must continue, importing. This has been due to the fact, not that the duties in force at the outbreak of war were insufficient to protect Australian manufacturers, but that millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of machinery, were diverted from peaceful pursuits to the manufacture of munitions of war. Machinery which had formerly been used in the manufacture of these goods had to be utilized in the production of war material. Of recent years it has been almost impossible to get goods into Australia in any shape or form. Yet, at a time like this, a new Tariff has been brought forward.
We ought to be told whether this Tariff is intended to !be revenue producing, or whether it is designed to encourage the establishment of local industries.
– Do we not export an enormous quantity of raw material, when we should be utilizing it for manufacturing purposes?
– The man who produces the raw material of this country ought to be able to get the world’s parity for it. The only way in which we shall ever be able to progress and discharge the tremendous obligations with which we are faced is by developing the vast vacant spaces of Australia, and by encouraging people to come here. When we have a population of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000, which we shall have with good government, there will be a home market for the manufacturer, who will thus be in a far better position to compete in the open nr.. Vets of the world than he is to-day.
About 1913-14 the value of our primary industries was something like £170,000,000, whilst that of our manufactured products was only about £60,000,000. In 1918, the value of our primary industries was over £200,000,000, whilst that of our manufacturing industries was less than £70,000,000. We know that one-half of the population of Australia is to be found in the State capitals. I have figures in my possession which will refute the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in regard to the population of this country. The Commonwealth Statistician tells me that 50 per cent, of our population is urban in character. Whilst such conditions obtain, the man who goes into the bush to struggle for an existence has an embargo placed upon the exportation of his products.
– What .embargo is there upon the export of goods to-day ?
– The Leader of the Opposition spoke of an embargo in regard to copper production. I do not know the facts of the case he speaks of, but I do know what the Government did in regard to the export of metals from Australia. I have previously cited the case of a few men, who, after battling in the back country for some years, took £70,000 worth of lead out of a small pot-hole in less than two years. Yet the profit that they obtained was less than £4,000. They were not allowed to export their product except through certain agencies.
– On account of war restrictions.
– Yes. The effect of that policy was to build up a few monopolists in our cities. In my judgment, that is one of the vilest things that has ever happened; and what has happened with the metal industry may to-morrow affect some other industry.
Coming to the Tariff itself, I have a bitter complaint to make concerning many of the acts of the Customs Department. I object to the action of the Department in imposing embargoes upon many classes of goods coming into this country. I am not speaking of the present Minister’s administration, but of a period antecedent to it. Take as an illustration the question of sheep dip. There is nothing more essential to Australia than is a first class sheep dip.. I think that such an article was being manufactured here. Our local manufacturers asked for no embargo upon the imported article. Yet, upon the initiative of Sir John Higgins and the firm of Leggo and Company, an embargo’ was placed upon it.
– There is nothing wrong with Leggo’s sheep dip.
– It may be far better than the imported sheep dips. But the firms of Cooper and Little have been doing business here for the past sixty or seventy years. They have their agencies all over the world, and were exporting sheep dip to this country. Every effort was made by the Government to prevent them securing the requisite shipping space.
– We wanted to compel them to establish factories here. -
– The cursed Tariff again !
– The perfect Tariff again. If the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), for the purpose of assisting some other body of individuals, is prepared to destroy the trade of s. British firm by placing an embargo upon the importation of its products, I have the utmost contempt for him.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200701_reps_8_92/>.