8th Parliament · 1st Session
. Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) (by leave) agreed to -
That the time for bringing up the report of the Select Committee on Sea Carriage be extended to the15th October next.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) (by leave) agreed to - .
That leave of absence for two months be given to the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), on the ground of public business; and to the honorable member tor Bourke (Mr. Anatey) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), on the ground of ill-health.
.- I move-
That the Government is deserving of censure for its general incapacity, and more particularly -
I regret exceed ingly the disturbance that has taken place. Ishall not argue the question of whether it was justified or not, but I am very sorry that the top gallery has been cleared.
– That is a matter entirely within the control of the Speaker. I have quoted the standing order on the subject, and cannot argue the point with the honorable member.
– But I am permitted to express my regret for what has taken place.
– I do not think that matter comes within the terms of the honorable member’s motion which is now before the Chair.
– This notice of motion of mine has had a very rocky passage right from the start.
– And it is not passed yet.
– I am aware of that fact, but the indications are hopeful. I make no secret of what I am going for. I stated here at the dinner to General Birdwood, before Parliament met, that what I was after was a double dissolution. I am after that now. I am not afraid of the effects on future elections of any vote that has been given here.
– Does not the £1,400 a year satisfy you?
– I am quite prepared to go to the country to-morrow on a double dissolution; make no mistake: about that. The indications we have received since notice was given of this motion are very hopeful for honorable members on this side of the House.
On Thursday we were accused by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) of giving notice of motion simply becausethe Ballarat election was pending. That honorable member did us a very good turn by postponing or preventing the discussion of the motion, for if ever you get the people outside imagining that Parliament, or a section of Parliament, desires to prevent free discussion, the people will give an effective answer, as they did in 1910. In that year they felt that the Labour party, to which the Prime Minister and myself then beslonged, were not being given a fair deal in the House. They believed that we were being closured and prevented from putting our case before them, and they resented the fact accordingly. Thepeople resented the Government tactics on Saturday last, when they thought the Government intended to burke the discussion on this motion by postponing it.
I referred last Friday, on a point of order, to a statement attributed by the Melbourne Herald to the Prime Minister. The following paragraph, which appeared in that paper on the 8th July, was my authority: -
Mr. Hughes Sounds Warning.
Ballarat, Thursday. - To meet Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, and Senator Plain, the President of the National Federation, a number of city men gathered at Craig’s Hotel to-day, at’ the invitation of Senator W. K. Bolton, President of the Ballarat Branch of the National Federation. Mr. Hughes, replying to greetings, sounded a note of warning as to the dangers that beset the Nationalist Government from a few extremists and disloyalists. He saidsupport was now more than ever needed for the Nationalist Government, which had but the most slender majority, in order to keep the principles of Nationalism on a sound foundation.
My free interpretation of that statement was that the Prime Minister said that the Government were “ hanging on by the skin of their teeth.” He admitted in that statement that the Government at that time had but a slender majority. That majority, slight as it was, has gone.
The Government to-day are without a majority. The House was not permitted to debate this motion prior to the Ballarat election, but the discussion of it is more than ever necessary to-day. Taking the figures for the Ballarat by-election, and assuming that the same results were to occur in the remaining seventy-four constituencies-
– The honorable member surely would not be so foolish as to suggest anything of the kind.
– Make no mistake about it; the same thing would happen in many other electorates. The figures so far to hand in respect of the Ballarat election prove, if they prove anything at aU, that the party to which the honorable member belongs either did not put up a very strong candidate, or that its principles are not approved by the electors there.
– The Age killed tho Country party’s candidate by supporting him.
– The two candidates who were supported by that newspaper as, being preferable to the Nationalist and Labour candidates have both lost their deposits. In respect of the Ballarat election, the Age urged the electors to vote for the candidates in the following order: - Troup, 1; Callow, 2; Kerby, 3; McGrath, 4. The result shows that the Age has a capacity for selecting candidates in the wrong way. The first two candidates on its list have lost their deposits, while Mr. Kerby, who was selected by the Argus, is second on the poll. The Ballarat newspapers also opposed the Labour candidate. Labourites have not to thank the newspapers for any political or industrial gain secured by them.. Every success achieved by Labour has been in the face of bitter opposition on the part of the press. The workers have nothing for which to thank the press. The Prime Minister who, in the old days, fought in the political and industrial ranks of Labour knows that my statement is correct. Labour has had to contend against the undying hostility of the press, and when the Age and the Argus stated that I was wrong in giving notice of this motion, and that the party which I lead was wrong in deciding that that action should be taken, I felt more than ever convinced that we were on the right track.
– Is this a motion of censure on the press?
– I shall deal with the motion in my own way. I am here today despite press opposition.
– Does the honorable member think that our return was due to the press ?
– Some honorable members of the Country party undoubtedly owe their election to the assistance given them by the newspapers. I, on the other hand, am here in spite of the press.
– Where? In Opposition?
– No. I say that I am a member of this House despite press opposition. When our party held office to the intense dissatisfaction of my honorable friend, it was not because of any press support that had been accorded to it.
Coming to the first paragraph in the motion in which we ask the House to censure the Government on account of its failure to prevent the inordinate rise in the cost of living, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will reply that this complaint was made on a former occasion. But will any one say that the cost of living has not increased since then, and is not increasing to-day?
– It is increasing in all parts of the world. - Mr. TUDOR. - That is the excuse made by some honorable members opposite for the rise in prices here. They say that because prices are going up elsewhere the people of Australia must expect to suffer in the same way. It is no satisfaction to a man who has had a finger crushed in a machine to be told of some one who hai had four fingers crushed in the same way : and it is no consolation to the people who are suffering by reason of the profiteering that is going on in this country to learn that prices are increasing in other parts of the world.
– Had the Labour party ‘been in power would the position have been different?
– We certainly would have tried to improve it. When the Prime Minister returned from Great Britain last year he stated in his first public utterance that he was going to shoot t)i© profiteer and the Bolsheviks. Either the weapon that he used is defective, or he is an awfully bad shot.
– Perhaps he was only using blank cartridge.
– No doubt, as the honorable member suggests, the Prime Minister was only using -blank cartridge. The fact remains that not one profiteer has been dealt with. The profiteers are going on their way rejoicing, knowing that no action has been taken to deal ‘with them.
– They have been set a very bad example by this House.
– The honorable member, who is referring to the increased allowance to honorable members, should speak for himself. When I was in Ballarat three weeks ago the electors were anxious to hear what I had to say on the subject. I dealt with it at length before a meeting of 3,000 persons, and was not greeted with one hostile interjection.
– You got a rise of £800. Is that not profiteering?
– It is not. I took no part in the discussion on the question of making a special allowance to the Leader of the Opposition, but amongst those who supported the proposal were the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). If a division had been taken on it, I doubt whether there would have been as many votes cast against it as there were against the proposed increase in the allowance to honorable members generally. As a matter of fact, I have not heard of one member who would oppose it.
– Will the press prevent our going to Canberra ?
– I do not know; but on that question, as on all others, I have always voted as my conscience has dictated, without regard for any outside influence. I do not know, however, whether under cover of this motion, wide as it is, we may discuss the building of the Federal Capital.
During the last election the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) at one of his meetings referred to the National Federation, to which the supporters of the Government and some members of the Country party belong. He said -
The National Federation is an organization of vested city interests drawing a colossal fighting fund from the manufacturers; and Flinders-lane, and perhaps other sources. . . . The Federation employs a secretary at £1,250, and organizers at £500 a year. It published n pamphlet telling the people that if they wanted the cost of living kept down they should elect the Nationalist candidates.
I have not seen a copy of the pamphlet; but, no doubt, the honorable member quoted it correctly. He went on to say -
It claimed ‘that the National Government had reduced the cost of bread to 6Jd. In England bread was ls. It had arranged cheap and regular supplies of butter by forming a Butter Pool. It had given sugar at 3£d. per lb. In Europe it cost 7d.; and wheat was cheaper in Australia than in any other country. Not a word was said about cheap clothing or the thousands of articles sold by the people it stood for. That was the party which said it was going to “shoot the profiteer.” Those profiteers could be shot with a shortrange gun from an upstairs room in Parliament House looking east, but they were nut likely to shoot the goose that laid such golden eggs.
That is an opinion of the Ministerial party expressed, not by a representative of Labour, but by a representative of the Country party. The suggestion is that the Ministerial party were drawing a big fund for political purposes from Flinders-lane and the manufacturers, and they would not deal with profiteering because it was the profiteer who furnished the .money to pay their election expenses.
We know that no action has been taken by the Government to deal with the profiteer. The Prime Minister will say, as he has said before, that the Government are prevented from taking action by our constitutional limitations. On that point we received, in connexion with the Commercial Activities Bill, an opinion from leading constitutional lawyers, including the present Chief Justice of the High Court, to the effect that with regard to controlling the prices of wheat, sugar, flax, butter, and one other commodity which I do not recall at the present moment, the Government have the necessary power to control those prices in some cases up to the 30th September next, and, in other cases, even longer than that. So far as sugar is concerned, the Prime Minister has stated that because the Queensland Government entered into an agreement’ in connexion with the control of sugar, we were able to obtain that commodity at a cheaper rate than we could otherwise have done. It has been complained that so- far as wheat, meat, and some other commodities are concerned, they have been sold more cheaply overseas than to the people of Australia.
– That is not so. We are selling wheat at 16s. per bushel overseas, and it can be obtained for 7s. 8d. per bushel in Australia.
– The only persons who are deriving any benefit from that are the speculators on the Stock Exchange.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong; there is no wheat there.
– Is there no wheat scrip there ?
– There is wheat scrip, but no wheat.
– I know that there is wheat scrip there, and I know that it is not the man .on the land who is reaping the advantage of the high prices of wheat and meat, overseas to-day.
– He is holding his wheat scrip very tightly.
– If he is, I say good luck to him. When the Prime Minister introduced the measure to provide for the erection of silos in various parts of Australia, he said that they would represent, an assurance to the people of Australia that one or two season’s wheat would be kept here as a guarantee against drought. Has that been done ? We know that New South Wales is the only State in which any silos have been erected.
– And they are very sorry that they built them there.
– I am unable to say whether the honorable member’s interjection is accurate or not. It was understood that by the erection of the silos, at a cost of f d. per bushel added to the price of wheat, the people of Australia would have a guarantee that there would be no shortage of the commodity in this country. But the people of New South Wales, the only State in which silos have been erected, are complaining to-day that there is an insufficient quantity of wheat on hand, or that an insufficient quantity is being brought into the silos. I was very glad to hear the statement made, in answer to a question put by an honorable member, that sufficient wheat would be in hand until the next harvest was gathered.
– That is a matter for the New South Wales Government, who control their own wheat.
– There might be a shortage in one State, and not in another ; and, in that case, the supply of wheat in the State in which the shortage existed becomes a national matter, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to see that all are supplied. That duty should not be left to a State Government. We have only four wheat-producing States in Australia, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth to look after the requirements of the whole of the people.
I understand that in the case of meat to be sold overseas the price fixed is 6½d. per lb. f.o.b. here, or in the cold stores.
– The prices are - beef, 4£d. ; mutton, 5£d. ; and lamb, 6?d.
– I suppose that those who have meat to sell put it into cold storage in every part of Australia at those prices, plus the cost of freezing.
– No; the Imperial Government pays for that.
– Then the position today is that the price of meat in Australia is a great deal higher than the price for which our meat is sold overseas.
– All that meat is available -for the Australian people at cost price, if they will only eat it.
– If they took my advice, they would eat it. Apparently the people of Australia do not think that frozen meat is as good as fresh meat. I have stated that I believe it is just as good if it is properly thawed before being used; but our people apparently do not think so.
– The honorable gentleman cannot blame the Government for that.
– If meat is available for our people at the prices stated, I say they have a right to get it.
– Why do not those who control that meat make it available?
– It is available.
– Where can the people buy it?
– Any butcher can obtain it.
– Let those who control that meat publish the names of the butchers from whom the people can buy it at the prices mentioned.
– I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the statement, but I know it has been alleged that traders, who bought frozen meat at the prices mentioned, plus perhaps $d. per lb. as the cost of freezing, charged those who purchased from them the prices obtained for fresh meat.
– The honorable gentleman means to say that that was done by the butchers ? We cannot help that.
– I never said that the growers of meat could help that. It is well known that there are four staple commodities required in every home - bread, butter, sugar, and meat. I obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician some years ago certain figures showing the quantity of each of these commodities used per head of this community. I found that during the period 1903-12 the local consumption of bread amounted to 4 lbs. per head per week. An investigation is being made of what the people use to-day, and I can give the quantity consumed by each individual, according to a tentative estimate based upon an investigation now in course of tabulation. The Statistician’s Department informs me that the consumption to-day is 5 lbs. ner head per week; that means that the people are using more bread than they were in 11912. At that time, the average consumption ‘ of butter was half a lb. per head per week - roughly, 1,000 tons per week for the whole of the Commonwealth. The consumption to-day is only 7 ozs. per head per week.
– That is because the people cannot afford to buy butter.
– That is true. The consumption of sugar has decreased from 2£ lbs. per head per week in 1912 to 2 lbs. per head per week. Even if the sugar contained in the immense amount of jam sent overseas were included, the consumption per head of the people of Victoria would not be more than 2 lbs. The consumption of meat has decreased from 5 lbs. per head per week to 4 lbs. per head per week. As recently as 1914 the average price of bread throughout Australia was 3.3d. per 2-lb. loaf. Today the average is over 6d.
– Does the honorable member think that the price ought to be cheaper, in the circumstances?
– I have said before, and I say again, that whilst some honorable members are making human life cheap by rendering it more difficult for people to get a living, they are adding to the value of land and beef. The late Sir Thomas Bent used to say that he “ took off his hat to a cow “; I prefer to take off my hat to a human being. If the Creator had intended that beasts should be considered of more importance than human beings, He would not have endowed us with superior powers of thought and reason. There is an endeavour on the part of a section of the community to make land and animals’ of more value than human life. My policy is the reverse of that-
– If that is the honorable member’s belief, he would take off his hat to the farmers in the north to-day.
– Was it because of this opinion that the honorable member for Yarra, when Minister for Customs, imposed a duty of 2d. per tin on New Zealand milk food for infants?
– The honorable member is asking whether Glaxo should not be imported free of duty, and whether I was right in continuing protection to an industry which produces the same kind of food at Bacchus Marsh. I shall always give first consideration to Australian industries. Unfortunately, every one of my children has had to be reared artificially, so that I appreciate the advisability of encouraging tie production of these artificial foods which are of such value to infant life ; but I do not agree that we should treat a New Zealand product better than we treat a similar article produced in Australia. Continuing my argument regarding food prices, I remind the House that sugar which in 1915 was 2f d. per lb. retail is to-day 6d. per lb.
– Did not the honorable member support the new sugar agreement?
– Yes, but I did not agree with the Prime Minister in regard to the retail price. Twice I tried to get a vote of the House on the question, and twice I was blocked by Ministerial members. I held the view that if the growers and ‘ millers were receiving only .£30 6s. 8d. per ton, or 3£d. per lb., there was no justification for adding a further 2$d. to the price before the article reached the consumer. Out of that large margin between the price to the . producer and the price to the consumer, some persons are making a big profit.
– That argument applies also to bread.
– That may be true. I stated in July of last year that the millers had so combined that they could charge the people any price they chose for their flour, and that they refused to supply any baker who sold bread at less than the price fixed by the millers. There was a co-operative flour mill at Wedderburn, in the electorate of Grampians, which was selling below the price fixed by the Combine, and its product was prevented from coming to the city.
-That is quite true.
– And I have mentioned also the cases of the Civil Service Cooperative Bakery, which was (prevented by the “ Car-gear “ Committee from obtaining supplies of flour, and of customers who were not allowed to change their bakers. The master millers shut the product of the Wedderburn mill out of the market, and subsequently the mill was burnt down. Of course, I do not say that the millers were responsible for its destruction. The average wholesale price of butter in Melbourne in 1914 was 1s.01/2d;to-day it is about 2s. per lb., and the farmers are asking for 3s. per lb. I wonder why they stop at 3s. ; why do they not ask for 33s. ?
– I wonder, too, seeing that it is costing from 4s. to 4s.11/2d., to produce a pound of butter to-day.
– The Government have done nothing to keep down the price of butter.
– In quoting1 Is. 01/2d. per lb., is the honorable member referring to the time when he placed an embargo on the export of butter?
– No ; I was not in office until nearly the end of 1914. I know that the butter exporters have never forgiven me for my action in connexion with the embargo.
– Does the honorable member think they should?
– Yes. But, at any rate, the people of Australia appreciated what I did. I objected to the exporters creating an artificial shortage of butter in Australia in order to force up the price. The people of Australia consume 4 lbs. out of every 5 lbs. produced locally, and they are entitled to first consideration. They consume, too, more beef than is exported
– Could we get meat, butter, and wheat cheaper from any other country?
– Of course we could not ; nor could we import more cheaply than’ we can produce a lot of articles which the honorable member thinks should he brought into the country duty free. The farmers say, “Give us a big duty upon products from other countries; let no potatoes come from New Zealand and no onions from America or anywhere else. Place a big duty on onions and potatoes, but let us import all our farming implements free of duty.” That is the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and other honorable members ofhis party. How absurd it is !
– You give us import prices, and you can put on all the other items of Protection that you like.
– These “country gentlemen now want import parity, and at a time when freight is higher than ever before. I desire to give protection to Australian industries. When Mr. “ jock “ Troup - who has lost his deposit, I am very glad to say - entered himself for the Ballarat race, he took good care to tell the electors that he was a Protectionist. When some members of the Country party come into this place they take equally good care to say that they are Protectionists.
– That is why Mr. Troup lost his deposit, perhaps.
– Apparently, it was that the Ballarat electors considered he was no good.
With regard to the item of meat, the increase has been greater than upon all the other domestic lines which I have mentioned put together. No honorable member will dare to say that the prices which I have quoted are an undervalue for 1914, or an overvalue with respect to today’s prices.
– Do you do any fattening?
– Your crowd doesn’t seem to get very good grazing at Ballarat.
– I know all about you men, who would take off your hats to a cow before you would to an individual. You have never known what it is to worry about the cost of living; you have never had to struggle for a living.
– I have struggled harder than the honorable member has ever done.
– That is certainly not a fact; but I am aware that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) and those around him are more concerned about fattening stock than they are to permit me to state a consecutive case today.
– Nothing of the sort! How many head of stock have died-
– I do not want to listen to any more inane interjections. I would like an opportunity to say that meat, which cost 22s. per 100 lbs. in 1914, was quoted in January- June this year at an average of 53s. 2d. per 100 lbs. Will any honorable member say that the average retail price to-day is only 6id. per lb ? The honorable member for Indi knows the position in which the unhappy consumer finds himself, and he must have some idea of the purchasing power of the sovereign to-day, compared with 1914. The people are not concerned with Mr. Knibbs’ statistics, or with weighted averages, and that kind of thing. But they know how much it costs to procure a loaf of bread to-day, compared with a few years ago. When I have spoken to metropolitan audiences, and to the people at Ballarat and elsewhere, and I have set forth details of the sugar agreement, showing that the producer is getting only a penny out of the increased price, the people have naturally wanted to know what has become of the rest of it. And they have every right to know why the price should have gone up 2£d. per lb., although the sugar farmer and miller get only Id. per lb extra.
Now, let us take the item of bread. At the rate of consumption of 5 lbs. per week-
– Have you finished with meat?
– Another idiotic interjection.
– Do you know how many head of cattle have died-
– I am anxious to get on, but do not seem to have an opportunity to do so.
– Order ! Interjections must cease.
– Of course, I know that first of all the Government objected to take this censure motion. Secondly, they put up one of their supporters* - a man who will feed out of their hands - to block it on Friday. And, now that the Ballarat election is over, they appear to be willing to get to the motion; but the Ministerial Corner party is evidently anxious that I shall not have a fair run. They put up a man to make inane interjections
– I rise to a point of order. I would not have made one interjection in the course of the honorable member’s remarks-
– Sit down. This is not a point of order.
– Order ! If honorable members continue to interject and interrupt I cannot hear the point “raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). I request that he be given an opportunity to state his point of order.
– I would not have interjected-
– Sit down. This is obviously not a point of order.
– I have the greatest sympathy-
– Sit down; you are out of order.
– Order ! Honorable members must keep silence while a point of order is being stated.
– He has not raised a point of order.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is out of order, and will please cease from interjecting.
– The point I wish to raise is with regard to my interjections.
– Order ! That is not a legitimate point of order. I would remind the honorable member that, since interjections themselves are disorderly, he will not be in order in endeavouring, to raise a point of order for the purpose of justifying- an interjection which, in itself, was a breach of order. I again appeal to honorable members not to interrupt the debate by disorderly conduct.
– I have taken trouble to secure my information. I do not suppose that any one will say that Mr. Knibbs, in compiling his details, is likely to lean either to one side or to the other. He gave me these facts regarding average consumption per head per week, and I have managed, so far, to state them in relation to bread, sugar, butter, and meat. The increases are not my calculations, but are the figures of Mr. Knibbs and his staff, and the particulars upon which they were based were obtained direct from retail shops by the Statistician’s officers. On the basis of consumption of 5 lbs. of bread per head per week - the increase being 3d. per 2-lb. loaf - it means an average individual increase of 7£d. for bread alone in the bills of an ordinary family of five. On an average family consumption of 2 lbs. of sugar per week, the cost has gone up 6½d. Butter has increased more than ls. per lb., and meat has increased at least Gd. per lb., so that on the 4 lbs. allowed to each individual per week there is a definite increase of 2s. per head. This means for the average family a total increase of over £1 per week on these items alone, apart altogether from house rent and clothing. Again, Knibbs, referring to groceries and food, states that what could have been bought for 22s. lid. in 1913 costs to-day 37s. 7d. These are facts which cannot be controverted, and every honorable member will admit that Knibbs’ figures are never over the mark. In regard to house rents, he states that a house which could have been rented for 22s. 4d. in 1913 is worth 25s. 8d. to-day, an increase of only about 15 per cent. But all honorable members know that house rents have gone up 50 per cent, in some cases, and the difficulty in many localities is in getting any house. Every honorable member who represents a metropolitan division, as I do, must be aware of the position. The Inter-State Commission inquired into this problem some time ago, and arrived at the conclusion that we were 25,000 houses short in the Eastern States. What has been done with that report? Nothing.
– The honorable member knows that the housing difficulty in the metropolitan area is largely due to the drift of population.
– The position is much the same in many country towns.
– That may be because houses are being pulled down and carted away.
– Where would they be carted to? If they were brought to the metropolitan areas, the difficulty here in obtaining houses accommodation would not be so acute.
– Oh, yes it would, because population is increasing.
– The evidence given before the Inter-State Commission showed that house rents had definitely increased substantially.
– In the big cities, because people are being crushed out of the country districts.
– Why should they be crashed out of the country?
– Because of the indifferent treatment which the primary producers are receiving.
– I have always done my best to improve the conditions of the working classes, and I may say that no industrial organization has ever obtained any benefit without fighting for it, as gas employees are to-day. I have never heard of an employer in any part of Australia saying to the members of an industrial organization, “You are getting a minimum wage of £3 10s. per week; we will give you £4.” Nor have I known any employer to say to his employees, “ You are working forty-eight hours per week; we will make it forty-four.”
– In many country towns employers are offering more than the minimum wage.
– I am very glad to hear that, and I hope that is the position generally throughout the Commonwealth, because if it is so many of our workers will go back to the country. Mr. Lister. - One large firm in this city has voluntarily reduced the hours of working by closing at 6 o’clock on Friday nights instead of 9.30.
– And what about Pelaco?
– I am friendly with the proprietors of Pelaco Limited, and I believe that they treat their employees well. But I want to refer particularly to -the profiteering methods of Flinders-lane houses, as disclosed in the evidence of the Fair Profits Commission. Mr. J. H. Martin, manager of the dress and silk department of Richard Allen and Sons Proprietary Limited, warehousemen, of Flinders-lane, when giving evidence, was asked by the chairman, “What percentage of your stock have you ‘ marked up ‘ during the present season ? “ The Age report of 20th March states that witness wrote down his answer and handed it to the chairman, who said -
In the opinion of this Commission this particular fact should not be treated as confidential. You bought Marrackville tweed at 6s. 6d.. and you sold at 13s. 6d.- a profit of more than 100 per cent. We think that quite unreasonable. The Commission proposes to bring the principal of your firm before it. Under section 8 of the Necessary Commodities Aci we shall declare your prices to be unreasonable, and will consider what action shall be taken.
– What was the outcome of that incident ?
– Speaking from memory, I believe the manager was brought before the Commission, and told that he had to sell the tweed at a cheaper rate.
– Was it done?
– I do not know.
– The tweed was put up at auction, and brought a much greater sum than that which the firm was charging.
– In any case, the Fair Profits Commission has been able to achieve something, for it is reported in to-day’s Age that in regard to transactions in bran and pollard a certain firm has had to return £450 overcharged to customers.
– The honorable member will admit that the Fair Prices Commission has been doing a great deal of good in checking- profiteering.
– I hope they have; but, unfortunately, the Commission has not much power. In this respect it is very much like the Basic Wage Commission, and it will shortly cease to exist. Originally its term expired on the 30th June, but there has been an extension until the end of the year.
– Surely there can be a further extension.
– I understand, the Victorian Government will not take kindly to any such proposal. At any rate, the Commission is only there for a limited time.
Another fact was brought before the Commission, and was thus dealt with in the Age of ten days or a fortnight ago : -
A most .glaring instance of profiteering during the demand caused by the strike for emergency illuminants was exposed before the Fair Profits Commission yesterday. The instance is the more remarkable in that it embraced several transactions in the one line of goods on the one day - some within ten minutes of each other; that three middlemen as well as the importer and the retailer handled the goods before the consumer was offered them; and that between importer and consumer a difference between the landed cost (4s. 4d. each) and retail price (15s.) of 10s. 8d. had occurred. The transactions centred round a line of Windsor hurricane lamps imported from New York at invoice cost f.o.b. of 31s. 6d. per doz. (2s. 7id. each) and lauded cost of 52s. 8d. (4s. 4d. each) by the Vacuum Oil Company. Evidence regarding the subsequent transactions was given before the Commission yesterday by representatives of the various firms named, who had been summoned as witnesses, lt was deposed that S. R. O. Allen, importer, Williamstreet, bought from the Vacuum Oil Company on 14th June seventy-two dozen of the lamps at 58s. 6d. per doz. The same morning Mr. Allen sold ten cases to George Russell Proprietary Limited, Flinders-street, at 77s. 6d. per dozen ; also twenty cases to James McEwan and Company at 80s. per dozen ten minutes later; thirty-one cases to Brandt Brothers at 80s. ten minutes later again; and ten cases to James Walker, Little Collins-street at 80s. George Russell Proprietary Limited the same day sold four dozen to C. J. Langford, Elizabethstreet at lOSs. per dozen. C. J. Langford sold two dozen to J. and A. Boyes, Elizabeth-street, the same afternoon at 150s. per dozen. J. and A. Boyes sold to a member of the public at the rate of 180s. per dozen (15s. each). C. J. Langford and J. A. Boyes were in the same building, and no delivery charges were involved in the transaction. Most of the purchasers took the risk of breakages.
That is the position, not only in regard to lamps and tweeds, but also in respect to many other commodities.
– What is wanted is a Cooperative Distributing Society.
– Such a society would be of no use if there were no more lamps.
– There was at one time a Co-operative Distributing Society in Melbourne, and many attempts have been made in this city to form such societies. The result was, however, that cooperative societies in the country declined to sell goods to the co-operative society here unless the goods went through a middleman.
– The goods should be bought direct from the primary producer on the land.
– I am referring to the Civil Service Co-operative Society, which was unable to purchase goods from cooperative societies in the country unless those goods went through middlemen.
– Could you give us the names of those societies?
– I cannot, at the moment. I do know, however, that the wholesalers killed the Co-operative Bakery which was in existence here for a number of years. I will try to get the particulars of those country societies from the ex-secretary of the Civil Service Cooperative Society, Mr. Burke. About a fortnight ago, a letter appeared in the Age, referring to dealings in other commodities, and containing the following: -
We hear it remarked everywhere that the cost of living has advanced 50 per cent., but the fact is that the cost of living has advanced somewhere approaching 200 per cent. In support of that assertion/ let us examine a few items qf necessaries, omitting luxuries and fancy items, many of which have advanced 500 per cent, or 600 per cent.: -
– Those are Italian hats.
– Yes ;,but I do not think the figures are correct in regard to these Borsalino hats. Given the material, workmen in Australia, whether trained here or overseas, can make hats as good as any produced in;, other parts of the world.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there is profiteering in regard to bread and milk, and other similar commodities?
– I say that, in many cases, there are excessive handlings. It was shown before the Inter-State Commission that there are certain firms in Melbourne, known as the “Holy Seven,” who absolutely control the wholesale grocery trade here. According to the evidence given, these firms refuse to sapply any goods to traders who have dealings with outside firms. Many firms have tried to get into this inner ring, but have been prevented. It is preserved in the same way as the United Shoe Machinery Trust is preserved. This latter Trust controls certain machinery in Australia and other parts of the world, and will have no dealings with any firms who venture to use other machinery. For instance, if a shoe manufacturer has one of their machines for sewing welts, he must also use one of their machines for doing’ the eyeletting. This “ Holy Seven “ has absolute control in the same way of the wholesale grocery business; and I have no doubt that in this regard the Inter-State Commissioners referred to the necessity for the Government taking some action. The Government did take some action in regard to meat, but the Ministry were frightened by a demonstration of the producers concerned, who chartered seven special trains to bring a deputation to town. I am pleased to say that those composing that deputation hooted my name when it was mentioned.
– They did not. I was there.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was also present, and he assures me that my name was hooted.
– My word it was - vigorously !
– I am sure that the name of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was not hooted; country people are always very polite.
– I do not mind them hooting my name, I consider it was a compliment to me, for the action which I took ; for I am out to get a fair deal for “ the consumer.
– The only result of the price fixing was that the producer got considerably less, while the consumer paid considerably more.
– Yes ; the middlemen came in just as they are doing to-day, when they are buying frozen meat at a cheap rate, and selling it as fresh.
– It is good meat; why not use it?
– I believe that many are using it, believing it to be fresh, and are paying fresh meat prices for it. To continue the comparison of the prices paid in 1913 and to-day. Men’s cashmere, all-wool half-hose could be purchased in 1913 for ls. 6d. per pair, whereas to-day their price is 7s. 6d. per pair. Children’s three-quarter cashmere, all-wool half-hose, which cost ls. per pair in 1913, cannot now be purchased for less than 2s. lid. Ladies’ three-quarter allwool half-hose, which could be bought in 1913 for ls. lid. per pair, to-day cost 5s. 6d. Men’s suits to measure, which in 1913 cost 35s., to-day cost £4 10s. Men’s Harvard shirts, which could be purchased for 2s. 9d. each, to-day cost 7s. 6d. Men’s cotton tweed trousers in 1913 cost 3s. lid. per pair; to-day their purchase price is 9s. 6d. Linoleum, which in 1913 could be bought for 4s. lid. per yard, to-day cost 18s. 6d. There are hundreds of lines showing similar percentages of increase. Those given by Mr. Arthur Williams work out at 170 per cent.; so, to put it mildly, it must cost each man, woman, and child at least an. additional £10 per annum to live.
In regard to the question of sugar supplies, the Government have exhibited their utter incapacity. As far back as September of last year, Ministers knew, within 10,000 tons, what would be the yield of the Queensland crop. As a matter of fact, while I was discussing this very question, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) interjected that the Government knew to within 5,000 tons what that crop would be. If they knew that the Australian production would amount only to 186,000 tons, they must have known that we should require to import about an additional 100,000 tons. But instead of importing that quantity, they imported only 70,100 tons. Some time ago I asked a series of questions in this chamber, with a view to Eliciting exactly how much that sugar cost, because I say deliberately that the retail price of sugar should not be what it is to-day. The people are paying an unduly high price for that commodity owing to the incompetency of the Government. According to the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Government landed 60,000 tons of sugar from Java for £22 per ton f.o.b., they imported an additional 6,000 tons from there at a cost of £23 per ton, and a further 4,100 tons from Fiji at £25 per ton. In reply to inquiries regarding the freight which was paid upon these importations, I was informed that it was 35s. per ton from Java, and 27s. 6d. per ton from Fiji. Insurance upon the 66,000 tons of Java sugar varied from 9s. 9d. per cent, to 10s. lid. per’ cent. ; say, from 2s. to 2s. 4d. per ton extra under that head. The insurance upon the Fiji shipment was at the rate of 8s. per cent. The exchange in connexion with the Java purchases was 15s. per cent, and 17s. 6d. per cent., and from Fiji, nil. The whole of the 70,100 tons of sugar imported, was landed at less than 3d. per lb. I repeat that in September last the Government knew that they would require to import at least 100,000 tons of sugar, and that they should have made their arrangements accordingly. I blame them for putting into the sugar agreement a condition which prevented the Queensland Government from increasing the capacity of the mills there.
– That had no effect at all.
– I am informed by representatives from Queensland that it did have an ‘effect.
– It had not the slightest effect.
– If it had not, why did the Government insert that condition in the agreement; and, if the course they adopted was the right one, why did they afterwards take that condition out of the agreement? The Government have admitted that they made a mistake in regard to the matter.
I come now to the question of industrial unrest. Upon the 10th April, 1918, the present Minister for the Navy ‘ (Sir Joseph Cook), whilst acting for the Prime Minister, read a statement of Ministerial policy which had been read in another place by Senator Millen the previous day. I recollect the occasion so well because the censor prohibited the publication of the statement in the press until after it had been read in this Chamber. In that statement, as will be seen by reference to Hansard of 1918, page 3726, Sir Joseph Cook stated -
To establish and maintain better interests between capital and labour, it is proposed that the Attorney-General shall also be Minister for Labour; and an Advisory Council, representing employers and employees, will be appointed to keep touch between the Department and the industrial interests affected.
Two years later, we were assured, in the Governor-General’s Speech, which is set out upon page 7 of Hansard of the 26th February last -
My Ministers will introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to the prevention and for the settlement, of those industrial disputes which come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and to give effect to the principle of a basic wage.
Nothing was done for two years, and nothing has yet been done in that direction. Only last Friday we were told that the Government intend to bring forward a Bill dealing with certain questions which are not being dealt with by the Arbitration Court at the present time. We had submitted to us a list showing the number of cases before that Court on the 23rd April last. In speaking upon that question, I pointed out that there are nine cases which for months have been awaiting a hearing before that tribunal, cases involving industries the cessation of which would paralyze the Commonwealth. The Judges have stated that certain amendments are necessary in the Arbitration Act to facilitate its better working. It is well known that when a plaint is filed before the Court, even though the cost of living has increased in the case of an average family, to the extent of £1 2s. 6d. per week upon only four articles, it is difficult to get it heard with reasonable expedition. Who knew three years ago what would be’ the increase in the cost of living to-day? Who knows what it will be three years hence?
– If we have a drought, we cannot tell what it wilT be.
– We have had droughts before in Australia, but there has never previously been such increases in prices as those with which we are confronted to-day. I gather from the June number of the Victorian Agricultural Journal that the number of sheep in Australia to-day is 84,000,000 odd. From another Government publication - I think it was the New South Wales Agricultural Journal - I learn that before the war, in 1912, when there were 92,000,000 sheep in Australia, the wool clip- was worth £22,000,000. Since then, in 1916 or 1917, the number of sheep has diminished by about 18,000,000, and yet the wool clip is worth double what it was previously. I believe that I am right in saying that the value of the clip in 1912, when we had more sheep than we have to-day, was only about half that of the present clip.
On Friday last the Prime Minister told us that he had had to advise the organization with which he was connected to strike because they could not get to the Arbitration Court in any other way, and we know that the seamen and the marine engineers have recently taken the same course. When they find that employers refuse to meet them in conference the organizations cannot be blamed for taking the matter into their own hands. In May last, when I was dealing with this subject of the projected conference of employers and employees, I pointed out that on the 10th April of this year Mr. Justice Powers had made the following statement: -
There are three complaints, at least, against the Court for which the Court is not responsible. The first is that the Judges appointed to do the work cannot keep pace with the many claims brought before them, and serious delays are sometimes caused in settling industrial disputes. Parliament can, if it thinks fit, rectify that. The second is that the Court cannot, because of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, settle industrial disputes arising during the term of an award, however serious the dispute may be, or however much the cost of living has increased since the award was made. Parliament can, if it thinks fit, rectify that also. The third is that proceedings in the Court are expensive. The unions can rectify that by avoiding the expense of plaints, as is frequently done, limiting their claims to what they really intend to insist upon (if section 28 is amended), and by not calling witnesses to prove what the employers admit.
As Mr. Justice Powers points out in regard to two of the complaints, Parliament itself can rectify them, and, im my opinion, should do so at the earliest possible moment. I believe that the Justices of the High Court are unanimously of opinion that this Parliament has power to clothe the Arbitration Court with authority to settle an industrial dispute arising during the term of an award. Speaking on this subject in May last, I quoted the case of the gas employees, who could not have their plaint amended because they had asked for 13s. a day. They are now submitting a plaint for £1 a day, thus making sure that they will have ample margin to come and go upon during the three years currency of their award. However, ‘Parliament has the opportunity to rectify this matter. On the 13th April, a few days after Mr. Justice Powers “had made these remarks, Senator Fairbairn, the President of the Employers’ Federation of Australia, wrote to the1 Argus as follows : -
Mr. Justice Powers’ statement “ in reply to criticisms “ is most interesting and instructive. He suggests three ways in which the
Arbitration Court could be improved, as follows : -
Greater expedition in dealing with cases brought before the Court.
That power be given to the Court to deal with an industrial dispute arising during the currency of an award.
The reduction of the expense of the Court proceedings.
Mr. Justice Powers suggests remedies to No. 3, but feels, I suppose, that it is outside his province as a Judge to indicate legislative alterations. I therefore make the following suggestions, which I think have the support of all employers, and I hope most of the employees : -
Greater expedition in dealing with cases could be obtained (a) by appointing at least three Judges; (6) by giving the Court the power to delegate to a Board appointed by it the authority to decide a dispute when requested to do so by one’ of the parties to the dispute ; (c) by a clear definition of what are Federal and what are State disputes. Much of the Courts’ time at present is taken up in deciding whether the dispute is Federal or State, and no sooner is a case settled in the Federal Court than it is brought before the State Court, or vice versa, and the state of unrest so hurtful to industry is prolonged.
The chief, cause of industrial disputes at present is the ever-changing cost of living, and power should be granted to the Court to make awards contingent upon the rise or fall of the cost of living.
The Prime Minister has promised early amendments of the Arbitration Court Act, and it must be apparent to all that they are urgently required. Mr. Hughes has had for some time before him the carefully considered views of the employers on what changes are required, and he has also consulted the employees on this matter. Before the Government brings forward its amendments I think it might help matters if he would call a conference of representatives of employers and employees to see if harmony cannot be achieved, as there are many other amendments besides those dealt with by Mr. Justice Powers that would benefit the Act. - Yours, &c,
On the next day the following paragraph appeared in the Argus : -
Consideration was given by the Federal Cabinet yesterday to arbitration matters. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that the Cabinet had discussed the position that arose through the Deputy President of the Arbitration Court (Mr. justice Powers) going on leave. It was also hoped to introduce at an early date legislation to amend the Arbitration Act.
When the proposal by the president of the Employers Federation (Senator Fairbairn) for a round-table conference on industrial matters was mentioned, Mr. Hughes said : - “ Two years ago we proposed to bring in a measure for a Grand Council of Labour, on which both sides would be represented. That idea we hope to embody in our coming legislation.
But such a proposal will be useless without the hearty co-operation of both sides. We propose to call a conference. We will not put a cutanddried proposition in regard to the constitution of a Council of Labour, or to industrial legislation before them, but will seek to have a free discussion of matters and find out the ideas of both sides. Then we will try to formulate proposals, to secure industrial peace and harmony.”
The sooner we know what the Government proposals are in this direction the better it will be for all concerned, but they made the promise more than two years ago, and, so far, have done absolutely nothing. It was also promised that the Prime Minister would act as Minister for Labour, but nothing has been done in that matter either.
The employers have also failed in, their duty. Representatives of the tannery employees of Australia have informed me that they had the greatest difficulty in getting the employers to meet them, and I am told that in ‘the hat trade the employers are offering excuse after excuse to avoid meeting their workmen in conference, although the award has expired. A strike in the hat-making industry would not affect the community as would a strike amongst transport workers or engineers: but the fact that there are two sides to a question ought to be made known. The workers in all industries have very little chance of putting their case before the people through the press. The opinion seems to be held in some quarters that if a ballot of employees is taken a proposal to strike will be turned down; but the Prime Minister knows as well as I do that, taken as a whole, the rank and file in an organization are far more militant than are the officials. The newspapers claim time after time that strikes are fomented by the latter, whereas, as a matter of fact, they are chiefly concerned in trying to do their best for their members, and will exert all their influence to avoid trouble. What has been the result of some of the ballots recently taken? In the case of the seamen the decision was to strike, and in the later cases of the marine, engineers and the engine-drivers and firemen of Victoria the result was the same.
I do not consider that the promises which were made to our soldiers when they went away from Australia have been kept. A few days ago I received from a gentleman whom I knew some years back, a letter in which he says -
I wish to place in your hands a letter which I received from the Repatriation Department, conveying the decision of the Repatriation Committee, the first paragraph of which should be of very considerable benefit to you in reference to your censure motion.
The paragraph to which my attention was thus directed reads as follows: -
The Department at no time has undertaken, or has contemplated undertaking, an obligation to reinstate a man in his pre-war position.
I am under the impression that the promise was made to those who went to the war that they would not suffer for doing so, and that when they returned they would be given positions at least as good as those they left -
The Department, however, will, as far as it reasonably can do so, endeavour to assist a man to obtain a position equal to his pre-war occupation.
I have had letters from men who were in business before they went to the war, who, on their return, could not obtain assistance from the Department. Only last month I wrote to a correspondent saying-
I received your letter, and will at once make strong representations to the Repatriation Department on your behalf. Immediately I -hear anything I will advise you.
In writing to the Deputy Comptroller of the Repatriation Department at Melbourne, I said, referring to this case -
Prior to enlisting in 1914, this man owned and conducted a printing business at Brunswick and Abbotsford for nearly seven years. He then enlisted and handed over his business to the care of a master printer, who, after two years, closed down, and sold part of the - plant to pay certain debts. Whilst Mr. Kidson may not have sold his business, he certainly disposed of it, as it is not in his possession to-day.
I am told that his application has been refused; but he is appealing against the Board’s decision.
In reply, the Deputy Comptroller informed me that -
Mr. Kidson’s application was declined in view of the fact that he did not dispose of his business to enlist, and he is, therefore, ineligible for assistance to commence again. He has been informed that, on receipt of an appeal in writing, his case will foe resubmitted to the deciding authority.
In regard to the suggestion that I should inform my correspondent that he must appeal again in writing, I wrote the following letter to the Minister: -
On 26th instant I wrote to the Deputy Comptroller here regarding a man named Wm. A. Kidson, of 173 Vere-street, Abbotsford, and have received the enclosed reply, which, you will see, is signed by an officer of the Department.
In my letter of the 26th instant I gave the whole of the facts, and asked that the matter be reconsidered. I frequently get similar replies to the one enclosed, insisting on the applicant making an appeal, but, in my opinion, it should not bc necessary for the man to make an appeal when I do so on* his behalf. Naturally, this causes the applicant further trouble and delay, which seems to mt entirely unnecessary.
Whenever I write to the Pensions Office and ask that a case be reconsidered with a view to increasing or granting a pension, it is done without asking the applicant to also write in.
I shall be glad if you will look into this matter, with a view to expediting business and eliminating a good deal of red-tape.
Although I wrote that letter on the 30th of last month I have not yet received an acknowledgment of it.
I wish now to give honorable members an illustration of the way in which war pension applications have been treated. A f friend of mine received towards the end of 1918 a letter in which the writer complained of “ the very unjust way the Defence Department treated mothers who had raised large families and who applied for pensions in regard to sons who had been killed at the war.” According to the statements contained in that letter, the man and his wife had four sons who enlisted, of whom two were killed in action, one died at sea on a transport, and one was still in the fighting line. After the first son was killed the usual papers for a pension were sent to them and the wife was called to Melbourne, and gave her replies to the questions asked of her. After some time she was informed to her surprise that she would be paid a pension of 5s. per week, which she regarded as an insult, because she knew that other mothers were getting pensions of 10s., 15s., and, in some cases, £1 per week, because of the death of their sons. She regarded the offer of the Department as “ making little of her brave boy who died fighting for his country.” The second son was killed in action on the 9th August, 1918, when the usual pension papers were again sent, and the wife again went to Melbourne and replied to the questions asked of her. She then received what she considered a bigger insult from the Department, because the pension was nil. It was the intention of the writer to tell his wife, when the pension papers came in respect of the lad who died at sea on a transport, to reply that as she had been so badly treated in the past, she could live without their insults. The ground for the rejection of these pensions in respect of the second lad killed was that the parents were not dependent on his earnings for the twelve months immediately prior to his enlistment. The writer points out that, although they were not dependent on their son for their living, he being then nineteen years of age, and learning a trade, a family of ten had been raised on a wage of 6s. 6d.- a day, and the lads who had been killed would have been earning £3 per week at the date on which he wrote had they not gone to the war, and would, of course, have helped their parents in their old age, a matter which the Pensions Department ought to have taken into consideration. I put the matter before the Department, and eventually got a pension of 7s. for each of the two sous, though that was not enough. The complaint has been made that widows who were getting £2 per week war pension have had their allowance reduced to £1 ls. These reductions have been made recently, and are not fair.
Many complaints are being made about the restrictions on the war gratuity. The insurance offices have now been prohibited from cashing war gratuity bonds, but men have told me that if they go to certain furniture selling firms, they can get their war gratuity bonds* cashed, so long as they spend 33 per cent, of the proceeds upon furniture.
– When the Bill was going through the House, I said that I did not think it would be possible to provide for bonds that could not be cashed. Men have come to me offering me half the value of the bonds if I would cash them, but I have declined to do so, because the law says that they cannot be cashed, and I have not the money to buy these bonds, even if I desired to do so. The Government have failed to treat the men properly in regard to the war gratuity.
It is for the Government to see that those who wish to use the gratuity for insurance purposes are fairly treated. It is said that some insurance offices are allowed to cash the bonds, and that others are prohibited from doing so.
My desire is that our returned men shall get a fair deal. It should not be said to them that they were not promised that, on their return, they would be reinstated in their pre-war positions; that promise was made to them. The Go vern - men have failed to deal fairly with the soldiers. They have failed to treat our returned men and their dependants as the community would wish. The public do not ask for the saving of a few shillings by the reduction of the pensions of war widows. The Government have also failed to prevent profiteering. Then two years ago they promised to establish a Council of Labour to deal with industrial unrest, a promise which they have not fulfilled. I hold, therefore, that I have justification for moving the motion. Honorable members on this side, and members of the Corner party will, no doubt, deal with those questions arising under it which I have not had time to mention. Those who vote against the motion will have to show cause for supporting a Government which has failed in its duty in the manner I have indicated.
– In giving notice of his motion last Thursday, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) led the country to believe that lie had disclosures of such a character to make as would prove the Government unworthy of the confidence of the House. For that reason, and because by no other means can I reply to what he has said,- I think it proper to treat the motion as one of censure. The honorable member, in speaking to his motion, occupied an hour and thirty-five minutes. He 6poke, yet said nothing. I ask honorable members generally whether, if they were a jury, and the Government collectively were on its trial, and the counsel for the prosecution had presented the case as the honorable member has done, they would hesitate a moment before giving a verdict of acquittal? The honorable member has been in Ministerial office with me for many years; he has been my friend for many more. I credit him always with the best intentions, but this afternoon, although I listened attentively to his speech, and, so far as one in my position could, with an absolutely open mind, I heard no reason why the Government should be censured, or the time of the Legislature wasted in repeating at such length what he has already said on’ so many occasions, and what we shall probably hear on many more if we are spared to live long enough.
This motion of censure is divided into five parts, and differs in this respect only from its predecessor, which, like all Gaul, w.as divided into three parts. Although the honorable gentleman consumed the full time allotted to him with his speech, he occupied nearly the whole period with irrelevant observations. I propose, as briefly and clearly as I can, to show why the House should not agree to the motion, First of all the honorable member says that the Government is deserving of censure for its failure to prevent the inordinate rise in the cost of living. “What are the facts? The honorable member knows what they are perfectly well. He was in office with me for about two years and four months during the war, and the Government then had great powers under the War Precautions Act. When the honorable member moved his previous censure motion, I pointed out that, although he was the Minister charged with the administration of this Act, he took no action whatever so far as I knew to deal in any way with the high cost of living. He may have done so, but if he did I was not aware of it. The reason he gave was the only reason he could give. It was the reason he gave previously when he was my colleague, and really he gave it through my mouth. I explained that we had not done anything in that direction, because we were of the opinion that we could not effectively deal with the high cost of living until we had power to deal with combines, trusts, and corporations. The party to which the honorable member and myself belonged had pressed this view very strongly before the electors for many years, and regarded the amendment of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth power over these vitally important matters as of such urgency as to justify them in putting it on their fighting platform. In 1915 I was present at the Adelaide Labour Conference, where the question of the high cost of living was brought up. It was regarded as a matter of vital importance, and the Government of the day, at the head of which was my friend Mr.’ Fisher, and of which I was a member, was urged to press on with the referendum in order to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with such powers as would enable it to take action. It was never for one moment suggested then that there was any other way of doing it. Until the honorable member for West Sydney (Mv. Ryan) made a statement to the contrary, no one had ever suggested that this Parliament had any power to deal with combines, trusts and companies, or to fix prices except under the War Precautions Act, unless and until such amendments of the Constitution were made as would clothe the Commonwealth Legislature with the necessary power. The late Mr. Cohen, who was one of the representatives of Victoria, said at the 1915 conference, “ Surely they were not going to allow a handful of Tories in the Federal Parliament to stand in the way of the people’s interests; everything should be done to put through the work quickly; the Government would be justified in taking such action as would insure the passage of these measures in a reasonable time, seeing that the carrying of the referendum meant so much to the people, who were being fleeced right and left by the combines and trusts in everything concerned.” He moved an a’mendment, a long debate took place, and the conference affirmed the necessity for pressing on with the amendments to give the Commonwealth power to deal with these matters at the very earliest possible moment. The Leader of the Opposition was then a member of the Government, of which I wasAttorneyGeneral, and he was still a member of the Government when in the tail end of 1915 a proposal was made by the States to grant us certain powers temporarily upon condition that we postponed the referendum. The honorable member was strongly in favor of that course, and voted for it, and, at a meeting of the party upstairs, there were I think” only six or seven dissentients out of a total of 72 members. These two facts stand out: one, that it had been clearly recognised by the Labour party for years that there was no way by which the Commonwealth could deal with trusts. combines, and prices except by the amendment of the Constitution, and, two, that in 1915 the high cost of living was a matter of such grave and pressing concern as to make it imperative in the interests of the community that the Constitution should be amended forthwith. Yet, as I have said, the honorable member agreed to . the postponement of the referendum, and when the States did nothing he followed their example, nor was it until he left the Government and a new Government was constituted, that anything waa done to reduce the cost of living to the people of Australia under the War Precautions Act. I shall come later, as I deal with these matters, to the reasons which led the honorable member and his colleagues to act as they did in regard to the last referendum, but I would point out that the High Court has laid it down again and again that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with trusts, combines, or companies. And as nine-tenths of all commercial transactions are carried on by these means it is abundantly clear that unless we have plenary power over them we can take no effective action to deal with high prices. The honorable member has spoken this afternoon of rings. He spoke of a flour ring, and of a man being at once frozen out and burnt up as the result of the operations of one of ‘ those rings. He knows that the only way in which we can deal with any ring or combine is by amendment of the Constitution. He cannot deny that he agreed to the postponement of the referendum when he was a member of the Government, in which I had the honour to hold a portfolio, nor can he deny that at the last election, when a referendum was taken, an overwhelming majority of the members of the Labour party were led by the misrepresentations of their leaders to vote against that which for the last nine years the Labour party had declared to be the very corner-stone of their temple. I have here the referenda figures for 1913 -and 1919. They show that in 1919 the majority at the referendum against the Legislative Powers Bill was under 20,000, proving conclusively that had the Labour party voted as they were bound to do by the planks of the platform to which they solemnly pledged themselves, this Parliament would to-day not have the excuse that it has no power to deal with these things. That a great National Legislature like this should not have the power to deal with industrial matters, combines, trusts, corporations, er companies is, I say now as I said in 1911, when I was the mouthpiece of the Labour party, a disgrace to the intelligence of the people of this country, and a menace, to their security and welfare. I ask, and I shall continue to ask while I am on my feet, why the Labour party at the recent election did this thing? Why did they deliberately reject that which they had declared for the last ten years to be the one thing essential to the well-being of the people?
The honorable member said we had done nothing to deal with the high cost of living during the war, when we had the power. I deny altogether that under ‘the War Precautions Act as it stands to-day we have the power now. It may be that I am wrong; no one can tell that until a case is decided in the High Court. But I venture to say that” ho one reading the judgments of the High Court on those cases in which it was held that we had the power during the war would say that we had the power to-day to fix prices in regard to those commodities which, unlike sugar, are outside our own control. During the war we regulated the price of eighty-eight commodities, and the effect of our action, as has been admitted even from the Opposition side of the House, was to reduce the cost of living most materially to the people of this country, saving them’ very many millions. But now we can do nothing. I do not hesitate to say that had Labour voted in 1919 as it did in 1913 this Parliament would this day have authority to deal with these vitally important matters. To-day I say most emphatically, despite what the honorable member for West Sydney may claim, that it has no power to deal effectively with them. Why have honorable members opposite abandoned those principles which they declared again and again to be vital? At every election since 1910 they have been in the forefront of their platform, yet when opportunity offers they denounce that which they have for years declared to be necessary for the salvation of Australia.
Why? I shall indicate later some reasons why they did this thing.
The honorable member speaks of the cost of living in this country in regard to wheat, meat, butter, and sugar. He could not have selected four articles more unfortunate from his point of view, for it so happens that the people of Australia have cheaper flour, cheaper meat, cheaper sugar, and cheaper butter than any other people in the world. I shall leave it to members of the Country party to set out the facts in greater detail; but this I will say, that every man has a right to be rewarded for his labour. Whether he is a pick-and-shovel man, a legislator, or a fanner, the same principle must apply. I do not claim for one moment to have an intimate experience of the lot of the man on the land; but, since it is vital, in the interests of this country, that we should attract people from the great cities to the country, and since there is no better way of doing that than by making life on the land profitable, we should be doing this country a mortal injury if we drove people from the country into the great cities by making life on the land unprofitable.
The Leader of the Opposition professed astonishment that we should now be paying 6d. per lb. for sugar, which, before the war, cost only 2¾d. per lb. For that increase he apparently would make this Government responsible. The fact is that but for this Government the price of sugar to-day would be far more. I have no time to discuss in detail the sugar question; I fully set it out some weeks back, when dealing specifically with it. Coming to bread, which is a still more important article of food, there is in Australia to-day, despite the drought, a supply of wheat ample to meet the requirements of the people until next harvest. If there is a shortage in New South Wales, it arises from two reasons - (1) the appalling drought, and (2) the mismanagement, perhaps, of the local Wheat Pool, whereby good wheat was sold, and sent out of the country, regardless of the welfare of the people of that State. For that, neither the Commonwealth nor the people of the other States are responsible. And. even as it is, the people of New South Wales today are buying wheat at less than one-half of the world’s price. These are facts which cannot be denied. When we are told that the farmer is selling his produce locally for more than he can get for it overseas, I can only say that these are the facts, and that they speak for themselves. The local price of wheat today is fixed by agreement between the farmers and the Government at 7s. 8d. per bushel, while the price of wheat in the markets of the world to-day is quite double that amount. So much for that point. In regard to sugar, as I have said, the people are obtaining it at a price below that ruling in any other part of the world. There is no country, save New Zealand, which secures its sugar so cheaply. In England the people are paying ls. and ls. 2d. per lb. for it, and in America the price is quite as high.
I come now to butter. The dairy farmer works, not six or seven hours a day, but a great many morel I am not an advocate of long hours; but if a man works long hours, he is entitled to be paid for them. Let the Leader of the Opposition take a turn as a dairy farmer, and we shall see whether he will be prepared to sell his butter for less than it costs to produce.
– The relation of the right honorable gentleman’s experiences as a dairy farmer has kept me out of the industry.
– My experience was rather unfortunate. The honorable member has sought to make the Government responsible for high prices. I have shown quite clearly where the blame lies. But the causes of high prices generally are so utterly remote from those put forward by the Leader of the Opposition that one is surprised that he would not, at least, have admitted to the House that they are for the most part beyond the powers of the Legislature to touch. They arise out of great economic factors that are affecting the whole world. They arise out of the war, out of the scarcity created by the war, out of the excess of paper money and the scarcity of products. The scarcity of’ goods and the excess of paper money, and the consequent depreciation of money and appreciation of the prices of goods are the two main factors. For the evil of high prices there are but two. effective remedies - one to reduce the quantity of paper money, the other to increase production. Let the honorable member say whether he has given wise counsel to the unions and the people of Australia in regard to these matters. He speaks very loosely about the consequences of issuing on the markets of this country another £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 of paper money. The effect of such an issue would fall, as all these things do, quickly and certainly upon the very class that he seeks to benefit. The present high prices would become still higher. So much then for the first of his five points.
I turn now to his second charge. The Government is deserving of censure, he says, because of its failure to keep its pledges to the returned soldiers and their dependants. Sir, the honorable member’s , charge is utterly without foundation. Let the facts speak for themselves. The . honorable member made some reference to war gratuities, pensions, and repatriation. I do not contend for one moment that in the demobilization and repatriation of over 360,000 men there are not some cases of hardship and injustice. But the repatriation of our soldiers will compare most favorably with that of any country. The pledges given by me on behalf of the Government have been carried out not only in the letter but in the spirit. Let me quote a few figures in proof of my statement. Up to the 10th instant 83,758 war gratuity bonds, representing a total of £7,254,874 had been issued, of which the bonds issued hut uncashed amounted to £6,075,298, and the gratuities paid in cash by the Treasury amounted to £1,179,576. What was the position put before the electors at the last general election? They were promised by the Leader of the Opposition, and those who stand with him, that if they were returned to office the soldiers would be paid the war gratuity in cash? We promised that they would be paid in bonds. We said that we would cash up to £6,000,000 worth of bonds, and we made other proraises, all of which have been carried out. The people deliberately rejected the proposal of the honorable member, and accepted ours. We should not be where we are to-day had not an overwhelming majority of the soldiers, their dependants, friends, and relations supported the party which I have the honour to lead. We promised that a gratuity should be paid on a certain scale; that it should be paid in bonds except in certain cases which were clearly specified ; and we promised that the legislation necessary to give effect to these pledges should take precedence of all others in the new Parliament. All these pledges have been most faithfully kept.
And now as to repatriation. Ever since my return to Australia I have had coming to my office every day hundreds of letters dealing with this matter, and I have sought as well as possible to help the returned soldiers. The honorable member has read to the House two or three letters on this subject. I invite him to let me have them. If any man has been treated unjustly he shall have justice. But the great basic facts in relation to repatriation are that’ for the year 1919-20, which has just closed, £6,103,061 was spent on repatriation, of which amount £3,869,827 was an absolute gift to the men. On land settlement we expended £11,235,716. The amount to which the Commonwealth was committed but hae not yet been applied for by the States for land settlement, is £17,764,284. For war pensions, we spent during year 1919-20, £6,032,000; on war service homes, £4,953,676, making a gross total for the year ended 30th June last of £46,088,737. These figures are unanswerable. They supply a complete and crushing refutaton of the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition that we have not dealt fairly with our soldiers. The like of this record cannot be shown by any other country. The provision made for 1920-21 Estimates is as follows: - Repatriation proper, £5,800,000; land settlement, dependent upon the forthcoming Conference with State Ministers of Land to be held on Monday next, £17,000,000; war pensions, £7,500,000; war service homes, £7,175,000; or a gross total of £37,475,000. In the face of these figures the honorable member’s charge vanishes into thin air.
On the 28th June last the total amount expended in respect of war service homes was £6,678,151. Seven hundred and sixty-seven houses had been completed, 2,461 were in course of erection, and contracts had been let for an additional 341. Five thousand three hundred and thirtyfour houses had been purchased, and 1,296 mortgages had been lifted on be- half of returned soldiers or eligible dependants.
Our men were demobilized in record time. On 30th June last, of the total of 361,000 only 662 men were on the J Australian Imperial Force strength. The number of returned soldiers unemployed has been steadily diminishing. While there were on 31st October last 13,000 soldiers unemployed, to-day on the unemployment return there are only 6,049 men. The Leader of the Opposition say3 we have not kept our pledges. These figures and facts speak for themselves. We said that we would increase the amount devoted to waT pensions by £500,000 or £600,000. We have actually increased it by £1.500,000. The gratuity that was promised is being paid very rapidly. The honorable member says that the men cannot in all cases obtain cash for their gratuity bonds. They knew that very well. That was set out plainly, and reasons were given for the inability of the Commonwealth to cash the bonds, or permit them to pass current from hand to hand. I say, now, that to put £30,000,000 worth of bonds on the market to-day would create a crisis the like of which has never been seen in this country. The honorable gentleman has referred to what certain firms dealing in furniture are doing’ in the way of cashing war gratuity bonds. In answer to that, all I have to say is that if he will supply me with the names of the firms who are doing this, I shall make the necessary inquiries. One letter was sent to me in which it was stated that a returned soldier was compelled to give a war gratuity bond for £120 to purchase £60 worth of furniture. That, I think, occurred in the electorate of the honorable member for Yarra.
– I should not be surprised at that.
– I do not know whether it was in the honorable gentleman’s electorate or in that of the honorable member for Batman (“Mr. Brennan). I believe it occurred in Collingwood.
– One side of a street dividing our electorate is in the electorate of Batman, and the other side in the Yarra electorate.
– I say that what is complained of in this connexion is against the law. A reference has been made to the cashing of bonds by insurance com panies, and in that matter the Treasurer is safeguarding the interests of the men: In the action he is taking he is protecting the interests and’ welfare of the soldier. He is right in taking’ up that attitude, because he is the guardian of the soldiers’ interests.
I promised the soldiers, on behalf of the Government, that they should have one representative on the Repatriation Board and the War Gratuity Board. On the Repatriation Board, the returned soldiers have not one representative, but three; and of the eighteen members of the Central and State Boards, ten are returned soldiers. The War Gratuity Board consists of three members, and all are returned soldiers or sailors. Instead, then, of giving the returned soldier merely representation on these Boards, we have given him control of the whole of the machinery of the war gratuity; while on repatriation, of three members of the Central Board and eighteen on the State Boards, ten are returned soldiers. The Government, then, has not only fulfilled its pledges to the soldiers, but has gone much farther than it promised to do. As for what the returned soldiers themselves think of what has been done, the following is a quotation from the issue for the 2nd July, 1920, of The Soldier, one of the organs of the returned men in New South Wales: -
Of all the promises made to returned men by politicians, those made by Hughes stand out alone as having been honorably fulfilled.
So much, then, for the second charge. I say that it has failed completely.
I come now to the third charge: that we have failed to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest. I think I have already shown, in dealing with the first charge, that the Legislature has no power to deal with industrial unrest except by way of arbitration, «and then only in regard to certain disputes, and in a certain way. Many honorable members opposite have stood upon platforms up and down this country, bewailing the unhappy condition of the people because the National Legislature was denied the opportunity to deal with these great industrial matters, and demanding the amendment of the Constitution. But what did these honorable members do when the opportunity was given them to secure for the Legislature the power to deal with this greatest of all modern problems? When that plank was putbefore them fairly, they went out and asked the people to turn it down. Why ?
The honorable gentleman has in a sort of a way approved the suggestion I have made to call, a conference of the parties interested. He asks why this has not been done before, and why has not the Arbitration Act been amended. I would remind the honorable gentleman of something. He and the members of his party have been the most prolific wasters of time in this Parliament. This is the second motion of censure he has brought forward, and he brings it forward at a time when he knows that it is more likely that Julius Caesar “ dead and turned to clay “ should stand at the end of this table than that his motion should’ be carried. Knowing this, and knowing how precious our time is, he again invites this Parliament to turn from those matters of great moment that affect the interests and welfare of the people, in order to consider a motion of censure, the sole reason for which he knows has ceased to exist. For this motion sprang mushroomlike out of the dungheap of the Ballarat by-election; and now, when instead of the mushrooms we have got the toadstool, the honorable gentleman still goes on with it.
– Julius Caesar will not stand at the end of the table, but very shortly Mr. McGrath will walk into this Chamber.
– Yes, and I would rather see Julius Caesar. When the honorable gentleman asks why we have not brought in legislation to amend the Arbitration Act, he may be met with two answers. One he has himself supplied. By submitting this motion he has deliberately wasted the time of this House, as he has done on many occasions. The other is inherent in the limitations of the Arbitration Court itself. I state here, as I have stated a hundred times before, that the Arbitration Court is not a convenient and effective machine for dealing with all industrial disputes. I should be the last to say that it has not done excellent work. It has done good work, but its present state of congestion shows clearly that it lumbers too cumbrously after the greyhound of industrial difference. We require machinery that will be more nimble and effective. I propose, at a very early date, to introduce that machinery, and to give this House the opportunity to supplement the activities of the Arbitration Court.
The honorable gentleman said, in reference to my proposal to call a round table conference to discuss industrial matters, that he hoped it would be called. I have only to say that I regret very much to have to announce that one important Labour body has deliberately declined to be represented at that round table conference. I refer to the Melbourne Trades Hall. That body will not appoint a representative to the conference. , This is the reception which every effort to bring about industrial harmony meets with in certain quarters. One of the most valuable results of the Paris Peace Conference was the International Labour Charter, which provided machinery through which Labour all over the world could make itself articulate, could -meet in conference1, and seek means to ameliorate the conditions and improve the status of workers in all countries. I brought this prominently under the notice of the Parliament. I stated then that an International Labour Conference was to be held at Washington, to which Labour the world over was invited to send representatives. This- conference was to deal with matters of the greatest importance vital to the welfare of Labour the world over. Australia was invited to send delegates, the Government bearing all the expense. How was this invitation to the greatest Labour Convention the World has ever seen received by my honorable friend’s supporters? It was rejected with scorn. Yes, sir, this country, this Australia of ours, the most democratic country in the world, whose proud boast has been that it has ever been in the very vanguard of Labour, and upon the lips of whose delegates the need of international brotherhood has been the sign-manual of their profession, was the only country unrepresented at that, conference! During the war, honorable members opposite were never tired of talking about inviting the workers of all countries to join hands in order to put an end to the frightful conflict, and yet when they were asked to meet their fellow workers in Washington in order that they might do something, if not for the workers of their own country, at least something for the down-trodden workers of other countries, they churlishly declined to do so. So much, therefore, for the honorable gentleman’s charge that the Government have done nothing in regard to industrial unrest. I venture to point out that ifh e and his followers took their courage in. both hands and would preach to the workers outside the only gospel that can bring about industrial peace, to produce more, and to seek peaceful and harmonious means of effecting an adjustment of their mutual interests with their employers, they would do something to bring about a state of affairs which would be lastingly beneficial, not only to those whom they claim to represent, but to the whole community. But what do they do when there is a strike? What honorable member opposite has ever had the courage, when there has been a strike on, to go out and tell the men that they were wrong ?
– They are never wrong.
– I have done so hundreds of times. I was the bell-wether who was always sent out for years. In the coal strike I never got one man to stand up with me, although men. who represented the coal districts knew that I was in the right. I was left to go out and fight the battle for the cause of the Labour party, whilst the red-raggers, who along with another section have destroyed the Labour movement, strove with all their might to bring about a general strike and paralyze the community. I ask why honorable members opposite do not go to their industrial unions and political leagues and preach the only gospel that is of any good to Labour?
In his next charge the honorable gentleman asserts that the Government have failed to secure an adequate return to the Australian people for their wool and other primary products sold overseas. In some respects this charge is the most extraordinary/ and the least supported by facts. I listened to the honorable gentleman while he strove to make out his case.So far as I could follow him, what he said was in effect that the farmer is deserving of censure because he is selling his goods at a higher price in Australia than he obtains for them overseas. This way of helping the farmer would be to compel him to sell his pro duce at a price below the cost of production. Yet he poses as a friend of the farmer, and says that we have not protected the latter ‘s interest. Let me point out what we have done. Paragraphs d and e of the honorable member’s motion read
I take those two things together. First of all, it is utterly untrue that the present Government or the preceding Governments of which I had the honour to be a member did not do everything in their power to secure for the producer the highest possible return for his product. The Wheat Pool has handled 468,807,000 bushels of wheat, and the prices received ranged from 4s. 9d. to 6s. 3d. per bushel f.o.b. The average price of wheat for years previous to the war was 3s. 9d. a bushel. The total amounts received from local and overseas sales by the Pool up to the 5th July was £120,969,000. It was shown in evidence before the Royal Commission which sat in this State that the farmer had received £10,000,000 above London parity by the operation of the Pool during the period of the war. So much for that. In regard to wool, sales have been made at prices 55 per cent. above those ruling before the war, and the four clips have realized to date £170,000,000, whilst under arrangements made by the Government it is estimated that the growers will receive approximately £40,000,000 as their share of the profits on re-sales. The Wool Committee has handled 7,000,000 bales of wool. Those figures speak for themselves. They show that, including the half-share of profits, the growers will receive nearly double the prewar value of their wool. It has been said that those arrangements were not definite and precise. Nothing is farther from the truth. The arrangements weremost definite; the contracts made in regardto wheat were all in the form ofordinary contracts, and set out most minutelythe duty of each party. The interest ofthe
Australian producer has been most carefully safeguarded. , I, myself, have sold for the producer 5,200,000 tons of wheat. In those contracts, as with the contracts made direct through the Board, the interest of the farmer was protected in, every particular. It is entirely wrong to suppose that the contracts were made in a loose manner. I have not time to set out the details, but I have telegrams here which show with what meticulous care the details of the contracts ‘ were covered by the telegrams which passed between the British Government and the Government of the Commonwealth. I need only remind honorable members that during the war there was but one buyer of wheat, and unless that buyer could have been induced to buy it was impossible for us to sell our wheat anywhere else. That created a situation without precedent, and one which could not be endured without relief; relief was to be obtained in only one direction, and we obtained it. As with wheat, so with wool. Money was made available to the producer before the wheat and wool were shifted from our shores. As examples of the procedure followed in all overseas sales of our products I may quote one or two instances. In connexion with the first wheat deals in 1915 there was, firstly, an inquiry from the British Government by telegram. That was followed by a definite offer from this end, and subsequently an acceptance in precise terms by the British Government. So it was with each deal. In 1916 there was an offer and acceptance, and a confirmation of such acceptance. In regard to wool, the same procedure was followed. A cable dated 14th November, 1916, contained a definite offer from the British Government to ‘purchase the whole of Australia’s clip of cross-bred and merino wool. I think it proper to state here that it is clearly shown in this cable that this is the result of representations made by me when in London during that year. It sets out quite clearly what the British authorities ‘ were prepared to do. That offer was laid before the representatives of the wool -growers ; they agreed to sell on the basis of ls. 3d. per pound for greasy wool. I cabled on their behalf an offer to sell at ls. 3$d. per lb., and this was accepted by the British Government.
I obtained for them $ha.t extra halfpenny per pound, which, apart from anything else, has yielded to the woolgrowers £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 above what they would otherwise have received. A cablegram sent on the 4th December set out the duties of the parties, the machinery by which the transaction was to be carried out, and, in short, followed the method invariably adopted by business men in connexion with such contracts. In a cablegram received on the 13th December, the British Government accepted the offer. There was then a definite contract made. The price, conditions of sale and duties of each party were clearly set out. And this applied to every renewal of the contract. So much for the charges made by the honorable member in regard to the sale of primary products. The interests of the primary producers have been carefully safeguarded: they have sold their products under unique circumstances - when there was only one effective buyer, and no means of shifting their goods - at prices which speak for ‘themselves. The contracts for the sale of these products have been carefully drawn, and have protected the interests of the producers. The honorable member’s charges fail utterly, as he expected them to do. He indeed indicated so much in his final statement that those who voted against the motion would have to account to their constituents for their vote. ‘ Of course that is quite true; they will have to account for every one of their votes. > The honorable member’s motion fails, as it was fully expected by him to do. But there remains behind all this smoke some fire, or behind this fire some smoke. “Why is it that the Labour party, which once held undisputed sway over the Common- wealth in this Legislature, and in the Parliaments of five of the six States, is today in this abject position ? The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the people, as if he represented them.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– lt is not in order for honorable members to repeatedly interrupt. I ask them not to interject.
– Especially regarding the Ballarat election.
– The honorable member for Dalley is out of order.
– This once great party, which at one time held an almost unchallengeable position in this country, stands to-day where? It is rendered almost hysterical because it has won a byelection, thus increasing its strength in this House from twenty-five to twenty-six members. Let me remind honorable members opposite that on the day when, in the room upstairs, we were faced with a great crisis in the history of the country, I was the Leader of a party of seventy-two men. That same party to-day has a strength in both Houses of twenty-seven, whilst I lead a party of seventy-two.
– If I were you, Iwould not say too much about that.
– It is a fact. Why is it that the Labour party, whose record for years and years was an uninterrupted series of victories, has fallen on such evil days ? Let me remind honorable members opposite of what they know only too well : In 1901, the Labour party numbered in the House of Representatives 16, and in the Senate 8, making a total of 24; in 1904, in the House of Representatives 24, and in the Senate 14, or a total of 38 ; in 1907, in the House of Representatives 26, and in the Senate 15, or a total of 41 ; in 1910, in the House of Representatives 41, and in the Senate 23, or a total of 64; in 1913, in the House of Representatives 39, and in the Senate 29, making a total of 68 ; in 1914, in the House of Representatives 42, and in the Senate 31, making a total of 73 ; in 1917 - when the party appealed to Csesar - in the House of Representatives 22, and subsequently 23, and in the Senate 13, making a total of 36; and in 1919, in the House of Representatives 26, and in the Senate 1, making, a total of 27. Let us probe beneath all this debris and look at the buried masonry of the once glorious temple of Labour.
Honorable Members interjecting,
– Order !
– They cannot take their gruel.
– This is some of what I got all the time I was speaking.
– Order ! At least I look to the Leader of the Opposition to support the Chair.
– What treatment did they mete out to me when I was speaking?
– Give them as good as you got.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is again out of order.
– Let us have two eyes at work instead of one. No one-eyed businesshere.
– The honorable member for Maribymong is distinctly out of order. I call attention to a rule which is one of the most stringent that we have for the guidance of business. I may say that an ordinary interjection here and there is not usually taken notice of by the Chair, but a constant stream of interjections is decidedly disorderly. Standing Order No. 280 states-
No member shall interrupt another member whilst speaking, unless - (1) to request that his words be taken down; (2) to call attention toa point of order or privilege suddenly arising; or (3”) to call attention to the want of a quorum.
This is not merely a rule for the guidance of this Parliament, but is under constant reference for the governing of the procedure of the House of Commons; and there is no order which is more strictly enforced and adhered to, for without it the proceedings of Parliament would become impossible. I point out to honorable members who are so constantly interjecting that their words almost assume the length of speeches in themselves ; and that every honorable member has the right to speak actually at great length upon the motion before the Chair; and I again emphasize that any interjection, coming from no matter which side of the House, is disorderly. It is painful to have to call upon honorable members to maintain order, hut I ask that the Chair be assisted, and neither ignored nor defied.
– I have said that they appealed to Caesar, and I have shown how Caesar has answered them.
– Go on; give us something fresh.
– The honorable member for Dalley is again out of order, and if he offends once more, I shall be compelled to take the unpleasant course of naming him.
– In 1910, the figures in connexion with the Senate election showed that the votes cast for Labour totalled 2,021,090; for Liberals; 1,830,353, and for Independents, 166,676; majority for Labour, 190,737. I may say that, in none of the comparisons which I “am now about to make between the two parties are the votes of Independents included. In 1913, the Labour vote was 2,802,529; Liberal, 2,840,420; Independent, 109,248; majority for Liberals, 37,891. In 1914- the year of the double dissolution - the Labour figures were 6,223,900; Liberal, 5,500,223; Independent, 9,799; majority for Labour, 723,677. In 1917, official Labour votes totalled 2,776,648; Nationalist, 3,516,354; Independent, 57,368; majority for the Nationalists, 739,706. In 1919- and here I shall quote first preferences only - the figures for official Labour were 795,858; Nartionalists, 868,016; farmers, 172,626; Independent, 21,323; majority for Nationalists over Labour, 72,158; combined vote against Labour, 1,040,642; combined majority of Nationalists and Farmers over Labour, 244,784. As I have said, independent votes are not taken into account.
The figures speak for themselves. They demonstrate that at every election from 1901, every year, an increasing number of Labour supporters entered this Legislature until that black day in 1916, when i.he action of the majority of the party, taken at the bidding of those who had captured the machinery of the Labour movement, rent the united Labour party asunder. From that day to this, Labour - owing to the actions of those who have led it - has been wandering in the wilderness discredited and powerless. It has betrayed all those great principles of which it was so proud, and which it had held up to the topmost heights in the years that have gone. It has turned its back on those things which it had declared as being beyond price. It stood here stalwartly advocating an amendment of the Constitution; yet at the bidding of some of its leaders urged the people to vote against it. Compulsory training emanating from the Labour party, and declared by it to be the one thing necessary for the salvation of the country has been trampled -under foot. But a few short years since the Labour party was never tired of boasting that it had placed compulsory training on the Statute Book. But the gentleman who is to be returned here from
Ballarat in a few days openly proclaimed himself opposed to it. We were inordinately proud of what we had done for the Australian Navy, and we declared that any man who would do anything to weaken it would be thrusting a dagger at the heart of our national safety. Yet the man who isabout to return here says he is not in favour of an effective Australian Navy! Why have they turned their backs on these great principles which they advocated so long and with such earnestness?’ Is there one thing they stand for to-day for which they formerly stood?
Let me remind honorable members of some things they would fain forget. Let me recall an incident of 1915, which, perhaps, tells its own story better than anything else. In that early year of the war, at the Inter-State Labour Conference, in Adelaide, a certain resolution was passed; and I ask honorable gentlemen opposite whether, in any Conference at which they may gather to-day, such a resolution would be met by anything 1 .t scorn and derision. At the Adelaide Conference, on 3rd June, 1915, the following motion was proposed: -
That the following message be sent to HisMajesty: - “ The Commonwealth Political Labour Council, in conference assembled at Adelaide, loyally presents birthday greetings to His Majesty King George V., congratulates him on the attainment of his fiftieth anniversary, and confidently hopes that during the coming year his reign will be crowned by victory for the British and Allied arms in the great war of freedom and the realization of an enduring peace.”
This motion was carried to the accompaniment of cheers. When we turn from this striking evidence of the loyalty of the Labour party when led by men who had made and led the Labour movement from the beginning to the record of this same party since 1916 ; when we examine the chronicle of its doings during the years which followed the split, we perceive a complete explanation of its present position. We realize also the reason why it is where it is, and why it did what it has done.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) said something about the Nationalist party, and concerning our getting funds from Flinders-lane.
– I was quoting the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson).
– I know nothing of the matter. I will say this:No one today is able to call me his servant, to bid me come at his will. There is no outside organization, of any sort that can say to me, “ Do this,” and I will do it. There was an organization - the Labour party as it once was - which could do so; but it asked me to do the one thing which was impossible, and I refused it. It asked me to do that which was dishonorable to myself and treacherous to my country, and I would not do it. But there does not exist to-day any organization of any kind which can bid me do anything. Honorable members opposite cannot say that and still maintain their places here:
I have just recalled one incident in the Adelaide Conference of 1915. I have set forth the figures of Labour’s sweeping majority in 1914, when we polled 6,223,000, as against 5,500,000 by our opponents, giving us a majority of 723,000 in the electorates, and an overwhelming majority in both Houses of the Federal Legislature - there being thirtyone of our members in the Senate, and forty-two in the House of Representatives, making a grand total of seventy-three. Let me recall one or two things in order to make it clear as day to all who are not wilfully blind why the Labour party was triumphantly victorious in 1914, and why it has been overwhelmingly defeated ever since. I will read, for the benefit of honorable members, an extract from the Labour manifesto of 1914, the manifesto which fits the loyal resolution just quoted as a glove does the hand. It states -
Our interests and our very existence are bound up with those of the Empire. In time of war half-measures are worse than none. If returned with a majority, we shall pursue with the utmost vigour and determination every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency.
That was the spirit of the Labour party as it existed in 1914. This attitude typified the very soul of the Australian people. It was in the genuine belief that we were animated by this spirit that the people decided to intrust us with the difficult task of governing the country during the supreme crisis of its history. But what is the position to-day? I turn from the manifesto of 1914 - in consequence of which we re-entered this Parliament with seventy-three supporters - to the sayings of those who to-day are admittedly in the inner council, in the holy of holies, of the Labour party. Here are some of their utterances : -
They did not intend to sing the National Anthem. - Dr. Mannix (vide Argus, 18th June, 1919).
What does the Union Jack stand for so far as the Irish people are concerned? It stands for 700 years of oppression and alien rule; it stands for the depopulation of Ireland; it stands for the ruin of Ireland’s trade and prosperity; it stands for coercion and martial law; it stands for famine and exile; it reminds Irishmen of the blood shed by those who loved their country above their lives. This is what the Empire flag stands for in the minds of the Irish people. We cannot be expected to think as English people think, and we do not pretend to do so.- Dr. Mannix, May, 1919.
We are here for a declared definite purpose - to support Ireland’s claim as expressed at the last general election in Ireland, and to support her chosen leader, Eammon Do Valera. This is no time for halting words, or balanced phrases. We are with the Irish people, or we are against them. We help them openly, or we leave them to their fate. - Dr. Mannix, at IrishRace Convention.
And here is something of what De Valera has said: -
That so long as Germany was England’s enemy, and England Ireland’s enemy, so long would Ireland be Germany’s friend.
That he would never advocate another rebellion without hopeful chances of success. Proper organization would result in 500,000 fighting volunteers being raised. There is no hope of success except through a German invasion of England, and the landing of troops in Ireland. They should be prepared to leave nothing undone towards that end.
And now something to link these statements of Dr. Mannix and De’ Valera together -
I shook hands with him. I have nothing to apologize for. I have nothing to explain. I have done nothing I am ashamed of. - T. J. Ryan.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– It is dirt, pure and simple.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is out of order.
– Very well; all right.
– Order ! The honorable member for Maribyrnong is again out of order.
– Hear, hear !
– Order ! I must ask the right honorable the Prime Minister to resume his seat. I very much regret that I have to name the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) for persistently disregarding the authority of the Chair by interjecting after having been called to order several times, and particularly immediately after being pointedly reminded of his disorderly behaviour, and I must ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary steps to enforce the Standing Orders.
– If he does I think we will all walk out.
– Good riddance to the lot.
– I call attention, Mr. Speaker, to the interjection made by an honorable member opposite.
– Order ! ‘ The House must deal with the situation created by the honorable member for Maribyrnong first.
– All right ! Put him out without a trial.
– Ballarat is no good to you over there.
– Mr. Speaker, will the motion I am called upon to move be taken out of my time? If so-
– Order ! If the right honorable the Prime Minister is disinclined to support the authority of the Chair when called upon to do so, whether the time occupied by the motion is taken out of his time or not, I am afraid it will be impossible to preserve order in debate. The honorable member for Maribyrnong distinctly defied the Chair on three occasions by deliberately interjecting after being requested by the Chair to conform to the rules of the House and maintain order, and no other course is open to me but to request the Prime Minister to move that the honorable member- for Maribyrnong be suspended from the sitting of the House.
– I hope the honorable member for Maribyrnong will take the usual course by submitting to the authority of the representative which this House has chosen to preside over its deliberations, and thus uphold and maintain order and decorum in debate. If anything I may have said caused irritation, the honorable member must recognise, nevertheless, that in refusing to obey the Chair he is really offending against himself and his own privileges. I never move the motion I am now asked to submit, without the utmost reluctance. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has been here for a long time, and I ask him, as a sensible man, to adopt the proper course, and apologize to the Chair.
– Was “Hear, hear,” a disorderly remark? That is what I was called to order for.
– In the circumstances certainly it was.
– I was only cheering you most heartily.
– The honorable, member has been persistently interrupting the debate, and disregarding the Chair, and whenever I called him to order he said “Hear, hear!” in an ironical, loud and offensive manner. However, I have no desire to press the matter, and if the honorable member will apologize to the House I shall be very pleased’.
– If there was any iron in my remarks, I will withdraw the iron. I withdraw any remark I have made, Mr. Speaker.
– I will now call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the remark made by an honorable member on the other side. He said, “ Good riddance to the lot of you.”
– I did not hear the interjection complained of, owing to the disorder of the House.
– I distinctly heard the interjection.
– In the circumstances, I again direct honorable members’ attention to the Standing Orders, particularly the standing order which lays it down that the Speaker must be heard in silence. As there seems to be considerable doubt as to who was guilty of the interjection’ complained of, I think it best to regard the incident as closed.
– Mr. Speaker, I made the interjection.
– Then I must ask the honorable member to apologize.
– If any honorable member opposite takes exception to my remark, I have no hesitation in withdrawing it.
– I was saying, when honorable members interrupted me, that the Official Labour party had fallen upon evil days. If we contrast its present position with that which it previously occupied, and remember how abruptly, towards the end of 1916, it turned from being the very embodiment of warlike spirit and loyalty, to that attitude of grovelling pacifism and disloyalty, which marked our enemies everywhere, we need not look in vain for the explanation. I think I have given honorable members the key to it. Every one knows what I have said to be true. I warned my friends of the Labour party, when amongst them, that they had come to the parting of the ways. Since .then they have realized that I spoke the truth. Had they stood fast then, they would to-day, as they did then, enjoy the confidence of the people of Australia. This they have lost. They have gone farther into the morass by throwing this and that principle aside, and still they go on, under the leadership of those whose object is, not the improvement of the condition of the workers nor the elevation and progress of Australia/ - they care nothing for the Labour movement save as it will serve their purpose - they have, no concern even for Australia - but the dismemberment of the British Empire. It is of no use mincing -words on this matter. This is the avowed object of those who now control the Labour movement. If honorable members opposite deny that the section to which I refer controls the Labour movement, then they are saying that which they know to be untrue. Any one who knows the Labour movement can prove it. But they know it very well. There was a time when things were very different; a time when these men would have been “booted” out of the Labour movement ; but to-day they are its chosen leaders. At this very moment the Leader of the Opposition himself is in peril. Let me prove it by a quotation : -
Mr. Ryan is marked out as the Leader of the Labour Party. . . . Mr. Tudor is quite uninspiring. . . . Mr. Ryan is young, brilliant and original - a great leader of political cavalry charges to sweep the country. - (Australia, 1st October, 1919.)
It will be no small help to the Irish cause to have as its exponent the man who must, in the future, bo Australia’s Prime Minister. - (Dr. Mannix at Bendigo).
And but yesterday Mr. Martin Hannah went down. Why? What did he do? Nothing*
This Labour party was swept into power by the people at a great crisis - chosen because it was believed to .be loyal to the Empire and the living embodiment of every great principle for which Australia stands. It carried out the wishes of the people until 1916, when it became the mere tool of that disloyal section amongst us to which I have referred. Then what a change came over its actions and its attitude! It had been for the war, for the Empire. But at the bidding of those who had captured its councils, it turned against the war, against the Empire. Amongst the proposals on the business-paper for the annual Conference of the Victorian Political Labour Council was the following: -
That the policy of the Labour party be to push on for peace as soon as possible, and that they take no further part in recruiting.
That, however, was suppressed as soon as the result of the 1917 election was announced. At the Labour Interestate Conference at Perth, on the 21st June, 1918, it was resolved -
Further participation in recruiting shall be subject to the following conditions: -
That a clear and authoritative statement be made on behalf of the Allies asserting their readiness to enter into peace negotations on the basis of no annexation and no penal indemnities.
Then the Sydney Labour Council, on the 30th May, 1918, decided-
We refuse to take part in any recruiting campaign, and call on the workers of this and all other belligerent countries to urge their respective Governments to immediately secure an armistice on all Fronts and initiate negotiations for peace.
The manifesto issued by the Victorian Labour party in April, 1918, contained the following: -
Peace with a British victory is impossible; the Allies cannot beat the Central Powers. The Labour party believes that the humiliation of a nation creates in its people a spirit of revenge. The Labour party stands for immediate cessation of lighting. No annexations or indemnities.
All these things fit like the marbles into a solitaire board - the pattern is filled up, nothing is missing. These gentlemen still mouth some of their ancient shibboleths, but they are bound to the wheel. Their movement is in chains. They talk and talk about the high cost of living, but say nothing as to why they voted against the only effective way of dealing with it. Nothing as to -why they abandoned compulsory training. They talk about the soldier, and proclaim themselves his champions, but they say nothing of why they abandoned him during the dark days of the war, or why they passed those resolutions at Perth in favour of a dishonorable and craven peace. We know, however, why they did all these things; we know the reasons for their abandonment of the principles which they formerly held so dear. It is because their machinery has been captured by those who would hurl them out of Parliament and office in the twinkling of an eye if they had dared to act in any other way.
I have said that Labour has fallen under the domination of disloyalists - those who seek to dismember the Empire - and wild extremists. Let me now say a few brief words of this latter class. Mr. J. S. Garden, secretary of the Sydney Labour Council, and of the One Big Union, reported in the Sydney Sun, of the 21st January, 1919, said -
I say the Soviet system of Russia should be adopted here, the same as we have adopted it on our committee in Sydney.
The Victorian Labour Conference, on the 20th April, 1919, expressed earnest hope for Bolshevist success in Russia, recognising “ that common ownership and workers’ management of the means of production” were sought. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), according to the Labour Call, Melbourne, of the 8th August, 1918, “hoped to see the policy of the Bolsheviks accepted all over the world “ ; and ex-Senator Barnes, in the Argus of the 21st January, 1919,. is reported as saying, “I am looking with hope to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.” Disloyalty and Bolshevism, between them explain everything that has happened to the Labour movement. They explain why it was that in 1914 the party was returned with seventy-two men, and to-day has twentyseven in both Houses; they explain why at every election from 1901 to 1914, the party which went on without a reverse, gathering strength with every step, in 1917 met with such an appalling defeat. For twenty years in States and Commonwealth the party grew, favoured by the people, who believed it to be a party which would place principle before everything. Then came the hour of fiery trial.
In that hour the Labour party failed - it became the bondsman of crafty and disloyal men and wild fanatics. We have seen the ground around its feet littered with the debris of broken principles. Yet, this party has still the effrontery to speak of the violation of pledges by this Government. I challenge honorable members opposite to mention, during the years of the Labour party’s triumph, any influence that has been exerted on behalf of the workers of this country in which I have hot played a great part. I particularly challenge them to say what they have done in the last few years except to destroy the Labour party. What is the policy of the party now ? It is a policy of destruction. In the industrial sphere it is a policy of “ go slow “ - of strikes. In H;he national sphere it is a policy of dismemberment of the Empire. In war, a degrading pact has to be made with the enemy. In Parliament, time is wasted. It is this party which has denied this Government power to deal with problems of the first importance to the people - industrial matters, Trusts and Combines, which for years they declared were a menace to the people. Honorable members on this side, to whom I was at one time opposed, know what the Labour party said in the days that are gone, and what they have done since 191C. And the people .of Australia know and will remember. Those behind their councils said that they must abandon compulsory training. They broke their god, smashing it to pieces at the bidding of men who led them to destruction. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has moved a vote of censure on the Government, but it would have been infinitely more proper had I moved a vote of censure on those who have shipwrecked the Labour movement. I tell him that the day will come when the Labour movement will have to fight for its life against those who are seeking to destroy it.
I have said all I intend to say, and I am sure that some honorable members opposite will think I have said far too much. But they have deliberately chosen to put forward, as a pretext, this wretched, flimsy motion in order to prevent Parliament going on with its business. On their heads rests the blame for wasting precious time. I have not spoken as fully as I could, but neither have I minced matters. My very soul revolts at the mouthing - I speak not of honorable members opposite, but of those outside - by men who dare to speak in the name of Labour. All they wish to do is to fool Labour, and make a tool of it in order to serve their mean, disloyal purposes.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– During the course of his remarks this afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that he had previously heard all that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had said in submitting this motion. I take it,, however, that a good thing will bear constant repetition. What the Prime Minister himself told us to-day we have all heard on many occasions. We heard it the other day at Ballarat, but it had no effect, and in the light of subsequent events would have been better left un-: said. However, that is a matter of taste. The first matter dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition was that of the high cost of living. How the Prime Minister could ridicule that question I utterly fail to understand. But in his reply to the attack of the honorable member he did so. In his effort to rebut the contentions of the honorable member, the Prime Minister made statements which will not hold water. Amongst other things, he said that whilst the honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Hughes Cabinet, he did nothing to lower the high cost of living. The right honorable gentleman must be possessed of a very bad memory, otherwise he could not have made that statement. It is well known that the honorable member for Yarra, whilst acting as Minister, for Trade and Customs, called down upon his head heavy condemnation from those who were supposed to be the farmers of Australia, but who, in reality, were only middlemen. The great deputation which was received in the Queen’s Hall was engineered, not by farmers, but by men who farm the farmers. The best evidence of the effective way in which the honorable member for Yarra dealt with these middlemen is supplied by the fact that at the gathering in question his name was hooted. The farmers of Australia are as much entitled to protect their own interests as is any other section of the community, but the– have no more rights than belong to any other class.
– We do not ask for more.
– I am glad the honorable member concedes that. The Prime Minister’s statement that the honorable member for Yarra, whilst acting as Minister for Trade and Customs, did nothing to reduce the high cost of living isa not correct. I would certainly use a stronger term in this connexion but that it would be unparliamentary to do so. What are the facts? In 1914, shortly after the honorable member for Yarra became Minister for Trade and Customs, it was made apparent that there would be a great shortage of wheat in Australia. ‘ Everybody knew that the approaching harvest would be small, and that wheat of inferior quality would need to be imported. Thereupon the honorable ‘ member for Yarra stopped the export of wheat and placed that commodity upon the free list. I have heard many condemn him for allowing wheat to come into Australia free of duty, but in the interests of the people that course had to be adopted. The honorable member also rendered good service in connexion with such commodities as meat and butter. Again, I say, that it was not the growers of wheat or the producers of butter who set up a howl at that time, but the men who had purchased these commodities from them and were selling them abroad for purposes of profit. Just as the producers of Australia should condemn the Government for their mishandling of our primary products abroad during the period of the war, they ought to assist us in condemning those middlemen who handle their commodities for the purposes of profit. We all know that since the armistice, and during the drought period, the farmer has been unable to fatten his cattle and sheep, and that while he has been receiving a less price for his stock the consumer has been paying a higher price for his meat than he has ever paid before. Our condemnation of these middlemen is therefore warranted, and should be supported by all those who are supposed to represent the primary producer of this country.
– Why does the honorable member say “supposed”?
– I did not apply that term either to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) or the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), because they are farmers and farmers’ representatives. But there are members of the Country party in this chamber who cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be called farmers. It cannot be controverted that, during the past few months, the people of Australia have beenpaying more for their meat than they have ever paid for it previously, and that the quality of the article supplied to them has been very inferior. Much of the meat put upon the market has been very tough, yet high prices have been paid for it. Is it any wonder that the people resent high prices being exacted from them for meat of inferior quality?
– Does the honorable member blame the farmers for the present high price of meat?
– If the honorable member had been listening to me, he would have known that I made a direct charge against the middlemen. Whether the honorable member himself has any interests in the concerns of middlemen I do not know.
– The honorable member knows quite well.
– The honorable member for Yarra, while Minister for Trade and Customs, also prevented the export of butter until the people of Australia had been assured of a sufficient supply for their own requirements.
– At what price?
– At a fair price. If the honorable member will go back to the early part of 1915, he will find that the dearth of shipping had not then become acute. There was not, at that time, the clamant demand by our producers for the world’s parity, because meat and butter were then being sold for export cheaper than they were being sold for local consumption. To-day contracts are in existence for the supply of these commodities overseas for 50 per cent. less than they are being sold locally.
– Not meat.
– I am informed on very reliable authority that there are now in our freezing chambers large quantities of meat which has been sold overseas for 6d. per lb., notwithstanding that the wholesale price locally is 9d. per lb. We know that today the people of Victoria are paying1s. per lb. for tough bull’s hide. I can speak upon this matter from personal knowledge, because I have very good teeth. I have mentioned these particular commodities because the Prime Minister, who has more effrontery than have ten ordinary men, has stated that the Leader of the Opposition, when filling the office of Minister for Trade and Customs, did nothing to keep down the price of foodstuffs. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that at the time of which he was speaking there was grave doubt, owing to the decisions of the High Court, whether anything could be accomplished in that direction. I might enumerate much more that was done by the honorable member for Yarra to reduce the cost of living, and I was indeed surprised that he remained silent while the Prime Minister was making his statement. Had I been in his place, I would have interjected, in a tone sufficiently loud for even the Prime Minister to hear, that his statement was far from the truth. But the Leader of the Opposition refrained from interjecting, being evidently possessed of very much more patience than I have. It is no news to honorable members to be told what was done, because of the middlemen who engineered the mass deputation to which I have already referred. The members of that deputation, instead of wearing red ties, wore bits of wool in their buttonholes, and were evidently very proud of these emblems. They did considerable damage to the Queen’s Hall in their zeal to howl down the name of Tudor. There was never a greater compliment paid to any man than that paid to him by the deputation in question when they hooted the mere mention of his name. By their action they admitted thatthe regulations which he had framed whilst filling the position of Minister for Trade and Customs had prevented them from cornering meat and butter. Until all these primary products were pooled, the farmers of Australia did not get the price for them that they should have received. They were obliged to sell in order to meet their liabilities. They had to sell their wheat at1s. 81/2d. per bushel in 1893, just after the great financial crisis in Victoria, when Melbourne was almost deserted, yet the middlemen who bought it sold it afterwards at 3s. 6d. and 3s.71/2d. per bushel. If the representatives of the farmers are determined that this should not happen again, they ought to support us in our endea vour to see that the people who produce get a fair return, while at the same time a fair price is charged to the consumer. Some representatives of the farmers seem to object to the desire of the workers to get commodities as cheaply as possible; but while the workers claim that the wages they are paid shall be- in proportion to the cost of living - I think, they ought to claim more’ - they are all, with the exception, perhaps, of a few cranks, ready to admit that the farmer should receive a price which will give him a fair chance of living in comfort.
When the Leader of the Opposition presented his case in regard to the bad handling of our commodities on the other side of the world, that charge being laid against the Government,, it was peculiar that, when the Prime Minister, was replying there was not a word of rebuttal from any honorable member in the Corner. Neither did the Prime Minister answer the charge. He was not aware that other nations had received our goods, and were charging higher prices for them ; but it was something he should have known. The Government ought to be able to follow all our commodities where they go, and demand that the Australian producer shall get the full return for what he sends away. I do not think that the producers ought to be so hard on the workers as, according to some of their statements, they appear to be. But perhaps it is thoughtlessness on their part. On the other hand I want the producers to get a fair deal. It is not under estimating the amount when I say that they have lost £100,000,000 on the sale of their products overseas. We are told that the armies of the United States of America were clothed with our wool at about ls. 3£d. per lb.
– The United States of America did not get a bale of our wool at ls. 3½d. per lb. They paid 80 per cent, above that rate for the cheapest wool they received.
– I know well that the growers of Australia did not get the enormous prices paid by many countries for our wool, and I am sorry that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and those engaged in the handtomouth calling he follows, did not get higher prices - not because I am concerned for their interests, but because I want to see them taxed on their returns. We should have been able to reduce very considerably the financial strain on the country through the sale of our commodities. This was a matter which the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) went to Great Britain to negotiate. Now we are told that there, is difficulty in the way, and we are led to believe that the honorable member for Balaclava resigned .his portfolio because be was not permitted to handle this very complex question in his own way. However, I regret that Australia did not get more of the money, because I know that the capitalists of other countries got it, and are now endeavouring to squeeze us here as well as the people of Great Britain.
Having failed in his endeavour to prove that the Leader of the Opposition had done nothing towards reducing the cost of living, the Prime Minister in that peculiar style of his own, which is very effective with a lot of people, although not with honorable members in the House, launched forth upon an oratorical attack on the Labour party of Australia for having refused to accept his proposal for increasing the legislative powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. But he knows very well that the Bill he brought forward was not a copy of the Labour party’s proposals. So much had been cut away from our proposals that it could not be recognised as being anything like the Bills put before the people by this party in 1910 and 1913, and which we again desired to submit to the people in 1916, but were prevented because the Prime Minister had accepted something from the State Premiers which afterwards they did not concede. As a matter of fact, when the Prime Minister’s Bill was brought forward last year, the majority of our party accepted it, feeling that it was better to catch half a loaf than to have no bread, but the measure was so distorted in the Senate as to be rendered absolutely useless. In the circumstances, the honorable gentleman’s statement that we were going back on the great desire of the Labour party to increase the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament cannot be sustained, and he knows it. When the Bill returned from the Senate, I objected to it, and, although the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) ‘ maintained that it was the same measure, it took the
Prime Minister three-quarters of an hour to elaborate the necessity for the alteration made in another place. Our proposals had been so cut down that they were hardly recognisable, and I for one could see there was no chance of the Bill being brought into operation. For one thing, the time would certainly expire before the proposed Convention could meet to draw up by some mutual arrangement the powers to be given to this Parliament. No one could imagine States which claimed sovereign rights conceding one jot of power to this Parliament, and I am sure that it will never be done by concession from the State Parliaments until the people of the States become alive to the situation, and make the demand that it shall be done. The Labour party turned down the Prime Minister’s Bill because he would not ask for the full powers we thought this Parliament should possess, and there was consternation among many in the ranks when the question was left free to the individual, because a large number of our supporters outside advocated that the party should reject the Prime Minister’s proposal outright. The Prime Minister is perfectly well aware of our reason for turning it down. We realized that, even if the people agreed to the Bill, the powers given to this Parliament would be useless.
The right honorable gentleman went on to talk of the past glories of the great Labour movement. It comes with ill grace for him to gloat over the downfall of the movement, seeing that he was the principal cause of it. He would have shown more decency if he had left the question alone. By a play of words, he can make those who agree with him believe anything, but he cannot make those who understand the question believe in what he says. They are aware that it is nothing but his usual attempt to force his opinion ‘ on others. The Prime Minister will live to regret much that he has done, and which is now beyond recall, but it makes one’s blood boil to hear him gibing at the Labour party because of the smallness of its numbers as compared with 1913-14, when we know that he was the principal cause of the whittling down of these numbers. No party can live with disruption within its ranks. No party can go to the country broken, and hope to come back successful. The Prime Minister knows that to-day he handles very lightly the majority on the other side of the chamber. Just before the adjournment for the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the right honorable gentleman turned his back upon this side, and, addressing the Corner party, and those disgruntled ones sitting immediately behind the Government bench, said, “ If I am to be pushed by anybody, it will not be by this side.” On another occasion, boiling because *of attacks made from his own side, he said, “ I have led that side, and I have led this side, and I know where I got the most loyalty. It was not from this side.” On each occasion, it was a warning to those on his side who would break away.
– -Are those two statements recorded in Hansard?
– The honorable member will find them in Hansard. It was a warning to the honorable member and others that the Prime Minister expected loyalty from them, and that if he did not get it, he would hand them to the wolves. As a matter of fact, the . members on this side and those who have sent them here are the lambs of the community.
– Some of them are very loud-voiced lambs.
– The indignities put upon us, and the disabilities under which’ we suffer, have developed our voices.
The Prime Minister made another charge against the leaders of the Labour movement. He said that the disabilities of the, workers could be removed, and the unrest that is causing so much discontent stopped, by a round-table conference of employers and employees, at which “the wolf would dwell with the lamb.” We know, however, that when that happens the wolf has everything his own way, and the lamb is eaten. ‘ That is why the representatives of the Trades Hall would not’ accept places at such a conference. They knew that after they had made, a fight, and used all the guile that is needed to meet successfully the rapacious profiteer, whatever concessions their ingenuity might extract for the benefit of the wage-earners, no lasting advantage would be gained. When employers and employees confer to settle a question, though the workers may gain an advance in wages, that advantage is immediately whittled away by a rise in prices. To make things even for the workers, there would have to be roundtable conferences every fortnight. The refusal of the representatives of the Trades Hall of Victoria to attend a round-table conference was a warning to those who wished to sit with them as to the temper of the workers to-day. Notwithstanding his taunts and gibes at the workers, the Prime Minister was” “beating the air.” Of course, he may get many foolish workers to believe him, because at the close of his address he brought to bear his long-range gun, and he imported what some persons call “ insecticide.” For many years past that has been the last shot fired. He knows what he can do with it, and by similar methods; but these will not always act.
Soaring again, the right honorable gentleman spoke about the enormous amount of public money on the market causing the inflation of values, though he knows as well as I do, and all who have considered the question broadly know, that if has nothing whatever to do with the case.
– That the inflation of the currency has had nothing to do with the rise in prices!
– No. The cause of the rise in prices is that during the war certain men made enormous profits, and if prices had not gone down they would have been able to buy the world. Prices had to go up, so that their purchasing power should not be so great as in pre-war times. That may bo ruleofthumb financing, but it is the truth. When Mr. Fisher proposed to issue Commonwealth notes we were told that an issue of £7,000,000 in notes with a backing of 25 per cent. in goldwas rotten currency. The notes were termed “Fisher’s flimsies,” and it was said that we were creating a currency that would not be accepted anywhere. Yet, during the war, the banks rushed to the Treasury with 10,000,000 sovereigns, for which they accepted £40,000,000 in notes. They knew that that action was essential for the financing of Australia. What in peace time, when everything was normal, was called rotten currency was during war-time inflated 300 per cent.
– All those notes were not issued.
– Not to the public, but they were used as instruments of finance. Now that the war is over, we hear it said that there is £20,000,000 too much in notes floating about - that the notes ought to he called in. We know why some want to call them in. It is because that would bring about a financial crisis, and then they would be able to get at the throat of the wage-earners.
Mr.Riley. - And of the small men.
– If it is so pernicious to have the notes in circulation, why does not the Government call them in? Are Ministers afraid of the result of that? Of course, they are.
The Prime Minister has said that the only way to improve our position is for the workers to stop going slow and to produce more. He says that when the workers realize that they can get out of the present position only in that way, it will be better for the community. It will be thebetter for a section of the community. The wage-earner knows that the more he produces the higher are the profits of the boss, and that in time he will be thrown on the unemployed market. I read an article recently in which it was counselled that the worker should go on producing until we got normal, and that then would be the time for him to talk; but when we become normal as regards productivity the wageearners will be thrown out of work, and will not be able to purchase the commodities that they have manufactured or helped to produce. That has happened all over the world under the present economic system. At one time it was possible to tell the producers to go on producing. The cry in America was “ Produce; produce; make your country rich.” Yes, and to hell with the unfortunates who did the producing ! During the depression of 1893 the warehouses of Melbourn were full, and yet many persons were thrown out of work, and, therefore, could not buy those commodities. Why was wheat down to1s. 8d. then? It was because the people could not afford to buy it, which made it possible for those who had the money to buy it wholesale, and hold it until they could get a better price six months later. To say that the worker should produce more in order to improve his position is to say something so economically unsound that I wonder the Prime Minister uttered it.
– It is not unsound. -
– I can understand the honorable member’s interjection, because he is not a wage-earner. The boy outside the tart shop looks at the goods in the window differently from the boy inside. The honorable member is inside.
– Does the honorable member think it impossible for a man to take an impartial view of the question ?
– Perhaps it is not. The Prime Minister raised his voice about the loyalty of the Labour party. He referred to Mr. Fisher’s promise of the last man and the last shilling, and he spoke of the message that was sent to His Majesty King George the Fifth, on his birthday, in 1915. That message was news to me. The wax in 19.14 was a very different thing from the war in 1916, because, in March of the latter year, Mr. Lloyd George admitted that the Germans were howling for, peace - his statement appeared in the Times .and in other British newspapers - “ But,” he said, “ we will go on until we bring them to their knees.” The Labour .movement then recognised .that we were no longer fighting .for our own protection, but for the money-bags of Great Britain and her Allies. What was gained by prolonging the war for two years and six months ? Have the Germans been ‘brought to their knees ? According to to-night’s Herald they are still giving impertinence at Spa, and .have .caused a dead -lock. That the Germans should dare to claim from the representatives of so-called civilized nations the right to live themselves seems to be a .matter for surprise. Had the war been- brought to an end in .1916, when the Germans knew that they could not gain what they w.er.e after, millions of lives would have been spared, and -thousands of millions of pounds would have been saved. But the making of profits :of thousands of pounds .by war contractors would have been stopped.
– And we should be the slaves <of Germany.
– Lloyd George, who is one of the honorable member’s .gods, said in 1916 that the Germans were howling for peace.
– On their own ‘terms.
– When one is howling, that is, squealing, for peace, he is the under dog in the fight.
– What the honorable member says is not correct. What was meant was that they were offering peace.
– The Minister for the Navy may be a brave man, but I doubt if during the war he would have told Lloyd George that he did not know what he was talking about.
– I would not have liked to do so.
– All I know is that that is what Mr. Lloyd George said. We have the authority of the British press for it, and, unlike the Melbourne press, it sometimes tells -the truth. When the Prime Minister taunts us with the difference between our attitude in 1915 and our attitude afterwards, he knows quite well that if the German howl had been accepted by the so-called civilized countries, we would have had more people here to produce than we have, because, after that overture was rejected, thousands more of our men were killed or maimed; and Uncle Three-balls “ has “ us for hundreds of millions more than we ought to owe.
– Does the honorable member believe that we could have made peace in 1916?
– Yes; with far better results to civilization than -were secured by the peace of 1918.
– Only by a German victory, and in no other way.
– Lloyd George said, in 1916, that the Germans were ‘howling for peace.
– On their own terms.
– The man who squeals in a fight is the man who knows be has had enough.
When the Prime Minister referred to our victory at Ballarat, he again soared to the heights. He charged the honorable member-elect for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) with wanting to do away with ‘ the Australian Navy. Does any honorable member believe that the people of Australia will stand the keeping up of the Navy we have with its establishment of about 5,000 men, and its -enormous cost? Before the war, our expenditure on the Navy was £800,000 or £900,000. To-day it is over £5,000,000, although we were told that the object of the war was to. put a stop to the expenditure on war material and the raising of armies. “It is said ‘that if we had stopped the war in 1916 our victory would not have been an effective one. Is it an effective victory now when we have to. keep armies and navies larger than we kept before? The hope held out to the people was that when the war was finished we would do away with our enormous armies and navies. I agree with Mr. McGrath that it is impossible for the people of Australia to pay for the Army and Navy at the rate we are paying now.
-Where does the honorable member get his estimate of £5,000,000 from?
– While the Fleet was in Melbourne for the Prince’s visit, I ascertained, from inquiry, that the number of men required to man those ships was between 4,000 and 5,000. It would be necessary to have quite that number to man that largeFleet and keep up the necessary shore establishments.
– The cost is less than half the sum you mention.
– I still say that the expenditure on the Navy will be about £5,000,000 a year. We are not ashamed to contend that the expenditure on the Army and Navy should he reduced, as we were told it would be reduced. The Government are trying to make up their minds how far they will reduce it, and how and then we read an inspired article in the press about what they intend. Yet, when a Labour representative dares to state during an election campaign that our military and naval expenditure will have to come down, and that our Navy will have to be broken up, the Prime Minister regards him with horror, and endeavours to make capital out of what he has said. If the press, which talks about economy, would howl for it in that direction, it would be much more effective than when it cries out for the reduction of wages among the working members of the community. If the Age had devoted to the Army and Navy expenditure one quarter of the space which it gave to the “ salary grab,” it might have done some good, but it is not getting a share of the “ salary grab” whereas it is getting a share of the other profits. That is why it will not howl about them Our expenditure on the Army and Navy is one of the directions in which we can economize., No Labour man will ever be ashamed of saying that, now that the great war which was to settle all wars is over, most of our warships should be placed upon the scrap heap. We know that is all they are fit for. I do not ask the Minister for the Navy to admit it.
– I will not admit it, because it is not true.
– Some of the gifts that we received from the British Government were of no use to them, although they might have been too good to break up. Still they are not up to date as fighting machines. When the Prime Minister taunts Mr. McGrath. with advocating the reduction of the Navy, heis simply giving vent to cheap talk that ought not to have, and I do notbelieve will have, any effect on the community.
Sirjosephcook- Areyousepaking for the Labour party when you say the present Navy should be scrapped? You are making some serious, statements.
– I am giving the honorable member my own opinion. I am not speaking for the party, but I believe the general opinion of the party is that the present Navy establishment is too large for Australia to keep up ; that the expenditure ought to be reduced ; and that much of the Fleet that we saw here recently could safely be stored away in Sydney harbor, or in portion of Hobson-‘s Bay, or someother port, with watchmen on board. Then the people could look with awe upon it as upon a relic of the great war. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) on one occasion, when I said that most of our Navy ought to be scrapped, asked if I was serious, seeing that I was the representative of a naval port. If I tried to bolster up unnecessary expenditure simply from a desire to hold my seat, I would be unworthy torepresent any section of the community. In spite of the fact that I may lose votes by my attitude, I still say that our Navy establishment is too large. We cannot afford it, and that is where economy ought to be applied.
I am glad the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is present, because I wish to speak about old-age and invalid pensions, and war pensions. I told the Treasurer that his path was a thorny one. I have often heard Ministers say that a request for money was reasonable and necessary, but that they could not get the money from the Treasurer. If money is wanted, the-
Treasurer must extract it from somewhere, and if the war had continued, he could still have produced millions. We paid a good deal of war expenditure out of revenue, but we are not doing so now. If the Treasurer liked to tax those who have made the most money, according to the extent of their wealth, he would find that they could spare a few millions without being hurt. We are often told about the great wealth of the country, but most of.it is held by a few persons, who have not made it by their own exertions, but by exploiting the rest of th* community, although they have done it legally. They could not have made their wealth if it had not been for the rest of the community, because only human beings can produce wealth. Many of those who have produced it for the wealthy people of Australia have fallen by the wayside. They have become invalids, or have been worn out. In our present economic system, old men and women cannot be poleaxed, or thrown to the lions and tigers at Royal Park. Such practices would not be tolerated even by our present partial civilization.’ In past days, before we had .become even a quarter civilized, people who were old and worn out were never considered at all. In much of our present day legislation we recognise that it is the duty of the State to look after the interests of its people, but in calculating the wages that a man should receive the tendency is to reckon only what it costs him to live, taking no account of his need to put by savings for lus old age. The Acting Treasurer has stated recently that he cannot find money to increase the old-age and invalid pen- sions. During the last six or seven months I have received quite a hundred letters from all parts of the Commonwealth from people who have told me the actual facts about their position. Through no fault of their own they find that the 15s. a week pension is all they have to live on. One old lady tells me that her savings of £800 were lost in the failure of one of the building societies twenty years ago. She is now 80 years of age, and all she has to look to is the 15s. per week pension. There must be hundreds and thousands of these cases. V.Te know that those who ‘ can get no assistance from relatives or friends cannot possibly live on 15s. a week. Mr.
Lemmon, a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, has forwarded me a letter from an old couple, over 70 years of age, who wrote from a benevolent asylum to ask him if they could not possibly get some of the increased pension money. Somebody has the money in the community. The Treasurer will not make friends by taking it from those who have it, but civilization demands that something more should be done towards the support of these unfortunate people. War widows originally received a pension of £1 per week; but, finding that they could not live on that allowance, the Government granted them an, increase. Recently the amount has been reduced in the case of young widows to £1 per “week.
– That is not so.
– Well, assuming that they received £1 10s. per week, I have only to say that if the Government consider it necessary to grant the widow of a soldier 30s. per week, it should be even more necessary to grant the same amount by way of pension to a poor old man or woman who, in the industrial strife, has fallen by the way.
– In all ^probability, if the honorable member’s party had remained in office, old-age pensioners would have continued to receive only 12s. 6d. per week. It was only after we had decided to increase the old-age pension to 15s. a week that Opposition members began to urge that it should be raised to £1.
– That is not correct. If we were in .power, we should hot be afraid to tax those who have the money in order to raise the funds necessary to provide an invalid and old-age pension of £1 per week. The increase from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week was made only last January, but the cost of living is still going up. In passing, I may say that no trade union will ever again be induced to sign an agreement for three years, or even twelve months, because the workers now realize that a wage that they might to-day consider adequate would probably be wholly inadequate three months hence, because of the increase in prices. We are told that as wages increase so the cost of living must go up. If that is so, a change must be made in our social system. We shall have to change our industrial conditions unless we are to say that the workers must be content, as in the old days, to accept without cavil whatever is offered to them. The day has long since passed when the workers would be prepared to do anything of the kind. The Prime Minister said this evening that we were wasting time by discussing this motion instead of giving the Government an opportunity to deal with the cost of living. They have, however, given us no evidence of any intention on their part to move in the right direction. If the cost of living is to go on increasing we shall have more trouble. We have had a strike in Melbourne for some weeks; but it is only the forerunner of an infinitely larger trouble that will arise unless some action is taken to put down profiteering. I hope that the Government will find some way of providing the money necessary to enable them to keep their compact with the men who have fought for us, and with their dependants. I hope, also, that they will increase the invalid and old-age pensions in proportion to the increase in the cost of living.
I come now to the war gratuity bonds. During the last ten days I have been asked by at least 200 returned men how they can obtain cash for their bonds. When the War Gratuity Bill was before us, the Prime Minister distinctly stated that it had been so framed that the harpies who prey upon mankind would be unable to make money by trafficking in these bonds. He declared that no one would be able to rob the returned soldier of the full face value of his bond. I do not know whether certain traders in the community have discovered a flaw in the Act, but I do know that, in many cases, the bonds have changed hands under circumstances that were not contemplated when the Bill was before the House.
– I am afraid the honorable member is right.
– In come cases soldiers are being told that they can purchase furniture to the value of 60 or 70 per cent, of their bonds, and receive the balance in cash. This system of trafficking is being so largely resorted to by certain traders that unless- a stop is put to it ‘ immediately our second-hand furniture shops will shortly be overcrowded with furniture purchased by soldiers merely with the object of getting cash for portion of their bonds. If there is a flaw in the Act every one should know of it. Why should one section of the community be able to deal in this way with men who wish to get cash for their bonds, while others who are prepared to do business in a genuine, straightforward way are shut out?
– I am not sure that it would not have been better in the long run for the soldier to have made the war gratuity bonds absolutely non-negotiable.
– My view is that the gratuity should have been paid in cash.
– That could have been done only by floating a loan of £30,000,000.
– The men were promised a cash gratuity, and the Government should have been prepared, if necessary, to find the money by a compulsory loan. If the Act is ineffective, so that harpies are able to trade in these bonds to the detriment of the soldiers, the Government should immediately amend it. If they are not prepared to do that, they should, at least, make a straightforward statement on the subject, and so put every one on the same plane. Will the Acting Treasurer state whether it is a fact that tradespeople, before taking a bond from a soldier in payment for goods are able to go to the Treasury and have the bonds transferred to them?
– They have to obtain the consent of the Treasury.
– Then, as a matter of fact, people who are trafficking in these bonds send them to the Treasury for transfer ?
– To the Board.
– And this in spite of the fact that we were told when the Bill was before us that trafficking could not possibly take place under it? I can only say that the Government have misled us, and that no more telling indictment than this could be made against them.
– The Act allows the bonds to be cashed in certain cases.
– I am aware of that ; but we were informed that it would not permit transactions such as those to which.
I have just referred. In one case a returned soldier holding a £90 bond purchased furniture valued at £63, although Ii do- not think there -was more than. £50 worth in the parcel, and was given cash in respect of the balance of his bond. He now has the furniture for sale.
– Did he obtain the consent of the Treasury to the transfer of his bond?
– He could get the consent of the Treasury to buy furniture The Treasury could know nothing of any private arrangement made between the soldier -and the furniture vendor.
– Then the whole Act is a farce. ‘
– A soldier ought not to be allowed to negotiate his bond in that way. .
– That is not the point. The Prime Minister said that harpies- would not be able to make money out of the. necessities of the soldiers who. received these, bonds. The. present system is unfair to honest traders.
– Might I suggest that instead of fulminating in this way, the honorable- member would do better by sitting down and trying to frame a regulation to put a stop to the sort of thing of which he complains.
– I am neither a lawyer nor a parliamentary draftsman, and what is more, I am. not a member of the Government. It is not for me to frame such a regulation. The responsibility, rests with the Government. I call upon the. Prime Minister or the Acting. Treasurer to make a public statement, so that traders may know exactly what is the position in regard to the negotiation of the war. gratuity bonds. Men constantly ask me how they can convert their bonds into cash. I know that I cannot send them to a fair dealer, and as I am not prepared to hand them over to a rogue of a dealer, I am unable to help them. The sooner we have from the Government a plain statement on this subject, the better for the soldiers and the community as a whole.
The Prime Minister in the course of his speech stated that the Labour party since it lost him had fallen upon evil days, and amongst evil men. Having made that statement, he quoted from a newspaper paragraph in regard to Dr. Mannix. The right honorable gentleman made the charge that the leaders of the
Labour party were outside the movement. He said that Dr. Mannix was our leader. He knows that is not correct. Dr. Mannix has as much right to interfere in the political world as has any other minister of religion, and no more. He has’ as much right to interfere in political affairs as has the Rev. Mr. Woodfull, the Rev. Mr. Worrall, or any of their class. If he has been more effective in his- interference, it is, perhaps, because he is a strong man and the others are weaklings. If Dr. Mannix has taken advantage of every opportunity to attack the Ministerial party, he was justified in doing so. He occupies rather a peculiar position, because, as an Irishman, and one of a race who have always been clamouring for liberty they have never been allowed to enjoy, his sympathies are naturally with the downtrodden. I am not a member of his Faith, ‘but rather the opposite, as I have frequently said; but, unlike the clergymen of other denominations, he has taken the side of the lowly in the community; and because he has done so, we are told that he is our leader: That he is admired by a great section of the workers is quite correct, and if they choose to admire him who shall say them nay? When the Prime Minister drags this question into political life, as he did successfully at the last general election, and as with less success he endeavoured to do at the Ballarat by-election, he treads upon, very dangerous ground. He hurls these taunts at us to-day in the hope that they will prove injurious to our party ; but let me gay that we welcome assistance from every section, of the community. In my opinion, it is to the everlasting disgrace of the representatives of other churches that they have not been found with Dr. Mannix on the side of the lowly, but on the other side. It is because of this difference that the Prime Minister selects the representative of a particular church and hurls at him, and us, the taunt that he is our leader. It is true that Dr. Mannix has assisted us- in many directions, and that his assistance has been used to injure the Labour party. But honorable members opposite will not always be able to adopt that course. It will not wash for ever. They have talked of our disloyalty, that of Dr: Mannix, and about dismembering the- Empire. Suppose that we did dismember the
Empire, who should say us nay if to do so were for the benefit of the people? Is it not the boast of this great and glorious Empire that it concerns itself with the -well-being of its people. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) does not approve of these remarks. Those associated with the honorable member do not want to disrupt the Empire, because it is by waving the flag that they have made their money.
– The honorable member does not wish to disrupt the Empire either.
– i am concerned about the people of the Empire, and if to disrupt the Empire were to benefit the people, why should it not be disrupted?
– The honorable member knows that the disruption of the Empire would not .be for the benefit of the people.
– How do I know tha-ti? In the great Empire about which we talk .so .much there are millions of persons starving, and other millions who must fall below the starvation line if they do :not obtain work next day. If it would benefit the people to disrupt the Empire, who .shall say that it should not be done? If the condition of the people would be bettered by their being associated in small rather ‘ -than in large communities, who will say that the change should not be effected? What are we out for if it is not to benefit the people ? Do we desire -merely the aggregation of many peoples in one Empire, without being concerned as to whether that is for their benefit or not? I say, again, that if it were for the benefit of the people, it would be better that the Empire should be disrupted.
The Prime Minister taunted the Leader of the Opposition by reading ‘an extract from a newspaper playing Ryan against Tudor and Tudor against Ryan, and endeavoured to belittle the honorable member. -Our party is like every, other party in this respect. If certain members of the party believe that one of their number would make a better leader than .another, what is to prevent them from holding such a belief? Why should the Prime Minister throw, stones? Does he not know that the names of Watt and Hughes are set one against the other? Is there not an impression throughout Australia to-day that we have only- to wait until Watt gets back to >see what “ Billy “ Hughes will get? People who live in glass-houses should not throw stones, and the Prime Minister should certainly not throw stones until he knows what will happen when Mr. Watt returns. The suggestion of rivalry between Mr. Tudor and Mr. Ryan will not break up the party on this side, whatever may be the effect upon the party opposite of the rivalry between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Watt. Let the Prime Minister keep -his personal taunts to himself. When he becomes personal we can give him all he wants. We have had newspapers counting how many on the opposite side will follow Mr. Watt and how many will follow Mr. Hughes. There may be some truth in what is said in the newspapers. But it is -the same with every political party. I am told that even in the Farmers’ party there ‘aTe some who think that they might have another leader. Throughout, the Prime Minister’s reply we had nothing but taunts, and he would not deal with tha motion before the House.
I intend to close with a reference to the case of the Reverend Father Jerger.
– Is not that case before the Court?
– I believe that it was before the Court, but I understand that it is settled that Father Jerger is to go. I deal with the case as one concerning a community that is supposed to. be free. It is stated that because Father Jerger is of German birth or extraction he is to be deported from this country. How brave we are! We were going tQtry and execute thousands of Germans who perpetrated most damnable acts during the war. They were to be brought to trial by the Allies and have meted out to them the punishment they deserved.
– This is quite -out of order.
– I am referring to the punishments that were to be meted out to Germans.
– It is out of order to discuss the case of Father Jerger.
– As the Deputy Speaker has not said that I am out of order I shall <go on.
– The case is before the Court now.
– What did the Prime Minister say on the subject this afternoon?
– When I am out of order the Deputy Speaker will tell me so. We talked about what we were going to do to the Kaiser, but now we are told that he is to be left alone. The archfiend of all is not to be punished.
– They cannot get at him.
– Just because we cannot get at him he is to be let off, and Father Jerger is to be punished for something he did not do. I do not care what Father Jerger’s nationality is. I know that he has been in Australia for thirtyfive years, and he should be tried by the laws of this country. He has asked that he should be so tried. All sorts of subterfuges are put forward, and it is time that we looked to ourselves in these matters. We boast of being a liberty-loving people, and I should like to know what danger is anticipated from allowing Father Jerger to remain here. Is he to be deported to indulge the spite of some one ? Now that the war is over, why should we not make this country free to the world’? I say that if this man is sent away from these shores it will be to our everlasting disgrace. If we deport him we can no longer claim to be a civilized people, because he has lived under our laws, and has been accepted by us, and his relations are members of this community. I say that the Government should look to it that his deportation is not carried out.
– Order! I do not know that there is anything in the Standing Orders to prevent the honorable member dealing with a matter that is sub justice, but it is a well-established practice in this Parliament, and also in the Parliament of New South Wales, that in respect to any matter before the Courts honorable members observe silence until the Courts have dealt with it. It is a matter of good taste on the part of honorable members, but I point out that even though we have no rule forbidding it, it is parliamentary usage not to refer to any matter that is sub judice.
– When the Prime Minister was asked a question on the subject this afternoon, he said that in the debate to follow we could talk about it as much as we liked.
– The Prime Minister’s words were that we should have a full opportunity on the debate that was coming on.
– But the Prime Minister is not Mr. Speaker.
– While I have every respect for the Chair, I do not feel that I can follow the suggestion which has been made. You, sir, have said that any. reference to the subject is a matter of good taste, but I see no good taste in deporting a man who is innocent, and I feel that I should be remiss in my duty if I did not protest against the deportation of any man under these circumstances, no matter who he may be, and whether he happens to be a Catholic clergyman of German origin or not. There is no more reason for putting into force the provisions of a Safety of the Realm Act or the War Precautions Act now than existed ‘before the war. It would appear that, boiled down, the reason for this deportation is that Father Jerger belongs to a certain religious persuasion, or that he is a man of German birth. I want to know if that is so. Again I say that it will be a crying disgrace to us if we deport this man without giving him resort to the Courts of the country, not in camera, but under such conditions that the press and every one will know what he is being sent away for. I say that the Government and those behind them will regret having assisted to deport a man who, according to the principles of British justice, must be regarded as innocent until he is proved to be guilty.
.- The indictment which Labour launches against the Government is couched in the following terms : -
That the Government is deserving of censure for its -general incapacity, and more particularly -
This is si peculiarly opportune time at which to test the strength of parties in this House. The Ballarat election on Saturday has resulted in an addition crf one member to the strength of Labour in this Chamber, and a corresponding reduction of the direct Ministerial party. There has been in the newspapers and the minds of the general” public some speculation as to the position of parties in this Parliament in view of the result of that election. Whenever I have been asked for an opinion upon this matter I have said that the result of the Ballarat election can make no difference whatsoever to the position of parties in this Parliament. There are now in this House 49 Nationalists and 26 Labour members, for although* there is a slight division in the ranks of the Nationalists, those who sit on the Government side are not separated by principle, and when they vote on a vital issue which challenges the Government from the stand-point of Labour, the Corner Nationalists will vote with . their confreres, the direct supporters of the Government. At least a sufficient number of them will always vote with the Government to save it from destruction.
What difference is there in the voters who returned the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to the last Parliament, and those who elected him to this Parliament? I undertake to say that not 500 electors of the 20,000 or 30,000 who voted in that electorate have changed their allegiance or voted differently at the two elections. The honorable member was returned for the last Parliament by Nationalist votes, and he was returned to this Parliament also by Nationalist votes; therefore, he was a Nationalist in the last Parliament, and he is a Nationalist to-day. The same remark applies to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), the Leader of the so-called Country section. He was returned to tho last Parliament by Nationalist Liberals, and he is elected to this Parliament by the votes of the same people. Except for the little ebb and flow in public opinion which takes place between general elections, the so-called Country party represents Liberals and Nationalists identically the same as do the members of the direct Government party.
What has happened in this Australian Parliament has happened in every British Parliament. When there is a large Government party, all the members of capacity and personality cannot be Ministers, and those who are left out immediately set about the formation of a cave or clique, or a corner party in order to force the Government to recognise them. That is not peculiar to this Parliament or to the Ministerial party. It has happened in every representative Parliament in Britain and the British Dominions, and with every party, whether called Liberal, Conservative, or Labour When all the men of strong personality in a large party cannot be recognised as Ministers, some of them break away, and by organization within the party insist that the ruling faction shall recognise them and offer them some preferment.
If there be, during the life of this Parliament, any change at all in the relation of representatives, it will be by a reconstruction amongst members on the Government side. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may go out of office, and the ex-‘Treasurer (Mr. Watt) may take his place. Some Ministers in the present team may lose their portfolios, and other members from the Corner section gain them. In my judgment, based on the experience of a good many years in the Parliament, that is the most extreme disruption that can possibly take place before the next general election.
In thirteen years I have contested six elections, and during the whole of that time the 1910-13 Parliament ‘ was the only one which ran its full course of three years. No Parliament since then has seemed more likely to survive its full term than does the present one.
– No wonder, in view of the increase of salaries.
– I have heard the honorable member make that contemptible remark before -. Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. M. Chanter) - The honorable member for Cook must withdraw that remark.
– If you, sir, take exception to- the word contemptible I withdraw it, but it is a most unworthy and sordid suggestion that the paltry few pounds that a member of. Parliament- receives as his allowance will influence him in casting a vote in, this House. The honorable member could not heap a greater insult on every member in. this Chamber. Labour ment:bers, at any rate,, are showing that they are prepared to, vote against, the Government, and to take, every opportunity to put them, out of office-. We shalL continue, to. do so, because that is our- duty. The honorable member’s suggestion does not, cast a slur on those, who vote against the Government,, but imputes that, those who vote with the Government are afraid of’ losing the few paltry pounds, they receive in. salary for. fear of being sent to tie country..
Both sections of the Nationalists I have been- describing represent capitalism and vested interests. The direct Government party represents the middlemen, agents, distributors, and the proprietors of the secondary industries in the larger centres of population. The so-called Country party represents the big landed proprietors in the country districts; it, too, represents vested interests and capitalism, but as the Ministerial party is so large it can .afford to divide into sections. The country capitalist desires to get a bit more at the expense of the city agent and distributor, but on the very instant that vested interests are threatened the two sections becomes as united as the Holy Trinity itself. I venture to predict that there will never be a challenge to the Government no matter upon what subject, whether it be the interests of the primary producers or anything else, when the so-called Country party and representatives of the farmers and country producers will vote with Labour to defeat the Government.
This so-called Country party was said to have entered this Parliament with three main planks to its platform. The first was that there should be a restoration’ of What is called responsible parliamentary government.
– Hear, hear!
– What has the honorable member done to get rid of the War Precautions Act. and restore the power of- this Parliament? Nothing whatsoever.
Another plank of the Country party’s so-called, platform was economy. What have the so-called Country members done to effect economy ?
The third plank of the so-called Conn? try party’s policy pledged them to vote in the interests of the primary producers; The primary producers have been the victims of such colossal robbery as is. without precedent in history, but the Country party has sat silent.
One indictment, of this censure’ motion challenges the Government for not having made any definite binding, contracts in regard to the overseas sales of primary products. I defy any honorable member of the so-called Country party to say that he has ever seen one of those contracts. These gentlemen-, sit facing me,, but there is no answer to my charge*. Not one honorable member has even asked to see them. The interest of honorable members opposite- in the- primary producers is not sufficient to induce them to demand the production of the contracts in this House, although the Prime Minister admitted, on the 13th May, that Australian wool had been sold to the Imperial authorities for use overseas, not only by Great Britain, but by foreign Powers, at one-third of the market value.
The Prime Minister knows that onethird of the market value was, because he was in Great Britain for two years, and knew the ruling prices for various products. On the Prime Minister’s own showing, this country has been robbed of £320,000,000 in connexion with the sale of wool alone. The same sort of thing has happened in regard to sales of wheat, metals, butter, &c. The primary producers, being unable to obtain any information in regard to the sales of butter overseas, have been compelled to subscribe money to send private representatives to Great Britain in order to try to find out the true position of affairs, although they are supposed to have in this Parliament a party officially representing them, which could demand on the floor of this House that the information be made available to honorable members and to the whole of the people. That party has not done so.
– To what information does the honorable member refer?
– I am referring to detailed information regarding the sales of Australian products, including the contracts which were the instruments of such sales. Those contracts have been asked for from this side of the House, but we are impotent to force the Government to produce them, because we number only twenty-five in a House of seventy-five ; but the members of the Country party know that, if they joined us in this demand, the Government would be compelled to produce the information.
Although this motion of censure challenges the Government on this issue of vital concern to the primary producers, it will be seen when the division bells ring and the numbers go up that, with probably one or two exceptions, the so-called representative of the primary producers votes to shield the Government in this robbery of the primary producers.
In 1914, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) described the party opposite, in a signed . statement issued to the general public, and I propose to read some extracts from it: -
Mr. Joseph Cook and his party pose as the friends of the “poor farmers.” They bid “the man on the land” beware of the Labour party, and to trust the so-called Liberal party, to defend him against all his enemies. In view of the record of the Fusion and the great interests who support it, it is the most impudent attempt to fool the people ever attempted.
Who are the enemies of the farmers ? The land monopolists, the middleman, commission agent, and the trusts.
Land monopoly has been, and is still, the greatest curse of Australia. The holders of great estates have compelled farmers to pay exorbitant prices for land, or have forced him on to the poorer lands away from rail and market. Middlemen and commission agents fleece the producer. He is at their mercy. They control the channels through which alone the farmer can sell his produce. And the great combinations of capitalists who form trusts, rings, and monopolies fleece the farmer, both when he buys his machinery and goods’ he needs and when he sells his produce. These are the enemies of the farmer. And they are all behind Mr. Cook and his party; yet Mr. Cook has the audacity to declare that his party is the friend of the farmer. . . .
How can a party supported by trusts, middlemen, and monopolists, and financed by these very people, be expected to protect the farmer from the people who fleece him?
The trusts and the great landlords are all behind Mr. Cook. (Signed) W. M. Hughes,
The trusts and the great landlords are to-day behind the combination of Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook. There they sit together now, cheek by jowl !
The Prime Minister has raised the sectarian issue. I have heard him, when a Labour man, denouncing that same issue when the party opposed to Labour did what it has always done when it has sought to disrupt the Labour party by introducing the sectarian serpent. The Prime Minister was then vitriolic in his rebuke. Yet this same dirtyweapon he now actually goes into the gutter to employ against the old party which put him on his feet in the public life of Australia.
What has Mr. Corser to say to his Leader, the Prime Minister, for raising the sectarian issue? What has Mr. Austin Chapman to say-
– Order! The honorable member must not employ the names of honorable members.
– I am entitled to mention their names if I refer also to their electorates.
– The honorable member knows that he may do that, of course.
– Then I will do so, at the expense of a little more of my time. What has the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) to say to the Prime Minister, in regard to his attempt to raise the sectarian issue?
What has the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to say to the Prime Minister for raising the sectarian issue? What has Edward Russell to say to the Prime Minister for raising the sectarian issue ? What has Thomas Jerome Bakha): to say to the Prime Minister for raising the sectarian issue? What has John Keating to say to the Prime Minister for raising the sectarian issue? What has Hugh de Largie to say to the Prime Minister, for raising the sectarian issue ? What has Patrick Lynch to say to the Prime Minister for raising the sectarian, issue?
These honorable gentlemen all belong to the persuasion and profess the Faith which the Prime Minister has attacked. What kind of men are they that they should support the Prime Minister, their Leader, in his attack upon their own Faith, upon their priests, their nuns, and the religion of their fathers? They know, as well as the Prime Minister knows, that this wicked invention has nothing behind it except an appeal to the blind prejudices of the people? If the Protestants of this country numbered one-fourth of its total population, and the Catholics represented threefourths, Mr. Hughes’ attack would be the other way round, without the shadow of question.
The Prime Minister has had something to say about Labour and loyalty. This same kind of stuff was hurled at the Labour party when Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fisher were its leaders - hurled just exactly as the Prime Minister to-day has thrown it at us. I have another pamphlet here, signed by Mr. Hughes. It is entitled, “The Degradation of Patriotism: an Exposure.” And it states -
At a time when to dub a man a “ traitor “ is to at once charge him with the most serious of crimes and expose him to the hitter odium and contempt of his fellows, a leaflet has been widely circulated levelling charges of “ disloyalty” and “treachery” to the Empire against certain members of the Labour party.
These statements are contemptible and wicked untruths, and the man who made them knew them to be so when he wrote them.
What can we say of a man who in the face of these statements (Mr. Fisher’s denial) would charge Mr. Fisher with favouring “Hauling down the flag” and “Raising that of revolt”?
What are we to think of Mr. Joseph Cook, . under whose notice I have brought this leaflet, who heard Mr. Fisher’s speech in Parliament, who knows that every statement made in the leaflet about Mr. Fisher is absolutely untrue?
Yesterday, I sent Mr. Cook a copy of this infamous leaflet, and asked him to repudiate it; but, although he admitted having heard Mr. Fisher deny the truth of any one of them, he would not do so.
What are we to say of men who, posing as patriots and deprecating everything calculated to create the impression amongst the enemy that the Empire is not presenting a united front, brands the leader of one of the great political parties in Australia as a “traitor,” knowing the same to be an infamous falsehood? -
What are we to say of a party that not only does not repudiate such tactics by its paid agent, but openly approves him and them, and bends its every effort to give the widest publicity to this cowardly, contemptible, and malicious slander? (Sgd.) W. M. Hughes. 321 Pitt-street, Sydney.
The Prime Minister then directed a copy of this pamphlet to the present Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who now sits facing me at the table. Mr. Hughes said, “I have brought this infamous leaflet under the notice of Mr. Cook, and although he knows it to be untrue, he will not say it is untrue, because there is an election on.”
– Neither the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.. Hughes) nor the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) could ever say that I have raised that question in all my life.
– I am not saying that the right honorable gentleman has raised it, but that, the subject having been raised, he has kept silence, and has neither protested against it nor contradicted it. The attack to which that leaflet refers was launched in 1914, and I reiterate that Mr. Hughes said, “ I brought this under the notice of Mr. Cook .personally. He knows the statements to be untrue, and yet refuses to give public denial to them. Mr. Cook gives his countenance to the leaflet, knowing it to be untrue.”
We charge this Government with (a) failure to prevent the inordinate rise in the cost of living. When the Prime Minister, in 1919, was yet on the waters adjacent to the Australian coast, making his Australian ward way from England, he set out a brief policy for the impending elections thus, “As to the profiteer and the Bolshevik, damn them both!” And he said he would “ shoot them both.” What has he done to damn or shoot them, since ? He now says he has not the power. One of our principal charges against the Prime Minister is that he has the War Precautions Act in operation to-day in all its original force and effect. Under that Act he can do anything he likes in regard to every mouthful that the people eat and every yard of material with which they clothe themselves. Yet, having this power, he has absolutely refused to use it. He will use it for other purposes - for deportation, for example. And, surely, to deport without trial men against whom charges have been secretly made, so that they cannot face their accusers, is an acknowledgment that the ordinary processes of the law are insufficient for the. punishment of wrong-doers. The proper course is to hale an alleged offender before a Court, to charge him with an alleged offence, to give him a fair and open British trial, and to award punishment accordingly as he is deemed to have offended against the law. Apparently, however, there is some underground engineering going on in regard to certain men - and here I make no differentiation between Father Jerger and any other man. It so happens that, because Father Jerger is connected with a great organization–
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I understand the position. But the stand which I take is that this Parliament is above all the Courts in this Country. It should be itself the great High Court for the protection of the rights and privileges of the people.
– Order ! “Will the honorable member please resume his seat. “When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), in addressing the House, was dealing with the same question, I directed his attention to the fact that the usage of this Parliament, and of others also, had been that, any case which was sub judice should not be discussed. I said, also, that there was no standing order which specifically dealt with the matter. On looking into the point further, however, I noted that there is one standing order which bears upon it. ‘That is our standing order No. 1, which states, in effect, that where the Standing Orders do not make specific provision, resort shall be had to the rules and practice of the House of Commons. My attention has been directed to this point since the honorable member for Melbourne Ports addressed the House, and I have ascertained that the universal practice in the Imperial Parliament has been that, in regard to any case which is sub judice, discussion cannot be permitted. I am given to understand, so far as newspaper reports are concerned-
– You have no right to take notice of newspaper reports.
-Order! The honorable member has no right to interject when the Speaker is upon his feet.
– I have a right to correct you.
– The honorable member is disorderly. So far as my own knowledge goes, the matter is before the Courts at present, and, therefore, is sub judice.
– Order !
– lt is not before the Courts.
– If the honorable member persists, I shall be obliged to adopt a serious course of action.
– I understood that you were asking me a question.
– I addressed no question to any honorable member, but would point out again that it is disorderly to interrupt the Speaker or his Deputy in the course of a ruling. I understand that the matter at issue is before the Courts at present.; but, if I am officially informed that it has been settled, and is not sub judice, I shall allow it to be discussed. Until I am so informed, I cannot permit honorable members to discuss it.
– I have no time to bandy words with the Chair. To revert to the charge (a) in relation to the high cost of living - the Prime Minister, to escape his own pledges to the people to reduce the cost of living, states that what we have to do i9 to produce more. How can enhanced production in Australia affect the people of Australia in the matter of food and clothing, seeing that we already produce ten times more than we can use ? Will it affect the cost of living if we produce twenty or fifty times more than the people can use? What those gentlemen who talk in that way wish us to believe is that until the aching void of Europe can be filled, there must be scarcity for the people of Australia. Such remarks are nothing more nor less than the expression of a foreign policy, dictated in the interests of people other than Australians. As an Australian, I demand that this country be administered in the interests of Australians, and that not until we have attended to the requirements of the people of Australia shall we turn our attention to the necessities of the inhabitants of foreign countries. There is no man in the Commonwealth who can say we are not producing, in regard to almost everything, many times more than is requisite for ‘the needs of our people. All this talk about producing more is so much humbug.
– Does that apply to sugar ?
– It does, in relation to our domestic needs, because, approximately, half of our Australian sugar is made into jam and other foodstuffs, for export. Manufacturers obtain cheap Australian sugar, and thus are able to export foodstuffs to the markets of the Old World, and make huge profits. At the same tame, the people of Australia cannot get enough locally-grown sugar for local requirements, and the prices of household necessities ‘ go higher and higher. The addition to our sugar bill of £7,000,000 per annum, as represented by the latest increase in the price of sugar, has been enforced mainly to enable Australian manufacturers to export all classes of foodstuffs and some interested persons reap huge profits. According to the Budget statement of 8th October last, in 1918’ 72,000,000 lbs., of jam were sold for export at from 5£d. to 6d. per pound. A huge amount of cheap sugar was included in that, and the jam sold, f.o.b. here, at much less than that for which the Australian public may obtain it.
The Prime Minister speaks of the restricted -.power of this Parliament to deal with the cost of living problem. He said it is only recently that we have heard of this. When I was ‘ sitting behind the Labour Government in 1915, I moved a series of resolutions, in the course of which I pointed out that the Government had ample power then to deal with these matters. The Prime Minister asks honorable members to believe that a few years ago the Labour party did not think that power resided with the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the cost of living. But a lot of water has run under the bridge since then. We have been carefully studying the position:, and have discovered, some sooner than others, that the Government have powers which previously were not thought to reside in the Commonwealth Constitution. The resolutions to which I refer called upon the Government to take action to reduce the cost of living. Incidentally, they caused the Government some embarrassment. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was sitting in the House at the time, and I intend to show honorable members that his interjections were an admission that my view was the correct one. They also show that the right honorable member has known for year3 that this Parliament has power to deal with the high cost of living. I drew attention to the fact that the Government had power to take a census and to call upon every producer and manufacturer to make weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly returns to a properly constituted Commonwealth authority, of the output and distribution of goods, and the movement of prices. We have always had that power, and if we desire to control the cost of living, this is one of the first and most essential pieces of machinery to that end.
– What would the producers of Australia be doing if they had to provide statistics every week ?
– What has that to do with the position of the people of Australia, who are being exploited ?
– Who are these exploiters? Speak for yourself.
– I am speaking for the people. The honorable member talks about the inconvenience that might be caused to vested interests if they were obliged to supply these statistics. My answer is that their inconvenience is as nothing to the trials and tribulations caused to the masses of the people who at (present cannot get enough to eat. My honorable friend and his party show concern for the convenience of the vested interests. My concern is for the welfare of the masses. There in a nutshell is crystallized the vital difference between the policy of Labour and anti-Labour.
The Commonwealth Government have unlimited power over exports. They may demand a return of all contracts and prices in regard to every pound of exportable produce.
Mr. Robert Cook. ; They may put an embargo on exports.
– The Government have the power to prevent the export of any commodity out of this country.
Mr. Robert Cook. ; Yes, and that is what you would do.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to put words into my mouth.
Mr. Robert Cook. ; You are putting them into your own mouth.
– I am not. But if I find that the production, of this country is being sold to, foreigners below the price charged to the people of Australia, I shall do my best to prevent- the export of any such goods, until our own people are provided for at a reasonable price. At the same time, I have always insisted upon the price for home consumption being based on fair living.- conditionsto the primary producers.
Mr. Robert Cook. ; When have goods been exported at half the price charged, to Australian consumers?
– If I had the time I could give the honorable member all the information he is asking for. But I invite him to look up his own statistics. The present Leader of the Labour party supplied many returns, when Minister for Customs, giving instances of that of which I” complain.
The Commonwealth Government have unlimited power over imports from foreign countries. If it is believed that an importer is robbing the people of Australia, the Government, under their present powers, may demand the production- of his invoices, and’ they could publish in the Commonwealth Gazette the- prices charged. If this were done it would be one of the most effective steps that could be taken to prevent profiteering, because, when the people realize how they are being robbed, they will insist upon definite action being taken to stop it.
Again, the Government have unlimited power over taxation. They could tax all profits above a certain margin, and by the publication of the names’ of those who are making excessive profits, could discourage the practice.
The Government, further, have complete power over the Post Office. Here, indeed, is a huge machine- that could be used to protect the great masses, of the people from the rapacious trader. ‘ If a commercial firm were found to be acting unfairly towards the people, the Postal authorities could prevent the firm’s letters from being, delivered through the post; and’ they could disconnect -the firm’s telephone. And why should not these public conveniences be refused to any firm found guilty of using, them for the purpose of exploiting the people? No trader could stand up against Government action properly directed to prevent profiteering,.
The honorable member, after making these strong statements, ought to go a> little further. All these Governments have’ the power’ to do what they like so far as foodstuffs, are concerned.
I had been , pointing out that both the State and Federal Parliaments had the power, and the right honorable gentleman, by his interjection, confirmed my statement. The 1915 reference continues. -
– Does the right, honorable member- include the Federal Government -.. in that statement?
– Yes. .
– No doubt, the power of prohibition of’ exports is complete.
– The Minister cannot get into that little. hole now. He cannot restrict his- statement in 1915 to mean exports only.
– I do not want to get into any hole.
– The right honorable gentleman did not then place any limitation upon his reference to the power of Parliament. When I was dealing with! the export power on 2nd June, 1915, I said: -
Then we have the export power. The power to prohibit export is almost unlimited in its scope. It has, already been exercised, I am glad to say, in regard to wheat/ flour, and sugar, and. the export of meat, except for the Imperial Government, is also prohibited. The Imperial Government, however, has asked only for meat from the surplus stock of Australia.
– Incidentally to the exercise of this power, the Government would have to ascertain the food stocks of the Commonwealth,
I had been contending that we had power over census and statistics to gather this information, and went on to refer to the export power, and the right honorable gentleman interjected that incidental to the exercise of this one power alone the Government could demand information about the food stocks of the Commonwealth. And so it ‘ is clear that he knows perfectly well now, as he did then, that this Government have the power; that under a number of different headings there is power, which, multiplied in an Act of Parliament, gives them the necessary machinery to control profiteering and prices. But the Commonwealth Government have so faT refused to exercise this power. That is what is wrong about the whole business. They- have the “War Pre cautions Act, and have used it for the purpose of controlling the price of some goods. Only a few weeks ago the Government issued a proclamation on a Saturday, fixing the price of cheese; but apparently some of their supporters complained, and on the following Monday the Government withdrew the proclamation. It is clear, then, that if they can issue a proclamation fixing the price of one article, they can do so with regard to any commodity. They have this power. Not one of them dare deny it. They sit facing me to-day. I challenge any honorable member to deny that the Government have this power at the present moment.
– They have the power, and they are exercising it in all the States, but prices are going up all the while.
– The right honorable gentleman is now contradicting his leader. He says the Government have the power, and are exercising it in all the States. All I can say is that one wants a microscope to find out what they are doing.
– Judge Rolin is at it every day.
– The right honorable gentleman, being caught with an admission, is very astute in endeavouring to slip from. Commonwealth action- to State action in New South Wales. I am dealing with the power of the Commonwealth Parliament, and I again challenge any honorable member to deny that the Government have power to deal with this problem. The right honorable gentleman says it is being dealt with.
– I am merely suggesting that the power to deal with it does not necessarily insure its being done.
– When I seek to pin him down to a definite statement, he tells us that Judge Rolin, in the State of New South Wales, is dealing with the problem. But that has nothing to do with my argument.
– You are not pinning me down at all.
– I am afraid it would be impossible to do that. I am confident, however, that this matter will be noted, and that those who read the debates of this Parliament will realize that the Minister is merely endeavouring to create the impression outside that the Parliament has not the power, though he will not say so in 80 many direct words.
In regard to the old-age pensioners, I have sent several letters, requisitions, and petitions to the Prime Minister, asking that the pensions be increased commensurate with the increase in the cost of living. In every instance I have met with a refusal, but I shall continue to urge the Government to increase the pensions, at any rate, to an amount equivalent to the purchasing power of the pension in the past. I take no notice of the argument that there is not sufficient money to pay the increased sum. There is plenty available if only the right means are taken to obtain it. What the Government really mean is that they are not prepared to tackle the vested interests in order to find the money.
I enter my emphatic protest against the wages paid in the Commonwealth Service. Although the New South Wales Board of Trade has fixed ?3 17s. per week as the lowest living wage, the Commonwealth Government are paying in New South Wales a living wage of ?3 10s., or 7s. below what is declared to be the living v/age in New South Wales. I protest against this. A Government which cannot provide a living wage for its employeesis, to use the terms of .this resolution, demanding of censure for its general incapacity.
This motion charges the Government with (&) its failure to keep its pledges to the returned soldiers and their dependants. When the War Gratuity Bill was before us on the 25th March, I produced the pledges given, and gave detailed evidence and references that could not be contradicted, showing that the Government refused to honour it. I moved an amendment, but every Nationalist voted against it. Here is a statement by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), reported in the Daily Telegraph of 4th November, 1919, just before the elections -
This year the Government expected to spend on his behalf from £40,000.000 to £45,000,000 - for repatriation, land purchase, war service homes, and other things, £15,000,000; for war pensions, £5,450,000; and for gratuities a sum of from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000. ‘ Our total war obligations for the year 1919-20, including gratuities would amount to close on £100,000,000.
Mark you, “ this year “ the Government expect to spend from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000 on gratuities.
– That is up to 30th June next.
– I accept that definition. But again the Prime Minister tells a different tale. On the motion, speaking of the total repatriation appropriations, he said -
For 1920-21 the total amount provided is £37,475,000.
The Government are issuing a piece of paper, very little of which can be negotiated. Is that “spending money”? Were these terms used to mislead the soldier electors into the belief that they were going to get cash for their bonds? What is going on to-day with regard to those bonds is an absolute scandal. Traders in Sydney, who have the authority of the Government, are selling goods, say, furniture, and demanding that the soldier shall spend with them £60 out of every £100. In needy cases the furniture so supplied is taken to the auction rooms and sold for a song.
If interest-bearing bonds are issued they cannot be made inalienable or non-negotiable - they will be negotiated in some shape or form; and the proper thing is for the Government to carry out their election pledges. The Labour party said that if they were returned to power cash would be paid, and under the influence of public opinion, and the driving force of the Labour movement, the Government also promised to pay cash. The bonds should be paid in a negotiable instrument that can be openly traded at ite face value, instead of being secretly and covertly negotiated at an enormous discount. This policy really means that, with the connivance of the Government, the soldiers are thus robbed by the profiteers of the country of 10s. in the £1 of their gratuity. The Government is issuing depreciated currency in its worst form.
– That is an infamous thing to say - *’ the connivance of the Government.” The honorable member knows that is not true.
– It is true, in the sense in which I use the words.
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw that statement.
– Yes, I withdraw it, and I ask you, sir, to require the honorable member to withdraw his most offensive statement.
– What was that statement ?
– The statement that the Government was conniving at the roguery going on in connexion with the cashing of the bonds.
– I did not catch that reference, my “ attention being momentarily otherwise engaged, but if it were used I must ask the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) to withdraw it.
– I did not put the point im that way at all.
– If the honorable member said something that the Minister regards as offensive it must be withdrawn.
– I do not wish to say anything personally offensive; I am not referring to the members of the Government in any personal way, but referring to the policy of the Government, which, I say, amounts to what I stated. If it is allowed to go on under the system that has been introduced it does amount to the connivance of the Government. There is only one way to stop this, and I moved to give effect to the remedy, but the Nationalists voted against my proposal.
The Government promised that young farmerswho went to the war would,on their return, he provided with homes on the land.
– Some 17,000 of them have been settled.
– In Australia.
– I am not going to either contradict or accept that statement, because I have seen inflated figures put forward. The Government are not doing this business themselves, but have handed it over to some one else; and totally incorrect figures have been issued by some of the Departments. Two cases have come under my notice, one of a military medallist who left his farm in the hands of a partner to go to the war, and when he returned, after an absence of three years, found his whole business had “gone to smoke.” That man has been two years begging the State Government to provide him with a living area, and he cannot get it. There is a published statement by the State Government that 16,000 men in New South Wales, who hold qualifying certificates to go on the land, cannot get homes for themselves.
– Where do you. get your figures from?
– From the New South Wales Government.
– If that be so, they gave you one set of figures, and us another.
– If the right honorable gentleman will next week produce the statement supplied him, I undertake to produce the statement supplied to me.
– I have given you the latest figures supplied to us, namely, that 17,000 men have already been settled.
– That is another point; what I say is that in New South Wales there are 16,000 qualified men who cannot get homes for themselves, and the State Government say that the Commonwealth Government will not provide the means.
– That is not true.
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw the statement that what the honorable member says is not true.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that the statement alleged tobe made by the State Government was not true.
– I apologize to the Minister if I misunderstood him. I understood him to say that the statement of the honorable member was untrue.
– That is not so.
– I am not talking about the number of men who have been settled on the land. In New South Wales, about 4,000 have been settled; but we- have to remember that New South Wales represents about one-third of the population of the Commonwealth, so that 4,000 there means, approximately, 12,000 for the whole of the States’. I repeat, again, that there are 16,000 qualified returned soldiers who cannot get homes on the land.
– And I say, again,that those figures are totally at variance with the figures supplied to us.
– I ask what number have been reported to the Government as being competent to go on the land, and as not yet provided with land.
– I will give that information to-morrow.
– The Minister says that what I say is at variance with the information supplied to him; but, apparently, he does not know the facts, for he is going to get them to-morrow.
– I do know the figures; but I wish to check them.-
– The Prime Minister, when dealing with this count in the censure motion, said that the matter was to be decided at a conference next Saturday.
– Quite true.
– If that is so, it cannot have yet been decided. I have not the slightest doubt about my figures. As a member of Parliament, and as a public man, I shall resist to the uttermost any proposal to bring a solitary manhere from any part of the world to take up land while these returnedsoldiers are kept without homes.
– There is plenty of Crown land available.
– There is plenty of land of all sorts everywhere, but soldiers cannot get it. We have Crown lands, but the vested interests, whom honorable members opposite represent, have taken care when in control of the Government of the States, to acquire it on leases of forty or fifty years at peppercorn rents;
– Is there no provision in the leases to allow of resumption?
– Not without considerable notice.
– This settlement is costing £2,500 a man in New South Wales.
– We are now told that this repatriation is costing this or that sum; but why did the Government not find out, before they made their promises, that they could not fulfil them? Our charge is that the Government promised, and is not honouring their promise. The Government do not say they are carrying out their undertaking, but are giving reasons for not doing so, and that is no answer to the charge.
The next charge against the Government is that of (c) failure to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest. This unrest is caused by two phenomena - the high cost of living and unemployment. It has already been shown, and it is admitted, that the Government have done nothing to deal with the high cost of living; as to unemployment, the Government themselves are the greatest offenders. They are putting Government employees off work, and thus creating unemployment, as at Cockatoo Dock, Sydney, where large numbers of .men are out of work.
The Government refuse to go on with the building of - the .Federal Capital, which would . riot “only provide work, but create an asset that would return handsomely . on the expenditure. There are any number of private companies which would be very glad to take over the Federal Capital as a commercial proposition. At the present time, although the lands within the Federal area are let on short leases, which does not allow them to be put to their best use, they, are returning a profit. The development of the Federal Capital is a_ paying concern, and could be made so from the jump; yet the Government refuse to go on with the work, although the compact is nearly twenty years overdue. There are some honorable members on the Government side who have been vowing vengeance against the Government on this score. Amongst these are the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) and a number of others, and they now have an opportunity of expressing their dissatisfaction with the Government for its “general incapacity” in this matter. However, as I have said over and over again in New South Wales, those members only express their dissatisfaction by their votes when there is no risk to the Government - never if there is any “ business” in it. The Government know that the attitude of these gentlemen is only a bit of by-play; and it is certain that the very moment they assert themselves in regard to the Federal Capital, and show that they intend to take decisive steps by voting against the Government, the latter will render a hostile vote unnecessary and get to work very quickly. They will not risk being torn from the Treasury bench for the mere sake of declining to proceed with the erection of the Federal Capital.
The Prime Minister has already appointed a Royal Commission to deal with the question of industrial unrest, but only a few weeks ago he was compelled to admit that this body represents only so much blank cartridge, and that the Government can do nothing with its reT port.
The next count in the indictment of the Labour Opposition charges the Government with (d) failure to secure an adequate return to the Australian people for their wool and other primary products which have been sold overseas. In this connexion I do not propose to repeat the case against the Government ‘which I put upon record in Hansard earlier in the session. My case dealing with the wool sales effected overseas will be found on page 305 of Hansard, and that dealing with the sales of wheat on page 341 of Hansard of the current session. In speaking upon those subjects I quoted statements made by Ministers in the British . House of Commons, and from other authoritative sources, with a view to proving that this country has been grossly robbed in the prices which it. has obtained for its primary products under sales effected by the Government. All the admissions which have since been made have served only to confirm my charge, including the statement of the Prime Minister on the 13th May last that, during the war, we had sold our wool to Great Britain and the Allied Powers at one-third of its value.
No doubt, when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) returns to this country we shall get the full details of the dispute between himself and the Prime Minister, and shall thus secure further confirmation of the rotten state of affairs which has existed in regard to the sales of Australian produce.
On the 13th May last- as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 2085-86 - the Prime Minister took up the role of a prophet. He said, in effect, “Just watch how the prices of Australian wool will tumble after 30th June next.” He then went on to show that prices were coming down with a run as the result of an express arrangement to exploit the Australian producer. A few weeks later his prediction was verified. The prices of our wool came down with an awful crash to the serious loss of our primary producers. The Prime Minister himself told us that those prices were being manipulated. Where are the representatives of the Country party that they allow this kind of thing to go on? They do not even register a protest against it.
The next count in the indictment against Ministers charges them with (e) failure to make definite binding contracts for the sale of Australia’s primary products. So far, these contracts have not been tabled. They have been asked for again and again, and their production has been refused. We can only conclude, therefore, that their production would not be to the advantage of the Government. Any attempt to do so would seriously embarrass the Government. What did the ex-Treasurer say prior to his departure for the Old Country? He said. “ I am going to London to try and straighten out the threads of this wool bungle.”
– He did not say “ bungle,” did he?
– Yes,he did.
– I heard him say “ tangle.”
– The Assistant Minister for Defence really confirms my reference. How can there be a “ tangle’’ if there are proper contracts governing the sales?
I now propose to say a word or two in regard to the cables between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Watt, an edited edition of which was produced in this Parliament.I wish toregister my emphatic protest against that editing, and against the presentation of a garbled statement to the Parliament and the people of this country.
– Does the honorable member accuse his own Leader of putting forward a garbled statement?
– I do not;but whatever the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) did, he did on his own responsibility. He acted according to his judgment; but I decline to be bound by his action, and I protest against the procedure adopted. We have been told that some things have transpired between representative men of this country which the people of Australia ought not to know. My own view is that nothing can possibly transpire in regard to the government of this country which the men and women of Australia, who elect this Parliament, are not entitled to know, I have not had an opportunity of seeing the original cables, but there are far-spreading rumours amongst public men generally accepted as well-founded as to what was contained in them, and these rumours can be effectually silenced only by the publication ofthe whole of those cables.
One of the stories current is that a particular cable contained a statement to the effect that if Australia did not pay £8,000,000 odd within a prescribed time she would be branded in the House of Commons and before the world as a defaulter.
– Of course, the honorable member does not believe that ?
– I believe it until I see a proper denial of it.
– The statement was made here, and the Government did not deny it.
– I did not see the statement, and I have not seen the cables. Moreover, I do not wish to see them if I am to close my mouth in regard to their contents. Seeing that 60,000 Australian soldiers gave their lives to help Great Britain during the recent war; that, according to the statement of the Prime Minister, our wool has been sold overseas at one-third of its value;that there is now a credit to Australia in London of £40,000,000, an amount which will be increased by the 30th June next to £175,000,000. I say that if the statement was made that, unless the Commonwealth paid a sum of £8,000,000 by a certain date, she would be branded as a defaulter, our people should know it. Perhaps it was this statement which had something to do with. the attitude taken up by the ex- Treasurer.
It is further alleged that, because of some pressure having been exerted on behalf of Australia in regard to the Japanese Treaty, Mr. Watt was compelled to report point for point to the Australian Government, and that he was not to be trusted on vital matters affecting the national well-being of this country. The very insinuation that is being industriously circulated against the honorable member for Balaclava demands that the whole of the cables shall be placed upon the table of this House. It is practically charged against him that, though an Australian bom, he regarded his obligations so lightly that he had practically to he put in chains and legirons, because of the fear that he would do something to prejudicially affect the vital interests of Australia.
What has transpired with regard to the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty should be made public property in this country. If I am in public life at any time any difficulty arises between Japan and our kinsmen in America, I shall be no party to any treaty or agreement that is likely to embroil Australia on the side of the coloured races of the East aKa nsf our kinsmen in America.
– Of course, the honorable member knows that iB impossible.
– I believe it is impossible, because an agreement that would do anything of that kind would not be worth the paper it is written on; hut if such an event should take place, I should be found going from one end of this country to the other, putting before the people what I believe to be the proper view, in order to prevent them from being entrapped into* any dispute, or from taking Bides against the people of America.
The statements in current circulation amongst parliamentarians, Commonwealth and State, as to the serious allegations in the cablegrams which passed between the Prime Minister and the ex-Treasurer demand, not merely a denial across the chamber, but the production of the messages in an unabridged condition, so that the people may know the truth. I have known the honorable member for Balaclava for a good many years. I cannot conceive of him doing an utterly foolish thing; and I cannot but believe that something we have not seen has had something to do. with his resignation.
The statement of the case put forward by the Prime Minister against his absent colleague was too strong, it went too far, it proved too much; it made the honorable member for Balaclava out as a babbling infant in swaddling clothes, or even a raving idiot. In the circumstances , I shall have very much doubt as to the facts until I hear the other side. In any case, I presume that the honorable member for Balaclava, as an Australian, is just as good a judge as is the Prime Minister, who is not an Australian, as to what ought to he published; and he asks for the publication of the whole of the cablegrams.
I am not concern ect whether honorable members of the Corner party vote against the Government or not. On this indictment, let them support the Government; let their constituents see what their attitude is. Let the so-called representatives of the primary producers explain to the real primary producers why they did not demand further knowledge about the sales of their products, and something more about the supposed contracts in regard to those sales. Then their constituents, and not those who sit in the Chamber, will be the persons to judge them.
The charges against the Government have been proved up to the hilt. Anything said in defence has been mere Billingsgate, or excuses or references to issues that are mere side-steppings. No real answer has been put up; nothing hae been said to indicate to the people of the country that the Government are not guilty of the whole of the charges. It only strengthens our case to say that our allegations are mere reiterations of what has been said previously. It shows that the charge of neglect, incapacity, and incompetence of the Government has been sheeted home against them time after time.
I am satisfied that when the people of
Australia read these charges, as they will appear in the official record of Hansard, and the case stated in support, they must come to the conclusion that the Labour party was entirely justified in the step it has taken.
It is due to the people of the country that the House should be divided upon this indictment of the Government, so that they may learn where honorable members stand in regard to the issues at stake.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahony) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow, and take precedence of all other business.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Works Committee Act - Fifth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works,
Ordered to be printed.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 107.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at (Seymour, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200714_reps_8_92/>.