8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 15th July (vide page 2794) on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That the Government is deserving of censure for its general incapacity, and more particularly -
for its failure to prevent an inordinate rise in thecost of living;
for its failure to keep its pledges with returned soldiers and their dependants;
for its failure to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest;
for its failure to secure an adequate return to the Australian people for their wool and other primary products sold overseas;
for its failure to make definite binding contracts for the sale of such products which would have prevented any possibility of profiteering overseas in Australian products at the expense of Australian producers, and would have made it possible to secure a prompt adjustment of accounts in connexion with such sales.
– The motion for dissent is the first business on the noticepaper after the censure motion, which, by order of the House last night, was made to take precedence of all other business to-day.
.- I have been impressed during the debate with the intense interest shown in the fortunes and welfare of the primary producer; never before within this chamber since its walls were erected has so much concern for him been declared. While listening to the speeches of Opposition members I have been forced to wonder occasionally whether, as I interjected yesterday, the motion of censure is not really aimed at the Country party rather than at the Government. Opposition members profess an extreme desire to secure the support of the ‘Country party, but I doubt that they really wish for that support, because if they were in earnest they would have shown more intelligence in seeking it than they have displayed.
One of the many reasons given in the motion for censuring the Government is its failure to prevent an inordinate rise in the cost of living. All of us consider the cost of living too high, and deplore the fact that it is so ; but, in my opinion, there are many contributory causes, of which I propose to mention several. The first of these causes is profiteering, which is of two kinds, that of the commercial world, among the supporters of the Ministerial party, and that of some of the supporters of the Opposition. That profiteering is rampant in the commercial world is evidenced by the dividend returns of some of our public companies. The profiteering among some of the supporters of the Opposition - I do not say among all of them - is the profiteering that occurs when, after an individual has been awarded, say, 12s. for a fair day’s work of eight hours, he deliberately gives only 8s. worth of work.
– That is an indictment against the working men of this country.
– It is an indictment against some of them, and I stand for it ; I do not say it of all of them. The honorable member knows that the charge is true in many instances. I am referring to the go-slow practices, of which Opposition members are well aware. I give some of them credit for deploring the system, but not one of them can deny that it exists, or that it is one of the many factors of the high cost of living. Still, as I have no desire to do injustice to any section of the community, I say that these practices have been followed by some, and not by all, of the supporters of the Labour party.
A remedy for high prices that might well be supported by honorable members generally, and particularly by Opposition members, is the extension of cooperation. A contributory cause of the high cost of living is our foolish and wasteful methods of distribution. The organized farmers of Australia, and particularly those of Victoria, are showing their belief in co-operation, and throughout this State co-operative enterprises are being backed with their money, and assisted by the Victorian Parliament, for which I give it credit.
– With a view to eliminating the middleman.
– The unnecessary middlemen. I do not say that all middlemen are unnecessary, but we have too many of them, and that is a cause of the high cost of living. We are endeavouring to establish co-operative manure companies, freezing works, flour mills, and butter factories; and if the leaders of the Labour movement were to preach cooperation to their people, they would do something towards solving the problem of the reduction of the cost of living. There is nothing to prevent the labouring classes of the cities from forming co-operative distributing societies, and purchasing direct from the co-operative secondary industries, as, for example, the cooperative freezing works. We are quite willing to meet them half-way.
– Should not the cooperation be between the producer and the consumer - a complete co-operation? The honorable member is talking of partial co-operation.
– The honorable member speaks of complete co-operation, though he has never, so far as I know, made any endeavour to secure even partial co-operation.
– That is evidence of your want of knowledge of what I have done.
– My suggestionis that the working people in the cities should start on the lines on which we have started.
– Does not the honorable member know that the working people had co-operation long before he dreamt of it?
– Then it has not been very successful.
– If the honorable member goes to my district, he will find that it has been successful.
– There is in my district the biggest co-operative concern in Australia.
– I am pleased to learn that there is co-operation amongst some of the working people in other States, but I have not seen evidence of it in Melbourne.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to allow the honorable member to make his speech without interrupting.He has been subjected to interruption from both sides of the chamber. I hope that this will cease.
– The second ground tin which we are asked to censure the Government is “its failure to keep its pledges with returned soldiers and their dependants.” I frankly admit that I believe the Government have done a good deal for our returned men; that in many cases they have made an honest effort in the circumstances to do their best. I do not propose to indulge in any destructive criticism in this connexion, becauseI recognise that the Government have had a tremendously difficult task; but there is one phase of repatriation work to which it is to be regretted they have not before now given attention. I refer to land settlement in the various States. The Government have practically said to the States, “ Go ahead with the settlement of the returned men of the Australian Imperial Forces, and we will provide the money.” The Commonwealth committed a serious blunder in failing to arrive at an understanding with the States, that in the main returned soldiers should be settled on Crown lands instead of successful farmers being bought out in order that they might take their place.
– That was impossible.
– As a practical farmer, I say, unhesitatingly, that it was not impossible.
– The honorable member misunderstands me. It was impossible at the time to make any arrangement such as he suggests.
– I disagree with the Acting Treasurer. I believe it would have been possible.
– I have stated what is a fact, whether the honorable member agrees with it or not.
– I have now more particularly in mind the Crown lands of this State in which I reside. Had the
Prime Minister called into conference the various State Premiers ; had he put before them the concrete proposal that, where possible, our soldiers should be settled on Crown lands ; that every returned man who was willing, able, and competent to work a block should be given, free of charge, an area of Crown lands, I am convinced that even if this had involved some financial sacrifice on. the part of the Government it would have, proved more satisfactory than the present arrangement. Surely the men who went overseas are entitled to a gift of 320 acres or 640 acres of scrub lands in the country they fought to defend.
– The States would not agree to do anything of thekind.
– The great Dominion of Canada made to every Canadian soldier who fought in the South African war a free grant of 320 acres.No conditions were imposed. I am not advocating that our men should be given Crown lauds, and allowed to do what they please with them. What I do say is that the Government should say to them, “ Here are Crown lands. If you apply for a block we will grant it to you free of charge, subject to the conditions that you make your home upon it and clear and cultivate it. We will advance the money necessary to help you to clear it.” Such advances could be made repayable in easy instalments just as is being done now.
– The States from the first have insisted upon keeping the mode of settlement entirely in their own hands.
– What are the States going to do when the Commonwealth has no further money for them?
– That is the point. Surely the Acting Treasurer does not suggest that the Commonwealth Government, which is practically financing the States in the settlement of our returned men on the land, could not have made any bargain such as I have just outlined. Surely somethingcould have been done, and must yet be done, in that direction. The Acting Treasurer knows that the present system of repatriation is costing the country so much that an alteration must necessarily be made. The Government will not be able to carry on the policy pursued up to date.
– Many a soldier cannot get a block.
– That is so. We have in Australia to-day millions of acres of Crown lands which are producing nothing; they are running vermin, and are really a menace to the country. Yet we have in our capital cities thousands of returned men who are anxious to go on the land, but cannot secure a block.
– It is only fair to say that in this State the wheat lands of the Northern Mallee are the only Crown lands suitable for soldier settlement. The remaining Crown lands have been “ picked over “ for seventy or eighty years, and do not offer reasonable opportunities for successful soldier settlement.
– If the honorable member says that there are no Crown lands in ‘ Victoria suitable for soldiersettlement, I will answer him.
– I specifically said that, with the exception of wheat lands in the Northern Mallee, we had no suitable Crown lands.
– We are asked, also, to censure the Government “ for its failure to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest.”
– Before the honorable member leaves the question of repatriation, I should like to say that I entirely agree with him.
– I merely say that . I believe it would be possible to settle many of our returned men on Crown lands, areas being granted to them free of charge. One of the “great causes of industrial unrest is the profiteering that has been carried on by the commercial interests of this country. Honorable members sitting behind the Government may disagree with me, but they cannot deny that the exorbitant profits that are being made in some businesses and by certain corporations and combines are more responsible for industrial unrest than any other , cause.
– I agree with the honorable member; but what is the remedy?
– I am pleased to know that at least one member of the Nationalist party accepts my view.He asks me to supply a remedy. I, like him, however, am- groping for a remedy. I know that every honorable member of the Opposition professes to be able to supply one, but, as I have not the wisdom they claim to possess, I am unable to answer the question put to me by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). An extension of the profit-sharing system is the road on which we should start with the object of ridding ourselves of industrial unrest, while the establishment of cooperative industries would also be of material assistance. The Country party tried to make a start with co-operative enterprises for our returned men when the War Gratuity Bill was before us, but we were blocked by the Government and their supporters. Our proposals for co-operative enterprises on the part of returned soldiers were so whittled down by the Government, on the score of economy, that they were practically rendered useless.
– On what basis would the honorable member have this profitsharing?
– I am not to be drawn into a discussion of details, which would involve a very lengthy speech. I am trying merely to give broad general outlines, in the hope that we may find a remedy for these evils. I have no desire to condemn the Government for what has happened. My sole object is to do something that will help to place the people of this country in a better position than they occupy to-day.
– Profit-sharing would only intensify the evil.
– The honorable member may sneer at my suggested remedy, but I ask him and his party to supplya better one.
– The first step is to shift the Government.
– My concern is not so much in relation to the first as to the second step to be token.
The Opposition claim in this motion that the Government should also be censured “ for its failure to secure an adequate return to the Australian people for their wool and other primary products sold overseas.” I agree that the present Government has not secured for our primary products that were sold overseas the prices that should have been obtained for them.
– The honorable member is wise after the event.
– I was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly before I entered this House, and can quote from the State Hansard to show that the statements I am now making are not a mere display of wisdom after the event. A great deal has been said about the Wheat Pool, and the sales of wheat. I am not going into the history of every sale of wheat, nor shall I re-hash the arguments that have already been put before the House. I desire, however, to refer to the dissatisfaction that has been caused by the Government’s control of the various Wheat Pools. Whenever an honorable member of the Corner party, or any friend of the farmer, attempts in this House to criticise the Wheat Pool, he is met with the parrot-like cry, “ What would the farmers have done without the Pool ? “ I freely admit that I do not know what would have happened had the Pool noi been formed.
– The farmer would not have been able to finance himself.
– A ‘Nationalist prophet speaks! Being neither a prophet nor a Nationalist, I cannot say what would have happened. I ask, however, what would Australia have done without the wheat that the farmer produced? What would the various State Governments, which made advances to the wheatgrowers in the drought of 1914, have done without our wheat? What would the revenues of the various States have done without the receipts from the carriage of wheat? What would the big companies in the capital cities of Australia have done without the Pool? What would the shipping agents and the other middlemen, who admitted that they were helpless and could not have carried on, have done without the millions that they made out of the Pool? What would the various business men in our country towns have done without it? Look what the wheat scrip’ speculator would have missed had it not been for the Pool. When these critics of the farmers talk about the benefits the farmer has derived from the Pool, they speak as if the farming community was the only section of the people that had benefited by it. They talk of the tens of millions that the farmers have received from the Pool, as if the farmers had the money .’till in their pockets. As a struggling wheat-grower the only pleasure I had out of the money I got” from the Pool was the pleasure of handing it over to somebody else. I am not claiming that wo did not derive a benefit from the Pool, but I do claim that we were not the only section of the community to do so. A great blunder was made, at the initiation of the pooling system, in connexion with the financing of it. I am listening for the wise after-the-event cry, but it has not come yet. In order to forestall it, let me say that it was, I think, four years ago that we went to the present Government.
– You did not come to us four years ago.
– It may have been three years ago that we went to the Federal Government with a proposal for financing the Pool somewhat on the lines of the motion moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). Our scheme was that the Federal Government should advance money to the wheatgrowers on a fair basis - I forget what sum we named, if we named any, but we desired only a 4s. or 4s. 9d. basis - and issue Commonwealth notes, or negotiable wheat bonds, we were not particular which, for the wheat that was delivered into the Pool, and that, as the wheat was exported or sold, and the money received, the notes should be withdrawn from circulation. We argued that if it was sound finance to issue £100 . in Commonwealth notes on the security of £40 worth of gold, it was surely equally sound finance to issue £100 in Commonwealth notes on the security of £100 worth of wheat. Our proposal was turned down, and I have often wondered why. I believe the real reason was that the financial interests of Australia did not want it. A great deal has been said about the assistance given by the Associated Banks to the Wheat Pool, but whatever assistance they gave they have been -well paid for. They secured interest on that portion of the money that the farmers received, while for the portion of their wheat for which the farmers were not paid the farmers held scrip with which they had to go to the various branches of the Associated Banks in the country to obtain an overdraft, so that the banks got interest both ways.
– Do not forget that the interest was a concession on the ruling rate.
– Yes, I believe it was 5 per cent. Had the Government adopted the scheme of finance which we put before them, there would have been no necessity to push the sale ofour Australian wheat. As I said in the Victorian Parliament two or three years ago I strongly object to Australian wheat being hawked around the world as if it were dirt - in an effort to sell it here, there, and everywhere.
– In other words, the honorable member wanted a loan to the farmers, free of interest.
– The exact rate of interest and questions of that kind could have been well threshed put. The farmers were quite prepared to meet the Government fairly on a matter of detail like that of interest.’ Instead of adopting the scheme of finance which I have described, the Nationalist Government adopted a system by which they advanced to the struggling wheat-growers a proportion, not nearly sufficient to cover the cost of production, and gave them wheat scrip for the balance.
– How could you guarantee the indestructibility of wheat in the same way as yon can guarantee the indestructibility of gold?
– It is well known that if wheat is not properly looked after it is not indestructible, but if reasonable care is shown in handling it, it is practically indestructible, as is proved by the fact that I have now on my farm wheat three years old, which is as good as on the day I grew it. Had the wheat been handled in the way they, are handling it now, we would not have had nearly the amount of losses that were caused. The way in which the Victorian Wheat Pool have handled the last two seasons’ wheat is a credit to them, and I give the officials concerned and the Victorian Government every credit for it. The system of giving scrip for that portion of their wheat for which the farmers could not receive payment in cash automatically weeded out that section of the wheat-growers who were financially weak. Those unfortunate men, the very section of the wheat-growers that any honest Government ought to try to protect, were plundered by the wheat scrip speculators and the other profiteers of this country. Honest, hard-working men have come to me with their wheat scrip in one hand, and in the other a lawyer’s letter threatening legal proceedings, and have asked me what they could do. They had to go upon the market and sell their scrip for what they could get for it in order to save themselves from being dragged like criminals before the Courts for the non-payment of their debts. That was the part of the Pool system that I objected to. The wealthy wheat-grower came out fairly well. He could let his scrip liein the bank, and let the bank collect his dividends for him. The wheat scrip speculators did fairly well, and all the profits they made were made out of the unfortunate section of the wheatgrowers who could not carry on.
– The wheat scrip was entirely issued by the States, and controlled by the States, and not by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is again trying to lead me off into details. Surely he knows that if the Commonwealth Government had financed the States, there would have been no need for wheat scrip.
The members of the Country party have been trying to obtain a pronouncement from the present Government of their intentions for the coming season. The other day I asked a civil question of the Prime Minister on the subject, and he took the opportunity in reply to make an attack upon myself and my colleague, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). That is characteristic of the Prime Minister. He was not very particular, in making the attack, as to what he said. That is characteristic of him also. He accused my colleague and myself of having denounced the Pool, lock, stock, and barrel. He knew that statement was false.
– Order !
– I withdraw the remark, but I regret that the Prime Minister is not here. I do not like to attack any honorable member when he is absent, but he should be here. I challenge him, and I challenge any member of the Government, to mention one instance, or produce the report of any speech that ever I have made, or that’ the honorable member for Echuca has made, attacking the principle of the Pool. I have never upon any occasion opposed the principle of the pooling system. I am proving that conclusively by fighting for its continuance.
– Who said you opposed it?
– The Prime Minister said so.
– That does not matter - nobody takes any notice of him;
– But there are some people in this country foolish enough to believe the Prime Minister. Asthe Commonwealth Government have given a guarantee of 5s. a bushel for this year’s wheat, I think the wheat-growers are entitled to know what they are going to do about it. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that the question of the financing of the Pool, in which the interests of thousands of wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth are involved, should depend upon the desires or wishes of one particular individual. The Prime Minister said, “ I will not give, you any Pool, because I have been criticised.” That is a nice state of affairs. It looks as if this is in reality a one-man Government. .
– You know that the State Premiers are dealing with the question this very day.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who is a valiant and faithful servant of the Ministry, says that the State Premiers are dealing with the question. I am not denying it, but I ask why the question was not settled long ago.
There are other matters upon which I wish to speak. If honorable members opposite depended upon the arguments advanced by them during this debate to secure my vote for their censure motion, I think I should be found voting with the Government. If the members of the Country party depended upon the arguments advanced by the party opposite to convince them that they should support the motion, I do not think many of them would vote for it. But, as it happens, there are other matters which I object to, and other reasons why I should support the motion. Honorable members opposite showed a deplorable lack of judgment and of knowledge of political tactics in the way they directed their attack upon the Government. I support the censure motion, not for the reasons which have been advanced by honorable members opposite, but chiefly for reasons which they have not given.
– So long as the honorable member supports the motion, his reasons do not matter.
– The chief reason is to put the Government out of office.
– If I thought that displacing the Government would mean putting honorable members opposite in power, I might reconsider my decision.
But what the primary producers have objected to more than, anything else is the Government interference with the export of their products. The fixing of the price of meat is a matter which has not yet been forgotten. Every move that was madeby the present Government and their predecessors to interfere with the export of our primary products was always to the disadvantage and loss of the primary producer. Only a year or two ago the rabbit skin market showed strong indications of proving a profitable one to the Government. They made a profit of approximately £250,000 out of it, and boasted of the fact as illustrating the financial genius of Ministers.
The Tariff proposals submitted to this House constitute another reason why I shall vote against the Government. However, that is a matter which I shall not debate at the present juncture, becauseI am well aware that the fate of the Government does not depend upon my vote.
– The honorable member has given the game away.
– The Prime Minister in his speech twitted honorable members opposite with their diminished numbers. He might very well have been silent upon that subject in view of the electoral system under which he ousted a number of Labour senators at the last election. Not only did that undemocratic system defeat them, but it also blocked many of ‘the candidates who were put forward by the Country party. That electoral system is an absolute disgrace to the country, and the Government will hear more about it in the future. Had Ministers been honest, they would have brought forward a system of proportional representation for the Senate.
But my greatest objection to the Government is based upon a reason which was not even mentioned by theLeader of the Opposition. I refer to the allimportant subject of finance. If there is one subject more than another which ought to have occupied a prominent place in this debate, it is the financial position of this country, and the way in which the Government are handling the finances of the Commonwealth. Only the other day it was announced - and it has been announced almost daily since - that we can get no more money from the Old Country in connexion with our various State loans. To my mind it will be a good day for Australia when we can get no more money from that source. Australia, as a nation, should finance itself. If the Government of this country cannot secure sufficient money within our own. territory to carry out developmental works, there must be something radically wrong with this great and rich Commonwealth. Every penny thatwe borrow should be borrowed internally. ‘ The farmers of Australia are quite prepared to bear their share of any financial burden that may be imposed, and they have always proved that. The present Government know very well that the financial position of this country is a deplorable one. They are continually dwelling on the fact that money is scarce. But what are they doing to stop the drift?
– Does the honorable member mind looking at the businesspaper for this morning? There he will see that the expenditure of millions of pounds is being asked for by members of the Country party.
– If the members of that party are asking for something that the country cannot afford, the honorable gentleman will be justified in putting his foot down and in refusing it.
– There are fifteen questions on the business-paper for this morning in which the expenditure of money is being sought by members of the Corner party.
– I am dealing now with the finances of this country.
– Presently I shall sit down, and the Minister for the Navy may then rise in his place and say what he has to say. I shall be pleased to hear a lecture from him on the finances of this country if he will only tell us the truth. But he has not the courage to tell us the truth.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw and apologize. I rose chiefly to refer to the charges which have been levelled against the party of which I’ have the honour to be a member. During the course of this debate we have been accused of many things. Last night the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) accused us of being a sectional party, and said that for that reason we were unfitted to govern this country. I deny the charge of sectionalism. We are not sectional in our ideals - quite the reverse. If there is one section of the community more than another which’ has a right to a fair say in the government of this country it is that section which is composed of primary producers. Who has a better right to a share in the government of the Commonwealth than the men and women who have gone into the bush and fought drought, fire, and flood, and made this country what it is to-day? Honorable members opposite have repeatedly urged that the ideals of our party are opposed to the interests of the working man. I deny that. There is not a member of the Country party who is out to down the working man or to be unfair to him in any way. I believe that when I say that: I am expressing the sentiments of every member of the party to which I belong.
– I do not think that you are.
– There is not a working man in Australia who has anything to fear from the Country party. There is not one straight-going commercial man in this country who has anything to fear from the Farmers party. In saying that I am not referring to the profiteer, but to the straight-going commercial man who is satisfied to make a fair profit. He has no reason to fear the primary producers. I am well aware that the advent of the Country party into this House is unpopular with both sides of the chamber. But I believe that the people of Australia are full up to the very neck of the two-party political system.
– That is why they put Troup in his place last Saturday.
– I give honorable members opposite full credit for their victory at Ballarat. I congratulate them upon it. We failed to secure the return of our candidate, but we have not always failed, and we shall not always fail in lie future. The two-party system in politics of Labour versus anti-Labour has been the curse of this country, and. I believe that the people of Australia welcome the advent of a third party. But I know that honorable members upon both sides of this Chamber do not welcome it. I am well aware that there are some honorable members who feel rather uncomfortable since the advent of the Country party. The ideals for which we are fighting have been approved by a large number of the people of this country, and that number will increase as the years go by. ‘ Our party is here to stay, in spite of the sneers that emanate from both sides of the chamber. We are out for sound finance and clean government. We intend to do our level best in the interests of this country. If there be one section of the community more than another which has a stake .in Australia, it is that which comprises the men and women who are upon the land. The very roots of our movement are embedded in the soil of this country. We have more to gain by the prosperity of the Commonwealth, and more to lose as the result of bad government and maladministration, than has any other section of the community. For that reason I deny the charge which has been levelled against us by honorable members opposite. The tactics which they have adopted in regard to the Country party have been very foolish. Upon the other hand, I congratulate the Government upon their tactics. So far, they have put up only one of their number to reply to the charge of mismanagement and general incapacity on the part of the Government. They put up their best man because they realized that the task which he had to perform was quite beyond the capacity of the rank and file of that party.
– I desire to make one or two observations in reply to criticism which has been directed against the Government from the opposite side of the chamber. I wish first to deal with certain remarks which were made last night by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) upon the subject of profiteering. I desire to deal first with the points raised by the honorable member regarding the powers which he says this Parliament possesses to deal with profiteering. We should know exactly where we stand in this regard. The honorable member has frequently stated here and elsewhere that we possess ample powers under the Constitution to deal with this matter. He has at times given a careful analysis, and has boiled the question down to the point that the matter can be effectively dealt with by the Government under two powers. He referred ‘ to the powers of taxation and of census and statistics - and he restricted it to these two.
– I did not.
– The honorable member can submit others if he so desires, and I shall be prepared to deal with them. He confined his remarks last night principally to the powers of taxation and of census and statistics, and declared that under these two powers we have ample authority to deal with profiteering. May I remind the honorable member that the points hehas raised are not new to members of this House. Since the inception of the Federal Parliament, Governments have realized that the powers they possessed were inadequate if they were to deal effectively with a number of subjects of pressing importance. I ask honorablemembers to realize that all the powers the honorable member mentioned, and even those to which he did not refer, have been closely examined from time to time to ascertain whether the Government could not exercise wider authority. What was the result? We found that the Federal powers were limited, though it wasthought that authority could be exercised in some indirect way. The first power the honorable member referred to, that of taxation, was fully inquired into, and a Bill was passed by this Parliament io exempt the payment of Excise duties in the case of firms that had complied with certain industrial conditions. Leadingcounsel, men of high repute, believed that this Parliament had that power, and it seemed, according to the American cases, that they were right. The Act was challenged, and its validity was considered by the High Court in what was known as Barger’s Case. The Court made a very close and careful examination, and came to the conclusion that, so far as taxation was concerned, the taxing power could not alone be regarded, but the Constitution had to be taken as a whole. The Court came- to the decision that the Constitution did not, under the taxing power, confer upon this Parliament the power to invade the internal domestic affairs of the States.
– Is the Minister referring to what was known as the McKay Case?
– Yes. In giving his judgment in the case of the Common- wealth v. Barger, the Chief Justice said -
The primary meaning of “ taxation “ is raising money for the purposes of government by means of contribution from individual persons. Taxation differs from exaction in that the obligation to contribute depends upon prescribed differentiations of the persons from whom, or the things in respect of which, the contribution is to be made. The power to tax necessarily involves the power to select the subjects of taxation. In the case of things the differentiation or selection is, in practice, usually made by reference to objective facts or attributes of the subject-matter, so that all persons or things possessing those attributes are liable to the tax. The circumstance that goods come from abroad, or from a particular foreign country, or that particular processes or persons have been employed in their production, or that they possess certain ingredients, are instances of attributes which have been chosen for the purpose of differentiation. In a State possessing plenary powers of legislation, any condition whatever may be. imposed as a basis of selection for taxation purposes, and it is immaterial whether the differentiation, should properly beregarded as an exercise of the power of taxation or of some other power. But where the competency of Parliament is limited, as in a Federal State, to specific matters, it is material, and indeed necessary, to inquire whether an attempted exercise of the power of legislation falls within some one or more of the enumerated powers. . . . We are thus led to the conclusion that the power of taxation, whatever it may include, was intended to be something entirely distinct from a,power to directly regulate the domestic affairs of the States, which was denied to the Parliament.
– I did not suggest taxation to regulate the domestic affairs of a State.
– The honorable member for West Sydney said that this Parliament possessed power to deal with profiteering in such a way as to make it unprofitable, and that is the proposition he put before the House. If the honorable member will closely examine the decisions that have been arrived at, he will find that this Parliament cannot deal effectively with profiteering under its present powers. If the honorable member suggests that persons who are profiteering by means of sales conducted within a State should be subject to a tax, he will find that the Act imposing that tax will not be held to be a taxing measure if its object is to interfere with internal affairs solely and wholly within the jurisdiction of a State.
As regards trusts, combines, and monopolies, I think that it will be generally admitted that members on both sides of the Chamber are absolutely opposed to such organizations when they are operating detrimentally to the public interest. This Parliament endeavoured to legislate upon that subject, and it was thought that it could be done under several powers. It was thought that, ‘ in the matter of Inter-State trade, we had wide jurisdiction. We have jurisdiction over external trade, and it was also thought that we had. power over certain corporations. Legislation was accordingly drafted in an endeavour to meet the situation. This Parliament in 1906 passed an Act entitled the Australian Industries Preservation Act.’ sections 5 and 8 of which read - 5. - (1) Any foreign corporation, or trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth, which, either as principal or agent, makes or enters into any contract, or engages or continues in any combination -
In addition, certain powers relating to investigation were included in an amending Act, and those powers were challenged. Eventually the matter came before the High Court, and it was ruled that the power of the Commonwealth in this connexion is very limited, and such as is, to my mind, absolutely inadequate. The Court took the view that, as far as corporations were concerned, Parliament could deal with the conditions under which they were allowed to carry on business in the Commonwealth, but as soon as those corporations came within the domain of trade and commerce within a State they passed out of Federal control absolutely. The Court, therefore, declared these sections 5 and 8 ultra vires.
– Does the Minister say that the Government have not the power by means of taxation ?
– I thought I had made the position, perfectly clear. As far as this class of corporations and the Federal powers were concerned the Court has held that, when it became a matter of trade within a State, corporations passed out of Federal control.
– There is unlimited power to tax, providing it is bona fide.
– That is another matter. Where we have direct power conferred upon us we can exercise it; but when we seek to impose conditions which invade the domain of the States our position is as it was in the industrial case when the Court held that our Statute was ultra vires.
– You should use the. powers you possess effectively.
– We are limited by the decision of the Court in the case T have quoted. Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffith and the late Mr. Justice Barton have ruled -
Section 51 (xx) of the Constitution confers upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to prohibit foreign corporations, and trading, and financial corporations formed under State laws from, engaging in trade and commerce within a State, as distinguished from trade and commerce between States or with foreign countries, or to impose conditions, subject to which they may engage in such trade and commerce, but does not confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to control the operations of Bud corporations which lawfully engage in such trade and commerce.
The powers are perfectly clear, and there is a whole series of decisions on similar lines, particularly in relation to the Bootmakers and the Union Label cases. Later on, when the Commonwealth passed certain land taxation laws, it was held that the Commonwealth Parliament had. no authority in the name of and under guise of taxation to interfere with civil rights or domestic relations. The position is perfectly dear that taxation powers must be used for the purpose of taxing, and not to control or regulate matters concerning the internal trade of the States.
– That is all I am suggesting.
– The honorable member is suggesting more. Let us take the next point. The honorable member says that this Parliament has power under the provisions relating to census and statistics., and claims that we can under those provisions effectively deal with profiteering. What is the power relating to census and statistics 1 It is clear that, under that authority, we can obtain returns relating to a very wide area of subjects. Many returns are now furnished under the State laws ; but the power we possess does not give us authority to authorize complete investigations on all matters affecting ordinary trade operations. It is not an investigating power such as is possessed by a Royal Commission. The provision relating to statistics is intended to relate to subjects that are well known to us.
– Why is it not a power similar to that possessed by a Royal Commission ?
– Our power under the provision relating to statistics is well known. It was never intended that that provision would enable us to appoint persons to make investigations, as is done by Royal Commissions, in connexion with operations within a State. Let us take the two points raised by the honorable member together, and see how he proposes to deal with profiteering. It is rather interesting to see what is proposed under the census and statistics power. ‘. It is proposed to require statistics of the cost of production of goods manufactured in Australia, and of landed cost of imported goods ; also statistics of profits accruing to trading corporations. It is suggested that the Government, having obtained this information, may, under the taxing power, tax persons or corporations in respect of profits and dividends. This, it .is said, would be an effective way to deal with profiteering, but what would its effect be upon the industries of Australia? What a delightful scheme this : to call upon all those persons connected with industries and trading concerns throughout Australia to furnish statistical returns in addition to those they are already obliged to make under the Income Tax Assessment Act and other Statutes. The whole of their time would be occupied in making returns. Under his scheme, both innocent and guilty would be called upon to furnish returns.
– Everybody need not be asked to do that.
– Then, who would be asked to make returns ?
– The Government could select those they thought were guilty of profiteering.
– Well, that is interesting. Apparently the honorable member would expect the Minister to select some firm, and say, in effect, “I think you are guilty of profiteering, and so I shall call upon you to make returns.” Of course, the honorable member for West Sydney knows that this would be an absolute perversion of the statistical power, which is designed, primarily, to collect statistics relating to the social, commercial, vital, and other conditions of the country, so as to enable the Parliament to legislate with wisdom and justice. But let us carry the honorable member’s argument a little further. Because production may return substantial profits, it does not necessarily follow that the producer is profiteering.For instance, a man engaged in mining may strike a rich natch and secure handsome returns. That would not be profiteering. Then, again, a man engaged in production may strike a good season and get a big return. Would the honorable member for West Sydney say he was profiteering because of the margin between the cost of production and the returns? Yet, according to his line of reasoning, the producer, in such circumstances, would be under suspicion. He urges that the profiteering section of the community should be reached, in this way, by the taxing method. Nobody knows better than the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Tudor) that the taxing law must be general in its operation, and therefore, the idea advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney tumbles to theground hopelessly. I think that on a previous occasion he suggested that there was a further way of hitting the profiteer, namely, by prohibiting exports. What an excellent method ! Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that some produce merchant was guilty of profiteering. In order to punish him the honorable member for West Sydney would punish the whole of the farmers of Australia by prohibiting; the exportation of their produce.
– That is the object.
– I think I have covered” most, if not all, of the grounds referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney, I again remind the House that the Government did make an attempt, by means of taxation, to deal to some extent with the profiteering problem. Parliament passed a war-time profits tax. What was the effect ?
– Sir William Irvine declared that the Act allowed all the big men to escape.
– Yet the Bill was first introduced by a member of a Labour Government which honorable members opposite supported.
– It was not.
– Yes, it was; and I also remind him that Sir William Irvine’s statement was, not that the Act did not get at the excess profits, but that it left untouched the rich men, who had big incomes before the war. And Sir William Irvine was right. I have the latest figures dealing with taxation raised under that Act. These show that, in 1917-18, £680,000 was collected; in 1918-19, £1,206,000; in 1919-20, £2,569,000, or a total of £4,450,558. Both parties in the House agreed upon the main principles of the Act, and it was thought that the Government would be able to get at excess profits made during the war. We now know that in its incidence and operation the Act has wrought some hardship, as was inevitable, considering the nature of the measure. Experience teaches us that any taxing measure aimed at the profiteers may hit a few, but, at the same time, it may touch many innocent persons, and do serious injury to their legitimate interests.
The criticism by the honorable member for West Sydney was that the Government had ample power to deal with profiteering. I have shown that we have not. Let us test this matter in another way. Profiteering has been defined as unreasonable and unfair profit, that is to say, any excess over what is reasonable and fair profit. Now, as to the Commonwealth power, I may point out that in New South Wales there are over 2,000,000 of the population of Australia; in Victoria, over 1,000,000; in Queensland, 725,000 ; and smaller numbers in the other States: This means that the amount of trade “within the States is very large indeed. The volume of our Inter-State trade is not so great. That, however, is the only area within which we may have the power to punish anybody guilty of unreasonable and unfair trading profits, and experience shows that it is a comparatively simple matter for any trader to evade the operations of Commonwealth legislation regarding Inter-State trade. During the transport of goods from one State to another, they are subject to the Inter-State power, that is, the Federal power, but as soon as they reach the State of destination, and are distributed among the common goods of that State, they pass completely from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and come under that »i the State. The Commonwealth Government was anxious to deal with combines and corporations where their operations were Inter-State, but when the Act to which I have referred was passed, those organizations that were then within the purview of the Commonwealth law dissolved and became organizations within the State area of control, thus passing completely beyond our power. That is the position in which we found ourselves.
I have shown the power we possess and its limitations. In order to deal effectively with profiteering the body charged with that responsibility must have the power to investigate. Under the English Act there is a Central Committee - the Board of Trade - with certain powers delegated to local Committees, to investigate particular transactions. In almost every instance there must ultimately be power to invade the realms of State jurisdiction.
– I do not agree with any of your arguments, but-
– -I did not expect the honorable member would agree with me.
– Assuming you are right, have you not power, under the War Precautions Act, to do these things?
– That Act exists for a time only. The honorable member knows that the defence power is a limited power in times of peace.
– But did you not, under this power, fix the price of bread ?
– Certainly, because the High Court ruled that during the war the powers of the Commonwealth were of such a character that we had a right to invade the realms of the State. But we are not now dealing with war-time conditions.
– Do you say that the War Precautions Act is -not now in operation?
– It is in operation, of course. . I think the honorable member attempted recently to prove it was not. I think I have shown that the honorable member’s arguments are entirely without foundation. However, I sympathize with him.
– I am looking to the people of Australia in regard to this matter.
– And so am I, and I may point out that a little while ago the honorable member was not so anxious that the people of Australia should decide thi3 matter, because he deliberately told them not to vote for certain proposals framed to give the Government greater power.
– But I gave my reasons then.
– I have shown what our powers are. I do not expect the honorable member to agree with me, but I expect that in his quiet moments he will confess to himself that I am right.
– You are only succeeding in convincing the representatives of the profiteers that you are right.
– I am afraid the honorable member is himself the victim of the capitalistic system. With regard to Commonwealth power, I have indicated the nature of the legislation necessary to deal with profiteering, instancing the British Act of 1919, also the Queensland Act of 1920. Profiteering is invariably the result of” individual transactions. Such individual contracts would in the majority of cases be made between parties within a State, and would be subject solely to State jurisdiction. I am not speaking now of war conditions. We are looking to the future, with the war power disappearing, and a general desire on the part of members of all parties to rely upon it as little as possible. If the honorable member for West Sydney had been a member of this House in the last Parliament, he would have heard elo- quent appeals by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues for the repeal of the War Precautions Act. When the Government asked for an extension of the Act, honorable members opposite voted against us.
– But the Minister will admit that I desired an extension of the Commercial Activities Act.
– The honorable member desired to extend that Act beyond the period for which we had a right to continue it. The honorable member will admit that he desired to wipe out the War Precautions Act altogether. My argument is based, not upon the passing conditions of war, but upon permanent conditions, and the powersthat reside in the Commonwealth in times of peace. The Imperial Act, the Act passed in Queensland on the 11th March of this year, and the Victorian Act, all recognise that the only method of dealing with the profiteer is ultimately to bring the individual offender to account and punish him. But in the main these individual transactions are under the control of the States, and are outside the jurisdiction of this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated very clearly to the electors that this Parliament had no effective power of legislation in regard to profiteering, and it was in order to be able to do something effective in that direction that he urged that the Commonwealth should be given adequate powers for a limited period over realms of State, jurisdiction regarding trade and commerce, corporations, and other matters. I have stated the constitutional position as it exists- to-day. It is a question, not of party politics, but of knowing exactly where this Parliament stands, what constitutional powers it possesses, to what extent it can legislate, and, if it has not the necessary power, what additional powers it should be given by the people. I apologize to honorable members for having dealt at such length with the legal aspect of the question, but I think that my remarks were justified in the circumstances.
Honorable members opposite have been saying that they do not represent one class or section of the community only. I should like the outside public to’ compare the speeches of Labour members in this House with the literature issued by the official Labour organizations outside. If we wish to get at the true inwardness of the Labour par y’s objective, we must have regard, not to the speeches delivered, in this House, but to the driving forces outside, as indicated by the booklets published by various Labour organ irzations
– The honorable member cannot name one of those publications.
– I have copies qf a number of them. Has the honorable member read the literature issued from the Brisbane Worker office? Has he read all the pamphlets issued on the subject of the socialistic propaganda of those organizations and their explanation of the Soviets ? Honorable members opposite say that they represent all classes and sections of the community. In this regard a very significant remark was made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan): When the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) interjected, “We are in favour of co-operation, and we ask you to come half-way to meet us,” the honorable member for West Sydney replied, “Yes, but we believe in. real co-operation between producer and consumer.” What is this real co-operation between producer and consumer? The honorable member does not mean that all men, producers and consumers alike, shall be shareholders in one co-operative organization. Perhaps this paragraph from the Australian Labour party’s official platform, as published in the Brisbane Worker on the 4th December, 1914, will help us in interpreting the honorable member’s remarks-
Objective (2). The emancipation of all human labour from all forms of exploitation, and the obtaining for all workers the full reward of their industry by the collective ownership and democratic control of the collectively used agencies of production, distribution, and exchange.
Honorable members boast of the support they obtained from the electors of Hume, Werriwa, and various other farming constituencies. Did the Labour candidates in those electorates advocate as one of the planks of their platform that the farms which the farmers own and control should ultimately pass from their hands into collective ownership ?
– Is not a farm a means of production?
– Yes, but it is not a collectively used agency of production.
– It may not be, but do not honorable members opposite seek to make it so?
– Then are we to infer that the attitude of honorable members is this: - “ We .are Socialists, and we will socialize everything, but we must tell the farmer that we will not socialize his property’.” Is it by collective ownership that honorable members opposite propose to arrive at complete co-operation between producer and consumer ?
– Would the Minister be good enough to say what words in the paragraph he has read indicate that we believe in taking the farm of the individual ?
– That inference is clearly to be drawn from the proposal to bring about the collective ownership and democratic control of the collectively used agencies of production. Is not the nationalization of land one of the objectives of the Labour party?
– It is not on our platform.
– But is it not an objective of the party, and by the prohibition of freehold and by the taxation of land in some of the States is not the Labour party trying to make that objective effective ?
During the course of this debate there has been a good deal of discussion concerning the principle of deportation. I shall not refer to any individual case, but I ask honorable members to bear in mind that during the war there were in Australia certain enemy subjects, who owed allegiance not to this country, but to a foreign and enemy country.
– It has to be proved that they were enemy subjects.
– That was easily proved in some cases, and was established by the Court in one particular case.
– What case was that?
– I do not intend to refer to it more precisely. Every man deported from Australia after the war, even though he was an alien subject owing allegiance to another country, was given the right and opportunity to make representations to a magistrate, and of stating his case fully, and completely before he was deported. In addition, there was a Central Board, presided over by a Judge, to which cases were referred; so that no man was sent from this country without the facts of his case being heard, if he so desired, or without his receiving the most humane consideration. One man, concerning whom a great deal of fuss was made had both of these opportunities afforded him, and even had his case twice dealt with by the High Court. A lot of dust is being thrown into the eyes of the Australian people, and honorable members are asking why all these cases are not subject to trial by jury. When nations are at war-
Honorable Members. - We are not at war now.
– I am dealing with the cases of enemy subjects who were interned during the war. When honorable members opposite were in power the Government interned these men without giving them any trial.
– Hear, hear! The Labour party did it.
– And that action was quite right. The security of the nation is the first aim and necessity in time of war, and since the cessation of hostilities no man has been, sent out of the country without being given the fullest opportunity to state his case. No other country in the world has treated enemy subjects more generously than Australia has done. Yet honorable members are trying to deceive the people into believing that the principle of imprisonment without trial is being wrongfully violated. That is only so much dust thrown in the eyes of the public. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) tried to place upon the shoulders of this Government the responsibility for the disfranchisement of Germans. I do not blame the honorable member, who is new to the Federal sphere, for not knowing more about this subject, but other honorable members who are associated with him know that in 1916 a Labour Government was in power here, controlled entirely by the Labour party. Honorable members now among the Nationalists were then sitting in Opposition. What I wish to point out is that the first measure to disfranchise naturalized Germans in Australia, and the first Statute to interfere with Australian-born persons of German parentage, was passed-
– By the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– And the honorable member was following him at the time.
– I objected to that legislation.
– Honorable members opposite sat behind that Labour Government and supported that legislation, but now are turning against legislation first introduced by a Labour Government.
– That is untrue.
– I call upon the honorable member for Augas to withdraw that statement.
– When the Minister blamed the Australian Labour party for disfranchising Australian born, I claimed that it was untrue, and I repeat it.
– The honorable member is aggravating his offence.
– As there is a no-confidence motion in progress I withdraw my remark.
– The honorable mem- ber must withdraw his remark without qualification.
– I withdraw it.
– If honorable members will cease their interjections there will be less occasion for me to call so frequently for the observation of the Standing Orders. These frequent interjections lead to disorder and unpleasantness. I have no wish to interfere with the progress of the debate, but when these interruptions are so constant I must appeal to honorable members to observe the Standing Orders and decorum in debate.
– The first measure to disfranchise naturalized Germans was passed by a Labour Government, and the first interference with the right of Australian natives of German descent was contained in that Act. We all know that that is a correct statement of facts. On the 28th September, 1916, when the Military Service Referendum Act was assented to, a Labour Government was in power.
– No; it was the Hughes Government.
- Mr. Hughes was the Prime Minister, but the Ministry inincluded, among others, Senator Gardiner, Mr. Mahon, and others. In section 7 of the Military Service Referendum Bill we find the following -
Provided further that, notwithstandinganything contained in section 10a of that Act, the following persons shall be disqualified from voting at the referendum: -
any naturalized British subject who was born in any country which forms part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is now at war. Provided that this paragraph and sub-section (1) of section 9, shall not apply to any naturalized British subject, wherever born, who produces to the presiding officer a certificate signed by the District Commandant of a Military District, or an officer thereto authorized by him. that that person is a parent of a person who has been or is a member of the Forces; and
any person who is interned in any place of internment.
Section 9 makes provision whereby the votes cast in certain proclaimed districts by German natives were to be recorded in a particular manner.
– What does the Minister mean by “German natives”?
– Persons born in Australia, of parents who came from Germany.
– The point is - who passed the Act ?
– Attempts have been made to place the responsibility on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), whereas it was the common responsibility of Parliament, and the only proper and manly course is for us to recognise it, and stand up to what we ought to without putting the blame unfairly on others.
– That was one of the things which placed the Prime Minister in the position of being the honorable member’s leader.
– It was the loyalty of the Prime Minister which displeased the honorable member for Batman. The Prime Minister stood up for his country. However, I am endeavouring to make these remarks impersonally. I have not attempted to say a word against individuals. I have endeavoured to criticise measures.
– The honorable member could not give me a greater affront than to say that I had any connexion with that iniquitous legislation.
An Honorable Member. - Did not the honorable member support it?
– The honorable member did not. I. shall read the division list to prove that he did not.
– The honorable member’s association with the Prime Minister, I think, will be his sole reason for being remembered in future.
– The Leader of the Opposition was on this side when this legislation was passed.
– But he had previouslyresigned his portfolio as Minister for Trade and Customs.
– On a point of order, the Leader of the Opposition has referred to me as “ that.” I ask whether that is a fair observation?
– The reference is distinctly personal and offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– If the Leader of the Opposition does not close his mouth I shall repeat why he got out and the understanding there was.
– There was no understanding.
– Order! Yesterday I had to complain that in the effort to maintain order the Chair did not always receive from some members of the Ministry the support it has a right to expect. It is useless to attempt to maintain even a semblance of order unless the Chair is supported by those who ought to show to the rest of the House a better example than to shout out loud interjections immediately the Chair has called for order. Interjections across the chamber must cease, particularly when an honorable member is speaking.
– The point I was endeavouring to make was not to suggest that individuals voted for this particular class of legislation, but that it is not fair to place upon one man the collective responsibility of the House, although there were certain individuals who objected to the measure, and took a stand against it. We ought to bc just in our criticisms.
The Government will emerge from this debate in a stronger position. We are not ashamed of our war record. We can look back upon it with satisfaction, because of the position in which Australia found itself at the close of the struggle. No country in the world was then better situated in many ways, no country’s industries were less affected, there was no country in which prices were lower during the war, or where men could carry on their industries better, no country could show steadier progress or improvement in the wages and conditions of its workers. And now that the war is over we can congratulate Australia on emerging from it with such success and at the same time pay our tribute of praise to those mcn who gave us that security and liberty of speech under the freedom of which some people now abuse the very privileges which our soldiers secured to them.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has intimated that before the Military Service Referendum Bill was passed I had left the Labour Ministry. That is* true. I resigned my portfolio on the 14th or 15th September, 1916. However, a member of the Ministry has interjected that he would disclose what he claimed to be an “understanding.” I made no understanding or undertaking with any person when I resigned, and’ I am convinced that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will admit that I made none. I made my position quite clear. I said that whenever the Ministry would seek to introduce conscription, either by regulation or by a Bill, I would .” get out.”
– The Prime Minister has already stated that in the House.
– That is so. I have not had the opportunity of perusing the division list on the second reading of the Military Service Referendum Bill, but, speaking from memory, I am quite convinced that every honorable member who is now sitting in Opposition, and who was in Parliament at that time, opposed the Bill.
– I was referring to a particular clause of the Bill.
– First of all, we opposedthe second reading. It will be well remembered that after the Bill had been passed and the Referendum was to take place, and when it was proposed to bring into operation a certain regulation under the Military Service Referendum Act, a meeting of the Executive Council was held in Melbourne about three days before’ the Referendum was taken, and it was attended by the then Minister for the Navy (Mr. Jensen), Senator Gardiner, the - Treasurer, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and
Senator Russell. That meeting turned down the proposed regulation, but subsequently Mr. Jensen was summoned to Sydney, and a meeting of the Executive Council was held there, at which a regulation was passed preventing certain persons from voting at the conscription referendum unless they signed their names. As a result of this step the honorable member for. Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and Senators Gardiner and Russell resigned their portfolios rather than participate in the passing of such an iniquitous regulation.
– That is quite apart from the matter of disfranchising enemy subjects.
– No honorable member on this side of the House voted for the provision in the Bill which disfranchised these electors.
– Honorable members did not vote against it.
– They did.
– Was this Bill debated before or after the arrangement referred to by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Laird Smith) ?
– There was no such arrangement. I would rather walk out of politics than sacrifice any. principle on which I had taken a stand. The Hansard containing the record of the division of the House on the second reading of the Military Service Referendum Bill has just beenplaced in my hands. The division wasas follows: -
It is true that certain honorable members now sitting in Opposition did vote for the second reading of the Bill, but I think it will be found they voted against the disfranchisement clause. I object to statements such as we have heard to-day coming from the Ministerial bench. I admit that the Minister for Works ‘ and Railways (Mr. Groom) was prepared to say that I had nothing to do with the Military Service Referendum Bill, but in the heat of political argumenthonorable members are sometimes only too ready to cast a slur on others. I am not ashamed of anything I have done.
Sitting suspended from1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
– As a matter of personal explanation, and in order that no injustice may be done to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I wish to make it quite clear that he was not a member of the Government at the time of the passing of the Military Service Referendum Bill. I think I made it clear that the other Labour members of the Government at the time were Mr. King O’Malley, Senator Gardiner, Mr. Mahon, and others. I said that a Labour Government was responsible for its introduction, and the Bill contained the provision for the disfranchisement of aliens who have become naturalized in Australia, and that also, under clause 9, it introduced the first interference with the exercise of the vote by those born in Australia of German parents. All of those statements are correct.
– I do not think that all of them are correct. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was responsible for it, and he got Mr. Jensen to go to New South Wales to get the assent ofthe Governor-General.
– What I have stated is shown to be correct by the actual provisions of the measure.
– I was quite right in my statement on the subject.
– If honorable members will refer to the Act, they will find that it provides in sub-section 4 of section 9 that-
If, in the ease of any person enrolled in any proclaimed subdivision the Presiding Officer has reason to believe that that person is the son or daughter who was born in any country which forms part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is nowat war, the Presiding Officer may issue to the person a ballot-paper indorsed with the words “ Section 9.”
– The honorable gentleman will admitthat a majority of the Labour party voted against that.
– No, I will not.
– The honorable gentleman read the division ‘ list this morning.
– I have the division list before me, and the total of the “ Noes “ on that occasion, was . twelve. The Bill was introduced, and a motion submitted that it be read a second time, and upon that motion an amendment was moved by Mr. Burns in these terms -
That in the opinion of this House conscription of human life is inadvisable, and that the proposal of this Government, if given effect to, would be destructive to the best interests of Australia.
On that amendment the twelve honorable members whom I have mentioned voted in its support, and, of course, the others voted against it. After that there was a vote on the motion for the second reading, and then the Bill was taken into Committee. There was no division in Committee on clause 9, and no one in Committee challenged a division on the clause at all. It contains, as I have shown, the provision for the disfranchisement of naturalized enemy aliens, and also the provision interfering, under certain conditions, with the right of persons born in Australia whose parents were born in enemy countries.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that no one challenged that provision?
– I say that there was no division taken upon that clause in Committee on the Bill.
– But a division was taken on the whole Bill, and thirteen of us voted against it.
– No, only twelve voted against it. I have set out the facts, and they are correctly recorded in Hansard.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that during the course of my remarks yesterday I stated that in New South Wales there were 16,000 returned soldiers with land certificates unable to be provided with land. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) contradicted me very flatly, and was called to order for using unparliamentary language in describing my statement. I wired to Sydney this morning in connexion with the matter, and through the CommonwealthOfficesI asked my typist there to ring up the State Lands Department of New South Wales and send me . the figures. The following is the urgent telegram I have received in reply : -
To 10th instant 19,783 qualification certificates issued. Three thousand three hundredand six men settled. One thousand five hundred and sixty-six approved to settle or outstanding. (Signed) Gibson.
I had the figures when the Labour Government came into office in New South Wales, and, apparently, as one may expect from a business Government, 1,000 have been settled since those figures were compiled. It is clear that my figures quoted yesterday are approximately correct, and, apparently, there are now 15,000 returned soldiers holding qualification certificates in New South Wales who have not been provided with land.
– I also wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman desire the debate on the censure motion to close at 4 o’clock?
– In spite of any debate I do not propose to let this matter go without a statement of the facts. I am sure that, in the circumstances, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) would not do so. The statement made by the honorable member for Cook . (Mr. Catts) was that he had been informed by the New South Wales Government that the reason why more men had not been settled on the land was that funds were not available.
– The statement which the right honorable gentleman challenged was as to the 16,000 holding qualification certificates.
– I intend »to make my statement now. The last figures sent over here by the Minister - not figures obtained from a typist in the Commonwealth Bank - are as follows-
– On what date?
– These figures were furnished yesterday by wire from the Minister. The agreement at the Conference in January, 1919, was that there should be 8,000 men allocated to New South Wales, and to settle them we were to find money to the extent of £8,774,000. To date 4,000 of the 8,000 returned soldiers roughly have been settled, and now we are informed by the New South Wales Government that to settle the other 4,000 arranged for they will require another £4,500,000 in addition to the £8,774,000 they were promised. The latter sum ha3 been available the whole time to the New South Wales Government, and they have claimed less than £4,000,000. Now, all that the Minister is asking for at the present time is 1,800 additional settlers for New South Wales, for which he seeks a further £4,500,000. There are the figures.
– That does not challenge my statement.
– It does, indeed. I say, again, that all the money that the New South Wales Government require is at their disposal, and the reason why all that was promised to New South Wales has not been spent does not arise from lack of the money but -from lack of adequate arrangements by the New South Wales Government. Over £4,000,000 is still at their disposal for the purpose of soldier settlement.
– The Labour party always welcomes an opportunity to express its opinion of any Administration that is not conducting affairs in the best interests of the people as a whole. Since the general election which took place on the 13th December last, inquiries instituted by members of the Opposition .have revealed gross laxity on the part of the Government in dealing with big national questions, including those international relations and financial questions involved in the returns made to our people from the sales of their produce; also in respect of what we were to get as a result of the hundreds of millions sterling we have expended in connexion with the war.
There has also been evidence of incapacity on the part of the Government in connexion with the arrangements made to secure the prosperity of Australia in thi5, future.
Any one reading the cables which appear from day to day from the other side of the world must be convinced that the National Government of Australia- have failed miserably to safeguard the interests of the landed proprietors and wage-earners, who are the producers of wealth in this country. Last night, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) referred to the fact that a sum amounting to about £1,500,000 ha3 been paid over by the Government in connexion with the Nauru Island agreement, aud the Government have not concerned themselves to learn under what conditions we are to receive authority to control Nauru Island. We know that in the House of Lords only a few days ago a motion was carried which alters the terms under which it was proposed that the island should come under the control of the Federal authorities in Australia. This means that the Government have placed themselves in the position of a person who has bought a house without investigating the title deeds. It is an evidence of the failure of the Government to safeguard our interests, and shows a lack of that business capacity of which members of the Government continually claim to have a monopoly.
In connexion with a far more important matter, in my estimation, the Government have failed to safeguard the interests of Australian producers. It will be agreed that wool is one of the greatest assets of the Commonwealth, and the Government have failed miserably to look after the interests of those of us who have wool in the Pool. In this connexion, honorable members are, no doubt, aware that Senator Pratten has found fault with the Government because of their lack of business capacity, and their failure to take common business precautions to secure that Australian interests shall be properly looked after. We have claimed continually that millions sterling have been lost to the wool-growers of Australia because’ the Government failed to take proper business precautions in connexion with contracts for the sale o’f our wool. We have asked that the contracts should be produced, and have discovered that they are represented by a series of cables, and that we have no redress at law should the British authorities fail to give us what we consider a fair deal. In a discussion in the Senate on the 14th April of this year, Senator Pratten made the following remarks bearing out the statement I have made: -
I think the growers have a right to complain that they have been given no indication of what is Australia’s share in the enormous prices which have been obtained for wool in the world’s market during the last year or two. They may justly complain that no accounts have been rendered of their half-share of the profits made by the British Government on the world’s parity. Neither have they, nor has any of us, even an approximate official estimate of what that share is, although considerably more than half of the whole four clips sold to Britain has been re-sold.
And, again, Senator Pratten said, in regard to making provision for different methods of marketing our wool: - “ Clever Yorkshiremen, who so often beat Australia, will have to deal with stronger sellers, and there will be no more transactions such as letting 450,000 bales of wool go at issue price, with the perfectly correct and laudable idea of reducing the price of British tweeds, but which was ultimately engineered by Bradford manufacturers to their own advantage and sole profit.”
The point on which the Labour party takes exception to the present Administration is that, while we have a say in the sharing of the profits from our wool, the Government should have maintained an organization at work in England to see that nothing like the above occurred. It is useless for honorable members to complain that we are wasting time in discussing these matters in view of the fact that they involve hundreds of millions of money, and, having regard at the same time to our bad’ financial outlook and the enormous burden of taxation which we are bearing, and must continue to carry. For reasons such as these it is absolutely necessary that we put the present Government out of office, and endeavour to secure an Administration which will more satisfactorily guard the’ interests of the primary producer. Members of the Country party say they cannot put the Government out because they do not know what they would be getting in its place. There will be no change of Administration so long as that view is held. We do not make a practice of putting a fresh man into a job while there is another working on the spot. So the fact remains that we cannot get another man in until we have sacked the one who is already there.
This motion has been introduced’ to furnish honorable members with an opportunity of removing the Government, so that we may put an end to the losses and to the bungling which has been continually going on in relation particularly to our overseas interests. The exTreasurer (Mr. Watt) was sent to Great Britain when everybody knew that he was a sick man. Yet the Government sent him there alone to deal with great questions. Let us suppose that Mr. Watt had not resigned, but had become ill, and’ so had been unable to attend to our urgent interests. What would have been the position ? We would have been unrepresented. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) stated the case very clearly and forcibly when he pointed out that through the instrumentality of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) wc had lost hundreds .of thousands of pounds upon sales of wheat. For example, the Prime Minister had given an option over 500,000 bushels, which he had’ no right to do. And so we have had these successions of evidences by way of proof that the Government has been sadly neglecting the interests of the great body of workers on . the land - men, like myself, who have small holdings, and have had to struggle hard to make a living. It requires to be brought! right home to honorable members opposite that, whereas business men have resented interference and have maintained that they must not be prevented from making their comfortable profits, we small producers have had no redress or protection, and have not received a return on capital invested. We have had to work harder than ever, and have found it almost impossible to keep going.
I wish to refer now to the Finance Conference at Brussels, where, again, the interests of Australia are being neglected. We are maintaining the High Commissioner’s Office in London at a huge annual cost. In Brussels grave financial matters in which we are deeply concerned, as an integral portion of the Empire, will be discussed. Where is Australia’s representative? Why should not the
Government instruct the High Commissioner to attend, and, on our behalf, pro-, test against things which are not in conformity with the rights and interests of Australia? The idea behind the inauguration of the High Commissioner’s Office was that we should have an ambassador in Great Britain. If the High Commissioner is not, that, then we should abolish the office. The Labour party is not in favour of maintaining the High Commissioner’s establishment at tremendous annual cost in order that it may be merely a show place, and that, when anything of importance is happening, the High Commissioner shall be superseded by a Minister sent all the way from Australia. It is an anomaly under which our interests are being .seriously neglected. No matter what may be said of Mr. Watt when apportioning blame, the responsibility for the situation must be accepted by the Government, and by honorable members who maintain the Government in office. Australia has been let down.
The motion sets forth that the Government has failed to prevent an inordinate rise in the cost of living. We have continually protested against profiteering during the years of war. If honorable members care to examine the balance-sheets of various big ‘companies, week by week, they will be impressed by the enormous profits which are being made. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for example, has increased its capital by nearly £1,000,000 in a few years. The Vacuum Oil Company, and the various steam-ship companies, have also increased their profits by enormous leaps and bounds. It is of no use for honorable members to say that they and their Government have been unaware of these facts. The Government has employed its own line of steamers to bolster the tremendous profits of the various shipping companies. When the Commonwealth ships were purchased by a Labour Administration, the idea was that they were to keep down freights, and not bolster them up. Yet this Government has pointed with pride to the fact that our vessels paid for themselves in a couple of years. Who actually paid for these ships ? Men like myself and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) ; small, struggling men on the land, humble primary producers. We have been fleeced ; we have had to pay for those ships. One of the main causes of industrial unrest is the profiteer. The wage-earner goes into Court, and there, upon oath, he has to relate what, it costs him to live. He must tell minutely how he maintains his wife and family. He must state what rent he pays, how much he spends on newspapers and picture shows and the like. And upon his statements his wage is based. What happens directly he secures .a living wage? Trusts and combinations of capital immediately thrust up prices of commodities, and render his living wage ineffective. So long as this kind of thing is allowed to continue, so long will there be industrial unrest. In Australia we hear people continually prating that every one has. full and plenty. We are always told that our people are the most prosperous in the world. What effect has this talk on the mind of the struggling wageearner, who finds that he cannot decently maintain his wife and children? He immediately begins to question himself whether he is doing right by his family in the matter of the amount of his earnings. Dissatisfaction arises in his mind, and there is unrest and labour trouble. No matter what machinery is put into operation to deal with the position, the fact remains that, so long as the purchasing power of the wage-earner can be rendered ineffective by the untrammelled operations of the profiteer, so long will there be industrial unrest. The Labour party, through the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), has advanced a proposition, based upon the proposed Judiciary Bill, for the purpose of preventing this kind of thing. But the Government has not seen fit to bring forward the Bill since the honorable member proposed his amendments ; and meanwhile the profiteer flourishes, and industrial unrest spreads broadcast. Inevitably it will not be long before we are still further embroiled in industrial trouble. There are those who say that the Labour party has no concern for country interests.
An attack was made upon honorable members on this side by certain honorable members opposite, who asserted that we did not represent the primary producers. We represent not only the primary producers, but all other sections of the community as well. There are in the Labour party men who have come from all walks of life; men who are primary producers. or are in businesses . allied with primary production, and men concerned in the great problems of transport and distribution. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) represents the waterside workers of Port Jackson; the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Melbourne Parts (Mr. Mathews) represent large bodies of Melbourne workers who are marshalled under the Labour banner ; and other members represent widely different sections of the community. If the country is to advance, and peaceful industrial conditions are to be maintained, there must be co-operation between the various sections of the community. Efficient government requires unity of purpose on the part of all sections of the community. Sectional government for the primary producers or for the wage earners, or for any one section of the community alone would be a bad thing, because it would produce conditions which would not be fair to the people as a whole. The policy of the Labour party, therefore, has been designed to bring together all sections of labour. and to assist the workers on the land, in the stores, and in every other avenue of life, in order that by means of an efficient Government reasonable conditions may be secured, and a more equal distribution of wealth provided for. To clear away misapprehension as to the policy of the Labour party in this matter, I wish to put it on record, so that it may be seen that what we aim at is not the interest of the wage-earners only, but the interest of the whole community. The platform of the Australian Labour party lays it down that; -
The Australian Labour movement is based upon the recognition of the truth that practically all wealth comes primarily from the land. This accounts for Labour’s desire to promote closer settlement, and the rigid distinction it draws between the genuine land user and the land trafficker. Labour’s objective the securing to producers of the full results (if their labour,” succinctly states our attitude towards the important question of a just distribution of wealth. The men working at the lathe or in the mines share with the ‘men at the plough the distinction of being essentials in the production of wealth. We believe that the interests of the farmer are identical with the interest of his brother in the mine or in the workshop. Each is necessary to the well-being of the other, in the division of labour, and as consumers of the other’s products. Both are deprived of the fair share of the fruits of their labour by the waste of the competitive system; both are victims of organized exploitation, and both’ can only look for redress to the one method - Uo-operation.
That statement should dispose of tho arguments of those who contend that the Labour party stands for one section only of the community. Those who have tried to saddle the party with that fault either do not know what its aims. are, or wilfully misrepresent them.
The proper administration of the Postal Department is a function of government which is of vital importance, particularly to those who live in the back country, yet that Department is one of the most neglected. Blame for this state of affairs was laid on the last PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) ; but he is no longer in the Ministry or in the House, and a few weeks ago, by writing to the daily press, he showed that it is the Government itself that is at fault. The members of the Opposition hold that the Government is at fault. Nationalist members thought that an improvement would be brought about by getting rid of Mr. Webster, but that gentleman shows that, although he made a profit of some hundreds of thousands of pounds by his administration of the Department, the Government would not give him the money necessary for the proper carrying on and extension of its services. At the present time telephone connexion cannot be got. It is said that in the city of Sydney alone there are 2,500 persons who wish to be connected with telephone exchanges, but who cannot bo so connected. In the country the conditions are deplorable. Neither a telephone line nor any other convenience can be got from the Postmaster-General’s Department, and officials of the Department have told me that they might bc working for a pauper, it is so difficult to get what is needed, even, if only a hammer or a few screws, there being virtually no stores. While this state of affairs continues, the Department cannot give satisfaction: It is useless to blame the PostmasterGeneral, because the blame falls properly on the whole Administration, which is not financing the Department as it should be financed. We have had no indication of any intention to make money available for necessary services, or to depart from the present policy. The employees of the Department are probably worse off than those of any other
Department, Commonwealth or State. The Commonwealth Public Service is one of the worst to work for, the remuneration of its employees being lower than that of the State Departments. A few days ago the position of the girls in the Telephone Branch in Sydney was brought under my notice. They are put through what is virtually the “ third degree “ examination. They are spied on, questioned, and cross-examined until their life becomes a veritable hell on earth. Sooner or later, if there is not a change, the breaking point will be reached, and then the business community will have its affairs thrown into a state of chaos, and much bitterness will be caused because the employees have been forced to take the only action open to them for securing redress of grievances. In the country we have done all we could to obtain the facilities for communication that we need, and yet men living miles from centres of population find it absolutely impossible to get even ordinary mail services. A few weeks ago, on behalf of the residents of Black Springs. near Bar.rabra, I made an application for a free mail-bag, and it was refused, on the ground that one of those who would benefit was of enemy origin. This man is actually a financial member of the Rejected Volunteers’ Association, and to say that he is of enemy origin is to circulate a vile lie. Yet the Government is paltry enough tq use this untruth to deprive, a community of postal facilities. Then travelling post-office facilities have been cut off. There are large centres of population which, if the residents wish to communicate with places in the suburbs of Sydney, cannot get their letters delivered until Monday afternoon, if they post them after noon on Friday - that is, when these letters are addressed to suburbs not along the Worth Shore line, for which mails are not made up specially. This is a matter the Postmaster-General should look into, because he could institute a reform very easily by re-instituting the travelling post-offices. But the Government must take the blame for the general dissatisfaction caused by the deficiencies of the Department.
It is not my intention to occupy much more time. Every one must realize that the action which the Opposition is now taking is right, and absolutely im perative. We should use every opportunity to ascertain the feeling of the House in regard to the Government, and to get members who have hitherto supported the Administration to change their attitude. We have stated the facts, so that no one can say that he is not aware- of the enormous losses caused to the people by the bad management of the Government. The breaking of the drought gives promise of a good harvest, and millions of bushels of wheat may be garnered. But if the present Government continues in power, its control of public affairs may again bring about conditions as bad as those of the last four years. It may commandeer shipping, as it did before, and tell the farmers that they cannot get ships to take away their wheat, and must, therefore, be satisfied with contracts which are not in the interests of the wheat-growers. It is the duty of every member to vote to displace the Government, with a view to constituting another Administration which will remove the grievances under which the community is suffering. For this a dissolution of Parliament may be needed. We should see that we are properly represented on the other side of the world, where interests amounting to millions of pounds are involved, and a stop should bo put to the gross neglect of local affairs which characterizes the Administration now in power.
– I rise to refer to one matter only. During this debate the Government have been accused, particularly by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), of having torn up Magna Charta, abolished trial by jury, and of having done many other like things. I interjected during the controversy that the War Precautions Act, which provided for action of that sort, had been passed by a Labour Government. I distinctly remember that when the Bill was before the House a passionate plea was made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who threatened to leave his party in regard to this very matter. True to his principles he moved this amendment -
Nothing shall be deemed to be a military emergency which deprives a British subject of the right of trial by jury.
The honorable member for Bourke brought this very matter to an issue, and how was it treated in the division? I find that those who voted for the amendment were Mr. Anstey, Dr. Maloney, Mr. Brennan, Mr. McGrath, and Mr. King O’Malley. Amongst those who voted against the amendment, and insisted, that in time of war trial by jury should be set aside, were Messrs. Burns, Charlton, Dankel, Fisher, Hannan, Hampson, Parker Moloney, Page, Riley, Tudor, West, and Yates. I suggest to the honorable member for West Sydney that when next he sets out to draw a picture of the tattered remnants of the Charter which was wrested from King John at Runnymede, he should remember that the men who tore up the Charter were members of the Labour Party and supporters of a Labour administration.
.- Like all other honorable members on this side of the House, and I hope the majority of the members of the Corner party, I intend to support the motion. The first matter to which I wish to refer is the fact 1 that largely ‘ owing to the failure of the Commonwealth Government to provide ships for the transference of fodder from South Australia and Western Australia to New South Wales during the recent drought, the last named State suffered a loss of approximately 20,000,000 sheep. It is remarkable that the Commonwealth Government, who are supposed to exercise their functions in the interests of the people, should have been so lacking in their duty as to take almost two years to discover that a drought was in progress, and that it was necessary to transport stock from one part of the continent to another. Although the drought was in progress for two years, and sheep were dying in millions in New South Wales, it was only within the last few months of the drought that the Commonwealth Government took any steps whatever to provide ships for conveying fodder from South Australia and Western Australia. For that loss of 20,00.0,000 sheep, the Commonwealth Government is, to a large extent, responsible. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) interjects, the Government would not have acted even at that late stage but for the fact that members of the Labour party bombarded the Prime Minister’s Department with letters, and raised the question in this House. Eventually the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) decided to endeavour to make ships available at a time when the drought . was almost, if not completely, at an end.
Another matter relating to the drought is the refusal of the Postal Department to grant assistance to country mail contractors in New South Wales. It is eight weeks since I mentioned the matter in this House, and I did so then only after having sent several communications to the Department, to all of which I received the same reply. I was informed that the matter had been decided last year, and that, as in 1919, the mail contractors had received an allowance from the Government, it was not the intention of the” Department to grant any further assistance, although each case would be considered on its merits. Apparently, the Department failed to take into consideration the fact that when the contracts were entered into the average price of chaff was about £5 per ton, whereas during the latter part of the drought the price was from £16 to £17 per ton; that price still rules in the inland districts. At the same time as I mentioned this matter in the House two months ago, I sent to the Postal Department a petition from several mail contractors in my electorate. During the whole of the intervening time the matter has been under consideration, and the contractors are in exactly the same position to-day as they were then. Here is a letter I have received from the Postmaster-General in regard to this matter - 13th July, 1920.
With reference to the letter presented by you from Messrs. W. Cowell, J. Hardie, H. C. and A. E. Girdham, J. Girdham and E. Byrnes, mail contractors in the Forbes district, N.S.W., in which they asked that this Department grant them assistance in the matter of the purchase of fodder, I beg to inform you that inquiry has been made, and the following is an extract from a report submitted by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, viz.: -
The contractors in question have already , been granted drought concessions for the period, 1st January, 1919, to 31st December, 1919, and since this application was made all of them, except Mr. Byrnes, have received fodder from the Rural Industries Board on extended terms, which should be sufficient to meet their requirements. Mr. Byrnes states that he received fodder from the Rural Industries Board for his farm horses, but did not ask for sufficient for his coach horses.
Rains averaging from 2 to 3 inches have fallen throughout this district, and grass is growing rapidly, though it will be a month or six weeks before it will be sufficiently long for big stock.
The Department is still giving that matter consideration. The Minister states that as 2 or 3 inches of rain have fallen grass is growing rapidly in the district, and consequently there is no occasion for him to grant the contractors further assistance. I was in that district on Tuesday last, and although grass is growing, the growth is so slow that it will be a long time before there is sufficient for horses to live on. Moreover, if the PostmasterGeneral knows anything about the carrying of mails in country districts, he knows that these services cannot be conducted with grass-fed horses. The fact that the contractors have received fodder from the Rural Industries Board on extended terms is something for which they have not to thank the Federal Government. Although the assistance was granted on extended terms, the fact remains that the fodder must be paid for at the rate of £16 or £17 per ton. I hope that the Department will soon arrive at a decision to grant the mail contractors in the drought-stricken areas an allowance sufficient to recompense them for the losses they have incurred during the last twelve months. The losses sustained by the producers in connexion: with the overseas sales of wheat, wool, and other commodities have been exhaustively dealt with by honorable members on both sides of the House, who all are agreed that Australia has been robbed of hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of products through the incompetency of the present Government, and particularly of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) stated that, when listening to the speeches made by honorable members on this side, one would think that we must not be judged by our speeches, as our real policy was to be learnt by consulting the official documents and pamphlets published by the Labour organizations outside. When asked to what publications he was referring, the Minister quoted the Brisbane Worker. That paper is not published by the Australian Labour party ? Then he mentioned the publications which emanate from the Worker office. That office, like every other printing office, publishes books and pamphlets by contract. The only real and official document which can be connected with the Labour movement is the platform issued by the Australian Labour party, a copy of which I now hold. The Minister for Works and Railways asked about the articles on Soviet Russia. It is well known that the Australian Labour parry does not stand for the principles embodied in Soviet Russia. We do not advocate the Soviet system here. We say emphatically that as we in Australia have adult suffrage, every man and woman is able through the ballot-box to control Parliament; thus the people themselves have power to make or mar Australia, and we ask for nothing more. The Minister knows that we do not stand for a Soviet Russia, and when he said that the official publications of the Labour party differed from the speeches of members of the party he was well aware that our speeches and our publications were one and the same.
I propose to quote the whole of the Country policy of the Labour party in order to have it recorded in Hansard, where the electors of Australia may see it. This is our Country policy -
The Australian Labour movement is based upon the recognition of the truth that practically all wealth comes primarily from the land. This accounts for Labour’s desire to promote closer settlement and the rigid distinction it draws between the genuine land user and the land trafficker. Labour’s objective, “ the securing to producers of the full results of their labour,” clearly states our attitude towards the important question of a just distribution of wealth.
– The honorable member who has just spoken has read the whole of that.
– He did not refer to the portion dealing with land settlement which I propose to read.
– The honorable member will be in order in reading that portion.
– Our policy in this respect is as follows: -
I want honorable members to take par ticular notice of the following: -
The price of wheat for home consumption in Australia shall be ascertained by an investigation in each State, and thereafter upon an average of the result of those investigations based upon the following: -
– Judging by the honorable member’s statement it would be of advantage to him as a big farmer; but I think it would also be of advantage to the small farmers whom I represent.
– That is the scheme of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart).
– The Country party stole it from us. They saw that it was a grand scheme for the farmers, and made use of it in order to secure the votes of the farmers. What I have read is a clear reply to those who have deliberately misrepresented the attitude of honorable members on this side towards the farmer.
– That policy was adopted by the 1917 Conference.
– Yes; the proposals as adopted at that Conference were outlined and moved by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), who has been continually misrepresented’ during the last few days by honorable members on the Government benches, and honorable members in the corner, and who, I am pleased to know, has given notice of motion to bring the matter specially before the House. It is also a clear reply to those who ask us to prove our statements from our official records. The official record from which I am quoting shows conclusively that the policy and platform of the Labour party are identical with what has been enunciated from this side of the House. When the Minister referred to Soviet Russia he was deliberately misleading honorable members.
The deportation of Australian citizens without trial is a negation of every principle of British liberty. For what was the war fought? For what were the lives of 60,000 Australians laid down ? For what was Australia saddled with a debt of £400,000,000, and its pension list increased so enormously ? The war was fought in order to bring about liberty and justice in the world. But it is a remarkable way of extending justice to every one, to tear persons from their wives and families, their hearths and homes in the country in which they were born, or have made their homes, and deport them without a trial. In my school days, atan Empire Day celebration I remember one gentleman proudly referring to the Union Jack, and declaring that it stood for liberty. He impressed upon us how the great Charter of British liberty was established at Runnymede in 1215. He told us that wherever it flew, the flag was a guarantee that every person would have the right to trial by a jury of his own countrymen; that law, order, and justice would reign supreme, and that every individual in the community, rich or poor, in high or lowly station in life, would receive an equal measure of justice. I was very much impressed. I felt a pride at living in a country sheltered by a flag that guaranteed liberty and justice to every person within its borders; but, unfortunately, I have lived to be disillusioned. In common with other members of this House, I have lived to see men taken from their homes and placed in internment camps without any charge being levelled against them, and without being given any opportunity to meet their accusers.Now, although the war, so far as the actual fighting is concerned, has been over for eighteen months, we find the same conditions existing, and to-day men are being deported, as they have been for some time past, without any semblance of a trial. In this way the Government have torn up the Charter of liberty signed at Runnymede, and are denying to persons in this community that justice to which they are entitled.
I am ashamed to reflect that I live in a country where the National Parliament so degrades parliamentary institutions and responsible government, and so denies the liberty for which we are told the Union Jack stands, as to permit men to bo taken as they have been taken for some time, and as to-day the Reverend Father Charles Jerger has been taken, that they might be deported from this country without a trial.
– Order !
– In deference’ to your ruling, sir, I shall make no further reference to that particular case, but with respect to the whole question of deportation without trial - or, for that matter, with trial, because I believe that persons found guilty of offences here should be punished here - I say that it is a deliberate tearing up of the Charter of liberty, and puts Australia, so far as liberty, freedom, and justice are concerned, back beyond the condition’s that existed in England in the thirteenth century.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act -
Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 104, 105, 108, 116.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at Midland Junction, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
War Precautions Act -
Statutory Rules 1920, No. 113.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House donow adjourn.
. -Before we adjourn I should like the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to say what the business for next week will be. I notice that on the paper for to-day the next item after the resumption of the debate on the no-confidence motion is the objection to the Speaker’s ruling, which, in accordance with the Standing Orders, I understand must be proceeded with on the day following that on which notice of the dissent is given. I believed that it was the intention of the Government, after the censure motion was decided by a division, to enable the motion dissenting from the ruling of Mr. Speaker, given notice of by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to. be discussed. The honorable member might have moved the motion, and then have asked for the adjournment of the debate, obtaining leave to continue his speech at a later date. I am anxious to learn from the Minister for the Navy, at present in charge of the House, and perhaps, also, from Mr. Speaker, who is concerned in the matter, whether, if the motion of dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling is not proceeded with to-day, it will still remain on the business-paper and appear as the first business to be proceeded with next week. If the Minister for the Navy were to withdraw his motion for the adjournment ‘ of the House, the honorable member for “West Sydney might be “allowed to formally move the motion standing in his name.
– I may point out to honorable members that it is not absolutely necessary that the motion in the name of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) proposing to dissent from my ruling should, because it appears on the business-paper, be proceeded with on the day for which it is act down if it is not reached in time. With the concurrence of the Government it may be placed first on the businesspaper for the next day of sitting, and I suggest that it should be taken after questions on notice have been disposed of.
– We do not object to that.
– Perhaps it might be as well if I took advantage of the opportunity to say that the notice of dissent as it appears on the paper is not a dissent from the ruling I gave. The essential point of my ruling is not mentioned in the notice. r Mr. RYAN (West Sydney) [3.43].- That is news to me. It is usual to take a point like that immediately such a notice of dissent from a ruling is given, and not to find it out afterwards.
– Order ! I shall deal with that later.
– I ask whether the Government are agreeable to take the discussion on the motion at the time suggested by Mr. Speaker.
– Might I suggest to the honorable member the advisability of withdrawing the motion ?
– I certainly do not intend to withdraw it. It is a very serious matter, indeed, if the rights of members of this House can be curtailed as they will be if the ruling to which I have taken exception is allowed to stand. I think that the decision of Mr. Speaker is obviously a wrong decision, and I am regretfully compelled to press that view. Perhaps the Minister for the
Navy can inform; me whether the discussion of my motion will be brought on at an early stage on Wednesday next ? .
– I have not considered it.
– Let us have the discussion now.
– Let the motion take the. usual course. Mr. ‘Speaker will indicate what the usual course is.
– It will be put down as the first item ‘of business.
.- As, possibly, the question may now be put without involving so much personal danger to myself, I take the opportunity to ask the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether he is aware that the Military authorities have refused permission to myself, as counsel for the Rev. Father Jerger, to have an interview with him, or any communication with him whatever in regard to the preparation of a case which it is (proposed to bring before the Court by way of appeal. Up to the present that right has been denied me. It has been denied the person interested, and I am not aware that, in any Britishspeaking community - even under the War Precautions Act - has that Tight been previously denied. I have had much to complain qf in respect of the administration of the War Precautions Act. It has been an almost unmitigated curse to this community; but, at all events, we have had the right in the past to interview clients. It has been an acknowledged principle of administration, even of’ that Act, as well as of the law wherever the English language is spoken, to (permit counsel to interview clients. The Government should take the responsibility of informing me whether they are prepared or decline to grant my request. Iput my question to the Minister the other day, and he declined to answer. Apparently, he thought that by a fatuous evasion of that kind he could put himself in a better position than if he were to flatly state that I would not be permitted to see my client. I now ask the Minister, does he, and do those who sit with him in Cabinet, support the view that Father Jerger is riot even to see his spiritual adviser? If the Minister professes to take that attitude, he should have the courage, at least, to- be definite about it. These questions are urgent, and should be answered now, and directly - either yes or no.
– My reply is that, whenever he chooses to put his questions in a courteous way, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will be answered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200716_reps_8_92/>.