8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I desire to ask the Minister in charge of shipbuilding if it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Government intend to create a new Department to control ship construction for the Commonwealth?
– I presume that the honorable member is referring to the proposal to appoint a Secretary to the Ship Construction Branch. It is not intended to create a new Department. The appointment is a part of the scheme for the amalgamation of the Cockatoo Island and Williamstown Dockyards - a scheme which has been held up for some time pending the signing of an agreement by the unionists employed in shipbuilding. I understand that the men are now signing up.
– In the Burdekin district, North Queensland, there are two sugar mills, not more than 10 miles apart, in each of which there is a large stock of raw sugar, and between these two mills there is the town of Ayr, with a population of from 1,200 to 1,500. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the residents of that town are unable to obtain sugar, and will he endeavour to remove this most disconcerting condition of affairs by allowing them to obtain some of the sugar that is within 4 or 5 miles of their town?
– I desire to make a personal explanation in reference to an incident which occurred in this House on 29 th September, when the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) made a statement in regard to the case of ex-Gunner Yates. It will be remembered that I also obtained leave to make a statement in reference to the matter. In the course of my speech I said -
Mr. Yates learned of the incident, and considered it a reflection upon himself personally, taking the view that he was one of those to whom the Prime Minister had alluded.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) at that point interjected -
There have been a good many of those reflections going about this House.
I replied -
Yes, and some of them deserved.
I desire to explain that I did not intend to reflect in any way upon the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), who is inclined to think that, having regard to the context, my remark might be taken as reflecting upon him. I was objectingto the reflections that had been cast on ex-Gunner Yates. When I desire to reflect on any one I say straight out to whom I am referring.
Retirement and Half Pay
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With a view to facilitating the importation of works of art for the purpose of encouraging a greater public interest in paintings, &c, by the contemporary and earlier artists, will the Minister give favorable consideration to the suggestion of the trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales that the Tariff be 25 per cent. upon works to the value of £100, 10 per cent. upon those of from £100 to £250, beyond that value to be free, works 100 years old or more to be free, that the minimum duty be £2, and that sculpture and statuary being one and the same and treated as such and admitted free?
– This matter is receiving consideration, and will be dealt with when the Tariff item is being considered by Parliament.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Commission advises as follows: -
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
House of Representatives’ Amendment - After clause 14 add the following new clause:- “ 16. (1) The Commissioner shall, as soon as possible after the close of the financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report, showing for each State, the number of applications received and dealt with, homes erected, and average costs, arésumé of operations, and a balance-sheet showing ‘cash and stocks on hand, and an account of moneys received and expended during that year, also a balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with timber mills, and a profit and loss account of each timber mill. “ (2) The annual report shall he laid before both Houses of Parliament within fourteen days after its receipt by the Minister if the Parliament is then sitting, or if the Parliament is not then sitting, withinfourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament.”
Senate’s Message - Amendment agreed to with the following amendments: -
Before the words “ (1.) The Commissioner “ in proposed new clause 16 insert “ After section 50a of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 50b “.
Omit from sub-clause(1.) of proposed new clause 16 all the words from and including the words “ the financial year “, and insert in their stead the words “ each financial year furnish to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament -
a report on the administration and operation of this Act showing particularly, in respect of each State -
the number of applications for homes and advances received and dealt with;
the number of homes erected; and
the average cost of each home erected ;
a balance-sheet showing cash and stocks on hand and an account of moneys received and expended during that year; and
a balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with all industrial or manufacturing concerns acquired by the Commissioner, and a profit and loss account in respect of each such concern “.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
It will be remembered that the new clause 16 was inserted on the motion of thehonorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and that the Government made it clear that while they agreed in substance withthe proposal, they thought that as to some of the details it was rather overloaded. The Senate’s amendment puts in rather better form the intention of the Committee in inserting that clause. It clearly specifies and classifies the information that the Commissioner is to. submit annually to the Parliament, and in some respects improves upon the original provision, since it provides that an annual report shall be presented, dealing not only with the mills particularly specified, but with all industrial or manufacturing concerns acquired by the Commissioner.
When the Bill was before the Committee, I promised the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that I would intimate as soon as possible the considered decision of the Government with respect to his proposal to bring within the scope of the Bill all those classes that were very close to the border line of war service. I have to announce that the matter has been carefully considered, and that the Government is unable to see its way to include the particular classes on behalf of whom a plea was advanced by the honorable member, and also by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr).
– I have not the least objection to the furnishing of annual reports in regard to the various industrial activities of the Government, but I am afraid that some of the factories controlled by the Government are inclined to present reports that are altogether too elaborate. I have here an annual report, presented to this Parliament, and ordered to be printed, on 28th July last, dealing with the operations of the Clothing, Cordite, Harness and Saddlery, Small Arms, and Woollen and Cloth Factories. Page after page is devoted to lists, showing not merely the bulk output of these factories, but the number of articles made in some of them. For instance, the Clothing Factory reports, among other things, that it supplied seventy -two cooks’ aprons at 4s. each.
– A lot of money is wasted on the compilation of such a report.
– Yes ; I am pointing out that it is possible to go to extremes in this regard. It is mentioned in the report of the Clothing Factory that 43,088 arm badges of a certain class were made, and in some cases particulars are given of single articles turned out by the factory. We do not want small details.
– The Depart ment cannot have much to do when it supplies such details.
– My fear is that if this amendment be agreed to the War Service Homes Commissioner may think it necessary to set out in his report that he obtained, for instance, a case of nails from one firm and two cases of nails from another firm. I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) when he suggests that we do not want the detailed information that is supplied in certain reports, and that the Department cannot have much to do when it compiles such elaborate particulars. It may be thought, however, that the Parliament desires all this information. When it was proposed that the War Service Homes Commissioner should present an annual report of the operations of his mills, the Minister said that he might be compelled under such a provision to supply information which would be of advantage to his competitors. So far as stocks are concerned that might be so. Finding from his report that his stock of certain material was low his competitors might be inclined to raise the price of that material. I hope that the Minister will see to it that in the case of the War Service Homes Commissioner’s report we are not supplied with the detailed information that is furnished in respect of some of the Government factories.
– The various activities under Government control are subjected to constant criticism in this House and outside of it, and comparisons are continually being made between public and private enterprises to the detriment of the former. From the same quarter that these criticisms as to want of economy on the part of public enterprises emanate, comes a continual request that public enterprises should be handicapped by having to supporta staff of accountants and actuaries in order that they may supply to the Parliament detailed information of their operations. These details, perhaps, are not examined by two members of Parliament when they are supplied. The whole cost of these staffs is debited against the enterprise. While it is necessary that the Parliament should be fully informed as to the working of all Government undertakings, the fact that we impose upon them heavy expenditures, which are not undertaken by private enterprise conducting the same work, should beborne in mind. Because some persons are aggrieved by what the War Service Homes Department is doing, the country is to be put to the expense of, it may be, £10,000 to carry out an exhaustive investigation. I venture upon the very dangerous ground of prophecy, and say that when the report of the Public Accounts Committee on its present inquiry is received it will be found that the whole of the money spent upon it will have been absolutely wasted. These charges are always made when some one in business secures an advantage over some one else. In connexion with this particular matter I direct special attention to the fact that in order that this inquiry may be carried out the head of the War Service Homes Department, and probably other officials, will be tied to the Committee, it may be for months, when they ought to be carrying on the enterprise which has been intrusted to them. A little later the same critics will come along and say that the War Service Homes Commission has failed, and if that be so it will have failed, not because of any inherent defect in the control by the Government of such an enterprise, but because the War Service Homes Commissioner will have been taken away from the work which, if he were the manager of aprivate, concern, he would be doing, in order that he might be dragged around at the heels of a committee of inquiry. I indorse the objection of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to the furnishing of these elaborate detailed reports. Their preparation necessitates the employment of a number of clerks, and they are utterly useless so far as any supervision which this Parliament is able to exercise over these enterprises is concerned.
– I might have referred to at least a dozen double pages in the report I mentioned containing as much detail as the two pages to which I have referred.
– A number of clerks are to have access to documents in order to inform Parliament that “one bib “ has been manufactured for some one by a Government factory. The thing is absolutely ridiculous, and involves a great deal of unnecessary expense. At this time, when economy of expenditure is asked for, we might save a little by doing away with a number of useless reports which, after they are presented to this Parliament, are thrown into the waste-paper basket.
– We are getting two illustrations of the desire of some honorable members opposite to interfere with the conduct of public enterprises, with the, object of discrediting everything undertaken by the Government, and in order to justify their preference for private enterprise.
– Why raise such a debate now? We have the Senate’s amendment before us.
– I want to deal with the Senate’s amendment, and I do not; think that we should accept it, but I should like to refer to another matter first. The work of the War Service Homes Commission is continually being interfered with by certain honorable members, and the intention is to discredit it, because it has fought and beaten a lot of combines in Australia. That is its greatest fault. I agree with the honorable member who has just sat down that the investigation into the purchase of the timber mills will delay the work of the War Service Homes Department, and it will then be said that the building of the homes should have been let by contract, when they would have been completed more quickly.
There is another phase of the question to which I should like to refer. It appears to me that the time is not far distant when the Senate will be the House that will control everything, if the Government persist in their present practice. If some proposal is not correctly expressed in legislation submitted here, the Government wait until it reaches the Senate and permit that House to alter it. The effect of the adoption of this practice is to induce members in another place to believe they are of some importance. The Senate was brought into existence to preserve State rights, and has no authority to interfere with other aspects of legislation.
Mr.Corser. - Is the Senate not a House of revision?
– If the honorable member will take the trouble to read the reports of the Federal Convention he will find that the Senate was constituted as a House for the preservation of State rights, and for nothing else. We have the spectacle of the Government accepting the interference of the Senate with a money Bill.
– The honorable member may not discuss the general question of the powers of the Senate.
– Surely I may bo permitted to give an illustration in support of my remarks. The Government knew before this Bill was returned to theSenate that there was something wrong with the particular provision which we are now discussing, but instead of amending it here they permitted its amendment to be left to the Senate.
– Why raise such a debate on a mere matter of verbal expression ?
– Because we are experiencing too much interference by the Senate, in which one-third of the people of Australia have two-thirds of the representation. New South Wales and Victoria have two-thirds of the people of the Commonwealth and only one-third of the representation in the Senate. It is possible that some small States like the “Fly-speck” may approve of that condition of affairs, but it is not Democracy.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not like to interrupt the honorable member,but I should like to know what his remarks have to do with the amendment. I submit that the honorable member should discuss the amendment of theSenate, and should not be allowed to range over thewhole question of the powers of the Senate. There will be plenty of opportunities to do that, and it should not be done now.
– On the point of order, I should like to point out-
– I am quite ready to rule on the point of order.
– You will excuse me making a few remarks.
– No. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. I have already called the attention of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) to the fact that he may not discuss the general question of the powers of the Senate on the question before the Committee. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I agree that I cannot discuss the general question of the powers of the Senate, but I wish to show the danger with which we are confronted.
– The honorable member should wait for another opportunity to do so.
– Why should I wait?
– Because we want this Bill to be passed.
– Before the Bill was returned to another place, it was known that the amendment made there would have to be made. When the measure was under consideration here, an honorable member took a certain stand, and the Government, feeling that there was some reason in his contention-
– This House passed the clause under consideration.
– I intend to make my point, no matter how much honorable members may try to prevent me. It was well known, before the Bill left this House, that some alteration should be made in this clause, and the Government allowed the Bill to go to another place and have the amendment made there, instead of making it here.
– The honorable member is again discussing the general question, and the only question before the Committee is whether the Senate’s amendment shall be accepted or not. The question of the constitutional rights of the Senate is not before the Committee.
– May I not touch upon the question at all?
– The honorable member may do so on another occasion, but certainly not on the question before the Committee.
– It is almost impossible to discuss the question before the Committee without giving reasons for my objections to the amendment made in another place.
– This Bill is really <urgent.
– Then if it is so urgent, the clause should have been properly drafted here. I hope that this kind of thing will not be perpetuated, and that this House will carry out its proper work, :and let the Senate take up its proper position.
.- As I am the member of this House who was responsible for the introduction of -this clause-
– You, sir, seem to have a “ down “ on me this morning.
– Order ! The honorable member has no right to make such a remark. I call upon him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I wish to say that I <mite agree with the amendment made in the clause by the Senate, at the suggestion, no doubt, of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I cannot understand for a single moment why any objection should be raised to the amendment.
.- I can quite understand the attitude of honorable members opposite to this amendment. Those who are responsible for the introduction of this provision have ulterior motives.
– The honorable member must not impute motives.
– I do not impute motives. I said that they have ulterior motives, and their object is, if possible, to injure ^Government enterprises.
– The honorable member is now imputing improper motives.
– That is far from my -thoughts. Their object is to discredit industrial enterprises carried on by the Government. I shall not offer any opposition to the amendment, because I am quite satisfied that when proper balance-sheets of these enterprises are presented they will disappoint those who are opposed to these activities of the Government. I am prepared to support the amendment, because I believe honorable members should be given the fullest information concerning these enterprises. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) directed attention to the reports of the operations of the Cordite Factory and the Harness and
Saddlery Factory. They have furnished a report which contains forty-eight pages, and which cost £60 to print. The rer port includes some very interesting items, such as a reference to “one ball puncher” and “ one canvas stretcher, 10s.” There is not a person in any honorable member’s constituency who worries himself over items of this character. The honorable members who have instigated these amendments have done so with a view to providing themselves with material for attacking the Government in regard to the establishment of these enterprises. It is a remarkable fact that Commonwealth factories which were established during the régime of the Labour Government, and which have done such splendid work for the country, have been continued and extended by succeeding Governments. I assure those honorable members who are so desirous of damaging all Government enterprises that they will not achieve anything through having induced the Senate to make this amendment. It must be admitted that the expenditure in connexion with the Clothing and Harness and Saddlery Factories has been justified, and that they played a great part in enabling Australian soldiers to make such a good showing on the other side of the world. I would be better pleased if honorable members would exercise their abilities in forwarding the progress of Australia rather than in raising these trumpery questions. This amendment involves the appointment of a greater staff, and as a member of one of the Standing Committees of this Parliament, I have learned that much of the expense in connexion with one Government enterprise is due to the excessive number of officials. Are honorable members aware that the AuditorGeneral has inquired into the expenditure of all these Government enterprises? No doubt the activities in connexion with War Service Homes will likewise be subject to his review. Owing to a recent increase in his powers, the Auditor-General will be able to investigate ^ these operations in greater detail than previously. I have every con- fidence in him and his officers. I know that they visit some of the factories weekly or fortnightly in order to check their operations. The Senate cannot have a large amount of work to do. Yesterday it sat for twenty minutes, and then took a week’s holiday. Members of that Chamber have to do something to get their names in print, otherwise the people would not know that they existed.
– Order !
– Frequently I have been asked by members of the outside public as to what that Chamber is which makes so many alterations to the legislation approved by this House. Reasons for an amendment of this kind ought to be furnished. Whether or not the Senate has exceeded its constitutional powers I cannot say, but I think even the Chairman will admit that that Chamber is doing work that it was never intended to do by the real founders of the Federation, with whom I was closely identified. A feature of the amendment is that those who profess to be most anxious for economy are supporting a proposal which will mean an increase of staff and considerable expenditure in printing, in order to satisfy their desire to get evidence that will be damaging to these Government enterprises. I content myself with emphasizing the fact that this amendment appears to be very satisfactory to a few honorable members who are looking after the interests of private enterprise, regardless of how detrimental it may be to the public welfare.
– I am surprised at the storm in a teacup which has been raised by this amendment. The Bill, as originally submitted to this House, contained no provision for a report to be presented. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) moved an amendment requiring an annual report to be presented, together with certain other information. The Government compromised by agreeing to the amendment after certain particulars which were specified had been struck out. In another place, some slight alterations were made in the amendment, apparently with a view to better draftsmanship, and now the Committee is asked to accept its own amendment in an improved form. All the talk about the Senate trespassing on the rights of this Chamber is mere twaddle.
– I did not complain of that so much as I did of the enormous amount of detail that is already supplied.
– This amendment does not provide for as much detail as did the amendment which the Committee itself made in the Bill. The amendment really involves a reduction in the information to be supplied. I hope the Committee will accept the amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 5390), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I ask the Minister to consent to a postponement of this debate until the next day of sitting.
– I cannot see my way to do that. The Bill has been held back long enough.
– I realize that unless the House will give me leave to continue my remarks, I shall have to proceed with the discussion of the Bill, although it could be better handled by other members of the party which I have the honour to lead. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has given notice of an amendment to this motion, but at present he is absent in Queensland helping his party in the election campaign. That is in accordance with the practice of most honorable members of this party. When the second reading of the Bill was moved, I was speaking in my electorate in connexion with the Victorian State elections, and possibly I may have to miss other sittings of the House. The honorable member for West Sydney is away in the State of which he was Premier, and it is naturally impossible for him to be in two places at once. It is only fair, in the circumstances, to ask the Government to agree to postpone the Bill.
– Is not the honorablemember’s first duty to this House when he is elected ?
– -I suppose very few cans cavil at the irregularity of my attendance, for I have not missed many days? here since the first Federal Parliament met; but I always look on that as a matter for a member’s own constituents to decide. I have never said a word about the attendance of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser).
Mr.Corser. - Does the honorable member argue that the business of the House is to be held up because the honorable member for West Sydney is not here ?
– I think my request is a perfectly legitimate one; but if it is not granted, I shall be prepared to do my best, although it will not be a very good best, todebate a measure which I confess I do not understand. If the Government would bring on the Tariff, about which I do know something, I should be quite prepared to go on with it.
– The sooner you get these Bills out of the way, the sooner you will reach the Tariff.
– I want the honorable member for West Sydney to have an opportunity to express his views, and explain why he gave notice of his amendmenton the second reading of this Bill. The measure was originally introduced at leastthree or four months ago, and the honorable member immediately gave a contingent notice of amendment on the motion for the second reading. I shall move this if I am permitted to do so.
– The honorable member can move an amendment.
Mr.Mc Williams. - I think the Government ought to give the honorable member for West Sydney a chance to be here to move his amendment. There is plenty of other business to go on with. I think we ought to “play cricket.”
– I have already made three distinct appeals to the Minister, but he appears very anxious to go on with the Bill at once. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) and myself disagreed last night. On that occasion I was the best supporter the Treasurer had, and the honorable member took the opposite view; but that does not prevent him from backing me up in a fair request to-day.
– The amendment which the honorable member for West Sydney wants to come back and move has for its object the absolute destruction of the Bill.
-If the Government say that thehonorable member for West Sydney is out as a wrecker for the purpose of destroying the Bill, they should at least give him an opportunity of explaining his object.
– We cannot see our way to accede to the request.
– I very much regret it. Before 1 sit down I shall move the amendment of which the honorable member for West Sydney has given notice.
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has courteously provided me with a Hansard proof of his second-reading speech on this measure. I understand that one amendment which this Bill makes in the principal Act is to render it unnecessary for all the Justices of the High Court to be present when an appeal is made upon a constitutional question.
– Toprovide that three Judges concurring shall be sufficient.
– The Minister said-
Under the Judiciary Act which was passed by this Parliament in 1912 it is provided that a Full Court, consisting of less than all the Justices, shall not give a decision upon any question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth unless a majority of the Justices concur in the decision.
I take it that under this Bill unless three Justices agree - I prefer the word “ agree “ to the word “ concur,” because the man in the street understands it better - a decision will not be given. In looking through the measure I thought at first that it meant that three Judges had to concur or agree with the Chief Justice or the senior presiding Judge. Will it be possible under this Bill for three Judges out of the seven to hear an appeal on a constitutional question, and, if they are unanimous, to give a decision?
– That is so.
– Then it will be possible for a minority of the Judges of the High Court to give decisions of a far-reaching character. A judgment was given by the High Court the other day which, according to newspaper reports, seriously affects the position of the States. The next day I asked for an expression of opinion from the Government on the matter, but we have not yet been favoured with it. If I understand the decision rightly, it makes this Parliament paramount.
– It is only a judgment on the particular point at issue. It was given on the question of arbitration powers dealing with State instrumentalities.
– I understand that the question was whether the Commonwealth Court had power to give an award in a ease in which State industries were affected. The Argus, which professes to be the greatest constitutional authority among the newspapers in this State, said that the judgment upset the previous decision of the High Court in the case of D’ Emden v. Pedder, which was the determining case so far as taxation is concerned. A layman is not fitted, owing to his lack of training, to argue matters of this kind, and that was one reason why I wanted the Bill postponed until the honorable member for West Sydney, who has had the advantage of a legal training, returned. I notice that of the seven Judges of the High Court, Mr. Justice Powers is away. He will return early next year; but Mr. Justice Isaacs is also going away on twelve months’ leave of absence. Some honorable members, and also some people outside, are commenting on the fact that while a public servant, after twenty years’ service, is allowed only six months’ furlough, a Judge who has been, on the Bench for only fourteen years is able to obtain leave of absence for twelve months. Personally, of course, Mr. Justice Isaacs and myself are the greatest friends, and I am sure that he will understand that I am not speaking in a hostile spirit against him, or any of the other Judges of the High Court. When he is away, there will still be only six Judges available. The arbitration cases require the continuous presence of Mr. Justice Higgins, and we know that Mr. Justice Starke has also been taking Public Service arbitration cases, which have occupied the bulk of his time. He has sat not only on holidays and at night, but during week-ends, in order to help to clear off the great congestion of business in the Arbitration Court. In addition, this House has deliberately placed a further burden on the Court, because the amending Arbitration Bill requires at least three Judges to be on .the Bench to deal with any case affecting the standard hours in an industry.
An important point that must be borne in mind is that this week an amendment was carried in the Arbitration Bill which will probably force three-fourths of the unions of Australia out of the Court.
Some honorable members did not think it would have such a far-reaching effect.
– Do you mean the “ signing-on “ amendment ?
– Yes. My authority is Mr. Holloway, whom I look upon as one of the most reliable men in connexion with the trade union movement. He can speak with a great amount of authority; and he assures me that practically not one union will agree to amend its rules in the direction required by the amendment which the Senate included in the Bill. It is, therefore, quite possible that what was done the other night will wipe out the whole of the work of the Arbitration Court. If it has that effect, I shall be very sorry. I voted against it, and urged the House to do so. I know that the unions feel very strongly on the matter. They will not go to the Arbitration Court if they are compelled to alter their rules. If they are compelled to break away from the Court by that amendment, there will be very few arbitration cases, and not many Judges will be required there. This may help us over the difficulty of obtaining a Full Court Bench; but it may also land Australia in further difficulties from an industrial point of view by creating industrial unrest. I shall not attempt to forecast what may happen; but I am very much afraid of the result of the action taken by Parliament this week.
The Minister (Mr. Groom) said in his second-reading speech on this Bill that, in 1915, the Judiciary Bill was amended at the instance of a member of the Opposition. I suppose he meant a member of the then Opposition. The records show that the Bill was introduced by the present Prime Minister. Since then there has been a complete re-shuffle of parties in this Parliament. The amendment inserted at that time was that “ This Act shall remain in operation daring the present war, and for six months- thereafter, and for no longer.” I do not know who moved it.
– I think it was the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then in Opposition.
– The Act was amended early in 1915 to confer original jurisdiction upon the High Court in all matters arising under the Constitution, or involving its interpretation; in all matters of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction, and in trials of indictable offences against the laws of the Commonwealth.” The Minister said -
The distinctive feature of that Act was the granting of criminal jurisdiction to the High Court to enable it to deal with indictable offences. The Bill, in the form in which it was originally introduced, bestowed that power generally. But an amendment was inserted, at the instance of a member of the Opposition, providing -
That this Act shall remain in operation during the present war and for six months thereafter, and for no longer.
Wenow propose to repeal that limitation, and to continue in the High Court the criminal jurisdiction which it has held since 1915. It is a reserve power, which is not to be used upon all occasions. But it has been found helpful upon certain occasions, and it is only proper that it should be continued.
It must not be forgotten that it was found helpful from 1915 only because it was heldto be a war measure. I have no objection to the High Court being the permanent Court of Australia, nor to the limitation being practically struck out; but I suggest that in such cases the Minister might prepare a memorandum showing the alterations it is proposed to make an an Act. Such memoranda are very helpful to honorable members who desire to thoroughly understand what is being done; but in the present case we are simply told that the section is to be omitted, not the slightest indication being given of the effect of the omission. ‘As a matter of fact, the provision becomes permanent by the omission of the section. It reminds me of a story told by the late Sir Wilfred Lawson, the great temperance advocate of England, who once said that if the Ten Commandments were submitted to the devil he would declare them to be all right with a little amendment - the little amendment of striking out the “ nots.” As I indicated I should do earlier, I now move the amendment given notice of by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted, witha view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ in consequenceof the exploitation of the people of Australia by profiteering and of theurgent necessity of dealing therewith the Bill be now withdrawn, for the purpose of introducing, at the earliest possible moment, more comprehensive measures, which will confer all necessary jurisdiction and powers of investigation on the High Court of Australia and other existing Courts for the enforcement thereof, and which for the purposes of exercising the powers contained in the Constitution willprovide, inter alia, for -
requiring statistics of the cost of production of all goods manufactured in Australia and of the landed cost of all goods imported into Australia;
requiring statistics of the profits accruing to trading corporations or derived from Inter-State shipping, and of the rate of profit on the capital actually employed therein respectively ;
penalties of fine and imprisonment for refusal to furnish such statistics, or for wilfully making false returns;
all purposes incidental to the above;
the extension of the moratorium for the protection of primary producers and others requiring same.
The last paragraph was given notice of by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) as a separate amendment. It is generally admitted that we have complete power to collect statistics, and that we may compel persons, who are making enormous profits, to disclose them. I have in my hand a book which was issued by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and which I quoted the other evening, showing the large amount of capital that is being invested in new companies and existing companies. These issues of capital were authorized by the present Government during the period from 26th January, 1916, to the 30th of December, 1917. I honestly believe that in the authorization of these new investments the Government and their officers exercised the greatest care; bat it is serious to realize that this Parliament has no power over such a flotation as that of the Badak mines - one of the worst of “ wild cats “ ever known in Australia.
– The authorization by the Government carries no guarantee.
– None; the Government were always careful to state that their authorization did not give any guarantee of the soundness of a company. But, as in the case of the duty stamp on patent medicines in England, vendors have tried to make it appear that the authorization carries some guarantee of the genuineness of the article sold. The British Govern- ment had to disclaim any responsibility, and the Australian Government took the same course in connexion with the authorization for the issue of capital.
– They did so in every case.
– When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, picture theatre proprietors endeavoured to obtain consent to the promotion of companies for the erection of theatres, but they were prevented from doing so.
– Did the honorable member not have some shares in a company formed for the production of films under a new method?
– That was many years ago, and the honorable member, like myself, also lost money in that venture.
– At any rate, it was promoted to assist an Australian invention.
– That is so, and, because of that, I invested a few pounds, which, like money invested elsewhere, I lost.
– Was that not the election “show” you ran?
– No ; that was another affair, in which Senator Thomas and the late Mr. E. L. Batchelor were concerned, but it was many years before the days of Government control.
– It was really publicity work.
– Quite so; and I am a firm believer in the picture show for that purpose. As a matter of fact, at the week-end, I intend to deliver an address showing the enormous disproportion in the distribution of wealth in Australia - how 17 per cent, of the people own 98 per cent, of the assets - and in order to make the facts quite clear, I intend, if possible, to use the screen.
– Then pictures are “educational”?
– They are.
– If the honorable member’s speculation had turned out “ trumps “ he would have been one of the- 17 per cent.
– As a matter of fact many people invest in such ventures, not with the idea of making great fortunes,, but simply to assist Australian invention and enterprise. However, the table issued< by the Minister for Trade and Customs,, to which I have referred, shows that in two years and eleven months the enormous sum of £111,716,478 was investedOf that the amount invested in cash was only £62,926,784, while the sum subscribed to capital of reserves and undivided profits was £12,571,506, and by transfer, of assets, other than cash, £36, 218,188V These transfers are made for the purpose, in many cases, of hiding profits; companies will not show the profits, as may; be seen from their balance-sheets. They; are afraid to declare high dividends ins accordance with the profits made. Takethe Colonial Sugar Refinery Company asan example. Investigation has proved, that it has been in the habit of placing; profits to the credit of a reserve fund., year after year, and of issuing to it* shareholders so many new shares for every: share held by them in the company. Th»Melbourne Tramway Company, the Dunlop Company, and the shipping companies occupy a similar position. They have consistently refused to pay to their shareholders in dividends the amountswhich they might have paid. Instead,, they have followed the practice of piling: up profits in a reserve fund, and of disbursing those profits amongst their shareholders in the form of extra shares*. Some of these companies could have paid) dividends of 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and even 100 per cent, had they chosen’ to do so. From the annual report of theDirector of the Bureau of Commerce and’ Industry for the year ended 30th Junelast, I gather that £62,926,784 represents the total amount invested in new; and existing companies from the 2 6 tin January, 1916, to 31st December, 1919: The amount subscribed from transfer to’ capital of reserves and undivided profits1 is £12,’5’71,506, whilst that represented by transfer of assets, other than cash, is- £36,218,188.
– The Taxation? Commissioner is claiming income tasupon the whole of that capital.
– He will not collect income tax upon the £36,218,188 which is represented by watered stock in these companies.
– The companies have to pay income tax upon their reserves.
– But I am not speaking of the transfer to capital of reserves, but of the transfer of assets other than cash. The adoption of this practice means that the workmen in any industry upon the one hand, and the consumers upon the other, have to earn profits for their employers upon capital which really does not exist. Take for example Company A in Victoria. There was actually put into that company a capital of £30,000. Then its shareholders were called together and told by the directors, “ We intend to give to every holder of two shares in the company an additional share.” In that way the capital was nominally increased from £30,000 to £45,000. The man on the race-course is honest compared with some of the company promoters, who pretend that they are paying profits upon a capital of £45,000, when only £30,000 has been invested. That company flourished. It paid to its shareholders dividends of 10 per cent., with occasional bonuses of from 2 to 2½ per cent. The average man in the street does not understand how he is being taken down by these companies. In the report of which I have spoken, there is to be found a return showing the classification of the capital raised for the purpose of manufacture and production. It sets out that the total capital in new and existing companies under these headings amounts to £51,547,907. The number of applications for new companies received between 26th January, 1916, and 31st December, 1919, was 1,596, the total capital subscribed was £30,894,654, the amount subscribed in cash was £11,992,131, whilst the amount subscribed by transfer of assets, other than cash, was £18,902,523. Thus there was a larger amount represented by watered stock than by cash. The capital invested in existing companies totalled £20,653,253, of which £14,677,424 represented cash, £5,430,960 capital by transfer of reserves and undivided profits, and £544,869 capital by transfer of assets other than cash. The following table shows the classification of the capital thus raised from manufacture and production : -
That table accounts for £51,000,000 which has been raised for our manufacturing industries. Do not honorable members think that we require complete statistics in regard to this matter, seeing that only £11,992,131 in cash has been invested in new companies, whilst £18,902,523 has been invested in promoters’ shares or watered stock? We ought to have statistics of the cost of production of all goods in Australia. When I occupied the position of Minister for Trade and Customs, and manufacturers were seeking an increased measure of Protection, I had a schedule of questions prepared which I thought they were entitled to answer. I wanted to know, for example, what quantities of Australian goods were used in the production of their articles. The newspapers at once exclaimed, “ Frank Tudor is asking for this information because he desires to use it upon the electioneering platform.” As a matter of fact, I have always refused to use upon the public platform information which I obtained in my capacity as Minister. But statistics which have been made public I have used upon the hustings, and I shall continue to follow that practice. I also asked the manufacturers what proportion of the cost of their finished articles was absorbed in wages. They replied that they could give this information to the Commonwealth Statistician, but not to a Labour Minister. Strange to say, when the Inter-State Commission was subsequently created its members asked for somewhat similar information. If honorable members will take the trouble to compare the questions which I put to manufacturers and those which the Inter-State Commission asked of them, they will see there is very little difference between our inquiries.
– The honorable member will admit that the questions which wore asked by the Commission ultimately resulted in nothing.
– I do not admit that. The reports of the Commission in regard to its Tariff inquiries, which was the first great work that it undertook–
– Great work!
– Yes. The Commission also conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the sugar industry.
– All the reports issued by the Commission have been valuable reports.
– That is the trouble. They have been too valuable for this House.
– Unfortunately, the investigation of the Commission into Tariff matters was conducted at least five or six years ago, and consequently the whole of its reports are to that extent out of date. Had .the Parliament dealt with the Tariff some years ago, as I desired it to do, the reports of the Inter-State Commission would have been available for reference, and honorable members would have found them as valuable .guides as were the reports issued by the first Tariff Commission in 190S.
– Those reports were the only reliable guides that we had.
– I will not say. that the were the only reliable guides, but they were certainly the most reliable guides. I have quoted statistics to show that the amount represented by wages in the production of £100 worth of goods in Australia is steadily becoming less. In other words the wage-earners’ share is becoming less. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) says that that result is due to increased efficiency on the part of our factories, to the introduction of improved machinery, and not to the workmen in any way. I dissent from that view. I do not believe that the Australian workman is “going slow “ as is alleged. When an amending Customs Bill was before the last Parliament, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) moved an amendment providing that the landed cost of goods in Australia should be disclosed by importers. To that cost might be added, if necessary, the duty collected under the Tariff, the cost -of carriage, insurance, freight, and exchange. ‘ We all know that it is alleged that many articles imported into the Commonwealth are being sold at four or five times their landed cost. The people of this country have a right to know who is making these enormous profits. I endeavoured to ascertain, this information from the manufacturers. I believe that some of the importers derive even greater profits than the manufacturers make. The people of Australia are entitled to this information, and that is why the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has given notice of his amendment to this motion. No amendment of the Constitution is required to give us the power to ask for statistics relating to the profits accruing to trading corporations or Inter-State* shipping. Immediately following the derequisitioning of Inter-State steamers, there was a substantial increase in freights and fares on those vessels, notwithstanding the fact that the companies had all been doing very well during the war, and while they were requisitioned by the Government, although perhaps not so well as overseas shipping companies. About the time these vessels were released from control, the Agc published the following comments upon the operations of the Inter-State shipping companies: -
As already indicated, vessels on the main coastal services will gradually revert to their owners as their current voyages are completed, when a new schedule of increases in freights and fares - a comparison of which with existing rates is published below - will be immediately applied to the vessels concerned. Despite the fact that certain steamers were already “ derequisitioned,” ship-owners as a body yesterday maintained an extraordinary reticence as regarded an official announcement on the matter, but inquiries amongst the individual companies elicited the fact that the new schedules represented an “ average aggregate increase” of 20 per cent, on existing rates. It was explained that in the case of freights the increase would not necessarily be a direct imposition of 20 per cent, on every existing rate, but an aggregate general increase of 20 per cent., providing for rates slightly in excess of the 20 per cent, for “ short voyages,” such as Melbourne to Sydney, and slightly lower rates for the “ long voyages.” The freight schedules had not yet been declared, but the companies’ staffs were now busy drawing up the revised lists. One shipping manager characterized the new schedule as “ a general 20 per cent, increase with allowances for certain existing anomalies.”
It also quoted the increases in freights and fares on these Inter-State vessels, comparing the rates in force prior to the war with the rates agreed to by the Government and those ‘fixed by the companies immediately upon the Government ceasing their control of the vessels. These increases are set out in the following tables: -
Melbourne to Sydney. - Old rate, 14s. per ton ; Government’s October increase, 15s. 6d.; new rate (approx.), 19s. 6d. per ton.
Sydney to Melbourne. - Old rate, 14s. per ton ; Government’s October increase, 15s. 6d. ; new rate (approx.), 19s. Cd. per ton.
Melbourne to Adelaide. - Old rate, 14s. per ton; Government’s October increase, 15s. 6d.; new rate (approx.), 19s. Cd. per ton.
Melbourne to Fremantle. - Old rate, 25s. per ton; Government’s October increase, 27s. 6d. ; new rate (approx.), 32s. Cd. per ton.
Melbourne to Brisbane. - Old rate, 22s. per ton; Government’s October increase, 24s. 6d.; new rate (approx.), 2Ss. per ton.
In addition to these coastal routes, a similar increase has taken place on the Tasmanian service. The freights on general cargo to Launceston will be 15s. per ton.
Melbourne to Sydney. - Old rate, 1st, £2 17s. -6d.; Government’s October increase, £3 3s.; new rate, £3 15s. 2nd. Old rate, £1 15s.; Government’s October increase, £1 18s. Od. ; new rate, £2 6s.
Melbourne to Adelaide. - Old rate, £2 17s. 6d., and £1 15s.; Government’s October increase, £3 3s., and £1 18s. 6d.: new rate, -£3 15s., and £2 6s.
Melbourne to ‘Fremantle. - Old rate, £9 and £6 15s.; Government’s October increase, £9 18s., and £7 10s. ; new rate, £11 15s., and £9.
Sydney to Adelaide. - Old rate, £4 14s. 6d., and £3 3s.; Government’s October increase, £5 5s., and £3 10s.; new rate, £6 3s., and £4 4s.
Sydney to Fremantle. - Old rate, £11 and £7 15s.; Government’s October increase, £12 and £S 10s.; new rate, £14 10s., and £10.
– The Sea Carriage Select Committee’s report will contain a full statement upon this subject, and the honorable member will be astonished at some of the extra running charges the shipping companies have been obliged to meet.
– I know that the Select Committee of which the honorable member for Wakefield is deputy chairman, and in which he has done a great deal of good work, is in a position to place certain facts before the public. I do not think the people object to any legitimate increase m the cost of any article or service provided for them, so long as it has been rendered necessary on account of payment of higher wages, but when it is due to the inflation of capital by what is known as the watering process, the public have every right to complain. It is impossible for this Parliament to investigate all the ramifications of trade, but if the amendment of which the honorable member for West Sydney has given notice be agreed to our Statistical Department could be called upon to furnish us with returns, not so detailed as we have had them from the Harness Factory or the Clothing Factory, but sufficient to show what proportion of any increase in the price of a commodity or service rendered is due to the payment of higher wages, or the re-organization of a company in order that dividends may be paid upon capital which has never been put into the concern.
– The Bulletin every week in its “ Wild Cat Column “ gives an excellent review of the operations . of companies.
– That is so. I have with me the “Wild Cat” comments on the operations of Messrs. Huddart, Parker, Ltd. I do not quote this company because I have any particular animus against it, but because its balancesheet was commented upon within ten days of the imposition of ‘the increased freights and fares, to which I have just drawn attention. The Bulletin of the 1st April, 1920, published the following: -
Huddart Parker Limited (Melbourne), from the time when, as the prospectus put it, the company had “ reached dimensions too large for it to be continued as a proprietary” : -
A profit, sufficient to> give the “ ordinaries.” almost 52 per cent., after settling with the “ preferentials,” looks a bit over the odds, particularly at a time when a stiff increase in fares is contemplated. But Huddart Parker, did not make it all from trading. The directors give the- net. earnings for the year as £100,717, but that was after strengthening the insurance fund by £67,954. In addition, from the sale of the s.s. Excelsior, Hebburn, and Meeinderry> they realized £120,716 over book values, and that amount was transferred direct to reserves. But even £289,387 may not represent the full net surplus resulting from the year’s operations.
This company is not the only shipping concern which is making enormous profits. The Adelaide Steamship Company’s net profits admitted for- 1916 were £71,531. In 1919, its profits amounted to £1’17,452_.
I am at a disadvantage in discussing, this Bill. I did not know that it would be the first business taken to-day until I received my mail at breakfast time. I think it only right that we should accept the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney, and stipulate that statistics must be compiled by Government Departments setting forth the enormous profits made by these people. It is .only occasionally that we can secure a return, such, as the one I have already quoted from the publication issued by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, showing the inflation of capital authorized by the Government in the last three years of the war.
We all know that, although the Commonwealth steamers have been very profitable to their owners, namely, the people of Australia, they have been highly profitable specifically to. the producers in keeping down freight rates. But for the Commonwealth having a fleet of vessels in those days, when freight was so difficult and. expensive to secure, the cost of ex-porting our wheat would have been infinitely higher than it was. We ask that all these profits, such as I have been discussing, should be disclosed. We want to know how much money is actually and truly invested in these concerns.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned until’ a later hour of the day.
– (By leave.)- When making a statement in this Chamber on 25th September concerning coal, I promised the. House that if,, as the result of the inquiries of the Coal Tribunal appointed under the Industrial Peace Act, it was found necessary to. increase the price in order to cover increases in wages, I would give, the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the subject. As. honorable members know, the Tribunal, happily, has been able, as. the result of its inquiries,, to maintain industrial peace in this, vitally important industry. It has. made an interim award, increasing the wages of employees in certain directions. As an outcome of that increase, it became necessary,, in. order to fulfil a promise made to the employers - who were parties to. the understanding arrived at between employees,, employees, and the Government- to institute inquiries concerning what increase in the price of coal, if any, was necessary to cover the increased cost of wages. This inquiry has been conducted by a Board consisting of Mr. Hibble. chairman, and Colonel Ling and Mr. Jobson. As it was vitally important in the interests of the Commonwealth that the matter should be settled speedily, and as the miners’ representatives asked - quite properly- that it be dealt with before pay day - which is to-day - I asked that every effort should be made to complete the inquiry before this day.
– That is, the inquiry concerning an increase in the price of coal?
– Yes. But the employers said - and, I think, rightly - that it was not proper that they should be asked to actually pay the increased wages unless and until provision had been made to grant an increase in the price of coal.
In reply to a question by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), I said, on Tuesday last, that, as far as oversea cargoes were concerned, we were allowing the increase. Those would be completed transactions in respect of each charter. In regard to coal sold inside the Commonwealth, during the past fortnight that commodity has been sold on the understanding that whatever price the Tribunal might fix, should be paid by the buyer to the vendor. I am now in possession of a report from the Chairman of the Royal Commission to the effect that the Commissioners recommend an increase of 4s. per ton in the selling price of New South Wales coal, within the Commonwealth, from Monday, the 27th September, pending further inquiry and final report. As the matter is one which permits of no delay, and since this is not a final report, I bring the particulars before the House in order that it may express its opinion “now, or suspend judgment - if it please - until an opportunity shall have been afforded it to deal with the final report. This is an interim report and recommendation which will enable trade to be carried on pending further and more complete inquiry as to the effect of the increase in wages upon the cost of production. It is proposed by the Government to issue an order today in pursuance of the Commission’s recommendation, and I have made use of this, the very earliest, opportunity of taking the House into my confidence so that honorable members may know exactly where we stand. The public will be informed that the price of coal will be increased as from the 27th September, which was the day on which the decision concerning wages was made, but that this is not necessarily the final price. That has still to be finally determined.
The facts are quite clear, and, so far as I know, there is no reason to doubt that the increase in price is amply warranted by the added cost of production. The recommendation does not apply to coal produced outside of New South Wales. Coal produced outside of that State and sold within the Commonwealth must be sold upon the conditions which I explained the other day, namely, that whatever price the Commission does ultimately fix shall be the price to be paid.
– How will Victoria be affected? Ninety-five per cent, of the coal produced in Victoria is got from the State mines at Wonthaggi and Morwell.
– Victoria will be affected in this way: All coal hewed in the Commonwealth from the 27th September is sold upon the condition that the price to be paid therefor shall be the price which the Tribunal will ultimately fix. If 1,000 tons of Wonthaggi coal is sold, to any party whatever, that party must buy it at a price hereafter to be determined by the Tribunal. That has hitherto been the case in regard to New South Wales coal. It is now to be announced that the price for New South Wales coal shall be 4s. in excess of what it was formerly, namely, 17s. 9d. at Newcastle. I may add that I consider this price quite reasonable. I need hardly remind honorable members that our coal is still incomparably the cheapest in the world. Coal is the only commodity produced in this country which has not increased in price
– If export parity were taken as the basis of payment, it would mean an additional £25,000,000 upon omeo al bill.
– “ They “ are getting export parity.
– I see no reason why we should sell the coal of Australia - which is the wealth of Australia - to people outside of Australia for less than the world’s parity.
– Quite right!
– I emphasize that there is no reason whatever for that course. It would be the act of a fool if we were to sell our commodities to the outside world for less than they are worth; and I do not see why one should pick upon this commodity, and say that the world’s parity shall not apply thereto while, in regard to other things, one should hold that the world’s parity shall apply.
– You confine yourself, in these remarks, to outside of Australia ?
– Yes. Inside Australia, our coal is sold for about onethird of the world’s parity - certainly not more than one-half. Coal costs now in
England, I believe, very nearly £2 a ton to place it at grass.
– Forty-three shillings.
– I thank the honorable member. As usual, I am guilty of modesty in my estimate.
– That is not parity. In arriving at parity there should be taken into consideration what it would cost to convey the commodity here and sell it here, or to take it there and sell it there. That is world’s parity. What does the Prime Minister consider world’s parity?
-I do not know what it is.
– I did not think the right honorable gentleman did.
– I tried to explain it in regard to wheat. All I know is that we are selling coal now within 600 miles of Newcastle-on-Tyne at a lower cost than that at which English coal can be sold. That is the best answer I can give the honorable member. We are selling coal at Genoa, Marseilles, Copenhagen, and Christiania more cheaply than British coal can be sold at those places. We cannot afford to do that. We are selling the wealth of Australia; and the position is absurd.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– (By leave)- Prior to the adjournment, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a brief statement concerning the proposed increase in the price of coal, and I regret that at the moment he is not present, because I do not want it to be understood that honorable members on this side of the Chamber acquiesce in the arrangement that has been made. If there is anything that has borne out the arguments which I put forward this morning in connexion with another Bill, concerning the need for further information, it is the fact that the price of coal is to be increased as from the 27th September by 4s. per ton. We understand, of course, that the increase has been made retrospective to the date mentioned, because that is the date on which the men received an increase in wages; but I believe the people of Australia will desire further information before they will admit that the increase in the price is justified. I am not saying that the workers are not en titled to an increase, or that the coal proprietors are not justified in obtaining a higher rate ; but it must not be overlooked that we are producing approximately 11,000,000 tons of coal, and of that quantity 10,000,000 tons are consumed in Australia. The average export of coal is, therefore, approximately 1,000,000 tons, and the increase in price will be on the whole of that quantity as well as on the 10,000,000 tons consumed in Australia. This is a matter of vital concern to the people of the Commonwealth. Much of the coal consumed in the Commonwealth is used by manufacturing concerns, as the quantity consumed for domestic purposes is comparatively small. The increase mentioned will mean that £2,200,000 extra will have to be paid to the coal proprietors. It must be remembered that the increase is to apply only to New South Wales coal. I understand that the Wonthaggi and Morwell mines, both Government concerns, will not be permitted to increase their price of coal to the consumer; at least, for the present. They may be able to increase the price, and make it retrospective; but a fairly large quantity will have been sold and consumed before that is done. A Royal Commission has been inquiring into the coal industry in New South Wales, and I remember quite recently submitting some figures showing the enormous increase there has been in the dividends paid by the coal companies, as disclosed by the investigations of that Commission. Seeing that the people of Australia will be called upon to pay an extra price for coal - Iam not saying that it is not justified - I desire it to be understood that we are not agreeing to the increase until we have had further information.
.This is not a Bill which under ordinary circumstances would lend itself to lengthy discussion. At the inception of Federation we passed a Judiciary Bill, and since that time it has been amended. I have heard it argued that the fact that an Act has been frequently amended may be taken as an indication that it is faulty in construction, difficult of interpretation, or, worse still, difficult of administration. I do not think that that, is a correct view, because any Act which is much used is likely to require amendment from time to time,, irrespective of how perfectly it may be drafted or how useful it may be. The Judiciary Act has not been often amended’, and that is a tribute to the person who drafted the original measure. The present amendment is very brief; it is one to which I offer no objection. It is to. be regretted that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) was unwilling or unable to allow the consideration of this Bill to stand over until the sponsor of the very important amendment, of which notice had been given, had an opportunity of placing his case before the House. It was. only on the last day of meeting that the Minister thanked honorable members for the assistance they had green him in the discharge of public business, and, if I understood him aright, he even acknowledged gratefully the assistance and support which he had received in <a general way from honorable, members on this side of the chamber. It therefore comes, I am afraid, with very bad grace from him, when a measure of this character is under consideration, to refuse to allow the Bill to take such a place on. the notice-paper as would enable those who have given notice of their intention to move amendments to do so.
This amending Bill is rather curious, because its object is to make the Judiciary Act conform to the circumstances which have arisen in consequence of some of the Judges being on leave. It is rather strange that a great instrument like the Judiciary Act should have to be amended to meet the convenience of Judges on leave-
– There were difficulties even before the Judges went on leave. I mentioned the case of Mr. Justice Starke’s appointment.
– It is not long since the amended Act which we are now amending was passed. As the Act then stood we could not have a decision upon questions affecting the Constitution unless a majority of al! the Justices concurred in the decision, and it is now proposed to insert the words “ unless at least three Judges concur in the decision.” It is right, of course, that the Constitution should not be lightly dealt with, even by a tribunal of the standing of the High Court of Australia. It was as the result of very useful experience that the Act was passed which made it necessary for a majority of all the Justices to concur in a decision affecting the Constitution. I am satisfied that such decisions may be given by a majority where there are at least three Judges concurring in a decision. I take this opportunity of saying - it is really the only important matter in connexion with the Bill - that I look forward to the time when the High Court of Australia will be the final Court of Appeal in the Commonwealth. It is the final Court already in a limited number of cases affecting the rights and’ constitutional (position of the States- inter se. I see no reason at all why the expenses, difficulties, and delays- in litigation should not be limited’, and why litigants, having disagreed with the finding of the umpire, should be allowed to go outside- Australia to any other tribunal in the hope of getting a reversal of a decision given against them in this country. I do not wish to extol the virtue or wisdom of our Australian Judges, or to underestimate the standing of the Judiciary of the Privy Council; but I do not think it is open to doubt that the standing, from a legal point of view, of the men we have placed upon the High Court Bench is very high indeed. We have been able to- raise lawyers of great eminence, and their judgments, though they have sometimes been reversed by the Privy Council, are not necessarily for that reason unsound. As an Australian Commonwealth we should take a very early opportunity of asserting the principle that the Australian Judiciary should be the final arbiter in respect of not only a particular kind of constitutional question, but every question with which the High Court has jurisdiction to deal. My leader (Mr. Tudor), in addressing himself to the question, rather destroyed one argument advanced by himself when he said that he did not pretend to know very much about the Bill or the amend- ment, because be spoke at fair length upon the Bill, and manifested such a varied knowledge and experience that I do not think any one at the end of his speech could have accused him of being without knowledge of the subject.
Mr.West. - He meant that he lacked legal knowledge.
– I know what he meant; but I think he was much too modest in his estimate of his own attainments. The amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is a very hopeful one. There is a very great deal which he seeks to secure by it, and I think it should be carried ; but since the carrying of it involves the withdrawal of the Bill, I do not suppose the Government propose to agree to it. The amendment was foreshadowed by the honorable member in a speech which he delivered in this chamber not very long ago. He then pointed out that there was a good deal of misunderstanding as to what are the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, especially in regard to the vexed and very important problem of profiteering. I think he succeeded in convincing honorable members on both sides that there does reside in this Parliament very great, if not ample, power to deal with that crying evil. Although I am not one of those who say that the cost of living can be immediately cured by legislation, or that the arbitrary fixation of prices will make this land flow with milk and honey available to all, I do assert with some confidence that the cost of living is a prime question for investigation and report. I also say, with some confidence, that the Constitution provides abundant powers of investigation and report, and that this Parliament and the country should have the benefit of the exercise of those powers. The Leader of the Opposition has already referred to the particular constitutional headings which give us these powers. Our power of taxation, for instance, is unlimited, in so far as it does not discriminate between States or partsof States, and we have unlimited powers also in regard to census and statistics. Thereare many other constitutional powers under which undoubtedlywe might give effect to the purpose ofthis amendment, which proposes that all the words after the word “ That “be leftout, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - in consequence ofthe exploitation of the peopleof Australia by profiteering and of the urgent ncessity of dealing therewith, the Bill be now withdrawn for the purpose of introducing at the earliest possible moment more comprehensive measures which will confer all necessary jurisdiction and powers of investigation on the High Court of Australia and other existing Courts for the enforcement thereof, and which for the purposes of exercising the powers contained in the Constitution will provide inter alia for -
An attempt has often been made, especially by honorable members on this side of the House, to secure investigation of the important matters referred to in paragraph a of the amendment. I cannot conceive of a tribunal better suited for such an inquiry - more to be relied upon to make that inquiry in good faith and with due regard for the interests of all concerned, including the manufacturers and producers as well as the consumers - than the High Court of Australia. Then, again, in paragraph b of the amendment it is proposed that the High Court shall be vested with power to- require statistics of the profits accruing to trading corporations or derived from Inter-State shipping, and of the rate of profit on the capital actually employed therein respectively.
Our power over corporations is limited under the Constitution, and, unfortunately, has been found in practice to be very much circumscribed. But, at all events, the High Court should be eminently suited for discriminating between those matters over which the Parliament has and has not jurisdiction, and for limiting and directing its inquiries into useful and productive channels. It should, of course, have the power to impose penalties and fines for refusing to furnish such statistics - more than once in this country we have had experience of refusals of that character -and for all the purposes incidental to that class of requirement. I havenoobjection, so far asit goes, to the amendment of the law introduced by the Government, but I could have wished, to use a phrase often used by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), that being strong they would have been merciful, and would have been generous enough to permit an opportunity to discuss and consider the much more practical and important matters involved in the amendment, notice of which has been given by the honorable member for West Sydney.
Sooner or later we must give consideration to those questions, and to the solution of those problems, because it is unthinkable that in this land of unbounded productiveness the people should continue to be despoiled by the levy of excessive prices. At the present time our friends in the Farmers’ corner are assuring us that we are going to have a wheat harvest which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) ventured the opinion will amount in value to £100,000,000.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) says that the farmer wants18s. per bushel.
– That statement is quite inaccurate.
– Perhaps, very naturally, the farmers want all that they can get, but the problem which confronts me is how we are to give the farmers all that they can get, even up to 18s. per bushel, whilst securing to the consumers of bread in the congested metropolitan areas that great boon the cheap loaf. I am one of those who are entirely in sympathy with the primary producers. I have had some little experience of the business myself. I quite realize all that they suffer from drought and other difficulties, which are incidentalto the work of primary production. They have good seasons and bad seasons, good times and bad times, but I still think we require very careful investigation of the problem why it is that in a country which produces wheat to an extent enormously beyond the requirements of local consumption, the price of the loaf, which depends on the production of wheat, should be mounting up as if this commodity was really scarce in the land. The same remarks apply to the cost of clothing. Honorable members may talk of the shortage of commodities in the world, but there is no shortage in this country of either wheat or wool, which lie at the base of our greatest needs, the food we eat and the clothes we wear. We have an abundance of wool and wheat in this country, and there should therefore be no spoliation in regard either to the bread which people eat or the clothes they wear. I mention these two commodities as staples on which the welfare of any country rests.
– Can they be obtained more cheaply in any other part of the world?
– That is not the question, and the interjection is no answer whatever to my contention that in a country which produces abundantly any particular article which is much needed, it should be dear or difficult to obtain. It is very easy to understand why wheat should be dear in central Europe, in such countries as Germany and Austria, because there they have not the production. Their substance was wasted in war, and the lands of enemy and friends were devastated by the cursed agencies and engines of war. The shipping, also, which might have been employed to carry foodstuffs to those countries, was reduced. It is, therefore, quite understandable that wheat and bread should be dear there ; but why they should be excessively dear in Australia, where wheat is produced abundantly, is a problem which I cannot solve.
– Those who require wheat can get it at 7s.8d. per bushel.
– With my slight knowledge of farming and wheat-growing, I can recall a time when farmers considered they were doing perfectly well when they obtained 3s. 6d. a bushel. I do not propose for a moment, nor does the Labour party, to do anything to attempt to cut down the just returns of the primary producer. Far from it. We have members in the Labour party who represent farming electorates, and whose interests are bound up with those of the primary producers. As a matter of fact, those members, in competition with candidates representing the Country party, were sent here by experienced farmers in preference to those candidates. That is one reason, although it is not the main reason, why I should be very sorry to seem to oppose the just claim of the primary producers to a fair price for their products. I merely mention this problem germane to the amendment given notice of by the honorable member for West Sydney, as one proper for solution - why the price of primary products should be mounting up without any prospect of an end to that tendency in a country which produces them in abundance.
– Perhaps the honorable member will answer a question for me. Does he think it fair that 14,000 wheatgrowers should make a present of £1,500,000 to the consumers of wheat in Victoria by giving it to them at 7s. 8d. per bushel, when the world’s parity is over 13s.?
– I do not expect them to make too many presents.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is wandering from the subject before the Chair.
– You, sir, have been so indulgent to speakers on the second reading of this Bill, and the amendment - which is very wide - that I have been induced to wander, perhaps, further afield than I ought to have done through the interjections of my honorable friends in the Ministerial corner. Having made these few observations on the amendment of the law proposed by the Government, to which I have no objection, and the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for West Sydney, which I think we might have been given an opportunity to discuss, I shall let the matter rest there.
.- I could have wished that the consideration of this Bill might have been postponed until the next day of sitting. If that course had been followed, it is possible that I would not have found it necessary to make the remarks which I propose now to address to the House. I should have listened to what the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) had to say in support of the amendment of which he has given notice, and very likely I could have added little to what he had to say. We are rapidly approaching a condition of affairs in this com munity which may be regarded as distinctly dangerous. No ‘one knows better than does the Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Groom) that sudden changes lead to the destruction of property and credit, and consequent distress in the community. Unfortunately, in looking through the experience of other countries, we find that the distress has often culminated in bloodshed. The community should know who amongst us have made the money, and how much they have made.
On page 1078 of Hansard for 15th August, 1917, honorable members will find reprinted a table from, perhaps, the most important report that has been issued since the outbreak of war in any country in the world. I refer ‘ to a report obtained by Sir Alexander Peacock, whose loyalty to King and country no one can question, and which included 265 instances taken from the income tax returns showing the profits made by those taxpayers, whose identity is hidden by a numeral, for the years 1914-15-16. I am sorry that the rich persons of the community prevented the extension of that most valuable report, and that the present Government, when asked to follow the noble example set by Sir Alexander Peacock by preparing similar information for this Parliament, refused to do so. No. 105 in that list did not make any profit in 1914, but in 1915 made £8,690, an increase of 800,000 per cent., assuming a profit of £1 in 1914, for in any mathematical calculation some starting point is essential. In 1916, the same taxpayer made a profit of £19,030, or an increase at the rate of 1,903,000 per cent, on the pre-war profit. . Those figures were exceeded by the returns from taxpayer 262, who likewise, in 1914, made no profit, but in 1915 made £4,896 profit, and in the second year of the war, 1916, £20,966 profit. Calculating again from the basis of a profit of £1 in 1914, the ratio of increase over the pre-war year was 2,096,600 per cant. Honorable members can imagine how valuable that report would be to Parliament if it were brought up to date. I asked the Government to take steps to let the people know what profits are being made by companies and individuals. I did not ask that the names should be disclosed, although I do not understand why anybody should object to his income being made known. The income, salary, or allowance of His Majesty the King is well known, so are the allowances of every Minister of the Crown in England and Australia, the Speaker of this House, and even the officers who attend upo’n honora’ble members. There is not a member of the Public Service, or an officer of the Defence Department or Navy Department whose salary may not be known to anybody. Why should people be afraid to allow their fellow citizens to know how good are the laws of Australia and how great the potentialities of this country in which they have -amassed great sums of money ? The present Government may not be prepared to tabulate this information, but surely some day some Government will insist that those who have most shall be made known by either number or name, in order that they may be required to contribute most to the welfare of the community that has been so kind to them.
Over 73 per cent, of the available manhood of Australia offered their services and lives during the war. In comparison with life, a person’s wealth is not worth the snap of a finger. <Of the 73 per cent, who offered for service 42£ per cent, were accepted, of whom over 33 per cent, went abroad ‘to fight for liberty. How much of “ the last shilling “ has been collected ? One per cent. ? Five per cent. ? Ten per cent. ? No. We have taxed incomes heavily, I admit, but not as heavily as they may have to be taxed in the near future. But as life and blood volunteered 70 per cent., Australia has the right to take, at all events, 35 per cent, of the wealth, if necessary. We are told by our great Statist (Mr.. Knibbs) that before the war the wealth of Australia was j£!,200;000,000.
– Those who offered their lives have to pay taxation the same as those who did not.
– -That is the point to which I ;am coining, and if my remarks do not convey what the honorable gentleman means, I ask him, in justice to me, and in “honour to his conscience, to record in Hansard what he thinks should be done. Anyhow, I will speak from memory. The estimated value of Australia before the war was £1,300^000,000.
It had increased to £1,643,463,376 in 1915. That is a difference of £400,000,000. Would one be accused of being an anarchist if he claimed, on behalf of Australia, and, what is dearer to us, the children who are to follow us, £400,000,000 out of that £1,600,000,000 for the Commonwealth? That would not represent 70 per cent, of the whole, although 70 per cent, of the manhood of Australia offered its life and blood for service in the war; or even 43 per cent., which was the percentage of those accepted for service; or even 33 per cent., which was the percentage of those who were sent away. It would be only 25 per cent.; yet that amount of £400,000,000 would wipe out the whole of the cursed war debt, the interest on which, unless we take some strong action, will be placed upon the shoulders of our children and our children’s children, thus carrying on to infinity the curse of the war, and of the Kaiser who caused it. No one appreciates more than myself the fact ‘that if a demand for £400,000,000 were made upon the wealth of Australia credit would tend to be destroyed, the value of property would decline, and the effect would be felt by every house and pastoral run and farm in Australia. I therefore do not advocate that, but there are those who can well spare large sums without being deprived even of the luxuries of life. Our party asked that the whole of the war profits should be taken by the Commonwealth. I again register my protest against what was done with regard to war profits, and warn the Government that if those profits are not taken now Ave may claim them in the future from those who made them unjustly. Every man in the devastated countries of Europe, such as Germany, Austria, ‘Servia, Bulgaria, Belgium, or northern France would thank his Creator if he could go back to his factory, shop, mine, or farm without one penny recompense so long as it was in its pre-war condition.
The war, with its bloodshed between man .and man, is ended, but there ls -another war .coming in our community .between those who .are becoming richer and richer every, day and those who are becoming poorer and poorer. Some,of the greatest countries in the world have been poor. They are judged by the genius of the men who were br ought up under their conditions. One multi-millionaire of America or England could have bought all the then value of the elder Greece, but the whole world cannot surpass the greatness of the little race that occupied it. They have branded their glory on art, science, and literature which will go on to the end of time, so long as the tongue of man can speak or his pen can write. One can probably name only one man of wealth in those days, and that is Croesus, but he was not a Greek in the older part of Greece, although he was in one of the Grecian colonies. The valuable document which I have quoted could be made of service if the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney were carried, or if the Government would take a great action by appropriating by means of taxation the profits made in all the sad years of the war. From my reading of history I know of no country whose wealth was greater at the end of a war than at the beginning, unless one or two cases of victors who, gathered the spoils can be quoted as exceptions.For instance, the Spaniards destroyed the value of finance in the thenknown world by the amount of gold they garnered from Mexico and Peru, although Spain may have become richer thereby. The great Bank of England three times in its history stopped payment. For twenty years men could not get gold for a Bank of England note. Three times that Bank was saved from absolutely breaking down by the National Banks of Europe, particularly the National Bank of France and, in a less degree, the National Bank of Germany and the National Bank of Russia. Those three periods occurred between 1793 and 1822.
By the courtesy of my Leader(Mr. Tudor), I am able to give a few quotations as to excessive profits. Here let me say that the only cure for profiteering is gaol. The great Napoleon saw that in his penal code, which provided - I speak from memory - “When any men or any body of men come together for the purpose of raising prices the penalty shall be 20,000 francs and six months’ imprisonment, but when such increased prices pertain to food such as wine, flour, and bread, the punishment shall be doubled, namely, 40,000 francs and twelve months’ imprisonment.” It will be noted that the penalty is not. a fine with the alternative of imprisonment, but both fine and imprisonment. That great man, with his wonderful organizing capacity, evidently foresaw the age of Trusts and Combines in which we unfortunately live. Here is a quotation from the Melbourne Argus of 9th February last: -
The report of the Committee appointed under the Profiteering Act to inquire into woolspinners’ profits has been issued by the Board of Trade. It shows that enormous profits have been made by spinners. In the highest instances, the excess percentage over the profits officially allowed works out at 3,900 per cent., and in no case is the excess of profit over that allowed by the War Office schedule of fair prices less than 250 per cent. The Committee says that at least half of the forty types of yarn investigated showed a profit of not less than 25d. a pound. The excess percentage accruing to the spinners on some grades of yarn ranged from 2,500 per cent. down to 833 per cent.. The spinners objected to the figures on which these calculations were based on the ground that they were misleading, and supplied their own figures, which showed profits ranging from 2,400 to 250 per cent.
If all their profits over 50 per cent. had been appropriated by the. nation which permitted them to exist and carry on their industry, they would not have been so anxious to make large profits. If the heads of those concerns which made excessive profits - for instance, the managing director of Coats’ - had been put into gaol for a year or two, and kept there until they disgorged, it would have been a good lesson to them for the benefit of humanity all over the world. There is no sempstress who threads a needle, no woman who patches her children’s clothes, that is not cursed by the greed of that infamous company.
– It would be a good thing if the State could take over the whole concern.
– The State must do that with all such concerns. Perhaps the greatest organizer in the world at the present moment is Mr. Ford, of the United States of America. He is a great peace advocate, but where his country was at war he placed the whole of his splendid factory at the disposal of the Government for the magnificent return of one dollar a year. It would be a good thing if we could afford to have Mr. Ford over here, in order to organize the Australian community for the benefit, primarily, of the State, and, secondly, for the benefit of the individual citizens. If that could he done, we could look forward to a great Australia that would be an example to the whole world.
It will be remembered that some of my statements in regard to the Anzac tweed industry were contradicted. I am glad to know that these men are now able to earn £5 or £6 per week. If it had not been for, I will not say malign influence, but in consequence of a lamentable ignorance of facts on the part of one Minister we should by this time have had 1,000 of these men working. There is no reason why this industry should not be carried on in the smallest village. The cost of the looms is somewhere about £15 each, and men can soon learn to use them, and ought, under proper management, he able to earn wages from the first day. I blame Flinders-lane for using its power over a Minister to prevent the development of this industry, because the soldiers said that they intended to sell direct to the people. The soldiers were not allowed to do so, but, in spite of all, the industry is fast developing; and for this thanks are due to Mr. Sinclair, who is one of the bravest men I ever met, in a difficult work such as he had in obtaining for the Anzacs fair wages and hours.
The following is a paragraph which appeared in the London Times on the 16th January, and was reprinted by the Melbourne Herald -
Thousands per Cent. Alleged.
Extraordinary disclosures regarding profits on wool startled a meeting of the Central Profiteering Committee. Mr. Mackinder, a Yorkshire warehouseman, reporting on the results of the official sub-committee’s investigation as to the costs of six standard counts of yarn, said that the profits now made ranged from 400 per cent. to 3,000 per cent. beyond the War Office’s former allowance. The spinners’ own figures were quoted in every instance. The Government itself was still making colossal profits.
If the Fair Prices Commission in Victoria were given greater power to ascertain facts, and also power to punish, it would do more good. I accuse the State Government of Victoria of purposely limiting the powers of that body so that its usefulness might be less. The Fair Prices Commission recommended that bacon should be1s.11½d. per lb. wholesale, and in the very next issue of the Victorian Government Gazette it was shown that the Government had received a tender for the very best bacon at1s. 5d.
– Yes. Then the Railways Commissioners of Victoria called for tenders for the supply of wood. Unfortunate householders have to pay 20s. a ton of 40 cubic feet; but in the same issue of the Gazette as that from which I have quoted, we learn that the State Government had offered to it various woods at prices ranging from 8s. 6d. to 9s. 6d. per ton of 50 cubic feet.
– I should not like to cut the wood for that!
– There are those who would not like to cut it for a much higher price - like myself, on the score of health -but that does not justify the difference. Offers of wood at those prices were received by the State Government, not from one place, but from several places. Why should the Fair Prices Commission be compelled to say that 20s. is a fair price to the householder? The idea is too ridiculous. This Commission will never do any good until it has the power to send offenders to gaol. If a person purchasing 5s. worth of groceries, finds that he is charged 2s. too much and complains to the Commission, all that the Commission can do is to order the return of the 2s., and it is not worth any one’s while wasting, perhaps, two afternoons for such a result. What the Commission ought to be able to do is to take the whole of the man’s profits as showing an overcharge of 2s. on each 5s. purchase, and devote the total overcharge to the benefit of the community, if the individuals who have suffered cannot be found. It will be remembered that in. the case of the rabbiters a difficulty was found in distributing money obtained in a similar way.
– Was the money distributed to them?.
– No ; but in the case of wool, where the amount was large, it was possible to do so. I only hope the smallest wool-grower had his share.
– They had; but the Government never handed the money to the wool-growers.
– I am the more perturbed, therefore, lest honorable members should not agree to that amendment. I know of nothing that will redound more to the credit of Sir Alexander Peacock than will the report which he obtained .some time ago, and which shows the net profits made by companies in Australia during the years 1914, 1915, and 1916. That report is published on page 1079 of Ilansard, of 15th August, 1917.
I come now to the statements of Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, who has clearly shown us that the cost of living has increased in a much greater ratio than wages. The wage-earner has always to follow the price-fixer. I hold that the Government should fix the prices of all our staple commodities. Take wheat as an example. The farmer should be paid a fair price for his wheat, irrespective of whether the season be a good one or a bad one. The price which the miller charges for gristing should be fixed ; and, if he refuses to supply flour to any baker, for the first offence he should be imprisoned for one year. Hon’orable members may think that I am rather harsh in desiring to see him gaoled. But I am like Draco, the lawgiver of Sparta, who ordered the death penalty to be exacted even for trifling offences, and who, when asked the reason for his action, replied, “ Most crimes deserve death, and as I do not know of a greater punishment than death, I have ordered its infliction for all crimes, small and great alike.’’ For years past I have resented the imposition of a penalty which provided an alternative as between a fine and imprisonment. I have done so because the man who is possessed of money is thus enabled to purchase his freedom, whilst the individual who has no money is obliged to go to gaol. Justice would be done if both were imprisoned and afterwards required to pay a fine. In the case of a man with no means, the fine could be paid by instalments after his period of imprisonment had expired. In speaking of profiteering in this, chamber, on 3rd March last, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) said -
The firm of J. and P. Coats made a profit of £3,899,000-: that is practically £4,000,000- an increase of 50 per cent, over its .profit for the pre-war year 1913-14, which was £2,600,000. There are only two ways in which a manufacturing firm can make big profits - by taking them out of its workpeople, or by raising .prices to the consumers of the article which it manufactures
The honorable member for Yarra, it will be seen,* put the position very concisely. The greatest organizing genius that the world has ever seen, if placed upon an island alone, would not be able to obtain more than food, clothing, and shelter. It is the association of individuals which enables men to amass wealth in large sums.
I have no doubt that the thoughts expressed by that great man, Dr. Alfred Bussel Wallace, will yet sway mankind. In his advocacy of land nationalization he stood alone, and was the equal of the great Darwin, who discovered the law of evolution. When Dr. Wallace was over ninety years of age, in an effort to remove from Britain the curse of poverty, he declared, in one of his books, which is to be found in our Parliamentary Library, “ The State must be the heir of all property.” The working out of the details of this problem he left to this and other Houses of Parliament. No man who ever, attempts to commune with his Maker can fail to acknowledge that poverty is a disgrace to our present civilization. In any great city which I visit I make it a practice to inspect the slums, and to attend the Police Courts and the auction-room sales. I have had the pleasure of sitting upon the Bench in Glasgow, and of sitting below the Bench in Belfast. One can derive a good deal of knowledge, too, from a visit to the auction rooms, where the little household gods are sold. Following the debacle caused by the land boom in Victoria, we did not allow any auctioneer to sell household furniture in Carlton and Fitzroy, and police assisted us in our endeavours in this direction. If an auctioneer attempted to sell any article of furniture, somebody in the audience would .probably ask if it belonged to a woman who was present, and upon receiving an affirmative reply it would suddenly disappear. We stopped that for months and months, and, although it was not according to the law, we felt no twinges of conscience.
I can understand the difficulties of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), whose billet I would not care to have for double the salary attaching to it, but I think I can show him an easy way out of them. If a table were issued showing in one column the incomes of our wealthy men, indicating them by numbers, and in another column the amounts contributed by them to our various loans, honorable members would receive a shock. I suppose every honorable member knows at least one wealthy man who has not contributed a penny to our loans. I know one who has not done so, and who was one of the loudest-voiced on our recruiting platforms in urging young men to -give their lives.
– We ought to have compulsory loans.
– The Treasurer knows that in the future he may be obliged to .exercise compulsion; but I am seeking to show him a way in which he may avoid doing so. All my efforts have been directed towards the prevention of the destruction of credit. I have been associated with unemployed for thirty years, and the knowledge I have gained in that period has shown me clearly that nothing destroys the credit of the community more quickly than does the presence of a large body of unemployed in its midst. On one occasion I had the honour of assisting to prevent a run on the Colonial Bank in Melbourne, when a number of .persons who had a little money endeavoured to make use of the unemployed by handing them bank-notes which they were to wave in front of the bank, with the cry, “ We want our money.” Early in August, 1914, just after the declaration of war, when it was feared that the Broken Hill’ mines would be obliged to close down, I wrote a letter to the press, pointing out that if the Commonwealth Government would pur-, chase the whole of the output of metals from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company at the British selling price, the company might keep their mine in full swing, or else, under the law of eminent domain, the State of New South Wales might seize the mine and work it at the risk of the shareholders. During the election campaign which followed shortly afterwards I advocated the same policy on the public platform, and when Parliament met I brought it forward in this House. Subsequently Mr. Baillieu managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, asked me for an interview, and I had several conversations with him. He did me the honour of sending me with a message to Mr. Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, to the effect that if the Commonwealth Government would buy the metals which were mined by the Broken Hill companies, the mines would be kept going at full swing, and would also be willing to accept 30 per cent, less than the selling price of silver in London. Prior to the war silver was selling in London at 2s. per oz. Each ounce of silver would make 5s. 6d. in currency, less 3 per cent, in England for smelting costs, and perhaps 3i or 4 per cent, in Australia. But, so far as Australia was concerned, seeing that the companies were prepared to accept 30 per cent, less than the London selling price, the cost of silver to the Commonwealth Government would have been ls. 4fd. per oz. Every £1,000,000 of Australian notes used to purchase silver, when minted, would have produced £3,928,000 in silver currency, less cost of minting. However, Mr. Fisher, acting on the advice of the officials of the Treasury, whose minds, no doubt, run somewhat in a narrow groove, declined the offer. I had used an argument somewhat on the following lines: - “ Our Army failed in the South African war, and it may be, though God forbid it. that our Navy may fail in our hour of direst need. Do you not think that, if the German Fleet were coming here to take possession of Australia, every man and woman in the Commonwealth with a few savings in a bank, would thank you, next to thanking God, if they could draw out their money, even in silver, which, although it might not be worth its face value, they could, if necessary, plant in their yards?” Mr. Fisher allowed the force of that argument. Then I continued, “ The German Fleet, on coming here, would issue one regulation, and your bank-notes would not be worth a snap of the fingers.” I have gone into figures with an accountant, and ascertained that Australia would have been richer by £20,000,000 if my suggestion had been adopted. . If it had been applied to the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited all the metal producers of Australia would ultimately have come under the same rule.
I thank honorable members for giving me their attention. I have only to add that when we are in Committee I propose to move that the following new clause be added to the Bill : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other Act, it shall be mandatory upon any Judge, magistrate, or Commissioner, when any case is before the Court, upon the request of on Australian citizen who is under examination or cross-examination, that all future questions shall be asked personally by such Judge, magistrate, or Commissioner to forthwith ask such questions, and in such way as such Judge, magistrate, or Commissioner shall consider right and just, the examining barrister, solicitor, &c, having the right to state his question to the Court, after which the presiding Judge, magistrate, or Commissioner, if he approves the question, shall ask the witness in the way he deems best.
It has long been my object to protect from confusion and insult unfortunate witnesses subjected to the bullying tactics of certain members of the Bar. Whereas a Judge or a magistrate may make allowance for answers given under stress from the box, the witness is not at the same time freed from mental disturbance. Often a Judge has checked brow-beating tactics, and it is well recognised that no Judge would examine a witness in the bullying and insulting manner employed by certain individuals who have earned a Court notoriety. I recall that one Judge, in a New South Wales circuit, asked a witness to step down from the box. He put the examining lawyer there in his stead, and asked, “Are you, prepared to produce sworn evidence concerning the statements upon which you are basing your questions?” The answer was “No.” The. Judge proceeded, “Then, by what right do you ask these questions of the witness?” He ordered the lawyer to stand down and to learn to be more manly, if not more gentlemanly, in his future behaviour in that Court. I know of another Judge who makes a practice of intervening in. examination along lines which he considers unfair or bullying. That is well,’ of course, but it does not save the unfortunate witness from all mental confusion and distress. I look for the hearty support of honorable members in endeavouring to persuade the Government to accept my amendment.
.- I am pleased that the Government have seen the necessity, at last, for proceeding with this measure. Honorable members on this side are hopeful that it may be a means of assisting them to deal with some of those problems which for a considerable time have agitated the public mind. It was our desire to have been afforded an opportunity to discuss this Bill long ago, so that we might suggest something practicable in relation to the suppression of profiteering. No honorable member present would dare to assert that undue exploitation is not being practised with respect to the necessaries of life. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that the first business upon resuming our sittings next week will have to do with further consideration of the Judiciary Bill. I have no doubt that we shall do as well next week, in the matter of the despatch of public business, as we have done during’ the present week .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201008_reps_8_94/>.