8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the statement in the newspapers that there is a glut in the sugar market in Cuba? I should like to know if he cannot bring some of the Cuba sugar here.It would relieve us a little if he did.
– I haveseen the report referred to, andI believe that it relates to a slump in the speculative market, which isconcerned with the crop not yet harvested.
– Is the Minister able to say when the shortage of sugar here will be relieved?
– I have already told the House that the Government recently purchased a large quantity of white sugar, and that as soon as arrangements can be made for. freight to bring it to Australia the shortage will be relieved.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he will take into consideration the advisability, of having a national song for Australia?
– By no stretch of the imagination can that question be regarded as one of urgency, and it is the rule that only urgent and important questions may be asked without notice. Important questions should go on the notice-paper. If questions are not important, they should not be asked at all.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in this morning’s newspaper to the effect that, because of certain circumstances that have arisen, the Geneva Conference is not to be held?
What is the intention of the Government regarding Senator E. D. Millen, who has left this country to attend that Conference? Will he be recalled, or how will he be employed when he gets to the other side of the world ?
– The question reveals one of the causes of the appalling ignorance of mankind. The honorable member read’s his newspaper as if the statements therein were Bible truths. The basic principle of a citizen should be disbelief in every statement that he reads in the newspapers. Those who write paragraphs such as that to which the honorable member has referred do not know where Geneva is, or what the Conference is for. They merely get a cablegram containing something about Geneva, and they make of it a statement such as the honorable member has read. The question is too silly to answer.
– It is a well-known rule of parliamentary practice that questions founded on newspaper statements are not in order, unless those asking them take personal responsibility for their accuracy.
– In this morning’s Melbourne Age appears the report of some remarks made by an individual named E’avin, a third or fourth rate lawyer, and a member of the New South Wales Parliament, who. I think, is known only because of his treachery to his late political leader, and his jealous stabbing in. the back of a colleague who has recently been raised to the Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– Is the honorable member in order in making this bitter personal attack under cover of a personal explanation?
-The honorable member is entitled to explain how he has been misrepresented, but he must not, under cover of the explanation, make a personal attack on some one else.
– I have spoken of the character of the person who made this statement by way of showing how little to be believed it is. He is reported to have said that I, as a barrister, when a member of the Queensland Government, received in one year in fees the sum of £8,900. That is a, repetition of a false statement made by a member of the Queensland Parliament named Fry, and published in the press some time ago. I denied it in this Chamber earlier in the session; honorable members, no doubt, will remember the occasion. I should have expected that all members of Australian Parliaments, who are supposed to interest themselves in the affairs of the country, would have acquainted themselves with my denial. The statementof Mr. Bavin is entirely without foundation. Mr. Fry promised me that he would personally investigate the matter, and would publish a correction of the statement that he had made. I know that he conducted an investigation, and found that his statement was a gross misrepresentation of facts, but, so far, he has not made any public correction of it. I invite him to do so at the earliest opportunity, and before I take further action.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the information will be’ furnished in due course.
Financing of Purchase
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Consideration resumed from 14th October (vide page 5687), on motion by Sir Joseph Cook -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division I. - The Parliament - namely - The President, £1,100, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Mowilliams had moved -
That the item be reduced by £1.
– When this debate was adjourned last evening, I was referring to the fact that when the Budget was first considered an honorable member on this side moved an amendment which, if carried, would have had the effect of reducing the proposed expenditure by £1,000,000. With the exception of that of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), we did not get the support of any honorable member opposite for that amendment. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) seemed to doubt that statement last night, but it is a fact.
– I was not here.
– Honorable members on this side, in moving the amendment to which I refer, did not leave themselves open to the charge to which honorable members supporting the amendment now before the Committee are left open. Those who are supporting the amendment now under consideration have not indicated in what direction they desire expenditure to be cut down. When we submitted our amendment we pointed to the fact that the proposed expenditure on defence was more than double what it was in pre-war days. Whilst I should, personally, be prepared to go much further, the consensus of opinion on this side was that the expenditure on defence should be cut down to at least the prewar expenditure, which would mean a saving of millions of money to this country.
– The honorable member proposes reduced defence expenditure, in spite of the fact that honorable members opposite have complained that we are nearer to some possible enemies than ever we were before.
– I have made no such complaint. I regard all this talk about defence, the arming of troops, and making provision for some war that is in the clouds, as so much flapdoodle. I see no immediate danger of war, and no honorable member on the Government side has indicated where any immediate danger lies. This talk is all for the purpose of giving some apparent justification to the country for this piling up of defence expenditure. The fact is that we are to-day spending in this country at the rate of war-time expenditure, and no country with a population of only 5,000,000 can expect to continue expenditure at that rate for very long. Any person who takes merely a casual look at the Budget, as introduced bv the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), will find that we are expending at nearly the same rate as when we were called upon to provide transport equipment and maintenance for 300,000 men overseas. In 1913-14, before the war, our annual expenditure was £25,000,000; in 1914-15, the first year of the war, it was £40,000,000; in 1916-17 it was £107,000,000; in 1917-18 it was £119,000,000; in 1918-19 it was £111,000,000; and in 1919-20, the first year after the war, it was £97,000,000. The Treasurer’s estimate for the expenditure for this year is £98,860,000.
– How much of that is for repatriation, the resumption of land, and the building of homes for soldiers ?
– And how much for war pensions and interest? This is another attack which the honorable member is making on the soldier.
– I expected that from the Treasurer; but can afford to ignore such a false statement.
– The honorable member is going to get it, too. He would not ask them to go to fight, and he will not look after them now they have returned.
– The Treasurer should not get wildly excited.
– I am telling the honorable member a few truths, that is all.
-The Treasurer is not telling the truth, but that does not matter. I shallsay what I desire to say despite the right honorable gentleman. I am well aware that in order to cover up the wrong in this Budget he will try to camouflage it by an appeal to thepatriotism or the passions of the people.
– He is on the wrong track when he makes such an appeal to the honorable member.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Eobertson (Mr. Fleming) has a record in regard to the war that is very praiseworthy. I know that he parades what he did a great deal; but I am not concerned about that. I wish to. keep personalities out of the debate, if the Treasurer will let me. The estimate of expenditure for this year is £98,000,000: The Treasurer and the Minister for Home and Territories remind me that a great deal of the expenditure is for repatriation, and o’ther requirements of the returned soldier. I am not complaining about that.
– The expenditure required for repatriation, is £62,250,000, and the payments for other things arising out of the war bring the amount up to £73,000,000. If the £25,000,000 pre-war expenditure is added, we have £98,000,000., which accounts for the whole estimate for this year.
– The Treasurer says that I should cut out every expenditure for the returned soldiers. I shall do so, and refer only to the ordinary expenditure. In 1913-14, the annual expenditure was £25,000,000, and cutting out all expenditure for the returned soldiers, the general expenditure proposed, after the war, amounts to £36,600,000.
– No, it does not.
– This represents an increase of £11,000,000 in ordinary expenditure beyond the pre-war expenditure. The Treasurer says that it does not, but. he has only to look at his own Budget figures to find that it does. If the right honorable gentleman does not understand his own Budget, I cannot be held responsible for that. I have stated the facts, and I shall be very pleased if the Treasurer can point out where I am wrong. He will have an opportunity to explain the matter before a vote is taken on the amendment before the Committee, and if he can do so satisfactorily, he may influence some votes.
– I think I shall be able to show that whatever increases in expenditure have occurredare largely attributable to Labour finance.
– I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman will try. to put the blame on to Queensland or New South Wales, in. which States there are Labour Governments, and that he will wriggle out of the difficulty in some way or other. The figures in his own Budget disclose the fact that ordinary expenditure has been increased by £11,000,000 without reference to any expenditure on the war, or on the requirements of the returned soldiers. The Budget discloses a state of affairs which, if continued, must lead the country to disaster.
– I understand that the honorable member is good at mental arithmetic. How much per cent. is £11,000,000 on £98,000,000?
– I shall leave the Treasurer to answer that question.When the Treasurer visited Sydney after introducing his Budget, he made the statement,” I am very pleased with the kindly reception given to my Budget.”
– Hear, hear !
– If the right honorable gentleman has many friends around him like that, he should follow the advice of the great author, and. fasten them to him “ with hoops of steel,” because friends who will follow the honorable gentleman on this Budget would follow him on the road that is paved with good intentions, of which we hear so much.
Ye think the rustic cackle of your bourg
The murmur of the world.
– Friends who will applaud the right honorable gentleman for this Budget will stand by him for all time. I do not know how many such friends the honorable gentleman has, but the vote will show how many there are in this Committee. If a considerable number will follow the Treasurer on this Budget, he may be sure of holding his present position for the remaining two years of the term of this Parliament.
– What about the High Commissionership ?
– I am assuming that the right honorable gentleman is prepared to efface himself, will remain here, and will not accept the appointment referred to.
– Here is another economist; and I have been dealing with applications of his for expenditure only this morning - legitimateapplications, of course.
– should be better pleased if the right honorable gentleman would tell me how he has dealt with them. I shall not benefit very much fromthe Budget. There are some honorable members who will stand anything, so long as there is expenditurein their own electorates. I get no compensation of that kind at all.
– Can the honorable member tell us who does, outside members on the Government side?
– I shall be better able to answer thehonorable member’s question when the vote takes place. That should give some indication of those whose claims are receiving consideration. I am hoping that my electorate will not be neglected while this vast expenditure is heaping up.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in replying yesterday to the only honorable member whom he had heard taking part in this debate, said, amongst otherthings, that the primary producers had much for which to be thankful. I presume that his appeal was made to the Corner Party with the object of stiffeningthemup for the coming vote and to leave them no loophole of escape. If the primary producers have anything to be thankful for at the hands of this Government, then their thankfulness must be much like that of the man who, after being knocked down by a motor car, brushes the dust off his clothes and thanks God that he was not killed. The primary producers have had the steam-roller of the Government over them, but they have not been utterly destroyed.
– Are not the primary producers getting that sort of treatment fromthe New South Wales Labour Government ?
– I only know that at a most representative meeting of farmers in regard to the nonpayment of the guarantee of 5s. per bushel for wheat, as promised by the Prime Minister in his Bendigospeech, most complimentary references were made to the treatment which the primary producers had received at the hands of the New South Wales Labour Administration, which only took office a few months ago. The consensus of opinion in New South Wales is that the Labour Government is doing infinitely better than did its predecessors.The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) pointed out that during the four years of the war the area . under cultivation wasreduced to the extent of about 4,000,000 acres. That is an indication of how the primary producers were treated.
– Was it not lack of shipping that led to that decrease in the area under cultivation?
– Or drought?
– No, it was lack of proper treatment at the hands of the Government. By way of illustration I need only point out that our primary producers during the war received for their wool and their wheat only about one-third of the amount that the primary producers of Canada, South Africa, and the Argentine received.
– And the area under cultivation in New South Wales has increased since the Labour Government took office there.
– That is so. Now that the war is over this Government does not seem to be inclined to makeamends for its shortcomings. The increased area undercultivation this year is due to the fact that the farmers anticipated that the guarantee of 5s. per bushel for wheat delivered at ‘railway sidings would be honoured, but, so far as we know, that pledge, which was given by the Prime Minister, is going to he repudiated. That is another answer to the right honorable gentleman’s statement yesterday, that the primary, producers have much for which to be thankful to the Government. The reverse is really the case.
As an illustration of the arguments that are used by Government supporters to justify their intention to vote against this amendment I would remind the Committee that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) said on Wednesday evening that he would not vote for the amendment, because if it were carried it would brine the Labour party into power, and that the country could not look to them for anything in the way of better financial control. That appears to me to be the very flimsiest of excuses, since the honorable member condemned the Budget to ro great an extent.
– Condemned it?
– He pointed to expenditure which he considered to be unjustifiable. If honorable mem’bers on the Ministerial side are going to tolerate anything that the Government may do, and to explain their attitude by pleading that something worse might happen if Labour came into power, then one can only say that they are hard pressed for an excuse.
– The honorable member for Flinders gave us what the honorable member could never pretend to give - a fair argument.
-The right honorable gentleman has said that he welcomes criticism.
– I do, so long as it is fair and intelligent.
– But what, in the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, is fair criticism? He regards as unfair any criticism that is not to his liking. On what did the honorable member for Flinders base his conclusion? Was it upon any experience of a Commonwealth Labour Administration? When we last had a Labour Government in power in this Parliament the annual expenditure, apart from war expenditure, was only £25,000,000. Today it is £11,000,000 in excess of that amount.
– Wrong again. I was in office in the year to which the honorable member refers.
– I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, to protect me from the Treasurer, who tries to smother up every statement that I make which is not to his liking. I have referred to the assertion made by the honorable member for Flinders merely with a desire to secure information. On what did the honorable member for Flinders base his conclusion ?
– If Labour to-day was what it was in 1913, I would not be so apprehensive.
– There has been no other form of Labour in power in this Parliament since 1913, consequently there has been nothing definite upon which the honorable member could base such a conclusion. We have had no Labour Government in power in this Parliament since the present Prime Minister went over to those to whom he was previously opposed. That being so, the honorable member is indulging in mere conjecture, and his statement is not quite in keeping with his usual fairness. But let us look further. Let us see what is happening where Labour is in power. In Queensland, for instance, Labour has been in power during the life of two Parliaments, and the people of that State, by an emphatic majority, have just returned the party to power once more.
– There was a majority of electors against the Labour Government at the recent Queensland elections. Labour secured a majority of the seats, but not the vote of a majority of the electors
– The Queensland Labour Government has been returned by a majority of the votes. The position in Queensland to-day is that Labour, after being in power in two Parliaments, has been returned once more with a majority, notwithstanding that the whole of the press of the State was against it, and despite the enormous expenditure which its opponents incurred in endeavouring to bring about its defeat. It has been returned with a majority which, this Government would like to have at its back to-day. The counting of the votes has not yet been completed, but already it has a majority of eight. That is entirely satisfactory, and constitutes the best tribute that could be paid to Labour in politics. That being so, when the honorable member for Flinders says that he would not trust this party in office, I can only point out to him that, on all the facts available for his guidance, his decision should be reversed.
– May I remind the honorable member that I was Prime Minister in 1913-14 - the year to which he was evidently referring when he spoke of Commonwealth expenditure, apart from war details, amounting to only £25,000,000.
– If we take the expenditure for the preceding year, when the right honorable member will admit the Labour party was in power, the expenditure was still less, so that I fail to see the point of the right honorable gentleman’s interjection.
During the course of the debate a member of the Country party referred to the policy of the Labour party in regard to the primary producers, with the object of showing that it was detrimental to them. While he was speaking I interjected that he had omitted all reference to a portion of our policy which did not suit his argument. Our policy is that in regard to Australia’s surplus products exported overseas we favour world parity, and our programme, on which the Labour Government in New South Wales was returned, is that in respect of produce for home consumption the price should be based upon the cost of production.
– In other words, the Labour party would fix the price.
– Our policy is that for home consumption a reasonable price, based upon the cost of production, ‘ should -be allowed, and that price should be a good one. That does not mean the fixation of prices. The honorable member for Swan would have us believe, however, that there is something detrimental in such a .policy. I would remind him that it is entirely the same as that of his own party. Here are the words of the honorable member for
Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), a prominent member of the Country party-
– He is one of the dinkum “ members of the Country party.
– And a special friend of the Labour party!
– He is a good straight man.
– But more of a Labour man than a Country party man.
– All the more to his credit. That is why he gets such substantial support from the farmers.
– Anything anybody has to say against him should be said when he is present.
– I have said it when he is present, and I shall do so again.
– At any rate, he is one of the straightest men in the House, and this is what he said, as reported in the Kerang newspaper -
The price of wheat for home consumption should be based on the cost of production, allowing for an eight hours day and a fair return on capital.
That is the policy of the Labour party, as far as the price of wheat is concerned.
– But until that policy if fixed-
– The honorable member will try to cover up the statement of his colleague, but when honorable members on this side advocate th< same policy in regard to the price oi wheat he will tell the primary producer that there is something wrong with it. Let him start with one of the most honest men in his own party.
– Whether the statement was made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) or by anybody else the principle of it is wrong.
– The honorable member for Wimmera said that our policy is right, and when the Labour party in New South Wales went to the country on that policy it practically swept the polls, particularly in the country districts.
As I understand that it is the desireof the Committee to take a division early this afternoon, I shall content myself with referring to only two other matters. Ii ever a Royal Commission was required in regard to any matter it is required in regard to the contract entered into by the Commonwealth Government with the
Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company of Sydney. The matter has frequently been referred to by me and other honorable members, but we get no “ forrader,” and I believe there are reasons for covering it up . The Prime Minister has been asked, for instance, as to when the litigation started by the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) against the company will be proceeded with, and the Prime Minister’s answer was that litigation was always very slow, and that some day this case would possibly reach the law courts. It is time that something definite was done in regard to this matter. This company, at the head of which is Mr.F. W. Hughes, has a capital of £135,000, and out of a contract made with the company by the Prime Minister hasmade a profit of £410.000. Nearly half-a-million pounds was made in profits, because of the preferential treatment meted out to that company as compared with the treatment accorded the Yarra Falls Spinning Company, and other companies engaged in the same industry. This Parliament should know why the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company receives this special treatment. While the Prime Minister was absent in Europe the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) instituted proceedings for the recovery of a large sum of money from the company, and after Mr. Watt resigned from the Cabinet it was an interesting fact, and not lacking in a certain amount of suspicion, that the Prime Minister spent a holiday on the station of F. W. Hughes, at Wagga.
– That was positively indecent, in view of the fact that this litigation was pending.
– Those arethe facts. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister was asked, for perhaps the twentieth time, when legal proceedings would develop, and he returned only an evasive reply. The case will be covered up if honorable members are content to allow things to remain as they are. I shall be ready to assist in probing the transaction to the bottom. At least a Royal Commission ought to be appointed to inquire into the relationship of the Government with the company that received such preferential treatment. The only explanation that has been given to us is that if the company had not received preferential treatment it would have closed down its works. That is no excuse, be cause the Government should have been prepared to carry on those operations. There is no justification for shelving this litigation.
– Who says we are shelving it?
– Why did the Prime Minister go picnicking with F. W. Hughes ?
– He was learning to “ shoot the profiteer.”
– Tell us how the Prime Minister has shelved the litigation.
– Two years is too long for litigation of this character to be hung up, and when so much suspicion surrounds the case, the proper course to follow is to appoint aRoyal Commission to inquire as to why, amongst other things, the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company received better treatment than other spinning companies.
When so many millions of pounds are being voted for defence expenditure, we might very well And a few thousand pounds for expenditure in other ways to which no honorable member would take exception. I receive almost every day pathetic letters from old-age pensioners, who are hardly able to live on the pension of 15s. per week. Nobody in the House or in the country would object if that pension were increased to at least £1 per week. The worst feature of the pension is that the old people are not allowed to earn more than 6s. or 7s. per week.
– A pension of £1 per week would increase the bill by £3,000,000 per annum.
– We might make provision for that extra expenditure by deducting it from the. defence vote.
– I am sure the honor, able member would do that.
– I have heard no arguments advanced to convince me on the need of this defence expenditure, unless it be the Prime Minister’s statement at Bendigo aboutsome mysterious enemy that threatened Australia - the advance of Bolshevism, or some other “ism.”
– Russia blew out Bolshevism when Poland beat her.
– The Prime Minister’s other statement could be ‘blown out in the same way. Much more than this imaginary foe is required to convince me that we cannot save £3,000,000 on our defence expenditure and apply it to the relief of the old-age pensioners, who have done so much for the country. I frequently receive complaints that the pension has been cut down because some pensioner is earning more than 6s. or 7s. per week. Provision should be made to allow the pensioner to earn at least the equivalent of his pension before any reduction is made.
– That proposal, by increasing the number of persons who would .be eligible for the pension, would cost the country an extra £750,000.
– What about taking the maternity allowance from those who do not need it ,and giving the money thus saved to the old-age pensioners ?
– Any attempt of that kind would get us into a sea of trouble, and I would not support it. I do not propose to interfere with one of the best pieces of legislation ever introduced into the Commonwealth. Even if my suggestion in regard to the earnings of the pensioners would cost an extra £750,000, the expenditure would be quite justified.
– The present principle is quite wrong. If people sit down and loaf they may draw the full pension; if they are industrious and earn a little money the pension is reduced.
– That is the law passed by a Labour Government.
– Put the blame on the Labour party.
– But the Labour party did pass the Old-age Pensions Act.
– We did ; and if we were in power now we would amend the Act in accordance with the altered circumstances. The cost of living to-day is much greater than it was when that legislation was introduced. A pension of 10s. may have been reasonable when the Act was passed, but the equivalent of it to-day is £1 per week. I hope the Treasurer will think over this matter and at least allow the old people to earn 15s. per week before reducing the pension.
– If I find that there is plenty of revenue available I shall con sider whether I can cure these blunders made by the Labour Government.
– All I ask of the Treasurer is that he shall do what a Labour Government would do. As the Treasurer has invited criticism I hope I have done my share to please him.
.-. I have only a few words to say before the amendment is taken to the vote. It seems to me ‘ after perusing the Budget statement and the Estimates, that there is ample justification for the charge of extravagance laid against the Government by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and also ample justification for the motion he has moved to reduce the item by £1. As I understand it, the purpose of his amendment is to call attention to the general extravagance of the Government, which, however, he has not indicated with that particularity which I could have desired to see. He has referred to expenditure on the Northern Territory and on the Defence Department. I quite agree that the estimates of expenditure of Defence are far too high. I am not frightened by any suggestion that the Treasurer or honorable members behind him may make to the effect that the Labour party can be accused of not standing for the adequate defence of the country. No one can. accuse the Labour party of that, but I think we may reasonably demand that the Government should give some earnest of their desire to reduce expenditure on defence matters to something like a par with pre-war expenditure, making, of course, allowance for the increased cost of material and other increases of that kind. There is no doubt that the Government in the past have been neglectful of what I may call Australia’s interests. They have been prepared, and in fact their policy seems to have been, to subordinate Australia’6 interests to the interests of other places. We find, now, that the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, admits things which formerly the Labour party were dubbed disloyal for saying. On page 22’, in justifying the expenditure for the war, the Treasurer said -
In considering the large expenditure which the people of Australia are being asked to bear as the result of the war, it” should be borne in mind that Australia’s burden is much heavier than that of some of the other Dominions, owing, principally, to the great difference in the distances over which troops had to be transported to the various battle fronts.
He also said -
Further, certain published figures show that the casualties among Australian soldiers as compared with enlistments were higher than among those of any other portion of the Empire. As a result, Australia has now to face an unduly heavy expenditure in order to meet her obligations to the dependants of men killed and incapacitated, and to returned soldiers to enable them to obtain a footing in civil life.
It is said that if you want to test where you are going, it is a good thing to look back where you come from. If we look where the Government came from, if we look back over their record, we will find the proof of the statement I have made, that the Government were prepared, throughout the war period, to subordinate Australia’s interests to those of other portions of the Empire. Why should Australia, because she was further away from the actual seat of war, have a larger burden of debt to bear? Surely it is reasonable for us to expect that the Government would have taken some steps to have the expenditure pooled.
– I expect the other fellow had a say in that.
– But no attempt was made to approach the Government of the Dominion of Canada, for example, to see whether they would not be prepared to pool expenditure.
– If we were to pool on the basie of the English expenditure, how would we come out ?
– I am speaking now of the expenditure of the oversea Dominions of the British Empire, and suggesting that it was fair and reasonable to expect the Government, that in fact, it was the duty of the Government, to see to it that we were not saddled with a larger proportion of debt than the other oversea Dominions. There is no denying the fact that Australia has had heaped upon the shoulders of her citizens an amount of something like £175,000,000 more than should be her fair share in proportion to what was borne by other oversea Dominions, more parti;cularly Canada, on a population basis. I mentioned that fact before; but it is a fact that was suppressed from the people of Australia while the Government were endeavouring to get through two conscription proposals. They suppressed it then, but now they are willing to admit it.
– Quite wrong. It was referred to on almost every platform, and heartily and utterly denounced as being a craven proposal, and one which dishonoured the Australian soldier fighting at the Front
– I have heard that sort of “ claptrap “ from the right honorable gentleman during the last few years. That is the sort of stuff that the other side talked up and down Australia when they were advocating conscription. They said that Australia would be dishonoured, and that ours were craven proposals.
– Then you do admit that it was referred to?
– It is not a craven proposal to suggest that the Government should have done their duty by this country, and should not have allowed our interests to be subordinated to the interests of other places. Whose duty was it, if it was not the duty of the Government? It was no one else’s duty. Not only did the Government neglect Australia’s interests in that direction, but they also subordinated them in the matter of the sale of our primary products.
– We could have pulled out of the war, and saved quite a lot of money !
– Probably the Government could have done so; but no one is suggesting it. I am suggesting that a Government in charge of the affairs of the country should not lose their heads. The present Government did not keep their heads, and, as a result, we have been saddled with a larger expenditure than we should have been saddled with. It is all very well to cry about “pulling out of the war.” No one is suggesting that we should have pulled out, but what we do suggest is that the Government should have had regard to the interests of this country compared with the interests of other oversea Dominions.
– I never heard your leader suggest that we should pool the expenditure.
– I do not know what the right honorable member heard. It was impossible to know during the war what the Government were doing. No one except those in the Cabinet would be able to know what was going on; but now we are enabled to see that the Government did fail in their duty, as we suggested that they were doing while those two conscription campaigns were going on. They are now prepared to admit that our casualties were higher than those of any other Dominion of the Empire. I think they were higher than those of any part of the whole Empire ; but these are facts that were not admitted then. I refer to these things because we may judge of the future by our experience of the past. The Government proved that they had not that capacity, that cool-headedness, that shrewdness which they should have shown during the war period, and we may expect that they will continue so in the future. It is a matter of indifference to me what honorable members say by way of interjection or otherwise, because I know I am voicing the opinion of a very large majority of the people of this country. On the same lines, our primary products were disposed of under more disadvantageous conditions, and at lower prices, than those of other portions of the Empire. Our interests were subordinated there also, and if it had not been for the people of Australia and the Labour party we should have been much worse off than we are. No credit is due to the Government for the fact that we are not much worse off. They tried, by passing conscription, to bring about a state of affairs which would have placed us in a much worse position than we are in to-day to meet the great difficulties in front of us and to bear the great burden of debt which Australia has to shoulder. As I say, you must look where you come from to see where you are going, and we find the Government still carrying on the same policy. The Treasurer is mouthing about defence. He says to us, You want to cut down our defence,” but those suggestions do not go down. The people of Australia ‘ do not believe that the Labour party do not stand for the defence of this country.
– The word “ mouthing “ is very vulgar. Cannot you find a better one?
– It suits the right honorable gentleman. Not only were our interests subordinated, not only did the Government lose their heads, although, fortunately, they were frustrated in some of their proposals by the people of Australia, but the war expenditure was wrongly financed. I am glad to hear the admission made by some honorable members opposite that the method of financing the war expenditure bv loan, bearing a good rate of interest and free of income tax. was wrong. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) admit that.
– That was introduced by the Fisher Government.
– I do not care who introduced it. While the expenditure was small it was right enough, but when it mounted into hundreds of millions it was time the Government took some steps to see that posterity was not saddled with all the burden, and wealth relieved of its fair, share during the time of the actual expenditure.
– That was done later on.
– Not to the extent that it should have been. The Government would have been able to alter that policy to a far greater extent if they had seen to it that our primary products were properly disposed of at a fair rate, returning to the Australian producers the full amount received for them, and not allowing large profits to be made by profiteers overseas. And now we find that this huge burden of debt, which, of course, has to be met, is inflicting a very hard burden upon the people in the way of taxation. It is a problem that we have to face, but the burden is being placed too heavily upon the shoulders of those who are least able to pay the money. Why should not our income tax exemption be much higher than it is? Does any one suggest that there should not be a larger exemption, up to £300, or something in that vicinity ? The Government are not prepared to do that. Their policy seems to be to broaden the basis of taxation - I think that is the way they describe it - which simply means placing the main portion upon the shoulders of the great mass of the people, whereas a proper and sound policy would be to increase the number of shoulders which are capable of bearing taxation. That, could be done by encouraging the ‘development of our natural resources, and by going in for a policy that would attract immigrants. We hear a good deal from the Government about their immigration policy. While on that subject, I should like to enter my protest against the appointment of a gentleman named Barnes to be sent home as Immigration Agent. His selection seems to be a reward for political services which were rendered to the Government during the recent Federal election campaign. I know of no man’s speeches that were further from the truth than those of Mr. Barnes. They were gross misrepresentations. They were wilful falsehoods.
– He must have a record, then.
– He must have. I know nothing worse than the statements that he made. They did not have even a scintilla of foundation in truth. Yet he has been sent Home to represent this country and carry on propaganda to attract immigration. What is there against an Australian going Home in order to encourage immigrants? It seems to me that Australians are not supposed to be good enough.
– We have no Australians at the head of the Government.
– That is so. I do not object to that in itself, but, while every one should have equal opportunity here, we shouldhave a Government in power actuated by Australian sentiment - a Government which will place Australia and her interests first.
– This Government profess to give preference to returned soldiers, but this man is not one.
– I am reminded that this man was eligible and did not go to the Front. There must be numbers of returned soldiers capable of carrying out the duties; and to appoint one would be consistent, at all events, with the policy of the Government, or what they allege to be their policy. It is quite possible for the Australian Government, quite consistent with carrying out our duty as a partner in the great British Empire, to stand for Australian interests. If a member on this side of the House speaks of standing up for Australian interests, or against subordinating those interests, it is at once suggested that he is disloyal. I repudiate that suggestion,; the truest loyalty, not only to Australia, but to the Empire, lies in the Government not subordinating our interests to those of any other portion of the Empire. That, as I say, is the duty of the Government, and it is quite consistent with performing in every detail our duty as a partner in the Empire.
I do not propose to speak much longer, because I know that an arrangement has been made to take a vote, and I do not wish to monopolize the time which should be afforded to every member to speak if he so desires. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin.
– That is a surprise.
– A surprise to you?
– Yes; complete and overwhelming.
– I can only say that the right honorable gentleman looks quite pleased. I intend to support the amendment, although I believe there is no “ business” in it. I do not suggest that that remark applies to the honorable member for Franklin himself, but, as to his party, I think that the criticism is justifiable; it is certainly justified by the speech of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who frankly admitted that he does not wish to put out this Government, and has no such intention.
– And you know, I suppose, that that is the only thing that the Leader of the Country party does desire ?
– I know that the honorable member for Grampians, and the Country party, as a whole, do not wish to put out this Government, but they are adopting a method of calling attention to the extravagance of the Government - extravagance, by the way, unchallenged, and unchallengeable - which certainly would outwardly appear to mean an intention to oust the Government. It is unfortunate for that party that it should contain such a prominent member as the representative of Grampians, who holds the high and honorable position of Deputy Leader, and that he should officially tell the Committee that there is no “ business “ in the motion. This is a lamentable state of affairs. I do not think time should be taken up with motions unless there is “ business “ in them - unless there is some “ punch “ in them. What is the use of “ barking “ without “ biting “ ? I assure the Treasurer that I shall vote to put this Government out; I wish to remove the Government, because I believe their removal to be in the best interests of this country. I am satisfied there could be no worse Government in power, although there might be a better, even from our honorable friends in the Corner. In any case, I wish the Treasurer to be under no misapprehension, if he should have any doubt as tomy feeling towards the Government. I believe that the rule of the Government and their supporters is not in the best interest of Australia, and, consequently, that they ought to be removed from office, and I shall take every legitimate opportunity that presents itself to remove them. I do not care whether or not the consequences of this action may involve a general election.
– Or a double dissolution.
– A double dissolution would be better still. It is a good thing to be always prepared to meet our masters, the people, who are, fortunately, above the Government and Parliament. I hope the time is not far distant when ‘we shall have an opportunity of obtaining their decision on the matters now under discussion.
There are some items in the Budget to which I. should have liked to refer, but they have been dealt with,more or less, already by honorable members on both sides, and, therefore, I shall pass them by. One matter, however, is worthy of comment. I have heard no explanation, although I have frequently asked for information, as to the authority by which the money was paid in connexion with the purchases of Nauru and Ocean Islands. I believe that a reply to a question to-day suggested an authority, which, however, is really no authority for the payment. We have heard no explanation of how Ocean Island came to be included in the purchase. The Prime Minister has made a statement during the session that he intended to introduce a Bill to authorize the inclusion of Ocean Island in the Nauru Island agreement; and I should like an explanation from the Treasurer, who should know the facts of the case. Then, again,, there should be an explanation in connexion with the action in the High Court against the Colonial Combing and Spinning Company, referred to by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and also in regard! to the action for defamation against the Prime Minister for statements made in London.
No doubt the Government are hanging on to office by devious methods, and ther are suppressing much information that shouldbe given to the House and the country. We have seen some sudden conversions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who was returned to oppose the Government by every means at his disposal, has suddenly turned, and become a staunch Nationalist. There are some actions that words fail to describe, and words fail to describe my view of this one ; but it is regrettable that we should have the spectacle of the honorable member voting in order to keep in power a Government he was returned pledged to remove. It is a shocking state of affairs, which lowers our political morality in the estimation of the public. The Senate scandal has never been explained, and the other occurrences are apparently going on unnoticed. All this must lower the status of Parliament; and can we wonder at it?
I do not expect the amendment to be carried; so much can begauged by the speeches made by our friends in the Corner. I hope, however, that its proposal will have the salutary effect of “ pulling up “ the Government - keeping them a little closer to the “ straight “ line - and that the references to their devious methods will, in the not distant future, lead to a restoration of our credit for political morality.
– I desire to make some reference to the attack on the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) which we have just heard. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has attacked that honorable member for daring to vote with the Government on- the present occasion.
– The honorable member for Capricornia was returned as an opponent of the Government - that is admitted.
– I know some other gentlemen in the House, who were returned as Nationalists, but who are not Nationalists now; on the contrary, they have been trying their very best to dispossess the Nationalist. Government.
– Name them.
– The Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) is one of them.
– He can answer for himself.
– I was about to say that no doubteachhonorablemember will account to his constituents for the action he takes.
– May I say this to put you right? I was elected exactly in the same way as were nearly all the country representatives now sitting behind you. My candidature was indorsed by both the Nationalist party and the Country party.
– That is exactly what I say. The honorable member was selected and run as a Nationalist.
– That is quite incorrect. I was indorsed by both parties, and my biggest opposition came from the man who finances the Nationalist Association in Tasmania.
– Let us get this matter clear. Will the honorable member say whether he was indorsed by the Country party before or after he had been selected as a Nationalist candidate? That is a straight question.
– I would like to put you all right - there isno Country party in Tasmania.
– There we are ! I am uttering no complaint; I have no right to. I say, again, that every honorable member, no doubt, will answer to his constituents. When an honorable member makes an attack an another honorable member because he happens to have transferred to this side of the House-
– May I say that during the election campaign, and particularly at Swansea, I said from the platform that if a Country party were formed when the House met I should be a member of it.
– That does not controvert what I have said.
– Oh, yes, it does.
– The honorable member was selected and ran as a National candidate. I am only mentioning this because of the complaint about another honorable member who haschanged his place in this House. Moreover, I do not forget, either, that a great many members joined the Labour partv after they had been unable to get political preferment as members of their own party.
– It is currently reported that you did the same.
– I know.
– It is very wrong of the right honorable the Treasurer to make any suggestion of that kind.
– But it is a fact, nevertheless.
– There is no foundation whatever for the suggestion. It is merely a repetition of the falsehoods you have been telling!
– But I am not referring to the honorable member for West Sydney, so he neednot feel aggrieved about the matter.
– Well, name the members you refer to.
– Order! It is time these personalities ceased.
– I agree with you, Mr. Chairman; it is time.
– For many years I heard the same charge against you.
– I know, but without a tittle of truth to support it.
– All these charges are like that.
– But do you not think that the honorable course for the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to take, after he had joined the Nationalist party, was to go back to his electors ?
– My impression is that the honorable member for Capricornia has gone back to his constituents, and I think that honorable members will find him back in this House after the next election, too.
– The result of the Queensland election in his division does not suggest that he will be here.
– I think the less honorable members opposite say about the Queensland elections the better. Only this morning, at this table, I was reading that one Nationalist member represented as many electors as six Labour members up there. So much for the democratic franchise, as shaped and conditioned by the Labour Government and Labour members of Queensland. They have so arranged the electorates up there, or have failed to arrange the electorates, that six Labour members represent the same number of electors as one Nationalist.
– Good old Nationalist!
– Order ! I must again ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– Let us now get back to the Budget.
– Tell us something about the Senate.
– Order ! The honorable member for Angas is again out of order.
– Well, I am speaking the truth.
– I am only referring to these matters because I am obliged to do so. I have not introduced them to the debate, but I say that for whatever an honorable member does, so far as his party is concerned, his responsibility is to hie constituents first and foremost, and in the final sum of things.
– Hear, hear!
– That is the doctrine I have laid down for myself for the last thirty years.
– And that is what I said last Friday, when the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) attacked the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan).
– Everybody is in agreement now, so it is all right.
– And now let us have a vote.
– I should just like to refer to one remark made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). I understand that he wants to take all the money from the Defence vote.
– I did not say “ all.”
– Well, nearly all, at all events.
– Three million pounds.
– Yes. And he wants to put it to the credit of the oldage pensions scheme. Apparently, nothing is right about the Old-age Pensions Act now. Ever since honorable members opposite have been out of office the whole gravamen of their trouble is - “What foolish legislation we passed when we were in office!” These are some of the things we are hearing nowadays. Nothing is right about our legislation. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has condemned, root and branch, nl! that his party did while in office. And here, this morning, we are getting the same old complaint about the monstrouslyunfair and inequitable Oldage Pensions Act.
– Speak the truth - if you can.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member for West Sydney to withdraw that statement.
-i withdraw it, Mr. Chairman, but I do not want to be misrepresented.
– You allowed the Treasurer to say, about fifteen times, that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) was not telling the truth, and did not say anything.
– Order ! Will the honorable member withdraw that statement and apologize for insulting the Chair?
– Yes, I will withdraw it, Mr. Chairman, because, I want to give my vote on the division to put the Government out.
– The honorable member must withdraw it unconditionally.
– I withdraw it unconditionally, Mr. Chairman.
– The Treasurer is trying to get the honorable member for Calare out.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Angas does not refrain, from interjecting, I shall name him for disobedience to the Chair.
– I should like’ now, as calmly as I can, to say a few words with regard to the complaints made by the honorable member for Hume as to the alleged unfairness of the Old-age Pensions Act, which he suggests is both inequitable and oppressive in its incidence on the old people.
– They are not the words I used, but they are something to the same effect.
-Well, is not this complaint a condemnation of legislation passed by his party ? They insisted upon placing it upon the statute-book in its present form.
– But the cost of living has almost doubled since then.
– The cost of livinsr has nothing to do with the matter at all.
– Of course it has.
– And I say it has not. The cost of governing the country, as the honorable member showed a little later in his speech, is now about 25 per cent. more than it was in 1913-14, so far as ordinary services are concerned, but the old-age pensions vote has been increased by 50 per cent.; so the Act cannot be quite so monstrous as the honorable member alleges. I suggest that when we have all this denunciation from the other side about legislation for which they were responsible, the only way in which we can safeguard the interests of the country is to keep such blunderers out of office.
– We intend to put you out, if we can.
– I know ; but I do not think you are going to do that. I have been asked by the honorable member for West Sydney if I can give some information about the Nauru and Ocean Island business. But he really knows all about it, although he keeps repeating the question. There has been authority to pay this money. He knows from what fund it is drawn. He knows that the warrant of the Auditor-General has been obtained for it, but still he keeps asking the same question, in the hope, no doubt, that he is going to get a point somewhere, some time, in connexion with it. The transaction is all as straightforward as it can be, so far as I know. We entered into an agreement with’ Great Britain and with New Zealand, and we were glad to do so. We believed we were getting an important concession for Australia when we undertook to purchase Nauru. ‘Since then Ocean Islandhas been generously placed in the pool by the Imperial Government, and the two together make an excellent business proposition. It is expected that this purchase will prove one of the best investments we have made, when proper commercial management is applied to it.
– I notice the directors did very well out of the business. I understand they got some thousands of pounds -£150,000, I think it was - out of it.
– I do not know ahout that, but I dare say they did. What does the honorable member assume? I suppose the honorable member would have dispossessed them had he been in authority. What does he mean? Should the directors of the company not do well? Does it necessarily follow that because a man sells a property to a Government he must not do so well in a business sense as when he sells to a private individual?
– After the purchase was completed, I understand, the company were able to give £150,000 in bonuses to their directors and others, so it looks as if it was a very good sale. Does it not?
– All I can say is that the salewas negotiated by the British Government.
– Like the wheat purchase.
– If the honorable member for West Sydney wants to impugn the transaction, let him state his ground.
– The Prime Minister suggests that the late Treasurer (Mr. Watt) brought about a worse deal through interference. What sort of a deal would the Prime Minister have made, then, but for that interference?
– I know nothing about that matter at all.
– It is all in Hansard.
– And in the cable news, too.
– It is a very awkward question.
– It is not an awkward question at all. The late Treasurer concluded this agreement when he was at Home. I have yet to learn that he did not do the best he could in the circumstances.
– The Prime Minister suggests
– Never mind what the Prime Minister suggests. The honorable member only says that. The honorable member for West Sydney is always prepared to get into a little trouble of this kind if he can turn it up. I am sure the late Treasurer did the best that was possible to be done in connexion with that agreement.
– And the Prime Minister savs he did not.
– The honorable member is merely repeatinghis statement. I really heard him thefirst time he made it.
– Never mind. The late Treasurer will deal with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
– And then, I suppose, you will all be happy.
– Provided he deals effectively with the Prime Minister.
– There are other matters uponwhich I should like now to make a few observations. We have heard denunciation times out of number about our attitude on the question of conscription, and I think the honorable member for West Sydney has urged that the expenses of the war ought to have been pooled as between the Dominions. What a fine idea this is of the principle of autonomous government of the Dominions ! Has any other Dominion the right to stand up to the payment ofour bills unless it also has the right to come in and control our affairs? Does not the honorable member see what ground he is getting on when he suggests that people in other parts of the British Dominions should help pay our debts? We did not ask for Canada’s permission to send our soldiers abroad. We sent them of our own volition, and our soldiers, I am proud to think, were ready to go. It would have been a degrading thing to do, if, after our soldiers had left for the Front, we had gone cap in hand to the other Dominions and asked them to share our expenditure on our soldiers. It would have been dishonouring our soldiers if we had asked Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand, and the other Dominions of the British Empire to help us in that way. I would be no party to anything of the kind being done, because if we made any such proposition we would be degrading Australia and insulting our soldiers. Our obligations are our own, and this country is big enough, rich enough, and, I believe, loyal and faithful enough to the soldiers to stand up to all the obligations incurred on account of their going overseas to fight for its safety. In regard to conscription, I dare to say now, after the war, that through the want of conscription in Australia tens of thousands of our soldiers are lying dead on the fields of Flanders who would have had a chance of being at home to-day if every man here had been out under his proper citizen’s responsibilities.
– It would have been the other way about; the more men you had, the more you would have used up.
– The soldiers voted against conscription, and they were the best judges.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Ballarat knows their reason for opposing conscription.
– Order ! If honorable members will not voluntarily obey the order of the Chair, I shall have to insist upon them doing so.
– When I was in France when the big fight was proceeding, and when the Hindenburg linewas smashed, two Australian divisions were out of the line, having been fought down to a strength of 7,000 men each, who would have been helping their mates in the battle if there had been men in Australia who realized their duty. They had to be pulled out, because they had fought themselves down to below the point of efficiency and strength.
– Did they not need a spell?
– Of course; and their mates here should have been oyer there to spell them, instead of letting them fight themselves into such a condition.
– Yet they voted against conscription.
– I repeat that thousands of our men would have been alive to-day if every citizen here had been placed under his proper soldierly responsibility.
– Is there not a statement in. the Budget that Australia played a part equal to the part played by any other country in the great war ?
– It played a greater part.
– Australia did its duty.
– Without conscription.
– Every individual did not do his duty.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– The honorable member for Ballarat did not encourage the individual to do his duty, did he ?
– Yes, I did. But I did not advocate conscription.
– Let me revert to the Budget. The statement has been made this morning that there has been an increase in the ordinary cost of administration during the war to the extent of £11,000,000, and it is correct, if everything is taken into the sum ; but the honorable members who make the statement can easily see in the Estimates the items which account for the increase. First of all, there is an increase of £68,000 in the cost of this Parliament, an increase on which honorable members have insisted. Then there is an increase of £145,000 in the Department of the Prime Minister. This Department has been attacked by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams) and the secretary of that party (Dr. Earle Page). It is alleged that the increase in the cost of the administration of this Department is due to the fact that the Prime Minister has been taking hold of the functions of nearly every other Department and concentrating them in his own.
– Hear, hear!
– It is not correct. It i3 true that the Prime Minister has been dealing with sugar, but the commodity itself has paid the whole of the cost of controlling it. The country has been asked to pay nothing by way of taxation to afreet it. The same remarks apply to the control exercised in regard to wheat, wool, and metals, and in respect pf every other big enterprise or activity controlled by the Department of the Prime Minister. Each enterprise has been made to pay for itself, and the cost of its control has not contributed towards the increase in the cost of administering the Department.
– Does not the work entailed in the control of these commodities increase the cost of the Department ?
– The cost of controlling them has been paid for out of the commodity
– Not in some cases.
– In nearly every case. I propose to tell the honorable member what has occasioned the increase in the cost of the administration of the Department of the Prime Minister. In the first place there appears in the Estimates this ‘year an item of £10,000 for the cost of the inquiry into the Basic Wage. Another item is £37,700 for the cost of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Another new item is the amount of £4,000 for the relief of strikers during the maritime strike. Still another new item is a sum of £15,000 for the League of Nations. There is an increase of 100 per cent, in the cost of running the office of the
Public Service Commissioner, the item having been increased this year from £10,000 to over £20,000. Furthermore,, the subsidy for the Pacific mail service has been increased by £18,400.
– That item ought not to be found in the estimates of the Department of the Prime Minister.
– I have yet to learn where else a subsidy for a mail service for territories quite outside Australia can be placed, except in the estimates of the Department which controls foreign affairs. There is increased expenditure amounting to £15,000 in connexion with the Audit Office. The C03t of auditing accounts has nearly doubled during the war, and no one insists upon the auditing of accounts more than does the honorable member for Franklin. I am sure that he would not believe that Mr. Israel, the Auditor-General, would ask for this huge sum unless he considered it necessary.
– But that is not expenditure in the Department of the Prime Minister. Such expenditure ought to be under the Treasurer.
– But even if it did appear in the estimates of the Treasurer’s Department, this additional expenditure would not be avoided, but, as a matter of fact,- the Auditor-General stands outside all Departments and keeps in formal touch and communication with them through the Department of the Prime Minister. The honorable member may argue that this or that function should not be intrusted to the control of the Prime Minister, but even if it were removed to the control of another Minister the cost of administering it would still be the same.
– That is doubtful, because you are creating new offices, whereas officials in other Departments could do the work.
– As for instance?
– Does not the honorable member know that shipbuilding is controlled by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) ?
– Then, who made the contracts for shipbuilding in America ?
– All the time th6 honorable member is off on to something else, but he may not hop on to that twig when I am dealing with the cost of the Department of the Prime Minister.
– The right honorable gentleman states that shipbuilding is not controlled by the Prime Minister, but I ask who made the contracts?
– The honorable member certainly referred to shipbuilding, and I replied that it was a matter which was not controlled by the Department of the Prime Minister, and, as a matter of fact, has not been for this year at least. We are now considering this year’s Estimates, and I am endeavouring to point out “all these huge increases” to which the honorable member has made reference. There is an increase of £6,343 for rent, and £14,000 for interest on Treasury bills. Altogether these items amount to £130,000, which is more than the total increase in the cost of administering the Department as compared with fouryears ago. But what item is there which the honorable member would knock off? Would he cut out the expenditure entailed in welcoming His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, or delete the item provided for giving relief to strikers during the maritime strike?
– I say “no,” but I contend that owing to mismanagement the latter item of expenditure is much more than it ought to be.
– Would the honorable member delete the item of £15,000 for the League of Nations?
– Would he interfere with the control and cost of the office of the Public Service Commissioner ? Would he knock out the subsidy for the Pacific mail service instituted for the benefit of our traders in the islands? Or would the honorable member interfere with the increase of £15,000 in the expenditure on the Audit Office?
– No, but I would interfere very materially with the Pacific mail contract.
– Very well, we can discuss that item when we reach it, and if the honorable member has any light to. throw upon it it will be very welcome.
– Why discuss these items now?
– I am replying to an attack made by the Leader of the Country party. He launched an attack upon the Department of the Prime Minister for having increased its expenditure excessively. Is it unfair that I should make a reply?
– I think the reply is fair. I am not objecting.
– It is my place and my duty to give the Committee all the information it requires. The more information honorable members can get the better it will be for the control of the finances, and the less we shall hear of this controversy which is proceeding outside, and finds an echo in this chamber, and the claim that there has been roaring extravagance in all Departments. Another Department which has been singled out as showing excessive costs is that of Home and Territories, in which there are two items which make up the increase this year. There is an item of £8,538, representing the increase in the cost of the Meteorologist’s Department; but there is a further and new item of £52,000 for the meteorological telegramswhich are posted up and down the. country. But this is merely a book entry. Formerly, the Post and Telegraph Department did this work for nothing, but it has always claimed that it should be paid for it, and, in accordance with a promise made by my predecessor (Mr. Watt) last year, that in all fairness the work of transmitting these telegrams should be credited to the Post Office, provision is made on these Estimates to do so, at the same time debiting the cost to the Department of Home and Territories.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.16 p.m.
– When the House adjourned, I had already shown how the expenditure in the Prime Minister’s Department had increased during the war period. I was proceeding to deal with some of the items in the Department of Home and Territories, and had already mentioned one item of £52,000 for meteorological telegrams, which is not an increase at all, as it is a mere bookkeeping entry. There is an increase of £58,000 on account of immigration, and an expenditure of £6,500 to be incurred in making arrangements far dealing with the hookworm disease. We have also to take the census, which will cost £150,000. Passports under the Alien Restriction Act account for £5,000, and rent, furniture, &c., amount to £14,000, while interest on transferred property and other interest amounts to £22,000. In these items alone there is an increase in the Home and Territories Department of over £300,000, and I challenge honorable members to point to any one of those items which they can touch. It is time this general denunciation ceased, unless honorable members are prepared to come down to “ tin tacks.” I want to be shown where this money can be saved, and I do not want criticisms in the form of general statements, but on these Estimates. Honorable members have had an explanation, and I am quite prepared to leave it to their good judgment. Take the Department of Works and Railways. Expenditure there has increased during the war period, but why? There is one item alone of £280,000 a year on account of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway, which has only recently been completed. Interest, again, on that railway accounts for swelling the expenditure of the departmental estimates to the tune of £218,000 per annum. If we add to that the Railway Commissioner’s salary, £2,000, there is roughly an increase of £500,000 in that Department alone. Can honorable members touch that? Are they going to repudiate their debts in order to make out a balance sheet? That is what it comes to. A statement was made this morning that the increase on the general administration, as compared with 1913-14, shows an excess of £11,000,000. Let us see how it is made up. I have already referred to £68,000 extra for Parliament. I cannot touch that.
– Justifiable expenditure.
– In the Prime Minister’s Department there is an increase of £145,000, which I have already explained, and in the Department of the Treasury an increase of £500,000 as compared with pre-war days. That is attributable solely to the increased cost of collecting taxation we have imposed. Where we once collected £2,000,000 a year we are now raising £20,000,000; and, as I have already informed the Committee, the cost of collectingour taxation is £1 18s. 9d. per cent. The cost of collecting Customs dues amounting to £26,000,000, will, this year, be £1 15s. 6d. These are tests that must be applied when discussing economy.
– There is not any more expense incurred in collecting additional Customs dues.
– There is less stuff coming in.
– There is not.
– I will prove that there is.
– There are the same number of taxpayers, at any rate.
– The Customs Department is collecting at the rate of £1 15s. 6d. per cent., and that is the test that must be applied when honorable members are charging the Government with extravagance. The increase in oldage pensions during the war period amounted to £2,635,000. Can we pare that down ? Almost every honorable member is asking for an addition to that sum, and this afternoon I am to meet a deputation that is to make a similar request. Then there is the Department of Defence and the Department of the Navy, which show an increase of £1,451,000. I shall say nothing about that, and honorable members must make up their minds where to attack that item. There is a new item in connexion with Air Services of £205,000, also out of revenue. Trade and Customs shows an increase of £298,000 over the last five years, and there has been an increase during that time, I believe, of more than 100 per cent.
– Increased Customs dues do not increase the labour of the staff.
– Ask the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) whether it costs more or less to handle a large turnover. There is also the question of the sugar bounty. This is one of the items that the Prime Minister insists on coming into his Department, and which swells the total of his Estimates. There is nothing here on that account, although there was £145,000 in 1913. All the sugar that is being handled cost the taxpayers of this country not one penny piece. I have already referred to our commitments in connexion with the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway.
– Everything in the garden is just lovely!
– I have given honorable members the items, and have shown that there is an amount of £280,000 to meet the deficit, plus about £220,000 for interest, making £500,000 for the transcontinental railway alone. That is not a rose-coloured statement to make the garden look lovely, but hard cold facts. The Postmaster-General’s Department shows an increase during the war period of £1,685,000. Does the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) propose to touch that ?
– That is the best increase of the lot.
– And so say all of us. There is an increase during the same period of £582,000 for payments to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act. Will the honorable member for Franklin touch that? There is also an item of £911,000 for interest which appears on both sides of the ledger which is not an increase, although it appears as such. There is an increase in works and buildings of £2,348,000, and I do not think any one is prepared to advocate a reduction there. I do not mind considering this matter very closely with those who do, and if a reduction is favoured I will cut a number of the items out. If they want economy in new works and buildings. I am prepared to consider it with them, and see if a reduction cannot be made.There is also the Oodnadatta railw ay loan, which covers an amount of £88,000. Those are the items, and I shall give further details later.
I regret I have not sufficient time to refer to one or two matters that were mentioned in the excellent speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) the other night. Iwelcome contributions such as his in discussing this question, and I venture to say that he lifted the debate to its proper plane. There are only one or two other items to which I shall allude at the moment. First, there is the Nauru Island expenditure of £1.500,000. I have not been able to check the statement made by the honorable member for Flinders that this came out of loan money in Great Britain, but I believe that no item could be more properly debited to our Loan Estimates. It is a reproductive and practically permanent asset. It is a diminishing asset, it is true, but of such slow extinction that it may be called permanent. The same may be said of Australia House in London, which, I believe, will last for at least 250 years. It is situated on one of the finest sites in London; it is a solid asset, and one, I am sure, which can be regarded as reproductive.
– It should be, but I do not think the Treasurer can say it is.
– I do sayit. Even if it did not do more than merely stand there, it is worth the expenditure as an advertisement to Australia.
– It is a bad advertisement.
– The honorable member has not seen it.
– I have heard very serious statements made by those who have seen it.
– They are complaining of other things. It is worth the expenditure, even if its activities were reduced. It is an asset which is coveted by other Dominions. There is another item of £2,400.000 on account of soldiers’ transportation expenses, and it has been said that I have shown a lack of courage in not talcing the whole of that sum out of revenue. It has been pointed out, quite correctly, that it is divided roughtly in halves, one half coming out of revenue, and the other out of loan. The explanation is simple. It is a loan item proper. I have fixed my loan commitments for the year to which I shall rigidly adhere. I want honorable members to recollect that one of the governing features of the Budget is that there are to be no further loans this year on account of war obligations.
– Or in regard to anvthing else?
SirJOSEPH COOK.- Yes; there is the matter of the war gratuities to be dealt with next year; but, so far as war loan obligations are concerned, there will be no further loans this financial year. That is one of the fundamental features of the Budget; and, after accounting for that, I had to take over into revenue all these other loan obligations. I very much regret that I could only get half the amount to which I have referred into my Budget. If I had put the other half in, it would have involved some furthertaxation; but, on the whole, I have made a very good beginning, I think.
Generally, so far as the debate has gone, I make no complaint. I regret the taking of this vote in this particular way. I do not think the amendment ought to have been moved. It can lead to nothing. . It cannot help one straw in the elucidation of the problems which confront us. I shall welcome the fullest investigation into the Estimates. I invite honorable members to concentrate their attention upon any item which may strike them, when I promise, further, that the most complete information shall be afforded.
.- I was surprised to learn this afternoon that an arrangement had been made to take at half-past 2 o’clock a division upon the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr, McWilliams). I had no knowledge of any such arrangement. I have been busily engaged all the week on public duties outside of this Chamber, and the present moment presented itself as my sole opportunity of contributing to the debate upon the Budget. I made a special effort to be here to proffer some remarks. It is hardly fair for honorable members, even though they be leaders of parties, to barter our privileges in this fashion.
Consideration of the country’s finances is a very important feature of our duties. I do not know that my contribution to the gross wisdom of Parliament can amount to much : still, I would fall short of my duty if I failed to take the opportunity to say something upon the present situation. There have been several occasions when I would have liked to speak upon matters, particularly of national and international purport, when, however, I, with other honorable members, have been denied the opportunity. Looking all round, not only upon the Commonwealth, but on the world at large, one must realize that there is sufficient in the political and financial outlook to warrant more consideration of Australia’s prospects than has been given by this Parliament up to the present.
– This afternoon’s arrangements were made chiefly to suit the convenience of honorable members who are going away, and more particularly that of members of the Finance Committee, who will be leaving for Brisbane.
– I do not see how members of the Public Accounts Committee are being suited by closing the debate at half-past 2. Their interests would have been better served by continuing until the usual time of rising today, seeing that they are about to leave for Brisbane on public business, and, probably, they will not have returned in time to participate in any further discussion of the Budget, or upon the Estimates specifically.
– I think, in the circumstances, then, that this debate might proceed for an hour.
– I understand that there are other members of the Finance Committee who wish to speak, and there may be still other honorable members generally. If, however, no one beside myself desires to contribute to the debate, I shall sit down.
– I wish to speak, and if the honorable member resumes his seat, I will address the Committee.
– That being so, I shall not forgo my right upon this occasion.
I do not want the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to think that I am speaking generally against the proposals which he has submitted. . So far as his taxation proposals are concerned, they shall have my. support. It is only in consideration of the expenditure of the country’s money that I have some hesitation in supporting the Government. The Treasurer has been very fortunate on account of the abnormal inflation of revenue at present; but that consideration should only have justified more caution than ever, because a considerable amount of that revenue will speedily disappear as the countries of the world revert to normal conditions. I regret particularly that the comparatively small surplus - but still an encouraging one - is being mopped up under the present proposals. An effort should have been made to carry that surplus forward, as a kind of nest-egg, towards meeting the very large obligations with which we shall be faced in the near future.
I cannot support the amendment for the reason, in particular, that the honorable member for Franklin has not shown sufficient cause for the reduction which he suggests. It is impossible for me, and I think for many other honorable members, to vote for the reduction on the strength of the case submitted by the Leader of the Country party. More drastic proposals would be necessary before this House could be expected to concur in the amendment. I desire to suggest where these more drastic reductions can be and ought to be made. In the first place, there are so many leakages from the Treasury chest that it is almost impossible, in the course of “ a speech, such as I propose to make, in brief, to specify all. But I want to remind the Committee and the country that, when this Government took office, I pointed out what would undoubtedly follow with a gentleman like the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in charge of our affairs. There would be all sorts of schemes launched, some of them sensible, and some very unwise; but I held that there would be nothing done in the direction of economy so long as the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes remained at the head of any Government in Australia. When the present Government took office I pressed the view that they were animated by but one object in common, and that that was “ office,” and that they did not by any means represent the highest ability of this House in all respects.
– But the honorable member has voted for the Government every time.
– I have not. When I pointed out that fact, and indicated the inevitable result, I was met by seriousaccusations from many quarters concerning the disinterestedness of my motives. However, we are faced to-day with a situation so grave as to have justified all the apprehensions I have ever expressed concerning the Government.,
When we find that money is still being spent, despite the grave financial outlook, upon all sorts of schemes, no matter how far-fetched, this Committee is in duty bound to give the Budget proposals the closest possible supervision. For example, we have been paying for several years for a scheme of rainmaking - an experiment of a most ridiculous character, expenditure upon which has only now been cut down after repeated protests. Then we find, also, that quite recently a sum amounting to nearly three-quarters of a million has been thrown away upon a Naval Base constructed in a place possessing no recommendations whatever for such an establishment. I was among those who pointed out, from the inception of the work at Flinders, how unsuitable was that spot for the purpose of a Naval Base. A large barracks was built at the head of a shallow gutter running up from the harbor, and that was to be the submarine head-quarters. The gutter required dredging from the entrance to its head. It was only a few inches deep, in some places, at high tide ; while, when the tide was out, there were many acres which had no water over them at all. Again, it was easily assailable from the ocean. A war-ship could stand out a safe distance, and, with a few shells, knock the whole place into “ smithereens.” Upon examining the reports of those experts who came out from England to advise us regarding the fortification of this country, one is amazed that the Government should have had the temerity to spend money upon the Flinders Base, because that site was suggested, at best, as suitable for only a temporary and secondary base. Instead, however, the bulk of the money devoted to Naval Base schemes has been spent on that impossible site. Upon the other hand important Naval Bases, indicated as such by the most expert opinion we have had available - Bases like Cockburn Sound - have been turned down by the Government. I do not suppose that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) is really responsible for this decision, but I would like to know who were the experts who recommended the Naval Base at Flinders. I have made many inquiries, but have not been able to get the desired information. These experts ought to be discovered, and if they are still in the Service they should be kicked out.
– I wish the honorable member would help me to discover them. I cannot find out who they are.
– The whole thing is “ wrapt in mistry.” It is the duty of Ministers to find out who are responsible for these mistakes. I hope that work will be continued on the important Naval Base on the coast of Western Australia, which must undoubtedly be the principal Base in the Commonwealth, because it is the front door to Europe. The Naval Bases upon the west and east coast of Australia are, to my mind, the necessary ones. Those upon the southern coast, whilst necessary in a subsidiary sense, from the point of view of priority, and of the amount of money expended upon them, should be relegated to the position which they were intended to occupy by our best naval experts.
I wish now to give the Government an indication of where I consider that a drastic reduction in the Estimates may be made. It is in. connexion with our defence scheme. I know that some honorable members will be horrified at my suggestion. But nobody can accuse me of being anything in the nature of a pessimist. As a rule, the accusation levelled against me is one of a totally different character. I am usually regarded very much as a Jingo. I claim, at any rate, that I have always stood up for the integrity of Australia and of the Empire. I will see nothing done, if I can help it, which will imperil our interests or the larger interests of the Empire. But, having given the best attention of which I am capable to the national relations of the Empire and Australia, I say, unhesitatingly, that I can see nothing, either on the immediate or distant horizon, which will justify the’ forces that the Government propose to establish. Eight years before the great war, I pointed out that such a struggle was coming. More than once I warned the Government of its approaching imminence. But to-day I see nothing to justify a heavy expenditure upon defence. It was Admiral Henderson who gave us some years before the war a very large and expensive scheme of naval defence. Upon his recent visit to Australia,. however, he said nothing whatever about that scheme. Upon the contrary, he told us that our lines of safety lay in three directions, namely, by increasing our population by every means in our power, and particularly by means of immigration, by developing our mercantilemarine, and by fostering our rural resources by the construction of railways to convenient ports. No war scheme was even suggested by him. He realized, as anybody must do who considers the situation carefully, that the future of this country depends upon the fulfilment of the conditions which I have enumerated. The first and most vital of all of them is the development of our population. Give us more population, and we shall be safe. But if we do not carry out an effective scheme of immigration, unquestionably the outlook for the future will be black. In the year immediately preceding the war Canada obtained 400,000 immigrants from Great Britain, whereas we have been getting them in driblets of a few dozen at a time. I understand that the Government have a comprehensive scheme of immigration in hand, and I ask them to push on with it as speedily as possible in order that immigrants may be settled upon the vacant spaces of this continent, which are crying out for development. I do not suggest that they should be brought to our cities to glut an already overcrowded labour market. But in our vacant spaces there is ample room for all of them. In this connexion we should not pay too much attention to State boundaries. I know the request will be made that whatever money is expended upon an immigration scheme should be expended equally in all the States. That suggestion ought not to be entertained for a moment. The money should be spent in those States which will give the best results to Australia. Now the States which can offer the best opportunities in regard to land settlement are undoubtedly Queensland and Western Australia. It is in those States that settlement may be promoted to the best advantage. I trust, therefore, that the old idea of spending so much money in each State upon any given scheme will be abandoned.
To my mind the principal Defence policy of Australia is the creation of a bigger population. But where is the enemy whom we are preparing to withstand ? There is no possible enemy in Europe. To-day Europe’ lies practically prostrate under an overwhelming load of debt incurred in connexion with the last war. There is no country in- the civilized world which will care to take up arms again except for purely defensive reasons .as long as the present generation exists to vividly recall the horrors of that war. It has been intimated that -Japan may be regarded as a possible enemy.. I do not think we have any need to apprehend trouble from a Japan which is treated with the respect that is due to an ally. But the continuance of the present Leader of the National party (Mr. Hughes) as the Leader of the Commonwealth is certainly calculated to offend Japan, because of the attitude which he adopted towards that country at the Peace Conference. I am amazed to find that, despite all the efforts which have been made to disabuse the public mind in that regard, the Prime Minister is still hailed as the saviour of the White Australia policy in opposition to Japan. The White Australia policy has never been challenged by Japan, and was never in danger until the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes endangered it by his attitude at the Peace Conference. There, he refused to entertain a perfectly reasonable proposal on the part of Japan - not a proposal to send immigrants into Australia, not a demand for impossible concessions, but merely a proposal that she should be relieved of’ the obloquy of being regarded as an inferior race. The members of the Peace Conference were assured again and again that Japan did not intend to interfere with the rights of selfgovernment of any other nation. There is no suggestion in the proposal put forward by Japan that she wishes free entrance into any country. I may be asked to remember what has happened in America; but the position there is one which, to my mind, does concern Japan, and in which she has; proceeded no farther than would any other civilized community. America has for years allowed Japanese immigration, especially into the western States. For a long time, the people of California entertained no objection to Japanese entering their territory. So long as they went there as “ hewers of wood and drawers of water,” everything was all right ; but when they began to become capitalists, the trouble commenced in earnest; Under these circumstances, Japan has a perfect right to protect the interests of her people, who were allowed to enter America without any stipulation whatever, or any limitation of their freedom of action. We should be very careful, therefore, concerning the position of Japan in the world to-day. I am sure that Japan has no quarrel with Australia, that she does not wish to overwhelm us with her immigrants!, and that she merely desires to be placed upon terms of equality in her relations with her Allies. Therefore, the only possible enemy of Australia is our friend, so long as we do not go out of our way to unnecessarily insult her. For that reason I see no justification at the present time for a huge expenditure upon defence.
If I am afforded an opportunity of doing so, I shall move for a very considerable reduction in the Defence Estimates, largely because our defence policy is totally unjustified at the present time, and because it is absolutely necessary that this large spending Department should be under the control of a Minister in this Chamber. It is an anomaly that the Department should be controlled in another place.. In view of the notorious failure of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who has been in charge of it so long, and of his utter inability to resist the demands which axe made upon him by his officers, the time has long since arrived when the control of the Department should be directly in this House; and if I get an opportunity I shall undoubtedly move in that direction.
.- It is not my intention to detain the Committee very long, but I desire to make it clear that I propose to vote against the Government.I shall support the amendment, because I recognise in it something quite different from what is discerned in it by thehonorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), who stated last evening that he could not see in it any motion of censure upon the Government. Whilst I confess that to move a reduction of £1 in the Estimates as an instruction to the Government that they must reduce the proposed expenditure by £1,000,000 is rather a peculiar procedure, I want this significant fact to be made perfectly plain to the people outside. Honorable members upon this side of the chamber are very desirous of seeing the amendment carried, because it will mean the defeat of the Government and the advent of a new Government upon the Treasury bench.
– We can fall in with the idea of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that we should get a new Prime Minister.
– I agree with the honorable member for Perth as to the need which exists for securing the services of a new Prime Minister. I have always voted against the Prime
Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his Government. Unlike the honorable member for Perth, I have never created the impression that I intended to vote the right honorable gentleman out of office and then voted to keep him in office.
– I have not done that.
– I have heard the honorable member attack the Government, and then record a vote to keep them in office. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) endeavoured to make capital of the fact that, although members on this side are finding fault with the Old-age Pensions Act, it was the Labour party that placed that Act on the statutebook, and that it is, therefore, responsible for it. It is true that that humane piece of legislation adorns the statute-book because the Labour party put it there; but, since it was passed, certain defects have been discovered in it which should be remedied, and when we have an opportunity to amend the Act we shall make it far more beneficial to the pensioners whom it now assists, and bring many others within its scope. The Treasurer fails to take into consideration the fact that when the Act was passed 10s. would purchase more than £1 buys now. In his usual fashion, he has endeavoured to cloud the issue, and to place the blame on some one else. He would have it believed that he and his Government are the only people who would do anything for Australia.
In looking through the Estimates, I see that the sum of £792,412 has been expended in London during the past few years for the purchase of land and the erection of buildings for the High Commissioner’s Office.
– More than that.
– That makes the case all the worse. This year it is proposed to spend on the maintenance of the office £8,807 in salaries, £45,097 on contingencies, and £70 on miscellaneous expenses - a total of £53,974. Further, in the Loan Estimates £64,000 is put down for London offices, making the total expenditure in London this year £117,974. The people of Australia would like to know what they get for that huge expenditure. The visit of Commonwealth Ministers - I presume that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) - cost us £11,841, and the visit of a Minister (Senator Pearce) to arrange for the demobilization of the Australian Imperial Force cost £1,550. If the High
Commissioner is capable of doing his work, it should not be necessary to send Ministers to England on holiday jaunts.
– Wait until you can take a holiday jaunt like that.
– I do not want a holiday trip at the expense of the people, and I shall never, in order to retain office, go back on the party which put me into the House. Time and again it was asked in this Chamber whether Senator Pearce was to visit England, and it was denied that he was going, until eventually berths were booked for him, his wife, and children, and a large staff. We had at the time in England, attending to the demobilization of the Australian Imperial Force, Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, a man much better fitted for the work than any Minister could be. Then this year Mr. Watt, the exTreasurer, went to London. We were told that £8,000,000 had to be paid by this Government to the Imperial Government, and that unless Mr. Watt went post-haste to London to pay it, Australia would be posted as a defaulter before the eyes of the world. Mr. Watt was sent on an allegedly important mission, although there was the High Commissioner in London to do anything that needed to be done. If the work of the High Commissioner’s Office is not going to be done better in the future than it has been done in the past, we might as well close that office. Although there are seven State Agents-General and the Commonwealth High Commissioner, Ministers are sent Home on a holiday jaunt whenever there is any work of importance to be done. Senator E. J. Millen is now on his way to the Geneva Conference, which, according to the press, is not to be held.
– You have not understood the press statement.
– To-day’s Age says-
Statement by Belgian Premier.
The Belgian Premier, M. Delacroix, stated in an interview to-day that he believed he had succeeded in’ his negotiations with Mr. Lloyd George concerning Germany’s reparations. The Geneva Conference would not be held.
– I will suppose that for once in his life the Treasurer has made a correct statement, and that the Geneva
Conference will be held. That does not get away from the fact that if the High Commissioner is capable of representing Australia he should represent it at that Conference, and if he is not, he has no right to be drawing his salary, and the people of this country should not be saddled with the continuance of his office.
There are one or two items of past expenditure to which I intend to refer. One is a’ payment of £10,000 in connexion with the Basic Wage Commission. The Treasurer, in an apparently convincing manner, in referring to this item, asked “ Does any one oppose that?” So far as I am concerned, I oppose it, if the expenditure is to be absolutely useless. .
– I did not make that appeal.
– The right honorable gentleman did.
– Not on that item. The honorable member is wrong again.
– I know that the right honorable gentleman is always wrong; but that is no fault of mine. I object to this expenditure, if we are to obtain no benefit from it. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill waa before this House an amendment was moved to the effect that no wages fixed should be less than the basic, wage recommended by the Basic Wage Commission. The Government of which the Treasurer is a member refused to accept that amendment. They said, in effect, that no matter what recommendation the Basic Wage Commission may make, they will take no notice of it. Yet we find an expenditure of £10,000 in connexion with that Commission.
I shall refer now to another item of £15,000, Australia’s contribution to the League of Nations. That reminds me that when the Great War was being fought we were told that it was a war to make the world safe for Democracy, and to end war. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) stated the other’ day that it was all nonsense for any one to speak like that; but while the war wa6 in progress those who were gulling the people frequently said that it was a war to end war. Later on, they said that the League of Nations was to be a guarantee of the peace of the world. In the words of the Prime Minister, it was to bring us into “ the green fields of peace.” Now, although the League of Nations is in ex istence, and we are called upon to make a contribution to its upkeep of £15,000, we find that it is absolutely impotent to prevent wars in the future. And in spite of the League of Nations, and all that has been done in the past to preserve the peace of the world, Australia is to be saddled this year with an expenditure of nearly £10,000,000 for the military and the Navy. If the League of Nations is going to insure peace-
– Is the honorable member against the League of Nations ?
– I can tell the right honorable gentleman that I am against expending nearly £10,000,000 of the money of the people of Australia on defence. If he can point out to me that the League of Nations will do anything to preserve the peace of the world, or to give us a guarantee of peace in the future, I shall be prepared to listen to him very attentively.
– I could point out many things to the honorable member, but he would not understand them.
– If the right honorable gentleman is unable to make a statement that “can be understood, the fault is not mine if I cannot understand him.
Another item of expenditure to which some reference might be made is one of £20,000 to be lent to the Westralian Farmers Association to build silos. I suppose that some one will say that the man who opposes that item is not a friend to the farmers.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), who is responsible for that, is present.
– I see that he is. T listened with attention when we were told that the Westralian Farmers Agreement. Bill was the Bill of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), and that the Butter Agreement Bill was the Bill of another member of the Country party. This proves conclusively that there is a working arrangement between the Nationalist party and the Country party, and that is the reason why we always find members of the Country party coming to the assistance of the Government when they are in danger.
– The Westralian Farmers Agreement Bill embodies a sound investment.
-^ A very sound investment, but if the Westralian Farmers
Co-operative Grain Society, or whatever it is termed, goes broke, what will become of the £20,000 to which I have referred? I know that it will be said that the Government have advanced money to the States for the erection of silos to assist the man on the land, but that money was advanced to the State Governments, and we can be eertain that it will be repaid. What I am referring to is an advance of £20,000 in support of the Western Australian speculation.
– An advance of £500,000.
– I believe that £500,000 is to be put into the venture of this private company, and, if it goes broke, the people of Australia will not get their money back. These considerations show that every time the Government are in danger the members of the Country party will come to their assistance.
I might ask why the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Jowett), who is supposed to have made a humorous speech’ last night, is absent from his place to-day. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said that, if the Government were likely to be in any danger, the honorable member would discreetly retire from the battle ground. Why is the honorable member absent today? Is it not because there is a working arrangement between the two parties on the Government side?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will not be here when the vote is taken ?
– I do not suggest that at all. I say definitely that he will not be here.
– What are the odds?
– I will bet ten to one that the honorable gentleman will find, when the division on the amendment is taken, that the Government will be saved because some of the members of the Country party will he absent without having secured pairs, or some will be found voting with the Government.
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr. McWilliams’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . .. 4
Question so resolved in the negative;
.- This division relates to salaries of officers of the Senate, and affords me another opportunity to enter my protest against the attitude taken up by a certain dictator in refusing to supply honorable members of this House with information relating to the salaries of officers of the
Parliament. It is time that we had a Select Committee to inquire into the whole matter. It is absurd that there should be, in connexion with the Parliament, five different Departments. We all know that the public servant who is in the immediate presence of his “boss,” has the best chance of advancement, and in the five Departments of the Parliament promotions are much more rapid than in all other branches of the Public Service which are under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. Officers of the Parliament are under the control of the President and Mr. Speaker. A man such as the present dictator - I refer to the President of the Senate (Senator Givens) - may employ any one he pleases, and Parliament is powerless to interfere. If the Committee has any idea of fair play, and any desire for economy, it should not allow him to have such a power. Where the offices of President and Speaker are occupied by gentlemen, even a bad system of regulations will run smoothly. Such regulations, fairly administered, may often prove better than the best set of laws that are badly administered. This is the most contemptible sweating institution in any part of the Public Service. We pay the Public Service Commissioner - a man of high intelligence - a high ‘salary, and I would vote to-morrow to place every, officer of the Parliament under his control. I have no complaint to make of the way in which Mr. Speaker (Sir Elliot Johnson) exercises his authority over the staff of this House, nor have I any complaint to make of the officials of the House. I strongly resent, however, what has been done in another place. My fellow members of the Library Committee will agree with ‘me that that Committee is simply a farce, since it has no power to make a recommendation in reference to the position or salaries of the Library staff. It .may be that we are on the verge of a general resignation as a protest against the actions of that dictator - a man whom I u3ed to love and revere as one who, I thought, was pre-eminently a lover of his fellow men. Lately, however, he seems to love only those who are best paid in the building. Some of our officers were paid lower wages than the unions have a right by law to de- mand. The secretary of the Lift Attendants Union told me that the President of the Senate was telling an untruth when he said that all the officers in this Parliament were being paid the full rates to which they were entitled. I do not know that there is any such case at the present moment, but as long as I live I will resent the attitude of this dictator in regard to one married man, with children, who. received only £2 14s. per week. He became ill, and wa3 absent from his duties in order- to rest himself, and, having a family to support, he could not pay for medical advice. One officer - I do not know whether it was Mr. Monahan or Mr. Broinowski - cautioned this unfortunate man that if he did not resume duty he might lose his position. He returned to work when he was still unfit, caught a chill,’ and died, and his widow and children have received nothing but the sum of money that was collected amongst the fellow-officers of the deceased. Another man was fined £2 because Mr. Broinowski said that he had insulted him. I believe that was a lie, and if a Select Committee is appointed I am prepared to produce a sworn declaration to that effect.
– All these matters relate to the Senate, which this House does not control.
– It is against what has taken place in the Senate Department that I am protesting. Another young man was compelled to be inoculated with influenza serum, and, having regard to the fact that the President of the Senate, when he was inoculated with filth, nearly lost his life in the Sydney Quarantine Station, one would think that he would have more compassion for a man who has an injured arm as a - result of the inoculation.
– I am loth to rise to a point of order ; but I do not think the honorable member should be attacking the President of the Senate.
– This is the only opportunity I shall have.
– These remarks are quite out of order. The rule and tradition of centuries is that the members of one Chamber should not attack the members of the other Chamber. We shall have* every opportunity to discuss the Estimates for the House of Representatives.
– I shall not be able to deal with these matters then.
– We have no more right to attack the officers of the Senate than members of the Senate have to attack our officers.
– The Committee is now dealing with the Estimates for the Senate and its officers. Certain members of this House are supposed to have an opportunity of attending meetings of a Joint House Committee.
– We have no right to single out for personal criticism even a private member of another place.
– I claim that when the Estimates for the Senate are under consideration honorable members are quite in order in discussing everything that is relevant to those Estimates.
– In the State Parliament, the Legislative Council occupies a position corresponding to that of the Senate in this Legislature, and I can prove by reference to the Victorian Hansard that the Legislative Council has been under severe criticism at times in the Legislative Assembly.
– The Treasurer has raised the point of order that it is unusual and improper to refer to the President of another place. Whether such references are correct or otherwise, this Chamber has to deal with the Estimates of salaries and expenditure for the Senate. The vote for the President himself has been agreed to, and the whole of the general expenses of the Senate are now before the Committee. Whilst I have no desire to restrict honorable members in their remarks, I ask the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to have regard to parliamentary usage, and employ respectful language in his references to a member of another place.
– I think you, sir, have given a just decision. When every member of this Parliament has personally benefited by an increase of salaries, it is only fair that we should look after those who are struggling along in the lower-paid positions. Owing to the action of a particular gentleman - there can be no objection to my calling him that - some men in the building are not getting a fair show. Although one man has been fined for having insulted an officer, I am prepared to produce sworn evidence that the statement made by Mr. Broinowski was wrong. I also draw attention to the idiocy of having five separate Departments in this building. Do our officers altogether number 100 ? According to the Estimates, the number in the Seriate Department is sixteen. When I asked for certain information regarding the wages paid to officers and men whom- I meet in this building almost every day of my life, I am told that I cannot get that information because a certain gentleman will - not allow me to have it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), to his credit, supported my request, and showed great sympathy with it. But he, too, is helpless. Is this a sign of the autocratic government of the past 1
– No, it is a sign of the autocratic government of the President.
– Honorable members have only to read Hansard as to what occurred in another place yesterday, and then they will see that gentleman in the light I am indicating here. If w© thought it necessary to increase our salaries, surely we can look after those who, if they were in outside employment, would be drawing bigger money than they are drawing here.
– Do you not think that that applies to some of those at the top, too?
– We have some very fine officers, and we have some who are not quite so fine. The honorable member will agree with me that once our officers are appointed to permanent positions they do not have to face their creators, like he and I have to do, at least once in every three years. I am glad the Prime Minister has come in, because I wish to remind him of the request I made recently for information about the salaries and allowances of certain officials of the Parliament. He was sympathetic with my endeavour, and assisted me as far as he could. As the member for Melbourne, I am asking for this information, but I am prevented from obtaining it, as regards the Senate, by the dogmatic, dog-in-the-manger action of a certain gentleman. I am allowed to use the word “ gentleman.”
– When you have said and done everything you care to do and say, the Government cannot do. anything about it.
– The Government can move for the appointment of a Joint Committee to go into the question of the absurdity of having five distinct and separate Departments in this Parliament, and also into the matter of limiting the power of any single gentleman, such as the one I have mentioned.
– I think not.
– Then it is time we took action, even if we have to wipe out the whole blooming Senate. What an absurd idea it is that two men should dominate the Parliament ! Is the appointment of Sessional Committees merely a fool game? It is ridiculous to appoint Committees if they have no power. I am a member of the Library Committee, and so is the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). I am not going to submit quietly to the present state of affairs. If any member of that Committee moves for a Committee of inquiry, I shall welcome the motion, and vote for it.
.- I wish to make a complaint as well as a personal explanation. It was agreed between the parties that we should take a division at 2.30. Then the division was postponed until 3.30. . I thought that arrangement would be kept by all parties, and, at the request of our party, I went into the Speaker’s room to discuss with him certain arrangements affecting us. The division was taken at an earlier hour than had been arranged, and I did not hear the bells.
– Did not the bells ring in the Speaker’s room?
– No. There may be many members on the Opposition side who make speeches and then dodge the responsibility of voting; I do not.
– Your leader knew before 3 o’clock that the division would be taken at 3.20.
– The honorable member should not make statements that really are untrue.
– Do not tell me that I am making untrue statements here or anywhere else, or I will screw your neck.
– Order! Will the honorable member withdraw and apologize?
– Must I withdraw when a man tells me I am making an untrue statement, seeing that my statement is absolutely true?
– If honorable members, by their constant conversations and interjections, will not allow the Chairman to hear what is said, they have themselves to blame. If I had heard the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) attribute an untruth to the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle), I should immediately have called him to order. If the honorable member for Dampier did make that statement I ask him to withdraw it, and I ask the honorable member for Calare, also, to withdraw what he said.
– I withdraw my statement, and also express my regret that you could hear what I said, but could not hear what was said over there.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark, and not to try tocome into direct conflict with the Chair. I have no desire for a conflict, but I will do my duty. I ask the honorable member to withdraw unconditionally.
– I was only expressing regret that you did not hear all that was said. It is not fair of you to ask me to withdraw my expression of regret for something about which I was genuinely sorry.
– The honorable member’s remark was a direct inference that I was favoring another honorable member as against him.
– Then I withdraw the remark.
– I also withdraw my statement. I simply meant that what the honorable member said was inaccurate, because the leader of our party had given us to understand distinctly that the division would be taken at 3.30. I was in the Speaker’s room discussing matters with him, and had not the remotest idea that the division was being taken. I came out close on 3.30, and found that the division had taken place.
– Did not the bells ring in the Speaker’s room ?
– I have already said that they did not. Surely honorable memberswill take my word. My complaint is that the first arrangement was to take the division at 2.30, and the next to take it at 3.30, and then, at the request of my leader, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), I went into the Speaker’s room to discuss a certain matter with the Speaker.
I wish to emphasize the fact that my absence was absolutely unintentional. I do not know whether the Treasurer can tell us, but I should like to know if any of the various Committees appointed by this House have any control over the apportioning of rooms, and so forth, for the use of members. Has the House any say or control in such matters?
.- By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that my statement in regard to the time when it was arranged the division would be taken is quite true; and, further, that I was not a party to the agreement to take it at half-past 2. On the contrary, I said I would reserve to myself the right to speak before the vote was taken, and that I intended to speak, whether the division was taken at halfpast 2 or afterwards. In justice to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), I ought to say that he came and asked if I proposed to speak, and I told him that I intended to do so if no one else did. The honorable member then said that he also would speak. I said that I would conclude in time to enable the vote to be taken athalf-past 3, so as to enable honorable members to catch their trains, and that if the honorable member for Perth finished at 3 o’clock, I would not occupy more than twenty minutes. I say this in reply to the charge made by the honorable member for Dampier that mystatement was incorrect. If it was not convenient for the honorable member totake part in the division, that is his “funeral.”
– What the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has said is quite correct. He went into Mr. Speaker’s room at the request of the members of the Country party, to discuss the provisions of some accommodation for that party. When he left the Chamber the distinct understanding was that the division would be taken at half-past 3.
– With whom was that understanding?
-It was an understanding amongst the leaders of all parties.
– This is the first time I have heard of half-past 3 as the hour.
– The honorable member happened to be absent, and the arrangement was made with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) - who was acting as Whip - for the convenience of all parties. The first arrangement was for half -past 2 o’clock ; then it was altered to 3 o’clock; and, later still, to half-past 3 o’clock.
– Is it a fact that Mr. Speaker will not give the Country party a room?
– Yes.I thought the division bells would ring in Mr. Speaker’s room.
.- When i came to the House this morning, I ascertained that the division had been arranged for half-past 2 o’clock. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook)concluded his remarks shortly after that hour, and then the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) rOse. I knew that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) desired to speak, and advised him that, as the arrangement had been broken, he had the right to do so. I never knew of any subsequent arrangement. When the division was not taken at half-past 2 o’clock, I told some friends of mine in the gallery, that, under the circumstances, it was quite possible it might not take place to-day, and they decided to go away. However, when the honorable member for Calare told me that he would occupy only about twenty minutes, I brought them back again. I am surprised to learn that the division bells do not ring in every room of the House, though, of course, the arrangement may be to call Mr. Speaker in some other way.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Coal Prices - Case of the Rev. J. B. Ronald - Division Bells.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that I have received, through His Excellency the Governor-General, the following further interim report from the Royal Commission which is inquiring into the increases in the price of coal consequent on increases in the wage rates. It is as follows : -
Your Commissioners recommend, pending further inquiry and final report for sales within Commonwealth, the following increases on and from Monday, 27th September, 1920: -
Western Australia coal mines, 3s. per ton.
Queensland coal mines, Ipswich and Bundamba district, 2s.9d. per ton.
Rosewood and Darling Downs district, excluding Tannymorell, 3s. per ton.
Tannymorell, 3s. 6d.per ton.
Burrum district, 5s. per ton.
Central district, 2s. 3d. per ton.
Mount Mulligan,5s.6d. per ton.
Provided that, in the case of Queensland only, where the proprietor of a coal mine is obliged to deliver coal at a distance from pithead, and to pay railway freight thereon, said proprietor shall be entitled to add to above increases the actual increases in railway freight, if any, thathave been made since 27th September, 1920, or that may hereafter be made whilst this order, if made, remains in force.
I only want to remind honorable members that this is not the final report. They will have an opportunity of studying the return, as set out in the press, and of thinking the matter over. When we get the final report it may he discussed.
– I should like to knowthe order of business for next week. Are we going on with the Estimates?
.- I think it is right I should bring under the notice of the House the case of that unfortunate man, theRev. J. B. Ronald. I have received the following letters from Messrs. Davies& Campbell, dated Collinsstreet, 12th October, 1920:-
Our attention has been drawn to certain remarks made by you in the House, with reference to the payments to Mrs. Ronald which have been made by Mrs. R.Harper. You are well aware that the promise made by Mr. Harper, which was quite voluntary, was only prevented frombeing carried out by his death. The executors could not legally do anything in the matter, but Mrs. Harper and her family resolved to carry out the intention of the deceased by paying Mrs. Ronald £1 per week during her life. There is no ground for your statement that this was to be during Mrs. Harper’s life only. Our clients feel that you have done them a grave injustice, and we must ask you to withdraw a statement which was absolutely untrue.
The solicitor I interviewed informed me that this firm lacked even the courtesy which legal gentlemen usually extend to other people. I do not care to write to this firm, but, if I did, I would write a letter in the following termsto J. M. Campbell, or A. E. Davies, whoever wrote to me: -
Sir, - Yours of 12th received. I have no respect for any one connected with that awful case of perjury and conspiracy (Ronald v. Harper). If Mrs. Harper, that dear lady, the daughter of a good man (God rest him), writes me that any statement mode by me is wrong, I will gladly accept it.
I have been informed that the money paidto those conspirators and perjurers who lied in the witness-box came from that office, and so I shall never write to that firm or recognise one of them. I am sorry that out of the rich man’s wealth something could not be done for the man who was so terribly wronged.
.- I merely wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that it has been stated that the bells did not ring inthe Speaker’s room prior to the division which was taken this afternoon, and that one honorable member excused his absence from the division on that account. As probably you may not be aware of what took place, I thought it only right that you should be informed.
– There is no division bell in the Speaker’s room, but there is one in the vicinity, and I distinctly heard it ringing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201015_reps_8_94/>.