8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House before the Christmas adjournment whether Mr. Fisher is to be re-appointed High Commissioner, or whether a new appointment is to be made ?
– Honorable members had ample opportunity to discuss the High Commissionership together with the very many other subjects which have been discussed on the Estimates, and they may choose between the alternatives of continuing the sittings and discussing the High Commissionership, and anything else they please, or adjourning next week over Christmas. My intention was that we should remain in session until Christmas, but that view does not coincide with the wish of the majority of my fellow members.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to give effect to the promise he made in this House to allow private members’ business to be considered before the Christmas vacation?
– Under the Standing Orders, twenty-five members are needed to make a quorum, and if the honorable member can assure me that he can get twenty-four more to stay with him, I shall move, on the day when we have finished our other business, that the House adjourn to another day, in order that those twenty-five members may deal with the business that he wishes to take in hand. I cannot, however, promise to be with them.
– Are any definite steps to be taken this session towards the continuation of the North-South Transcontinental Railway? If so, what are they?
– The Minister for Works and Railways is to give notice of a motion on the subject to-day.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
– I have received from the honorable member for Newcastle the intimation thathe desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., the refusal of the Victorian Government to obey the award of the recent Tribunal under the Industrial Peace Act in connexion with the coal industry.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Those who have read the newspapers this morning must be of the opinion that I was not far wrong yesterday in wishing to say a few words on the all-important question to which I now direct attention. In order that the position may be made plain, it is my purpose this morning, without blaming the Prime Minister or his Government in any way for the part they have played in the matter so far, to endeavour to ascertain where the real fault lies, and to find out whether the Act under which we have been Working is what we think it ought to be. Some few months ago, about the time when the Industrial Peace Bill was before us, an upheaval in the coal trade of this country was threatened. The Industrial Peace Bill was passed, and, except for some objections I had to various provisions in it, was framed on lines on which I have always approved. The Prime Minister was successful in inducing those who would have participated in the trouble that was threatened to put their case before a Board appointed under the Act, whose chairman was appointed by the Government. The Board investigated the conditions of not only the coal industry of New South Wales, but also that of the Commonwealth. During the hearing of the case the Victorian Government was, I understand, represented by a gentleman who looked after its black-coal mines, and I believe that objection was raised to the inclusion of the brown-coal industry of this State in any award. The chairman of the Board, however, after due deliberation, came to the conclusion that the brown-coal industry of Victoria was within the scope of the Board’s jurisdiction, and included its conditions in the Board’s investigation. An award was then given covering the coal industry of Australia, including the brown-coal industry of Victoria. The Victorian Government at once took the objection that the award could not be applied to their brown-coal industry, and that is the point in dispute. The language of the Act is clear, and from it the determination of the chairman of the Board to include all sections of the coal industry in the award can be readily understood. The Act covers -
Any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
But because the brown-coal mine is being run by the State Government, that Government chooses to flout the award, and to say that the Act under which the award was made does not bind it, although every private coal-mine owner in the Commonwealth is obeying the award. We should know how we stand, not only in this particular dispute, but also as to the validity of our legislation. The columns of the Victorian newspapers make it plain that an adequate coal supply is vital to this State, and that a scarcity already exists here. The reason for the Victorian Government flouting the award is seen in a recent speech made by Mr. Robinson, a State Minister, in the Legislative Council. In that speech he pointed out that if the Morwell miners were given the increase in wages provided for by the award, similar increases would be demanded by the State railway employees, and the State Government would be called on to pay about £2,000,000 more per annum in wages. That is an evasion of the issue. On that line of reasoning no increase of wages could be given to any industry, because the workers in other industries might ask for like treatment. The increase in the wages of the brown-coal workers was not the same as that given to the black-coal miners; their wages were brought up only to the level of what are known as the “ off hands,” that is, the labourers in the black-coal mines. I wish honorable members to understand that the Victorian State Government, al though they did not agree to accept the award, have raised the price of brown coal in Victoriaby 2s. a ton.
-Have they not increased the wages of the miners?
– So far as I understand the brown-coal miners wages have not been increased. This goes to show that the Victorian State Government, at that time at least”, anticipated that they would have to obey the award. However, like the man who stole a loaf of bread, and, when caught, said he intended to return it, Mr. Robinson now states that this extra 2s. per ton is to be placed in a Trust Fund, and, if the award can be evaded, will be handed back to the purchasers who pay the increased price. This shows a determination on the part of the State Government to do what no private employer may do, namely, evade their responsibilities under Federal legislation. Further, as showing that there was no attempt made to harass the browncoal industry of Victoria, or to deal harshly with it in any way, such as suggested by the Premier of Victoria in this morning’s newspaper, I remind honorable members that the miners’ representatives and the Chairman of the Board came to Melbourne, and, in response to the complaint of the State Government that their case had not been presented . at the original hearing, the miners’ representatives offered a re-hearing. All that the miners insisted on was that the re-hearing should be by the same Tribunal as before. To this, however, the Victorian Government’s reply was, “ No ; we have in this State a Board to hear such cases, and we are not going to submit the matter to a Federal Tribunal, but to our own.” Either the State Government expected that their own Tribunal would not award any increased wages, or their attitude represented a move in favour of State as against Federal legislation. This is the first case heard under the Industrial Peace Act, and we ought to know, here and now, where we stand in relation to the Boards created under that Act by the Federal Government. I mention these facts to show honorable members that there has been no attempt to rush the position. The miners’ representatives, as
I say, came to Melbourne, and did every- thing in their power to meet the situation. Now, because the miners are driven to take a certain action, as announced in the newspapers this morning, they are charged by the Premier of Victoria with throwing down a challenge to a Government. The miners have thrown down no challenge. The challenge, if any, is thrown down by the State Government of Victoria, who are defying, not only the miners of this country, but the Federal authority. That appears to be the position, so far as I conceive it. I do not desire to speak disrepectfully of the State of Victoria as a State, but it is a fact that, for some reason or another, the wages of miners in Victoria, whether metalliferous or coal, have always been on a lower scale than in the Northern States.
– So are the values in the State.
– I am talking of the past, not of the present. As to values’, there are just as thin seams in New South Wales as in Victoria - there are just as great differences between seams of black coal as between seams of brown coal - and yet, in the Northern State, all have to be worked under the same award. But we all know that the wages of men who have to go underground have always been lower in Victoria than in any other of the States. The souls of the victims of the deep mines in Victoria have cried to Heaven, through the eloquence of the clergyman who buried them, for greater justice for their fellow workmen. These same voices may be heard to-day.
It is not that the Victorian Government regard the award as not sound and legal, but that they regard the browncoal miners, as they have always in the past regarded the metalliferous miners, as nothing but galley slaves. I have no hesitation in making that statement. I shall not labour the question at great length; but, in view of the delicate position at the present time, in view of the fact that possibly within three weeks this State will be without coal, I wish to impress on honorable members the importance of some action to avert such a catastrophe. During the whole of the recent negotiations with the State Government of Victoria, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has, I believe, done everything in his power to induce that Government to take a reasonable view of the position. His efforts have been unavailing; and now, if we are in earnest, and we believe in the Act that was passed in the light of lie recent High Court judgment, we must take a firm stand. It is no longer a question for the miners to fight; it is for the Federal Government to see that their laws are given effect to. If private employers and workmen throughout Australia have to obey the Commonwealth laws, we ought to look to a State Government to set an example in this regard.
I am just reminded that the increase given by the Tribunal to the brown-coal miners is not more than three-fourths of that in the case of the black-coal miners. This shows that the position was considered from every point of view, including the point of view of the Victorian State Government. It is now for the Commonwealth Government to say what further action they can or will take before this country is industrially paralyzed. In saying that I am not using any threatening language, but merely indicating the natural sequence of events on the refusal of the State Government to obey the award. The State Government now claim that they were not represented before the Tribunal. As” a matter of fact, their representative objected to the browncoal mines being included in the inquiry, and that representative could have gone further and applied to the High Court under the Act, as was done in the case of the Broken Hill dispute. That, however, was not done, and the Court was allowed to include the brown-coal miners. In conclusion, I can only say that if the people of Victoria are without coal, no one will be to blame but their own State Government.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has intimated to me that. it will be impossible for him, in the short space of a quarter of an hour, to say all that is necessary, and to quote the important documents he desires, in reference to this very serious matter, and he requests that his time be extended.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has ventilated a matter of the utmost possible importance. According to this morning’s press, the following resolution is reported to have been carried by the Council of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation - “ That owing to the Victorian Government refusing to comply with the award of the Tribunal concerning the Victorian coal mine, this council take steps immediately to prevent any coal entering Victoria. “That arrangements be made for the position to be explained to members of the federation, and that they be asked to delegate to the council power to create a general position in the event of a settlement not being arrived at within a period satisfactory to the council. “ That stop-work meetings be held throughout the districts of the federation on Wednesday next for the purpose of dealing with the position at Morwell.”
It requires very little perspicacity to realize what that means to the State of Victoria. The honorable member who has asked us to consider the situation has said that the party to blame in this dispute is the Victorian State Government. I propose to blame neither party, but to set out the facts as clearly as I can, leaving honorable members to draw their own conclusions.
First of all, I want to set out the facts that led up to the appointment of the Tribunal. It will be remembered it was stated by the union that owing to the wage received by the lower class of “ off-hand “ labour, a position had been created in the northern and south-eastern coal fields of New South Wales, which was intolerable. In short, we were told, that unless a means of settlement were found, there would be a general strike. The wage then received by the lower class of “ offhand” labour was 13s. 6d. per day, and it is important to note that this wage on which the miners in the Newcastle district said that they were unable to live, is the current wage for metalliferous miners in Victoria. I am satisfied that 13s. 6d. per day, allowing for lost time, including that time which is lost through the fault of the men themselves, is not, with the present cost of commodities, a fair wage. I appointed a Tribunal. It was a voluntary Tribunal. I then introduced legislation to give statutory authority to this principle of settling disputes by the appointment of representatives of both sides, and an impartial chairman. The Bill received the assent of Parliament, and became law. Here in chronological order are the dates upon which all this was done -
On 21st September a voluntary Tribunal was appointed. It consisted of four representatives of the men, and four representatives of the employers, with Mr. Charles Hibble as chairman.
On 22nd September the Tribunal gave an award varying the selling price of coal, but exempted the brown coal mine at Morwell.
On 9th October an order was issued varying all contracts and agreements then existing relating to the selling price of Victorian black coal.
On 1st October the chairman issued an award varying his previous award which exempted the brown coal mine at Morwell, and making the award apply to the employees at that mine in common with the other coal and shale mines of the Commonwealth.
It is important to note that this applies to shale as well as to coal. If brown coal is not coal, shale is not coal -
The award of the 22nd September provided: (1) The minimum wage for adult off-hand employees shall be 16s.6d. per day. Present day margins shall be maintained.
Now, I propose to set out the correspondence between the Victorian State Government and myself - 11th August. - Premier of Victoria notified that Conference between representatives of coal-mine owners and Coal and Shale Employees Federation would be held at Sydney on 17th August, and was asked to arrange for delegates to be present as representative of mines under control of Victorian Government. 12th August. - Premier intimated that the manager of the Wonthaggi coal mine (Mr. Broome) would represent the State Government as owners of Wonthaggi mine. He added that the Government would not be represented, so far as its Morwell brown coal undertaking was concerned, “ the men engaged there are not miners, and the Government has its own wages Tribunal for dealing with the special class of work involved in that undertaking.”
I think it is only fair to point out that there used to be a special wage Tribunal for Wonthaggi.
– Yes, and a Board was not given for the Morwell men until they forced the position.
– The reason why that special Tribunal was no longer applied to Wonthaggi was because the Australian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation insisted upon one award applying to all its members. I mention this in passing, because it is a point which is very relevant to the dispute. 25th August. - Premier asked for full information as to scope and powers of the Tribunal as to extent to which it was proposed to bring Victorian Government mine, at Wonthaggi, under its jurisdiction, and complained that Victorian mines were not represented at the Tribunal at all, and that if Victorian mines were to be bound by the decision of the Tribunal, the employers were entitled to a voice in its deliberations. He urged that provision be made for Victorian representation.
He again repeated that the Government did not regard Morwell employees as miners, and that it would not be represented at the Conference so far as Morwell was concerned. It was presumed that it was not intended the findings of the Tribunal should be applied to Morwell. If so, tlie Premier protested most strongly against it.
Here I interpolate another remark: The objection is to paying the Morwell miners 16s. 6d. per day, the amount paid for “off-hand” labour - not miners - employed on black coal; because their work is unskilled, and not very arduous work. But what are the metalliferous miners in the deep mines at Bendigo receiving ? Surely theirs is very hard labour, and the class of work they are performing is more deleterious to health than is coal mining. .Yet they are not getting 16s. 6d. per day. But the effect of giving that wage to the Morwell men would be that 16s. 6d. would have to be paid to these metalliferous miners. I have done many things, but I have not been a miner, and any one who will go down the metalliferous mines at Ballarat and Bendigo, to say nothing of Broken Hill, where the conditions are still worse, and say that at least the same wage shall not be given to the metalliferous miners as is paid to the coal miners, is a man whose judgment is worth nothing. 27th August. - The Premier was informed that the Tribunal was composed of four representatives each of the coal-mine owners and the Australasian Coal and Shale Employees Federation with an independent chairman (Mr. Charles Hibble), who was nominated by the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister. The Tribunal rested on a voluntary basis, but would subsequently be -brought within the scope of the Industrial Peace Bill which was then before the Commonwealth Parliament. In the meantime the parties concerned had given a-n assurance that they would abide by the decision of the Tribunal. The Tribunal would consider an award upon claims put forward by the employees in respect of wages, hours of labour, and other working conditions.
Careful consideration had been given to the views expressed by the Premier, and steps would be taken to arrange that when conditions of the coal industry in Victoria were being considered Victorian employers would have due representation.
Copy of the Premier’s letter was forwarded to the chairman of the Tribunal, with the suggestion that arrangements should be made for giving effect to the Prime Minister’s promise that Victorian interests would be fully represented on the Tribunal. Attention was also invited to the remarks of the Premier of Victoria with regard to the character of the operations at Morwell. 30th August. - Premier of Victoria intimated that Government and Victorian coal owners were without representation on the Tribunal. Again emphasized strong exception to inclusion of Morwell coal undertaking within scope of Tribunal. 2nd September. - Premier of Victoria was advised of the serious difficulties in the way of altering composition of Tribunal, but that every opportunity was being given to representatives of various States to put respective cases before Tribunal. 3rd September. - Chairman of Tribunal intimated that nothing had been done by the Tribunal that affected the interests of Victoria. He would see that the interests of Victoria were in no way sacrificed, and laid special emphasis- upon the Victorian brown coal industry. Victoria had fullest opportunity of placing its case before the Tribunal. 14th September. - Premier of Victoria again asked that favorable consideration be given to the strong wish of his Government for representation on the Tribunal. 16th September. - premier of Victoria was furnished with a copy of the report from the chairman of the Tribunal setting out the position. From this it appeared to be quite clear that Victorian representatives had been afforded widest opportunity of participating in proceedings of Tribunal. He had fullyavailed himself of those opportunities.
I think this precis sets out the facts very clearly. According to the Melbourne Argus of the 10th November -
Mr. Lawson said that when it was stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that a special Tribunal was being constituted to deal with wages in the coal-mining industry, and it was conveyed to the Victorian Ministry that such Tribunal would have jurisdiction over the brown coal industry at Morwell, representations protesting against such inclusion were made to Mr. Hughes. Notwithstanding this protest, the Tribunal so constituted proceeded to . deal with the question of coalmining generally. In spite of this, however, an award had been made applying to Morwell without carrying into effect the implied promise made previously. When the award inclusive of the Morwell undertaking was finally determined by the Tribunal the Victorian Ministry adopted an attitude which it still maintained - that it ‘ would not accept the award in respect to its application to Morwell on account of the nature of the operations carried on there. The Victorian Ministry had throughout accepted, in respect of its Wonthaggi undertaking, the conditions generally applying in the Commonwealth to recognised coal-mining operations.
Two days ago I said, in a letter to Mr. Lawson -
I am much disappointed that you have not been able to accept the suggestion which I had the honour to submit, and which appears to me to offer an honorable means to settle the dispute It would release you from any further obligations with regard to the award so far as Morwell is concerned ‘and leave the Court to decide the question of jurisdiction.
I had suggested that the Victorian Government should pay the Morwell men the award rates up to the date on which they closed the mine, and should then go to the Court and ask whether the Tribunal had jurisdiction. I had spoken to Mr. Baddeley and to Mr. Askwith, and they had agreed to accept that solution, and to recommend its adoption to their Council. Clothed with that authority, I then put the matter before the Premier of Victoria; and I am now quoting from the correspondence in regard thereto. I continued -
The more I think over the matter, the more I am convinced that the course I have suggested is one that your Government could adopt without prejudice to your State rights and responsibilities. I, therefore, again urge you to reconsider it.
There is one point, perhaps, to which I should refer before closing. I note that the Attorney-General, in a speech made in your Parliament yesterday, repeated what you had already several times set out and emphasized in your letter to me of the 15th, namely, that the Government does not recognise the work done at Morwell as coal mining. May I venture to point out that the award has not treated men engaged at Morwell as miners, and has not awarded miners’ rates. The point, therefore, raised by the Attorney-General seems to be without relevance to the point in. dispute, and in any case has nothing to do with the question whether the Commonwealth has or has not jurisdiction to deal with disputes between persons engaged in an industry owned or controlled by the Government of a State. With all deference to your Attorney-General, I point out that this is a question which cannot be settled by me, or by him, but only by the High Court, and I am suggesting that the matter should be remitted to that Court by you as the only way in which a satisfactory settlement can be arrived at.
I still say that I know of no better way. In support of my contention, I quote sub-section 1 of section 27 of the Industrial Peace Act -
When an alleged industrial dispute is referred to a Special Tribunal or a Local Board any party to the proceeding may apply to the High Court for a decision on the question whether the dispute, or any part thereof, exists or is threatened or impending or probable, as an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, or on any question of law arising in relation to the dispute or to the proceeding, or to any award or order of the Court.
Now, it is competent for the Victorian Government to go to the Court at. once, and say, “ As a matter of law, does this award apply? Yes or no?” And the Court, under section 27, would say whether it did or did not. If it does apply, then, of course, the State Government must comply with the law like everybody else. If it does not, the coal miners are out of Court; they have not got a leg to stand on; and the wages at Morwell will have to be determined by the State Tribunal. But if the Act does apply, and we have jurisdiction, then this Tribunal has said that the wages shall be so much; and it is not denied that a Victorian representative was upon the Tribunal all the time, or that he had ample opportunities to put his side of the case. Now, Mr. Hibble has given the award of the Tribunal. So I say that the best way to settle the trouble - because it is a way which will determine the constitutional position of the Tribunal in regard to State instrumentalities - is for the Victorian Government to go to the High Court.
If the State authorities will not do that, I now make this suggestion: I will appoint a Tribunal, with Mr. Hibble as its chairman. The Victorian Government may appoint whom they like as their representative, and the Morwell men may appoint whom they choose ; and the matter can be settled in that way. One must do something. It is said that the proposed Tribunal must have as its chairman, some gentleman other than Mr. Hibble. I reply frankly thatI would not be prepared to stand for that. That would infer my admission that Mr. Hibble is a biased judge, an incompetent person. The inference would be that he has a right to determine the price of every ounce of coal in Australia, except that at Morwell; and that it is perfectly right for him to determine, in respect of the millions of tons of black coal, what shall be paid for it, and with regard to the many thousands of miners who hew black coal, what they shall receive for their labours; but that he is not a fit man to determine similar questions of price and wages in respect of Victorian brown coal.
– Has he not already given his judgment upon this matter?
– He has. The more I think over the issue the more I see that I could not agree to a proposition to exclude Mr. Hibble without thereby practically saying that he is either a biased or an incompetent man. The parties themselves practically selected him; I did not appoint him until I had ascertained that he would “be acceptable to both parties. For all practical purposes the parties agreed to the appointment of Mr. Hibble as chairman. How can I place this unmerited stigma upon him? Whenever, and by whomever, any decision upon anything is given it is natural to expect that the interested parties will not be equally satisfied. There have been many decisions of this Parliament which have not proved equally satisfactory, for example, to myself and to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine).
We have got to settle this trouble. It is of no use to stand either upon the letter of the law or on one’s dignity. I shall certainly not allow either of those two considerations to stand in the way of a settlement of a dispute which may have such serious effects upon the whole country. I am willing to take any course at all. I have given my own opinion for what it is worth, and am prepared to follow up what I have suggested.
Now for a word to the miners themselves. I read in this morning’s -press those resolutions intimating what the miners proposed to do. I am going 10 say this to the miners. I have stood by them very well. They are no supporters of mine, as everybody knows, although they used to be. Now I am going to tell them that this business will not do. They must not take the law into their own hands. I will not stand for that. They cannot say, “ Unless something is done when we want it to be done we will cut off the supplies of coal from Victoria.” I am expressing my own opinion, which, of course, may not be worth anything; hut there it is. I am trying to treat both parties fairly, and I say emphatically that we cannot have this kind of thing.
There is too much of a “ stand and deliver’’ attitude about it. It does not appeal to me, and it will not make for peace. Therefore, I ask the friends of the miners in this House, I ask their own spokesmen, I ask the men themselves, to withdraw their resolutions and allow us to endeavour-to find a way out which will prove honorable and satisfactory to all parties. I am perfectly satisfied that a way out can be found. Public opinion is very strong.
I want to put this to my friends of the Government of Victoria. It is all very well to talk of what one will do in standing up for principle. But principle is a very poor thing without coal. Anybody who tries to run machinery by burning principle will soon find that he has got a poor kind of fuel, and that he will be unable to command much power. There will be no coal if there is no settlement; and it will be of no use to blame me. I invite the Victorian Government to submit the matter to the High Court. That is the proper way. If they prefer remission to a tribunal, I will be prepared to act accordingly. I say to the miners - and, by the way, although they are not now my supporters they seem to think that I am their best friend, and that I will do something for them when no one else will do anything - I say to them that I do not like their resolutions. It is impossible for one, ‘in a law-abiding community, to sit down meekly under an ultimatum in which the miners say, “ Unless you do as we say, the 1,000,000 people. of Victoria shall have no coal.” We simply cannot have that, and I say so very quietly and with the utmost gravity. It will not do for the reason, among others, that it would throw out of employment 100,000 unionists in this State.’
– Hear, hear!
– If the miners have no consideration for their fellow citizens generally, they should at least remember their fellow unionists. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has acted quite rightly in moving the adjournment of the House this morning. I have set out my views. I have not endeavoured to make strife. It would be very easy to take sides, but I deprecate that.
– Is it the Prime Minister’s proposal to place the whole question before the High Court?
– Only the question whether, as a matter of law, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to deal with a State instrumentality. If I am asked, “Will you remit the matter to another Tribunal?” I will reply that I will do so; but I must add this reservation, that upon that Tribunal Mr. Hibble must be chairman.
– This is a matter which requires very careful consideration. Threats uttered on both sides will not settle the trouble. A good deal of this difficulty has arisen from the fact that when the miners threatened some two years ago to go out on strike, the Commonwealth Government, ignoring all awards, agreed that they should obtain a rise of 2s. No greater calamity could occur to Australia at the present time than a strike such as that now threatening. We are here to do what we think is right, irrespective of threats, and we should not consider for a moment threats made, either by the Victorian State Government or the coal miners themselves.
– What can we do?
– In the first place, I am satisfied that the average coal miner in Newcastle and Maitland has no idea of what this so-called brown coal really is.
– Do not worry about that.
– To begin with, in every ton of this so-called brown coal there is practically 50 per cent. of moisture.
– The State Government does not describe it as coal.
– That is so.
– And the men employed at the Morwell mine are paid not as miners, but as labourers.
– I am not discussing the question of whether or not the quarrymen - for that is what they really are - employed in the open cut at Morwell mine, are adequately paid. It would be, however, a very serious thing for the Government to say that the State of Victoria, which has gone to enormous expense in electrifying its railways, and by means of a forced draught can use this brown coal to produce electricity–
– But no electricity has yet come through from Morwell.
– The whole scheme for electrification of the Victorian Railways is based upon the use of the brown coal in the way I have mentioned. But for the system that has been devised to enable the Morwell coal to be used for this purpose, I am certain that the Victorian Government would not have electrified its lines.
– The Morwell electric power scheme has nothing to do with the electrification of the railways. It is a separate system.
– The Morwell brown coal deposits have everything to do with the scheme. The calorific values of these products have to be taken into account, and the calorific value of Newcastle or Maitland coal is vastly superior to that of the so-called brown coal produced at Morwell. Miners working at great depths in the Newcastle and Maitland mines are in an altogether different position from the Morwell miners, who work in a big open cut.
– But the men on the Morwell mines are not paid the same wages as the coal miners of New South Wales.
– I am aware of that.
– Then what is the force of the honorable member’s argument?
– Because the proposal of the miners is that they shall be paid the same wage.
– Not at all.
– If the proposal is merely that they shall be paid quarrymen’s wages, the State Government should agree to it.
– That is all the men
– We know what would be the result of granting the demand that the Morwell men should be classed as miners. The moment the Morwell product is classified as coal, and those working it are brought under a coal miners’ award, it will be said that there should be no differentiation between the coal miners of one State and those of another, and we shall either have the Morwell mine closed down or compelled to pay the wages received by coal miners in the other States.
– The Coal Tribunal has awarded the Morwell men the rates that are paid to the men working on the surface at the black-coal mines. The Morwell miners are treated by the award as surface workers.
– But we know what will happen if they are classified as miners.
– The Federation relates to coal and shale miners.
– And the Morwell product is not coal.
– Then the Premier of Victoria is in error in describing it as coal.
– Some years ago a clever old Scotch assayist, then carrying on operations in Melbourne, was constantly being worried by people who desired him to make tests of the Morwell brown coal, and finally, becoming exasperated, he said to one of them, “Do you believe in eternal punishment?” “ Yes,” replied the man. “ Then,” said the assayer, “ when the day of judgment comes get into the Morwell browncoal tunnel, for it will be certainly the last place in Victoria to catch fire.”
No good purpose will be served by an attempt on the part of this Parliament to force the position. The State Government has its own sovereign rights. The position of Victoria is different from that of most of the other States, since it has practically no black coal supplies, and the State Government has, therefore, entered upon a great undertaking in opening up the brown coal deposits. With the exception of the Wonthaggi coal seam, which is very small, and is being worked under the most disadvantageous conditions, it has no local supply, and has to import from other States all the coal it requires. By the utilization of brains and energy a system has been devised by which the vast deposits of ‘brown coal at Morwell can be used in the production of electricity, and this will be of enormous advantage to the State. I do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Parliament, or the miners, should present a loaded pistol at the head of the Victorian Government, which is honestly endeavouring to put to good use a product which has been known to exist for over half-a-century, but which there has hitherto been no possibility of developing. Honorable members will recollect that some years ago a scheme was launched for the production of brown coal briquettes. That scheme, as well as others designed to developing the brown coal industry, failed, and just now when we are preaching production, and trying to induce every section of the community to increase their output, we should be careful not to do anything calculated at one fell swoop to cut off the head of what promises to be an exceedingly valuable power producer in Victoria.
Let us be fair and reasonable. If a gentleman has already given his verdict on this question, then it is not fair either to him or to the contending parties that he should be called upon to exercise a casting vote in a new Tribunal to be appointed. I would not subject him to the slightest disadvantage. I believe that he has done his duty, and has been absolutely fair according to his lights. But when we are trembling on the verge of a most serious industrial dispute it would be far better to appoint a new Tribunal altogether. If both parties are going to insist upon the observance of their rights to the very uttermost, we shall have serious trouble. Unless we are very cautious we may precipitate the greatest industrial dispute that has occurred in Australia for many years.
– Does not the honorable member think that the women and children of Victoria are worthy of consideration at the hands of the Victorian Government?
– The Coal Miners Federation apparently does not think them worthy of any consideration.
– I certainly think they are deserving of consideration. Disputes of this character have a more serious effect upon the State of which I am a representative than on any other part of the Commonwealth. At the end of last year I spent over eight weeks here trying to make arrangements which would enable women and children who had been stranded in Melbourne, as the result of a maritime dispute, to be returned to their homes in the Island State. Whether it be a coal miners’, a seamen’s, engineers’, or stewards’ strike, my State invariably gets it where the chicken gets the axe - right in the neck. That being so, I am quite unable to regard as lightly as some of my honorable friends opposite apparently do the prospect of another serious dispute. It is because I am thinking, not of the State Government, the coal mine-owners, or shipping companies, but of the women and children - the tens of thousands of people all over Australia who will suffer if such a strike takes place - that I urge the House to be most careful not to do anything that will precipitate trouble.
– The Victorian Government has power to settle the dispute.
– If one side is going to blame the other, and each party is going to insist upon its absolute rights, we probably shall have trouble.
– What does the honorable member suggest we should do?
– A round-table conference of representatives of the miners of Maitland, Newcastle, and Morwell, and the industries directly affected, together with representatives of the Victorian and the Federal Governments, would, I am sure, speedily settle the whole trouble. If all the cards were thrown on the table - if the relative values of these coals, and the effect on projected Victorian industries of allowing the brown coal deposits here to remain undeveloped were fully explained - I am convinced that an amicable settlement could be arrived at. If, in the early stages of these disputes, you can bring the parties together at a round-table conference, and let them discuss each other’s rights and points of view, in nine cases out of ten nothing serious will eventuate.
.- I agree with the statement that if there is a coal strike in New South Wales it will probably bring about the most serious trouble that has ever overtaken the Commonwealth.
– The other States will suffer most.
– Yes. Hitherto Victoria has been able to import coal by rail from Wodonga, but in this case that may not be possible. The newspapers, notably the Argus, do not stand for law and order now. They say to the Victorian Govern ment, “Defy the men. Do not accept an award under the Industrial Peace Act. Go for direct action.” This is what was published in the Argus on the 17th inst. -
It is very satisfactory to find the State Government taking a strong position in the trouble relating to the Morwell mine. The Attorney-General (Mr. ArthurRobinson) denies that Victoria is legally or morally bound by the deliberations of any outside body. This view is obviously the right one - indeed the only one - for a strong Ministry to take. The trouble at the Morwell mine has been fomented not by any so-called “tribunal,” but by a body of New South Wales miners, who are anxious that every one of the key positions in the coal industry throughout Australia should be under their control. They see in the Morwell mine a source of supply which might enable Victoria to hold out against a terrorist campaign in the future. In effect, it is Victoria’s” ammunition dump,” and the enemy is anxious to drop an incendiary bomb upon it. Therefore, it is the duty of the Government to insure that the mine is defended so as to save it for the people of Victoria, and not surrendered to the influence of a notoriously militant union in another State.
Such statements do more harm than the resolutions of the miners. The Argus has professed to desire industrial peace, yet in this case it tells the Victorian Government to fight the men. It has not the honesty to admit that Mr. Hibble’s award is not that of a Labour man.
– What has that to do with it?
– The advice of my honorable friend and others is, “ Do not have Hibble as chairman.” I am glad the Prime Minister has stated that if Mr. Hibble is capable of determining the value of the 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 tons of black coal mined in New South Wales, and of fixing the wages of the 12,000 or 14,000 miners employed in the Commonwealth, he is capable of determining the conditions of the 200 or 300 men employed at Morwell. He has not awarded the Morwell workers the rates of pay given to the black coal miners; he has given them only the same rates as are given to the “ off-hand “ men - the semi-skilled men connected with the black coal mines. I refuse to term any man unskilled; even the man cleaning the streets is a semi-skilled worker. This will not be the only State involved should a dispute occur, because when a vessel leaves Newcastle no one can say where she is going. I hope that there will not be trouble, and
I shall do anything I can to prevent it. I am inclined to think that the opinion which has been expressed by the Victorian Government is not the real opinion of many of the Victorian Ministers. There are interests at work fighting this tribunal. It is not the State Cabinet, but that part of it that sits in offices other than the State Government offices, that is the influence at work.
– The Broken Hill steel people may have something to do with the position.
– ‘What is the reason given by the Victorian Government for not paying to the Morwell workers the rate fixed for “ off-hand “ or semi-skilled labour, that is labour employed, not in the mines, but on top ? It is that if they increase the wages of these workers, the cost of their railway construction work will be increased, and they will have to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum more than they now pay for labour. The Government does not say that Mr. Hibble’s award is an unjust one; it says that if. the award were applied to other sections of labour it would increase expenses unduly. The Constitution provides that where Commonwealth and State legislation conflicts, the Commonwealth legislation must prevail, and the High Court has recently held that the Arbitration Court may deal with State instrumentalities. The Broken Hill Company objects to the Industrial Peace Act, and is fighting it in the Courts, which is the proper place to fight it; but the Victorian Government is not doing that. Victorian Ministers say, “ We are above all Courts.”
– Certain members of the Victorian Government are particularly interested in mining.
– So I believe. That is the section that meets at Collins House and rules the country from there, instead of from Spring-street. There are, apparently, persons in this country who, while professing to want industrial peace, really want industrial war. The troubles at Broken Hill were not ended before there was this appeal to the High Court against the application of the Industrial Peace Act, The employers apparently prefer direct action, but I do not. I have always advised the workers against it, though there is an ever increasing majority in favour of it, and occurrences like this tend to swell the number. The workers naturally ask, “What is the use of appealing^ to an Industrial Peace Tribunal when a State Government will not obey its awards 1” The Victorian Government says that it had not a representative at the investigation, but the manager of the Wonthaggi Coal Mine was there, and the Government geologist, who is in charge of the browncoal mine, was also sent there. He was sent there to represent the brown-coal industry. Now, however, that the award does not suit them, the Victorian Ministers flout it, and the men cannot be blamed if, under the circumstances, they act similarly. I hope that some way may be found out of this difficulty. The publication of incendiary articles such as that I have read will not tend to a settlement. I hope that both parties will hold by the law.
– No honorable member is justified at the present time in saying anything that would accentuate the appalling difficulty which confronts us; our responsibility is to do all we can to find a modus vivendi, and I hope that that will be borne in mind by every speaker. It is all very well for the Coal Miners Federation to declare that the Victorian Government is bound by this award, but that declaration does not bind it. The award might as well have fixed the wages of those employed in the Castlemaine iron foundry,, or of the employees in any of our other industries, as fix the wages of the brown-coal workers. It has been said1 that the Morwell workers have been awarded, noi the rates awarded to miners of black coal, but those awarded to “ offhand “ labour connected with the blackcoal mines, although that labour has no resemblance to the brown-coal labour. There is not the remotest similarity between the two.
– There are differences between a Police Court, a County Court, and a Supreme Court, yet the lawyer’s fee is the same for each.
– The point I make is that the award does not include the brown-coal miners, because there is no common ground on which to go. The award was made on the basis of blackcoal mining, and the duties of the blackcoal miner, and also the “ off-hand “ workers, were well recognised and known.
It is quite improper to attempt to fix the same wages for conditions which are totally at variance. The State Governments do not desire to do anything that is unreasonable or unfair to the brown-coal miner, who has his own Tribunal, which has fixed wages which are satisfactory to both the Government and the workers. If the brown-coal miner is dissatisfied with his pay, he can either go to his own Tribunal, or to the special Tribunal which the State Government are prepared to provide. What could be fairer or more just? The Special Tribunal was formed to deal with troubles and dissatisfaction that existed in regard to black coal, and could not relate to brown coal, as the workers of the latter were perfectly content at the time, and their inclusion in the award is a pure after-thought. So far as Wonthaggi is concerned, the Victorian Government are prepared to be bound by this award, but they do protest against any effort to make totally different conditions the subject of the award by the Commonwealth Tribunal. The outstanding question is whether the Government of Victoria are prepared to do the fair and just thing for the brown-coal miner. Are they prepared to give him the best conditions possible? That cannot be denied for a moment. The men may possibly, by review of the present award by their own Tribunal, get an award equal to what it is proposed to confer by the Commonwealth award. Surely it is only fair that they should get other wages and conditions by the same process that they procured their existing conditions. If they are not satisfied with their present Tribunal the Victorian Government are prepared to give them another; and it cannot be suggested that the men can suffer in any way. After all, there is such an infinitesimal difference of methods, so far as the wages and conditions of the men are concerned, that it is deplorable to think of the possibility of introducing other issues involving big principles which, if persisted in, will bring about the disaster which is suggested.
– The Victorian Government may compromise by paying the men on a piece basis, as in the case of the Newcastle miners.
– That is so. The Victorian Government are anxious to meet their own men, and if they can prove they are entitled to better conditions or wages, the Government avows itself as ready at once to provide a Tribunal. But the Victorian Government, naturally, protest against being called upon, in a stand and deliver way, to comply with an award to which they are not parties, and which can only, by a stretch of the imagination, be made to apply to totally different conditions.
– Why did the Government increase the price of brown coal ?
– That has nothing to do with the issue.
– Mr. Robinson says it has.
– When reflections are made on the Victorian Government we should remember that they are prepared to accept the award in regard to black coal, and that no mere declaration that the award is to be made applicable to brown coal makes it so applicable.
– Brown coal is “coal” then?
– It is called “ coal,” but it is not black coal ; and the Miners Federation is composed of men who are exclusively black-coal miners. The brown-coal miners have their own Tribunal, and have been very well treated.I greatly deplore the resolution that has been passed by the Coal Miners Association, because it has very much accentuated the difficulty. It is impossible for a sovereign State, such as Victoria, to yield to dictation in a matter foreign to the award, and in regard to which it claims it is not bound, and particularly so when the pistol is presented at its head in this way.
– Who first presented the pistol ?
– The attitude of the Victorian Government from the beginning has been that of conciliation.
– Is the Industrial Peace Act any good ?
– That Act does not bind the Victorian Government in this regard, because, as I pointed out, the award is made to apply to different conditions. It might as well be made to apply to the iron industry or any other Victorian industry.
– The Act applies to all industries.
– You cannot make iron “ coal “ by any stretch of the imagination.
– There might as well, as 1 say, be an attempt to apply the award to the workers in the Castlemaine Iron Foundry as to the Morwell coal workers.
– There is no comparison.
– The analogy is complete from my stand-point, at any rate. I greatly deplore the attitude of the Coal Miners Federation in passing the resolution published this morning.
– Why not also deplore the attitude of the Victorian Government ?
– The Victorian Government are anxious to meet the men by way of conciliation, and has done all in its power to give them fair treatment. There has been some remark ‘ made as to the effects of the threatened industrial catastrophe on the women’ and children of the community. That is the most painful and distressing aspect of the case; but why have not the Miners Federation realized what the effects of their action are likely to be ? It is they who will be responsible for the appalling disaster if it should happen. I shudder when I think of what will follow if they attempt to carry out their threat. I do not wish to say anything bitter; but I do deplore the possibility, and I earnestly hope that some way out may be found. I was gratified to hear the temperate tone adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who, I believe, is genuinely anxious to do everything that can be done to bring about a settlement; and I am perfectly certain that the right honorable gentleman will receive the whole-hearted support of the House.
– I do not know anything about coal mining, but I do know something about the trail of a strike. I hope to God there will be no strike, for it only means that innocent women and children will be the greatest sufferers. Surely in this century, we can have conciliation and arbitration, more particularly as between a Government and a union. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) is. I know, just as desirous as I am to see this matter settled - just as anxious as any other unionist in the Commonwealth;
– You only differ as to the lines of settlement.
– There would be no argument if both sides thought alike.
– I thought you did not desire a strike.
– Knowing what I do about strikes, I do not wish to see one now. It is all very well for people who have their kidneys well lined, and their larders full, to talk about strikes; it is a different matter with those who lead a precarious existence, such as the workers t lead from week to week. What would even a week’s stoppage of industry mean in Victoria? It would mean utter privation for tens of thousands of men and women who have no more to do with the strike than have the chairs at the table here. It behoves every one in this House to do. what is possible to avert the great calamity that is overhanging Victoria. But if a strike does occur, I know which side I am on. I am on the side of the striker every time. I know who will suffer - I know who “carries the baby,” and who suffers for carrying it.
I believe that the Victorian Government would settle this matter by conciliation in five minutes but for influences that have been brought to bear. The trouble is not at the Parliament House at the Exhibition Buildings, but in Collins House, Collins-street. It is the people there who are stiffening the back of the Premier of Victoria, and who control the press of this State. What sort of article was that in the Argus yesterday? Was it conciliatory to advise the Victorian Government to fight the thing to a finish? - to offer thanks that at last there was a man with a backbone to fight the grasping unionists. No doubt the idea is that by these means the Coal Miners Federation may be brought to its knees. I was very pleased to observe the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this morning. Every man and woman in Victoria must see that the Prime Minister desires conciliation and arbitration, between the opposing factions.
– There has been arbitration, and there is an award.
– Then what is the matter? If things are all right there is nothing the matter - let the work go on. ‘But there is something the matter.
Many people have tried to cloud the issue by endeavouring to make out that the brown coal mining at Morwell is not mining in the strict sense of the word. But it is expressly stated in the award that it is not intended to give those men the same wages as are. given to the professional miner. The award gives the, brown-coal miner the same rates as are given to the surface men at the black coal mines in New South Wales and other States. What is wrong with that? If the black coal proprietors have to pay their surface men 16s. 6d. a day, why should not the same wage be given to the surface men on the brown coal deposits in Victoria?
– What is fairer than that the brown coal workers should have their own Tribunal?
– If we have a Federal award, why dabble” with other awards? This is a Federal matter, and we are told by the Prime Minister that all the parties were invited to appear before the Tribunal, and should attend. The Victorian Government sent their mining manager.
– That was the manager from the black coal mine at Wonthaggi.
– He was representing the Victorian Government.
– That is a black coal mine.
– But all coal is “black” now - Morwell coal is “black” now. Coal is coal, whatever its colour may be.
– Or value? That is the crucial point.
– Until recently, brown coal in Victoria has been regarded as having no value; but steps are now being taken to use it for the purpose of developing electricity for industrial purposes in Melbourne, showing that it must have some value. Everything is all right as long as we keep the “ bottom dog “ under, but when an attempt is made to improve his conditions, and give him some of the comforts which make life worth living, trouble begins. Many people have the idea that the man who does manual toil is not the same as other human beings. I have heard the remark, “ He is only a working man ‘ ‘ ; but I have as much respect for the scavenger who sweeps our streets as I have for the GovernorGeneral. While I say, “ Thank goodness I do not have to do your work,” nevertheless I know that, owing to his efforts, I live in healthy surroundings. The men working on the Morwell brown coal deposits have as much right to consideration as the men who are mining black coal below the surface; but, in any case, the employeesrepresentatives on the Tribunal recognised that there was a difference between the two, and expressed no desire to apply the rate of wage to be enjoyed by men working black coal below the surface to the Morwell brown coal workers. However, they deemed it fair thatthe Morwell menshould at leastreceive the rate of wage to be paid to men engaged on the surface of black coal mines. Many people want to make out that the Morwell brown coal miners are asking for the same wage that is to be paid to the coal miners in the Newcastle district. But such is not the case. They are simply asking for the wages the surface workers in theNewcastle district are to receive. I want to see conciliatory methods employed to bring about industrial peace, and, if there is to be any give and take in the matter, our Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is the right man to have at the helm. Up to the present time he has helped the men, and I feel sure that if we leave the matter in his hands it will have a satisfactory conclusion, not only to the parties engaged in the dispute, but also to the whole of the people in the Commonwealth.
– I am pleased that no honorable member has given expresion to any utterance that would have a tendency to interfere with the spirit of conciliation we all hope will be shown by both parties to this dispute. I know little or nothing about the coal business, but there are some principles which should apply, not only to coal mining, but also toany industrial enterprise. In this case we must remember that there is a disparity of at least two to one between the production value of black coal, of which the Newcastle output is regarded as being the best sample, and that of brown coal. Honorable members will agree with me that there is a limit beyond which one cannot possibly go, and that limit is the productive value of the article in question, which, in this case, is Morwell brown coal . I hopethat conciliation will be displayed by a reconsideration of the matter - and apparently, that is a course favoured by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - at which the productive value of this coal may be thoroughly recognised and appraised. I am not asking the House to favour the adoption of the principle of declaring for a wage, based upon productive value, which may not be an ample living wage.. But I. understand that the wages of the miners engaged on black coal at Newcastle are based largely on the productive value of what they are mining. That is to say, they work, on piece rates, at which a miner can make as much as £1 5s. per day. Therefore, I think it would also be fair to agree to a similar basis at Morwell, by which, possibly, the miners could easily earn an amount equal to the award given by the Hibble Tribunal. I am glad that no one has given utterance to anything which may conflict with the opinion universally held, that nothing should be put in the way of the exercise of the spirit of compromise and. conciliation in regard to this dispute, but I do not think that honorable members have fairly recognised the position of the State Government. They did not have a representative before this Tribunal with authority to negotiate on their behalf, except in regard to Wonthaggi.
– What was Mr. Herman representing at the Tribunal?
– He was representing the Victorian Government, but he was instructed not to negotiate in any respect with regard to the Morwell deposit.
.- Honorable members who have spoken to- day have adopted, in regard to this dispute, an attitude ‘ quite different from that which they took up in regard to other recent events. I have heard a lot this morning about conciliation, but nothing about that vindication of the law of which wo heard so much during the strike of the marine engineers and seamen. I would like to know what honorable members would have said if the award of the Tribunal had been in favour of the Victorian Government and the members of the employees’ federation had struck.We would have heard such remarks as. “ The law is being flouted, these revolutionaries, these incendiaries, these advocates of direct action ought to bo gaoled or deported.” If the law in this country is supposed to operate impartially, surely, when workers combined in an organization are expected to abide by an award, which, when given, has the force of law, as the Barrier miners, who are ‘members of the organization which also embraces the Newcastle and Morwell miners, were expected to do, although they did not get all they asked for, the Victorian Government should also be obliged to abide by this award ? If the Barrier miners had refused to accept an award which did not give them a six-hours day, what would honorable members have said ? They would have been tearing their hair, talking about putting the law into operation, and saying, “ This organization ought to be suppressed. It is throwing thousands of people out of work.” The real criminals in regard to the matter underdiscussion to-day, the real strike promoters, are the Victorian Government. “What is the use of talking about industrial peace and conciliation if there is none when it suits the Victorian Government to have none? The decision of the Tribunal awardeda wage of 16s. 6d. per day for surface workers, which is quite a moderate payment in comparison with the decision arrived at by the Basic Wage’ Commission.
Mr.Tudor. - How does the honorable member know what the Commission’s decision is ?
– I know that it is nearer to 19s. 2d. per day than to 16s. 6d. per day. The fact that a Government or a powerful corporation against whom an award is given can refuse to open its mines or carry on production indicates the fundamental fallacy of all arbitration proceedings.While there is no power to compel the employers, be they individuals or a State Government, to keep employment going, if they say they cannot do so except at a loss, arbitration is a fraud and a delusion. On the other hand, the law is always enforced against the working classes by whatever Government is in power. The Industrial Peace Act provides for the infliction of a fine up to £500 or for imprisonment up to six months, and the Prime Minister, if he were consistent, would apply these penalties against the Premier of Victoria and’ his Government, just as he did against Tom Walsh during the seamen’s strike. He says that the Industrial Peace Act is quite constitutional, and that theterms. of the award must be upheld. Yet we ave asked to talk conciliation and exhibit a spirit of sweet reasonableness when an award has been made in our. favour.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th November (vide page 6709), on motion by Mr. poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When, a few days ago, I saw that among the approaching Orders of the Day was an Immigration Bill,. I anticipated that the Government were at last waking from their torpor, and were realizing that the great need of Australia was a strong immigration policy. I hoped that we were going to hear something satisfactory at last. I was considerably disappointed, however, when I found that the mountain had brought forth a mouse. The greatest need of Australia, and it has been recognised on every hand, is increased population. That is the basis of our security, and must ultimately be the essential basis of our national solvency. A moment’s reflection should convince any one that to double our population within a few years would be a tremendous factor in the eventual liquidation of our national debt, and would also render soluble our defence problems. I was disappointed to find that this is not a measure for the encouragement of population, but that it is actually an Immigration Restriction Bill. Upon searching through our statute-book, I discovered that there is no Commonwealth Act for the encouragement of immigration, but that there are various Statutes which restrict immigration. The heading of the principal Act is -
An Act to place certain restrictions on immigration and to provide for the removal from the Commonwealth of prohibited immigrants.
Not only are the measures which have been passed Immigration Restriction Acts, but most of the administrative actions of the various Commonwealth and State Governments have been directed towards the discouragement of immigration.
– Only tending to discourage the immigration of undesirables.
– Not only undesirables. The actions of the Government in fixing the prices of primary products have been among the greatest factors in deterring an important influx to this country of farmers with capital. Governmental activities generally in interfering with private enterprise tend very largely, and very naturally to discourage immigration of the right kind. However, this tendency is only in accordance with Australian tradition concerning immigration. There seems to have been, and there still seems to be, a feeling that the fewer workers there are in Australia the more work there is for those who are here. Instead, it is a fact that the more workers we have, the more work there is to give them, and the greater is our prosperity and the more rapid our national progress. The history of Commonwealth immigration activities began very badly. The first notable event was the incident of the six hatters. Australia received a bad advertisement, the recollection of which is being continually brought afresh to people overseas. We still have certain definite restrictions which prevent the introduction of workers, unless they happen to be British workmen. Our restrictions in this respect take the form of setting out that we cannot introduce workers unless we can prove beyond doubt that there are not sufficient workers of equal capacity in the Commonwealth. I believe in Australia for the Australians ; but we need a greater population and a much more progressive Australia than we have at present.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ Australia for the Australians “ ?
– I mean, Australia for all the pedple who are living here now, and for all those of the right kind who are willing to come and try to help make this nation self-contained.
– I thought the policy of “ Australia for the Australians “ was opposed to the encouragement of immigration.
– The inevitable result of a selfish and parochial policy would be, instead of “ Australia for the Australians,” “ Australia for some other nation.” Starting badly, we have kept on at the same halting gait, like a lame dog. The Commonwealth Y ear-Book remarks that the sole encouragement by the Commonwealth hitherto has been con- fined to advertising our resources and attractions in handbooks, newspapers and periodicals. It rather apologizes for what has been done. As regards State immigration activities in the Old Country, the greater part of what is done in London consists of the pitting of one State against another. There is no co-ordinated and whole-hearted effort whereby all might pull together. One State endeavours to outrival another, and, often, is not content to point out its superior advantages, but stresses the disadvantages of other States. There is a vast difference between the attitude of Australia, concerning immigration, and that of the United States of America and Canada. Those countries “ boost “ their attractions, and insist that theirs is the best country on earth. Our policy seems to be, rather, to pick out our few. disadvantages, and to advertise them all over the earth. The outside world hears altogether too much about our great drought areas, and the like. Every continent has a huge dry area. “We never hear of the arid regions of the United States, or of the icebound areas of Canada. There is too much talk and writing about our ‘great desert lands, and our limited rainfall, and about such subjects as wild dogs taking possession of stations. Advertisements of that kind breed in -the minds of possible immigrants confusion of thought, if not an aversion to Australia. The greater portion of the immigration to Australia during the past year has been due, not to any official actions by any one authority or other, but to the grand advertisement which the Australian Imperial Force gave to this country. The fact that we could send abroad some hundreds of thousands of young men of superb physique and good mental and moral calibre, gave the lie to all slanderous statements concerning Australia, and brought home to the minds of thinking people that this country must be a far different place from that they had been led to believe. Our policy of discouragement is not merely one of twenty years’ standing, but it has been pursued, off and on, for fifty years or more. Let me compare statistics concerning emigration from the United Kingdom into America and into- Australia. Australia has very many advantages over the United States and Canada. It has an incomparable climate. True, it is far away from the United Kingdom, but it is not very much further than the Argentine. Owing to its unapproachable climate, and the fact that poor people are able to exist in Australia when they could not survive elsewhere, our natural increase has been greater than that of any other country. In Tasmania and Queensland, the natural increase totals about 18 per 1,000. The natural increase for the whole of “the Commonwealth is 16.34 per 1,000, which figures are above those of every other land, except Bulgaria and Rumania. Actually, the figures for Queensland and Tasmania are higher than those, of any other part of the world. In the last fifty-eight years, the total increase of population in Australia has been just under 4,000,000. We have had 3,115,000 by way of natural increase. Our total immigration during the half-century has been 769,703. Of the population of Australia to-day, 80 per cent, is due to natural increase, and only 20 per cent, to immigration. The immigration statistics were the highest during the period 1881-1885, when there was an increase of 225,040 persons. But in no five years since that time, with the exception of the five immediately succeeding, has there ‘been any .approach to those figures. From 1906 to 1910, Australia received about 57,000 immigrants. From 1911 to 1915, the new-comers numbered only 99,000 for the whole of Australia. In the United States of America, from 1881 to 1886, the immigrants numbered 2,975,000. From the United- Kingdom alone, 765,000 persons journeyed to the United States of America and settled there permanently. In five years, the United States acquired as many British immigrants as Australia secured during fifty-eight years. Similar facts apply to Canada. There, from 1901 to 1911,” the total increase of population was 1,835,000. There was a total increase of population in that Dominion amounting to 34 per cent, in ten years, of whom 1,453,000’ were immigrants ; the bulk of these came from the United Kingdom. Emigration to Canada from the United Kingdom in ten years was . practically double the total Australian immigration from all sources in sixty years. During the past fifty years, the immigrants to the United States from the United Kingdom totalled about 5,500,000 persons.
Had we adopted a policy similar in its effects to the policy adopted in the United States of America and Canada at the present time, we could have secured a very big proportion of this total.
The point I wish to emphasize is that the position of affairs in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales is so extremely unsettled that, literally, millions of men there are thinking of changing their permanent country of residence, and that we should heed the lessons taught us, and try at once to bring about in Australia the conditions which have been responsible for attracting to the United States of America and Canada this huge body of British and other immigrants.
It may be said that to make a comparison between America and Australia in absolute figures is unfair, because the conditions in the United States of America are, to some extent, more advanced than are those operating in this country. But, taking the percentages pf increase in population, we find that for the five years 1881-86 the rate of increase in the case of the Commonwealth was 3.86 per cent. ; that in Canada, whose present policy had not then matured, it was only 1.11 per cent.; and that in the United States of America it was 2.27 per cent. For the five years 1911-16 in Australia the rate of increase of population, inclusive of immigration and the natural increase, was only 1.79 per cent., whereas in Canada it was 3.87 per cent. We had a much bigger inflow of population from Great Britain forty years ago’ than we are securing at the present time. I think the reason for that is tfe be found in the fact that forty years ago the contrast between rural conditions in Australia and the United States of America and Canada was not so pronounced as at the present time.
– But the State Governments of Queensland and New South Wales were then carrying out a policy of assisted immigration.
– Such a proposition, even now, is well worthy of consideration. The reason we were able to obtain forty years ago a larger number of immigrants than are now coming to our shores is that the contrast between the rural facilities available in Australia and those offering in Canada and the United States of America was not so great as at the present time. While these other countries have gone rapidly ahead, we have lagged behind. It was shown on a map which the North Australian Development League exhibited in the Queen’s Hall recently that the increase in population of Canada from 1901 to 1916 was directly proportional to the increase in railway facilities in country districts. It was pointed out, further, that in Quebec there had been an increase of 33 per cent, in railway facilities, and an increase in population amounting to 38 per cent.; that in Saskatchewan there had been an increase of 609 per cent, in railway facilities, and an increase in population amounting to 612 per cent, in the same period. The record is the same in regard to the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, and, indeed, practically all the provinces of the Dominion.
The same thing is true of the United States of America. We find that the greatest percentage of immigration was taking place there when the railways were being most rapidly developed. In I860 the United States of America had 30,000 miles of railway; and in the succeeding ten years, during which that mileage had almost been doubled, there was a total immigration of 2,102,055, of which 990,199 carnie from the United Kingdom: Between 1870 and 1890, when the railway mileage had increased to 166,000 miles, the number of immigrants totalled 7,890,000, of which 2,485,000 were of British stock. In the twenty years ending 1910 there was an immigration of 17,242,000 persons, of whom 1.,9 67,000 came from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and during that period the railway mileage of the United States of America increased from 166,000 miles to 242,000 miles.
The Canadian Tear-Booh for 1918 shows very clearly that the huge increase in the population of Canada during the last fifteen years is largely due to the immense activity in railway construction -
Immense activity in railway construction, coupled with a new policy of effective advertising of the agricultural capacities of Western Canada, marked the opening years of the twentieth century, with the result that from 1903 to 1913, broken only by occasional setbacks due to the enforcement of more ri”-id regulations to exclude the unfit, there was an annually increasing stream of immigrants. The number started’ with 100,000 in 1903, and increased to 402,432 in 1013.
That is to say, the increase was directly proportional to the increase in railway facilities for agricultural purposes. As the result of these provisions, one finds that both in the United States of America and Canada - two countries whose conditions are absolutely analogous to those in Australia - -
– Except inregard to their distance from- Great Britain.
– In so far as their huge spaces are concerned, the United States of America and Canada present conditions “absolutely analogous to our own. When a man comes from the Old Country to settle down here, he does not want to be taking a trip Home every two or three years. On my way out from England I spent several weeks in Western Canada, and there met a number of farmers who told me that if the conditions of rural life in Australia were brought up to what might reasonably be expected of any decent civilization, they would be willing to come, with their capital of £4,000 or £5,000 each, and settle in Australia. They said they would be quite prepared to leave their farms in Canada, which are ice-bound for some months in the year, in order to come to Australia, where they could get two crops a year, provided that the conditions of rural life were made to approximate to thoseof other countries which are no older in point of settlementthan is Australia, and if the domestic comforts of rural life here - comforts which they could offer their wives - were such as would subscribe to the ordinary canons of British civilization they would not hesitate to come.
– But you cannot have towns, schools and theatres without people.
– We shall never induce people to settle in the country unless we give them proper transport and educational facilities. People settling in the United States of America have been given educational facilities for their children compared with which those offering in Australia are insignificant, and, indeed, a scandal to a democratic country.
– You will have all these things in the new Northern State.
– If we could only secure the creation of that new State, its natural resources would enable us to make it, in the matter of transport facilities, education and the provision of domestic comforts, a striking example to the rest of the world. The position of that part of northern New South Wales to which the honorable member refers is so favorable, and its natural resources are such that we could set up there -an object lesson to the rest of Australia.
With this development of railway facilities there has always been a contemporaneous development of those other facilities - such as schools and also cheap power to remove the drudgery and monotony of farm life - which some honorable members seem to think are impossible unless we have an enormous number of people.
– Does the honorable member advocate the handing over of our State railways to private enterprise?
– I am dealing not. with questions of railway policy, but with, immigration.
– But the honorable member is making comparisons with Canada, where the railways are privately owned.
– I have strong views on the subject, but I would not be permitted to elaborate them at this stage. Before I resume my seat, however, I hope to be able to show what private enterprise ought to do in the way of encouraging immigration. In regard to education the position in the United States is very striking. In Iowa, for instance, there are 880 high schools and technical schools scattered throughout the State, whereas in the whole of New South Wales there are only twenty-two such schools. The result of this lack of educationalestablishments in Australia is that as soon as the boys and girls in country districts reach an age at which it is necessary to provide them with that higher education so necessary to give them an opportunity in life, they must go to our big cities where such educational facilities are alone provided. Speaking as a medical man, the primitive conditions under which we labour in country districts, in so far as education is concerned, are such that it has seemed to me that as regards the “kiddies” that one brings into the world one might as well remove one half of their brains, since they will never have a chance of developing that half while they remain in rural districts.
Another result of the provision of these railway and educational facilities in the rural districts of the United States and Canada is that there has been a continuous increase in the area of cultivated land in each State or Province which has adopted so progressive a policy. Some States, such as Illinois, have 90 per cent, of their area under cultivation. In New South Wales, however, only 2 per cent, of the whole area of the State is cultivated. In Victoria, where the railway facilities in country districts are greater, something like 10 per cent, of the total area is under cultivation, while in New Zealand, where such facilities are still better developed. 20 per cent, of the land is under cultivation. Canada increased its acreage under wheat in ten years from 4,224,000 acres to 8,864,000 acres: its area under barley from 871,800 acres to 1,283,094 acres, and its area under oats from 5,367,000 acres to 8,656,000 acres. We have the same story of progress wherever proper transport facilities are provided. As the Decentralization Commission pointed out some time ago, unless we can put every farmer within reasonable distance of a means of getting his produce to market we cannot hope for reasonable settlement. In New South Wales, which has a total area of something like 198,000,000 acres, ab.out 40,000,000 acres, or 30 per cent, of the total, have been alienated, and the area under crop or artificial grasses is only 2.63 per cent.In Victoria, where there is an area of 56,000,000 acres, only 57 per cent, of the land has been alienated, and only 10.164 per cent, of it is under crop; in Queensland about .2 per cent, pf the land is under crop. Yet in the United States of America 14 per cent, of the land,’ including the arid districts, is cultivated, and in New Zealand between 10 and 20 per cent.
A serious fact in regard to our land settlement is that we are not retaining our settlers. Sir J oseph Carruthers pointed out recently that, although 130,000 persons had taken up land in New South Wales, there were at the present time only 60,000 persons settled on it, and that to-day there were 6,000 fewer settlers than there were ten years ago. That, he said, was due to the want of facilities in the country districts.
– Do you not think that it would be due also to speculation in land?
– There has been a speculation in land,, as in other property. But when land is taken out of crop it is put into pasture, because grazing is more profitable. That should not be. Intensive culture ought to give better results than grazing.
– Still, the facilities for transportation have increased rather than decreased,.
– The improvement of means of transit and the advent of motor cars have made it easier for country folk to visit the cities on holidays, and it often happens that when a man has stayed at a city hotel, and finds that he has electric light, a water supply, and a good sanitary service at his command; when he has enjoyed the conveniences of the tramway system for getting about, and all the other comforts of city life, he says to himself, “ This is good enough for me,” and he looks for a city job. During the last decade or two it has been easier than it was to get from the country to the city, and country visitors to the city have contrasted the primitive conditions which they have left with those with which they have newly come into contact, to the disadvantage of the former.
– Then the more facilities you give, the more will population leave the country for the city.
– I thought that the honorable member was arguing that there should be more facilities.
– More facilities are needed, but the second great need is the improvement of the standard of comfort in the country. The monotony and drudgery of country life should be relieved, and its isolation removed. Man is a gregarious animal, and wants to meet with his fellows.’ The least he should be able to do is to talk with them readily over a telephone. One of the reasons why we are finding it difficult to keep men in the country, and to get them to go there, is that life is harder in the country than in the city. A discussion which took place yesterday showed that, notwithstanding that only a small percentage of the Crown lands of the State had been alienated, it is difficult to supply returned soldiers with land, and that some of these have been waiting eighteen months, and more, for a block.
– The establishment of agricultural communes would do all that you desire.
– I do not know that the solution of the problem is as easy as the honorable member suggests. I should like to see an experiment on his lines in some remote corner of the Commonwealth, so that we might judge his scheme by its practical results.
To settle our land, and to attract immigrants from overseas, it is necessary first to make the occupation of the land profitable, and, next, to provide dwellers in the country with a. fair approximation to the ordinary conditions of civilization. Under other circumstances, the population that we have will remain in the cities, and persons will not come here from abroad. Some 90 per cent, of those who came here before the war as agricultural immigrants stayed in the cities, because they found that they could make a good living there with less inconvenience than they would have had to experience in the country.
– Before bringing immigrants here, we should provide land for such of our own people as may want it.
– There is no reason why land should not be provided for our own people. If, instead of spending money on the resumption of big estates, the Governments of States like New South Wales and Queensland were to extend railways into districts where there are large areas of unalienated land, we could settle people in the country much more cheaply. It is absurd that we should leave 70 per cent, of an area like the eastern coastal strip of Australia, which is the only part of the continent where the rainfall is really good, unalienated and unsettled for want of facilities of transportation, and at the same time spend money on the resumption of land in the western districts of the eastern States.
– I challenge your statement that the best rainfall is on the eastern coast of Australia; it is the southwestern corner of the Commonwealth that enjoys the best rainfall.
– I am glad to be reminded that the district to which the honorable member refers has a good rainfall. .
– It is the party to which the honorable member belongs that is responsible for the state of affairs of which he complains.
– I am not concerned now with the apportionment of blame; I am trying to suggest means for the encouragement of immigration, and the settlement of the country, both by our own people and those from other lands. Agricultural development has been discouraged somewhat by the limitation of the profits of the farmers, and I was astounded yesterday when the representative ofa Sydney constituency moved the adjournment of the House to protest against the payment to the man on the land of a fair price for his produce, especially as during the last four years, in New South Wales at any rate, the rural community has been battling with Nature without securing any gain from its efforts, until the present season.
The work to be done for the encouragement of immigration lies in Australia rather than in London. What is chiefly needed is to make the conditions of land settlement attractive. Our climate is incomparable, and we should be able to give conditions equal to those obtaining anywhere else in the world, and thus secure the flower of the immigrants from other countries. If what should be done is done, the stream of immigration should set towards Australia so strongly that it will be difficult to find sufficient vessels to carry all that will wish to come here. We are told that it is possible to secure a great many immigrants in Great Britain; but the “ painting of the lily,” the “gilding of refined gold “ which takes place when Australian conditions are described by our immigration agents abroad, and the extravagant promises that are made by them, do more harm to us than good. The beet immigration agent we can have is the satisfied immigrant, who will write home saying that he has done well, and advising his friends to follow him. Only by creating a large body of such immigrants shall we bring about a big increase of immigration. Many of the immigrants who arrived here before the war enlisted. A large number of them had been engaged here in navvying and other pursuits, and had never gone on to the land. Some of these men told me that they did not intend to return to Australia, and were taking advantage of the opportunity to get back to the Old Country.
– Is it they who are now asking to be repatriated?
– No. On 1st October, there was a long article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, pointing out that men who. had served with the Imperial troops, and had been induced by extravagant stories of what they would gain to come to Australia were walking about thecity with the soles of their boots worn through, and their clothes threadbare, looking for, and unable to find, work. The newspaper said that we did not want men of the class to which these men belonged. But I say that we want men of every class, so long as they are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel, and will help to make this a prosperous, compact, homogeneous nation. I do not think that the ranks of any profession or trade could be overcrowded, or the work that there was to do diminished, by immigration. I know that when a doctor settles in a town in which hitherto there has been no medical practitioner, it is not long before there is an opening for asecond medical man.
To my mind, it was not necessary to send Senator Millen Home to look into the machinery for encouraging Britishers to immigrate; the place where we should spend money on the encouragement of immigration is Australia. In that opinion I am verified by the views which have been expressed by men outside Australia who wish to see this country progress, and who are looking for fields to which to send immigrants. Colonel Amery, Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, says that Australia is not getting the. best class of men, because she has nothing definite to offer, and that men are going outside the Empire - to Brazil, the Argentine, and other places,’ which offer definite advantages. The Officers Association, which has a membership of 30.000, and of which Earl Haig is president, has said, in criticism of Senator Millen’s mission, that Australia is putting the cart before the horse, and that men cannot be sent to settle here until definite propositions are made by this country. The Overseas Settlement Committee, which is a branch of the Colonial Office, complains that Australia only says that it wants immigrants, and that our actions do not support that statement; that of all the States that have been approached, Western Australia alone has shown itself prepared to do what is in its power to help immigration. These organizations have a strong financial and moral backing in the Old Country. Those who support them are anxious to see the ties of Empire made stronger still by the settlement in the Dominions of men who have proved by the part they played in the war that they are good citizens. They advise their members, and warn them against going where provision is not made for their reception.
– Is the honorable member blaming this Government?
– The success of our immigration efforts will depend, to a large extent, on a revision of our legislation.
– The Bill now before the House relates only to undesirable immigrants.
– I hope to move an amendment which will enable a provision to be inserted in it which will show for the first time in Australian history that we mean to encourage immigration. Our immigration legislation, so far, has all been in the direction of restriction.
– The Prime Minister has already created an immigration organization.
– We have to convince those on the other side of the world who are interesting themselves in immigration that they can safely advise people to come out here. In their opinion the Australian authorities in the matter of immigration are putting the “cart before the horse.”
– We are organizing within Australia for the reception of immigrants.
– For the first time, I suppose, in . the history of Australia it has been possible to get the State Premiers to think on the same lines regarding immigration; but nobody knows that next year we may not find the State Premiers against each other on this question.
– We hope shortly to see the whole organization completed in Australia, as between State and State.
– The State organization will have to be very different from that inconnexion with the settlement of returned soldiers, or it will be hopelessly inadequate. What is the position in England? There is ona eminently desirable class, which is recruited from the public schoolboys of England. In the past thousands of them have been limited to professions which are greatly overcrowded. Thousands have gone into the Navy, but many are now leaving it, and there are numbers of military officers unemployed. The result is that thousands of young men, many of them the younger sons of wealthy families, who have a thousand or two at their command, are looking for outlets abroad. They do not desire to waste their time kicking about Melbourne or Sydney, but would rather get to “work at once, and would, undoubtedly,, come here in large numbers, if they could see any chance of success. In the meantime, however, they see immediate openings in Brazil, the Argentine, and other places, and thus we lose a desirable class of immigrant. The Government should not only continue the work they are doing now, though it is, to a large extent, inadequate, but it should encourage private efforts which are made to provide the means of settlement under desirable conditions, and the promoters of which are content with fair interest. Before the war there was started in Melbourne an organization, the Australian Farms Limited, whose function it was to encourage immigrants with capital. The idea appealed so much to Lord Burnham and other prominent men iri England that they voluntarily became shareholders. The programme’ was to buy large areas of land - ‘Government land in certain instances - and employ the capital in making it ready with all the facilities for settlement. When suitable arrangements had been made word was to be sent home to the Overseas .Settlement Committee petting forth, for instance, that there was a place to settle 1,000 soldiers at £1,000 each. When we bring immigrants here we should not only settle them on the land, but train them and supervize them for the first few years, so as to make sure of their permanent residence here. Such organizations as I have indicated should be encouraged, but the only Government that has done anything in this direction is the Western Australian Government. Hitherto, the ordinary course has been for a man to come to Australia, go on the land, lose his money through his ignorance of Australian conditions or lack of supervision, and then to drift to the city and practically become one of the unemployed or of the casual labourer class. Some, of course, remain on the land, and, armed with the experience gained in their struggles, and aided by one or two good seasons, manage to win through. The Overseas Settlement Committee has granted £25,000 to assist settlement in the Dominions, and there are other propositions put forward simply from an Imperial and patriotic point of view. In the north of New South Wales and southern Queensland there are schemes afoot which would require £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to carry them to success, and which such private organizations would develop. But what is the position to-day? Money is so dear that neither the State Governments nor the Federal Government can devote money to developmental work. Money at 8 and 9 per cent, cannot be spent in such a way; but there are proposals to carry on the work of settlement in a comprehensive way without resuming estates and thus adding to the public burden of debt. Years ago there were opportunities presented in this direction; but the States have failed in their duty. If we desire immigrants we must follow the example of both Canada and America. How different is the action of Canada as compared with the action of Australia. Last year the Canadian Government had on exhibition throughout Australia a film showing the advantages of “ white coal “ or water power; and from my own district alone twelve men with their families emigrated to Canada as a result. New Zealand is spending £13,500,000 with the definite intention of providing, as a repatriation measure, every civilized comfort in the remoter parts of the Dominion. Australia, on the other hand, would appear unable to settle even her own returned soldiers.
– The Government here aTe afraid of the press.
– I do not know what the reason is ; but the time has come for us to cease our peddling methods. It is absurd to suppose that we can do all that is necessary by sending one man to
England; and spending from £60,000 to £80,000; we must take our eyes off the ground and see if we cannot find a guiding star. A national view of this problem would take into account, not merely the possibilities of manufactures in the city, but also the possibilities of manufactures in country districts. “What suggestion in this direction is made by the Australian Government? They have sent Senator Millen Home, and have done very little else. Certain proposals are made, such as the unification of the railways, an idea which I cordially indorse. That, however, would not increase facilities in new country districts, though it would improve facilities in existing districts. Then, there are the River Murray works, which are just forty or fifty years too late, and which would have been carried out long ago had it not been for parochial- jealousies and Inter-State friction. We must cease to rely simply on governmental agencies. We must make Australia attractive to capitalists and immigrants alike, as a place where, if a man acquires property, he may be sure that he will not be deprived of it. There seems to be an idea abroad that because a man is doing well it is the proper thing to set to work and fleece him.
– Free land,, free railways, no taxes!
– What I am objecting to is the desire there, apparently, is on the part of one section of the community to take the whole of the profits made by others. We ought, on the contrary, to encourage private enterprise in as many new directions as possible. In the past, it was, perhaps, necessary for the various Governments to acquire the monopoly of the railways, and to act as sole entrepreneur ; but now capitalists outside, and even inside, should be encouraged. If some guarantee is given that private enterprise will not be met with confiscation, or anything approaching it, capital will all the more readily be made available.
We have done , practically nothing since the war in the way of encouraging immigration. Much-needed information in this connexion would be afforded by a proper tabulation of the resources of the country. . This, however, is not possible until the country is divided into more /workable areas, and the only way to attain this latter end is- by’ means of a Federal Convention. During the last year, however, we have dealt with all sorts of business that might have been postponed, and have not made any provision for the holding of that Convention. Actions and not words are what count in the world to-day; and it is our duty in the interests of the progress of the country to see that we attract both people and capital to Australia.
.- I do not intend to delay the House, but I feel that on the second reading of this Bill I ought to express my disapproval of the fact that the Government have seen fit to continue to be vindictive towards the people of those nations with which we have recently been at war by providing in this measure that no person of German or Austro-Hungarian nationality may enter Australia within the next five years, or thereafter, until the GovernorGeneral, by proclamation, otherwise determines. This is another example of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has described as the pannicky, or, as I prefer “.to call it, the fanatical, legislation to which we have been accustomed in the last few years. The history of the world teaches us that the enemy of today may be the ally of to-morrow, or that the ally of to-day may be the enemy of to-morrow. During the Napoleonic wars we were allied with Prussia against France, and during the Crimean war we were allied with France ‘against Russia, while in -the war just behind us we were allied with France and Russia against a nation which had previously been allied with us. I am afraid that in the very near future we may find that one of the Powers allied with us during .the recent war may become a foe, and .when that day comes we in Australia will have need for every white man here, irrespective of the country from which his ancestors may have sprung. I am of British race, but I know that there are no people on the face, of the earth nearer to the English by racial ties than are the Germans. Yet this Bill classes >them with imbeciles, anarchists, and nihilists.
– That is incorrect.
– I know that they are dealt with in separate paragraphs, but they are both embraced in the one clause, whose purpose is to prevent the entry into Australia of not only imbeciles, anarchists, and nihilists, but also people of German and Austro-Hungarian origin. The only difference is that, whereas the prohibition against the ‘latter is limited to five years, or such further extended period as the GovernorGeneral may decide, the other class will not be allowed to enter Australia at any time. I hope that those honorable members opposite who a few days ago were talking of their friendliness towards people of German origin will resent this insult upon them, because it is an insult to them to class the people of the race from which they have sprung with the off-scourings of humanity. Not only is there a prospect that this Power which is our foe to-day may be our friend to-morrow, allied with us in fighting a foe which is our friend * to-day, but the day may come when it will be impossible to get immigrants from other countries, and we may be obliged to look to Germany for them. When that day comes, I can well imagine the German people saying, “ A few years ago you insulted us by classing us with imbeciles and the off-scourings of humanity. Get your immigrants elsewhere.”
Any person. “ who is apposed to organized government” is to be refused permission to enter Australia. What is the meaning of these words? Is “organized government “ the Government which happens to be in power? After what has happened in Australia during the past five years, I would not be surprised to find the Government straining the language of this provision to justify them in deporting some of the members of this House who are opposed to them.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– .The provision provides for the keeping out of any person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth, or of any State, or of any other civilized country, or of all forms of law, or who is apposed to organized government.
– But the provision is so worded that it puts persons who are opposed to organized government in a sepa rate class. This is a dangerous weapon to place in the hands of any Government, particularly one which, in my opinion, would not hesitate to use it for its own ends.
.- The Bill, so far as I can see, is identical with that which was submitted during the last Parliament, no effort, apparently, having been made to make it more acceptable to honorable members who voiced their opposition to it on that occasion. I do not say that I am altogether against the Bill, .because I look f forward to the time when it will be a very useful piece of machinery to deal with the very people who would put it in operation against the section of the community I represent. It proposes to prevent the entry into Australia of -
Any person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth, or of any State, or of any other civilized country, or of all forms of law, or who is opposed to organized government, or who advocates the assassination of public officials, or who advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization which entertains and teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph.
It would appear that the ‘Commonwealth is setting itself up as the guardian angel of all forms of civilized government, whatever “ civilized government “ may mean. Any one who presumes to advocate the overthrow by force or violence of a Government in any civilized country will be refused permission to enter Australia. General Mannheim, who was received in London with great eclat, would be excluded, because, with the assistance of the German White Guards, he succeeded by force in overthrowing the constitutional Government in Finland. It is a provision which can be utilized by another Government for the express pur- pose of dealing with the very friends of the Government now in power, that is to say, the persons at whom it is now aimed are not the only ones to whom it may be applied. I shall vote against the Bill on principle, but with this proviso always in my mind, that whenever the opportunity comes for the working class to utilize the machinery it contains, as honorable members opposite propose to employ it now against those who share my views, by excluding them from this country, it shall ‘be set in motion against those who to-day ‘are supporting . the Government. But it is a ridiculous proposition. The British Labour party have declared in favour of the establishment of an Irish Republic, while other people accuse the Irish of organizing a Sinn Fein Republic for the purpose of overthrowing the existing Government. The Irish themselves claim that they have their own legally constituted form of government. This Bill would, or would not, exclude the supporters of the Sinn Fein Republic, just according to the interpretation placed upon the wording of this measure, and that interpretation will depend upon the political complexion of the Government of the day. One Government might seek to exclude them. Another Government would welcome them as respectable members of society. The honorablemember for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has pointed out the absurdity of the words, “ who is opposed to organized government.” Has any one ever heard. of an unorganized government? Then, again, there is the phrase, “Admittance of. any . person who advocates the’ assassination of public officials.” That would imply that the Ministry are feeling rather nervous. The real reason for all this, and similar legislation, represents an effort on the part of the ruling factions in different countries to secure uniform machinery to deal with those people who, owing to the development of social unrest, threaten the institutions which are ‘based on the existing . economic system’. However, all such attempts are about as futile as was the command of Canute to the waves to recede.
Since I have previously expressed myself fully upon the main provisions of this measure, and as there does not appear to be anything fresh in them, I shall content myself at this stage by announcing my intention to vote against the Bill. I hope the time will come when the working-class people of this country will have the control of its affairs, and that they will then adopt the self-same attitude towards their antagonists as has this Government to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James Page) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council -
Financial year 1919-20, dated 17th November, 1920.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of J. Lyng, Home and Territories Department.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 220.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz.: - Erection of an additional telephone trunk line between Sydney and Melbourne.
Representations have been received from time to time from members of Parliament, Chambers of Commerce, and members of the business community of both Melbourne and Sydney concerning the delays and congestion of the traffic on the Melbourne-Sydney trunk line. The volume of traffic is such that, without an additional line, it is not possible at this stage . to relieve this congestion. Every line time-saving method that it is possible to introduce on the circuit has been introduced, but the delays still continue. It is necessary, therefore, to proceed with the erection of the line immediately. Theestimated cost of the new line is £37,000, and the financial position is as follows : -
From this it will be seen that, without any additional revenue, which will undoubtedly result when delays are reduced, the proposition to erect an additional line is financially sound. At the present time, many calls are cancelled owing to the callers being unable to wait for the call to mature. With increased facilities, however, the number of cancelled calls will obviously be reduced.
.- Were the charges for the use of telephone trunk lines recently increased, when charges inconnexion with postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services generally were increased?
– I do not think they were. These Inter-State trunk-line rates remained stationary, I understand.
– I believe that is the case. Why should business men who make use of the telephone trunk lines between one capital city and another get off without paying anything additional, when the poorest person in the community must pay 100 per cent, extra by way of postage on his letters ? The ordinary telegraph user is called upon to pay from 30 per cent, to 50 per cent, increase. The user of the ordinary telephone has had to pay increased ground rent, and something additional per call. But merchants who avail themselves of the telephone trunk lines are not affected by the general increases. I am quite aware that there is a difficulty in securing the use of trunk lines between Melbourne and Sydney, and that, very often, the delays involve hours. There is a great congestion of business, which warrants an improvement in the service. The wealthy firms should be prepared to pay for the advantage of an improved service.
– There is another matter in connexion with the telephone trunk lines to which I desire to draw attention. I refer to the charge of 2d. for the use of local telephones. ‘The payment of the trunk line charge is quite sufficient, in my opinion, without imposing upon the user an extra charge. These officials would make excellent cavalrymen - they can charge very well.
– That is not their fault. We make the regulations.
– The honorable member is in error. The officials make the regulations, and the Minister brings them down to Parliament. Frequently we do not know what has happened until it is too late. I hope the Minister will do something in this matter.
– I will consider the question of the extra charge.
.- As this matter is to be referred to the Public Works Committee, we are not likely to have their report until we meet again, which, I understand, will be in April.
– We hope to meet in March.
– I trust the PostmasterGeneral will take upon himself the’ responsibility of getting all the necessary material, so that when the report is presented there need be no further delay, because this matter is urgent.
– I know. I will do what I can.
.- -I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr.. Wise) is seeking authority to construct this additional line, which certainly is urgently needed. I also urge the construction of a number of other short trunk lines that are desperately needed. Another matter that should have the personal attention of the Postmaster.General is the regulations as to the area from the General Post’ Office within which the. “ favoured nations treaty “ regarding telephone charges operates. NeaT Sydney we have a district that will be very closely settled within a short time. Its population is increasing at the rate of 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, each year. It is, unfortunately, just a couple of miles beyond the arbitrary line drawn from the General Post Office, Sydney, and, as a result, if you want to call Sydney on the trunk lines on a Sunday, you must provide yourself with ten coppers.
– What suburb is that ?
– Cronulla. It is just outside the metropolitan area as fixed by the regulations. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) suggests, the officials, as a rule, make the regulations, and, unless the Postmaster-<General takes a special interest in them, they come to us as a matter of form. I point out that what may be suitable for Perth or Brisbane may be totally unsuitable for a city spread, as Sydney is, over a very much wider area, and with a population that has practically doubled since the regulations were made. I am glad that an effort is being made to provide better facilities in all the States, and”! would like to point out that, according to the accounts submitted to us, the Commonwealth , is contributing nothing to the Post Office revenue to-day. The profits last year exceeded the amount which this year is being devoted to new works; so it is not quite right to say that the people who use the telephones should be made to pay more, because, in addition to paying for the services they use, they are providing £1,000,000 more capital to be invested in the extension of the services. We have a right to see that every penny of this money is spent on new works, and that none goes into the general revenue.
– I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be struck out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ the Government take immediate steps to proclaim and pay the basic wage to the Federal Public Service.”
– Order! I cannot accept the amendment, as it has nothing whatever to do with the motion.
– It is a matter of very great importance, and if I cannot move this amendment, I shall have to take other steps.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz.: - Erection of a telephone trunk line between Brisbane and Sydney.
The .proposal is to erect a telephone trunk line between Brisbane and Sydney, in order to provide telephonic communication between those two cities. Representations have been made from time to time by Chambers of Commerce, and cer tain members of the business public in both Sydney and Brisbane, for telephonic communication to be established. So far as the Department is concerned, it is considered desirable that such a line should be provided, and there is no doubt that the line would have been provided in the past had the financial position allowed and material been available. The estimated cost of the work is £35,200. ‘ It is estimated that the revenue to be derived from this line during the first year will be £2,550; but in the second year this ‘revenue is anticipated to increase by 100 per cent. - to £5,100. The working expenses, including interest and operating cost, are estimated at £3,530. The total revenue required, therefore, to make the line financial will be £3,520. The. estimated revenue for the first year is £2,550, and the deficit for the first year £970. During the second and subsequent years, however, this deficit, it is anticipated, will be converted into a surplus of £1,580. The erection of the line is considered, from the financial point of view, to be justified.
.- I cordially approve of the motion; but I suggest that the Public Works Committee should be instructed to take into consideration the question whether the proposed telephone trunk line should not be taken along the coast rather than by the circuitous route through Wallangarra. The business connexions between the main portions of the route and Brisbane are fairly good, and I think more business would result if the line were taken as I suggest. I think, also, that both lines should be constructed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– (By leave) The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked for certain information to be obtained as early as possible concerning the results obtained by Royal Australian Navy junior officers and midshipmen in the recent examination held by the Admiralty. I am now able to state that telegraphic advice has been received at the Navy Office that the whole class of seventeen officers who were trained at the Royal Australian Naval
College, Jervis Bay, and who left Australia in January, 1917, to join the Grand Fleet (omitting two who were sick), have recently passed the gunnery examination at Whale Island, the principal Gunnery School in England. Out of a class of seventy-five Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy officers, the first three places were taken by the Royal Australian Navy, viz.: - .1st, Lieutenant W. L. Reilly, ]loyal Australian Navy (KM.); 2nd, Lieutenant John A. Gollins, Royal Australian. Navy ; and 3rd, Lieutenant J. C. D. Esdaile, Royal Australian Navy. The whole Royal Australian Navy class was specially commended by the Commanding Officer of the Gunnery School.
House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201119_reps_8_94/>.