8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Board that has been inquiring into the conduct of affairs at Cockatoo Island ? If so, does he propose to read it; and, if he finds that it is not satisfactory, will he consider the advisability of appointing a Royal Commission, consisting of members of this House, to investigate these matters? Does he propose to take steps to prevent the men there from being displaced?
– The report of the Departmental Committee was received a few minutes ago, and I have not yet had an opportunity to read it; but, recognising its importance, I shall read it during the day, and shall subsequently inform the House of the findings of the Committee, and, without hesitation, state whether, in my opinion, they are satisfactory and exhaustive, or such as, in the circumstances, should be accepted as final. If the findings are not of that nature, and honorable members are of opinion’ that investigation by a Royal Commission is needed, I shall not object to its appointment. As to the second question, I postpone my reply until I know what the findings of the Committee are. As what the honorable member desires would require the further expenditure of public money, it will be for honorable members to say, since the vote of this House has been exhausted, whether they think that more money should he made available. They will be given an opportunity to do that.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Home and Territories to bring in a Bill to give representation to the Northern Territory, either here or in the Senate?
– The matter is receiving the consideration of the Cabinet, and no decision has yet been come to.
– I ask the Prime Minister if ex-Senator Ready is engaged in the compilation of a work which is being subsidized by the Government? If so, what is the nature of the work, and the amount he is receiving from the Government?
– I see no reason why ex-Senator Ready should be treated differently from any other citizen, and any honorable member who can give areason for different treatment should state it I know of no work upon which ex-Senator Ready is engaged which is being subsidizedby the Government, but I shall make inquiries. If he is so employed, let me be told the particulars, and I will express my opinion on the subject.
– Can the Prime Minister now say when the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Bill will be introduced ?
– As I said yesterday, it is not the intention of the Government to submit any measures of legislation for the consideration of the House this session ; but, if the House expresses the desire for more legislation, who am I to stand between members and their earnest efforts ?
– Will the Prime Minister give an opportunity for the discussion of my notice of motion for the removal of the Parliament to Canberra after this session? A majority of members have requested me to get it brought on at the earliest possible moment?
– Democracy is a form of government which is beyond criticism by us, and it expresses itself in terms of majorities. If the honorable member has a majority behind him, all he has to do is to show that that is so.
– Give me the opportunity, and I will do so.
– A good majority, too.
– My attention has been drawn to the loss of revenue suffered by municipal councils through the action of the War Service Homes Department in taking up land and holding it, and not paying rates thereon. Cannot the Department arrange, in regard to the ordinary rates payable in connexion with such land, that the amounts involved shall be forthcoming for the benefit of the municipal councils concerned ?
– Any land owned or acquired by the Commonwealth for the purpose of the War Service Homes Commission is not subject to taxation by municipal authorities. But as soon as it is subdivided and placed in the possession of the soldier applicants the land becomes rateable property.
– Is the Minister aware that since the transfer of war pensions from the Old-age Pensions Department to the Repatriation Department officials, acting on the advice of a medical officer sent from Sydney to the northern districts, have either reduced or cancelled pensions which have been paid in many cases to partially incapacitated men, and in some instances to men who have been fully incapacitated?
– The whole question of pensions has received consideration by the Commissioners. There is a general review undertaken of the whole of these pension matters. There has been no direction, either by the Government, or by the Minister for Repatriation, or by the Acting Minister, to reduce rates of pensions or to cancel or to increase them. The subject is one which, by reason of its very nature, must be periodically reviewed.
– But pensions have been cancelled in the cases of men who cannot work and who have families.
– It is impossible for me to deal with individual cases in an answer of this description. All pensions rest first upon the matter of legal rights and then upon the basis of medical evidence, considered from time to time as the various cases are reviewed.
– Does the Minister for Home and Territories propose to take early action in the direction of bringing about a redistribution of seats throughout Australia?
– Honorable members are aware that a census was taken last Sunday. As soon as the requisite data has been furnished to the Electoral Department steps will be taken in the matter of the redistribution of seats. Officers of the Electoral Department have been informed in that direction, and I expect to get a certificate from the Chief Electoral . Officer at the earliest possible moment after the census has been compiled.
– Two cases of very valuable sculpture have been sent out to Australia by one of our leading sculptors. By some gross oversight, if not something worse, these cases have been left lying about for a year or more. This House, representing the Commonwealth, will surely offer courtesy to the artist who has made the presentation to us ; and as that sculptor is Mr. Bertram Mackennal, I ask what official is to blame for the gross carelessness displayed in the treatment of these two cases of valuable works of art.
– Ithink that question should be addressed to the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, two cases were delivered here, and have remained in the precincts temporarily at the request of an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department, namely, Mr. Shepherd, who informed me by telephone a considerable time ago that two cases had been consigned to the Government, and that the Prime Minister’s Department had no place in which to put them. Mr. Shepherd said that they contained statuary; and, since they had to be removed at once from the wharf, he asked permission to have them left temporarily here pending arrangements for their removal elsewhere. The matter concerns the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Then I ask the Prime Minister, in the interests of art in Australi a, if he will make inquiries and inform the House what officer has been to blame for this piece of gross carelessness.
– I will make inquiries.
– In the course of a statement made by yourself to the House yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you remarked that the clerical staff of the House of Representati ves cost £60 less to-day than twenty years ago. In view of that statement, will you take immediate steps to place the staff upon at least a living wage?
– I think I made it clear yesterday that, although the amount of salaries in the aggregate was less now than twenty years ago, that did not imply that there had been any reductionin the salaries of any officers of the House. Quite the contrary is the case.
– What about the high cost of living ?
– That factor has been provided for. There has been no complaint by any officer, so far as I am aware, on that score. There has been no reduction in the salary of any member of the staff. Many, indeed, have received increases. But the saving was consequent upon a re-arrangement of duties, and this did not involve any financial disadvantage to any particular officer of the staff.
– In view of the statement of the Prime Minister yesterday, regarding the intention of the Government to deal only with the Tariff this session, I wish toknow if the right honorable gentleman can give the House any idea of theperiod during the life of the present Parliament when it is intended to submit a Bill to provide for the holding of a Convention to consider alterations in the Commonwealth Constitution.
– I tried to explain that yesterday. When I spoke of the work of the session, I spoke in the language of hope rather than that of ex perience. I thought that this House would accept my words as an indication that as soon as it had finished with the Tariff it need not, unless it liked, do any more work until my return from England. But, of course, as I indicated in reply to another honorable member just now, if this House wishes to do more it may. The Convention proposal will be dealt with later on in the year. Whether that period may be regarded as in the same session, or as in another session, is not very material. Before the end of this year the Convention Bill will have been passed into law. At least, that is the intention of the Government, and it is one which will be acted upon. An election of delegates to the Convention will he held at the earliest possible moment in the new year, and the Convention itself will be inaugurated . immediately afterwards. When I stated that the House was to be asked only to consider the Tariff, I meant that that was all that we proposed to ask honorable members to deal with immediately. I said yesterday - and I propose to make a statement in regard to the matter this afternoon - that a Conference was to be held in London in June next, and that in view of that fact it was not the intention of the Government to ask the House to proceed with any further business except the Tariff. I would only like to remind the honorable member that those of us who were here when the last Tariff was under consideration have a somewhat chastened experience of what that means. The honorable member, perhaps, is more optimistic than we are. He is probably right, but as far as I can remember the consideration of the original Tariff extended over something like fifteen months. At all events it occupied our attention for a very long time. . I feel sure that the discussion of the new Tariff will not cover so long a period, and when it has been dealt with all the business that this House will have to deal with will be that which it deliberately brings on itself.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to insist upon the proposal for 70 days continuous training for senior cadets ?
– I replied yesterday to a similar question addressed to me by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden). I then referred the honorable member to a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and published in the press, in which he said that the consideration of the matter would be deferred pending the return of the Prime Minister from England.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The information desired is being obtained and will be supplied at the earliest date practicable, but owing to the large amount of work which the preparation of answers to some of the questions entails, it will be necessary to postpone a reply until a later date.
asked the Minister in Charge of Shipping, upon notice -
Commonwealth lino that have loaded fruit at Hobart during the present year?
– The answers to the Minister’s question are as follow: -
Adelaide Staff Vacancies
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As he has been successful in placing some of our wheat in Germany, will he try to do the same with some of our wool, and thus find a market for our primary producers, and open up trade relations with Germany, the same as has been the case for some time between that country and Great Britain and America?
– There is nothing to prevent wool or any other Australian commodity being sold to Germany. . The general question of resuming trade with Germany has been under consideration by the Government, and will be discussed at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is intended to arrange for the representation of Australia at the British Empire Exhibition which is proposed to be held in England in 1923?
– The Government are not yet in possession of particulars as to the date and scope of the British Empire Exhibition, which it is proposed to hold in 1923. I will make inquiries into this matter when in England; and, if it be decided that Australia shall participate, action will be taken to see that the representation is worthy of the country.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) asked the following question: -
In view of the fact that the Nairana has arrived to take up work in connexion with the Bass Straits mail service, can the PostmasterGeneral say how long the present contract has to run?
I promised I would furnish him with a reply. The following is the information sought : -
Five years, as and from 18th April, 1921, when the new steamer Nairana leaves Melbourne for Launceston on its first trip in connexion with the Tasmanian mail contract.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act -Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1921, Nos. 67, 68.
Oil-fields in Papua (Upoia) - Geological and EngineeringReport by Mr. J. Brown.
Public Service Act - Appointment of . T. S. Lipscombe, Department of the Treasury.
Public Service Act - Promotion of S. Rankin, Postmaster-General’s Department.
– (By leave). - I said yesterday that if public business permitted I would make to the House a statement in reference to a Conference which is to be held in London in June of this year, and to which the Prime Ministers of the overseas Dominions have been invited. It has been assumed by the press, and stated from the public platform, that this Conference has been called to consider changes in the Constitution. That is not the case. The Conference to consider alterations in the relations between the different parts of the Empire is to be held, possibly next year. The Conference to be held in June next is called to deal with certain definite matters, which I shall mention in detail. In view of the fact that it is not proposed at this Conference to deal with constitutional relations between the various parts of the Empire any lengthy discussion in relation thereto would be out of place; but, having regard to what has been said on the subject, some few remarks from me seem to be called for.
It would appear that those gentlemen who have rather severely criticised me for refraining to disclose what are my opinions in regard to the Constitution are profoundly dissatisfied with the Empire as it is. What they desire, if one is to deduce their intentions from their words, is to substitute for this structure, fashioned by time and circumstance, under which we have progressed and flourished - a structure empirical and illogical, but which is the most convenient and flexible ever conceived for the purposes of a free people - they, I say, desire to substitute a Constitution based on some logical plan which they themselves have devised. Precisely what that plan is we are not told, but if one is to read between the lines, they desire to create some sort of Imperial Parliament - although I admit they repudiate that suggestion - or, failing an Imperial Parliament, an Imperial Council, which, although, perhaps, not clothed with legislative powers, will have authority to deal with matters now entirely in the hands of the various Legislatures of the Empire. With these gentlemen I do not at all agree. It appears to me that they are entirely ignorant of the historical, geographical, and ethnological principles and circumstances of the Empire. They do not seem to understand that this thing which we call a Constitution - if we can apply so ‘definite a term to a thing so indefinite is, happily for mankind, not the work of philosophers or Constitution-mongers - has not been devised according to any plan, and has .developed, not of deliberate purpose, but haphazard. There never was a time when this so-called Constitution of ours was crystallized. It is now, .as it always was, in a state of flux. Its basic principles are the full and free recognition of the autonomy of the various parts of the Empire, and its complete adaptability to the changing circumstances of a -progressive people. If we -look back across our comparatively short history, and contrast our relations- with the Mother Country in the days of our infancy with those of today, we see great changes in form, but none in substance. As our circumstances have changed, as we have progressed, authority and power suited to our requirements have been given to us. There was a time when the handful of people who were settled in this country were governed by nominee Councils under the direct control of the Colonial Office. “When the Colonies had sufficiently advanced, independent self-government was granted them. Time passed, we grew from infancy to adolescence, and at last stood on the very threshold of manhood. With every .advance our powers of selfgovernment increased until at length, some twenty years ago, dignity and added authority’ were given to us by the Federal Constitution under which we are living to-day. During the five years of war our country progressed, and its circumstances changed more than in a generation of peace. In the supreme hour of the Empire’s trial the Dominions proved themselves worthy of their breeding. The whole world recognised -that they had put on the toga of manhood and become nations. The nations of the world recognised us as their equals, and we were admitted into the League on a footing of equality. If we look at the form of the relations between Britain and ourselves during the interval that has elapsed since Australia was first settled, we see considerable changes, but in substance out relation remains the same. In my opinion, no constitutional changes are. called for. Impartial history will record the f actthat the British Constitution is the supreme achievement of the genius of our race for self-government. History may be ransacked in vain to find a parallel. If I were asked what is, as it were, the legal tie that unites the British Empire I say deliberately it is the King - the Monarchy. I cannot conceive of a British Empire held together under any other form of government than a monarchy. The people of Australia ‘ would never consent to acknowledge as their ruler a President elected by the British people. The Monarchy is the’ constitutional principle which binds us together. Ties of race, of kindred, of common tradition, of language - all these, taken together go to weave that web which neither1 the storms of adversity nor the passage of time has been able to destroy. But if we are asked what is the material foundation of our greatness, what are we to say? Upon, what does this mighty Empire of ours rest? It rests, and always has done, upon the British Navy. As surely as we stand here this Empire of ‘ours would never have . been built without British control of the seas. By an all-powerful British Navy this Empire has been built up ; only by a powerful British Navy can it be maintained. I leave all further reference to the Constitution at this point, which is the most convenient for dealing with .the matters which are to be considered at the forthcoming Conference.
The Conference has been summoned to deal with questions of foreign policy, naval defence, and the renewal of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty. Certain other more or less subsidiary matters are also set out on the agenda-paper. One relates to communications, including wireless, between the various parts of the Empire, but I shall direct my remarks mainly to those matters which are of fundamental importance. I take, first of all, the question of foreign policy. The attitude of the Australian people towards -foreign policy before the war was one of indifference, partly begotten from our geographical circumstances and our remoteness from those centres of population which were, in the very nature of things, regarded by us as being most potent in directing the affairs of the world. And our indifference arose, too, from another cause. We had lain so securely sheltered under, the wing of the British 4Navy from the very day of die foundation of this country that not only did war, which devastated. and destroyed other parts of the world, pass’ us by unscathed, but even rumours of war left us unaffected. The very completeness of the protection which the British Navy ga.ve us was responsible for the fact that the Australian people took no heed of those things which vitally concerned other nations, bringing to them war, turmoil, and destruction, and those upheavals which have made history during the last 100 years. But the recent great war ‘changed those conditions. Circumstances, to which I shall allude later, have: now made it necessary that we shall take a keener interest in foreign policy. No one would have imagined that from the assassination of some obscure scion of a royal house .at Serajevo, war could have come to this sea-girt Australia, and to the whole world. If at that time you were to have put 100 Australians up against a wall and threatened .to shoot every one who did nob know where Serajevo was, I suppose you would have had to shoot ninetynine of them. Yet from, such an incident out of a clear sky the greatest war in history w.as let loose upon the world, and we, in distant Australia, were involved in it. It is a far cry from Australia to Belgium, yet but for the violation of the treaty of neutrality made by the great Powers with Belgium, a treaty of which the overwhelming majority of Australians were in entire ignorance, England, would probably not have gone to war on the 4th August, 1914, and if she had not gone to war the whole ‘history of the struggle would have been changed. As a result of leaving this country 400,000 of our young men have seen and learned many things of foreign countries, and their kindred have been naturally keenly interested in all the movements on that great -stage upon which our soldiers played so splendid a part. We have at length become alive to the fact that in the modern world no nation can afford to be indifferent to what other nations do, and that war may come upon us from the most unexpected quarter and upon the most trivial pretext. We cannot afford to ignore the foreign policy of other nations of our own Empire. Honorable members know very, well that from the. beginning the foreign policy of the Empire has been determined exclusively by Britain, and, very properly so, for if the Empire became involved in war, it was mainly on the shoulders of the British people that the burden of war fell; it was certainly upon them that the burden of preserving the security of the Empire fell, whether in times of peace or in war. This brings me to one of the subjects to which I desire to direct the attention of honorable members. Certain matters relating to the foreign policy of the Empire are to be considered at this June Conference. We have been invited by the British Government to take our part in the councils of Empire, and to express our opinion in regard to these matters which it is now clearly understood involve us as much as any other part of the Empire. I shall come later to a consideration of what phase of foreign policy most intimately affects us. At this stage I turn to the question which is so intimately related to it, that of defence.
To sea power we owe .all that we have - our freedom, our glorious heritage, the glittering promise of our great destiny. Prom the day Australia was founded to the present time we have been a free community, enjoying all those privileges for which the people of Britain fought for centuries, and, having achieved, applied to the varying circumstances of a worldwide Empire. There is no privilege or liberty that the British people enjoy they have not freely handed to us. And, securely sheltered under the broad wing of the mighty British Navy, we have been able to maintain those liberties and that freedom to develop our heritage and enjoy in overwhelming measure the blessings of free government. And, as I have said, all this - our wealth, our liberties - rests upon the broad and sure foundation of sea power. This brings me to the point to which I wish particularly to direct the attention of this House and the country.
Quite recently a statement was made by the British Government of a most portentous character, so far as Australia and the Empire are concerned. It was that Britain was no longer able to maintain the navy at the strength necessary for the complete protection of the Empire, and that the Dominions must do their share. ,We ought not to be surprised at this declaration, because during; the great war Great Britain incurred a debt of some £7,000,000,000 or £8,000 000,000. She is still staggering under the tremendous blows received during the conflict; she is exposed to the fiercest industrial and commercial competition; she is torn with industrial strife and internecine struggles. Her people are demanding, quite rightly, th”at attention should be paid to domestic reform, that expenditure on naval and military defence should be reduced. No exception can be taken to this from the stand-point of the British people, but what does this mean to Australia? We are 5,000,000 of people, we have a continent very rich and capable of almost infinite development, but within a few weeks’ sail of the great mass of the population of the world. We have boldly announced that we intend to retain this continent for ourselves, and we have set up the banner of a White Australia. The overwhelming majority of the people of Australia believe in this principle, but, in all the circumstances, it can hardly be expected that the overcrowded countries of the East can see the matter from our point of view. How long would that banner fly unless behind it there were massed the legions of the Empire, or unless ringed about it there was the protection of the British Navy? But we are now told deliberately that the British people can no longer maintain this Navy at a strength adequate for the defence of the Empire. To Rome there came a crisis similar to that which now confronts us. The Roman legions had invaded Britain and held it for some centuries, but the onslaught of the barbarians made it imperative that the oversea legions should be withdrawn in order to protect the citadel of the Empire. The Romans withdrew, and Britain was left to her .own resources with the result we k-now of. What can Austraia do? What is the Empire to do in this crisis? The position could hardly be graver. Last year we spent £3,352,000 or thereabouts on our Navy. It is only fair to Australia to point out that wehave spent on naval defence very much more than all the other Dominions put together; but our Navy is ludicrously inadequate to defend this country. We cannot defend ourselves. We have -not even a plan of campaign for the Pacific. Quite recently a conference was held at Singapore which the Admiral of the Australian Fleet attended, to consider the defence of that portion of the Pacific covered by the Australian Fleet and the China Squadron; but as yet no plan of operations has been agreed upon for the China Squadron of the British Navy and ourselves. Sir, we are confronted with a position grave in the extreme. What are we to do? What is our policy to be? We depend for our very existence on the maintenance of the control of the sea by Britain. Britain says that she can no longer afford to maintain the Navy at its relative pre-war strength, and .calls upon the Dominions to consider the question, and presumably to contribute their share. What are we going to do ? The Conference has been called to consider the question. Upon its decision rests the safety, the very existence of this Commonwealth, and, indeed, of the Empire itself. For just as the Empire was built up by and rests upon sea power, so will it wither and decay as that power slips from the bands of the British race.
In order that we may the better understand all that is involved in any policy insuring effective naval defence of Australia, it is necessary to consider a matter most intimately related to it. I turn, therefore, to the consideration of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. We live in a world which, thanks to the war, we know, or ought to know, very well. We are under no illusions. The veil has been tom from our eyes, and the purposes of nations have been revealed. One great menace to the safety of mankind has been stricken down and humbled; but will any one say that the war, which was waged to end war, has removed all danger of other wars? Has there been a day since the signing of the armistice, on the 11th November, 1918, when war has not raged somewhere?
I may be reminded of the existence of the League of Nations. I have never disguised my opinions of the League. Yet, because Peace is a thing so greatly to he desired, I have endeavoured, by inducing Australia to become a member of the League, to enable it to exercise that influence upon the counsels and acts of nations which its creators claimed for it. But what are the facts? The League was created to banish war by creating a tribunal to which the nations could appeal, substituting reason for force. Yet within two days’ journey of Geneva, where its Assembly recently sat, war was raging, in which two members of the League were involved. In the long list of resolutions of the assembly there is not the briefest reference to the fact that the thunders of war, which the League was to banish from the earth for ever, were shaking the earth almost at its very doors. If, then, any Australian is asked whether he will trust his fortunes to the League of Nations or to the sea power of the British Empire, will he hesitate for one moment in his answer? Let us not throw away the substance for the shadow. The war was to have changed many things, and has done so; but how deep does the change go? Has it changed the hearts of men? Do they now seek to settle their quarrels by anappeal to reason instead of to force? If not, the change is only skin deep, and war is still the one great dominating fact of national life. Long ago it was said by Marcus Aurelius, “Wouldst thou confer upon any country the clouds of war, then induce its Government to disarm.” Is it not clear that if we are to have peace, and that security which is essential to the development of our heritage, we cannot rely either on the League of Nations or on ourselves, alone? Are our resources and our numbers such as could in any circumstances insure adequate defence? “We must confess frankly that they are not. We speak at times boastingly - I perhaps have led the vanguard, in this. We speak of ourselves as a nation, and our claim to be recognised as a nation does not rest merely on our own assertion. For the nations have admitted us to their councils on a footing of equality. We are a nation. But let us notbe vainglorious or blown out with conceit. We are a nation only by the grace of God and the power of the British Empire. But for these our bouse, splendid and glorious though it is, would be as. a house built upon quicksands. If the British people asked, “ What is the Empire to us? Will it feed or clothe or help us? Let us look to our own affairs,” would they not be well within their own rights? Why should they spend their money to defend us? What do they gain from us? I do not ask what do we gain from them, because our gain is obvious. They might say, “ Let us look to ourselves.” A Navy incomparably smaller than that required to police this mighty Empire would suffice to protect Great Britain itself. But in that case what of us - I speak not of the other parts of the Empire but of Australia, which stands as a free nation on the foundation of sea power, and on that alone. At this Conference our circumstances and those of the whole Empire must be placed before the people of Great Britain. In these days much is heard of economy, and the outcry for it has not come too soon. But it is heard, not in this country alone, but in all countries, and is the natural consequence of the reckless but inevitable extravagance of the war. If Great Britain chooses to economize, and commences with her Navy, how will it go with us ? What shall we do?
I come now to deal more in detail with the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. This Treaty would have expired last year, but was renewed for twelve months, in order that there might be an opportunity for its reconsideration.
– There was no definite renewal. Would it not be correct to say that it was allowed to continue?
– It was allowed to continue; butit will expire.
– If notice is given. Either party may denounce it on the giving of certain notice.
– Unless the Treaty is renewed, it may be terminated on the expiration of twelve months’ notice, and that will be given if it is not renewed. I need not dwell 011 the provisions of the Treaty, because they are sufficiently well known to honorable members. In effect, they provide for joint action in the Pacific by Great Britain and Japan. What that has meant to us, and “what it means to the world at the present time, should be considered carefully by this Assembly. What it means to us is evident. If we were told that there was danger of war, we should naturally ask, from what quarter? Who threatens us? We are a peace-loving Democracy. Whom have we assailed, or whom do we threaten? ls any nation less blood-guilty than we? Every citizen of Australia realizes that the destiny of this country is to be played on the mighty stage of the Pacific. Therefore, when we speak of war and foreign policy, we speak of foreign policy in relation to Pacific problems and of war as it may come out of the Ea6t’. No man can deny that it is a thing more precious than rubies that we should have an alliance with the greatest Power in the East; and no man who was not a criminal, who was not utterly dead to the duty that he owed to his country, would do anything that might involve this country in war. So, when we are asked what the Treaty means to us, either in its present or any other acceptable form, we are to say that it means everything to us. For we should recollect that it is an alliance between that Power under whose wing we have been sheltered from the day of our birth till now, and that other great Eastern Power which has sprung up within the lifetime of honorable members of this House. So, in the face of these facts, if we are asked, are we in favour of a renewal of that Treaty, I take it .that, as Australians who want peace, there can be but one answer., we are. We must recollect that we live in a glass house. We must not forget, though we speak boastingly- and I am not chiding the Australian for so speaking, since he has much to boast of - upon what pedestal we stand. We must remember that our greatness is due - mainly due, at any rate - to our occupancy of a pedestal which is not ours at all, but which has been given unto us for a century or more by Britain. What are the chances of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty being renewed ? What are the difficulties in the way? These ave the questions to which I must now invite the attention of honorable members. It is perfectly well known that the Japanese - an ambitious and an intensely, passionately, patriotic people - have imagined that they have causes for quarrel, or, rather, of complaint, with ourselves be- cause of our policy of ‘ a White Australia. And, as we have seen lately, there has been much talk of strained relations between the United States of America and Japan. Now, in this last lie the germs of great trouble, the possibilities of infinite disaster to thi3 world. What is the hope of mankind? What do thinking men everywhere strive and pray for? Peace on earth. And how is this to be secured? This is no party question. I hope that every honorable member will express himself freely, remembering only that every word said here in relation to other nations is one which must be well weighed before being uttered. Words of counsel I welcome; words of warning, too; but not words which, lightly uttered, would make a task that is now sufficiently difficult, almost impossible. What is the hope of the world? As I see it. it is an alliance, an understanding, call it what you will, between the two great branches of the English-speaking peoples. Now, here is our dilemma. Our interests, our safety lies in a renewal of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty. Yet that treaty is anathema to the Americans. An honorable member at my right, t who dissents, has his own opinion ; he may be more intimately acquainted than myself with the viewpoint of the American people; I hope he is. We read almost’ every day of disturbing rumours of great navies, the world longing for peace resounds ‘ with the clanging of hammers, nations fervently building more and more war ships, and there is rivalry openly expressed between those two great nations, the United States of America and Japan. America has said that she must have the greatest navy in the world; that she must have a navy sufficiently strong to defend herself. To defend herself against whom? She has left the world in no doubt, or in very little, on this point. And these things concern and disturb us greatly. For we not only have no quarrel with America, but we have no quarrel with Japan. We have our ideals; Japan has here. There is room in the world for both of us. We want to live on terms of amity with all the nations of the earth. If I know the Australian people, they desire with all their hearts to concentrate themselves on those domestic problems which mean more to the people of the world than” anything else. “War is a curse, and we’ must do all things within our power to endeavour to prevent it What is the ideal at which we are to aim at this Conference, and elsewhere, by every means at our disposal? It is, as I see it, a renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty in such form - modified, if that should be deemed proper - as will be acceptable to Britain,, to America, to Japan, and to ourselves. That is the ideal. It may be said that is impossible. It may be. I do npt think so. When one comes to the alleged causes of the disputes between Japan and America, they appear to be trivial compared with the tremendous evil which war would inflict upon both nations. What do the Japanese want? They want the right to hold land in America, the right of entry for such of their nationals as so desire into the United States. What is our own attitude? For our attitude is very much like that of the people of the western States of America towards Japan. Indeed, any honorable member who,, like myself, has been to the western States, will say that for all practical purposes we view this problem almost eye to eye. What have the Japanese to complain of in regard to our treatment? First, let me say - speaking now, as I believe, as the spokesman qf Australia upon this matter - that we desire above all things to live in peace and friendship with Japan. It is utterly wrong for the Japanese people to think that because we have passed certain laws we regard them as our inferiors. We do not. We admire. their bravery, their splendid patriotism. We stand among those who are loudest in admiration of their magnificent achievements; for’ no other nation has advanced so far in so short a time. But, as I had the honour of telling the representative of Japan at the Peace Conference, while we were the friends of Japan, and while we considered them the equal to ourselves, we do not always invite all our friends into our house. We have our ideals; they have theirs. And I want the Japanese people to understand clearly that we, the Australian people, are anxious to live in peace and friendship with them. If they complain of any act of ours, I think they complain without reason. Let me remind them of their laws in relation to foreigners. No foreigner may hold land in Japan. Unskilled labourers may not reside outside the ‘foreign settlements, except with the permission of the Prefectual Government. For all practical purposes, the foreign labourer is excluded; and, under the provision to which I have1 just alluded, Chinese have been deported from Japan. Naturalization is extremely difficult, if not impossible, in Japan other than by marriage with a Japanese person. Japan reserves her coasting trade for her own ships. Our treatment of the Japanese will compare quite favorably, I think, with their treatment pf foreigners in general. We do not complain of her treatment of our nationals. We say, “ Those are our ideals. This is our country; Japan is yours. We shall” treat you with courtesy. We desire your friendship. We want to trade with you. But we cannot go any further.” The Japanese are so intensely patriotic that they do not recognise naturalization by any coun-try as denationalizing any Japanese. A Japanese, no matter what he does, cannot divest himself of his nationality. The patriotism of the Japanese could not be displayed in any more effective way. The admission of Japanese labour, the right to hold land: These are the main grounds of the differences of opinion between -.the United States of America and Japan. Do honorable members tell me that such matters as these are not captable of adjustment by peace-loving nations? Do they not rather tell me that it is the bounden duty of Australia to use every means at her disposal to effect such a modus vivendi as will secure a renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty in a form acceptable to Japan and the United States of America? Whether she is a party to it or not is not material so long as she does not regard the renewal of it as an unfriendly act by Britain directed against herself. For this is the dilemma in which we are placed. While making every effort to retain the friendship of Japan we cannot make an enemy of theUnited States of America. Nor oan Britain do so. We must steer our barque between Scylla and Charybdis. In some way we must attain the calm waters of port. That is the mission which, the representative of Australia has to fulfil.
I have put the matter to the House as well as I could, and even if I laboured it at greater length I do not think I could make it clearer. I hope that honorable members -will realize quite clearly that, treaty or no treaty, the power of the British Navy - whether it be an Imperial Navy to which we contribute sub’stantially or not - is the foundation of our greatness, the greatest assurance of the peace of the world, and must remain. If that- Navy should sink to the level of a second-class Power, then no treaty is worth the paper it is printed on. Seapower is the foundation, not only of our greatness, but of our very existence. Let the teachings of history guide your feet. Be not deluded by phrases or by vain , hopes. There is but one way by which this Empire has been built up, and by that way only can it- be maintained. As for the AngloJapanese Treaty, if we consider the question from the stand-point of Australia, and ask ourselves what we have to gain by its renewal, the answer is plain; we have everything to gain. If we cannot secure a satisfactory treaty, then it is obvious that any adequate scheme of naval defence will involve us in much greater expenditure, and this at a time when our resources are strained to the uttermost. As I have already said, there . is much cry at the present time about economy. This is -a direction in which economy can most hopefully look for success. A satisfactory treaty would lessen the expenditure of Australia by millions per annum. Failure would throw upon us obligations that I venture to say could hardly be shouldered by 5,000,000 of people.
This, then, is the position as I see it. It may be put in a more favorable light; but I have put it fairly, neither exaggerating the difficulties nor minimizing them. I have set them out so that men may see and judge for themselves just* where they stand. The question of what is adequate naval defence for Australia - I mean, of course, a naval scheme in which Australia co-operates with Britain, and not a scheme ‘ in which Australia assumes the 6ole responsibility, since that could not be thought of - depends on the outcome of this Conference. Oan we make such a satisfactory treaty with Japan as will be acceptable to Britain and America.? That is the point. One might easily say more than one should on this matter, but I think that I ought not. to have said less than I have. I have endeavoured to put the issues fairly, and I leave it to honorable members to say whether or not Australia should be represented at such a Conference. Whatever may be true of Canada - and, so far as I know, all the other dominions are to be represented - Australia has the most to lose and the most to gain at that Conference. Canada’s position is different from our own. We have a coastline nearly three times as great as that of the United States of America, comparing^ mainland with mainland, and, if we add her dependencies and include our own, the proportion is undisturbed. We are vulnerable on every side. Canada’s boundaries, on the other hand’, extend for 3,000 miles along the great American Republic. It is inconceivable that the United States of America should attack Canada. - The utmost good feeling prevails between the two peoples. Canada is vulnerable on only one side, because on the other the British Fleet is always within a few days steaming distance. We, however, are at the extremities of the earth, and nothing but a scheme of naval defence adequate to circumstances of the then existing ‘foreign policy , whatever that may be, will suffice.
If I am asked whether the Common- t wealth is to be committed to anything done at the .Conference, I say quite frankly that this Parliament will have the amplest opportunity of expressing its opinion on any scheme of naval defence that is decided upon, before the scheme is ratified. As to the renewal of the Treaty with Japan, this is my attitude, and I submit it for the consideration of honorable members: I am in favour of renewing the Treaty in any form that is satisfactory to Britain, America, end ourselves. I am prepared to renew lt in those circumstances. If it is suggested that the renewal should take a form which would involve the sacrifice of those principles which we ourselves regard as sacred, I am not prepared to accept it. In such circumstances, I shall bring back the Treaty to this Parliament. I think T have put the situation fairly, and since these matters have sometimes to be settled quickly, I want honorable members to say whether they will give me the authority I ask for. With regard to the expenditure involved in any naval scheme, the House will not be committed to the extent of one penny. The scheme will be brought before Parliament, and honorable members will be able to discuss, and accept or reject it. If honorable members say that we ought to accept the Treaty in any form, whether it involves the sacrifice of those principles in which we believe or not, I cannot agree; butI am prepared to agree to anything short of that.
I have a copy of the mandate given to us over German New Guinea and all the ex-German places south of the equator, excepting Samoa, and, in order to enable the whole matter to be debated, I move -
That the paper be printed.
– I ask that the debate be adjourned until Wednesday next. The matter is one of great importance, and such an adjournment would give honorable members an opportunity, before the resumption of the debate, to read in Hansard the speech just delivered by the Prime Minister.
– May I ask that some other honorable member should also express an opinion. I want to get the sense of the House as to what should be done
.- (By leave). - As an individual member, I think we ought to support the request made by the Leader of the Opposition for the adjournment of the debate. The speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has covered a wider and more important ground with regard to foreign policy than has ever been covered before by a Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I agree with the warning he has issued to honorable members to be temperate in thought and language in the discussion of these issues, and in order thatwe may discuss the question in moderation and temperance, I think the adjournment of the debate is essential. I have one suggestion to make. I do not think there is an honorable member out1 side the Government who has read the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, and if the arrangement made with the British Government will permit of it, I suggest that, between now and the end of the week, every honorable member should be furnished with a confidential copy of that agreement.
– Very well.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 6th April (vide page 7225), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That duties of Custom’s and duties of Excise (vide page 726), first item, be imposed.
.- Last night, when the House adjourned,. I was endeavouring to give honorable members my opinion, not on the merits of Free Trade versus Protection, but on the way in -which the Tariff as submitted by the Government will operate against the interests of primary . producers. A number of interjections then made conveyed some rather curious predictions as to my fiscal belief generally, particularly those by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) ; and I propose now to give an outline of that belief. I shall enunciate the principles which I. hold, and if the honorable member I have mentioned, or any other honorable member, labelsthem as Free Trade or Protectionist principles, that is a matter which concerns themselves. My chief objection to the Tariff as it affects the primary producers is not so much an objection against the policy of Protection. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), at Bendigo, loudly proclaimed that the Tariff to be introduced would be satisfactory to the manufacturers of this country; and, judging by approving interjections from representatives of wageearners, it seems that it will also be satisfactory to a large proportion of our workers. I repeat that I do not object to the Tariff so much because I disbelieve in the policy of Protection. As a matter of fact, with the situation as it is today - with varying standards of living in different countries, with some countries Free Trade, and some with high and some with low Tariffs - it is, in my opinion, expedient in certain cases to levy protective duties. The policy of Protection, towhich I do not object, is a policy which will protect the whole of the community. No doubt the Tariff will protect the manufacturers, who have every reason to be pleased with it, and it will also bring a certain amount of protection to the wage-earners against the cheap workers of other countries. But where does the primary producer come in? This Tariff completely ignores his interests. Those who are posing here as Protectionists are, many of them, only partial Protectionists.
– What about the driedfruit industry?
– That is a protected industry, and I approve of the protection given to it.. If the same protection were given to the other primary producers I would not have much more to say against the Tariff.
– The hop industry and the milk industry are also protected.
– I do not know to what industry the honorable member proposes to refer next, butthe prosperity of Australia really depends on the meat, butter, wool and wheat industries. When the War Loans, and subsequently Peace Loans, were being floated, the appeals made to Australia as a whole indicated quite clearly on what, in the opinion of the Government, the welfare of Australia is founded. On placards posted throughout the length and breadth of Australia, inviting subscriptions, we were not shown pictures of factories and* smoke stacks in the capital cities, but pictures of a flock of sheep, a herd of dairy cows, or a field of growing grain, and stamped across them were the words “ Invest: Australia’s security is behind.” It is as I say, quite clear what the Government had in their minds when they spoke of Australia’s security. It was primary production that during the war helped to a large extent to finance Australia; and it is the money from the wheat industry that is tiding the country over the present year. There is no doubt that the man behind the plough is the man behind the tax gun so far as Australia is concerned. The Tariff aims a blow at the primary producer; if it is going to benefit anybody it will not benefit him. As a matter of fact, the burden of this Tariff is going to fall on the shoulders of the very people who are maintaining the prosperity of the country to-day.
– And yet the Country party support the Government!
– The slogan of the Country party is that, when we are considering the various interests within Australia, agriculture shall come first. If we give protection to manufacturers and wage earners in the cities, we demand protection for country producers; that is the crux of the whole position. If manufacturers and their workers are given a higher return for the wealth they contribute to the Nation, we demand the same for the primary producer. If primary producers are to sell their products in the markets of the world, we demand for them the right to buy their tools of trade in the markets in which they sell their produce. If it be insisted that primary producers shall purchase their means of production in protected markets at protected prices, we demand for them a protected price for what they have to sell. We hear a cry in this connexion from those who are not primary producers, and peculiarly enough it comes from those who are Democrats, or who loudly proclaim themselves to be Democrats and representatives of the working men of the country. I have heard it claimed over and over again that, when there is a great wheat harvest, ‘or if meat or any other primary product is plentiful, it should be cheap. But if any honorable member on this side were to contend that because human labour is plentiful it should be cheap-
– There are some members of the honorable member’s party who advocate the closing up of factories in order to make labour cheap; they say they wish to smash the workers once and for all.
– I ask the honorable member to turn his guns on the individuals to whom he is referring, and not upon me.
– I do not accuse the honorable member ; but there are members of his party who to-day are doing what I say.
– If that is correct - and no doubt the honorable member believes it to be correct - I can only say I do not agree with such a policy, for my desire is to have fairness all round. I know the struggle in which many working people are engaged, because I have been through it.
– The honorable member is generally very fair, and I cannot see why he should attack the working people and not the Government, who are responsible for the Tariff.
– I am not attacking the working people, but have in my mind certain references that were made last night. I remind the honorable member that many of the interjections and sneers which come from members of the Opposition are frequently directed to honorable members in this corner.
– The honorable member is attacking the Labour party.
– Not so ; I am merely endeavouring to make it clear to the representatives of the working men of this country how the primary producers and workers in the country are hit by the Tariff.
– Then attack the Government.
– I do not think that the Government would accuse me of bestowing my blessings on them, particularly after some of my remarks last night.
– Can the honorable member suggest a way of making the parity complete between protection for the primary producer and protection for the manufacturer ?
– In my opinion, there is only one way. I do not believe that we in Australia can isolate ourselves, and ignore conditions in other parts of the world; we cannot create an earthly paradise in this great country of ours. There are some in Australia who believe that we should export all we can, and import nothing; and we occasionally have leading articles to that effect in a newspaper published in Melbourne. They expect other people to buy everything we have to sell, but we must not in any circumstances purchase from them. They do not seem to realize that no country can without limitation export more than it imports. There is such a thing as the balance of international trade.
– Does the honorable member suggests that that balance must necessarily be in goods?
– It cannot always be in money; eventually, it must he in goods.
– What about valuable securities as a means of balancing international accounts ?
– In the final resort those valuable securities represent goods in every case. I believe it would be better if the duties upon tools of trade made within the Empire for use in primary production could be purchased in the markets of the world free of duty. The wheatgrowers, wool-growers, butter producers, and meat raisers are prepared to take the world’s market rates for their produce if those rates are allowed to prevail in Australia in respect of their tools of trade ; but is it fair to forbid them access to the world’s market for the purchase of the means of production compelling them to pay Protectionist prices for their tools of trade, and at the same time feed the Australian people with primary products at Free Trade prices? My advice to the Committee is to strike out the duties on tools of trade used in that industry which has financed Australia in the past, and will always finance it in the future.
– Will the honorable member admit that it is necessary to manufacture those articles in Australia?
– I do not advocate that the whole of our tools of trade should be made outside this country. I would be content if local manufacturers would sell us our tools of trade at the world’s rates, but they will not do that.
– So the honorable member desires to bring down wages, too?
– I desire to bring down the wagesof the manufacturer to the same level as those of the primary producer.
– A primary producer was the only man who ever sweated me. He thought I was an escaped sailor, and offered me 10s. per week.
– That was because he was receiving only Free Trade rates for his produce. Has the honorable member ever considered what would be the prices of wheat, butter, and meat if the primary producers worked only eight hours per day, observed all holidays, received double pay for Sundays and holidays, and had annual holidays as all other sections of the community have, and should have? Under those conditions I wonder what the price of a 4-lb. loaf would be.
– If the honorable member had his way it would be about 2s.
– If the primary producer based the price of what he sells on the same basis as that used by the manufacturer in respect of his product the price of the loaf would be 2s. This question is vital to the primary producers. If they are to be compelled to purchase within Australia tools of trade at prices far exceeding the world’s rates, if this Comsmittee forces this Tariff through in the form in which it is drafted, there can be no alternative for the primary producer but to organize and fix the prices of his products in Australia, not at the export parity, as at present, but at the import parity. The policy I advocate is that the duties upon the tools of trade should be struck off - allow us to purchase in the world’s markets tools made within the Empire, and I shall be prepared to sell my primary products at export parity. But if you deny us the right to go into the world’s markets for the purchase of the means of production, and yet compel us to sell our products at Free Trade rates, you are asking of us something you have no right to ask, arid something which we will not do.
– With all due respect to honorable members of the Country party, I say, from my knowledge of a great number of the farmers in Victoria, at any rate, that they do not agree with the fiscal views which have been expressed by the two honorable members who have spoken from the corner benches. Amongst the strongest Protectionists in regard to agricultural machinery and . other articles are men who belong to the farming community. Apparently the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) have a very serious grievance against the Australian manufacturers of agricultural machinery because of the high prices which they charge to the primary producer. The farmers have shown in other directions a means of coping with those people who they say have acted to the detriment of their interests. Everywhere throughout the Commonwealth, both in respect of primary production and the sale of products from the land, great co-operative movements are afoot, which have saved to the producers millions of pounds by enabling them to conduct their own busi ness in their own way. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable member for Swan that if the primary producers are in the dire strait3 which he has mentioned on account of being fleeced by the manufacturer of agricultural implements, there is an easy way out of the difficulty. There are in Australia the. men who can manufacture for them the implements they require of a quality equal, if not superior, to that of the implements which come from abroad. If they are not satis fled with the present manufacturers ox implements, let them start factories of their own,- and supply their own requirements. They can in that way redress their grievances without trying to wreck a. great National policy which, notwithstanding the protests from the members of the Corner party, is beneficial to the primary producers in common with the rest of the population. From’ the quarterly summary of statistics dated March, 1920, I find that the number of factories in Australia is 15,421 ; the number of employees in those factories, 328,049; the wages paid, £38,379,000; the total value of the output, £225,000,000; and the value of goods in the process of manufacture, £79,500. If the policy advocated by honorable members of the Country party were carried into effect, it would be comparatively easy to close a large number of those factories, and’ thus throw a large number of people out of employment. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) knows as well as does any other man that once we break down our protective wall, and allow the importer to’ compete successfully with the local manufacturer, the wealthy combines in other parts of the Empire will, for a time, sell agricultural implements below cost in order to wipe out the local industry, and when they have achieved their purpose, God help the farmers, for they will “then be charged “through the nose,” and made to pay for the losses which the oversea manufacturer has sustained in knocking his local rivals out of the market. That is the position in which the honorable member and those associated with him will find themselves if they succeed in tearing down the Tariff wall which has been raised for the protection of the Australian manufacturer. I am not here to advocate the claim of the manufacturer. The fiscal policy of the
Labour party is New Protection, which aims at protecting the manufacturer at the port, the worker in the factory, and the consumer who buys the article. If the honorable member for ‘Wimmera wishes to secure a true and lasting Protection, he should advocate, instead of the removal of the Tariff wall, an amendment of the Constitution which would give this Parliament more definite powers to deal with the manufacturer, so that he may not fleece his customers. The High Court has ruled against that power on the ground of its unconstitutionality, but I believe that if the Ministry had any backbone, they could test that decision, when it would be found that this Parliament has power to fix the price of articles in the factory. That is a means of redress that will be more lasting and less dangerous than the wrecking of the National Protection policy of this country. Oan any honorable member name a nation that, during recent generations, has made forward strides by adopting an absolutely Free Trade policy? As a matter of fact, with the exception of China, there is no really Free Trade country in the world. Canada and the United States of America have shown marked improvement since they adopted the policy of Protection. Therefore, I would ask my friends opposite not to be so persistent in their effort to bring about in this Tariff that which in the long ran would cause injury to themselves. I spent my early life on a farm. At that time the farmer used a reaping machine. One man was required to drive the horses, ai.d another was employed at the back of the machine tipping the corn off the board. Following the reaper same a long list of binders to bind the corn into sheaves and pile them in stooks. Then others were needed to cart the sheaves from the stooks to the stacks. Afterwards the thresher with his threshing machine and his fifteen or twenty employees proceeded to turn the corn into a marketable state. The whole process was a most expensive one. What happens to-day? With a good team of horses and a good harvester the whole of th<) work is done in one operation. Compared with thirty years ago, farming operations can be carried out ten times as cheaply, and this is largely owing to the f:u-t that the manufacturers of Aus- tralia and the employees in Australian factories have invented, made, and brought into use machinery which enables the farmers to carry out their operations in so simple a f ashion and at such a reduced cost. Surely these men are not always to be regarded as enemies of the farmers? Surely those who have invented agricultural implements and so improved them have done as much for primary production as have ‘the men who have sown the grain and reaped it. I would like to prevent the operations of those who carry on nefarious practices by overcharging the farmers who purchase their machines, but there is a method by which that can be done. By an amendment of the Constitution Act this Parliament should be given the right to protect the worker as well as the .manufacturer by putting into practice the. new Protection ideal, which is a plank in the Labour platform. Apart from my earlier experiences, I have moved among farmers in recent years, and at their annual meetings I have been assailed by them for my protective principles. Invariably my reply has been what I said to one man who stood up as a stout Free Trader. After letting him go for some time, I said, “You have sons?” He said, “Yes,” and told me he had four. Thereupon I asked him to state in the presence of others who were there whether he expected all of his boys to follow ‘him on the farm and become farmers. “No,” he said, “ I can see already that there are two, if not three, of them who will not become farmers, but have an aptitude for some other occupation.” I said, “If you intend to carry out your Free Trade policy, which <means _ practically wiping out the manufacturing industries of this country, what scope will there be for the aptitude of those boys, and what opportunity will they have in their after life to provide for themselves and those who are dependent upon them?” I pointed out that there were thousands of farmers’ sons employed in various factories. If I could go into the Sunshine harvester works or the Newport workshops, or any other big industrial concern in Melbourne and assemble all the employees just’ to ask them one question, “How many of you are farmers’ sons?” up would go a forest of hands. Why are they there? Because the farmer’s lad, when only a boy, said to his father, “ I am not cut out for this game, I do not wish to be a farmer. I prefer to be a blacksmith, because I think I would be a good blacksmith.”
– Yes, because it is easier work.
– It is not easier work. More sweat drops fall from the blacksmith than from the farmer. But honorable members know that these are the facts. Do they propose to close up all the avenues of employment for these farmers’ sons, who, if left on the farms, might make an awful mess of the calling, but might make a great success in life if allowed to follow their natural bents and become blacksmiths, carpenters, and so on ? Diversity of employment and variety of occupation are the outstanding features of nations that have made strides in history or become important from an industrial point of view. I did not remain on the farm. My mother apprenticed me to a trade; but when I had served my time I wasobliged to come to the city to follow my calling. I would have preferred to remain near my people, and I asked to be given a journeyman’s wage; but my employer said, “No; we will struggle on for a time, and put two boys in your place.” Some farmers’ sons have no possible chance of settling in country districts. Of course, I recognise that one of the great evils of Australia is the fact that there is too great a concentration in our capital cities, and as long as I remain in this House I shall assist the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and others in endeavouring to provide every facility that will induce people to remain on the land. But honorable members sitting in the corner are on the wrong track if they seek to do this by pulling down the Tariff wall. Those who desire to see the industries of Australia reduced to ashes are a menace to the country. It is all very well to talk about purchasing agricultural implements within the British Empire, but if the Farmers’ party could induce the Government to accede to their request and reduce the protective duty on some of the implements they wish to purchase, there would be great rejoicing among the farm ing implement manufacturers of Canada. These gentlemen know that, with the immense sums of money they have at their backs, they could very soon squelch the Australian manufacturer, and then start out upon a splendid expedition with the object of fleecing the primary producers of Australia. I know some of these men who pose as friends of the primary producers. They have been quite prepared to sell their implements to the farmers at a loss until opposition has been knocked out, and then up has gone the price. What did we pay for our reapers and binders before a duty was imposed? The Canadian firms and some English manufacturers had then a practical monopoly of the sale of these implements in Australia, and made farmers here pay through the nose for them. But their prices speedily came down when local manufacturers commenced operations. I warn the fanners’ representatives in this House that what they are seeking to do will be very detrimental to the interests of the people they represent, because if we close up these avenues of employment to the large numbers of young people in the country districts who are not prepared to become farmers, we shall be doing something very disastrous to the community generally. Does the honorable member for Cowper believe that there is any better customer for the Australian farmer than the Australian himself? The hundreds of thousands of people employed in the factories are the very best customers the farmers could have, and the better wage they are paid the more money they have to spend on purchasing what the farmer produces. If, on the other hand, they are thrown out of employment through the closing up of industries, they must seek work in some other country. No better inducement could be offered to them to leave Australia. The best inducement to offer to people to come here, or to stay here, is to provide them with remunerative employment. But that cannot be done if our industries are closed up.
– To what industries does the honorable member refer ?
– I am referring particularly to the manufacture of agricultural implements.
– How did the Australian manufacturers manage during 1914 under the old Tariff? They built up the finest business in Australia.
– I suppose that during the years of the war there was very little coming here from outside Australia.
– But during that same period the Australian manufacturers established themselves in the Argentine trade.
– I hope that the new Leader of the Farmers’ party will have his facts better than that. The Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements have been established in the Argentine trade for the last ten or fifteen years .
– Is the price of agricultural machinery fair at the present time?
– I do not say that it is, but the policy of the Labour party is to protect, not only the manufacturer, but also the worker and the consumer. The honorable member for Cowper is a very strong advocate for the amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution Act.
– That is so.
– Therein lies the remedy for the producers. Let the people give the Commonwealth Parliament the power to deal with those persons who charge excessive prices for agricultural implements or anything else, and they will have done their duty by the producers.
– What is the price in America for Australian-made harvesters in comparison with the price paid here?
– I think it is very much higher.
– A lot less.
– Then it has changed considerably very recently.
– They cost about £75 there.
– They cannot be bought for that price.
– Are you certain that the American prices are not much lower than the Australian prices?
– I am pretty certain that they are higher. The war taught us many lessons, and, before all, that we were not a self-contained community. We suffered because we had to rely so much on other countries. Therefore, it behoves us now to set ourselves to manufacture into finished articles the wool, cereals, metals, and other raw products of the country. If honorable members were in earnest they would pass legislation and would establish educational propaganda which would bring into being factories for the manufacture in Australia of all the woollen goods, of all the steel goods, of all the cement, and of many other things that we require. If that were done, not only should we not have a man or a woman unemployed, but we should have to increase our population.
– Every one would then be living in the cities.
– No. In Victoria woollen mills are being established in provincial centres, and turn the raw material at hand into the finished article.
– What do you say about the price of wheat?
– Had the true interests of the farmers been studied, instead of the price of wheat being fixed at 9s. per bushel for one season, there would have been a steady level price for a number of years. That would have assisted production.
– What price?
– If for five years the Australian farmer were guaranteed 6s. per bushel for all the wheat locally consumed, he would be better off than he is with a guarantee of 9 s. per bushel for the present season, and perhaps 3s. 6d. per bushel next year. If you provide for producers a consistent’ and profitable market over a series of years, you give them what they need.
– The man on the land should not have to carry the baby all the time.
– What would happen if wheat could be imported for less than 6s. per bushel?
– The farmer is entitled to fair wages just as any other man is, and if the price of wheat were fixed at 6s. per bushel, there would be no departure from it, so far as I was concerned at any rate.
– Who would pay it?
– Who pays the present price ?
– Not the Government.
– A country overflowing with raw material should manufacture its own requirements. But nearly £100,000,000 worth of goods are imported into Australia annually, though 75 per cent. of that importation could he made locally out of our own raw materials. Yet members of the Country party are prepared to tear down our low Tariff wall.
– Name them.
-The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) have in this debate declared their fiscal views. The merits of Protection are beyond controversy; and I am surprised that there should be in politics men who have the audacity to advocate for this community any measure of Free Trade.
– No one has done so.
– You are revenue-duty men, moderate Protectionists, or moderate Free Traders; mere rail-sitters.
– They wish to prevent the manufacturers from robbing the country.
– Has any section of the community been more spoon-fed than the primary producers?
– Those in Western Queensland have not been spoon-fed.
– I know that in Victoria money has been expended freely in teaching and helping the man on the land.
– He is the backbone of the country.
– I do not deny that. I wish to see the primary producers increased; but when it is contended that nothing has been done for them, I say that many primary industries would not havecome into existence had they not been fosteredby bonuses. The butter industry is an example. We have also done much for our farmers by our experiments in regard to wheat.
– The late Mr. Farrar did more in that direction than any one else.
– Mr. Pye, in Victoria, has also done good work. He has bred many a wheat that has become a standard. If you, Mr. Chairman, could speak in this debate we should doubtless hear much from you as to the way in which the producers of theRiverina district have benefited by our protective policy.
Commonwealth and State Governments have stood by the primary producers as much as, if not more than, by any other section of the community. To say that nothing has been done for the primary producers is to deny the facts of history. But our farmers’ sons need employment, and some of them wish to enter occupations different from that of their fathers and brothers. Would you deny them the opportunity to do so? The men in factories in the capitals and provincial centres are the customers of the primary producers, and local customers are always the best.. The more workmen we have in our factories the greater the local consumption of primary produce. Yet some would, at one fell swoop, destroy factories that provide a great deal of employment.
– No one has suggested such a thing.
– If you take off the duty on agricultural implements you destroy the agricultural implement making industry.
– And if you make these implements too dear you ruin the farmers.
– I have my own method for bringing to book manufacturers who charge too much.
– The Constitution will not permit that method to be used.
– There is nothing to prevent the primary producers from making their own agricultural implements.
– Why not deal with the amendment of the Constitution before the Tariff?
– I am prepared to join with the honorable member next week in securing an amendment of the Constitution without waiting for a Convention. It is Parliament that should be responsible for the submission of amendments to the people. The calling of a Convention will mean delay and expense. Protection has done a great deal for this country. I do not defend those who in a sense rob the producers, but I do not admit that the man on the land is the only producer. The man who helps to make agricultural implements for the farmer is as much a producer as the farmer himself, and entitled to protection. The war showed that Australia should be as nearly as possible self-contained. Yet there are people who have not learned this lesson, and who would pull away the props of our industries. They would have within the Empire an open market for agricultural implements. That would mean the destruction of an Australian industry, and, subsequently, our producers would suffer for it. Importers have never sold their goods cheaply until they have had to face the . competition of local manufacturers. The honorable member for Wimmera made a song about the Labour party being allied with the manufacturing capitalists; but the honorable member’s party are associated with the worst profiteers that the country has known - the importers of Flinders-lane. They wish to knock down the Tariff wall, and to import from cheap labour countries. If any one goes into a Flinders-lane warehouse and seeks to buy an imported English tweed and a tweed manufactured in Australia, the quality of each being the same, the imported article will be found to be shillings dearer. The importer fleeces the purchaser, and so will the importer of agricultural implements, given the opportunity, also fleece buyers; and I would say, “A jolly good job if the man on the land is fleeced, seeing that his representatives here are desirous of wiping out h”:s only means of protection.” If the farmers’ representatives are going to pull down the Tariff wall they will be associating themselves with a set of men who are among the greatest profiteers in this country, namely, the importers of Flinders-lane. Those people want to do just what the’ honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Wimmera are desirous of bringing about. I express the confident opinion that this House, including some of the one-time Free Traders, would have too much sense, in view of the experience of the war period, at any rate, to think of wiping out our protective duties. We are going to protect the farmers, but not in the way that those of their representatives’ here who have so far expressed themselves would do. I stand to-day, as I did at the time of my election in 1910, as a New Protectionist: I would protect the manufacturer at the port, the worker at the shop, and I would protect the consumer. There is only one way in which to do that. I believe, in the light of the recent all-im-
Mr. Fenton. portant decision of the High Court, that we could do so under the present terms of our Constitution. If we were to pass a measure to-day giving power to the Government to appoint a Board, which would see that excessive charges were not made for agricultural machinery, we could grant requisite protection under the existing Constitution. . Prior to the recent -decision of the High Court we did not think that we could give relief in such a manner. And, even if it should be shown now that we cannot, the Constitution should be amended and the farmer protected against fleecing importers of his implements. It is about time that some of the farmers outside, who are staunch Protectionists, were made aware of what their representatives in this Chamber are now seeking ito do.
– The honorable member does not “ cut any ice “ with them.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) is so biased that all he does is to dance a jig on a grain of wheat, and there he sticks all the time. He can go and see no further. I assure him that there are other industries in the land beside that of wheatgrowing. I am as much interested as is the honorable member in securing for the farmer agricultural implements at reasonable prices, and in seeing that production in Australia is increased. But I fail to see that his panacea will relieve the situation at all. He would only make it worse. Instead of keeping the people in the country, his ideas, if they were given force, would have the very opposite effect. They would close our factories and make Australia dependent on outside sources for supplies. If any fresh great crisis were to occur, where would we be then? The honorable member made a great mouthful of the word * home.” I look at that word, and all it means from the point of view both of the primary and of the secondary producer. I maintain that the man who’ helps to make agricultural implements is as much a primary producer as the roan who grows wheat with the aid of those implements. I trust that we shall build up a Tariff for the protection of Australia which will be conducive to the firmer establishment of existing industries and will give wide fields of employ- ment by means of newly-established industries, so that Austrafia shall become, indeed, a golden land both for the diversity of its sources of employment, and the variety of its industries; a land wherein every section shall thrive, as they have done in nearly all the leading countries of the world where the policy of Protection has prevailed.
.- I have been interested in witnessing the burning to ashes of the various industries of Australia by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I have listened with interest to his charge that the party to which I have the honour to belong desires to destroy Australian manufactures. At the outset, on behalf of my party, I give emphatic denial to such an accusation. Whatever opposition may be shown by members of this party to the imposition of a the Tariff, it will not be with the intention of putting any of the workmen of Australia out of employment. Such opposition will be demonstrated, rather, against political pressure being brought to bear in behalf of certain vested interests in order’ to continually bump up prices against the best interests of the 1 community at large. Here, I wish to say that if any manufacturer of any kind of implement, whether for agricultural use or otherwise, cared to bring before us indisputable proof, and were to lay his books open for confidential inspection in support of his claim that Protection, up to a certain degree, at any rate, was necessary to the welfare of his industry, this party would be most willing to assist inaccording such a degree of Protection as would enable him satisfactorily to carry on. There are certain lines of duties which, while they were previously fixed at specific sums, have now become ad valorem; they are either ad valorem straight out or alternatively, whichever is the higher. It- should not be forgotten that there is a remarkable difference between an ad valorem duty imposed in 1914, or in 1911, or 1908, and an ad valorem duty fixed at the present time. That difference lies in the fact that the purchasing power of money to-day has enormously decreased. The unit figure at this time would be something over 200, where it would have been 100 about five or six years ago. An ad valorem charge, while nominally the same to-day, provides: an infinitely greater degree of Protection than it would have appeared to do six years ago ; because as has been the experience following upon all great wars, we are on the eve of a slump ; ‘ but this will be an unprecedented slump so far as concerns the price of raw materials. The depression is bound to last for three or four years at least; and, while it continues, the people of Australia will be burdened, if the present Tariff is continued, with rates of duty which, upon the ad valorem scale as it now stands, will prove doubly hard. I was much struck, when perusing the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), to notice certain terms, first, as they were used by the Prime Minister (Mr, Hughes) in his Bendigo speech with regard to the introduction of the Tariff, and the general terms employed by the Minister for Trade and Customs himself. It is remarkable that Mr. Hughes said the. Tariff would prove satisfactory to the manufacturers of the Commonwealth ; that it would protect industries born during the war, while encouraging others which were desirable; and that it would diversify and expand existing ones. There was no mention, however, of the oldest industry of all, namely, the agricultural industry.
– The honorable member cannot say that as regards my speech.
– I will deal subsequently with the matter of the amount of incentive offered to primary industries by this Tariff. Years ago, when the fight occurred between Free Trade and Protection in England, the struggle was not over the Protection of manufactures, but was waged upon the principle of Protection or Free Trade as applied to primary products. It is strange to-day that, in an Australian Protective Tariff there should be .no mention of anything except manufactures. We have in this country some industries which are not productive of quite sufficient to meet our requirements, and we import what is necessary to fill those needs. These industries require assistance to enable them to carry on adequately. At the proper time, I will deal with the measure of Protection which I maintain should be meted out in such circumstances. The Tariff should be an instrument of government to apply equally all round, and which should encourage both primary and secondary industries. It is the encouragement of primary industries that is most essential of all, because, without the production of raw material, there can be no secondary industries established. Under present conditions, the various Tariffs which have been imposed in the Commonwealth have not succeeded in doing this. Of themselves, duties imposed thereunder are, apparently, noi sufficient, because there is a continual exodus from the country to the cities. Production in the country has actually decreased in the past ten years, as regards primary production, to the extent of some 15 per cent.
What is necessary in addition can be illustrated with regard to copper, which is- practically a primary product and basis for other manufactures. . We produce something like 40,000 tons per annum, but only about o.ne-tenth of this is absorbed by Commonwealth industries. The surplus is exported.
– We used to send it to Germany, and get it back in a manufac-
– That is so. I propose to show how the duty on the initial product operates against manufacturers .while being of little use to itself in the secondary industries in which copper is employed. To those engaged in drawing copper into tube, wire making, and so forth, we give a certain measure of Protection, say 25 per cent. ; but by reason of the fact that we add 10 per cent, to the price of the copper they have to use* - although producers of copper tell me that they really do not need a duty because thu bulk of the product has to be exported - we lessen to that extent the Protection against foreign manufactures from the basic product of the secondary manufactures, making it practically only 15 per cent. The producer of copper here gets the world’s parity, plus 10 per cent. _ “
– I think the honorable member is wrong in suggesting that the local producer gets 10 per cent, above world’s parity.
– He gets the additional 10 per cent, represented by the duty, and adds freight and other costs. I only instance this item as show ing clearly that the mere imposition of a duty is not the only means of encouraging an industry, and . especially primary industries of the character I have mentioned. I am not speaking in. a narrow sense, nor has any honorable member of our party done so, in asking for the removal or reduction of duties on tools of trade and agricultural implements.
– The honorable member thinks that the tools of trade of all industries should be free of duty?
– We think that, in many instances, they should be free in order to assist and encourage the establishment’ of industries here. There must then be methods of encouraging primary industries, and especially the agricultural and pastoral industries, other than by the imposition of protective duties. Such industries may be assisted by means of bonuses, not necessarily in cash, but in the form of substantial facilities which will enable their production to be increased: The Minister, in introducing the Tariff, spoke of subdividing into small blocks land 40 or 50 miles from a railway line, and making it productive j but no one knows better than he does that it would be useless to subdivide land so situated, and try. to make it productive, without providing facilities to carry its produce to market. It is interesting to note that while this Tariff provides for bonuses or duties to encourage the production of pig iron, it does not provide for bonuses or duties to encourage the production of pigs.
– There is a duty on bacon.
– That may he; but when there is a shortage of bacon, no Ministry has courage to enforce it. Some time ago the honorable gentleman, when Minister in charge of price fixing, took action to encourage the production of carbide, and spoke rightly of the encouragement of natural industries; yet three or four years ago he proceeded to fix the price- of beef. If there is one thing more than another that has discouraged primary industry in Australia, it is price fixing. We have to-day a Protectionist House. Both the Nationalist party and the Labour party went to the country on a straight-out high Protective policy, and something like twelve months ago the Government brought in this Tariff, which was undoubtedly designed not so much to provide Protection as to secure revenue. The duties in this Tariff were purposely made high, so that they could stand reduction, in the belief that during the necessarily long time that would elapse before they could be discussed, and finally dealt with, they would yield a very large amount of revenue. That, no doubt, is good business from the point of view of the Government. In this admittedly Protectionist House we have a continuous clamour on the part of the Labour party for high duties, and at the same time for cheap bread. Honorable members opposite are anxious for the imposition of high duties which will enable big revenues to be collected. They appreciate the fact that if local manufacturers, as the result of the Protection afforded them, increase their prices to just below those at which they can be undersold by the importers, the general public - not merely the primary producers, but the people as a whole - will be at a loss to know where to look for the actual cause of high prices. Pitt, something like 150 years ago, pointed out that by means of indirect taxation it was possible to tax the coat off a man’s back without his being conscious of it. And that is what is happening under this Tariff. A man so taxed wonders what is responsible for high prices, and does not know who to blame. Yet the same members object to pay world’s parity for foodstuffs.
I agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs that in order to enable real encouragement to be given our primary industries the Commonwealth Parliament must be given additional powers. It should have, for instance, power so to control primary industries as to encourage and increase them. One of the first steps to be taken with that object in view is that of liberalizing the conditions under which our rural dwellers live. Especially should we liberalize their postal, telegraph, telephone, power, and transport facilities. There is also open to the Government a splendid opportunity to encourage and increase our primary industries by liberalizing the systems under which the perishable products of the farmer can be transformed into imperishable products capable of being retained for a relatively long time and so rendered independent of market vagaries. By the conversion of our starch into glucose, our potatoes into flour or starch, and the canning of our fruits we would render such products practically imperishable; In thisway many perishable products could be made fit for use even twelve or eighteen months after production; the market prices of the product would be stabilized, and ultimately the consumer also would be helped, since the waste which follows every glut at the present time would be avoided. Every one knows, for instance, what occurs when we have a good season for potatoes. In the Clarence River district this season, owing to the want of such facilities many farmers with 50 or 60 acres of potatoes to market had to send to their commission agents some £50 or £60 to make good the actual losses on sales caused by the necessity for dumpingthe perished article into the sea.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would be better so to arrange things that there would be more people in Australia to eat our potatoes, rendering it unnecessary to convert them into starch.
– That is one of the objects I have in view; but I do not think that any rapid increase in the population of Australia is possible while our Constitution remains as it is, and especially while we have our present unwieldly States.
– With that we all agree, but it does not touch the question which I asked the honorable member.
– I hope to give irrefutable proof that it is practically impossible by means of a Tariff alone such as this to establish rural industries. All that we can do under present conditions of constitution and size of States by means of such Tariffs is to continually increase the population of the big capital cities, where the living conditions are rapidly becoming worse and worse; where the health of the children is deteriorating, and where their chance of becoming physically strong is becoming less and less, while at the same time people are fleeing from the country districts as from a land of desolation. The power ‘to overcome that undesirable state of affairs is largely in the hands of the Federal Government itself. There are many ways by which our primary industries can be assisted. We can assist them by the encouragement of Pools to dispose of their products. The Minister deserves the thanks of the community, and especially of the producers of butter, for .the efforts he has made to secure the co-operative pooling and handling of butter by the producers themselves. We have in the attitude taken up by our sugar producers during the war a happy illustration of the good results which attend the policy of treating the primary producer reasonably, and giving him something like a fair show. For many years, largely with the object of supporting the policy of a White Australia, and to make it possible for us to hold the north, the Commonwealth Parliament subsidized the sugar industry. Then came the period of the war, during which the price of sugar in other countries soared enormously. But did the Australian producers of sugar hold out for the world’s parity ? No ! They were willing to take one-third of the world’s parity so long as they were given a reasonable assurance of the stabilization of their industry for a term of only three years. We shall have the same experience in relation to every primary industry if our producers are given an opportunity to do their best, and having done their best, are allowed to obtain a fair price for their produce.
The Tariff could be so framed as to help very largely in the establishment of secondary industries in country districts, and more particularly near the sources of supply of raw material, by penalizing to some extent the imports, say, of rice, so as to. prevent the manufacture, of starch from rice grown abroad instead of from maize grown in Australia. If we are going to do any good with our industries, if we are to people Australia as rapidly as is necessary, if we hope to hold this country and mean it to be of any avail instead of a mere drag on the Empire, we must provide for thoroughly comprehensive power schemes throughout the Continent, such as will enable country industries to spring up, and to make the fullest use of their opportunities. Since Protection became the national policy of Australia some eighteen years ago, the population of Sydney has enormously increased; but with the exception of “Newcastle, practically no other city or town in New South Wales has expanded or grown up. With a comprehensive plan of power distribution the position would be different. The control of such a scheme must be Federal. By reason of the long distances, electric power can be transmitted by modern means. Practically all water power propositions, and many of the fuel power schemes, must be interState in their incidence, and unless there is some Federal power of initiative and control they will never be started, as the districts they will supply and develop are remote from the capital cities of their respective States. The Kiewa water scheme near the Murray will influence the Riverina as well as Victoria, the Snowy River scheme will influence southern New South Wales as well as Gippsland, while the Clarence scheme will influence Queensland as well as New South Wales, and so on. If there is not constitutional power for the Federal Government to initiate them, power ought to be sought in the Convention so that the needs of every State may be supplied. Our aim in Austraia should not be to build up huge industrial cities, but right through the country, cities of a size which has been proved by experience to be the best for manufacturing, health, and social purposes. The best size of such cities is no mere guesswork now; it is known that when a city becomes over a certain size it loses its manufacturing value, because workmen have to travel too far to work, and . departs from its proper’ functions, involving degeneration and ill-health of its population. Owing to the lack of power facilities, and the way in which the State railway systems have, quite unconstitutionally in my opinion, imposed differential rates, certain promising towns have been prevented from developing. Towns in the State of Victoria are a case in point. There are many towns in this State, like Bendigo and Castlemaine, which had good opportunities for becoming manufacturing centres, but have been prevented from developing owing to the causes I have mentioned. At present there is a recrudescence of interest in various Victorian towns; but- there is no doubt that as soon as any one of them makes any headway, and promises to rival the big commercial centres, the differential rates will again be called into play, their industries strangled, and under such conditions it is very difficult to procure the introduction of capital for country industries. I shall first illustrate how Victoria has been affected in this way, and then show the method by which it has been successfully sought to drive the ‘ steel industry from Lithgow down to the coast near to Sydney. I am told - whether correctly or not, I cannot say - that within two years Hoskins’ works will be transferred to Port Kembla, and much of the shipping done through Sydney port. The following extract from a memorandum prepared by Dr. Hugo Meyer, and presented in Barrett’s The Twin Ideals; .an Educated Commonwealth, illustrated how vested interests prevent country development -
In Mig early days the gold mining drew to Ballarat, Castlemaine, and Bendigo the best engineering ability of Australia, there to manufacture mining machinery. It was natural for those engineering works to branch out into general manufacturing and foundry work for the supply, not only of the gold-fields, but also of Melbourne. They had the one essential to such expansion, an abundant supply of labour at a price commercially advantageous; for in the early seventies the wages of miners declined to £2 2s. to £2 10s. a week, and remained at that level. It was sound business policy for the Railway Department to encourage general manufacturing and foundry work at Ballarat, Castlemaine, and Bendigo, for it gave rise to railway business in both directions - the movement of the raw material from Melbourne to the aforesaid cities, and the movement of manufactures from those cities to Melbourne. Accordingly the Railway Department, which, when given a free hand, is not managed with that apathy, lack of energy, and want of intelligence so frequently ascribed to it, in 1S75 transferred “ heavy machinery “ from Class II. - 5d. per ton per ‘mile, to “Mis,cellaneous Class “ - 3d. Melbourne interests, aggrieved at the competition from country towns, brought pressure upon the Government of the day, and in 1877 the Railway Department restored “ heavy machinery “ to Class II. “Light and fragile” machinery, which, from 1804 to 1877, had been in Class II., the Railway Department raised successively to Class III. - fid. per ton per mile, in 1877, and to Class IV. - 7d. per ton per mile, in 1881.
In 1S81 the Government of the day relented somewhat, and allowed the Railway Department to make a reduction on country machinery, provided it was exported, and not allowed to remain in Melbourne, there to compete with metropolitan-made machinery. In 1801 the relentment went a step farther, and the reduced rates were extended to country machinery, boilers, cast-iron pipes, and rough castings sent to Melbourne, and shipped thence by rail to points in Victoria outside of the metropolis. The collapse of 1803, and the consequent exodus from Melbourne, led to the reins ‘being again drawn more tightly against country manufacturers and foundries. The aforesaid reduced rates were limited to goods sent to places “ distant 50 miles from Melbourne”; and that limitation is in force today.
– That is all over !
– I am only pointing out what has ruined certain country towns -
To all ‘intents and purposes, the successive Governments of the day, from 1881 on, by administrative ruling, and without express legislative enactment by Parliament, have established within the State of Victoria a favoured area, to wit, Melbourne, and have given that favoured area “ protection “ against Ballarat, Castlemaine, and Bendigo manufacturers of machinery, boilers, cast-iron pipes, and costings in the territory contained within a radius of 50 miles from Parliament House.
Sir Robert Best has said that that is old history, but it is history that will be repeated unless some protection is given to these country towns. A similar policy some two years ago was attempted in the case of Mr. Hoskins, who immediately wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph, and closed down his works, involving the turning away of some 5,000 men, realizing, as he did, that he could not carry on against the competition of the Broken Hill Proprietary, at Newcastle, which has. specially favoured rates. Mr. Hoskins succeeded in what he then attempted - because of the magnitude of the crisis he created - but. what effect would the locking out of thirty men have at Castlemaine? In Victoria, we have already seen works shifted from Ballarat to Sunshine for freight reasons.
– The works were shifted in order to evade the Factories Act.
– A man engaged in the jam-making industry told me only this year that he feared he would be forced to set up business in some capital city because, under a Federal regulation, it was only possible there to get the necessary sugar. At the fixed price at Bendigo, he had to to pay 30s. per ton extra. Mr. Hoskins, in his letter, makes a definite charge that the New South Wales Government is using its own public utilities as a means of securing preference for certain individuals. In my opinion, that is unconstitutional ; whether it is unconstitutional or not, some remedy should be found in order that country towns may spring up and develop. Mr. Hoskins, in his letter, says -
We think it would have been fairer if it had said “ dolomite from Havilah to Newcastle steel works,” instead of saying “for fluxing purposes to be 150 miles or over between the stations.” The freight on limestone for Broken. Hill Pty. Coy. from Tamworth to Newcastle will be 182 miles, at 6s. 4d. per ton.
If a farmer wants to send hay, straw, or chaff from Tamworth to Newcastle, he will have to pay11s.11d. per ton; or if he wants to send grain, flour, bran or pollard, potatoes, pumpkins, and many other things from Tamworth to Newcastle, he will have to pay 12s. per ton.
– What is the rate on the finished product?
– I suppose it is exactly the same -
The result is as follows: -
Limestone for Broken Hill Pty. Coy., 6s. 4d. per ton.
Hay, straw, and chaff,11s.11d. per ton. Flour or wheat, 12s. per ton.
Our firm, being large users of the railways, Mr. Hoskins consulted various Commissioners and was told by them that the lowest charge they could make without a loss was a halfpenny per mile per ton. This is borne out by the fact that crude ores were charged at this rate. This was the old rate before the rise of the first7½ per cent.
If it costs the railways½d. per ton per mile for crude ores,how can they afford to take the limestone for the Broken Hill Pty. Co. at less than½d. per ton per mile?
If they can afford to make this loss, would it not be better to send the flour and wheat at a cheaper rate instead of limestone, because the people cannot eat limestone?
– They cannot eat flour unless there is machinery to make it.
– That is no reason why all the machinery should be made in one place-
Ironand steel are now classified in two different lines - one is the locally manufactured and the other is imported.
Under the new order of things, if a farmer at Tamworth wants any corrugated iron, or fencing wire, or wire netting from Newcastle, he will be compelled to purchase it from the local manufacturer, or, if he desires to have imported goods from England or America, he will have to pay extra freight, i.e., if he desires any of those commodities, the freight will be £2 4s. 2d. per ton for local manufacture and £3 2s. per ton for imported. The same rates and difference would be maintained throughout the State, according to distance.
He has already paid his Customs duties, and on the top of that he has to pay the extra freight-
I am very much surprised to see this new clause brought into operation, as it appears the Commissioners would penalize the farmers for purchasing imported materials. I am naturally a Protectionist, but I think the proper method to give the manufacturer Protection is the Customs House;
I think that that is the general opinion. The Country party believes that Australia should be self-contained and selfpopulated.
– Tell us how that can be done under Free Trade?
– I am not advocating Free Trade, but, under present conditions, it seems impossible to decentralize industry without some constitutional change ; and, in my opinion, that change should have been made before the Tariff was imposed, and not afterwards. It has taken fifty years to double our population, and if it takes another fifty to double it again, Australia will be lost to us, and the British race. The only method to prevent this is, as has already been suggested, to increase our population in scattered areas in order to secure many manufacturing communities by subdividing the present big States and enabling them to prevent themselves being penalized in their use of the State railways, and with sufficient influence on metropolitan communities to insure a fair deal. This has always proved to be the only way to insure rapid development and rapid increase of population, and secure a rural population. To do any good we must first populate the country, and then the city; and to endeavour to do this by continually increasing the duties on articles essential to country industries makes the task hopeless. The only other point is that of machinery essential for these industries, especially that for the production of power. It is necessary to have protection for all, but some industries need it in the form of duties, while others need it in the form of a bonus. In New South Wales there is a proposition - fortunately in the hands of the State Government, or its position would be very much worse - to establish a hydroelectric scheme, at a total cost of from £600,000 to £700,000, and the duty on the machinery would be something like £150,000 or £160,000. That machinery cannot be made in Australia.
– And we admit it free.
– Because it is for the use of the State Government.
– No. The regulations apply to all imported machinery of that class, whether for private individuals or State Governments..
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister, because the collection of duty on machinery of that class merely increases the capital charge and the annual charge for interest, sinking fund, and so forth, and yields only a negative advantage in the shape of an improved Commonwealth balance-sheet for one year. I am pleased to learn that the policythe Minister mentioned operates, and surely the concession for which we are asking in respect of the admission of the farmers’ tools of trade free of duty, if made in the British Empire is merely an extension of that principle.
.-I did not think it was possible in this enlightened ago to discover so queer an individual as a Free Trader. As a matter of fact, there is not one living soul who is not really a ‘Protectionist, hut the trouble is that men will not give protection to the other fellow. Every man wants protection for himself and his trade or industry. No countries have made any progress except those which have adopted a policycalculated to make them self-contained. America and Canada have followed a policy which gives full scope for the development of the ingenuity and abilities of their people, and only by such a policy can a nation make progress. I address my remarks more particularly to honorable members of the Country party, who are absolute novices in regard to political principles and economics; if they will pay full attention to this debate they will be more intelligent citizens than they are to-day. Inasmuch as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) was the first member of that party to speak on the Tariff he must, I suppose, be taken to be the champion of their cause, but there is not a Protectionist in the House who has not come to the conclusion that if the honorable member is the chief disciple of Free Trade, those who chose him made a bad mistake, because he left himself open to ridicule, and showed himself to he ill-informed upon fiscal questions. I have on more than one occasion endeavoured to focus the attention of the House upon the question of finance. Any one who takes a lively interest in the welfare of this country must come to the conclusion that we have reached a stage in our existence when something should be done to create industries which will make for the development of Australia. We are rapidly diminishingsome of our natural resources. In the past our coal has been readily got, but in the future it will be mined at greater depths. We have been depleting our timber resources in a callous and indifferent manner, and without making any attempt at conservation. These great national assets are fast disappearing. In addition, all the State Governments, with the exception of Queensland, have been selling Crown lands without any regard to the future. Queensland has adopted a system of leaseholds, and is the only State that has conserved for future generations an opportunity to deal with Crown lands. In New South Wales the Crown lands have been sold recklessly, without even making adequate reservations for public requirements. At the same time we have been borrowing money in a mad. fashion, utterly regardless of the obligation to repay it; thus we have to-day a huge public debt for the redemption of which no provision has been made.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect these remarks with the Tariff?
– I propose to show the necessity for building up new industries in order that we may be able to meet our huge obligations. It has been often said that New South Wales was a Free Trade State’, but there has never been a Free Trade State in Australia. During the great boom in New South Wales, when Sir Henry Parkes was in power, and before the Premiership of Sir (then Mr.) George Reid, duties were in operation which were more protective than those imposed by the Tariff now before the Committee. With butter at about10d. per lb. wholesale, cheese 5d. per lb., and bacon 6d. per lb., a duty of 2d. per lb. was imposed, and I maintain that there could not be such a thing as Free Trade while such duties operated. The Tariff now proposed is not such a one as I would choose. It is a revenue Tariff, as is proved by the enormous amount of money that it is yielding to the Treasury. A revenue Tariff is dangerous, because it is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring, and it detrimentally affects the industrial section of the community more than it does the people who are in affluent circumstances. In respect of commodities which can be produced in Australia of a quality equal to that of the imported article, prohibitive duties should be imposed. A person who is so enamoured of his friends overseas that he will not use articles of Australian origin should be compelled to pay a heavy duty for his fancy. Therefore, the present Tariff does not go as far as I would like in respect of some items. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert- Best) was concerned during the war because he could not purchase English chocolates. If he is not satisfied with the chocolates produced by some of the firms in Melbourne and Sydney, he should be made to do without the imported article, or pay a high duty for the privilege of indulging his fancy.
The Australian native is a born genius in applied trades and mechanical inventions. The lad who takes up the trade of plumbing or any other trade, or any of the professions, proves himself more efficient- in the period allotted for training than those who are apprenticed to it in other parts of the world. That is my experiencegenerally, because, being of a studious nature, I have kept a close watch on the progress made in the industrial , world. Any attempt to refrain from giving encouragement to those who are engaged in secondary industries will prevent Australia from increasing its national wealth. The young Australian by his ability is fitted to be something better than a mere hewer of wood and a drawer of water, and we shall fail in our duty if we do not give him the opportunity to do something better. No one will pub capital into any industry unless he is given some encouragement to carry it on, but if, after having asked men to invest in industries, we compel them to compete with others who, m relation to the rates of wages and rents’ they pay, and the value of the land on which’ their establishments are built, are in a far better position than the Australian manufacturers, we cannot expect our people here to make progress with their industries. We ought all to have the ambition to make Australia selfcontained. We ought to make it our endeavour to find employment for. our own people rather than for people who are living thousands of miles away. Our first duty is to look after ourselves so that we shall not be dependent on others outside. We vote money for the establishment and maintenance of universities and technical schools so that our youths may make themselves proficient in the callings they wish to follow, and so that they may be something better than mere choppers of wood or drivers of bullocks for primary producers, hut all this expenditure will be wasted if we do not provide our people with opportunities to occupy positions in which they can return some benefit to the State. I cannot understand how honorable members can raise opposition to our secondary industries. Every one wishes the primary producer to prosper, but, goodness knows, the State has always been his godfather. The men engaged in secondary industries have not been nearly as great a burden upon the State as the farmer has been. In time of drought the farmer gets free seed wheat, and railway rates are reduced for him so” that he may convey his produce to the market. The primary producers have always been great receivers of the benefits of socialistic legislation, but are not prepared to extend them to others.
Frequent reference has been made during this debate to the cry for decentralization. As a city man T am opposed to any further increase in the population of the cities at the expense of country districts ; but what steps have those who . are so anxious about decentralization taken to prevent it? During the last few months, as a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I have had many opportunities of visiting country districts. At one function I took as my text, when speaking, the cry of decentralization, and asked the president of the shire council, who was entertaining the Committee, and claimed that the people of the district wanted immigration and decentralization, whether he could inform me as to the possibility of two carpenters whom I might send from the city to his district securing cottages in which to live. In reply, he said that he knew of no place where they could find accommodation, except, perhaps, in the backyard of the hotel. The people of country districts have never attempted to make the conditions of their employess such as would induce them to remain away from the cities. On one occasion at Cairns, in Queensland, there was industrial trouble during a visitI was making to the district, and the trouble arose from the fact that men went there from other parts of Australia, worked in the sugar-cane, earned a fair cheque, wentdown to Cairns, partly painted the town red, and then took their departure by steamer for the south. I pointed out to the people of the town that no attempt was being made to induce these workers to make their habitation in the district where, apparently, there was any amount of cleared ground for the erection of cottages. I told them that if they took steps to provide these workers with accommodation, the men would become permanent residents of the district, with the consequence that their earnings would create employment for others, and thus bring further prosperity to the neighbourhood.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
That Mr. Rodgers have leave to make a statement, and conclude with a motion.
– Between the adjournment of the House last November and its reassembling yesterday, the Government took action to declare null and void the appointment of LieutenantColonel James Walker as War Service Homes Commissioner, and in support of that action I wish to make a statement.
On the 9th March, as the Acting Minister, for the first time I received information that Lieutenant-Colonel James Walker, at the date of his appointment as War Service Homes Commissioner (6th March, 1919) was an uncertificated insolvent.
The War Service Homes Act provides (section 6) that “ the Governor-General may appoint a fit and proper person to be Commissioner,” and (section 7) that “ a person who is an uncertificated bankrupt or insolvent shall be incapable of being appointed Commissioner.”
On the same day (9th March) I gave instructions for the correctness of the information to be investigated, as, obviously, if the information were correct, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was incapable of being appointed Commissioner, and his appointment was null and void.
On 10th March a report was received by the Solicitor-General that LieutenantColonel Walker had been adjudicated insolvent in Queensland on 25th October, 1915, and had remained an uncertificated insolvent until 19th July, 1919. when the adjudication was annulled. This report was referred to me on 11th March.
I immediately communicated the information to the Prime Minister, who consulted with his colleagues, and the Government decided to take immediate and definite action.
Accordingly, on 10th March, I sent for Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, and questioned him on the subject. LieutenantColonel Walker admitted that the facts were as stated, but said that the circumstances of his insolvency were not discreditable to him, and that the facts were known to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) at the time of his appointment, as a telegram on the file would show.
As Senator E. D. Millen had notyet returned from the Geneva Conference, the Government decided to take no final action before his return ; but immediately granted Lieutenant-Colonel Walker a week’s leave of absence to cover the interval until he would get back, instructing him meantime, not to perform any administrative acts, and appointed Colonel J. M. Semmens as Acting Commissioner during Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s absence.I also informed Lieutenant-Colonel Walker that he would be given an opportunity of meeting Senator E. D. Millen on his return, and making any statement he desired before final action was taken. .
Senator E. D. Millen immediately on his return informed his colleagues and Lieutenant-Colonel Walker that he had never been aware of Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s insolvency, and LieutenantColonel Walker thereupon said that he accepted this statement.
At no time, until questioned on 10th March last, did Lieutenant-Colonel Walker take any steps to inform the Minister or any member of the Government of his insolvency.
The Government decided that, on - the above facts, no course was open to it but to treat Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s appointment as a nullity, and at an Executive Council meeting held on 18th March the Governor-General in Council accordingly declared the appointment to be null and void.
Those are merely the facts and dates relevant to and supporting the action of the Government, and I propose to take an early opportunity to make a full statement concerning the general administration of the War Service Homes Commission, and to announce more fully the Government’s intentions regarding future operations. I move -
That the paper , be printed.
– I expected from the Minister a much fuller statement than -we have just heard. He has told us that the reason for the suspension and subsequent dismissal from office of Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was that he at the time of his appointment was an uncertificated insolvent. Now, there is a good deal to be said about the facts of the insolvency. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, with four others, was a guarantor to the Bank of Australasia for an advance to provide funds to buy machinery and pay for the sinking of shafts and prospecting work generally in connexion with a gold and copper mine at Charters Towers, a venture which proved a failure. Subsequently, the bank sued Lieutenant-Colonel Walker for the amount it had advanced. He was the only guarantor who was sued, the chairman of the company, also a guarantor and the owner of 18^000 shares in the company, being the principal witness against him. Neither the chairman of the compnay nor any other- guarantor except Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, who was made the scapegoat for all, was interfered with.
– And Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was away at the war at the time.
– At any rate, he was then a member of the Australian Imperial Force.
– Yes, and was at the Front when further proceedings were taken. It was not until the war was over that he was able to defend himself. I have here all the documents relating to the case, but I shall not weary honorable members with unnecessary detail. This is a resume of what occurred: On the 13th May, 1915, the Bank of Australasia issued a writ for £2,865 19s. Id. against LieutenantColonel Walker on the joint and several guarantee of the directors of the Carrington Land and Mining Company, that guarantee having been given on the 10th June, 1910, four years before the outbreak of war. The bank took no action against the other guarantors. At the issue of the writ, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was in camp, and left shortly after. There were really three guarantees dated 16th September, 1909; 24th April, 1910; and 10th June, 1910. On the 2nd July, 1915, judgment was given against the defendant, and on 10th July, 1915, a debtor’s summons was issued, and an order for substituted service made. During the same year the defendant was adjudicated insolvent, and his only creditor was the bank. In 1917, the defendant, returned from the war, and his solicitors entered into some correspondence with the bank with a view to getting the insolvency annulled; but the defendant returning to the front, nothing more was done. On 14th July, 1919, an order of annulment gave as the reason, “ Insolvent having obtained a release of the debt due to the Bank of Australasia, the only creditor who had proved against his estate.” An order of annulment is only made when . creditors give release, and otherwise a certificate of discharge is applied for. The bank had annulled the insolvency, and realized on the assets of the company, which fully discharged the liabilities of the guarantors. An order, of annulment is only made when the creditors give release, and unless there is anything of a questionable nature involved, it merely becomes a matter of granting a certificate. In this case a certificate was not granted, but the insolvency was annulled. The Judge who heard the case expressed his sympathy with LieutenantColonel Walker, and, so far as I am able to understand, said that it was a serious matter, because the bank had been unnecessarily severe, for, as LieutenantColonel Walker was the only one of the guarantors who was in a position to pay, he alone was proceeded against. I submit that Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was fully qualified to hold the position to which he was appointed. I have some correspondence which has an important bearing on the matter, and for the information of honorable members, I shall read a letter dated 26th February, 1919, from a gentleman whose name I do not intend to disclose, but which appears on the file. The communication is directed to the Comptroller of Repatriation, and reads -
I duly received your urgent telegram reading, “Lieutenant-Colonel James Walker under consideration for Housing Commissionship under Soldiers Homes Act. Senator Millen will be glad to be favoured with your confidential opinion as to his character and capacity. Unless you see objections will be obliged to have collect wire.”
– Who forwarded that letter?
– I am not at liberty to say; but the name of the writer appears on the papers in the file. That communication is dated 26th February, 1919, and, consequently, all the information that was necessary concerning Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s position was available prior to his appointment. I say, without hesitation, that in view of the fact that LieutenantColonel Walker’s insolvency was annulled, there was no reason whatever why he should have been dismissed.
– Are there any other reasons?
– That is what we wish to ascertain. I am anxious to know whether this is a subterfuge. We should endeavour to ascertain whether the Government are hiding anything, and, as an’ act of mistaken kindness, are hot disclosing something which should be known. I have known Lieutenant-Colonel Walker for twenty-five years as a contractor in Queensland, where he is well known, and is regarded by the people as an honest and upright citizen. It is the duty of the Government to make a full statement of the position, and to state clearly whether they can charge him with bribery or corruption. I challenge the Government to come into the open in connexion with this matter. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker is a man with a large family, and his reputation is at stake. I am anxious to learn whether the Government are hiding anything from honorable members, and in order to clear up the whole position it is their duty to make a full statement. It has been said with a certain amount of force and vehemence that LieutenantColonel Walker has exceeded his duties by interfering in matters of policy when he was only entitled to intervene in matters of administration. I trust that honorable members will look at the file to see if the charge can be substantiated, because we say that it cannot.
– Whose statement is that?
– I am making that statement. I say it is so, and he says it may be so.
– Who says it may be so?
– Lieutenant-Colonel Walker.
– He was distinctly told, when this question was considered, that the satisfactory dischargeof his duties was not in question at all.
– Will the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) definitely make such an announcement, so that it may be recorded in Hansard, and so that LieutenantColonel Walker may be cleared from any charge of bribery, corrupt practices, or incompetence.
– The action taken by the Government would be a definite obligation on the part of any Government.
– Because of the insolvency? If the Government had any mercy or sense of what is just and fair they would have accepted the annulment of the insolvency as a perfect and complete justification for the appointment. It is, in effect, a certificate of discharge.
– We cannot accept it, as the Act will not allow it. LieutenantColonel Walker has never been the Commissioner, because he was not eligible for the appointment.
– If he has never been Commissioner, is every action of his invalid ?
– Oh, no!
– It must be if he was not entitled to the position. If he has never been the Commissioner it will be necessary to pass a validating Act.
– He was a de facto Commissioner.
– There is room for the honorable member alongside the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) and other disappointed men.
– I am not a disappointed man, but am merely speaking on behalf of one who has been - I will not say unfairly treated - subjected to official unkindness or injustice. I want to learn from the Minister if there are any facts which have not been disclosed, and if so I ask him to make a public declaration, so that it will be recorded in Hansard. In view of the information given, the question of insolvency has no bearing at all on the matter. Will the Minister declare here and now that there is nothing beyond the insolvency? The Minister is silent. I have known of LieutenantColonel Walker over a period of many years, and have heard no word against him. He has been a contractor in a large way, and knows his work. As Commissioner he would he perfectly competent, at any rate so far as practical experience went, to build soldiers’ cottages. The matter of Lieutenant-ColonelWalker’s insolvency is a mere nothing. For the Government to interpret the Act in its severest meaning may be justified; but the point is that the Government knew of this insolvencydisability long ago.
– The Government did not know.
– I say that they did.
– Who says they did?
– I repeat that they knew. The facts are disclosed in the official correspondence.
– That is not so at all.
– The whole matter of Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s insolvency was done with long ago, and there is nothing against him in connexion with the matter. He could have asked for his certificate of discharge in the ordinary way, and it would have been granted, considering that the whole of the amount involved had been paid. I appeal to honorable members opposite, who are always seeking fair play for somebody or other, to support me in my request that the Government should make a complete public disclosure of the facts. I do not ask them to go back on their tracks and restore Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, but to state here whether they have anything beyond the matter of insolvency against him, and, if so, what it is. If the responsible Minister will not speak, are honorable members to assume that there is something else? If there is, I challenge the Minister to disclose it.
– Suppose that the Government say there is nothing. Must they not restore him to his position?
– Were it the intention of the Government to replace LieutenantColonel Walker the procedure that has now been taken would have to be adopted.
– Is the matter of his insolvency the only reason? By the Minister’s silence it can only he assumed that there is something more. If the Minister will not disclose what that something more is, will he say definitely that there is something more? His silence puts Lieutenant-Colonel Walker in a very serious position. It brands him as a man who has done something which the Government will not declare. If it is of such a character that the Government deem their silence tobe kindly, it is mistaken kindness. It is rather their duty to make known the facts.
.- Honorable members will recollect the reasons for the Accounts Committee being given the task of inquiry into the purchase of timber supplies for the War Service Homes Commission. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker’s name was mentioned in connexion with the subject-matter of the inquiry. It willbe recalled that there was a very close division upon the question whether the Government had done rightly in making those purchases. It is quite possible that the action which LieutenantColonel Walker took at that time caused him to fall out with certain Ministers, and that they are now making him a scapegoat for the sins of the Govermnent.
-That is not so.
– The evidence taken by the Accounts Committee was tendered in public, and I consider that honorable members are entitled to receive copies of it, provided that not too much expense would be involved. I hold no brief for Lieutenant-Colonel Walker. I have spoken to him only twice. One of those occasions was when I introduced a deputation to him, and the other was when I, with several other members of Parliament, inspected some of the soldiers’ homes. Those cottages, I must say, were being built infinitely better and much more cheaply than they would have been constructed by private enterprise. If Lieutenant-Colonel Walker is not competent to retain his position, the Government have a right to say so, and to say, why. There should be no camouflage and no question of dismissal under a subterfuge. Directlythis motion has been disposed of, no further opportunity of discussing the matter will be presented to honorable members until the Estimates are under review.
– There was an intimation published in the press this’ morning that this motion would be brought forward to-day.
– I admit that I did not see it.
– There is too much press and not sufficient Parliament about Ministerial methods.
– I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra for once. It would have been better if honorable members generally had known that this matter was to be brought forward this evening. Not only have the Public Accounts Committee been inquiring into certain phases of the construction of war service homes-
– And the management of the War Service Homes Department. The Government are afraid of our report.
– I do not know whether that is so or not. But an inquiry into certain phases of, the construction of war service homes by the Public Accounts Committee was deliberately ordered by this Parliament. Yet the Government recently passed over that body and appointed another Committee in Sydney to make a separate inquiry into the matter.
– At the request of several honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber.
– Very likely. I asked the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) to make an inquiry into the administration of the Department, because I consider that it is far more vital that justice should be done to our returned soldiers in the matter of vocational training than that the Commonwealth should lose a couple of millions sterling. Many of the vocational trainees are to-day being fooled in the most ab surd fashion. They would learn more with a private employer in three months than they learn under the existing system in eighteen months. As a matter of fact, it frequently happens that after they have completed their course of training they are obliged to go outside and unlearn all that they have learned. As the Minister himself knows, I have upon several occasions privately urged him to take some action in this connexion. I made similar requests to his predecessor, the present Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton). If the War Service Homes Department be in a muddle, it is not right that one individual should be made a scapegoat in order to shelter those who are really responsible forthat condition. I hold no brief for Lieut.Colonel Walker, but I submit that every accused person is entitled to a fair trial before being condemned.
– I know nothing more of this matter than has been said in this House. From the statement which was read by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) honorable members are asked to believe that the. sole reason for the removal of Lieut-Colonel Walker from his office is that upon the date of his appointment he was an uncertificated insolvent. If that be so, the position can be readily remedied. From what has already been said, it is obvious that there was nothing discreditable about Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s insolvency, and the fact that it has since been annulled, or a certificate of discharge obtained, taken in conjunction with the statement which was made from the Bench at the time of its annulment, is very significant. Lieut.-Colonel Walker, it appears, was a joint and several guarantor. It was quite competent for the bank to sue Lieut.-Colonel Walker alone or to sue him and the whole of his coguarantors. It saw fit to sue him alone, and, of course, he had his remedy aganist his coguarantors. But, as a matter of fact, we are told that the debt itself has already been paid. This, coupled with the fact that his insolvency has been annulled, or a certificate of discharge obtained, is a clear indication to this House that there was nothing discreditable connected with the matter, so far as Lieut.-Colonel Walker is concerned. If, then, he is merely the victim of misfortune, and if he is still competent to fill the office from which he has been removed, the difficulty can be overcome by re-appointing him to his office to-morrow. If, therefore, the sole reason for his removal from office was his insolvency, the Minister should have stated the intention of the Government to reappoint him to his former position. Upon the other hand, if the fact that he was an uncertificated insolvent is merely being utilized as a subterfuge to get rid of him, and if there are other reasons for his removal from office, we have a right to know what those reasons are, and so, indeed, has Lieut.-Colonel Walker himself. If he is incompetent, he should be suspended, and ultimately dismissed, and if he has been guilty of conduct that does not justify his restoration to the office which he recently filled, charges should undoubtedly be levelled against him, and he would then have an opportunity of answering them.
– Does the honorable member say that the circumstances set out in my statement did not compel the Government to take the action which they have taken?
– I have already stated what is the legal position. The Government are placing themselves in an entirely false position by their failure to be more frank with the House.
– It appears to me that the Government have something to conceal, or they would not have brought this motion forward in the way that they have done. Nobody upon the Opposition side of the Chamber knew that such a motion was to be submitted this evening.
– Nor did we.
– Then it has been sprung upon the House.
– There can be no question of springing it upon the House, seeing that honorable members were notified in the press that it was to be brought forward.
– What the “ dickens “ has thepress to do with this House? If the Government are going to notify honorable members of the business which is to be brought forward here through the medium of the press, then the press controls the Ministry. As a matter of fact, Ministers will give to the press information which they will not furnish to the House. If honorable members are foolish enough to tolerate that sort of treatment, they deserve all that they get. To me it is very strange that it should have taken the Government such a long time to discover that Lieut.-Colonel Walker was an uncertificated insolvent.
– They knew it when he was appointed.
– They did not.
– The documents read by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) prove that they did.
– Lt.-Colonel Walker accepted Senator Milieu’s statement that he did not know of it.
- Lt. -Colonel Walker said that a telegram was sent to Senator Millen; Senator Millen said he did not receive it, and Lt. -Colonel Walker accepted that statement. It is a peculiar thing that every one but the Government seems to have known of this insolvency. It appears to me that the Government are trying to make a scapegoat of Lt. -Colonel Walker. They have made such “ bloomers “ in connexion with the War Service Homes scheme that they want to make a scapegoat of him, and throw the blame on him.
– That may be politics, but it is not the fact.
– Lt.-Colonel Walker, while War Service Homes Commissioner, beat the timber merchants’ and builders’ combines in Queenland, New South Wales, and Victoria. He must have been a strong man to stand up against that “ crowd.” I hold no brief for him, but I know that he is an honest, hard-working man. He carried on business as a contractor in Queensland for many years, and his character is without blemish. When he applied for the position of War Service Homes Commissioner he could not have been such a bad man as the Government would now have us believe him to be. Why do they not tell us whether there is any reason other than that stated by them for getting rid of him? He has a wife and family to support, and his summary dismissal has placed him in a very awkward position. How would the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) like such a stigma to be cast upon his character ? The honorable gentleman has not a word to say in answer to that inquiry. He is “ oyster.” Unless we give Lt.-Colonel
Walker a fair and square go in this Parliament he will have no opportunity to obtain justice. Prom what I know of the Federal Parliament I am convinced that he will receive at its hands a fair deal. If the honorable member for Herbert is the man I take him to be he will press this question to a vote.
– I hope that any officer, no matter who he may be, will always get a square deal at the hands of the Federal Parliament.
– We have always endeavoured to give every man a square deal, and I invite the Minister to say at once whether the Government have anything against this man except the fact that he is an uncertificated insolvent. Surely they do not want to brand him as incompetent; but his commission was terminated in a very “ fishy “ way. I have been told by returned soldiers in Queensland that War Service Homes which they were informed would cost them from £650 to £750. ultimately cost them an additional £200. Is this dismissal of Lt.Colonel Walker mere camouflage on the part of the Government with the object of throwing on him the blame for blunders that have been made by them? Are they trying in this way to protect themselves from the result of their own sins of commission? The Government’s majority is a very slender one, and with another defectionfrom their ranks I am afraid the Prime Minister will not leave Australia to attend the Imperial Conference in London. The honorable member for Herbert, who is a Government supporter, has pleaded for justice for this’ man.
– And so has the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who is also a Government supporter.
– But he will never desert the Government; they have him “ in the bag.” The honorable member for Herbert says that he has known Lt.-Colonel Walker for over thirty years, and has urged the Government to say whether they have anything more against him than the fact of his being an uncertificated insolvent. This man has not received British justice as I understand the term.
– He challenges the Government.
– Exactly. How would any honorable member opposite like to have his character impugned as Lt.Colonel Walker’s has been. He was dismissed at practically five minutes’ notice -“bunged out” on his “pink ear “ - and the Government say to him, “ Although we think you are a good man we are dismissing you because you are an uncertificated insolvent.” There are in this House a lot of men who ought to be uncertificated insolvents even if they are not. The honorable member for Herbert has given the facts relating to Lt.-Colonel Walker’s insolvency. Some years ago I was placed in a position exactly similar to that which led to Lt.-Colonel Walker’s insolvency. I signed a joint and several bond for £4,300. At the time I was not worth a “ tenner,” but was quite satisfied that everything would be all right since the other four men who signed it were wealthy. There were amongst them some pastoralists known to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), but in the whirligig of time I became ultimately the only man out of the five who had any means, and at twenty-four hours’ notice I was called upon under the terms of the bond to pay up the £4,300. I had either to raise the money or go insolvent.
– Did the honorable member file his schedule?
-No; I put my shoulder to the wheel, took over the concern in respect to which the money had been advanced, made it a payable proposition, and paid off the amount of the advance. I had no parliamentary bosses to tell me they were discharging me, but the people of the district I was in knew that I was honest in my business transactions. Lieut.-Colonel Walker has to go out into the world now to earn his living, and it is a most despicable act on the part of any individual, to say nothing of a Government, to turn a man adrift, and say to the public, “ The only reason we have dispensed with his services at such short notice is thathe is an uncertificated insolvent.” Like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), I plead with the Minister and the Government to do the fair and square thing by Lieut.Colonel Walker. If they have anything against him beyond the reason they have given let them tell him so, and allow him to defend himself. There is no man in the House more ready to give another man a square “ go “ than the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom). Lieut.-Colonel Walker is a “ towny “ of ours, and the least the honorable member can do is to plead his case. He does not ask to be retained ; all he wants to know is what the Government are dismissing him for, and I say to the Government, “ For Heaven’s sake, tell him.”
– lt is evident that the Government have made either too full a statement, or what amounts to no statement at all. Lieut.-Colonel Walker had charge of a Department with enormous ramifications, and responsible for great expenditure. That Department has had many supporters, and on the other hand its operations have, been strongly opposed by several sections of the community, notably that section whose business it is to contract for the building of houses. We have been told that it caused a dearth of building material, and, rightly or wrongly, the public will believe that the Government are availing themselves of a technicality in order to get rid off Lieut.-Colonel Walker. One honorable member suggests that the returned soldiers will not be sorry; but I know “two returned men who have growled most about the War Service Homes, one of whom was the inspector for the district in which his house is built, the other being the foreman of the house. We know from tho building section of the community that the “War Service Homes are quite good houses, and better than those that are built by contract. If the complaints of other returned soldiers are of the’ same character as those of the two men I have mentioned, we cannot believe much of them. Many of us did not agree with much that was done by the War Service Homes Department, and I am certain that both the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) have had differences of opinion with their departmental officers. They would not be human if they did not. The Minister may have made his statement today with the best of intentions, but surely he can see that unless some further explanation is offered the public will, believe that the Government have availed themselves of the peculiar circumstances under which Colonel Walker was engaged to get rid of him to satisfy the cormorants of Australia, because he beat them. I was. told in Queensland a few weeks ago by contractors that the action of the War Service Homes Commissioner kept down the price of building material. That statement is true not only of Queensland, but of New South Wales and Victoria.
– Do you not think the Government gave Lieut.-Colonel Walker a fair deal?
– I cannot say that I do on the- information at present before me. 1 want to know more of the facts. The Minister has said too little or too much. Anyhow, I - have indicated the way in which the public will look at the matter. I was told two years ago by two Melbourne contractors, who for the pastthirty years have been building cottage homes as a speculation for sale, that it was the fight put up by the War Service Homes Commissioner that kept down the price of all building commodities in Melbourne. That applies to lime, cement, timber, bricks, and paint.
– It put them up in South Australia all round.
– I shall deal with the honorable member directly. I wish, if possible, to leave the South Australians alone, as they are suffering very badly from a swelled head, which I fear will ultimately burst. It was a dirty game that they played over there in connexions with the building of homes. The War Service Homes Commissioner even compelled the ironmongers of Melbourne to sell their goods to the public at a price some 20 or 30 per cent, less .than they wanted to. With this knowledge in their possession, what we have heard to-night will make the public believe, rightly or wrongly, that the profiteers have got to work with the Government, and demanded Lieut.Colonel Walker’s discharge because he fought, and beat them. The peculiarity in “ South Australia is that there they allowed the contractors to beat the Government. That is why South Australian members do not like the question to be discussed. In South Australia they set out to build homes for the ordinary workers, and the undertaking was a failure. When there was a necessity to build for returned soldiers, they dropped the building for the workers, and started building for the others. The South Australians, who have been sticking out their chests and blowing their own trumpets, do not like the truth; but it is a fact that they dropped building homes for the workers because they saw a better opportunity to build for the returned soldiers. Then the South Australians tried to come over here, and teach their “ grandmother to suck eggs,” but they found they could not do it. It is of no use to mince matters. Unless Ministers will tell us more than they have told us to-night, the public will form the impression that Lieut.-Colonel Walker has been beaten by the combines of Melbourne. That is what I am going to believe unless I hear something more. As I say, there was much done under the War Service Homes scheme with which . I -and many others did not agree, and I was somewhat surprised to find that there was no money for certain work because it had already been spent in other directions. The cost of the purchase of the timber supplies should never have been charged to current account, because that will be an asset when the work is finished, and the extra money could have been obtained to continue other work if the Department had wanted it. I cannot understand the Minister’s motive in making the statement he has made to-night. Am I to understand from the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that the Government are not prepared to make any further statement regarding Lieut.-Colonel Walker? I know it is not fair to ask the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to take- the matter out of the hands of his colleague, but surely we should have more information than has been vouchsafed. Perhaps if I sit down the Treasurer will act upon my suggestion.
.- If my information is correct, I consider £he Government have been more than kind to this man, for it shows that he is possibly the worst man who could have been appointed to the position. There is a letter referring to this case in the hands of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), and I moved yesterday that the evidence should be printed, because a request to that effect had been made by three leading legal firms in this city, who desired it to be available for reference. I believe that charges amounting to actual perjury will be laid against Lieut.-Colonel Walker. Ask some of the returned soldiers and officers who know him how they have been treated. Honorable members should ask Captain Burkett his opinion of this man. I shall read a few clauses of the letter to which I have referred as in the possession of the AttorneyGeneral, as follows: -
The Commissioner, to destroy Caldwell’s testimony and his bona fides, deliberately volunteered (by producing his file) a single sheet which, he said, was signed by Mr. Caldwell in his presence, and in the presence of the architect and the accountant.
Fortunately, Mr. Caldwell and I were present, and I insisted upon Mr. Caldwell examining it; and T examined it afterwards, and I publicly said that it was not signed by Mr. Caldwell. The Committee then insisted upon detaching this sheet from the file, and Colonel Walker was severely cross-examined by Senator Millen, and he broke down, and ultimately withdrew his sworn statement as untrue.
He was trying to ruin, another Australian -
The importance of. this was that Walker, in order to bolster up his untruthful statement on oath to impress the Committee, audaciously challenged the Committee to call a writing expert who would prove what he swore, namely, that this document was signed by Mr. Caldwell. This was supposed to be a written statement which Mr. Caldwell had signed, and in which he was called the “ lessee.” When Walker was under the cross-examination of Senator Millen, he tried to substitute a four-page document for the single-page document, which Senator Millen 1 strongly resented. Having regard to this deliberate and malicious attempt to further injure Mr. Caldwell’s rights by a malevolent official, I have now to formally request, on Mr. Caldwell’s behalf, that he be prosecuted forthwith for perjury.
The evidence is complete, the shorthandwriter can be called, and the secretary to the Committee. Senator Millen can also verify these facts. Mr. Caldwell will give evidence, and the pressmen present can also bc called to testify to this incident.
I will be glad if you will give forthwith the necessary instructions for the prosecution of the malefactor. It is obviously your duty as the highest law officer to see that the law is maintained and enforced. Perjury should be punished. ,
I will await your reply for seven days, after which Mr. Caldwell will act as he is advised for the purpose of seeing justice’ done. . . .
That letter was written by Mr. Joseph Woolf, one of the leading legal practitioners in Australia. I hope that a strict inquiry will be made into this matter. If Colonel Walker is simply dismissed by the Government on a technicality, that course is taken out of kindness to him. I do not know a single soldier in Melbourne who can speak well of him. I have given the name of one captain, and honorable members who know the work that officer did during the late war, and on the platform, will admit that he is a man on whose statements we can rely. I have no personal interests in the case. I received this correspondence only this afternoon ; and had I known that the matter was coming up to night, I should have given the dinner adjournment to a study of it. If this man has been wrongfully dismissed, by all means let him have an opportunity to prove his innocence. To produce a document which is absolutely forged, in order to ruin another Australian, is infamous. I know that the soldiers have not been treated as well as, perhaps, honorable members would desire. Any man put into a position such as that occupied by Colonel “Walker ought to be of a character absolutely above reproach; but the streets of Melbourne, actually shriek at his name. I do not love the Government, and would gladly have voted against them last night if given the opportunity; but, in justice to them, I repeat that they have been more than kind to Colonel Walker. I personally asked the AttorneyGeneral to take notice of a letter which contains accusations so serious, for if not we may have a case only equalled by that of that unfortunate gentleman, the Rev. X B. Ronald.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed (vide page 7287), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That duties of Customs and Excise (.vide page 726), first item, be imposed.
.- Last night the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that if he had his way wheat would be 14s. per bushel to the Australian public; yet he and’ his colleagues in the corner, are endeavouring to prevent those employed in our secondary industries from earning decent wages. How those honorable members can reconcile the two positions I am at a loss to understand. I am quite prepared to assist the primary producers to get a fair return ; but how are they to sell their products if the people in the cities have no means with which to purchase them? I remember that in the early days, when Free Trade was the policy of New South
Wales, I was regarded as a great curiosity, and called all sorts of funny names, for advocating that Australia should be self-contained. I am not going to call my honorable friends in the Government corner names; because I think that an intellectual re-adjustment on their part may cause them to realize the possibility of making Australia self-contained. I ask those honorable members who are not in accord with my views on Tariff matters if they are prepared to destroy the great steel works at Newcastle, controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company; to destroy Thompson Brothers establishment at Castlemaine; and the great works controlled by Walker Brothers, of Maryborough; or, again, if they are opposed to the establishment by Cadburys, of England, of a big manufacturing industry in Tasmania? I think it has been said that the statesman is a man who can look some centuries ahead; but members of the Corner party appear to be able to see only the length of a cow. We want in this Parliament men who will do something to build up the nation. We want more than we are getting at present for the expenditure of millions of pounds upon the education of our people. It was my misfortune that the opportunities, now available to the younger generation, were denied to me. Had it been otherwise, I would have been much more effective than I have been in my attempts at social reform for the purpose of - increasing the comforts of the people. We should see to it that the younger generation are not denied the opportunity of entering into those avenues of industry for which Australia is so well suited. Free Trade, no doubt, > is an admirable doctrine, mentioned in the Scriptures; but as a practical, working principal, it is a fatal barrier to progress. It is, and must be, the duty of this Parliament to make it possible for our people to be profitably employed. I agree that it is most unfortunate that our population is so distributed that about 49 per cent, of the people in Victoria are gathered in the city of Melbourne, about 41 per cent, of the people of New South Wales in Sydney, and about 54 per cent, of the people of South Australia in Adelaide. As one of the representatives of the city of Sydney, T am quite prepared to do what I can to assist the people in the country districts. But I appeal to them to give us some encouragement in the establishment of our secondary industries. The Labour parity, to which I belong, has always endeavoured to cut up the larger estates so that the sons of farmers, as they reach years of maturity, might have available to them land at a reasonable price. We have done our best in this respect, and at the same time we have been endeavouring to do something for the industrial population of our cities. There does not seem to be very much life in this debate. It is a foregone conclusion that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will have an easy task in conducting the Tariff through the Committee, for it must be apparent to everybody that the Tariff is a revenueproducing one, and that whilst Free Traders will make a lot of bluster, and promise that all sorts of funny things will happen if their proposals are not adopted, they will be praying that the Tariff will he agreed to in its present form, so that they may he saved from further direct taxation. The first principle of economics is to export as much as possible; no country can export too much, but it can import too much. The country that imports very little and exports largely is prosperous. The surest way of altering the foreign exchange rate in our favour is to increase the export of Australian goods and decrease our imports. If the party on this side were on the Government benches that policy would be adopted very quickly. Unfortunately, changes in the Government must take place before there can be any improvement of the nature I have indicated. In the meantime, we shall do our best with those Ministers who are in power until the next general election brings about a change in the personnel of this House. We ought to try to turn the key of salvation by disposing of the Tariff as quickly as possible. As I remarked before, all honorable members want protection for their own interests,but they take care that nobody else shall get it. That is human nature. Let us, however, think of the great mass of the people and of the interests of Australia. If we do that, and adopt the policy I have enunciated, we shall lay the foundations of progress and add greatly to the welfare of the Australian people.
.- I thought that after six years of the most terrible war in the world’s history, the cause of Free Trade would have been dead, but it is apparent that there is still plenty of life in it and that there is an endeavour on the part of the Free Trade representatives to upset the Tariff which the Ministry have submitted. I propose to deal briefly with one phase of the question which so far has not been touched upon - that of national safety. It is essential that Australia, like any other country, should be self-contained as far as possible, and I remind honorable members of the Country party who have been advocating low duties, and, in some cases, no duties, of the well-known fact that a country may be living in happiness and contentment and yet be on the verge of a volcano.
– So it can be under a Tariff.
– Yes; but a country that protects itself with a Tariff is taking precaution against disaster. England has plenty of factories for the manufacture of munitions, but depends upon other countries for foodstuffs. Australia, on the other hand, has an abundance of foodstuffs, but who will say that we are in a position to protect ourselves in the event of war? If the Australian people are to endure as a nation we must look a long way ahead. I remind the Committee of what Germany did after the Franco-Prussian War. It may be of interest to honorable members who have not read this phase of history that the then Emperor of Germany was almost elected a member of the Cobden Free Trade Club. After the war of 1870 he espoused the cause of Free Trade, but as soon as he had joined all the divided States of Germany into one Empire he threw off the mask, and Germany became the most highly protected nation in the world. For that policy Bismarck was responsible, and the result of it was that Germany became one of the foremost manufacturing countries in the world. It is safe to say that but for the outbreak of war in 1914, within a decade of that period she would, by peaceful penetration, have obtained the economic control of the world.
– Germany never exceeded England in respect of manufactures.
– The honorable member cannot be serious in making that interjection. The British Committee which in 1916 or 1917 inquired into the matter of ship construction, found that 60 per cent. of the steel forgings or castings used in British mercantile shipbuilding were imported from Germany. There were no forges in operation in Great Britain except those operatedby the British Admiralty, and a lot of credit is due to the Minister who kept them in existence. It was only a question of time when England, as a manufacturing nation, would have been completely outclassedby Germany.
– Pure surmise and assertion.
– Let honorable members consider the success of America. She began her successful career as a manufacturing country when she put up a protective wall which prevented outside competition with her manufactures. Who will contend that that was anything but good for America? Let us consider the question of the beet sugar industry. In the early seventies the sugar trade of the world was controlled by Great Britain, and yet, fifteen years later, Germany collared the sugar trade of the world with her beet sugar industry. Because of this Great Britain lost the West Indies trade, and was entirely dependent on Germany for sugar. Great Britain had no trade in sugar in 1914, whilst at that time Germany produced8,500,000 tons of beet sugar.
I say that it is essential that this country should be self-contained, and it can be so only if we establish the necessary factories here to turn out the goods which we require. In my opinion the policy of Free Trade in Great Britain has been a bad one for the people of the United Kingdom. I sincerely trust that this Parliament will pass an effective Tariff for the building up of our industries and the safeguarding of the community. I agree that we should bring about reciprocaltrade with all the self-governing Dominions of the Empire.
– Does the honorable member mean a Tariff effective for the primary industries?
-For everybody in Australia. When will the supporters of the primary industries understand that they cannot exist without the secondary industries?
– Does the honorable member infer that they do not understand that?
– Judging by the speeches which I have so far heard on the Tariff, I say that some of them do not. I have been surprised at statements of members of the Country party concerning farm machinery. We are led to believe that a big effort will be made to abolish duties on farm machinery.
– Hear, hear!
– Honorable members who have spoken in this way could not have listened carefully to the speech made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), when introducing the Tariff.
– The honorable member should speak for himself. We listened with the greatest attention to that speech.
– Then I am afraid that some members of the Country party have very short memories. In New Zealand, where there is no Tariff on farm machinery, the same machinery sold by the same firms that are selling in Australia, is dearer than it is here, where there is a 30 to 40 per cent. duty on it. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) spoke of a binder costing £120 to-day that used to cost only £80. It is not so very long ago since it used to cost £40. It is only this year that the Sunshine Harvester people, who were the first to manufacture binders in Australia, put them on the market, and yet, without any Tariff on binders, the price has jumped from £32 to about £120.
– Because of the Tariff piled on over the fifteen years I referred to.
– There was no Tariff on binders up to this year : the honorable member is barking up the wrong tree. He nevertheless puts his argument forward as a justification for Free Trade in farm machinery, and to . help the farmer. After all, it is all a case of how the matter affects us individually.
– The honorable member would object if we said that.
– Not at all. Every man appears to be out for himself, and I am looking forward with a great deal of pleasure to the humorous divisions we shall probably have on some of the items of the Tariff during the next few months.
England, in the fifties, secured control of the cotton trade of the world, and people there said, “ Look what a fine thing Free Trade is! We get the raw material, and secure control of the cotton trade of the world.” But during only last year those engaged in the manufacture of cotton in England went to the British Government, and asked for protection against Japanese competition.
– Did the honorable member ever hear of a manufacturer who would not get protection if he could ?
– I am pointing out how an industry as great as the cotton industry of Great Britain, which controlled the markets of the world, is beginning to be ousted from those markets by the competition of cheap labour countries. That is not what we are looking for in Australia. With all the raw materials at our disposal, we should not be importing any manufactured goods. We cannot wonder that money is scarce when we are sending out of the country every year from £100,000,000 to £120,000,000 for goods which we could manufacture ourselves.
– If we have to compete with the productions of cheap labour abroad, how are we going to sell overseas articles manufactured here?
– It will be time enough to discuss that question when we catch up with the local demand for manufactured articles. There is a practically illimitable market in the East for foodstuffs which we could supply. Let me remind honorable members that America., at one time, had no overseas trade, and could not have it to-day if she had not established her own factories. You must produce goods before you can carry on an overseas trade in them. We must have local manufactures.
– That is what we want.
– My honorable friends do not want them to live. If they do, they must give them the benefit of a fair Tariff. I should be very pleased to hear that the members of the Country party are prepared to give our people a fair Tariff, and I trust that when it has been finally considered the Tariff passed by this Parliament will be an effective one in the interests of Australia, and of the safety of the Empire, of which it is a part.
– I wish to make a few general statements in connexion with the Tariff. I have listened with interest, if not with pleasure, to speeches which have come from members of the Country party.’ While I profess to be as keenly interested in the primary producers of the Commonwealth as are honorable members of the Country party, I like to be fair all round. If, yesterday, I had been asked my fiscal faith, I should probably have said that I must shake myself up and come to a determination soon. I reached a stage further last night under the inspiration of members of the Country party, and I have reached a still further stage to-night. I believe, with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), that, in a country like Australia, we should, wherever possible, convert our raw products into manufactured articles for our own people. We ought to be self-contained. Recently a petition was sent to me by the secretary of the Single Tax League of South Australia, for presentation to this House, and I presented it, as it was my duty to do, although I did not agree with all the conclusions in it. About twelve years ago, I came to this Parliament with a fiscal faith that some of my friends construed into Free Trade. The present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was one of them. I -was really a Revenue Tariff man, and stood by that policy in the consideration of the Tariff then under discussion. But when we came to the item dried fruits, as I happened to represent Renmark, which district relies upon the dried-fruit industry, I had to vote for an impost which was something more than a revenue duty. The present Treasurer came down upon me like a thousand bricks, and said, “ I thought you were a Free Trader.” The position is different to-day. The right honorable gentleman is now behind a Tariff which is the most extravagant ever submitted to this Parliament.
I have no intention of going all the way with my honorable friends in the corner. Some of the arguments submitted last night by the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) were sound; but others were somewhat extraordinary. It must be admitted by honorable members opposite that the primary producers, particularly the farmers, have no beneficial Protection. They are getting a little out of butter at the present time, but not from any Protection. They have no beneficial Protection on wheat. In fact, they are obliged to sell their products throughout the world’s markets without any Protection. On these grounds, the honorable members for Swan and Wimmera claimed that the farmers ought to have a practically free market for their machinery; and the honorable member for Wimmera even went further, and became somewhat abusive in a way that was not at all justified. We in Australia ought to be proud of the men who have given us our agricultural machinery. We ought to be proud of our Australian inventions, and of those who have taken up the ideas of others and manufactured a class of machinery that is not equalled in any other part of the world.
– And is not sold cheaper in any other part of the world.
– I am not so sure of that. The honorable member for Swan erred in his reference to hinders, hot so much in his statement that there has hitherto been no duty upon them, but because he failed to realize that, without the competition of Australian manufacturers, Canada and the United States of America could charge the Australian producers whatever they liked. This year, for the coming season’s requirements, imported binders were quoted at from £120 to £130; but when the local binder came on the market at £100, the imported article dropped in price to £100.
– Before the duty was imposed on binders, the imported binder was selling at £80. In J anuary last, the price quoted was £120.
– That is perfectly true. The imported article rose to £120.
– Owing to the operation of the Tariff.
– Of course. But towards the end of last year the price of agricultural machinery was increased generally because of the higher cost of raw material brought about through obvious causes, such as the scarcity of shipping. The price of the imported articles was increased generally by an amount which was double the increase on the implements which came into competition with local manufactures.
I hope that, in the consideration of this Tariff, honorable members will keep in view one special feature. About three years ago, many honorable members, in anticipation of Tariff alterations, sought to have a thorough investigation by capable men of the position and outlook of Australian industries. The Government complied with that request by instructing the then Inter-State Commission to make a thorough investigation. I followed the Commission’s inquiry carefully, and, in my opinion, it was the most thorough and practical that has ever been attempted. The result was to give honorable members good, solid information regarding the real needs of our industries, and such as might guard them against decisions which would unduly fatten our manufacturers, and build up in Australia millionaire employers, such as we hear of in America, whose example we do not wish to follow in that respect. The investigations of the. Inter-State Commission provided reliable and valuable information on which to consider Tariff questions. I regret that we have not the conclusions of the Commission in a condensed form.
– Some time ago I distributed to honorable members a book containing these conclusions in condensed form.
– Are copies still available?
– I have none. I obtained merely enough to give one to each honorable member.
– That book should be exceedingly valuable to honorable members. I do not intend to support extravagant demands for duties or to support more than is justified for the building up and consolidation of Australian industries.
– In many cases the con- clusions of the Inter-State Commission have proved entirely wrong.
– Possibly . In Victoria you can prove the Tariff extremists wrong to any extent.
– The Inter-State Commission said that certain industries could not be established here; but the war showed that they could be established. Quite a number of such cases have occurred.
– I congratulate Protectionist Australia on the possession of this Protectionist Minister. One of the biggest manufacturers in Australia has brought out a new article on which there is going to be a big run, and has called it the “ Massy-Greene.” This Tariff has immortalized the Minister. There has never been a more exhaustive and careful analysis of the fiscal question set before this House than that with which the Minister introduced this Tariff.
– Why not quote the Treasurer on Protection ?
– Quite a number of other Free Traders in the Government are behind this extremist.
– What about Foster on bottled fruit?
– I am laying all my cards on the table, and the Treasurer will have to do the same to explain his conversion to Protection.
– I need revenue.
– I am with the Treasurer there, and am more of a Tariff man because of the need of revenue than I would be otherwise. If we do not get revenue by means of duties, how are we to get it ?
– Out of the farmers.
– That is so.
– But under that system the farmers would be called upon to provide all the revenue instead of the whole community contributing to it.
– Yes, and that makes me more of a tariffist than I should otherwise be. Members of the Country party sometimes speak as if all knowledge regarding country interests were in them, and I ask them to remember, so far as the income tax is concerned, that it is levied on a progressive scale, and that the higher rates have been levied largely on an annual value of wool amounting to £50,000,000. Next year, however, there will be only £15,000,000 worth of wool to tax.
– There will not be so much.
– The following year there may be still less. That will diminish the revenue from income taxation. But there are others besides the farmer and the manufacturer to be considered. There is the great public, the general body of consumers. I am anxious to know if the consumers are goingto have a fair deal. I am not a believer in the policy of price fixing; and I challenge any honorable member of this Chamber to prove that it has been the means of keeping down the cost of living, particularly during the period of the war. I believe it has been the means of increasing it. In dealing with the Tariff, we have to consider the future of Australian industries, and how far it is possible to extend them beyond what we have already achieved in converting raw materials into the finished article, or, at all events, up to the point of Australia’s complete requirements. At the same time, we have to protect the public. How are we going to do it? I do not believe in price fixing such as we had during the war period; and if we are going to face this “ Massy Greene “ Tariff in its most extravagant phases, we must consider how we are going to protect the consumers. This is a serious matter, because we have no right to saddle our people with an unjustifiable burden, and go beyond the point which will give to the promoters of our new, and also bur old, industries a reasonable possibility of success. We can do it without injuring the farmer, who is at all times a most reasonable man. It is wrong to tempt the farmer into believing that he represents the most important section of the community, and that Parliament or the country have no interest in his welfare, because that it absolutely untrue. The farmer cannot complain of the treatment he has received from the Parliaments of Australia since the outbreak of war, and long before. He deserves the utmost possible consideration, because on his success our national prosperity largely depends. I want the attention of the Government, and particularly that of the author of this Tariff, that absolutely overshadows anything that Australia has been accustomed to, because I desire to learn how the Government are going to protect the people who have to purchase the products of the manufacturers that the Minister is supporting too extravagantly in many directions.
We were informed by the Government quite recently that the Inter-State Commission no longer exists, because its work has, so far as the purpose for which it was created is concerned, been completed. I am hoping, although the InterState Commission has been abolished, that a Board of Trade, or some similar body, will be created, consisting of highly qualified men, charged with the duty of investigating the operations of the Tariff in relation to the development of the manufacturing industries of Australia.
– I hope, later on, to be able to give the House an outline of a proposal of a somewhat different nature, which will provide for a continual review by a properly constituted authority up to a necessary point, so that if an undue profit is being made, or any undue advantage is being taken under the Tariff, the position can be considered, and the matter brought before Parliament in due course.
– I thank the Minister for the information he has given the House, and I will state quite frankly that if some such scheme were not entertained, I would not vote for any of the high duties it is intended to impose.
– That is what we propose doing.
– It simply means that the Government will have the assistance of a qualified Committee in administering the Tariff in connexion with many of the duties set out in the schedule.
– That is the intention, but I have not yet definitely settled the form of review. The matter is being investigated to decide what is thebest course to follow;but some form will be adopted, provided, of course, the House agrees.
– I am quite sure the House will agree, and that the representatives of the primary producers will appreciate the Minister’s announcement. At present, we are paying more under the Tariff than we ought to pay, particularly for the productsof some industries with which I am conversant. I am sure that we are not getting a fair deal on “ the other side,” and I am not going to support a high Tariff unless we can have some safeguard which will insure fair play for the people of this country. I will try to give reasonable encouragement to the building up of industries from the raw materials of Australia, but there must be surety that we shall not be robbed as a people, and a few individuals made millionaires.
.- There are two results which are very obvious with respect to the Tariff. Whatever may have been the intention of the Government, one of those two results is that the Tariff has proved the means of collecting a colossal revenue. That infers that enormous sums have been taken out of the pockets of the people and put into the Treasury. Some yearsago I was travelling and came upon a delightful city.
– Was the honorable member alone on that occasion ?
– I was not entirely alone. I had gone into a bootmaker’s shop to buy a pair of what they call there “rubber shoes.” A newsboy rushed into the shop calling out “ Third edition.” This was during the early stage of the war, so I eagerly bought the so-called “ Third edition.” I discovered, however, that except for that caption, the newspaper was apparently word for word the same as the two previous editions of the same paper which I had bought and paid for I. expressed some surprise. But the shoemaker consoled and silenced me with the remark, “ Well, I guess they need the money.” As the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has already indicated by way of interjection during this debate, and in explanation of his attitude towards the Tariff, he needs the money. That then, may be the principal apology of the Government for the introduction of this
Tariff. Honorable members of the party to which I belong will take no share of responsibility for a Tariff which has transferred from the pockets of the people a huge sum of money. Unfortunately, of the tremendous amount which has come out of the public pocket, not more than 50 per cent., perhaps, has reached the Treasury. The remainder has gone to swell the wealth of those who have paid duty to the Customs House and have passed it on with a very large increase to the public. The second great feature is that the Tariff has been responsible for an enormous increase in the cost of living. It has been the main factor, indeed. It has vastly increased the prices of almost all goods that are imported. Also there has been a great deal of profiteering, but the existing Tariff has played into the hands of the profiteers by enormously adding to the value of the stocks of the importers and distributors.
– Has this Tariff increased the price of wheat, or of flour, or butter, or meat?
– I do not know that the imposition of any Tariff could increase the prices of those commodities; but it will be found from the records that there has been a great decrease in the prices received by the producers in respect of all those items, with the single exception of wheat. Butter has fallen.
– I know more about butter than does the honorable member.
– The only object of these interjections is to divert the attention Of honorable members from the real issue. As a matter of fact, the prices of butter, meat, and bacon are not affected by the Tariff at all The main cause of the increased cost of living is not to be found in the prices of these commodities. In my opinion, there would be no need for increased taxation if we had efficient Government control over expenditure. Having opened up this question, I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) toreport progress.
– The honorable member must go on for a while yet.
– Evidently, it is not possible to secure an adjournment of the debate at this stage; I do hope that we arc not going to drift into the bad practice which we adopted last session of sit ting night after night till an unreasonably late hour.
– Why, the honorable member would sit in a theatre until ten minutes to 11 o’clock!
– Not in company like this, anyhow. The discussion upon the first division of the Tariff, which relates to ale, spirits, and other beverages, should have been a little more exhilarating than it has been.
– It has been altogether too dry.
– If the honorable member thinks it necessary to start talking about spirits at this hour of the evening, it is time we went home.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210407_reps_8_94/>.