8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Acting Speaker (Hon. F. W. Bamford) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
Copper Mining:Reduction of Wages.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER.- I have received from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, vic., “ The depression of the copper market, and its effect upon the mining industry.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling) [11.2].- I take this action because of certain statements which have been made throughout Australia by friends and foes of the Labourmovement about the position created by the depression of the copper market and the nation-wide campaign to bring about a reduction of wages. In Queensland, at Mount Morgan; in South Australia; and in Tasmania, attempts have been made to reduce wages. That these attempts have not been confined to one State, or even to one industry, proves - to our satisfaction at least- that the mining industry is only being used by way of experiment. This wagereducing campaign is not a new one. The reduction of wages and the increasing of hours has been tried in Great Britain, in America, and, practically, throughout Europe. We, of the Australian Workers Union, are prepared to fight to the last ditch in resistance of those reductions, which are so ardently desired by the capitalists of this country and their friends. The directors of Mount Morgan issued to the members of the Australian Workers Union and other organizations the ultimatum that, unlessthe menwould accept a reduction of 20 per cent. in their wages the mine would be closed in other words, they stated that the company was going to take direct action, to “go slow on the job,” to refuse to function. The men took a ballot on the question, but before the ballot was taken the Queensland branch of the Executive of the Australian Workers Union dealt with the subject, and advised the. men to hold’ the ballot and to vote against the reduction. This the men did, and the proposal for a reduction was defeated by a large majority. The Mount Morgan directorate contends that it cannot carry on unless the men are prepared to accept reduced wages, and the Queensland , Government - as a Government should do - has offered to come to the aid of the company by giving it a rebate of £1,000 per week in freights ; a fairly generous offer. The Queensland Government recognises that it is not the workers employed at Mount Morgan who should subsidize the mining industry, and that if the industry must be subsidized, it should be subsidized at the expense of the whole State. It has been said recently by many that if an industry cannot pay, the workers employed in it should bear the brunt by accepting reduced wages and worse conditions than those awarded by the Arbitration Court. That isa vicious principle. Why should any set of workersaccept , a lower standard of living than that enjoyed by workers’ in other industries? To ask them to do so is quite illogical. The State has a duty towards its citizens, and so has the Commonwealth. They must at least provide with food the people within their territories. Whether this be done by the issuing of meal coupons or by the subsidizing of industries, it must be done; and it cannot be tolerated that any one set of workers shall be sweated. If an industry must be subsidized to keep going, the subsidy must be provided by the people at large, including the employersand the wealthy, and not merely by the workers in that industry. The Mount Morgan directorate has stated that the offer of assistance made by the Queensland Government is not large enough, and the directors will not be satisfied Until they obtain what they started out to get - that is, thereduction of wages, which means the taking from the men of some of their little luxuries, and even necessaries. I am aware that an audit has been made of the books of the company, which shows that under present conditions it cannot carry on. We accept that audit, and are satisfied with it; but we say that if the industry is subsidized it is not to be subsidized by the workers alone. When the copper market has risenagain, if the workers went to the Mount Morgan directorate and asked to participate in the profits caused by the high price of copper, the reply would be, as honorable members know,” Go to the Arbitration Court.” Now, when we desire to abide by the Arbitration Court awards, the directors of this and other companies say “No, we cannot carry on under that condition.” The workers will not accept thereduction of wages at Mount Morgan. If the industry is to be subsidized, ‘ it must he subsidized by the wholepeople,each individual member of the communitypayinghis just share of the cost.’ In South? Australia, the directors of the Moonta and Wallaroo Smelling Works, in’ pursuance of the same campaign, issued an ultimatum -to the men that, if they were not prepared to accept a great reduction in wages, the industry must cease. A ballot was held, in which the unions refused to participate; but Mr. John Verran, an erstwhile Labour man,but now a very fine servant of the mining companies in South Australia, conducted a ballot of people who were not concerned in the mines. Needless to say, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of accepting the company’s offer of reduced wages, but, as the unions did not participate in the ballot it was useless. There are many organizations concerned in mining in South Australia.
Mr.Foley. - There are too many concerned in the mining industry.
Mr. BLAKELEY. - I agree with the honorable member. We want the One Big Union very quickly.
Mr. Foley. - No.
Mr. BLAKELEY. - But the honorable member says there are too many unions now.
Mr. Foley. - That is so. The Australian Workers Union should never have gone into mining. It is a matter about which that body knows nothing.
Mr. BLAKELEY. - I venture to say that I worked just as early in mines as did the honorable member, and . probably just, as long. In South Australia, the President of the State Arbitration Court has declared that, unless the parties to the existing award agree to alter it, a lower rate of wages cannot be paid; and, so far as the Australian Workers Union is concerned, no consent will be given by that body to any alteration. It cannot, and will not, do so. Wot only are there erstwhile Labour men carrying out the wishes of the employers in South Australia, we have practically the same thing happening in the person of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I could quote from the Hobart World; but, in order to give the honorable member every opportunity, I shall quote from the Hobart Mercury of the 23rd May a very, interesting and intensely edifying telegram despatched by the honorable member to the Mayor of Mount Morgan and Mr. J. Stopford, the State member for the district; containing among other matters the following pronouncement : -
I suggest to the miners of Mount Morgan that they hold another meeting, .keep extremists like Mr. E. J. Carroll and Mr. George Martens off the platform, accept Judge McCawley’s advice, get to work, and wait for better times. The Arbitration Court will still be there to appeal to when times become good again, as no doubt- they will in a year or two. It is rubbish to say that because, the miners of Mount Morgan” had to accept a reduction in wages to meet the outside world reduced price of copper, the workers in every trade and calling will have to accept a reduction. I would also suggest to the trades ‘ and labour unionists of Queensland, and, indeed, throughout Australia, that’ they should get together with a view to changing those leaders who are telling them that the only way out of industrial troubles is to abolish the capitalist and abolish capitalism, who either do not know or who ignore the teachings of history, and who are of opinion that a civilization which has been built up during 1,000 years can be swept away and replaced by the millennium in a year or two.
Only a few short years ago, the honorable member was the high priest of Socialism in Australia, and was employed by the workers to enunciate the doctrine of control by the working classes. He conducted a very fine column, “ Socialism in our Time,,” . in the. Queensland Worker, and every week exhorted the workers to be up and doing, and to educate themselves in all matters, so that ultimately they might take control of and work their own industries for their own benefit’ and for the benefit of those who participated in them.
Mr. Higgs.- have never made use of. those words.
Mr. BLAKELEY.- I refer the , honorable member to articles in the Worker which he has forgotten, and which he would like to forget. Probably he does not desire to be reminded of them. He is like a few others who occupy seats opposite. He has seen the light, just as it has been seen by the Acting Prime Minister .(Sir Joseph Cook), the great patriot of to-day, ‘ who advocated Republicanism a few years ago.
Sir Joseph Cook. - That is not true.
Mr. BLAKELEY.- The right honorable gentleman, a few short years ago, longed for the day when a’ Republic would be established in Australia. The honorable member for. Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is ‘like many others who commenced their political life in the Labour movement. -A most extraordinary feature of that movement is the manner in which men whose views are most advanced at the beginning of their career fall from grace considerably, and generally become the most conservative of persons towards the end of their political life. ‘ That has been the case with the ‘ Acting Prime Minister, the honorable member for Capricornia, the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), and many others who are here, not excepting the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), and many others who have gone.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER (Hon. F. W. Bamford). - I would, remind the honorable member that his time is limited.
Mr. BLAKELEY . - Sir, I am very glad you are in the chair. The honorable member for Capricornia was one of those gentlemen who, in Sydney a few short years ago, preached the doctrine of “ bread or blood.” ‘
Sir Joseph Cook. - Sir, I would like to remind you that for the last ten minutes the honorable member has not been touching upon the subject covered by his motion, but has been indulging in bitter personal attacks upon other honorable members.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER.- I took the opportunity of reminding the - honorable member a moment ago that his time was limited. As he is certainly transgressing the Standing Orders, I ask him not .to continue his references to other honorable members.
Mr. BLAKELEY.- I shall leave honorable members to their memories of the past, and continue to deal with Mount Lyell.
Mr. Hector Lamond.—A few reminiscences of the honorable member’s past would be interesting.
Mr. BLAKELEY.- My political and moral past is as clean as that of any other honorable member, especially in an industrial sense. ‘ In any case, unlike the honorable member for Illawarra, I am not a “ scab “ on my own party.
The position at Mount Lyell is practically on a par with that at the other two mines I have mentioned. The directors of the Mount Lyell Company say that unless the men are prepared to accept certain conditions, which differ from those now prevailing, they will be obliged to close down. Members of the combined unions engaged by the Mount Lyell Company have held many meetings in Queenstown, in Tasmania. While the Australian Workers Union arethe principal body involved in point of numbers, there are many other organizations there affected by the trouble. They carried certain resolutions, stating that the men were quite prepared to assist the directors of Mount Lyell to go to the Arbitration Court and get an expeditious hearing of the case. That led to a conference with the employers, which I was not able to attend, although I attended the initial meeting of the unions. The directors laid a certain scheme before the men, which later came before the executive council of the Australian Workers Union and the executives of other organizations interested. Unanimously the executives refused, and for very good reasons, to accept the conditions offered by the directors. The Australian Workers Union has a case pending before the Arbitration Court, and if we accept any reduction of wages or surrender anything which we have already gained, we shall prejudice our case in the Court; and the very men who are asking us to make these concessions will quote them against us at the hearing. That was done only recently in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers case against the Mount Lyell and other companies. The onus will be placed upon us of explaining to the Judge the anomaly of members themselves accepting inferior conditions and then approaching the Court for different conditions and rates of pay. We cannot accept anything which would be likely to prejudice our case. Much has been said regarding the attitude of the men at Queenstown. The following resolutionswere carried at a mass meeting of unionists at Queenstown on 22nd May : -
That this committee of combined unions adhere to the spirit and intention of our original decision on April 2, and we agree to urge the executive councils of our respective, organizations to act in accordance with same. We further agree to authorize our executive to act as they deem advisable on behalf of their members employed on this field.
That this meeting disapproves of the action of the Mount Lyell Company in departing from the usual custom in refusing to deliver goods to their employees.
The resolutions passed on 2nd April were as follo w:-
That this meeting of union representatives, having taken into consideration the circular issued by the directors of the Mount Lyell Company, are of the opinion that the cost of living has not decreased, and that the present wages paid are insufficient to allow of a reasonable standard of comfort being maintained. If the company’s position is, however, such as outlined in their circular, they should adopt the constitutional policy of making application to the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration for thenecessary relief, in which circumstances the unions will do all in their power to have the case, as affecting each organization, dealt with conjointly, and will use every effort to have the matter presented as expeditiously as possible.
That the opinion of the combined unions be indorsed, and the officers of the Australian Workers. Union be instructed that we desire to have that “course adopted.
That the general secretary be instructed that it is our opinion that the Mount Lyell Company’s plea will be inability to pay. We feel certain they will not attempt to justify a reduction of the cost-of-living plea. We wish to point out that men who have dependents, and who are “working on the basic wage, have only been able to live, and now they arefacing the winter, when clothing, bedding, and such like require renewing, light and fuel costs increase, and therefore a reduction of their wages will undoubtedly mean privation.
That an eighty-eight hour fortnight will not be satisfactory in exchange for the forty-four hour week. We point out that, as a health question, we desire to keep the number of hours as few in any week as is possible . We are of opinion that to compel miners to work fortyeight hours in one week will be to drive many practical miners from following that employment on this field, and deter others from coming here.
The whole of the workers employed by the Mount Lyell Company have left the matter entirely in the hands of their executives. It has been said by the Premier of
Tasmania that it would suit the Honorable James McDonald, M.L.C., President Of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Workers Union, to induce the arrogant executive to alter its attitude. Our attitude from the beginning has been that we will resist any reduction. It might be thought by a section of the workers at Mount Lyell, or. Kalgoorlie, or Moonta,or Wallaroo, that they could do with less wages and work a few more hours, but those members consider only their own interests, and disregard the view-point of the workers generally. It is essentially the duty of the executive of an organization covering all Australia to consider .not merely a section of its members, but the whole of them. As, president of the Australian Workers Union, I am prepared to take full responsibility for my action. I am confident that my executive - and I are adopting the right attitude in resist ing by all possible means a reduction of wages and an increase .of hours.
La regard to arbitration proceedings, when the workers -strike they are immediately condemned ‘ by the employers as w direct-actionists “ and everything else that is bad, but when *an -organization like the Australian Workers Union offers every possible assistance to have ‘ the issue ‘ decided by the Arbitration Court those who, at a time when copper was £120 and £130 per ton, condemned the workers for .taking direct action, are themselves adopting that very policy by closing down the mine and going slow. They do not ask the workers to participate in the responsibility of carrying on the industry when it is flourishing. The Mount Lyell directors did not suggest to us during the flush period that we should do certain’ things and be recompensed, accordingly. They were then making high profits and putting away millions of pounds in dividends and in the purchase of shares in other companies, but immediately a depression’ comes they seek to place the responsibility for. the conduct of the industry upon the workers engaged in’ it. We have applied for and have been granted a compulsory conference with the directors of Mount Lyell and other mines. We shall meet them, but I do not anticipate that any good will result from the conference. We shall facilitate by all means in our power the expeditious hearing, of the case when it comes before the Court, and I hope the Government will do likewise, and we shall abide by the decision- of that tribunal. But the directors of Mount Lyell say ‘ that the Arbitration Court is of. no use to them, because, if it follows the principles which have guided it in the past, in deciding first the living wage and then adding something for skill and the nature of the occupation, the decision- of the Court cannot .be of any advantage to them. That means ‘that the ‘directors of “the Mount Lyell, Moonta, Wallaroo,’. -and Mount Morgan mines all desire that wages shall come down below, a certain fixed standard. We are told that we are criminals when we refuse to work, but when the employers refuse to work it is quite all right. The position which I want to stress is that in .the three cases I ,have mentioned we have been, working under an award. If the employers desire a variation of that award, they are ,a,t liberty to go to the Court to obtain itWe are prepared to :abide by any decision, of the Court, but- in ..the meantime the Australian Workers- 1Union, will ‘ :-np’t accept .-either a reduction in wages, or. any increase in’ their hours of employment
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER. . (Wakefield) [11.32].- I am glad that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has made the statement which he has,’ because it is a good thing that the rank’ and file of- the workers, as well., as the people of Australia, should know just, where some of the prominent leaders, of the industrialists are leading them.. This is a case of the blind leading the blind. In his opening remarks, the honorable member .stated that the trouble at Mount Lyell, Mount Morgan, Moonta, and Wallaroo was typical of a world-wide campaign which was being conducted by em,ployers for the purpose of reducing wages. The accuracy of that statement may be fairly left to .the scrutiny of any right-thinking man in. this country, in view of the ‘ conditions which obtain today. The honorable member asks that, whilst the prices of metals, remain extremely low, the people of Australia, shall be called upon to subsidize the working of the mines. That, he knows .perfectly well, is an economic impossibility. During his speech he ;made reference to, several mines concerning some . of. which I have had an intimate knowledge for many years. Other honorable members possess a similar acquaintance with the other mines. The honorable member for Darling knows that there is scarcely a metal mine working in Australia to-day at its normal strength, because the low prices ruling for metals render it impossible to profitably carry on operations. I regret as much as does anybody that those prices have fallen so. considerably as to necessitate a re-adjustment of wages until there is a corresponding decline in the cost of living. But we have to accept the position as we find it, and the honorable member knows that in Queensland the Arbitration Court recommended the men to do that which he, as the Chairman of the Executive of the Australian Workers Union, refuses to allow them to do. But I wish specially to direct attention to the honorable member’s statement ‘ in reference to the Moonta and Wallaroo mines in South Australia, because he has absolutely misrepresented the position which obtains there. He has told us that, whilst the prices of metals were high, and the shareholders were reaping rich harvests, the miners had not a fair “look in,” but that as soon as the depression was experienced the directors of these mines asked the workers to subsidize them. He also affirmed that the miners are the only persons who have been called upon to make a sacrifice. That statement is just as wide of the truth in regard to these particular mines as it could possibly be. For many years - for at least twenty years to my own knowledge - there has been an understanding between the miners and the management of the Moonta and Wallaroo mines, that the wages of the former shall be regulated by the prices ruling for metals. Under that arrangement, as prices rise a certain percentage must be given to the miners by way of an increase in their wages. That agreement has been honorably kept. Throughout the entire period of the war, when metals soared to. extraordinary prices, it was loyally observed. And what is theposition to-day ? As soon as copper dropped to zero there was no option but for these mines to’ close down. They have been closed down for months. But recently their directors, through Mr. Hancock, the general manager, who is one of the best employers to be found in Australia, met the men in conference and put the entire position before them down to the minutest detail. He informed them that under certain conditions, which were approved by a committee of the men upon the spot, the miners were at liberty to resume work. Mr. Hancock told them that as soon as copper reached a certain figure a certain wage would be paid them. It is admitted not merely by the miners of Moonta and Wallaroo, but by the workers of South Australia, who know all aboutthis matter from A to Z, that the offer was a very generous one. Yet the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) stated that the sacrifice was on the part of the men only. Mr. Hancock told the miners of Moonta and Wallaroo that the shareholders in those mines were prepared to entirely forgo the payment or dividends for a time. The men would have accepted his propositions but for the association over which the honorable member presides, namely, the Australian Workers Union. The honorable member has reflected upon Mr. John Verran, of the Moonta mines, who at one time was Premier of South Australia, and with whose politics I always disagreed. But that gentleman has a reputation in those mines, extending over a period of forty years, of which he may well be proud. He has rendered more service to the workers of this country than the honorable member for Darling will render if he livesfor another fifty years.
Mr. Makin. - The honorable member would not always have said that.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER. - I have stated that my political views are quite at variance with those held by Mr. John Verran, but I have always had only one opinion of that gentleman’s character, and of the life which he has devoted to the service of the workers. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh whether he does not agree with me?
Mr. Makin. - I am not making an expression of my opinion, but it is amusing to hear the honorablemember giving this gentleman an industrial reference.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER.- I have already stressed that, politically, we have always been at variance. I am talking now about a matter of bread and cheese for the workers of this country.
Sir Joseph Cook. - Hear, hear ! These honorable members opposite do not care about bread and cheese for the workers; theyare too busy with their politics.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER. - Yes; but they will learn that the people are fully aware of the facts within the next six months. The public will shortly know on which side the representatives of Labour ir. this Parliament take their stand.
Mr. Blakeley. - There is no doubt where I stand.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER.- I commend the honorable member for saying that, and I am glad that the people of Australia will learn at once where he takes up his stand. They, will perceive that he does so just on the border-line of the One Big Union - although, for very good reasons, he does not happen to want the One Big Union. I ask honorable members opposite to consider the state of affairs in Australia, and throughout the world, to-day, and I plead with them not to mislead the workers. What is there in prospect? Idle mines, until the workers, or their leaders - or, rather, the misleaders of the workers - come to their senses. I know how the people generally feel about this matter, and what their verdict will be with respect to the leadership of the Labour politicians.
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) [11.41].- The subject under discussion is exceedingly important, and requires the most earnest consideration.
Mr. Corser. - And truthful statements.
Mr. CHARLTON- I do riot know that any honorable member has made an untruthful statement.
Mr. Corser. - I do.
Mr. CHARLTON.- Then it will be for the honorable member to make it known and correct it, if he can. In every part of the world there have been changes, as an outcome of the war, which have proved detrimental to the best interests of all peoples, those of Australia included. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) remarked that we must adapt ourselves to. the altered conditions. Inevitably, that. is our task, but we should do so by the means properly set up for the purpose.
Mr. Richard Foster. - A thousand Arbitration Courts could not keep a mine working if it did not pay. .
Mr. CHARLTON.- One of the main tasks of the State and Federal Parliaments, for years past, has been to set up efficient machinery for the settlement and prevention of industrial troubles. We. have established recognised tribunals, for the adjustment of disputes.
Mr. Corser. - When it has suited employees to take the proper course they have done so. But when it has not pleased them they have refused to have anything to do with arbitration machinery.
Mr. CHARLTON.- In the history of arbitration -
Sir Joseph Cook. - The honorable member is talking arbitration, but his people have just thrown the principle down.
Mr. CHARLTON.- I have always met the difficulty that while the Arbitration Act has compelled employees in an industry to go before the Court when seeking improved conditions and higher wages,,those same employees have remained at the mercy of their employers in that the latter have been free to close down activities, to institute a lock-out, in order to enforce certain things upon or from their employees. Following the war there has come a slump in the metal market. Our mines can no longer secure an adequate return for the metals which they produce. As for the situation which has now developed, it is not a matter of the blind leading the blind, but of men who understand the true situation, and who realize what might be the general effect of the proposed action upon workers throughout the Commonwealth, advising the latter in their own best interests. Let us suppose that one section of employees agree to accept reduced wages and, so, to permit an industry to carry on. Where will the, end of it be? It will mean the brushing aside of the whole of our elaborate and painfully set up arbitration machinery. Once .we allow employers to say that they can no longer pay the ruling rates, whereupon their employees agree to accept less, there will be no end to the application- of the practice throughout Australia.
Mr. Atkinson. - And why should there be, if conditions absolutely demand it?
Mr. CHARLTON.- Is it the Arbitration Court which is to decide upon conditions and wages, or is it the honorable member and those who share his views? Having at heart the welfare of Australian industry and Australian workmen, I perceive the disastrous effects involved in any general reduction of the wage standard. If one industry were to carry on upon reduced payments the employers in various other industries would say, “We can no longer pay the wages fixed by the Arbitration Court; either we must close down or our employees must take less.” I can picture the chaos which would follow. Every one knows how the workers had to fight to secure higher wages to cope with the increased cost of living during the war. But did they gain increases equivalent to the ever soaring cost of living? They were always behind.
Mr. Richard Foster.- The Moonta miners were not.
Sir Joseph Cook. - We have just ascertained that, with respect to shipping between the mainland and Tasmania, the wages now being paid are 120 per cent. or 130 per cent. higher than before the war.
Mr. CHARLTON.- The Minister will not say that increases of wages granted generally during the war kept anywhere near to the ever rising cost of living.
Mr. Considine. - The Minister refrains from mentioning the percentage increase in the cost of living.
Sir Joseph Cook. - Knibbs sets it down at 80 per cent.
Mr. CHARLTON.- Surely, to-day, because the bottom has dropped out of the metal market, mining employees should not be asked to continue to deny themselves and their families the necessities of life in order to keep the wheels of industry going. I agree that, in the best interests of Australia, we should endeavour to keep our people fully employed.
Sir Joseph Cook. - Will the honorable member suggest how that may be done?’
Mr. CHARLTON.- It is time we endeavoured to find a solution of the difficulty. I do not care whether it may be discovered by means of the subsidizing of industries by State or Federal Governments to cover the period until the prices of metals inevitably rise again.
Mr. Corser. - Would the honorable member suggest State subsidizing of every industry throughout Australia?
Mr. CHARLTON.- There are only certain industries concerned. The honorable member ‘has been very anxious, together with other honorable members, to see that the world’s parity was secured for every primary product of this country. But the miners had to receive much less than parity for their labour. I think it will be generally admitted that the mining companies secured a price for their metals during the war period that had never been dreamed of. They made millions in profits, and paid out very large sums in dividends, but even after doing that they had very large sums in reserve. ‘ If honorable members will take the trouble to investigate the financial position of the different mining companies, they will find that in almost every case they issued additional shares, and increased the capital out of money in reserve without the shareholders being called upon to pay a single penny. If these mining companies made such huge profits during a prosperous period, they should have been compelled by law to place a certain amount aside for what is usually termed “ a rainy day.” Is it fair to say that those who produced that wealth by toiling in the bowels of the earth day after day should be called upon in a time of depression to work for reduced wages when the companies, at times, made profit of from 200 per cent. to 300 per cent. ? Is it right that these men should be asked to work for a wage that is insufficient to maintain themselves and their families in reasonable comfort? This House has to take a wider view of the whole question, and see that something is done to provide the metalliferous miners with a wage that is sufficient to meet their everyday needs. It is not fair for honorable members to trot out the argument that because metals have fallen in price the miners should be asked to accept a wage that is totally inadequate to provide them with the necessaries of life.
Mr. Considine. - Neither is it any use this House asking them to work.
Mr. CHARLTON.- I know that. I want honorable members, as far as possible, to realize that this is not a matter that has been brought forward only by the leaders of the men. Much hasbeen said concerning industrial leaders, but it is a good thing that there are men with sufficient public spirit to look after the interests of others. What would become of the toiling masses if their interests were not protected by some responsible person? Does this House want the workers to be left at the mercy of their employers ? Must the workers always pay the penalty when reductions are suggested? The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is fully conversant with the coal industry, and will remember the keen cut-throat competition that was brought about when we were endeavouring to sell our product in the world’s markets. Owing to internal competition some time ago,coal was sold as low as 7s.6d.per ton. Would the right honorable gentlemansay that under such circumstances the miners should accept a reduction? .
Sir Joseph Cook. - The honorable member knows very well that we were at that time competing for the little trade that was offering overseas, but nowadays Australia consumes practically all her output.
Mr. CHARLTON. - At that particular time we had a big Inter-State trade which represented about two-thirds ofthe output. When the people of Australia, were prepared to pay a reasonable rate, will any one suggest that wages should be reduced by one-half or two-thirds, or, at all events, considerably?
Sir Joseph Cook. - There was no suggestion of reducing wages by one-half.
Mr. CHARLTON.- I know my statement is correct, and the position was as I have stated. Machinery has been set up for dealing with these industrial disputes from time to time, and surely it is fairto appeal to the Court for a decision. May I remind honorable members that the Commonwealth finances will be in a precarious position if there is a heavy reduction in wages? Where will it end, and what will be the result? What will be the position of the Treasurer?
Sir Joseph Cook. - How can we keep them up? That is the point.
Mr. CHARLTON- We should appeal to the Arbitration Court in these matters. Let me ask the right honorable gentleman what he is going to do if wages drop to bedrock and prices come down? Where will we get the money to meet Our war obligations? Notwithstanding what the right honorable gentleman has said, he knows that my statement is correct. When once we start to. reduce wages it is going to he a Sad’ day for Australia. If wages can be maintained at a reasonable standard, and people are able to live in comfort, the country will be better off, and the revenue more satisfactory. This is a very important matter, and a big principle is involved. Honorable members should not deal with it lightly, and it is useless saying that the men should be prepared to accept a reduction. I ask the Treasurer to place himself in the position of the men.
Sir Joseph Cook. - What is the principle involved?
Mr. CHARLTON.- We should not expect men employed in big industries to accept a reduction unless they arecompelled by the laws of the country. The trouble is that the employers do notwant to go to the Court, although they force the workmen to do so when they desire.
Sir Joseph Cook. -Does not the honorable member know that the men at Mount Morgan went to the Court, and the Judge gave a certain decision?
Mr. CHARLTON.- The Treasurer may mention isolated case’s, but, generally speaking, the opinion of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is that, if a certain price cannot be obtained for metals, the men should be prepared to accept a lower rate.
Mr. Richard Foster. - My argument was that, if operations were not to cease altogether, the men should be prepared to work on the best conditions possible.
Mr. CHARLTON.- We should apply to the Courts to see what should be done, because we cannot allow every employer to say that he is not in a position to pay, and must therefore reduce wages. Is the employer to have the right to say that he shall closeup his industry when we have legal machinery for regulating industrial matters?
Mr. Considine. - When the honorable member is emphasizing the fact that we should go to the Arbitration Court to deal with this matter, I would like to ask him what machinery there is to compel the Mount Morgan Company to abide by the existing award?
Mr. CHARLTON.- I quite agree thatwe have not themachinery, but I have pointed out on many occasions that there is no power- under our laws to compel any one to work.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER (Hon. P. W. Bamford). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta- Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer) [11.57]. - I shall pass oyer the personalities which disfigured the speech of the honorable member who introduced this matter, and say that during the whole of his tirade, lasting over half-an-hour, not one proposal was made with a view to getting over the difficulties with which we are confronted. The same may be said of the last two speakers, and, although there has been plenty of denunciation, not a single proposition has been submitted to assist in getting these men back to work.
Mr.Considine. -We are willing to sit at the feet of Gamaliel. .
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- The onus is on the men. Surely it is the duty of honorable members who have brought this matterbeforethe House to submit a working proposition. The only ray of light has been the suggestion that they should go to the Arbitration Court. The men at Mount Morgan have been to an Arbitration Court presided over by a Judge appointed by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan), and the appointment of that gentleman, as honorable members are aware, caused a good deal of controversy at the time.
Mr. Considine. - Is the right honorable gentleman suggesting that’ there was political influence?
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- I am merely suggesting that this Judge is not biased against the miners, and his decisions showright along the line that he has been most generous to the workers. After fully investigating the matter, the Judge said -
The fact that the company under the present conditions could not work the mines at a profit, and that even with a 20 per cent. reduction in wages, salaries, and contract rates, the mines would still be worked at a loss. The company, however, said that it was “prepared to re-open, its mine on a 20 per cent. reduction in wages, salaries, and contract rates being agreed to by the employees, and such anarrangement beingapproved by the Court of Industrial Arbitration.” Such arrangement could not be made unless so much of the award as provided for wages was altered or suspended.
He proposed to suspend those awards in order to meet the position. I shall not read all the judgment, but it is very instructive reading. The Judge said, further-
Theoffer which the company had made to carry on without profit while depleting its ore reserves constituted in some degree a moral obligation to give the. employees an opportunity to continue their avocations. As to the consequences should they decide to reject the company’s offer, he pointed out that the prospect of obtaining employment was not inviting, nor were the conditions likely to improve. There had beena collapse in the prices of- the primary products upon which the prosperity of Australia mainly depended. The consequence of that collapse would be far reaching. Without being pessimistic, prudent men must realize the possibility of a crisis,- such as had followed all great wars. Unfortunately, in these crises the workers suffered most, for they invariably brought unemployment in their train. Should they decide to accept the company’s offer, they would certainly be’ in no worse a position than they were at present, and would Certainly be in a better position than if they rejected the offer.
Later on hesaid -
It gives them, as well asyou, breathing space. The acceptance of the offer will confer benefits on others seeking employment. For your entering into competition with them merely’ adds to, their distress and difficulties. It may be suggested to- you that this offer of the company is part of a plot for a general reduction of wages. ,
That is the statement which has been made here this morning. Mr. Justice McCawley went on to say -
I am bound to tell you that I think there is not the slightest justification for such a suggestion.
Mr. Considine. - That meets with the right honorable gentleman’s approval?
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- That is what Mr. Justice McCawley said. We are asked to go to the Courts to take the opinions ofthese Judges. That has been stressed over and over again in the last fifteen minutes. The honorable “member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said, “ Go to the Court and accept the verdict of the Judge.” Here is the verdict of the Judge.
Mr. Blakeley. - That is not the verdict of the Judge at all, and the right honorable gentleman should not so misrepresent it.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- What, then, is it?
Mr. Blakeley. - It is not a judgment; it is merely an opinion.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- May I suggest that there is not very much use in going to the Arbitration Court in conditions like these, and for the reason that the
Court has set up certain standards which are all very well so long as an industry is earning a profit, and it pays to carry it on. The Arbitration Court has laid down the dictum that the Court is not to consider whether an industry is paying or earning profits in deciding that a certain basic wage must be paid. It seems tome that dictum, and the conditions fixed irrevocably by the Arbitration Court, are responsible for a very great deal of the unemployment to-day in the metal industry. The price of metals to-day will not give a profit and pay the wages fixed by the Court. Honorable members know very well what happened in the old days. This is not the first time that metals have collapsed. Tin, copper, and lead have temporarily collapsed many a time before, and what used to be done in’ times past was this : The manager would call his men together, and say, “ We cannot go on. We cannot sell our metals.” He would agree with the men to go on working, sending the ore to grass. When later on ho could ‘realize at remunerative prices, the men would get their wages for all the time they had been at work.
Mr. Considine. - That was very kind.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - In the meantime, they were carried on by the manager of the stores until their wages could be paid. Does the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) know any better way of dealing with the difficulty?
Mr. Anstey. - The men were working all the time and getting a bare existence.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- The honorable member for Barrier is here, and he knows that at Broken Hill the people have had fifteen months’ bitter experience of the same thing. There is no law in the world, and certainly no decree of any Arbitration Court, which can keep mines working if they do not pay to work.
Mr. Considine. - And no decree of an Arbitration Court will keep men working if they do not earn enough for a decent existence.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- Very well; then the only alternative is to close the mines up.
Mr. Anstey. - They are saving their ore reserves, and so are the men.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- Quite so. Let us understand the position. We cannot compel people to work a mine that does not pay.
Mr. Considine. - And we cannot compel working men to work unless it pays them to do so.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- I should like to remind honorable members that in this case the working men want to work, and the union of another industry altogether will not let them work. It is not a case of the men, not: desiring to work, because the men agreed to work.
Mr. Blakeley. - They did no such thing. I refer the right honorable gentleman to the last of the resolutions I quoted.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- My reading of the matter is that at Moonta the men want to go to work.
Mr. Richard Poster. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Atkinson. - They do at Mount Lyell also.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- I understand that it is the same all round. The men at Mount Morgan want to work. But the big union, of which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is President, says, “You must not go to work under any. conditions except such as are. prescribed by the Arbitration Court.” So it comes to this: These men are out of work, and they go to the Arbitration Court. The Court says that certain wages must be paid, and certain conditions imposed, which the industry cannot afford. That is the dictum laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins. He said in assessing the basic wage in the famous Harvester case, that -
Fair and reasonable remuneration is a condition precedent to exemption from the duty; and the remuneration of the employee is not made to depend upon the profits of the employer. If the profits are nil, the fair and reasonable remuneration must be paid; and if the profits are 100 per cent., it must be paid.
That is the dictum of Mr. Justice Higgins, and the companies say in reply that the price of metals has slumped, in the case of copper from £120 to £77 per ton.
Mr. Blakeley. - Will the right honorable gentleman tell us something about the profits accumulated by the companies in the last four years?
Mr. Atkinson. - The workers did as well as the shareholders of the companies in many cases.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- I should like to say that in my judgment there were no very abnormal profits made in the metals industry during the war. I remind my honorable friends opposite that all through the war the prices of metals were strictly controlled. Metals were sold to the Imperial Government, who arbitrarily fixed their own price.
Mr. Anstey. - And a very high price at the same time.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - The price for copper was about £114 per ton, I believe, and the honorable member knows perfectly well that many of the copper mines in Australia cannot carry on at a price below £100 per ton.
Mr. Anstey. - At what price can the men work below?
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- The result was that the moment the prices of metals eased most of the mines that had been re-opened during the war were closed down. There is nouse in denying the facts.
Mr. Considine. - The right honorable gentleman says that the price of metals . was fixed during the war. Will he kindly inform me what was the price of zinc as fixed by the contract with the British Government? I have been trying to learn that for some time.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - Here are the prices so far as I can ascertain. The price of copper was from £100 to £120, so that I overstated it somewhat. Honorable members know that, having regard to present conditions of production in Australia, that price would allow of only a very moderate profit.
Mr. Charlton. - What was the prewar price?
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - I do not know. The price of copper to-day is between £76 and £77 per ton, so that there has been a drop of from £30 to £40 per ton. That is the cause of the whole trouble. Honorable members opposite may ignore it as much as they please, but these world prices will have vogue, no matter how we may try to interrupt them. They operate and have to be reckoned with. This is a primary industry, and it cannot be protected in the sense that our secondary industries can; it has to find its market in other parts of the world. [Extension of time granted.] The war price of lead fluctuated between £29 and £50 per ton; to-day it is £24 2s. 6d. per ton. Then, again, the war price of tin went up to £430 per ton, whereas the price to-day is £182 per ton. The prices of all these products are subject to world influences.
Mr. Considine. - The right honorable gentleman promised to give me the war price of zinc.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - I have not the figures at hand. My view of the situation may be briefly put. When your world prices determine that a mine is unprofitable, you should, as far as possible, try to meet the temporary circumstances as they come about. No attack on unionism is involved in an effort to meet those circumstances in a fair and reasonable spirit. The men, having regard to. these conditions, ought to concede something, and when the price increases and the industry is prosperous they ought to participate correspondingly.
Mr. Gabb. - That is fair, but the mine owners do not follow that rule.
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- It is perfectly fair. The principle ought to cut, not one way only, but both ways. Rates of labour may be rigidly fixed, but the time will come when the unions, in my opinion, will realize that after all a sliding scale is the proper system to apply to many of these industrial enterprises. The basis of labour should be fixed reasonably, and the rates should slide up or down as the market determines the conditions. I have seen that principle operate with the greatest possible success for forty years under a voluntary system. I see no reason why it should notbe applied to-day. You may close your mines down and sit dhurna till doomsday, but that will not affect the world’s prices by so much as a hair’s breadth. My suggestion is that the men meet these local difficulties as they arise. They should make the best terms and conditions consistent with the keeping of the industry going. It is better for them in the long run to be working than to be unemployed.
Mr. Considine. - No matter what they receive for their labour!
Sir JOSEPH COOK.- That is an idle interjection.
Mr. Considine. - It is pertinent.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - It is not. I do not desire that men should be paid less than the industry in which they are employed can afford to pay them. What is the honorable member’s proposal?
Mr. Considine. - I shall tell the House when the right honorable gentleman sits down.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. - I venture to say that the honorable member will not do so. He will talk at large as others have done. No honorable member has yet touched the actual question.
In conclusion, let me say that I shall be glad to hear of any reasonable proposition for the solution of these difficulties which are piling up about us. I have waited this morning with the greatest disappointment to hear even one constructive proposal made by those who have so far addressed themselves to this question. My proposal is that the men should accept Judge McCawley’s suggestion. He is a Judge of the Arbitration Court of Queensland, and has proved again and again that he is in sympathy with the miners. He suggests that they should take the proposed reduction meantime, with certain guarantees as to their future wages when the industry has recovered itself. If honorable members opposite have a better scheme I shall be glad to hear of it.
Mr. WIENHOLT (Moreton) [12.17].- As a representative of Queensland, necessarily interested in seeing this industry-, so important to our State, recover from the position into which it has fallen, I put it to the House that this is not a political but a purely economic question. I am one of those who sympathize with and can understand the feelings of the men who are called upon to face a reduction in their wages. It seems to me, speaking as a soldier, that they are very much in the position of men who have to give up ground that they have won after very heavy fighting. I realize that the situation is a very difficult one for the men to face. No one will deny, however, that you cannot get blood out of a stone, or that half a loaf is better than no bread. I notice that the Queensland State Government has made an offer to subsidize the Mount Morgan Mining Company to the extent of £1,000 per week by way of rebate. Considering the present state of the finances of Queensland and the very unprofitable way in which the State railways have been run of late years, we must to be honest give the State Government full credit for that offer. The giving of a Government subsidy to an industry which cannot stand on its own footing is, however, economically impossible. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) willbear me out when I say that practically every station in Queens land is at the present moment working short-handed or under -manned.
Mr. James Page. - Hear, hear !
Mr. WIENHOLT. - The whole of the pastoral industry is really in asomewhat similar state, and many men who should be working in connexion with it are now out of employment. It would be justas logical for the State Government to start subsidizing all the other primary industries which, owing to the fall in the price of primary products, are. forced now to cut things very fine or absolutely close down.
The only solution of this difficulty which presents itself to me is that which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) have put forward. When, after fair auditing, or after investigation by the Arbitration Court, there is full and sufficient knowledge of the actual working of an industry, it is realized that it cannot be carried on without a reduction in wages, the men ought to accept a. reduction, and, to use the expression of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), wait for better times. But if the workmen accept a reduction in wages to enable an industry to be carried on, they should be assured by the management that, when better times come, as we hope they will, the very first profits earned will be earmarked before any dividends are paid to make up to the men the difference lost by the temporary suspension of the award.
Mr. CONSIDINE (Barrier) [12.21].- What strikes me in this discussion is that the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) and other members opposite, in making their so-called suggestions for the settlement of this alleged dispute - for it is not a dispute at all, but simply a refusal of the companies to carry out the award -
Mr. Brennan. - It is an impasse.
Mr. CONSIDINE. - That word may be all right in the Arbitration Court, but—–
Sir Joseph Cook. - Is it not really a collapse of the industry?
Mr. CONSIDINE.- No, it is not; the so-called suggestions put forward by honorable members opposite resolve themselves into this : Of all the factors that go to the production of wealth, the only factor that is invariably asked to bear the burden, when hard times come and profits fall, is, for some reason or other - whether it be the economic situation in Europe or otherwise—the factor of labour. Honorablemembers opposite talk about Judge McCawley and the Mount Morgan mines, but what do the companies do? Do they complain of high freights? Do theycomplain about the cost of commodities utilized in the production of ore?
Mr. Jowett. - They certainly do complain very strongly.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- When the Queensland Government offer a reductionin freight, they repudiate the offer, and put it on one side; the only commodity as to which they desire a reduction of price is the commodity of labour. When it is a question of carrying on an industry, the employer invariably asks the worker, who has his commodity to sell, to bear theburden of bad times. The employer does not say that there should be cheaper coal or cheaper freights.
Mr. Jowett. - He doessay so.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- Nothing of the sort.
Mr. Jowett.- He asks for cheaper oversea freights.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- I knowthat the honorable member and those who think with him ask for everything, including, of course, a reduction in the cost of labour.
Mr. Jowett.- I never asked for that.
Mr. CONSIDINE.-However, those interjections do not touch my argument. The Government had the effrontery to introduce an Industrial. Peace Bill, which they told us was going to settle all troubles and pacify industrial conditions in Australia. When speaking on that Bill, I pointed out that it was ridiculous to talk to the workers of Australia about such a measure being a panacea, and that what the Mount Lyell Proprietary had done was the very thing they might be expected to do. So long as. an industry is profitable the workers are exploited, but when profits cease, of what value is an arbitrationaward ? The workers can have their award, and yet be permitted to idly walk about the streets. The honorable member for Darling (Mr.
Blakeley) and his confreres on this side have the distinguished honour, on this occasion, of being the upholders of “ law and order,” the only “ constitutionalists,” while the Acting Prime Minister is prepared to tear an award up as a mere “ scrap of paper,” and to talk about “ sweet reasonableness “ when it is a question of reducing the; standard of living of the miners and other workers. What becomes of an award of the Arbitration Court, which, we are told, has all the force of law - is on an equality with all the, other laws of the Commonwealth? Those great upholders of law and orderwho went to war because a “ scrap of paper “ was torn up - tell us that awards are all right so long as the boss is making profits; but as soon as the industry ceases to be profitable, the mines must be shut down and the workers starved into submission. Here is a bright little circular which coincides with the views of the Acting Prime Minister and honorable members opposite. . It is the share list of Joseph Palmer and Sons, issued on the 19 th May, and it contains the following:
Business in mining shares has beenactive owing to a rising market for metals. Under normal conditions the outlook would be hope ful, but the short-hour awards have not yet been cancelled; so that many investors still stand aloof. The decision of the directors of Mount Lyell to close down next month is sensible. Governments that have so interfered with, the mining industry will now have an opportunity of cancelling their ridiculous awards.
There is the “nigger in the wood pile.” These are, the words of a gentleman on the same side as my honorable friends opposite, and he tears away the camouflage when he talks of the “ ridiculous awards.” When those who are the real Government shut down mines or close workshops, their political representatives - their political marionettes—cover everythingup, and talk about” sweet reasonableness “ and a “ sliding scale.” There was never a word about a sliding scale during the War when prices were soaring. Did we see the employers at Broken Hill, with tears in their eyes pursuing and imploring the. employees, to accept increased wages? No; we had tofight like hell to get a shilling increase.
Sir Josephcook.–The prices during the war were abnormal.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- The prices during the war were such that the Government have not yet disclosed the price of the zinc concentrates sold by the Zinc Producing Association to the Imperial Government, though I have repeatedly asked for it. Yet we hear talk of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards fixing wages. How can they do so?
Sir Joseph Cook. - I do not see why you should not have been given the information.
Mr. CONSIDINE- I have asked you, and your chief (Mr. Hughes) repeatedly for it, both by questions on the noticepaper and verbally, and I have been refused on every occasion. Yet Mr. Baillieu can deliver speeches at Collins House declaring that everything is satisfactory. The Government of the countryare, apparently, absolutely ignorant of the facts, or, if not ignorant, something worse. I say quite candidly that, so far as I am concerned, there is no organization of workers in this country which will accept reduced wages, and there is no reason why any organization should. I am concerned with the fact that the people who actually produce the wealth of this country are to be asked to have their standard of living reduced.
Mr. Gregory.- What is to be the alternative ?
Mr. CONSIDINE.- The alternative which I suggest to the workers is that they organize themselves for the purpose of taking over the wealth-producing agencies of the Commonwealth and running them in their own interests, which are not the interests of those who at present are ruling and robbing them.
Mr. Gregory. - But, you know, you can only do that by constitutional methods.
Mr. CONSIDINE. - The honorable member for Dampier can apply what adjectives he likes. I want to see the thing done. I do not care how, so long as it is done; peaceably if possible, but it shall be done.
Mr. Gregory. - You must first secure a majority of the people of your opinion.
Mr. Hector Lamond. - How would cooperative or communistic ownership on the Mount Lyell mine make it pay?
Mr. CONSIDINE. - Communist ownership of Mount Lyell mine or of any other wealth-producing agencies in. this or any other country would not be concerned with the question of making enter prises “ pay “ at all. It would be concerned only with the question of producing for use, not for profit.
Mr. Hector Lamond. - Australia uses only about 10 per cent. of the base metal supplies. That being so, how many men could be profitably employed at Mount Lyell?
Mr. CONSIDINE. -The honorable member has asked me a question, and, apparently, he has answered it. If he does not want information from me that is , no concern of mine.
Mr. Hector Lamond. - I do not want information on that point. I know what the result would be.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- Apparently, then, the honorable member is only interjecting in order to make himself a general nuisance.
Mr. Hector Lamond.- No. I merely want to demonstrate the hollowness of your own argument.
Mr . CONSIDINE . - The honorable member has asked me what is the solution of the present difficulty. I say thatin the existing order of things there is no solution.
Sir Joseph Cook. - The honorable member is talking folly now.
Mr. CONSIDINE. - Wages Boards, Arbitration Courts, and all the other paraphernalia of the capitalistic system have only been created for the purpose of fooling the worker and camouflaging the robbery that is going on.
Mr. Hector Lamond. - The honorable member is more honest than other honorable members behind him.
Mr. CONSIDINE . —I cannot claim to be more honest than members of the Labour party who are sitting on my side of the House. I give them credit for honesty and’ sincerity, too. The only difference between . us is they take a different view of these matters. . They believe in Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards decisions, whereas I do not. I believe that under the existing social order Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards are merely being utilized for the purpose of fooling the workers. They operate only when times are good As soon as profits fall they become useless, and, as in the case of the Mount Lyell mine, the boss shuts down on operations and goes for a walk down Collins-street with a cigar in his mouth in a totally happy frame of mind, while the, other fellow has to look round for another job.
Mr. Wienholt. - The honorable member’s solution of the problem is at the end of the rainbow.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- No it is not. It is very much nearer to the honorable member’s residence and his interests than the end of the rainbow.
Sir Joseph Cook. - The honorable member for Barrier is now after the honorable member for Moreton.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- I am after the lot of you. What is the result of the present system, anyhow ? The New South Wales Government have paid over £90,000 on account of the unemployment and distress in Broken Hill. Every man in the Commonwealth who is out of work has to be fed, even if unemployed. The community has to pay in one way or another. You cannot deny it. You cannot allow men and women to drop down in the streets and meet the same fate as your late enemies, the people in Central Europe. You cannot do that with our own people, because you may want them to fight another war to-morrow. And so you have to feed them. You have to keep some life in their bodies so that they may be physically fit and ready to man the factories and mineswhen theyreopen, so that your capitalist friends may exploit the workers again.
Mr. Hill. - Do you not think that there is plenty of work for everybody that wants to work?
Mr. CONSIDINE.- There is a good deal of work which the honor able member may do, if he is prepared to doit.
Mr. Gregory. - He has someconcern, at all events, for the wives and children of the workers.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- I do notknow that honorable members opposite can claim to have any monopoly of sympathy for the wives and children of the people of this country. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), has been too busy lately looking after the importing interests in connexion with the Tariff to have spare time for anything else. Honorable members opposite, when our mines and factories are not operating, and when men and women are walking about the streets in idleness, suggest that they should accept work at a reduced scale. They would be damned fools if they did that. They are the people who produce the wealth, and when they wake up to that fact, and recognise their true power—–
Mr. Gregory. - They will destroy you when they wake up.
Mr. CONSIDINE.- Possibly. Better men than I am have been destroyed for telling the truth to the working classes, and that may be my fate some day. Nevertheless, it will not prevent me from telling the workers the truth as I see it, though I might be in the same position as some of the honorable member’s flag-flapping patriotic friends placed Ernie Judd in Sydney the other day.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER (Hon. F. W. Bamford).- Order!
Mr. CONSIDINE.—Even if that is going to be my fate, it will not prevent me from telling the people what I believe to be the truth. If I am to go down, it is possible that I may be more powerful dead than alive.
Mr. BELL (Darwin) [12.37].- The state of the market for base metals is a matter of very grave concern to the whole of the people of Australia to-day, and more especially to the people in my division, where the MountLyell mine is situated ; but Ido not propose to discuss the merits of the present trouble for the simple reason that Mr. Justice Powers has convened a compulsory Conference for to-morrow,when representatives of the mine-owners and representatives of the, workers in the mine will, no doubt, meet together to consider the situation. Apart from the fact that a compulsory Conference has been called, I, together with other Parliamentary representatives from. Tasmania, have been asked by the people of Queenstown and district, who are immediately concerned in the questions, to use my best influence tobring about a settlement of the present trouble. We all recognise that it would be a terrible calamity to the workers particularly those in my district, if work at Mount Lyell should be discontinued. For these reasons I do not intend at this stage to discuss the merits of the existing dispute. No member of this House would be doing his duty if he did not use every influenceat his command to effect a settlement, and prevent the closing of Mount Lyell, or other mines similarly situated, because many thousands of people, in addition to mine workers and their families, will be affected. Certain statements have been made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I am not calling into question their good intentions in bringing this matter before the House, nor do I question their honesty of purpose in presenting the case as they have done; but because it is possible that a wrong impression may have been conveyed to honorable members as to the position at Mount Lyell, I want, if I may, to read a few paragraphs from a circular issued by the Mount Lyell directors to theshareholders. In doing this I will not be discussing the merits’ of. the case at all. I merely want to show that the dispute, if we can call it such, which is likely to bring about the closing down of themine, is not a question of a reduction of wages at all. I want that to be clearly understood. The honorable member for Hunter emphasized that the men were called upon to accept a lower rate of wages, that they had not in the past received more than they needed to live on. Certain proposals were put forward, the adoption of which would have meant the reduction of wages, and there was a great deal of discussion about them. But the issue now is set out in the following statement : -
The directors placed the following proposals before the delegates: -
The combined unions to undertake to recommend the underground men to accept the proposal that the hours of working underground be 40 and 48 in alternative weeks.
The combined unions to use their best endeavours and co-operatewith the Company by assisting in securing within a period of two months from date 200 additional men to those already employed (60 competent miners and 140 competent underground mine labourers), with a view of securing an output of 525 tons of blister copper per four-weekly period.
Should the additional labour referred to in clause 2 become available at ‘the mines before the 30th June, 1921, the company to agree to continue operations for a period of four months thereafter, provided that during such period -
(a) An output of ore be maintained sufficient to produce 525 tons of copper during each four-weekly period; and (b)existing rates of wages, conditions of working, and weekly hours of, work (subject to clause 1) be continued; and
(c) the London price of electrolytic copper is not quoted below £70 per ton for fourteen consecutive days.
( a) There be any inordinate increase in costs other than the direct costs of production; or
(b) the financial positionof the company becomes such as, in the opinion of the Board, not to justify the continuance of operations in the mines and smelters; or
(c) any other unforeseencircumstances occcur adversely affecting the company’s undertakings, and its ability to continue its mining andsmelting operations, the . Board, to summon a further conference to review the position.
The combined unions to Undertake to use their best efforts to reduce absenteeism and increase working efficiency.
The directors to continue to make every endeavour to effect further economies in all departments. 7.The foregoing offer is made without prejudice, and will lapse, if not definitelyaccepted on or before 9th May, 1921.
At the presenttime, forty-four hours are worked weekly. As has been explained the executive of the Australian Workers Union, after considering the matter in Melbourne, refused to allow the proposals of the company to be accepted. For the moment I shall not say whether the miners of Mount Lyell were or were not prepared to accept them.
We have been told in the daily press that they would accept them. Nor am I going to discuss now the merits of the case. I am content to state the actual position, so that members who take an interest in the matter may know the facts. The reduction of wages is not involved in’ the present proposals of the company.What is suggested is the rearrangement of the working hours, and the undertaking is asked for that the utmost will be done to get sufficient labour to produce a certain quantity of ore. The honorable member for Darling) after mentioning that a compulsory conference had been called to consider the matter, added that he did not expect anything to come of it.
Mr.Blakeley. -That is so; the two parties cannot agree.
Mr. BELL. - I hope that that is not so, and that some agreement may be come tounder which the mine may continue open. If no such agreement is come to, operationswill cease on the 16th ofnext month, I trust thatmembers opposite understand what that will involve. I do not presume to make any suggestion to the honorable member for Darling, who is president of the Australian Workers Union, but I ask him to consider all the circumstances.
Mr. Blakeley. - You ask me to accept the directors’ instructions, and I reply that I shall not do so.
Mr. BELL. - I ask nothing Of the kind; I merely express the hope that, before any memberof the executive of which the honorable member is president definitely refuses to agree to the proposals of the company, he will go to Queenstown, learn on the spot what the conditions are, talk with the miners themselves, and try to understand the point of view of those most concerned.
Mr. Blakeley. - I have stated to the House the men’s mandate.
Mr. BELL. - Perhaps at a future date I may have an opportunityto answer some of the arguments of thehonorable member and of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Nothing would please me better than to do so. But at present, because of the Conference, and because I may be in a position to go between the parties, and assist in bringing about a settlement which will be in their common interest, and especially in the interests of the workers, I refrain from saying anything further.
Mr. HIGGS (Capricornia) [12.48] . –I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on this subject, though I wish there were time for its longer discussion. Australia, like every other part of the world, is now confronted with the industrial and commercial troubles that inevitably follow a big war. I have given advice to the miners of Mount Morgan and to the workers of Australia, but the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) quoted only a portion of that advice. I suggested that the workers should commence by changing the editors of the chief Labour newspapers - the Sydney Worker, the Brisbane Worker, and the Daily Standard - men who are disseminating hatred and false doctrine in the community.
Mr. Considine. - Bread or blood !
Mr. HIGGS. - The honorable member for Darling misquoted me. I did not use the words that he attributed to me in Sydney. As a matter of fact they were spoken in Brisbane, and then only as a historical reference to what happened in Brisbane about the year 1866. I made no demand for “ bread or blood.” I cannot permit honorable members to suggest that I have no sympathy with the miners of Mount Morgan. I know what mining is. It is an arduous, dangerous and unhealthy occupation. I know that medical men at Mount Morgan say to some miners,” As soon as you have been three years in the mine, get out to some other occupation”; but I also know that there are thousands of men willing to go there to work, because under the contract system they can earn, from £5 to £7 per week. I do not like one feature about the proposed reduction, and that is the deductipn of 12s. or 14s. per week from the wages of the lower-paid men, who are earning £3 or £3 10s. per week. If the executive of the Australian Workers Union would take up a reasonable attitude and discuss the matter with ‘the representatives of the employers they might be able to. make some differentiation in favour of the lower-paid men.
Mr. Blakeley. - But still there would be a reduction.
Mr. HIGGS. - Yes. But the attitude of the honorable member and his executive is to fight all reductions.
Mr. Blakeley. - Hear, hear !
Mr. HIGGS.- The capital’ of the Mount Morgan Company consists of 1,000,000 £1 shares. No dividend has been paid for the last twelve months, and the present value of the shares, according to the latest quotations, is 12s sellers and l1s. buyers. It is true the mine has paid millions in dividends, but the present owners of the mine have not received those millions. If the company were to be relieved of the cost of £2,400 per week referred to already, it would still not be in a position to pay dividends - that £2,400 per week is bedrock - but if the miners will accept the proposed’ reduction the company are prepared to give them a pro raid increase upon any increase in the price of copper beyond £74 per ton. The accountants who conducted the recent investigation agreed, and, apparently, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) concurs, that the company have been losing £18 per ton for every ton of copper produced from the mine.
The executive of the Australian Workers Union have taken up a very dangerous attitude. They will need to be very careful that their organization is not broken up in any crisis which may afflict this country owing to their refusal to meet the. other side and to realize that the price of copper is decided by the outside world. It will be deplorable if, as has happened before in history, trade unions should be broken up. The honorable member takes the risk of that. Men may refuse to take tickets in the Australian Workers Union if the foolish guides I have referred to bring about unemployment and distress by advising workers to take a wrong course.
I have not time to go into this matter fully. I would say that the miners ought to accept the advice of Judge McCawley, but it is deplorable that, although a Judge of an Arbitration Court has made up his mind that there ought to be a reduction in wages, there ,is no means by which he and his Court can. intervene.
Mr. Blakeley. - Judge McCawley does not suggest that there ought to be a reduction. He suggests keeping the industry going, and that, ‘by no means, can be regarded as a judgment.
Mr. HIGGS.- It is unfortunate that a Judge of an Arbitration Court should by offering the miners advice and suggesting a ballot surrender his high office to Bolshevistic and mob orators:
Mr. Blakeley. - “ Bread or blood !”
Mr. Considine. - The honorable member for Capricornia was not long ago one of the’ mob orators of Australia.
Mr. HIGGS. - No, never a mob orator ; but the honorable member for Barrier is one of the Bolshevistic orators.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER (Hon. F. W. Bamford). - The honorable member for Capricornia is. transgressing the Standing Orders.
Mr. HIGGS. - With all due. respect, sir, I point out that the honorable gentleman opposite nas abused me and criticised my remarks. In any case, I am sure the honorable member for Barrier regards “Bolshevistic” as a term of endearment.
Mr. Blakeley. - The honorable member for Barrier in his speech: made no mention of the honorable member for Capricornia.
Mr. HIGGS.- Possibly not, but he is more courageous than others, and unwittingly or unconsciously is one of those
Bolshevistic < orators or false guides to whom I have referred. For instance, he claims that our Arbitration Courts and industrial awards are valueless, and he says that we want, a change in the capitalistic system pf society. He is prepared to achieve that change by peaceful means if possible, but; .anyhow, he says it ought to be settled - meaning, by innuendo, that he is prepared to achieve it by force if he can get sufficient people to follow him. Does the honorable member deny this?
Mr. Considine. - The honorable member can place whatever interpretation he chooses upon my remarks.
Mr. HIGGS. - The honorable member does not deny what I have said. In my time, as a contributor to the columns of the Labour press, I never, proposed what the present-day editors of that press propose, namely, the abolition of capitalism. In my time the proposal was that we should do what we possibly could in our day and generation .to achieve State cooperation and .municipal co-operation. That is what I said every week . in the columns of the Worker. I did not describeas Mr. Boote, the editor of the Sydney Worker has done - every employer as a thief. I did not, as the editor of the Brisbane Worker has done, call interest robbery. What is capitalism, or the present capitalistic state of society? A man saves his money and builds a house, for which he receives rent or invests it in a business, and derives a profit or buys war bonds or other stocks and draws interest upon them. When we pioneers started out to bring about a better condition of things in Australia these gentlemen opposite - Messrs. Blakeley and Considine - were babes in arms. We succeeded so well in improving the state of society and the distribution of wealth that nearly all the men . who are leading the Labour movement to-day have money or own property, from which they are earning interest or rent, or profits.
Mr. Considine. - Do they differ from the bishops or priests who are getting money for preaching Christianity?
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER ,(Hon. F. W. Bamford).- Order! Will honorable members allow the honorable member for Capricornia to proceed?
Mr. HIGGS. - I claim that the false guides of the Official Labour party are wrong in telling the workers that they ought to believe in a materalistic conception of the universe, and that if only capitalism could be abolished all the ills to which flesh is heir could be swept away.
Mr. Gabb. - We do not teach materialism.
Mr. HIGGS. - Some false guides of the Official Labour party do. Is not the communism of to-day as it exists in Russia based on the “materialistic conception of the universe ?”
Mr. Gabb. - The Labour party does hot stand for that.
Mr. HIGGS. - Communism, the condition of society which the honorable member for Barrier would introduce into this country, is in vogue in Russia, as far as Lenin, Trotsky, and others can put it into vogue. They have destroyed trade and shut up all the shops.
Mr. Considine. - And Great Britain has signed a trade agreement with them.
Mr. HIGGS. - Yes, because Lenin has so far departed from communism as to deal with the capitalists the honorable member for Barrier wishes to abolish; and if I am any judge, he will, as time goes on, find that hewill be obliged to shed his communistic principles, discard those who believe in communism, and get practical men around him.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Colonel Walker’s Evidence
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to, the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 4. The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question will be taken into consideration. ,
Pay of Temporary Employees and Clerical Division
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) asked the following questions: -
Department is consequently remote, has any proposal been considered in the direction of providing them with an opportunity of transfer to other Departments where the chances of promotions are more favorable.
The Acting Public Service Commissioner has now furnished the following information: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 26th May (vide page 8704). division v.—- textiles, pelts and furs and manufactures thereof, and attire.
Socks and stockings for human attire, viz. : -
Upon which Mr. Foley had moved -
That after the words “British, 30 per cent.,” in sub-item (a), the following words be inserted: “ and on and after 27th May, 1921, 10 percent.”
.- I regret that I have to oppose the amendment, but I do not think that the mover and those who are supporting him quite realize the difficulties in which the amendment, if carried, would place the local manufacturers of woollen socks. There are in Australia a large number of factories for the knitting of woollen socks, which is an important and valuable industry. So far as I can ascertain, the position in regard to woollen socks is very much the same as that in regard to the manufacture ofcloths and woollens of every description. During and since the war the local manufacturers have not charged those extravagant and preposterous prices which have been demanded for imported goods. On matters of this description one ‘should speak from his own knowledge. For the last, pair of socks made of pure merino wool which I bought I had to pay8s. 6d. It may be said that they were probably made in Australia, but I know that they were not, because they had. red clocks upon them, and I understand that no Australian-made socks have that ornamentation. Certainly, they were most excellent socks. The most serious competitor with the locally-made woollen sock is the imported cotton sock. . Therefore, so far from supporting the amendment, I intend to move, later, that the British preferential duty on cotton socks shall be the same as on woollen socks. I can see no justification for the duty on woollen socks being higher than on cotton socks. I do not think honorable members are aware of the parlous state of woollen sock factories owing to the locally-made article being undercut by the cheaper cotton sock. Not one man or woman would willingly buy cotton socks if he or she could avoid it. These socks are bought only because they are considered to be ever so much cheaper than the woollen article. As a matter of fact, cotton socks and stockings are not cheaper. I have in my hand a pair of socks made outof high-priced merino wool. I have been throughthe factory in which they were made, and have seen the yarn from which they were knitted. I believe that they will outwear ten pairs of cotton socks, and they can probably be bought for less than double the price of the cotton article. The cheapest socks I have seen displayed in any shop have been American-made cotton socks marked1s. l1d. per pair. But what this Committee has to consider is the price charged by the manufacturer for the locally-produced article, . and. not the price at which it is retailed. It is unfair to accuse our Australian manufacturers of charging exorbitant prices for their goods when we know that those prices have been put Upon their goods after they have sold them. The cheapest competing cotton sock to-day is retailed at1s. l1d. per pair.
– It is only fair to say that the cotton socks and stockings which are manufactured in Australia are sold to the wholesalers.
– Am I not asking for an increase of the duty which is levied upon those cotton socks and stockings?
– But the honorable member is comparing the retail price of cotton socks with the wholesale price of woollen socks. The price of Australian stockings is about1s. per pair.
– I am very grateful to the honorable member for supplying me with that information. The socks made from pure Australian merino wool which I hold in my hand are of splendid quality.
– They are very good.
– The honorable member for Wakefield has never seen anything better. The wholesale price of these socks is 24s. per dozen, or 2s. per pair.
– They are retailed at about 5s. 6d. per pair.
– I have no doubt of that. If the public could buy these socks at a retail price corresponding to 2s. per pair wholesale, every factory in the Commonwealth would be working night and day. But owing to thecountry being flooded with cheap cotton socks from abroad, the company of which I am speak ing, has 90 per cent. of the knitting machines in its factory lying idle .
– Why, it Could sellthousands of dozens of those socks !
– I assure the honorable member that I can take him to the factory to-morrow, and prove to him that only about 10 per cent. of its knitting machines are working. I can promise him a great- treat if he will accompany me upon such a visit. Mr. Hector Lamond. -Does the f actory sell to all comers ?
– I do not know. I understand, however, that it will sell to the retail trade.
– A great number of these factories are owned by retail firms.
– That is not the case here. I have already said that the wholesale price of these socks is 24s. per dozen. To retail shops they are sold at 27s. 6d. per dozen. It has been said that to be a true Protectionist one must levy duties only upon those goods which can be manufactured in Australia. Even from that standpoint, I urge that a duty should be placed upon cotton socks and stockings at least equal to the duty which has been imposed upon woollen socks and stockings. We not merely desire to encourage the manufacture of these goods in the Commonwealth, but to prevent the underselling of the locally manufactured article by cheaper imported cotton socks. When the amendmenthas been disposed of, I shall move that’ the ‘duty upon cotton socks and stockings be similar to that which has been levied upon woollen sock’s and stockings.
.- Honorable members will no doubt appreciate the difficulty under which I am labouring at the present moment. I hope that when we reach a few of the more important items in the schedule, the speech delivered by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat will be forgotten. Whilst the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) was addressing the Committee last evening I could not help thinking that he was not viewing this question fairly. When he said that imported socks and stockings were not wanted in this country, he could not have been thinking of those persons who are compelled to buy the cheaper class- of socks and stockings owing to the stress of financial circumstances. That section of the community is worthy of our very best consideration. Of course, I am speaking only of the socks and stockings which are imported from within the Empire. I am quite prepared to levy a much heavier duty upon American socks and stockings than I am prepared to impose upon socks and stockings of British origin. In 1919-20 the cotton socks and stockings imported into this country from Great Britain were valued at £301,,000, those from the United States of America were valued at £42,000, and those from Japan at £70,000. The duty paid upon these goods last year was £109,000, but it must be remembered that during the major portion of the year the old Tariff, under which cotton socks were admitted free, was operative. Assuming that the same quantity’ of socks is imported during the present year - and
I presume that this will be the case-
– No; there are more manufacturers of these goods in Australia now.
– But our local manufacturers of cotton socks have not yet got into the wholesale market. Assuming that we import this year the same quantity of cotton socks as was imported last year, the public of Australia will be penalized to the extent of £258,000. That sum represents the difference between, the duties which , will be payable this year and the duties which were payable last year. If the proposed duty were a revenue duty . I would not object so strongly to it, although I prefer to see revenue duties confined as far as possible to luxuries. But in the present instance the duty will fall almost exclusively upon the poorer section of the community. My own. opinion is that a Committee should have been appointed to investigate the balance-sheets of the different companies who are engaged in this particular industry for the purpose of obtaining sworn information from them, which would have been of great value in enabling us to arrive at what is a fair duty in all the circumstances of the case.
– ‘How many years would it have taken to get that information?
– The Inter-State Commission or the Tariff Commission could have obtained it. Surely the honorable member does not desire to levy duties in order to make millionaires of a few persons.
– What about making millionaires amongst the importers?
– Despite what has been said to the contrary, cotton socks and stockings are not manufactured in Australia upon any large scale.
– Does the honorable member know that 3,500 dozen pairs of socks per week are being manufactured by one establishment alone?
– Is the honorable member referring to Bond’s?
– I have before me that firm’s .advertisement in the Sydney Sun. It advertises silk socks and stockings of every description, but there is not a word in its advertisement about cotton socks.’
– I was speaking of cotton socks when I said that Bond’s are manufacturing 3,500 dozen pairs per week.
– If the honorable member were to ask that’ firm for a quotation for 100,000 pairs of cotton socks to-morrow he would be unable to get it. I . emphasize that there should be proper investigation into these matters. Possibly the information given me has been subject to influence in a certain direction. It may be tainted. I cannot say ; but .1 do. not think so. However, this Committee should secure ample evidence before it places such a grave imposition as is proposed upon the general community. Some time ago the principal of a big firm told me that he had placed an order with a large Melbourne manufacturer for the supply of a line of cotton socks. Owing to war’ conditions, the price rose to 24s. a dozen pairs, and the manufacturer informed the intending purchaser that he would not be able to deliver at the figure agreed upon. The merchant repeated his order at a higher price, but even then the socks were not delivered.
– That would be due to lack of suitable machinery during the war period.
– No; the price quoted by the manufacturer in each instance was only a little below what it would have cost the merchant to secure imported socks. And that is the policy, of the- manufacturer , here.’ I ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to agree to allow this item of duty to remain in abeyance until there can be absolute assurance that cotton socks can be manufactured here of suitable quality; and in sufficient quantity to meet our market requirements. No one will say that they cannot be made in Australia. In reply to the contention of the manufacturers, to whose advertisement I have ‘already referred, that they can and do’ produce cotton hose, the comments furnished to me are as follow: -
The’ fact remains that, with all this firm’s alleged facilities for manufacturing cotton hosiery, they have consistently adhered to the policy of manufacturing silk hosiery. They claim they can now produce, a . certain output of cotton hosiery, that is, socks and stockings, but where are the visible signs of its attempted competition in the local, markets, in view . of their statement that they can turn out 42,000 pairs weekly? The’ir advertisements do not mention cotton socks or stockings. Why do they not utilize the yarn they state they have on hand and begin operations at once, instead of contenting themselves with an assertion that “they can produce” not “they do produce”?
There is the.. trouble. We have not the information concerning actual production before us. No particulars have been provided to justify the assumption that there are factories in Australia that can produce anything approximating to local requirements.
.- It has been claimed by honorable members who are seeking to reduce this duty that’ their purpose is to make’ socks and stockings cheaper. The Tariff with which we are dealing is not a new thing which will henceforth and for the first time affect prices. It has been in existence for a year; and, unless this Committee now further increases rates, it will not be correct to assert that prices ruling to-day will be detrimentally influenced by the Tariff schedule under consideration. It would appear - -at any rate, according to s/mie honorable members - that we should not endeavour to establish any new industries in Australia. Their arguments may be summed up thus : - “ Let us wait until we see that Australian manufacturers can produce these things; then we will give them protection.” If that policy were adopted, there would be no industries established here at all. How can we hope to increase our population and support it unless we encourage the expansion of Australian industry? Preference to the United Kingdom is well and good, and I believe in it; but first preference should be for Australia. Why should we not create and foster a true Australian sentiment? I call the closest attention of honorable members to the following letter, which has been addressed to the Leader of the Labour party, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), by Messrs! George A. Bond & Co. Ltd.:- .
As the statement has frequently been given utterance to during discussions on the Tariff, that cotton hose is not being made in Australia - ‘the inference being that cotton hose cannot be made in Australia- we are writing to inform you, sir, that this inference is absolutely and unreservedly untrue.
We are providing practical proof that it is untrue by posting you under separate cover a sample pair of cotton hose which was made at our mills at Redfern, New South Wales. With the machinery now in operation at these mills, and from yarn now on hand, we can produce such cotton hose at the rate of 3,500 dozen pairs per week. Furthermore, every pair of hose we are now making, whether it be artificial silk or pure silk, features cotton toes, cotton heels, cotton soles,. and cotton tops.
At the present juncture we have concentrated on the manufacture of artificial silk and pure silk hose, largely for the reason that owing to the , huge’ quantities of cotton hose (imported from Japan and the United States of America) now in bond, and in warehouses, the market for this class of goods has been greatly over supplied. At any time, by the mere act of interchanging bobbins, the machines now turning out artificial silk and pure silk hosiery can be deflected to the efficient and economical production of cotton hose.
We also desire to draw your attention to another aspect of the question of the hosiery Tariff- an aspect doubly’ important in view of the oft-repeated canard that protective duties are invariably paid for by the Australian consumer. During recent years it was the marketing of Australian-made artificial silk-ankle hose which caused thousands of dozens of pairs of American-made hose of similar type, which had cost the importer 58s. per dozen to land, to be sold wholesale at 39s. per dozen. This means that for the goods in question the price to the consumer was reduced, approximately, 100 per cent.
During the war, it was our consistent policy to maintain our prices at the lowest possible level. We voluntarily reduced our charges much below those necessary to secure pre:ference from the trade against the foreignmade article, as we realized that in achieving the maximum output lay the only sound method of solidly establishing our hosierymaking enterprise. It is our intention to perpetuate this policy, and as increased production permits it, to still further reduce our prices, keeping the cost’ to the consumer at the lowest level consonant with the maintenance of the wages and working conditions justifiably demanded by Australian legislation.
Up tothe present, our company has invested over £300,000 in hosiery production in Australia. Our factory, now in operation at Mallett-street, Redfern, New South Wales, employs over 300 hands, while new buildings, in course of erection, adjoining the existing factory, will cost over £25,000, and will employ another 300 hands. (Unfortunately, work on the extensions has been held up during the Tariff discussions owing to the possibility of the importing interests prevailing. )
Should the Protective Tariff be withdrawn, Australia must become the dumping ground for foreign-made hosiery . The Australian industry will be unable to survive. Capital invested in it must be withdrawn. Our foreign debt will be added to through overimportation, and a practical avenue for that, increased production which all parties have rightly and repeatedly claimed to be the one safeguard of our national stability will be closed.
The immediate effect in our own case will be to prevent the extension of operations, and to cause loss of employment to some hundreds of Australian men and women.
We trust, sir, that having thus put the plain facts of the case before you, you will give full consideration to the claims of the Australian hosiery manufacturing industry in its national aspect, when the matter comes to the votein the House.
We extend to you a hearty invitation to visit our factory at Redfern, and to inspect the range of goods there produced, which is on view at our offices in 308 Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
This is the firm referred to in the advertisement which has been quoted. Messrs, Bond and Company say that they can turn their machinery over to the manufacture of cotton hose. They point out, further, that they are installing additional plant and premises, hut that their works have been held up because of the fear that Parliament may permit foreign goods to come in and swamp them. I emphasize that if the amendment is agreed to this industry will be killed. Not only will the firm be unable to complete additions already begun ; it will have to close down. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), alluding to an enterprising firm in his constituency, has pointed out that the company will not proceed to complete its extensive factory until the Tariff discussion has been concluded. During the war it was forced upon us that Australia must, if possible, produce her own requirements. It is our duty to. insure that Australia shall be, to the fullest degree practicable, self-contained. I direct attention to a sample pair of cotton hosiery which I have before me. It was manufactured by Messrs. Hughes and Mayor, of 449 Pitt-street, Sydney. I have submitted the goods to men who know what cotton hose should be, and they tell me that, in quality, they are the equal of anything produced anywhere. The manufacturer’s price for this pair of stockings is 2s. Seeing that we can turn out such goods at such a price, why should we not foster the industry and give it a chance to become firmly established?
– There is noneed for a 30 per cent. duty to do that.
– The greater the quantity producedhere the lower will be the price to the consumer. During the last few years have imported goods been sold any cheaper than those manufactured in Australia?
– Not as cheaply.
– Generally speaking, the manufacturers abroad charge as much as they possibly can, and if. we are to be exploited it would be better for the exploitation to be done by manufacturers in our midst, so that we would have an opportunity of dealing with them.We know that we have no possible chance of controlling manufacturers outside Australia.
– But we are now getting away from war conditions.
– Supposing we are, it does not alter my argument in the slightest.What is there to prevent the exporter or the manufacturer abroad from charging all he can and exploiting the people? Nothing at all. If we can find employment for our own people by establishing factories here, it is our duty to do so, and at the same time we shall be able to control those who are manufacturing. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has gone a long way to meet the difficulty by promising that a Board will be appointed to control local manufacturers who may be exploit- ing the ‘people. In view of the discussion, I trust that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
– I trust the Committee will be prepared to allow the duties on socks and stockings to remain as they appear in the schedule.
– Is. it the intention of the Minister to leave the . rate on silk hosiery as it stands?
– Would it not be wise to make them all the same?
– If honorable members are in favour of having them placed on the same basis I kin . prepared to give the matter consideration. ‘
– I would like to see a higher duty on silk hosiery.
– Personally, I would like the rates to remain as they are. The reason why I have made the duty on woollen’ socks and stockings a little higher than on the silk and cotton goods is because silk and cotton yarn has to .be imported, whereas the woollen yarn is made in Australia, and carries a duty. I do not know whether the members, of the Committee have any idea of. the tremendous quantity of these goods which is imported into Australia and the enormous sum of money we annually- send out of Australia for hosiery. I must confess that ‘ the figures absolutely staggered me, and notwithstanding that since the war a number of factories have been erected in Australia, and others are in course pf erection, large importations are still being made. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) . is, I believe,, interested in the establishment of two co-operative knitting factories in country districts, and there are, I understand, others to be erected, so that we shall soon be in a position to control the whole of the manufacture of the woollen, cotton, and silk hosiery required in the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the impetus given to this industry during the war, and by the protection under this Tariff, we have imported . into Australia during the past nine months no less than £2,368,,000 worth of hosiery.
– Cotton hosiery?
– Not altogether; but a very large quantity consisted of cotton hosiery. At the present moment about £500,000 worth of cotton hosiery is in bond, and that is one reason why the hosiery manufacturers of Australia, who are not at present able to supply the whole of our requirements, are not utilizing their machinery for the manufacture of cotton hosiery. There is no great difficulty in manufacturing cotton hosiery, and, as a matter of fact, it is rather easier to make hosiery from a cotton yarn than from woollen yarn. I understand that it merely means adjusting the machine and changing the needles. I do not believe that the firm establishment of this industry, both for the manufacture of cotton and woollen hosiery, will mean that the public will be charged more for hosiery; but there is no doubt whatever that the firms in the past who have been exporting to Australia large quantities have been “ taking the public down” in a. most .shocking manner!
– Do not the distributing firms act. similarly?
– I am not speaking for the moment of the distributers, but of the manufacturers abroad, who have raised their prices to a level that is entirely unwarranted. I know, as a matter »of fact, . that’ one large Australian .manufacturer of hosiery mentioned to-day does not sell a single pair of stockings through- a distributing firm, but have appointed their own travelling .agents, who are disposing of their products direct to the retailers. I ask honorable members to realize that this industry is peculiarly adapted to country districts. There are a number of industries which we protect under this Tariff that cannot be carried on economically in country districts, but in connexion with the manufacture of hosiery there is no reason why 90 per cent, of our country towns should not have their own knitting mills for supplying the requirements of the people within a reasonable radius. It’ is an industry which does not require very much capital to establish, and it is of such a nature that, in comparison with other industries, it can be carried on on sound economic lines with a relatively small turnover. I have no desire - to take up the time of the Committee at this juncture, but have endeavoured to explain the position as briefly as I can. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment, and allow the rates to stand as they appear in the schedule.
.- When I moved to reduce the British rate, I had’ no intention of interfering with the Tariff on foreign goods, and there is, therefore, very little need for me to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. .Charlton), because I am just as sincere as he is in placing an embargo on foreign-made goods. I have already said that I did not think there was any occasion to fear competition from Japanese manufacturers. I have seen their productions, and I say that they have “ missed the ‘bus,” because they have not “ delivered the goods.” I do not wish to appear to be one-eyed in this debate, but I may explain that the information I received: was to the effect that .cotton socks and stockings were not manufactured in Australia. I have learned since, however, that there are some Australian firms starting to manufacture cotton hosiery. If the honorable member- for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) relies on the circular letter from Bonds’, a copy, of which has been sent to every honorable member,- he may be led astray.
– I do not rely on that. I ‘have received information from two honorable members who have -inspected the factory.
– If the honorable member reads the letter very carefully he will see that they do not say that they are manufacturers of cotton hose, but that, in the event of the duty being retained, they will commence operations. They say in the letter that they are manufacturing silk hosiery; but we are discussing cotton goods.
– Does not the honorable member think it advisable to allow them to manufacture these goods if they can?
– Yes, because industries should be started wherever possible, in justice to the consumer. In view of the discussion, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment; but I wish it to be clearly understood that I take that course because I believe these firms are doing what they say. Last night the honorable member -for Melbourne Ports (Mr.
Mathews) produced a pair of cotton stockings, which. he said, were manufactured for ls., and another pair which were made by an American firm at 2s.; but it matters very little to the consumer where stockings are made, so long as the price and quality are suitable. If the manufacturing firms who are being protected by this high Tariff had the interest of the consumers at heart, they would- make some endeavour to do the distributing themselves. If firms manufacturing stockings at ls. per pair are paying. 50 per cent, of the cost for them to be distributed to the consumers, they are bad business men. If the manufacturers desire to benefit the consumers, they should individually or collectively study the question of distribution, even if it means entering into an “honorable understanding.” If the method of distribution were modified, goods could be sold at a cheaper rate, and there would then be no occasion to reduce any of these duties. . .
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I am very glad the amendment has been withdrawn, as that renders some remarks I purposed making un- necessary. I had intended also, to refer to the importations of these goods to which the Minister (Mr. Greene) has referred. : There is no reason why we should not manufacture every stocking and sock required in this community. Our people are making the necessary arrangements to enable that to be done. During the last twelve months, or certainly during the last two years, no less than twenty-two weaving, spinning, and knitting mills have been established in Australia, and, at the present moment, there is in course of registration something like eleven or twelve additional mills. Therefore, every provision is at present being made for the manufacture of all the cloth and hosiery required in Australia. I should like to remind honorable members that in normal times, we imported from Germany alone, these cotton goods to the value of £193,000, and generally from abroad the importations were valued at £207,000. That was in 1912, when the importations from Germany alone represented 9d. per head of our population. In 1913 the importations from Germany represented lid. per head of our population. We are getting back now to normal times and we must make provision for the competition of the future. My object in supporting the proposals submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs is to give the fullest possible .encouragement to our own industries engaged in the manufacture of these goods, to prevent importations from abroad, and to encourage so far.’ as we may, the wearing of woollen hosiery in this country., I should, personally, be very glad if the Committee could see its Way to accept the proposal .suggested by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), though I shall not divide the Committee against the item as submitted by the Minister.
.- I move -
That the item be amended by inserting after sub-item (a) the following words: - “And on and after 28th May, 1921, ad val., British, 35 per cent.’; intermediate, , 40 per cent. ; general, 50 per cent.”
I trust that the Minister will see his way clear to accept this amendment.
– I hope that the honorable member will not press his amendment. The reason why the protection afforded for socks and stockings, . woollen or containing wool, is a little more than that proposed for cotton and silk goods is that there is a duty on woollen yarn. I think that the duties I have submitted are sufficiently high to thoroughly establish this industry, and I again ask honorable members to pass the item as it stands.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– Would it not be a fair thing to increase the duty proposed in the case of these goods, made of silk or containing silk but not containing wool to 35 per cent. British preferential Tariff?
– This is a protective duty and not a revenue duty. Importations of silk hosiery are falling off. I do not think it is wise to impose a duty beyond what is sufficient for protective purposes.
Item agreed to.
Item 116 (Parasols, sunshades, urn-‘ ,1- -11 n.e.i.) and Item 117 (Blankets, n.e.i., except of rubber) agreed to.
Carpets, carpeting, floor cloths, floor and carriage mats ‘ of any textile material except coir; and floor rugs and coverings not being furs or other skins (including felts and pads but not including carpet felt paper) ; saddlebag in the piece or otherwise, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
.- I intend to move an amendment upon this item. ‘ I want to insert after the . word “coverings” the words “not being of rubber.” The reason for this is that rubber floor coverings are being made in Australia. Honorable .members who have been in the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney will have seen there a notable instance of a rubber floor covering which was made in Australia. I move-
That the following words be added to . the item: - “And on and after 28th May, 1921, carpets, carpeting, floor-cloths, floor and carriage mats of any .textile material except coir;- and floor rugs and coverings, not being of rubber, and not being furs or other skins (including felts and pads but not including carpet felt paper) ; saddle-bag in the piece or otherwise - ad val. British 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; and general, 25 per cent.”
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, . agreed to.
Articles of coir, viz., mats, matting, and fenders, ad val. British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
– I am going to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. . Greene) and the Committee to agree to ‘ an increase of the duty proposed on this item. I can imagine the horror of some Free Traders when I say so. Coir mats are produced in Australia by the inmates of - asylums for the blind. Several organizations for the benefit of the blind are endeavouring to improve their condition by teaching them various trades. In Victoria an attempt is being made to raise £25,000 to extend the equipment of the local establishment. Unfortunately, it has been necessary in every State of Australia to establish institutions for the blind. Most of these institutions undertake the manufacture of coir mats and matting. I might make a pathetic appeal on behalf of the blind; but I do not wish to do that. I merely make a statement of fact that it is in institutions for the blind that coir mats and matting are made in Australia to-day.
– It was never assumed that theblind could compete with people who have their sight.
– Fortunately, there is a considerable amount of sentiment surrounding the products of these institutions, but sentiment is not sufficiently considered in the market. There are not a sufficient number of people prepared to pay higher prices for mats because they are produced in anasylum for the blind. I freely admit that the manufacture of this articleby the blind adds to its cost ; but, quite apart from the manufacture of these goods in institutes for the blind, I can inform the Committee that twenty or thirty years ago an establishment for their manufacture in my constituency gave employment to a number of hands. I was never enamoured of this kind of work, which I think few would hanker after. But there was a very large establishment manufacturing coir matting, and especially fancy coir mats. To-day in that establishment and others associated with it there are very few workers. I have no wish to make capital out of the opposition of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) to an increase of the duty on this item, because I am prepared to admit that he is quite as sympathetic with the blind as I am myself. I am one of those who believe that any article that can be manufactured in Australia should be manufactured here. The manufacture of mats and matting and of brushes is particularly suitable for people who have lost their sight, and that should be given consideration. The inmates of institutions for the blind turn out a very fine article, and I am not asking the Committee to protect the manufacture of an inferior article. As a matter of fact, these goods manufactured in institutions for the blind are superior to the imported goods, because they are not made so hurriedly. If honorable members can see their way to support an increase of the duty on this item, they will assist to establish an industry in Australia and will be giving a better opportunity to the large body of men and women who, without hope of reward, beyond their own satisfaction, are endeavouring to make provision for the employment of the blind. I ask the Minister to accept an amendment increasing the duties under this item from 20, 25, and 30 per cent. to 20, 30, and 40 per cent. Mr. Hedger, who has been associated with institutes for the blind from his birth, has assured me that organizations taking an interest in them will be able to. find further employment for blind people if they are given a little additional help under this item.
– I dare say that honorable members will have noticed that I have proposed an increase in the duty upon articles included in this item. That is done for the express purpose mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Porta (Mr, Mathews), namely, to help the blind people. The importations of these goods during the last few yearshave been low. Since I imposed an additional duty of 5 per cent. the importations from India have fallen off by 50 per cent. It seems to me, therefore, that the duty now proposed is effective, and I do not think that an increase is required.
– Those interested in institutes for the blind assure me that it is.
– I am prepared to give an additional protection of 5 per cent. intermediate and general Tariffs.
– I will accept that.
Amendment (by Mr. Geeene) agreed to-
That the item be amended by adding the following words: -“And on and after 28th May, 1921, ad val., British, 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 120 (Articles, textile, not being piece goods).
.- It was my desire that all the articles covered by this item, whether containing or not containing wool or silk, should be dutiable at 20 per cent. British, 25 per cent. intermediate, and 35 per cent . general.
I have been advised, however, that it would be very difficult to give effect to such an arrangement in handling goods coming through the Customs. As the item stands, these goods, when not containing wool or silk, are dutiable at 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 35 per cent., whereas, when containing wool or silk, they are dutiable at 35 per cent., 40 per cent., and 50 per cent. I have spoken to the Minister (Mr. Greene) in regard to the matter, and. would like him shortly to explain the position.
– Honorable members will find that, throughout the Tariff, a certain rate of duty is provided in the case of articles not containing wool or silk, and another rate of duty for articles containing wool or silk. That is the rule adopted in this item, and again in item 121. Serviettes and handkerchiefs are not included in sub-item a. They come under separate duties, the reason being that we wantto prevent them coming in in a finished condition, so that the finishing work may be done here.
Item agreed to.
.- I propose to move to omit the word “ acorns.” These acorns are small wooden articles which are now being turned out by the thousand in Australia. It is unnecessary for them to remain in this item. I therefore move -
That the following words be added after subitemb: - “And on and after 28th May, 1921, (b) Curtain clips, bands, loops and holders, and blind tassels, ad val., British, free ; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.”
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 122 (Articles n.e.i.), item 123 (Waddings and cotton wooln.e.i., &c.), item 124 (Braids, &c.), item125 (Felt for making polishing pads), and item 126 (Saddlers’ webs), agreed to.
Hop cloth, filter cloth for mines and oil mills, adval., British, free;intermediate, free; general, 10 per cent.
.- I desire to include in this item “press cloth for oil mills.” A question of interpretation is involved. We thought that wehad covered press cloth for oil mills by the reference to “filter cloth,” but we find that that is not a filter cloth. We want to set out clearly in the item what it is intended to cover. I therefore move -
That the following words be added: - “And on and after 28th May, 1921, hop cloths, filter cloth for mines and filter and press cloth for oil mills, ad val., British and intermediate, free; general, 10 per cent.”
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 128 (Milling silk), agreed, to.
Item 129 -
Hessians and brattice-cloth, jute piece goods, bookbinders’ ‘cloth, bunting, free.
– I notice that, under this item, bookbinders’ cloth, in respect of. which, under the old Tariff, there was a preferential duty of 10 per cent., will come in free. As Great Britain manufactures every kind of bookbinders’ cloth used, or likely to be used, in Australia, and is in competition with other nations, it seems to me that the preferential duty should be retained, if not increased. The duty of 10 percent. in favour of Great Britain was, I think, fair. In view of the necessity for the Old Country developing her industries to the fullest extent, in order that she may bear her tremendous war debt, I think that, on every manufactured article with which sheis able to supply us, and which we cannot produce for ourselves, we should give her as big a preference as possible. My difficulty is that bookbinders’ cloth is included with other materials in the item, the classification in this case being slightly different from that which obtained under the old Tariff. I move -
That the following words be added:- “And on and after 28th May,1921, general,15 per cent.”
.- I do not want to make the whole item dutiable. I think the honorable member’s proposal could be served by dividing the item into sub-items.
– I was hoping that that might be possible.
– The reason I made this item free was that I did not want to put a duty on jute piece goods. No jute piece goods or hessian come from Great Britain. All practically come from India, and I thought there was nothing to be gained by having a revenue duty on such goods, since they are used in the manufacture of bags and sacks. The revenue duty under the old Tariff was really a burden on manufacturers who make up these goods, and I, therefore, removed them.
– But the position is different so far asbookbinders’ cloth is concerned.
– I am prepared to deal with bookbinders’ cloth under a separate sub-item.
– Then I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to-
That the following words be added: - “And on and after 28th May, 1921 -
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 130 (Canvas and duck).
.- It appears to me that there is no reason for inserting this item, since the goods referred to in it are covered apparently by item 105h4. I shall not delay the Committee by dealing with the matter at this stage, but I ask the Minister to. query the item, and ascertain later on whether it is necessary. I shall place the facts before him at a later stage.
– I think the reason for this item is that we desire to distinguish between canvas and duck n.e.i. and canvas and duck waterproof.
– I will write to the Minister on this subject.
– Very well.
Item agreed to.
Item 131 (Tents, sails, and flags).
.- This item provides for a duty on flags. Why should we impose such a duty? It is becoming quite fashionable to indulge in flag-waving on Empire Day and other occasions, and I think we ought to encourage the waving and wearing of flags. I ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to give us a lead in this matter. Let us show our patriotism by providing for cheap flags. I would have a lot of flags if they were cheap, but, unfortunately, they are very dear. Why should we place this embargo on their introduction into Australia?
– We have made bunting free. We certainly want to have in this country as many Union Jacks as possible, and Union Jacks made in Australia have an additional value.
.- There is a matter with which I think the Customs Department might be able to deal. It is very annoying to find so-called, and apparently imported, “ Australian flags “ being sold that are not Australian flags at all; and I suggest that the Department should see that flagsofferedfor sale are the real thing, and not humorous imitations. There are flags now sold in Sydney and Melbourne as Australian flags which have eight or nine, points on the star, and in regard to the other stars are incorrect.
– How many points should there be on the stars?
– The number of points varies. The interjection reminds me that at a great patriotic demonstration at Kalgoorlie a huge “ Australian flag,” 12 feet long, was not really an Australian flag, it having the wrong number of points on the stars. Seriously, we ought to absolutely prohibit the sale of flags which purport to be, but which are not, Australian.
.- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) “ slipped,” or has he arranged for the prohibition of the importation of red flags? I suggest to the honorable gentleman that if he has “ slipped “ he may be called to task by those ultra-loyal organizations outside. Quite a number of the very “ nicest people “ in Sydney are quite wroth about the flying of the red flag, and urge the prohibition of anything connected with it; even the loyalty of the Governor of New South Wales is suspected because he has not denounced the red flag, or done something of the kind. Has sub-item b, dealing with flags over 1 foot in length, anything to do with the prohibition of the red flag?
-What size is the red flag?
– It is world wide.
– The honorable member is thinking of his own little world!
– There are no flags of that size imported.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - I doubt whether the knowledge of the honorable member is as wideas the red flag. Within recent times prohibitions and conditions have beenimposed on people who desire to enter this country. For instance, Mr. Esmonde was prevented from entering Australia.
– What has that to do with the item of flags?
Mr.CONSIDINE.- It has a great deal to do with flags. I understand that that gentleman is an adherent of a flag quite different from that which is generally flown in thiscountry, and he was prevented from landing because of his adherence to that other flag. Is it proposed that the flag to which Mr. Esmonde adhered is to be admitted to thecountry, while Mr. Esmonde himself is prevented? Again, are the people who have been so loud in their denunciation of those who use the symbol of the red flag to convey to others their political and economic principles, and in consequence are threatened with deportation f rom the country, going to admit this extraordinary “ disloyal “ emblem - to use the phraseology of my friends opposite? I merely ask for information and enlightenment.
.- There may be something in the contention of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr.Considine), but I should like a little enlightenment from that honorable gentleman. I come from a State where I have never seen the red flag flown, nor have I seen flown there the flag which Mr. Esmonde follows. I should like some little further enlightenment on the subject from the honorable member for Barrier.
Item agreed to.
Item 132 (Diving dresses) agreed to.
Item 133 (Bags andsacks of calico &c.).
– According to the information I have there are 72,000,000 corn and flour bags, commonly known as wheat sacks, imported into Australia, and the trouble is that, after importation, they are used for other purposes. I think I ought to be able to rely on the members of the Country party for support when I suggest that something should be done to stop this practice, though I do not see whatreally could be done unless we provided that the wheat sacks should be coloured. There is no reason why there should not be grown in Australia all the flax necessary for the twine or yarn of which these sacks are made.
– We had better grow more wheat !
– Are we not pretty well growing all the wheat we can at the present time?
– Indeed, we are not!
– Not only in my electorate, but in other electorates, yarn is manufactured, and all the material required for these bags could be utilized with the result of providing an enormous amount of employment. Has the Minister considered the fact that these imported wheat Backs are used for other purposes ?
– I am afraid that cannot be helped. I do not think we can do anything in the matter.
Item agreed to.
Item 134 (Bags, sacks, packs, and bales for bran, chaff, &c), and item 135 (Accoutrements, buttons, &c., for naval and military uniforms), agreed to.
House adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210527_reps_8_95/>.