8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon.J.M. Chanter) took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read pray ers.
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs taken into consideration the establishment of reciprocal Customs arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand?
– What aboutFiji?
– I thank the honorable member - and Fiji, so thatthe best feelings may be engenderedbetween Australia and those countries whose interests in the Pacific are identical?
– The matter has not been lost sight of, and within the last day or two a letter was sent to the Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand, say. ing that the Government were prepared to enter into negotiations with the Dominion for the reciprocal treatment of goods passing between New Zealand and Australia. We shall be glad to treat the Dominion most sympathetically, but, until the Tariff Bill has been passed by the Senate, we cannot do anything further.
– Eighteen months or two years ago, the Postmaster-General promised decent postal facilities for Balmain East. Is he going to carry out that promise?
– All these matters are now under consideration in connexion with the Estimates for the year.
Dismissal of Ex-soldiers.
– I received this morning the following communication from thePostmaster-General’s Department: -
With reference to your inquiry of the Deputy Postmaster-General, Adelaide, whether certain returned soldiers, whose services as temporary employees have recently been dis- ppensed with, could be re-employed, I beg to i nform you, with regret, that it is impossible to find fresh employment for those men until advances by the Treasurer, on account of works in this financial year, are arranged.
Can the Treasurer give me any indication when money will he available for the employment of these men ?
– To the best of my belief, funds are now available for the Post Office, that Department, like the others, having had its usual monthly supply. I shall see if there is any further difficulty, but at present I know of none.
– In view of the answer which has been given me by the Treasurer concerning the ample means available to the Post master-General’s Department, will the Postmaster-General endeavour to see that those returned soldiers who have been temporarily placed out of employment in Adelaide are immediately put back to their jobs upon the underground telephone construction ?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me particulars of the employment in which these returned men were engaged prior to being put off. Thereafter, it will be my task to see what can be done.
Mr. GREGORY laid on the table the report of the Public Works Committee on the acquisition of land for the proposed Anzac MemorialSquare at Brisbane.
Ordered to be printed.
Payment for Lands
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation seen the statement in the Argus that the New South Wales Treasurer is asking for further funds for soldier settlement ? If funds are being asked for, will they be made available?
– I read in yesterday’s Age the statement of the New South Wales Treasurer (Mr. Lang) that he was asking for further funds, and that the State had expended £248,125 on soldier settlement which had not been recouped by the Commonwealth Government. Vouchers for accounts for that amount have, certainly, not reached this Department, nor have they reached the Commonwealth Treasury, and money is not repayable until certified accounts have been sent to us.
– Who certifies ?
– Accounts have to be certified by the Auditor-General and the Secretary for Lands of New South Wales. The Colonial Treasurer has also asked for an advance for soldier settlement for the coming year, and that request is receiving the earnest consideration of the Minister for Repatriation and the Treasurer, and will be dealt with as quickly aspossible. But there was not oneunpaid account for recoupment in the Commonwealth Treasury, or in the Department of Repatriation, on the 30th June last.
– Is the last statement confined to accounts fromNew South Wales, or does it apply to all accounts, including those fromTasmania ?
– On the 30th June last no certifiedaccount from any State, including Tasmania, remained unpaid in the Commonwealth Treasury. The amount involved in the settlement of accounts between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales is notin dispute, though the mode of payment is in dispute. Not only have recoupments been made bythe Commonwealth as certified accounts have been presented by the State, but during the lastyear substantial advances weremade tothe
States. In the coming year the Minister, no doubt, will again adopt the policy of making advances to the Statein furtherance of settlement; but the question of collection is one which will have to be dealt with.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a published statement of the Treasurer of New South Wales, wherein Mr. Lang says that £3,500,000 is owed that State by the Commonwealth, and that it was definitely promised by the Federal Treasurer, and has not yet been paid ?
– What we promised Mr. Lang, at the Premiers’ Conference, I believe, was that when he had settled 8,500 soldiers we would give him another £3,500,000.There have been settled in that State about 6,000 soldiers, so that, if we have not fulfilled our terms of the arrangement, neither has Mr. Lang. It is much easier for him to fill the papers with columns of criticism of this Government than to do his work as he ought to do it.
Constructionof Conference Hall
– Does the Minister for Works and Railways intend to take any steps to refer to the Public Works Committee the question of erecting a Conference Hall and other buildings at Canberra; or have the Government decided to drop the project altogether, and go back upon the Prime Minister’s Bendigo speech?
– No definite decision has yet been reached; but the Government expect very soon a full report from the Federal Capital Board upon the whole matter. This, I trust, will be received before the House adjourns,
Restoration to Aliens
– I remind the Trea- surer that a number of old people, socalled enemy aliens, have been deprived of their pensions. They are now some years older than when this means of sustenance was taken away, and their cases are really desperate. Since there are not very many persons concerned, I ask the Treasurer to open his heart to these aged unfortunates, and restore their pensions.
– I shall send at once for a memorandum to which the Cabinet has agreed. I think the honorable member will find that the cases for which he is pleading have been dealt with already, although, perhaps, notification has not yet been made. Igave a promise yesterday that I would lay the paper on the table, but I overlooked it, and will send for the document at once.
– With respect to excessive rates for ocean freights, has the Acting Prime Minister seen a cablegram which was published in yesterday’s press to the effect that a conference had been called by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, consisting of ship-owners, representatives of producers, and other parties? Has theActing Prime Minister any information concerning what action, if any, has been taken by the Commonwealth Government, in London, in the same direction?
– I have sent the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) several cablegrams upon this subject; and he, like Mr. Massey, is hard at work upon the problem. Up to date, however, there is nothing to report of a definite character. When there is, I shall let the honorable member know.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information concerning whether a date has been fixed for the proposed Washington Conference? And has he any particulars as to whether the Prime Minister will attend it prior to his return to Australia ?
– I have no communication of any kindregarding the matter.
– In view of the overwhelming consensus of opinion among wheat-growers of Australia that there should be a continuation of the pooling system, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, if a majority of the States were to decide to continue the Pool, the Federal Government would be at their back, financially and in other directions ?
– What a delightfully simple proposition ! I regret, however, that I am unable to give an, answer at present.
– Will you consider the question ?
– It is being considered very carefully; and, already, I have had communications from several of the States who desire to run a Pool on their own. I cannot do anything until the matter has been cleared up in all the States.
The following papers were presen- ted : -
Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Royal Commission - MinorityReport by Mr. W. J. McWilliams.
Ordered to be printed.
League of Nations - Permanent Court of International Justice -
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The lodgment of amended returns by taxpayers showing further information.
The furnishing of correct returns after default assessments have issued.
The allowance of dividends not shown by companies when the original return was lodged.
The allowance of rebates on dividends - the informationnot being available when the assessment issued.
Adjustment of live stock values.
On account of taxpayer being on active service.
Further allowable claims being lodged after issue of assessment.
On account of the High Court decision exempting subscriptions to clubs and associations.
All State civil servants, New South Wales, being held non-taxable until State legislation brought them under the Federal Income Tax Assessment Act.
Adjustments in connexion with the Wheat and Wool Pools.
The reasons why refunds of war-time profits tax were made are as under: -
In cases where returns -have not been lodged a default assessment is issued ; taxpayers then furnish the required particulars necessitating an amended assessment and consequent refund.
The receipt of further information front taxpayer after payment of tax - due mainly to taxpayers’ laxness in keeping adequate books of account - particularly pre-war periods.
Claims in respect of allowance for borrowed money being lodged after issue of assessments.
Claims for the excision of ex- Australian income.
Modifications granted to pastoralists in drought areas by arbitrarily increasing their pre-war standard.
Modifications of the pre-war standards of a business which has changed ownership by permitting the new owners to adopt the pre-war standard of the previous owner. (Section 16 (13).)
The allowance of concessional deductions in the case of mining businesses under section 15 (7). (b).
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will he furnish a return for the year ended the 30th June, 1921, showing separately the following particulars for each State? -
The number of applications for war pensions not granted.
The number of reductions in war pensions.
The number of cancellations in war pensions.
The. cost of State Boards. 5.The fees received by chairmen and other members of such Boards.
– A return is now being prepared.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government recently decided to allow payment of child endowment in the cases of adopted children of officers of the Public Service, subject to certain conditions, and the necessary amendment of the Public Service Regulations to give effect to the decision is now being made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he request the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to consider the paying of interest on small sums in the Savings Bank, say up to £200, at the same rate (less½ per cent. for expenses) as the Commonwealth pays to the foreign money lender?
– I shall be pleased to carry out the honorable member’s, request.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Referring to a question asked on 7th April last (Hansard, page 7257), and to a promise of the Prime Minister re Mr. Bertram Mackennal’s gift of sculpture, will he give the following information to the House -
When was the gift received?
When was it erected?
The date of any acknowledgment which was sent to Mr. Mackennal?
Has any letter of thanks been forwarded to Mr. Mackennal, and, if so, on what date?
What are the names of the officers who are responsible for the apparent discourtesy to the donor of a valuable gift?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Commonwealth Government, in order to protect the primary producers from speculating middlemen, will financially assist a Wheat Pool for the coming season in either or both of the following alternative methods -
A Pool controlled by the Government; or
A Pool controlled by the farmers themselves ?
– The Commonwealth Government does not at present propose to take part in the future pooling of wheat, but as I have previously intimated, the Government will give consideration to the matter if the growers desire a Pool, and the State Governments are unanimously in support of the proposal.
Question - That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted after “That”- “it is urgently necessary for the Com monwealth Government to immediately recognise its responsibility and discharge its obligations in respect of the present unemployment problem in Australia, which has arisen largely through the ineffective carrying out of Commonwealth functions.
I propose this amendment with a view to impressing upon the Government their responsibilities and obligations.
– Is this amendment non-party?
– I trust that it is. I am moving it entirely in the interests of the people of Australia, and of that very large number of people who are thrown out of employment at the present season, and are suffering greatly in consequence. Although the Commonwealth. Government are not entirely responsible for that, yet it is largely due to the ineffective carrying out of the functions of the Commonwealth. It cannot be denied that throughout all the States, many tens of thousands are unemployed at the present time, and the distress is very acute. We are passing through the. winter, and not only the. unemployed workers, but also their wives and families are suffering greatly. There is no doubt that the great majority of the unemployed are willing and anxious to work if work can be provided for them, and I am not suggesting any form of relief other than the provision of employment, carrying out the duties of the Commonwealth Government in the way in which they should be carried out. I realize that the entire responsibility does not rest with the Commonwealth Government; if I contended that it did I would be indicating that I was unable to gauge the real position.
– Do not the terms of the honorable member’s amendment rather suggest that the unemployment is the fault of the Commonwealth Government?
– If the honorable member will read the amendment he will see that I do not charge the Commonwealth with the whole of the responsibility; I say that the present position has arisen “ largely “ through “their ineffective carrying out of Commonwealth functions.
The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) will be afforded an opportunity this afternoon to justify the policy of the Government, if he can, but up to the present I have heard no justification from him; on the contrary, he has used every opportunity to shuffle his responsibility on to the States. If any evidence be necessary in regard to the extent of unemployment, I have some particulars of the state of affairs in Victoria which will be interesting to honorable members. There are about ninety unions in that State, and I understand from reliable information, which I have obtained to-day, that there are about 20,000 workers unemployed. Amongst them are the following unionists: - Brick, Tile and Pottery Union, 550; bootmakers, 400; clothing trade, 2,100; rubberworkers, 800; timber workers, 900; Victoria-Riverina branch of the Australian Workers Union, 5,000; carpenters in the metropolitan area, 300 ; shop assistants and warehouse employees, 800; pastrycooks,. 300; liquor trade employees, 400; building industries, 1,000; manufacturing grocers, 500; and fodder and fuel employees, 500; and I have the following information in regard to the Wharf Labourers. Union in Melbourne: The award in that occupation is based on a thirty-hours’ week, but during the last two months 700 members of the union have not averaged five hours per week, and to-day about 1,000 men are idle, with no prospect of getting work this week. That is positive evidence in regard to the state of affairs in Victoria. I am not suggesting that conditions are worse in this State than in any other. I do not argue that the fact that there is a large number of unemployed in Victoria is due to the fact that there is not a Labour Administration in that State. I attempt to make no political capital out of the particular party in power in any State; I give those figures as illustrative of the fact that unemployment is rampant in Australia to-day.
– Are those figures for all the States?
– No; for Victoriaonly.
– And there are 20,000?
– Yes; 20,000. There is no doubt that unemployment at the present time is partly due to world causes - partly the effect of thewar and its aftermath.
– Hear, hear!
– It is impossible to go through what was gone through in the war, with the tremendous amount of destruction that took place, without sacrifices having to be made, not by one section of the community, but by all sections. I freely admit that; and I also freely admit that there is great difficulty in getting back to a normal state of affairs after the destruction that took place. The only remark I have to make on that phase of the question is that I think we ought to condemn those who held out such glowing hopes to the workers during the war as to how much better things were going to be immediately after the war. I think that the hopes of the workers were unduly raised; they were told there was going to be a new world, and that they were going to receive “ a slice of the cake “ - that the workers were not to return to the conditions that obtained before the war. There are many men in responsible positions who held out such prospects before the workers of the world, when, as a matter of fact, they must have known, not only that things could not be better, at all events, immediately after the termination of hostilities, but that, indeed, they must be worse. It is inevitable that the tremendous destruction and loss that took place must fall on somebody - that there must be general sacrifices made. The lesson, perhaps, has been “learnt by the workers throughout the world that none has more to lose, and less to gain, by war than they, and this may stimulate them to activity, for the power is theirs, to see that some means is adopted for the permanent preservation of world peace. That will probably be the effect, and I hope it may; and I further hope that in this direction good will come from the severe lesson that is being taught the workers to-day.
Whatever may be the causes, in a general way, there is no doubt that aduty rests on all Governments to, as far as possible, relieve the distress which prevails - to relieve the position that has arisen as a consequence of the conditions that obtain to-day. It is their duty, not only for the purpose of actually assisting those who are in distress, but also in order to prevent a breeding ground being created for discontent and for exploitation by that small section - because, after all, it is a small section- - who advocate the overthrow of all forms of ordered government. This is the opportunity for those few to suggest that the remedy is to make things worse, and to tear down the existing fabric of our civic arrangements, with a view to setting up something else. There is aclass of person who, no doubt, welcomes the existence of such unemployment, not because they have any ill-will, or wish evil to those who are suffering distress, but because they view this as a means for obtaining a general reduction of wages. I do not propose to devote any. of my time to discussing that particular class, except to say that they are a minority - very largely in a minority - of the publicof this country, and that, whatever their political leanings may be, they certainly do not find a place amongst the supporters of the party to which I have the honour to belong. Then, there are those who pose as a kindof permanent leaders of the unemployed, but who in some instances are merely the agents of capitalism and of anti-Labour organizations. Fortunately, these are few; there are many genuine leaders of the unemployed, but there are a few who are not. That few, it is gratifying to know, are not influential; the good sense of the great body of the workersis such that they are not to be misled. Then there is the other class to which I have justreferred - and they, too, are fortunately few and also uninfluential - who stir up discontent, and take advantage of the distress which exists as an opportunity for preaching doctrines for the overthrow of all ordered forms of government. They, too, have no place amongst the supporters of the party on this side; they have no countenance from this party, as I have frequently, on previous occasions, pointed out. On this point I should like to refer to some remarks which I made, and which I wish to re-indorse, at a meeting held in the Sydney Domain on the 16th December,. 1918, with regard to what are called extremists. I wish to make my position; clear as to what I consider an extremist and what I consider an opponent. On that occasion, speaking of the Labour party, I said -
We stand for efficiency. If there are some who are endeavouring to promulgate a doctrine contrary to that, I do not regard them as extremists, because I have respect for the extremist, who is a man who wants to go on the same track as we are going, but wants to go faster. Those who differ and light our methods are opponents, not extremists at all, and we have got to fight them the same as we fight the capitalists on the other side. We must stick to our programme and our platform. I have got to stand by it; everybody else must have to stand by it. Ninetenths, or more than nine-tenths, of the workers of Australia agree with that sentiment. We must show ourselves capable of governing, and that we will faithfully observe the responsibility of power placed in our hands, in accordance with the platform upon which the people elected us. I do not care from what quarter the contrary doctrine comes. I will fight it all the time. We must use constitutional methods. We are using them.
I take the same attitude to-day. I regret that circumstances are allowed to rise which provide an opportunity for those few, because they are a few, to promulgate such doctrines. The overwhelming majority of the people of Australia do not belong to any of those classes; and it is for that overwhelming majority that I propose to speak, trusting that I interpret the views of that majority in saying what I do this afternoon. I think we all admit that it is, perhaps, one of the saddestspectacles that can present itself that so many thousands - aye, tens of thousands - of able-bodied men, ready, willing, and anxious to work, find themselves unable to obtain employment whereby to sustain their wives and families. It is lamentable that such a state of affairs should obtain in a country like Australia - a country flowing with milk and honey, a wealthy country, a country of vast resources.
– And an empty country.
– It is also an empty country. Recent representations to the Commonwealth Government, accounts of which we have seen in the press, and representations that have reached me from various parts of Australia - as late as yesterday from the Brisbane Unemployed Committee - satisfy me that the unemployed in Australia are of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government has been failing in its duty. They therefore wish to have it impressed upon the Government that it must stand up to its responsibilities, and discharge its obligatons. I am principally concerned this afternoon with the question of the responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government cannot escape the major portion of the responsibility for the present position. It has arisen out of their conduct during the war, and their conduct since the war, with regard to repatriation. In those two respects the responsibility rests upon this Government. I do not propose to go into what the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) calls ancient history, but it is just as well briefly to remind honorable members and the public generally that the Commonwealth Government, by its inept administration during the wax, allowed the depletion of our economic resources. I have dealt with that matter time and again, and I think that by-and-bye the people will realize that this Government subordinated the interests of Australia in a wholly unjustifiable way. The primary producers have reason to realize that they did not obtain what were world prices for their produce. A portion of it was retained on the other side of the world, not for the British Government, but for pro- fiteers oversea. If Australia had received a fair deal in connexion with these matters, and I am speaking now of their financial aspect, there would be no shortage of money at the present time for carrying out developmental works in this country. In that respect, then, the Commonwealth has failed to discharge its responsibility and its obligation.
In the second place, I say that the Government have failed also in that respect since the armistice. I am taking up no new attitude; I am only emphasizing an attitude which I have taken up for quite a number of years. I propose to refer the Acting Prime Minister to remarks which I made on this very subject some six weeks after the signing of the armistice, because I want to make it clear that this is no new-fangled idea of mine, or of the party to which I have the honour to belong. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of 17th December, 1918, there appeared a report of remarks made by me the previous evening at a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall. The report is headed, “ Unemployed Will March”; “Mr. Ryan’s
Prophecy”; “The Problem Ahead”; and it reads - “Unemployment - men walking the streets in procession.” Such was the forecast of Mr. T. Ryan, Premier of Queensland, at the Town Hall last night. He made it clear that he did not think it was necessary that this should happen, but expressed the view that unless the problems of to-day were grappled with the worst would be realized. And he did not disguise the opinion that the Federal Government, on whom the responsibility rested, was not dealing adequately with the position. Mr. Ryan was thanking the Sons of Australia for a presentation- and so on -
He remarked that there were problems ahead which Australia must face, yet no one was giving a lead as to how to solve them. Twentyfive thousand men were coming back from the war next month and-
A voice. - No preparation.
– That’s it; there’s no preparation. They will be absorbed by turning out other men who have positions. You talk about things being bad : they will be worse unless these problems are faced. These men must be absorbed without turning out those already employed.
I went on to say:
Unless these problems are grappled with, not to-morrow, but here, and now, you will see that what I say is true. The unemployed will be seen in your streets. It is coming unless the Government acts at once, and replaces the war expenditure with expenditure on reconstruction.
The quotation shows that I pointed out immediately after the armistice that the Commonwealth Government were not taking proper steps to insure that they would be able to absorb all the returned men, which, of course, it was their bounden duty to do - and at the same time retain in their positions those who were here while the war was being carried on. It is a short-sighted policy which would provide for the reemployment of returned men at the expense of turning so many more out of employment. It is not statesmanship, and it was not a sound policy for this country to adopt. The Commonwealth Government, apparently, said to themselves, “ Our only responsibility is to find positions for the returned men and we will find those positions by turning others out of employment. We will make a large army of unemployed. The responsibility is not ours but that of the States.”
I want to make my position clear. I say that the responsibility of re-absorbing all the men who went to the Front, without causing a dislocation of conditions of employment here, plainly rested on the Commonwealth Government. If they fell short of that they fell short of the responsibility that fell upon them, and failed to discharge their obligation. What I said, when speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, on 16th December, 1918, has happened. We have that state of affairs existing in Australia to-day. Unfortunately, we have had it for some time. I put it to the House that, if the Commonwealth Government had discharged its responsibilities in these respects, the position which has arisen to-day would not have arisen. They have failed, therefore, in their duty in regard to providing for the absorption of returned men without displacing a large body of other workers. I desire to make it abundantly clear, lest there be an attempt to misrepresent me, that I believe that it was the duty of the Commonwealth to see that all returned soldiers were reinstated in employment of some kind, and to do that without turning others into the street. Ministers should have prepared for the rapid development of the country; preparations should have been made for its development by leaps and bounds. But I express the view of a large section of the public when I say that this Government is incompetent and blundering. Evidence of that is furnished daily. The whole country is crying out against the War Service Homes administration. Ministers were not able to appoint the first War Service Homes Commissioner without making a blunder; they could not appoint his successor without making another blunder; and only this week we had a Bill to indemnify them, and to validate what has been done by the Commissioners.
– And there are the shipping contracts.
– Were I to attempt to enumerate the blunders of this Government, the task would occupy all the time at my disposal. Any one of its blunders would have been sufficient in ordinary circumstances to bring about the removal of an Administration from office, but because these Ministers have been able to stir up all sorts of issues other than those which concern the welfare of the people, which it is the chief duty of a Government to promote, they still retain the reins of office. Although there is a great deal of unemployment in the country, and Ministers know that under their policy they have not been able to absorb the returned men and keep others at work, they have gone in for a policy of immigration without making any proper preparation for it. I am one of those who believe that Australia is such a great country that, properly governed, it will afford space for many millions of people. No doubt, one day it will be properly governed, because the good sense of the people cannot be kept down all the time. But immigration must be set about in a different way from that of the present Government. I shall mention just one matter. I do not wish to occupy too much time, but I am intent on assisting these unfortunate unemployed, and shall, therefore, curtail my remarks. An understanding was arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland to provide funds for railway construction to make the Burnett lands available, the Commonwealth realizing that the responsibility of providing capital for that purpose rested on them.
– The honorable member has either not read the reports of the Conferences between the Commonwealth and State Ministers, or he is misrepresenting what took place.
– I say myself that this responsibility rests upon the Commonwealth Government.
– That is another matter. You said at first that there had been an agreement.
– The agreement was arrived at because the Commonwealth must have realized the responsibility. A favorable report was made upon these lands, but the Commonwealth Government have done nothing. They say that they cannot do anything because they have not the money.Will the Acting Prime Minister have us believe that he is unable to provide £2,000,000 for the development of the largest and richest area that Australia has in one block? These are Crown lands which could be utilized for the settlement of no fewer than 10,000 persons. If thatcannot be done with the credit of this great country it is because of the incompetence of those who occupy the Treasury bench.
– Or lack of sympathy.
– Yes. I prefer, however, to make no personal suggestions.
– You have done so. You have said that this Government is blundering andincompetent.
– That is something for which, I suppose, the right honorable member is not personally responsible. He and his Ministers are merely not big enough to meet the situation. At all events, while the right honorable gentleman is at the head of the Government of this great continent, unemployment and distress are rampant, and he contents himself with saying, “ It is not my duty, but that of the States, to provide employment.” He would shuffle off responsibility and put it on some one else. It is time that this state of affairs was brought to an end. If I wished to give another illustration of the incompetence of the Government and of their responsibility for the unemployment which prevails, I would mention the dismissal, without notice, of nearly 2,000 men who were employed at Cockatoo Island. Representations were made by a Sydney committee for the prompt employment of these men, a member of that committee being Sir Joseph Carruthers, a gentleman who is not a member of the Labour party nor one of it’s supporters. Ministers, apparently, acted quite heartlessly. They threw these men out of work without regard to the fact that there was no employment for them elsewhere. What did it matter? They said that they were unable to provide funds to pay for the work that was being done, and they had not the energy to appeal to Parliament for money. They therefore threw the men out. However, I have taken the opportunity of dealing with their conduct in a report which I have signed in conjunction with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). I mention the matter now to showhow Ministers fail to realize their responsibility for the unemployment which exists. The function of all Governments is to make their peoples happy, contented, and prosperous; but, instead of doing that, our friends opposite talk in “ hifalutin “ style about the Japanese Treaty and other matters, hoping thus to draw away the attention of the people from the evils which surround them. The object of the amendment is to bring back to the notice of those who occupy the Treasury bench a sense of responsibility and obligation. They have failed to realize their responsibilities, and to discharge their obligations, and it is our duty to impress this upon them.
.- In seconding the amendment, I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) on the way in which he has put his case. We who support him deem it to be our duty to place before Parliament and the people of Australia, in as strong language as possible, the position of unfortunates who are finding it difficult to live. The Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues merely shrug their shoulders and say, “ This is not a question for the Commonwealth, but one for the States to deal with.” ‘ There are no responsibilities which these Ministers have not striven to shift to other shoulders. The present depression, industrial and financial, is the aftermath of the war; but this Government made certain definite promises. Yet many thousands of men in this State, and elsewhere throughout Australia - returned soldiers and others - are begging the Commonwealth and the State Governments to relieve them, and are writing letters to the members of the various Parliaments of Australia. Something like 50,000 men are asking for the right to earn enough to keep body and soul together.
– What is the proportion of unemployed in each State?
– I do not know; but when our organization met in congress recently in Melbourne, the unemployed of Australia were estimated to be about 50,000.
– There are 20,000 in this State.
– If they were all in the one place, neither these Ministers nor any others could continue to govern the country without doing something for them. If Ministers would try to realize the plight, not only of returned men, but of many others, they would see the seriousness of the position. This country produces enough food to feed twice its population. It has unlimited land and unlimited wealth.
– Which the Commonwealth does not control.
– This wealth is allowed to stay in the landsimply because Ministers will not realize their responsibilities.
– We have no responsibilities, because we have no functions in regard to land matters.
– Of course, the Government will say that they have no responsibility! But this is a national matter, and the aftermath of the war.
– It rests with the States.
– The Commonwealth are in absolute control of the continent. It is futile to say to the Queensland or New South Wales Government, “ This is your funeral.” Who was responsible for the hundreds of thousands of men who left this country for the war? First, the Federal Labour Government, and then their successors, the present Government. And promises were made by each which have not been kept. Reference has been made to a meeting of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland, which passed a resolution condemning the Labour Government of that State. It was not an Australian Workers Union meeting, held under its constitution.
– Of course not! They were the same men, although their meeting was not held under the constitution of the Australian Workers Union.
– What is to prevent the honorable member from getting a few members of the Australian Workers Union and persuading them to pass any resolution his politics may dictate? I am informed, however, that this meeting consisted principally of men who did not belong, and never have belonged, to the Australian Workers Union. The Government must do something. Apparently, the position will become worse. It has been said by men who are leading the unemployed that they refuse to starve. I say, calmly and dispassionately, that no man should starve in this country while there is anything to eat. If the Government are not prepared to render some relief, men must keep body and soul together. If I were in the ranks of the unemployed to-morrow, and my wife and children were starving, I wouldnot permit them to continue so if there was anything to beg, borrow, or steal.
– Supposing that men will not work?
– That is futile talk. Ninety-nine per cent. of the men in the ranks of the unemployed are willing to work, and are reasonable about it.
– If you leave them alone.
– Then I invite the honorable member and his party to force the Government to find work, and the facts will demonstrate themselves. I say that no work has been offered to men and refused. For every job offering, hundreds are anxious to get it. If the Government are not prepared to afford work, immediate steps should be taken to remove them. I hope they will realize some of their responsibilities, and take steps in the direction of enabling men to live.
– I have listened to tirades by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) - two honorable members who, under cover of a pretence that they are seeking the welfare of the unfortunate and distressed unemployed, have seen fit to indulge in unadulterated party politics for quite fifty minutes of the sixty which they have occupied.
– You have done nothing else all your life.
– The honorable member should be a good judge of that kind of thing. The greater part of the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney consisted of an apologia for Ryan and Ryanism, and it was far removed from any reference to the unemployed. We have had a display of Ryan, the prophet: “ I told you so. Did I not say this, and did I not say that would happen after the war?” The things which the honorable member did and did not do during the war would fill many volumes.
Honorable members interjecting,
– The things which the honorable member said and did not say would fill as many volumes more. For instance, he was on both sides of the fence about the conduct of the war. He straddled both sides in many other ways. Did he not set out to raise the Ryan thousand ? And what sort of a job did he make of it? As a result of all the whipping up, he got about 250 men.
– You know that is not true. There were nearly 500.
– Very well ! Here is a case of 50 per cent. efficiency. The honorable member has been strong on efficiency this afternoon. Now he writes himself down, in respect of one of the most important and vital jobs he ever undertook, as a man who is 50 per cent. efficient !
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I have repeatedly called honorable members to order. The debate was inaugurated by the making of very serious charges against the Government, and the honorable member who initiated it was listened to attentively, in a spirit of fair play, and in compliance with the rules of the House. I ask honorable members now to listen to the reply of the Acting Prime Minister in’ the same spirit, and not to force me to insist upon the observance of order.
– Would it be out of order for me to ask you, sir, to request the Acting Prime Minister to keep to the question under discussion?
– Order ! That is a matter within my province.
Honorable members again interjecting,
– Order! If honorable members refuse to obey I shall be compelled to take the step of naming them.
– The Government have been denounced as blundering, inefficient, and incompetent. I was merely observing that there are many tests of efficiency, competency, and lack of blundering in the political career of the honorable member for West Sydney. I was pointing out one of the things which indicated how very efficient he is. Out of his own mouth he has confessed that he is only 50 per cent. efficient. But there are other things in respect of his competency, efficiency, and freedom from blundering which can be tested. The most striking illustration of his qualifications is being seen to-day in the State of Queensland itself. If we desire to see just what this competent, efficient, and blunder-free gentleman has done, we must go to the State which he once controlled, and where those attributes of his have been given free range. Most of Queensland’s troubles to-day are traceable to the Government with which he was associated. The honorable member has spoken of the magnificent proposition contained in the Burnett lands. They do afford one of the finest projects in Australia. But why is it that the State Government with which he was associated could not raise sixpence on those lands? The answer is plain : the Ryan Government has destroyed the credit of Queensland ! Mr. Theodore, the honorable member’s successor, had the courage’ to admit the fact. He has said that it is because of certain things which the Ryan Government did that he cannot obtain loans in England. He cannot borrow, because people will not lend him money. Why will they not do so? Because he has legislated himself out of solemn contracts made with the land-owners in Queensland.
– And since then the people of Queensland have returned the present Labour Government.
– Yes, and Queensland is going from bad to worse. It is a case of cause and effect. So much for the efficiency of the honorable member for West Sydney.
I propose now to say something upon the question itself. The honorable member was good enough to present a case for the unemployed as affecting Victoria. He made the astounding statement that there are 20,000unemployed in this State alone. I do not believe there are 20,000 men in this State out of work and unable to find it. But, supposing that there are, how do we become responsible for them ? According to the figures quoted by the honorable member there are 550 brick and tile pottery workers out of employment. Does the honorable member allege that something the Commonwealth Government has done or omitted to do has upset the brick and tile yards ?
– The Government are not finding money with which to build soldiers’ homes.
– I again appeal to the honorable member for Ballarat to refrain from interjecting.
– The Acting Prime Minister asked a question and I replied to it.
– The time for asking questions has passed. Charges have been made againstthe Government and it is due from the honorable member that he should listen to the reply. I appeal to honorable members not to compel me to enforce the Standing Orders.
-My reply to the allegations in regard to unemployment and our dereliction of duty in relation to the State of Victoria, are contained in the one fact that I have made available this year for expenditure in that State alone a sum approximating £10,000,000 for land settlement, soldiers’ homes, and general repatriation. So if there be 20,000 unemployed in that State I may fairly claim that the Commonwealth Government has no obligation or responsibility in regard to. them. The same answer applies relatively to the rest of Australia. The honorable member for West Sydney said that 400 bootmakers are out. of employment; something this Government has done or left undone we are led to suppose has thrown those men out of work ! There are 2,000 unemployed in the clothing trade! What have we done to throw them out of employment? I know that we have, with the assistance of honorable members opposite, passed the Tariff which imposes a good stiff duty on woollen goods. There were no more enthusiastic advocates of increased duties than the honorable members of the Opposition. If, therefore, the action of the Government in regard to the Tariff has led to this unemployment, surely those honorable members will share the responsibility with us. We are told that there are 5,000 members of the Victoria-Riverina Branch of the Australian Workers Union out of employment. Are the Government responsible for that?
– Yes, because they mismanaged the sale of wool.
– Order !
– In the building trade there are said to be 1,000 unemployed, and in the liquor trades 400. I will admit that something the Government have not done may be responsible for that. Other workers mentioned are the manufacturing grocers and the fodder and fuel employees. It is difficult to find out what is really meant by the Opposition in regard to these matters. I read in the press within the last day or two a violent diatribe against the Government by one of the most respected and capable leaders of the Labour Party, Senator Gardiner, who declared that unemployment wasdue, not to the blundering and inefficiency of the Government, as his co-leader in this House says, but to the Tariff which honorable members opposite assisted to pass.
-Were not the Government responsible for that?
– From first to last the request for higher duties came from the Opposition side of the Chamber, and while the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is flagellating the Government and alleging that the fault lies with us and nobody else, his co-leader in another place says that the present state of affairs is due to the Tariff which honorable members opposite demanded and assisted to pass through this House. Of which of these two leaders am I to take notice? Here are two voices - one alleging that the unemployment is due to nothing that the Labour party have done, and another declaring that the present state of affairs has come about because of the Tariff, which honorable members opposite assisted to make as high as possible.
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that the amendment I moved to-day has the entire approval of Senator Gardiner.
– Does that help matters? The mystery deepens. My old friend in another place evidently has a forked tongue, for, according to the, honorable member, he sneaks in two ways. But I am stressing his own declaration that the unemployment to-day is solely, or largely, due to the Tariff.
– What about Cockatoo Island?
– The honorable member for West Sydney delved into ancient history and said that some of the troubles that have arisen to-day are due to our conduct during the war, to the fact that we subordinated the interests of Australia, and but for that there would be no unemployment. Was a more astounding statement ever made by a responsible poli tical leader? What the Government did during the war was to sell £400,000,000 worth of Australian produce, for which we secured the highest possible price. We fought allduring the war to get the last shilling obtainable in London for the primary producers of this country, and all the thanks we get from the honorable member for West Sydney is the statement that, in doing that and carrying the producers along during that period, we have caused the unemployment of to-day. The honorable member knows better than that, and for a leader to try, at this time of the day, to exploit the war sentiment for the purpose of disparaging the Government is one of the most paltry and contemptible things of which any leader could be guilty.
– I have said the same all along.
– I have already alluded to the honorable member’s dual attitude on the war and during the war. Of course, he never believed that Australia should have done what it did during the war; he has said that.
– Inever said that.
– The honorable member said that Australia did too much.
– I never said it.
– The honorable member has repeatedly said it.
– I challenge the Acting Prime Minister to show where I made that statement.
– Order !
– The honorable member said, frequently, that Australia had no right to incurmore responsibility than any other portion of the British Dominions. If that does not mean that in doing more we took a responsibility that we should not have taken, I do not know the meaning of words.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for West Sydney has denied the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister, and I understand that it is a rule of debate that a denial by an honorable member shall be accepted.
– It is a rule of Parliament that when a statement is denied the denial shall be accepted. If the honorable member for West Sydney denied the statement made by the Acting Prime
Minister, I believe the honorable gentleman will accept the denial.
– Of course: The honorable member for West Sydney accused the Government of humbugging the people.
– Does not the ActingPrime Minister think that was a very moderate criticism?
– Coming from the honorable member, it was; but when he was making those charges I could not help remembering some humbugging: that had taken place in another quarter. I remember that a colleague of the honorable member in another State, where most of the- trouble is being experienced today, said during the last State election campaign that if the people would put him into power the Government would deal with unemployment and profiteering in forty-eight hours.
– Who said that?
– Mr. Storey.
– I do not believe he said it.
– It is an. absolute misstatement!
– Order !
– It is on: record that Mr. Storey said-
– That is a deliberate falsehood.!
– I give the honorable member for Darling (Mr: Blakeley) another- warning. I do not wish to resort to extreme measures, but these continuous interjections, and the refusal to allow a Minister of the Crown to reply to charges against the Government constitute the. most unfair conduct I have ever witnessed in all my parliamentary life. I appeal, to the sense of fair play of honorable members, and ask them to restrain themselves. They can exercise their rights later to speak to the question.
– The Acting Prime Minister is not replying fairly.
– The honorable member for Macquarie is out of order.
– The honorable member for Darling accused me of a deliberate falsehood. I ask that those words be withdrawn.
– I did not understand that remark to be applied to the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister. I understood that it applied to Mr. Storey’s statement.
– It applied to my statement; but let it pass. I repeat that Mr. Storey said upon the political platform that if he were returned to power he would deal with profiteering within forty-eight hours. It is quite true that he did something, and- the result of his action is seen to-day in that State. I regret) for the sake of the credit of my own State, that it is in the trouble it is in to-day. After spending more loan money than ever was spent in any previous year, there is more unemployment in that State than there has ever been before. During the last year the Storey Government have spent £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 of loan moneys, and I, as Commonwealth Treasurer, have given them another £9,000,000 or £10,000.000, and the result of the expenditure of nearly £20,000,000 of loan money by Mr. Storey and. his followers is more unemployment in that State today than there ‘has ever been in any single year throughout its existence.
– Is not Holman to blame for some of that?
– The. honorable member is out of order,.
– In the face of these facts the Acting Leader of the Op* position’ charges the Commonwealth Government with having humbugged the people in connexion with unemployment and with inefficient performance of our functions. Will all this recrimination by, the honorable- member help the unemployed? Has he made a single useful suggestion for dealing with this problem-, except by reiterating the statement about the Burnett lands? Not one. He is more concerned with Ryan than with the unemployed; he is more concerned with what he said,, and. in justifying his own attitude, than with the distressful conditions of the people outside. His troubles about the unemployed! His concern, and that of the seconder of. the amend: ment, are always with- the political side of the unemployment, and they are exploiting it to-day for all they are worth.
-. - What are the Government doing about it?
– I have called the honorable member for Darling to order two or three times. He seems inclined to defy the Chair. I ask him not to repeat his offence.
– I will not. I do not wish to be put out of the House for a week.
– The honorable member (Mr. Ryan) accuses the Government of making no preparation for the return of the soldiers, and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) says that we ought to have taken the lands of the States and ourselves operated them - that we ought to have taken the full responsibility on our own shoulders. He, and every honorable member opposite, knows that we have nothing whatever to do with the administration of the lands of the States; they know that this Government is limited in its functions and powers, and can do but little in the way of land settlement. That function and duty has been laid on the States, and, until something else is done, there the chief and primary responsibility must lie. Is it to be said that the State would allow us to do what we liked with the Burnett lands 1 That suggestion is not made now ; it is not said that the State will turn over those lands to the Commonwealth and let us do what we choose with our own money on them. What is said is, on the contrary, “ Give us the money so that we may develop our own lands.” It is the primary function of these who own the lands to find the money to finance them. If we can, in combination, arrange for the opening up of these lands for some immigration purpose - although no promise has been given, and no obligation has been undertaken - that is quite a different proposition. But the statement is made that the Commonwealth is chiefly responsible for the settlement of soldiers on the lands of Australia. My reply is that we have nothing to do with the administration of land matters - that we can only act in so far as the States permit us.
What are the causes of unemployment to-day? They are far deeper and more remote than any actions of this. Government. The causes are ample and simple, if people will only look for them, and strip their minds of local prejudices and political predilection. It is mean and contemptible for any Leader in Parliament to endeavour to make party political capital out of the distressful conditions obtaining to-day. The causes are not far to seek, and they have to do with the war. We cannot sell our wool to-day so remuneratively as we have been selling it, and we cannot get our produce to Europe, the people of which are hungry for it, but have not the money with which to purchase it. All this destruction of credit is the aftermath of the war; but I venture to say that this country is suffering least of all the countries on the face of the earth. But the aftermath is there, and it is affecting us along with all other peoples. In my opinion’, we in Australia will get over it more quickly than the people of any other country ; but, as I say, in the meantime the causes are there and are operating. The present conditions are not due to anything the Government has done. We spent more loan money last year for developmental and settlement purposes than in any previous year of our existence. We have raised money - £25,000,000 to £30,000,000- in order to discharge our side of the obligation. Will it be believed that while we have been spending this money in pursuance of our obligation to the soldiers, the States themselves have borrowed and spent about £36,000,000 pf loan money in addition? The causes of the present conditions are to be sought elsewhere than in any actions of the Commonwealth Government. They are to be sought in the destruction of credit which is world-wide, and, so far as they relate themselves to particular places, here the cause of the destruction of credit is to be found in certain legislation which has taken place in Australia itself. It is no use talking. Mr. Storey could not get money as he desired, for the simple reason that an act of his Government had written down a third of the value of lands of Australia. These are the causes that are operating to produce unemployment. Mr. Theodore cannot get money because he violated land ‘contracts in Queensland.
– Why cannot you get money? Apparently you cannot get money either.
– The accusation made against me now in many quarters is that I am getting too much.
– You say you cannot get money; why not?
– I tell the honorable member that I believe I can get money, and I am getting it in an ample and generous way for the discharge of all our obligations to the soldiers. I deny absolutely the allegations of honorable members that the troubles of to-day are in any way due to what the Commonwealth Government are doing, or have done in the recent past. Those troubles are due to world causes, and they will not be cured by political posturing or political exploitation. They will be cured only by means which have cured similar troubles many times before, namely, by patient investigation and the application of such remedies as from time to time appear to meet the situation. In my opinion, the greatest remedy of all in Australia would be the reconcilement of conflicting class interests, and a. concentrated effort made to discharge our obligations, and live up to the responsibilities and duties we owe to one another. I believe that in that simple remedy alone lies the way out of much of our troubles, and that that course may soon he taken must be the earnest wish of every man who has a sincere love for his country and a desire to see it advance.
– I desire to support the amendment. I admit that after every war there is great unemployment; I know of no war that has not been followed immediately by bad industrialconditions. But I claim that the Governments of Australia, and the Federal Government in particular, have a duty in connexion with the unemployed question. This same Federal Government was in power through the war. The members of it made every effort to get young men. to leave the country, and made all kinds of promises that they would be fairly treated on their return. The Government must not imagine that they have done their duty to the returned soldiers by finding work for them for three months.
– We have spent £100,000,000 on the returned soldiers.
– The Government have squandered most of that money - it has not been spent amongst the returned soldiers.
– That is easy to say.
– The Government have bought land at fabulous prices, and squandered money on the building of War
Service Homes in every direction. It is most unfair for the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to infer that this £100,000,000 has been spent amongst the returned soldiers; as a fact, it has been, spent mostly amongst the profiteers of Australia. There are members of the Soldiers Association in this House, and I wish them to take note of what I say to-day. The Repatriation Department is evidently under the impression that they finalized the returned soldiers when they found them jobs. We must remember that those who went to the Front were not as good men when they came back ; and to say that the Repatriation Department has finished with them when it finds them work for three days, three weeks, or three months, is not in accordance with the promises made by the Government prior to enlistment. That, however, is exactly what has occurred. Men have been found jobs, and perhaps their health has not allowed them to continue at them; but still the Government considers that it is finished with them. That is most unfair and cruel, and a clear breaking of every promise made to the men before they went to the Front. It is useless for the Acting Prime Minister to say thatthis unemployment is most acute in Queensland and New South Wales, where State Labour Ministries are in power. I ask the honorable gentleman to note the fact that the only State that is losing a member in this House is Victoria, where there is an anti-Labour Government in power.
– And it is for the second time.
– That is so.
– New South Wales is getting an extra member.
– Yes, and at the expense of Victoria, while the increase of population in Queensland almost obtained another member for that State. This shows that in the two States mentioned the legislation has been of such a character as to induce an increase of population much greater than is the case in States governed by the anti-Labour party.
The Acting Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, made not one promise regarding unemployment. He did not promise to do one thing to find work or assist the returned men of others. He craftily ignored the action of the Government in throwing 1,500 men out of employment at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and went on with a tirade of abuse. I remind the honorable gentleman that these abusive methods do not feed anybody. The state of affairs is most serious in the country to-day. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) said that he believed that there were 20,000 men unemployed in Victoria alone, andmy opinion is that he underestimated the number. But whatever the number may be,I can assure this Government, and also the State Governments, that if the unemployment continues through the winter, the men are not going to “ take it lying down.” They refuse to be the only sufferers from the war; they have wives and children to support, and yet they see the Federal Government, in conjunction with the anti -Labour Government of Victoria, spending the people’s money in flooding this country with immigrants. If this immigration continues there is going to be more than trouble. The Government are spending from £20,000 to £50,000 a year on a few officials in London, in order to bring immigrants to Australia, and I can only say I am really sorry for those immigrants. Here is a letter Ihave received, from one: -
Sir, - I desire to bring under your notice the fact that I was induced to come to this country by the immigration agents of the State Government of Victoria. They held out glowing prospects to me; yet, sir, I have tramped all over Victoria looking for work, and I am sorry to report that no work is procurable in this. State. I consider steps should be taken to arrest the gross misrepresentation of the real state of affairs in this country. I will have to get my passage charges home again from my relatives in the Old Country, and when I doreach home again I will endeavour to place the state of Australia before the English public in the true light.
I am, air, yours respectfully,
That: letter remindsme of the statement made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and, I think, the, honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), that there is any amount of contract work to be obtained in the country. All I can say is that, in my opinion, twenty men would fill all the jobs in the shires and electorates of those gentlemen.
– That is “ hot air “ pure and simple!
– That letter relates the experience of all the immigrants I have met.
– What is this man by trade ?
– I do not know what he is, but I do know that the Government cannot find work for the returned soldiers, who have interviewed Ministers in vain. The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) infers by interjection that if this man is a labourer, a bricklayer, or a carpenter, he can be found employment; but if the Government find employment for the returned soldiers first, they will be doing very well.
– Build your own case, not mine !
– I am taking the honorable member’s interjection for what it is worth, and I can certainly build my own case.
– I have done more to find work for returned soldiers than the honorable member has.
– The honorable gentleman has had better and greater opportunities than I to do so. He did not do much as far as winning the war was concerned.
– I did as much as the honorable member did.
– The policy of the Government in spending thousands of pounds in order to flood this country with immigrants while many of our own people are unable to find work is largely responsible for the unemployment at present prevailing. It is useless to ask the Repatriation Department to find work for ex-Imperial Service men until it is able to provide work for our own returned soldiers and others. I call upon the Government to immediately cease spendings public money on bringing people to this country. I am not opposed to immigration, nor is my party, but we are opposed to assisted immigration. If people want to come here, let them do so of their own accord. They will come very quickly if the Government make things in this country all right. Is it not a fact that the Repatriation Department, in respect of this State alone, has on its list 8,000 returned soldiers who want to settle on the land but cannot get land? Despite this, the Government are advertising abroad the resources of Australia, and misrepresenting to the people of other countries the opportunities for obtaining land in Victoria.
-i do not think it is a fair statement that returned men cannot get land in Victoria. They are being settled progressively.
– There are8,000 returned soldiers - young Australians - who have been waiting two, three,and four years to obtain land in this State. It is wrong to induce people by misrepresentation to leave the Old Country for Australia only to find on arrival here that they have been sadly deceived. I am speaking only of the position in Victoria, and I do not hesitate to say that there is no land available in this State to-day for settlement purposes. All the good land in Victoria was fenced in long ago.
– The honorable member is wrong there.
– Then I will say that all the good land withrailway facilities has been taken up. There may be good land.
– There is.
– But, because of lack of railway facilities, it is not available to our young men.
– It could quickly be made available.
– And when it is, there will be plenty of young Australians ready to settle on it.
– It is being made available.
– And, while it is being made available, the Commonwealth Government are flooding the country with immigrants. I have seen them tramping our streets. I have met some with their wives and children tramping along our country lanes and not knowing where they were likely to get a night’s lodging. Thepresent policy of immigration is serving only to accentuate the unemployment problem, and at the same time is giving Australia a decidedly bad name abroad. The Government have in London, at the present time, a man named Smart, who lived on the war. He is getting something like £800 a year as an immigration officer, and he did nothing hut exploit Australia throughout the war. Although he was of military age he remained in the -High Commissioner’s Office, where he gave picture shows and other entertainments. Then, there are other immigration officers - Hunter and Company - receiving £1,000 or £2,000 a year as a rewardfor flooding this country with immigrants, who will compete withour own people for employment. Some of the men associated with the Immigration Department overseas must have friends in the Government. They must, at all events, have some social “ pull.” Comfortable billets are found for them while, at the same time, a battalion of soldiers marches to the Acting Prime Minister and pleads with him for facilities to obtain employment. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Gregory) says, “Ah! but these men will not work.” What sorry criticism ! It is only a few years ago that these men, when the flags were waving and the guns were roaring, were told that nothing could be too good for them. Now that they have returned from the Front the honorable membersays of them, “ These men will not work.” I have lived in a mining district practically all my life, and have known, men to go to a mine three times a day to try to get a shift. I know what the workers ave, and I could count on the fingers of one hand all the men I have known who would not work.
– The employment section, under Mr. Dunslow, at one stage had the whole of our returned soldiers in employment.
– But the Department considers that if it finds a fortnight’s work for a man its duty, so far as that man is concerned, has been dis-. charged.
– Not at all.
– Many returned men, particularly infantry men, who have been through one or two ‘ ‘ hopovers,” are not normal. The Department finds a job for them, but, after “ sticking” to it for two or three months they have to give it up. They cannot “ stick it.” The Department, however, considers that it has discharged its obligation to a returned . man once it has found him a job that will last for two or three weeks.
– That is not so.
– That is the attitude which the Department has taken up. I have had from the Department hundreds of replies showing that that is its policy. Many of our returned men are still suffering from the. effects of the war. The Acting Prime Minister says that it is the duty of the States to find work for them. I hold it to be the duty of the Federal Government, which would have conscripted the whole of the young men of the country. Those who were induced to go to the Front by the promises of the Commonwealth Government must be found work by that Government.
– The Acting Prime Minister was referring, not to returned soldiers, but to the unemployed generally, when he made the statement to which the honorable member refers.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), in submitting his amendment, distinctly referred to the number of returned soldiers unemployed, and asked what the Government intended to do in regard to them. The Acting Prime Minister said, in so many words, that the Government had finished with returned soldiers.
– I deny that.
– The Acting Prime Minister told the unemployed returned men who waited on him the other day that the Government were- going to build a big memorial to the dead, and he insulted the soldier who interjected that he had more right to speak for the dead seeing that he had lost three brothers at the’ Front. The £250,000 to be expended on the proposed war memorial could be put to far better use. We have, first of all, to fulfil our obligations to the living.
It is sheer audacity on the part of the Acting Prime Minister to say that we cannot find money to provide work for all these men. Had the war continued for another year we* should have had to find’ another £100,000,000, and if the Government’s conscription policy had been carried it would have meant another £400,000,000. And yet the Government cannot find £2,000,000 for the Burnett soldier, settlement scheme, or a few million pounds to assist the Government of New South Wales to carry out its obligations in regard to soldier settlement. It seems to me that in every State in which a Labour Government is in power the Commonwealth Government is putting every obstacle in the way of the settlement of returned soldiers. The only Governments which have grappled with soldier settlement are those of New South Wales and Queensland.
Queensland offered to settle 10,000 men in connexion with the Burnett scheme, and although a Commonwealth officer reported favorably on it the Government will not advance the money for the purpose. At the same -time they tell silly stories about Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland, and about the Labour Government of New South Wales. They declare that Labour legislation has ruined New South Wales so that it is now. unable to find money for this purpose. It is strange that the Liberal Government of the Commonwealth cannot find money for the same purpose.
– We found £4,000,000 - the amount that this Parliament set aside for New South Wales in connexion with soldier settlement.
– The Treasurer promised another £3,500,000 for that purpose, but New South Wales has not received it.
– The honorable member does not understand the question.
– At all events, I well remember that during the conscription campaign, when our men in England and France were being urged to vote for conscription, the conscriptionists had plenty of money to. support their propaganda. They published a newspaper called Australia, and in that paper our men at the Front were promised not a couple of million for soldier settlement, but anything up to £100,000,000, and even up to £200,000,000, for that purpose. The Commonwealth Government were lavish in their promises as to what they would do for our men at the Front if they would only vote “Yes” for conscription. They made the same promises here. This House will shortly be adjourning for a month or more, but unless we have a more definite statement regarding the Government’s attitude towards the Burnett land scheme and the general question of unemployment, and unless I have a definite promise that no more money will be spent on immigration, we shall have a vote or two on those questions before the Supply Bill is passed.
.- The reply made by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to the speech delivered bv the Acting Leader of our party (Mr. Ryan) in support of the amendment was rather amusing. The right honorable gentleman sought to show that the honorable member for West Sydney had devoted nearly the whole of his time to a eulogy of himself and of the Administration in Queensland rather than to the subject-matter of the amendment. As a matter of fact, the Acting Prime Minister himself did not touch the question before the Chair, nor did he endeavour to do so. The honorable member for West Sydney advanced substantial arguments in support of his proposal, but the Acting Prime Minister tried only to camouflage the facts, and avoided any reference to the responsibility of his own Government for the present situation. This is a most important question, and deserves the closest attention of the Parliament. There is danger of unemployment becoming rampant in Australia. Many of us recognized that danger when the’ Tariff was under consideration, yet the Acting Prime Minister suggested to-day that if there was unemployment it might be due to the Tariff. Such an argument must go for naught. Over fifteen months have elapsed since the Tariff schedule was first presented to this Parliament.
– It has been in force for eighteen months, and has not found employment for many.
– If the conditions of this country are compared with those of any of the other countries affected by the war, it must be acknowledged that we have suffered less, and have fewer unemployed. It is only now that we are beginning to feel the effects of the war; and we must face them. What has happened in other parts of the world will have its effect on our conditions in the near future. We must do what we can to remedy that. Those who have been thrown out of employment are the very people who fought for the Empire, and we must not forget them. It is idle to say that there is workhere and work there: the fact remains that there are thousands of unemployed. Australians, if they can get work, will accept it. The Australian workman is the equal of any other elsewhere. He is not a loafer, and will not refuse work. There are no better workers anywhere than those of this country. It is idle to say that unemployment is caused by this or any other Government. Nevertheless, those who are administering the affairs of the Commonwealth have certain responsibilities to shoulder.
– So, too, have the State authorities.
– Yes. But we cannot shift our responsibilities to the shoulders of the States. The Acting Prime Minister said that New South Wales has a large number of unemployed. That is true. It is so attractive a country that more persons seek employment there than in any other State. If its Government could find money for public works which would absorb all the unemployed there now, there would be another batch within a month. That is because New South Wales is making such progress under its Labour Government that it attracts population. The same remark applies to Queensland. But let us pin down this Government to its responsibilities. The Acting Prime Minister csaid that his Government is not responsible for the present position. Yet only recentlythe right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) told us that had his advice been taken when he was in office a contract for the sale of our wool up to the year 1925 would have been made, and that this would have meant between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 more to the producers of the country. Would not that have been better than the Bawra scheme? Would it not have provided more employment?
– When there was an opportunity of testing the feeling of the growers by a referendum, they objected to a further Wool Pool.
– The right honorable member for Balaclava said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was against it.
– He cabled to London and stopped it.
– But the growers were clamouring for an open market.
– No. There was undue influence behind the Prime Minister.
– At the time, the right honorable member for Balaclava was Acting Prime Minister, and the matter would have been fixed up had it not been for the Prime Minister.
– No. There was no definite offer.
– The right honorable member for Balaclava said that he was on the point of signing the agreement.
– The impression conveyed was that the arrangement was on the verge of completion.
– He said that he would have had no difficulty in completing the arrangement had it not been for the Prime Minister.
– Another fifty million or sixty million pounds would have provided a great deal more employment. Those connected with the pastoral industry tell us that in many cases now they are not getting sufficient to make ends meet. Had the amount of money I have mentioned been coming to Australia now, the pastoralists would be employing labour which is idle, and there would, therefore, be fewer unemployed. Then about October of last year we practically shut down on the building of War Service, Homes, with the result that work ceased for those engaged in making bricks, building houses, cutting timber, and so on. It is hard to say how many thousands were thus thrown outof employment.
– The timber cutting continued until March of this year.
– The Commonwealth bought timber areas in Queensland, but the men who are unemployed there to-day would not now be unemployed had we not done so. We are responsible for the unemployment of the timber-getters in Queensland.
– That is questionable. Most of the timber mills in the Commonwealth are now idle.
– I understand that Mr. Lahey says that the mills which we bought would now be working were they still under hischarge.
– It costs more now to cut timber than can be got for it.
– Had we continued to build War Service Homes these men would have been kept at work.
– The Government found £1,500,000 more for War Service Homes than Parliament provided for them for the financial year. That is a complete answer to the honorable member.
– That statement, with others, will have to be debated when the honorable member has made his promised speech about the administration of the War Service Homes Commission. What State has suffered more than New South Wales by the action of the Commonwealth Government two months ago in suddenly stopping work at Cockatoo Island, and throwing about 2,000 men on to an already congested labour market? Is not this Government responsible for having stopped work there during a period of distress? It is idle for the Acting Prime Minister to say that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the present unemployment. The matters which I have been mentioning are not matters subject to State control; they are wholly controlled by the Commonwealth. Probably no fewer than 10,000 or 15,000 men are now out of employment for the reasons which I have just been referring to. Indeed, that may be an underestimate.
– Wool gives the same amount of employment in its handling, no matter what its price.
– Had the extra sum that I have named been obtained for the clip, a great deal of labour would now be employed on the pastoral properties of Australia.
– And by farmers, too.
– Yet, while wool is at its lowest, your friends are making their highest demands for shearing and other
– They are mad.
– I am endeavouring to draw attention to the Commonwealth responsibilities in this matter, which the Acting Prime Minister conveniently left untouched. He tried to make it seem that it is the States that are wholly to blame.
– It is questionable whether the Commonwealthhad the constitutional power to sell the wool clip of Australia for a period of five years after the war.
– That point has never been raisedbefore. The Commonwealth Government has not accepted the responsibility that it should have taken. It has closed avenues of employment merely to save a little money. I have nothing to say against true economy ; but it is false economy to throw thousands of men out of work at a time like this, and does not help the country, though there may be an apparent saving of money. At the same time, we are asking for immigrants, and the Acting Prime Minister has said that the Government is going on with its immigration policy, bringing out here suitable people. The Labour party has already asked that the Government shall first set up an agency for absorbing those whom it brings here. Three weeks have gone since then, and. there are more unemployed here now than there were, and everything points to the increase of unemployment in the near future. Yet a vessel is leaving England next week with 900 persons aboard, bound for Australia, and others are to follow. What are we going to do with them when they get here ?
– Their friends will look after them.
– Their friends, in most cases, will have enough to do to look after themselves and, no doubt, many of them will, be. unemployed when the immigrants reach Australia. We should not bring persons: here without first establishing an organization to find employment for them.
– My personal opinion is that there is plenty of work here, provide ing that all concerned in industry will face re-adjustment on a sensible basis.
– If the honorable member means that men ought to accept a reduction of wage, I am against him. Wages to-day are not the equivalent of the high cost of living.
– Ought we not to have a reduction of the cost of living?
– The first thing to be done is to bring down the cost of living.
– Who is helping to do that?,
– The cost of living will fall.
– Nobody seems prepared to take the first step.
– The step has been taken. Clothing has fallen considerably.
– Not enough!
– No. The seller has not reduced his prices correspondingly with the fall in the wholesale price, for the reason, chiefly, that he holds relatively extensive stocks in hand. The reduction in retail circles must be a gradual process; but, until the cost has materially and generally fallen, we are not justified in advocating reduction of wages.
– After five years of war and two and a half years of war’s aftermath, the present high wages cannot be expected to be maintained.
– We say that the Government should have seen, and made provision for, the situation to-day, and we charge the Government with having failed to do so. I have enumerated no less than three callings wherein the Government are responsible for causing, perhaps, 10,000 men to be idle to-day.
– I deny the Government responsibility.
– The fact remains.
– The honorable member said, for instance, that the wool industry was one of those three, and I deny that.
– It is an undoubted fact that, had the contract been completed which Mr. Watt was prevented by the Prime Minister from making in London, it would have meant a matter of about £50,000,000 being made available in this country, and that sum, upon distribution, would have given employment to thousands of men.
– That project was never before this House, and was never authorized by the Government,
– It was an Executive matter, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was representing the Government abroad. Had it not been for the Prime Minister’s interference, he would have completed his negotiations. This Government and Parliament have a responsibility, and must discharge it in the best interests of our returned men and of all sections of the community. The fact of thousands of unemployed being in Australia to-day does not justify the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) in narrowing down those conditions in the form of a charge that they apply chiefly to Queensland and New South Wales. I would remind him that the latter State has a greater population than ever before. We could absorb all our unemployed within a month, but there would be considerably more there in another month, for the reason that people all over Australia go to New South Wales looking for work.
– If New South Wales were settled as closely as is Victoria, it would have three times its present population.
– The fact remains that it has an ever-growing population, while Victoria has not.. Is it not very much more difficult to administer the affairs of a large State than those of a small one ? And is it not true that everythings depends on administration? This Administration and this Parliament have their own responsibilities, and it is of no use for the Leader of the Government to talk of what has been done in New South Wales and Queensland. But, even if the Acting Prime Minister’s allegations were correct, he is not justified in refusing to touch upon the main issues in the charges laid against this Government. There are thousands of unemployed in Australia because of the direct acts of the Federal Government, and I maintain that immigrants should not be brought in to-day to take the place of Australians or to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
– We are only bringing immigrants out where we have been requested by State Governments to do so.
– The sooner the Federal authorities devise a proper system of immigration whereby, after providing for the employment of our own people, a limited number may be brought out who can be placed immediately in positions waiting for them, the better for all concerned.
– The honorable member is now outlining a policy of immigration which can never work.
– Whether that be the case or not, are the Government justified in bringing any man out here until they have seen that all our own people are employed ?
– I advise the honorable member to address that question to the New South Wales Government.
– The Government of that State have informed the Federal authorities that they will let them know when they, require more immigrants. They have never asked the Federal Government to bring any.
– Oh, yes !
- Mr. Storey said, before he went to England, that if there were openings he was not against immigration, but that until we could employ our own people, and have occupations ready for new-comers to fill, he was not in favour of taking up the proposals emanating from the Immigration Conference. The Commonwealth authorities are not justified in bringing more people into Australia when we have anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 of our own people unemployed. In the course of three months we shall probably have some 5,000 or 6,000 new Australian citizens. What shall we do with them? Are they all to go to swell the ranks of the unemployed, or are they to be given Australian workmen’s jobs, so that only Australians shall be added to the lists of those at present out of work?The principle is not right.
I have been furnished with a Hansard record of remarks made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). It bears out what I stated some minutes ago concerning the honorable member’s mission in London and the interruption of negotiations in respect of the wool contract. Hansard (vide page 8056), states -
If thatcontract had been drawn and signed, as I have every reason to believe it would have been but for the Prime Minister’s retarding influence, we would have been getting a flat rate of1s. 3½d. for our wool till the 30th June, 1925,and I think the Prime Minister, no matter who advised him - whether English or Australian views gathered in his mind - made a blunder from which the pastoral industry of this country will take many years to recover.
– I invite the honorable member to read the conclusion of the argument on the next page.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) may do so. I have read sufficient to prove to the hilt ray own statement of the facts as I recalled them. It was owing to the Prime Minister intervening that the flat rate contract for 1s. 3½d. per lb. for our wool fell through; and, had it been carried to fruition, as the honorable member for Balaclava intended that it should, it would have meant £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 coming to this country, thus affording additional capital wherewith to reduce the ranks of unemployment to-day.
– The honorable member is not fair in quoting only portion of what the honorable member for Balaclava said.
– The extract which I quoted proved that what I said was substantially correct.
I have to complain that in all that the Acting Prime Minister said he ignored the responsibilities of this Government and Parliament. We have no power over the States. We have our own obligations, and the Government are not standing up to them. We, on the other hand, have to look after the responsibilities that are Teposed in us by the Constitution, and the matters to. which I have referred come within the purview of this Parliament. These various causes have been the means of laying from 10,000 to 15,000men idle. These are our responsibilities. What do the Government propose to do to prevent unemployment becoming even more acute? Do they intend to get Commonwealth works started again? Will they give attention to the timber industry in Queensland, in which hundreds of men have been paid off because there is no work for them? We cannot deny that this Parliament has responsibilities, and the time has arrived when they must be shouldered. There can be no escape from that position.
– I tried to point out that we were shouldering them to the extent of £10,000,000 lent to one State this year.
– The Acting Prime Minister spoke of the lending of money to the State Governments.
– Both lending and spending.
– At the present time there is a dispute between the right honorable gentleman and the Government of New South Wales in regard to the settlement of soldiers. I donot intend to discuss the merits of the question, which has been mentioned in this House on many occasions; but the State Government claim that they have spent a couple of million pounds or more under an arrangement which they understood to have been made at the Premiers’ Conference, and they have notbeen reimbursed.
– Does the honorable member say that the State Government have spent that money?
– That is what they say.
– They say nothing of the kind.
– I think I read a statement by Mr. Lang on Sunday to the effect that the State Government are out of pocket to that extent.
– He says that he cannot spend the money because he has not got it.
– At any rate, he says that the State is committed to the expenditure. I find no fault with true economy; on the contrary, I admit it to be a good thing; but it is false economy to lay thousands of men idle at a time like the present.
– Mr. Lang received £4,250,000 from the Commonwealth for land settlement alone.
– I do not know whether or not that is so, but if he received the money . I hope he made good use of it. There is another cause of unemployment in connexion withthe Repatriation Department. The records of the Department would show that hundreds of returned soldiers, who are partially incapacitated, or almost fully incapacitated, have been deprived of their pensions, and have had to seek light employment. These men are not fit towork, and should not be working. They should still be receiving their pensions; but the pensions havebeen withdrawn, and they have to make the best of the circumstances. I have received a letter to-day about a man who borrowed money from the Department for the furnishing of a War Service Home. At the time he was receiving a pension of £4 10s. a week, and he thought he could meet his obligations; but suddenly his pension was cut off. He is partially incapacitated, but has had to seek light employment, at which he cannot engage continuously, because his leg fails him at times. His earnings are very modest ; but the Repatriation Department is pressing him to come to an arrangement for the repayment of the advance for furniture on a threat that if he fails to do so the Department will take action against him. The man says that he is not earning sufficientto pay his way, and that but for the- fact that business people are giving him credit he would not be able to carry on. At the same time, the “War Service Homes Department is threatening him that if he does not pay the instalments that are due upon his house action will be taken against him. He is being squeezed between the two Departments. Instead of the Government being sympathetic towards these men, and assisting them, they are forcing them into the labour market, where they are displacing other men. It is the duty of the Government to see that men “who are partially or wholly incapacitated are not deprived of their pensions on the pretext that their incapacity is not due to warlike operations, but to causes that were pre-existent. These men were accepted for military service, and sent to the Front to fight, and on their return were paid pensions, which have been suddenly cut off. If it were possible to frame an estimate of these various actions to which I have referred, it would be found that the Commonwealth Government are directly responsible for not less’ than 15,000 men having been thrown out of employment. That being so, it is the duty of the Government and .of the House to see that money is made available, and that Commonwealth activities are. put in full, swing in order to help and fortify the people in their present hour of stress.
.- In, view of the widespread unemployment, and consequent distress, I am grateful to the Acting Leader1 of the’ Opposition (Mr. Ryan) for having brought this matter before the House. I cannot conceive of any subject of greater importance which the House could discuss to-day than that of unemployment, its causes, and possible remedies. I’ deeply regret however, the atmosphere’ in which, so far, the matter has . been debated in this House, and if responsible men in this Chamber and elsewhere are to do anything effective to diminish unemployment, they will have to address themselves to the problem in a spirit different from that which has been exhibited this afternoon. Two lists have been placed before us, one by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and the other by the Acting Prime Minister, in regard to unemployment in Victoria. I do- not think if is material to the argument whether the number of unemployed in particular trades has been over-stated . or understated.
– Surely it is important, and material to the argument, to know whether there are 20,000 or only 5,000 out of employment in one State.
– Certainly, if there are 20^000 men out of employment in Victoria, the problem is more serious and of more pressing importance than .if the unemployed numbers -only 5,000.
– If there are 20,000 but of employment, the matter is four times more serious, and the figures are four times more material to the argument.
–What is material to the argument ‘is information, as to whether unemployment does exist to a large extent, whether it has increased, whether it can be cured, and whether effective steps to that end are being taken.. I notice that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) included amongst the Victorian unemployed 5,000 members of the Victoria-Riverina branch of the Australian Workers Union. If that is correct, the total of 13,500 unemployed, mentioned by him cannot be. charged wholly against Victoria. Other, trades quoted by the honorable member, included - building, 1,000 unemployed, and clothing, 2,100. From yesterday’s newspaper I. have a similar list in regard to “New South Wales, and I particularly note that there are in that State not less than 6,000 unemployed transport workers, 585 cold storage employees, and 700 engine-drivers and firemen. In view of the class of occupations in which such” large numbers are employed, it would appear that unemployment is not greatly due to lack of Government expenditure. I propose to consider the extent to which any Government can provide employment for any considerable number of people. . To this question the words of Goldsmith seem appropriate -
How small ‘of all that human hearts endure That part which laws or’ kings can cause or cure.
It is claimed by honorable members opposite that the present unemployment can be very largely cured. They have charged the Commonwealth Government with not having spent enough money in providing work for’ the people. To-morrow the same charge may be laid against the State Governments. But, in reality, unemployment can be removed only by attacking the causes. One form of cure suggested by our friends opposite is to induce the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government to spend more money. I submit, however, that, unless Governments are engaged in reproductive undertakings, they cannot in reality provide profitable employment for any one except by depriving other people of profitable employment. True, a Government may put a certain number of people on the wages and salary list;but every £1 spent in this way is taken out of the pockets of some one else, and deprives the general citizens of the means of providing private employment. I think the House is fully impressed with that aspect of the question, and I need not dwell on it further. I submit, now, that unemployment is not caused by a lack of Government expenditure. Why, the totals of such expenditure, past and present, are appalling!
– In to-day’s Sydney newspapers there is a statement that £3,200,000 is owing by the Federal Gdvernment to the State Government, a promise to pay which has not been kept.
– The honorable member has made that statement twenty times.
-I am not in a position to confirm or deny the statement, which, in my opinion, has no bearing on the question before us. i repeat that unemployment is not caused by any lack of Government expenditure, and any such expenditure in the past, or in the future, will not cureunemployment, but will aggravateit.
– What will cure unemployment ?
– As to that, let me againreferto the figures which I quoted? Weare told that the number of transport workers out of employment in Sydney is no less than 6,000, and I ask the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) what he thinks are the reasonable and probable causes of this? Is it not largely due to the falling-off of employment in everything connected with shipping ?
– High freights.
– Thehonorable member anticipates me in suggesting that the excessive ocean freights are preventing goods from being shippedfrom Australia; and we must also take into account the very high Inter-State freights, though personally I have not had so much experience in regard to the latter. However, the result is that goods are not being carried that otherwise would be.
– There are also high rates of interest.
– I have been paying interest practically all my life; but I do not consider that the higher rates now prevailing are affecting the conditions to any appreciable extent. The position is that the costs of production throughout the world have been enormously enhanced during and since the war, and have now reached the point at which the consumer refuses to pay. The result is that the shop-keepers are unable to purchase from the produoers, or the wholesale people, and thus production in every industry is affected. Some reference was made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to the lack of employment in timber mills, many of which, he said, are being closed. We heard much of this subject during the debate on the Tariff.
– I thought there would have been plenty of employment now there are higher duties.
– We are not now discussing the Tariff; but, if we were, I should remind honorable members that the advocates of high duties have been able to pile Pelion on Ossa - practically everyduty asked for has been given.
– Oh, no!
– I admit that even the Committee was staggered at some of the proposals. However,no one can posssibly say that there is unemployment in Australia because the duties are nothigh enough. In my opinion,the unemployment in thetimber trade is obviously caused by the excessive cost of building. This cost has become so excessive, so preposterous, and extortionate, that people are refusingto buy orbuild housesuntil it is reduced; and the same appliesin almost every industry in Australia atthe present moment. Duringthe war, and immediately afterwards, the whole world passedthrough a phaseofalmost mad extravagance. Money wascirculatedvery freely, and vast numbers ofpeople seemed to think that the supply would last for ever; they gotthe idea that the natural thing was to get rid of what money they had in the quickest possible way, and were willing to pay any price asked. This led the shopkeepers and other traders to raise their prices, and costs of production were raised to follow. It may be that prices were raised first; but, at any rate, all increases were passed on* to the consumers, and so long as they were willing to pay, everything was all right. But it was quite impossible for that state of affairs to last ; and now the time has come when consumers refuse to pay. I do not dispute the figures as to the number, of those who are out of .employment; but the only way to securing employment is to make it profitable for employers to employ; every other remedy is futile to the last degree. It is ‘a matter of readjustment; of asking the people of Australia and the rest of the world whether they are prepared to adapt .themselves to the changed conditions, or prefer to run violently down a steep place into the sea of unemployment, distress, and disaster.
– How would you suggest that the re-adjustment be made?
– In the first place, by a reduction in the cost of living; and, in the second place, by a re-adjustment in the cost of [production.
– The cost of production surely determines the cost of: living?
– Not entirely; the honorable member has put his finger on a very important economic truth, which, however, is subject to conditions and qualifications. In my opinion, it is high time there’ was a truce - a party truce and a class-prejudice truce - on the questions of the cost of living and unemployment. I am. distressed beyond measure at the attitude of speakers this afternoon, in the earlier part of the debate, who regard the serious and important subject before us as a party matter - as a means of attacking or defending the Commonwealth Government or the Government in some bf the States. I deplore any attempt to make this a class question; it is a matter for the whole people to consider and remedy in consultation. Now, how can the cost of living be brought down? In this connexion I think all classes are to blame. First, the consumers, the large body of whom are the wage-earners, are largely responsible for the increased cost of living, and they themselves, to a large extent, have the remedy in their own hands.
– What does that mean - to go without?
– No; it means to put into operation some organization capable of demanding lower prices.
– In some cases such’ at tempts are boycotted at the sources of supply.
– That may be; but, at the same time, I do not consider that the1 people of Australia have made anything like a serious attempt to put into practice the principles of distributive cooperation, which would largely solve ‘ the problem of the high cost of living. In this connexion I should like to refer to an incident which happened earlier in my life. Immediately after I left school I was sent to a small town in the West Riding of Yorkshire to learn the wool trade,” and I found myself in a centre of cooperative effort. There, the working people, in order to obtain the necessaries and comforts of life at reasonable prices, had saved and invested their money in what are called co-operative stores.
– Was that Rochdale?.
– No; but it was not 50 miles from Rochdale, and was inhabited by the same class of people.
– That idea is as old, as the hills.
– I know it is.
– It is not too old to copy.
– That is quite true. ,
– There are co-operative stores all over England, and still there is unemployment.
– Let us go step by step ; I am now dealing with a suggestion to reduce the cost of living. These people,’ following the example of the Rochdale pioneers, placed themselves in a position to buy ‘goods wholesale for cash, and rented buildings from, which they could distribute them amongst themselves.
– Supposing they were all unemployed?
– If the people of Australia, and, indeed, of the whole world, took steps to see that they did not pay excessive prices for the goods purchased by them, that would go a long way towards solving the unemployed problem. Eighteen months ago there was not a great deal of unemployment. In Australia, as elsewhere, wages were high and employment was more abundant than at any other time in our history. If the working classes at that time had adopted some such method as I have just mentioned, they would have been in a much better position to-day to cope with the unemployed difficulty. Although there are large numbers of unemployed, there are enormous numbers who to-day are not unemployed, but who are in receipt of good wages, and have the . means of living very comfortably, provided they can buy goods at reasonable prices. If those people would devote some of their savings to co-operative effort they would do well.
– Who is to take the first step ?_
– The people themselves, and .this House, instead of engag ing in party wrangling, should assist them. The discussion of questions of this kind should be absolutely free from party strife and class prejudices. I admit that those who are not in employment cannot do anything in the direction of cooperative effort for obtaining goods at reasonable prices, but unless those of the working classes who are in - employment are prepared, to take steps to reduce the cost of living, they will he lacking in their duty’ to themselves. That is my point.
I come now to another aspect of the cost of living. We have had many Boards and price-fixing regulations, but I think it is now admitted that all price- fixing regulations have practically failed. They have failed for several reasons. In the first place, the penalties become inoperative, and, in addition to that, everybody knows that, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to get people to inform -against those who violate a price- fixing regulation.
– Why did the honorable member, and those associated with him, fix the price of wool during war time?
– We did not. The wool-growers of Australia sold their wool ; they did .not fix the price against any one.
– Who fixed the price at ls. 3id..per lb.?
– That is the price at which the wool was sold by the woolgrowers of Australia to the Imperial Government. We provided the Imperial Government and the people of Australia with wool at the cheapest price. There was no price-fixing in the ordinary sense of the term. There was merely a sale.
– I suppose that incidentally the wool-grower took all that he could get.”
– I have not met, in any country, any people, whether traders, merchants, distributors, producers, or working men, who have not been prepared to take- all the reward they could get in the shape of prices, profits, or wages. They all consider that what they get is just reward for the services they render the community, and I am not so sure that they are wrong. I repeat that the people should take steps to enable goods to be distributed amongst themselves at a lower cost. I have dealt with the question of the cost of living. I come now to the cause of unemployment in Australia at the present moment, ‘ and which I fear is not likely to improve under present conditions, nor in view of the present attitude of the public mind.
– Would a change of Government help?
– I do not think ifc would, . .
– A change of Government policy would.
– Nor do I consider a change of Government policy would do any, good whatever. What is wanted is a change on the part of the people themselves. The cause df unemployment is that in many important industries and large businesses it does not pay to carry on at present costs’ and present prices. If we want the people to be prosperous and profitably employed we must have the employers of the community engaged in industries -that are profitable. From the moment an industry ceases to be pro- ,fitable because the prices which those engaged in it are receiving for their goods do not compensate them for the cost of producing or selling them, there is a tendency to diminish operations. That, one might almost say; is a natural law, and is so obvious that it is amazing to find that it is continually disregarded in connexion with unemployment. If *“e want the people to be prosperously employed we must see to it that it pays employers to carry on their business.
– How is that to be done?
– Either by enabling them to obtain profitable prices for what they sell, or to carry on at a profit.
– The honorable member is a practical man ; will he tell us how that is to be done?
– It is to be done by a total readjustment of costs. I can say no more. Every one knows what the costs are.
-Say, like Barwell, “Wages must come down.”
– I do not think it is a question of. wages more than of anything else. It is a question of the complete readjustment of costs. These costs have been raised to meet a period of very high prices. We are now entering upon a period of very low prices.” We have already done so,so far as wholesale prices are concerned.
– In what respect?
– This afternoon I received from Sydney a letter dated 12th July, in which the statement appears “ Both the sheep and cattle market yesterday suffered a severe set back.” This letter is from a reputable firm of fat stock salesmen, and it sets out that “ Prime mutton made 3½d., other mutton 2¼d. to 2½d.”
– Is that the live weight ?
– No, dead weight. That is the cost per pound to the wholesalebutcher. He maysell to the retailer at a higher price, but every retail butcher inSydney was able to buy cheap at this price on the date named.
– At what price is that mutton being retailed ?
– I cannot say. Every consumer should investigate that point for himself. I could give some extraordinary instances of the variation in prices paid for the same commodities in different shops in the same locality.
– The figures just quoted by the honorable member show how necessary it was to move as we did a week or two ago that theGovernment should come to the assistance of the graziers who were suffering. Yet the honorable member, and his party refused to assist us.
Mr.JOWETT.- I think that they prove that the consumers themselves should take steps to see that they get the benefit of these reduced prices in their retail purchases.As long as. they do not do that, they cannot reproach the Government or any one else.
There is little that the Government can do to diminish unemployment except by setting in operation the machinery of industry by means of which private employers will find it profitable to go on producing once more to the fullest extent, and so to give the fullest employment to the people, and that is not to be secured by introducing into a discussion of this kind party politics or any appeal to class prejudices.
.- For 33 years it has been my object to try to prevent unemployment, and I have come to the conclusion that unemployment in times of peace is as great a curse as bloodshed inwar. I regret that we do not seem to be getting very much “forrader” in dealing with this problem. Many schemes for coping with it have been formulated. Among these is the! proposal that we should establish home farms where a man out of work would be able to go with his wife and family and find employment in some of the minor branches of rural industry, and ifasthe result of this experience he and his wife took a liking to country life, the Government should assist him, to settle on the land. While I admit to a certain extent thatthe Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) is justified in blaming the States, and particularly the Victorian State Government, for not doing their work in connexion with soldier settlement, still he cannot deny that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to settle soldiers on the land. I have here a letter from a relative in Sydney whom I advised to go on the land, and I shall refer to his case without any desire to criticise the Government. The position is that two married men wanted to take up land. One of them had had farm experience, and so had the wife of the other man. The men had been mates at the war; and the wives were friendly, so the four thought that if they took one farm they could work it together. But they found that the regulations prevented that, and that the Lands Department could only offer them single farms. That would have been a happy partnership; and I cannot see why it could not have been arranged.
– The Commonwealth, does not control- the conditions of land settlement.
– With regard to immigration, I think that we- are entitled to ‘demand from the Government that every returned soldier who wants land shall be settled on it before immigrants are brought here. When that is done, and’ so many men have been removed from the army of unemployed, we can hold out our hands in welcome to every person of the white races who will come here. The greatest advertisement that Australia has had was given by her soldiers, who blazoned her name in letters of glory by their deeds during the war. I have had letters from the sons of friends in Old England, saying .that they intended to come to this laid: because a country .that could pay 6s. a day to its soldiers, while British, soldiers were getting only ls. a day, should provide good openings. At thb beginning of the war, Mr. Fisher- offered the last man and the last shilling. There were then 1,000,000 men in Australia of serviceable age, of whom 700,000 offered their services; 400,000 were accepted, and more than 340,000 left our shores. But what did the wealth of Australia contribute? A levy of 25 per cent, would wipe out entirely the accursed war debt, which otherwise must lie like a cross upon unborn millions. It would appear from newspaper statements that we are’ likely to obtain from Germany £400,000 as our share of the . indemnity paid to Great Britain, and in this connexion I wish to offer a business suggestion to the Government. According to. the last advices, the mark to-day is worth only onethirteenth of its par value, so .that the sum of £400,000. is the equivalent, in marks, of £5,200,000. Let the Government .accept payment in German goods, being careful to see that it does not take goods of a kind manufactured in Australia. The bringing of these goods to this . country would provide freight for ships, which could be used to take back our primary products, and the sale of the goods should realize a very .large profit. The Government would control this business as it controlled the sale of our wheat and our wool. If, in the course of years, we ob tained £40)000,000 in indemnity, and tha mark remained at its present depreciation, we could, in the manner I speak of, wipe out the whole of our loans. I wish, finally, to draw attention to a proposal which I put before the Government in 1914. On the outbreak of war, it was said that the mines of Broken Hill would be closed. Broken Hill is the only township I know of depending wholly on its mines, and, knowing the troubles that would occur if the mines were closed, I wrote this.letter to the Age -
Sir. - On my opening night I suggested that, to prevent the Broken Hill and other mines closing down, and’ so penalizing not only the 40,000 people of Broken Hill, but also the 70,000 human beings dependent upon’ the various mines (as mentioned by Mr. Baillieu), that, in consideration of these mines keeping in full work, and so saving untold misery to the city of Broken Hill and other places, itwould he wise on the part of the Commonwealth Government to agree to purchase all the silver, at.: the market price before the declaration of war, on 30th June, viz., 2s. per oz., as shown in your issue of to-day. As each ounce of silver coins into 5s. 6d., there would be an immediate profit of 175 per cent, (less expense of coinage) for all moneys expended by the Commonwealth Government. In plain words, £1,000,000 spent to huy £1,000,000 worth of silver won by Australian workers from Australian mines would give an immediate profit to the Commonwealth! of £1,750,000. less cost of minting. As minting in England’ cost 3 per cent, for silver, if a deduction of. 5 per cent, be made -for all charges, including minting, the total of £2,750,000 of silver coinage, it would leave in the hands of the Commonwealth Government a grand total of silver coin amounting to over .£2,612,500 for every £1,000,000 expended upon the purchase of silver.
Whilst recognising that our Australian notes, guaranteed by over 30 tons of gold minted into sovereigns and guarded in the Government strong rooms, and further guaranteed by the Australian continent, which notes’ are the safest perhaps in the world, yet it is fair to argue that a large number of our citizens in times of trouble would prefer to have their money in. silver coins rather than in. paper money. The lead, tin, and other products of the various mines could be arranged to be taken over ‘by the Commonwealth Government at the ruling market rate on 30th June last. The Commonwealth having agreed to purchase the various mineral products, on these or similar lines, with a view to- prevent, unemployment of the, workers, with its consequent misery, poverty, and distress, the States, in their sovereign power, contingent on the mine-owners refusing to work the mines, should be prepared to take possession and work the mines at the risk of the owners. The law of eminent domain is as powerful now as in the days of Blackstone, endowing each State in its hour of need to take possession for the benefit of the community. Should any profit bo made by the State’ working the mines, such profit could bc handed over to the owners; and, if a loss occurred, the mine-owners must accept, that misfortune as a penalty for closing down their mines and depriving the workers and. all dependent upon them of their means of existence. There should he small possibility of loss in the case of the State working themines, for they have not to provide any interest on the plant, &c.
In conclusion, whilst I am grateful for the efforts made by the various companies, I coneider that true patriotism would be shown by their keeping on full time, and not on half time or less. *
Yours &c, .
House of Representatives, 11th August, 1914.
The directors of the Broken Hill com-‘ panies asked me to give them an interview, and after several talks with Mr. Baillieu, I was permitted to offer, in their name, to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Andrew Fisher) all their metals at 30 per cent, less than pre-war prices in England, and they promised to continue to work the mines. On the minting of £1,000,000 worth of silver at ls. 4±d. per oz., that would have given a profit of £2,928,571, less the cost of minting. Unfortunately I could not persuade Mr. Fisher, who followed the advice of Mr. Allen, who could not see very far in this matter, to accept the offer. Had it been taken, honorable’ members can see that the Government would have made at least £20,000,000 in profits, because silver went as high at 5s. 6d. an ounce, tin to as high as £300 a ton, and lead to as high as £70 a ton. I have made these suggestions hurriedly, because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) has promised that this debate shall be concluded very shortly; but I commend them to the attention of Ministers.
.- I listened carefully to the speeches of the mover of the amendment’ and the Leader of the Government to find out what were their remedies for the unemployment that prevails ; but the only thing suggested was the further extension of Government enterprise, which is like prescribing, as a ‘cure for hydrophobia, a hair of the dog that bit you. Both Commonwealth and State revenue and expenditure have increased enormously during the past few years. In seven years, the
New South Wales expenditure has increased from a/bout £14,000,000 to £34,000,000 and that of the Commonwealth from £15,000,000 to £60,000,000, and there is more unemployment now than there was at “the beginning of that period. Both publicly and privately our finances are straitened at present. For the past four years the Commonwealth has been financing repatriation, but its money has been used by the States in lieu of expenditure on their own account on developmental works; what they have raised by loan being spent uselessly in administration instead of being devoted to reproductive works. The larger States have sinned especially in this respect. But the Commonwealth has not done anything in a large way to improve matters.” In. my opinion, action could be taken which would remedy unemployment, though that action is not of the kind contemplated by the mover of the amendment.
– He did not suggest any remedy.
– I suggested that the Government should fulfil its obligations.’
– The causes of unemployment are world wide. But it is recognised that agricultural countries recover more readily than others from the effects of war. There has been a period of under-production, followed by a period of increased production, which the warworn countries have not been in a position to absorb. They are consequently suffering from a sort of indigestion.
– How could we cure that?
– By the usual method of limiting and regulating the supplies of food. We can most quickly get back to normal conditions by reducing taxation to the smallest possible dimensions, ‘and avoiding the borrowing of money, because taxation and local loans, especially, take out of circulation capital which would otherwise be devoted to private enterprise, and would provide employment on reproductive works. Governmental ‘ action in this direction will do much to re-establish public confidence and credit, and induce outside capital to be invested.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be an absolute cessation of public expenditure on reproductive public works?
– We should, as far as possible, confine our public expenditure to reproductive works. Whatever money is expended by the Government should be so laid out as to insure that value is received. I was glad to hear the suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) concerning the reduction of the cost of living and the means which the Government might employ in that direction. But I am opposed to the provision ‘ of governmental work of a kind such as has been found in Australia before, where works’ of a non-productive character were undertaken for the sheer sake of giving the unemployed something to do. About twenty years ago, when unemployment was rife, after the Boer war, many thousands of pounds were spent at Shea’s Creek in shifting sand.
– That work has. paid for itself over and. over again, I might mention.
– From what I remember of it, the men would shift sand one day and move it back to its original spot the next.
– Valuable land was reclaimed.
– However that may be, there is plenty of national dev elopmental work which could be carried cut -without finding tasks’ for the unemployed, such as shifting sand. There is; for example, a big project which might well be undertaken in my own electorate.
– Would the honorable member favour urging the Government to make £2,000,000 available to open up the Burnett lands ?
– I suggest a conference with the State authorities whereby each could bring forward the most urgent and promising scheme in ea.ch State,, and thus some progressive policy of getting on with the most payable propositions could ‘be undertaken.
– The honorable member does not join with me in urging immediate action respecting the Burnett lands ?
– I am not prepared to do that without full investigation of the whole facts.
– I just wanted the honorable member’s views, since his party can didate in Maranoa say3 he is in favour of urging Government action. I merely want his leader” to tell that gentleman that he is wrong.
– The candidate has the advantage of full knowledge of the whole proposition, probably, and my policy is, as I have stated, that a conference should be held with the State authorities, whereby each could bring forward the most promising scheme in each State.
One other matter with which I desire to deal refers to the bringing about of a state of affairs whereby industry can be conducted profitably. During the past 1 ten years the total production of the Commonwealth has actually decreased 25 per cent, in quantity, although there has been an increase in values amounting to almost £100,000,000. For. the falling off in production the Commonwealth Government are, to some extent, responsible. They are responsible with regard to the muddle over the building of War Service Homes. These homes have not been constructed so that it can be said that they provide the greatest value for the money spent. Moreover, there is a considerable public reaction in that the methods of employment and the handling of materials devoted to the construction of soldiers’ homes have interfered with private building projects, and made the cost of building soar out of the reach of many. There are other matter’s also which have tended to bring about lessened production. The effect of recent Arbitration Court awards has been to interfere very materially with employment. Industry has been hampered. In the timber industry the last Federal award given was so widereaching and vexatious in its application, that dozens of saw-mills which mighthave been employing any number from ten to twenty-five men each, to-day have ceased activities. I- have known of several instances in which workmen have approached their employers and told them that they recognised the seriousness of the position, and were willing to sign up at the previous wages if only the employers would keep the mills going. Similar remarks apply to the sugar workers in Queensland. In one mill the workers came to the manager and asked him- to fight the latest application to the Court, because they realized that the inevitable result would be the destruction of the industry which employed them. We have also such instances as that of Mr Lyell, where the mine authorities, because of the reduced price of copper, expressed willingness to carry on, without suggesting any reduction in wages, if the men would consent to a very slight increase, in the number of hours worked.
– Does the honorable member now suggest that, in order to decrease unemployment, it willbe well to increase hours of labour?
– I am pointing out that the industry is entirely dependent on the export price ofcopper. The directors announced that -
They welcomed the suggestion that an arrangement shouldbe devised for meeting the situation on the basis of increased efficiency, in order to test results. The working arrangements proposed by the company did not entail a reduction of one penny in theexisting rates of wages, and involved only one alteration in working conditions, viz., the underground men to work forty-eight hours in alternate weeks, instead of forty-four hours each week. The offer was made in thebelief that the good-will of the unions and the employees in a combined endeavour to co-operate with the company would justify the continuance of operations.
I think that is quite a reasonable proposition, Because, atpresent, we are right up against things financially. We are ina very tight corner, and there isonly one way to get round it. That is, not for theleaders of the men to try to antagonize the classes, but to persuade all to pull together. We need to produce more, and to produce more of the right things. There are many men in Queensland who are anxious to work at rates whichwould be satisfactory to them. The employers cannot pay more, and yet they cannot give employment at those rates, because they would be liable to prosecution for employing ‘hands at less than the award rates. A valuable suggestion has been made, namely, that there should be a temporary suspension of arbitration awards, so that Australia might be helped around a very dangerous corner. The working man throughout Australia has sufficient political power, and the general public has sufficient native fairmindedness to secure for him a fair dealwhen matters improve.
.- I desireto say only a few wordsinthe interests of the unemployed in my district. In South Sydney there are numerous factories, and I assure the Acting Prime Minister that anything he can do to alleviate distress will be welcomed by every one in the community. It is the duty of the Government to co-operate with and assist State Governments, for the trouble to-day is an Australian one. The Federal authorities should not stand aloof and upontheir dignity. They should consider what national works may be beneficiallystarted with the help of the Commonwealth. So far I have heard nothing definite proposed, but there is one direction in which something mightbe done which would benefit the primary producers and, thus, the wholecommunity. I understand that a progress report has been submitted by the Commissioners who are investigating thematter of a uniform railway gauge. At any rate, that report is almost complete, and, according to press statements, the intention is to advocate the adoption of a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge throughout theCommonwealth. If the Federal authorities can render assistance so that men may be placed upon the work of standardizing our railway gauges, a great national work will have been inaugurated. Unemployment will have been largely done away with, andthe Commonwealth will be bound to benefit. Before the wara Commonwealth Labour Government lent the States £18,000,000 for public works, because there was a tendency towards a panic and a slump in public undertakings. Now is the time for Commonwealth and State leaders to show their statesmanship in coping with unemployment and the glut in the labour market. The best brains of the country shouldbe brought to bear on the problem, and a vigorous public works policy undertaken. To a deputation which waited on him a few days ago, Sir Denison Miller, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, said that he could find the money to carry on the public works of the country if a scheme were put before him.
– The Commonwealth Government has found £10,000,000 for public works, with the principle of preference to soldiers, during the last two years.
– The unification of the railway gauges is a big national work that should be undertaken at once, for the longer it is delayed the more costly it will be.
– The statement alleged to have been made by Sir Denison Miller was very extraordinary.
– He said that he could find the money if the proposed works were reproductive and the Government were behind them. There is no doubt that if the Government want money from the. Commonwealth Bank they can get it. One of the drawbacks of the present situation is that the private banks are contracting the currency ; they will not lend out money. A similar effect has been produced by the action of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in buying up war bonds. This redemption of bonds may be a good policy from his point of view, but if, instead of redeeming the bonds, he were to lend the money to the State Governments for the carrying on of public works, there would be no unemployment in the Commonwealth to-day. The Treasurer is paying over money to those persons who wish to sell their bonds, which carry interest at 4½ per cent., and he is proposing to float another loan, for which he will pay 6 per cent.
– The honorable member is suggesting that I should tax the people in order to hand the money over to the State Governments in the form ofloans.
– The States are prepared to pay interest for the money. The people will be taxed to pay the higher rate of interest which the Treasurer will have to pay for the new loans.
– The redeemed bonds were paid for out of revenue.
– I know that; but if, instead of paying £7,500,000 from revenue, the Treasurer had lent that money to the State Governments for reproductive public works, a big avenue of employment would have been opened up, and money would have been saved to the Commonwealth. Would it not have been better to have lent portion of that £7,500,000 to the Queensland Government for the development of the Burnett River lands ? I understand that theNew South Wales Government were promised that £3,000,000 would be provided by the Commonwealth Government, and the Treasurer has told us that, as soon as the necessary certificates are received from the State Government, the Commonwealth will pay. If the Treasurer, instead of paying off bond-holders, had kept the money in circulation, and provided employment for the people, he would have shown better statesmanship. Honorable members in the Corner speak about the necessity for economy. If they are sincere, instead of proposing that the workers should work longer hours at reduced wages, they might direct their attention to the Military College at Duntroon, where there are 81 students and 170 officials. The military party in this country needs watching, and if I were seeking economy that is the direction in which I would look for it. I hope the Government will make available money for the carrying on of repatriation work in connexion with the erection of soldiers’ homes, and that amends will be made for the large number of men thrown out of employment at Cockatoo Island, Williamstown, and elsewhere.
.- I am sorry that the time allotted to this debate is so limited, because I desired to saya little about the mannerin which the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) has dodged Ms responsibilities. Theaction of the Government in displacing a large number of men from Cockatoo Dock without any legitimate reason, stamps them as men who are not worthy of the confidence of the people. The Treasurer knew a month or two before hand what was to happen at Cockatoo Island. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) and his officers intimated officially to the Treasurer what would happen and whatwould be the consequences, and the Treasurer sat idly by and allowed thousands of men to bo thrown out of employment, with the result that their wives and families have been short of food ever since.
– The honorable member knows that thatis a gross travesty of the. facts:
– That is the truth, according to the sworn evidence of officials of the War Department.
– The honorable member is as much responsible for that distress as is any man.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) stated that at Duntroon College there are only eighty-one students and 170 officials. That statement should be investigated, for if it is true it is an indication of what will happen at Canberra when Parliament is transferred there. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for wasting time as we have done to-day. This is a time when the best brains of Parliament should be cooperating for the benefit of the people, and I was surprised at the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) doing what he did, because he has a lot of sound common sense. I hope the day will come when we shall all join together to promote the interests of Australia, instead of the different parties fighting each other as they are doing to-day. We are told that there are thousands of unemployed in the country, but what are honorable members doing to . relieve the trouble? Nothing but put speeches into Hansard to be distributedin order to catch votes at the next election.
– The question is that all the words after “ That “ be struck out, with a view to inserting other words.
– I merely moved to insert certain words.
– The invariable practice in putting an amendment of this sort is to first ask the House to decide whether the words proposed to be omitted shall stand.
– But I did not propose to omit any words. I moved to insert certain words in the motion, and I deliberately framed my amendment in that way in order to get a positive vote on it.
– I shall follow the usual practice by putting the amendment in the form I have stated.
– But I have not moved to omit anything.
– I am following the procedure invariably adopted by Mr. Speaker in such cases. If the honorable member disagrees with my ruling, he may move to dissent later.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affinnative.
Motion (by Sir. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.40 to 8 p.m.
– The honorable member’s rights will.be preserved.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 13th July (vide page 10031), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That this Bill.be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fenton hadmoved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “now” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ withdrawn for the purpose of immediately re-casting and reintroducing so as to provide for -
adequate guarantees for the primary producers and consumersgenerally that they can obtain locallymanufactured articles or goods at reasonable prices ;
the securing of proper wages and conditionsfor those employed in protected industries.”
– I do not wish to delay the House at this stage more than a few minutes; but I do desire to say a word or two in reply to some of the observations that have beenmade. First, I wish to deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and others that this Bill is not a fulfilment of the definite promise I madeto the Committee of Waysand Means when this matter was mentioned. On page 8307 of Hansard, and the previous page, will be found all I said in regard to it. I outlined briefly what the duties of the Board would be, and then dealt with this particular subject in so far as it applied to the measures we propose to take to deal with any manufacturer who might take advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff or to act in a way detrimental to the public.
– Does the Minister say he made these remarks in introducing the Tariff originally?
– No ; it was when I was speaking in reply on the general debate on the Tariff. I outlined in very general terms what we proposed to do, and referred to the method I thought would be desirable in dealing with reports from the Board which must be presented, relating to this particular subject-that is, the taking of undue advantage by manufacturers - and I said -
This report will set out what the offence is; and it is the duty of the Board to make a recommendation to do one of two things - reduce the duty, specifying the extent to which it shall be reduced, or abolish it.
Then I proceeded to say how the House would deal with the report, and then continued -
The proposal is that, in. the event of its being found that any manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the Tariff, the matter comes practically automatically to this House, and this House must discuss and decide whether the duty shall be reduced, and the extent to which it shall be reduced, or whether it shall he totally abolished.
That was all I said in reference to that particular subject. It was suggested that what we proposed to do was unconstitutional, and I said the remedy the Government was proposing was, we believed, within the powers of the Constitution; that is to say, that, inasmuch as the House had imposed the duty in dealing with a report made in accordance with paragraph h of sub-clause 1 of clause 14of the Bill, it could for any reason that appeared to it good and sufficient, reduce or abolish the duty.
– After report by the Board?
– After report by the Board. I therefore claim that the provisionsof this measure are a complete fulfilment of the definite promise I made to the Committee of Ways and Means.
I now propose to deal very briefly with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and supported by a number of honorable members opposite. To do what the. honorable member proposes wouldbe to turn the Tariff Board into an Industrial Court, and also intoa price-fixing Board. There is now ample provision on our own statute-book, and on the statute books of the various States, to deal with wages and conditions of labour, and so on; the workers always have the remedy in their own hands in regard to this matter, whether the industry be a protected or anunprotected one. Then, I do not believe that price-fixing is any remedy for the evil of which the honorable member for Maribyrnong speaks. In any case, such a remedy can only be applied partially; it cannot be applied to imported goods sold alongside Australian goods; and, apart from that altogether, I am entirely opposed to any remedy of this character being applied. I do not. believe that price-fixing can accomplish anything along the lines suggested. During the war, while certain phenomenal conditions existed, and a number of commodities were under controls of various kinds, price-fixing was unavoidable. We could not deal with the many problems which we had facing us at that time except by some price-fixing regulations; but when we come to the normal conditions of peace, it is utterly impossible to conduct commerce along those lines. For those reasons I am going to ask the House to decline to agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– The trouble is that a manufacturer who happens to trespass is penalized, while the wholesale and other dealers go scot-free.
– That is the weak spot in the whole thing.
– There we have the whole difficulty that occurs in regard to commodities, whether imported or manufactured here, and we have really to leave the competition which exists amongst traders to settle the limitation of profits.
– The competition which is supposed to exist !
– In regard to the great majority of commodities that competition does exist. Take for instance, the case of agricultural machinery,which, for the most part, does not pass . through the handsof the middleman:
– It goes direct to the farmer.
– Everybody knows the conditions under which, agricultural machinery is sold. The manufacturers have a price list which they send to their agents, who are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country, and the agents sell according to the list.
– It is about the only industry in which that is done.
– No, it is not; there are quite a number of others in which there are recognised price lists, and the goods are sold according to those throughout the country. In. regard to industries so managed, it is undoubted that the proposed remedy in the Bill will be sufficient. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that it is alleged that manufacturersare making undue profits on agricultural machinery under the Tariff, the Bill provides means by which the matter can be dealt with by the Board. If any complaint is lodged, the Board may immediately investigate it, and has power to see all the books of a manufacturer in order to ascertain exactly what profit he ismaking; and if it is found that he is making undue profit, the Board must report to the Minister, who, under the Bill, is bound within seven days to lay the report before Parliament if Parliament is sitting, and the House then has it in its own hands to deal with as seen fit.
– But putting aside agricultural machinery, take another case in which there are no direct agents, but the business is done through bound houses- if those houses refuse to supply the goods, and there is restraint of trade?
– Under the Bill the Minister may refer to the Board -
Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him bythe Tariff, and in particular in regard to his -
– Is that expressed?
– Then it is all right.
– Consequently if any manufacturer enters into arrangements which in themselves create a monopolistic position, and, as a result, it can be shown that his action is detrimental to the public, the Board may then submit a report to Parliament, which has to decide whether it is desirable to either reduce or abolish the duty.
– Can the Board, in effect, make a manufacturerresponsible for the prices at which his goods are ultimately sold?
– In the main, yes. I do not say the Bill meets - the case of goods which go out in the ordinary course of trade, and are sold in open competition, without anything being done by the manufacturer to restrain the nature of the competition in them. In my opinion, however, it is not in regard to such commodities that there are undue charges. It is where a manufacturer either by selling through agents at set list prices, or by entering into some commercial arrangement which is definitely in restraint of trade - that is practically the only way inwhich the public can be charged undue prices.
Mr.Fenton. - But supposing that in the case of harvesters, for instance, it is found that the manufacturers in dealing with wholesale houses participate in the distributing profits.
– Is the honorable member talking about rebates?
– I mean that hat manufacturers, for instance, may participate in the profits of the wholesale houses through which their hats were sold.
– If the manufacturers are participating in such profits by means of rebate or discount, it must be shown in their books, and the Tariff Board, through its servants, has full power to investigate all books.
– The manufacturer’s books would not show the profits of the wholesale houses over whom the Board has no control. How would you find out whether a manufacturer is participating in the profits ?
-Surely, if any books are kept, it can he definitelyascertained whether any rebate of the character has been given; and if anything of the kind occurs the Bill provides the remedy. Of course, I do not say that this measure is a sovereign remedy for all the ills the consumer suffers from, but I believe that we have here, for the first time, what will really prove an effective check on the avariciousness of any manufacturer who finds himself in a position to fleece the public. Here we have a definite check. I believe that the honest manufacturer who is trying to do a fair business and treating the public ina fair way will be pleased rather than otherwise to see this provision inthe Bill. I know of nothing that could be more detrimental to Australian industries, and to the manufacturers generally, than that consumers shouldbe charged, by a few unscrupulous persons, undue prices for goods which are made in this country.
– Could not the Minister have included in this Bill the section in the Canadian Act in regard to restraint of trade? Would not that have made the Bill more complete?
– I think that what we have in the Bill in regard to restraint of trade is sufficiently comprehensive.
– The great feature of . the Bill is that this Parliament is to determine what is to be done when a reportby the Board is presented.
– The final judgment regarding report made by the Tariff Board in any case of this sort will rest with Parliament.
– The strength of the provision is that the House has the undoubted power to reduce the duty in such a case.
– And there is no question as to the constitutionality of anything we may do under this Bill.
I do not propose to labour the point that was put so ably last night by the Acting Attorney-General . (Mr. Groom), but I wish again to refer to the matter on which I interjected when the honor- , able member for West Sydney was talking of our power to levy Excise. He said the case was analogous to that in which this Parliament levied an Excise duty on sugar. There is no analogy in the two cases.
– There is.
– There is not, for the reason that the Excise was levied, not on some sugar, as a penalty, but on all sugar that was manufactured in this country. We were entitled to levy any taxation that we pleased, provided that it was general; and then this Parliament, by way of bounty, gave back, not the whole £5 per ton that it took in the shape of Excise, but £4 per ton by way of a bounty on sugar grown by white labour. This Parliament had a perfect right to do that. It can levy taxation, provided it is general in- its character, in any way it pleases. It can give a bounty and condition the grant of that- bounty in any way.it pleases. And so that action was perfectly constitutional and could not be challenged.
– Could we not follow the same method in this case?
– Then why not do so?
– It would be so cumbersome when we tried to apply it to all the industries of the Commonwealth that it would be almost unworkable and enormously costly. The point that the honorable member tried to make was that, because we took that action in respect to sugar produced in Australia, we could, by way of Excise duty, penalize, in the same way. those manufacturers who did not cao certain things. In other words, he contended that we had power, by way of taxation, to secure, indirectly, the fixation of prices in respect of goods sold in the various States. There is no analogy in those two cases; they stand on two quite distinct and separate bases, and I feel confident that the opinion expressed here last night by the Acting Attorney-General, that if we attempted to do what the honorable member suggests we should find,, in all probability, that -it was unconstitutional, is correct. The result would be the same as in the Barger case.
– The honorable member is the only one who shares that opinion. .
– Whether that be so or not, I say the merit of the proposal I am now asking the House to accept is that there is no doubt whatever as to its constitutionality. There is no doubt that if this Parliament finds it necessary to impose this remedial, or, if you please, penal legislation, it has a perfect right to do so.
Let me refer now very briefly to the necessity for this Bill. There have been quite a number of statements to the effect that it is unnecessary, and that it is really too late. Whether it be .too late or not, I would suggest that there are a number of cogent reasons why we should proceed to pass this measure into law because of what the future holds. Great and onerous as are the responsibilities thrown upon the Minister for Trade and Customs and his staff under the law . as it stands to-day, the legislation that we are now passing and have already passed, and which is now being considered in another place, throws upon the Minister and his staff still heavier burdens. I draw attention to three things that we are proposing to do. First of all, for ihe first time in tine history of the Commonwealth, we have a three-column Tariff. We have issued to the Dominions, and to the world in general, an open invitation to enter into reciprocal Tariff relations with ourselves. That alone will entail a vast amount of ;work and research and careful inquiry, and it is in itself a serious and definite, responsibility which the Minister should not be called upon to carry unless he has given to him some machinery that will enable him to thoroughly investigate all these various matters before he submits them to the House.
– The Minister cannot enter into these reciprocal arrangements on behalf of the Commonwealth without the permission of Parliament.
– He must carry the negotiations up to a certain point, but it is this Parliament alone that can determine whether or not those negotiations shall be ratified. Then, for the first time, also, we have in the Tariff a number of deferred duties - duties that have been definitely promised by Parliament provided certain things are done. The determination of whether or not those deferred duties shall operate is again a serious responsibility to be thrown only upon the shoulders of the Minister. And so I think it is most desirable that he should be supported in the same way by a Board of this character. There is also the legislation which has already been mentioned in this House, and which we are about to consider, dealing with dumping duties, the exchange position, and related matters. There, again, we have a fresh responsibility thrown upon the shoulders of the Minister, and to call upon him alone to bear it would be to ask him to carry too great a burden. I think he should have at his command this definite means of having such matters sifted and examined as carefully as possible. He should be able to have such matters sifted by such a Board as this, and reported upon by it, so that if at any time this Parliament desired to know on what grounds he was acting he could present the report of the Board for the information of honorable members. Even sup- posing these things were not being done, surely, ‘ as the industrial life ‘ of this Commonwealth grows, and as the fields which this Parliament is asked to cover are broadening every day, honorable members must feel the necessity of having some examining body that is carefully going through all this work and ascertaining exactly what the position is. If this were not done, I feel certain that it would be absolutely necessary to strengthen the central staff of the Customs Office to enable, such work to be carried out. In one way or the other, the work must be done. It is absolutely necessary and essential, and that is why I think it is desirable £o appoint this Board.
There is the further point raised by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who says, “Let this be a purely departmental Board. Do not bring in any one from outside.” No one holds a higher opinion than I do of the officers of . the Department of Trade and Customs. Having worked in close ‘association with them for nearly three years, I have been able, perhaps better than any one else who has not worked in such close association with them, to, sum up their merits, “and I am confident we would find in the Department officers who are competent to dis- charge these high and responsible duties. I feel, however, that the public, would not think that with such a purely bureaucratic body they were getting, the sort of investigation that they desired.
– I think the public hold an exactly opposite view.
– My. impression is that they do not, and that is why I think it is desirable that we should have this more or less independent body. On the other hand, I agree entirely that unless we have that body closely linked lUZ with the Department it will lead to a great deal of waste of time, and probably to indifferent results. I am sure that if we had a body that was entirely outside the Department - not associated with it in any way - the time that would be lost both by the officers of the Department and the Board itself in . ascertaining the views of the Department on the many purely technical questions which arise from time to time in the consideration of Customs matters would lead to enormous expense and waste, which I, for one, would never recommend to this House. And that is why I believe it is necessary that one of the members of the. Board - the chairman^. I think - should be an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, so that, when any of these questions arose, as they must from day to day, and hour 1 to hour very often, we should have with the Board a trained - officer who, on the spot, could give an immense amount of information and so prevent much waste of time and energy.
I do not wish to take up any further time. I’ am going to ask the House, for the reasons’ I have stated, to reject the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), and to agree immediately to the second reading of the Bill.
.- I propose, to speak to the amendment-
– Order! The Minister (Mr. Greene) has closed the debate by replying. He intimated that he intended to do so.
– On a point of order. The amendment has not yet been put before the Committee. That being so, can the Minister rise and close the debate?
– Neither the motion nor the. amendment, has been put. Roth have been stated to the House, but they could not be submitted to it until .the debate had been closed.
Yesterday when the Minister rose he was asked by members of the Opposition if he was about to speak in reply, and he said “Yes”; but he resumed his seat to give others an opportunity to continue the debate, and the. subsequent discussion covered both the original question and the amendment. Now that the Minister has replied, it is my duty to put the amendment, and when it has been disposed of the original question will be put.
Question- That the words proposed to he left put (Mr.Fenton’s amendment) stand part of the question - put.. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time-put. The House divided.
Majority . . … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read the second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
For the purposesof this Act there shall be a Tariff Board consisting of three members.
Mr.FRANCIS(Henty) [8.44].- When speaking on the motion for the second leading, I said that I wouldsupport the Bill, but that, in my view, it required amendment in some particulars. It is proposed to constitute a Tariff Board of three members;but I think that it wouldbe well, in this matter, to follow the practice of the House in the appointment of Committees. The Parliamentary Public Works : and Public Accounts. Committees are composed of members representing each branch of the Legislature. Before honorable members decide ‘upon the number of individuals to constitute the Tariff Board, they should consider whether it would not be well to select them from this Parliament direct. To do so, I am persuaded, would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth, An outside Board would not be so responsible or amenable to Parliament as a Board whosepersonnel consisted of members of Parliament. The experience of our two permanent Committeeshas proved the wisdom of appointing parliamentary Boards. We should be most chary of creating another outside institution. If the Board be made a parliamentary one, it will do awaywith all fear of the creation of another new and costly Department. If members of Parliament are capable of passing the Tariff schedule, surely a selection from among them should be fit to act upon the Tariff Board. In the staff of the Customs Department we have excellent officers of proved capacity. If their duties should be added to by the creation of the Board as I desire, honorable members would readily agree to increases of the officers’ salaries. The idea of the Government, however, is to set the Customs staff aside, and introduce outsiders. It should be for honorable members to accept the responsibility of acting on the Board. What will be the position, under the Government scheme, if we desire to learn some Tariff particulars? The Minister (Mr. Greene) will be able to do as the Minister for Expatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) does to-day. He will refer us to the Board which we have created. With a Board constituted as the Government propose, I am confident that the cost will range between £20,000 and £25,000 per annum. Before specifically moving my proposed amendment, I would like to “sound” the Minister as to whether his preference is for a personnel of seven or five.
– In view of that expression of opinion, I move-
That the following words be added : - “ of the House of Representatives, and two members of the Senate.”
My desire is that there shall be three selected from this Chamber, and two from another place.
.- Whilst I agree that the Board should be appointed from members of this Parliament, I entirely disagree with a good deal of what was said by the mover of the amendment. For a good many years the governing of this country has been handed over to Boards and Commissions, and members of Parliament have been absolutely ignored. Honorable members will agree that the Minister has very good officers in the Department, and I do not know where men as good will be found outside the Service for making the investigation required. There is no necessity for employing additional officers all the year round at high salaries. The people of this country will not stand that sort of thing any longer. How are manufacturers to establishindustries if they are to be hampered by a Board such as this Bill proposes ? If this Board is created I shall not blame capital for remaining a.way fromAustralia. It is time we abandoned government by Boards and regulations. We are well paid, and people ask what we are elected for. We are absolutely ignored, and it would appear as if the people are not to be trusted in the election of their representatives. A day will come when we shall see a great difference in the government of this country. We shall live to see elective Ministries, and men from both sides of the House sitting as committees to deal with the business of the country. I hope the Minister will seriously reconsider the question before appointing a Chairman of the Board at £1,450 per annum, and two other members at £5 5s. per sitting, in addition to clerks and other officials. If his proposal is adopted from £10,000 to £15,000 per annum will be added to the cost of government. That is not economy. The Government should make use of the services of. members in this House. If additional Boards are created and the services of legislators are unavailed of, there will be a good many of the present members missing after the next election.
.- There is a good deal in what has been said by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston). We are trying to make the profession of politics an honorable one, and we are paid £1,000 a year for our services. When honorable members axe nominated as candidates for Parliament they should be compelled to declarewhether they will serve as full-timers, halftimers, or quarter-timers. In my opinion, any legislator drawing £1,000 per annum should not follow any other occupation. I look forward to the time when people will show that they are tired of being ruled by Boards. During the war regulations were turned out like sausages from a machine. There were over300 regulations under the War Precautions Actalmost one per day. It is all very well to say that those regulations were not laws, but a regulation under which a person may be imprisoned is a law, call it what you will.
-Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the amendment?
– I am showing that the proposed Board will take control out of the hands of Parliament. Members of Parliament are different from heads of Departments in that they go before their creators once in three years. The heads of Departments are never calledto account in that way, and, with very few exceptions, they rule Ministers. I could count on the fingers of one hand the Ministers who, during my thirty years in Parliament, have actually ruled their Departments. Would it not be well, now that £1,000 per annum ispaid to members, that the whole membership of Parliament should be divided into committees to assist Ministers ? If there were eleven Departments, there would be a committee of ten members for each, and the Minister for Trade and Customs could send the members of this Cornmittee north, south, east, or west, to inquire into infringements of the Customs laws. We have heard it said that members of Parliament are mere figure-heads, but they need not be, and I shall vote for the amendment.
.- I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), and I quite agree that the creation of this Board and the necessary staff, plus travelling expenses, would involve an expenditure of £10,000 or £15,000 per annum.
– Wait until you see the results.
– We have seen a good deal already of the increases in the Customs Department and the new appointments.
– Not in the Customs Department.
– What about the Health Department?
– That is not in the Customs Department.
-It is under the control of the same Minister.
– It has not resulted in one penny of additional expense to the Commonwealth so far.
– That may be so; but the Minister knows perfectly well that when the proposed Board istravelling about the country, and calling witnesses, it will have to take a staff with it. There must be a good deal of expense in addition to the salaries, which will amount to about £4,500 per annum. I hope that the honorable member for Barker will vote against the third reading of the Bill. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) certainly has a. precedent for his amendment, and I wonder at his limitation of the membership of the Board. In Denmark there is a very large Customs Committee formed from both Houses of the Legislature, assisted by representatives of shipping, mercantile, manufacturing, and other interests. I have been wondering why the honorable member was so anxious that members of Parliament should be appointed to the Board. Is it due to something that occurred in the earliest history of Customs Tariffs ? I have here an extract from the Jewish Talmud -
Abraham, in travelling to Egypt, brought with him a chest. At the Customs House the officers exacted a duty. Abraham would have readily paid, but desired they would not open the chest. They first insisted on the duty for clothes, which Abraham consented to pay, but then they thought by his very acquiescence that it might be gold -
– What has this to do with the amendment?
– I am showing a probable reason for the moving of the amendment.
Abraham consented to pay for gold. They now suspected that it might be silk; Abraham was willing to pay for silk, and Abraham generously consented to pay as if it contained the most costly of all things.It was then they resolved to open and examine the chest.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member persists in reading that extract afterI have called him to order I shall have to take someother course. Will the . honorable member assure me that this matter is relevant to the amendment?
– Most decidedly, or I would not have read it.
– On that assurance the honorable member may proceed.
– The extract continues : -
And behold, when the chest was opened that great lustre of beauty broke out, which made such a noise in the land of Egypt; it was Sarah herself. The jealous Abraham, to conceal her beauty, had locked her up in the chest.
Thepossibilityof incidents of this sort in connexion with Tariff investigations may have provided the reason for the desire of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) to have the duties undertaken by members of Parliament.
– Notwithstanding the honorable member’s assurance, all that he has said is decidedly out of order.
.- I really must take exception to the extract read by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). I feel confident that, if he has led honorable members to suppose that the result of our Tariff investigations may be anything like that which occurred of old, we shall have, not only the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis), but several others voting for this amendment. I do not know whether the honorable member I have just mentioned knows the result of that Customs investigation of old?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I merely was going to suggest, knowing the honorable member for Henty as I do, that that might be the reason actuating him in submitting his amendment, to which, however, I ask the Committee not to agree. I do not think that the best way of arriving at the results we have in view is by appointing a Parliamentary Committee. It may be that, later on, Parliament in its wisdom may see the desirability of appointing a Tariff Committee. ‘ of the House. When speaking at an earlier stage I suggested that the reports from the Tariff Board might with advantage be referred to such a Tariff Committee for investigation. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) that that course might result in considerable saving of time; and I am sure we could find in the House a number of honorable membersprepared to devote more time to the consideration of these matters than it ispossible for the House as a whole to devote, and on whose judgment we could place considerable reliance.
– There is greater necessity for a Finance Committee to deal with financial measures before they come before the House.
– That is a branch of Committee work on which this Parliament has never indulged in to anything like the extent that have other Parliaments in the world. Honorable members who have studied parliamentary procedure elsewhere know the tremendous amount of work done by Committees of the kind; and I agree that later on it may be found that such a Committee is a very desirable means of dealing with reports from the proposed Board. However, I do not think that a Committee composed of honorable members is the best way of carrying out the du ties and functions which will devolve on the Board as now proposed.
.- The Minister, I think, was hound to carry out his promise to establish some kind of Board to protect the general public. Many of the high duties were passed by honorable members so readily on the understanding that if there was any attempt on the part of a manufacturer to victimize the public, it would be met by a revision of the Tariff. I propose to support the clause if this amendment is not carried, but I should prefer the amendment. We appointed an Inter-State Commission, which made exhaustive inquiries into the Tariff and drew up reports, and, although this must have cost thousands of pounds, I do not believe that honorable members, or the House as a whole, paid any attention to them, or even read them.
– That is not so.
– The reports were thought very highly of.
– At any rate, I would say that the majority of honorable members did not read those reports. I myself read some of them, but they were connected with current politics at the time, such as the inquiry into the meat business, house rents, and so forth.
– May I say that those, reports were so valuable that the InterState Commission was got rid of?
– Neither the reports of the Inter-State Commission nor the reports of the Economy Commission were dealt with by the House as they deserved.
– Make no mistake, they did much good !
– At the present time there is in existence a Taxation Commission which must he costing many thousands of pounds, and I am rather curious to see what notice will be taken of its report. I am in favour of members of Parliament being members of the investigating body under this Bill. I do not for a moment believe that the proposed Board will be occupied every day of the week; and I can well imagine that there will he imposition on the general public with which the manufacturer will have nothing whatever to do. We protect the Australian woollen manufacturer against his foreign competitors, but what happens? The manufacturer sells his goods to the wholesale houses at prices which would enable the public to obtain cheap clothing, but the intermediary charges such a price that one actually has to pay £3 3s. for a pair of pants made in Melbourne.
– This Bill will not protect us against that sort of thing.
– It will not. At a very early date we shall be called upon, if not by the general public, by the state of the money market, to economize in some directions, because we shallbe unable to borrow the money to keep up our present expenditure of £98,000,000 per annum. We shall be taken to task, no doubt, if we appoint a Board such as is suggested, the members of which are to be paid, it is said, £3,000, £4,000, or £5,000 per annum. If we do not pay the members of the Board salaries commensurate with their ability and’ experience, how are we going to get qualified men to perform duties similar to those which devolved on members of the Inter-State Commission? It is true that in the United States of America there is a Tariff Board of a dozen members at £2,000 per annum each; hut America has a population of 100,000,000, and is a rich and powerful nation, whereas we are a small community of 5,000,000. I venture to say that such an experiment as that proposed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) would result in some success. If any complaint of victimization were made in any part of the Commonwealth, the members of such a Committee would investigate the matter personally, and would therefore be heard in Parliament with attention ; and I urge the Minister (Mr. Greene) to give the amendment further consideration. As I have said, I shall not vote against the clause, but I would prefer a parliamentary body, which, like the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, would involve little more expenditure than that upon travellingexpenses.
.- I am strongly opposed to a Board which calls for the appointment of what are known as outside people. In the Customs House we have gentlemen who are fully capable of carrying out all the duties proposed to be imposed on this Board, and do so much more capably than we could expect either on the part of members of the Legislature or of gentlemen of experience and capacity from outside. Earlier in the evening the Minister (Mr. Greene) justified his view that such a Board is necessary, and the trend of his argument appeared to be that the necessity arises from the increased and evergrowing responsibility thrown on the Department. It seems to me, however, that the honorable gentleman himself provided the strongest possible grounds for rejecting the proposal. The tendency in this Legislature in the last few years, and particularly since I entered this House, has been for the Commonwealth Administration to grasp in every possible direction at every possible source of power. In their attempts to control the Administration, and interfere in the affairs of the community in general, the Executive scarcely stops at anything, forgetting that every increase of power increases responsibility. The remarks of the Minister to-night on the subject seemed to me almost pathetic.
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the amendment ?
– The amendment is that the Board shall consist of members of Parliament of the Commonwealth, and we knowwhat the proposal of the Minister is. Without in anyway desiring to cast any reflection on the Minister, my view is that the proposal in the Bill is practically one to enable the Government to evade or shirk their responsibilities. It is. admitted that the responsibility of the Trade and Customs Department has become too great for the Minister. The Minister himself desires that this responsir bility should be shared by anoutside Board, which is to be created at considerable cost to the community, and in my opinion at the cost of a considerable diminution in efficiency. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) puts forward the view that since the Government say that the responsibility is too great for the Minister to carry, it should be shared by a Board consisting of honorable members of this Parliament, and not of persons outside the Public Service or the Parliament itself. With that view I fully agree. I do not think, however, the honorable member’s proposal is the best that could be made. I am strongly in favour of the matters with which the Board is to deal being left in the hands of the Department itself. No argument has been used to show that any benefit whatever is to be derived from the creation of a Board to interfere with the Department in the discharge of what should properly be its functions of investigating and considering all these matters, and advising the Minister in regard to them. I shall support the amendment, because I believe it isinfinitely superior to the Minister’s proposal.
.- This clause involves the expenditure of a good many thousands of pounds per annum, andis altogether too important to permit of its passing with a mere wave of the hand. I would remind the Committee that the Commonwealth Public Works Committee consists of members of both Houses of Parliament, and that, under the Act by which it was created, all proposed expenditures exceeding £25,000 have to be investigated and reported upon by it. That Committee, consisting of members of Parliament, is empowered to report upon the larger works of the Commonwealth, involving expenditures in some cases of hundreds of thousands of pounds; and surely a Committee of members of Parliament should be able to carry out the duties which will devolve upon the Tariff Board. On the score of economy alone the Committee should accept my amendment. We have now an opportunity of showing whether we are in favour of economizing to the extent of some thousands of pounds per annum by providing that the members of this Board shall be members of Parliament, and shall not be selected from outside. Let us get the question of econo my close to our hearts, and demonstrate to the people here and. now that we are prepared to economize in every possible way.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Francis’ amendment) be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Before the clause is passed I should like to inform honorable members that if they consider that my proposal that the Board should consist of five members of Parliament provided for too large a membership, I am prepared to move that it shall consist of three members of the Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
.- Sub-clause 2 of this clause provides that-
One of the three persons to be so appointed shall be a person who holds an administrative office in the Department of Trade and Customs.
I move -
That the words “ One of “ be left out.
If that amendment be agreed to I shall more that the subclause be further amended, so that it will read -
The three persons to be so appointed shall be persons who hold administrative offices in the Department of Trade and Customs.
I ask the Committee to pause before voting for the appointment of a Board other than a purely departmental one. Such a Board would be free from responsibility, and would involve the country in a considerable, and probably growing, expenditure. There has been a demand for economy, and honorable members must be deeply impressed with the seriousness of our financial position and the need for, sooner or later, attacking our overgrown expenditure. It would be idle, however, to do this and at the same time to. vote for further expenditure whenever a plausible case was made out for it. No justification has been shown for the proposal of the Minister. The history of outside Boards shows that they are costly, and, in the long run, much less efficient than departmental Boards.
– Has not the efficiency of the Customs to be considered ?
– Yes; and that is why I say that the responsible officers of the Customs Department should not be superseded in the constitution of this Board by outsiders. My proposal would make for increased efficiency, whereas that of the Minister has a contrary tendency.
– What would be thepersonnel of your Board ?
– I propose that it shall consist of three officers of the Customs Department.
– Would you name them?
– No; because this Committee is not the proper place for the discussion of the merits of officials. The Board will have serious responsibilities, and the proper performance of its duties will require from its members a sound knowledge and long experience of Customs matters. No doubt it would be comparatively easy to obtain in the large cities of Australia business men who, for a large salary, would devote themselves entirely to the work of the proposed Board. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) indicated that, in his opinion, salaries ranging up to £5,000 a year would not be excessive; but there would be extraordinary difficulty in getting suitable persons for much lower salaries, and it would excite the indignation of the people of Australia if it were proposed to pay such salaries as have been suggested, or even salaries of £3,000.
– What would be the advantage of having three departmental officers ?
– In my opinion, they are the only persons with sufficient experience and intimate enough acquaintance with the intricacies of Tariffs ; and they can be trusted to exercise the strictest impartiality.
– But they would have no industrial training.
– What is wanted is an intimate knowledge of ‘the effects of Tariffs rather than industrial experience. No man, whatever his experience, can have an intimate knowledge of all businesses. It may be said that there is a demand for an independent Board. But you cannot obtain wholly unprejudiced persons. The man who for a large part of his life has been engaged in a certain occupation, and has friends similarly engaged, is . bound to have become saturated with certain opinions, and when appointed to a position like this will be sure to look at matters in the light of his own experience. I have had a good deal to do with responsible Boards, and I do not believe in them. A Board of Customs officials would be responsible to the Minister, and a Board consisting of members of this House and senators would be responsible to the electors. The Government proposal provides for the creation of an utterly irresponsible Board. The tendency of the members of such Boards is to exhibit arrogance, impatience, and an indisposition to listen to persons who hold different views from their own. A Board of the character proposed by the Government is the very last kind of Board which could be expected to conduct impartial investigations and to arrive at unbiassed conclusions. Upon the other hand, the whole training of the Customs House officers would tend to make them absolutely impartial. Consequently I appeal to honorable members to support the amendment.
.- Now that the Committee has decided that a Tariff Board shall be constituted outside of members of this Parliament, I hope that we shall endeavour to make it as efficient a. body as possible. That object can be achieved only by the appointment of Customs officials.I am perfectly satisfied that there are no menwho are more qualified to control matters connected with the inspection and supervision of industry-
– It is a questionof decisions by the Board.
– There are no decisions required from the Board. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) knows as well as I do, that for the office of Chairman of the Board no more competent official could be obtained than Major Oakley. He might very well be appointed along with one or two officers from his own Department. I am satisfied that if we go outside the Customs Department we shall secure a Board which will be practically useless.
.- If the clause be passed in its present form, will the Minister be prevented from appointing to the Board three members within his own Department? Iwould like his assurance that only one member of the Board shall be an officer of the Customs Department, and that the other two members shall be representative of outside interests.
– I can give the honorable member that definite assurance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
– I think that the Minister will be acting wisely if in sub-clause 2 he alters the method of procedure to be followed in the case of the suspension of a member of the Board. Under the. provision as it stands, if a bad appointment be made, and the Minister suspends one of the members of the Board, that member must be reinstated unless within forty days after a statement relating to his suspension has been laid before both branches of the Legislature, and Parliament passes a resolution confirming his suspension. The adoption of that course may mean that a man whom nobody desires to injure, may be dragged through the mire. It would be better if the Minister had power to suspend a member of the Board, and if that suspension held good, unless within forty days after the matter had been reported to Parliament, his reinstatement were demanded by Parliament.
– I quite appreciate the point which has been raised by the honorable member. He fears that a man may be appointed to the Board who may prove a failure, and that the Minister may hesitate to suspend him with a view to dispensing with his services, because such action would necessitate a reference to Parliament and a public discussion of the reasons underlying the member’s suspension. He apprehends that in such circumstances the Minister may retain an undesirable member of the Board, rather than subject him to the procedure laid down under this Bill. Off-hand I do not know that I can find a form of words to achieve the object which the honorable member for Dampier has in view, but I may get the defect remedied in another place. In the meantime I will look into the matter with a view to discovering whether we cannot obtain the procedure that we desire under which any member of the Board will possess a certain measure of independence. Our object is to give members of the Board a definite assurance that they cannot be suspended upon the caprice of the Minister for the time being.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The Ministershall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters : -
.- I desire to move an amendment, but I am at a loss to know exactly where and how to do so, although my purpose is perfectly definite. A great deal of the high cost of living is due to gentlemanly agreements and combinations in restraint of trade. This sort of thing is being carried on very widely at present. During the debate upon the Tariff schedule I read a copy of an agreement between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and the steel merchants of Australia, fixing the price of steel and iron. Parliament is protecting industries by the imposition of duties, andis giving special advantages to new industries. In his keen desire to build up Australian industry generally, the Minister (Mr. Greene) has gone further than any other Minister for Trade and Customs. It is our duty to endeavour to protect the consumer. I desire to quote from the Canadian Tariff Act in support of my own intention:-
I am not sure that the amendment which I have framed could not be inserted in the Anti-Dumping Bill.
– It could not be put into that measure, because it is a taxation Bill.
– Then I am in doubt concerning where I can insert it in a reference to the duties of the proposed Tariff Board. All that there is in this Bill is virtually contained in paragraph h of sub-clause 1 of the clause under discussion, which states -
charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or
However, the power which I desire to have set forth is not contained there.
– The difficulty really is between two procedures. In the Canadian case there is given to a Judge authority to determine the facts. If he finds the facts are as have been alleged, the Governor in Council may deal with the duties. Under this provision the. matter would not go before a Judge, but would be dealt with by theTariff Board, which would report to Parliament, and this House would deal with the duties.
– Suppose that the Board is created and a complaint is made that a manufacturer, is taking undue adr vantage of the protection which has been given him under the Tariff, what steps can the Government take?
– They would not be able to take action under this measure.
– Would it not be wise to insert something here, then?
– Does the honorable member suggest that, if advantage is shown to have been taken of the Protective Tariff, the Governor-General in Council should have power to remove the duties?
– I would be quite content to give the power that the Canadian Governor-General in Council possesses. I desire power to be provided that, in the eventof a report coming to hand from the Tariff Board, that undue advantage is being taken, according to the terms of paragraph h, the GovernorGeneral in Council may refer the matter to a Judge, who. should inquire whether there is any conspiracy, combination, or arrangement in restraint of trade.
– The Tariff Board itself would find those facts, and would report accordingly.
-Would it not be better to make the inquiry fuller and more complete? I do not regard the Board as having high judicial functions. It can call evidence, but I would not like to say that on a report by the Board alone I would convict a manufacturer of conspiracy.
– It would be for the House to decide on the evidence submitted by the Board.
– I have not had time to think it out, but I am impressed with the necessity, in connexion with our Tariff legislation, of seeing that the consumers are being protected while we give encouragement to the manufacturers. The consumers have not been properly protected in the past. I should like to be assured that, if there is anything in the nature of these agreements, which are made solely for the purpose of destroying competition and enabling the manufacturers or dealers, or both combined, to fleece the public, an effective check can be applied. It is the duty of the Minister, if he believes in imposing a high Protective Tariff to develop industries, to see that all the necessary machinery is provided in the Bill to give the consumer protection. Otherwise, the people must revolt against a measure of this sort.
.- I agree with a great dealof what the honorable member for Dampier has just said. I looked carefully at the Canadian procedure, and came to the conclusion that the House would be better satisfied,at all events in the initial stages of this class of legislation, to leave thefinal verdict in its own hands. The procedure laid down is this : A complaint is lodged and goes to the Tariff Board. TheBoard makes its investigationsand finds the facts proved. The honorable member suggests that, after this, power should be taken to send the matter on to a judicial tribunal to determine in law whether the facts are as stated or not. While it may be easy for us to make up our minds what the facts are, and any one affected would have ample opportunity to make his views known here, it might be very difficult to get actual legal proof. That is why it is better that the matter should come to the House, and that the House should determine, after public discussion, whether or not it shall apply the penalty of reducing or abolishing the duty. That is better than leaving the matter to the GovernorGeneral in Council, even after a judicial determination on the point. I believe the wayI have proposed will be more speedy and effective. We can only try it and see what the result is. I am just as anxious as the honorable member to see that this Tariff, which gives the manufacturers of Australia perhaps a better opportunity than they have ever had before to make good, does not give them an opportunity to exploit the public. That is why I am introducing this Bill, and why the Government are endeavouring to have it passed, in this form. I believe the best way is to leave it to the Tariff Board to find out the facts, and then make it compulsory on the Minister to bring the Board’s report to the House. After the Board had reported that the duty should be reduced, it would be impossible for a Minister or a Government to refuse to bring the Board’s report under the notice of Parliament. I believe this is the best and most effective, and probably the quickest, way ofdealing with thewhole matter.
.- I move -
That in paragraph (h), after the word “Tariff”, the following words he inserted: - “ or that the consumer is being charged unfair prices for protected articles.”
I want to give the Board, the fullest power to inquire into the prices which the consumer is being charged. The wording I suggest will cover cases where the dealer is charging unfair prices.
– Thatmeans that if a tailor in a small country town charged an exorbitant price f or asuit of clothes, you wouldremove the duty on clothing.
– No ; it is a question of reporting to Parliament.
.- I support the amendment.
– How does the honorable member answer the interjection by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) ?
– I shall come to that in a moment. The protection of the consumer seems to have been entirely overlooked in the Bill. I regard this clause as being to some extent a reflection on the manufacturers, who, so far as I have been able to ascertain, have not been in the habit of charging unduly high prices for their goods, whereas the consumers have been compelled to pay unnecessarily high prices. The remedy is to accept this amendment.
– Assuming that the amendment is carried, giving the Board the power to inquire into and report upon unnecessarily high prices charged to the consumer, and that the Board reports to the Minister that such prices are being charged, what power to act will the Minister or Parliament have ?
– The question of excessive prices charged to the consumer does not come within the scope of the Bill as drafted or the duties of the proposed Board.
– Of course not.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has asked, by interjection, what will be the effect if this amendment is adopted and the high prices charged to the consumers are b rought within the scope of the Tariff Board’s inquiries. My reply is that the manufacturers are obtaining a very considerableadvantage from the protection afforded by the Tariff, and they are being asked in this Bill to satisfy the Board that in return forthat protection they will not charge unnecessarily high prices for their goods.
– The amendment will enable the Board to not only inquire into the prices charged by the manufacturer of, say, fencing wire, but also to say to the dealers, “ The manufacturers have supplied you with wire at £10 per ton, why are you charging the consumer £15 ?”
– What power will the Commonwealth have to act ?
– It will have as much power as it will have in regard to prices charged by the manufacturer.
– -Assume that the Board reports that the £10- per ton charged by the manufacturer is fair, but that the £15 per ton charged by the dealer is excessive, what power will this House have to remedy the position except by depriving the manufacturer of the protection of the Tariff, still leaving the dealer to make his excessive profit ?
– We are not now dealing with the powers of Parliament. They have been explained to the Committee by the Minister. He said that the Board will report on the circumstances within its purview, and recommend to the Minister, who will bring the matter before the House.
– And the only power the House will have will be to reduce or abolish the duty.
– That power might co.pe with the evil to a large extent.
– By punishing the wrong man.
– No. If the amendment is adopted the Board will be able to inquire into excessive prices charged by dealers to the consumers. No such power is conferred by the Bill at present.
– The honorable member is proposing something in the nature of reprisals.
– Not at all. I am proposing to make the. investigations by the Board effective. They will not be effective if confined merely to the prices charged by the manufacturer. It is not those prices, but the prices charged by the men who supply the consumers of which we complain, and the Bill makes no provision for the Board to inquire into them. I regret very much the impatience shown by certain honorable members, who are determined that this Bill shall be “ bullocked “ through the Committee tonight without any consideration. I have received many hints not to delay the measure.
– Is the honorable member referring to any member of the Committee?
– I am.
– Then, you are insulting us.
– I have received at least a dozen hintsfrom the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). I am under the impression that it is still possible, under the Standing Orders, for an honorable member to say a word in behalf of the consumers without being interrupted by gross rudeness on the part of any member of the Committee. Notwithstanding that the hour is late, and that there is a determination on the part of some members that this Bill shall be passed to-night, I shall exercise my privilege in stating to the Committee my conception of the interests of the consumer in this matter. Those interests are not being adequately protected in this measure, but the amendment would give them much more protection.
– I agree that the Bill does not protect the consumer; but neither does the amendment.
– The amendment will help I am satisfied that this matter cannot be adequately discussed at this hour, and I ask that I should have leave to continue the debate when the Bill is again under discussion.
-Then, I must claim the attention of honorable members while I explain that it is the desire of the honorable member for Dampier to include in clause 14 some effective measure of protection for the consumer.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier.
– That will not protect the consumer.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee.[Quorum formed.]
– The investigations of the Inter-State Commission and the Necessary Commodities Commission have revealed over and over again that goods sold by manufacturers at reasonable prices have been charged to consumers at extortionate rates. Wholesale firms acting in combination, or withsome honorable understanding, have refused to permit consumers to get the benefit of the comparatively low prices at which they have obtained goods from manufacturers. The amendment would permit all such cases to be brought under review by the Tariff Board. I can mention a case particularly in point. Evidence was brought before a certain Commission that woollen goods were being manufactured in a certain town in Victoria. A large wholesale draper or tailor carrying on business in that town was also a shareholder in the manufacturing company. He desiredto obtain for the benefit of his customers the woollen goods made in thetown, but he could not get a single yard of those goods, because theywere all sold to a Flinders-lane firm.
– Because the manufacturer exercised his right to sell.
– Let me continue the story. I am not an advocate of price fixing, but it turns out that because of the existence of a price-fixing Commission in Victoria the firm purchasing this woollen cloth from the manufacturer could not obtain more than a certain profit upon it if they sold it in Victoria. As a consequence of this, this country storekeeper, living in the town in Victoria in which the cloth wasmade, had to buy it in Sydney before he could sell a single yard of it to hisown customers.
– How would the honorable member remedy that?
– I say that if the honorable member for Dampier ‘s amendment isacceptedthe Board will be. placed in a position to investigate prices charged to consumers by wholesale, firms, as well as prices charged by manufacturers to those firms. It would bring the prices chargedby retailers to the consumer within the purview of the Board.
– When they come within the purview of the Board, what could the Board do?
– The Board would be able to do in respect of excessivecharges to consumers by retailers exactly what the Bill proposes the Board may do in respect to excessive chargesby manufacturers.
– If the retailer does not do what is right, the honorable member will inflict a penalty upon the manufacturer. That is a curious doctrine to lay down.
– Would the honorable member abolish the duty in such a case?
– I do not propose that the dutyshould be abolished, but that prices charged by retailers to consumers shall be brought under the purview of the Board.
– The honorable member’s suggestionis that investigation by the Board of such prices would throw a fierce light on the practice of retailers.
– Exactly, and that is the only purpose to be served by the Tariff Board. It is to throw a light on the proceedings of all these people. It will make a report and recommendation to’ the Minister.Nothing can be done unless the Minister approves of the recommendation of the Board, and his resort is to the abolition of the duty.
– The honorable member’s contention is that the Commonwealth, has power to investigate and compel answers which regard to prices charged by retailers in Australia?
– The honorable member voted entirely against that proposition only a little time ago.
– Certainly, not.
– We have not the power to do that.
– In this Bill the Government say that they have the power with regard to the investigation of prices charged by manufacturers. This Bill,if it means what it says, purports to give that power to the Board; but I am told it is unconstitutional to investigate the prices charged to the consumers of Australian manufacturers’ goods.
– We have power over the Tariff, but no power over the sale of goods.
– I never suggested that we had power over the sale of goods.
– Then how would you compel persons to answer on oath questions regarding such sales?
– Because that would be part of the inquiry.
– I am not sure that the honorable member isnot right; but if he is he is admitting a much larger power in the Commonwealth than we have contended for in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).
– The power is admitted when it is proposed to investigate the charges made by manufacturers; and in a few days the consumers of Australia will want to know why excessive charges by manufacturers can be investigated and not the prices charged to consumers for the same goods.
– There is no power in either case.
– Then this Bill had better be torn up as a most silly and futile measure.
– The honorable member (Mr. Jowett) apparently does not understand the nature and scope of the Bill. We have passed a Tariff which purports to protect Australian industries, and it is proposed to appoint a Tariff Board, whose duties have reference to the Tariff laws of the Commonwealth. Power is given to investigate any complaint that a, manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the Protection afforded him, particularly in regard to his charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods;. and that is absolutely relative to the Tariff. Now the honorable member desires to carrythat a stage further, and say that when the goods have passed altogether out of the control of the manufacturer, and have become the property of a private dealer, there must be an inquiry into the sales by that private dealer.
– These are goods protected by the Tariff.
– But they have passed away from the manufacturer altogether, and are owned bythe storekeeper, the agent, or the wholesale man. The honorable member is suggesting that the Tariff Board shall take upon itself an entirely alien duty, which is not within its power.
– Then neither is the other power.
– The honorable member’s proposal would apply even to goods which are not protected, to goods which must have come from abroad; and that is not within the scope of the Bill. The reason we hold an inquiry inthe manufacturer’s case is that he is ina protected position.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I had occasion this morning to offer congratulations to an old member of the party to which I belong (Senator Gardiner), who to-day completed thirty years of parliamentary service in Australia. I now desire to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations also to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), who, I understand, also to-day completes thirty years of service in the public life of this country. The right honorable gentleman was sworn in as member for Hartley, in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, just thirty years ago, and I think I may congratulate himon the fact that, to all appearances, he has borne the stress and anxiety of that long period of public life remarkably well. The public scarcely realize how great a strain is placed on public-men, or they would probably extend to them more consideration. I am quite certain that if the pressfully realized this fact it would treat them more kindly. As a rule itis after ve have shuffled off this mortal coil that our political opponents realize what virtues we possess. I think I may say, in regard to the Acting Prime Minister, that as he has passed through so many vicissitudes during that period of thirty years, and still remains in public life, he has had the confidence of a largo section of thecommunity of this country. The fact, too, that daring the major portion of thattime he hasheld Ministerial and other important offices, -and now holds the high and honorable position of Acting Prime Minister of. Australia, is evidence that he has the confidence; of the members of’ the party that he now leads. No doubt, throughtheir recognition of his ability and his knowledge of parliamentary procedure and practice, he is fully qualified for the leadership. I think I may say, without prejudice - to use a legal term - that he deserves well at the hands of the community. Indeed, I think I may say that he deserves a less strenuous nosition than he occupies at present.
– I entirelyagree with the honorable member.
Mr.R YAN. - Rumour has itthat in the near future he may be appointed High Commissioner for Australia, and I would like him to tell us this evening - the houris very late, there are not many people about, and I amsure honorable members will respect his confidencequite confidentially how matters stand in regard to that position. If he sees fit to accept it, I can only say that I wish him every success, andI feel certainhe will do his duty according to his lights, in that capacity. If he does not secure that high office in a cooler climate, I trust - in no spirit of malevolence - that at the first opportunity the communitywill give him a less strenuous position in the cooler atmosphere of these benches.
– I am not sure that they are cooler.
– They are usually supposed to be. We have evidences of peace - I am sure it is welcomed by all within the Empire- and I think it is fitting that I should take this opportunity of offering my congratulations to the Acting Prime Minister on this occasion. I do so in all sincerity and with all personal goodwill.
.- I am deeply grateful to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan)’ for his kind references. Until an hour orso ago I was completely unaware that this day thirty years ago I was first sworn in as a. member of Parliament. I very well remember those callow days when I set out with my reforming zeal to put the whole world right. I imagined that in six or seven years’ time everything, would be well, and. the New Jerusalem would be almost within sight. But alas andalack! The weary old world goes jogging on, and, notwithstanding all the devotion, ability, and patriotic zeal that has been shown by so many of us, there is much yet to he done. At the same time, I cannot say that I have anyquarrel with public life. I have never pretended that my life has been all sacrifice for the good, of others. I confess that I have rather enjoyed myself, although others may not have enjoyed me as much. Notwithstanding that, there are few men in public life who have fought more strongly than I have for the things which they thought to be right. Fewmen have been cut and thrust atmore, but I can honestly say I have never hit a man below the belt, even in my most strenuous encountersI do not think I ever hit a man without hitting myself harder. That may be a matter of doubt with some persons, but it is the truth. I am grateful to the honorable member for his kind references. Heand I have had some little tilts, and, perhaps, we shall have more.
– No doubt.
– I reciprocate the kindly feelings expressed in the words he has uttered ;and, notwithstanding the asperities of political life, and whatever may be before me and wherever my lotmay be cast, I shall always remember bis kindly references.
.- On behalf of the members of the Country party, I desire to indorse the congratulations which have been offered to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), on the completion of so. many years of useful and honorablepublic life in Parliaments of Australia.I trust that in whatever sphere of activity hemay be engaged in future, he will continue to enjoy the best of good health and prosperity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 . 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210714_reps_8_96/>.