8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Six Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 pm., and read prayers.
Mr. FOWLER presented the second progress report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the War Service Homes Commission (Tasmania).
Ordered to be printed.
– .Some’ time ago, I tendered, in writing, my resignation from the House Committee, but I am still receiving notices of its meetings. I should like the Government to move that I be discharged from attendance on the Committee.
– I have repeatedly asked for reports about the unemployed in the various States, and the Prime Minister has promised to obtain permission for the tabling of this information. I ask him now if he oan say when we are likely to get itf
– So far as I am aware, no information has come to hand, but I shall cause an inquiry to be made, and, if any is available, will lay it on .the table. If we have not received any information, I shall mention the matter to the Premiers of the States when I meet them at the beginning of next week.
– I have received the following telegram from Mr. Watts, the Secretary to the Franchise Committee at Darwin: -
Ordinance abolition trial by jury is purported suppress tyranny and intimidation but really creates same by Government and is outrage on principles British justice Ordinance; regarding disorderly meetings only red-herring drawn by Poynton purpose misleading southerners. -Heal position one meeting called by persons unsympathetic no-taxation movement who being very small minority were overwhelmingly defeated one Speaker who ratted on movement received hostile reception-
– It is not in order to make statements when asking a question.
– -Certain information has been wired to me, and I am reading it in order that the Minister’s mind may be informed on the subject about which I wish to question him,
– The honorable member may finish the quotation of the telegram if it is not too long.
– It is not long. It continues -
Ordinance deportation purely tyrannous expensive and ridiculous as men with large families homes and businesses will be affected these men were specially selected for prosecution. Out of twenty imprisoned there were eleven with families and two with dependent parents living locally town council Ordinance conservative and retrogressive 75 per cent, of electors disfranchised and only owners and occupiers on assessment book eligible vote.
– I think that, if the honorable member wishes to read the whole telegram, he should ask the leave of the House to make a statement.
– Then I . ask leave to make a statement.
– I object.
– Well, if I am not permitted to ask my question, I shall move the adjournment of the House. -
– The honorable member, I think, misunderstands the position. It is a well-known parliamentary rule that questions must be as short and as direct as possible, and accompanied with only sufficient t explanation to clarify them. The honorable member was reading a long telegram, a proceeding which is not in order in connexion with the asking of a question. He will be in order in shortly stating the position at Darwin before asking his question.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether, acting on behalf of the Government, he has issued Ordinances which practically abolish trial by jury at Darwin, and whether there is there a systematic victimization of men, especially married men, most of those who have been imprisoned being family men? Will the honorable gentleman .take early steps to rescind this Ordinance, and to put an end to the discrimination which is being shown at Darwin!
– If the honorable member will give notice qf his questions, they will receive due consideration.
– I have read in the press- strictures upon the apathy of honorable members regarding statements made in the report of the AuditorGeneral, and I ask the Treasurer whether, in future, copies of this report will be made available to members as speedily as possible, so that we may be able to consider its criticisms in conjunction with the discussion of the Estimates?
– I do not know why there has been delay in circulating the report. I am not responsible for its circulation. ‘ The report this year was presented much earlier than ever before in tho history of this Parliament. The honorable member should address his question to Mr. Speaker.
– Is the Prime Minister -aware that a prominent member of the Nationalist party in this Parliament advocated, at a meeting yesterday, the employment of indentured labour for the development of .Central Australia? I should like to know whether the Prime Minister, as head of the party, favours that policy?
– No; and the National party is not in favour of it. But if I am required to answer questions concerning the opinions of members of this party, I shall have continually to put to honorable members opposite questions about their opinions which it will be rather difficult for them to answer.
– Has the Treasurer any idea when the report of the Taxation Commission will be presented-? Has he any knowledge of any “ split in the camp “ or difference of opinion among the members of the Commission, and if such a split has occurred, will he endeavour, to have the evidence taken, printed, so that honorable members may be in a position to form an opinion upon it if the Commissioners are unable to do so?
– I am sorry to say that I know nothing of .any split. Nor do I know the reason for the delay in the presentation of the report. All I can tell the House is that a report has not yet been handed in by the Commission.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that, on account of the shortage of material in his Department, it is utterly impossible, at Newcastle and other important exchanges, to fix additional wires to the switchboards? Does he not think that it is time the Government took steps to relieve the congestion in telephone exchanges?
– I shall make inquiries, and ascertain the facts.
– The Government do not propose to answer questions on notice.
In Committee of Supply; Debate resumed from 26th October . (vide page 12198), on motion by Sir Joseph Cook- (
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division I., The Parliament, . namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
On which Dr. Earle Page had moved, hy way of amendment -
That the item bo reduced by 10s., and that this bc taken as an instruction to the Government to reconsider the Estimates for the purpose of reducing the total expenditure from revenue by the sum of £2,817,108, the amount of the anticipated deficit, in order to square the ledger.
.-I want first of all to deny the statements that have appeared in many newspapers to the effect that, in consequence of outside pressure from organizations, honorable members of the Labour party who, it was said were at one time about to follow a certain course in respect of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), have been compelled to alter their attitude. I think my word will’ be taken when I say that no representations have been made to thi? party, either verbally or in writing, by anybody outside.
– Gossips must have their chatter.
– But it is just as well to put the matter right. The amendment submitted by the Country party has been in evidence for a considerable time past. Prior to the last adjournment of the House, the Deputy Leader of the party (Mr. Gregory) intimated that, on the resumption of sittings on the Prime Minister’s return from abroad, his party would deal with the question of economy when the Estimates came up for consideration; and, from that time on, the parly has had the greatest advertisement. The press has reported the views of its members wherever they have been expressed. No other, section of a Legislature has ever had a better opportunity of securing publicity than has been afforded them in respect to this amendment. And now that we have the amendment before us, we can only marvel at the attitude of the men who have submitted it. In my time, I have seen some censure motions launched, but this is the first occasion upon which a party submitting one has told the Government and the public that it is not, loaded. “It is not a. party question,” says the Leader of the party in submitting it, “ The finances of the country are not a party question.” Just imagine an honorable member telling men experienced in parliamentary life that it is not a party matter to call upon the Government of the day to withdraw their Estimates and recast them with a view to reducing them by £2,800,000. To me, the position is staggering. A Government could take up no other attitude >than to accept this amendment as a wantofconfidence motion. Several honorable members iu the Corner say “ Hear, hear !” to that. It is strange that their Leader, in submitting his amendment, made it clear that it was not to be regarded as a want-of-confidence motion.
– I said that it was folly that it should be so regarded.
– I accept the honorable member’s correction; but, in my view, it is not folly that it should be so * regarded. Ministers are charged with the responsibility of administering the affairs of this country; and if, after giving due consideration to the proposals which emanate from the different Departments, they bring down a Budget, they are not a Government if they do not stand by it.
– After all, that is only a matter of opinion.
– I arn giving my opinion. Before I sit down I shall deal with the honorable member’s opinion. Other honorable members in the Corner followed their Leader in the same strain. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) told us that he did not consider it was a party question. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) also told us that it should not be regarded as a party question. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) does not consider that it is a party question.
– But he knows nothing about it.
– He knows a great deal about it. Last night he quoted Todd galore. He even went so far as to tell the Government that they should accept their Estimates if returned from the Committee over and over again. He even said, “ What matters it if they are returned four times? This is not a censure motion on the Government; it is merely an expression of the wish of the Country party.” The honorable member went further, and said that, if the Government were prepared to accept his advice : and the olive branch he was holding out, and to agree to his suggestion that they should take back the Estimates and reduce them tq some extent, they could remain on the Treasury bench for four’ years.
– I said that, in similar circumstances, Lord John Russell had remained on the Treasury bench for four years.
– The only point that the honorable member omitted to mention was that there might be a general election. I do not know what was to become of us in the meantime, but the Government were to remain safe for the next four years. In order to put his position beyond all doubt, he said to practically every Minister, “I would not hurt a hair of your head.” Even the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was not to have a hair on the top of his head disturbed. I ask, in all seriousness, whether that is the sort of attitude one expects to be taken up by a party that is censuring the Government. Is that what the people expect of the Country party? Do the electors of Australia expect them to be firing at the Government time after time nothing but blank cartridge? Let me remind the Committee of what has happened in this Parliament on several occasions during the last few months. When the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who was then Leader of the Country party, moved a certain motion designed to defeat the Government, and there was a possibility of it being carried, what did his party do? They split up just as’ they are doing today. They spiked their guns. There was no fight in them. They were merely out for an advertisement. On 11th March, 1920, the honorable member for Franklin, as Leader of the Country party, moved to reduce by one-half, a proposed grant of supply amounting to £5,720,000. What happened? The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), who is so anxious now to cut down the Estimates and turn the Government out of’ office, absented himself when the division took place. Whenever the Country party has submitted a hostile motion, and there has been a danger of a Government defeat, there has always been a member of that party ready to keep out of the way when the division bells rang. There has been no unanimity on the part of the
Country party ever since it entered this Parliament.
– We have unanimity on this occasion.
– I shall show in a moment to what extent the party is unanimous.
– Before the honorable member does so, may I ask whether he wished to infer that I submitted the amendment mentioned by him merely as an advertisement, and then ran away from it?
– No; but unfortunately for the honorable member he was deserted by his own party. Mr. Watkins. - And very often by all of them.
– Quite so. I have yet another instance or two to quote. I recall to mind the occasion of a close division in this House when the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who was then Acting Leader of the Country party, for some reason or other absented himself. His presence was needed to defeat the Government, but he was missing. He explained later on why he failed to take part in the division.
– He said he did not hear the division bells ringing.
– That is so. We are now told that the party is solid. Let me remind the Committee of the most recent illustration of its “solidarity.” The party held a meeting, and came to a certain decision with regard to the submission of this amendment. But, later on, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), a member of the party, told the Committee that, rather than cast a vote that might assist Labour, he would desert his party, and that for that reason he intended on this occasion to vote with the Government. That is an example of the solidarity of the party. In view of these facts, are we not justified in coming’ to the conclusion that this is not an honest attempt on the part of the Country party to displace the Government? Have we and the country generally,, not to be guided by our experience in this Parliament? The actions of the Country party in this House show very clearly that they have not been prepared at any time to endeavour to bring about the defeat of this Government. Their protestations on this occasion clearly show that as a party they wish to avoid any such .thing. When there seemed a likelihood of the Government being defeated on this amendment prompt action was taken to avert the threatened danger. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) had no sooner intimated to the Committee that he could no longer support the Government, and that he intended to vote for the amendment - which meant that if the Labour party voted solidly with the Country party the Government would go out - than the honorable member for New England did the next best thing to avert disaster to the Government by announcing that he intended to desert his party and to vote against the amendment.
– The honorable .member for New England exercises his own judgment.
– I did not hear the speech made by the honorable member, but I am told that he said that he was very anxious to consult his conscience, and that his conscience dictated that he should vote against the amendment.
– Is it a crime to act according to one’s own conscience?
– Not at all. I am merely pointing out the position taken up by the honorable member. I have endeavoured to summarize various incidents associated with the Country party’s actions in this House. I have nothing personal to say against any member of that party. I have the highest regard for every honorable member personally, and I am talking now in only a political sense.
We have to ask ourselves what there is in this amendment, and I say unhesitatingly that it is the most indefinite ever put before a deliberative assembly. There is nothing in it. It simply provides that the Estimates shall be returned to the Government in order that they may be recast, with a view to reducing the estimated expenditure by £2,817,000.
– That is little enough.
– I do not mind to what extent the Estimates are reduced in the interests of true economy, but I ask the Country party to give us the items which they would cut down. Surely that is a reasonable position to take up.
– That is what the honorable member’s friends asked us to do, and we gave them our reply.
– I do not know to whom the honorable member is referring. As a matter of fact, the members of our party have not asked for anything. I am the first on this side of the Committee to speak- to the amendment. Why have not the Country party definitely stated where they would apply the pruning knife?
– Because they cannot do so;
– Because it is the duty of the Government to apply it.
– When I gave honorable members of the Country party an opportunity the other night to declare their attitude, what did they do? I moved a. direct amendment to reduce the Defence Estimates by the amount of the estimated deficit, only to find every honorable member of the Country party falling into line with the Government and their supporters in opposition to the Labour party. What have I heard since then? It would be a good thing if the people outside could hear everything that is said in this chamber. I have heard member after member who voted against my amendment publicly admitting that it was at least definite, that there was some merit in it, and that the Defence Estimates’ should be materially cut down. Not one of them, however, voted for my amendment. If the Country party were not prepared to vote for the full reduction for which I asked, why did they not intimate the extent to which they were prepared to go? Why did they not say that they would be prepared to cut down the Defence vote to the amount voted last year? Why did they not say that there should be no increase in the Defence vote as compared with last year’s estimate? They made no such announcement. There was no move on their part in that direction. Yet we hear honorable members of the Country party deploring the heavy expenditure on defence.
Since the opening of this debate there has appeared in a daily newspaper a leading article in which it was said that in moving for a reduction of the Defence Estimates, *I was influenced by the representations made by revolutionaries outside. Honorable members generally, I think, will admit that throughout the great war I said again and again, not only in this House, but on the public platforms of the country that, in my opinion, it should be a war to end wars; that everything possible should be done to see that there was no recurrence of war, and that there should be, if not a total disarmament, at least- a limitation of armaments. I am, personally, in favour of disarmament. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), for whom I have a high regard, speak so vigorously as he did last night, notwithstanding the trying ordeal through which he has recently passed. The honorable member uttered sentiments with which I and every member of our party are in accord when he urged that the workers, who have to do the fighting, should organize to prevent wars. If I had made that statement instead of the honorable member, Australia would have rung with it from one end to the other. It would have been published in every newspaper, and Charlton would have been held up to the public as a man who desired a revolution. But, because the statement came from my honorable friend, who is a man of high standing in his profession in this country, not one word appears in the daily press in regard to the sentiments he expressed last evening.
– His words were his honest opinion, too.
– They were, and I was glad to hear him express those sentiments to the House.
– They were not the opinion of the majority of this House.
– I know that, because the honorable member and others have proved it by their votes. However much the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and myself may desire the reduction of armaments, it is making a heavy demand upon the working people throughout the world when we ask them to organize for the .purpose of preventing the manufacture of implements and munitions of war for the destruction of mankind. The working people have every day to eke out a bare existence for their wives and families, and must seek work where they can find it. So long as there are these demands by the stomach, what hope is there for organized labour throughout the world?
– Only one - war on the war mongers!
– That is the only thing. Is it not, then, the right and proper thing for this Parliament, and the Parliaments of all civilized countries throughout the world, to show that they have learned the lesson of the late disastrous war, in “which so many valuable lives were lost, and say that they will limit armaments, and cut down defence votes, so that money now expended uselessly may be used for the purposes of production? If Parliament does not take up that attitude, how can we expect the great toiling masses to be behind us? We cannot otherwise expect any relief from the suicidal wars which from time to time assist to extinguish our race. That, briefly, is the view I hold. I waa glad to hear what the honorable member for Fawkner said last night; and I repeat that it would be a good thing if this Parliament, instead of increasing the Defence vote, were to decrease it.
What does the amendment mean? Does the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) intend to bring about a reduction of industrial activities in this country? Does he intend the expenditure of the Treasurer to be cut down so that a large proportion of the thousands of men now employed by the Government may be laid idle? There are thousands of unemployed stalking through Australia to-day, and the State Governments, are doing their best, by expending additional money to find work for them. At such, a time as this, does the honorable member for Cowper intend to cut down the Estimates and so throw more men on the labour market? We are now suffering from the aftermath of the war which we all knew would come. Who cried the loudest for the prosecution of the war to finality in order that we might succeed? We all cried aloud for that; and are we now, after getting the working men to fight the battle for us, to throw them on the scrap heap ? Are we to cut down the expenditure in such a way as to throw more men out of employment? Have we not thrown thousands out of work in the shipbuilding yards, at the Lithgow factory, and other places?
– And you proposed the other night to throw them all out!
– My action was explained clearly. So far as Lithgow is concerned, I said that the Government policy, which prevented the use of machinery there for the purpose of manufacturing articles for civil use instead of for war, ought to be set aside for the purpose of providing employment for our own people.
– And cause correspondingly decreased work outside!
– However, if this amendment means the dismissing of men from employment, the Labour party do not stand for it - I wish to make that clear. We, as a party, will not support any proposal which means more unemployment. The Leader of the Country party, in reply to the Treasurer, made a statement to the effect that if there are statutory obligations standing in the road to prevent economy, then his party is prepared to assist the Government to remove them. What am I to make of a statement of that kind? Is it intended to interfere with the pensions of the old and infirm people? If so, the Labour party will fight any such proposal to the last ditch. We on this side have been agitating on behalf of the old-age pensioners, who have to contend with the increased cost of living. I have pointed out that £1,800,000 would give these old-age pensioners 5s. a week extra. We have £6,000,000 in a trust fund for these pensions, and we ought to have applied that money to increasing ths pension by the amount I have stated, during the war. So far as the Labour party is concerned, whatever may be said of economy, we are favorable to an increased allowance for the old and infirm in this country.
I should like now to refer to the Post and Telegraph Department. When, the other evening, I had voiced the necessity for additional expenditure in this direction, I found the Country party in accord with me. Every member of that party was desirous that there should be increased expenditure on our postal and telegraphic services. And why? Because those services were starved, both in the cities and in the country, during the war, owing to the scarcity of material and the necessity for conserving as much money as possible for the prosecution of hostilities. The result is that the services have been allowed to become most unsatisfactory. Some £300,000 more is to be expended this year in this way than last year, and
I ask the Country party now if they propose to cut that vote down?
– I have already dealt with that matter.
– The party on this side of the House will not do anything to bring about a reduction in the vote for these services.
And now I come to the Public Service. I do not know whether it is intended to cut down the salaries df the public servants, but we have in this House from time to time endeavoured to give them a fair deal. Right through the war they got no increases of salaries in keeping with the increased cost of living, and magnificent work was done, especially by the postmasters, who cheerfully accepted increased duties without any increased pay. Those employees have had to go to the Arbitration Court, this Parliament having deliberately decided that they must do so; and when the Leader of the Country party, and also the Age, make a comparison of the expenditure as between 1914-15 and 1921-22, they forget to say anything about the increased cost of living forced on the community. What are the increases in regard to the wages of the public servants?
– I specifically mentioned the total amounts.
– On 30th June, 1914, the average amount of money paid to the public servants of the Commonwealth was £149 per annum - little enough, in all conscience! That has been gradually increased until, on the 31st December, 1920, the average pay was £234. Will anybody say that £234 is too much, in view of the cost of living and the necessity our public servants are under of providing decent comfort for their families ?
– Who has said it is too much?
– I do not know; I am putting my own case, though honorable members in the Corner have not put theirs. *
– Their argument . was that they wanted fewer public servants, and not to pay them less.
– I shall come to that aspect of the case later. The figures I have quoted show an increase of 63 per cent, in wages. How much has been the increase in regard to the cost of material in that time? These are all factors that have to he considered. So far as the Labour party is concerned, we do not stand for cutting down the salaries that are paid to our public servants except in cases where it can be shown that they are receiving over and above that to which they are entitled. I make that distinction; there are perhaps men in the Public Service who have easy positions, and are paid too much money. I do not wish to mention particular cases, but I know one man who has risen rapidly in the Public Service, and who is now receiving a salary of £2,000. So far as I am concerned, I do not think that he is worth his salary, and I do not hesitate to say so. In such cases, honorable members may depend upon this party assisting to bring about true economy. We shall see that these inflated salaries are cut down, but we shall not interfere with those public servants who have had to fight so hard, through the Arbitration Court, to secure what they are entitled to.
– But who is going to interfere with them?
– The trouble with some honorable members, when they have heard my argument?, is that they become conscious of serious omissions from their own speeches, and they then assail me with these questions. The party for which I have the honour to speak wants to know where honorable members in the corner stand in regard to these matters. And, obviously, honorable members of the Country party want to know where we stand, the difference being, however, that- we make no mystery of our attitude. Members of the Labour party are in duty bound to let the people know what they are doing and what they are seeking in regard to all matters of public policy.
While some honorable members talk about economy and let it go at that, I shall now mention a specific project in respect of which economy can be effected. The proposition has been virtually fathered by the Leader of the Country party; it has been approved by the Prime Minister. I refer to the suggestion to hold a Constitution Convention. I do not think such a Convention is necessary. It would amount to a waste of time and public money. If, after twenty years, we have not had sufficient experience of the working and of the shortcomings of our Constitution to enable us to decide upon what should be submitted to the electors with a view to amending and improving it, we shall never know. What good caa be gained by the calling together of a Convention? Involved in the proposal there is the suggestion to cut up the States into districts, each district toelect a representative. Such an election would involve as much expense as, if not an even greater outlay than, a Federal general election. Such a system of electing representatives would inevitably arouse bitter feeling. There would be the spectacle of advocates of State rights furiously fighting, perhaps in every district, against candidates favoring the Federal system of government. And, in the course of a fierce campaign, the taxpayers’ money would be spent like water; all to try to bring about a result which could be secured with little additional cost and in a direct fashion. Members of the Federal Parliament know what alterations are necessary. They have learned what powers should be added to the Commonwealth, and they know exactly what the people should be asked to ratify by way of proposed amendments of the Constitution. Then, why not let members of this Parliament take the proposals direct to the people, in the course of a general election campaign?
– Because you fight your elections on party issues and not in a national spirit at all.
– The election of representatives of the Convention, aa favoured by the Country party, would be conducted, not upon a Country party issue, or upon a National or a Labour party issue; it would be fought upon the issue as between “State lighters” and those who uphold the Federal system of government*
– Why should it not be fought upon that issue?
– Because there is no need for it at all. Members of the Federal Parliament have become sufficiently acquainted with the shortcomings of the Constitution to enable them to submit proposals to the people direct when they may next go before their constituents. Then the electors could decide upon the whole matter once and for all; and, in that way, there would be saved probably a couple of hundred thousand pounds.
– Every proposal which has emanated from this Parliament for the alteration of the Constitution has been fought upon a party issue.
– The same would happen in respect of the election of representatives to a Constitution Convention. However, economy can be practised in other directions as well. There are too many Parliaments in this country, and the sooner the people rise to the occasion and deal effectively with that disability the better for Australia. This country has too many Governors. There is far too much duplication of the Public Services. There is huge waste (because of duplication in respect of taxation, electoral matters, arid pensions. With wise consolidation, and with one Parliament in control of these services, there would be a huge saving to the people.
– How can such a happy state of affairs be brought about more quickly than by way of a Convention? “ Mr. CHARLTON. - Australia will gain nothing from the proposed Convention. The Leader of the ‘Country party is doomed, before long, to .disappointment.
I wish to restate the attitude of the Labour party. Whatever happens, it will not stand for wholesale reductions in the Public Service; certainly it will not do so where there is no legitimate reason. The Labour party will not stand for the dismissal of employees from the Commonwealth Service, and the throwing of large additional numbers upon the labour market, when there is so much unemployment already.
– Who does stand for such a thing?
– I do not know;, but, strange to say, members of the Country party have not said whether they do or not.
– Even so, the honorable member does not ‘believe for one moment that we ‘ do.
– Why cannot honorable members say so? The trouble is that they have said nothing concerning what they would do in a practical way in the. interests of economy.
Now 1 come to the other side of the picture. I read with pain a statement made by the Treasurer in Sydney, which has been echoed in this chamber, and which was ‘ indorsed last night by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). I refer to the announcement that, in order to economize, the time had arrived when something should be done in the direction, of cutting down the maternity allowance. That measure was inaugurated ‘by this party, and it has been productive of a wonderful amount of good. It has insured the provision of proper nursing and medical attention for the. mothers of Australia at the moat critical period in their lives. It has been the means of saving thousands of infants. I say, as far as this party is concerned*, “ Hands off the maternity bonus.!” If it is the intention of those who are going for economy to pauperize this country, the Labour party will fight them to the last ditch.
– .Who suggested such a thing?
– The honorable member again asks me a question. Members of the Country party have said there must be economy. Have they said that they do not favour economizing in that direction ?
– Does the honorable member favour the practice of wealthy people drawing £5 a year as a baby bonus?
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I appeal to honorable members to restrain themselves, and to permit the Deputy Leader of the Labour party to state his case. The honorable member should be permitted to address the Committee without being subjected to unseemly interruptions, which are, I remind honorable members, a gross breach of the rules.
– I am asked if I favour every mother in the land receiving the maternity allowance. I shall never do anything, either here or elsewhere, to bring about an alteration in the law the effect of which would be to set up an inquisitorial staff, or to use the police, to go from house to house asking tie mothers throughout this country for particulars of their . husbands’ incomes and details of their families.
– -Why not grant the old-age pension to everybody in Australia ?
– I am in favour of a considerable extension of pensions.
– Order! I again appeal to honorable members to obey the Chair. Their conduct is exceedingly unseemly. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has a perfect right, under the rules of this House, to speak without interruption; and he should be given that right without question. If there is one honorable member more than another whose remarks should be heard in silence, it is -the leader of a party. I appeal to honorable members on all sides, therefore, to permit the honorable membor to state his case.
– How can Parliament_ cut down the maternity allowance by giving the bonus only to those who may he considered to he in need of it, without introducing some form of inspection to ascertain the circumstances of every applicant? There are thousands of mothers with some sense of dignity. They are endeavouring to hold up their heads in the community. They would rather suffer in silence than take money under such conditions. As far as we are concerned, we do not stand for any policy that will place an indignity upon the mothers of Australia.
Let me turn now to another matter in connexion with which we have a complaint against the Government, namely, the administration of the Repatriation Department. I may be told that an Act of Parliament is responsible for the present position, and that the Government can do nothing. In answer to that, I say, that in view of the many definite statements that have been made from, time to time_
I am almost tired of hearing my own voice speaking on behalf of returned soldiers - something should be done to rectify the many grievances that exist. I promised our boys that T. would stand up for them here and outside this House. I have been endeavouring to do that al- ^ ways, during and since the war, and I shall continue to do so till my dying day. But what has been done? Repatriation grievances have been brought up in this House from* time to time. It is true that we have had the sympathetic ear of the - Minister, who inquired into those cases that had been brought under his notice, but invariably they were referred to the same authorities, who made the same investigation, and ended up by indorsing their former decisions. Is this the way to treat men who fought this country’s battles, and who were promised that their little ones would not suffer in any way? This is something that burns within me. I could quote many letters dealing with their many troubles, but I am not going to do so this afternoon. One case, however, recurs to mind: that of a returned soldier with five little children. Prior to the war he was one of the best miners in the Newcastle district. In the colliery where he worked, and where men were paid by results, he was top scorer. He voluntereed, was passed by the medical authorities, and went to the war. Upon his return he was not able to follow his usual occupation. As a matter of fact, he was incapacitated, and he has since been told that his incapacity was not the result of warlike operations; that its cause was pre-existent, and that, therefore, he waa not entitled to war-pension privileges. Fancy a statement like that in regard to a man who had been passed oy a medical officer, and accepted for war service! Is that the way to serve a man who has risked his life in the interests of this country? I have brought case after case of this kind under the notice of the Department. This man has written to me thanking me for what I have been able te do for him. In the course of his letter he tells me that his wife has been obliged to sell her sewing machine and various household utensils hi order to meet the everyday needs, and that they are now dependent upon friends for the wherewithal to live. Will any honorable member say that this kind of treatment should be meted out to our returned soldiers? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) speaking in Sydney recently, said that if there was anything wrong about the administration in the Repatriation Department, the soldiers themselves were to blame, because the Government had appointed returned soldiers to fill all the responsible positions in the Department. I said in this House, and at a time, too, when it was unpopular to do so, that whilst I desired to give as much employment as possible to returned soldiers, I did not believe in placing a returned soldier in any position for which he might be unfitted. Persons appointed to responsible positions in the Repatriation Department should have a good knowledge of the work and see that justice is done to our boys after their return from the Front. I have brought up these cases from time to time and have got sympathy, it is true, but nothing mora, from the Department. This is what we have against the Government, and it is something they will have to answer for sooner or later. What is the position with regard to War Service Homes? I shall speak only of conditions as I know them in New South Wales. In my State I have seen nothing but the grossest mismanagement. The men in my State hardly knew what their houses were going to cost. There was no proper system, land was purchased at inflated values, other land that was quite unsuitable for building purposes, being low-lying and unhealthy, was bought, and there our soldiers are expected to make their homes, and in the course of time bring up a family. They are expected to take over homes far and away above their cost, and all because of bungling in the War Service Homes Department.
– That is not so. A declaration has been made that no returned soldier will be asked to take over a home at above its statutory price.
– I am glad to have that assurance from tha Minister.
– Do you admit that returned soldiers ought to get preference in the matter of employment in the Public Service?
– I do not want the honorable member to draw me away from the subject with which I am: dealing. If the Minister has decided that returned soldiers shall not be charged with any extra cost of their homes over and above the amount fixed in the Act, well and good.
– This course was decided upon long ago.
– I made that statement in this House on two occasions.
– Then if returned soldiers are not to be debited with the extra cost, due to mismanagement of the Department, the country will have to cany the burden. If money has been squandered the taxpayer will be expected to pay, and in my opinion, rightly so, rather than the returned soldier. But my complaint is that these matters ought to have been rectified. They have been discussed in this House from time to time. On previous occasions I have spoken at great length, on this subject, going into every detail in order to place the position clearly before the country. Mismanagement, the outstanding feature of War Service Homes administration, is a matter which my party has been endeavouring to get rectified all through the piece. If is idle for the Prime Minister to endeavour to throw the responsibility upon returned soldiers, because the Government must be responsible for their officials. If times had not been abnormal, no Government, responsible as this Government has been for such gross mismanagement, could have lived. And how has this Government lived? They have been able to survive attacks, because honorable members sitting in the Corner have been afraid to do the right thing., They have been afraid, to throw their weight in with the Labour party. The Government of Great Britain have taken steps to meet the position due to unemployment there. We, too, are boginning to feel the pinch, but if the position becomes more acute, I hope, we shall have in office a Government prepared to take the proper course, which certainly is not to throw thousands more men out of employment.
I come now to the Defence Department. My remarks under this heading will be very brief. To me it is a matter for surprise that while there is a consensus of opinion that the Defence Estimates ought to be cut down, yet when it comes to a vote, nothing is done, the presumption being, of course, that nothing must be done because the suggestion has emanated from the Labour party. No good, so we are told, can come from such a source, no matter how sincere honorable members on this side of the House may be in their convictions on this subject. As a party we have got to be held up to public ridicule. I venture to say, however, that the time is coming when the eyes of the people will be opened and they will see through this little game. They will realize then that there as nothing in all these protestations by members behind- the Government and in the Corner. Immediately one honorable member, a Ministerial supporter,’declared his intention to vote for the amendment, a member of the Country party said he was going to vote for the Government. And so matters are equalized! Then. we have the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) on the floor of the House bargaining with the Prime Minister as to what may be done with the Estimates. I have never seen a more degrading spectacle in Parliament, when a censure motion was under discussion, than that witnessed last week when the Leader of the Government was bargaining with a member of his own party. Responsible government must be drifting badly when such an instance as that could occur. “We got away from responsible government during the war period. We were hoping to get back to it as times became normal again, but unfortunately our hopes have not been realized. Responsible government to-day is almost a by-word. Honorable members supporting the Government seem to think that whatever happens they must not be seen in company with members of the Labour party. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has declared that he is anxious for economy in administration, but no matter what our policy may be he will not give a vote to help the Labour party. Whatever good we may desire to do, the members .of the Country party are always anxious to thrust in the dagger. That is the attitude adopted by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay). We have’ heard murmurings and rumblings in regard to a crisis, but when it comes to a test, every effort is made by the members of the Country party to insure the safety of the Government. On the other hand, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is going from one end of the country to the other telling the people that the soul has gone out of this party. On the one hand we are rejected and despised, and on the other we are informed that we have lost our soul. When a party finds itself between two sections in this way, what is ite position ? We shall do what we consider right in this matter. One party is determined that nothing shall be done to defeat the Government, because there might be an appeal to the country, and many members of the other party, including the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) are dissatisfied. The honorable
Mr. Charlton* member for Balaclava said that much of the criticism of the Leader of the Country party (Dr.. Earle Page) was justified, and that the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) “ that the usual custom of dealing with the items in Committee would be followed “ was an old gag and counted for nothing. The honorable member went so far as to say that the only thing to do to save the country and the Government was to place the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) in charge of the Treasury. What has the present Treasurer done to deserve such treatment ?r The right- honorable gentleman has been doing his best in difficult circumstances, and I believe he will be glad when he leaves for that haven of rest on the other side of the world. I have explained the position we are in.
– You are in a bad way.
– On the contrary, we are in a good way. We shall walk the path of right with our heads erect, trusting the people, believing that the barriers of prejudice and sectarianism will be .broken down, and our ideals, which have for their object the uplifting of humanity, will meet with the approval of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to take this opportunity of stating the Government’s attitude in regard to the position as it now stands. First, let me say a word or two in regard to the point raised by the Deputy Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and others that the amendment is properly regarded by the Government as one of want of confidence. Last evening the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) gave us the benefit of a personally conducted tour through the mazes of history. The honorable member sought to create the impression in our minds that it was proper for a responsible Government to permit its Estimates to be rejected and treated with contumely by the Committee. The honorable member, who is a man of many parts, was unfortunate in his effort last evening. It is evident that there are places where even the honorable member for Grampians must tread with fear and trembling. He quoted from Todd, that eminent authority, to whom I, too, must turn to confute the honorable member. The honorable member endeavoured to prove that such an amendment as . that of the honorable member for Cowper is one that may be accepted by a. Government without loss of dignity. And he quoted Todd in support of this amazing “ statement. As I have said, he was unfortunate in his quotation, for Todd, after dealing with Lord Russell^ Earl Grey, and other gentlemen who are no longer with us, sets out a position which is nob merely analogous to but identical with our own. On page 502 of Vol. II. of his work, he says -
For if the Ministers of the Crown do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to carry through the House measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare, their continuance in office under such circumstances is at variance with the spirit of the Constitution. Furthermore, while, as We -have already noticed, questions of finance and taxation are especially within the province of the House of Commons to determine, and they should be free to act in relation to such questions without being hampered with the possible effect of their votes upon the stability of the Ministry, yet, as regards the Estimates, it is otherwise. When Ministers assume the responsibility of stating that certain expenditure is necessary for the support of the civil government, and the maintenance of the public credit, at home and abroad, it is evident that none can effectually challenge the proposed expenditure to any material extent, unless they are prepared to take the responsibility of overthrowing, the Ministry. No Government could bc wor,thy of its .place i£ it permitted its Estimates to be seriously resisted by the Opposition; and important changes can be made therein only under circumstances which permit of the raising of the question of a change of Government.
– I rise to order. I desire to take your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is in order in speaking twice to the amendment.
– -The right honorable the Prime Minister is quite within his rights.
– That extract, I take it, finally disposes of any doubt, if it ever existed, as to the effect of this amendment. It is one which can only be moved by those prepared to accept the responsibilities of governing the country. No Government could accept it. I agree entirely with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in expressing astonishment at the lack of moral courage on- the part of those who launched the amendment. They stated definitely that- they knew very welt- the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said yesterday that they knew very well - what their action involved. They knew, it was a challenge, and that this Ministry, at any rate, would not accept such an amendment. Therefore, they must have realized that it was a deliberate attempt to take the control of public affairs out of the hands of the Government. That being the position, I am utterly at a loss to understand the attitude of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. jowett) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). Those honorable members are returned by the electors, and in their hands are placed great responsibilities. I ask them to consider seriously whether, in the face of what they have said, and in the face of the facts, they can reconcile- their present attitude with that intimate acquaintance with their public duties which, every man who occupies a public position ought to possess. I cannot believe that the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) did not understand the effect of the amendment.-
– I definitely stated in my speech that I regarded ft as a folly that the amendment should be looked upon as a vote of no-confidence.
– The honorable member says so many things that it is difficult to follow them all, especially as they are quite inconsistent one with the other. But he did say over and over again that it was a non-party matter, and in that statement he was followed by many of his supporters. The honorable member fire Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) said that, and so did the . honorable members for Indi and Grampians. . It is incredible that the honorable member who moved this amendment should not have known what it involved. This amendment, then, must be regarded as a motion of noconfidence in the Government. Its ostensible object is to effect economy. When I was speaking last week, under very disadvantageous circumstances, I said what I must now repeat, that I could not allow the Leader of the Country party, or any members of his party, to pose here as the sole champions of economy. We are all very desirous of economy. Every sensible, thinking man is; but what this Government would like, and what we cannot get from members of the Country party, is any indication of where they, would have us economize. It is admitted that the way of Governments in these latter days is hard. We live under most abnormal conditions. The cost of government has risen in the same way as the cost of the management of private affairs. I do not pretend for one moment that there are no items on the Estimates that could be cut down, but I do say that it ought not to be a cause for wonder that it costs more to govern Australia to-day than it did in 1914. The cost of our Public Service - of every article purchased1, of every work connstructed - has increased very considerably. The Deputy Leader of the Labour party gave us the increased salaries cost per capita of our public servants. It represents millions. When honorable members were consulted as to whether we should increase the salaries of our public servants, they said, with one accord, “ Yes.” The Country party, if I may say so without offence, is one that faces all ways. It stands- for everything and for nothing. It calls itself a party, yet it never votes all on one side. I cannot recall to mind - I may be in error - a solitary division where that party, as a party, voted solidly, except with the Government. Its members have all sorts of views, which they carefully present to the people, so that there shall not be a wind from any quarter of the heaven but their sails will catch it. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), for -example, if, peradventure, the ship of State should strike a rock, would say, “ There was no need for the Government to resign. I am a supporter of the Government, and I consider they have done very well.’ By that means the honorable member hopes to be returned to power with the votes of the National party ; but he trims his sails again, so that he shall not be *anathema maranatha to some of the Labour voters in the Grampians, and he says, “ Peradventure, I may get their support, too.” With the exception of, perhaps, three or four members of the Country party, none occupies his position because of the merits of himself and his party. They are all returned with the aid of ths second preference votes of either the National or the Labour party. They have no raison d’etre in this country of their own strength, yet from the day they entered the Parliament they have assumed an arrogant and intolerant air. They attempt to dictate to the Government and its supporters. I speak, of course, of the Country party as it stands to-day. Those honorable members who have dissociated themselves from it have, I think, acted wisely. It is a party of twelve members; but if one were to listen to them he would imagine there were twelve hundred. They go about posing as dictators - as the arbiters of the country’s destiny. . They lay down the law in pompous tones to such electors as gather to hear them, and declare what they propose to do. They say, “We propose to put this Government out. We are against this Government. This Government have no. virtues and no supports.” They say these things as though they had- both the intention and the power to give effect to their threats. But they have neither the intention nor the power to do anything except block public business. I propose to quote some evidence in substantiation of my statement, in order to; dissipate from the minds of the electors any doubt they may have as to what the amendment means.. It is not the ebullition of a moment of fleeting enthusiasm. It was moved for a deliberate purpose. Honorable members have been sitting upon this egg for months. It has been through a process of incubation, prolonged until it appeared that nothing at all was to come from it. Now, at length, they have hatched this monstrosity, which not one of them, openly and without qualification, is prepared to father or mother. They pretend that this amendment, which is, as every man knows, a motion of no confidence, is merely a friendly motion. I want to show that they have, for months past, declared their purpose of destroying this Government. Members of this party of twelve men have been going round the country threatening to destroy a party of thirty-eight; and because they have been speaking of this thing one to another, and to the handful of ‘people with whom they have come into contact, they came at length to believe that they had the power to do it. Let me prove my charge. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is reported, on page 9150 of No. 75 of Hansard, as having said -
I think that this Parliament is fairly upon the road to killing itself, and it has fully earned destruction. From this day onward I intend to do my utmost to force a dissolution.
That is the pious object to which the honorable member devoted his life so far back as June of this year. Towards that end he wishes this House and the country to believe he has been working assiduously. Not a waking moment has he wasted to bring about the death of the National party. Yet we have the honorable member’s colleagues, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook), standing up and saying that the last thing they have in their minds is the defeat of the Government, while his Leader says it is folly to treat this as a vote of censure. While I was in England the honorable gentlemen who comprise the Corner party carried a resolution stating that “ The Federal Country party sees no justification for the prolonged absence from the Seat of Government in Australia of Mr. Hughes.” They were then of the opinion that I must pome back, in order, no doubt, to bring about this dissolution, for which, one can see for oneself, they are so very anxious. Following upon this resolution - for it was a plan upon which they had all agreed, and to which each one brought an ingredient necessary to make the hotchpotch - the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) made a statement, published in the Melbourne Age of the 5 th August. He referred to the Maranoa by-election as “ a clean, straight-out fight between Labour and the advocates of the platform laid down by the Country party.” Here we have the ‘Country party in another of its favorite roles. This time it is the Labour party that is to be destroyed. The statements that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) made about the .Country party and his own party are amply borne out by the declarations . of the honorable member for Franklin, who would never have been here but for. the Labour vote in hi3 own electorate, and probably will never be here again because of that very thing. I say that the Country party - a party of twelve men, who speak as though they held this Parliament in the hollow of their hands, and who have not even, now the courage to say that their motion is a vote of censure-: - over and over again, declared its intention of destroying the National party. The honorable member for Franklin, in the same speech, said -
The visiting members of the Federal Country party had been strongly pressed to ‘remain in Queensland to start a preliminary campaign for the next Federal election. The invitation had been accepted by two or three of the party, including Dr. Earle Page, the Leader of the_ Country .party in the House of Representatives, and he was arranging to hold a series of meetings in the Lilley electorate.
This shows quite clearly that members of the Country party had, during all this time, been preparing for an attack upon the National party. Yet now they declare they have no such intention. Did they, then, move to reduce the Estimates by £2,800,000 merely in order that the Government might live another four years? Does any one in his senses believe that? Yet that is what the honorable member for Grampians said. According to the Farmers’ Advocate of 19th May, the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), speaking ,at ‘Shepparton, said -
Thinking men, therefore, tried to establish country groups. When they raised a question of the payment of 5s. per bushel guarantee on wheat, the eighteen city Labour men did not consider the interests of the three-quarters of the people on whose industry the other quarter rests - they voted against the world’s parity.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), speaking at the same place, said -
It had been found impossible to unite the Nationalists and the Labour party. The Nationalists, who were in power, had devoted themselves to the building up of city industries, and had been guilty, likewise, of gross extravagance and other shortcomings, so the Country party had been formed to bring about a better state of things.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), speaking on 23rd March, is reported as having said -
If the Government got in the way, so much the worse for the Government.
A Voice. - You can twist the tail of the Government.
– I will never do it. When I set out on the job. I will twist their necks.
Afterwards the honorable member suggests to the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Indi - if I may ‘be permitted to explore the recesses of his mind - that they should get up and say, “ This motion is not intended to censure you. We want you. We like you. We hope you will be there for ever and ever.” What are we to think of men who say such things? This motion, which means nothing, is just to save their face. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), as reported in the Farmers’ Advocate, said of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) that he had left the National party “on a question of principle.” If the honorable member will say that he left this party “ on a question of principle,” I shall be prepared to say that he left it because I would not give him a position in the Government.
– That is not true, and the Prime Minister knows it is not true. The Prime Minister has made a statement which is not in accordance with the facts, and which is personally offensive to me. I demand a withdrawal.
– I cannot withdraw that statement. It is a fact.
– I did not notice in the Prime Minister’s remarks anything personally offensive as applicable to the honorable member. The Prime Minister made a statement which the honorable member may say is not correct, but there was no personal reflection.
– I again rise, Mr. Chairman, to draw your attention to the fact that the Prime Minister has made a statement which is not correct, and which is personally offensive to me, and I demand its withdrawal, according to the ordinary forms of this House.
– The . honorable member may say that a statement made about him: is incorrect, but it is not within the province of the Choir to compel the withdrawal of such a statement, so long as it is not unparliamentary. The honorable member will have an opportunity later to deal with, the matter.
– Is it not the rule of this House that when a remark is offensive to an honorable member he may demand its withdrawal?
– The Chair will intervene for the protection of a member against offensive remarks, but a remark cannot be characterized as offensive merely on the ground of incorrectness, and it is not for the Chair to determine the correctness or incorrectness of the statements that are being made. It will be for lie honorable member himself to show later that the Prime Minister’s statement was incorrect.
– I am sorry that the honorable member should regard as offensive the statement that he desired to enter my Government, and that I would not admit hint. Let me sum up this part of my argument. Tha Country party has launched an amendment which is clearly a motion of want of confidence, but it has not the courage to say so. On the contrary, the members . of that party have gone out of their way to declare that the amendment is not intended as a motion of want of confidence, and some of them have said that they desire that the Government shall remain in office for a long period. Yet for months members of this party have been going round the country announcing their positive intention of destroying the Government. They have been trying to make the people believe that they not only have the intention but the power to do this. They have also been denouncing the Labour party. Yet the Country party, composed as it is of twelve men only, is as powerless as the row of Mansards on the table before me to do anything in this House if it cannot get twenty-six members of another party in this House to vote with it. It is time that the people understood that. The people should be reminded, too, that only three or four, or, at most, half-a-dozen, of the members of the Country party were elected by the direct votes of their constituents, the remainder getting in on the preference votes cast for Nationalist or Labour members. As a member of this Parliament I propose to say what I think with quite as much freedom as has been exercised by any of the gentlemen * in tha Corner. I am tired of listening each day to a tirade of criticism and misstatements directed against me by men who have not the courage -to say straight out , what they want. When I have an open opponent I know what to do. I know.. where I am when dealing with the Labour party. Members on both sides of the Chamber have known me in this Parliament for the last twenty years, and they have never seen me turn my back in a fight. But I cannot fight with men who launch a motion of want of confidence, and then tell me that -the intention of the motion is that I may remain in office for four years longer. I shall not tamely submit any further to the intolerable arrogance of a party which has no ground of its own to stand on. By facing both ways it angles for support from the wings of the two other parties in this House, but it can have no influence here except in alliance with either of the other parties, both of which it continually denounces. Of course, it is to be understood that in speaking of the Country party I speak of those who follow the Leader of that party. We have been told that economy is a good thing. So say I. It is an excellent thing. We have been told that the Budget is not perfect. I agree that it is not. The Budget is the work of human hands. The Treasurer has been called to a task that might well baffle a superman. We are asked, as it were, to make ropes pf sea-sand; to do the impossible: to avoid, on the one hand, the Charybdis of unemployment, and, on the other, the Scylla of expenditure. I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in saying that I shall beno party to throwing one man out of employment, though I cannot undertake to start relief works. If we throw men on the street our last stage will, be worse than the first. This is a civilized community, and it is a law of civilization that the workless must be maintained. We are told by the Leader of the Country party to reduce the Estimates by £2,800,000, but are left without guidance or indication of the direction in which reduction is desired. All that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said against the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is “absolutely warranted by the facts. The’ amendment gives us no indication, of its mover’s desires, except that the reductions must not apply to the Defence ‘Estimates; because the honorable member for Cowper “ voted against the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter, who wished to economize by reducing Defence expenditure. When, the other night, I asked the honorable member for Cowper to tell me what items he thought should be cut down, neither he nor any of his party was able to do so. We must not reduce the wages of the public servants, because we have ap-‘ pointed, a -Public Service Arbitrator to whom is assigned the duty of fixing those wages. His office was created by an Act of Parliament, for which every member is responsible to his constituents. If the members of the Country party desire to cut down the Post Office Estimates, why do they not say so? If there is some public work, which they regard as- unnecessary, or upon which they think too lavish an expenditure is proposed, why do they not call attention to this extravagance?
May I be permitted now to turn for a moment to the position of0 affairs in this House? It is obvious that what a party of twelve members here may think is immaterial to a Government which has the support of some thirty-eight members. When the honorable member for Cowper launched his amendment he did so with the set purpose of enlisting the support of the Labour party. He said, “ The object I have in view is economy. To that - rand the new State movement - I have dedicated my life.” His follower, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), repeated that economy is what they wanted; but he added that the destruction of the Government was what they .wished to avoid. I ask my fellow citizens to inquire into the bona fides of the honorable member for Cowper. To whom does the honorable member turn for assistance in his economy crusade? To those who have dedicated themselves to the movement? Not at all. This afternoon there has fallen from the lips of the Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Charlton) a complete statement of his attitude towards public expenditure. If we are to take what he said as an indication of what he would do- I. am not now speaking about how he will vote - the honorable member for, Cowper cannot look, to him for support in economy.We may well ask, did the honorable member* for -Cowper know what he was doing when he moved the amendment? He did.
No matter what he gays, the facts speak for themselves. Yet he proposes to effect economy by enlisting the support of a party which, had the policy which it set before the country at the last election been carried out, would have tied a millstone of debt round the ° neck of Australia that would have sunk it fathoms deep. I have here an analysis of the policy of the Official Labour party, which was made by my late colleague, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). It has not been refuted, and speaks for itself. Let those who disagree with it show where it errs. In effect, it makes plain that the adoption of the policy of the Labour party would have resulted in a deficit of £30,000,000 in the transactions of one year. As for the members of the Country party individually, I regard them, as the honorable member for Grampians regards Ministers, as brothers; it is as a party that I criticise them. As a party I say to them, how can _ you expect the people of this country to think that you are earnest in your advocacy of economy when you try to associate yourselves with men pledged to a policy of riotous and reckless extravagance? Do you think that any one in this country will believe you to be sincere? Let us consider the rival policies of this ill-mated, would-be coalition. While the parties are yet at the altar rail, and before the fateful words have been spoken, I rise to forbid the banns. I am asked to speak that which I know, and I propose to do so. The Leader of the Country party puts forth his hand, and says, “ This is the hand of a man who stands for economy “ ; but when I see that the hand that he proposes to clasp, if he can, is the hand of one committed to a policy of reckless extravagance - those are his words, not mine - I say, “ In the name of the Commonwealth, I forbid the banns.’’
I have an excerpt here from the agenda paper of, the Federal Labour Conference. This is the financial prospectus of the proposed allies df the Country party’s champion economist: - .
Here we have economy written in letters of fire, economy as understood by the proposed allies of the honorable member for Cowper. This is the printing press that works throughout the livelong day. There is no eight hours’ shift about their credit system. Their printing press is to work twenty-four hours a day turning out paper money here as the Soviet does in Petrograd and in Moscow. When honorable members opposite have captured the country, and honorable members of the Country party have captured it along with them, then the capitalistic oligarchy will exploit the worker no more, and the credit system will go on turning out Commonwealth notes hour after hour and day after day. It is into the hands of a party committed to this proposal that the honorable member for Cowper, the chief priest of the economy party, has given himself.
Let me take another illustration. The Country party stands for immigration. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr; Gregory) said: -
If we are going to make a success of this immigration policy - and I feel that it is essential to the development of the country - we should know exactly what is being done. Farm labourers are the class, of men I desire to see brought out here - men who are prepared to go into the country.
And so on. . The Country party, therefore, is committed to a policy of immigration. Very well. Let us see what is the attitude of their proposed political partners on the question of immigration -
That the Australian Labour party co-operate with Trades Hall Councils in each of the States in starting an active anti-immigration campaign overseas, with the view of preventing the further overcrowding of the Australian labour market and the disappointing of the immigrant. * ,
This is the fiat of the gods who -rule the very thoughts of honorable members opposite, at whom I am .pointing my minatory finger, on immigration. So that the Country party, which is committed to a policy of immigration,- and puts it in the forefront of its programme, seeks an alliance with the party opposite which says that it is its intention to forthwith start a campaign, not only in Australia, hut outside of it, to prevent one solitary immigrant coming to this country. Yet the honorable member for Cowper expects ‘the people of this country to believe that he is the chap to save the Commonwealth. He expects us to believe that when he launched his amendment he did not know these things; and, further, he expects us to believe that he did not know that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was going to say last night that he did not wish to displace the Government. What are we to think of such men? We have seen Janus facing both ways*; -but in how many ways do’ the honorable members of the Country party face?
Then the members of the Country party profess to be the friends of the man on the land. Let us see how the party with whom they would be allied regard the man on the land. I take this from the agenda paper of the Brisbane Labour Conference. This is .the voice of the gods who spoke but yesterday -
That the, Commonwealth Parliament be the only authority to levy a tax on unimproved land values.
That the incidence of the tax be the present Commonwealth tax plus the present Queensland tax.
Here are the friends of the man on the land with whom the Country party now seeks alliance. These things will take some explanation, and when the members df the Country party have washed their hands clean of these things, they, like those of Macbeth, will “ incarnadine the very seas “ in which they are washed.
I find in the agenda paper of the Brisbane Labour Conference, from which I have quoted another paragraph -
– That was not carried by the Labour Conference.
– It will be carried, though. These are the would-be allies of the members of the Country .party, who speak about economy and posture as the friends of the farmer. I have not time to go into all these matters, but I will say, now that I am on my feet, that not one of my honorable friends opposite knows what their programme will be this time next year. They do not make it, and they cannot unmake it. Once it is made by those who make it, they cannot alter one line or one comma in it.
The honorable members of the Farmers party believe in the handling of grain in bulk, yet I find, further, that paragraph 50 of the agenda paper from which I have already quoted says - .
That the loading of ships with bulk wheat be, prohibited by law, and that no ship be granted a clearance from any Australian port loaded with bulk wheat, as a ship loaded with bulk wheat is unseaworthy and we consider the safety of the crew of the ship of more importance than the getting of wheat out of the country cheap to make dear bread for the workers.
If in the circumstances to which I have directed attention, members of the Country party will ally themselves with the party opposite, let them do so. I have shown so. far that in regard to finance, immigration, land values taxation, and the handling of grain .in bulk, there is a gulf between what members of the Country party say and what members of the party opposite stand for.
I come now to another relatively minor matter. I refer to the proposed Constitution Convention. This is the “King Charles’ head” of the honorable member for Cowper. It is really all that the honorable member does stand for. He does not really bother about economy or the man on the land, because he has chiefly in his head the formation of new States. He would make the Commonwealth prosperous and happy by cutting it up into a number of new States. If we were to take from him this idea he would be like a mother bereft of her infant. Yet what is the attitude of the Labour party, his would-be allies, on the Convention? Without their support he will be covered with ridicule to-night when the division is taken. What do they say? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, “ I am against the Constitution Convention.” The honorable member for Cowper speaks as the champion of economy, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, “ You are speaking about economy, and you, propose to waste £200,000 for a purpose that is inexcusable and unnecessary. You call yourself a champion of economy, yet you propose to spend £200,000 on this useless extravagance. He says, “ I am against the proposed Convention. W e know what the people want. Why cannot we say it?” With the honorable member for Cowper the Convention . is everything, and economy is nothing. With the Deputy Leader of .the Opposition economy is everything - in this particular case - and the Convention is nothing.
I come to deal with the other party in this business. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is against the Convention. I am for it. . The honorable gentleman said, “ We know what we want.” Do we? All that I have to say is that I have here an Act that was put before the people of this country. It would have given the Commonwealth power which it badly needs, and which it badly needed in the opinion of every honorable member opposite who was at the - time in the party to which I belonged. I drew up these proposals, and advocated them ‘for years, being,, in fact, an Ishmaelite; with every man’s hand against me. I proposed amendments of the Constitution which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says all were agreed upon. “ There was a difference of opinion between us in regard to one, and, so far as I know, only - one of the proposed amendments. But the organizations to which honorable members opposite belong, in some of the States, at any rate, directed their adherents to vote against them. I ask where we are to find firm ground for our feet. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, “ I do not believe in the Convention.” The honorable member for Cowper says, “I do believe in it.” The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, “It would cost £200,000,” and the other honorable member says, “ I believe in economy.” The party opposite says, “ We know vhat we want. We can save this money, and can. have the Constitution amended.” Yet when they had a chance to amend the Constitution they received orders from those whom they dare not. disobey, that they should vote against its amendment. No one can deny that. Not all of them voted, against it; but a sufficient number of them voted against it to place the Commonwealth in the position in which it. is to-day when a Convention to consider the amendment of the Constitution is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary.
So that in regard to all these things for which the honorable member for Cowper and his party stand, there is between him and those with whom he would be. allied an unbridgable gulf. I want to know how the cause of economy will be furthered by this unholy -arid unnatural alliance. I want to know how the government of this country is to be carried on. Does the honorable member for Cowper suggest that he should carry it on with the support of his new allies? Will he go out and tell the people that ? If he does so it will be for him the tolling of the passing bell. If he does not do so, then what is the reason for his amendment, except it be a party trick as stale as the ages, mere camouflage? There is only one party that can govern this Parliament, and it is the party which I have the honour to lead. It cannot be that the honorable member wants economy, because the Government have already said that they will give the Committee the fullest and the freest hand to effect economies. As a matter of fact, the honorable mem.ber does not want economy. He is now doing in this matter what he did when I was in England engaged on a mission which, by common consent of the vast majority of the people of this country, was a matter of life and death - or, at any rate, of great importance to the country. At that time, when the Washington Conference was on the tapis, the honorable member sought by the resolution which his party put forward to undermine my standing in Great Britain, to. cover me with ridicule, and to belittle me, thusdoing a grievous wrong to his own country. The wrong he did me. I forgive, but the wrong he did his country cannot be forgiven. He now- puts forward this amendment, saying that hedoes not regard it as a vote of - censure.’ If he says that he knows it to be a vote-, of” censure, his supporters say that it is not. How are we to treat those great matters that vitally concern Australia and the Empire in the face of the tactics of the honorable member and his party?” The honorable member talks about economy, but he talks at large. When the honorable member is asked whether he proposes to reduce themoney to be spent upon soldiers he says “ No “ ; and we have just listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition sayingthat he will to his dying day stand for the soldiers. I believe that he. will, but. his party will not. It is committed to a policy which prevents any Australian soldier from going to fight overseas, and aims at the destruction of universal braining. It is against all war, except the war of the classes. If it dared to do so . it would dissever the Empire; but that it dare not do. These are but plain facts. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) is also Lord Mayor of Sydney, where, so far as municipal employment is concerned, soldiers are no longer to have preference, and this policy is not only tolerated, but- is also approved by the party .to which the honorable member belongs. We hear the ‘administration of repatriation matters, and particularly War Service^ Homes, referred to in terms of condemnation; but if certain gentlemen had had their way during the war, where should we have been to-day 1 I do not propose to let the Committee go to a vote under any -misapprehension. Believe me, honorable members will no longer be permitted to make statements such as that which . was made,- without a shadow of foundation, by the honorable member for Cowper a few days ago at Narrandera - that the Government had entered into an unholy compact with the Senate to reject the Convention Bill.
– I did not say that.
– It was so stated in. the newspaper report; but I am glad to hear that the honorable member did not say it. No Government can accept an amendment such as that which has been submitted, and this those who have moved it knew quite well when they submitted it. But Ministers are as anxious as are any others to effect economy. I have- said, and the Treasurer has said, that Minis- tera will welcome the co-operation of the Committee in the matter of reducing expenditure.
Now let me say a word upon the Budget itself, as one who did not hear one word of it until I sat here the other day and heard the Treasurer delivering it to honorable members. It is the custom inthis House and in the country to say that I impose my will on Ministers. Sometimes I wish that that were true; but it is not, true-. ‘ It’ was perfectly proper that my colleague-should prepare the Budget without reference to me. I was away from Australia, and,’ as we all know, the government of the country is carried on here. The Budget had been prepared before my return, and all I know about it is just what honorable members know At . the same time,, speaking as one Who has always maintained his right to express his dissent in respect to matters with which he does not agree, I may say that I am- as anxious as is any other member to cut down unnecessary expenditure, and I shall not hesitate to exercise my right in this case. I have been censured by ihe Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who has suddenly become a censor of morals. He has said that it was grossly improper for me to listen to what the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) was saying, or to bargain with him. It is a very .hard world. I am adjured by the honorable’ member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who quotes what Lord John Russell and other great men have done, to follow in their footsteps and take back the Budget and reduce it. That, he says, would be the correct thing for me to do; but because the honorable member for Oxley asks what I mean by items vital to the policy of the Government” being excluded from criticism, and whether it would be possible for the Committee to cut down new works estimates, and I say “Yes,” the Deputy Leader of the Opposition calls it disgraceful and improper conduct on my part. Why should it be; and why, above all things, does the honorable member say this when one remembers that there is no political party with so little right to speak about bargaining and dictation as his own ? I admit that there is not much bargaining done by them now, since they are told to do things, and simply do them.
– Has the right honorable gentleman forgotten that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) said exactly the same- about the matter as I did? .Mr. HUGHES.- I did not hear him, but if I had heard him I would not have agreed with him. It makes no difference whether comment comes from1 Kalgoorlie or Hunter if I do not agree with it. I see nothing, wrong in what I did. It is what the Country party wants me to do,, except that they want me to do *fc in the way they want it done. I simply say to honorable members, “ I am. ready to meet you, but I will not accept a direction to. reduce the Estimates by £2,800,000.” If I do what they want me to do, it is, according to them, making a bargain with them, although by doing what they want me to do, I secure the whole of their votes and “ have four years in office;” but because I say to the honorable member for Oxley, “ You can move amendments on the Estimates if yon like; you cau roam in that pasture just as well as in any other,” it is, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a very wrong procedure on my part. . It think it is the proper procedure, and I shall adopt it as often as I please.
The Treasurer has been criticised for having taken into his accounts last year’s surplus. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said that it was very rarely done, but the honorable member is wrong. In fact, the ordinary practice has been to bring forward such surpluses and deal with them, and I shall give the Committee the benefit of not ancient, but quite recent, history. Speaking broadly, it may be said that whenever a Treasurer has had a surplus he has been very proud to bring it forward. From 1909-10 until 1921-22 every Treasurer anticipated a deficit, and, with two exceptions, brought forward a surplus, as the following table indicates : -
Statement of the Budgets from 1908-9 onwards, in which the Treasurer of the day budgeted for a deficiency on the transactions of the year.
Note. - Prior to 1908-9 the whole balance of the Consolidated Revenue Fund was returned to the States.
With the exception of two years, the deficits were to be made good from the surplus brought forward from the previous years. In 19.09-10 and 1914-15, the wl ole of the surplus brought forward was absorbed, and, in addition, it was proposed to issue Treasury-bills for the balance of the deficit.
– And the point is that in each case it was estimated to spend the surplus within the year.
– Exactly. How in the face of ‘ these figures, which are conclusive, it can be contended that what my right honorable colleague has done is wrong or unprecedented passes my comprehension. It has been the regular practice. It was done by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who, as Treasurer, not only spent the whole of his surplus, but also imposed new taxation. I am not condemning that.
– The only difference is that I am proposing to spend only a half of my surplus.
– My right honorable colleague is correct; he proposes to spend only one-half of” his surplus. Yet he is covered with a mantle of hostile criticism. Thorns are placed on his head, and acid poured over him, for proposing to spend only part of his surplus while other Treasurers who have spent the whole of their surpluses are held up to posterity as patterns of what Treasurers ought to be. The fact is that we are dealing with very difficult conditions, and, on the whole, it must be admitted that the Treasurer has made an honest attempt to meet them in a satisfactory way.
I have dealt sufficiently, I hope, with the circumstances surrounding this debate, but I say most emphatically that this amendment is mere camouflage. . Those who put it forward have shown that both by their statements and their deeds. They are going to enlist on behalf of this crusade of economy those who are committed to a policy which would involve reckless and incurable extravagance. They put the amendment forward knowing that it involves the fate of the Government. Their supporters, however, declare that nothing is further from their thoughts than a desire to destroy the Ministry. Here, then, is the position. Those who are in favour of economy must look to the Government of the day to effect it. The Government is in earnest in its desire for economy. I have said that on the items of the Budget we shall abide by the decision of the Committee on all matters that do not emasculate our vital policy. There is one further point to which I must refer. My right honorable colleague has not taken into account a sum of £835,000, now lying to our credit in the British Treasury, which was obtained ‘by me as payment for the army of occupation. He is legitimately entitled to take that into the year’s accounts, and that must be done. Allowing for that amount, the estimated deficit will be £2,000,000, or thereabouts.
We shall listen to everything that is said during the consideration of the Estimates, not as has been suggested by the press, with a view to enlisting a snatch majority to defeat the demands of economy, but with an honest desire to ascertain where economies can be effected. I make that statement deliberately. It would be easy, no doubt, to pit one honorable member against another; but that we shall not seek to do. We shall endeavour rather to avoid it. Further, I think I ought to say, as one who did not see the Budget before it was delivered, that I, like every other honorable member, would like to have an opportunity to study it. I shall do so, and if I think that economies can be effected, then, no matter what may be said, I shall not hesitate to suggest them. I have put this view to my right honorable colleague the Treasurer, and he agrees with me. In the circumstances it was impossible that I should be consulted with regard to the Budget. I was away, and the Treasurer did right in preparing it without consulting me. Moreover, when the Budget was prepared, we had not heard the views of the House. We have now heard them, I am here, and I claim as much right as any other honorable member to have a voice in the moulding of the Budget. I have not had that opportunity, although I am responsible technically for every line of the Budget, and I do not think I am asking too much when I say that not only the Committee, but I, should have an opportunity to -suggest a reduction when I think it should be made.
If I have said anything” to ruffle’ the feelings of any honorable member, I am sorry. Some honorable members have got it into their heads that they oan say what they like of me, both inside this House and outside of it, without fear of contradiction. When I was 12,000 miles away they could do that; but I am here now, and I propose with God’s help to devote myself to them with the avowed intention of so prescribing for their moral, spiritual, and physical welfare that everything I shall say shall be for their lasting good. I hope that the good sense of the Committee will prevail, and that we shall see to-night an overwhelming majority of votes recorded against the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party. That, I believe honestly, is the very thing he desires.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in the course of his speech this afternoon, asserted that I left his party because he refused me a portfolio. Let me briefly give the exact facts. I am glad that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is present, because I think he will bear out a statement which I am going to make towards the end of my explanation. Before the last general election I received the dual nomination of the Nationalist party and the Country party. Throughout the campaign I made it abundantly clear, wherever I spoke, that I was standing under that dual nomination, and would please myself as to the party with which I should sit. During the election there was considerable talk as to the possibility of export duties being imposed on the primary products of Australia. The Prime Minister will remember that soon after we were returned I called on him at his home at Sassafras and told him that if he intended to carry out the promises made to our returned men on behalf of the Government, and would not impose export duties on .primary products, I would support him and his Government. The Prime Minister will remember that.
– After the honorable member has concluded his statement I> shall state what happened at the interview.
– I told the right honorable gentleman definitely that if he would carry out the promises made, on behalf of his Government, to the returned men, during the election campaign, and would not impose export duties on primary products, I would support the Government. That I did. I supported the Government until I found that its administration was hy no means equal to ite legislative programme. I became rest- % less, saw the Prime Minister, and told him that unless the administration of his Ministry improved I would not continue to support it. . Having done that, I waited for improvements to take place. The legislative programme put forward by the Government was to my way of thinking quite a good one, but its administration was of nothing like the same quality. The Treasurer and I have known each other for a good many years. I have always had the greatest respect for him, and I did not hesitate to put my troubles before him. I told him that I was getting tired of supporting the Government, and that I must leave the National party. The right honorable gentleman, I am sure, will hear out my statement. (When I intimated to him that I must leave the party, he said, “ Do not do that until I see the Prime Minister.” I said, “It does not matter, Sir Joseph, what the Prime Minister says dr does. I have made up my mind to leave the party, and shall announce my decision at the Mudgee Centenary.” That is the whole history of my connexion with the National party and my coming over to the Country party. I came over to the Country party because I conceived it to be my duty to criticise freely, as I have done ever since I came over, what I considered to be the Government’s administrative faults, and its lack of sympathetic consideration for the men who, in my opinion, saved Australia. I do not regret the action I took in leaving the National party, but I resent the imputation of wrong motives to me bv the Prime Minister or any one else. Had I been included in the Ministry at the beginning, and had a voice in its administration, it is quite possible I might have been a member of the party to-day; but I was not. That is a perfectly honest and straightforward statement. Had I been in the Government from, the beginning, and been unable to direct its administration along what, to my way of thinking, were good lines, I should have left the party ‘ when the Government had declined to follow those lines just as I left it as a private member.
I am here to express my belief that the Ministry. has failed in its administration. The Prime Minister has certainly carried out his promise not to impose export duties, but the Government; has failed absolutely to confer the great benefits which were foreshadowed in its legislative programme on the whole of Australia, and more particularly on our returned soldiers, for whom, like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I intend to fight to my last breath.
– I also have a personal explanation to make. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) is quite right in setting before the Committee his version of the incident to which he has referred. I must set out mine, leaving the Committee to draw its own deductions. The honorable member did come to see me immediately after the last general election. I do not recollect his speaking to me about export duties. If he says he did, I will not contradict him; but as during the election I had stated very clearly, over and over again, that I did not believe in export duties, I do not know how my attitude towards such duties could have entered into the conversation. What remains clearly in my mind is something which, no doubt, concerns the honorable member very much. He wanted to know whether there was any likelihood of his being included in the Ministry. I said, “ Well, there might be.” With that the matter terminated for the time being. The honorable member joined our party, as we had every right to expect he would do. He had been a member of our party before, and we had done what we could to support him. No doubt, as he says, the Country party in his electorate also supported him. I do not deny that. Time went on, and no vacancies occurred in the Government, for reasons that, I suppose, are fairly well known to every honorable member here.
– Let me ask you one question. Did- you. not tell me I should be the next man in the Ministry if I remained with yon ? J Just before I left you J ‘ did you not tell me that?
– What I did say to you was that as soon as a vacancy occurred - what I told the honorable member after the elections - I forget when the elections were held, but I think in 1919-
– It was a long time after that.
– I said to the honorable member that as soon as a vacancy occurred he would be considered. I mentioned to him that there were two men, himself and another. He pressed me to give him an assurance that he should be the next man, and I did not give him that assurance. ° I am not blaming the honorable member, but I think he became very much annoyed at the belated translation of some of my honorable colleagues from this mundane sphere to one where greater glory might await them. In short, the honorable member was tired of waiting for the Ministerial position that did not come, and he went away because the position did not come. I do not blame him, but those are the facts.
.- Before dealing with the points that have been raised by various speakers in this debate, more particularly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I would like to say a few words of a personal character. Ever since I entered this House I have endeavoured to express my views with moderation, restraint, and courtesy; and I leave it to honorablemembers to say whether on every occasion on which I have spoken I have not followed that line of conduct. If I have transgressed, however, I unreservedly withdraw and apologize to any honorable member who may feel himself aggrieved. I may say that I submitted the first speech I delivered on the Budget to detached and impartial men outside, and they could find nothing of a personal character - nothing but legitimate public criticism. Though that is my attitude in regard to personal matters, I am of the opinion that matters of public policy and Government programmes are in quite a different category. I intend to continue to speak as I have spoken in the past, and as my constituents wish me to speak, fully and fearlessly on all matters to the best of my ability, no matter whether I may “have been in the House thirty-two minutes or thirty-two years, or whether I came here too old or too young. Whatever may happen, I. shall never be guilty of such expressions as have been applied “to me during this debate. .
Before dealing with questions of figures, I should like to say a word as to the attitude displayed this afternoon by the respective Leaders of parties. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister - the latter not on this occasion, but on a previous occasion - have, along with others who say they have read my speech, twitted me with having declared that this was a non-party matter. What I did say was that it should be a non-party matter - that questions of finance should transcend ordinary questions, especially at a time like this.
– I accepted your explanation.
– That is so; but the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) did not, and other honorable members have spoken and tried to hold the Country party up to ridicule because of certain statements. I am supposed to have made, but really did not make. What I said was that questions of finance should be regarded from a non-party point of view - that they should be regarded as equally a national matter with our fight against the Hun or any other enemy. I suggested in my first speech that my amendment should do away with the folly of preventing Parliament, which is really elected to deal with the finances of the country, having any say other than as permitted by the Government, in the disposal of funds raised by taxation.
– Will the honorable member forgive me for saying that if that is his attitude there were two or three courses he could have taken other than this, but he chose the very worst.
– The honorable member knows, from the discussion on the question of procedure, exactly what took place; and I shall not now discuss what was said in confidence.
– There is no reason why you should not tell the Committee all. -
– I shall not discuss those matters here. I also said -
We desire again to point out the folly of regarding such action as a party matter, and the absurdity of making *a vote’ on a matter of expenditure a question of want of confidence in the Government. I say that, not. because I have any reason to wish the Government shall remain in office, but because our position is so serious ill at we must view this matter as we looked at some of the big national issues during the war - we must deal with it as a united, and not as a divided, nation.
That is the attitude I take, and I think it furnishes a complete answer to every allegation that has been made against me. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the Country party is not sincere in its effort to secure economy or to defeat the Government, but that we put forward this proposal purely as a means of advertisement, and that this is so is proved by certain defections which have taken place in the past. It is remarkable that the Prime Minister, on the other hand, occupied twenty minutes in submitting what, I supposed, seemed to him definite proofs that for six or seven months the Country party has been deeply meditating this diabolical attempt to overturn the Government. Both those propositions cannot be right; they are in direct conflict, and both may be wrong. It is clear, however, that our attitude in this Chamber has not appealed to all honorable members as it has appealed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– What about other attempts against the Government? -
– There was one occasion when it was not the Country party who saved the Government, but the direct Opposition; that was on the question of an extension of time to discuss the timber purchases in Queensland.
– Was that when the members of the Country party could not hear the bells ringing?
– We heard the bells; but, unfortunately, one Labour man did not turn up for the division, and was not paired.
– Only nine of your members voted on that ocasion
– I do not make suggestions or draw such inferences as are made and drawn against the Country party, but simply state facts. It is absolutely unfair that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should “draw the conclusions that he has to-day. Whatever may have happened in the past, and whatever may he the fate of the proposal now before us, all the members of the Country party will be in their places, or paired, when the division takes place.
It is suggested that this amendment is moved purely and simply as a party move, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have practically done nothing this afternoon but try to “scare” members from supporting it by holding, first the Country party, and then the Opposition, up to ridicule; indeed, that is what has been taking place during the whole of the discussion. But whether I am regarded as sincere or not, I wish it to go out to the public that, from my intimate knowledge of the country parts of Australia, and of the hardships suffered by the people who live in those parts, I regard it as essential that there should be no increase in taxation in the future, but, if possible, a reduction, so that capital may be available for employment in private industries, and the general progress of the country maintained.
– I agree with that sentiment.
– I should now like to deal with one or two questions which were touched on by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that any reduction in the amount of the proposed votes will inevitably lead to unemployment, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) also expressed the opinion that that must be the result.
– It would not be honest to say anything else.
– The right honorable gentleman interfered with the delivery of my previous speech, and I now ask him to allow me to make my reply in my own way. It has been said that I have made no constructive suggestion in regard to overcoming the trouble of unemployment. I contend, however, that I made not only the only constructive suggestion, but the only feasible suggestion, to that end. I said that the only way to bring about a reduction in the Estimates is by a reference to the Departments concerned. That might necessitate retrenchment by the dismissal of employees, and I presume that these would be temporary men, though I do not suggest that; as it might not be necessary.
– Temporary employees eat just as much as permanent employees 1
– Still, I think that a proper re-organization of Departments might permit 1 the work to be carried out in a different fashion, and with greater return to the country. If there is one thing more than another that is interfering with employment at the present time it is the continual withdrawal of capital from private enterprises and developmental work, such as farming, and the payment of it as taxation in order to carry on our huge Public Service and pay interest on loan moneys, from which we get Very little benefit. I am now voicing the considered opinion of practically all the captains of finance when I say that this, more than any other thing, is militating against general progress and increased employment.
– So you want to take it out of the workers?
– Ho, but to make available for developmental purposes such money as goes in payment of taxes and is ear-marked to meet interest On loans, so that it shall be utilized in the encouragement of fresh industries. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked whether the Country party proposed, to reduce the salaries of public servants. I have already plainly set forth my attitude upon that matter. ITo honorable member has spoken more earnestly on this matter on many occasions than myself, and I repeat that I desire to see public servants properly paid. But, at the same time, while I have always sought to insure that they should be well paid, I have held that. they should give an efficient return. With respect to the postal services, I have suggested specific methods of securing increased efficiency at less cost. As for public works, will any honorable member contend that the activities being conducted at Canberra are monuments of efficiency combined with examples of economical expenditure? Along these same lines I might mention the manner in which various postal buildings have been constructed. The work is passed to and fro among several Departments, and, in the operation, is held up for month after month. Does any one believe that the present system of constructing public works and of carrying on the Government’s developmental programme generally makes for increased efficiency, greater economy, or more em ployment? The very superfluity of public servants throughout the Commonwealth actually militates against securing those desirable ends.
With respect to pensions, I remarked more than once in the course of my speech in which I criticised the Budget that, iii that direction I had no desire to use the pruning knife.
– Does the honorable member think that old-age and invalid pensions are ample to-day?
– I have already referred to that matter. Last week, when explaining the table of departmental expenditure covering a series of years, I said -
I have, further, separated from ordinary expenditure old-age pensions, maternity bonus, and maintenance of persons in charitable institutions, as I do not wish to suggest economy at the expense of the aged and incapable.
I wish to deal now with another issue, which was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and by the Prime Minister also. I refer to the proposed Constitution Convention. The Prime Minister has suggested that, to myself, the subject is a regular “King Charles’ head.” The right honorable gentleman has insinuated that I have had no other thought or ambition than to see the Convention held. What is the view of the Treasurer concerning the Convention? Judging from the exact words contained in his Budget speech, one has a right to believe that it has occupied a very important place also in his mind. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, that the holding of a Convention will be a most important element in securing economy. He remarked -
The economy that counts can best be obtained by a review and re-adjustment of Federal and ‘ State functions. Overlapping, misunderstanding, and want of co-ordination lead to much waste and lack of efficiency. Two sets of taxing authorities with two staffs and establishments is a Gilbertian proceeding. Similarly, two sets of electoral officials for the same people is absurd. Two kinds of debt management in one market for one people and seven competing borrowers is disastrous. The Convention to be called will furnish the opportunity, which should not be lost, of compelling reform in these and many other similar cases of unnecessary duplication, waste, and inefficiency.
Because I suggested that the Convention should be held, I have been criticised for that; despite the fact that the Treasurer actually made the proposal the cornerstone of any structure of economical efficiency which the Government might be able to rear.
– No, not that! ‘
– I have quoted the very words of the Treasurer.
– I favour the holding of a Convention, but my reasons are not entirely those of the honorable member.
– When I suggested last week that the Treasurer might have set down an amount in his Estimates in respect of the calling together of the Convention, the right honorable gentleman interjected -
I can tell the honorable member, candidly, that I am not nearly so fierce on the Convention as he is.
– Quite right!
– Then, apparently, the Treasurer speaks with two voices.
– Not at all. The Government want a Convention, but for different reasons from those which have been advanced by the honorable member, who wants to break up all the States.
– The Treasurer will find no mention of the breaking up of any of the States in anything I have said.
– The honorable member wants to create new ones.
– The imputation, either by the Treasurer or by the Prime Minister, that I have said anything on that matter in the course of this debate is absurd.
The Prime Minister devoted considerable attention to the Country party. He laid stress upon its alleged lack of uniformity, its want of consistency, in all its actions throughout its history. The Prime Minister taunted this party - but I think he will not do so again, after the vote upon my amendment has been taken - with the alleged fact that the only time when its members had voted solidly was when they had voted with the Government. When . he speaks of want of consistency and of lack of uniformity, the career of the Prime Minister himself is laid open to comment: It is a matter of common talk - I have heard it repeated on hundreds of occasions - that the whole of the Prime Minister’s political policy and career, indeed, may be best described as a patch-work quilt. He has picked out this glittering piece from one place, and another1 gaudy patch from somewhere else; always something that would attract the public eye; and he has pieced them all together. The only question which has exercised his mind has been CO. leeming what would most readily attract the most people. The Prime Minister, animadverting upon the Country party, stated in impassioned tones that he could not see the raison d’etre of its existence. He gave expression to the hope that it would soon be extinguished, and that there would be a return to something like the old party lines. In this regard, the wish, no doubt, was father to the thought. But why did the Prime Minister devote so much time and passion to the Country party, and to the matter of its conduct, if he considered its actions to be of such light moment to the Government? The most remarkable political movement in the recent history of every Englishspeaking producing country has been the rapid rise of the Country party to influence and power. It is a matter of social dynamic?, but I assure the Prime Minister that, whether this party is welcome or not in the political arena, it has come to stay. The Prime Minister says he sees no reason for the existence of the Country party. One may ask what there is in the party which has influenced the people of Canada. I would recall to the mind of the Prime Minister the fact that, at the second time~ of asking, the Country party secured control in the province of Alberta; that it also has control in the province of Ontario, and that indications are not lacking that the partywill secure control in the Dominion Parliament itself. I would inform the Prime Minister that, practically within a year,, the Country party has become represented with such strength in the United States Congress as to have upset the old party machinery; it has so made its influence felt that country interests have become primarily looked to. And I would further inform the Prime Minister that if one, more than another, reason is likely to bring, about a similar stateof affairs in Australia, it is the action of the Government in respect of the subjectmatter of the present debate, added: to their attitude throughout the- session, towards country interests, particularly so far as the Tariff is concerned.
With respect to the allegation that the amendment of the Country party is the outcome of a plot which has been hatching for months past, I can only say that if there were any truth in the allegation the whole of the arguments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would fall to the ground. In many of the public Departments, particularly in that of Repatriation, and in regard to the War Service Homes administration, there is sufficient material available which would at any ordinary time have secured the downfall of any Government. Whatever may be the outcome of the vote upon the amendment, I shall seize an early opportunity to raise the whole matter of soldier administration, so that the public may be informed of the facts and thus be .in a position to give a verdict at the next general election. The Prime Minister has hinted that an intrigue has been conducted between the Country party and the Labour party with a view to turning the Government out of office.
– Tha Prime Minister made no such suggestion.
– The inference is there.
– The Prime Minister wasted many minutes in endeavouring to point out how the Country party, with certain ideals, had turned to the Labour party, which held certain other ideals: And the right honorable gentleman asked how could oil and water mix. I am becoming familiar with the tactics of party political leaders, and I perceive that the Prime Minister merely employed one of these methods. The right honorable gentleman contented himself with simply mentioning the points of divergence between the two parties. He took elaborate care not to call attention to anything which might suggest community of interests. I wish to stress the fact that on no occasion have I consulted the Deputy Leader of the Opposition regarding the attitude of. his party.
– So rar as the honorable member is concerned, I assure him that he knows as much, about my attitude, at any rate, as does the Prime Minister himself.
– Hear, hear! And the. Prime Minister suggested nothing to the contrary.
– We look beyond the Ministerial benches to the electors outside to decide whether our action inconnexion with the Estimates has been for good or ill.
– And the people will decide.
– The Prime Minister to-day told us that he forbade the banns between the Labour party and the Country party because our ideals are incompatible with the ideals of the Labour party. On this subject I should like to ask’ the Treasurer - I would ask the Prime Minister if he were here - a question; Why is it that in New South Wales the State Nationalist party has proclaimed through its Leader that it has purged itself of all the Labour elements ?
– No such statement has been made by the Leader of the Nationalist party in New South Wales.
– I repeat that Sir George Fuller definitely stated recently that the Nationalist party in that State had purged itself of these elements. Nevertheless, we have in this Nationalist Government a mixture such as the Prime Minister declared to be absolutely incompatible if anybody else should attempt to bring it into being. It has been suggested that my professional standing is inconsistent with my position as the Leader of the Country party in this Parliament. In reply, I may state that I am as much interested in country affairs and in farming pursuits as, perhaps, any other member of this Parliament.
Turning now to the proposed Constitution Convention, I should like to take this opportunity of denying the suggestion that I had stated there was an arrangement between the Government and the Senate to delay the passage of the necessary machinery measure. What I said was that it is common knowledge in the lobbies that there is a strong feeling in the Senate against the proposed Convention, so that when the necessary legislation comes before that Chamber it will probably be laid aside. ^
– Did the honorable member tell the people at Narrandera what would be the attitude of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) towards this proposed Convention?
– He knows. I have told Kim.
– I intend now to deal briefly with the criticism that has been directed against my remarks on the Budget statement. I thank the right honorable the Treasurer for his attitude, because I find that quite a great number of people have since read my speech in order to find the spicy passages in which, as the Treasurer stated, I was so insulting and abusive. Thus my speech has acquired a circulation which otherwise it would not have obtained. I take it that, as I am only about half-way through my novitiate as a member of this Parliament, the Treasurer was anxious that I should get a good kick-off. Therefore, I thank him. I can assure the Treasurer, however, that I had no intention to insult him. I merely made certain definite statements, and asked questions which called for certain definite answers, which were not given. If my remarks conveyed an insult, I can only express regret. I thank the Treasurer, also, because his attitude towards my amendment gave the press an opportunity to delve into the whole financial position of the Commonwealth, and it seems to me that they have put the case for my amendment much better than I did myself. This is what the Melbourne Age of yesterday’s date had to say on the matter -
Sir Joseph Cook craftily catechizes Mr. Page like this: “Is it old-age pensions? Is it war pensions? Is it repatriation? Is it the maternity bonus?” Thus, in playing a game of financial “tiggy,” the Treasurer first dodges behind an old-age pensioner, then he takes refuge behind a wounded soldier, next behind a monthly nurse, and so on, claiming to be the special friend of all of them, and demanding their protection. Although the maternity bonus may he abolished in the case of the welltodo, substantial economy can be enforced without taking one penny from the aged poor or the country’s honoured, defenders, and without prejudicing the well-being of any industrious or needy person to the extent of a farthing. Parliament knows it. The Treasurer has proclaimed his Government’s extravagance by his shifts and turns in its defence.
I should like now to say something by way of persona) explanation. The Treasurer, in his opening remarks when speaking to my amendment, said he regretted that he had not had an opportunity of looking over my speech ; that he received it so late that he could make little or no use of it. Concerning this matter, I may say that when the Treasurer asked me for the Hansard, proof of my speech, I suggested that it would be possible to give him immediately a typewritten copy.
– I asked the honorable member for a Hansard proof of his speech.
– That is so ; and when Hansard asked for authority to supply the proof I simply indorsed the order, with the addendum that the proof was to be supplied immediately I had corrected it, because ,my speech contained a mass of figures which I thought it desirable to check. The Treasurer, of course, endeavoured to place me in a false position; but I want to make it clear that, on the following morning, I was in attendance before 9 o’clock for the purpose of correcting the proof, and it was available by half-past 10. The Treasurer stated that as he had not seen a proof of my speech he was obliged to rely upon the public press for the details to which he proposed to refer. The Treasurer then dealt at length and in detail with figures I had quoted with regard to the Department of Defence. In this portion of my notes there appeared a typist’s error, which was repeated in the Hansard proof, a comparison being made between 1920-21 and 1921-22 instead of between 1913-14: and 1921-22. It is significant that the press reports of my speech made no reference at all to these figures. They are to be found only in the Hansard proof.
– What does that prove ?
– It proves conclusively, I think, that the right honorable gentleman’s statement that a proof copy of my speech was not received in time to be of use to him, was not exactly correct.
– What I said was quite true.
Dr. EARLE (PAGE.- Then how did the Treasurer get the comparative figures ? They appeared only in the Hansard proof, which, he said, was not available to him.
– The explanation is perfectly simple. I looked over the proof of the speech in the luncheon hour.
– Well, I simply state the facts. They are, I think, illuminating.
The Treasurer and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in the course of their remarks, made repeated requests to members of the Country party to point to one item in connexion with which economy could be effected. On this point I draw attention to an extract from a speech made by the Treasurer, as Deputy Leader of th& Liberal party, in the House of Representatives in 1912-13-
At this point our ears are tingling with the wearisome iteration of a demand for an item, one solitary item, which will prove the charge pf extravagance. It is absurd on the face of it. When our income is abnormal and extraordinary it is extravagant to spend it all and make no provision for bad times.- It is not necessary to find particular items to support the charges.
In view of that statement, one wonders now whether there is any sincerity in his protestations.
– If the honorable member will read that speech carefully he will find that I mentioned many items.
– And so did I. In the course of my remarks I pointed to many instances of extravagance in administration. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who speaks from long experience, told us that the demand by the Treasurer for one item, such as we have had during this debate, is a very old “ gag “ that has been played out. He assured us that only an internal examination of departmental expenditure could disclose instances where economy could be effected. And that is exactly what we are asking for. It has been urged that a reduction of the Estimates would inevitably lead to unemployment. I contend that a tremendous portion of the increased charges aTe due to faulty administration. We have only to turn to the War Service Homes Department to realize this. I saw hundreds of baths, bought for soldiers’ homes, stored in one depot in Sydney. The small boys were then using some .of them for wickets in a cricket match. Here, then, is one instance of extravagance.
– Did the honorable member bring that case under the notice of the Department?
– It has been brought under the notice of the Commissioner repeatedly.
– And was no notice taken of it?
– No notice was taken. I can prove it.
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– It cannot ‘be disputed; out of the mouths of many witnesses the case can be established.
I desire now to make clear the position of our party in regard to the Post and Telegraph Department. The members of this party, as has been frequently stated on the floor of the House, have no intention to bring about a reduction in expenditure by interfering with the proper progress and development of that Department; but it is necessary that the administration should be carefully investigated. During the last five financial years, including the present year, the position has been as follows: - In 1917-18 the revenue was £5,762,190, and the expenditure £5,349,994; 1918-19, revenue, £6,110,522, expenditure, £5,449,722 ; 1919-20, revenue, £6,744,755, expenditure, £6,136,920; 1920-21, revenue, £8,388,569, expenditure, £7,305,248; and in 1921-22, the estimated revenue is £9,311,000, and expenditure, £7,912,705.
– The honorable member continues to repeat that statement, although it is inaccurate.
– The figures are correct. In consequence of a statement recently made by the Treasurer in connexion with the figures I quoted before, they have been revised, because previously they were exclusive of interest on loans.
– It all comes out of revenue.
– Yes ; but the revenue for the five financial years quoted, including the present financial year, shows that it has been £36,317,036, and the expenditure £32,154,589, showing a profit in five years of £4,162,447.
– The honorable member is quite wrong,- because he has not included all the expenditure.
– I” have included the whole of it.
– That is not so.
– For the information pf the Treasurer, I now hand him the Budget and his own figures, which, prove my statement. The amount spent on new works out of revenue in five years was £2,420,000, leaving a balance of £1,742,000, which was used for other activities. The Post and Telegraph Department should be a self-contained branch of the Service, and . money obtained in excess of the expenditure should be utilized for extensions’ and the construction of new works. During the same period £1,500,000 will have been borrowed, including £923,000 this year, for new works, and the Post and Telegraph Department is bearing the interest on those loans.
– The honorable member is including all the war postage, which was imposed for purely war purposes.
– The revenue I have quoted does not include war postage. I refer honorable members to page 13 of the Budget papers. I am dealing with the administration of the finances of the Post and Telegraph Department, and am showing that new works should be paid for out. of profits, instead of utilizing loan money for the purpose.
When I was dealing with the Department of Trade and Customs on a previous occasion, the Minister controlling that Department (Mr. Greene) interjected that the enormous increase in the expenditure had arisen in consequence of the additional expense incurred in connexion with navigation and lighthouse services. I have carefully taken out the figures concerning the lighthouse service, which was taken over four years ago. In the first year the expenditure was £S6,524, in the second £128,000, and this year the estimated expenditure is £163,387, which proves that the cost in this direction is steadily increasing.
– Does the honorable member object to expenditure in connexion with lighthouses?
– The increase needs explanation. The Prime Ministerdealt also with the question of war services, which he put down at £41,000,000, and the impression he left on one’s mind was that the whole of that expenditure was for actual war services. Of this, amount, £31,000,000 came out of revenue and the balance out of loans; but £21,000,000 represents interest; and to me it seems absurd to include the whole amount under the heading of war services, because it creates the impression that expenditure is still being incurred in this direction in connexion with new activities.
– That has never been suggested.
– As it is a permanent debt it is questionable whether this amount should not be placed under a separate heading and its proper liquidation provided for, or, at any rate, treated apart from current expenditure. On the’ administration of war services £3,470,000 is being taken out of revenue, and many instances have come under my personal knowledge where economies could be effected by tightening up the administration.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) agreed largely with the estimates of revenue which I submitted. In. fact, he was more pessimistic, and I was pleased to hear an ex-Treasurer say that the Treasurer alone can check expenditure, and that it is. not likely to be effectively reduced by a snatch vote in this Chamber. I cannot, however, understand the honorable member for Balaclava supporting the Budget after criticising it so drastically. The Treasurer promised last week to lay on the table of the House certain legacy figures of old obligations. I have endeavoured since yesterday to obtain these additional figures, and although I approached the officers I found that they were not available. In these circumstances we do not know where we are.
Regarding the question of revenue for the present financial year, some doubt has been expressed concerning the amount to be derived from Customs and Excise, and it was suggested that I had made a depreciation of the Excise; but I desire to make it clear that the Excise figures were excluded from those previously presented. Last year we collected in Excise duties £10,078,000, and the estimated income from that source this year is £10,028,000, showing a slight decrease. The return from Customs duties last year was £21,731,210, and this year the estimated revenue from that source is £16,105,000, showing a decrease of 25 per cent. For the first two months of the present financial year there has been a drop of .40 per cent. This , decrease must make the revenue to total 60 per cent, of the Customs duties as compared with last year. There will be a Customs revenue of only £13,038,000, leaving a deficiency of approximately £3,000,000 on the Treasurer’s estimate.
It should be stressed that we should not merely consider our present position, but look into the future, and that was the point which the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) specifically mentioned iu his speech. We must prepare for the lean years ahead, which are sure to come, and during which there will be a diminution in our exports. I wish the current expenditure to be reduced. As regards the estimates of income, I desire .to read an extract from a report of Mr. McGregor, the British Trade Commissioner, who said -
Regarding the exchange position, there are no signs of relief for at least six months, except such as may be derived from the flotation in London of a substantial Commonwealth loan. The wheat position is favorable, but the amount is not sufficient to have any marked effect on exchange. The wool position is uncertain, and it is not likely to afford material relief.
The outlook for metals is particularly gloomy. Australian exports generally for the next twelve months are likely to diminish in value owing to the wool position, the drop in the world’s prices and the world’s restricted purchasing capacity.
– It cannot be less than last year.
– Prices ..are coming down, and the people are beginning to economize in their personal needs.
– That is a report dated the 30th June, and conditions hav« changed considerably since then.
– The price of wool and wheat has fallen.
It has become apparent throughout the debate that there has been no serious attempt to answer the arguments I advanced. Ministerial supporters have expressed opinions similar to mine, and all over Australia the public has indorsed the principle of squaring the ledger and living within our income. I have received letters from many parts of Australia congratulating me on the stand the members of our party are taking in this matter.
– Of course; all the taxpayers are economists.
– Various Government supporters have indorsed the whole of the charges of extravagance; but they are afraid to vote in accordance with their convictions, because they say they cannot see the possibility of stable government ahead. They are really afraid of facing the electors. Surely the present Government cannot be regarded as stable. The Prime Minister submitted without protest to dictation from a member of his party as to who should fill the portfolios of his Ministry, and permitted bargaining with a private member . on the floor of the House. The Government accepted, without question, the direction of one honorable member as to who should be the next Treasurer. Government supporters have said that they did hot know how to vote, but if they followed their inclinations they would support the amendment. They condemned the Government, but said that thev must support it in the absence of another one able to carry on without an election.
– The honorable member did his share of “ lobbying” in that respect. He had them all in his room.
– I did nob.
– You did.
– I deliberately give the lie to that statement. I did not have them all in my room.
– You had some of them there.
-The honorable member for Cowper must withdraw that remark.
– -I withdraw it. Whoever came to my room did so spontaneously.
– That is not correct.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– The right honorable the Treasurer is not committing- a ^breach of parliamentary rule in saying that a certain statement is not correct. It is not a personally offensive remark. To say that a statement is untrue is unparliamentary.
– The Government are relying for their existence on the reputed following of members who are openly condemnatory, and on occasional defections from other parties. The Government ride the high horse in regard to questions of constitutional procedure, but are prepared to hang on to office with the support of members who are avowedly dissatisfied. Certain honorable members are going to vote as they intend to do because of assurances given -by the Treasurer, or the Prime Minister, on the floor of the House; but I would like to examine those assurances in the light of past promises from those honorable gentlemen of economy. The Prime Minister stated on Thursday last -
While the Government cannot and will not accept the honorable member’s amendment, or any general direction such as is contained in it, it fully recognises the need for economy and the general principle that it is desirable we should live within our income. Wie shall make an honest and determined effort to do that. Further, the Government invite the Committee to indicate where economy can be effected; and,, provided that that economy does not strike a vital blow at the policy of the Government, we shall accept the decision of the Committee. More than that no Government has ever done, and no Committee has a right to expect. That being the position, I venture to express the hope that honorable members on both sides of the House will reject the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Country party.
Last year, when a somewhat similar motion was before honorable members, the Prime Minister made a similar statement. On the 10th March, .1920, he said-
I say to him (the Leader of the Country party) and to this Committee, as I said when speaking last week, that ample opportunity will be given to every honorable member to express his opinions, and criticise every act of the Government and the expenditure of every penny of money.
In this . manner, last year, the Prime Minister, after cracking the party whip, arid making the question a test one, cajoled certain honorable members, by this futile promise, into voting against the Country party’s motion on economy. This year the Prime Minister adopted the same course. What happened last year? Not” one penny was taken off the Estimates in Committee. The Prime Minister knows the promise is utterly futile in the direction of effecting any general scheme of economy. He knows that the only man who can do this is the Treasurer . himself, by giving proper consideration to where “ ordinary “ expenditure can be saved. An examination of the value of previous similar promises given by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will prove clearly the value of this one, so far as the Government’s intentions are concerned. I have pointed out above the promise made- by the Prime Minister inthe House on 10th March, 1920. Let me add to this a promise he made when speaking in the House on- 28th April, 1921, prior to leaving for the Imperial Conference. He then said -
I emphasize once more what I have said just now,- and what I said at greater length at Bendigo - that the Government have long recognised the necessity for, and, as the Treasurer will be able to tell the House when opportunity affords, have practised, economy . . On behalf of the Government, I say that we shall insist on getting twenty shillings’ worth of value for every twenty shillings we spend. We recognise the necessity for cutting down expenditure to the last penny. My right honorable colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has addressed a letter to me with a view to its communication to every Public Department., It -,is as -follows : - “ I have been considering the whole matter of inter-departmental financial control since the Cockatoo incident occurred, and I have come to the conclusion that in all the Departments a new and effective arrangement could be made for securing proper financial control. What I suggest will be found in a report of the Public Accounts Committee in the Imperial Parliament, lately presented to the House of Commons. Perhaps I could focus the thing more effectively and quickly by transcribing some paragraphs from that report for the benefit of my colleagues : -
The foundation of the financial system of the country, so far as departmental control over expenditure is concerned, lies in the position pf the not very happily named “ Accounting Officer,” appointed in each Department to render account of its expenditure. He is not to be confused with the accountant or bookkeeper, but is charged with the higher duty of seeing that the transactions accounted for are themselves regularly conducted, and of appearing before the Public Accounts Committee to answer for anything that may give rise to question. That he may exercise this responsibility effectively he has a power of veto on any expenditure which he believes to be irregular. In particular, he has to secure that nothing for which the regulations require Treasury sanction is done without it, and in this way he is the foundation on which the whole elaborate structure of Treasury control rests. His veto can be overridden only by the order, in writing, of the Minister or other supreme head of the Department, who then becomes personally answerable for the consequences of this act. Given the necessary independence on the part of the Accounting Officer, this live control of expenditure before it takes place is far superior to any post-mortem disallowance by an auditor. But the veto can be used only on grounds of irregularity, whether in the sense of something repugnant to honesty or in the technical meaning of failure to comply with some Act of Parliament, Royal Warrant, Treasury order, or other regulation of authority superior to that of the Department itself.
It has been decided that the Accounting Officer should be an official of the Department itself, and not (as the. National Expenditure Committee had proposed) a Treasury official; that where a special financial critic exists, he should bc also Accounting Officer; that financial criticism should not be silenced by the plea of policy; and that the consent of the Prime Minister should bo required to the appointment or removal of the principal financial officer of any Department.
As to who this Accounting Officer should be will be a matter for serious consideration. It goes without saying that he should ‘be a man of high calibre and character, of great knowledge and experience, and au fait with the Department of which he is to bc the financial critic. It is quite clear from recent happenings that something of the kind should be done at the earliest moment. Moreover, this is somewhat on the lines suggested toy our own Economies Commission, and, in my judgment, should be put into operation at the earliest possible moment in all the Departments. It strikes at extravagance at its source - its really only vulnerable point- and aims at prevention rather than cure.
Has any attempt been made to put into operation this “ new and effective arrangement” for “securing proper financial control “ ?
– The Prime Minister’s statement on 10th March, 1920, seems to be the first and also the last we have heard of it in this House.
– It is because you do not know.
– We are asking for an explanation.
– It would not satisfy you if I gave it.
– Notwithstanding the making of this promise, six months afterwards the Treasurer presents to this Committee Estimates for increasing the ordinary expenditure of the Departments by £1,033,000; and when I say he is speaking with his tongue in his cheek I am accused of being insulting. Can members be expected to believe, in face of these facts, that the Prime Minister means anything by his promise to mako an honest and determined effort to effect economy? The Committee is heartily sick of these repeated promises to do something in connexion with “ ordinary ‘’ expenditure in the direction of reducing the cost of administering Departments. In speaking on 10th March, 1920 (Hansard, page 260), the Prime Minister made the f ollowing amazing admission : -
I believe that the Public Service of this country is in urgent need of reform; it is a cumbrous, costly, and ill-managed instrumentality of government.
That was nearly two years ago. The Prime Minister indicated the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill for the amendment of the Public- Service Actto give effect to many, and perhaps the major portion, of the recommendations of the Economies Commission. The only attempt to carry this out was the introduction of a Bill to create three Public Service Commissioners. This measure received strong opposition from Ministerialists, many of whom recommended that certain recommendations of the Public Service Commissioner should be adopted, which would enable the Government to effect the same reforms and economies as were suggested by the Economies Commission, although in a more efficient manner, and without resorting to the Government’s almost unquenchable desire to make new appointments. The Bill was apparently dropped, but nothing has been done since to carry out the recommendations referred to, and the Service is still under the control of an “Acting” Public Service Commissioner, the objections to which were fully dealt with in my speech on Wednesday last. I have shown that ever since the commencement of this Parliament the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been making promises to effect economy. They have even written letters to one another about the matter, but month after month goes by and not one genuine effort is made to put any of these promises into effect. The most recent promise by the Prime Minister is that resulting from the unprecedented exhibition of bargaining and bartering which occurred on the floor of the House on Friday last between the Prime Minister and one of his supporters, the member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley). When pushed by the member for Oxley, the Prime Minister said -
In regard to new works (on Defence and Naval items), whether the Washington Conference does or docs not come to a decision, this Committee is free to make any suggestion it likes, and the Government will abide by the result.
This is at complete variance with the Prime Minister’s statement on 28th April, 1921, as follows:-
As for the Department of Defence and the Department of the Navy, I say deliberately that unless and until we have some guarantee, such as we hope to get from the Conference to which I am about to proceed, that peace in the Pacific is assured, I would not vote for cutting down, by even one thousandth of a penny, the expenditure on Defence.
Speaking in the present debate on Wednesday last, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) said that to reduce the Estimates would be “ a most foolish policy to adopt.” He also remarked : -
The Estimates relating to Defence, including Military, Naval, and Air Services, have been cut down to the lowest point compatible with our National safety: I appeal to the Committee to think deeply before attempting to interfere seriously with the Estimates relating to my Department.
Does the Committee think that the Prime Minister means anything but that the Government will forget this, as they have forgotten past promises for economy? There is only one proper way in which economy can be effected, and that is for the Treasurer himself to ma£e recommendations to the Committee. What my party asks is that the Treasurer should reconsider the Estimates, and come back to the Committee, with recommendations for reductions in accordance with his past promises. The Government seek -to throw that responsibility upon the Committee itself. The Committee cannot accept it, because of its lack of knowledge of the details of the working of the various Departments. The Treasurer and Ministers are the only honorable members who have this knowledge, and they are the men who should and must accept the responsibility.
– Will you withdraw your amendment if I undertake to bring down proposals for a reduction of the Budget?
– The bargaining that has already taken place on the floor of the House is sufficiently degrading. The Treasurer himself said in his speech on Thursday- last -
If members want advice from me, it is that they had better leave the matter in the hands of the Treasurer. It is for the Government to say what it will do when the Committee has expressed its wishes.
Of course, this was said by the Treasurer before the Prime Minister beat the party drum. We say, “ Let the ‘Committee express its “wishes in regard to the application of - the principle, and let the Government, who have a full knowledge of the details of the administration of the Departments, recommend where the reductions are to be made.” The Prime Minister says, “ Let the Committee make the suggestions,” well knowing that Ministers, with all departmental information at their elbow, will plead their departmental knowledge against the lack of knowledge of any individual honorable member who moves an amendment, thus preventing reductions being made at all. Why does not the Prime Minister come out in the open and say he does not want any further reductions? If he really meant economy he would welcome, as I urge honorable members to welcome, the suggestion put forward in my motion that the Government themselves, with the full knowledge of the inner workings of the Departments at hand, should decide, and recommend to the Committee where the necessary reductions to balance the ledger are to be made. To a man trained in my profession, and with experience of the treatment necessary for disease, the attitude adopted by many supporters of the Government, and by the Prime Minister himself, is most interesting. There are certain diseases the treatment for which is definite and specific. In a case such as cancer there is a certain method of treatment, which is the only, way in which a cure can he effected. In the event of delay in treatment, the conditions become such that there is doubt whether a cure can be effected, and if treatment is postponed for any length of time it is certain that there can be no cure. In the meantime all sorts of useless quack remedies are suggested and used. So it is with the question of nuance. Government is finance, and finance is government. For this very reason, custom has made the question -of finance vital to the life of a Government; and the only method of revision that is at all worth while is that revision which comes from inside. Parliament may say what a Government’s general line of policy should be - whether it should be economical or extravagant, whether a particular form of taxation should be regarded as odious or not, or whether or not certain principles should be observed, such as making expenditure have relation to income; but the question as to where actual economies can be effected with the least loss of efficiency is essentially a matter of the internal arrangement of Departments. The Treasurer and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) both admitted this fact. The Treasurer said that this was the only really vulnerable spot. To say with the Prime Minister that I have offered no constructive suggestion is absurd, because I have given not merely a constructive suggestion, but I have indicated the only method whereby economy can be effected - that it must be done from within. I repeat the following advice contained in the Treasury circular : -
The Treasury circular, with the authority of Cabinet behind it, instructs each Department to take into consideration the abolition of some of the services under its control, even though these services represent functions imposed by Statute. Where it is necessary to obtain parliamentary sanction by means of a Bill to the abolition of any existing services, the Government will do so.
With that I agree, both as regards statutory and ordinary appropriations, and I shall give assistance to any Government to face the position from that aspect. If the Government will not do this, and says that it will resign first, then I say frankly that I shall endeavour, as far as lies in my power, to secure its displacement by some other Government, and if that is not possible, then to bring it before the electors for their judgment and verdict as to whether the principle I have enunciated of living within our. means should not be the guiding principle of Australian government.
– During the course of the debate the returned soldier activities under the. control of the Government have come in for some criticism. I want to deal, first, with the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who, I regret, is not here. In a general) sweeping statement regarding war pensions he drew a harrowing picture of the hardships of those suffering from war disabilities, who, he said, received no consideration at the hands of the Government. I want, briefly, to show that such a statement is very wide of the mark and very unfair, not only to the Government, but to the Commission which is in charge of the administration of pensions.. Many pensions are fixed by law, and are definite and unalterable by any Commission or Administration. I have had figures prepared which show that, although there are hard cases, the percentage of such cases is trifling. The percentage of cases of the kind referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is very small indeed, although his remarks would lead the Committee to believe that large numbers of soldiers and soldiers;’ dependants ‘are not receiving fair consideration. On the 30th June, 1920, there were in force 225,580 pensions, and the amount expended in pensions during that year was £5,872,770. At the end of the following year, on the 30th June, 1921, the number of pensions in force was 222,537. .Although, at the latter date, there were fewer pensions in force, the amount expended had increased to £7,386,842, which represents a substantial increase over the amount expended during the previous year. At 30th September last 222,826 pensions were in existence, and for the quarter ended on that date the Government expended £1,690.833. These figures clearly show that substantially this nation if honouring its obligations, so far as Avar pensions are concerned. I admit that there are a number of very hard cases which are not covered by the law.
– Does the Minister think that widows and orphans are getting enough to live on?
– The provision that exists for widows and orphans was the deliberate decision of this Parliament, and of every party in Parliament.
– The Act is being administered very harshly, and the pensioners are not getting the full benefit of it.
– The payments to widows and children were deliberately fixed by Parliament, and are unalterable. No administration, harsh or otherwise, can affect them. The honorable member is probably thinking of the additional living allowances that are superimposed upon the pensions. A widow’s pension is not altered until she’ marries, and she still receives a pension for two years after marriage. Her children are allowed pensions up to the age of- sixteen years. The cases regarding which there are the loudest complaints of hardship are those in which Parliament placed an obligation upon the Commission to ascertain whether the disability is due to war service or to pre-existing conditions.
– Will you be prepared to deal fully with this question when we are considering the Estimates?
– I cannot deal with it now. I would have liked to outline the whole position relating to the treatment of returned soldiers. Justice has not been done to the Administration, and this Committee has not been informed of the full extent of the activities pf. the Department. I will content myself by promising the Committee that when the Estimates are before it I will make a clear and ample statement regarding pensions. I shall be able to show, also, in regard to War Service Homes, that in one State alone we have had built or purchased 1,444 homes at an average cost of £646, which, as a result of rearrangement, entailed not one penny of administrative expense to the Commonwealth. The whole of the administrative cost was borne by the State of South
Australia under an arrangement made between the Commonwealth and that State.
Question - That the item proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Dr. Earle Page’s- amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to explain my absence from the division on the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), which was taken immediately before the dinner adjournment. While the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) was speaking, I was standing just outside the chamber door, when Mr. Blythe, a member of the Tasmanian Legislature, came to me, and asked where he could find Senator Payne. I said that if the senator were in the building, he was probably in the Senate rooms, and we went there, but did not find him. I then’ accompanied Mr. Blythe to the main entrance, and was astonished, on returning to the chamber, to find its doors locked, and the division in progress. I know what construction may be placed on my absence, but it was well known by the Leader of the Government (Mr. Hughes) and, I think, by most honorable members, that I intended to vote’ for the amendment. I missed the division, unfortunately, through not hearing the bells ring, though I was only a short distance from the chamber.. Had I heard them, I would have voted for the amendment. I fear that my explanation may not be accepted by all; but I trust that those who know me will accept it. I care little what may be thought by others.
.- It is only fair to the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) to say that I was speaking with him a little before the division was taken. Mr. Blythe, a member of the Tasmanian Legislature, was leaving’ the gallery, and the honorable member for Darwin introduced me to him. The honorable member said that he wished to hear the speech of the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers). Personally, I believe that what he has stated is absolutely correct, and I say so because every one knows how opposed we are in politics, and, therefore, we shall not be accused of collusion. I make this statement in justice to the honorable member. So far as the Government are concerned, I think they ‘ ‘ caught “ him.
– (By leave.) - I desire to make a short statement about a matter of very great importance. I should have done this earlier but for reasons that are sufficiently
20 R 2
obvious, and have relation to matters that are quite recent. The Government have been giving careful attention to the position caused by the lack of co-ordination throughout Australia in regard to the disposal, sale, and distribution of the coming season’s wheat. As honorable members know, Ministers have been asked to take certain action, and after careful consideration we have decided upon the policy which I propose now to set out. We are opposed to anything in the nature of a compulsory Pool, but, subject to certain conditions, the Government will advance the sum of 3s. a bushel on all wheat delivered at railway sidings consigned to a Pool. The conditions are these: There shall be a free local market; throughout Australia farmers will be permitted, without interference by the Government of the Commonwealth, to sell their wheat for local or overseas consumption either through a Pool or as they please; there shall be one chartering agency for all the Pools, one selling agency abroad, and one controlling agency here. There will he no direct representation of the Commonwealth on the Boards, but the Commonwealth Bank will look after the financial interests of the Government, and for’ that purpose will have a representative thereon. This is not to be regarded as a precedent which will be followed in subsequent seasons. Subject to the conditions mentioned, the Government will advance 3s. per bushel on all wheat delivered at railway sidings in transitu to Pools, whether these are in part supported by a State Government or wholly voluntary. The Pools are to be controlled by the wheat farmers, or by such other bodies as may be determined by each particular. State. But if any State Government shall compulsorily acquire the wheat of that State, the Commonwealth will not’ advance money upon that wheat, unless so counselled by its financial advisers; because it would have no security for such an advance. We believe that these proposals will be generally acceptable to the farmers, and we have ascertained, though not officially, that they will be acceptable to most of the State Governments. In the main, the arrangement is one which a very representative deputation of farmers suggested, though its recommendations have not been followed absolutely.
– Will you move for the printing of a paper, so that members may have an opportunity to discuss this arrangement?
– I would lite it to be discussed to-morrow, when members have had an opportunity to make themselves familiar) with it. Could it not be discussed on the Estimates ? I am willing to take whatever steps may be thought necessary to enable members to express their opinion upon it, but there is not a paper containing the proposals which I can. move to have printed.
– The Government of New South Wales is going to advance the farmers of that State so much per bushel on their wheat. I do not think it intends to acquire the wheat.
– Yes, it does.
– In that case, will the Commonwealth come to the assistance of
– If the New South Wales Government has arranged, as I understand it has, to obtain money elsewhere to assist the farmers, they will not require assistance from us; but if they prefer our help, we shall be prepared to finance them, just as we will finance the farmers of the other States.
– The New South Wales Government has already made its arrangements.
– I do not know what conditions, if any, are attached to advances from the loan which the New South Wales Government is said to have raised; but honorable members will see that we should have some discretion in dealing with our own money. Our offer is unconditional, and applies to the farmers of all the States ; but should any State Government acquire the wheat of its State, the property in that wheat will pass from its farmers, and we would not advance money to them on it unless our financial advisers told us that our security was ample.
– Could the Government not make an advance to the Government of New South Wales?
– No, we shall not make advances to any Government. We shall make advances to the farmer direct.
– What would be the position of the Victorian Pool, seeing that the State Government have agreed to advance to them 4s. per bushel f.o.b.?
– We are proposing to advance 3s. per bushel at the railway siding. There is not very much difference between those advances - possibly 4d. or 6d. per bushel. I think the honorable member might leave the settlement of that matter to discussion between the Victorian Government and ourselves.
We want to work in co-operation with the State Governments, or whatever body is handling the wheat. In South Australia the farmers alone are asked to carry the responsibility, and we have to work with them. In Victoria the State Government is assisting the farmers, and we want to work with them. In Western Australia and New South Wales, other forms are adopted, and we desire to work with them all. We say that we want no representation whatever on the Boards, and that there should be no political control of ours of any sort. But I think honorable members will agree that it is right that the Commonwealth Bank should be represented, because we are proposing the advance of Commonwealth money. As I see the proposal, it is a business-like arrangement, and I think the wheat farmers will welcome it. All this, of course, is subject to our being able to make the necessary arrangements with the banks, and I do not, of course, doubt that we shall be able to do so. I will take an opportunity of finding some means, after consultation, whereby this matter can be discussed after honorable members have had an opportunity of looking it over, and come to-morrow, if they will, prepared to give it their attention.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests, resumed from 14th October, vide page 12003) :
Apparel, articles of -
Senate’s Request. - Insert new sub-item -
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved -
That the requested amendment be made, but modified as follows: -
.- Honorable members willrecollect that the matter now under consideration arises out of the request by another place to take out of the general apparel item certain woven or knitted goods and to dividetheminto two classes - woollen and cotton - proposing a lower duty than that on apparel, and a lower duty on the cotton goods than on the woollen goods. For the reasons which I gave the Committee on the last occasion when we discussed this matter, I ask honorable members to resist the Senate’s request for a lower duty on the cotton than on the woollen goods, owing to the very great difficulty departmentally in discriminating very often between goods entirely of cotton or containing a certain proportion of wool. I told the Committee that we had tried on a previous occasion what is proposed by the request of another place, but had to retrace our steps because so many departmental and administrative difficulties arose. I asked honorable members then, as a means of compromise with another place, to agree to the duties as set out in the Senate’s requests for woollen underclothing goods. I was asked, I think from all quarters, to reconsider that decision. I admit frankly that what we were endeavouring to do was to find a means of satisfying the other branch of the Legislature, while at the same time not giving away too much duty. I am fully convinced that the extension of the knitting industry is one of the best developments of the woollen industry we have had in our midst of late years. There has been development in the woollen industry along many lines during the last few years, but no development more phenomenal than that in connexion with the manufacture of these woven - or knitted goods, as they should properly be described.
– Does Che Minister propose to delete the word “ woven “ ?
– I proposed that in the motion to which I originally asked the Committee to agree. There can be no question that this is an industry which, perhaps more than any other, lends itself to development in the country. We hear from all sides, and particularly from honorable members of the Country party, the expression of a desire fori the establishment of industries in centres other than the metropolitan areas. One of the remarkable characteristics of the development which has taken place in this industry is that it is one which has been taken up in quite a number of country districts. In the electorate of Grampians a very fine knitting industry has been established, which has practically rehabilitated an old mining settlement which was dying out. In the electorate of Indi considerable development of the industry is going on, and also in some places in the electorate of Hume. In view of these circumstances and the evident desire of the Committee that we should not go back in any degree upon its original intention, I am prepared to withdraw the motion I have moved and to move in its stead that the Senate’s amendments be not made.
– Is the Minister going to discriminate -between cotton and woollen goods?
– I wish honorable members to be quite clear as to what will be the effect of the motion it is my intention to move. It will be that this knitted underclothing will fall automatically under item 110 in the Tariff, commonly known as the apparel item, and will be dutiable at the rates set down for that item as already approved by the Committee.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be not made. Item 115-
Socks and Stockings for human attire, viz., (a) Cotton, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
Senate’sRequest. - British, 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
– Here we are up against exactly the same proposition as that with which we had to deal in considering the last amendments requested by another place. We feel that it would be a great mistake to impose on these cotton goods a lower rate of duty than on the woollen goods. I therefore move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Bequest. - British, 10 per cent. ; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
There has been a new industry established for the making of engine-cleaning waste. It is just one of those things which I think will assist a little, if not very much, in the establishment of the cotton industry. I am quite satisfied that there is a future in Australia for cotton growing. I feel confident that cotton can be grown in many parts of Australia. Some people are inclined to think that it can only be grown in the semi-tropical areas of this country. I am quite sure that that is not so. As a matter of fact, cotton is very extensively grown in States of America in which very severe winter conditions prevail. I believe, further, that if those who suggest that, because of labour difficulties, we shall be unable to grow cotton successfully in this country followed the development of the industry of late years in America, they would find that cotton is not grown to-day to anything like the same extent as it used to be on big estates, but is grown on comparatively small blocks, and harvested if not almost entirely, then in very many cases, with family labour, and white labour at that. I am sure that what our American cousins have been able to do we can do in this country. I believe that the cotton industry will be found to be a very useful industry for a considerable area of Australia, and will enable us to turn much of our land to a better use than perhaps it is being put to to-day.
Motion agreed to.
Saddlers’ webs; upholsterers’ webs; collar check and collar cloth 36 inches and over in width; saddlers’ kersey; saddlers’ serge and felt; felt for lining horse and cattle rugs, ad. val., British, free; intermediate, free; general, 10 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Amend item by adding - And on and after 1st November, 1921 -
Saddlers’ webs, upholsterers’ webs, saddlers’ felt for lining horse and cattle rugs, ad val., British, free; intermediate, free; general, 10 per cent.
Collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey, and saddlers’ serge, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
.- The Senate has requested us to make an amendment, the effect of which will be to impose a duty of 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent. on collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey, andsaddlers’ serge, which this Committee had included with saddlers’ webs, upholsterers’ webs, saddlers’ felt, and felt for lining horse and cattle rugs, which articles were to be admitted free under the British and intermediate Tariffs, and at an ad valorem rate of 10 per cent. under the general Tariff. At the time the item was under discussion here several honorable members asked me to consider the advisability of imposing a higher duty on collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey, and saddlers’ serge, because an industry which was being established in Victoria would very soon be in a position to manufacture Australia’s requirements in this particular class of goods. I understand that, although these articles have already been manufactured here, they cannot yet be produced in any quantity; but that the necessary machinery hasbeen ordered, which will enable the manufacturers shortly to be in a position to cope with the whole of the local demand. The question then arises, “ What is a fair duty in the circumstances?” While there is every reason for protecting the industry in the event of it fulfilling this promise, the duty should not be made immediately applicable, and also should not be unnecessarily high. For instance, the rates suggested by the Senate are higher than those upon blankets, the makers of which are able to turn out a very large proportion of Australia’s requirements.
– Is the Minister aware that the collar check already made at Geelong has proved unsatisfactory? The maker himself says that he cannot produce a satisfactory article, and every saddler in Australia confirms this.
– That is probably due to the fact that the plant at Geelong is not satisfactory. I understand that large works have just been erected at Abbotsford of a capacity sufficient to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements, and that the plant being laid down there is of the very latest type used for thev manufacture of these goods. There is no doubt that we have in Australia all the raw material necessary for making these articles, and their manufacture will enable the wool-growers to get rid of a portion of their clip which is’ not too easily disposed of at present. The only question is what is a reasonable duty. Blankets can be turned out almost indefinitely once the machinery is set for the making of .them; and I think that the duty fixed in respect of ‘blankets should be sufficient to enable the manufacturers of these saddlery linings to establish their industry. I move -
That the requested amendment be made, but modified- as follows: - By omitting the words “ 1st November, 1921,”- and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ 1st January, 1922 “ by adding to sub-item (a) after the word “ felt “ the words “ and felt,” and by leaving out of sub-item (b) the words “British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; general, 45 per cent;” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.”
.- I hope that the Committee will adhere to its original decision to leave these articles free of duty under the British and intermediate columns. I cannot understand the Minister (Mr. Greene), unless he is thoroughly satisfied that the industry of making collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey, and saddlers’ serge has been firmly established, putting on an impost of this sort, which is bound to be severely felt in country districts. I am not allowed to revert now to a previous item, but it was most extraordinary to hear the Minister advancing reasons for imposing a duty on cotton waste for the sake of establishing cotton growing. The Committee has already given this matter very careful consideration. A duty of 40 per cent, on collar check would lead to an extraordinary increase in the price of saddlery. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the
Minister’s proposed modification; indeed, I hope it will, go further and reject the Senate’s request.
– I cannot understand why honorable members of the Country party should oppose a duty that will enable the woolgrowers to get rid of a large quantity of second grade wool which, since the war has terminated, has not found a ready market. The machinery to be used for the manufacture of saddlers’ cloth is of the very latest type. It is an iniquitous proposal that the producers of Australia should be compelled to transfer their raw material to the other side of the world to have it manufactured there and brought back here for Australian users. The industry that will be established by the imposition of this duty will particularly advance the interests of woolgrowers.
– It is rather strange that the wool-growers do not appreciate the honorable member’s generosity.
– There are other honorable members here, besides those in . the Country party, who know something of the requirements of the wool-growers.
– But Australian wool is not suitable for the manufacture of collar check.
– Australia produces practically every grade of wool known to the world. The’ establishment of this industry will mean that material grown- in Australia can be used in Australia for the manufacture of the goods required by Australians. I have received letters recently stating that many wool-growers are very thankful that the local establishment of knitting mills has saved them the trouble of having to find shipping space and pay freights, insurance, and other costs for the transport of their raw material to the other side of the world, for which they now find a ready market at their door. Australian second grade wool ‘ is particularly adapted for the manufacture of saddlery cloth. The Committee ought to be unanimous upon the imposition of a duty which, while serving to provide a ready market for the primary producer, will also furnish employment for a large number of people in manufacturing the raw material into the finished article. The Minister has already in his suggestion cut down the Senate’s proposal, and as we know that the wool-growing industry is fairly well represented in that Chamber, we may take it for granted that in making this request senators were doing their best for those wool growers, as well as those engaged in secondary industries. In the circumstances the measure of protection the Minister seeks to give, and which is even less than the Senate has proposed, should be acceptable to the Committee. The- primary producer is very much interested in the establishment of this industry, which will give employment to our own people in working up one of our raw products. In some of our woollen mills what is known as secondclass machinery has been used in an effort to produce this class of material, and has not proved satisfactory, but a local firm has purchased the latest type of machinery for its manufacture, and has already set up a portion of the plant. Further installations are to be made, and the plant, when complete, will be sufficient to enable this firm to supply practically the whole of the requirements of Australia.
– I direct the particular attention of the Minister (Mr. Greene) to this item, and desire him to discriminate between saddlecloths and serges used for certain purposes in connexion with harnessmaking and what is known as collar check. I have here a long statement representing the views of the retail saddlers of the Commonwealth with regard to collar check, and also two statements, one from an importing house, and the other from one of the biggest saddlery establishments of Australia - on the same subject. If the three statements had been written by the one man they could not have harmonized more than they do. The Australian collar check is no good. It is incorrect to say that the manufacture of collar check has not been attempted in Australia. I am credibly informed that a Geelong mill-owner, who has ‘ been, turning out collar check, has told those interested in harness-making that its production cannot be carried on here.
– Not with the machinery he used.
– It is a question, not of the machinery, but of the material that is used in the manu facture of collar check. This is a most important matter to the agricultural community. Horse collars are dear enough as it is, but this proposal will lead to increased costs. The question is one not only of price, but of suitability. The Geelong manufacturer states that he has decided to give up the manufacture of collar check. The local material is not woven, so as to provide a comfortable collar for a horse. It will not stretch unduly in one way, but the manufacturer has not been able to make it so that it will not stretch unduly in either way. In the statement that I have from, the retail saddlers of Australia it is said that -
The only line of collar check which has been made in the Commonwealth is not equal to, nor in many cases suitable for, the purpose of collar making and lining, and we have not been able to get them to adopt a proper material for this purpose. The correct collar check is made of Indian wool.
Collar check made of Indian wool is satisfactory, because it will not stretch unduly.
– What would the saddlemakers do if they could get nothing but check made of .Australian wool?
– I would not buy a collar in which the locally manufactured collar check was used, because I have no desire to ruin my horses’ shoulders. Ruin a horse’s shoulders and you ruin the horse itself.
– That is true; but what I am not at all satisfied about is that collar check made from Australian wool will ruin a horse’s shoulders.
– The Minister is putting himself up as a judge of this material, as against the collar-makers and the farmers themselves.
– The trouble is that the honorable member will accept as gospel statements that are made from time to time by interested parties.
– Will the Minister postpone the further consideration of this request until to-morrow, so that he may get information from a disinterested source?
– I will show the honorable member samples of the imported and local cloths so that he may judge for himself.
– I am not an expert collar maker, and cannot. tell whether the cloth- will stretch unduly. Let us have some consideration for the agricultural community. The Government have been raking them throughout the Tariff, and now they want to ruin the shoulders of the farmers’ horses. Surely the Committee will not carry this request, in the face of the evidence before it. The Minister says that it comes from interested people. Would he describe a saddler in a small town as a man with commercial interests ?
– No; but I think the probabilities are that the circular referred to by the honorable member has been got out by the man who imports this material, and has. induced the saddlers to sign it.
– I have said that I have statements from an importer, from a big collar-making establishment, and from the retail saddlers of the Commonwealth.
– And probably the whole thing has been put up by the importer.
– I know what my saddler tells me about the collar check which so far has been made in Australia. I know what the saddlers said during the war when they could not obtain a supply of good material. I shall, however, leave the matter to the honour and conscience of the Committee. If the Government are prepared to take the responsibility let them do so.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) says that the use of Australian-made collar check will introduce sore shoulders amongst horses. Have we never had horses with sore shoulders in Australia 1
– Sore shoulders occur even when the best material is used. Does the honorable member want to see the shoulders of our horses cut to pieces t
– Horses with sore shoulders are to be found in every country. We had horses sp suffering when only the imported material was used in the manufacture of collars, so that the Australian article cannot be blamed. The honorable member says that Australianmade collar check stretches unduly. We have had the same complaint of all sorts of woollens. We have all heard men complain that trousers made of Australian woollens have “bagged” at the knee. The honorable member makes the same complaint concerning this material - he is afraid that it will stretch too much or “ bag” when used in collar-making. That may be so; but there is plenty of the imported material that has the same fault, and there is plenty of Australian material that does not “ bag.” Collar check is a rough, harsh, strong material, and the honorable member says that it cannot be made from Australian wool. Indian wool, he says, is necessary m its manufacture. The only Indian wool of which I know is bull’s wool. It is absurd for the honorable member to say that Australia produces no wool that is suitable for this purpose. After all, this is not a big item. I can appreciate the desire of the honorable member to protect horses from sore shoulders, but I remind him that we have an assurance that proper machinery for the manufacture of the best class of collar check is being installed here. That being so, of what is he afraid? The Minister (Mr. Greene) has promised that the requested duties will not come into operation until 1st January next. If the material is not being produced here by that time, he will probably defer the duties for another six months, so that the importers will be able to bring in a few more thousand yards of collar check, and so render it useless to set the local machinery in operation before 1924. There is nothing to prevent the manufacture of collar check and collar cloth in Australia, and I am going to support the request.
– The whole case of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) depends on the fact that hitherto we have not been successful in the manufacture of these particular cloths, for the reason that we have not had the necessary up-to-date machinery. I have, however, had the privilege of visiting the factory at Abbotsford, one of the finest in the State, where a very considerable proportion of such machinery has been installed at vast expense. Those who conduct this industry are entitled to some encouragement in their enterprise. We import something like £200,000 worth of this cloth per annum. It is cloth simple in its manufacture, and I have the definite assurance of those interested in the local factories that our own coarser wool is the very sort required for their purpose. At the present time this coarse wool is a drug on the market, and those concerned are in many instances burning it rather than go to the expense of carting it away. The establishment of this industry guarantees the supply of all this kind of cloth required in Australia. The most up-to-date machinery has been imported, and the industry is worth the recognition and encouragement suggested.
– The farmer is entitled to import this cloth if he requires it.
– I agree that the farmer is entitled to some protection ; but his complaint in the past has been about the defective material, which wasthe result of our obsolete machinery.
– Is this expensive machinery imported purely for the manufacture of collar check?
– The whole item is included.
– Then many of the articles that are manufactured are free and 10 per cent.
– Saddlers’ webs, upholsterers’ webs, and saddlers’ felt for lining horse and cattle rugs are free and 10 per cent. ; but we desire the duty on collar checks, collar cloths, saddlers’ kersey and saddlers’ serge, which are the particular class of goods that is going to be manufactured. I was informed that the machinery installed for this purpose cost, I think, between £20,000 and £30,000, and it is nearly all installed.
– For this factory there has been nearly £100,000 worth of machinery installed.
– The honorable member is quite right in saying that there has been machinery to that value installed in the shape of knitting, weaving, and spinning plant, but I am speaking of a particular branch of the industry. If I thought there was anything substantial in. the objection made, I would not bo prepared to so enthusiastically advocate these duties. I have not visited anything like a fair percentage of the various factories that have come under our notice in the course of the Tariff discussion, but it so happens that I have visited this particular factory, and I invite honorable members to go and judge for themselves. Let the farmers’ representatives, particularly, ask whether we are not justified in giving encouragement to an industry which will consume the coarser wool which is at present comparatively useless. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s proposal if he thinks that,, having regard to the blanket duty, it is a fair one.
– The Minister has to be satisfied, on the 1st January, 1922, that the machinery is installed.
– Yes, the duties will not come into operation at once. The Minister will have to be satisfied that the material oan be satisfactorily manufactured here to supply the requirements of Australia.
.- I have noticed that the recommendations from another place to increase the Tariff have been accepted, while requested reductions are not agreed with. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) says that the farmers’ representatives and the primary producers should support the proposed duties because it means the use of our wool in manufacture. It has also been said that the circulars that have been issued against the duties come from interested sources; but I suppose that” the agitation on the other side is also by interested parties.
– Those interested in the duties simply ask us to go and see the machinery and the article produced.
– I do not necessarily take the same stand as the ‘ honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), but I presuppose that the local stuff is just as good as the imported. The Victorian Master Saddlers Association tells us, in its circular, that the proposed duties will press heavily on the man on the land; and I am inclined to believe that that is so. There will be about 2 lbs., worth about 6d., of this inferior wool in a” collar, judging from the price mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best).
– Will 25 per cent, duty on 6d. press heavily on the man on the land?
– The duty will be on the value of the material, and not on the value of the wool. The price of collars has practically doubled, and that of saddles is excessively high, whilst the prices of primary products are coming down; and all these items press on those who produce from the soil and have to use these articles. Those interested in the factories may be able to “ barrack “ very well; but we ought to recognise the needs of the primary producers who are compelled to be content with possibly a third of the prices they have recently been getting. Things have come to such, a pass that the farthing per acre or per bushel, so often mentioned by the Minister is something to be considered, and my opinion is that the duty even of 25 per cent, will really mean 3s. 6d. or 4s. extra on the collar which the farmer will have to pay.
– It is marvellous how prices are worked up on the plea of the duties imposed. The honorable member for1 Maribyrnong says that there is an abundance of the necessary wool here; but, if that be so, why impose a duty of 25 per cent, against the Mother Country, where wages are high, and coal and all other requirements are expensive? Further, this inferior wool has to be taken to Britain to be made up, and them sent back here. Cannot wo do this work for ourselves without this proposed protection? I should like to see all this work done here, hut without penalizing men on the land, like myself, who have to produce without any protection. I hope the item will be allowed to stand as it left this House.
.- There is something to be said for those who are in favour of a reduction of these duties. I have seen the samples in possession of the Minister (Mr. Greene), and I should like the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr., Fenton) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to examine them, and give me a reason why, in their opinion, the Australian article is better than the imported. Only recently I have been in a partnership which worked thirty horses, and I had an opportunity to judge of the value of these materials. There is not only the man on the land to be considered, but also those engaged in carting on the big timber areas, where the shafting is harder for the horses than on ordinary agricultural areas. The argument of the two honorable members referred to in regard to the relative values of these cloths is wrong. -Apparently, they feel the two samples, and because the local article has the same sort of “ feel “ as a blanket, while the imported article has a harsh roughness, they decide that the former is the better. It is not so, at any rate, for the horses. No doubt when first put on a horse, the soft material is the better, but when a horse works all day in the heavy work to which I have referred, it sweats greatly, and the collar has to be scraped night and morning. If the sweat gets on to -the softer material, it means a double imposition on the man who uses it by reason of the greater number of times the collar, has to be repaired. There is need fori the rougher class of wool in this work, as has been exemplified in the samples produced; and if the local manufacturers could produce that quality of article, there might be something to be said on their side. Even then I would not think there was justification for the increased duties. But while Australians are manufacturing an article which is not as good as the imported line I shall not vote for higher duties the effect of which would be to give local makers scope for the use of wool in a way that would not be to the best advantage of the eventual purchasers of horse collars.
– I intend to move - That the requested amendment he not made.
The following statement has been supplied to me by a practical tradesman: -
The only line of collar check that has been made in the Commonwealth is not equal to, nor, in many cases, suitable for the purpose of collar making and lining, and we have not been able to get them to adopt the proper material for this purpose. The correct collar check is made, of Indian wool, which makes it hard and gives it good wearing qualities. The Australian collar check so far is made of soft wool and stretches too much for the purpose of doing good work.
Users of these goods will have only the best. Inferior collars are likely to injure a man’s horses and perhaps ruin their shoulders. Even if a farmer has to pay another 5s. for a collar he will choose one which will not hurt his horse. I understand, however, that the difference would amount to only about 2s. 6d. per collar. We must have this material. Farmers will not have collars of any other.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) that, instead of moving his amendment, his proper course of action would be to vote against the Minister’s proposed modification of the Senate’s request, after which he would be free to take such action as he might see fit.
– I oppose any additional imposition of duty. When I used to buy collars I paid from 18s. to 21s. each. To-day the cost is from £2 5s. to £2 10s. for a draught-horse working collar. I recently had a number of collars repaired by a saddler, and instead of paying 5s. each to have them stuffed I was charged 15s. per collar. That is a heavy impost upon the man on the land, and especially on the many hundreds of returned soldiers who have recently launched out for themselves. Many of the latter have been unable to buy new goods and have picked up second-hand stuff. Even so, they have had to pay abnormally heavy to have the goods repaired; probably the charges have almost^ equalled the cost of new collars. I trust the Minister (Mr. Greene) will consider the position in the light of what I have stated, and will consent to give the man on the land some relief. He is not in a position to pass on the increased costs as are so many other people in different walks of life. Based upon the price at which wool can be procured to-day - I refer to the rough classes of wool, particularly - local manufacturers should be able to compete on more than even terms with the world.
.- I hope the Committee will agree to the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Greene), although I would prefer to accept the Senate’s .original request. I support the imposition of high duties on all things that can be made in Australia. There is no need to stress the advantage of encouraging the local manufacture of everything used by the people of Australia. If, by increasing duties, the people are required to pay a little more, it is better to make an even distribution of that cost over the whole of the public than that the Government should be forced to dole out assistance to unem-ployed owing to the stagnation of local manufacture because of the overwhelming competition of foreign goods. I support the “Made in Australia” principle every time, and the great bulk of the Australian people are prepared to pay increased prices to demonstrate their agreement with the same policy.
– I find it rather difficult to appreciate the objections of honorable members. One hears, in this instance, the repetition of an old story: “We cannot make good enough stuff in Australia; we have not the raw material ; we have not the machinery.” 1 do not admit that. I believe that our coarse Lincoln wools will make as good collar checks as can be made of Indian hair. I have put a few collars en horses, and I have as much consideration for the horse as has any other man. I should be sorry to work a horse with sore shoulders, or to put a collar on a horse which I thought would give it sore shoulders. I have two samples of cloth before me, one of which is made in Australia. I am prepared to wager that I could put the Australian-made cloth - worked into a locally-manufactured collar - upon a horse and work that horse in season and out of season. So long as a man looks after his horse and its collar the animal should never get a sore shoulder.
– Then why do the British manufacturers import a special wool from India, and why have they continued to do so for generations?
– I am prepared to admit, for the sake of argument, that it is necessary to have Indian hair for the manufacture of collar checks; but, if it comes to that, Australians can import the Indian hair just as do the English manufacturers - provided that we have the proper machinery. What I desire, and ask the Committee to encourage, is the establishment of this industry in Australia. I believe it will be found in the long run that Australians can make as good a collar check out of Australian Lincoln or cross-bred wool as out of Indian hair.
– Practical tradesmen say they cannot do so.
– I take all such, statements, with reservations ; I have read, and have heard, so many of them. People have often said to me, “We cannot do this, that and the other.” There is always something wrong with the Australian climate, or with the Australian raw material, or with something of that kind ! I have not much patience with the man who says that because a thing is Australianmade, or because a raw material is Australian-produced, it is no good. I believe we can do as well in this country - provided there is a reasonable market - as can the manufacturers of any other part of the world. Were it not for this eternal prejudice in favour of foreignmade goods, there would be, in ninetynine cases out of every hundred, no need for duties. If Australians would follow the example of Americans, who say, “ We will have American goods before any other,” there would be little justification for the imposition of duties. We can turn out the goods in this country, but the trouble is that so many of our people say, and act on the prejudice, that Australian goods are no good. They are for ever decrying their own country. I only wish they had some of the American “ boosting “ spirit in them. If we could only get to that point I am satisfied that, in many cases, the patriotism of Australian people for the Australian article would enable us to do away altogether with the need for Tariff protection. We have to break down this prejudice. I am glad to say that we are doing this every day, and I hope it will not be long before Australians will take such a pride in their own country that we shall all be wearing Australian clothes, and using Australian articles of manufacture for all our needs. I believe that in most cases the establishment of local industries will result in cheaper commodities for our primary producers.
– ;I know better. The farmer knows better, too.
– Take, for example, agricultural machinery.
– You can go too far in that matter, too. I have been pretty generous in helping you with the duties, but those items have to come before us again.
– We cannot’ have a policy of Protection without applying it all round.
– Did not the United States of America Government put agricultural machinery on the free list?
– Yes, they do’ now.
– When are we going to put this machinery on our free list?
– We are going to have the Massey-Harris people here very soon. They have already laid down the foundations for an Australian business.
– Order ! I must ask the Minister to confine himself to the item under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show that these duties will not press unduly on the man on the land. Indeed, I would not be surprised if their effect were to lessen the price of many commodities required by our farmer.
– That will be something new, at all events. We have had Protection for forty years. -It has not made things cheaper up to date.
– I am quite satisfied that in 99 cases out of 100 the importer,’ when not faced with competition from a local manufacturer, has lined his pockets pretty well at the cost of the primary producers.’
– The manufacturers have done that, too.
– My experience is that when a local industry is established the importer has to cut his profits. Probably the manufacturer has to do likewise, with the result that the consumer benefits by reduced prices. I would not like to say that- hitherto there has been a monopoly in regard to the class of goods under consideration, but’ I feel satisfied, from such investigations that I have been able to make, that the trade has generally come along one channel, and possibly those engaged in it fear that valuable business is likely to slip away from them unless they can bring influence to bear.
– Where do you think influence has been used mostly in the Tariff debate?
– Influence has been used by all parties - importers and manufacturers - interested in the Tariff. They are, of course, quite entitled to place honorable members in the possession of all the facts concerning our various industries from their point of view. Every member of the community has a perfect right- to do that.
– And it has been done by everybody except the consumer. Ho has not had a look-in in this Tariff.
– The Government were returned on a policy of Protection.
– I never heard Protection mentioned from one end of my division to the other.
– Well, it was the announced policy of the Government. I mentioned it on every platform from which I spoke, and it was most enthusiastically received. Whether the people will be dissatisfied with the working of the Tariff is another question. As for the primary producers, I am satisfied that in the division represented by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) there are a large number of fruitgrowers who feel very gratified with the present position. Wherever possible the Government have given a full measure of protection to the primary producers. They have been given duties far and away above anything that has been asked for by the manufacturing industries. That is a fact.
– The fruitgrowers of Renmark and Mildura did not ask for protection.
– I say they did.
– I can assure the honorable member for Wakefield that I have had as many deputations from primary producers asking -for additional duties as from any association of manufacturers.
– What is the good of talking nonsense!
– What I am saying is quite true. I do not think the duties imposed by this Tariff will press unduly on the man on the land. Directly and indirectly our primary producers have been given a full measure of protection.
.- I cannot understand why there should be such a wild outburst by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). My experience is that those people who talk most loudly about their love of country usually buy in the cheapest market, careless’ of the consequences. Every honorable member must be pleased at the thought of building up Australian manufacturing industries, but we must see to it that in the process our primary industries are not destroyed. From the introduction of the Tariff up to the present there has been a careless disregard for anything except the welfare of ‘the manufacturers of this .country. It is preposterous for the Minister to say that there have been as many deputations from primary producers as from manufacturers asking for imposts in connexion with this Tariff. My chief objection is directed to these ad valorem duties. We know that the cost of all commodities ia two, three, and in some cases four times above pre-war levels, and we are only now realizing what enormous imposts have been placed upon certain commodities by means of these ad valorem duties. There are many items to which I might refer specifically, but I shall not do so at this stage. The industry under consideration is, no doubt, new. Is it not strange that a few months ago, when we were considering the Tariff schedule, the Minister had then no desire to impose duties in this item?
– The machinery had not been imported at that time.
– But surely all ‘these developments have not taken place since last May, when the Tariff schedule was before the Committee. The Minister is not justified now in asking for these duties. I know of no manufacturing industry in connexion with these goods. In the circumstances, we should get further information before passing the item. o
– Does not the honorable member know that the Minister does not intend to impose the duties till the 1st January next? «
– But this will be our last opportunity to say anything about the duties unless the Minister can allow the manufactured articles to come in under item 404.
– We could not do that. The articles are being made here.
– We had a big debate in regard to cotton piece-goods in tubular form that were being imported for certain specific purposes, such as meat wraps, &c, According to the Tariff, cotton piece-goods knitted in tubular form for the manufacture of goods other than apparel, as described by departmental by-laws, were dutiable, British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; and general, 15 per cent. ; but about two months ago a regulation was issued by the Customs Department under which cotton piece-goods, heavy fleece, in tubular form, weighing not less than 8 ozs. per running yard, and for use in the manufacture of apparel, are to be admitted free. After a good deal of discussion it was decided that such goods were to be admitted free when required for a specific purpose, and not for wearing apparel. It is not fair to the Committee when such a change is made, and it shows what little control we have over the duties imposed. It is quite probable that in a couple of months these goods will be admitted free for the purpose of manufacture, and saddlers, particularly those in a small way, will be in an unfortunate position. I trust the Committee will not agree to the request, because the position has not changed since we last dealt with the Tariff.
– I desire to refer to the point raised in connexion with knitted goods in tubular form. The whole object of item 404 in the Tariff schedule is to enable us to admit free of duty such goods as are not made in the Commonwealth. The idea is to avoid collecting duties unnecessarily on goods which are being used in the process of manufacture, and the principle applies particularly to-day to probably 99 per cent. of the particular class of goods which the Committee had in mind when this item was passed. There is a class of tubular knitted goods described by weight, and some other words which are not now before me. These goods were being imported for malting special articles which were not being manufactured in Australia. We made inquiries, and found that the local manufacturers werenot making them, and in order to carry out the expressed wish of the Committee, and in keeping with the general policy of the Government and the De partment, we have admitted special goods free of duty. I may remind the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that all machinery, for instance, is dutiable, but under item 174 we admit millions of pounds’ worth into Australia free of duty. That is done designedly. We simply carry out the expressed intention of the Committee in connexion with this particular class of work, and the whole matter is capable of a very simple explanation. I feel confident that if all these question’s are examined sufficient reason will be found for our action. I do not suggest that the Department is infallible; but taking the whole of our operations under items 174 and 404, it will be found that action has only been taken on good grounds, ana in keeping with our general, policy,
-Isitcompetent for the Minister to omit collar checks?
– It will be quite competent for the honorable member if he desires to move that amendment, and if he does so, I shall be prepared to withdraw mine to allow him to test the feeling of the Committee. I am advised, however, that collar check is one of the articles for the manufacture of which a large plant has been specially designed. I am merely asking for the blanket duty, which I think, under the circumstances, reasonable.
– After what the Minister has said I shall move that the words “ collar check “ be left out.
– I am prepared to report progress at this juncture to enable honorable members to make themselves a little more conversant with the subject.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 11 of 1921 - In thematter of the Australian Telegraphists Union.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1921 - No. 18 - Petroleum Storage.
Seat of Government- Ordinance of 1921 - No. 3 - City Leases, and Regulations thereunder.
House adjourned at 9.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211027_reps_8_97/>.