8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire,by leave of the House, to make a statement with reference to Commonwealth shipping and shipbuilding.
– I rise to a point of order. I have handed to you, Mr. Speaker, a notice of my desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, and the time allotted by the Standing Orders for the discussion of such a motion should not be taken up by a statement by the Prime Minister.
– It is usual to announce to the House, immediately after opportunity has been afforded for the giving of notices of motion, that an intimation has been received that a member desires to move the adjournment formally to discuss’ a definite matter of urgentpublic importance; but itis the rule of Parliament that when a Minister rises he must have precedence. The Prime Minister asks leave to make a
– I do not propose that there shall be any discussion now of the subject that I wish to bring before the House.There will be only my own speech.
– I object.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of. the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and matters appertaining thereto.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Since I first entered this Chamber, in 1917, I have repeatedly taken the opportunity to deal with arbitration matters, especially as they affected the Federal Court, telling the people just what was going on, and the Government’s attitude towards the Court, and arbitration generrally. The position which this Government has taken up in regard to the Court is extraordinary, and probably unparalleled in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. In 1917 a campaign was started, primarily against Mr. Justice Higgins, and, secondarily, against the Commonwealth Arbitration CourtIt was initiated, in this House by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) and other members on the Government side; and in the country by the farmers and settlers’ organizations. Members representing country constituencies were inundated with requests from the branches of those associations asking that Mr. Justice Higgins be removed from the Court, that the powers of the Court be limited, and that the agricultural and pastoral industries be exempted from the operation of the Arbitration Act. The employers’ organizations throughout Australia also passed resolutions, to which publicity was given in this House. Not long afterwards, quarrelling took place between the Prime Minister and Mr. Justice Higgins, who was then President of the Arbitration Court, and hardly a week passed in which disparaging references were not made to the President by the Prime Minister. In November, 1918, or thereabouts, the pastoral organizations throughout Australia were dissatisfied with Mr. Justice Higgins, and with his awards and decisions in relation to their industry. They held a conference, and the secretaries of their organizations drafted a Bill, which was submitted to the Government. But as it was found possible to kill Mr. Justice Higgins without amending the Arbitration Act, it was decided that no action should be taken on the lines suggested. The present Chief Justice of the High Court, then Mr. Adrian Knox, K.C.,gave a certain opinion about the amendment of the Act in a way which would mould it so as to bring it nearer to the heart’s desire of the pastoralists of New South Wales, and all the anti-Labour members of Parliament received a circular-letter from the Pastoralists Association of New SouthWales containing that opinion. Slowly,but surely, the campaign designed to force Mr. Justice Higgins from the Arbitration Court Bench was proceeding. Although he had stated that it was his intention to resign, and those who were intimately connected with the Court, through having business with it, knew, twelve months or more before his resignation that he would resign, he was subjected to constant pin-pricks, and to continuous disparagement by the members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, so that his position became almost untenable. But, notwithstanding the many bitter attacks made on him by the members of the Government, their supporters, and the employers generally, he held to his position. Then the Prime Ministerbrought down his trump card in the Industrial Peace Bill; a huge, cumbersome, costly, unwieldy freak. At that time there were something like 120 cases before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration which had not been dealt with. The business of the Court was congested, and Mr. Justice Higgins had not the slightest hope of dealing with it. The Government took care that he should not deal with it, practically making it impossible for the Court to function. Having allowed case after case, some of which had been listed for as long as two years, to remain unheard, Ministers consistently refused to appoint the additional Judges necessary to deal with those cases. Time and time again, honorable members on this side of the House pressed the urgency of the situation, but the requests were always refused. And, in repeating their refusal, the Government knew full well that the Court was being stultified. Next, but merely asa sop, and not with any definite intention of relieving the congestion, Mr. Justice Starke was appointed. He dealt with one case; maybe, with two; but not more. Subsequently, the Industrial Peace Bill was introduced. It provided for the appointment of Committees, for the creation of Tribunals; heaven alone knows what it did not set out to create. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, “ We have tried the Federal Arbitration Court; it has failed.” But he did not add. as he could have done, that it was himself and his Government who were responsible for its failure. Thepurpose of the Industrial Peace Act, as numbers of members on this side of the House pointed out when debating the measure, was to secure the removal of Mr. Justice Higgins from the Arbitration Court Bench. That intention, as every one knows, was fulfilled. The Arbitration Court was made subordinate to a huge and grotesque freak machine labelled the Industrial Peace Act - a measure, I repeat, which was not intended to function, but was designed to subordinate the Arbitration Court-
– Does the honorable member; want that freak Act repealed?
– Yes, to-morrow!
– So do I.
– No self-respecting Judge could have continued in office with such a measure hanging over him, obviously designed as it was to crush him. Mr. Justice Higgins naturally accepted the view thatthe Industrial Peace Act had been created with the intention of functioning. But it has not yet functioned. A Tribunal was appointed to deal with affairs in the coal-mining industry, and another with the interests of seamen. But Tribunals of similar character had been appointed for like purposes prior to the passage of the Industrial Peace Act. The coal-mining and seamen’s Tribunals, and others also, could have been created without the aid of that Act. It was purely incidental, then, that the Act was given even so much application. Mr. Justice Higgins resigned. He was bound to do that which the employers of Australia, by medium of, theirown Government, had been fighting for years to bring about. However, the Arbitration Court continued to carry on. Its President repeatedly but vainly endeavoured to cope with the work which had accumulated. I emphasize that the Industrial Peace Actwas never intended to function. Its sole and immediately effective purpose was to force Mr. Justice Higgins’ resignation. The only way in which His Honor could have retained his selfrespect was by resigning. When the Industrial Peace Bill passed through this Legislature the Government knew he would resign. And, once Mr. Justice Higgins had resigned, that was the end of the Act. It had served its purpose. Subsequently, at the behest of the employers’ organizations, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was further stultified. Upon the demand of the employers, the Government amended’ the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that three Judges should be given the task of dealing with the matter of industrial hours. But when the amending Bill was passed, the Government failed to appoint those three Judges. They had never intended to do so. Their purpose was to prevent the Australian working man from securing redress of his grievances in the matter of hours.
– That is a pretty strong charge.
– The whole business is pretty strong. The whole course of events provides one of the most disgraceful incidents in the political history of Australia.’ The way in which the Arbitration Court has been manipulated and hampered, and in which the Industrial Peace Act has been prevented from functioning, form chapters, so to speak, in a serial story the disgraceful climax of which is the removal of Mr. Justice Higgins from the Arbitration Court Bench. The whole business, I repeat, is strong; it is unprecedented. Mr. Justice Powers repeatedly asked the Government to give him assistance. Mr. Justice Higgins had done so before him. Honorable members on this side of the House had repeatedly asked that additional Judges should be appointed to the Arbitration Court Bench. But, to everybody, and on every occasion, the Government absolutely refused to take action. I introduced two deputations to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook). One of these was representative of the All-Australian Trades Union Congress. Among other things, it asked the Acting Prime Minister whether he would appoint the requisite number of Judges to deal with the matter of hours. He refused to do so. I again introduced another deputation, which asked for the same thing. Still no action was taken. I went before Mr. Justice Powers, in Chambers, together with several of my colleagues representing the Australian Workers’ Union, and there were present also several representatives from the Pastoralists’ organization. Mr. Justice Powers pointed out that he could not deal with our claims regarding hours, because the Act provided that three Judges must be appointed to consider the subject. He told us that, unless we could secure the appointment of those Judges or bring about the repeal of that portion of the Industrial Peace Act which dealt with the subject-matter, he would be unable to touch upon the question of hours. At last something happened. With surprising and significant alacrity, after the delegates of the Pastoralists Union representing the whole of Australia - in conjunction with myself and other delegates of the Australian Workers Union - had waited upon the Acting Prime Minister, a promise was given that the three Judges would be appointed. They were appointed; they dealt with certain cases involving the question of hours. That was four or five weeks ago, but, notwithstanding repeated requests for the announcement of a decision, none has yet been vouchsafed. Therefore, so far as hours of labour are concerned, the country is in exactly the same position as it was a year ago. And now comes the latest development. The Prime Minister has yet another child to cast before the workers of Australia - a hybrid child, an illegitimate child, I might say ; one which, if permitted to grow, will completely alter the whole of the arbitration and industrial legislative machinery of the Commonwealth. Only the fertile imagination of the Prime Minister could have produced such a scheme, just as none but his agile brain could have thought of promising the appointment of three Judges to deal with hours, and, then, of refraining from honouring the premise. This last extraordinary scheme, the details of which I shall read presently, Has been proposed at the behest of the employers of the country. One of the most extraordinary features about the scheme is that, while the trade unions of this country, especially the Australian Workers Union, have spent large sums of money in going before the High Court, and obtaining a decision which gives the Federal Court power to determine disputes connected with a State or of a State instrumentality, and, notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s exhortations and appeals to the people of Australia for the last twenty years for greater Commonwealth powers, the Prime Minister says in so many words to the States and the workers, “ Though I have always urged, and have always believed, that we should have power to deal with State instrumentalities, and the employees of States, I am going to legislate myself out of all responsibility, and refuse to accept that which has been given us by the High Court.” It is a most anomalous and extraordinary position in which the Prime Minister now finds himself. I have followed the speeches of the right honorable gentleman in all his campaigns, especially in connexion with industrial matters, but it is clear that he has turned a complete somersault, now refusing to grasp with both hands the power offered. It might truthfully be said that two Premiers or representatives of two Labour Governments have agreed to the scheme; but those representatives, in this connexion, cannot have considered the scheme when they did so. The matter must have been dealt with hurriedly, or they could not possibly, after an analysis of the scheme, have agreed to it without consulting their party. The resolution that was agreed to is as follows : -
The several State Parliaments to pass laws under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution referring to the Federal Parliament power to make laws with respect to: -
Federal industries in paragraph (b) to mean such industries as the Court provided for in paragraph (b) of this proposal may from time to time hold to be Federal industries.
The Commonwealth to pass legislation (to commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation as soon as the States have passed the laws referred to) excepting from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration and Conciliation -
This new Tribunal, Board, or Court, whatever it may be called - and I have no doubt that the fertile brain of the Prime Minister will give it quite a novel name - will have jurisdiction to determine the basic wage and the standard hours of labour. I remember quite well the promise of the Prime Minister to create ‘a Royal Commission to deal with the question of the basic wage, and how, after being appointed, that Commission for about twelve months, and at great cost, took evidence all over Australia. At last the Commission presented, practically, a majority report, and I remember how the Government refused to abide by its findings.
– Still, that had the advantage of being another blow at the Arbitration Court!
– Exactly. It was one of these cases in which a step is taken to meet certain circumstances, without the slightest intention of carrying out the recommendations made ; the Commission was something like the Arbitration Court, which cannot function in some instances, and is not allowed by the Government to function in other instances.
This new Court will be cumbersome and costly. It will be given extraordinary powers in some directions; but in other directions there will be limitation of powers. It will be the final Court of appeal from all the States, and it will determine what is a Federal and what is a State matter. Judging from past attempts of this Government to deal with arbitration in Australia, it is quite probable that the new Court will not function,but will be just as dead as the Industrial Peace Act, and just as dead as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is in some ways. Unions going before this new Court will have first of all to fight the question of whether the case is Federal or State, and having spent largesums on these proceedings, will have to fight the case itself. The new Court will, in effect, to a certain extent, as in the case of the Industrial Peace Act, nullify the Federal Court, which will be rendered subordinate, not to a Federal body, but to a body partly Federal and partly State. Then an anomaly arises owing to the fact that theState Judges, by virtue of their number, will be able to dictate to the Commonwealth tribunal as to what shall be the latter’s policy. May I ask for an extension of time for a few minutes. [Extendon of time granted.] The Australian Workers Union and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers were successful in ultimately obtaining a decision from the High Court, which completely reversed a former decision of that Court, and gave the unions the right to go to the Federal Court on behalf of their members who were employed by State instrumentalities. Under the new scheme, however, it will not be possible for cases affecting State instrumentalities to go before the Federal Court; such cases will be blocked out, and absolutely confined to State Courts. By the decision of the High Court, it is possible for the railway employees of the States to obtain an award from the Federal Arbitration Court; but under the new scheme proposed by the Prime Minister, that will be impossible.
– Why does the honorable member say that I proposed the scheme? Why does he make a statement that he knows to be untrue?
– The right honorable gentleman is the father of the scheme, as he has been the father of many schemes designed to prevent the Court functioning.
– That is not so.
– The right honorable gentleman is regarded by the public as the father of the scheme, and it certainly bears a close resemblance to his earlier progeny. By this grotesque scheme, the federated engine-drivers will be unable to go to the Federal Court, and the same disability will apply to all the employees of State instrumentalities throughout Australia. For that, and other reasons which will be elaborated by my colleagues, I believe that this proposal is not in the best interests of Australia. Possibly it is only another attempt to nullify the work of the Arbitration Court, to stultify that tribunal, and render it subordinate to the States and to private organizations. It is another step in the endeavour by the present Government to kill the Federal
Arbitration Court. A few days ago, when attention was drawn by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to a statement by Mr. Justice Powers, the Prime Minister said that if the Judge refused to function, the Government could do nothing; but if he asked for assistance, it would be conceded. On many occasions, both Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. J ustice Powers, and almost every honorable member on this side of the House, have asked for assistance, and the same request has been made by innumerable deputations to the Prime Minister, and Sir Joseph Cook when he was Acting Prime Minister. That assistance has been refused on every occasion, and now, notwithstanding the promise that the Court would function, there are sixty cases listed, some of which have been pending from six to twelve months; and the Judge adopts the extraordinary attitude that,because a certain resolution has been passed by the Premiers’ Conference, he must take cognizance of it, although he has not been officially notified of it, and no intimation has been given of the introduction of an amending Bill into any of the State Legislatures. Possibly, not one of the sixty cases will be heard before the Court vacation; and Heaven knows what new scheme the Government will have evolved by the time the vacation is over and before this House can re-assemble ! It is the duty of the Government to say straight out whether they intend to defeat the Federal Arbitration Court. If they intend to continue to prevent the Court functioning by putting obstacles in its way, and to make it suborlinate to other bodies, they should repeal the Act in its entirety, and not, by underhand methods,such as the Industrial Peace Act and the amendment which prevents the Court from dealing with working hours, seek to hamstring it. If the Government intend to kill the Court, let them do it openly; let them have the courage of their convictions. I ask the Prime Minister to make a statement as to what he intends to do, so that the people may know what they can hope for, and where they stand in regard to the Federal Arbitration Court.
– I do not know why the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) regards this matter as being urgent enough to justify him in moving the adjournment of the House. He has had the fullest opportunity to make out his case, and, leaving on one side that part of it which represented the traditional attitude of the honorable gentleman and those associated with him towards me and the party which I have the honour to lead, what has he said? He has made a number of more or less irrelevant statements, and all that can be said of them is that they are like the curate’s egg, “good in parts.” The gravamen of his case, so far as it is urgent and a justification for the action, he has taken, arises from the present congestion of business in the Arbitration Court. The honorable member does not say, although he has attempted to create the impression, that this Government is responsible for the constitutional distribution of industrial powers; but he did say, in so many words, that I was responsible for the resolution arrived at at the Premiers’ Conference, which makes some suggestions for a redistribution of powers. Surely, the honorable member is forgetting the “ ABO “ of his case. ,For many years longer than the honorable member has been in this Chamber, I have urged that the one and only solution of the trouble in connexion with the Arbitration Court is to secure unity of control. This can only be effected by an abolition of clashing jurisdictions, by the simple and equitable method of vesting full control of. all industrial matters in the Commonwealth. I do not remember the honorable gentleman, in days gone by, fighting a very valiant battle for this, the only real remedy for the present trouble. If he did he was well in the background. But I do remember a great deal of opposition on the part of the honorable member and the organization he represents, and those others of a like cult. They, certainly, were not favorable to the proposals for the amendment of the Constitution for which I was responsible. However, as the honorable member has made some personal references to me, perhaps he will permit me to say that, as I was the first man in this Parliament to make this a live question, and put it before the people, any criticism that has to be directed against me should come from some other than the honorable member, who, so far as I know, was never associated in any way with the crusade to amend the Constitution. I am not responsible in any way for the desire on the part of the State Premiers to exempt Stat© instrumentalities. The honorable member should have told the House that two of these Premiers were members of his own party, and that one of those two was Premier of the State from which he himself hails. He should have told the House what he very well knew, that over and over again, failing to get the people to agree to what I conceive to be a proper distribution of powers as to industrial matters, I have tried to get some modus vivendi. In 1916 I made an arrangement with the States for the surrender of powers in lieu of putting a referendum to the people, but with one exception the States did not do their part to carry out that agreement. That particular modus vivendi stopped short of what the Commonwealth desired, but took us a great deal further than we are at present. The honorable member did not tell the House what he ought to have told it, that the Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, whether it has two Judges or ten, is a stricken and ineffective instrument, which that distinguished gentleman who presided over it for so long termed a Serbonian bog. I do not know how many times this House, at the suggestion of Mr. Justice Higgins, has done its best to find some firm ground upon which to take the Court out of that bog. The’ Act has been amended times without number, but each amendment has left us little better off than we were before. The only solution which I can see is an amendment of the Constitution. When the Premiers’ Conference met, suggestions were put forward for the ‘ abolition ‘of the whole industrial machinery of the Commonwealth, and the settlement of industrial disputes by State tribunals only. To such proposals, of course, it was impossible to agree. The position was sought to be established that the real trouble was due to the overlapping jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but I suggested that the remedy lay rather in vesting complete control in the Commonwe’alth, and in making it a control about which there could be no constitutional or legal difficulties. That is the position I have always taken up. However, it was impossible to get the Premiers to’ agree to my suggestion. They then put forward the modus vivendi which the honorable member has condemned to-day, not realizing that the Premiers of Queensland and New South Wales are parties to it, and are committed to introduce it into their respective Legislatures. If there be any blame in the matter, it must be shared among the just and the unjust, and I am prepared to take my share, and no more than that. I venture to say that what has been proposed by the State’ Premiers, and accepted by the Commonwealth, is an incomparably better system than that which exists to-day. What is the position to-day? Can any one define it? No. What does the honorable member suggest? His solution is the appointment of more Judges, but that would be merely a temporary expedient which I shall examine in. a moment or two. As a solution of this great problem it is beneath contempt. The proposal emanating from the Premiers’ Conference is that industrial power in this country should be allocated in such a way that whatever control is given to the Federal Arbitration Court shall be complete and unchallengeable. It will certainly be limited, but to the extent to which the power is handed over to the Commonwealth no one will be in a position to challenge it on the ground of illegality or unconstitutionality. Power will be given to the Federal Court to make a common rule, which it cannot do to-day. Some industries will be declared Federal, and some will not.’ On the face of it, a sound basis on which to work seems to have been arrived at. At any rate, the Commonwealth have accepted the Premiers ‘ proposals as a modus vivendi which this Government will give effect to when the States have done their part. The people in this country will shortly have an opportunity, I hone, at a Convention, of saying what they think ought to be done, so that this arrangement may merely be regarded as a temporary agreement pending the decision of the people. If the decision arrived at by the Convention is rejected when put to the people by way of a constitutional referendum, and if the States adopt this arrangement, we can fall back upon it; otherwise the only alternative will be to continue the system in force to-day.
Now, a word or two about the congestion of business. The honorable member for Darling has made a number of statements which it would be flattery to call merely inaccurate. He started out by saying that 1 had introduced the Industrial Peace Bill in order to destroy the Arbitration Court, and particularly to compel Mr. Justice Higgins to resign as President df that Court. I refer the honorable member to the words of his own Deputy Leader (Mr. Charlton), because it was at the instigation and suggestion of the unions which his Deputy Leader represents that the Bill was introduced, and that honorable gentleman ha9 said that it is the best Act that has ever been placed upon the Commonwealth statutebook. It is perfectly true that this measure does not interest the Australian Workers Union, but perhaps the honorable member for Darling is not yet awake to the fact that he is not yet in control of the machinery of government - a fact rejoiced at, not only by the people of the country, but also by the great masses of the unionists of Australia. [Extension of time granted.] The honorable member made reference to the Industrial Peace Act. He condemned it. It is evident he does not recall the circumstances responsible for its existence. That Act has performed a most useful, purpose. It was introduced by me, and placed on the statute-book at the instigation of a great union comprising a very large body of men who would not attorn to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. They declined absolutely to go near that Court, and for the sake of industrial peace we introduced this other legal means of redress. The honorable member for Darling said that it had been passed to destroy the Arbitration Court or to compel Mr. Justice Higgins to resign. In the face of the facts, such a statement is not only untrue, but ridiculous. Then the honorable member said that the Act had not functioned. It has functioned. It has functioned to the full extent agreed upon in this House, and has/ not transcended by onethousandth part of an inch the limitations imposed upon it in the statement that I made when introducing the measure. The honorable member said that it was introduced to “ kill “ the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, yet in the next breath he declared that it had not functioned. Docs he think that I am so poor an expert in the gentle art of assassination that, if I wanted to “kill” a Court, I could not aim a surer stroke than this?
In regard to the congestion of the business of the Court, for which he says the Government are responsible, what are the facts ? At the beginning of this year, Mr. Justice Powers was appointed Deputy President, and was able to inform me that the list was practically clear. Then the Government which, the honorable member says, have done nothing to help the Court, but everything to hinder it, passed an Act which relieved it of onehalf of the business with which it had previously to deal. We introduced and passed the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill, providing for the creation of a special Court to deal with the complaints of the public servants of the Commonwealth. We allocated to the Arbitration Court Mr. Justice Starke as well as Mr. Justice Powers as Deputy Presidents, so that at the end of last year there were three Justices performing duty in the Arbitration Court. In March last, Mr. Justice Powers, in a letter to me, expressed the opinion that, relieved of the Public Service cases, the work of tha Court could be carried on by one Justice. In another letter, which he addressed to me on 22nd April, he said that further experience had convinced him that one Justice could do the work. That view, however, proved to be too optimistic. The list began to grow, and on 10th August last Mr. Justice Powers informed the Government that it was again congested, and that the appointment of a Deputy was necessary. Deputies, however, can be appointed only as prescribed by the Act. They must he Justices of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State. This matter engaged the most serious attention of the Government. I was communicated with, and gave my advice, for- what it was worth, stating that, in my opinion, a Deputy should be appointed. The State Supreme Courts were approached as well as the High Court of the Commonwealth, but it was impossible to obtain a Deputy. The Chief Justice of . the Commonwealth waa unable to spare another High Court Justice for regular work as Deputy President of the
Arbitration Court. At the earnest request of the Government, he allowed two Justices to act temporarily for the special purpose of hearing questions relating to hours of employment, which, under the Act, had to be dealt with by three Justices. Beyond that, it was impossible for him to go. The Government then, so far from doing nothing to help the Court, has done everything that it could. The congestion of business to-day is very serious, and relief can be given to the Court only by an amendment of the Act giving the Government power to appoint Deputies who are not Justices of the High Court or of a State Supreme Court-. In reply to a deputation, representing one section of the Graziers Association, which waited on me yesterday, I said it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to effect that purpose. Mr. Justice Powers was so informed some days ago.
Examined generally, the case which the honorable member for Darling has brought before the House as a matter of urgent public importance is shown to rest upon misrepresentation of the facts, and a misconception of the true position. Apart from constitutional amendments, there is, and can be, no final settlement of this vexed problem. The honorable member has condemned unsparingly the arrangement arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference, and has sought to saddle me with the whole of the blame. I am no more responsible than any other member of the Conference; but I repeat that, as a modus vivendi, that arrangement is incomparably superior to the present system. If the States carry out their part, I shall be prepared to carry out mine. The honorable member says that it exempts State instrumentalities. It does, but I would point out to him that every one of the State Premiers was determined that that should be the price of any concession made. The honorable member can continue his observations before that final Court of appeal to which I understand he resorts in his leisure moments, and carry the case to the Premier of New South Wales, in another place. The State servants of this country had every opportunity to come under the Federal Act, and it is perfectly well known that when they were asked to express a desire to do so they voted against it.
– That is not so.
– It is true, and every one knows that it is. They may not have so voted in this State, but they certainly did in New South Wales.
– I merely remark that that is nonsense.
– The honorable member’s intrusion into this sphere is professional. My interest in it is patriotic. He loves the Conciliation and Arbitration Court as a rich brother. When he hears that it is sick he is very sad. If he heard of its death he would be consolable, if the testamentary arrangements were satisfactory.
I have only to say that the Government, at an early date this session, will introduce into this House legislation to provide for the appointment of Deputies other than Justices of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State. There is, however, so much to be done that if there is going to be a long discussion on this, or any other question, it is obvious that no real work can be accomplished. If the honorable member wishes to get this matter through, may I suggest to him that he should use his influence with his friends to expedite public business, because I shall not be responsible, having introduced the measure, for its not passing. I shall do my best to carry out any promise that I have made, but it is for Parliament to decide what action shall be taken.
.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is to be commended for having brought this matter before the House, because it is of burning interest to all industrialists throughout Australia. He complained of the congestion of business in the Arbitration Court, and blamed the Administration of recent years for it. He also complained of the arrangement that was recently come to between the Premiers and the Commonwealth for an amendment of the Arbitration law. In my opinion, the Government is very largely responsible for the congestion that has occurred. It surprises me that the Prime Minister, in defending himself from the attack of the honorable member, ignored the fact that this Parliament some time ago, at the instigation of the Government, passed a Bill to amend the
Arbitration Act. That amendment of the Act required that the question of hours must be dealt with by a Court of three Judges.
– Quite right, too!
– Then, why did not the Government immediately appoint three Judges to hear such cases? Instead of doing so, they allowed months to elapse before the appointments were made, so that the Court was practically hamstrung, and found it impossible to deal with many of the cases coming before it. I said at the time, and I repeat now, that when the Arbitration Court was established to settle industrial disputes it was never intended that the tribunal set up to deal with other conditions of labour should not be able to deal with the question of hours. That is one of the most important questions that arises.
– Especially in the timber industry.
– In almost every industry. Why did the Government take action to prevent the Court from dealing with the question of hours of labour ? They did so because of agitation outside by interested persons. The Government thereupon introduced an amending Bill to prevent a tribunal which had been in existence for a number of years from continuing to deal with the question of hours unless three Judges were on the Bench ; and the necessary Judges were not appointed until months afterwards. That was equivalent to saying to the industrialists of Australia, “ If you want your hours of labour shortened, we shall take care that you do not get your desire, because the Court is not competent to hear your demands; and, if you strike, you are amenable to the pains and penalties of the law.” The Prime Minister said nothing about all that, which is the crux of the position. I” differ from the honorable member for Darling regarding the Industrial Peace Act. That Act has done a great deal of good. It has certainly functioned in the coalmining industry, and has prevented a big upheaval ; but the Government are not justified in tying up the Arbitration Court. Facilities are needed for dealing with industrial disputes as they arise. It was not to be expected of a Ministry which claimed to be sympathetic towards arbitration that it would tie the hands of the Court.
I come now- to the other matter dealt with by the honorable member. The Prime Minister said first’ that it was the Premiers who had agreed to the amendment of ‘the Arbitration Act, but he stated subsequently that the Conference was unanimous regarding it, so that he was a party to what was agreed upon. The effect of this agreement is that demands touching upon the basic wage, and questions of hours of labour, can no longer be dealt with by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, whether composed of one or of three Judges, but must be referred to another tribunal, which is yet to be created, and which is to consist, not of Federal Judges alone, but of Federal and State Judges. The very thing that we have always voted against, and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has always opposed, the right of appeal from a finding of the Arbitration Court, is now being brought forward. A tribunal is to be set up to which appeals from a lesser tribunal can be taken.
– This means that there will be an appeal in every case.
– It means that there will be no arbitration. Can the industrialists be expected to register under an Act which says to them. “ You can have certain minor grievances dealt with, but questions affecting the basic wage and hours of employment must be submitted to a special Court, and if either party is dissatisfied with the decision, (it may appeal to a higher Court ?” It is said that there is a congestion of business now in the Arbitration Court, there being sixty cases waiting. But what will happen when appeals have to be heard? Does any one think that employers, if dissatisfied with an award, will refrain from appealing ? Certainly not. The employers’ organizations will also appeal, and there will be no finality. How long will arbitration last under such conditions? It must, after a short time, break down under its own weight. The strange thing is that we have been constantly asking for greater powers for the Commonwealth to enable our Arbitration Court to deal with State instrumentalities. A change in the personnel of the High Court - Bench has brought about a more liberal interpretation of the Constitution, and it has now been decided that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can deal with State instrumentalities. But no sooner is this judgment delivered, and the Commonwealth gets a power for “ which we have been asking for years; than we take steps to prevent its use by entering into an agreement under which State instrumentalities will be subject to the State Governments. Having got a power for. which we have asked for years, we agree not to use it. The High Court has said that the Constitution gives us a power for which we have long been asking, and we reply that we will not accept it, It is proposed to set up a tribunal which will not have jurisdiction over State instrumentalities, these being left to the State authorities. The industrialists everywhere are taking up arms against this arrangement. I am glad’ that the Prime Minister said that the industrialists are to be consulted about this matter. I believe that they will condemn the arrangement, notwithstanding that two Labour Premiers are parties to it. In Sydney the unions propose to hold a Conference te consider it. It is stated in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that -
Among the shipping unions the decision is looked upon with the utmost concern. The Merchant Service Guild of Australasia has forwarded the following telegram to Mr. Hughes, Pri’me Minister: - “After suffering the gravest injustice for nearly twenty years, the guild obtained, at great expense, a favorable judgment from the High Court regarding State instrumentalities. Surely you cannot contemplate interfering with this Federal right under the Constitution?”
Captain W. G. Lawrence, general secretary of the guild, has written to Mr. Hughes as follows: - “In explanation of the position, I am directed to say that the State Governments and semi-State Government Departments, such as Harbor Trusts, &c, aTe the employers of a considerable number of my members, and for the last seventeen years we have invariably found them paying less, and granting less favorable conditions, than ruled in the shipping industry generally. There exists no State Industrial Court clothed with jurisdiction to make an award between the Government and this class of employee.”
We having gained the power to deal in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with the disputes of these unions, an agreement has been made with the States which will prevent it from being used. A number of other unions have complained of the agreement, but I have not time now to quote their views. That there may be no doubt about the intention to provide for an Appeal Court, let me read paragraph c of *he resolutions of the Con- ference with the Premiers. It was resolved that the several State Parliaments should pass laws with respect to, among other things -
Court of Appeal, with jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from awards, orders, or determinations of Commonwealth or State industrial tribunals or authorities, where the Court holds that the exercise of jurisdiction is necessary or expedient for the purpose of harmonizing conflicting or competing awards, orders, or determinations in different States; excepting, however, persons employed by a State or by a State instrumentality.
– There is to be an appeal only in special circumstances.
– When cases are taken to the Arbitration Court, a log is filed which includes every grievance which can be thought of, so that all matters in dispute may be adjudicated upon, and among the many questions to be dealt with there is sure to be always some which will afford grounds for an appeal. Then there will be an appeal, and the award will be suspended. When at last the appeal is heard, after considerable delay, the award may be declared invalid. So, after many months of waiting, all that time will have been lost, and all the money spent by the union concerned will have been wasted. When the workers of Australia agreed upon the arbitration system in preference to strikes and lock-outs, they believed that a tribunal would be created which would deal with their claims within a reasonable period. That is impossible, however, with the machinery in existence, and with such as has been proposed. Indeed, we are going from bad to worse. The question of the powers of a tribunal has nothing to do with the real facts of the position. The proposal to bring the matter of hours before a tribunal of three Judges was merely intended to secure further delay. Now comes the further scheme emanating from the Premiers’ Conference; and this, again, is designed solely to hamper the hearing of arbitration claims. As a life-long advocate of arbitration, I say that its greatest value lies in the ready redress of grievances. What attraction is there for a working man in having his claim held up for twelve months and longer?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It appears that the economic interests of this country have been moving the Government for a further, and, as usual, unsatisfactory amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration laws. Owing to varying awards in the different States regarding hours and basic wages, there has been an undesirable lack of uniformity regarding competition in the Home market. Therefore, the Premiers’ Conference has been moved to issue the latest proposals. The interests of the workers themselves have not been considered at all. The workers should not expect consideration in the circumstances. The fact of the Labour Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland agreeing to the proposals does not diminish the strength of my contention. The various State instrumentalities are still to be left to the States to control and administer; the newest proposals will not affect them, so far as hours and wages are concerned. That accounts for the attitude of the State Labour Premiers; but it should be remembered that those two Premiers are willing to permit the transfer from State authority to Federal control of the whole of the rest of the workers. They are willing that these should be thrown to the mercy of the exploiting interests. In New South Wales, the forty-four hours week operates, and the New South Wales manufacturing interests have found themselves at a disadvantage in competition with manufacturers in the other States.
– The honorable member will admit that the workers cannot do as much in forty-four hours as in fortyeight ?
– I will not admit that, but I do say that they would be fools if they did as much. What benefit would there be in securing a reduction of hours if a man had to do as much in forty-four as he had previously done in forty-eight? The same proposals as have now emanated from the Premiers’ Conference were contained in the Constitution amendment questions put before the people at the last election. That is to say, the scheme was the same, camouflaged. It was then proposed to transfer the control of industry to the Commonwealth. However, the late honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) clearly saw what was behind the Prime Minister’s purpose, and when the trap was revealed to them, the majority of the workers of Australia followed the late honorable member’s lead. Had the amendment of the Constitution been agreed to, these latest proposals would not have been formulated at the Premiers’ Conference. The exploiting interests have decided that some machinery must be designed to place them all on an equal competitive footing. The pity is that the representatives of the workers should endeavour to perpetuate the system which has given rise to these schemes of the exploiters. How can one expect an Arbitration Court, State or Federal, which has been brought into existence to temporarily adjust differences that are fundamental, and, therefore, incapable of adjustment, to give anything like satisfaction? The history of arbitration, State and Federal, has revealed the impossibility of achieving anything substantial. The history of arbitration may be summed up as a series of measures, each amending its predecessor, and all designed to achieve the impossible. The Industrial Peace Act was intended to amend and improve the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Now come these further proposals to amend the Industrial Peace Act. Each measure creates the necessity for an amending Act; and so the business must continue. The fact that Labour Governments are in power in two of the States does not touch the real point at all. Those Administrations must carry on the existing economic order. They must do so or go out of business; so they conform to ruling conditions. Nevertheless, arbitration is no more satisfactory in a Labour-governed State than in one governed by Liberals, or Conservatives, or what not. No matter what may be the character of the Government, the interests represented by the political party in power determine the nature of arbitration awards as they are given. No one can deny that. The merits or demerits of a claim do not govern the position. What is the use of honorable members talking nonsense about a Court or a Judge being free from, or above, political interests? The scheme most recently propounded by the Prime Minister, at the Premiers’ Conference, is intended solely to bring about a reduction in the standard of living of the working community. That is to be accomplished by increasing the hours of labour, or by reducing wages, or both; and there is a world-wide movement in that direction. As an aftermath of the war there is an endeavour by the owning interests to make the working class pay the cost of the war, an endeavour that is quite apparent to all who follow the course of everyday events. In European countries, in America, and in this country, a campaign is being sedulously fostered by the interests represented by honorable members opposite for the reduction of wages and the lengthening of hours. After all that was said during the war about a *’ new world for labour,” and so forth, the desire is to reduce the conditions of existence even below the prewar standard ; and the new scheme now under discussion is only one of the various methods that have been devised to that end. The hope is that those unions which have not yet weaned themselves away from the Arbitration Court may be forced away by the high cost of the proceedings.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the request that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has made for the appointment of an additional Arbitration Court Judge. If arbitration is to be of any value it must be arbitration which permits of the speedy handling of cases, for nothing irritates litigants more than do the “ law’s delays.” While I support the request of the honorable member, I enter my emphatic protest against some of the assertions he made as to the attitude of the farmers, settlers, and pastoralists towards the Court. I absolutely deny that the Pastoralists Association ever made any organized attempt to remove Mr. Justice Higgins from the Arbitration Court, though I admit that, unofficially, certain members of the organization have expressed themselves rattier severely in public with regard to some of his actions. The association has always adhered strictly and loyally to any award given. On the other hand, the organizations of the workers have not at all times adhered loyally and strictly to the awards, even when the Pastoralists Association has generously improved the terms already conferred by the Court. For instance, in 1917 an award was obtained, and this applied to conditions prevailing during the war. What did the Australian Workers Union do? That organization went to the Queensland State Court, and had awarded in its favour there terms which the Federal Court had refused. The Federal Court was occupied two months in dealing with that case, but the Queensland Court, almost without hearing any evidence, or, at any rate, hearing very little, reduced the working hours from forty-eight to forty-four, and granted to the men six or eight other concessions which had been refused by the Federal Court. In other words, the Australian Workers Union first of all took advantage of the Federal Court, and, having got all it could there, went to the State Court, and endeavoured to defeat the Federal award.
– The man who kills the beast sells the meat and the skin too !
– That may be, but the Australian Workers Union, having succeeded in having the conditions they desired made operative in Queensland, made use of it in New South Wales and other States in order to force terms which they knew they could not obtain constitutionally.
– Did the Australian Workers Union .not withdraw all its demands in New South Wales?
– No; it did not. As a matter of fact. a certain rule was incorporated in the Australian Workers Union rules in an effort to defeat the Federal award. And what happened after that ? When conditions in the pastoral industry became brighter, the pastoralists voluntarily made certain concessions to the men, paying 40s. instead of 30s. per 100 for shearing and allowing shed hands 90s. instead of the 60s. awarded by the Court.
– Where was that done?
– In New South Wales. The matter of hours was fought in Northern New South Wales, and from what I can gather he men were successful in a good many cases. These facta clearly show the different attitudes adopted by the two organizations regarding the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The pastoralists’ organizations have always loyally abided by those awards, while the men’s organizations have done their best to bring the awards to naught.
In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Darling described the Industrial Peace Act as, I think, a “ gro tesque freak.” But was that Bill not asked for by the men who are most closely associated with and represent the unions which control the miners? I remember one exciting incident on the floor of this House, when it was threatened, as a reprisal against the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) for voting against the Government, that the Industrial Peace Bill would be withdrawn. That does not look as. if the whole of the Opposition regarded that Bill as a means of smashing up the Arbitration Court.
– We voted against that Bill at every stage.
– Honorable members opposite did not adopt that attitude in regard to the introduction of the measure; they said that if it were not passed industrial Australia would be thrown into confusion.
There remains something more to be done in regard to conciliation and arbitration. The arrangement arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference will, in my opinion, prove to be merely a stop-gap; it will take us about as far as did the arrangement arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference in 1915. At that Conference, -the representatives of the States gaily promised to induce their several Parliaments to agree to the handing over of certain powers to the Commonwealth, but, as a matter of fact,()only one State carried a measure with that object as far as the second chamber, the proposals in all the other States not getting beyond the Legislative Assembly. There is only one means by which a proper condition of affairs can be secured in connexion with conciliation and arbitration, and that is by means of the Constitutional Convention; and the sooner that Convention is held the better it will be for everybody in Australia - the better it will be in the interests of industrial peace and good-will between employee and employer.
.- By any observant student of industrial history it is fully recognised that for some considerable time there has been a huge conspiracy against the working classes in regard to conditions of labour and wages. It is known that the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Manufactures of the Commonwealth are quite out of sympathy with the principles of arbitration - that their desire is to barter and deal with, the men themselves, personally and individually, if that be possible. The present period of- trade depression, with its consequent army of unemployed, and further supplementation by continued arrival of new citizens from the United Kingdom, assists them materially in demanding a reduced standard of wages and conditions. The desire is to abolish the advantages, slight though they .may be, that the workers have gained by recourse’ to the Arbitration Courts. It is no surprise to those who represent Labour to see an effort again being made by those who represent the master class to make the Arbitration Court cumbersome, difficult, and expensive for -workers, an assertion continually made by representatives of the employers that the worker is always desirous of creating industrial strife and unrest in the community. That is absolutely a libel on the working man; it certainly is not correct. It is rather those represented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his supporters who, by trying to inflame the mind of the working man - who seek to deprive him of constitutional means of redress - are responsible for any dislocation of industry that may occur. The Prime Minister in his day has been a great champion of the unions in their efforts to secure justice by means of the Courts; but today even his ardour seems lessened. There is a desire on his part to make the Commonwealth Court to a large degree subservient to other Tribunals, which are, in some respects, to be made responsible to unsympathetic Governments in the various States. “When the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) gives such proposals his blessing, I immediately become convinced that the interests of the worker will not be justly conserved. In South Australia, the Premier (Mr. Barwell) has no sympathy whatever with arbitration.
– He is a good man !
– That expression of opinion will be remembered against the honorable member till the Judgment Day. Mr. Barwell has endeavoured on every occasion to destroy the power of industrial tribunals and Arbitration Courts and every other constitutional means of giving a measure of relief to the worker. He has actually incited the workers to take the law into their own hands, and to act contrary to the letter and spirit of the Industrial Code Act, promising that he would protect them against prosecution if they did so. So far from the worker being responsible for industrial unrest and turmoil, it is the captains of industry and their representatives who are responsible always for creating that spirit of unrest that is pronounced in industry to-day. The workers are rightfully indignant, because they are not being justly treated and afforded the opportunities that they should have to get redress of their grievances by constitutional means. It has been the constant protest of members upon this side of the House that the Federal Arbitration Court activities have been unduly limited. Request has repeatedly been made for the appointment of additional Justices to deal with the congestion in the Court. Although the Prime Minister has said that the proposed new scheme will result in expediting the business of the Arbitration Court, I .am confident that it will make confusion worse confounded. There will be so many appeals to the new Court of Appeal that little or no progress will be made towards a determination of the merits of the various cases. The workers, through their industrial organizations, have paid many thousands of pounds in’ advancing their claims through the Federal Court, and in their name I demand some measure of consideration from this Legislature. I regard the resolution of the Premiers’ Conference as an act of treachery towards the men employed in connexion with State instrumentalities. It is a deliberate sacrifice of their rights as citizens of the Commonwealth. Those who are engaged in connexion with various State activities have for a number of years endeavoured to get their wages and conditions of labour determined by a constitutional tribunal ; but until recently it was necessary for them to throw themselves upon the mercy of their masters. It was the desire of the Federal Legislature that State instrumentalities should come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and in 1904 the Attorney-General of the Reid-McLean Administration made provision to that effect in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. A decision of the High Court, however, deprived State servants of that advantage; and it was not until last year that the High Court, differently constituted, reversed the old decision and established the right of employees of State instrumentalities to;have their cases heard by the independent Federal tribunal. Now we find that another attempt is being made to deprive them of what they have gained, and to make them subject to whatever influence their State masters choose to bring to bear upon them. The railway employees in South Australia have been continually harassed in their endeavour to secure improved wages and conditions. School teachers, other State public servants, railway officers, and railway employees generally have been deprived of the right enjoyed by all other workers in the community to have their wages and conditions of labour fixed by even a State Court; and if a Premier like Mr. Barwell, who is anautocrat, (and desires to be a complete power unto himself, and who has no sympathy with industrial arbitration, is able to secure from this Parliament power to remove State employees from the Commonwealth jurisdiction, they will be absolutely sacrificed (by ‘being deprived of the means of having their claims heard by an independent authority. Although the Premier of South Australia definitely promised the officers of the Railway Service and the State Public Service that they would be afforded an opportunity of approaching industrial tribunals, and later round-table conferences,he has within the last fortnight expressed a doubt as to whether it will be possible for him to redeem that promise. I claim the protection of this Parliament for the workers who are thus situated, and it is the duty of the Prime Minister and his supporters to be loyal to the views enunciated in the various pamphlets that were written by the right honorable gentleman in connexion with the Constitution alteration referenda, so that the Commonwealth Court may have power to regulate the anomalies that exist to-day as a result of so many different tribunals dealing with matters that should be controlled by one independent Court having jurisdiction over the whole Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the negative.
– (By leave.) - I promised the House that I would make a full statement in regard to shipping and shipbuilding. Although these two phases of Commonwealth activity are closely related, they must be considered separately, each on its own merits. But, in order to present the case in proper perspective, it is necessary that I should first make some remarks of a general character covering both shipping and shipbuilding. First, let me remind honorable members of the circumstances under which the Commonwealth steamers were acquired and shipbuilding was commenced in this country. Honorable members know very well the position that was created by the great war. They know how completely dependent this country is for its prosperity and its very existence as a progressive nation, upon overseas markets. The immediate effect of the war upon Australia was to cut us off from those overseas markets, and upon which we absolutely depend for our prosperity. We were at one stroke thus prevented from disposing of our staple products, for which there was acute demand.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it in order that, just as the Prime Ministeris about to commence his speech, graphs relating to shipping prices should be distributed in the Chamber by brokers who are advertising that ships can be purchased more cheaply than they can be made in ‘Australia ? Who is responsible for the distribution of these advertisements ?
– I am responsible, and if the honorable member had waited longer he would have heard the explanation.
– I have no knowledge as to the character or origin of these papers, but I assume that they have been distributed by the Prime Minister for the information of honorable members in connexion with the statement he has commenced to make by leave of the House.
– Those graphs were printed at the Government Printing Office. I was speaking of the effect of the war upon Australia in relation to the
Bale of its primary products. A Parlia mentary paper, which was ordered to be printed on 6th June, 1918, shows the extent to which the war deprived the Commonwealth of the means of carrying its goods to the overseas markets. Vessels with a capacity of 252,000 tons or thereabouts were withdrawn from the overseas trade, and the effect of this upon the primary producer needs no emphasis from me. This acute shortage of freight created a position which at once threatened the Allies with defeat, and the Commonwealth and its producers with disaster. The conditions created by the shortage of shipping were responsible for the formation of our Pools, the first of which was the Wheat Pool.
I shall quote some figures to show the effects of the submarine campaign on seaborne trade, and to illustrate the necessity which existed for supplying the Allies with the food products of the outer Dominions of the Empire. In 1916 all the Allies were turning their attention to the matter of replacing tonnage sunk by the German submarines. The submarine menace was a direct challenge to Britain’s sea supremacy. Had it succeeded, victory for the Allies would have been impossible, and complete and irrevocable disaster would have overtaken every part of the British Empire. The submarines had, in fact, found the Achilles heel of the Empire. The destruction of Allied, and particularly British, tonnage by enemy submarines increased at such an alarming ratio that 911 vessels, representing 3,729,000 tons, were destroyed in 1917. The total losses of the British and Allied vessels amounted to 15,053,000 tons. The acute shortage of freight thus created had to be regarded from two stand-points: First. its effect upon, the Australian primary producers, and, secondly, upon the Allies. The 45,000,000 people of Great Britain had to be fed, principally by products from overseas. In 1916, Canada had 8,000,000 tons of wheat; Australia, 2,000,000 tons of wheat; and. Argentine, 3,000,000 tons of wheat, which all had to be taken, somehow or other, despite the submarine campaign, unscrupulous, reckless, and barbarous as it was, to Great Britain and the Allied Armies operating in Prance, Belgium, and elsewhere. All parts of the Empire were affected, but none so acutely as Australia. There was a great demand throughout the Empire for more ships, and it was extremely difficult to divert any to the Australian route; and yet it . was absolutely essential that we should be able to send our products oversea.
When I was in England in 1916 the position was so extremely serious for Australia that, after I had failed in an endeavour to divert ships to replace in part those which we had voluntarily surrendered to the British authorities, I recommended “ the Commonwealth Government to acquire a fleet of steamers. The Government approved of my recommendation, and accordingly the fifteen “Austral” boats were bought for £2,052,000. As the war proceeded, tonnage became scarcer and scarcer. The purchase of these fifteen vessels had improved the position of Australia, but naturally it was merely taking fifteen vessels from the route on which they were formerly trading, and making them available for ourselves, and the circumstances imperatively demanded that we should do our part in replacing the tonnage that was being sunk as the result of the submarine campaign by building new ships. All over the Empire a vigorous shipbuilding policy had been inaugurated. Great Britain built vessels during the war at a greater rate than she had in any part of her previous history, and when America came into the conflict she threw herself into the shipbuilding crusade with the energy characteristic of her people. The Commonwealth Government, in response to a general consensus of opinion throughout this country, deemed it not only desirable but necessary to inaugurate a shipbuilding industry, and, speaking generally, their policy in this respect was indorsed by every section of the community. In doing so we were treading a new path. Wo had not at our disposal that skilled labour which had been trained by previous experience; the necessary expert advice and direction were hot procurable in the Commonwealth itself; we had to make arrangements with the labour available for this class of work to insure continuity of operations. However, I shall not weary the House with a long recital of the many difficulties that beset us. I content myself by stating the fact that despite all dim- culties the industry was established and has already placed in commission six D class steamers of 5,500 tons each and four E class steamers of 6,100 tons each; two E, class steamers of 6,100 tons each are ready to be handed over ; two others of the E class are launched- with fitting out to be completed a.t the end of December; two others are ready for launching in December; one is building and should be ready for launching in three months; another has just been started at Williamstown from material taken over from Walkers Limited; and one not yet commenced is to be built by Poole and Steel of Adelaide. The contracts for two vessels of the E class, to be built by Walkers Limited and Poole and Steel, have been cancelled. The Government policy of shipbuilding, in all the circumstances, needs no apology or justification, lt was dictated by the circumstances of the hour and by common prudence. We. set out upon it with none of the advantages possessed by older countries, and have no reason to be ashamed of the work turned out. The vessels built in Australia by Australian’ workmen, and, as far as possible, out of Australian material, compare, in regard to workmanship and seaworthiness, with vessels built in any other part of the world. It is only fair to our workmen and to those firms who were responsible for the building of the engines, both main and auxiliary, to say that, without exception, the workmanship put into these vessels has been of a very high standard.
It is hardly to be expected that in the early stages of a new industry we could build ships at the cost per ton a£ which they could be built in countries such as Britain, in which the shipbuilding industry has been long established. No private Australian firm would pretend to be in a position to do so. Indeed, it has become axiomatic among us that Australian industry needs some protection from outside competition, and must be afforded some additional price to enable the Australian manufacturers and workmen to compete against foreign manufactured articles. This axiom applies to ships as well as to anything else. I neither defend nor apologize for it. I simply state the fact, and say that it applies generally to all industries. But while we were labouring under al! these great disadvantages, being compelled to import material at a time when freights were exceedingly high and when the cost of material was far in excess of pre-war prices, the cost of building ships of the D and E class was, until quite recently, no greater in Australia than it would have been in England and very much less than in America.
I want to set out the position, not as those who have distorted the facts would have it, but as it is. I ask honorable members to look at this question in proper perspective - to consider its national importance, its effect upon the primary producer, upon the national prosperity, upon providing employment for certain skilled trades, which, if this country is going to become great, must be fostered. It is impossible for any country to become great except upon the basis of iron and steel industries. If we look around the world to-day we shall see that those countries which can produce iron and steel at the lowest rates, and have diligently encouraged those industries, are alone great. And so, if we have paid a little more for these ships, we have something to show for it besides the ships themselves.
Let me quote now the prices at which these vessels were turned out. At Williamstown vessels of the “ D “ class cost £29 17s. Id. per ton, while at Cockatoo Island the cost was £33 10s. 4d. per ton. The cost of building vessels of the “E” class at Williamstown, averaged £30 per ton, and at Cockatoo Island £32 6s. 3d. per ton. It has been impossible to present the figures for Walsh Island, as these ships were built under State supervision.. I do not explain these figures, nor do I apologize for them. But I do ask honorable members when considering them to have regard to the price at which similar vessels could be built in the United Kingdom and the United States of America when these were constructed. Prices in America are a fairer criterion than English prices, because she, like ourselves, was impelled by the circumstances of war to enter upon the industry. We may fairly say, without any reflection whatever upon the workmen of that great country, that we have turned out ships cheaper and better. In considering the cost of production regard, too, must be had to the cost of materials. When I tell honorable members that the cost of plates ranged from £25 10s. per ton to £30 per ton, and that plates to-day are quoted at from £10 to £15 per ton below these prices, they will recognise that it is not fair to contrast the cost of building these ships under conditions created by the war with the cost of building ships today, under post-war conditions. But it appears to me that what waa not merely justifiable but necessary during time of war cannot continue. Shipbuilding cannot continue in Australia at present prices. I do not think that these prices are now justified. Materials can be bought much cheaper than when these vessels were built, and every reduction in the cost of material is reflected in the cost of the finished article.
Let me correct one widespread misconception. We have seen it stated n the1 press, and it has been said from public platforms, that we are paying £28 and as much as £30 per ton to build these vessels here, whereas vessels can be bought for £10 per ton in the Old Country. That is true. Ships can be bought for £10 a ton, but it is not correct to say that vessels can be built in England for that money. They are sold for that price, but they cannot be built for it. I ask the producers of the Commonwealth and my fellow citizens generally to look fairly at this question. The other day a deputation waited on me in regard to the position of stock. The price offered for stock is less than it costs to produce. No one, however, suggests that we should cease production, but rather that we should endeavour to find some other means of increasing the price until it covers the cost of production. The position in the shipping industry is not unprecedented. Wide fluctuations in prices have been experienced in prewar days, and the present slump is the natural and inevitable result of the war. The whole world concentrated itself feverishly on the building , of ships, in order to prevent the appalling catastrophe of defeat, and produced tonnage, not in excess of the normal requirements of the world, but in excess of the present requirements of a world which is drained of its vitality and cannot buy all the things it wants. I shall support all I have said by the statements of men whose word will carry conviction. Before doing so, however, I wish to em- phasize once more the point I made just now that a fundamental distinction is to be drawn between the price at which an article is sold and the price at which it can be produced. As a matter of fact, the price of producing an 8,000-ton ship at Greenock to-day is £175,000. That is the statement of a shipbuilder, who deplores the fact that the cost of construction is so high. But, while ships cannot be built for less than £175,000, they can be bought for much less. A ship of the same type can be bought for, perhaps, £8, 10, or £12 per ton, (but it cannot be * produced for less than about £22 per ton. The chart in members’ hands will show the fluctuation of prices of a ship in Great Britain during this last twentyfive years. I had this chart reproduced in order that honorable members might see, not only the abnormal fluctuations, the result of war, but that in normal times it was quite common .for prices to vary most amazingly. The chart deals with the cost of building a 7,500-ton steamer. On reference to it, honorable members will see that in 1898 such a vessel cost about £48,000 to build. In the year 1905 the cost had sunk to £37,000 ; in 1908 it had sunk again to £36,000. In 1912 it had gone up to £58,000; in 1914 it had fallen to £42,000. Then came the war, and prices immediately went up, so that a vessel of this type, which in 1914 cost £42,000, became worth £187,000 in 1917. In 1920 the price went up to £259,000. To-day, it has sunk to £63,000. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) objected to this chart; ohe asks, “Can a good thing come out of Nazareth?” It matters not where this information is obtained, so long as it is accurate. This chart was prepared by Admiralty brokers, who speak as experts. It shows the fluctuation oi prices, and was prepared for men whose business it is to manage ships, to buy ships, and who, indeed, are the sole customers for ships. It shows quite clearly that the price is purely temporary. The slump in prices cannot be permanent. If the price of an article sinks below its cost of production, no man will produce it for any length of time. People are not prepared to go on producing for any length of time goods which have to be sold for less than the cost of production. They will do so temporarily, but not per- manently, *so that, sooner or later, prices must find their level. If a man charges too much for his goods, no one will buy them. He must find some cheaper way of producing them, or else go out of business. These fluctuations in prices illustrate the point I wish to make, that the present price of tonnage cannot - be regarded as anything more than a temporary slump in . the market. Lead today is £23 per ton. I understand that it cannot be produced in this or any other country at £23 per ton; and, therefore, as soon as the accumulated supplies have been consumed, the price of lead must rise until it pays for the cost of production. That is obvious, and what applies to lead must apply to ships, and to everything else.
I propose, before coming to the consideration of the Commonwealth Line as such, to give honorable members some figures in regard to shipping in its relation to shipbuilding. The other day attention was directed to the fact that some three or four vessels of the Commonwealth Line were tied up. In a statement I made by way of reply, I pointed_ out that some 10,000,000 tons of shipping’ throughout the world was laid up. The explanation is quite obvious. Vessels are laid up owing to the high cost of building ships, the high cost of running them owing to the increase in working expenses, and the shortage of freight. There is a heavy capital cost because many of the vessels that have been laid up were built or purchased during the war. The value of some of the “ Australs “ that we bought, and which we sold, as I shall show, at a very handsome profit, has come down to about one-sixth of the price at which we sold. Naturally, if men have invested their capital in the purchase of ships at a time when values were high, and the working expenses have gone up, while there is also a shortage of freight, one is not surprised to learn that huge fleets are tied up. How: ever, this is but temporary.
I propose to quote from statements recently made by the heads of Great British -shipping companies to their shareholders to support what I have said. Sir Thomas Royden, the Deputy Chairman of the Cunard Steam-ship Company Limited, when addressing its shareholders, on the 28th April last, said that, although there had been an increase of revenue, it was, “ unfortunately, more than counterbalanced by the rise in working expenses,” and consequently there would be no dividend -
With regard to the future, the slump in freights, which was alluded to by the Chairman in his speech last year, has continued with increased severity, until rates in many parts of the world have fallen away below the cost of operation, and there are, in consequence, at this moment several millions of tons of shipping lying up for want of employment. The production of cargo-carrying ships was enormously stimulated in consequence of the war, and the flood of new tonnage continued to be poured forth long after we passed the high-water mark of pre-war times. There are, at this moment, in the neighbourhood of 10,000,000 tons of shipping in existence more than, there were in 1914, which was the previous record year. This excess consists almost entirely of cargo-carrying vessels, as during the war it was these alone which were permitted to be built. Simultaneously with the advent of this immense accretion to the available cargo tonnage of the world there comes the inevitable contraction of business, which is due to the political and economic conditions prevailing in Europe to-day. The result is, of course, the natural one, viz., unprofitable cargo carrying; and he would be a bold man who would prophesy when the ordinary wastage of shipping and the improvement in the world trade would bridge the gap and put freights on a reasonably profitable level again.
He regards the outlook for passenger steamers as much brighter -
The outlook, so far as passenger steamers are concerned, is more re-assuring. A very large number of this type of vessel was lost through enemy action in the war, and could not be replaced at the time, so that there is not the same depressing feature in their case as there is in the case of cargo vessels. I look forward to a good demand for passenger accommodation for some time to come, and with our very wide and complete organization I have no doubt the Cunard line will get its full share of what is going.
Having regard to the necessity for. conserving the financial resources of the company, the directors, he says, are adopting a conservative policy in the matter of dividends. In the Times of the 19th August there is a report of a speech delivered by Sir Frederick W. Lewis, at the thirtieth annual meeting of Furness, Withy, and Company. He tells the same story of a slump in prices of ships, of high working expenses, of relative scarcity of freight, of idle ships, of writing down of capital, of vanishing dividends. Under a caption with which we are not entirely unfamiliar - “ Need for Economy” - lie is reported to say that, although the role of a prophet is always a thankless one -
With the wonderful natural resources which we, as a nation, possess, with the common sense which has invariably triumphed over our past difficulties, and with a broad-minded understanding between capital and labour, I believe ultimately we are capable of regaining our erstwhile commercial supremacy.
The Chairman of the Gulf Line, on the 12th May, speaking of the slump in freights, said -
Under these circumstances there are only two things that ship-owners can do to improve matters; one is to wait until international trade revives, and the other is to devote their attention to reducing working expenses in order to be able to quote cheap freights, and thus help forward the revival of international trade, and be in a position to take advantage of it when it comes.
Sir Owen Philips, one of the leading ship-owners of the world, takes an optimistic view. He looks forward to these idle vessels finding employment very shortly by reason of a renewed demand for goods which will arise as the natural consequence of the world resuming its normal life. But Lord Inchcape, the last authority I shall quote, sounds a more restrained note. Addressing the annual meeting of shareholders of the Peninsular and Orient Company this year, he said -
We have, to our great regret, been compelled to raise our rates of passage money in all directions to keep pace to some extent with the great advance in the cost of coal, wages, stores, operating expenses generally, the increase in dock charges, dock labour and costs of overhaul; and even with the higher rates now being charged it is difficult to ‘make both ends meet, and in many cases it is an impossibility. The cost of the large passenger vessels now under construction will work out at sums far in excess of pre-war figures, which again will involve a heavy depreciation and insurance premium, and, so far as we can judge, it will be impossible to run them profitably as separate units. Fortunately, the existing fleet as a whole stands in the company’s books at a very moderate rate per ton, and, when the new ships are added, even at their very high costs, taken over all, the fleet will stand at a low figure, and considerably under pre-war prices.
I commend these opinions qf representative shipping men to the attention of honorable members.
I turn now to deal with shipbuilding in greater detail and in particular with wooden ships. I have explained the circumstances in which we began to build steel ships. Let me turn to the wooden shipbuilding transaction of the Government. At the time the Government decided to place orders in America and later in Australia for the building of wooden ships, the advice tendered to the Government on all sides was to build - ships, and then more . ships ! and again more ships! In this connexion I may quote the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), Hansard, page 9565, 17th December, 19 18-
Thhose of us who urged the Government to enter upon the construction of wooden ships much earlier than they did should not condemn the Government for building such ships, nor should we ask them to alter their arrangements in regard to ‘them. The vessels which are being built in Australia, of Australian hardwood, will prove exceedingly useful in the coastal trade.
In the light of what has happened since, those remarks are not without humour. The Government, believing that it was doing that which the safety of the Commonwealth demanded, and citizens desired, placed in America an order for “fourteen wooden ships, and, subsequently, made contracts in Australia for building eighteen other wooden ships. It is difficult to say which of these two contracts turned out the worse, the American shipbuilders who, with experience to guide them, seemed, to go instinctively in the wrong direction, or the Australians, who had nothing but their enthusiasm to help them. Certain it is that both failed badly. Malign fate seemed to dog these wooden ships: in their conception, building, and, in those cases where they were not strangled before birth, in their subsequent history. Let me now give honorable members, a statement of accounts covering the American wooden ships -
These figures set out quite clearly the financial side of our American wooden ship contract. It resulted in heavy loss. But this loss arose from no fault of the Government, for everything that could be done to effect a sale after the Armistice was done, and without delay. So far as was humanly possible, Ministers have done everything that prudent men could do to unravel this tangled skein. The building of these vessels was purely a war measure, and must be so regarded. It was not contemplated that these wooden ships should form part of the Commonwealth Line or be considered as a commercial proposition. They were built to carry our wheat to the Pacific Coast of America, in pursuance of an arrangement under which America would send wheat from her Eastern and Middle States to Great Britain and the Allied countries, and Australia make good’ the shortage, thus reducing transport to a minimum. Had the war continued, these wooden vessels would have paid. They might then, indeed, have made all the difference between life and death to us and our Allies. I do not regret having placed the order for their construction. I could not foresee that the Armistice would come on the 11th November, 1918; no man could foresee that. We, like every other of the belligerent nations, were straining every effort to obtain victory and to prevent defeat. The war terminated sooner than we expected, and these vessels were not needed for the purpose for which they were ordered. And so we incur a- loss. But we only incur this loss because the war stopped sooner than was anticipated.
Therefore, this loss is a small thing alongside of the great gain of peace. Had the ships been handed over on the dates set out in the contracts, there would, also, be a different story to tell. But strikes of American workmen prevented that. We were not responsible for those strikes, nor could we do anything to expedite completion. But what the Government could do it did. When the Armistice came we did not lose a day in endeavouring to dispose of the vessels. On the 11th February - I was at the time in Paris - I despatched a cablegram to the Government in Australia, from which the following is an extract: -
Heavy cost of upkeep and rapid depreciation make it desirable we should endeavour to dispose at once this class of vessel. They were built for an emergency, and emergency is past. Steel tonnage is becoming increasingly available, and will in a short time bring disastrous competition to bear on wooden ships. In the circumstances, I recommend immediate disposal of all wooden vessels built and building in America while market for same is yet good.
On 20th February I sent a cablegram to Sir Henry Braddon, in America, having heard in the meantime that it was proposed to increase the contract price for these ships from $500,000 to $700,000 or $800,000 each in order to provide for certain structural alterations. This communication was as follows: -
I earnestly hope nothing has been done to commit Commonwealth in this matter. After the Armistice all urgent need for these ships disappears. They are now certainly not worth even the 500,000 dollars we contracted to pay. Will you cable exactly how the matter stands, and whether negotiations are pending and not yet shaped into binding contract. Please abstain from further action. Urgently awaiting reply.
Sir Henry Braddon was the representative of the Commonwealth in the United States of America. The Government had placed in his’ hands the negotiations in regard to the whole matter. I need say nothing, I feel sure, regarding his capacity. The Government has been most fortunate in securing in Sir Henry Braddon, and later Mr. Mark Sheldon, business men of the highest class. I repeated the same cablegram to the Cabinet in Melbourne, and added -
Should be glad to learn if you have, received Braddon’s letter, and what action has been taken, if any. Am quite certain price named is outrageous, and ought not to be entertained. We ought to get rid of the ships already built at once, and as for those not completed we must fall back on the original contract insisting on that clause which fixes date of delivery, and if contractors fail to deliver then, if legal opinion so advises we ought to denounce contract.
On 27th. February, my message having been received and considered by Cabinet, and Admiral Clarkson, Controller of Shipping, and Messrs. Curchin, Chief Executive Officer, and Eva, manager of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, having concurred in my representations, the following was despatched to me by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt): -
Your telegram February 11th. Wooden ships built and building in America. Cabinet approves of sale and desires that you, in conjunction with Larkin, should decide on method of disposal and price.
Sir Henry Braddon, with whom I was in direct touch, and whom I authorized to sell the ships, sent me the following cable, dated 5th March : -
Sale of ships negotiating. Probable buyer. Will telegraph if definite offer result. Meantime state of market wooden ships poor.
Let me now briefly recapitulate the efforts of the Government to effect a sale of these ships. On 11th February I suggested that the ships should be sold. Cabinet approved on the 27th February, and I authorized Sir Henry Braddon to sell them. He was given complete freedom of action in that direction, since he had mentioned that the market had already begun to slump. But we had done our very best, and had lost no time.
The history of the negotiations for the sale of the wooden steamers and of the wooden motor vessels may be set out chronologically thus - 5 Wooden Steamers -
Offer to purchase received from Foreign and Domestic Transportation Corporation - April, 1919.
Agreement signed - 3rd October, 1919.
Company unable to meet its obligations - February, 1920.
Other offers of purchase received, but failed to materialize - March, 1920.
Vessels transferred to Australian register and subsequently worked by Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers - April-June, 1920.
Vessels laid up - April, 1921. 9 Wooden Motor Vessels (including one not completed )
Chilberg offered to purchase - 8th August, 1919.
Offer accepted- 20th August, 1919.
Chilberg became financially embarrassed, and transferred interest in 4 “ B “ boats to Comyn. Comyn advanced moneys on and held liens over 4 “ C “ boats - Up to May, 1920.
Vessels libelled and detained; Negotiations with Comyn for purchase by his interests - Up -to September, 1920.
Comyn signed agreement for purchase - October, 1920.
Advice received that Comyn interests had failed to consummate agreement - March, 1921.
Vessels finally disposed of - 27th April, 1921.
It will be perceived that no time was lost. Honorable members will acquit the Government of having failed to do its duty. They will not say that I did not perceive clearly, from the moment of the Armistice having been signed, that the time was ripe for the sale of those ships. Unfortunately, the same brilliant idea occurred to quite a number of other people in various parts of the world.
I desire now to contrast our actions in regard to the wooden ships built in America with that of the Government of the United States. America started out to build ships with that energy which I have already described as characteristic of the great Republic. They accomplished great things. They built ships of steel, of wood, and of concrete, literally in miles. The Armistice came, and the need for these ships passed. It became necessary to deal with that great mass of new tonnage. Early in 1921 Mr. Schwab, Chairman of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, said -
Don’t throw good money after bad, but bow to the inevitable force of economics. Cut losses and dispose of the ships at any price within reason, the said losses to be classed as a Government war expenditure.
I point out that what I did in February, 1919, Mr. Schwab did not attempt to do until 1921. Naturally, the slump in prices had created much worse conditions. In June, 1921, a new Shipping Board was formed in the United States of America, the purpose of which was to withdraw from the shipping business as soon as possible. The ad- ministration was said to be prepared to accept as an unavoidable and inevitable loss, due to conditions incidental to war-time emergency, a sum ‘ of §2,000,000,000 out of $3,000,000,000 or more which bad been expended in the construction of shipping. At that time some 700 steel, ships were laid up; but the chairman said that the Board’s chief liability was the wooden fleet, which would be “ sold, scrapped, or sunk “ before the 1st October. Apparently this is being done, for lately 250 wooden steamers have been sold for 60 cents per ton - 3s. £d. per ton. - or £520 for each vessel. I ought to have stated that in addition to all other losses at the time of the Armistice, contracts for all wooden ships on which not more than $200,000 had been spent, were cancelled. This involved 214 vessels, and, necessarily, the carrying out of this policy must have meant a loss of some millions of dollars in addition.
Contrasting the results of America’s ventures in steel, and particularly in wooden, shipbuilding with those of Australia, the position may be stated thus: Our gross proceeds from thirteen wooden ships, including a sum of £15,000 refused for the five steamers still on hand, average £17,366 each, as against £520 realized on each of the 250 similar wooden vessels sold by the United States of America. ‘ And the loss to that country, in regard to operating and lay-up expenses- per ship, also far exceeds ours. To this, of course, must be added the colossal losses on her steel ships. I think, therefore, that we have reason to congratulate ourselves on the fact that, by comparison with America, we have come out of this business very well indeed.
I turn now to the Commonwealth Line. As I stated before, in 1916 we purchased a fleet of fifteen ships. They have been engaged in Australian and United Kingdom and general trade. From the time they came to hand in the United Kingdom, until to-day, they have been run in the interests of the country, and they have been run on business lines. I propose to set out the position in regard to the Commonwealth Line, showing what it has earned, its capital cost, its net earnings, and its financial position generally. Before doing so, I want to make it quite clear that no shipping business can be conducted profitably if its managers are compelled to take over ships at £30 a ton when vessels are valued at £10 a ton. Therefore, in considering the capitalized value of the “ D “ and “ E “ vessels, and what they have earned, I ask that the Commonwealth Line shall be judged by canons such as business men would ordinarily apply to their own affairs. No concern could profitably carry on business if it were compelled to take over, at an enhancement equivalent to two-and-a-half or three times their value, certain goods which some other company had produced. I shall set out the situation first of all in respect of the Commonwealth Line, properly so called, showing receipts and expenditure and capital account: -
If interest had been charged until capital repaid, the profit would have been reduced by about £260,000.
That is a statement of the position of the Commonwealth Line, properly so called. I venture to say that it speaks for itself; it requires neither blare of trumpets nor any laboured explanation. I come next to a statement dealing with ships “bought” and ships “seized,” that is to say, enemy ships -
If interest had been charged until capital repaid, the profit would have been reduce? by about £350,000.
I do not admit, for a moment, that we ought to consider the “D” and “E” class, capitalized at the cost of production, as a fair charge against the Commonwealth Line; but I have prepared a statement which includes them at their cost of production in order that honorable members may see exactly where we stand in regard to the whole of our shipping operations -
These ships have not yet been put into commission; some are on the stocks, and some are on the water -
Now, taking in these at the cost of production, and debiting the Commonwealth Line with their capital value on this basis, and including all ships now in commission, “ Australs,” ex-enemy, and “ D “ and “ E “ in commission, and others being built in Australia, we have -
which would have been reduced by about £382,000 if interest had been charged.
Now I come to a further statement, which includes wooden ships. I do not think any’ business man in the country would say that the Commonwealth Line .was a commercial venture to be debited with the capital cost and the loss on the wooden ship contracts. Wooden ship construction was an urgent war measure. The circumstances surrounding it speak for themselves. The Commonwealth Line must not only be judged as a business concern, it must be treated as one. It cannot be held responsible for war losses incurred in contracts which it did not make, in -which it was not consulted, over which it had no control. We see what the American Government is doing; we must do the same: write the whole tiling off as a war loss, and have done with it. But in order that honorable members may see exactly where the Government stands when all its shipping and shipbuilding activities’ are taken into account, I have prepared a- statement covering the wooden ships. Before putting this before the House, I must, however, interpolate a few remarks on the five “Bay” steamers. Although, of course, none of these steamers is yet in commission, yet it is proper to debit them against the Commonwealth Line, which was responsible for placing the order, of course with the sanction of the Government. The Commonwealth Line is responsible for these ships. They are being built so that the Commonwealth Government might be able to meet the demand in the United Kingdom and Australia for refrigerated tonnage, and also cater for the passenger traffic in immigrants, which is part, of course, of the Government’s national policy. These five Bay steamers were placed on order in England at a cost of £5,000,000. Let me now give the House a statement taking in Australs, ex-enemy ships, “D” and “E” ships, and these five “ Bay” steamers -
If interest had been charged until capital repaid, the profits would have been reduced by about £382,000. The net capital in that case would have been £3,527,157, or £9 5s. per ton dead-weight.
In other words, if this enterprise is to be judged as an ordinary business concern, we must apply the profits to writing down the capital, in which case, over this great fleet, which includes five Bay steamers at £1,000,000 each, we have an average dead-weight tonnage of £9 5s. per ton, which is considerably below pre-war prices. I venture to say that there are very few, if any, companies in the’ world that are able to show better results.- I now come to the last statement I have to lay before honorable members. I feel I owe an apology for occupying so much time, but I have not previously trespassed, and now that I am giving a statement I wish it to be complete. In this statement I take in the wooden ships, although, as I have said, we cannot admit for a moment they ought to be taken into account as other than a war measure -
If interest had been charged, except in respect of wooden ships, the -profits would have been reduced by about £380,000, and the net capital would have been £6,142,670, or £16 2s. 2d. per ton dead-weight.
I think that I may fairly claim to have presented a case that will commend itself to most fair-minded men. I shall neither apologize for nor defend Government enterprise in general, because anything that came from me might ‘ be . regarded as, in some sense, the view of a prejudiced man. But I ask that the Common- wealth Government be judged by the same canons as an ordinary commercial venture. If that is done, I think it may fairly be said that the ‘Government have nothing to apologize for, nor is any justification whatever needed for our persistence in this policy.
I turn now to the future. What is our policy to be? The future is in the hands of this Parliament. It is for this reason that I have set out all the facts before honorable members, in order that they may be in a position to decide wisely. Let me. state my own opinon, both as to the Commonwealth Line and to shipbuilding. And, first, as to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers . This line has done excellent service to Australia. Let me quote from a speech by Mr. Mcpherson, the Treasurer of the State of Victoria - a man who can hardly be said to be one who speaks loosely or who, prima facie, would enlist under the banner of Government enterprise unless it were, in his opinion, an undertaking which was necessary in the public interests. Speaking at Hawthorn in 1919, he said -
A good deal has been said about the purchase of a fleet of ships by Mr. Hughes. As a merchant of thirty years’ experience, I believe that, it would be an advantage to the Commonwealth if we had our own line of ships. (Hear, hear ! ) Th© London Shipping Ring has done more harm to British industry than any other cause. In spite of all the improvements which science has brought about, fares have never been reduced, and, in some cases, British goods are charged for at rates higher than those which Americans have to pay. I have known the shipping companies to carry goods from New York to Liverpool, and from Liverpool to Australia, for less than was charged for the carriage of the same goods from Liverpool to Australia. I believe, therefore, that Mr. Hughes will do not only Australia but England a great service by what he has done in this way. I see now that the Shipping Ring is getting frightened, and is declaring that its ships will not be able to pay. It ‘has already made many millions out of the trade. (Hear, hear ! ) I believe in free competition, but when a body like . this takes control the Government can help the producer very materially by stepping in. (Hear, hear!)
I know all that can be said on the other side; but do honorable members really think that the statements they read in the press and the utterances which are made on the platform in criticism of the Commonwealth Line are made quite disinterestedly? I have already ad- mitted that I am a prejudiced man; but do honorable members really think that all our critics have in mind is the good of Australia? If they do, let this House here and now decide between our critics and us. In what I am about to say, I hope honorable members will not consider that I speak loosely; I do not. This - line could have been sold after the Armistice at a profit, but the Government did not believe that, in the best interests of Australia, it should be sold. I believe it could be sold to-day. This House is the arbiter of the future of this line. If the House says that, in the best interests of Australia, the line should be sold, I shall not oppose that course, except by my voice and vote. I shall listen to what the House has to say, but one thing I will not do - I will not make this line a political football; I will not allow Parliament or any political influence to’ decide what freights or fares shall be charged. The line must have a fair chance as a business enterprise. Of course, the position would be entirely different if this Parliament should decide, to subsidize the line in order that it may carry refrigerated produce at a lower rate - it could. come to. such a decision in regard to a private company - but it has no right to compel the line to do an unbusinesslike action and then censure it because it has failed as a business enterprise. Whether it sink or swim, it shall be conducted as a business concern. I have never, since it was bought, interfered with it in any way. I have said, of course, that it must be conducted on business lines, but beyond that I have not gone, nor do I think any one should go. If this House thinks that in the best interests of the country and in the interests of the primary producers the Commonwealth Line should be retained, legislation will be introduced to create a corporation or trust, or some body analogous to the Railways Commissioners or the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and under such control the line shall be run as a business concern in the way I have indicated. If, on the other hand, the House says that we must sell the line, it must give me the necessary instructions and authority, and I shall endeavour to sell it.
The line has paid, but in the face of very many great difficulties. It has had to compete against powerful interests, and I do not censure those interests for combining, because I am a believer in combination. My concern, however, is to see that the Commonwealth Line gets cargo and a fair share of business. Honorable members know that by a system of rebates the line has been subject to very unfair competition. Mr. McPherson, Treasurer of the State of Victoria, writing to Mr. Larkin, manager of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, on the 16th August last, said -
During the time my family and I have been in England we have purchased from time to time several articles which we wished to take as presents to our friends in Australia. Being desirous of having these arrive in Melbourne at about the same time as ourselves, I requested our London . agents, Messrs. Antony Gibbs & Sons, of 22 Bishopsgate, London E.C., to send them along to us by mail steamer. They inform me, however, that this is not possible, as the London Shipping Conference compel them (before they will pay over to this firm such rebates as may be due) to sign a declaration that they have not shipped on account of any firm who uses the Commonwealth Line any goods by the Conference steamers. We have, as you know, for some time had our heavy goods shipped by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The object of my writing is that you might bring this pernicious practiceunder the notice of the Prime Minister.
I need hardly tell honorable members that that instance is not a solitary one; it illustrates a general practice. I laid upon the table yesterday the report of the Imperial Shipping Committee, which I commend to the notice of honorable members. I would not have referred to the matter of rebates but that as a result of protests to the British Government and representations to Lord Inchcape it has been decided that this practice of imposing penalties on shippers who ship goods on other than Conference lines shall, no longer be followed. I refer honorable members to the printed correspondence, two extracts from which I shall read. Sir Halford Mackinder, Chairman of the Committee, in the course of a letter to Lord Inchcape, wrote -
Your Lordship emphatically repudiated any policy or practice of shutting out the cargo of such shippers or of other unfair discrimination; and it is understood that all the ship-owners belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Conference would adopt the same attitude.
In reply to that letter, which is the result of long correspondence, Lord Inchcape wrote - 29th July, 1921.
Dear Sir Halford Mackinder, - In answer to your note of the 28th instant, I had a meeting of the Australian and New Zealand shipowners. I am authorized to say that the ship-owners are prepared to agree to the Committee publishing a statement to the effect that the ship-owners forming the Australian and New Zealand Conference will not, either directly or indirectly, be parties to a policy or practice of penalizing, or threatening to penalize, shippers who may not give all their shipments to the Conference lines, by shutting out cargo where there is room for it, or by other discriminating methods, beyond the forfeiture of rebates in accordance with agreement, it being understood that’, casteris paribus, ship-owners will be free to accord a preference to their more regular customers. The Conferences are quite agreeable that any complaints that this understanding is being contravened which the Committee may receive should be the subject of investigation by the Committee, and they will willingly assist in any inquiry.
So far as that undertaking goes it is well, although, as I see it, it still stops short of what is desirable. The Commonwealth Line has had to compete against very many difficulties created by this practice, against competition of a severe kind, and against prejudices at this end where one would expect at least that citizens of this country would give preference to an enterprise belonging to themselves. Amongst the complaints made by shippers against the Commonwealth Line it was pointed out that it had not a sufficient tonnage or variety of shipping to cover the needs of shippers, and that its ships had not the speed which was desirable and which would insure shippers against the inevitable disabilities that result from shipping by an inferior line. It was to meet this position, which it was recognised needed a remedy, that the big steamers now building in Britain were ordered. The Government sanctioned the building of five modern steamers, one of which has been launched and done its trials, and can be relied upon to maintain a sea speed of 15 knots. These vessels have each refrigerated cargo capacity of 370,000 cubic feet, and ordinary cargo capacity of 580,000 cubic feet, and accommodation for 700 third class passengers. They are designed especially for this service, they will enable the - e–
Government to carry on their immigration policy, and they will also place at the disposal of primary producers very much-needed added facilities for the carriage of refrigerated cargo. The Commonwealth Line has served the producer of this country very well. When these ships were bought it was recognised that they were absolutely .necessary to the very life of the country. The Sydney Sun, on 27th June, 1916, said -
Mr. Hughes lias paid heavily for the fifteen stea.m-ships bought for the Commonwealth, but it must be remembered that with that price he has endeavoured to buy the salvation of Australian wheat-farming.
The Argus, on 28th June, 1916, said -
Assuming that the new Commonwealth Line will be able to obviate that trouble, the purchase would be justified as removing a deterrent to the activities and enterprise of out primary producers; for there can ‘be no question but that additional tonnage could not have been secured in any other way except at a cost beyond our capacity to afford.
Other Australian newspapers wrote in a similar strain. It is admitted that the Line has been conducted on business lines. In June, 1916, Fair Play, the English shipping publication, said -
Mr. Hughes has plunged into shipping. . . Mr. Hughes did not make the too common mistake prevalent in Government circles of being his own buyer and shipping expert. He requisitioned a well-known firm - fully cognisant of the Australian trade, and with long experience in the city of steamship management and chartering generally, to effect the purchases, with the result that in a very short time, and without any one beyond those immediately interested knowing anything about it.
The Journal of Commerce, on 8th July, 1921, said-
Generalizations on the dangers of Governmentowned shipping are apt to go seriously astray in the case of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. This line may be the exception that proves the rule, but there is no doubt about it being an exception.
The British are a business people, and they know that nationalization is dead, but they are quite willing to agree that the success surrounding the Australian Government Line is a rare and refreshing exception, and this is simply because, although it falls under the category of a Government concern, it ia run by keen business mcn with the fresh outlook of the colonies, and is quite free from red-tape and bureaucracy.
I do not know that I can put the case for the Line more fully or that I need do £0. I ask the House to continue it on its merits as a commercial venture, and, in considering it as such, to pay regard to the fact that the prosperity, and indeed the very existence, of Australia depend upon adequate supplies of freight. I ask the House to remember that at this particular moment there are only two parties who control freight available for Australia in any quantity, viz., the Conference Line of Steamers and the Com.monwealth Line of Steamers. The House and the country must decide whether it would be to our advantage to dispose of the Commonwealth Line. I believe that a buyer could be found, but my view is that the Line ought not to be sold, and if a vote is taken on the matter I shall vote against the sale. But I leave the House an entirely free hand in regard to the matter. All I ask is that if honorable members wish for reduced freights they will treat the Commonwealth Line of Steamers just as they would any other line, and if there is to be any lowering of freights, effect their desire by way of subsidy, and not by political pressure.
– The honorable member will have that opportunity on the Estimates. The Government will not agree to the fixing of freights - that, I think, is a perfectly sound principle to take up - but if honorable members declare that the freights charged by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers are too high, and that they should be reduced, they must effect their purpose by subsidizing the Line to enable lower freights to be charged. Already some of the vessels have had to be laid up because it does not pay to run them. Other ship-owners, as borne out by evidence I have already quoted, have laid up their ships. Millions of tons of shipping are idle owing to unremunerative freights. If, then, honorable members want cheaper freights they must subsidize the Line.
– Will the Prime Minister give the House the opportunity of deciding whether these excessive freights, fixed in conjunction with the Shipping Ring, shall be reduced by means of a subsidy or in any other form?
– I apprehend that there will be no difficulty in the way of doing so. I would not have put forward this statement unless I intended to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the matter. In fact, I want the House to give it.
– Will the Prime Minister kindly indicate when that opportunity will be afforded ?
– I cannot continue, answering such questions. I have said over and over again that in considering the Estimates the House will have every opportunity it desires.
I have set out the position in regard to shipbuilding fully and fairly. Considering the circumstances in which the industry was commenced, I think we were . amply justified in doing what we did. The work turned out, so far as workmanship and seaworthiness are concerned, has proved to be most excellent. No doubt, the cost of building is now much in excess of the price at which tonnage can be bought to-day, but it is not very much in excess of the price at which countries can build ships of a similar kind. However, we cannot continue deliberately building ships at a cost in excess of their market value. In this matter we must be guided by the same principles as other employers. The Government, therefore, have decided that they cannot continue building ships at prices in excess of their market value. There are some vessels on the stocks nearing completion, and there are others already ready to be launched, and we have to consider what course we are to pursue in regard to these. The following table sets out the ‘ position of all . built or building vessels completely : -
Summary of Vessels Built and Building for Commonwealth Government. 6 “ D “ class steamers, 5,500 tons, completed and in commission. 4 “ E “ class steamers, 6,100 tons, completed and in commission. 2 “E” class steamers, 6,100 tons, completed and ready to hand over. 2 “E” class steamers, 6,100 tons, launched and fitting out, to be completed in December. 2 “ E “ class steamers, 6,100 tons, ready to be launched in December. 1 ‘ “ E “ class steamer, 6,100 tons, building, should be ready for launching in three months. 1 “E” class steamer, 6,100 tons, just started at Williamstown from materials taken over from Walkers Limited. 1 “E” class steamer 6,100 tons, not yetc ommenced, at Poole and Steel. 2 “ E “ class steamers, 6,100 tons, cancelled from contracts, Walkers Limited and Poole and Steel Limited.
There are also two 12,700-ton vessels, for which machinery and material, valued at £336,000, has been obtained, and is lying at Cockatoo Island waiting to be utilized. When my colleague (Mr. Poynton) has completed the necessary arrangements, I submit that we must go on building those vessels in process of construction, and that we have spent too much money on the projected 12,700-ton and other vessels partly constructed to allow the material to !be wasted. But, as I have said, I am not in favour of placing orders for any further ships when the partly completed vessels have been finished. If the Commonwealth Line requires other ships, and decides to place an order for the building of these, I think it ought to give preference to Australian yards if the Australian price is not more than the foreign price by an amount equivalent to the duty on ships. That is the practice commonly adopted in regard to all manufactures in Australia. As for the rest, I think every encouragement should be given to private firms to come to Australia to take over the shipbuilding industry which the Government have pioneered. I hope honorable members will not think that the Government have been remiss in this respect. We have used every effort to induce firms to come here from England, but so far have not succeeded. One firm, indeed, sent representatives to Australia to inspect, and report upon the prospects, but it could not be induced to commence operations except under conditions the House would have rejected. The amount per ton they wanted for the finished article was such that the Government could not agree to, and I am sure the House would not. We gain nothing by a change of masters if there is to be extravagance, and if we are deliberately to pursue the policy of paying for an article more than we can get it for in the open market we shall go headlong to perdition, whether this be done directly by the Government or indirectly by way of subsidy or arrangement. I am sure this Parliament will support a policy which offers every reasonable encouragement to private firms to come here and build ships. There I leave the matter. It is now in the hands of the House, and I wait for honorable members to say what it is they would have us do. I think that I have set out the facts and the policy of the Commonwealth in regard to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, shipping generally, and shipbuilding.
– As the Prime Minister’s statement will be debated on the Estimates, will he have it printed and circulated among honorable members?
– Yes. I think that honorable members should have tha figures before them. I shall, with the concurrence of honorable members, see to it that opportunity is afforded for the discussion of this important question. If it cannot be done on any particular item the Government must find some other way, but the most convenient method wouldbe to discuss the question upon an item of the Estimates. If Parliament approves of the continuance of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, I hope it will place it outside political control, and allow the same business standards to be applied to it as to private firms, seeing that it has to go into the market as a competitor. It must not bo thought that I am opposed to a reduction of freights. I simply contend that if the House wishes to reduce freights it must grant a subsidy to the Line which would be applicable, of course, to all. I am not cognisant of any information necessary to honorable members that I have failed to supply, but if there is I shall make it available.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister in charge of shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable memlber’s questions are -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the regulations now applied to the sale of lucerne seed, both home-grown and imported?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Commonwealth has no control over the sale of lucerne seed in Australia, that being a State matter; but before lucerne seed- is allowed importation into the Commonwealth it is necessary that it be stained with fine polishing rouge. The staining must be effected by first thoroughly mixing the total bulk of the seed with one-tenth part of 1 per centum of refined cotton-seed oil in a closed vessel (i.e., revolving barrel) ; subsequently one-quarter of 1 per centum of fine polishing rouge must be added, and the mixing continued until the added colour is uniformly distributed on the seed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is the Government proposing to pay salary in lieu of “ dual furlough” in cases where officers with over forty years of service have retired since 1st December, 1919; if so, when?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The ‘Government has decided that the amended conditions providing for “ dual furlough “ for an officer with forty or more years of service, which are contained in the new Public Service Bill, shall have effect as from the 1st December, 1919, but that payments in respect of the additional furlough to which officers may, under the new conditions, be entitled on retirement must wait approval by Parliament.
Payment toFire Brigade Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What amount per day per man is paid ‘by the Repatriation Department to the Fire Brigade Department for services rendered?
– The Commission advises as follows: -
One shilling and ninepence per hour per man. Four firemen are employed, two regular men during the week, who together work 104 hours (461/2 and 571/2 hours), and two relieving men who together work 15 hours per week (6 and 9 hours), or a total of 119 hours per week, at a cost of £108s. 3d. Under the arrangement made, these men take the place of night watchmen.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Loans to State Governments
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
State Employees and instrumentalities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In the event of State employees and State instrumentalities being removed from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, will he make it a condition that, where such does not exist, legislation must be enacted by the State providing for the access of public servants to the State Arbitration Court; or, failing this, will he retain to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court its jurisdiction over the public servants of those States where such access is denied to the State Court ?
– I am unable to say more at present than that the whole subject of the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is receiving careful consideration. I may remind the honorable member that I dealt this afternoon with one phase of the subject, although not with the particular part of it referred to by him in this question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message: -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for an Act relating to Duties of Excise, and acquaints the House that the Senate has agreed to the Bill as amended by the House at the request of the Senate.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 15th November, vide page 12766) :
Proposed vote, £1,134,251.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £500,000.
.- The speech delivered last evening by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), and to which, unfortunately, we were required to listen, was an excellent example of hysteria and war frenzy, importing all of those scare and alarm agencies which have previously served the purpose of this Government so well. The Minister, however, will find that the people are not so credulous as formerly.
However laudable may be the desire of the honorable gentleman to serve the Commonwealth, I venture to assert that the views expressed by him are not shared by the majority of the people.
– They are shared only by the military caste.
– The military caste are but a small, though very arrogant, section of the community, and their views on a question of this kind are not in keeping with those of the great bulk of the people. The Assistant Minister for Defence endeavoured to make us believe last evening that there were at work evil forces that were likely to bring upon the Commonwealth of Australia the most dire results. He suggested that there- was impending danger of a raid upon our coast - that some nation had evil designs on the Commonwealth - and that it was absolutely essential that we should make ample defence preparations. If there was ever a time when we should expect to be relieved of huge expenditures on military preparation and armaments, it is now. I am glad to think that at the Washington Conference there has been given to the nations a lead by which some measure of relief may . be obtained from the heavy burdens imposed upon them in maintaining huge naval forces designed to check the aggressive spirit of those who would seek for the exploiting agencies new avenues for the exercise of their influence over the trade and commerce of the world.I shall quote figures relating to this Department which will show that the- circumstances are not as the Minister would have us believe, and that we should be absolutely justified in reducing the Military Estimates to a much greater extent than the Government propose. A review of the operations of the Department discloses that unwarranted increases have been made in various branches, and that to reduce the proposed vote by only £250,000, as the Government have promised to do, would be wholly insufficient. The Minister endeavoured to create in the minds of honorable members on this side a feeling of uncertainty by threatening that if the amendment providing for a reduction of these Estimates by £500,000 were agreed to, the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow would be shut down, and further unemployment thus created.
– And most of the honorable member’s party were very vague in their replies to him on that subject.
– I shall be so definite in my statement that the honorable member will know exactly where I stand. Such a threat as that uttered by the Minister will not deter us from doing what we conceive to be our duty. No branch of the Service should be retained unless its continuance can be fully justified, and I hope that the decision of honorable members as to the vote which they should cast on the amendment will be based upon the merits of the arguments advanced in support of it. It is our obvious duty to effect economies wherever that may be done without loss of efficiency.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Although, , as I have said, the Minister has tried to unduly influence, if not to intimidate, honorable members on this side by suggesting that he may And it necessary to put his hand on the Small Arms Factory should further retrenchment be required of him, he hasyet made no statement of his intentions regarding the staff employed by the Central Administration and the higher permanent officers, who. constitute the “ brass hats “ of the Department, the vote for whose salaries is this year, considerably in excess of that of last year.When economy is spoken of, it is to those employed in the factories associated with military preparations that the Government think of applying it. The honorable gentleman told us last night that there has been no increase in the permanent staff, and no increase in the expenditure upon it. I find, however, that whereas in 1920-21 the Permanent Forces . numbered 1,620, those provided for in these Estimates number 2,502.
-We are not now dealing with the general Estimates, and I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the Works Estimates and to the amendment for the reduction of the Military vote.
– I shall endeavour to do so. In my opinion, we could suspend our military preparations at once without fear of future embarrassment. The Government is out of -touch with popular sentiment in proposing to increase the vote for Defence, the desire for universal peace being world-wide. That would be shown could the people voice their wishes on the subject.
– The people are against murder.
– Yes. War is a relic of barbarism, and subversive of civilization.
– But there are still barbarians in the world.
Mr.MAKIN.- I trust that the honorable member will prove to be on the side of civilization. It will not be until the people have given direct expression to their wishes that we shall secure relief from the militarism which oppresses us. As an article which appeared in a Victorian newspaper some time ago stated, it seems now almost as though the war had been lost by those who were declared the victors, so great is the burden that it forces them to shoulder. We must carefully guard against the spreading in the body politic of the malignant cancer of militarism. I ask the Minister whether the reduction of £250,000 which he proposes is to be made in the Defence Estimates as a whole, or only in that part of them which relates to works ?
– In the Defence Estimates as a whole.
– The proposed Defence expenditure for this year is £1,153,023 in excess of the amount expended last year, talcing into account Military and Air Defences; this figure excludes naval activities.
– I remind the honorable member that he is again discussing the generalEstimates.
– Then I shall reserve my remarks on this subject for another occasion. The increase in the Military Works Estimates this year is £440,996, so that a more substantial reduction than that proposed by the Minister should be made. In my opinion, the circumstances warrant the reduction proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). We should reduce our Defence expenditure to the minimum, and those employed by the Department who are not giving a reproductive return to the country should be required to apply their energies in occupations more useful to the community. As I have said, I think that we might safely suspend our Defence preparations at once. But I do not wish to add to the large army of unemployed by throwing more men out of work. The members of the party to which I belong would not deprive any man of employment. What we suggest is that the factories which have hitherto been devoted to the production of warlike material should now be turned over to the employments of peace. Machinery such as that of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory might, for instance, usefully be adapted to the making of telephone instruments, materials, and so forth, that are required by the Postmaster-General’s Department, of which the country has hitherto been unable to obtain an adequate supply. There is no need to throw any of our factories idle, seeing that they can be devoted to forms of service which would be useful to the Commonwealth by supplying us with things needed for the peaceful functions of government. The Minister has intimated that the Government are not prepared to enter into competition with private enterprise; but it is theduty of the Government to see that the community is provided with public utilities and with all the material necessary for these utilities.
Mr.Gregory. - No matter what the cost?
– At the very minimum of cost, and that could be done if the Government were prepared to utilize the Lithgow works in the way I suggest. The Minister’s statement about not competing with private enterprise ‘is clear evidence that the Government are faithfully serving commercial and business interests at the expense of the taxpayers and general citizens. There is every reason to demand a substantial reduction in many of the items before us, and the services of the employees at the Lithgow works could be devoted to work which would be to the benefit of the country. The great nations assembled at Washington have intimated their desire to effect a reduction in armaments, and it ill becomes this country to set a. bad example, such as is afforded by the increased military votes in both the general Estimates and the Works Estimates. The amendment should have the full support of the Committee, especially of those honorable members in the corner, who prate so much about economy, but whom I gravely suspect of a desire to exercise, not true economy, but that false form of economy which leads to unemployment. This amendment is an opportunity to test l,he bona fides of the professions of those honorable members, and show whether they really desire a reduction in the expenditure of the Commonwealth. I hope honorable members generally will show that they are acquainted with the desires of the great mass of the people of this country, and will reduce these Military Estimates to a minimum. Personally, I should like to see a suspension of all warlike expenditure. If ever there is a time when such expenditure may be suspended, it is when, as now, the Empire has just passed through one of the greatest crises the world has ever known. We are perfectly justified in. demanding that the Government shall take advanttage of present circumstances, and, in keeping with the desires and declarations of other nations, keep step with the times, and with the world-wide wish to live in peace and good-will.
.- I listened to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) with every desire to help him, but, although he preached the gospel of economy, and advocated the cutting down of these Estimates by £500,000, he did not give us any idea where any reductions could be made. ‘
– I did. What about item No. 1 and item No. 8 ?
– I cannot see my way clear to support the proposed reduction of £500,000, for it would not be wise, in my opinion, to stop all defence expenditure at the present moment. I think that these Estimates might be reduced, by, say, £250,000. We must, as I say, keep our Defence Forces in proper order, but in view of the huge quantity of arms and accoutrements, worth millions of pounds, which came from the Old Country at the end of the year, and are now housed at enormous expense in the neighbourhood of each capital of the Commonwealth, and also in view of the huge quantities purchased during the war, we ought to be able to make some reduction in the expenditure. The honorable member for Hindmarsh wishes to keep the Small Arms Factory working, and I suggested that he should inquire from the Minister how much the rifles made there are costing, but he would not do so; his desire is to keep on the factory in order to. give the people cheap commodities, though we all know well that nothing cheap has ever been made in the place.
– What the honorable member for Hindmarsh said was that the factory should be kept on, but not for manufacturing small arms.
– If the factory cannot manufacture small arms at anything like- the price they can be manufactured elsewhere, is it likely that it can manufacture other goods at a reasonable price 1 The honorable member who interjects knows as well as I do of the enormous quantity of war material that came ‘here at the close of the war; and, in view of that fact, as I say, I think some reduction ought to be made in the capital expenditure of the Department. At the same time, I wish to see our defences kept well organized so that we may be able to defend ourselves. My experience has shown me that the Deffence Department is absolutely careless with regard to expenditure; and in saying that, I am not criticising the Acting Minister. Senator Pearce is wholly responsible. The Department, however, spends enormous sums of money, starting with small instalments, and then subsequently committing Parliament to enormous sums not contemplated by this House at the commencement of the work. The Government have undertaken that the Defence Estimates can be reduced by about £250,000. I was not here when the Minister spoke last night, but I am advised that the Government have purchased the Colonial Ammunition Works at Maribyrnong for about £240,000.
– The Government have taken over the works, renting them from the company.
– Are the Government committed by guarantee or otherwise to the extent of £240,000.
– Yes ; that is in connexion with all the company’s supplies and appliances; the trust fund has been in existence for the past twenty odd years.
– I wish to know whether the Government are committed to anything in the nature of a purchase?
– The .Government are not committed to purchase the works; we pay a rent of £2O,Q00 a year.
– The Government are not committed to the extent of £240,000 ?
– That is only for the purchase of the stocks on hand for the manufacture of ammunition.
– To the extent of £240,000 ?
– That is rather extraordinary, because during the war the company manufactured all the ammunition we required. As a matter of fact, I remember the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) boasting that not only had Australia manufactured ammunition for herself, but had sent large supplies to South Africa. If this company was able to supply us with ammunition during the war period, it .seems strange that the Government should assume a responsibility of nearly £250,000 in order to continue supplies now.
– The company was in difficulties, and, as their supplies of ammunition were not satisfactory, it was thought that the better arrangements was to take the works over.
– I was doubtful as to what had really been done, and I am glad to have this information from the Minister. Last year, under this heading, there was expended £248,000, and this year wei are asked to vote another £250,000 for the Small Arms Factory, in addition .to £281,000 for the reserves of rifles. When the Factory was established at Lithgow the best possible plant was obtained, and the papers presented to Parliament showed that, under Australian conditions, rifles could be manufactured there at £3 9s. Id. each. Of course, I know that the war has altered the cost of all things, but even if we assume that material and other charges have risen by 150 per cent., we ought to get a rifle at something like £8 10s., whereas, according to the Minister, the cost is over £16. It does not seem to me right that rifles manufactured here, in our Government factory, should cost 100 per cent, more than rifles can be produced at elsewhere. The most serious complaint I have against the Defence Department is that year after year enormous amounts are placed on the Estimates for the same works. For the Woollen Cloth Factory another £45,000 is provided in addition to the £53,000 spent last year. On the Small Arms Factory another £18,000 is to be spent on additional machinery, and for machinery and plant in connexion with the supply of munitions an expenditure of £196,000 is proposed. Honorable members will recollect that a few years ago the Defence Department was determined to establish an arsenal at Tuggeranong, about 8 miles south of Canberra.
– A good place, too.
– I said at that time that the site would be very suitable for a monastery, but I could not understand the proposal to place a big engineering establishment in the wilderness, where there were no supplies of either labour or raw material. It would cost £2,500,000 to adequately house the workmen there. Mr. Leighton, the Director of Munitions, went to England at an early stage of the war, and the Imperial Government were so impressed with his qualifications that they retained him in England throughout the war to assist them in munition work. When he returned to Australia he said distinctly that an arsenal was not required in Australia.;’ all that was necessary was a laboratory. And small sums were placed on the Estimates for the establishment of a laboratory at Maribyrnong.
– Near Melbourne, of course.
– I was not concerned to have it near Melbourne. It would have been just as satisfactory to me if the laboratory had been placed in Sydney or Adelaide. Any large establishment which will require a big and steady supply of labour must be near a large centre of population. Mr. Leyton said that, instead of establishing an arsenal, we need have . only a laboratory for the . training of a staff of chemists and engineers in munition work, and in time of war we could do as the Imperial Government did - commandeer all the big machinery . establishments, organize them with the aid of the trained’ staff, and set them to work on the manufacture of munitions. I do not know the total amount of the sums already voted in connexion with the local production of munitions, but these Estimates include an item of £196,000 for machinery and plant for munition supplies. I assume that to be for Arsenal purposes at Maribyrnong. That is an enormous sum, and whilst I am not prepared to say that the Defence Department is wrong, these works should not be undertaken without Parliament knowing something of the ultimate cost before the initial cost is incurred. When the Government proposed to spend large sums of money, such as are involved in connexion with the arsenal laboratory at Maribyrnong, they should have submitted an estimate of the complete cost, including the housing of workmen, arsenal buildings, machinery, and plant, so that we would know to what we were committing the country.
– The Minister could not even state last night on what items he will effect the promised economy of £250,000.
– I can understand that. He would not be able to definitely locate his economies without serious and careful examination of the whole of the Estimates. The Prime Minister has told the Committee to consider the Estimates and to suggest what items can be cut down. We cannot do that. We may say that the expenditure of a Department should be cut down by £20,000 or £30,000, but without an intimate knowledge of the working and requirements of the Department, it would he absurd to attempt to say where the savings can be effected.
– The honorable member would have no difficulty in cutting down the Estimates. ,
– I would; and I do not wish to do anything that would embarrass the Minister controlling the Department, although I do think that reductions can be, and should be, made. After the war the Imperial Government sent to Australia enormous quantities of accoutrements, munitions, guns, waggons, kitchens, and other warlike material, and I saw it stored at Midland Junction, near Perth, at Seymour; Liverpool, Brisbane, and Adelaide. These Estimates include large items of expenditure for the provision of ordnance stores to accommodate this material.
– A very costly undertaking.
– Yes; but a lot of it is necessary. Although we hope that these stores of war material may never be used, still whilst we have them we must organize them and keep them in good condition. That involves the expen- diture of a certain amount of money. But having regard to the quantity of war material that was returned to Australia and the large expenditure which Australia incurred in connexion with the war, surely it is right to ask for some reduction of the proposed further expenditure upon munitions. Nearly every year a sum of, approximately, £250,000 has been provided on the Estimates for rifles. The original plant at Lithgow was designed to turn out 22,000 rifles per annum, and since it was first installed it has been extended.
– What about manufacturing telephones there for the honorable member’s constituents ?
-I do not know whether we can manufacture them yet.
– They should be manufactured here.-
– If they are not being manufactured in. Australia, I do not see how we can start to produce them at Lithgow?
– ‘Does not the honorable member think that they could be manufactured here?
– Not in the light of the evidence I have heard. Switchboards have been manufactured in Sydney, but I do not think we could make the instruments.
– I should like to have a try.
– I wish the honorable member had tried. He has had ample opportunity to do so. If we did commence the manufacture of telephones we should require to do better than we have done in connexion with the manufacture of rifles.
– The honorable member is one who, when wool became cheap, would suggest that all the sheep in the country should be killed.
– What is the use of talking absurdities? If the honorable member were so anxious to promote Australian manufactures, why did he miss his opportunity to take action in connexion with the £700,000 provided in the Postmaster-General’s Estimates for telephones, telephone wires, and other material? When the Postmaster-General was explaining the reasons why it was impossible to give to the people the conveniences for which they are clamouring, why did not the honorable member take a stand for local industries? One reason why we may not be able to manufacture telephone instruments is that they are, I believe, protected by patents. I do not wish to delay the passing of these Estimates. Whilst I cannot vote for their reduction by £500,000, I feel very much inclined to support a reduction of £250,000.
– The Minister has already promised’ that.
– That promise relates to the Defence Estimates as a whole, and not only to the Works and Buildings Estimates. The Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) told us that of the £500,000 by which the Prime Minister promised to reduce the Estimates, £250,000will be taken from the Defence Department. I trust that when we are considering the main Estimates we shall manage to effect a reduction of £250,000 in various Departments, including that of the Prime Minister, before we reach the Defence Department. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) would withdraw his amendment I would not mind moving that these Estimates be reduced by £250,000.
– Does the honorable member think that Defence Works and Buildings should be reduced by £250,000 ?
– I think so; and I would vote for such a reduction. Many of the proposals contained in these Estimates can very well be delayed.
– That means shutting up the Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
– I thought that the honorable member wished to shut up all the works at Lithgow and remove them to Canberra.
– If the amendment is carried, the. Lithgow works will be shut up.
– And if we carry further amendments it will mean that you will shut up the lot.
– There . is intense enthusiasm displayed by tens of thousands of citizens in Australia in rifle shooting, and no doubt if they are encouraged they will always prove to be a splendid asset in the defence of this country. I would therefore like to see increased expenditure on rifle clubs. Let us give our youths a certain amount of training under defence officers, and then give them every encouragement to become members of rifle clubs, which will enable them to become thoroughly acquainted, with the use of the weapon, and good shots. I think that in this way we could do more than can be done, by all the efforts put forward by those who are in control of our Defence scheme.
.- I have no desire to detain the Committee, but I do not wish to give a silent vote upon the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I understand that when we are dealing with the main Defence Estimates we shall have ample opportunity of considering the whole question of defence, which will probably involve a discussion of the great question of disarmament, which is now engrossing the attention of the civilized world. We shall have to review our whole system of defence in the light of the attitude of the various nations upon that great question. I regret exceedingly that the honorable member has submitted his amendment to reduce this particular vote by £500,000. The party to which he belongs has quite lately pronounced in favour of disarmament, and I could understand a proposal submitted by an honorable member of the Opposition to the effect that we should scrap the whole of our armaments and suspend all our military operation’s; in a word, that we should disarm. That would be a proposition based upon a clear and welldefined principle which one could understand. I suppose that, so far as defence is concerned, the ultimate object of every honorable member of this House - at any rate, of honorable members sitting on the Government side - is the reasonable safety of Australia, although we may differ as to the best method of obtaining it; but when I look at the amendment, which proposes to reduce the vote on defence works expenditure by £500,000, I can find in it no shadow of a principle. It contains no principle; it is. simply the application of a rule-of -thumb method.
– It has a principle in it - to keep the expenditure down to not more than was spent- last year.
– That is not a principle.
– It is a limitation of armaments.
– It is a limitation; that isa fact, but it is not a principle. I am seeking for the principle upon which the proposed reduction is fixed at £500,000. Why should it not be £1,000,000? Why not £300,000? I have heard no reason advanced for asking the Committee to reduce the vote by £500,000. I am in sympathy with the object that honorable members of the Opposition have in view, but I think it is a pity that they should submit an amendment that practically brings the question of defence down to the level of a party matter. Having tabled an amendment of this kind, honorable members of the Opposition have constantly thrown out the taunt that those who vote against it are voting againstthe principle of universal peace and voting in favour of militarism. I object to that sort of taunting. I shall vote against the amendment, but while I do so, I claim that I am as ardent a pacifist as is any honorable member of the Opposition, and as ardently longing for universal peace as is any other honorable member in the Committee.
– Would not the honorable member be more consistent by practising it?
– I am going to practise it, and when we discuss the question of defence I shall take the opportunity of speaking upon the great principles which underlie the subject. I shall vote against the amendment, but the speech delivered last night by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has placed me in a very awkward position. The speech was deliveredfor the purpose of explaining why the Committee should vote the particular amount provided on these Estimates for new works and buildings, and was explanatory of the meaning of each item, but there was no attempt on the part of the Minister to give the basis upon which this particular amount he claimed as being necessary for the adequate defence of Australia had been calculated. The
Minister will remember that I put this question to him, “Is he proposing this reduction on his Estimates of £250,000 simply in pursuance of the Prime Minister’s promise to reduce the Estimates generally by £500,000, or is he in the interests of true economy proposing a reduction by £250,000 without imperilling the safety of Australia?” Two answers could have been given by the Minister. He might have said, “ I frankly admit that because, the Prime Minister has ‘promised to cut down the Estimates generally by £500,000, I have undertaken to cut down my Department’s expenditure by half of the amount he has indicated.” Had that answer been given I would have characterized it as being beneath contempt - as an effort on the part of the- Government to placate those honorable members who have been crying out for economy. But the Minister did not take up the position that he was, without any regard for ths safety of Australia, undertaking to cut down his Estimates by £250,000. He said that he could cut down his Estimates by that amount without imperilling the safety of Australia. I listened most carefully to the late’ Treasurer delivering his Budget speech. He said that the Estimates of every Department had been cut down to the lowest possible amount, and represented bedrock. Yet the Assistant Minister for Defence in control of a Department intrusted with the task of insuring the safety of Australia comes to this Committee, after asking it to vote a certain amount as being the lowest possible sum consistent with the safety of Australia, and coolly tells us that he can reduce this amount by £250,000 without imperilling that safety. I cannot understand him. He places me in a dilemma. His statement absolutely saps my faith in the reliability of the assertion made in regard to the Estimates of each Department.
– I think the honorable member will remember that I said - and I was criticised for saying it - that on account of the delay in the passage of these Estimates, five months of .the year having already gone, it would be possible to save the money which could not be spent during the financial year.
– And the honorable member will also remember that Sir Joseph Cook , indicated that it was possible that savings would be effected during the year just as they were effected last year.
– Then what the Assistant Minister said last night practically means nothing. If he says that he is going to cut down his Estimates by £250,000 because, so much of the financial year having already expired, he will not be able to spend the full amount this year, his promise amounts to nothing.
– But it answers the purpose. If the honorable members want the money saved what more can they want if it is not spent this year f
– All that the Minister means is that even if we pass the full amount asked for it will not be spent by reason of the fact that part of the year has already gone.
– It will probably not be spent.
– Then that means that the Minister is not going to cut down expenditure. When he says he will not ask for the full amount it is because he cannot spend it in the time specified. It is a promise which amounts to absolutely nothing so far as the reduction of expenditure is concerned. We, shall continue to spend the money exactly at the same rate and there will be no economy, which I am sure the Minister will admit.
– It has its placating effect, however.
– It has, but it is not treating the Committee fairly for the Minister to put forward something which, on the face of it, appears to be an attempt at economy, whereas in truth and in fact it is nothing of the sort.
– Nothing seems to satisfy the honorable member. He says that money which cannot be spent is no saving. Then he says that if I cut down my Estimates I will jeopardize the safety of the Common wealth. Again, he says that I am sapping his faith in the reliability of the pledge given by the ex-Treasurer that the Estimates had been cut down to bedrock. He. cannot have things every way.
– The Minister is not stating my position fairly. I shall attempt to describe it in a nutshell. Honorable members are calling out for economy ; that is, for cutting down expenditure.
– They are not calling out for cutting down expenditure. They are asking that the money should be spent wisely.
-In any case, in response to the request for economy, the Prime Minister promised that the Estimates would be reduced by £500,000, and the Assistant Minister for Defence says, “I intend to economize “ - because that is what it means - “ in my Department to the extent of £250,000.”’
– I guaranteed that that £250,000 would not be spent.
– But in the same breath the Minister said that the reason why the money would not be spent was that as so much of the year had already gone he would not require the whole vote during the time specified. He ought to have added, “ I shall still be spending the money at the same rate.” If he proposes to spend the money at the same rate and only spends a smaller amount because he has a shorter time in which to spend it, it is not economy.
– The honorable member’s argument is merely a quibble.
– It is not a quibble.
– But the honorable member will vote for the Government.
– I will vote against the amendment because there is no principle involved in.it. With every other honorable member, I desire the safety of Australia. I cannot agree with those who say that the safety of this Commonwealth can be secured by absolute disarmament and that we will be safe in disarming, no matter what the other nations of the earth do. Some say that as the result of disarmament we shall have safety.
– The honorable member is a good advocate for the side that will pay him most.
– Order! Every honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence.
– I was pointing out that I do not know how this reduction by £500,000 will affect the question of the. safety of Australia.
– Does the honorable member believe in increasing this expenditure for Defence purposes over and above the amount so expended last year, especially in view of the Washington Con-
– I do not.
– Well, we have an increase in this case.
– I am not speaking comparatively. I can only say that there should be at least a period of marking time.
– This is only a legal quibble on the part of the honorable member.
– I do not know why I should be subjected to constant interruptionby an honorable member who can never open his mouth without being offensive.
– The honorable member for Melbourne must restrain himself.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is “‘the limit.” I will go out.
-In reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) I say that the Defence vote ought to be cut down to the lowest possible limit. I am not sufficiently expert to be able to compare the proposed expenditure this year with that actually incurred last year. I expect the Minister to do that. I expect from, him. an explanation of his Estimates, a statement as to why he asks for this vote and why a smaller vote would not be sufficient.
– The Minister is asking us to grant £440,000 in excess of last year’s Defence expenditure on new works.
– That is not so. The honorable member is comparing the estimated expenditure for this year with, last year’s actual expenditure. Let him compare like with like.
– The position is very perplexing. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who has submitted this amendment could shew me that the proposed vote could be reduced by £500,000, without impairing the efficiency of our Defences, I would vote for the amendment. I would be prepared to reduce the military Estimates by £1,000,000 if I thought, that such a reduction could be made without any loss of efficiency. But since it has not been shown that the reduction now proposed can be made without impairing the efficiency of the system I cannot vote for the amendment. On the other hand, we have the statement of the Minister that the Estimates can be reduced by £250,000 without impairing the efficiency of the Department, although we were told previously that the Estimates as submitted had been cut down to the lowest possible limit. My faith in Ministerial statements as to economy in expenditure is thus much shaken. That is the diffi- cult position in which M find myself . I shall reserve any further remarks that I have to make until the general Estimates are before .us. It is to be regretted that we should have to vote on this one division apart from the consideration of the Defence Estimates as a whole.
– Once this proposed vote is agreed to, the money will be expended.
– That is so. It is very difficult for a man who has no expert knowledge of these matters to determine how he should record his vote. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who has had considerable . experience, tells us that this proposed vote could be safely cut down by £250,000. _ If that could be shown to my satisfaction, I would vote for such a reduction. The Minister, however, tells us that he cannot make a reduction of” £250,000 in respect of this one vote, but that the reduction promised by him will be in respect of the whole of the Estimates of his Department. It seems to me that I shall have to be content with the promised reduction of £250,000 in respect to the whole of the Defence Estimates.
.- The surprising feature of the debate has been the attitude adopted by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He takes up the extraordinary stand that no principle is involved in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to reduce this military vote by £500,000. He contends, of course, that he: is standing for the highest principles by deciding to vote for the Minister’s proposal. He overlooks the all-important point that the item as submitted by the honorable gentleman provides, in round figures, for an in- ; crease of £500,000 upon last year’s expenditure. What principle is involved in voting for such an increase, unless it is the principle of fostering in this country the spirit of war?
– Not at all. My difficulty is that I da not know in respect of what items the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would make this reduction of £500,000. That being so, I cannot judge of the feasibility of his amendment.
– I do not want to be unfair to the honorable member, but it seems to me that he would show a more true regard for principle by urging that, now that the world conflict is over, and that as the outcome of the Washington Conference, /we at least hope for a limitation of armaments, there should be a reduction in our military expenditure. As the outcome of the Washington Conference, we hope that never again will the world witness such a bloody spectacle as we have had of recent years. The honorable member has said, ‘ ‘ Let us mark time.” Surely he should Be prepared to say that there shall at least be no greater expenditure on military preparedness this year than took place last year. That, I think, is a reasonable proposition. It is absurd for the honorable member to ask us to set out the particular items that should be reduced. That is not our duty. I am prepared to point to some cases in which reductions might well be made, but I contend that it is the duty of the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) to justify the huge increased vote to which he asked the Committee to agree.
– It is not an increased -vote.
– It is.
– Compare like with like - the estimated expenditure for both years.
– It is idle for the honorable gentleman to try to bluff me, as he endeavoured to bully the Opposition when we were speaking on this1 question a week or two ago. He said then that he was a man of peace, but we had no sooner attacked him than he cried, “ Trot out your dogs of war.” He has lived for years in an atmosphere of war, and although he claims to be a man of peace he is no sooner challenged than his warlike spirit manifests itself. Instead of the dogs of war being let loose, we desire to see the dove of peace sent out. Let us, at least, show our representative at the Washington Conference that this Parliament is determined to do its little bit to assist in bringing about what the Conference was convened to accomplish. We can do that by refusing to vote for an increased military expenditure this year. In connexion with this proposed vote the Minister is asking for £17,460 for warlike stores. The expenditure last year on that particular item was only £716, so that we are asked, in respect of that one item alone, to agree to an increase of £16,744. If the late war was a war to end war - if the world has been saved for Democracy, if the Washington Conference is to bring about a world’s peace - why do we need to expend this additional amount on warlike stores? Surely the warlike stores that we had during the war period should be sufficient in the days of peace. That is the principle for which we stand, and to which I direct the attention of the honorable member forFawkner. This is not a party matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I think, has already intimated that he will accept the decision of the Committee on these items so that the honorable member may eliminate from his mind all party considerations. A question of principle is involved. Does he stand for limitation of armaments or for an increased military expenditure in this country ?
– I will make my position abundantly clear when we come to the general Estimates.
– It will then be too late.
– Absolutely too late. I can sympathize with the honorable member in his dilemma. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved to give the people of Australia some relief from the giant that has been crushing them. The honorable member forFawkner says, in effect, “I can see that the life’s blood of Australia is being crushed out by militarism, but if I vote with the Opposition I shall embarrass my own party.” Either the principle which he has enunciated is correct, or it is not. If it is correct then the only course open to him is to vote against any increased military expenditure this year. It will be useless for the honorable member later on to point to the speech which he delivered in this House ten or twelve days ago - a speech upon which, by the way, I desire to compliment him. It contained a message of hope, and of peace, to the world. In view of that utterance, how can he justify his proposal to vote for an increased military expenditure? He told us the other day that the world should take practical steps to reduce armaments - that it should stop building engines of destruction and piling up huge military debts. He stood as a shining example to many Labour men in Australia, and pointed to the way by which universal peace could be secured. But when he is brought face to face with a practical test of his sincerity he announces that he will vote, not for the same military expenditure on works and buildings that was incurred last year, but for an increase of £500,000.
– =-Does this apply to the construction of the Adelaide?
– It applies to any engine of destruction. The honorable member cannot catch me in that way. Any man who stands for a principle is never caught. I stand for universal peace, and if the scrapping of the Adelaide would bring it about, I would vote to scrap that vessel to-morrow, and ten thousand like it. It is proposed to spend £25,743 this year on the Field Artillery, though last year the amount expended was only £335.
– Of the amount set down for last year, £12,845 has been carried over to this year, and represents commitments in London.
– Surely we must accept the Treasurer’s figures. The interjection, and the whole debate, proves that we should ask for the Estimates to be withdrawn and recast, because the Treasurer assured us that he had gone carefully through them, and had pruned the proposals of the Departments down to the minimum. The Minister suggests that money voted will not necessarily be spent, but we should make sure that it will not be spent by refusing to vote it. I shall take any and every opportunity to prevent increased expenditure.
– Suppose we knock it off the Adelaide ?
– The Minister is afraid that some of the “brass hats” might be knocked off. The sum of £9,841 is put down for barracks, but last year only £830 was spent.
– That is to provide quarters for the “ brass hats.”
– Yes. Were I allowed now to deal with the General Estimates, I could show that the proposed expenditure on the permanent forces this year is much larger than the amount spent last year, and larger than was ever before asked for in Australia. Is that in accordance with the spirit of. peace ? But the “ brass hats “ have to be provided for, and jobs made for them.
– This is a “ brass hat “ Government.
– It seems to me- that it is and the Ministry seems to have a brass hide. The Committee should tell the Government that the military expenditure must be cut down. The people of this country, like those of all others, look for relief from the colossal burden of warlike preparations, and the Govern- merit will incur a grave responsibility if it does not curb the military expenditure. If the Government will not do its duty, honorable members must force it to do it. We shall be judged by our votes, and may be sure that the people of Australia will, stand solidly behind the Washington Conference in endeavouring to bring about universal peace.
– I would remind honorable members of information which it is desirable that we should have in dealing with this matter. The sum asked for Military expenditure out of revenue this year is £1,693,000, after allowing for’ a saving as set forth on page 124 of the Estimates of £295,000, which it is estimated -will not be expended; that is to say, a sum which is £352,281 in excess of the actual expenditure lastyear, which was £1,340,719. In my opinion, the reduction of the Military vote by £352,281 is the minimum that we have a right to expect. I am aware that five months of the current financial year have now passed, and consequently the expenditure that can take place will be much less than was estimated for in June last. Personally, I have little doubt but that the modest proposal of the Minister to expend, during the year, £250,000 less than the amount asked for in the Estimates can be easily given effect. I assume this sum will be in addition to the £295,000 already referred to. Indeed, in the ordinary course of things, the amount unexpended by the end of the year is likely to be considerably greater than the sum. he has named, and the honorable gentleman should therefore be asked to guarantee a larger saving. Some of the members of the Opposition have suggested that £100,000 might very well be saved on the proposed vote of £281,000 for a reserve of rifles, and I think, with them, that some such reduction might be made. That reduction, with the £250,000 proposed to be saved by the Minister, would make the total reduction £350,000, or practically the amount which is the excess of the proposed expenditure this year over that of last year. I understand that the Minister does not propose to make up any part of this suggested saving of £250,000 by reducing the item of £281,000 set down for a reserve of rifles.
– That is so.
– Then the honorable gentleman might easily assure the Committee that at least £350,000 will be saved. I do not desire that the military machine shall be altogether scrapped, but we have a right to expect some relief from the colossal burden of Defence expenditure, which it would be unjust to increase. We must maintain a skeleton Defence Force, and the Minister must see that such defensive preparations are made as will prevent our safety from being imperilled. It has been suggested that the £500,000 which is required for the annual training of our Citizen Forces might be saved by suspending that training during the current financial year; but, although that may appear an alluring proposition, we must bear in mind that there is on the statute-book, as the deliberate policy of Parliament and of Australia, an Act that requires that training shall take place, and so long as that Act of Parliament remains, we are, at all events, compelled to see that it is carried out.
– Can we not suspend it?
– I say frankly that I am in favour of the training of our Citizen Forces. If I thought that that training would not be prejudiced in any way, I would gladly fall in with the suggestion to suspend it for a year; but I am afraid that it would be taken as a precedent to be followed in subsequent’ years. Hence it is that I feel I am not free to vote for the suspension of this expenditure; but we have the assurance of the Minister that the expenditure is to be curtailed to the extent of, I think, some £45,000 or £46,000, and that the policy will not be prejudiced. The military vote may be alluring as one that can be cut down ruthlessly, and at a time like this there may be something in that view. At the same time, we are not justified in taking a short vision; we ought to await the result of the Disarmament Conference, which has opened so auspiciously, and with such glorious prospects. I hope that by next year, in the light of what the Conference does, we may be able to come to a decision with greater confidence. I, for one, will not be a party to increasing the expenditure for the current year beyond the actual expenditure of last year; and I suggest to the Minister that the general expression of opinion in that direction should guide him to a proper decision.
.- It is rather amusing to listen to honorable members who, like myself, candidly confess that they have no technical knowledge of the subject, and are, therefore, incompetent to say definitely what particular item, if any, shall be eliminated, all starting from the stand-point of the defence of the country. It adds to our amusement when we hear honorable member after honorable member protesting how they would like to vote for the cutting down of the Estimates, or of this particular item, by various sums, but that they do not feel themselves free to se vote.
– What I said was that I did not feel free to vote for a suspension of the vote for the training of the Citizen Forces.
– And the honorable, member who has just interjected concluded with’ a great meed of praise for the Washington. Conference. It is rather peculiar that experts to-day in this particular line take a somewhat different view, noticeably Major-General Sir E. Maurice, who, in an article in the Contemporary Review, says -
But an agreement between the great naval Powers to limit the number of battleships and to reduce naval expenditure accordingly, so that money saved on battleships should not be used for lighter ships of war, would leave those Powers, relatively in the same position as before as regards naval power, would not interfere with any of the many valuable functions of navies in times of peace, and would constitute no danger to our sea communications.
– Why not keep all this until the Estimates for the Navy are before us?
– Because it applies equally to the honorable gentleman’s Estimates. In other words, this military expert says that the proposed Conference does not make any progress towards the prevention of war, but that it lessens the burden of the competing Powers, which are relatively left at the same strength. As the Temps pointed out, there were wars before there were super-Dreadnoughts, and probably there will be wars even with the elimination of the battle ship.
– I am glad you are backing me up!
– I am backing you up from your own premises, which, if sound, make your argument unassailable. If you believe in war, you must, naturally, prepare for war.
– I do not believe in war, but I believe in preparing against it.
– The honorable member, like others before him, believes in “ trusting in God and keeping his powder dry.”
– Hear, hear !
– What are navies and military forces for ? Why is it necessary to have ammunition factories and so forth?
– Why is it neces-sary to have any police?
– To look after the honorable gentleman and others, I # take it. People who believe in arming themselves against peaceable citizens must look to some police force to protect ‘them. The interests which to-day dominate the political and economic life of the country necessitate armaments, and it is because of the clashing of those interests that armies and navies must be maintained. It is not because the great working masses of the world desire armies or navies, or that their interests are served by them; the interests of the great mass of the people, . even according to arguments on both sides of the Committee, are not served by creating armies and navies.. Who is responsible for the disarmament cry now ? It is not the workers of the world who are demanding it, but the same people who, when the world war was raging, prevented representatives of the working classes from meeting at Stockholm when ‘they proposed to intervene and stop the war, and at the same time allowed financiers to meet in Switzerland and decide what steps should be taken to prevent the revolution which broke out in Russia from proceeding on the same lines in Germany. Major-General Maurice points out in his article that twelve months last October another international conference of financiers met in Brussels and laid down to the League of Nations the dictum that there must be an understanding to bring about a limitation of armaments, because the financiers had determined that they would no longer support armament competition. And why ? Great Britain has a proposal to build four battleships costing between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 each; and it is the economic position of the Old Country, Japan, and the United States of America that makes it imperative, from the international financiers’ point of view, that some modus vivendi, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) termed it, shall be arrived at by which they would not interfere with one another’s capacity to carry on war. The economic position is such that if the capitalistic system is to continue there must be an understanding to limit armaments. The interests of the great mass of the people are not taken into consideration at all. What is the mass of the people for? Only to fight wars; they are considered only as cannon fodder.
– -They supply the revenue.
– No. It is not a question of the position of the working class being improved when we talk of cutting down these Estimates by £500,000, or agree to limit armaments. Neither makes the slightest difference to the working class of this or any other country. Whose interests are being taken- into consideration in these matters? Those of the middle class.
– Who are they?
-The honorable member is one of their representatives, though, of course, he would not admit it. The honorable member and others who represent those interests - the interests of those who own the factories, workshops, mines, and other industrial means - are the people who are supporting disarmament because they find taxation too oppressive. As I have before contended, the question of taxation is not one that interests the working classes.
– Is it not? I work hard, and the question interests me!
– The honorable member may work hard ; there are lots of other people who work hard, but not at productive labour. There are gentlemen who have to be kept under restraint, and who work hard and for long hours, and who are not always held up as examples of probity.
– Taxation interests me very much !
– Quite so, but it does not interest the working class. The. working classes of the world produce the wealth of the world, but they only receive a portion of it. The portion reserved for taxation is responsible for the conflicts that occur from time to time ‘ between the Ministerial party and the Corner party ‘about the incidence of taxation. It is the interests which those gentlemen represent which are concerned with this disarmament business.
– What has all this to do with my Estimates?
– So far as I am concerned, the honorable gentleman can have the whole of his Estimates. It does not mean any difference to the working men and women whether we reduce the Estimates by £500,000 or leave them as they are. The people who call out for economy desire lighter taxes, and while they call out for these things, they seek to reduce the wages and increase the hours of the workers. Do honorable members contend that if we wiped out the whole of the Estimates the workers would be one penny the better off or their hours shorter ? The Minister knows full well, as a station owner, that the worker will not be one bit better off if the whole of his Estimates were wiped out. The working class is the only class I am” concerned about, and they are not affected. The people who are concerned are those who fluctuate between one political party and another - the floating vote, exercised by people who> are out for economy and wish to cut down expenditure. What difference does it make to the workers what .is done? Are they going to get increased wages or have their conditions improved ? No. The people who deter- * mine the conditions and the remuneration of the workers will see that, no matter what occurs, it will be for the workers only a question of a living wage as before’ - a low cost of living means low wages, and a high cost of living, high wages. If taxation is light, it means so much less out of the profits that are wrung from the working classes. The cost of armies and navies is not paid for by the working classes in the way of taxation, but is paid for out of the profits wrung from them - out of the surplus value their employers appropriate. The workers know full well that at the back” of this Conference at Washington is the desire to camouflage the real _ issue, namely, the attempt to form an international capitalistic alliance for the purpose of swinging the opinion of the world against the workers’ Republic in Russia.
– Is not the honorable member rather wide of the subject ?
– I think he is.
– What I am saying has much to do with the subject. The Minister in charge of the Estimates last evening saw fit to introduce the matter himself. He pointed out that the only opposition to his Estimates came from the people he termed Bolsheviks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.He may have been out of order in doing so.
– But he was not pulled up by the Chair.
– The Minister did not continue the subject.
– I am not objecting to what the Minister had to say, but I am anxious to point out that the question of reducing the number of items under this heading or in any other portion of the Estimates resolves itself into an issue between conflicting groups opposite, one section wanting to reduce this particular expenditure on defence on the ground that a Disarmament Conference is proceeding at Washington, while others, who are vitally concerned, tell us that this Conference will not fundamentally alter the position, but will really leave it relatively as it is now. In any case, apart from the limitation of armaments, the Washington Conference is concerned in the exploitation of the markets of China, and the talk about the gathering at Washington being a reason for the reduction or increasing of these Estimates is all so much moonshine. I propose to traverse the arguments of honorable members for the purpose of pointing out how futile they are. A few months ago I stated here that it would not be very long before honorable members opposite would be advocating the abolition of the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act, because they would be found inimical to the interests they represent. We find this afternoon and to-night honorable members expressing a desire for the suspension of compulsory training. They do not want to see it wiped out or abolished; they merely wish to have it “suspended,” but next year they will be able to point out that as the benefits derived from the suspension of compulsory training are so great it ought to be suspended for another twelve months. Those honorable members who placarded the country with the fact that the Labour party had gone back on its policy of compulsory training are now falling into line with the Perth Conference and stealing the thunder of their opponents by suggesting ‘a suspension of compulsory training. Why is it that their interests have ceased to be served by the continuous training of the boyhood of Australia? It is for the reason I have already put forward, namely, that the international financiers - those who see more clearly than do others, those who are the real manipulators of the powers of Governments, and know wherein lies any danger to their interests - see now that a weapon which previously was in their hands is likely to be turned into a menace to them. Hence last night I interjected that the training of the Citizen Forces was one of the greatest propaganda agencies we had in this country for anti-militarism. The continued administration of the compulsory training prosions of the Defence Act will create more anti-militarists in Australia than any outside propaganda could possibly- do. Our experience at Broken Hill is that, boys on their way to incarceration at Fort Largs gather on the Riverton Railway Station, at the spot where the late Mr. Brookfield was shot, and sing the Rod Flag and other revolutionary songs. That is what compulsory training is doing for the (boys of Broken Hill. I say, “Good luck; go on with it!”
– The honorable member wants to see more of that sort of thing.
– I am glad to see that the intelligence of the youth of this country is rising superior to the ‘ ‘ brasshat” disciplinary ideas attempted to be inculcated inthem.
– These youths will give some of those revolutionaries for whom the honorable member has so much regard the order of the boot.
– They are not giving them the order of the boot. On the other hand, these revolutionary youths are making converts on the Government benches, and now we hear honorablemembers advancing reasons for the sus- pension of- compulsory training. In this particular direction, as in others, a certain section of the community is overreaching itself. Just as the actions of the sabre-rattling warriors of Europe raised a great wave of anti-militarism, the experience the youth of Australia have had of compulsory training is making them anti-militarists. Our friends on the Government benches will soon find themselves in harmony with our friends in the Labour party. The compulsory provisions of the Defence Act were imposed by the Labour party with the support of the Opposition of the day, and in the” immediate future the Labour party, which now wishes to wipe out compulsory training, will be supported - in doing so by the vested interests of this country, because the latter will find, from’ the various propaganda agencies to which I have already referred, that it is against their business interests to continue it. So far as I am concerned, I make honorable members on the Government benches a gift in this case also. They can have their compulsory training.
– “Why this lavish distribution of gifts?
– We can afford to be lavish with gifts to people who do not understand the meaning of them. I am pointing out to the working classes outside the reasons behind the change of front of honorable members who support the Government. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) asked quite recently, dealing with another subject, “How can we have disarmament when there is that great, actual, and potential menace of the Bed Army in Russia threatening Europe ? “ ; and a gentleman giving a lecture in the Senate clubroom the other night said the same thing; yet honorable members want the working people of Australia to believe that disarmament and the cutting down of the Defence Estimates are in their interests.
– I suppose the honorable member noticed in this morning’s press that 700 people have just been shot in Russia ?
– Yes; the British troops will soon be in danger of losing the palm for their record in Ireland.
– Is that how the honorable member excuses what has taken place in Russia?
– No, I do not “excuse” it at all; but when an example is set by the persons in “ civilized” countries, no complaint can be raised when other people follow it.
– The complaint can be raised when such a pharisaical attitude is adopted in regard to the, matter.
– They aire not encroaching on the honorable member’s preserves.
– But a little example on their part would help to establish better conditions.
– If you lay down the law of the jungle, you cannot complain if it is turned on you. The people who are now complaining about the militarism of the Reds, “as they like to term them, are the very persons who tried to crush them out by military force, and, having failed to do so, now prate with their tongues in their cheeks that they are in favour of universal disarmament. At present they are not being consulted, and all this talk about disarmament for the sake of humanity is so much camouflage - a mere attempt to cloud the issue. There is only one issue, and that is the desire to continue to fool and divide the great mass of the people, of whom I claim to be one of the representatives, upon questions which do not fundamentally interest them.
– The Assistant Minister for Defence will admit that if there is one section of the Estimates- on which the Government can appease the economy crowd it is the Military and Naval Estimates. I notice that there is dissension in the Cabinet in regard to the appointment of a new Minister. Might I recommend that, for economy’s sake, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Navy he handed over to the Repatriation Department and that both the Defence and Navy Departments be repatriated. Thus the Government might economize, and by alloting the displaced Minister to other Departments, avoid dissension over the admission of a new member to the Cabinet. I know that you, Mr. Chairman, will not allow me to discuss the General Estimates at this stage, although, if I were allowed to do so, I could prove that it is necessary to discuss them simultaneously with the
Works and Buildings Estimates. I intend to do all I can to reduce the Estimates now before us, but I feel that it will be useless to reduce them unless we know that the great military establishment which is covered by the General Estimates will be reduced accordingly. A large proportion of these Estimates is for the purchase of warlike material. Take, for instance, the item, “Warlike stores, including machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery, accoutrements, and other regimental and personal equipment, £17,460.” In 1920-21 a sum of i9,880 was voted, but only £716 -was expended. The proposed expenditure of £17,000 this year will be a waste -of money. At Brisbane, at Liverpool, at Seymour, at Adelaide, and at Midland Junction (Western Australia) large mobilization stores have been established, and they are crammed full of military equipment. They are not ‘ ordnance stores, but mobilization stores, from which the troops are to be supplied with equipment and. arms when they are mobilized for war. The ordnance stores are separate and’ distinct. We do not require “ a ghost from brick court temple” to tell this Committee that in a few years this material will become obsolete. The way to re-stock the ordnance stores is mot by buying fresh material but by drawing upon the supplies . in the ordnance stores. If that were done, we could avoid’ a considerable proportion of this expenditure. The goods stored in the mobilization stores cost millions of pounds. They represent material for which Australia paid during the war; no other Dominion paid for the material its troops used. The Imperial Government, after making certain calculations have supplied us with what was left of the material for which we paid, in good order and condition. These goods were brought to Australia at great expense, and they are housed in the mobilization stores to be utilized only in time of war. Does not . the Assistant Minister think that there is in these stores sufficient material to supply all the requirements for which the Committee is asked to vote money? This item of £17,460 includes provision for the purchase of machine guns. There are in the mobilization stores machine guns galore. There are vehicles of every description, buildings are crammed with harness and saddlery, and accoutrements and other regimental and personal equipment. I have had an opportunity, in . conjunction with a few other honorable members of this Committee, to inspect these stores, and we know that their contents will become obsolete before long. Why not restock the ordnance store from this source - at any rate, until we know the outcome of the Disarmament Conference. If that Conference and the League of Nations should prove futile, war will not come upon us in a moment. If it does, what will be the use of obsolete’ stores ? The Minister may answer me that the vehicles in these stores are not suitable for the purposes for which the vehicles provided for in this item are required. I cannot conceive of any vehicle or article of accoutrement required by the Defence Department which could not be supplied from these mobilization stores. There is another item of £25,743 towards the cost of providing vehicles, harness, equipment, and stores for field artillery arid engineers. Last year £12,898 was voted, and only £335 was expended. The mobilization stores contain parks of artillery of the most up-to-date types, and it is sheer waste to spend more money on material which is already in store.
– The £12,898 voted last year for this item is still a liability in London!.
– With all this material in the mobilization stores, it is a crying shame that that liability should have been incurred. The Minister knows as well as I «do that the contents of those stores may be obsolete in two years. Therefore, why not use them now ?
– For what would the honorable member use them t
– For training the troops.
– We use what we require, but the whole of these stores cannot be utilized except in the event of war.
– The field artillery that is parked in these mobilization stores is fit for the training of any troops in the world. It includes quick-firing guns of all calibres, and in numbers sufficient to arm a much larger army than Australia is likely to train. It is a shocking waste of money to. incur fresh expenditure on thisaccount. I say that, although I am not one who howls for economy. There is another item of £5,532 for armament and stores for fixed defences. I know that the material sent to Australia, after the war was mostly for field purposes, and it may be that some of the forts require fixed guns and other defences, but with talk of universal disarmament in the air it would be well to pause before expending more money in this way. “Towards Supply of heavy guns and reserve of gun ammunition “ the sum of £142,947 is provided. What is the calibre of these heavyguns? I assume that any guns purchased will be of up-to-date pattern, but the expenditure of £142,947 on heavy guns when we do not know what is likely to take place during the next eighteen months is unwarranted. Then there is an amount of £196,000 “towards the cost” of machinery and plant in connexion with the munitions supply.If that sum is only “towards the cost” of the supply of munitions, the eventual expenditure will be enormous. How the Defence Department can propose the expenditure of £196,000 on machinery and plant at this stage I cannot conceive. It would be easy to wipe out the items I have mentioned. In connexion with Duntroon College, there is a re-vote of £5,970 and a provision of £15,580 for new services. The party of which I am. a member was responsible for the idea of founding Duntroon College, but I did not vote for it. To-day there are at Duntroon about two instructors for every cadet, and it is not so much a farce as a tragedy that such a state of things should continue. In the future the demand for officers will not be nearly as great as it was expected to be when the College was founded. Compulsory military training in Australia will be curtailed, and there will be no need for the College at Duntroon - at any rate, not on the present scale. It and the Jervis Bay Naval College are white elephants, and they should be abolished. I cannot understand why honorable members of the Country party, who are howling for economy, do- not direct their attention to these items.
– We have not reached them yet.
– When the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department was before the Committee, honorable members talked economy, but in regard to these Defence Estimates they say not a word.
– No member of this party suggested a reduction of the Postal Estimates.
– Each honorable member talked economy, except in respect of a telephone or a pillar-box in his own constituency. I desire to reduce these Estimates considerably, and we ought to be encouraged by the Country party to do so. On one page of the general Estimates, an expenditure of nearly £2,000,000 is provided for, including “Permanent Forces £666,951,” and “ Universal Military Training, £434,302.” I am desirous of cutting out much of the expenditure upon warlike material provided for in the Estimates now before the Committee, but it would be foolish for me to do so unless I know what is to happen on the general Estimates. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) and I are at one in believing that unless the reductions are to be carried out properly it is of no use to commence them. It is useless to withhold expenditure on works and material if we are to continue the huge general expenditure of the Department. The late war showed conclusively that we need not have spent as much money as we had done on compulsory training. I know that those who had undergone Compulsory training made excellent soldiers, but they were no better fighting units than were the men who had not undergone a day’s training from the time that they left school until they enlisted.
– But those who had undergone compulsory training found it of great advantage to them.
-.- I spent a good deal of time in our military camps during the war, and saw a lot of the training that was going on. A great many of the. men in camp had done no training since they had left school.
– But those who had had a, better chance of promotion.
– I found that, so far as promotion was concerned, “ kissing went by favour.” Men who, in some cases, knew nothing of military matters received commissions because of sectional preferences. In not only the central administration, but in every . State of the
Commonwealth there should be a reduction of staff. There is no need for a vast compulsory training system such as we have had. Savings can be effected in that direction. In every area we have a sergeantmajor and an area officer. The area officer is an excrescence; there is no need for him. I appeal to the Committee not to agree to a vote for the purchase of commodities that are unnecessary. If they take up that stand, they will be able to make corresponding reductions in the general Defence Estimates. Provision is made for a cavalry establishment. Surely that is not required in Australia. Cavalry is one of the flashest of corps, and the proposal should be nipped in the bud.
I have pointed out directions in which reductions can be made. I shall leave the matter at that. If honorable members have not made themselves conversant with the extent of our mobilization stores in the different States, then it is the country’s loss. As a member of the Public Works Committee I have had special opportunities to view our mobilization stores, and have been amazed at what I have seen. Vehicles and tools of every description, that were used by the Australian Expeditionary Forces, and which should be sufficient to satisfy the wants of an army, are in stock, and yet we are asked to incur further expenditure in this direction. Those who talk of economy have now an opportunity to practise it without doing injury to anybody. We already have all the armaments that we shall want for years hence, and those who wish to avoid a waste of money will vote for the proposed reduction of these Estimates by £500,000. If those who have been demanding economy vote against this amendment, they will show that they have notbeen sincere in their protestations.
– I must confess that I was very disappointed with the speech made last night by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), in explanation of these Works Estimates, and especially with his statement that he could promise to reduce by only £250,000, not the Military Works Estimates, but the whole of the Defence Estimates. It should be possible to reduce the Military Works Estimates by a very much larger amount, and I hope, therefore, that the amount which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will be carried. If it is defeated, I shall move that the proposed vote be reduced by £400,000. Such a reduction would still provide in respect of the Military Works Estimates for this year a greater sum than was spent in connexion with them last year. While the rest of the world is talking about a naval holiday, it is surely worth while for Australia to think about having a military holiday. We are overlooking the fact that the maintenance of our credit is just as important to Australia at the present time as is the building of various defence works throughout the Commonwealth. The defence of a country lies as much- in silver bullets as in leaden bullets, steel shells, and heavy guns.
We find that the items that bulk most largely in this proposed vote provide to a large extent for the purchase of accoutrements that we ought to have here, and in some cases for accoutrements that the Department is actually advertising for sale in the metropolitan papers throughout Australia. In the circumstances, it seems to me that it should be’ comparatively easy to reduce the proposed vote to the extent asked for by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition without materially interfering with the defence position. I am glad that the Assistant Minister has returned, because I think the Committee is entitled to more information than, has so far been received in regard to item 8 of Division 8 -
Small Arms Ammunition Factory - Amount to be paid to the credit of Trust Fund.. Small Arms Ammunition Account - to recoup advances made therefrom to Trust Fund, Small Arms Ammunition Factory Account, £250,000.
Last night, in response to an inquiry by myself, the honorable gentleman said that of that amount £248,000 was to provide for the acquisition of the Colonial Ammunition Company’s factory. When I asked why the factory was being acquired, and whether its output had not been satisfactory, the honorable gentleman replied that he thought that it had been, but that the Government were taking it over for a reason that he could not disclose. To-night, in answer to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gre- gory), he said that the factory had mot been acquired, but the appliances in it had been taken over.
– The whole factory, including appliances and everything else, has been taken over, but not purchased. We are paying a rental of £20,000 per annum for it. The company’s stocks have been (purchased by us.
– What is the capital value of the factory?
– I cannot say.
– What does the £248,000 actually represent in the way of material?
– Stocks of brass foi” the manufacture of cartridge cases, and stocks of nickel for bullets.
– Would it represent one year’s or two years’ supply, or even more than that. I understand the Colonial Ammunition Company, before it was taken over by the Department, carried out extensive work in connexion with the ‘ rolling of sheet metal. It would be interesting to know whether the material has been purchased at a high or ‘a low price. I hope the Assistant Minister for Defence will make a further effort to meet the wishes of the Committee, because it is anxious to do something to prevent the expenditure of more money this year than was actually expended last year. Although more was voted for defence works than we are asked to vote this year, the Government were only able to spend £693,255. I give notice that, if the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is not carried, I intend to move that the vote be reduced by £400,000.
.- If the Committee permits this vote to pass, then to be consistent it ought to accept the whole of the Defence Estimates. Honorable members in the Corner have spoken as though they intend to do something to reduce “these Estimates, but they are not prepared to cast a vote at this juncture which will bring about a reduc- tion. I am surprised at their attitude. On these Estimates we are asked to vote for the Defence Department no less than £440,000 more than was expended last year. Almost every honorable member opposite, in common with honorable members on this side of the Chamber, have been stating for weeks past that there should be no additional expenditure pending the attempt being made at the Washington Conference, and at the gathering of the League of Nations, to bring about, if not a cessation, a limitation, of armaments. Yet the Committee is now asked to sanction an increased expenditure of nearly half a million pounds on warlike preparations. If we are to apply the pruning knife in connexion with Defence matters it should be done new, or wie may as well for ever hold our peace The Assistant Minister for Defence stated last evening ihat the Government were prepared to cut down the Defence Estimates by about £250,000, as portion of the £500,000 by which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated on Friday last the Government would be able to reduce the whole of the Estimates. The Government, however, have not- put their finger on one item which is to be reduced. The Minister has stated that the reason why the Government are going to make a reduction is because five months of the year have passed, and they will not be able to expend the whole of the money originally estimated to be required. It is not that the Government have a desire to economize, but time will not permit them to incur the expenditure. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked the Government to specify some items of reduction. We spent £716 last year on warlike stores, and we are now asked to vote £17,460.
– What was the estimate last year?
– It was £9,880. Under the item “ Field Artillery and Engineers “ the expenditure last year was £335, but this year we are asked to vote £25,743. Armaments and stores for fixed defences involved an expenditure last year of £76; while this year’s proposed vote la £5,532. Another item to which I might refer is that of rifles. It will be recollected that a number of men, especially returned soldiers, were paid off at the . Lithgow factory . last year, and strong comments were made, especially by the Methodist Conference, regarding <the attitude adopted by the Commonwealth Government. It was stated that the reason why those men were dismissed was that the awards of the Court had absorbed so much money that the vote had been exhausted and the men could not be paid. That statement was made deliberately by the Minister. Last year we expended £250,000 on the factory, while the vote was £266,000; so there was £16,000 unexpended, not with standing the statement to which I have referred.
– The probability is that the other money was due on contracts and material. I mean that the actual amount due had probably been expended, and the remainder had to be held in reserve. ^
– All one can be guided by is the Estimates themselves. Why cannot the machinery at Lithgow be used for work other than armaments?
– A great deal of the machinery is not suitable for any other purpose.
– The Government had an opportunity of letting contracts to outside people, but the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) stated that that was against tha Government’s policy, and they would not approve of that being done. If there is machinery at Lithgow that can be used for the production of articles that would be beneficial to the community, we have a perfect right to do that. Towards the cost of machinery and plant for munitions supply the vote proposed for this year is £196,839, although no expenditure was set down last year, and this- happens when we are endeavouring to bring about, if not disarmament, the limitation of armaments. Why should we increase our expenditure on defence when other countries are cutting down theirs? The delegates at Washington are falling in with America’s proposals for the reduction of navies, and are saying that something should also be done towards reducing land forces. Yet our Government asks us to increase our defence expenditure. If we V’ote this year £500,000 more than we expended last year we shall have difficulty in justifying our action to the electors. The people of Australia, like those of other countries, are clamouring for relief from taxation, and we could have no better opportunity than is now presented for easing the financial strain on the Commonwealth. Members who vote against my proposal will appear inconsistent later when they try to reduce the military vote by £200,000 or £300,000.
In my opinion, the Defence Department’s Estimates can stand the pruning knife better than any other, and should be reduced, not only that we may give an earnest of our faith in the honesty of the proposals now being made at Washington, but also to reduce our financial burden. The proposed reduction would be but a small contribution to the world’s reduction of armaments, but it would serve to show the direction in which we wish to proceed. Any man who has had anything to do with the military knows that its expenditure is tremendously wasteful. I agree with my Leader (Dr. Earle Page) that the silver bullet is as important, if not more so, than the leaden or nickel bullet. We need to show the people of Australia, and the people abroad, from whom we have so often to borrow, that we intend to make the best use of our resources, and to get a pound’s worth for every £1 of expenditure. No one who has looked into the expenditure of the Defence Department believes that we get anything like £1 worth for every £1 of expenditure. It has been pointed out that the expenditure last year was much lower than the amount voted, and it must be remembered that, since the war Australia has been given a large quantity of munitions and equipment, including war material of all sorts, so that we should be able to carry on for two or three years to come with a very much reduced rate of expenditure, and still be in a sound defensive position. I am not satisfied about the purchasing or renting of the Colonial Munition Factory; that transaction demands a good deal of explanation. I understand that it has been acquired from a firm which not only was making munitions, but was a general trading concern. I protest against the Government acquiring such a business under the pretence that it is needed for defence. As we must show that we are in earnest in demanding economy, I shall vote for the amendment. I hope that it will never be said that I am not prepared to vote money to put Australia in a position to defend herself. I realize as fully as any one can that we must be prepared to defend this great territory if called on to do so. But lavish expenditure which in- eludes the purchase of trading concerns, and does not secure an adequate return, will not have that result.
.- We have been told by the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) that the total military vote is to be reduced by £250,000, but we have been left to find out for ourselves how much of that is to come out of the Works vote, having been given no definite information on the subject. I am of the opinion that unless we substantially reduce the Works vote we shall find it impossible to reduce the military vote in the general Estimates, because the Minister will argue that the economies we desire to effect there have been rendered impossible by our commitments in respect of works. I find that the total expenditure on works last year was £693,000, yet it is proposed to expend this year no less than £1,134,000. I cannot support the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the reduction of the vote by £500,000, but I think that the Government should keep the expenditure of this year within an amount not exceeding that of last year.
– The probability is that under the vote of £1,302,000 for last year commitments were made which are now represented by liabilities amounting to over £500,000, which have been carried over into this year. I cannot say definitely what the commitments amount to, not having an intimate knowledge of these Estimates, but I know that a considerable sum has been carried over from last year.
– If that is so, the Committee ought to have been told. The Ministry, and the Ministry alone, should be held responsible. There are a number of items, such as the reserve of rifles £2S1,000, supply of heavy gun ammunition £142,000, and the amount mentioned by the Leader of the Country party, £250,000, for the purchase of the Ammunition Factory plant. It is my intention to vote against the amendment, because I do not wish to limit the expenditure of the Defence Department to a sum below that which was expended last year; but as the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has given notice of an amendment to move for a reduction in the expenditure by £400,000, assuming that the amendment now before the Committee fails, it is my intention to support it.
.- In view of the Disarmament Conference now being held at Washington, the Government should reconsider the Estimates of defence expenditure instead of contemplating an increase which is quite unjustifiable at the present stage. Until the re-, suit of the Washington Conference is known, the Government should suspend new works except those that may be absolutely necessary for the protection of stores and equipment. If we pass these items, we shall be faced with the argument, from the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), when we come to the general discussion, that, having entered upon arrangements to spend this money, we should pass the items in the form set out in the schedule. Like other honorable members, I am prepared to spend money for the defence of Australia, no matter what it costs. But surely there must be something wrong with the Defence Department when we are asked to spend, not less, but “more money than was required during the war. I believe the Assistant Minister has been endeavouring to prepare an amended estimate, but, unfortunately, he is handicapped by those who control the Department, and who, no doubt, will insist on expenditure for new works that may be quite unnecessary. I may cite Duntroon College as an example. I understand that 200 officers are required to supervise some forty or fifty students there. If that is so, the position should be thoroughly sifted by the Assistant Minister. If it is not correct, he should contradict it. In the absence of any contradiction we may take the statement as being correct; and, if it is any criterion of the way in which the Defence Department is managed, the sooner definite action is taken by Parliament the better. We stand for economy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has assured us that the Committee will have every opportunity of expressing its will in regard to these Estimates without seriously affecting the position of the Government. The consideration of the Defence Estimates should be a non-party matter. I am not prepared to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) without some definite information as to the details of his proposal. I was not at all satisfied with the statement made by the Assistant Minister last night. I felt that he was trying to justify the existence of his Department, and that he acted in a manner not altogether just to members of this Committee. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has just told us that some of theestimated expenditure of this year represents commitments from last year. If that is the position, members of the Committee should be told so definitely.-
– The Assistant Minister last night mentioned quite a number of these items, which represent commitments from last year. For instance, there is the Woollen Factory. Last year we voted £48,000 for the machinery, which has been ordered, and it must be paid for this year.
– I hope, at all events, that some retrenchment will be made in the Department. The amendment of which the honorable member for Cowper has given notice will suit me very well indeed.
– Before the question goes to a division I should like honorable members to realize what it really means. If it is carried, the Minister will have to go through the whole of these detailed Estimates as submitted to Parliament, and as a. result money may not be available for some of the items. Moreover, owing to commitments on account of last year, there will be less money available for expenditure. If the Government accepts the decision of the Committee, honorable members will have to take the responsibility of their action in this respect: There will be less money appropriated for expenditure in connexion with certain factory and other undertakings. I want the Committee to bear that in mind.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by the sum of . £500,000 - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That progress be reported.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Before the House adjourns,’ I should like to bring under the notice of the Government a matter of some importance connected with the Premiers’ Conference recently held in Melbourne. We have, so far, had to depend on statements appearing in the press to gather what took place at the Conference. I ask the Government to facilitate the publication of the official report, in which more interest is taken than has been commanded by any report that has been issued for a number of years. I accept the statements which have appeared in the press concerning the work of the Conference, and they justify me in urging the early publication of the official report, in order that the public and honorable members may be informed as to who should bear the responsibility for the proposed emasculation of the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Act. I have put questions from time to time to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) , but the honorable gentleman has contracted a habit of jocular reply to me by which he manages to evade a direct answer to my questions. I occupy an important position, and consider the replies to questions pub by me to the Prime Minister should convey the information for which I ask. The motion for the adjournment of the House gives me an opportunity to express my feelings with regard to the way in which questions are evaded by Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211116_reps_8_97/>.