8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker(Hon.Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. SirElliot Johnson) laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Bamford, Mr. Fleming, and Mr. Watkins, to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
The following papers were presented : -
British Phosphate Commission - Report and
Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1921.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balancesheet at 31st December, 1921 ; together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Electoral Act - Reports, with maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of re-distributing into Electoral Divisions the States of -
New South Wales,
New Guinea (late German) PossessionsReport by the Minister of State for Defence on the Military Occupation of.
High Commissioner (Acting) -Report for 1921.
Report on the Administration of Nauru during theMilitary occupation, and until 17th December. 1920. Prepared by the Administrator for submission to the League of Nations.
Report on the Administration of Nauru, 17th December, 1920. to 31st December, 1921. Prepared by the Administrator for submission to the League of Nations.
New Guinea - Report to League of Nations on Administration of the Territory of New Guinea, from September. 1914, to 30th June, 1921.
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Eleventh Annual Report, 1920-21.
Tasmanian Mail Service - Agreement between the Postmaster-General and Huddart, Parker Limited and the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand Limited for the Conveyance of Mails between Melbourne and Launceston and Melbourne and Burnie.
Taxation - Royal Commission on - Second Report, with Appendices.
Washington Conference - Report- of Conference on Limitation of Armament, held at Washington, 1921.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service Act -
Determinations and variations of determinations by the Arbitrator &c. -
No. 12 of 1921- Common-wealth Temporary Clerks Association.
No. 13 of 1921- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association.
No. 14 of 1921-Radio-Telegraphists Institute of Australasia.
No. 15 of 1921 - Special Allowance to Officers of various Organizations (13) in the State of Western Australia.
No. 1 of 1922 - Arms, Explosives, and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No. 2 of 1922 - Postal Sorters Union of Australia.
No. 3 of 1922- Arms, Explosives, and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No. 4 of 1922 - Variation of Determination (No. 2 of 1922) in the matter of the Postal Sorters Union of Australia,
No. 5 of 1922 - Professional Officers Association.
No. 6 of 1922- Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 7 of 1922 - Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers Association. Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 53.
Audit Act -
Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, No. 234.
Statutory Rules, 1922, No. 33.
Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1921-22-
Dated 3rd May, 1922.
Dated 14th June, 1922.
Beer Excise Act- Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1922, No. 29.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1921, No. 226.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 7, 22, 49.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1921.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 74.
Proclamation prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of - Gold Specie or Bullion (dated 22nd February, 1922).*
Metals, Alloys, and Minerals (dated 22nd February, 1922).
Proclamation (dated 14th December, 1921) revoking Proclamation (dated 2nd July, 1919) which prohibited the Exportation of. all goods to (late) German New Guinea.
Proclamation (dated 12th February, 1922) revoking Proclamation (dated 14th January, 1920) which prohibited the Importation of goods produced or manufactured in ex-enemy countries, 4 c.
Proclamation (dated 10th April, 1922) revoking Proclamation (dated 23rd September, 1914) which prohibited the Exportation of Wheat and Flour:
Proclamation (dated 3lst May, 1922) revoking Proclamation (dated 7th September, 1914) which prohibited the Exportation of Wheat and Flour to. places other than the United Kingdom.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 24.
Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 6, 21, 47, 48, 80.
Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 229, 235, 236. 237, 238,
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 14, 15, 16, 17. 18, 30, 31, 32, 41, 56, 57, 58, 59, 68, 69.
Electoral Act (Commonwealth) and Electoral Acts (Tasmania) - Regulations relating to Joint Electoral Rolls in Tasmania/ - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 61.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended- StatutoryRules 1922, No. 9.
Excise Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 225; Statutory Rules 1922, No. 13. .
High Court Procedure Act-Rules of Court -Rule re Sittings- Dated 17th May, 1922. Immigration Act - Return for 1921.
Industrial Peace Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules’ 1921, No. 223.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Albion, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Bell, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Boyup Brook, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Burnie, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
Cleve, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Corrigin, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Darlinghurst, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Denmark, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Geraldton, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Home Hill, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Jandowae, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Lakemba, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Malanda, Queensland - (For Postal purposes.
Nilli-bubbaca Well, on Broome to Derby Telegraph Line, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Northampton to Hamelin Pool Telegraph Line, Western Australia (3) - For Defence purposes.
Paskeville, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Semaphore, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Stanhope, Victoria - For Postal purposed.
Stockinbingal, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Trafalgar, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Wyalcatchem, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Wynnum, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Nationality Act - Return for 1921.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 66, 239.
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 8, 38, 67, 70, 75, 76.
Navigation Act -
Regulations (Master and Seamen) -
Statutory Rules 1922, No. 34.
Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, No. 241.
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 1, 23, 35, 39, 40,64, 71, 72.
New Guinea Act -
Ordinance of 1921 -
No. 23 - Service and Execution of Process.
Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 1 - Expropriation.
No. 2-Mortgagors’ Protection Ordinance Repeal.
No. 3 - Statutory Powers.
No. 4 - Treasury.
No. 5 - Roads Maintenance.
No. 6 - Quarantine.
No. 7 - Stamp Duties.
No. 8 - Appropriation Ordinance 1921-22 Amendment.
No. 9 - Education.
No. 10 - New Guinea Antiquities.
No. 11 - Judiciary.
No. 12 - Police Force.
No. 13 - Fisheries.
No. 14 - Public Service.
No. 15 - Native Labour.
No.16 - Succession Duties.
No. 17 - Land.
No. 18 - Timber.
No. 19 - Mining.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 1 - Importation of Opium, Morphine, Cocaine, and Heroine.
No. 2 - Administration.
No. 3 - Sale of Shares.
No. 4 - Immigration Restriction.
Foreign Marriage Ordinance - Regulations.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance of 1921 -
No. 16 - Food and Drugs.
Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 1 - Necessary Commodities.
No. 2 - Mineral Oil and Coal.
No. 3 - McMillan Mortgage Validating.
No. 4 -Darwin Town Council.
No. 5 - Supreme Court.
No. 6 - Darwin Town Council (No. 2).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 (South Australia) - Reasons for resumption of portion of Alice Springs Telegraph Reserve, Northern Territory.
Papua Act -
Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 1 - Superannuation.
No. 2 - Native Taxes.
No. 3 - Forfeiture (Leases and Licences).
Infirm and Destitute Natives’ AccountStatement of Transactions of Trustees, 1920-21.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations . Amended -
Statutory Rules 1921. Nos. 182, 196, 197, 205, 209, 219, 224, 227, 240.
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos . 11, 12, 20, 28, 54,62, 77.
Public Service Act-
Appointments and Promotions - Department of -
G.B. Gunson and A. G. Bennett.
Dr. D. G. Robertson.
Dr. A. Richardson.
F. T. Wheatland, K. R. Moore, J. Brown, G. M. Heydon, R. D. Mcintosh, N. Osborne, E. Raven, H. C. Clayton. J. S. Freeman, and B. G. Walker.
F. G. Tranter and E. H. Hutchison.
Home and Territories -
A. R. Peters and J. F. Murphy.
Postmaster General -
L. B. Fanning.
A. L. Jones.
F. W. Price.
H. H. Sugden.
Trade and Customs -
M. B. Drummond.
E. P. Geraghty.
J. W. Roach.
R. A. Russell.
K. J. G. Smith and M. J. Naughton.
W. L. Devitt. .
G. Gratton, G. E. Richards, and T. H. Wells.
G. L. Gresson.
A. H. Jeffery.
Works and Railways -
W. H. Pritchard.
W. H. Robinson and R. S. Shannon.
P. S. Williams.
Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 222, 231, 233.
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 5; 10, 45.
Quarantine Act -
Regulations (Plague) -
Statutory Rules 1921, No. 230.
Railways Act -
By-law No. 21.
Rentals paid by Commonwealth throughout Australia - Statement showing.
River Murray Waters Act - Regulations in relation to Tolls.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 1 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 2 - Industrial Board.
No. 3- Industrial Board (No. 2).
Service and Execution of Process Act - Re gulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 52.
Spirits Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 51.
Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 190.
Treasury Bills Act-
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 44.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 68.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1921, No. 232.
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 36, 65, 66.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 43, 46.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 216.
War Service Homes Act -
Land acquired under, in -
New South Wales, at - Adelong, Albury (2), Armidale, Arncliffe, Ashfleld, Auburn, Concord, Corrimal, Double Bay (2), East Maitland, Enfield, Goulburn (2), Grafton, Hamilton (5), Kempsey, Kiama, Lismore, Manly, Mayfield (4), Merewether, Neutral Bay, Newcastle, Randwick, Richmond,
Rockdale, Rozelle, South Grafton, Tenterfield, Waratah (5), Weston.
Partial revocation of Notification of Acquisition of Land, in New South Wales, at Wauchope.
Revocation of Notification of Acquisition of Land, in New South Wales, at Hamilton.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations Amended. -
Statutory Rules, 1921. No. 210.
Statutory Rules, 1922, Nos. 3, 42.
– While I am mindful of the fact that the Commonwealth Government made it possible for the people of Australia, to obtain cheap sugar - sugar that was cheaper than that obtainable in any other country in the world - during the war period, I askthe right honorable the Prime Minister if the Government can see its way clear to do something to reduce the present price of sugar to the consumers ?
– The matter is now receiving the closest attention of the Government, and every effort will he made towards securing the reduction of the price of sugar to the consumer, as the honorable member wishes.
– Is it a fact that the Government proposes to appoint a Committee of members of this Parliament to proceed to various other countries to study their Constitutions, and to submit first hand information relating to them for our information when we are considering proposed changes of the Commonwealth Constitution?
– That is not the present intention of the Government, but if certain honorable members should express a desire to see the world, Ministers will be glad to consider any plan or pretext by which their absence from this House for a time may be excused.
– In the event of a delegation going abroad to seek constitutional knowledge, will the right honorable the Prime Minister see that Russia is included in the itinerary? In the event of his doing so there will be a considerable number of vacancies at the next elections, and aspirants for parliamentary seats would like to know as early as possible just what may be the position.
– I shall be delighted to do so. And may I add that I hope that the honorable member will undertake to furnish me with a list of the proscribed members, in order that I may see that none escape.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whetherhe will have prepared and laid on the table of the House a comprehensive statement with regard to the Federal Woollen Mill at North Geelong setting out -
– As the honorable member asks for a return, his proper course is to move in the ordinary way for its preparation.
– Has the Prime Minister any explanation to give of the great delay which has occurred in the completion of steamers of the “Bay” class?
– Yes, and it is a simple one. There were strikes in England for many months, and they, I believe, have only recently terminated. These manifestations of the power of the shipwrights and other artisans of Great Britain may commend themselves to honorable members opposite; but while they lasted they made the completion of these steamers impossible.
– Will the Prime Minister make available the report of the Parliamentary Committee which dealt with the subject of wireless communication, and will he, at the same time, lay upon the table a copy of the record of evidence taken at the investigation into the subject?
– I shall do so.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the reasons for the withdrawal of Mr. Percy Hunter from London, where he had been carrying out the duties of Director of Emigration? And will the right honorable gentleman also state what are the reasons for the visit of Mr. Hunter to Australia?
– It is proposed to transfer that official for a. very good reason, namely, that the organization in London has been put on a very satisfactory basis, and it is considered that it is at this end of the world that the services of a competent organizer are most required.
Kidman and Mayoh Contract : Activities at Cockatooisland.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table the report of Sir Mark Sheldon in connexion with the Kidman and Mayoh shipbuilding contract, together with all associated papers and documents?
– I have not yet received any report from Sir Mark Sheldon. I understand that that gentleman proposes to send his report back from Fiji. As soon as it conies to hand I shall lay it on the table of this House.
– Seeing that there have been no strikes in the shipbuilding industry in Australia., will the Prime Minister explain why the Government have not pushed on with the construction of the merchant vessels at. Cockatoo Island, for which this Parliament gave its approval, and in regard to which work it voted the necessary money last year ?
– I have not had an opportunity of seeing Mr. Farquhar lately, and, therefore, am not in a position to say precisely what is the state of affairs at Cockatoo Island. I shall call for a report, however, and if the honorable member will repeat his question at a later stage I shall endeavour to answer it.
– When the right honorable gentleman is obtaining a report dealing with the delay at Cockatoo Island, will he also inquire why the back pay, at the rate of1s., per day, which had been granted by the Shipbuilding Tribunal to the ironworkers’ assistants at that dockyard, has not yet been made available to the men concerned ?
– I shall do so.
Encouragement of Boy Scouts
– In view of the abolition of compulsory training of junior cadets, will the Minister forDefence take steps to encourage the Boy Scout organization throughout the Commonwealth, and allow the scouts the use of drill halls in centres where such buildings may be made available?
– The Government will be glad to do anything practicably possible in the way of encouraging the scouts. I have already intimated to the heads of the movement in Australia that, if there are drill halls1 available in certain centres which the Government can either let or in respect to which they can make arrangements to permit them to be temporarily occupied by the scouts from time to time, such measure of assistance shall be granted.
Mr. FOWLER presented the fifth progress report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts upon War Service Homes (Victoria).
Ordered to be printed.
– In the absence of the Chairman of the Committee the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who is unfortunately absent owing to illness, I present the following reports of the Public Works Committee: -
Federal Capital Sewerage, proposed construction of a main intercepting sewer from the centre of the city of Canberra to connect with the main out-fall sewer.
Federal Capital City water supply, distributary works within the city area.
Construction of hostel at Canberra, with necessary engineering and other services.
Ordered to be printed.
– I understand that maize has been allowed to enter the Commonwealth from South Africa. If such is the case, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the duty fixed by the Tariff last session has been charged, or whether any reduction was made in respect of the duty on maize agreed to during the recent Tariff session ?
– There is a special agreement between Australia and South Africa dealing, among other things, with maize. Speaking from memory, I understand that maize is now admitted from South Africa at a rate of duty amounting to1s. per cental. However, the whole question of the trade relationships between the Commonwealth and South Africa will shortly be dealt with on a reciprocal basis, and it is intended that the agreement then arrived at, dealing with a number of other items beside maize, shall eventually be put into effect.
– With respect to the admission of goods from Germany to Australian ports, I desire to know whether the prohibition will rest absolutely with the Tariff Board which has been recently appointed, or whether it will depend upon action on the part of the Federal Executive concerning the admission or otherwise of goods from. Germany.
– There is no prohibition provided for. The Bill passed last session makes provision for the imposition of a penalty duty in addition to the ordinary degree of Tariff protection afforded upon the goods in question. The measure of that duty will depend, in the main, upon the difference between the home consumption price in Germany and that in the Commonwealth, but no such duty will be imposed without investigation and report by the Tariff Board.
– I wish to know what progress has been made concerning the negotiations having to do with the Empire Exhibition to be held in the United Kingdom in 1924.
– The position is that the Commonwealth and the States, which are participating jointly in this great projected exposition, have recently had an opportunity of conferring with Major Belcher, the senior English delegate. We have practically agreed upon the measure of participation. What may he termed the actual capital expenditure on the Exhibition willbe limited to £200,000. That will cover exhibits f.o.b. here to the Exhibition and back. In addition the States will defray the cost of procuration, preparation, and shipment f.o.b. The necessary organization to carry through Australia’s participation in the Exhibition is at present under careful consideration, and all necessary preliminary steps, including the selection of the site and the design for Australia’s building, are well in hand.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Repatriation explain why applicants for War Service Homes have been advised that tenders for the erection of the premises required by them cannot be called within less than six months from the present time?
– I should be very glad if I could assure all applicants that the necessary facilities would be available within six months. We are doing the best we can with the enormous number of applications in hand, but, at the present time, it is impossible to give any earlier assurance.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is possible for him to make available to the Minister for Repatriation sufficient funds to enable him to complete, within a reasonable time, the erection or purchase of War Service Homes that have already been approved?
– The money already made available is quite as much as can be absorbed for the purpose at the present time. If, however, any arrangement can be made whereby further moneys may be required for the purpose, the Treasurer will give every consideration to the matter.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at 3 o’clock on each Wednesday afternoon; athalfpost 2 o’clock on each Thursday afternoon; and at 11 o’clock on each Friday morning.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members the report of Australia’s representative at the Labour Conference held recently at Genoa?
– The matter for the moment has escaped my memory, but I shall ascertain the exact position and make a report available.
– I desire to inform honorable members that in. the House of Representatives the Honorable Sir Granville Ryrie will represent the Minister for Home and Territories and that the Honorable Hector Lamond will represent the Minister for Repatriation.
– Will the Minister for Defence give the House an opportunity to discuss the reported proposal of the Government to sell the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong before he takes any action in that direction?
– I have no doubt whatever that the House will have ample opportunity to discuss the whole matter before the date, three months hence, at which the mills will be put up for sale. All that I can say at present is that the requirements of the Government would not keep the mills occupied for more than three months out of the twelve. We should consequently have to sell to the trade three-fourths of the output of the mills. This the Government is not prepared to do.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the terms of the reference to Sir Mark Sheldon, as Commissioner, in respect of the Kidman-Mayoh contract so that honorable members may know the basis of the inquiry.
Payment of Compensation
– In connexion with the reported intention of the Government to pay certain traders in South Africa very large sums of money by way of compensation for the sale to them of alleged inferior flour, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give the House the names of the private firms who were engaged in that trade? Further, is it the intention of the Government to ask the firms who were guilty of the scandalous conduct complained of to pay, if not all, at least a portion of the compensation?
– I do not think that the question should have been directed to me, since I have notpersonally handled the adjustment made between South African traders and the Australian Wheat Board. The object of the adjustment was to restore Australia’s good name, and so enable us once more- to get our flour into South Africa under thesame conditions that are open to shippers from other countries. If,, as the result of this payment, we achieve that purpose, I think the money will have been well spent.
– Our 24th November, 1921, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked that a statement be prepared showing the rentals paid throughout Australia by the Commonwealth Government. Compliance with that request has involved months of indefatigable effort. I now lay on the table the information for which the honorable member asked.
– In view of the large expense incurred in the preparation of this paper, and of the importance of the people of Australia knowing what rentals are paid, will the Prime Minister have it printed and made available to honorable members? If the right honorable gentleman will move that the paper be printed I shall be glad to second the motion.
– I have not yet had an opportunity to look at the paper, but I can see it is a very formidable document. It would cost much to print it, and in view of what is said and repeated daily in the press of this city, which the honorable gentleman represents so splendidly, I do not think I should incur further odium from the newspapers, and place the honorable member in an embarrassing position, by attempting to still further add to the burden on the taxpayers. If the honorable member will move that the paper be printed I shall second the motion, but more than that I cannot do.
– I ask leave to move that the paper be printed.
– I object.
– Is it the intention of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes to prepare and lay on the table a report on the sale of building material originally intended for the erection of War Service Homes ? Can the Minister in charge tell us what was the original cost, and what loss there has been on the sale?
– It is proposed at a later stage to present to Parliament a full statement on all matters relating to the administration of War Service Homes.
– Has the attentionof the Postmaster-General been drawn to the fact that a number of mail services approved of by the Department have not been instituted, because of a shortage of funds for the purpose? Will the honorable gentleman impress his colleagues with the necessity of providing sufficient funds to put these services into operation at the earliest possible moment ? The districts affected are country districts where the people have poor postal facilities now?
– All postal requirements in country districts are receiving my attention, and the matter referred to will be dealt with in connexion with the question of a reduction of postal rates.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why my repeated request that a post-office should be provided at East Balmain has been refused, while a request made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) for a postoffice in his constituency has been acceded to?
– I always deal with the merits of cases presented to me.
– Is there any truth in the report that the Prime Minister, with a view to preventing a long session, and to curtailing criticism by members on his side, intends, in certain contingencies, to let the “well run dry” by way of funds for the assistance of those members at the next election?
– The answer to that question must be divided into three parts. To the first part the answer is “ No”; to the second part, “It may be so”; and to the third part “Yes”.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cost of Building
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
What has been the total cost of building each of the following steamers: -
Moreton Bay? (b)Hobson’s Bay?
– The amounts paid to date are -
The amounts are not yet complete.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state what amount of money per ton of sugar is received by the cane-grower and the employee respectively under the sugar agreement; also what is the cost of refining; and distribution per ton?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Land Purchases and Mineral Rights
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Services of Sub-committees.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
What recognition, if any,has been made of the valuable services freely rendered by the members of Repatriation Sub-committees to the Department of Repatriation?
– It is not quite clear as to what Sub-committees the honorable member refers; but, if his question has reference to local Repatriation Committees, I desire to inform him that a letter of appreciation of the services rendered by their members was forwarded to the several executives some time since.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the report on Mandated Territories is now available for honorable members?
– I propose that the report in question shall be laid on the table of the House to-day.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What arrangements are made for housing the employees of the Commonwealth in the Pacific Possessions under Australian control?
– The employees of the Government are housed in bungalows - some free, others at nominal rentals. Arrangements have been made to increase the amount of accommodation for married employees and their wives, and to meet the increasing demands generally.
– I have the honour to bring up the report of the Committee appointed yesterday to prepare an AddressinReply to the. speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General.
Address read by the Clerk.
– I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’sSpeech be agreed to : - “ Mayit Please Your Excellency :
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.”
Before dealing with the subject matter of the speech I shall say a few words regarding the present financial position of Australia and the events that have happened since Parliament was prorogued at the close of last year. There are some who say that things are not well with. Australia, but if honorable members will cast their minds back over the happenings in financial circles during the last twelve months, they will agree with me that that gloomy outlook is not justified. I have in mind, particularly, the successful flotation of a large Commonwealth loan, bearing interest at only 5 per cent., which I regard as evidence that our finances are racing towards normality. I should like to pay a tribute to the action of the Associated Banks about two years ago, in restricting their advances to trading concerns in Australia, in order to bring them to a sense of their responsibility regarding overseas trade. The banks knew, as & result of. experience, that three or four years after the termination of other big wars a slump in prices took place, and, in anticipation of a similar sequel to the recent great upheaval, overdrafts were called in by the banks. This action had a salutary effect upon the money market, which became much more stable than it had been, and whilst our exports have been reduced by only a small extent, the value of our imports has been reduced by many millions of pounds, leaving a very great trading balance in favour of the Commonwealth. About eighteen months ago there was ‘consternation .throughout the Commonwealth on account of the collapse of the wool market, but to-day the high price of merino wool in the markets of the world is one of the brightest features of Australian finance, whilst even for cheaper grades the Australian growers are receiving a much higher price than they anticipated at that time. This improvement in the wool market gives cause for great satisfaction.
The Commonwealth is a great primary producer, and it is our duty to further develop old markets and open up new markets in every part of the globe foi’ our produce. I am pleased, therefore, to read in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government are talcing steps to extend the markets for Australian goods. The vast markets of the Orient have been barely touched by Australian traders, and I am pleased to know that Trade Commissioners have been appointed by the Government, Mr. Little having been sent to China, and Mr. Sheaf to the Dutch East Indies. It is intended, I understand, to tap the markets of India also. Every time an appointment of this kind is made there is an outcry from the press that the public money is being wasted, and’ that trade should be allowed ito find its own channels. If that be true, I wonder why the .British Board of Trade finds it necessary to send their officers throughout the world. Not only do the representatives of the Board of Trade issue pamphlets regarding British goods, but they also act as a sort of Dun’s Review, giving information regarding the status of various firms with whom business relations are contemplated. There is no doubt that the present state of British trade throughout the world is largely due to the activities of these representatives of the Board of Trade.
During last year the Government assisted ‘co-operative efforts in the oversea marketing of wheat, fruit, and other primary products, and I am pleased to note that they intend to continue that form of help to the man upon the land. Closely associated with the task of expanding the markets for Australian pro: duce, is the big problem of immigration. The need for more population has been expressed on every platform in Australia, but there are some people who contend that the introduction of immigrants will create greater unemployment. I remember my father telling me many years ago that on his arrival in Tasmania from England in 18S8, he entered into conversation with a man working in a Launceston street, who, ‘upon discovering that my father was a new arrival, said, “ Another Englishman come to take the bread out of our mouths !” In a country like Australia, abounding as it does with wealth of minerals and all forms of primary products, such a statement is very foolish, because there is no doubt that every immigrant, and particularly every immigrant with a family, spends every penny he earns for several years after his arrival, and many immigrants bring into the Commonwealth much needed capital for the opening up of the country. The primary industries must be helped very considerably by a well regulated flow of immigration, and in connexion with the secondary industries also the field of opportunity is very large. At the present time Australia is importing annually about £100,000,000 worth of goods which should be and could be manufactured by our own people, and I believe that those words “ should “ and “ could “ will very soon be transformed into “shall” and “are.”
– We should do it in regard to carbide.
– The Tasman.ian carbide industry is saving country people from paying most exorbitant prices for carbide.
– In that case we should prohibit the importation of carbide.
– It is necessary to impose prohibition in respect to some1 Australian industries, and a good argument can be put up for prohibition of the importation of carbide. Later on, I may have the opportunity of telling honorable members the need for this.
In regard to the reciprocal tariff arrangements made with the Dominion of New Zealand, and proposed to be made with the Dominion of Canada, I think it is only right that, as far as possible, we should trade within the British Empire.
Further down in His Excellency’s speech, reference, is made to the question of German trade. It is a matter which affects us in Australia very vitally. The Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921 will certainly go a very long way towards helping the Austraiian manufacturer to combat German trade, and the Government have stated definitely that if the Australian trader is not already afforded sufficient protection they will certainly see that it is given to him. I am very pleased to note that statement, because certain people say, “ Australia must trade with Germany.” Must we trade with Germany ? For the past seven or eight years we have managed to get along with, practically no importations from Germany, and when I think of the past few years, I am reminded of the speeches of some of our patriotic citizens who declared1, “ Never again will we send cash to. Germany for goods!”
– The Prime Minister used to say that every week.
– The Prime Minister has seen the light of day just as Sir George Reid did. Sir George Reid was a Free Trader for many years longer than our Prime Minister was, but when he went to Great Britain, which is practically a Free Trade country, he became a convert to Protection.
Our great aim should be to make this continent of ours as self-contained as we can possibly make it, but we cannot do this -unless we help its industries to grow.
– The honorable member would shut out the markets of the world.
– There is no need to shut out any markets. Germany is not in the same position as Australia. She must buy raw products from us, but it is unnecessary for Australia to buy Germany’s cheap pianos, mouth organs1, and so on.
– What about the coal briquetting plant that had to be bought from Germany?
– I am not responsible for the actions of the Victorian State Government. If I had been in charge cf that matter, I would have tried elsewhere far the plant. The price we paid for
German trade before the war has been “added to by the great loss of life brought about by the war, and by the great war debt of several hundred million pounds, which will be a legacy to Australia for quite a long time to come. If there are any honorable members desirous of repeating this calamity, I am very sorry for them.
– Does the honorable member say we should neither buy from Germany nor sell to Germany?
– I do not say we should not sell to Germany, but I claim that we need not buy from that country. The people of Germany must buy some of our products. I think I have made out very clearly that it is necessary for Germany to trade with us, but that it is unnecessary for us to buy from Germany, because we ought to manufacture the whole of these commodities ourselves.
The need for the improvement of the standardization of Australian manufactures has been recognised by the Government, and the Bureau of Science and Industry, which has done excellent work in the last few years in helping industries to’ become established in Australia, has commenced the task of setting these standards in order.
– What industry has the Bureau of Science and Industry established or assisted to establish?
– It has assisted to further establish the woollen industry, which the honorable member knows to be an absolute fact.
– I do not know it.
– Well, the honorable member should know it. Last year there was a great deal of discussion with regard to the exportation of inferior goods to various parts of the world, and I regret to have to admit that it is a pity that the Australian trader does not pack his goods better, and does not send the best articles to the best markets. I do not contend that we should not make second-quality goods. Certain countries do not require the best articles. For instance, China is prepared to. purchase our second-grade flour. I do not’ agree with what occurred in respect to a recent deal with South Africa, and commend the Government for their action to uphold our honour. The Commonwealth Government have just made a financial settlement with the South African Government because of low-grade flour which was sent from Australia to South Africa. An honorable member asked why men who sold the flour were not called upon to pay, but I do not know the details. I simply contend that the name of Australia was dragged very low down through that inferior shipment. We should do all we can to see that when the name of Australia appears on an article that article is of absolutely the best quality.
I sincerely trust that more Trade Commissioners will be sent abroad to sell Australian goods. I do not care where our goods are sold so long as they are sold. That is our object - to sell our primary products abroad, and, if possible, build up trade for our secondary industries.
– The Trade Commissioners do not sell Australian goods.
– Very recently, through their efforts a trade has been opened up in China for Tasmanian railway sleepers. In this respect we want to follow the advice of the American trader who said, “A man who has a thing to sell, and goes and whispers down a well, is not so apt to collar the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers.” If our goods are the best we should “ holler “ about them as loudly as we can.
– So long as we do not sell any one a “ pup.”
-That is so.
The proposal of the Government to place the Commonwealth Shipping Line under an independent Board, free from political control, will have my hearty support.
– Would you put Mr. Walsh on that Board?
– No: it would be a good thing for Australia if Mr. Walsh were not on any Board. An honorable member of the Opposition to-day asked why the other two ‘ ‘ Bay ‘ ‘ steamers had not been delivered. Why, Mr. Walsh and members of his union will not allow the steamers already delivered to run. The figures put before honorable members show that the Commonwealth Line of steamers has proved not only a profitable investment, but also the means of saving the primary producers of Australia several million pounds in freights.
– Question !
– Then I leave it to the honorable member to prove that that is not so. We have had cheaper freights than other parts of the world have enjoyed, and that undoubtedly has benefited the primary producer. In this connexion, I wish to say that Tasmania hopes to get better treatment from the Commonwealth Steamship Line next season than she got last. I wish to see the rate on apples reduced from 6s. to something like 4s. per case. Last year 1,352,000 cases of apples were exported from Tasmania, which is by no means an inconsiderable volume of trade; but because of the high freights this trade was not very profitable to our growers. I trust that next year arrangements will be made well ahead, and that the Commonwealth steamers will call at Tasmania’s northern ports as well as at her southern ports. It is not to be thought that Hobart is the only port to which they should go. “
The Government propose to introduce legislation which will make taxation a little more equitable than it is at present. In Australia we pay taxation at a fairly high rate, though our taxation is nothing like that of many other countries, such as New Zealand and Great Britain. Here thousands of persons successfully dodge the Taxation Commissioners, but, as I have already stated in public, something desperate must be done, either by Parliament or by the taxation authorities, to bring these persons to book. There should be some sort of a vigilance committee, which would make it its duty to see that all who ought to pay taxation do pay it. If every member of the community who has a taxable income paid his fair share, the rate of taxation could be made much lower than it is.
According to the speech of the GovernorGeneral, it is anticipated that the position at the end of the current financial year will be better than it was at first thought likely to be. That statement supports my contention that the last twelve months have been good ones from the Treasury point of view. I understand that in the receipts for this year several millions of pounds will be accounted for which should have come into the accounts which closed on the 30th June last.
The public is looking for economy.
– But in vain.
– Not in vain. But the Government will not, I ‘hope, practice economy at the expense of efficiency. It is not long since the Prime Minister remarked that economy is a virtue which most of us would impose on the other fellow, and I think that that is generally true.
– Suppose we start with ourselves.
– I am prepared to support the honorable member in economizing with ourselves.
– Let us bring the salary of a member down to £500.
– I am prepared to vote for that, with a ‘sliding scale arrangement which would provide for the travelling and other expenses to which members are put whose homes are at great distances from Melbourne. I am also in favour of paying members for their attendance here, but not for a mere perfunctory attendance just sufficient to get one’s name marked as present. The newly-elected member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) recently directed public attention to what he called the alarming growth of the Public Service. I agree with him that a halt should be called, and that the Public Services of Australia, should not be increased without weighty justification. But economy should not be at the expense of efficiency. The press of Australia, and particularly that of Melbourne, clamours loudly for economy everywhere except within its own neighbourhood; but it will, I trust, support the proposal to appoint a Board of Commissioners to ascertain what economies can be effected by the Government.
– The Melbourne press might also consider the reduction of the cost of newspapers to1d.
– Yes. When newsprint was costing . £84 per ton, the price of newspapers was increased to 2d., but now that newsprint costs about £25 per ton, the Melbourne newspaper proprietors say nothing about reducing the price of their journals, although from Monday next, Sydney newspapers will be sold at 1d. per copy.
Mr.Fenton. - What about reducing the prices of advertisements, which are now so high?
– They might well be reduced.
– It is the establishment of the Daily Mail that has given the Sydney newspaper proprietors a shake-up.
– I come now to the proposal for the unification of the railway gauges of the States. I think that this work has been left too long. There cannot be inter-State Free Trade until the gauges have been unified. With unification, the interchange of commodities would be greatly facilitated, and, in particular, those living near the borders of States would be greatly benefited.If the unification of the railway gauges were entered upon, it would give a great deal of employment. It would mean the expenditure of a very large sum of money, which must be spread over anumber of years. Honorable members who have considered the development of the United States of America under a uniform railway gauge must be astounded that the unification of our gauges should not commend itself to every one. A glance at the map of the railways of that country, which is attached to the report of the Commissioners who were recently inquiring into the gauge question, will show that the United States of America are covered with a huge network of railways all on the standard gauge. An arrangement which has proved of benefit to a population of 100,000,000 people might well be adopted by a country like Australia. In this matter, we must look ahead. What will future generations say of us if we neglect national interests of this kind?
– What they may say will not worry us.
– Perhaps not; but the present generation is worried by the losses and inconveniences caused through the neglect of opportunities by previous Parliaments, whose members did not look sufficiently far ahead. We are paying for this neglect. Tasmania’s contribution to the work of unifying the railway gauges would be about £170,000, and for that the State would get little or no tangible benefit or advantage, as she has got little or none from, her per capita contribution to the cost of the East- West railway and the Murray Waters scheme.
– They are going to give us a grant.
– A larger one ?
– We are not asking for a larger grant. We shall be satisfied if we get a grant like that made to us about ten years ago.
– Is not that being very modest ?
– Tasmania would like more; but a grant such as we have been receiving during the past ten years would be helpful and acceptable.
– Tasmania surely does not want New South Wales to keep her?
– No; neither does she want to go on subsidizing New South Wales.
It is proposed to spend about £2,000,000 per annum during the next four or five years in catching up with the arrears of extension work in the telephone and telegraph branches of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I speak feelingly of the need for better communication in the country districts.
– We have been voicing that need for years.
– I am not a recent convert on the subject; but since I travelled across Australia last year, I am more convinced than ever before of the need for better communication in the out-back districts. Birdsville, in Queensland, is 240 miles from the nearest telephone, and the party with which I was travelling found, on arriving there about nine months ago, that three children had died there within the previous couple of months because medical attention could not be obtained quickly enough. I ask honorable members to try to imagine the agony of mind of a father who has to ride on horseback 240 miles to get a doctor, only to find on his return that his child is already dead.
– You must address yourself to the Government.
– The Government is making an honest attempt to remedy matters.
– A belated attempt.
– The attempt is none the less welcome. An expert Board is to be appointed to advise the Government on the expenditure of this huge amount of money. I think that that is a wise procedure.
– More additions to the Public Service,
– Yes, and if itcan be shown that it is a payable proposition it will be a good thing.
There should be no need for me to dwell upon the Murray Waters Agreement. The possibilities of irrigation in
Australia are too well known to require reiteration at this stage.
With respect to the reference to aerial mail services in outback parts of Australia, these extensions, of course, have my heartiest support. I trust that the Government will see their way clear to authorize as many additional services of a like character as may be possible. Incidentally, it should be remembered that such great work,while of immense benefit to the far-away settlers, will also help considerably in the training of flying pilots. The Geraldton-Derby air service, which had an unfortunate and inauspicious opening, has now been running successfully for five months. In addition to assisting in the development of Australia, the aerial services are of extraordinary value in cases of individual emergency. Emphasizing that point, I propose to read a clipping from the Western Australian, and reprinted in a publication known as the Inlander; the latter is published by the Australian Inland Mission, a worthy organization which sends to the outback nurses and establishes hospitals also. The quotation is as follows: -
An interesting indication of the great value of aviation in bringing far away places near to the city and science in case of emergency is a “ call “ answered yesterday by Dr. Trethowan.
The daughter of a resident of Carnarvon recently became very ill, and the services of a skilled surgeon were urgently needed. The case was taken by Dr. Trethowan, and the service having been made available following several urgent telegrams, one of the Western Australian Airways machines, flown by Pilot Kingsford Smith, left Perth at 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and reached Geraldton three and a half hours later. The doctors met the machine there, and yesterday morning left by air at 6 o’clock for Carnarvon,arriving there not long after the town had breakfasted.
The needed operation was performed, and by 6.15 last night the Perth surgeon was back at the Geraldton aerodrome, concluding what must be the fastest call in his career.
It is anticipated that the speed by which the doctor’s services were made available by the aeroplane will give the young patient trebled chances of recovery. As it is, the story is a splendid instance of the value of aviation in urgent country medical calls.
Honorable members will be pleased to learn that the aerial services are now doing such excellent work.
I propose to touch only briefly on the subject of the Washington Conference, and on its effect upon Australia. Honorable members are familiar with the fact that one local outcome of that international gathering has been to permit of a large measure of economy in our defence services. Quite a number of officers who have given very many years of their lives to the services, both in peace- and during war, are to be retired and compensated. Such treatment is only fair - and just; but one result of these economies will be that numbers of people will feel the pinch. Many, men will be seeking fresh fields of employment in a somewhat hard world, and it will be difficult to place them again unless the Government, are prepared to push on determinedly with a thoroughly developmental policy, including the carrying out of such works as new railways and the unification of existing gauges.
It is about time the National Legislature considered very fully and thoughtfully the problem of the Northern Territory. This great northern area is costing the Government several hundreds of thou- . sands of pounds per annum, and yet no attempt is being made even to- people the Territory. I mentioned last year the case of a police officer stationed at Anthony’s Lagoon, who had been refused permission to marry. The departmental reason assigned for this prohibition was that the place in which the officer lived was not fit to take a wife to dwell in.’ The fault in this instance lies .at the door of the Department of Home and Territories. It should at least make the buildings which house our police and other officials sufficiently habitable to permit white wives to go to the Territory. Little headway can be looked for in the matter of peopling the Northern Territory if the present departmental attitude is to continue. The whole position of the Northern Territory could best be dealt with by the present Parliament framing a policy to extend over a ,period of, say, twenty years - a policy which could not be altered by my suceeding Government during that term. This great northern country is a vast distance away from the southern centres of Australia, and it must eventually bc linked by railway. That linking up should be pushed on with in the near future.
The projected superannuation measure to be made applicable to the Public Service is long overdue, and will be heartily welcomed by the personnel of the Service.
There are anomalies with respect to» repatriation in Australia with which honorable members are brought into contact almost every day. Some of these, at least, will, I hope, soon be done away with.
The question of arbitration is also tobe gone into again, according to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. It seems that the more Acts that have been passed dealing with this subject, the worse has the confusion become confounded. In my view, the best plan would be to leave purely State affairs to the States themselves. Only along those lines can this difficult question, and others of a similar character, be solved. The matter of shipping, of course, is obviously a Federal matter, and one, therefore, for the Commonwealth authorities to handle. But I emphasize that the States should be permitted to continue to govern their own purely domestic affairs. Tasmania has suffered very often as a result of having been dragged in along with another State and unwillingly made a party to a dispute which has then been declared to be a Federal one.
In the industrial world the question of hours is still exercising a great deal of thought and causing much concern. Toask a man engaged in an ordinary avocation - such, for example, as the timber trade and engineering and. the like - towork forty-eight hours is not seeking to impose undue hardship. We are suffering to-day from the effects of high wages and fewer working hours.
– And from Overproduction?
– I advise the honorable member not to worry about overproduction. There is a monument standing just outside of this building which bears the symbol of the three eights. For those three eights our forefathers fought hard. It teck years to establish the . principle of eight hours’ work, eight hours’ recreation, and eight hours’ rest. There are people to-day, however, who would lead the public te think that the fewer hours men work the more jobs there will be for all. They forget that when the production of an article ceases to be profitable the manufacturer can no longer be expected to turn it out of his factory. I suggest that we sell the
Eight Hours monument to Germany, in which country the masses are working considerably move than eight hours a clay.
– That is not correct. The hours of work in Germany are shorter than those in Australia. .
– That is one of the most remarkable statements I have ever heard.
– It is none the less true.
– I suppose that the next thing I shall hear will be that the conditions existing in -Russia are all that any one could desire.
– The honorable member knows nothing at all of the conditions there.
– I know that the plight of the Russian people is so deplorable that most urgent and constant messages are being sent out all over the world, to Australia included, appealing for food for starving millions, and this by representatives of the honorable member’s party.
– I advise the honorable member to stick to Australia.
– -I would certainly prefer to do so. From what I have read day by day in the press it appears that frantic attempts are being made by Labour friends of honorable members opposite to establish some policy on the basis of which they will be able to -tell the public that they do not propose to bring about in Australia anything like that which exists in Russia. At the back of their movement, however, is the principle of the control of industry and of the means of distribution and exchange. The trouble in Russia to-day is that there is no production, and, consequently, no distribution or exchange to be controlled.
– Is the honorable member an authority upon what the Labour movement in* Australia stands for ?
– I have enough to do in answering for myself, and will be content to leave the honorable member to answer for his party.
The subject of the redistribution of seats is one which must be taken in hand this session. I favour the proposal that the redistribution be made, and I think that Parliament in its wisdom will decide that such shall be done. While sympathizing with the Country party, some of the members of which may lose their seats-
– Oh ! We shall make up the loss quite easily.
– Then, why worry? In the Constitution it is provided that the several States shall each be allotted a certain number of seats in the Federal Legislature. New South Wales is now entitled to increased representation, and it would appear that “Victoria must lose one of its representatives. If Parliament decides that Victoria shall retain the jeopardized seat hardship will be imposed on the people of New South Wales. The various Commissions which have done their work in this matter have had all the facts before them. Their reports will be tabled, no doubt, for discussion at the proper time.
I have only one or two words to add regarding Canberra. Honorable members know full well that I have opposed the Federal Capital project ever since I came into this Parliament.
– The honorable member says that we cannot afford it. Neither, then, can we afford to pay the Tasmanian subsidy.
– I take this stand, namely, that the building of the Capital has reached such a stage that there is no prospect of withdrawal. I must content myself, therefore, with seeing that any money spent at Canberra is expended most efficiently.
I congratulate the Government upon their conduct of business during last session. Further, in respect of the anticipated surplus, of which honorable members are to hear something, I presume, very early in thenew financial year. I congratulate the Government also upon their earnest endeavours, as indicated in the Speech of the Governor-General, to meet the public needs. The press of Melbourne need not worry about the forthcoming election. If honorable members set to work forthwith upon the enormous task indicated in the Speech of His Excellency we shall be here for much longer than will carry us into February or March of next year. I repeat that I congratulate the Government upon the programme placed before Parliament, seeing that there has really been devised legislation for the whole of Australia.
Just one or two remarks -should serve, in conclusion, in dealing with sugar and coal. I sincerely regret that the Government have not seen fit to refer to these two important matters in the Speech but, judging from a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) in Sydney recently, the public will shortly be informed of the exact financial position respecting the Sugar Agreement. The people have very short memories. “While we were getting any amount of sugar at 3d. and 3-Jd. per lb., and while people in other parts of the world were being rationed, ounce by ounce, week by week, at the rate of ls. 3d. per lb., everybody in Australia agreed that it was well and good for the Government to control sugar. However, when the present agreement came into force, and when the market began to fall, these same people, with their short memories, complained that Government control was the worst thing in the world. In my view, the control of sugar has, up to the present, justified itself. But I would say to honorable members representing Queensland constituencies that I am prepared to assist their industry in “every way by means of the imposition of duty, and that the sooner we, de-control sugar the better it will be for the great bulk of the people of Australia. The same may be said regarding the decontrol of the coal industry. I thank honorable members for their patient hearing of my somewhat ‘ lengthy speech, and trust that, settingtheir minds to the work that is in front of them, they mil carry it out to the advantage of the Commonwealth.
.- In seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to his Excellency the Governor-General’s speech, I desire, at the outset, to refer to the loss this House has sustained by the death of the late Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Frank Gwynne Tudor. For very many years he was a personal friend of mine, and, as a matter of fact, we went to school together. .In the State of which I am a representative the. feeling is general that there is great need in Australia today for the display of a kindlier feeling towards those who are engaged in working out our political destinies. Irrespective of political beliefs, we find various newspapers in every State criticising members of Parliament, not only as public men, but in their private capacity. The criticism indulged in, in some cases, is neither more nor less than personal vilification.
Australian politics compare favorably with those of any other country, and I should be delighted to see the press of Australia, displaying a kindlier spirit in its criticism, not of the public actions of politicians, but of their personal characters.
I compliment the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) on the work accomplished at the Washington Conference. When the honorable senator left Australia for Washington, the opinion generally expressed in this House was that little, if any, good would result from the Conference. Not one of us oan say that he was wiser than his fellows, and was convinced that there would be a, satisfactory issue to that now historic gathering . It has, however, turned out all right, since it has practically guaranteed to the world a respite from war for ten years. During that period, the great nations will be able to take stock of their position. They will be able to determine first of all, whether they shall ever again engage- in the class of naval warfare in which they indulged prior to the decision of the Conference. They will be able also to determine what shall be their policy in the event of a non-return to such a system. Australia, in my opinion, will have something else to think of during the next ten years. From the stand - point of defence, we are very largely dependent upon Great Britain. The Army and Navy of Great Britain do much for us, and their leaders, from an administrative view-point, se© to it that the welfare of Australia is not jeopardized. As Australians, we can take pride in the fact that the young men of this country when called upon to fight the battles of the Empire did not disgrace themselves in any arm of the service, and in the peaceful times of - the next ten years we shall have an opportunity to build- up a nation which, by its energy and enterprise, will show the world what a virile people can do towards the achievement of a lasting peace. Although, the Washington Conference did not accomplish all for which we might have hoped, it has at least given us this respite, and I am sure we all earnestly hope that the projects covered by His Excellency’s Speech will help in some measure to make for that lasting peace to which I have alluded. We have to determine how that object can best be achieved.
During the recess I travelled a great deal, and found that those engaged in primary production - people working in remote districts, far removed from the pleasures of city life, and working only because they desire to obtain a competency for themselves and their dependants - hold widely divergent views as to whether the Federal Parliament is serving them as it was expected to do at the inauguration of the Commonwealth. There is a difference of opinion amongst them, not as to whether the Hughes Government, or the Charlton Opposition - the National party or the Labour party - are discharging their functions, but as to whether the Parliament itself is doing so.
– We have the Country party here.
– I am addressing myself to this question in a purely non-party spirit. The Tariff that we passed last session has had a very serious effect on the primary industries, and they will need to be carefully nursed if they are to be of the fullest advantage to Australia. The Government, in my opinion, can do much to assist the pastoral, dairying, agricultural, mining, and other primary industries, not by interfering with them, but by opening up new markets for their products.
It is not my intention to discuss the question of the Mandated Territories, since I propose to deal only with those questions of which I know something. I am not one of those who, after spending a few days in a particular territory, feel themselves competent to discuss it in detail.
I favour the Government proposal to appoint an Australian Commissioner in theUnited States of America. The gentleman appointed to that office should be an Australian who understands Australia. It cannot be said that a. man who has spent practically the whole of his life in a city office is best fitted to represent Australia abroad. Such a man does not understand Australia, and is not competent to represent the Commonwealth in any country.
Coming to the Government’s wireless proposals, Iam convinced that the people of Australia will ratify the action which has been taken to establish wireless communication between the Commonwealth and the outside world. The break of railway gauge is another important matter. I do not propose to discuss it from the point of view of the effect of railway unification on any particular State. I have travelled through every State of the Commonwealth, and have experienced the inconvenience of having to travel on five different gauges between Perth and Melbourne. We have to bear in mind, not merely the inconvenience which the break of gauge involves, but the fact that, should it be necessary at any time to transport quickly from one part of the Commonwealth to another any large body of troops, a most serious situation would arise. My view is that we should endeavour to bring about a unified railway gauge between Brisbane and Fremantle, leaving the States free to adopt any gauge they please for other than main trunk lines within their boundaries. There is no reason why we should have the same railway gauge in respect of all intra-State lines. In the big States a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is quite broad enough for developmental purposes. I am satisfied that if an appeal were made to the people the great majority would declare themselves in favour of something in that direction.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has spoken of the value of commercial aviation, as the result of which the time occupied in travelling over vast areas in Western Australia has been enormously reduced. The charges that are being made by the Western Australian Airways Limited for transport by aeroplane are marvellously low. The honorable member spoke of a case in which Dr. Trethowan travelled by aeroplane from Perth to Carnarvon, and as the result of this speedy means of transport was able to arrive in time to save a. life. There have been other cases where speedy assistance has been afforded in the same way to people living in the remote parts of the Commonwealth. The aeroplane mail service between Perth and Derby has been a boon to the people of the Northwest of Western Australia, and has greatly improved their trading facilities with the State capital. The extension of such services will make the people of the remote areas of Australia more contented than they are to-day.
No one will begrudge the public money which is being expended on the Murray Water scheme.
– No one ought to do.
– And I do not believe any one does. Representatives of metropolitan constituencies in this State should realize that it is highly essential to spend large sums of money, not only on the Murray Waters Conservation scheme, but on similar enterprises .in many other parts of Australia, if we are to get the best results from the settlement of the people on the land. I can assure honorable members that, in the State of Western Australia, ready support can be found for such undertakings as the Murray Waters scheme; and all I hope is that in. return similar public works in portions of Australia remote from Victoria will be regarded just as favorably by the Victorian representatives and Victorian press.
We have had much discussion in this House on the War Service Homes scheme and its administration. In Western Australia there has been for some time past a Workers Home Board: in operation; and ‘there the tenure may be either leasehold or freehold, though I believe, in the case of the Waa- Service Homes there has been adopted only the freehold system. For many months past, building material belonging to the Commonwealth Government has been lying about in different parts of the metropolitan area of Perth and Fremantle absolutely wasting; indeed, it became a question whether the men would live to occupy any of the houses for which, this material was intended. I should like to know whether the cost of this material will be debited against those men; for if that be so, I regard it as altogether a wrong. An arrangement has been made under which the Federal Department and the Workers Home Board in Western Australia are working together ; and although there are one or two matters yet to be arranged, I think that, in the near future, we shall find the system, working to its full extent. When it is possible to get tradesmen to* build these houses, the houses will be built; and if there are any plasterers, carpenters, and others out of work in the eastern States, they will be able to find it in the western State.
The question of the Northern Territory representation is being viewed in a way that we members of this House can appreciate. No man who has any claim to be called a Democrat would approve of taxation without representation; and I am glad that the people of the Northern
Territory are at last to enjoy their rights in this regard.
I have a word or two to say on the taxation question generally. We have been promised an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act.’ In the last hours of the last session a Bill dealing with this matter was prepared, but was rejected by the Senate, and, now that I know what that Bill contained, and I have had an opportunity to consider what the effect of such a measure would have been, I am very glad that it was rejected. I held a different opinion before the question was brought up in the Senate, but now I am more fully seised of what it would have meant to the country. I should here like to say that the way in which legislation is introduced in the dying hours of the session in both Federal and State Parliaments is a disgrace to any deliberative body. I have always objected to this hurried crowding of Bills through a Parliament, and I shall always object to it. At the end of last session a small Bill . was introduced to, afford some taxation relief from a mining point of view - to give relief to prospectors who may have devoted then.” whole life to the work, and only at the end have found a “ show.” The Bill did give relief to that extent, but, taken as a whole, it would have had a very different effect. It would have meant, and, indeed, does mean now, that, under the pooling system, the man who had, say, a certain quota in the 1915-16 pool, and the 1917-18 pool, would be taxed upon what money he received for his produce in the year in which he received it. That I regard as ‘unfair. Many months ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) gave me, and, I have no doubt, other honorable members, an assurance by letter that this unfairness would be remedied, and, at any rate, an opportunity afforded us to express our opinion upon the matter. Another aspect of taxation, as presented in the averaging system, is exercising the minds of the people at the present time. The Treasurer informs me that it is not the averaging system that is at fault, but that part of the taxation law which deals with diminishing assets. Wherever the fault may lie, I trust that when we come to discuss the question we shall deal with it in all its bearings. A man who by the expenditure of money is creating an asset is, of course, taxed on the returns, but, in the case of mining generally, and particularly in metalliferous mining, the circumstances are very different, because every ounce of mineral taken out of the ground diminishes the asset. This is an aspect of the matter which must be considered when the amending measure is before us.
It is impossible in a speech on the Address-in-Reply to do justice to all the subjects raised in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral; to adequately discuss all these various questions would certainly take more time than is at my disposal this afternoon. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) said he was glad that the hopes of the Federal Treasurer had been realized to the extent that he will be able to show a surplus at the end of the financial year. For my part, as an Australian who believes in Australia, I doubt if it is a good thing for the Federal Treasurer to have a large surplus while Treasurers of the States have big deficits. I believe that if for one, two, or three years more local autonomy were given to the States in the matter of their domestic legislation and administration, we would hear less talk about new States movements, and there would be better results to the States. That is the point of view I intend to take when the taxation legislation is before us. It is my idea that the people of Australia are not grumbling so much at being taxed, as. at the fact that for the money which the taxation produces they are not getting the public services to which they are entitled. In order to bring about such a desirable result as I have here indicated, we ought all, irrespective of where we sit in this House, to give what assistance we can to the Treasurer, and thus contribute to the public good.
I have now only to say a word or two in reference to industrial conciliation and arbitration. I have been on Committees which have framed Arbitration Acts in at least one State, and I was a believer in arbitration long before any such measure was placed on the statute-book. I am, therefore, glad that an amending measure is to be introduced this session. My belief is that this Parliament should define what are the functions of the Federal Arbitration Court, thus leaving the way open for the States to work out their own industrial destiny. There are trades and callings that are purely Federal in character, and only such trades and callings should come within the operation of a Federal Arbitration Act. If employers and employed alike are giventhe right to take cases to such a Court, no Government, or any other body or institution, should be able to step in and confer the right of application to any other Court or tribunal. Such a course would, I think, give us the best results.
In concluding, I can only repeat the hope I expressed at the outset, that thorough good feeling will prevail in all our deliberations; at any rate, I can honestly say that no word of mine will intentionally hurt the feelings of any honorable member, whatever his political opinions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Governor-General’s Message: Motion of Censure.
Message received from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purpose of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the Message be referred to the Committee of Supply when appointed.
.- At the very inception of the application for Supply I deem it my duty to draw attention to the present condition of the Commonwealth, especially in regard to industrial matters, occasioned by the maladministration of the present Government. After stating my case, I shall conclude with a motion of censure upon the Government. Every one must admit that Australia is suffering considerably to-day in consequence of the aftermath of the war, but this was not unexpected; public men in every country knew that this condition would arise as a. result of the war, and that it was necessary for them to make provision to tide their people over the period of stress. As one means to that end this Parliament imposed a new Tariff last year. The Minister in charge of the Tariff (Mr. Greene) made it very clear to the House that unless some means were adopted by which local industries could be protected against dumping, and the importation of poods from abroad with the assistance of a depreciated foreign exchange, the Tariff itself would be of little avail. Accordingly a Bill for the prevention of dumping was introduced in July last, and was considered urgent, it met with opposition from some sections of the House, but the Government urged that its passage was vitally necessary in order that the Tariff might be made effective. But for some reason best known to the Government, and which I have never been able to discover, after a few honorable members had spoken, the measure was allowed to remain in abeyance, and the House was adjourned for ten weeks while the Senate, dealt with the Tariff. Having regard to the urgency of these anti-dumping provisions, one would have expected that immediately the sittings of the House were resumed, the Government would have pushed forward with the measure and taken steps to prevent the Commonwealth falling into the position which it is in to-day. At that time orders for iron and steel were diminishng, and this key industry, of which we were so proud during the war, was about to close down, and throw thousands of men out of work. Honorable members on this side of the House frequently inquired as to when the Government would proceed with the measure; but, strange to say, nothing was done with it until December last. Of course, ‘ after the statements made by the Minister himself in regard to the urgent need for special legislation to safeguard local industries, the Government could not allow Parliament to disperse without passing that Bill. Parliament did agree to it, and another Bill providing for the creation of a Tariff Board of three members. It was well known that Mr. Oakley, of the Customs Department, was to be appointed chairman of that body, aud I have nothing to say against him, for he is a competent man, who has done good work: in the Trade and Customs Department. Two other ‘members were to be appointed, and does it not seem strange that when the iron and steel works were practically closing down, and unemployment was being increased, the Government should delay until ‘the end of March before appointing this Board which was to watch “the operation of the Tariff and protect Australian industries against the consequences of a depreciated foreign exchange? What was the reason for the delay in appointing this Board after parliamentary sanction had been obtained? Even when the Board was created, did it start an inquiry into the importation of iron and steel and other products that were being imported from Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, and other countries ? I know it will be said that the Commonwealth has not yet resumed trade with Germany, but I shall endeavour to show that probably German goods were reaching Australia through Great Britain. This newly-created Board, instead of proceeding with urgent and important Tariff work, was engaged in dealing with deferred duties, Tariff reciprocity with New Zealand, and anything but the duties for which it was chiefly appointed. Honorable members would not have supported the appointment of a Tariff Board if its functions were not to be the protection of local industries during the period of depreciated exchanges, against the wholesale dumping of foreign goods. Would honorable members have appointed a< Board to deal with the small matters upon which it has been engaged ? They would not have been justified in using the. country’s money for the payment of high salaries for such work. The duty for which t°he Board was created was neglected entirely, and I desire to know “why such an important piece of legislation has been allowed to remain inoperative. I remind honorable members of the Country party that, although they may be opposed to that legislation, there is a principle involved, and that is, whether or not the Government are justified in flouting the wishes of Parliament. Those who sit upon the Treasury bench must administer the laws of the country, otherwise they are not carrying out their duty. But it is evident that some influence was brought to bear which prevented the Government from, performing their obvious duty in regard to the protection of Australian industries. What has been the result? 1 believe that at the present time, 43,000 unionists are registered as unemployed, and that number is being increased daily. The steel works, which employed about 5,000 men prior to Christmas, to-day employ about 1,000 men, who are engaged upon repair work. Those works consumed 20,000 tons of coal weekly prior to’ Christmas, and to-day they are purchasing no coal at all, and as a result 2,500 miners are thrown out of employment. About 1,100 men formerly working a.t the Iron Knob, in South Australia, and others who were engaged in quarrying limestone in Tasmania and on the northern rivers are out of work. In addition, many seamen and wharf labourers, and about 1,000 men at Lithgow, have lost their employment. It is safe to say that, as a result of the Government’s failure to administer an Act passed by this House, from 15,000 to 18,000 men are unemployed iu Australia to-day, and they include a large number of returned soldiers. We promised to protect those men who went abroad to fight for us, but they have been dismissed from, their employment because of the inaction of the Government. Some of those who were opposed to this anti-dumping legislation may urge ‘that the Government were justified in their failure to put it into operation. If this House takes that view of the responsibilities of the Government, it is recrUIt to its duty,, and every member who supports the Government iu their inaction betrays the trust reposed in him by the peoples. This matter which I am putting before the “House is one of the most difficult that any member could handle, because information can only be picked up by piecing together odd items discovered from time to time and watching the trend of events. Let me first quote a statement made by Mr. Hoskins, the ironfounder of Lithgow, who employed about 1,000 men, at a meeting in Lithgow prior to the New South Wales State elections -
We were told th at if the Anti-dumping Bill were passed everybody would be in work. He went to Melbourne to see if the Bill would give relief to the country. Party and other interests, including merchants and consuls, were against it, and nothing effective was done. It was merely a farce
There we have a statement by a man engaged in the iron and steel industry, that he came to Melbourne to interview “those who were controlling that legislation, but could get no satisfaction because of the opposition of various interests. We can quite understand the antagonism of the foreign consuls, because if the antidumping legislation had been made operative it would have prevented the importation of goods from their countries, and would have led to their manufacture by our own people. One could also understand the motive that actuated the importers in their opposition to the law passed by Parliament. They were making more money out of the importation of foreign goods than they could hope to make by the sell ing of Australian-made goods. Quite a number of them who had indulged in profiteering during the war were given another opportunity to exploit the people. They cared not for the condition of those Australian soldiers who had fought for them so long as they could make more profits. They are to-day taking advantage of the opportunities for purchasing foreign goods cheaply owing to the depreciation of Belgian and German currency; they are importing those goods into this country, and the Government are taking no preventive action. Even the press do not take the Government to account as they should do in regard to this matter. Matters of less concern, and which do not affect the welfare of the people to anything like the same extent, are the subject of severe criticism, but not one word has the press to say in regard to the negligence displayed by the Government in this vital matter. The dumping of foreign goods and the closing down of local industries strike at the welfare of the industrial population. Anything that affects the industrial population by throwing them out of employment strikes indirectly at every individual in the country. It strikes at the primary producer, who must have a market for his produce.
– You have struck at him all right.
– But he will be struck much harder if this legislation is continued. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) was very strenuous in his opposition to this legislation; but the question is not what his opinion is, but whether the law is to bo administered now that it is on the statute-book ; whether those who are responsible for the administration of the law should administer it in the way Parliament expected? The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), speaking on the question of trading with Germany, said that the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act would be brought into operation after we commenced to trade with Germany on the 1st August next. As a matter of fact, the enforcing of the provisions of the Act were not made dependent on our commencing to trade with Germany, but provided for trading with every country under the sun, including Great Britain. They were enacted for the purpose of meeting pressing conditions’ in consequence of competition from dumping and depreciated rates of exchange in other countries. What is the good of trying to camouflage the position by saying that there is no reason for enforcing the measure inasmuch as we are not trading with Germany until the 1st August next? Such statements are all right when made outside, where the general public do not know the true position, but every one in this (Chamber knows that the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act was passed to come into operation as quickly as possible for the purpose of protecting Australia’s industries, and had not to do with Germany more than it had to do with any other country. Mr.. Oakley, the Chairman of the Tariff Board, said, in Sydney, that under this particular measure the Tariff Board had the greatest (possible power that could be conferred upon it. It had powers equivalent to those provided in the Customs Act itself. Every honorable member knows that under the Customs Act the Customs Department has extensive powers. It can inquire into everything it feels inclined to. But in the same statement Mr. Oakley said that, in connexion with the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, there must first be a complaint by a manufacturer that his industry was beinginterfered with or ruined through competition by dumping, or by reason of depreciated rates of exchange. Such was never intended by this House. There is not one word in the measure to justify Mr. Oakley’s interpretation; but we all know the Chairman of the Tariff Board to be an able man in whom we can repose every confidence ; and, if his statement be correct, the sooner we wipe out the anomaly the better. He says that the Board has all the power that exists in the Customs Act to inquire into any matter it feels disposed to. If the Customs authorities are not satisfied in regard to any material coming into Australia, they can make fullest inquiry and satisfy themselves in regard to it. When the Minister was introducing the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, he told honorable members that machinery existed in the Customs Department by which the fullest information could be obtained in the shortest possible time, because there were agencies throughout the world which enabled the Department to get all the information they needed as speedily as possible. We all know that the Department has availed itself of this power. We are well acquainted with the provisions of the legislation we have enacted. The Minister has to be satisfied on inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. No complaint has first to be made. The Board is simply instructed to make inquiry into these matters. It should be an inquisitorial body for the purpose of protecting the industries of Australia, and should not bc obliged to wait until some individual makes a complaint. What is every one’s business is no one’s business. Just let us see what might happen. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited found that they could do better, owing to the depreciated rates of exchange, by purchasing material in Germany or Belgium, perhaps putting the final touches on it in Great Britain, and bringing it out here at a much cheaper rate than the cost of manufacturing the same article in Australia, would we expect them to come to the Minister and say, “ We are ruined in consequence of this cheap stuff coming in “ ? Is that position not possible with the German mark depreciated to the extent of 1,240 to the sovereign as it is to-day compared with 20.43 prior to the war? Of course it is. Every one knows it is. Even at the time this Bill was passed in this Parliament the rate of exchange, so far as the German mark was concerned, was SOO to the sovereign, but the Bill provided only for a rate of 240 marks to the sovereign, to which 75 per cent, had to be added. With the German mark depreciated to the extent of 1,240 to the £1; its value to-day is less than one farthing, and even after adding the internal duties of Germany, averaging 100 per cent., also- the reparation impost of 35 per cent., and again the duty of 33-^ per cent, imposed on entry into Great Britain, the value would not be increased to Id. But no one takes the trouble to ascertain where goods which arrive here originate. All we know is that huge quantities of steel have been brought into Australia within the last two years at a big profit to the importers.
– How much has been imported ?
– I shall give that information later. My contention is that the Tariff Board’s first duty is to inquire into these importations. They can get the records of the quantity of iron and steel coming into Australia and ascertain from whence it comes. If they find that it is coming here from Great Britain they can make inquiry in Great Britain as to whether it was manufactured there wholly from British material or from material imported from Germany, Belgium, or elsewhere. Then, with that information in their possession, if they find that anything unfair is being done, they are in duty bound to apply the provisions of the Act. With the depreciation of the mark at the rate at which it is to-day, I cannot see that ‘the provisions of the Act will prove adequate, but my charge against the Government is that they do not administer the Act as far as it goes, and have practically done nothing in regard to it.
– That is not a fact.
– I say that it is a fact. The right honorable gentleman will have the right to. reply to my charge that the Government have practically acquiesced in these importations by their delay in appointing the Board and by not instructing it to inquire into these matters. Mr. Oakley says that the Board has not dealt with them, because it has first to receive a” complaint; but I say that Parliament never intended that a complaint should first be made, and that it was not intended to make it obligatory to lay a complaint under the Customs Act, the powers of which Mr. Oakley says are conferred on the Tariff Board. If my charge can be controverted, of course it fails; but why have we had all this mystery -and all this” delay from August of last year ? We knew -that this material was coming in and .that our own industries were getting no orders. Why was there such delay in appointing the two gentlemen to act with Mr. Oakley on the Tariff Board?
– Throughout the inquiry has been continuous.
– On more -than one occasion the Minister has stated that this measure would come into operation when we commenced to deal with Germany.
– But the position is that, if goods are coming in at the homeconsumption value, there is no dumping, and .there is nothing that we can do.
– If what the Minister for Defence says is correct, the position arises at once that goods can be imported from Germany to Great Britain.
– The honorable member is assuming that.
– I am trying to make out my own case.
– But what is the good of a case made out on pure assumption? If the honorable member has facts, that is one thing, but assumptions are of no value.
– I shall give the facts as I proceed. The Minister has the right of reply. I have already made the -point that this particular legislation, which was piloted through the House so ably by the honorable member (Mr. Greene), has not been put into operation in the milliner expected by Parliament, or even in accordance with the honorable member’s statements in the chamber. The honorable member says now that I am building on assumption, and that I have no proof; but it is most difficult for a private member to get proof of what is taking place in Germany and Great Britain. Have I, as a member of this Chamber, to keep my mouth closed until I can prove anything up to the hilt, instead of being able to throw the responsibility on the Government for not knowing what is happening? That they could have acquired this knowledge I shall proceed to show as I go along. But let mc quote the honorable member himself. When this legislation was before the Chamber it was opposed very bitterly by the honorable member for Dampier’ (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), a large importer, and now the Treasurer, was not much in sympathy with it, a fact which must not be forgotten in dealing with these matters. This is what the Minister (Mr. Greene) said -
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) .has suggested as a basis the cost at which similar goods are produced in Britain.
We know that the manufacturers of Great Britain are importing very many goods from Germany and Belgium.
Was that assumption on the Minister’s part? He made that statement here very definitely -
For instance, iron and steel are being imported very largely because, owing to the international exchange position, British manufacturers can buy those goods very much more cheaply than they can produce them.
There, again, is a very definite statement.
Mr.Greene. - I know ; but the honorable member’s assumption is that it is these goods which are coming here at the present time.
– What better authority can I have for my remarks thanthe Minister’s assertion?
– It does not touch the point. It is not those goods which are coining in.
– The Minister went on to say -
Not only have the British manufacturers, closed down most of their blast furnaces - there are hardly any blast furnaces working in England -but they are importing blooms, rods, bars, &c., and using them in their manufactures, so that they are able to produce these goods at a very much cheaper rate than would be possible if they used their own material.
That is another very definite statement from the Minister.
– It is quite true; but it does not affect the point.
– However, let me proceed. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) then interjected -
Does not the honorable member think that it would be a good thing for us to do what the Mother Country does?
In effect, he meant, “Get the cheap stuff from Germany, Belgium, or elsewhere, irrespective ofthe effect on the Australian workman. Our Australian industries may languish so long as we get cheap stuff. Our own industries may languish.” The Minister continued -
I do not agree that, because the Mother Country is doing this sort of thing, it necessarily follows that we should.
– The Minister was removed from the Customs Department because he knew too much.
– I have wondered why he was removed. The Prime Minister has not had abetter Minister for
Trade andCustoms. The honorable gentleman was desirous of giving effect to this legislation, but as soon as Parliament got into recess he was transferred to another Department, and the former Assistant Minister for Repatriation wasput into his place. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) has come to the conclusion that, as we are not going to trade directly with Germany till the 1st August next, it is not necessary to enforce this legislation. I hope to prove that iron and steel is coming into this country in large quantities, and to show whence it is coming. It ‘has not been possible in getting up my case to obtain the information one would like to have, but let me begin by reading some information supplied to me by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics only three days ago. According to our own officials, the imports of iron and. steel into Victoria for the ten months ended 30th April last were - From United Kingdom, £833,726; from Canada, £37,961; from Belgium, £152,775; from America, £155,140 ; a total value of £1,201,687. As the Victorian importation of iron and steel is about 34 per cent. of that of the Commonwealth, the value of iron and steel imported into Australia for the ten months ended on the 30th April last was about £3,605,061. This importation has been going on while our own iron and steel industry has been languishing. The factories on which we prided ourselves during the war have been practically idle.
– Tell the story to your own people.
– I am telling it to the country at large, and it is time that it was told. The Minister does not like to hear it.
– If men will not work, you cannot protect them against themselves.
– It may be said that the importation from the United Kingdom during the ten months under review - about £2,501,178 for Australia - was of British manufacture; but how could that be so if at the time the furnaces of Great Britain were, many of them, idle, and her men unemployed? A fortnight ago, according to the latest return published, there were 2,400,000 unemployed men in Great Britain, whose support is costing the country many millions of money. This is the latest information I have regarding employment in the iron and steel industry there -
Production of Pig Iron as Returned to National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers.
Returns received by the Federation from seventy-six firms employing 10,791 workpeople at the end of March, 1922, show an increase of 6 per cent. compared with the number at the end of February, but a decrease of 19.1 per cent. compared with the end of March, 1921.- The Labour Gazette, April, 1922.
Iron and Steel Works - Production of Steel Ingots and Castings as Returned to National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers.
Employment at iron and steel works was adversely affected by the engineers’ lock-out; it continued moderate in Wales and Monmouth, and bad elsewhere, except at Leeds, where it was fair, and showed an improvement at the principal works. Many works were again closed, or partially closed, and others were working short time owing to lack of orders. In the Staffordshire and Wales and Monmouth districts, however, employment was much better than a year ago.
According to returns received from firms employing64,481 work-people, the volume of employment during the week ended 25th March (as indicated by the number of workpeople employed at each works, multiplied by the number of shifts during which work was carried on) showed a decrease of 6.7 per cent. on the previous month, and of 23.6 per cent. on a year ago.
Those facts show that the iron and steel which is now nominally coming from Great Britain cannot, all of it, he of British manufacture. Imports from Great Britain are admitted into this country under the United Kingdom Preferential Tariff if only 25 per cent. of their value has been given to them by work done on them in that country. That is the provision in the Customs Act. Thus commodities, such as pig iron, can be obtained cheaply from Germany or Belgium because of the depreciated currency there, refined in the Mother Country, and sent into Australia under the United Kingdom Preferential Tariff.
– Not if the raw material has some other country of origin. The Act prevents that.
– My complaint is that the Minister is not putting the Act he refers to into force; what I speak of happens under the Customs Act and its application to the Tariff. If 25 per cent. of the value of goods is given to them in the United Kingdom, those goods on being imported into Australia are admitted under the United Kingdom Preferential Tariff. Are inquiries being made as to whether the material has not really come from Belgium or Germany?
– Then we know nothing about them. The Board says that a complaint has to be made.
– The Board has done nothing.
– Exactly! This information is from the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of 15th June last -
In 1921 we imported more iron and steel from the United Kingdom - something like £10,000,000 worth- than in any other year. Yet in that year. Great Britain manufactured only 2,700,000 tons, a falling off of 4,307,000 tons on her production of the previous year, and her own people were largely without employment. Germany, on the other hand, had increased her output by 1,000,000 tons. Yet I am told that there is no evidence that German material is finding its way to Australia through Great Britain!
– Germany is winning the war.
– She has won the war. Her workmen enjoy better conditions than those of Australia, many of whom are men who fought for their country. ,
– They must be working very hard in Germany.
– The duty on ingots, blooms, slabs; &c, is 32s.a ton if the material has been imported from the United Kingdom, and 65s. a ton if it has come from other countries. Thus British manufacturers can make tremendous profits by importing stuff from Germany and putting finishing touches upon it. This state of things is keeping the workmen of Great Britain, as well as those of Australia, in a state of idleness.
Men who fought to make the world safe for Democracy have been thrown out of employment, and no effort is being made to save them. Let me quote again from the Industrial Australian -
During the recent months thousands of tons of foreign iron and steel have been “ dumped “ in the Commonwealth. The price quoted is several pounds below the actual cost of local production, without taking into consideration the matter of overhead charges. The foreigner is out to collar the Australian market for iron and steel. He will sell below the Australian price, andhe caresnot what that price is. He is desperately eager for the business. Profits do not count with the foreigner. His immediate objective is the extinction of the iron and steel enterprise in Australia.
The question of sentiment should not be permitted to intrude. Our first duty is to ourselves. If the importation of Belgian iron and steel means the strangulation of our own Australian industry, thenwe must see to it that Belgian iron and steel is kept out of the country.
That is why I am speaking here to-day. Whatever regard we may have for the people of other countries, our first duty is towards our own folks. We cannot allow them to be thrown into a state of starvation. The article continues -
In a survey of the British iron and steel industry published in the Board of Trade Journal, reference is made to price-cutting by Belgium and Germany.
The British production of iron and steel, which in 1920 almost approximated the 1913 figures, shows a large decline in the first six months of 1921, the actual figures, together with the corresponding figures for 1920, being as follows: -
If Great Britain is now manufacturing only two-thirds of the quantity she was putting out in 1920-21, how can she supply iron and steel to Australia? Evidently the iron and steel that she sends to us comes originally from some other country. Every one knows that Germany has increased her output, and is exporting. Some of the material exported from Germany comes through Belgium, but it can go direct to England if it pays a duty of 33 per cent. The Belgian franc, whose standard value is twenty-five to the £1 sterling, is now fifty-four to £1, or, in other words, 9s.10d. of British money will buy there what £1 is required to buy in Great Britain. What, then, is to prevent British manufacturers from getting stuff cheaply from Germany and Belgium? Why should we permit our own industries to languish? No one can justify throwing thousands of men out of employment. Everything possible should be done to find employment for our people and maintain them in work. Only a few years ago, we asked our young manhood to go away and fight for us. To-day many of those who came back are practically starving. To-day we say, “ Let them starve.” We continue to permit goods to come in from former enemy countries to the grave detriment of our own people.
– The honorable member is not referring to Belgium as a former enemy country 1
– I am not referring to Belgium in such a sense, and in no sense, in fact, other than that she is in the same category as Germany and every other country. I do not object to trading with Germany or any other country. I believe we should trade with all countries; but the first duty of this Parliament is to protect the Australian people from undue competition either on the part of Belgium, or Germany, or America, or any other country. Our first duty, I insist, is to our own folk. Thousands of men are unemployed in New South. Wales, and hundreds of others in other States. These are dependent on relief money, and are more or. less near to a condition of starvation; they do not know where to turn. Many people who prated of their patriotism, and who applauded young Australians for their noble self-sacrifice, are purchasing goods from abroad, to the sad detriment of those same good young Australians. Either we must stand up for our own industries, and thus for our own people, so making Australia self-contained, or we must watch it go to the dogs.
Another matter in regard to which the Prime Minister broke faith with Parliament has to do with shipbuilding at Cockatoo Island. When the Estimates were before this House, I asked the right honorable gentleman whether, if the item having to do with shipbuilding was passed, he would be prepared to authorize the construction of the two projected merchant ships at the Cockatoo yards. Of course, he said he would be. Strange to say, however, nothing further was done in regard to that matter until just recently. At the commencement of the year, there was only a handful of workmen located on the job. The Prime Minister said recently, in Sydney, “ Unless I can get cheaper material, I shall not go on with the construction of these ships.” The astounding fact is, however, that both the material and the machinery were there, at Cockatoo Island, waiting to be put into employment. We had bought about £326,000 worth, and it lay for months idle on the island. All that was required was the hand . of labour to be set to it. There it was, waiting to employ a couple of thousand men for two years or more.
– The honorable member is referring to the two big ships. I was referring to shipbuilding in general.
– The Prime Minister promised this House that if we passed the Estimates in question, he would see that the building programme having to do with those two vessels was pushed on with. I complain that he has broken faith. That which has aggravated the position has been the fact that, while the Government could not find money to employ Australians to build Australian ships in Australia, money was made available to employ English artisans to build five Australian ships outside of Australia. I have no complaint to offer concerning that work of itself. My complaint is in respect of the comparison which is thus afforded. Why this treatment of our Australian workmen?
With respect to immigration, while nothing has been done to find employment for our own people, endeavours have been made to attract thousands of newcomers, but without the slightest preparation having been undertaken to place them in work. When they reach these shores there is nothing for the great majority of them but to join the already swollen ranks of the unemployed. What sort of an advertisement can such deluded newcomers be expected to give Australia? Lord Northcliffe himself condemned the scheme upon his return to
England. What were the conditions which enforced the resignation of the Director of Immigration, Mr. Gullett? He has stated that while in occupation of his position for fifteen months he was seldom able to secure an interview with the Prime Minister, and that even when he succeeded he was afforded only the briefest opportunities. Mr. Gullett pointed out that the important subject of immigration was not receiving from the Prime Minister the consideration that it deserved, and that he had come to the conclusion that he had no option but to resign. Afterwards the Prime Minister himself admitted the real state of affairs. He said, “ I favour immigration, and have endeavoured to do all that has been possible to bring immigrants here. I had intended that 100,000 immigrants should reach Australia last year.”
– Where did the honorable member get that?
– The right honorable gentleman was so reported in the Sydney newspapers. If 100,000 additional immigrants had been brought into Australia during the period in question, while there were thousands of unemployed Australians, with their numbers being daily added to, the outcome would have been disastrous to the good name of the Commonwealth. How could those unfortunate immigrants speak well of Australia in such circumstances? It is obvious, then, that instead of furthering the object which the Prime Minister had in view, his efforts would have brought about the very reverse. I maintain that there should be a proper scheme, put in efficient working order, for the absorption of all our Australian people first, and that thereafter, by the opening up of fresh country, place and opportunity should be found for all newcomers as they reach Australia. Practically no effort in that direction has been undertaken by the Government. There has been no provision for newcomers.
The Prime Minister, and others among those who follow him and support him outside repeat that what is wanted in this country is production, and increased production, and they add that if we bring more people into the Commonwealth we will be able to secure increased production. Increased production, of course, is a good thing for this and for any country; but what is the use of increasing production if there is no market to guarantee its consumption? What is the use of merely thrusting more men on the unemployed list? That will not help Australia. If we keep our iron aud steel industries and all our other industries going, however; if we maintain in employment our many thousands of artisans, we will foster a home market for the consumption of our primary produce. What sort of a position does the primary producer find himself in when he is dependent solely upon an export market? The position to-day is that, with the exception of two or three lines, the export market, is a bad one. Europe cannot purchase our goods, being still impoverished from the war. Recently the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), while speaking at Adelaide, warned the public of what was likely to be experienced by Australia. I also would warn the people of things to come. I believe that, if the Government are not more active, within a few months not only will . the industries which have already been closed, still remain so, but every other industry will be most seriously affected because of the importation of German and other foreign goods at prices which Australian manufacturers cannot withstand. The Treasurer remarked in Adelaide that the Australians were the one privileged race, but that they had seriously to consider whether their hour was not approaching. He pointed out that Australia had had a good time up to the, present. Incidentt ally, it is clear from that statement that the Minister does not know much about the thousands of unemployed, many of whom’ are almost starving. The Trea-surer continued -
Australia was dependent upon the rest of the world. Two years ago Australia exported £140,000,000 worth of goods, and received credits for* them, and last year” exported £120,000,000 worth. But if Europe was not going to recover, exporting could not be continued, because the nations would bc unable to .pay for the goods.
The Treasurer added the warning that things were likely to become worse. I agree. If the Government allow the present state of affairs to drift, our prospects are bound to become worse. There will be fewer markets than ever for the primary -producer. Should we not endeavour to create larger markets in our own country? Can we not do that by. assisting our own industries to a flourishing condition once more? -How can we do so if we permit all this competition from overseas? Is it not to the* interest of the primary producer to support all such legislation as has for its object the creation and maintenance of markets for the consumption of his produce? The only means of bringing that about is by the Government keeping our Australian works going, and earnestly developing country districts.
I am familiar with the . condition of the finances of the Commonwealth, but this is a time of stress, when Europe cannot afford to buy our products. What is the use of talking of increased production if there are no markets of consumption? What is wie value of our produce, no matter how abundant it may be, if . there are dwindling buyers with dwindling means of purchasing? Thousands of our people have been thrown out of work because of the inactivity of the Commonwealth Government, because of maladministration in permitting the Act of which I have been speaking to practically lapse. The Tariff Board has been vested with the widest possible powers. It is required to inquire and report to the Minister. But hitherto nothing has been done, at any rate, so far as the Minister is concerned. I realize the imminent danger of Australia becoming much worse industrially than even to-day. When our industrial condition becomes more acute every person in this land will be affected. We are in duty bound to keep our ‘people in employment. The matter is one not ‘alone for it-he Commonwealth, but for all the State Legislatures. Now is the time when something must be done. It may be only a couple of years before the turning point will have been reached in Europe. Meanwhile, we should so develop our own country that we will be really in a position to maintain -.a larger population. There is absolutely no effective immigration scheme in Australia to-day except some understanding involving Western Australia. We are spending money in bringing people out to these shores without an objective, and practically without a prospect. For these things, I repeat, the Government are worthy of- censure. It is time their maladministration was brought to an end. I might with good reason deal now with the administration of the “War Service Homes Department, but I do not propose to do so on this occasion. I and my party are simply discharging a public duty in giving the fullest publicity to the actual cause of the present position, so that when we reach the bad times to which the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) has referred - Heaven help us if these are “good” times; if the people are not, and have not been, suffering, I do not know what suffering is - we shall be able to say that we .pointed out the situation to the people. We are discharging a public duty that devolves upon us in pointing out that the present situation is due to the failure of the Government to administer the law in such a way as to protect our industries. If they find that the existing law is not sufficient to protect the industries of Australia, then they should amend it. They are not justified in allowing these cheap goods to come in from other countries. They are not justified in allowing goods which, in consequence of the depreciated currency of other countries, can be landed here at exceedingly low prices, to come in through Great Britain or any other country to the detriment of Australian industry. I move -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted “ the Government be condemned for its callous administration, which has caused dislocation of industry, intensified unemployment, and created widespread misery and distress.”
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has sought most ingeniously to attribute the present unemployment in this country to failure on the part of the Government to protect Australian industries. The answer which the Government makes to the charge is both clear and definite. In the last session of this Parliament we passed a Tariff providing for substantial and effective Protection ; but, recognising that abnormal conditions existed in certain countries, and more particularly in former enemy countries, we superimposed upon that substantial Protective schedule an additional measure of Protection designed to meet those conditions. I refer to the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Bill. In the main, the Government sought by that measure to protect Australian industry, and also to protect British industry, and maintain preference to the Mother Country. The provisions of the Act are definite. It clearly provides that, on proof that detriment to an Australian industry arises by reason of the depreciation in tie exchange value of the currency of other countries from which goods are being ‘ imported, the Government shall superimpose on ite ordinary Tariff Protection, as one measure of Protection , a penalty duty . equal to the difference between the home consumption price in the country of origin and that in Britain. There is a further alternative provision in section 8 of the Act. It has to be admitted that the German mark has depreciated considerably since the passing of that Act. To-day, in round figures, it stands at about 1,520 to the £1 sterling, whereas, in pre-war days it was a little over twenty to the sovereign sterling. Such a measure of depreciation could not be provided against in the ordinary way, nor could any instalment of Protection other than a penalty Protection, as provided for in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act cope with such a situation.
– That Act does not deal only with the depreciation of the currencies of other countries.
– It deals with injury to Australian industry in a way that is supplemental to the ordinary protection of industry, and seeks to impose a definite penalty, which no one can say is of a meagre character. The penalty is full, and we believe will be effective.
I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has made the charge to-day that no action has been taken under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act to protect Australian industry ; it affords an opportuntiy for explanation. I would tell him and the country that the whole of the industrial and commercial community of Australia was consulted as to the proclamation of the date on which trade should be resumed with Germany. There had to be a very careful survey of trade and industry. It was necessary to consult the whole of the commercial community, as well as the manufacturers of the Commonwealth. It was generally recognised that it would be destructive to the internal financial condition of Australia if a reasonable time were not allowed for the clearance of the large stocks of not only imported, but home-manufactured goods, held in this country. That position was carefully considered, and all interests were consulted. Ultimately a date was fixed which all sections of the community regarded as reasonable. The honorable member has not previously objected.
– I knew nothing about that arrangement.
– The honorable member seeks now to attribute the unemployment prevailing in Australia to failure on the part of the Government to administer the Act. That cock will not fight. It. was recognised throughout. Australia that the conditions of industry here had to be examined and re-adjustments had to be made. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) called a round-table conference to discuss this very matter. The Government set out to protect Australian industry, but those engaged in various industries dawdled along. The workmen engaged in them dawdled, and were prepared to allow our industries to be paralyzed rather than that we should set our house in order and re-adjust conditions preparatory to bringing the Act into operation in respect of this matter.
– When was that?
– The facts are well known. I dare say that the honorable member did not attend that round-table conference because of a fear that he might be embarrassed.
– Is the honorable gentleman referring to the Economic Conference ?
– I am.
– It was a farce.
– It was rendered so by the action of certain people! opposed to it. The trouble was that the workmen of Australia were not led by men who were game to recognise and honestly advise their followers that world conditions had changed. I put it to honorable members that while the Government may set out by legislation to protect industry, it cannot possibly protect men who prefer to hold up industry rather than to work and to face reasonable conditions. That fact is well known throughout the Commonwealth, and for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest at this stage that the present lack of employment is due to the failure of the Government to proclaim the Act at an earlier date is the lamest explanation of the situation that I have yet heard.
– What connexion was there between the anti-dumping legislation passed last session and the Economic Conference ?
– I am not seeking to connect them. I am endeavouring, however, to point out to the House that the economic conditions of the country rather than the failure of the Government to bring that legislation into operation at an earlier date are responsible for the existing unemployment. I have no hesitation in making that statement. I am confident that it will be supported by the majority of the people engaged to-dayin industry, and I make it without the slightest doubt.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the iron and steel industry. He could not have selected a more difficult case. There undoubtedly we have a great key industry in respect of which we could not set up artificial conditions, ignoring the fact that an industry so vital to the development and national life of Australia cannot be carried on under the conditions which the workers sought to impose upon it.
– What does the honorable gentleman suggest?
– It is not easy to make suggestions to those who are so tied up that they cannot follow them. The position in regard to the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act is perfectly clear. The Board whose duty it is to advise the Government with respect to its operation has not been idle. On the contrary, it has made very complete investigations throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It has gone from State to State, and has met and examined the representatives of industrial organizations, as well as representatives of those conducting primary and secondary industries. The members of the Board have sought in every way to see for themselves the conditions of our industries. I feel it necessary to ask the Leader of the Opposition to read the Act, aud to remind him that it imposes upon the Board the obligation of advising the Government whether any injury to industry has taken , place. The Board can do that only when those in charge of our industries make out a case that an industry is likely to suffer by treason of abnormal conditions. That requirement, however, has not debarred the Board from making very full investigations, not only within the Commonwealth, but abroad. We have been in cable communication with the Imperial authorities. We have asked for and obtained, through the High Commissioner’s office, a report on the. working of the antidumping legislation of Great Britain. We are in touch with our representatives in the United States of America. We have made investigations wherever the Department of Trade and Customs has a representative, and we are possessed of information of a wide and comprehensive character. The Board has now laid down, and I, as the responsible Minister have approved, a whole schedule of instructions for the proper administration of the Act. That schedule will be made available immediately to the whole of those engaged in industry. It will be made available not only to the employers, but to the. employees, so that all sections of the community may know how it is proposed to administer the Act. I would remind honorable members that this legislation is in a great measure experimental. It has to be tried and proved. Until it has had a trial, what is the use of saying in what respect it fails, and where it is effective? So far as I know, the goods of former enemy countries have not yet reached Australia. Neither samples, nor price-lists. from such countries are admitted, as far as we are able to prevent their admission.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that no goods have come iri, indirectly, from Germany?
– So far as I know, no such goods have come in. The Government was very apprehensive that, by reason of the tremendous depreciation in the exchange value of the currency of former enemy countries, traders in those countries would enjoy such a tremendous advantage that no measure of Protection would be too great to counteract it. But up to date, notwithstanding that the Board has been working night and day, we have no definite proof of the landing of any such goods in Australia or that any contracts for delivery ahead have been made by merchants here. The Board has discussed the matter with Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufacture. Never yet has it been able to discover a parcel of German goods landed for delivery in Australia. Under such conditions, how can the Board recommend to the responsible Minister that injury has accrued to Australian industries? How can it make such a . recommendation until there has been an opportunity to examine the conditions under which the goods are bought? All I can say is that the Act provides very definite and very positive remedies. It varies, or differs, in very vital, respects from the legislation in the Old Country; our legislation is more definite, the provisions are clearer, and their application is less involved. The powers in the hands of the Minister are vital, but I point out to the honorable gentleman that we are right in taking great precautions in this country. The conditions of Germany are, however, very often exaggerated by those who, instead of making inquiry, cry out “ Wolf !” in order, as the honorable gentleman himself ingeniously’ has done, to cast on the Government the responsibility for unemployment in this country. The German colonies are gone, and with Silesia. ‘ Alsace-Lorraine, and the Saar Valley gone, Germany has been unable to supply coke and coal according to arrangement. Thus Belgium and France have been unable to carry out their contracts for large supplies of iron and steel. These matters we have inquired into, and the information we have shows that the position of Germany is much exaggerated. Her capacity to trade and flood the world with goods presupposes a sound condition in Germany, with availability of raw material as before the war, when she was a great composite empire with all her colonies. But her colonies are gone, her internal territory is severed, and her financial position is known. Her paper capital is plentiful, for what it is worth. To-day .we find from what trade is done through American channels that there is a difference between her home consumption price in Germany and her price for export outside Germany. It is stated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that we intend to amend the Customs Act to enable us to meet this position. If the price of export suits us better for the imposition of duties than the homeconsumption price - and this is the policy to-day here, as in other countries - we will so amend our legislation as to get the benefit of the most protective means.
As to the Act generally, if experience teaches us, after the date when trade is resumed, that the present measure is not effective, the Government will tighten it up in whatever respects it is proved to be ineffective. In the meantime I challenge the Opposition to say from what country goods have come which can be dealt with under this Act.
.- There is no doubt about the fact that unemployment in Australia to-day has been contributed to very seriously by the inaction of the Government in hot carrying out the decisions of this Parliament, and in neglecting to put into operation the powers they have to protect the industries of this country. The remarks I desire to make this afternoon will deal, I hope, with specific matters, and I shall show clearly that the Government have deliberately, of their own volition, contributed seriously to the present unemployment.
I wish to refer more particularly to the question of ship building, on which my Leader (Mr. Charlton) touched but lightly. It will be remembered that during last session, when the Estimates were before us, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) obtained from this Chamber a vote for ship building on the distinct promise and understanding that the boats which were under construction, and for which the material had already been purchased and was in Australia, would be carried to completion. But what do we find ? The vote was passed, but the moment Parliament went into recess work was practically closed down on the construction of these boats at Cockatoo, with the result that between 2,000 and 3,000 men were thrown on the labour market of Australia. Here was work that had been definitely approved of by Parliament, and the money voted; every ounce of material required for the completion of these boats had already been purchased and delivered at the dockyards at Cockatoo.
– Does the honorable member say that all of it was delivered ?
– I say that all the material’ required for the completion of the construction of the two 12,500 ton merchant ships was lying on’ Cockatoo Island, and had been lying at the Island for something like twelve months. Instead of going on with the shipbuilding, what do we find the Government doing? First, the Government appointed a Board of Control of Shipbuilding. About the ‘personnel of that Board I say nothing ; but here was a Board of highly-paid individuals appointed to control shipbuilding in Australia. They were, however, given no ships to build; the Government deliberately prevented the Board from carrying out their policy of ship construction.’ The money that was voted by Parliament has been deliberately withheld - I say “ deliberately “ - by the responsible Ministers, with the result, as I have said, that 2,000 or 3,000 men have been thrown out of work, and their wives and children compelled to go without food, and suffer all the privations and misery of unemployment. This is the result of the deliberate action of Ministers responsible for the government of this country to-day. Here I have made a definite charge, and I invite the Government to reply to it or explain it away. These boats could have been practically completed by now, and these 2,000 or 3,000 men enabled by the employment given to maintain their wives and children in some degree of decency and comfort. Contrast this attitude of the Government with their attitude in regard to the other shipbuilding projects. While they deliberately withhold the money for building ships in Australia - which would have given work to Australian citizens, including our returned soldiers, we find them, on the other hand, going on with theconstruction of the “ Bay “ Liners at the other end of the world. The Government will provide money to provide employment for workmen anywhere except Australia; the one country in the world for which the Government and their supporters will not provide; the necessary money is the country for the government of which they are responsible to-day. There is no question about finding millions of money to build the Hobson’s Bay, the Moreton Bay, the Larys Bay, and other steamers; the Trea-surer opens wide the public purse of this country to provide for these vessels.
– Will you tell me why’ Tom Walsh “will not allow the men to work on the “ Bay “ boats?
– It is of no use the Minister endeavouring to pass that sort of stuff on me. Will the honorable gentleman inform me why the Government did not go on with the construction of the ships at Cockatoo, for which the necessary money had been provided and all the material was at hand ?
– Tom Walsh is responsible for more men being out of employment than could be employed at Cockatoo -
– That does not answer my question at all. To what miserable subterfuges is the Minister driven ! Last year the money was voted by Parliament, and the material was at hand, and the Minister now says that because Tom Walsh does something to-day the Government did not provide employment last year for these men. Could there be a more ridiculous or absurd contention?
– What is the good of building ships if Tom Walsh will not allow us to man them?
– It is all very well for the Minister to say that to-day, but will he tell me why, during the last six months, the Government have not gone on with the construction of these ships?
– Tom Walsh has been at the same game for two years!
– I am not going to allow the Minister to drag me away from my points. The Government by its policy stands condemned as an anti-Australian Government. Their policy is one of antiAustralianism, of employing any but the people of Australia. That is the charge I make. We had the money and material, and men were going about looking for employment : why not have employed them ? The Government can find money to build ships in Great Britain, and I should like honorable members to know of a reply that I received only this afternoon from the Prime Minister in answer to a question as to the cost of these “ Bay “ ships. It has to be remembered that the figures I am about to give are not complete, but represent only progress payments, there “being a vast amount more yet to be paid . According . to this reply, the payments to date in the case of the Moreton Bay are £1,226,745; Hobson’s Bay, £981,429; and the Largs Bay, £1,065,860. These, I repeat, are only progress payments; and I am informed on the most reliable authority that the cost of these ships will be not less than £1,400,000 each. If the Government could provide this money to give employment to men in Great Britain, surely they might have found the paltry few thousands of pounds to complete the ships at Cockatoo.
– You omit to mention that the “ Bay “ boats were ordered three years ago, and we have to honour the contract.
– The construction of the two ships at Cockatoo was approved of over three years ago - the ship-building policy of the Government was laid down almost at the start of the war.
– Without the consent of Parliament.
– Of course; that is the usual way of the Government. They can go on with the building of ships in Great Britain. They can find millions of pounds for that, but no millions to provide work for the people of Australia. Let them go to my electorate and see there the returned soldiers begging of me, day after day, to try to obtain work for them at the Government dockyards, and telling me of the poverty and misery they and their wives and children axe suffering. All I can answer them is that the Government can spend millions of pounds to employ men in some other part of the world, but that they can find no money to provide employment for the men who fought “ to make Australia safe for Democracy.” There is not only the question of the refusal of the Government to build these ships in Australia, but there is something else. The Minister said something about Mr. Walsh. I would like to tell him something of the way in which the line is administered by the Government as far as employment is concerned. Repairs to these ships are being carried out at cheap labour ports. These ports are not even in Great Britain, but the Government have gone across to Antwerp, where Belgians and Germans can be employed. Why? Because the work can be done there ever so much cheaper than elsewhere. Let me cite one case, and it will be illuminating as showing the policy adopted by the Government. One of our boats, the Boorara, caught fire ab Dunkirk, and had to be sunk in one of the docks. She was raised eventually, and taken across to London. One would think that an Australianowned, ship, taken from Dunkirk to London, would have been repaired by Britishers, in Great Britain, thousands of whom were walking the streets out of work. They, however, were not given the work. Oh, dear, no! It would have cost a little bit more to have given the work to Britishers of the “bull-dog” breed. The ship had to be taken over to Antwerp, and for four months Belgians, and Germans were engaged repairing it. That ship is owned and controlled by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– You have changed that story since you told it last time.
– I have not changed it one jot, and I stand to it. There is also the Dongarra, which waa deliberately taken away from Sydney with her boilers, smoke-boxes, and combustion chambers in such a state that she was really unfit to be taken to sea. In that condition she was taken to Antwerp to get the work done cheaply, while tradesmen - mechanics and labourers - men who fought in the war for us, were walking about the streets of Sydney and suburbs unemployed. The deliberate policy of the Commonwealth Government line is to get work done in the cheap labour ports, and the cheap labour of Antwerp not being cheap enough for them, they went a step farther, and took two of their boats, the Dumosa and Dundula, -to Indian ports. One of them was taken to Kurrachi, and was there repaired. The repairs to that boat required only unskilled labour. It “was merely a question of a general cleanout, overhaul, and repainting, and it was done by black labour. The other boat was taken to Bombay, and there, by black labour again, the work was done. These boats were deliberately taken away from Australia when the work was requiring to be done because Australian workmen would not work for the same wages as the Government could get the black labour in India to work for.
– You forget to say that something went wrong with the ships on the voyage.
– It is of no use for the Minister to try to put that up as an excuse. I say the work on these ships was work of an unskilled character; it was the cleaning and painting of the hatches and hull. It would be impossible to get cheap black labour to do skilled work. The black labourers have not got the skill to do it. They could not do engine and boiler room work. That is the sort of thing that is creating unemployment in this country, and it is of that that we complain. Those are the definite charges I make against the Government. The people of this country call upon the Government for “an answer; and I will stake what reputation I possess upon the truth of my statements. I got the statements from reliable sources. I am backed up by officials of ‘the trade unions concerned, and I can produce evidence, if necessary, from officers on board the ships, who say they were on them when this particular class of work was being done at the cheap-labour ports. Those are the things with which I challenge the Government. First, I charge them with refusing to go on with the. work at Cockatoo for which the money was voted by Parliament, and for which they had the whole of the material. While refusing to go on with that work, they were spending millions of pounds building ships at the other side of the world. The next charge is that the repairs to the steamers of the Commonwealth Line that should have been done in Australia were deliberately given to cheap-labour ports - to Antwerp, where they were done by Belgians and ‘Germans, land to India, where they were done by black labour. While this is going on, we have the spectacle of thousands of our people being in want and misery in Australia. We read only the other week of dozens of returned soldiers sleeping out these cold nights in the Domain in Sydney. They had no shelter over their heads, and they were searching hopelessly for work around the streets of Sydney. They had nowhere to sleep except out in the open on these cold, bitter nights; and these are the heroes who fought “ to make the world safe for Democracy,” and this is the Government that flapped the flags and played the bands and hailed them as heroes. Now, when these men have come back, the jobs they should have are given by the Government to cheap labour at the other end of the world and to black labour in India. This is the Government -that asks the people of this country to stand behind them. The spectacle of unemployment stalking the streets of Australia to-day is a thing that must haunt the memories of those who flapped the flag during the war and talked of , the heroic deeds of these men. Let them pick up their newspapers any day and read of the workless and homeless men. Let them read of them in Newcastle. I read in one of the Newcastle papers only last week of a returned soldier sleeping on the ocean beach; he had no home, no work, and no money - nothing except, after his fight for freedom and liberty, a place on the oceanbeach. That is the place for the heroes who fought for Democracy.
– I suppose that is the reason why your Government in New South Wales–
– That is the reason why the officials of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League came to me, in Sydney, and said that, after having waited upon representatives of the Government, they could get no satisfaction. They came to me and other members of the Labour party and asked us if we could do anything for them. They asked whether we could take steps to obtain shelters for the hundreds of men who were sleeping in the Domain, and they told me of one case - and it is to the eternal shame of Australia that such a case should exist - of a man and his wife, who was in aft advanced stage of pregnancy, who slept out on a beach at Maroubra. They had no home and no shelter. The name and other particulars of the individuals concerned were given to me.
– What did the honorable member do?
– I shall state what I did, and I shall also tell what the representatives of the Government did.
– What they did not.
– No, what they did. Officers of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League came to me and to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), and other honorable members, and said, “ Here are these desperate cases. Can we not get a shelter for them, a place where they can sleep without going to the Domain or the ocean beaches?” I said to the treasurer of the
Association, “ Can you suggest any Government building? Do you know of any place where I can get on the job in the matter?” They said, “ There is a very large drill hall at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney.” I said, “ If that was made available at least it would be a shelter for these poor, unfortunate, homeless, returned soldiers.” As a result I got into touch with the Commandant, who is a very fine gentleman. He had no power himself to deal with the matter, so it was referred to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), who refused to give permission for those homeless, outcast returned soldiers to have the use of the drill hall. The miserable excuse put up was that there were lumber and rubbish in the drill hall. Better it is, they think, that lumber and rubbish should be protected from the elements than that the returned soldiers who fought and bled to make this place “ safe for Democracy “ should be protected. It lay then to the charge of certain good men and women around Sydney to come to the aid of these homeless men and provide them at least with shelter and food. Those things should condemn any Government, and if the honorable members supporting the present Ministry would only do what they know to be right, and were not afraid of the well drying up, the Government would be thrown out neck and crop.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ the well drying up “?
– All honorable members have read of the threat made to those members of the National party who dared to criticise the Government that the well from which is drawn the funds for the support of Nationalist candidates would dry up. Honorable members on the Government side are afraid that if they vote against the Ministry they will not be allowed to dip again into that well, and will in future’ have to pay their own election expenses. That is the sort of threat which isused to prevent Government supporters doing justice to the returned soldiers and to the homeless and workless people of Australia. It may be useless to appeal to honorable members supporting the Government, because they want to preserve their access to the well ; but we do appeal with confidence to the people, and they will respond to the call that is made by the members of the Australian Labour party. As a party we stand for the development of Australian industry by preventing unfair competition by German, Belgian, or any other competitors; our policy is “ Australia first “ in order to give employment to our own people. By developing our industries and opening up new avenues of employment we shall lay the spectre of unemployment that at present stalks the land, and make Australia a country of which all may be proud.
.- I am surprised that the Government have advanced no defence to the charges which have been levelled against them. “ Silence gives consent,” and the Government by their silence have shown that the charges are true and that the motion should be carried. I remember that the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), when introducing the Tariff, said that if it were agreed to new industries would spring up in every State, existing industries would expand, employers would import new and better machinery for manufacture, and employment would increase. At the invitation of the Minister, Parliament enacted a highly protective Tariff, and yet we find throughout the Commonwealth an increasing number of unemployed. Did the Minister deceive the House when he promised that the enactment of the Tariff would lead to a greater demand for labour in every part of the Commonwealth? I helped him to pass the Tariff, for I believed the manufacturers, when they said that if given better fiscal Protection they would extend their factories and provide more employment. To-day they tell us that they cannot compete against the goods that are being dumped into the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has made out a clear case that the Government have failed to answer. Because the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene) promised to insure that Australian industries were protected against the importation of cheap goods from abroad he was transferred from the Customs Department to the Defence Department. There is not the same need to-day as there has been in the past for a live man to be in charge of the latter Department. Armaments are being reduced, and our Defence Forces are being retrenched, yet the honorable member for Richmond was transferred from the live and active Department of Trade and Customs to the almost dormant Department of Defence. I believe that had he remained at the head of the Trade and Customs Department he would have administered the antidumping law properly, but under the present administration that Act is a dead letter.
– Not at all.
– The mere title, “ Industries Preservation Act,” means that we should protect our industries, not only against German competitors, but also against imports from any country. Yet we know what is happening in connexion with the iron and steel industry.
– The real trouble with the iron and steel industry is that the price of pig iron in England is lower than it has been for the last thirty years.
– Even if that is so. and iron and steel can be produced in Great Britain cheaper than we can produce them in Australia, the mere title, “Industries Preservation Act,” would justify the Minister in taking steps to prevent Australian industry being jeopardized by the importation of material produced cheaply abroad. That title is an indication of the spirit of the measure and the intention of Parliament.
– Unfortunately, an Act must be interpreted according to the letter of the law rather than the spirit.
– Was the Minister shifted from the Department of Trade and Customs because of a fear that if he had remained there he would have administered the Act according to thespirit?
– I am quite sure that I should have done no other than the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) is doing.
– If that is so, the passage of that Act was a sham and a fraud, and the Minister deceived the House when he said that such a measure was necessary for the protection of Australian industry. Our industries have not been protected, and manufacturers are complaining that they cannot compete against the importers.
– We cannot protect them against the economic ‘conditions of the world.
– But we are not even supplying our own requirements. The Prime Minister called a round-table conference in Sydney to consider the economic conditions of the manufacturing industries, because they were unable to compete with the goods imported from abroad. Where are they to compete? They are not exporting manufactured goods to other countries; they are simply competing in the Australian market, and yet are not producing enough to supply local requirements. The statistics of the Customs Department show that the value of our imports is still enormous. The Australian people should be manufacturing all their own requirements, and that is the policy which the country expects to be followed. The Government are only a committee to carry out the will of the House, and this House decided that Australian industry should be protected against foreign competition, and enacted a law to provide the Government with the necessary power, but they are not exercising it. The mere fact that factories are closing down is proof that the Government have been lax in the discharge of their duty.
– That is not so.
– The increase of unemployment ought to have aroused the Government to an immediate inquiry as to the cause. The diminution of work is not due to strikes in the steel orcoal-mining industry. Some honorable members have said that the closing of factories is due to the high price of coal, but the Prime Minister has said that that is not so. Australian manufacturers are getting coal as cheaply as it can be bought in any other part of the world.
– They are getting their coal for 2s. or 3s. per ton less than is being paid by the manufacturers in Great Britain.
– That being so, why should we allow the iron and steel industry to collapse? A private company spent two or three million pounds in establishing the steel industry of which we were all proud during the war, but notwithstanding that there is in power a so-called National Government, industries are being destroyed through the nonadministration of the anti-dumping law.
– We cannot use a law which was designed to prevent dumping for the protection of industries against something which is not dumping.
– What is the good of the Act at all? When will it operate?
– When the circumstances with which it was designed to cope arise.
– That means that when every industry is dead the Government will act. If there has been anything in the history of this Parliament which justified any Government being turned out of office it is the failure of the present Ministry to administer the anti-dumping law. If you want to prevent discontent, keep men in employment. If you wish to create discontent and revolution deprive men of work. The Government are allowing unemployment and discontent to increase daily.
– Speak to Tom Walsh.
– Fancy a “ Strong National Government “ trying to shelter behind Tom Walsh! Is he superior to and more powerful than the Government? I am not responsible for everything that Tom Walsh says or does. The onus is upon the Government to carry on the affairs of the country, irrespective of the activities of any individual.
– The Prime Minister showed Tom Walsh how to do the things he does.
– They both graduated in the same industrial school. The Prime Minister, instead of replying to the charges preferred by the Leader of the Opposition, put up the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), and what a miserable answer he gave! He said that on account of strikes and the activities of Tom Walsh the great iron and steel industry must die, and the Government are powerless to assist it. The Prime Minister showed his weakness when he allowed that excuse to be offered by his colleague.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I call attention tothe State of the House. [Quorum formed.] Just prior to the adjournment for dinner I was speaking of the negligence of the Government in not keeping people employed in the steel works and other industries, and of the lack of sympathetic administration in connexion with the Anti-Dumping Act. I repeat that the Government is deserving of the severest censure for not tryingto keep men fully employed. Although Australia is a young country with plenty of developmental work to be undertaken, we have thousands of unemployed, and nothing has been done to alleviate the distress.
We can consider no more important question than that of immigration. Although, as one of the honorable members from Western Australia has said, there is plenty of work in that State-
– I qualified that.
– I remind the House that a deputation of 500 men waited on the Premier and asked for work and shelter. Notwithstanding this deplorable situation, the present Government has launched out on a policy of immigration. The 5 labour market is already over-supplied.
– It is a reflection on the years of Labour rule.
– The Assistant Minister need not speak about Labour rule. He has been very well treated ‘by the Labour party in the past. When there is a lack of employment in Australia, I ask if it is an opportune time to bring thousands more people here. I pity the immigrants. I have seen men with families landing at Circular Quay without homes to go to. They find it impossible even to rent houses, and they cannot obtain employment. Yet every ship arriving in Australian waters brings hundreds of people who are helping to swell the ranks of the unemployed. A vessel which arrived only this week had 1,100 immigrants abroad. It is criminal for the Government to allow them to land unless there is a developmental policy which will provide employment for them. The Labour party stands for the development of Australia, but it desires that the people coming here shall be fully employed. Every ship returning to England is nearly half full of disappointed immigrants, who have no complaint concerning the climatic conditions of Australia, but are going back merely because they cannot find work. Any Government carrying out an immigration policy and neglecting to provide employment for the newcomers is not worthy to remain on the Treasury bench. We have not yet begun to develop this great continent, and we have a Government so bankrupt in intelligence that it cannot find work even for our own people. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out that millions of pounds worth of goods have come into the country at the expense of industries already established, and employees in consequence are left to walk the streets. The Labour party would be lacking in its duty if it did not call attention to. this fact. It has a splendid record behind it as a party. When it was in power for three years under the Fisher Government unemployment was unknown, and the population increased by voluntary immigration, because the conditions were favorable. At that time there was no profiteering, and the mere fact that a Labour Government was in power made Australia boom in the eyes of the world. Labour is not now in office, and we have unemployment rife. Many of the sol- *diers who fought for us have starvation knocking at their door, and cannot even obtain shelter.
– In Western Australia they got it, and in your State they did not.
– The Labour party is anxious for them to get relief in every State. If they cannot be given shelter, they should certainly receive employment, which would enable them to be independent of the Government. After last session, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went to New South Wales and asked for a round-table conference in order to solve the problem of unemployment, and to help to stabilize industry. He called a conference of the employees and the employers, and the conference elected him to be chairman. What was the proposition he put before those men who were receiving only a basic wage? He stated that, in the interests of the country, he asked them to agree to a reduction of wages, so that they would not be unemployed, and so that Australia would be able to compete overseas. Are there no other people who should be sum- moned to such a conference? What about the bankers, who charge high interest and are making huge profits’? Did the Prime Minister call them to a conference with the people who have overdrafts, and are being crushed ? Not at all. It would be impracticable for him to call a conference of bankers ; he would be offending his friends. So he called on the workers. Rent, from which many people derive a living, has gone up over 50 per cent., but the Prime Minister did not ask the landlords to reduce their charges with a view to cheapening production. These people are among his followers. They are the well from which he draws the means of conducting his elections. Then there are the shipowners, who have put up their freights to the detriment of the Country party and its supporters. Has the Prime Minister called them together?
– Yes, and succeeded.
– The profits of those people are increasing rapidly, but instead of getting them to forgo some of their profits he calls on the seamen, the firemen in the stokehold - one of the worst paid bodies of men in the community - to surrender some of their income, with a view, as he puts it, to enable this country to compete with the outside world. The Prime Minister asks the seamen to reduce their standard of living. Australia, however, is not a manufacturing country. We are the producers of raw materials, but we are not allowed to supply even our own markets, owing to the Anti-Dumping Act having been allowed to remain in abeyance. We desire to supply our own requirements, and we are not permitted to do so because this Government have allowed German and Belgian iron and steel to come into the country. The Prime Minister asks us to reduce wages so that we can compete, but with whom are we to compete? We manufacture such articles as jam, butI do not call that an industry.
– There is some money locked up in it.
– I am not looking after the “money-bags.” The Government have had ample opportunity to assist in the development of Australia. ‘Yet we have the spectacle of thousands of unemployed among a population of five and a half millions. There is something wrong.
– The shearers, for instance.
– If I had the opportunity at this stage of dealing with the War Service Homes I would show that there has been something wrong in that matter also. The Repatriation Department occupies four or five flats in Sydney, and has a great staff, and although Parliament has passed hundreds of thousands of pounds on the Estimates for the construction of soldiers’ homes, what do we find? I recently endeavoured to assist a soldier who had applied for a house, and the officer in charge said that he would have to wait eight months for his turn. Then the officer went on to say that the Department was constructing about eighty houses per month. As a matter of fact, the Department is not constructing the houses; it merely finds the money for the work, and supervises the plans.
– The honorable member’s remarks are not within the scope of the amendment.
– I bow to the ruling. The Labour party are not anxious to delay the business of the country. They want to see works set going for developmental purposes, so that our primary producers may be assisted to get a local market.
– That depends upon the price the local market is prepared to pay.
– The human being should be considered before the price of an article. Human life in Australia should not be sacrificed in order to get something cheaper from Germany or Belgium. What has been the result of the decision of this Parliament to spend £200,000 on developmental works at Canberra?
– A waste of time. There are some honorable members who conscientiously oppose the Canberra business. They held a meeting, and elected as chairman of the anti-Canberra Committee a gentleman for whom I have the highest respect. But when the House went into recess, the Government, in order to develop Canberra and shove it along, appointed as Minister to administer the Federal Capital, the very gentleman who was chosen as chairman of the Committee to which I refer. I believe that he has since been converted, but I do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was aware that his Minister had been chairman of the anti-Canberra agitation.
– I have heard of Saul of Tarsus, who became an apostle of Christ, and was the greatest apostle of them all. That is why I put the honorable member on that job.
Mr.RILEY. - Had the £200,000 passed by this House been spent, it would have absorbed some of the unemployed upon reproductive work. For every house built in Canberra there are two or three people waiting. There is no doubt that a demand for houses exists there, and that it would be a paying proposition for this Parliament to transfer to Canberra. I trust that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) will get a hustle on, and employ more labour there, .particularly with a view to relieve unemployment. I hope the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) will be carried, for then we shall have on the Treasury bench a capable body of men who will stand for Australia every time.
.- I was prevented from attending the House at 8 o’clock because I was receiving a large deputation of men who are to be discharged to-morrow night from the Cordite Factory.
– Ask the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) about that.
– If the honorable member for Kooyong ia anxious to see people fully employed, he will pay heed to the amendment submitted to-day. What has happened is only what some of. us prophesied. I am well aware that the honorable member for Kooyong pointed to this side of the chamber and said that if men were being discharged from the Small Arms Factory and the Cordite Factory, and other places connected with the manufacture of munitions of war, it was largely due to the efforts made by this side of the chamber. All along, we on this side have declared that there was bound to be a reduction in Defence expenditure. We have fought for this, because we believed what the Washington Conference has since indorsed, that people in every part of the world were prepared to cease the manufacture and use of death-dealing implements. All over the world there has been a reduction in the manufacture of munitions of war; but what has happened in Great Britain in this regard? No doubt, there were many private firms engaged in the manufacture of munitions, but when their employees were discharged upon the .partial reduction of the firms’ operations, they were, to a large extent, provided with other employment by the British Government. But our Government, with hearts like stone and as relentless as it is possible for human beings to be, throw men and women out of employment on to an already overloaded labour market, so that to-day we have the spectacle of men, many of them returned soldiers, begging in the streets for a crust of bread to keep them alive. The Labour party contend that, before a Government throw men and women out of employment, they should give them other work. We have machinery lying idle in our Small Arms Factory, Cordite Works, and other Munition Works that might be converted to the manufacture of the requirements of our Post Office and other public Departments.
– Why do not the Government make commercial blasting powder ?
– Eoi- the reason that the Minister for Defence submitted, when he was speaking of the Geelong Woollen Mills, which, he said, were up for sale because they could not be kept employed for more than three months of the year upon Government requirements, and because the Government did not propose to trade with the community generally. The only inference we can draw from such a statement is that that section of the community outside who are desirous of supplying material to the Government and the public have urged the Ministry to dispose of the Woollen Mills, and thereby play into the hands of the capitalists, local or overseas. A man tried yesterday to disarm me with the argument that these mills would be enlarged and give more employment than could possibly be afforded under Government control– but during the progress of the war it was these works and other factories established by a Labour Administration, that proved an insurance against some of the extortions of people who,’ while mouthing patriotic sentiments, yet dipped their hands very deeply into the pockets of the consumers. It was said from the Ministerial bench that I would suffer in regard to men and women in my constituency, because there were factories at Maribyrnong ; but I was not influenced on that account in giving my vote. I said, and I repeat now, that it was the duty of the Government, when tipping men out on to an overloaded labour market, to find them work. I found the following remarks in the North American
Review, in an article written by William McLellan : -
Not long ago I heard the chief executive of one of the largest manufacturing businesses in the country say that his workmen had a perfect right to expect him to keep them busy all the time. This was his business, and if unemployment came it was his fault, or the fault of his class. The man was not a rabid Socialist, but is accepted by capitalists and conservative businessmen of the country as one of their own. Unquestionably, his state of mind must become more general if unemployment troubles are to disappear, or even lessen in severity.
What applies to a private employer applies with a thousandfold more force to a Government. I could quote words the Prime Minister used in Great Britain, when he talked about organization and the payment of the basic wage, and the insuring of decent conditions of work. And when he returned to Australia he said, “ Produce, produce, produce !” It is useless for him to sound that clarion note when he and his Government, instead of aiding production, proceed to throw men and women out of employment. It is cruel in the extreme for the Government to smile in the faces of crying women and the distorted countenances of children on the verge of starvation. I cannot accept the old shibboleth that Australia is suffering in commonwith the rest of the world. We have merely scratched the surface of our country. There is work here for all. We cannot class Australia with older countries, fully developed, such as Britain, Germany, Italy, or Spain. We have work here to do, and men and women willing to do it; but we have not a Government with sufficient spine or pluck to help in giving employment to the people. The amendment has been launched, not for the purpose of delaying business, but in order to arouse the Government to action. Does the Prime Minister contemplate with complacency the fact recorded in yesterday’s newspapers that on the returned soldiers’ labour bureau books there are the names of close on 700 returned soldiers in Victoria, one of the most fertile spots in the world? At public and sports gatherings we see the collection boxes passing round, into which we are asked to drop a dole in order to find a crust for a returned man and his wife and bairns. Is this not a disgrace to such a community as this ? Let Australia wake up to its responsibilities and duties. So far as finding employment on reproductive works is concerned, honorable members are willing to pass in five minutes sufficient money to employ all the unemployed in Australia., and set them going at once. If we do not do this, we shall be’ allowing to remain idle one of the finest assets any country possesses, and that is the human being, when his hands and brains are applied to work. If they were able to provide employment for these people, what better advertisement could the Government have for their immigration scheme? On the other hand, if our men and women are to be thrown out of employment in this fashion, how can the Government ask people from Great Britain to come to Australia? They would be merely swelling the ranks of our unemployed. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, and we, on this side of the House, would be recreant to our trust and false to the principles we have espoused on so many occasions if we remained silent while these things are happening. I am speaking in no bitter or partisan spirit. To me this problem of unemployment is transcendent in our national politics to-day. It is unquestionably the duty of the Government to find work for those men and women who are being discharged from Government workshops to-day. I refuse to put Australia, with its inexhaustible resources and undeveloped territory, side by side with an over-populated and highly developed country like Great Britain, so far as our working conditions are concerned. When before the electorswe declare that Australia is the finest country in the world. We cannot substantiate this claim if, during a time like that through which we are passing, the Government pursue their present policy of throwing men and women out of work here.
– But it is a badly governed country.
– That we know. I said a few moments ago, and before the Prime Minister was present, that I was unable to be in my place earlier in the evening because I was receiving an important deputation of men on the steps of this building, and was then informed that from to-morrow night a very large number of men employed ‘in the Cordite Works at Maribyrnong would be dismissed. And they are only some of the Government employees who have lately been thrown out of work. Thousands engaged in other branches of Government activities have lately been discharged. Some of those about to be dismissed from the Cordite Works are partially incapacitated owing to the nature of their employment. I understand that a certain poison has been absorbed into their system, and that, therefore, they are unfitted now to fight the battle of life in other employment. It is ten years ago now since many of them started work at the Cordite Factory. When war came those who “were of age were permitted to enlist, and went to the Front. Upon their return they reentered the factory, and they, as well as many others, who, as I have shown, have become incapacitated through the nature of their employment, are deserving of sympathetic treatment. I appeal to the Prime Minister to send a message tomorrow, if possible, to these men that they will not be thrown out upon a merciless world at this juncture. I also appeal to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Massy Greene) to do something. In the name of the women and children, and the mentoo, I urge the Prime Minister to countermand the order, and give these men a chance to earn a crust for a while longer, when, let us hope, the sun will shine a little brighter, and other employment may be available to them. The Prime Minister has frequently urged the necessity for organization. Unfortunately, this country is not properly organized, otherwise there would not be this unemployment in our community to-day. If the Government will not do something for these men, I shall do my level best, please God, to place before the people of Australia the true position. I trust, however, that some relief will be afforded to those unfortunate individuals who have been thrown out of employment. I hope we shall hear no more of unemployment and the patter of the bare-footed children on our pavements.
.- I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) did not direct his motion of censure to a more vulnerable point in the Government defences, as quite a number of other reasons could have been advanced for a censure motion. It is indeed interesting to see the two parties who are really the enemies of progress in Australia quarrelling with each other in this House. Of course, if one said, “ I told you so,” that would be regarded as too childish. But, indeed, when the present prohibitive Tariff was passed, and the present prohibitive duties were being placed upon the people of Australia, honorable members were told that this state of affairs would come to pass. Only one result could be expected from such a policy. It would be well if members of the Opposition particularly, and the high Tariffists on the Government side of the House, read the speech delivered by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I notice that the Leader of the Opposition, amongst others, made no reference to that speech, though it might very well be reprinted. I shall not read from it, but I may remind the House that the honorable member for Batman said it seemed to be regarded as a crime that any Australian should be able to get anything cheaply. We have created a standard of costliness in Australia that has made it impossible for our customers to buy our products. Apparently, we thought that if we could secure adequate protection for the steel industry at Newcastle our difficulties would be at an end. We forgot, or at all events some members of the House forgot, that there was the other Australian who had to buy Newcastle products, and compete with his own produce in the open, markets of the world. To-day,- he is not in any unnatural and favoured position in this respect. There is no “ super “ person in Australia. We are all alike, and should be placed on the same level. We must remember that there is such a thing as cause and effect. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that, notwithstanding the present high Tariff protection, it was possible for foreign goods to be landed in Australia, and undersell Newcastle products. He spoke of the English workman. I want to tell the honorable member and this House that, while the people of Great Britain have to pay more for their butter, fruit, potatoes, onions, meat, and bread than do the people of Australia, and they can buy cheaper clothing, yet when such goods are sent to Australia, we are expected to pub up a higher Tariff wall in order to protect the secondary industries in our capital cities.
– What the honorable member really advocates is the best price for our primary products abroad, and to allow Australian secondary industries to languish.
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. I speak fearlessly of the things I see, and I can see that the old adage about killing the goose that laid the golden egg is coming true in Australia. I find that there are two varieties of geese in this country - the egglaying and the non-egg-laying variety. I also find that the majority are of a nonlaying strain. They are to be found puddling about in the swamps of Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth. And I find, according to Mr. Knibbs, that, as the result of their activities, they have depleted this country of from 30,000 to 40,000 of the egg-laying variety during the last decade.
– Is this your “ swan song ? “
– No; it is an address to geese.
– By a swan.
– The most interesting part is that this non-laying variety and the chief gander in particular wishes to dominate the laying variety. Notwithstanding the importance of the industries that are carried on by the laying variety, the chief gander of the nonlaying strain does not approve of the laying variety having any say in the government of this country. It appears that when their representatives come into this chamber, and argue for consideration being shown for their industries, upon which all the people of Australia live, they must be characterized as a menace. I do not think, however, that the people of Australia regard them as such.
– But, of course, there must be a gander.
– Unfortunately, the chief gander for the time being is provided from the non-laying strain.
I am notaltogether sorry that the Government in its wisdom has seen fit to do an illegal action by not applying the Anti-dumping Act, of which Ministers must have been ashamed when it was introduced. Not- only the steel industry, but other industries are being strangled by the high cost of production. There are those who think that Australia should be made selfsupporting by the application of the idealistic principle of taking in each other’s washing, notwithstanding the fact that we have a debt of £800,000,000 on our shoulders. There can be only one end to the present course of conduct. Last year I travelled on the transcontinental line with a young man, who hadbeen sent from Western Australia to America to learn the steel trade from bottom to top. He had been in the employ of the Schwab Company, and finally entered the Broken Hill Company’s works at Newcastle. He told me that with the Schwab’s machinery and 2,000 men more steel could be put out in a day than could be made at Newcastle by the Broken Hill Company’s machinery, employing 6,000 men. It may be said that the employment of 6,000 men is a good thing, but regard must be had to its effect on the cost of the product. Iron and steel manufactured under such conditions become so costly that they cannot be sold to any but Australians. Yet it is proposed to unify our railway gauges and to build a north-south transcontinental line. Are not the Australian railway rates heavy enough at the present time?
– I suppose you know that the output at Newcastle per furnace is equal to any in the world?
– What Iwish to know is the cause for the inefficiency, and what is deficient?
– The present trouble is due to the depreciated currencies of Germany and other countries.
– What we need is to increase the purchasing power of our own money, and we can do that only by having a greater output. Wise counsel for us to follow would be to make very substantial reductions in our expenditure, beginning with ourselves. The working men of Australia should readily agree to that, and would lose nothing by it.
– Do you believe in the reduction of profits ?
– I believe in an allround reduction of expenses, so as to increase the purchasing power of the sovereign. We shall benefit when we can buy more for the money that we have to spend, and we shall then be able to compete with other countries, selling our products in the markets of the world. This will bring more capital into the country.
We heard, in the Governor-General’s Speech, some “flap-doodle” about the encouragement of primary production -
My Advisers recognise that the welfare and progress of the Commonwealth depend upon primary production.
That is well enough so far as mere words go, but the primary producers of Australia have been so little encouraged by its Governments that within the last ten years they have decreased by 30,000 or 40,000. How can a Government that is killing such enterprise say that it recognises that the welfare of the Commonwealth dependsupon primary production? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) told a doleful tale of persons lacking bread; but with sensible government no one in Australia need be out of work. The conditions of t he rural parts of this country have not changed since I was a lad.
– That is a terribly long time.
– Nevertheless, conditions have not changed since to the advantage of the primary producers. When I was thirteen years of age, I had about fifteen cows to milk each morning, and then to walk five miles to school, where I frequently got the cane for being late. I never then knew such a tiling as a pay-day, and when visitors came to our home I had to back out, for reasons that were obvious.
– Do you want child slavery to continue?
– Child slavery is continuing in Australia largely because of the actions of the honorable member and his party, who want price-fixing Boards to feedthe “ non-laying variety “ for less than the food costs. It is because a majority of “ non-layers “ is dominating the situation, and appointing price-fixing Boards to bring down the price of butter and other primary products to an unprofitable figure, although these commodities are already cheaper here than they are in other countries, that child labour continues. Why cannot the manufacturers make for the rural workers things which are relatively as cheap as are the primary products thatthey get from the rural workers? It is a levelling-up that we need. So many primary producers would not have ceased operations had they not thought it better to belong to the “ non-laying variety.”
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has condemned the Government for not applying another plaster to benefit the steel works at Newcastle, by protecting them from the competition of the white workers of other countries. At the present time Australia is the only customer for the output of the works, and finds the money for its support. The result of our fiscal policy is that other countries are beginning to say to us, “ We shall not give you an open market, because you have closed your market to us.” South Africa will make Tariff reprisals against our wheat, and America against our wool and other products. In Java there are 40,000,000 mouths anxious to take from us. The people there would buy our potatoes, our fruit, our meat, and other products; but when we ask them to trade with us, they say, “ If we give you an open market, and buy your goods, you will not allow us a free port for the few bananas that we may wish to send to you.” We are offending our friends. It is inconsistent to propose to send Trade Commissioners to the countries whose goods we shut out. These Commissioners will be told flatly that they cannot expect to be given a. free market for Australian productions. We have offended a British Territory, Fiji. That country gave us trade amounting to £1,000,000 per annum, and we reciprocated only to the extent of £250,000. Then we are asked why our people have not work here in the secondary industries. It is because the production of the secondary industries is made too costly. There are 30,000 or 40,000 fewer people in the country districts to contribute to the revenue of the railways.
– The honorable member was pretty solid on the duties on onions and potatoes.
– I tell honorable members opposite again that it is impossible to protect primary production. I can let them into what may be regarded as a secret of mine. I took the action which I did in connexion with the duty on onions as an experiment on the part of a man who would be in a position later to say, “ I told you so.” My expectation, so far as onions are concerned, was completely realized. The House said that producers might have a duty of £6 per ton on onions, and they promptly dropped to £2 10s. per ton, because it is impossible to protect primary industries. Remove the heavy burdens from the backs of the producers.
– Then the honorable member voted to bring about a lower price for the producer of onions?
– That is controlled en tirely by the law of supply and demand; and let me remind the honorable gentleman that he takes the fullest advantage of a glutted market.
– Did the honorable member experiment also in connexion with timber?
– There is no member present who will dispute the fact that [ was against an imposition which would make timber for houses and house rent dearer.
– The honorable member voted for the higher duty.
– I voted for a duty of 4s., as against a proposal for a duty of 10s. 6d. submitted by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). In further confirmation of my statement, I say unhesitatingly that it was upon my motion that the dutyon hay proposed bythe then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) was removed. It was on my motion, also, that the stock duty was removed.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to go into those matters, which are not covered by the motion before the Chair.
– I understand that the motionrefers to the fact that so many men are out of employment in Australia, and it is contended that it is the duty of this Parliament to discover why that is so.
– If the honorable member can connect his remarks with the question of unemployment, he will be in order.
– I think that they are closely connected with that question.
In my view, a great immigration policy is the right one for Australia to adopt. This country could carry 100,000.000 of people easily enough. I am in sympathy with the immigration policy, but I am anxious that the people who are to be brought to this country to settle on the land shall have somethingto look forward to. Every honorable member opposite insists that the immigrants should go on to the land. They know where other people should go, but they are not prepared to go there themselves. They tell others to go on the land and produce. If people are to be brought here and put on the land, I hope that the Government will show some sympathy for them, and will endeavour to provide markets for them, and not fleece them by taxation. Of what use will it be to put people on the land if, when they grow produce, there is no market for it? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) argued that because workers in the secondary industries provided a market for the primary producer we should support his motion, but I say that the market provided by Australians for the primary producers of this country is infinitesimal. What we want is to produce a great deal for sale in other countries, so as to bring new money into this country, and that will justify the development , of secondary industries.
– We cannot get rid of our beef to-day, and that affects the primary producers.
– The workers are getting meat cheaply enough. I know people who, to-day, are shooting their cattle in order to evade the income tax. That statement appears to some honorable members to be laughable, but it is nevertheless a fact. It will not pay some people to produce cattle, and they cannot pay freight on their cattle to the markets. Middlemen are to-day to blame for the price of many commodities being so high. We have been told that men should settle on the land in order to assist Australia by increasing its wealth. I have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) say more than once that we can have no hope of meeting our financial obligations except by increased production, and especially primary production. I might be forgiven for taking honorable members back for a moment to their school-days. They will remember that in their school-days they had to learn the productions for which various countries were noted. They learned, for instance, that Denmark produced butter, Mauritius sugar, and so on ; and children are taught in our own schools that Australia is noted as a country producing gold, wool, wheat, timber, butter, and meat, and that beyond these productions we find no safe market. The men in the Newcastle works are dependent upon the production of these commodities in Australia, and let me tell honorable members opposite that what is causing the trouble in Australia is the attempt to create the production of things which are not natural to this country. They desire that we should ape the productions of other countries. There seems to be a majority behind this attempt, with the result that we are killing the industries that are really natural to Australia, and for which this country is especially fitted. There is a desire on the part of some people in Australia that our people should engage in the manufacture of some commodities which, when they leave the Australian factory, are about 200 per cent. dearer than the price at which similar goods can be manufactured elsewhere. I submit that an industry cannot be regarded as natural to Australia if its products cannot be turned out at a price very much nearer than that to the price at which similar goods can be produced elsewhere. The productions of the primary producer in Australia can be given no protection, as they are sold in the open markets of the world in competition with similar productions of black and white labour in other countries, and must be transported for 12,000 miles by water, when the products of other countries with which they compete are much nearer to the markets in which both are disposed of. The impositions placed upon our primary products are such that the Commonwealth Statistician has given us a warning that we are on the wrong track. Every leading newspaper in Australia to-day deplores the great centralization of population that is taking place in this country. The Prime Minister himself has referred to it, and has complained that there should be so large a. percentage of our population in the great cities of Australia. In Western Australia, during the last ten years, we added 48,000 to our population, and 51,000 went into Perth. This indicates that there are 3,000 less people on the land in Western Australia than there were ten years ago. In Victoria and in New South Wales the position, relatively, is even worse.
– The honorable member is wrong there.
– I invite the honorable member to disprove the Statistician’s figures.
– At any rate, production was greater.
– Againthe honorable member has been misinformed. The quantity of production in Australia has decreased. All the leading newspapers, I repeat, say that there is something wrong. They point out that we are a primary producing country, and that our great spaces should be occupied. But they never blame themselves. The Age, for instance, holds that the Government are to blame. I say that the Age and the Government are to blame. We are retrogressing, and only by increasing the purchasing power of our money can we hope for salvation. Personally, I am prepared to do my individual pari in every conceivable direction, starting with the reduction of my own salary. It is an axiom that no man liveth unto himself ; and it is equally true that no country liveth unto itself; we are dependent on other countries. If we owed no money, and had a sufficiency here, we might be able to do all the things we are aiming at, but we must make something to sell beyond our shores. I say to honorable members opposite that if they want to raise the iron and steel industry to a flourishing condition, well and good; but they should not be prepared to do so by crushing the only customers for the products of that industry, namely, the mass of the producing people of Australia.
– Does the honorable member advocate a reduction of the wages paid to those engaged in the iron and steel industry ?
– Not only in that industry, but in every other - this general reduction to include, as I have already indicated, my own parliamentary salary.
– The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), calls for a reply from a responsible Minister, if only for. the reason that honorable members and the people of Australia should be given something definite regarding the inten- tiona of the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has not yet made any statement regarding the situation, and the public are anxiously waiting upon his words. It may be that the right honorable gentleman will endeavour to ignore the charges of the honorable member for Hunter; but, should he attempt to do so, he will probably find a good deal of unexpected opposition. The case set forth by the Leader of this party is valid. The Government have adopted a policy of sitting down and doing nothing, while other countries have put forth every effort in the direction of expanding their export trade and building up their manufactures, and, in doing so, aiming to take possession of the markets of Australia. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), while referring to the plight of those pastoralists who have’ found it necessary to shoot their stock in order to evade payment of income tax; has obviously failed to recall the stand which he took only a few months ago when I moved an amendment to a taxation measure, by which I sought to provide relief for pastoralists placed in that very plight. My proposition was that, in the instance of a producer having a natural increase in the numbers of his stock, he should not be called upon to pay tax thereon until they had been sold in tho market and the money actually handled by the owner. It will be interesting for those pastoralists who support the honorable member for Swan and other members of the Country party, to be reminded that he and certain of his colleagues, as well as direct Government supporters, actually voted against my amendment. The names of those who opposed me upon the occasion in question were: - The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), the honorable, member for Corio (Mr. Lister), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie), the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise). By their votes all these honorable members favoured the continuance of the practice of taxing pastoralists upon the stock which to-day they are being obliged to shoot in order to avoid being assessed for taxation thereon. Honorable members forget what they said and did; but there remains the Hansard record with which to confront them. It is all very well for the honorable member for Swan and other honorable members opposite to talk of the shooting of cattle. If honorable members on this side were to advocate or to condone that kind of thing would we not be accused of preaching sabotage - the destruction of property, and the destruction of the foodstuffs of the people?
-.- How did the Leader of the Labour party vote upon explosives during the Tariff debate?
– The honorable member can refer to Hansard. I am merely stating what he and his party did in connexion with one branch of primary production which provides employment for a large number of people.
The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition provides that the Government should be “ censured for their callous administration which has caused dislocation in industry, intensified unemployment, and created widespread misery and distress.” Such a motion is justified when we realize that the Government have been sitting idly by and allowing thousands of tons -of iron and steel to come into Australia when a great undertaking in which hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested is lying idle. In view of this alarming situation it cannot be said that maladministration of the Government has not created severe industrial dislocation. What is a Government for if it is not to protect die interests of the people? Are we to be thrown to the wolves because there are amongst the supporters of the Government - I will go so far as to say right in the Cabinet - representatives of the importers. One member of the Government is directly representing the interests of the big importers of Australia, and is at present holding a most influential position in the Cabinet. I refer to the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), whose interests are very closely associated with the large importers of goods into Australia, and whose policy is directly opposed to the manufacturers. The iron and steel industry, which has been well established, must be protected in every way if Australia is to be self-contained. We need not take any notice of the arguments submitted by the honorable member for Swan and the views he holds regarding our industries. He says, of course, that if we protect an industry we immediately throw additional burdens upon the shoulders of the people. If the honorable member adopts that attitude he should follow that line of reasoning further and suggest that if wheat and w.ool and iron and steel can be obtained at a cheaper rate abroad than we can produce it we should purchase in foreign markets, and not have any industries at all. The honorable member says, in effect, that we should not endeavour to find employment for our own people. When the duty on onions was under consideration he supported a high duty to protect the producers of that commodity; but when it is a question of protecting an important key industry he adopts a different attitude.
– He admits that since the imposition of the duty on onions the price has been reduced.
– The price was very low at the time, and the honorable member for Swan has probably been using that product so lavishly that his vision- has become affected.
What is the position in regard to our great key industry? The works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are closed, not because we are not requiring large quantities of iron and steel, but in consequence of the disloyal attitude adopted by the large manufacturers in England, who have been purchasing in Germany and exporting the finished product to meet the requirements of the Australian consumers whilst the magnificent plant at Newcastle in which a very large sum of money has been invested is lying idle.
– Does not the honorable member think that if that were so, it would be known by responsible officers in the Customs Department?
– We have no knowledge that it is not known by the responsible Customs officials.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) said it was not.
– I would not be surprised if a Minister who was responsible for such shocking failures in connexion with the administration of the War Service Homes Department was not aware of the fact, because it is possible that his inefficiency in one Department has followed him into another.
– The Minister said that the Tariff Board was investigating.
– The Tariff Board has not reported. The Leader of the Opposition quoted figures obtained from a Government Department, and if he secured the details why is it not possible for the Tariff Board to obtain information ?
– He did not say so.
– The Leader of the Opposition gave his authority.
– He did not say he got it from the Customs Department.
– He obtained it from the Government Statistician. If large quantities of iron and steel are coming in, the fact must be known to the Minister for Trade and Customs. What is the use of a duty if it is not sufficient to protect the local industry ?
– Is low-priced iron and steel being imported into Australia?
– The price is so low that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company cannot compete with importations.
– Do we know the country of origin of these importations?
– Our complaint is that the Government will not endeavour to ascertain the facts, and denies that, it is so. If the Commonwealth is to be self-contained, we must make the necessary provision to keep the industry in operation, and we must not allow importations, even from Great Britain. If war were declared and ocean traffic was seriously interfered with, ns it, was only a few years ago, we could not rely on Great Britain for our supplies, but would have to depend upon our own industries.
– That is not the argument of the Leader of the Opposition.
– This question has many phases, and we have to consider whether duties are imposed merely for the purpose of deriving revenue, or for protecting industries.
– The motion is one censuring the Government for not carrying out the provisions of an Act of Parliament. The arguments of the honorable member are that the duties are not high enough.
– Not at all. We should completely shut out these products when our own plants are lying idle.
– If coming from Germany?
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) either did not hear the Leader of the Opposition or is ignorant of the fact that the Act to which reference has been made is not to operate solely against Germany, but against any other country dumping goods here to the detriment of our own industries. The Government have the power to prevent the importation of foreign products if they desire. Wholesale dumping of iron and steel has been going on for a long time, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company have warned the Government of ‘he seriousness of the position. Why was not Parliament specially summoned to pass an amending measure to protect the iron and steel industry? It would appear thatthe members of the Government are so swayed by the influence of importing interests that they are prepared to allow the industry to languish.
– The Tariff does not prove that.
– The Tariff does not make any difference. If industries are to be closed down, it is better for the Tariff to be amended, because it merely provides an excuse for the importers to charge higher prices.
It appears to be the desire of the Government to respond only to the requests of the importers and the land monopolists which have strong representation in the Cabinet. They want cheap labour, and they are quite frank in advocating it. They are not prepared to pay reasonable rates of wages, neither are they willing to provide employment for those needing it. Their contention all along has been that if Australia is to prosper, men must work long hours at low rates.
– And have cheap butter.
– The honorable member should read the statement made by Mr. Thorby, one of his colleagues in New South Wales, who, in addressing a meeting at Mudgee, said that world parity for butter was not any good to the Australian producers, because they had to compete against the low-priced Danish butter. That gentleman said the Government should fix the price of butter at a rate that would return a profit to the producer.. What has the honorable member for Swan to say to that?
– We did not ask for Protection.
- His colleague asked for price fixing. The honorable member and his followers have no fixed policy, and are blown hither and thither by the wind. If the world parity for butter is lower than that ruling in Australia, they want a fixed price for their product. If world’s parity is above the price ruling in Australia, they want world’s parity. They blow hot and cold so that one really does not know what they want.
– We know that honorable members opposite are sitting on a rail.
– It is the members of the Country party who sit on a rail, dropping off only when it is necessary to do so to save the Government.
Our desire is to give a fair deal to the manufacturing interests of this country as well as to the public generally. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to do nothing. Some of them are of independent means. Many of them occupy comfortable positions, and, unlike thousands of the general public, are not faced with the spectre of unemployment. There are married men who do not know from week to week where they are going to obtain work. On the Monday following the defeat of the New South Wales Labour Government, many such men received notice that the rentals paid by them were henceforth to be increased by 5s. per week. We have in New South Wales skilled tradesmen - fitters and engineers - working halftime, and receiving from £2 8s. to £2 10s. per week, who have to pay 35s. per week for a four-roomed cottage or half a house. Only to-day I was told by a worker in Melbourne that house rent here had justbeen increased by 5s. a week. Is it fair that honorable members opposite should do nothing to help the great body of the people outside who are being crucified?
– Who are responsible for high rents?
– Extortionate landlords.
– Extortionate bricklayers and timber workers.
– I have not observed on the part of the honorable member, who complains of the “ big money “ being paid to working men, a desire to engage in bricklaying, timber getting, or other such callings. He shows no disposition to follow any of these occupations, and so to secure the “ big money “ of which he speaks. After all, one does not hear of much being paid by way of probate duty on the estates of deceased working men.
There is yet another phase of this question to be considered. The Government, claims to stand for land settlement. It claims that it ja bringing thousands of people into Australia, and helping the States to settle them on the land. But we have it from Mr. Gullett, who recently resigned the position of Director of Immigration, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) refused to assist the Queensland Government in connexion with the Burnett River land settlement scheme for the reason that it was a Labour Administration. That is a grave charge to make against a Government.
– It is untrue, and the honorable member knows that it is.
– I can only say that two days after this statement was made by Mr. Gullett it was announced that he was to stand as the Nationalist candidate for a Victorian division.- His antipathy to the Prime Minister does not preclude his being a supporter of the Nationalist party. There are many people outside who, if they could, would rid the party of the Prime Minister tomorrow. They approve of the Nationalist policy, but they disapprove of the Prime Minister because of his Socialistic ideals. Is it not remarkable to find men like the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), who is one of the strongest supporters of individualism and private enterprise, following an honorable gentleman who, when at the Head of the Labour party, was one of the greatest leaders of Socialism in Australia? It is impossible for oil and water to mix, and it is because of the clash of ideas on the part of Ministers themselves that we have faulty administration, and .nothing done. Ministers are not in agreement; they cannot come to an agreement on important questions, and these are consequently shelved. Matters are allowed to drift because the Government is not a- united force, and therefore cannot effectively look after the interests of the people as a whole.
What is the position with regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department? When the Estimates were before Parliament last session, no dissentient voice was raised to the proposed vote for that Department. The Government, therefore, cannot say that its failure to supply many much needed services is due to the failure of the House to vote the necessary funds. This afternoon, I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) to the fact that no money was available to provide many mail services which had been approved. Telephone lines which have been promised. for years are not being constructed. This failure to proceed with necessary work is contributing to the general unemployment. It would be an easy matter for the Government to go on with certain works for which the requisite materials are available. There is no reason why, for instance, the. poles required for telephone lines which have been approved of should not be erected, nor can any excuse be offered for the failure to- provide lew postal buildings in various centres there, owing to the growth of population, improvements are urgently required. Some of our postal buildings are a disgrace to the Commonwealth. It is impossible, however, to geta post-office built or to induce the Government to enter upon an adequate scheme of telephone line construction. It may be possible to induce the Department to erect- a line hare and there, but what is required is a comprehensive scheme of telephone construction, the provision of new post-offices -where required, and the supply of other services to the people. What direct service does the Government render the people living away from the seaboard, or outside our big manufacturing centres, beyond-the provision of mail services and telephone facilities? Those are the only direct services- supplied to such people. In order that rural lite may be made a little bit easier, and a little bit more attractive for them, these facilities should be extended. Can we blame those who are drifting from the country into our cities ? The Government asserts that the Labour party is responsible for the drift. I blame the Government. They refuse, except under almost prohibitive conditions, to provide much needed mail services out-back. They ask people living in country districts to contribute to the general taxation by means of which postal and other facilities are provided for city -residents, and, in addition, dip their hands into their own pockets to subsidize their own mail services. A few people living 12 or 15 miles from a railway line find it impossible to get a mail service without payment of a subsidy. And yet the Government ask people to go into the back country. What encouragement do they offer? They compel such people to bear a double burden. In the circumstances, it i3 not surprising that the people of the back country are becoming sick and tired of the present situation. Is it any wonder that young men are not prepared to settle out-back when these almost insuperable difficulties are placed in their way by the Government.
I regret very much that we should have to protest in this way. Great things were expected of this Government. The speeches of the Prime Minister would lead us to believe that he is wholeheartedly in favour of those reforms, but he never gets further than the speechmaking stage - there the matter ends. Owing to dissensions in the ranks of the right honorable gentleman’s followers, and owing to the threats he has to make to keep them in order, the Government are placed in such a position that the country is allowed to drift. Those people who are unfortunate enough to be at the outposts of civilization in this country find it impossible to get the most meagre facilities to enable them to live with any degree of even safety. Let us consider the case of a man who lives 50 or 60 miles from a telephone or a doctor, and whose wife is taken ill. In such a case it may cost £10 or £20, or, indeed, anything up to £50 or £60 to get the requisite assistance ‘ and attendance. A charge of £1 per mile is not unknown on the part of doctors for going such distances out of their own districts. Many men with money are leaving their farms and coming into the cities because of the Government’s policy of inactivity, and this, of course, helps to create unemployment, creates misery and distress, and causes an aggregation of people in the larger centres. This means “great lack of production, and .tends to decrease the prospects of our becoming a self-supporting community.
To-day we have dealt mainly with the. Broken Hill case, because it is a concrete case that is easily understood by the great masses of the people. It cannot be said that we on this side are taking our present step mainly or solely in the interests of the workers. We claim to represent all decent sections of the community. ‘Those honorable members who supported the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton)’, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. .Riley) - have presented a- case which I venture to say the Government cannot afford to ignore. We, as the representatives of three quarters of a million electors, demand that there shall be an answer given to the case presented by the honorable member for Hunter, in order that the people outside may know what the position is, and the Government brought to its senses and compelled to take the steps necessary to safeguard Aus- tralian interests and provide employment for Australian workmen. If there is any charity, let it begin at home; let us give employment to our own people rather than to the people of Belgium, Germany, Calcutta, or even Great Britain. The best help we can give to the Empire is to look well after our own folks; yet we find, as the honorable member for Dalley pointed out, our own people workless while we raise millions to provide employment for British workers in building our steamers. The position is one worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan. I guarantee that if some stranger were to hover over this country and see what is going on, he would imagine he was looking at a comic opera. Our own people are taxed to provide employment for others ou the far side of the world; and they, themselves, remain without work. Could anything be more ridiculous? It is such a policy as that which leads to bankruptcy; and it is because we have men in the Cabinet who are destitute of ideas, and callous to the welfare of this country, that we have this scandalous state of affairs in Australia to-day.
.- The great problem that confronts the Commonwealth of. Australia in the increasing army of unemployed is one that we cannot afford to overlook or underestimate. There is to-day a growing feeling of dissatisfaction because of the lack of sympathy that is evidenced towards people whom the Government have failed to provide with the means of securing sustenance for themselves and their families. There is nothing that would more tend towards driving the people to a stage of desperation than the callous indifference that is shown by the Government, and also by a number of State Governments, the only exception to which is the Queensland Government. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Charlton) made very definite charges against the Government of ineptitude, and it is our duty to censure the Government for their incapacity to meet the situation. Tens of thousands of men are unemployed, although they are willing to work, and work of an urgent public character is waiting to be done. The Government, who are the credentialled representatives of big business interests, have entered into that conspiracy which to-day is evidenced in th industrial world, with the idea of subjecting the workers to a reduction of wages and an increase in the hours of labour. This fact comes to us with the greater force when wc realize the happenings of recent months, and the ample confirmation we have of the Government aiding and abetting the commercial and manufacturing interests in this, conspiracy.
– The Government are only carrying out the dictates of their owners !
– Quite so ; as I say, they are the credentialled representatives of the vested interests of this Commonwealth, and are doing their job very well. The unfortunate part is that so many of our fellow countrymen are unable to realize the deceptive nature of the Government, and we must judge the Government by their actions. It is clear on their performances that the Government have failed to inform those various interests that can afford to pay proper wages that they must do so, in order that justice may be done to this country. It is found that it will add to the profits of business men if they can take advantage of imported goods from abroad, of goods, from those countries which until recently were the enemies of this country. Although the view has been expressed that the Government are not aware of the importation of these goods from the countries where the rates of exchange and the wages paid are much inferior to the Australian standard, there is ample evidence of the importation. There is ample evidence of the necessity for the Government utilizing to the advantage of the. people of Australia the powers with which they were vested in the last session of Parliament. One has only to take a walk down Bourkestreet to see displayed, without any desire to conceal the facts, goods, especially pianos, that have their origin’ in these countries. It is idle for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) to endeavour to excuse the Government of which he is a member by saying they are not in possession of knowledge that these things are happening. One has only to keep one’s eyes open in this city of Melbourne to realize that such things as were suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) are an absolute fact. Therefore, I feel that, as the Government have proved incapable of conserving and preserving the best interests of the people of this Commonwealth against the unfair importation of goods - with the idea of swelling the profits of those who carry on the great commercial enterprises of this country, who are insolent with their wealth - we would not be doing our duty as the custodians of the people’s welfare, as an Opposition in this Parliament, if w?e did not voice our protest, and make it quite clear that we do not share in the responsibility of such a serious charge as carelessness and indifference to the sufferings of the Australian people. We find that -the gifts of science have power to overcome poverty. How has the spirit of commercialism treated this gift? Commercial men have regarded science as an instrument to further their devilish devices and impoverish the human family. They have used it as a medium of degradation and desolation. That has been proven in the experience of our people. Honorable members surely have realized by the many deputations that have waited upon them, and the interviews that they have been required to grant to those who are in distressed circumstances that indeed there is great need for us to give immediate attention to the demands of our people, to see that they are fully cared for, and to give them opportunities to work out their life’s destiny as the good Creator intended. We find here in Australia, with all its wonderful fertility and abundance of natural resources, that there are many people starving in a land of plenty, and many who fire going cold amongst thousands of bales of wool. All these features most certainly demand an explanation, but the explanation that has been forthcoming from the Government up to the present moment has assuredly not justified their attitude of indifference, gross neglect, and ineptitude; .with which wc can rightly charge .them, in not endeavouring to try and cater for this mo3t difficult situation. I represent an industrial district where at this moment there is great distress and want occasioned by the considerable unemployment existing, and which will be further added to by retrenchment in the local shipbuilding industry which has failed to receive that consideration and support from the Government by an adherence to the promise of orders originally made. Wc find that they are prepared to add to this great and perplexing problem by inviting people from other lands to come here and share in the difficulties, troubles, and distress that many of our young Australian people have had to contend with. I have mct many who with their present experience have not been favorably impressed with the present opportunities of this Commonwealth to the worker. If “we have a desire to conserve our good name and our reputation of being a land that can offer inducements for others to make this their home and land of adoption, we ‘ shall require to take steps whereby we shall, first of all, fully employ our own people. Afterwards, if opportunity presents itself and such action is justified, we may import others from overseas, but to bring people here at a time such as this, when there is dislocation in industry, and when there is retrenchment, only suggests that these people are again to be made the mere creatures of convenience in the conspiracy that has been initiated by the commercial and manufacturing interests of this country to again reduce wages and raise the hours of working.
I may be permitted to refer to two very important industries which wc have in Australia, and which have been mentioned. These are the coal and steel industries. The coal industry is regarded as the key industry to all other industries, and it is said that upon it largely depends the successful working of other subsidiary industries. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), in answer to my interjection as to whether he would advocate a reduction in the wages of those who were employed in the industry, very frankly and openly declared that he would. But I say that the present statistics that represent the cost of living do not justify the captains of industry, or the great community of Australia, in asking the working man to take less than- ho is receiving. The standards of living received by the worker to-day are not in accordance’ with the standards he is justified in expecting. I find that in the coal industry there are such great profits made that I have reason to challenge further the position of the Government, and demand why they have not endeavoured to make these great industries do their fair part by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia, and provide the essential for the success of other industries that have to compete with outside industries I find that the manufacturing industries are demanding a reduction in the price of coal. They say that such ft reduction is essential to thom if they are to contend successfully with outside competition, and then the coal barons in turu say that, if there is to be a reduction in the price of coal, there must bc a reduction in the wages of those employed in that industry. As far as that is concerned, I find the statistics prove that four coal companies, reporting in the last, quarter of the year 1921, made a profit of £122,5S4, as against £7S,08’d for the last quarter of 1920, an increase in the last quarter of £44,501, or 56 per cent. Those four companies paid dividends of 12.89 per cent, to ordinary shareholders and 8 per cent, to preference shareholders, and placed “19.83 per cent, of net profits to reserve for future capitalization. Seven coal companies paid profits in 1921 totalling £347,271, as compared with £179,771 in the previous year. In. other words, they took from the public during 1921 double the profits made in the year 1920. Eleven coal companies made a net profit in 1921 of £422,900, as against £225,0S5 in the previous year, an increase of £1S7,S45, or. 73.48 per cent. Those astounding, figures show how the people of Australia ure being unfairly dealt with, and that the Government, having failed to take the necessary steps to protect them from the exploitation of these coal barons, deserve our severest censure. The net profits of the coal companies in 1921 represented 15.51 per cent, on a paid-up capital of £2,855,075, and those are only the revealed profits. What, I wonder, are the unrevealed profits that they have been able to hide from the general public? Some light is thrown upon the operations of these companies by the finding of the Coal Commission in 1919, when the profits of the coal barons were less than they are making to-day. After an exhaustive examination, m camera, of the books of the coal barons, the Commission reported that twentyeight coal companies were making profits of over 10 per cent., seventeen’ companies were making profits of over 20 per cent., nine were making profits of over 30 per cent., three were making profits of over 60 .per cent., and one was making the stupendous profit of 154-1- per cent. Surely the conditions in this industry are well worthy of our consideration, especially when we know to what a limited extent the working miner participates in the fruits of the industry in which he is engaged. The average miner receives to-day 4s. per ton for the coal that he hews in the mine. Seventyfive per cent, of the coal, sold to the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s Steel Works is known as “smalls,” at 17s. 9d. per ton, and the best coal is sold at 21s. 9d. Of those amounts, the man who is responsible for the winning of the coal, and has to undergo the very great dangers incidental to this industry, receives the small pittance of 4s. Even if we followed the argument of the honorable member for Swan and his associates in the Country party, and reduced wages even to the extent of 25 per cent., which would be a tremendous cut in wages, would that meet the circumstances? Absolutely no. Where the reductions will have to be made is from these gigantic profits. This attempted industrial outrage upon the worker to reduce wages is the sinister objective. It may be contended by some honorable members opposite that coal could be imported at a cheaper rate than that at which it can be bought locally, and that that is the reason why many of those who should bc engaged in the industry are idle to-day. But, according to the latest advices, the average price paid by the Broken Hill. Pty. Coy. for coal is 19s. Id. per ton ; whereas quotations cabled last week to certain industries for the. delivery of coal from Great Britain were 22s., 23s.,. and 25s. per ton. Coal of perhaps better quality is being supplied to the Broken Hill Pty. Coy’s works at 19s. Id.
– That company buys 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum.
– Quite so; and the Australian coal miner can provide that coal, and this allegation about the cheaper price of foreign coal is only a miserable excuse advanced by the captains of industry for creating a big army of unemployed as a preliminary to a reduction of wages. The figures I have quoted prove that there is no reason why our secondary industries should be idle, and people walking the streets workloss and unable to provide themselves with the necessaries and comforts that they have a right to expect.
When the Broken Hill Pty. Coy. are urged to provide cheaper iron and steel, they say that there must first be a reduction in the wages of those engaged in the industry. But that company, instead of exploiting the people by charging excessive prices for their products, should realize that, after having received such liberal protection against foreign competition, it should do the fair thing by other manufacturing industries. I say candidly that if I had an opportunity to review my vote upon the Tariff items relating to the iron and steel industry, I would feel very much inclined to reverse my previous attitude, because I do not feel inclined to give further protection to an industry that has proved unfaithful to the best interests of this country and unworthy of the protection which this Parliament afforded. In. July, 1918, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company had a capital, of £600,000. It had been paying an annual dividend of 10 per cent., and had reserves amounting to £3,270,572. Nine months later - in March, 1919 - the capital account was watered to the extent of £1,500,000 from reserves. Not . one penny of this money was provided by the shareholders, who from then ..onward collected a nominal dividend of 15 per cent, on the total nominal capital of £2,100,000. To-day this gigantic industry pleads poverty as an excuse for permission to sweat its workers, while in actual fact it is placing in the pockets of its wealthy shareholders a net profit of 52£ per cent, on its actual cash capital. Having a knowledge of these circumstances, and feeling sure that the Government are equally well aware of them, and are not prepared to make those industries do their duty to the Commonwealth, the Government, possessing all the necessary powers to make them prove their loyalty by engaging in those industries for which they have received protection, should compel them to keep their industries going. If the Government are not prepared to do that, the sooner they make way for a Government that will protect the interests of the people the better it will be.
I heartily support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) censuring the Government for their callous indifference towards those people who to-day are tramping our streets and looking for employment. Daily I am interviewed by men, including a large number of returned soldiers, who desire assistance in obtaining work. A returned soldier recently came to me and said, “ I approach you as a last resort, and you must find me work. I have tramped the streets for the last, eight weeks without getting employment. I have a wife and family dependent on me, and there will be another little soul born into our home at any moment. All I have in the world is 4s., and I have come to you in this desperate state for you to find me something to do, because I. am willing and anxious to work.” I am glad to be able to say that after a good deal of search it was possible to place this returned man temporarily in some form of employment, but his position is the same as that of thousands of our people. It is a reflection on those responsible for the government of the country that such conditions- are allowed to exist. There is ample opportunity in Australia for the energies of every person to be devoted to some useful purpose. On a recent tour of inspection of portion of the Commmonwealth I was wonderfully impressed with the great opportunities for development that this continent affords. With our vast unexploited resources, Australia should be able to work out its destiny, in a manner conducive to the comfort of its inhabitants, and there is criminal neglect on the part of any Government who allow people to be unemployed. The trouble is rendered more acute by the bringing in of more people from overseas. Our voices cannot be raised too emphatically on this question, because it concerns the home life of our citizens. Many wives and children are called upon to go without necessary food and clothing. If the present Government are not prepared to do their duty, we draw the attention of the public to this serious anomaly, and we hope that at the first opportunity the people will intrust the duties of government to a party that will place Australia’s interests first and will make the condition of Australia’s working people its chief concern. My motto is that of the Australian people. With the party with which I have the honour to be associated, I wish to see Australia advance, but it will not advance under the guidance of those who to-day occupy the Treasury bench and enter into a conspiracy with the great commercial interests to bring about conditions calculated to reduce wages and increase the hours of those employed in industry.
The people of the Commonwealth will join with the Labour Opposition in censuring the Government, as’ it is right they should be censured, and thus perform the public, service that Australia expects from them.
– Yesterday we had the Government’s electioneering pamphlet. To-day we have heard one of the Opposition’s electioneering pamphlets. Despite the talk of unemployment and general distress we find that during the last three weeks a shearing strike has been called after an award has been given by the Federal Arbitration Court. The Country party have felt a certain amount of resentment in regard to the appointment of the Tariff Board, not so much about the actual delay in making the appointments, but because we found that although the primary industries of the Commonwealth produce something like three-quarters of the total wealth of the country - last year it was £250,000,000 out of £348,000,000- their claim to be represented on a Board designed by Parliament to correct anomalies, and make sure that the Customs duties imposed should operate equitably on every industry, was not recognised’, while the importing and manufacturing interests who are responsible for only one-quarter of the total wealth of Australia’s production have two representatives on the Board. The position that has arisen to-day in regard to the amendment is rather interesting. It seems to me very much like “ the’ pot calling the kettle black.” Last year we had in this Chamber an alliance - an unholy alliance it is said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to be when any one combines with Labour - between the Opposition and the Government in regard to the imposition of duties on iron and steel. It was suggested from the Country party that the iron and steel manufacturers should get a moderate protection in the shape of duties and a bonus. We contended that iron and steel, being the basis of every other manufacturing industry in the Commonwealth, should be treated in this way, but our advice was disregarded, the Ministry insisting that the only way to get the iron and steel industry going was by fixing enormously high protective duties. These duties were designed simply to squeeze the consumer, but we find now that they have squeezed - every one, not only the consumers, but also the employees in the iron works and all those who use anything made of iron or steel. Because there has been no work in these establishments for many months past, barbed wire, wire netting, and so forth, and those implements used in the various manufactures and industries in the Commonwealth have had to pay a heavy toll of extra duty through being imported, thus swelling the revenues of the Government. We find that these revenues are regarded by the Government with satisfaction and not dismay. But they should be regarded by every one with dismay, because they have been brought about by the fact that Australia’s industries which should’ have made these articles have nol; been operating. The position will not be rectified by antidumping duties, but can only be remedied by an internal re-arrangement of our industrial situation as regards coal and iron. While we regret the existing unemployment the blame has to be apportioned pretty well between the Government side and the Labour side of the House. What is really wrong with these industries is unquestionably the high price of coal, which is partly due to Government embargoes and Government control for the last four years, and partly due to the fact that there is not that efficiency of production that there should be in the allied industries of coal and steel.. Mr. Pratten. - ‘Then you would favour decontrol of coal?
– Most decidedly. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) quoted at length the figures o£ importations of iron and steel from various countries’, and I gathered that imports from the United States of America and Canada” were equal to those from Great Britain and Belgium. I doubt if very much steel has come from Germany, but what has reached here- from that country must have come through Great Britain or Belgium. However, the imports from the United States and Canada were equal to those from Great Britain and Belgium, and no one can contend that our labour conditions are any better than those in the two former countries. In tha United States of America and Canada the manufacturers are in a position to get cheap coal, and they are making proper use of their opportunities’ for producing cheap power. The Canadian steel industry has been practically built up by making proper use of water power, and installing electric furnaces. Any one who has given thought to the subject can see plainly that it is the coal control that has had most to do with the position of our iron and steel industry. Sir Thomas Henley said a few weeks ago, just after he resigned his portfolio in the New- South Wales Government-
The Federal Government and our own State Government must face facts. The position is so serious that the State Government will of necessity require to get some relief from Federal domination, this particularly in regard to coal control, high protective tariff, and industrial interference. Out primary industries are to-day being sacrificed to these causes. Construction costs for railways, bridges, and all that goes to the opening up of a country, together with the cost of engines and other forms of implements and plants, are excessively high.
He went on to point out that many public works were not being carried out because of the fact that the cost of material was excessively high. If we are anxious to reduce unemployment at the earliest possible moment, one means by which we may do so is by enabling this material to be produced at a reasonable rate in Australia, or brought here without the payment of excessive duties. The history of the coal position is well known. In 1916, when a coal strike was in progress, the Arbitration Court was overridden, and a new Tribunal was established which gave au award in consonance with the wishes of the Government of the day. This question of coal control has very much to do with the present state of affairs. It resulted in an increase in the price of coal by 3s. per ton, the miners getting a certain amount, and the coal-owners taking the balance. That price has since been increased, and owing to this continuous control of coal, and interference with cargoes, our export trade has been, to a largo extent, destroyed. We find, also, that the present price is seriously interfering with our possibilities of selling coal abroad. When I was in Singapore recently I saw a steamer of the Commonwealth Line unloading Cardiff coal, which was landed there cheaper than coal from Newcastle. At present coal at Newcastle is worth 21s. 9d. per ton as against the Pittsburg price of 13s. 6d., and coke here is selling at 46s. per ton as compared with 25s. in England. Coke is being produced for 35s. per ton by the Broken Hill Proprietary itself. We find that though the British coal miners’ wages have gone back in consequence of the fall in the cost of living - miners in the Mother Country are only getting 25 per cent, above their pre-war wage- yet coal is being sold at Port Pirie at prices ranging from 300 to 100 per cent, more than in 1914.
– Are you aware that coal at the Newcastle Steel Works is 19s- Id. as against 21s., 22s., and 25s. in Great Britain?
– I am basing my comparison as regards coal prices and the production of steel and iron upon the imports from the United States of America and Canada because of the fact that anything imported to Australia from Great Britain must be, to some extent, suspect. It is possible, as I have already shown, that some of it may come from another source.
– As a matter of fact, pig- iron in England at the present time is at a lower price than it has been for very many years. That is the source of the whole trouble.
– In these circumstances, then, it seems to he that the proper course is for the various sections of the industry to get together and see if they cannot arrive at some workable understanding whereby coal may be made available at- a cheaper rate to the advant- age, not merely of the iron and steel industry, but the whole of’ the Commonwealth. At the same time some internal industrial arrangement may be made to enable the Broken Hill workmen to carry on. If is scandalous to think that, in a country like Australia, where so much developmental work is necessary, there should be this present deadlock.
– What you suggest really means a cut in the wages of the workmen.
– We shall have to come down to an adjustment in our economic conditions. Ever since the Harvestter award we have been trying to fix a basic wage, and in our ‘endeavour to do that we have been like a dog chasing its own tail, with the result that the standard of material comfort for the worker has been getting lower. The secret in securing an increase in ,the standard of living is to be found, not in the continual raising of wages, but in an increase in the effective value of wages. That oan only be made possible by an increased efficiency, am increased output, and especially by securing <a condition of good-will between employer and employee.
– And a more equitable distribution.
– Quite true. And that can only be brought about by a proper appreciation of the workers’ position’ in society, as well as the rights of employers and the interest on capital.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220629_reps_8_99/>.