8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to bring under your notice^ Mr. Speaker, the unsatisfactory condition of this building in which we are asked to carry on our parliamentary labours. It is such that the place is quite unfit for human beings to congregate in. This chamber is so badly ventilated and so cold that it is almost impossible to work in it. Yesterday I notioed a member on one of the corner benches absolutely shivering with the cold. I; ask you to take1 such steps as may be necessary to. enable us to do our work here in. comfort……
Mr.SPEAKER.-I am. fully aware . of the many discomforts to which -honorable members are subjected: in- the; ‘discharge of their legislative functions here and in: the building generally, but, unfortunately, Parliament- House -was erected, . at a time when less attention^ was , given to means fpr! securing . warmth and ventilation than is given in modern construction. I have’ endeavoured, so far as has been possible with, the means at my disposal, to combat the drawbacks which’ exist. Electric radiators havei been, fitted, bufc they had to” be- limited owing to current having to bo’ supplied from the lighting circuit, in; the - absence of separata supply of ! current for’ heating and power purposes. > ‘Then;- there -was & shortage of ‘ cable - for ‘a. long time, and the engineers. had,= therefore, great diffi culty in getting what they needed. Moreover, in the execution of their work, they have to bore through great thicknesses of stone and concrete to carry out their -wiring. In these circumstances it is very difficult to secure here the ordinary comfort of a domestic establishment. I have - had scientific tests made of the air in the’ chamber, but the results have not proved it to be so bad as it was thought to be, though, of course, it is not pure air. There have been consultations with departmental engineers, and also with the State authorities, with a view to securing an improvement of the ventilation of the chamber, and a scheme has, as a result, been put into operation, by which the vitiated air is now drawn off through shafts above the roof, and a fresh supply is given by pumping, in air from outside, first passing it through chambers where it undergoes a process of filtration. That is all that we have been able to dp, and I am sorry that the results have not been as satisfactory as we would like them to be. . .
Mr. FOWLER brought up the ‘sixth progress report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on ‘ War Service Homes (South Australia).
Ordered to be printed: <
-Questions on: notice will not be answered this morning.
Mr. MATHEWS, in . the absence ‘of the Chairmaii,,.brought:up the report,’ together with:,the::mimites . of- evidence; of. the ParUaraentary Standing -Commit-. tee ..pn.. Public. -Works on the proposed provision of . office accommodation- in Mel-; bourne for the. Federal Commissioner ofTaxation, and, moved -
That the report be printed.
;- I’ should like to know, what’ volume’ of evidence accompanies- this report, - and’ whether it would not be enough to print the- report without the evidence?’ It is not often that evidence is read by members. What we are guided by is the’ reports of the Committee.
. -As a member of the Printing Committee I can claim that the Committee has done a good deal to reduce the expenditure on printing, which “was becoming enormous; but we are continually meeting with this difficulty in regard to matter which we consider not worth printing, that Parliament has already ordered the matter to be printed, and it is already in type. Before the House orders the printing of a large volume of evidence, members should know that it is worth printing. I do not, of course, express any * opinion about the value of the evidence which it is now proposed to print; but the Printing Committee cannot effect the material economy in printing that is needed if the House orders evidence to be printed about which none but the members who took it have the slightest information.
– I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the Public Works Committee is also an economy committee. It does not take evidence that is useless or wasteful.
– I am informed that this evidence is already in print.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Censure Amendment: Budget: Old-age Pensions : Telephone Extensions : Accommodation fob Commonwealth Departments.
Debate resumed from 29th June (vide page 96), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the Message of the Governor-General he referred to the Committee of Supply when appointed.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved -
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 conclusion that I have drawn from the taciturnity of Ministers yesterday, when charged with maladministration andneglect of duty, is that they have no answer to make to the charge. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in an eloquent and effective speech, stated the case for his amendment of censure, and drove home his charges, and it would appear that Ministers, admitting the truth of these charges, have come to the _ conclusion that silence is their best policy. The only Minister who has spoken during the debate is the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Eodgers), and what he said really supported the argument of the Leader of the Opposition. One of the main reasons for the amendment is that the Government has failed to put into operation, during a period of nearly seven months, the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, and has allowed the cheap manufactures of other countries to be imported to the detriment of Australian industry, thus assisting private enterprise to create great armies of unemployed, that being the policy decided upon long ago by the industrial leaders of other countries, so that the workers may be compelled to accept longer hours and smaller pay. The Minister said that the Act could not be put into force until surplus stocks had been disposed of ; that those who had imported commodities at high prices should be given an opportunity to sell them at a profit. The honorable gentleman did not say this in so many words, but the inference to be drawn from his remarks was that when surplus stocks had been got rid of, merchants would be given an opportunity to import cheaper goods. Had the Act been put into operation immediately it was passed, and had the price of imported materials been kept at the level of that of local manufactures, by way of making up differences between costs of production, Australian industry would not have suffered from foreign competition. Apparently, however, the Government deliberately postponed the putting into force of the Act to enable cheap goods to be imported with the object of brow-beating, economically, Australian workers, and compelling them to accept the industrial and economical standards and conditions of the countries from which these goods have come. I shall show that such goods are in readiness to be sent here. Apart from the Act recently passed, the Government have already decided that within a little over a month from now German commodities are to be allowed, to come into this country, despite the fact that the Prime Minister had stated in 1918 - not during the war - that there were men in his party who wanted to trade with Germany, ‘but that if they wanted to do so he wouldno longer be their leader. I suppose that in a few month’s time the long-threatened reconstruction of the Government will come about, and the right honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes), if he stands up to his statement of 1918, not made once, but often repeated by him, will no longer be Prime Minister. In order to show that goods are held in readiness to be sent into Australia, and so that the House may know what the people of this country are up against, let me quote a few prices given in Stead’s Review for the current month. The following are some of the export, prices of German goods: -
Pianos, £6 10s.
Some honorable members saw German pianos in a shop in Melbourne to-day quoted at £70 and £90.
Sewing machines, 18s.; street arc lamps, 10s.; clinical thermometers,1d.; nickel razors, 4d. ; silk neckties, 4½d. ; very small stoves, 3d. ; tooth-paste,1s. 5d. per dozen; circularsaws, £2 10s.; bread machines,11d.; carpenters’ planes, 5s.; best tennis . racquets, 6s.; milling machines, £70.
I am told that circular saws are being sold in Australia to-day up to £70. We are about to trade with Germany, but, like the.Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I am not concerned about what is likely to happen in any other country. My sole anxiety is to uphold the economic standard of the workers of Australia. I am dealing with this question merely from the point of view of the serious threat towards the standard of life in this young Commonwealth. Germany is to make Australia reparation payments, but, as a matter of fact, we in Australia are to be called upon to pay these amounts ourselves by the operation of imposts upon imported German goods. The German Government, first of all, places a reparation duty on the goods, and when they reach Australia, our Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act will come into operation and impose on them a . fairly high duty, still enabling them to be sold here, the argument being that German goods must be permitted to be so sold, otherwise there will be no possibility of the German- people paying reparation. The consumers of German goods will pay a reparation duty to the German Government which they in turn will pay to the Allies, and the people of Australia, by the excess prices they will pay for German goods, will help to meet the German reparation payments, and at the same time help to kill their own industries. The policy proposed to be pursued will utterly destroy the national organization of their own country. In ten or twelve years the economic and industrial life of Australia, and even of the Empire, will thus be dislocated, if not destroyed, and Germany will emerge, after its reparations have been paid, the only economically efficient nation of the world. We know that our importers had expensive stocks on hand at the conclusion of the war, and that the Government were obliged to give them time to clear away these stocks before the new policy of trading with Germany came into operation; otherwise Ministers would have struck very hardly at their own friends and supporters. In fact, the policy of the Government has been purely in the interests of Flinders-lane and Yorkstreet. An Englishman visiting Germany wrote to the Bound Table stating that he had been told by large numbers of Germans that their country was a long way better off by losing the war. Along with, other honorable members on this side of the Chamber I definitely charge the Government with having created unemployment for the . purpose, of assisting private enterprise and the captains of industry to bring about the white-anting process of unemployment, and thus compel the workers to work longer hours and accept lower wages. During last session the Government callously threw out of employment hundreds of men working at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, although the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) showed clearly that the factory could be kept going at high pressure with the full complement of employees producing articles of utility. It could have been turning out tools of trade,- kitchen utensils, and postal requirements. But we were’ told by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene”) and by the then Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), that it was not the policy of the Government to indulge in private trading. Consequently, hundreds of men were thrown out of employment at Lithgow, and after many of them had fought upon the fields of Flanders.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) last session informed honorable members that if they voted the money he wanted for shipbuilding he would immediately proceed with the construction of two . 12,000-ton merchant steamers at Cockatoo Island. Everything was available at the time to proceed with the work there. The men were ready and anxious to work, the material was available, the machinery was all there. But nothing was done. Employees numbering from 2,000 to 3,000 had to lose employment because the building of these ships was held up, enabling the Government of the day to assist their friends the financiers and the captains of industry to create an army of unemployed. As opposed to this policy of “do nothing” in this country, where we are at least supposed to put consideration for our own people first, nearly £3,250,000 is being spent upon shipping construction in Great Britain. I have no objection to Australia spending money in Great Britain, but I do object to Australian money being spent anywhere outside Australia when it could easily be spent in this country in providing employment for men who are out of work. Another matter for the consideration of honorable ‘members is the charge made during the recess by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that Commonwealth steamers had been sent to Antwerp and India, where cheap labour could be obtained, to be repaired. That charge has not been refuted satisfactorily. I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) through all his arguments in regard to laying varieties and ncn-laying varieties, but I shall deal with one of his statements in which he advanced the old fallacy that we want new money in Australia. The honorable member spent most of his time in attempting to show honorable members the best method of preventing the operation of that policy. What does the honorable member mean by “ getting new money into Australia?” Can he point to any occasion on which new money has come to the Commonwealth from another country?
– The task of trying to prove it to the honorable member would be too great.
– The honorable member cannot prove that new money has ever come into Australia. He says that we have to increase our exports in order to get more money. Let me point out that, except during the short period of the war, during the last fifty years Australia’s exports have always been greater than the imports, yet we are still a debtor nation, still hundreds of millions of pounds in debt to people ‘overseas. What happens when we export £100 worth of goods from this country to any other country? We do not get cash in return. If we did so, it would not be much good to us. We are obliged to take goods in return.
– Who suggested that we would get cash?
– The honorable member for Swan, in saying that we required new money in Australia.
– Does the honorable member imagine that the honorable member for Swan meant actual cash?
-The honorable member for Fawkner is swinging to the old argument that we want credit. But how much credit do we get when we export £100 worth of goods? First of all, the shipping charges and trader’s charges on the other side have to be met, and the primary producer of Australia does not get a full £100. But in order to pay for this produce let us say that £100 worth of merchandise has to be imported into Australia. Upon this value shipping and other charges, amounting to, roughly, £15, must be paid before the goods arrive for distribution in this country, and by the time the importers, who are mostly agents of British or foreign firms, have taken their profit the value of the goods amounts to fully £200. Thus the primary producer is obliged to pay £200 for the £100 worth of produce he has exported. The only way in which we can get out of this difficulty is to turn Australia from a debtor nation to a creditor nation by manufacturing its own products, keeping here all the profits derivable from that process, and ultimately exporting the manufactured surplus.
– What goods would we get in return for our manufactured surplus ?
– We may not want goods, because we should become a creditor nation.
– If we cannot get credit we must get goods from overseas.
– The right honorable gentleman is. rushing in too quickly. I contend that we will turn ourselves from a debtor nation to a creditor nation.
– Quite so! Then there will be more goods and still more goods imported. As a creditor nation, we can demand them.
– We can demand them if we want them.
– What is the good of being a creditor unless one is going to be paid ?
– We are paying millions of pounds for imported goods made from our own originally exported raw material.
– How can we expect to export and sell our goods in competition with the world when there is such heavy Protection now?
– We could sell steel; or any commodity which we make, if the markets of the world required it. If we withheld our primary products from export and manufactured them into finished articles here, then if the outside world required those goods they would be compelled to buy them from us. But while we continue to export- our primary products, and to import finished articles manufactured therefrom, we shall, never be in a . better position than we are in todaya nation of 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 people, and one half of us starving.
I wish to refer now to a statement of the Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), which I understand he has repeated several times in different parts of New South Wales. The honorable member said that the standard of life of the Australian people has gradually fallen, that the consumption of meat per head has been considerably reduced. The honorable member’s colleague, however, namely, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), wants the standard to fall still lower. He desires that the economic position of the consumer should be still further considerably reduced by the reduction of wages, and, thus, also the purchasing power of the people. The Leader of the Country party says we must raise the standard of the people in order that they may have the wherewithal to pur chase meat. Incidentally, the honorable member points to the lack of the people’s ability to purchase necessary supplies of meat as providing one of the reasons for the slump in the meat industry. The honorable member for Swan, however, takes the reverse view. He would create a still lower demand for the commodity in question, for he holds that we must reduce the economic standard of the people by wholesale reductions of wages.
The honorable member for Cowper further dealt with the cry that the price of coal must come down. That argument has been heard for a long time; it found expression at the economic conference in Sydney. It is about the only proposition that ever comes from the Government and their supporters. We are told over and over again that the only way in which we can reconstruct the economic situation is by forcing the workers to accept less wages. In effect, the Government, and those . who support them, state that the only way by which the capitalistic system can be reconstructed is to force the people back- to the conditions of economic slavery which existed in the eighteenth century. I propose to deal with the coal position, as it affects the workers, by quoting the price of the commodity, covering the output of the various districts in New South Wales, The price of coal hewn in the northern district is 17s. 6¾d. per ton; the price in the southern district is 16s. 6d.; and, in the western district, 12s. 10d., at the pit’s mouth. The miner’s labour in hewing the coal is the main cost of production; it amounts to 3s. 6d. to 5s. 6d. per ton. The coal is sold at Newcastle for 21s. 9d. per ton, which is equivalent to a profit of 24 per cent. From Newcastle it is shipped to Sydney and sold at from 30s. to 35s.’ per ton. Very often it is carried in coastal vessels belonging to the coal-owners themselves; so that, in addition to the profits made directly upon the coal, they “ rake in “ the profits on freight. When the coal reaches the consumer it is solder 3s. per cwt, or 60s. per ton. Throughout the processes by which the coal is despatched from the pit’s mouth to the consumer, in five out of every six instances, the coal-owners themselves are directly interested. They reap fully two-thirds of the total profits. Yet they say that the miners, who have the worst and the most strenuous feature of the industry to cope with, namely, the actual hewing, must suffer a reduction of the economic standard. The owners cry, “Don’t touch the profits, but make the miner work the coal for 2s. per ton.’’ The latest proposition has been to reduce the hewing rate by 33£ per cent. - one shilling in every three earned. Such a policy will never bring about the reconstruction of this country; and, if the workers are expected to accept it, those who fondly look for such an outcome are anticipating more than will be achieved:
I wish to deal briefly with an interjection of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) in the course of the remarks of the honorable member for Cowper, having to do with pig iron. The Minister said the great trouble was that the cost of pig iron, in Great Britain, was less than ever. Possibly it may be so, but the figures which have been quoted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) are quite opposed to that view. The suspicion still remains in the minds of honorable members on this side, and of the great majority of the Australian people; that the pig iron is not produced in. GreatBritain at all. Certainly, if it is, its production is not having the effect of reducing unemployment to any noticeable extent. The fact that, pig iron can be produced more cheaply in foreign countries is an overwhelming *argument against the suggestion that reduction of wages will cope with unemployment. As a matter of fact, the industry in Great Britain is languishing, and there is the grave suspicion - to put it mildly - that the pig iron is being imported -into Britain from Germany or Belgium, and is being transhipped as a British product.
The honorable member for Cowper stated, with respect to unemployment, that it is the duty of the State Governments to handle this difficult subject. The matter is actually a financial one. State Governments cannot deal with it unless the means are placed in their hands. The Federal Legislature is the only Parliament which can cope effectively with the financial institutions and’ the existing financial situation.. The honorable member for Swan has spoken of men leaving the land for various reasons^ More men have been forced off the land in Australia because of the’ squeezing tactics of the Shylock banking’ institutions than for any other reason. During the war the resources of the nation were made available through the Commonwealth Bank in order to pull the Commonwealth out of its difficulties. To-day, however, when we are no longer coping with war conditions, but are reconstructing for peace, the resources of the Commonwealth Bank have dried up; we cannot use them. We were, as a nation, thoroughly financially Organized during the War. The resources and functions of the Commonwealth Bank were used to the utmost, but Sir Denison Miller has now been turned down by the Government. He told a deputation, representing the unemployed in Sydney, that he would be prepared to consider the raising of a loan of £2,500,000 to cope with unemployment, provided that he could get the necessary authorization and assistance of the Government. “No honorable member and no Minister in this House will sneer at Sir Denison Miller, for he has proved himself a financier of the first’ rank. It was he, more than any other individual, who pulled this country through the perils of war-time financing. But the Government are not now prepared to listen to him, or to take up his suggestion, or, indeed, to do anything. By introducing a measure the Government could effectually deal with the Shylock banking institutions which are squeezing hundreds and thousands of men from their holdings by foreclosing on overdrafts, and refusing to advance reasonable credits. I trust honorable members will not misunderstand the position, for this is what is going on in the face of , our economic situation when there are tens of thousands of unemployed, when there are men, women, and little children who do not know where they can get the next meal, or where they can find a home. The Government, by refusing to use the great powers in their control, thus to endeavour to alleviate the situation, are proving themselves almost destitute of the common instincts of humanity. If we do not quickly cope with the desperate state of affairs by every means in our power the national cancer will spread with dreadful rapidity, and eventually destroy our civilization.
.- It is to be regretted that the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), should have taken the somewhat unusual course of moving an amendment upon a motion relating to Supply when it was open- to him to move an. amendment to the Address-in-Reply. Under ordinary circumstances no exception could be- taken to the course he has followed, but had he known that it was imperative that Supply should be obtained to-day he might not have taken, it. Nothing I have said is to be regarded as by way of censure of what the honorable member has done; I merely point out that it is unfortunate that on an amendment involving questions of such magnitude, the debate must necessarily be restricted by the circumstance that Supply has to be obtained without delay. With these prefatory remarks I plunge into the discussion.
The Leader of the Opposition’ has submitted an amendment which, in substance and effect,, is a motion of censure of tho Government, and was intended to be regarded as such. It urges -
That the Government be . condemned for its callous administration, which has caused dislocation, of industry, intensified unemployment, and created widespread misery and distress.
These are very serious charges. Having made them, the honorable member was called upon to. prove them; but he has failed to do so. Since, to my own personal knowledge, he is most earnest and sincere in his. desire, to advance the cause of the people, I was expecting to hear from him some clear and ‘convincing proof that the Government, by some act which, possibly, had escaped my attention, had done something which had the effect of aiming a blow at the very heart of the Commonwealth. But no such evidence was adduced. The charge is baseless.
Why has this motion of censure been moved? The reason is not far to seek. Recent events have placed the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues in a very awkward position. I had better state it. As is well known,, the members of the honorable member’s party have been passing through a period of great tribulation and trial. For years they have been going from bad to worse. Recently they have been in battle, and if all of them do not show upon their unnaturally cheerful countenances to-day the scars of battle, yet all are suffering from the strain and shock of conflict. Some of their colleagues in New South Wales and Tasmania have fallen by the wayside. There has been a war in New South Wales.
– What about the trouble in South Australia?
– I shall come to the honorable member’s country in a moment. I am dealing now with what has happened in New South Wales. The tom-toms were beaten ; the clans were bidden to. rally, and with sound and fury the hosts met in fearful conflict. For a long time no one knew who had won. Everybody agreed, however, that it had been a dreadful fight. When at length the lists were issued, and the names of the survivors made known, it was found that members of the “party which the honorable member for Hunter leads had suffered a debacle, and that nothing but proportional representation, had, saved them from utter annihilation. That puts the matter quit& fairly. If” honorable members opposite doubt my statement, let them look at the figures,, ot, still better,, let them search their own consciences. Today they thank God - a very unusual thing, for them to do in these hard times - for the Proportional Representation Act of New South Wales.
Then, again, there have been conferences of the Labour party. You, Mr. Speaker, despite that air of almost unnatural detachment from the affairs of the world which you affect, must have read of that stirring episode in Sydney.
– I rise to order. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether a conference held in. New South Wales in connexion with the Labour movement, and the result of the recent State elections have anything to do with the amendment before the Chair?
– At this stage I am quite unable to say that they have, unless it can be shown that they have some relation to the matter of unemployment or the callous administration or other matters of which complaint is made in the amendment. Does the Prime Minister propose to show that they have?
– Yea; I shall show that they have a very vital connexion, with the amendment. They are, indeed, attached to one another by a tie of almost indecent familiarity. I was pointing out when interrupted that a. Labour. Conference took place recently in the State of New
South Wales, and that this body, whose representatives here are so concerned with the conditions in which the great mass of the people find themselves to-day, and whose passionate desire to help the people finds vent on this, the first opportunity after a lengthy recess, during which their labours on behalf of the people have been so obvious - did nothing at that conference for the unemployed. I defy honorable members opposite or any member of that conference to point to one thing that they even tried to do on behalf of the unemployed of New South Wales. . The members of the conference did everything except concern themselves with the condition of the affairs of the people. What they were concerned about was the causes of the debacle. “Why did it happen?” asked one gentleman, and the reply given by another was that it was due to the ineptitude and corruption of the gentlemen of the other section of the party. The inquirer indignantly denied the statement. “ Not at all,” said he, “ it is you who are inept and corrupt.” Upon that issue they fell to work, and the conference closed without doing anything for the unemployed - without showing that it cared anything for this great question, which is the greatest of all questions. When thei epitaph of the conference comes to be written it will be written in water. It did nothing.
Another’ LabourConf erence’ is going on in Melbourne at the present time. Tothat conference there- has come a detachment from New South Wales, who seek to rub, out with, half-wet sponge the Labour- platform as it now stands, and are feebly endeavouring to- obliterate the Brisbane objective.
Mr.Charlton. - I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether dealing first with the conference in New South Wales,, and then with the conference going on, here - which, is not directly, attached to the movement in regard to industrial, matters - has anything to. do. with the question of. maladministration by the Government r,eferr.ed to in; my am.endr ment. .,
– I may say,, to. start with, that, the natural difficulty of. hearing, theremarks of the Prime Minister;, who has, his, back towards, me whilst speaking, is intensirfied by. the number, of interjections. I have been quite unable to follow the Prime Minister as closely as I should like on account of the noisy interjections from various parts of the chamber, particularly from honorable members on my left. I ask honorable members to observe the rules of debirte, and to allow to a member addressing the House that fair play which they expect themselves. If honorable members do not observe the rules I shall have to ask the House to take action against those who disobey the call for order. So far as the point of order is concerned, I do not know, at this stage, whether the Prime Minister intends to connect his remarks’ with the question before us: but so far as I can see his remarks are preliminary to some inference that he intends to draw, bearing on the subject mentioned in the amendment. I am not prepared at -this stage to say that the right honorable gentleman is not in order.
– My discourse was following the admirable example of my predecessor, Cassar, who divided, all Gaul into three parts; it was on that classical and admirable model that I was proceeding, when I was interrupted for the second time by the same honorable member, to say nothing of the chorus of interjections to which you, sir, very properly objected. Those interjections are highly disorderly, and I hope they will not be continued after what has been said;, otherwise, as. I understand from you, sir, they will1 have to. be continued outside. I was saying that there- is another conferencegoing, on of those gentlemen who are said to. be so- deeply concerned . about, the unemployed;, and Iask. honorable, members. to note; that, the Government is charged with deliberately creating, conditions, that, intensify unemployment.. It issaid that this is part of a plot-
Several honorable members, interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members to keep order. If they desire to converse in loud, tones,, they certainly should, not do so in the chamber while an honorable, member is> speaking: I ask honorable, members, to. observe the rules of debate, and allow the Prime Minister: to; be. heard, without unseemly interruption’.
Mr.HUGHES.- It is said that there, is* a deliberate plot to create unemployment in order to reduce’ wages: That is: the main charge; and it is only right and proper that we should say-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I do not propose to proceed while an honorable member opposite continues to disregard the ruling of the Chair.
– I ask honorable members who are disregarding the ruling of the Chair to kindly leave the chamber if they are unable to restrain themselves; otherwise I shall have to take another course.
– Does your ruling, sir, mean that while the. Prime Minister is speaking, honorable members may not converse in low tones? I may say that I do not know any honorable member who has continued a speech without the accompaniment of continuous and open conversation on the part of honorable members.
– Whenever such conversation has become audible to me, I have asked that it shall cease.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members are now breaking another rule, which demands that Mr. Speaker shall be heard in silence - that when Mr. Speaker rises, honorable members are not to talk. I have repeatedly called attention to the loud hum of conversation, and I ask honorable members, if they find it necessary to converse, not to do so in a manner which involves discourtesy to the House, or to any honorable member who is addressing the Chair. Properly speaking, honorable members should not converse at all during the progress of a debate. However, I realize the difficulty in this . connexion, but repeat that if honorable members find it necessary to converse, they should either go outside,or do so in such tones as will not disturb the member who is. addressing the House.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I understood the Prime Minister to indicate myself when he said he would not proceed while an honorable member opposite conversed. You, Mr. Speaker, said that a member who wished to converse could, do so in a whisper.
– I said that,, properly speaking, honorable members should not converse at all when an honorable member Was addressing the House, unless it was really necessary..
– I am prepared to forfeit £50 if the Prime Minister has heard me speak this morning- since I came into the chamber. I have been whispering to an honorable member sitting alongside me. We know the unfortunate affliction of the Prime Minister, and I say emphatically that he could, not have heard what I said.. At any rate, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), who is sitting in my immediate neighbourhood, did not hear me. I can only say that the Prime Minister himself shows little regard for others since he indulges in conversation during the speeches of honorably members on this side.
– I realize the difficulty; but I ask honorable members to try to avoid conversing while the Prime Minister is speaking.
– The main charge levelled against the Government is that we have deliberately created unemployment; and that charge has just now been repeated by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). That charge is levelled against the Government by a party the members -of which now find themselves so situated as to call for the most heroic efforts, and recourse to the. most desperate devices, in order to extricate themselves, and, above all, to divert public attention from their really most deplorable position. No one deplores their unhappy position more than I do. There is, I say, a conference -now proceeding, and although I do not know whether the press is admitted to it, I see fairly lengthy reports of its proceedings in the newspapers. What is this conference doing? At this juncture, if we are to believe honorable members opposite, the great question of all is the problem of unemployment. But I ask honorable members to look through the columns of the reports of the proceedings of this conference - which is the final arbiter of the Labour party throughout Australia - and see whether -there is the faintest hint of any attempt on the . part of that conference to do anything for the unemployed. There is not the faintest suggestion that they even recognise that this is a~ great question. What they are concerned withis what they call healing the breaches between the different sections of the party. But this they can never . successfully accomplish. Why, the breaches ‘between these warring factions in the Labour movement to-day are as -wide as hell is from heaven. These breaches can no more be healed, and the party brought together again, than could the Himalayas be joined to the Swiss Alps. The warring factions can never be united, and those gentlemen know that very well. But, since they are going to the country - not because they want to go, but because they must - they say, “ Let us go as a united body.” Let them do so. Their pretence will deceive no one who does not want to be deceived. But let them not in the mean- while come along with this sickening affectation of concern for the unemployed, when at two conferences they have devoted themselves entirely to washing their dirty linen with complete disregard for the unemployed. The unemployed men knocked at the door, and they were told to go away, and they may look in vain for nelp from, the party whose chief concern is to hide its leprous sores from the gaze of the public. That is the reason why the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has moved this motion; it is “not moved because they are concerned with . the unemployed, but to divert attention from recent revelations, and because they are deeply concerned at the way in which both the unemployed and the employed workers regard them. On every occasion on which they have gone to the country they have been rejected; naturally they feel it imperative to make some sort’ of demonstration in order to divert public attention from facts that are only too obvious.
Now I come to the case put forward by the honorable member, and I am sure he knows that I think too highly of him to believe that anything I have said about the conference is applicable to him. If he had control of the conference and of the Labour movement, it would be a movement very-, different from what it . is. Every honorable member opposite knows that to be the case, but I have to deal with the position which the honorable member has put before the House. His chief ground of attack was the alleged failure of the Government in regard to the anti-dumping legislation. He said that if the Government had given that early and close attention to anti-dumping legislation that he had urged conditions to-day would be very different. I think the honorable member is under a complete misapprenension as to the facts. When he sought to put this problem of unemployment, the greatest of all industrial questions, upon the tiny pedestal of the anti-dumping law, he belittled it. He endeavoured to make what is a world-wide problem something peculiar to this country and due to the lax administration of a certain statute. I’ do not hesitate to say that if all the statutes in the world were gathered, together and placed in charge of a man, who should be the man of all the ages, still they and he would fail to cope effectively with the unemployed questum. However, the honorable member has sought to place this problem upon that ground, and there I must deal with it. I repeat that he seems to be entirely under a misapprehension. He says that; the Tariff Board, for example, has done nothing, that it is waiting upon the suggestion of the Minister, and can do nothing on its own initiative, that it has done nothing, and that although he is unable to prove that goods are reaching Australia from Germany he believes they are ; in short, he says that owing to the lax administration and dilatory methods of the Government unemployment exists which, had we acted in a different way, would not have existed. Then he and his colleagues say that we are partners in a diabolical conspiracy to create unemployment. I give such a charge the only rejoinder that it deserves - I say that it is an infamous lie, . and well they who make such a charge know that it is so. They surely cannot mean that I and my colleagues are partners in a conspiracy to create unemployment! Our record and the circumstances under which we hold office, those evidences of. the confidence, of the public in our administration are a complete answer to such a charge.
The Leader of the Oppositionseems to be under the impression . that because the Anti-Dumping Act was passed last session the Tariff Board was prevented from operating at an earlier date, and that its powers are derived from and limited by that statute. But that is not so. The Tariff Board would have come into existence and its powers would have been, almost co-extensive with the Customs Act itself even if there had been no Australian Industries Preservation Acts The Board does not derive its greatest powers from that statute; it derives them from the Tariff Board Act. And they are very great powers. Whilst the Board does derive authority and power from the Australian Industries Preservation Act, it is certainly not dependent upon it. For example, under section 17 of the Tariff Board Act “ the Board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to in subsection 2 of section 15.” And subsection 2 of section 15 mentions these matters : -
That is a power as wide as the Act itself, as <wide as the economic circumstances of the Commonwealth. Nothing is outside the purview of the Board. These powers are not derived from the Industries Preservation Act at all.
– I admitted that those powers have been, conferred, but the Chairman of the Beard said that there must first be a complaint by the manufacturer before the Board can take the initiative.
– I say that the Board may do all these things on its own initiative.
– I agree, but the Board does not do them.
– I come now to what the Board has already done. I have recently been in two capital cities of the Commonwealth when the Tariff Board was sitting, and I speak from my own knowledge concerning what the Board is doing. I know how thorough its inquiries have been. It has supplied me with information which I have made public in relation to the matters referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) this morning. The- inquiries of the Tariff Board have gone to the very root of matters. In addition to the powers under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which I have enumerated, the Board has other powers to which I have referred the Leader of the Opposition, and which I will not recapitulate. These powers are very considerable. It may be that they do hot go far enough; but I am bound to say that they are far wider than those given to any Board, so far as I know,, in any country in the world. The powers are sufficient to make the Tariff a living thing - not a crystallized fabri<j - sufficiently elastic to adapt itself to the requirements of the nation and its industries. That is the position, those are the powers of the Board. It cannot be denied that they are very wide. If it should be found, however, that these powers are insufficient they will be extended. The Government have decided not to await the practical results of German trade with Australia; but to anticipate its possible effect by amending legislation which we shall introduce before 1st August, extending the powers of the Board. We shall do this without delay. The Leader of the Opposition is entirely mistaken in saying that unemployment is the outcome or has any relation to the Australian Industries Preservation Act, o’r is owing to any laxity or failure on the part of the Board to exercise the powers given to it, or the failure on the part of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) to assist it. Any information that was necessary or could be helpful in supporting the industries of Australia has been given. The Leader of the Opposition said that German goods were coming into Australia, and that although he could not give definite proof he said that he believed that importations were being made. I ask him to tell us through what channels these goods are finding their way here. I shall show directly what is the real position with regard to German competition. Most honorable members of the Opposition who have spoken endeavoured to create the impression that owing to the depreciation of the German mark competition with Germany was such that it was almost impossible for Australian industries to meet it. If it be a fact, which I do not admit, that the cost of production is determined or affected in proportion to the depreciation of the mark or the currency of any country, and that the cost of . production- in Germany is now one-seventieth of what it was in 1914, it is obviously impossible by any law or by any Tariff - except by downright prohibition - to protect local industries against such a set of conditions. I think, however, that these gentlemen do not quite understand the position. Those who imagine that the cost of production in Germany is determined by the depreciation of the mark fail to understand the basic principles of economics. The cost of production is determined by the cost of the labourer, who produces, plus, of course, the overhead charges, &c, of the machinery the labourer uses, and the cost of the labourer is determined by the cost of his food. Now, it is self-evident that the German workman cannot live on one-seventieth of what he did in 1914. To say for one moment that one could purchase commodities in Germany at one-seventieth of the price they were in 1914 is on the face of it absurd. It will be found, I think, upon a general review of the whole situation that the people in Germany cannot produce goods except in very special circumstances and for specialized purposes at very much less than they can in Great Britain, and I intend to prove it. At any rate, if they do produce them cheaper it is only because the workmen eat less, wear cheaper clothes, and, in short, have a lower standard of comfort than that prevailing in the Commonwealth or in Britain. It has little or nothing to do with the depreciation of the mark. If we were to reduce our sovereign to the value of one farthing the miners in Newcastle, for instance, would want just as much to eat, and the price of whatever they consumed and the value of the clothes they wore would determine the price of coal. I am not for a moment saying that these problems are not complex and difficult to understand, quite apart from the problem of unravelling the riddle of the exchanges. I know that that, of itself, has a profound effect; but it is not the foundation of the problem. It has been said by the Leader of the Opposition that the German competition is such that the British steel manufacturer is buying blooms, bars, and billets from the German steel master - the honorable member will correct me if I am misquoting him - and is working them up into manufactured goods for sale in Australia. The Tariff
Board is charged with being lax in the performance of its work, and with being hampered by the failure of the Minister for Trade and Customs to direct it. That is not so. It has been unceasingly vigilant in the performance of its duties, and watchful in the interests of the industries of the Commonwealth. Nor is it true that the British iron-master is buying German bars, blooms, and billets and working them up into steel and sending them out here. For the information of honorable members.I shall read some of the reports received from Great Britain weekly or fortnightly from representatives of the largest firms of steel and iron workers in the United Kingdom. The first is dated 7th December. 1921, and the last 23rd March, 1922. They are as follow : - 7th December, 1921.:- German deliveries, as we hare already advised you, are very bad, and numerous strikes caused by workers’ demands for advances to meet the dwindling Mark, has made conditions of delivery worse than ever. German sellers of fuel and semimanufactured products are not fulfilling their engagements to French and Belgian manufacturers, consequently the deliveries in these two countries are also getting very unsatisfactory. English prices are becoming more competitive, and we may say we ourselves have had the price of £8 10s., less li per cent., quoted for British steel joists. 11th January, 1922. - Many” German sellers are months behind hand with delivery, and there seems to be a chronic coke and fuel shortage in France, Belgium, and Luxemberg, partly due to non-delivery by Germany of coke.
Continental prices are fairly steady, not fluctuating more than a few shillings a ton either way, according to whether or not sellers want orders. English prices are still tending downwards. We have been quoted £16 10s. per ton f.o.b. for galvanized corrugated sheets.
English joists. - We are told sales have been made at £S per ton f.o.b., but we have been quoted ourselves £8 6s., less li per cent. 2nd February, 1922.- German prices get less and less competitive, their deliveries worse,. ScriouB steps towards deflation and towards proper taxation of the German people are overdue, and these must increase their costs. Belgian, French, and Luxemburg prices are rather firmer than when we last wrote. 3rd March, 1922. - We should say that Continental prices are a little firmer, though all the Continental countries are in such a hopeless mess with deliveries that it is hardly safe to buy anything.
Pig-iron prices in this country have reached a figure which must be nearly, if not, the bottom. Cleveland No. 3 being £4 10s., and Scotch Foundry No. 3 about £5 f.o.b. 23rd March, 1922. - As a matter of fact, Continental prices are, in a number of cases, higher than English prices. For instance, this week we have bought a parcel of black hoops in England at a price 30s. per ton below the lowest Belgian prices we had. Furthermore, we hear that Continental works are now coming to this country for billets, bars, &c.
Those facts speak for themselves.
– If they are doing so well in Great Britain, how does it come about that the furnaces are closed down, and there are large numbers of unemployed in that country?
– There are large numbers of unemployed there for very many reasons. One reason is because orders cannot be got at any price. But one thing is clear, British competition is becoming more keen, and the cost of production has been so greatly reduced that there are Continental- buyers of British bars, billets, and blooms. I am dealing now with that part of the honorable member’s charge which dealt with German trade and the Anti-Dumping Act, and I am endeavouring to state the position as I see it. I agree entirely with those who say that the question of employment is the greatest question of all, and I want to deal with it fairly. I am dealing with German trade, and I speak as one who has, perhaps, been as bitter an enemy of Germany as any other person in this country. I am still opposed to the resumption of German trade. Speaking as an individual, I say to this House now, that it has only to declare “We will have no German trade,” and, at any rate, it will not find an opponent in me. I am trying to get at the facts and to set them up before honorable members. ‘ The statements I have read are facts, and I think the House may take them for granted. They are made by, perhaps, the largest firm in Great Britain, and one that is in daily touch with Continental, conditions. When Germany, and other Continental buyers come to Great Britain to buy bars, blooms, and billets, it tells the very opposite story from that which we heard just now from the lips of my friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Charlton). The question of unemployment is one that cannot be solved by scratching on the surface and talking of German or English competition. If we are to deal with this question thoroughly we must go fathoms and fathoms below that. I am trying to deal with it on the level on which the honorable gentleman chose to launch his attack.
I come now to deal with the position in Australia, as it is affected by the position in Europe. As is well known there are’, in the constituency represented by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), large numbers of men, amounting to thousands, out of. employment. The iron and steel industries are the foundations of industry generally; when the . workers in them are out of employment, other industries are affected. Why are the steel works closed down ? This morning . the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) made a most amazing suggestion. He said that the Government ought to guarantee the banks a loan of £2,500,000, or some other number of millions, and that then somehow or other the works would start again. . Of course, they would, so long as this £2,500,000lasted, but such statements as those show such an abyssmal ignorance of the great basic principles of economics as to make one almost weep. ‘Let us run the thing to earth. For all practical purposes in this country we have an inconvertible note issue, and we have a printing press. All we have to do is to put another shift of printers on, and we can keep these works going for ever ! That is what they have done in Russia, and now I am coming nearer the home of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). That action has not solved the problem in Russia. So far from providing a solution it has intensified the difficulty to an extent that stands unparalleled in the history of the. ancient or modern world. I come back again to the question, “ Why are the men in the steel works at Newcastle unemployed?” The answer is set out at some length in a statement that I made before the Economic Conference held in Sydney some two or three months ago. The Government, so far from callously and deliberately creating unemployment, were the first representative body to try to ward off a catastrophe which was then impending. I called that Conference to prevent the calamity which has now overtaken the steel and iron industry. I set out the case quite clearly. I invited the unions, including representatives of the steel workers, to meet the employers. The steel workers’ representatives wanted to come, but they were not permitted by the Australian
Workers’ Union, by which they are now absorbed. The ‘ Australian Workers Union, which has become the One Big Union, would not let them attend. So a Conference called to deal with a question which was a matter of life and death to them, had to ‘be considered in their ab- sence. From the printed report of the Conference, which was held in Sydney on 22nd February last, it will be seen that I made the following statement : -
Do you admit that there is a problem, or doyou say that there is none, and that all that is needed is to do nothing, and that the community will have to go on on your terms whatever they are? But it is impossible to go on producing goods at a higher cost than you can sell them for. Perhaps you do not realize, or some of you do not, how utterly futile it is to speak of maintaining a standard of Australian wages under circumstances such as I hove indicated. If we get . a high rate of wages in this country - and that high rate of wages has been established for some years - it is because oE the amount of wealth which we have produced. Now, wealth does not flow naturally and inevitably from labour. Men may labour and produce no wealth. If men produce an article at a production cost of 27s. 6(1., and it cannot be sold for more than £1, that is not producing wealth. It is dissipating wealth. If you produce a ton of steel at £25, and it can be sold for only £10, that is not producing wealth, but losing wealth, and the community would be better if you were ‘idle and it kept its money in its pocket. It is not producing wealth to bring a ton of lead to the surface at a cost of £25 when you can sell it only for £19. Therefore, labour must, in order to produce wealth that will enable a high standard of living to be enjoyed in this country, conduct its ‘industrial operations in such a way as to leave a margin over and above this cost of production.. In those industries which I have indicated, it does not do that now. A high standard of living is only possible in this country so, long as those fundamental economic laws which I have just outlined are observed. To speak about the Australian standard of Hying being in danger because a Conference is failed to consider the causes of unemployment, shows to what lengths men will go. The only danger the standard of living is in is the continuance of the present position: producing goods that cannot be sold at a profit. Why arc men unemployed? If a resolution would put them in work, there would be no lack of employment. If the award of a Court could not only prescribe the amount of wages they were to get, but actually see that they got those wages, there would be no unemployment and no distress, and there need be no labour. The position, however, is far other. Court3, unions, combinations of employers - none of these affects the question at all. Nor does it matter how much labour you put into a thing. The question is, “How much value do you create?”
The Conference sat for some days. Considerable publicity was given to the proceedings, and at length the parties came forward with their respective remedies. It is useless for honorable members to attempt to dissociate themselves from, the remedies put forward by the ‘respective sides. Whether the remedies put forward by the employers meet entirely with the views of honorable members on my side of the House or no’t, they have to take a certain amount of responsibility for them. As to the views put forward by the employees’ representatives, all I can say is that, since those views were put forward by the gentlemen who were representing them at the Conference, they must take the entire responsibility. The employers’ representatives accepted the standard of living now existing, and stated-
The standard of living accepted in Australia as necessary and proper can only be impaired by diminished production, whether this be the result of lessened effort, obsolete methods, or unemployment arising out of foreign competition or industrial disputes.
That means that the only remedy is for men to produce an article that can be sold at a market price that leaves a margin over the cost of production. I now turu to what my friends on the other side said. So far from hinting for one moment that the Australian Industries Preservation Act or the Anti-Dumping Act had anything to do with the situation, no mention was made of the Tariff from beginning to end.
– You did not expect the men at that Conference to have the same knowledge as we have of our legislation, did you?
– The honorable member should not denounce his- leaders in that way. If he contends that they were ignorant of those Acts, I say nothing; but it is obvious that they had’’ a right to be present as the representatives of Labour. Messrs. Willis, Howie, and Voigt were there. These are the men making the laws under which honorable members opposite have to live! They understood the position quite well. They did not fall into the error of supposing that the cause of unemployment was the Anti-Dumping Act. The anti-dumping laws have nothing to do with the bringing about of unemployment. If so, what about the unemployment in
Russia, Germany, Prance, and America? Does any honorable member say that there is dumping in America? How ridiculous ! The representatives of the unions at the Conference went to the root of the matter. They set out their remedy. It was no half-and-half one. They declared that “ Only the socialization of industry, with workers’ control, offers a solution for the impending collapse of industry.” Here is the Brisbane objective! I shall not go on to elaborate the matter, but that is the remedy which those who now control the Labour movement put forward. Honorable members opposite may say what they like, but they are flies in a spider’s web. They may flap their wings as much as they like, but they cannot move. I want honorable members to follow the statement of the representatives of the employees at the Economic Conference. They are not to listen to our honorable friends: opposite, but to those who are controlling them, and this is their remedy -
The Joint Commission would require to draft concrete proposals for: -
Talk about a dog watch - if they kept the printing press going with three shifts it would hardly meet their demands.
Coincident with the establishment of the foregoing Joint Commission, an effective inquiry should be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government into the productive capacity of the nation.
This last paragraph is a sort of benediction and “ Amen “ is the only word necessary to complete the analogy. That is their remedy - the socialization of industry. What my honorable friends opposite are up against is that the great mass of unemployment in this country arises from the closing down of the steel works. This matter so far from being new ia very old. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) came to see me about it in November last. On 24th of November he introduced to me a deputation that covered the whole ground. The members of the deputation set out their position, which even then was desperate. When I had heard their story, I found that it made out a case which no legislation could affect. Members of the deputation referred to the position in the United Kingdom, in the United States of America, and in Australia with regard to wages on the basis of eight hours per day. They explained that the wages of founders in the United Kingdom were 13s. 1½d., in the United States of America. 16s. 2d., and in Australia 19s. 4d. The wages of furnace hands were in the United Kingdom 12s. 6d., in the United States of America 12s. Id.,’ and in Australia 17s. 2d.: and the wages of fitters and turners were in the United Kingdom 12s. lid., in the United States of America 19s. 6d., and in Australia 23s. They showed in short that wages here are such that it was impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete. Mr. Hoskins plainly said that for unskilled labour, he had to pay 2s. per hour for what ls. was paid in Pittsburg, in the United States of America, the country which boasts of paying the highest wages in the world. So when we are told that there must be no reduction in wages, and nhat the steel works must go on, all I have to say is that if our friends apply that to the circumstances of the primary industries they will arrive at a position which will result in one of two things. They will either destroy this country utterly or else will enable the primary producer to charge what he likes for producing an article, and enforce that cost of production plus a margin for profit upon the people willy nilly. If it costs 5s. to produce a bushel of wheat if the producer works from dawn till night, and it costs 7s. per bushel if he works only the eight hours, and 10s. per bushel if he works only eight hours and works . as slowly as he can, then no matter what the price of wheat in other countries, the people of the country must pay 10s. or 20s. per bushel plus a living profit for the producers. It is a poor cock that will not fight both ways. That is the position which our friends are taking up, and it is untenable. If they had the socialization of industry to-morrow, if they had realized the Brisbane objective, against which they are fighting so desperately, but so hopelessly, the law would still obtain that you. cannot get more out of an industry than you put into it. Yet that is what our friends are trying to do. Mr. Menzies and Mr. Hoskins, speaking on behalf of the employers, said that unless there was a reduction in wages and the price of coal they could not carry on. I said to them on the 24th November -
The Government proposes to enact antidumping legislation before the session closes, but nothing of that kind will meet the situation in the face of the figures which Mr. Menzies has quoted. They should be written in letters of fire and held up before everybody in the country, particularly the industrial classes, both employers and employees. How can you expect to compete and hold the market when you are paying 50 per cent, and, in some cases, 100 per cent, more to produce an article than your competitor, and when one of your competitors is the highest paid labour country in the world, a country which has always boasted that its workers are paid the highest wages in the world? … I do not hesitate to say that there is only one real solution of this problem, and that” is by facing the fact that if you cannot produce an article at a price which will enable yon to justify your existence as a competitor against the products of your competitors you cannot live. To encourage an industry is one thing, but to create such artificial conditions as to make your industry nearly a hot-house exotic is another.
Those words are true to-day, and abundant proof is now furnished us that there is no way of saving this industry, but that which I have indicated.
I will deal now with the price of coal. I say that the price of coal has to come down. My honorable friends opposite have endeavoured to make out that coal is cheaper here than it is in the United Kingdom. They say that the price is 21s. 9d. per ton here, and in England 23s. per ton. There is nothing so dangerous as a half-truth. Let .me tell honorable members the facts. It is perfectly true that we produce best coal more cheaply than it is produced in England, but we do not produce the coal which is used to make coke, and so to make steel more cheaply than in England. We produce this coal at a higher price, and this is the trouble. When our honorable friends opposite speak of coal they do not refer to the coal which makers of steel use in England, but coal which they do not use. The trouble has arisen in this way : In England a sufficiency of small coal, out of which coke is made, is available at small-coal prices, and. therefore, the English steel master gets his raw material at a price that enables him to produce coke considerably cheaper than is possible in Australia. The price of small coal in the Commonwealth is relatively higher than the price of large coal, and there is not enough of it, so the steel manufacturer is obliged to buy some large coal, which has increased in price from lis. per ton to- 21s. 9d. per ton, approximately 100 per cent., while the price of small coal has increased from 7s. to 17s. 9d., an increase of 153 per cent.
– Will the Prime Minister tell us what is the price of the English small coal? He has not mentioned that fact yet.
– The cost of coke at Newcastle Steel Works, manufactured in up-to-date ovens, in 1921 was 37s. 4d. per ton, as compared with 22s. 6d. per ton in England and 13s. lid. in the United States of America.
– But that is not the question I asked. You are making a comparison of small coal prices, and declaring that small coal is cheaper in England than in New South Wales. I want to know the English price for this small coal.
– I do not know that I have the figures the honorable member asks for, but I shall obtain them in the luncheon hour. I am giving the price of the raw material, out of which the coke is manufactured. What I have said demonstrates amply that it is most misleading to say that the cost of coal to the steel works in Australia is lower than in the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, it is very much higher. It is as 37s. 4d. is to 22s. 6d., or as compared with the price paid by our other competitor, America, it is as 37s. 4d. is to 13s. lid. And I understand that 3 tons of coal are required to make one ton of pig iron. These figures satisfactorily dispose of the statement . made by honorable members opposite as to the cost of the raw material in this country. In some figures issued by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company it is stated that twelve months ago’ between 5,000 and 6,000 men and officers” were employed at the steel works, as compared with only 840 at the present time, and the chief reason given is the high price of coal, high wages, and the hours worked.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– This, then, is the position. The conditions at Newcastle to-day are not in any way due to importation which the anti-dumping legislation was designed to prevent. There have been no importations of iron and steel from Germany, cither directly or indirectly; the material which has come into competition with the output of the steel works of Newcastle has been imported from Great Britain, America, and Belgium. In Belgium there is the greatest difficulty in obtaining coke, which is essential to the production of steel; indeed continental steel makers are buying billets, bars, and blooms in England,’ where they can be produced more cheaply than in Germany. It cannot be suggested that the iron and steel which has come here of late from America has been German in its origin. Unemployment is at present a world-wide phenomenon, manifesting itself in its greatest intensity in Great Britain, America, and the European countries from which it is alleged that competition in iron and steel is most to be feared. The state of affairs in Newcastle, as is only too obvious, is due to the rates of wages, hours of work, and output of workmen, which must all be adjusted to world conditions, that being the only remedy. These matters were discussed at length at the Economic Conference held in Sydney in February last, when the only suggestions made by the representatives of the employees were such as would have revolutionized society, and brought about conditions analogous to those which have existed in Russia since 1918, producing there a state of absolute economical chaos. What has happened in Russia . affords <a glaring example of the course not to follow, but it is that example which we are adjured to follow by those who speak with authority on behalf of Labour. In Australia unemployment is most prevalent in the two States that have enjoyed the doubtful benefits of Labour rule during the past few years - Queensland and New South Wales. It will not be contended that the Government which has just come into office in New South Wales is responsible for the unemployment in that State, because that Government has been in power only a few weeks, and the conditions which exist in the State were deliberately created by the Labour Administration which it displaced. In an article on unemployment published in the Brisbane Daily Mail of 24th January last, under the caption “A disgrace to the State,” the, percentages of unemployment in the various States are set out as follows: - New South Wales, 13.5 per cent. ; Victoria, 9.8 per cent. ; Queensland, 21.8 per cent.; South Australia, 9.1 per cent.; Western Australia, 8.3 per cent.; and Tasmania, 10.3 per cent. Those figures speak for themselves. It was stated in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20th February last that the Bureau registration of unemployed men at the end of January numbered 13,000, showing that the unemployment of New South Wales then was in excess of that in the other States, both relatively and in actual numbers. These facts and the remedies suggested by the representatives of Labour furnish a complete and crushing answer to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition on the subject.
The honorable member said further that this Government has deliberately created unemployment by stopping shipbuilding. That statement is quite contrary to fact. The work of, constructing the 12,500-ton ships has proceeded continuously since Parliament authorized the expenditure on. them. During a period of about six weeks the work of constructing the hulls was eased up slightly, pending a decision whether the vessels were to be constructed to carry passengers or be purely cargo vessels, but at no time was work actually stopped. The position in regard to the first ship is that about 2,000 tons of steel work for the hull have been prepared, half of which is in position; that 70 per cent, of the main engines of the first ship have been completed, and 40 per cent, of those of the second. Of the boilers, one has been water tested,- and passed by Lloyd’s ; the remaining five are 70 per cent, complete. The boilers for the second ship are in hand, and the boiler shop is taxed to its full capacity at present. The maximum amount that could be spent at Cockatoo Island on these vessels out of the amount voted has been fully appropriated. Between December, 1921, and May, 1922, the amount spent on these 12,500-ton ships was £105,516. The’ vote was fully expended. These facts are a complete answer to all the charges, honorable members opposite have made. The average number of men employed daily at Cockatoo Island between December, 1921, and May, 1922, was 1,100, in the following proportions - on the 12,500-ton vessels 350, on Navy work 400, on general repairs, &c, 350. The average weekly expenditure on wages was approximately £8,000, the total for the period being £192,000. This amount did not include expenditure on material. All these facts are a complete and crushing answer to what honorable members opposite have said. ‘
I come now to the oft-repeated charges _ that repairs to vessels of the Com- mon wealth Line of Steamers have been executed - as deliberate policy - outside Australia. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has said that ships have been sent out of Australia to bo repaired. But there is no truth in his statement. Vessels have hot been sent out of this country to be repaired. The Boorara, which the honorable member mentioned, was on fire at Dunkirk, and repairs had to be effected before she could leave the port. No other repairs have been effected to these vessels beyond those mentioned in the following return -
The vessels mentioned, namely the Gilgai, Australpeak, Australplain, Dumosa, and Australport, had work done, upon them at the ports named.
Gilgai. This vessel underwent special Lloyd survey No. 2 in Antwerp, and was in that port- from the 14th May to 21st July, 1921.
She was in the port in the ordinary way on her lawful business of seeking cargo.
Australpeak. This- vessel was docked at Hamburg on the 10th March, 1921, when a few minor repairs were carried out.
Australplain. This vessel was docked at Hamburg in May, 1921, a few minor repairs being carried out.
Dumosa. This vessel, whilst discharging at Kurachi from 27th January,- 1922, to 1st February, had bunkers and engine-room tanks chipped and coated by native labour.
She was there on her, ordinary lawful occasions, and advantage was taken of having absolutely necessary ‘ repairs made during her stay there.
Australport. This vessel, whilst in Bombay, 6th January to 26th January, 1022, had her topsides, holds, and engine-room tanks chipped and coated.
All the work enumerated above was undertaken by the direction of the general manager-
None of these vessels was sent specially to these ports to have any work carried out, but having finished discharging at those ports opportunity was taken of doing necessary repairs.
The best answer of all lies in the fact that on general repair work at Cockatoo Island on the average 350 men have been employed for the last six months.
– You are robbing Mort’s Dock of that work.
– I come now to the charge that we are bringing people to Australia in order to flood the labour market and reduce t£e standard of living. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the Conference of State Ministers held in January of this year, I said: -
I saw in the press yesterday or to-day that there were 14,000 people unemployed in the State of New South Wales, and there may be more. The difficulty with which we are confronted is, “How are we to bring more people into a country in which there are so many unemployed?” I confess that if we are going to deal with the problem ‘ on the lines suggested in some quarters, we shall never be able to settle it satisfactorily. You cannot bring immigrants into a country, provide employment for them, and let your own fellow citizens go about the streets unemployed. Whenever a proposal is put forward which would, as it were, provide employment for our own fellow citizens, it falls to the ground. On the other hand, the fruits of the tree of immigration are what I have read. .They are a barren crop - 11,000 in nine months, of whom 9,000 actually arrived here.
That is a plain statement made publicly by me in January of this year, that the Federal Government sets its face resolutely against bringing any one to Australia for whom employment is not found on the land; it can be supported if needs be by extracts from many cablegrams I have sent to Great Britain, and dozens of communications I have sent to the State Governments, saying that I would not be a party to ^bringing one man to this country who was not going to settle on the land. The policy of the Government is a sound one that must appeal to honorable members of the Country party. If we are to spend money in this direction, that is the only way in which we are going to spend it, and the arrangement we are making with the . Western Australian Government is for that purpose. In further reference to this matter, I have an extract from a statement made by me in October, 1921, when I said : - - As for the yearly introduction of 100,000 immigrants to Australia, this, no doubt, represented an ideal; but the possibilities of realizing this ideal require careful consideration. The practical position was that between 12,000 and 20,000 immigrants would represent the influx into this country this year. The idea of bringing 100,000 immigrants was absurd, unless, and until adequate arrangements could be made for this absorption. As things were at present, no such arrangements existed, and he would take ‘ an early opportunity to set out the policy of the Ministry in regard to immigration as a practical question.
Until then, the position is as I have indicated. Much as I recognise the necessity for peopling Australia, it would be crass folly to attempt to bring population into a country without making such arrangements for their settlement upon the land as would make them wealth producers, rather than allowing them to congest still further the already overcrowded cities.
That statement is again an answer to honorable members’ assertions. Mr. Gullett, with whom I had some discussion in the press, criticised me in the Age of 2nd March, 1922, in the following words : -
By a close detailed study of the industrial position, sound openings could have been found for a number of specialists unavailable in Australia; the nominations could have been substantially increased; and by a special effort, some thousands of domestic servants might have been gained. Mr. Hughes, however, was adamant in his attitude against the introduction of domestic servants, giving me as his reason that it would be better “ for the women of Australia if they had more work to do.” ‘ I quote this to emphasize the fact that, in my opinion, my attitude has always been against bringing people to this country to put them in the cities. I have set myself resolutely against bringing people to Australia unless they can go on the land. The Government stand or fall upon that policy. They will not bring people here to put them in the cities.
Extension’ of time granted.
Now I propose to deal with this question of immigration in a general way. The statements made by honorable members opposite are completely opposed to the facts. The total number of arrivals of State-assisted immigrants during 1920, when the States controlled recruiting and the shipping of emigrants, was 9,669. The total of arrivals during 1921, when the first party of immigrants sent out by the Commonwealth arrived during April ofthat year, was 14,677. The total of arrivals expected during 1922, based upon the present monthly average, is 24,652. These are the facts; they speak for themselves. The total number of persons who arrived in Australia in 1921 was 87,938, and the total number of those who departed was 72,149, leaving a balance of arrivals over departures of only 15,000. These statistics reveal conclusively that unemployment has not been caused by immigration. I have demonstrated that unemployment has had nothing whatever to do with the Industries Preservation measure; that there have been no importations from Germany. As to the remedy for unemployment it is as I set it out to the Economic Conference. The workers of this country will have to adjust themselves to present world conditions. I say this with all the emphasis at my command. We stand by the maintenance of the present standard of living. But there is no way by which that standard can be maintained except by greater output and production upon an economic basis. Those are responsible for unemployment who are giving to the workers counsels of despair and destruction; who are telling them that by doles, by a system of . subsidizing the steel works with a grant of £2,000,000, unemployment - which is a world-wide phenomenon and has resisted doles to the extent of £200,000,000 a year in England alonecan be alleviated. Doles will not solve the problem. Nor will subsidies. There is only one means of solution. We are only a unit in the communityof nations, and we must depend upon world conditions. We must produce on economic lines. We can do it. . We can produce wealth in abundance, and so maintain our standard of living. But there is no other way by which we can solve this problem. We must produce more wealth, for it is not by going slow, but by going fast, that we shall be saved.
Before, concluding, I desire to furnish the honorable member for Hunter with particulars which I promised regarding the price of coal in Great Britain. They are as follow : -
Price of coal delivered at British steel works-
Welsh, large . 22s., small 13s. per ton; Scotch, 16s. and 12s.; Midlands, 25s. and 15s.; Tyne, 17s. and 15s. Belgian steel works are mostly using Tyne coal, costing 2Cs. c.i.f., plus transportation from wharf to steel works.
The Iron and Coal Trades Review of 28th April, 1022, gives the following prices as at that date: -
Leeds, washed coking smalls, 9s. to 13s. per ton; non-coking smalls, 7s. to 9s. Sheffield, smalls, from 2s. Cd. to 6s. 6d. per ton. Cannock, rough slack, 9s. to 10s.; fine slack, 5s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. North Staffordshire, rough slack, os. 6d. to 16s.: fine slack, 2s. 6d. to 4s. Nottinghamshire, smalls, 2s. 6d. to 6s. 6d.
– Are those the prices ruling at the pit’s mouth or at the steel works ?
– I assume that these figures have to do with quotations at the pit’s mouth. But I point out that no steel works in the world are more advantageously situated than those at Newcastle. To all intents and purposes they are at the pit’s mouth. If those works cannot continue to compete with oversea competition, the fault clearly lies, not in any difficulty created by geographical position, and is not owing to the cost of transportation, but lies with the cost of production. Moreover, it is not large coal, but small coal which is available and used by these works; and, as I have just quoted, the price of the small Welsh coal is 13s. per ton, and of Midlands and Tyne coal, 15s. per ton. That is the English cost, as against 21s. 9d. per ton here. ‘There are 3 tons of coal to 1 ton of coke, which fact accounts for the great difference in the price of coke, and, therefore, of the price of steel.
– The average price paid at the Newcastle steel works, taking the small coal, runs out at 19s. Id. pelton. . .
– Even so, that has to be compared with the Welsh and English prices respectively of 13s. and 15s. pelton.
Honorable members opposite have talked about a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to create unemployment. If there has been a deliberate attempt the accusation cannot be levelled at the Government, but at the men who support honorable members opposite. Yesterday the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me what was the cost of those magnificent new “ Bay “ liners, and I gave him the figures. What is the position to-day ? How do unemployed seamen treat these magnificent vessels, which belong to the people? How, indeed, have they treated each of the units of that fleet as it has come out here ? Each has been held up by the Seamen’s Union, which is now hopelessly bound in the coils of the Soviet organization which controls it. An attempt is made in sections of the press only this morning to convince the public that the present state of affairs is the outcome of the mere application of the rules of the union itself. I do not hesitate to say - and the proof is at hand - that not one vessel has departed from our ports, prior to the “Bay’.’ steamers calling here, which, has not had two or three men placed on board by this organization; men who are Communists, Bolshevists, members of the Soviet, whose business it has been to see that only those who worship at the Soviet shrine should be allowed to remain in the services of the Commonwealth Line. The trouble has been, not that there has not been an abundance of union labour available, but that no unionist has been permitted to go on board unless and until he has bowed the knee to Walsh’s Baal. The Commonwealth Line of steamers was asked to place a man on board the Moreton Bay, who was a notorious member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a spy, a go-between, an agent of the Soviet. He is a fool who shuts his eyes to’ plain facts to-day, who- says there are no agents of the Soviet in this country. The Bolshevic Communists of whom I am speaking rejoice in the fact that they have agents in this country. But we know them. We will not allow them to . dictate to us. We will decide, and not they. The whole of the people of this country, through their representatives in the Federal Legislature, will decide who shall man these vessels. We will not employ men who are put on board to carry out the behests of the Communist party in this country. The leader of the Opposition says there is a plot ! Yes, there is ; but it is a plot hatched by the Communists, who desire unemployment in order that their wild schemes may be acceptable to the mass of the people. They have created unemployment amongst our seamen, our waterside workers, our carters, ‘and others; there are from 800 to 1,000 seamen idle today because of the plotters’ machinations. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me why the
Government are not going on with the building of the merchant vessels at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I would speak now, direct, to the workers at Cockatoo Island. I tell those men that unless they are able to bring their influence to bear upon the members of the Seamen’s Union, the Commonwealth Government will not go on building ships. We will not build ships and throw our money into the sea. We will not be made the mere tools of an arrogant and ambitious minority in this country. The Government are in an unassailable position. They have clone everything in their power to create conditions which would permit of employment. The Government called a Conference months ago, in Sydney, with a view to settling this whole question. It is a fundamental one, and the Government addressed themselves to it with a full appreciation of its seriousness. The Government wasted no time in talking about anti-dumping legislation, but got right down to bed-rock. I would rather follow a man there, no matter where it might be taking me, and particularly in respect of this greatest of all problems to-day, than pursue any other course.
Honorable members opposite have put their case for reasons which are perfectly plain. Their proposed remedy is one which, if it were accepted, would bring about a state of affairs in this country analogous to that existing in Russia. Honorable members opposite, and they alone, are responsible for very much of the unemployment in Australia at present. Until the workers recognise world conditions, and are prepared to adjust themselves to them, there will be no hope of abolishing unemployment. The standard of living must remain, but the maintenance of the standard of living depends upon the production of abundant wealth. That is the first and last lesson which I wish to impress on the workers. They have their destiny in their own hands. If they will produce wealth in abundance they will live like kings. But they cannot maintain their high standard of living by tactics of the kind to which I have referred, by strikes, by going slow, by passing resolutions here or in the Conference down the street, or by any other of those means to which they have recourse from time to time.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has absolutely failed to answer any of the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in support of the amendment moved by him. The first part of the right honorable gentleman’s address was pure camouflage. By endeavouring to show that certain Labour conferences held in different State capitals had put forward no solution of the unemployed problem, he sought to divert the attention of honorable members and the public generally from the real issues which this censure motion raises. The amendment attacks the Government for its lax administration, the callousness of which, to a large extent, has resulted in the present condition of unemployment. The Prime Minister probably was not here last’ session when we dealt with the Tariff, and with the anti-dumping legislation. The dangers to which our industries would be exposed were then fully put before the House. To-day the right honorable gentleman complains of our action in attacking the Government in connexion with a motion for Supply, which, he says, must be dealt with to-day. With whom does the fault lie? Was it not the duty of the Government to see that Parliament met in time to enable Supply to be obtained some days before it was required ? Instead of doing so they refrained from calling us together until the Supply granted had almost expired. In the circumstances why should the Government blame us for challenging, at this juncture, certain of their administrative acts of which we have such good reason to complain T
Having endeavoured to camouflage the real issue the Prime Minister then tried to belittle the seriousness of the situation as revealed by us. It ill becomes him of all men to refer in sneering terms to the present unemployment in Australia. The situation to-day ‘is worse than it has been at any other period within my recollection. Unemployment, to the Prime Minister however, is merely a matter for merriment.
– But it is now thirty years since he was unemployed.
– Quite so. To-day the right honorable gentleman would dismiss by a mere wave of the hand the whole question of unemployment. Again and again during the last few years he has called on the people to produce and produce, declaring that in that way alone should we be able to overcome the difficulties created by the war. I hope to show before I resume my seat that the workers of this country have followed his advice only to find that under the administration of the present Government they have apparently produced too much since the market for their output is overcrowded.
As to the coal trade, the Government properly took control during the war period, and placed an embargo on the export of one class. The idea was that the Australian market had to be supplied with this class of coal, while other classes of coal might be sent abroad. Later on, when prices became inflated abroad, somebody “ got to work,” and an embargo was placed on the export of all classes of coal, resulting in the disorganization of the whole trade. Just as is the case abroad, all classes of coal are required in Australia; but the Government, instead of simply placing officers in charge to see that Australia’s needs were supplied first, find those concerned allowed to look after their foreign contracts as best they could with their surplus coal, adopted a bungling system and ruined the foreign trade of: Newcastle. This was not the action of a Soviet body, although the Prime Minister endeavours to camouflage the position by references to Soviet control. The action I have described was the action of the Government itself.
– Has this anything to do with present unemployment?
– Yes; a great part of the unemployment has been caused by the closing down of coal mines, steel, and other works in consequence of the embargo. As a fact, many of the mines have not been working more than two or three days a fortnight.
– The real reason for the cessation of exports was the price of coal.
– No; there was a better demand, and big prices outside at the time of which I am talking.
– A lot of coal did leave Australia, as the honorable member knows.
– Export was stopped at that moment.
– I know exactly what took place. First, the export of Mait land coal was stopped; and then later, when there were better prices outside, anembargo was placed on the Bore Hole coal.
– That was simply in order to get control, so that too much might not be exported from Australia. We had to supply our own -market.
– I have pointed out that. Australia requires different classes of coal, just as is the case outside; no one objected to the Government seeing that our own markets were first supplied, or to the regulation of prices. Once, however, that the whole of the export of coal was stopped, the foreign trade was cut off, and we produced more coal than the Australian markets could take. The position to-day is that the market is stocked up with coal, and there is practically no foreign trade. The embargo dislocated the business to such an extent that it will take a year or two, under the most favorable circumstances, for it to recover.
– That had . nothing whatever to do with the cessation of the export trade; the only reason was the price of coal.
– The Minister is absolutely wrong-.
– There is no doubt that the honorable member is right.
– There, one of the Minister’s own supporters says that he is wrong.
– The embargo had nothing to do with it.
– Well, I ought to know the facts, because I was in touch with the -business with ‘ the Commonwealth officer a’t the port of Newcastle. Ships left Newcastle empty.
– While men were looking for work!
– Quite so; the mines were idle.
– Many ships left Newcastle laden.
– Yes, but none should have left empty.
– Does the honorable member for Newcastle suggest that the coal trade would have been better without any Government interference at all t
– There should have been no interference beyond seeing that the Australian market was supplied first in the days of shortage.
– That is all that was done.
– That ils where: the Minister is misinformed.
– The Minister is attempting by means of this conversation to deny the absolute facts of the case.
– I am trying to put the honorable member rigiht as to the facts.
– I can put the Minister right. Does the honorable gentleman deny that the first embargo was on one class of coal?
– I am not saying it was not, but it does not follow that some of the coal was not exported notwithstanding the embargo. The trouble is that the honorable member does not understand how the embargo worked.
– The first embargo was placed on the Maitland coal because it was said to be wanted for Australia, and- the Government plaoed officers at Newcastle in order to see that no such coal was exported. The other coal was allowed to be exported, but when the demand for coal outside became greater, and prices rose, some pressure was brought to bear in order that the exporters of Maitland coal might reap some of the advantages of the position. Instead of removing the embargo on the Maitland coal, the Government plaoed an embargo on the other class of coal as well.
– That was solely to get control, and it was the only way in which control could be exercised. The trouble was that the price of coal fell outside, while the price of Australian coal did not fall -with it.
– That came about much later. The Minister is evidently unaware of what was happening at that time at the port of Newcastle. Never while this embargo was on either class of coal could anybody at Newcastle complete a contract or order from abroad, simply because there was no certainty that the coal could be exported. That is what has ruined the coal trade at Newcastle; it was net the price of coal, because, contrary to what the Minister would have us understand, the price was good in the Australian markets.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) today made some reference to the antidumping legislation, and pointed out that the Government have appointed the Tariff Board to thoroughly examine into the condition of industries throughout
Australia. To-day, for the first time, the Government have openly admitted that the powers of this Board are practically unlimited. I may say that, at the request of the Board itself, I accompanieda deputation of workmen to the Board, and on that occasion Major Oakley, whom I am glad to see is a member of that body, did not say what the Prime Minister has told us to-day. Major Oakley said that the Board was restricted in its powers, and could not look into any question unless a plaint was placed before it by either a manufacturer or a consumer.
– It depends on what the question refers to; in some cases it is as the honorable member says.
– Then why does the Prime Minister make the solid statement to the contrary. The Prime Minister stated that the Board could initiate any inquiry.
– There are certain inquiries which the Minister cannot initiate. The Act makes that clear.
– I take it that the Board cannot have power to initiate an inquiry in relation to one duty or industry and not in relation to another; either the Board has power of initiation or it has not. The Prime Minister, in speaking of iron and steel, seemed to think that the anti-dumping legislation was intended to protect Australia only against importations from Germany. My understanding is thatwe passed that legislation to protect our industries against importations from any country if it could be proved that such importations would be prejudicial to Australian interests; the Act did not apply to Germany more than to any other country. A good deal has been said about Belgian blooms being manufactured in England and exported to Australia. There is every reason to believe that the British manufacturers of iron and steel became traders and imported from Europe partlymanufactured iron and steel, and then added the final 25 per cent, of manufacture in order to qualify their goods for export to Australia under the British preferential duties.
– The Tariff the honorable member helped to pass has proved to be an advantage to the importer.
– It has had that effect. Months ago agents were going about Australia seeking orders for steel to be delivered in 1922 without quoting any definite price, but giving an undertaking that the price would be below the Australian price, whatever it might be. Yet after all the acrimonious discussion in this House regarding the Tariff, the anti-dumping legislation’ and the Tariff’ Board Act, the Government allowed six months to elapse before appointing the Board, and even to date no big question has been decided by the Board or referred to the Minister or this Parliament. Honorable members will recollect that during the discussion upon the proposed higher duties to be levied upon iron and steel, Sir Joseph Cook, who was then in charge of the House, in order to expedite the passage of the Tariff, stated that the Government and Parliamentwould see that the established Australian works which were of a national character would not be allowed to close down. Yet, notwithstanding that promise by the Government, those works have to all intents and purposes ceased to exist.
-Does the honorable member think that had the Anti-Dumping Act been applied to explosives the unemployed problem would have been relieved?
– The honorable member should direct his attention to something which he understands. I ask him why the Government, who took so much care of the primary producer during the war, have allowed some of the secondary industries to languish through lack of assistance. Many men have retired from the land in order to enjoy the wealth that they accumulated during the war. Good luck to them! Throughout my political career I have done everything possible to assist the primary producer, but I think he should show a little consideration to the people engaged in other industries.
– The primary producer has done more for Australia than Australia has done for him.
– I admit that he has done a lot ; but the country has been good to him. No other man is so beholden to a paternal Government as is the man upon the land. In times of drought and trouble he is supplied with seed wheat and cheap wire-netting, and his stock is carried at cheap rates on the railways. I do not object to the granting of that aid, but I ask the primary producer and his representatives to realize that he is no t the only member of the community for whom the Government should care.
The Prime Minister in his references” toshipbuilding side-stepped the charge which had been made against the Government in that regard. During the war period the Government embarked upon a big policy of shipbuilding. After skilled artisans had been collected in different centres in the various States, they entered into an agreement with the Government to keep the work of ship construction in progress, and at the request of the Government expert tradesmen settled in the vicinity of ship-construction yards at Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Newcastle, on the understanding that permanent work would be available for some considerable time. I do not think any one could possibly take exception to the quality of the work performed by the men, and it was admitted by the Minister in charge of ship construction at the time that’ the workmanship was equal to that performed by more experienced men in other parts of the world. After this great organization had been undertaken, and the 5, 000-ton vessels had been completed, the Government allowed the work in connexion with the construction of the 12, 000-ton vessels to go to Great Britain, with the result that the Australian shipbuilding yards were closed down, and large numbers of highly-skilled men were thrown out of employment. Surely this is striking evidence of repudiation. Not only were the workmen penalized, but others . outside, including a State Government in one case, who were supplying certain materials, were placed at great disadvantage. It is possible that the larger vessels may have been constructed abroad at a somewhat lower rate, but even if such, were the case, it was the duty of the Government to carry out its promise, because the indirect benefit to the Commonwealth would have been considerable. Many of these men have been cheated by the Government, and have been put to considerable inconvenience and expense in transferring their homes to the centres where shipbuilding was being undertaken. In many instances they have been compelled to remain in those centres, and submit to unemployment, owing to the unfair tactics of the Prime Minister and his supporters. The
Prime Minister believes that the only remedy when unemployment is .rampant is for the working man to submit to longer hours and lower rates of pay; but surely he does not wish Australia to be placed on the same level as such cheaplabour countries as India and China. Australia is wealthy enough to keep all the people profitably employed, and it is ridiculous to suggest that those who have to do the real work should submit to unreasonable conditions in order to secure the prosperity we all desire. The charges levelled against the Government have not been answered by the Prime Minister. He evaded the main issue by referring to coal prices and to other matters concerning which he has little knowledge. He has said that the cost of coal is so high that certain industries are unable to proceed ; but I would remind the right honorable gentleman that the price of coal was fixed by him during the war period when miners and other workmen were faced with unusual financial pressure owing to the high cost of living. When a request was made for additional pay he granted an increase of 3s. per ton, out of which the men received as a maximum not more than ls. per ton, and it is now suggested that in order to bring down the price of coal the wages of the miners should be reduced. The Newcastle coal-miners have always been paid on a sliding scale, and when the question of a reduction in the price of coal is being considered, the men have a right to ask where they stand in relation to the sliding scale, and from what point a reduction would operate. The men say that there is a margin of over <Ls per ton, which was granted while the industry was controlled by the Commonwealth Government. This margin, they say, can be yielded to the people of this country before anything need be taken from the men at all. I have only to add that the position in Australia to-day in respect to unemployment, particularly in tlie centre which I represent, is so acute that it demands more serious attention than was given to it by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his speech to-day. It demands the attention of this National Parliament. While we admit that conditions are abnormal throughout the world, the situation demands that Parliament should do what it can at least to alleviate the distress until conditions become normal. It should tackle these .problems in the way that they ought to be tackled .by an Australian Parliament. There I leave the subject, and say, again, in conclusion, that it demands more serious attention than it had to-day at the hands of the Prime Minister.
.- I am a Labour man. I- came into this House as a Labour man pledged to a Labour programme, having signed the Labour pledge.
An amendment has been sprung upon the House in most unusual circumstances, directed, as it is, to a measure providing payment for soldier cases and the public employees. -
Some honorable members have probably heard of the act-ion taken by the Tammany gang that controls the Labour movement in New South Wales because I dared to raise objection to the power, influence, and services of the Labour movement being hawked around the streets of Sydney to the highest bidders. These Tammany bosses in Sydney, without any authority under the rule book or constitution of the Australian Labour party, illegally declared that I was expelled. Regardless of the action of these thieves and fakirs in Sydney, I am going to do my duty to my constituents.
Here is the pledge which I signed on coining into this House -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the selected Labour candidate, and to do all in my power to carry out the Federal Labour platform, and on all questions-
– I rise to a point of order. 1 desire your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the position existing between the honorable member for Cook and somebody outside this House has anything to do with the amendment before the Chair.
– At this stage I cannot say whether it has or has not. I do not know the line of argument the honorable member is about to pursue. I take ifr that he is leading up to an explanation of his attitude to the amendment in relation to the position existing between himself and the Labour party.
– I do not think I have ever previously seen a leader of a party so fidgety and jumpy. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has been bobbing up and down like a cork in a gutter. I am testing my attitude to this attempt to stop payment to the public employees and soldiers in relation to the pledges I have given before my constituents. The pledge that I signed was as follows: -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the selected Labour candidate, and to do all in my power to carry out the Federal Labour platform, and upon all questions affecting that platform to vote us a majority of the party may decide at a duly constituted Caucus meeting.
I have examined the motion and the amendment, and cannot see that my pledge to Labour is in any way affected by it.
Apparently, honorable gentlemen on this side of the House have decided to obey Tammany in, Sydney, for I received no notice to attend the meeting at which, apparently, it was decided to launch this amendment.
Mr.Charlton. - Did you give us any notice that you were going to form a new party?
– Not a new party, but a re-organization of Australian Labour party members outside the corrupt control of Macdonell House, of which I notified my colleagues. I gave the honorable member (Mr. Charlton)’ notice over and over again that the whole place was rotten and reeking with corruption. The honorable member knows it well, and every member of the party knows it. This is not the occasion to deal with that matter, but this House will not be very much older before I put the details of the affair before the Parliament and the people of this country.
The motion before the House is that a message from the Governor-General, Supply Bill (No. 1) 1922-23, be referred to a Committee of Supply. Upon this the Leader of the Opposition has moved -
That after the first 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 recommendation of the GovernorGeneral is that this House should vote “the necessary money to pay for such as the following : -
These items are all contained in the Bill which has been circulated, and which the Governor-General’s message seeks to refer to Committee of Supply.
The amendment asks that we shall side-track the request of the GovernorGeneral to pay the civil servants and soldiers, and refer this matter instead to a general election. Let the civil servants and the soldiers, and those who will benefit by the £180,000 for repatriation, wait until the general election.
My honorable friends know perfectly well that the only effect of carrying this amendment would be to deny to the Government of this country, as at present constituted, the right to vote these moneys. They knew perfectly well that to refuse to give effect to the GovernorGeneral’s message would precipitate a general election.
The Leader of the Opposition, in support of his amendment, said that he suspected that German goods were evading our Tariff, but he did not give a solitary positive instance. It was on this alone that he based his case for the extravagant words of the amendment. He gave no facts; his speech was all conjecture.
I have attempted to ascertain the facts. There are as many factories in Cook electorate as there are in any district in Australia. Some time ago I wrote to the managements, individually, of every factory, in Cook electorate, and inquired if there’ was anything I could do in this Parliament, or by approaching the Administration, which would enhance the prosperity of those factories or extend employment. I have heard rumours that the importation of German goods has been damaging to the -factories of Australia, but in only one instance was I informed by the management that it suspected that such was the case. Although this firm suspected that cheap motor parts were coming into Australiaj it could not give me precise information. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) will remember that I obtained, only last week, preliminary information to enable the firm to find out positively whether there was any dumping going on that was prejudicially affecting the factory. So far I have not been able to ascertain any positive facts. We cannot say of our own knowledge that factories are being prejudiced by dumping. Such information can be supplied only by the managements of these industries. These managements will not be slow to bring such a matter uuder the notice of the members for the electorates concerned.
Honorable members all took part in the framing of the Tariff.
– You did. I was looking after the workers’ interests.
– My honorable friend’s- conception qf looking after the workers’ interests are not quite the same as mine. The details of the Tariff were entirely in the hands of the House, and I know of no proposal submitted and rejected during the discussion of the Tariff or the Anti-Dumping Bill” that would have placed even the Newcastle steel works in a better position than to-day. Will some one tell us what to do to enable the idle steel workers to work full time?
– Send for Catts.
– The honorable member sent for me when a, corrupt selection “biffed” him out in 1917, and I rescued him from Tammany. When Maltese, who could not sign their names in English, were persuaded to put names on the flaps of envelopes and defeated him for selection, I had the corrupt selection annulled and his position restored. He should be the last man in the world to forget it.
The amendment is wholly denunciatory. It is not constructive in any way. Even if carried it could not give work to a solitary employee’. If it were directed to some proposal which would safeguard employment or wages my vote would support it. Suppose the amendment were carried and we had an election? Would it help the working men of Australia?
There has just been a test of feeling among the electors in the various States.
There is not one representative of Labour in this Parliament from Western Australia. A State election has just been held there, and some of the most respected of the Labour representatives have suffered defeat.
We have not a single representative of the Labour movement from . Tasmania in either House. At the State election just held in Tasmania this party’ has suffered a reduction in the primary Labour vote by some thousands.
In South Australia and Victoria there have recently been tests of public opinion, and Labour has not done well.
– Is that why you fled from the Labour party?
– The honorable member sent me an urgent telegram saying he did not know where he stood.
– I did not know whether your party was the real party or not.
– The honorable member will have plenty of opportunity to make an explanation.
– But I did not join your party, did I?
– The honorable member did not know where he stood.
There is only one Labour representative from Queensland in each Chamber of this Legislature, and I venture to suggest that it is largely because the health of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) is in such an unfortunate condition, and the general respect in which he is held that Labour in that State has a seat in this House. Every ‘ one knows that Labour will not face a Federal election in the northern State with any prospect of success.
What is the position in New South Wales? For months past the knees of some of the New South Wales Labour members have been knocking together, because of the foisting upon the party of the Brisbane Russian Soviet programme, which they know they cannot carry. They have called meetings in Sydney to protest against it; they have made their appeal to the State Labour Conference, representatives to the present Melbourne congress have pleaded for them; but all to no avail. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) knows that there is not a ghost of a. chance of his electors agreeing to> the Russian Soviet scheme.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said the same thing at a conference the other day, when he was accused of twisting.
– To which. I replied that it was natural to the occupation that I followed.
– The amendment now asks us to -refuse to grant Supply to pay the public servants of Australia by declining to consider the recommendation, of the Governor-General of the necessary appropriation. Labour members know that if the amendment were carried there would have to be an election, and that Labour could gain nothing by contesting an election at the present time.
Re unemployment. In New South Wales the present unemployment is due absolutely to the maladministration of Labour. In1920, immediately upon the return to office of a Labour Government in that State, Canadian financiers offered to advance the money necessary for the building of the North Shore bridge and the construction of the Sydney underground railway, works of absolute urgency. The transport of Sydney is now practically at a stand-still for lack of expansion of means of conveyance, it being impossible to run another car on the existing tram-lines, and the citizens are suffering enormous inconvenience in consequence. The Railways Commissioners have reported over and over again that the city transport arrangements are 50 per cent, above the safety point. This money was offered at a cheap rate. Had I known the matter would come up for discussion I would have’ brought with me documents relating to the offer.
– It has taken you a long time to make up your mind to talk about it.
– If my honorable friend had taken any real interest in this unemployment question, and had read the Labours News he would know that week after week I wrote special articles begging the Labour movement to undertake urgent payable public works that would give employment to the people, and that week ‘ after week, on Friday nights, I put this case before the Labour Executive. It was a Labour Government that sent Mr. Bradfield, the engineer, to Canada to obtain tenders outside Australia for the construction of the North Shore bridge.
Before the Queensland Government had borrowed money from America, at the rate of7½ per cent., the New South Wales Government had been offered a loan of £10,000,000 from New York at 6 per cent. Sir Denison Miller has shown that taking the rate of exchange into account the Queensland borrowing was profitable, and the advance offered to the New South Wales Government was, therefore, a wonderfully good business proposition from their point of view.
– For what period was the loan, to be made?
– For ten years. All this time I was endeavouring to thrash out some of these matters with Ministers. The late Mr. John Storey asked me to go through the papers dealing with the New York and Canadian offers, and work out the details for him. If the £10,000,000 loan offered from New York had been accepted, and within ten years the rate of exchange had come back to par, as it was predicted by leading financiers of the world it would, New South Wales would have obtained the money for nothing. At the present time the rate of exchange is nearly at par. However, that opportunity to borrow advantageously was lost.
Then £2,000,000 was offered byland-, holders living between Port Stephens and the northern line to build a railway from Port Stephens to Guyra and Inverell. That offer was not accepted by the Labour Government.
Mr. O’Halloran, a. Labour member for the eastern suburbs of Sydney, stated publicly that £500,000 was offered locally to build the eastern suburbs railway, a line which is very badly needed. That offer was refused.
Then the Nationalist member for North Shore, Mr. Weaver, stated that local people were prepared to put up money to pay for a. muchneeded tramway to cope with the congested traffic. That offer was not accepted.
There are wealthy municipalities around Sydney which have offered, times out of number I might almost say, to- raise the money needed to carry out water and sewerage extensions within their boundaries which they are unable to obtain from the Government, and those offers have never been accepted.
What were the reasons for the refusal of these offers ? All these works are of admitted urgency. Unemployment was increasing on every hand. The finance was offered to set the men to work One reason was this : The late Premier (Mr. John Storey) said that the rampant corruption in the party made it impossible for Labour Ministers to properly administer their Departments. ‘The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who sits near me muttering, has cursed the “Tammany boss” (John Bailey) up hill and down hill, but has not had the courage to help to fight for a cleaning up. It was because’ of the urgent appeal of Mr. John Storey, whose fatal illness was precipitated by the onslaughts and worry of “ Tammany “ inside the Labour movement, that in 1921 I went to the New South Wales Conference, and put up a. fight to save the Labour movement of the State from, as he put it, “a pack of savages.”
It is high time the whole of the workers were informed how they are sacrificed by the very organizations created for their special protection. The Labour movement in New South Wales has no chance to regain the confidence and good-will of the people until there has been a thorough cleaning up of the rottenness’ and corruption that is rampant among those controlling the movement in that State-.
I have matters of the utmost concern to the workers of New South Wales particularly, and, indeed, to the workers of Australia generally, to bring before the House, and I do not propose to deny myself that opportunity, by assisting to bring this Parliament to an end at the present time.
There is a notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that the old-age pensions shall be increased to£1 per week. I desire to support that motion, but if I voted for the amendment now before the House, I might assist to terminate this Parliament and thus deprive myself of the opportunity to vote for an increase in the oldage pensions.
There are also notices of motion with reference to the building of the hostel at Canberra and for the extension of the sewerage services of the projected city, to take the Federal Capital scheme a very long stride forward.
If we carry this amendment, we shall be delaying all these works, and without any possible hope of doing the slightest good for the workers of this country, because not a man on this side of the House believes that a dissolution and an appeal to the country will mean any material increase in the numbers that sit in opposi tion, even if a number of them can maintain their seats.
– There is not a mau who believes that a dissolution is in sight.
– What, then, is the good in indulging in all this hypocrisy?
Mr.Considine. - You are the only man who is talking about a dissolution. Nobody else is.
– Then what is the effect of the amendment? I am, applying two principles to my conduct - one to observe the pledges which I have given to my constituents, and the other to exercise my own common sense. In all cases where action contemplated is in consonance with those pledges, I shall vote in accordance therewith without regard to where it may take me.- I am applying the principle of common sense in the present instance. I do not propose to vote against the request of His Excellency the Governor-General that the House should go into Committee in order to provide the necessary means for the payment of the Public Service, which includes a considerable amount in wages, to returned soldiers, besides the expenditure of nearly £200,000 for repatriation, and a number of other very worthy objects. I believe that an overwhelming number of my constituents wish to see these services provided for straightway. I am satisfied that the adoption of the amendment would not conserve the interests of the workers or my constituents in any shape or form.
. The amendment submitted by my honorable Leader (Mr. Charlton) contains some very grave charges against the Government. Up to the present there have been three speeches in defence of the Ministry, one by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), one by the Prime Minister himself (Mr. Hughes), and the speech we have just listened to from the honorable member fpr Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts). The only comment I have to make concerning the iast is that it should have been delivered from the other side of the House, for it contained many charges against the inside working of lie Labour movement. All I will say on that point is that whilst these things were alleged to be happening at the gatherings of the party, the honorable member for Cook was breaking his neck to be campaign director of the party. There has been practically no answer to the charges which have been levelled against the Government. Only courtesy would characterize the speech by the Minister for Trade and Customs as a reply, and as for the Prime Minister, . well, his speech was degrading to a degree to the dignity of this Parliament. Honorable members supporting the Government may laugh. I know this statement does not quite suit them, but, nevertheless, it is true. For nearly half-an-hour the Prime Minister’s remarks were absolutely irrelevant to the whole question before the House. . He was simply camouflaging the position by talking about the Labour Conference, and about the Labour da64:le, and misrepresenting the things that were done in assemblies of the Labour party. Nothing that he said had anything whatever to do with the amendment submitted by my Leader-. Whilst he was speaking I was reminded of the squid which, when alarmed, ejects a lot of dirty murky fluid in an effort to escape detection.
– That is not original, YOU know.
– It certainly is not original. I do not claim to have originated the squid. I should be very sorry to do that. Honorable members opposite are welcome to that questionable honour. The Prime Minister, in his own polite language, characterized the charge that the Government had deliberately created unemployment as an infamous lie. My reply to that is that. the charge is irrefutable. I say that the action of the Government is infamous to a degree, and as I proceed I shall prove what I say. First of all, the Prime Minister said that we can only solve the problem of unemployment by . reducing the cost of production. And then he went on to say that the price of coal could be reduced if the miners in the coal-fields of Newcastle ate less. That is the Prime Minister’s remedy, and the remedy of honorable members in both parties on the Ministerial side of the House. There must, so they declare, be lower wages and longer hours of work. During the whole of the Prime Minister’s speech, we heard nothing at all about the 150 per cent, profits of the coal barons, and no sugges tion that in order to bring down the cost of production they should eat less or drink less or waste less in luxuries. No! But the men who go down into the bowels of the earth and do the hard toil in order to carry on our industries must, says the Prime Minister, eat less and receive less. That is the remedy, and that is the motive behind the immigration campaign. Not so long ago a Commission appointed to inquire into the profits of the coal barons showed that profits ranged from 10 per cent, to 154 per cent., but, as I have said, we heard nothing of this aspect of the cost of production from the Prime Minister. All we heard was that the miners must eat less and get less. In a lucid moment he said that the question of unemployment went down deeper than the question of Tariff protection. I agree with. him. We shall never solve our unemployment troubles until we wipe out the cursed system under which we are living and working to-day. The Prime Minister, in referring to the Economic Conference, said that honorable members on this side of the House had made it a farce. I tell the House that if the workers of this country had any faith in the Prime Minister’s promises ; if they could believe one word he says in public or private, they would have assembled at that round-table conference. Before he convened the conference he went to his constituents at Bendigo and declared there, that wages must come down. Therefore, the Economic Conference was called for one purpose, and one purpose only, namely, to sanction a reduction in the wages of Australian workers. In that speech, delivered on 21st January, 1922, he said that prices had come down, and that wages must also come down. And here is the other part of the scheme. In the very same speech he said that the Government’s scheme to increase the flow of immigration to this country had cost £250,000 in overhead expenses alone. It was well named a “scheme.” The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) made a strong indictment against the Government on the question of the AntiDumping Act, but there is an equally strong, if not stronger, indictment upon which he had merely time to touch, against their immigration scheme. I heard the right honorable gentleman to-day speak about hypocrisy. Let me refer to some of his hypocritical statements. The right honorable gentleman says that he is against any scheme; of bringing immigrants to this country unless arrangements are made for their settlement. He read extracts from his statements to the State Ministers to the effect that no arrangements had been made for the settlement of immigrants on their arrival here. He stands condemned by his own admissions. First of all he told us he had spent £250,000 to organize a scheme to bring out immigrants to Australia, and then he turned around and declared that no arrangements had been made to settle them on their arrival. Let us see how these immigrants are being “ settled “ on the land. In a speech delivered in the Melbourne Town Hall on 30th May last, Mr. Ryan, M.L.A., the president of the New Settlers League, Victoria, said that we had the best type of immigrants coming here, and he supplied proof that men were working contentedly in the bush for 34s. per week. See the significance of that statement. If this country could be flooded with men who would work contentedly for 34s. a week, the question of settling Australia with the “ best type “ of men would be solved for those who are after cheap labour. However, I have made personal investigation into these matters. The Prime Minister declares that immigrants are not being brought out unless they are in advance provided with land, and are likely to- become producers. If provision were first made for our landless and workless people no one would welcome immigrants from overseas more readily than would the Labour party, but in spite of the fact that there are 50,000 or 60,000 workers out of employment in Australia - the registered number of trade unionists now out of work is 43,000, and if the unemployed were all registered the number would, probably, be 50,000 or 60,000 - and in spite of the fact that Ministers admit that they are unable to find any solution for the problem of unemployment, they are now embarked upon a scheme for bringing out still more immigrants from Europe. The statement has been made that the whole immigration scheme is on a satisfactory basis. I met a group of men who landed two weeks ago from the Largs Bay. They were mostly ex-service men whose passages had been paid, I believe, by the British Government. One man had left a railway job in England because alluring advertisements paid for by Commonwealth Government money had promised him better conditions - in fact, splendid opportunities, and a chance to make a home in. Australia for himself, his wife, and two children. This man was typical of scores I interviewed. I can give his name and address, and if the Government are- prepared to do their duty they can find him one of the jobs promised in the Commonwealth Government’s lying advertisements. He went to the Labour Bureau immediately on his arrival and interviewed Mr. Whitehead. He was offered a chance of “ settling “ on the land. What’ was that chance ? Employment away in the depths of Gippsland at 15s. per week and his keep, upon, which to maintain, himself here and his wife and two children in the Old Country. Another man who told me that he had his wife and three children with him, was offered £1 per week to go away back the other side of Swan Hill. Still another man was sent to a place further out than Swan Hill. When he got there the person who was to meet him failed to do so, and this “settler” had to walk half-way back to the city, although the was suffering from “a shrapnel wound in the knee received at Bullecourt. Some of ‘ these men have sent letters to the press, but not one line of. them has been published. However, I have copies of the letters. The Prime Minister has told us that we on this side of the chamber must shoulder the responsibility for everything said and done by any one in the name of the Labour movement. Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to shoulder the advocacy of cheap black labour by Premier Barwell, of South Australia, a prominent member of the National party?
– No; I am opposed to it, but the honorable member and his party are in favour of black labour.
– That statement is just about as untrue as the others made by the right honorable gentleman.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– Very well, I do so. Not only is there a State Premier, a member of the National party, advocating cheap coloured indentured labour as part of the general scheme to break down wages, but we have also a member of this Parliament supporting the same policy; yet not one word of repudiation has been uttered by the Prime Minister.
– I have spoken a thousand times since then denouncing what Sir Henry Barwell said.
– I am now referring to SenatorFairbairn, and the Prime Minister has said nothing about that honorable senator. In order to turn aside the attack to-day, the Prime Minister came along with a. great deal of empty talk, emitting stuff like a squid. He spoke about Labour conferences and about Labour washing its dirty linen and all that sort of thing. He was very nice in his epithets. All I can say is that the oceans are not vast enough to wash the dirty record of his own party. I have not been in Parliament very long, but I have at least some idea of what should be the standard of honour of a National Parliament. I did not think that any Government could have survived the Ready-Earle scandal. Yet we have the Prime Minister talking about dirt and the washing of dirty linen. All the dirt washed out of the linen of the Labour party would “not make a smear on the record of the present Government. The right honorable gentleman has told us that Labour members are like flies caught in the web of the unions. That charge was applied to him when he was in the Labour party, but the web is at least one woven by the honest workers and toilers of this country. On the cither side of the chamber I see the renegades of Labour sneering and jeering. They do not like their gruelling. I tell the Prime Minister that I would rather be in the web woven by these honest toilers than in one woven by the moneyed power and commercial and financial groups of Australia. The right honorable gentleman is right in the centre of a web, the threads of which arc a £25,000 tip from the moneyed crowd. Yet he charges us with being in a web, we who retain our independence and stand up for the great mass of the toilers in this country, instead of for the exploiters or money-bugs, or the commercial interests which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) says he has to inter view and confer with before he can put into operation an Act of this Parliament, We are not in thatsort of web. We are in one web woven by honest workers, and not by the people who are living as parasites upon the toil of the workers.
I watched the buffoonery of the Prime Minister as he turned the handle of an imaginary machine engaged in printing notes to provide work for the unemployed. It was not even original. I saw the same thing done in this House ten years ago, when the right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General in a Labour Government which I was then supporting. At -that time we had under consideration the Australian Notes Bill, which was introduced by the Fisher Government, and honorable, members opposite, who were then in opposition, described the proposed Australian note issue as “Fisher’s flimsies.” -They condemned the . Bill without reservation. They told us that “ Fisher’s flimsies “ would be sold in the streets for 10s., and perhaps for 5s. each ; and, as the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) was speaking in support of the measure, * I can well remember an honorable member of the Opposition of that clay turning the handle of an imaginary printing -machine, just as the Prime Minister did this afternoon in imitation of what was done to him some ten years since. The right honorable . gentleman’s action was not original, but is typical of the buffoonery in which he indulges.
– Is that not what they are doing in Russia, where the honorable member’s friends are?
– The Prime Minister and his Government, like the British Government, are anxious to resume trade relations with Russia at the present time. The right honorable gentleman a little while ago would not even think of a resumption of trade with Germany. He solemnly declared, “If you are going to trade with Germany, you will have to get another Prime Minister “ ; but he tells us to-day that, if the Parliament so decides, we shall have trade with Germany. This is but another of his many broken pledges.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) gave away the whole case for the Government when, in his attempt to reply to the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, he said that the Government could not protect men who declined to face reasonable conditions of employment. Because the workers of Australia are not prepared to reduce their standard of living - because they are not prepared to accept lower wages and longer hours - they are not to be given the protection of an Act of this Parliament designed to prevent dumping and to provide more employment in this country.
I heard the Prime Minister to-day refer to the “ abyssmal ignorance “ of economic principles displayed by an honorable member of the Opposition. What of the economics of the Government side of the House. I do not think honorable members opposite really believe in them. If they do, they certainly do represent the most abyssmal ignorance. The suggestion that the way to provide more employment for the workers is to reduce wages and lengthen hours is the most absurd economic statement to which one could listen. Its absurdity is intensified by a reference to the history of the centuries. We need not go back to the history of Old World countries. We have only to refer to the reports of Royal Commissions in Victoria and New South Wales as to the conditions of labour here before a Labour Government, or, indeed, a Labour man had appeared in a State Parliament. Those reports show that men working in tailors’ shops received 2s. 3d. for making a suit of clothes: that people were working eighty hours a week for a wage of 7s. 6d. Such conditions were typical. A Royal Commission reported that the workers had only one option - they had either to accept starvation wages or to appeal to charity. If the economics professed by honorable members opposite were sound, one would imagine that there would have been plenty of work for the people under those conditions. But there was not. I heard the Prime Minister, when he was leading the forces of Labour, from the place where he now stands, make the most passionate appeals to the House in support of better working conditions, and declare that he himself had starved in the big cities of this country. He has about him to-day men who were then supporting Labour and who have had a like experience. There has been a change, but it is not we who have changed. We are still the same Labour party - standing for the same working class - fighting and resisting the same old schemes that have been brought’ in again and again to drag down wages and working conditions in Australia.
I want only to say, in conclusion, that’ the charges we have levelled against this Government are based on two main facts - (1) that they have not administered an Act passed by this Parliament to protect Australian industry from dumping - and on the facts and figures produced by the Leader of the Opposition that charge has been proved up to the hilt - and (2) that they are spending the workers’ money in flooding Australia with immigrants to drag down wages. Members of the Nationalist party are also advocating the recruiting of coloured labour to assist in the degradation of the worker. By these means they hope to bring about prosperity for themselves and the degradation of the toiling masses. They are seeking to fulfil a prophecy made some time ago by one of the most prominent leaders of the antiLabour movement, in Australia, who declared that “In the plenitude of time, when our millions shall have become tens of million’s, we shall have a crop of misery which will solve for ever the problem of cheap labour.” This, then, is how they propose to solve the problem. “Eat less and wear fewer clothes,” says the Prime Minister to the miners. “Never mind the profits of the 150 per centers; but eat less, wear less clothing, work longer hours.” That is the capitalistic solution of the problem of unemployment, and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs must bear the odium of it. If we do not carry this amendment, we shall at least have accomplished something by it. We shall have shown, the people what the Government stand for, and if we cannot win here we shall appeal to a wider and more humanitarian field, where we shall yet win.
Motion (by Mr. Considine) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to - .
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means to be appointed before the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech has been agreed to by the House, and to enable all other steps to be at once taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all stages without delay.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1922-23 a sum not exceeding £2,481,850. As honorable members are aware, the financial year ends on the 30th June, and, under the Audit Act, all the grants which have been made by Parliament lapse as soon as, the year has closed. This does not apply to votes under special ap propriations or under loan appropriations, nor does it apply to amounts which are in the trust funds created by the Treasury, such, for example, as the Trust Fund for old-age pensions, and for war pensions, and invalid pensions. But so far as all the ordinary services and functions of government are concerned,’ the minute the year closes a guillotine descends, the whole of the supplies which have been granted are cut off, and there are no ways or means of carrying on ordinary, routine functions, unless Parliament has granted Supply prior to the closing of the year. That is why it is necessary now. to ask Parliament to grant Supply. We must be able to carry on the necessary work of government. The measure which is to be submitted proposes that Supply shall be granted for one month. Included in the amount set down, however, is a sum to meet the payments due to the Public Service on the 4th August next - that is to> say, to cover an ordinary fortnightly pay. There will be three such payments included in the total. The period which it is proposed that the Bill shall cover is the shortest practicable term over which the Government could carry on. This period has been decided upon deliberately, because I trust that before Parliament is again asked to grant Supply I shall have been able to bring down the Budget for the consideration of honorable members. In expressing my desire to do this, I realize that I am about to be faced by great and real difficulties. The suggested date is a very early one for the introduction of the Budget, but I feel that it is essentia] that the people should know at the earliest possible date^ - and I have in mind particularly the commercial and trading community - what is our existing financial situation and what are the financial proposals of the Government. The other side, which has to be considered, is that it would not be fair to ask Parliament for Supply over an extended period until honorable members have had an opportunity of hearing exactly what are the Government financial proposals for the year.
As to the Bill itself, the amount asked for is £2,481,850. If honorable members will look at the summary at the commencement they will see that that total is made up of three different amounts. The first amount is £1,561,850, for general activities under ordinary votes; the second is £170,000 for refunds of revenue, and the third is an advance to the Treasurer of -£750,000. The amount of £1,561,850, under the heading of ordinary votes, is based on last year’s Estimates. The total amount for 1921-22 for ordinary votes was £24,715,282. Included in that amount there was, however, £5,548,815 for a . payment under the funding agreement with the British Government. This funding arrangement is now met . under an appropriation. For comparison, therefore, that amount should be deducted, as we have not to provide it this year. From the £24,715,282 of ordinary votes last year we have to deduct the payment of £5,548,815 under ‘ the funding arrangement; and the comparison we have to take after making that deduction is with the figure of £19,166,467. One-twelfth of that amount is £1,597,206; and now, for one month’s Supply, we are asking for only £1,561,850, an amount less by about £30,000 than was voted last year. The reduction, however, is considerably greater, because, as I told honorable members when I commenced, we are including three pays instead of two, as would be the case with ordinary Supply for onemonth.
The Committee will, I think, agree that the Government are asking for a very reasonable amount, the smallest that can be expected in the case “of a month’s Supply. The next item of £170,000, for refunds of revenue, is not one that I think we can in any way control, because it is merely to make repayments and do justice to those who have paid in excess of their liability.
Mr.Watt. - Either in direct or indirect taxation 1
– In any way; and in-, eluded is a certain amount for payments of obligations such as the proportion of cable receipts. All such payments are covered by this item of expendihire, and I do. not think that honorable members need worry themselves very much in regard to “it. The £750,000 for Treasurer’s Advance is a substantial sum, but it is one which has been asked for fairly generally for many years past, though I do not put that forward as a. justification for the amount. The item is a necessary one; and if I give to the House one direction in which this advance will have to be expended, it will, I think, satisfy the majority of honorable members that we are not asking for an unreasonably large vote. As announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, proposals will be placed before the House for an exhaustive programme extending over some years with regard to telegraphic and telephonic communication in this country. The full pro- posals cannot at this stage be considered, and finalized, so as to enable us to proceed definitely with the work; and until such time as the House has set its seal of approval on them it is necessary that the Treasurer shall be able to make advances to the Postmaster-General’s Department in order that the work may not be in any way delayed. That is the only abnormal item included in the payments from the Treasurer’s Advance. The balance of the payments are of an ordinary character,” such as arise year by year, and inevitably have to be met. They mainly embrace moneys to carry on work already approved by Parliament, but in regard to which the grants have lapsed, in consequence of the determination of the year. There arealso small matters such as credits for such establishments as the Government Printing Office. I think the House will be con- tent with the assurance that there is no amount involved in the Treasurer’s Advance other than the advances which have tobe made to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Does the Treasurer assure the Committee that there are no new commitments in the departmental items ?
– There are no new commitments ; the item is merely for carrying on purposes. In presenting this Bill I should have liked to make some sort of statement as to the Government’s financial transactions for the past year; but I think it would be inadvisable to attempt to do so. The accounts are naturally not yet finalized; the last month of the financial year is that in which the greatest amount of revenue comes in, and the greatest alterations take place in the accounts, because of adjustments that have to be made at such a time. A statement today would inevitably have to be altered, and possibly very materially altered, in the next few days; and for that reason I refrain from making any comments on the position as already disclosed or estimated by the Treasury Department. It is desirable, however, that at the earliest possible opportunity the House should have such information as we can give in regard to the transactions of the past year; and I anticipate that next week I shall be able to give an estimate which will prove reasonably correct. As soon as 1 am in a position to do so I shall lay on the table of the House a statement giving the Treasurer’s estimate at that date.
– Will that deal with loan as well as revenue moneys?
– We shall try to deal with both, but I cannot at the moment say whether we shall be able to do so; even if we are, the figures will be by no means final, for they can only be an estimate. For further figures I ask the House to wait until the Budget is presented, which will be at the earliest’ possible date. There is nothing further in the Bill to which I wish to refer. I can assure honorable members that there is no expenditure of an extraordinary or novel character contemplated by this measure, which I now commend to the Committee for acceptance.
, - I congratulate the Treasurer on the explanation he has given the Committee regarding this Bill and his promise to submit the Budget at an early date. I accept his assurance that the Bill includes no expenditure other than for proposals which have been already approved by Parliament. The only subject to which I desire to draw attention to-day is that of old-age pensions. Recently the Treasury has been reviewing the pensions, and the payments to very many of the old people have been cut down because of an increase in the value of the property they own. That increase is due largely to the inflation of values that occurred during the war. In New South Wales a Public Valuators’ Department was created, and it led to an increase in the valuations of property by 50 per cent, and 60 per cent. The pensions of the old people who own property have been reduced proportionately, and I ask that the Treasurer when preparing his Budget will consider whether he cannot make provision to increase the old-age pension? In view of the. fact that the cost of living to-day is 45 per cent, higher than it was in 1914, and that some of ‘ the pensioners are- receiving less than they received then, it is difficult to understand how they are able to live at all.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) upon his appointment to die high office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Those of us who are looking for sound and economical government centre our hopes in his ability U do something to stop the financial drift that has been in progress for some years I congratulate him also on the good commencement he has made by promising to submit the Budget before 4th August, and I hope that he will be able to show his determination to sit tightly upon the lid of the Treasury chest, in order to prevent any increase in expenditure, and, if possible, bring about a reduction in taxation. We expect him also to clear up many of the Government trading transactions, in regard to which we have not been able to get any satisfactory information in the past. I refer especially to the accounts relating to sugar and shipping. We want some of those transactions put before the public in all their nakedness, to show where the Government stand and where the taxpayer will stand in relation to them. This exposure, whether it prove decent or indecent, is necessary in the public interest.
This is the first opportunity I have had of dealing with the important subject of telephone services in the country. During the recess events occurred in my own electorate which should not be possible in a civilized . community. -For between four and five years a telephone line to the villages of Valery and Marlbrook has been sought, but notwithstanding repeated promises that it would be constructed nothing has been done. - During the last few months three deaths Were actually caused through telephone communication not being available. Valery is situated in the mountains midway between COE s Harbor and Bellingen. In both those places there are doctors, but, if sickness occurs in Valery, there being no telephone communication with either of the other two places, the patient has to be conveyed 25 miles to Bellingen, only to discover on arrival there, perhaps, that the doctor has gone to attend a case 40 or 50 miles distant in the country. - The patient has then to turn about and travel another 25 miles to Coffs Harbor. In connexion with the fatal cases to which I have referred, the condition of the patients was aggravated by this unnecessary travelling, and if dealt with in time would not have caused death. If there is one thing that tends to interfere with settlement, particularly pioneering, it is this condition of affairs. . I take the earliest opportunity of placing this matter before the House, and saying that the excuse so repeatedly offered that material is not available for the construction of the line is not true. I discovered that when these deaths took place there was over 200 miles of telephone wire in Grafton which could have been utilized as soon as the Department installed 25 yards of underground cable. There were no obstacles to the provision of telephone connexion with Valery. I make these observations in the hope of forcing the Department’s hands, and preventing the further repetition of the statement that something will be done for the people in the country when the material is available.
.- I understand that both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee have made recommendations to* Parliament in regard to the provision of more office accommodation for Commonwealth Departments; yet I find that the item for rent in this Bill appears exceptionally large. For the one month covered by the Bill an amount of £11,335 is provided for that purpose. I hope that when’ the Government are formulating their financial policy they will consider the erection of Government buildings to house the public Departments.
– At Canberra?
– More accommodation is required in the State Capitals.
– If we are to shift to Canberra we have all the office accommodation we require in Melbourne.
– I do not think so. At any rate, the rent roll is very big, and I know that both Committees reported on this subject after taking evidence from experts.
– The Economies Commission dealt with it.
– Long before the Economies Commission dealt with this matter it was reported upon by the Public Accounts Committee, whose report was merely copied by the other body. Probably the Treasurer is investigating this matter, but it seems to me that both in Melbourne and Sydney more office accommodation is required.
One other matter to which I desire to refer is the dismissal of munition workers and others. I have heard only to-day that arrangements are being made to retain or transfer some of the men whose dismissal had been recommended.
– We have done that wherever possible.
– I think more could be done, because the distress caused by these dismissals is cruel. The Government should not be guilty of that sort of thing, and if they will do nothing to avoid the distress that is being caused we shall have to ventilate this grievance again and again until some redress is given.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That’ the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means,, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Messages were received from the Senate asking the House to resume the consideration of the following Bills at the stages reached last session: -
Public Service Bill.
Air Defence Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Fergus, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1922 - No. 20 - Succession Duties (No. 2).
Railways Act - By-law No. 22.
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 85, 86.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1922, No. 84.
House adjourned at 5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 June 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220630_reps_8_99/>.