8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Address-in -Reply : Censure Amendment.
Debate resumed from 5th July on motion by Mr. Jackson -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliamentassembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament -
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address-in-Reply : - “ but we regret that your Advisers have made no provision to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions.”
– I am sorry that I was not able to be here yesterday, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved his amendment, but I have informed myself as well as I could by a perusal of the press reports of his speech and from the notes taken by my honorable colleagues. It would serve no good purpose to remind the honorable member that he has taken a very unusual course in moving two censure motions without an interval between them. In his speech in support of the amendment now before the House ho covered, for all practical purposes, the ground traversedlast week in his first attack.
Before I come to the honorable member’s charges, there is a matter of procedure to which I must refer. According to the newspaper accounts of yesterday’s proceedings, exception was taken by some of the honorable member’s party to the moving of the adjournment of the debate by the Minister then in charge of the House. When I was informed that the Leader of the Opposition intended to move an amendment on the Address-in-Reply, I said that if he desired the adjournment of the debate I would consent to it, but that otherwise the discussion should continue. The course taken by the Government was the proper one. In moving the adjournment of the debate, we followed an almost invariable custom ; to do otherwise would have been an act of discourtesy to the Opposition. Had I been present, however, and heard from the honorable member’s own lips that he took exception to the proposed adjournment, the debate would not have been adjourned.
Let me now deal with his charges seriatim. The honorable member claimed credit on behalf of his party for the results arrived at through the Washington Conference, for the reference of the wireless agreement to the Parliamentary Committee, for the expansion of telephone and telegraph connexions, and for the reduction of the defence vote. He did not disclose the grounds on which these claims were based, and an examination of the facts will show them to be without foundation.
The honorable member claimed kudos for himself and his party for what was done at the Conference at Washington.. During the many years that I have been a. member of the House, I have known audacity, under the whip of party exigencies, to go to great lengths, but I have not heard any statement quite so audacious as this. The honorable gentleman said that the Labour party was responsible for the appointment of a delegate to represent the Commonwealth at Washington, and that attention had been drawn by the Labour party to the need for Australian representation there. No doubt the Labour party did draw attention to this matter; I should be surprised to hear of anything in the wide world to which, at some time or another, the Labour party has not drawn attention. But, as the honorable member has claimed credit for the achievements of the Washington Conference, seeking to make it appear that without the efforts of the Labour party no good thing would have come out of Washington, I must quote extracts from that very inconvenient publication known to oi woXXoi as Hansard, to show where the honorable member and his party really stood in reference to Australian representation at Washington. On 6th October last (Hansard, vol. XCVII, page 11717), the honorable member is reported as saying -
What are we here going to do? I have not a word to say against Senator Pearce personally, but I venture to say that the Government could not have picked a more unsuitable man for the job.
And, two pages later -
The Minister for Defence ( Senator Pearce) , who has been appointed to represent Australia at the Washington Conference, is the most unsuitable person that could have been selected.
. In the circumstances, the Government could not have made a more unwise selection.
We cannotsee the possibility of the Disarmament Conference being a success unless it comprises representatives of the different political parties throughout the world. I therefore move as an amendment -
That the motion beamended by omitting all the words after “That”, with a view of inserting in lieu thereof the following: words: - “ in the opinion of this House the Disarmament Conference to be held at Washington is of vital importance, and that Australia should be represented thereat by a representative of the Government and each of the other parties, and that the decisions of such Conference should bc subject to ratification by this - Parliament.”
The honorable gentleman’s attitude was supported quite naturally by honorable members who spoke on his side. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was amongst them; on page 11792 of Hansard. -we find him saying -
The Australian delegate at Washington should not hesitate to. tell the capitalistic authorities of Great Britain that never -again will an Australian go to the aid of Britain in any war in which they may be assisting a yellow race to fight white men. I have no faith in Senator Pearce, and no expectation that he will utter such sentiments as those. I do not believe that lie is a pacifist. I am not at all sure that he will advocate disarmament.
Then the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), referring to Senator Pearce, said -
To send him seems to me like sending a publican to a Prohibition Conference.
On the same occasion, the honorable mem-, ber for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said -
All I can say on that point is, as I said by way of interjection, that the Government could have only made one worse choice, and that would have been the Prime Minister himself.
It is clear, therefore, that if any good thing has come out of “Washington, and if my distinguished and right honorable colleague has come back, as he has done, having covered himself with distinction and credit, it is not due to honorable gentlemen opposite, for they not only did all they could to prevent him going, but they urged a course which they knew was quite impracticable. They suggested that there should be’ substituted for Senator Pearce some other representative, and that he should be accompanied by a representative from each of the other political parties in this Parliament. They did that, though they very well knew that it was not for us to decide how many should go. The Government of the United States of America issued the invitations, and restricted the number of representatives from each country invited. The Dominions as such were not recognised at all, but went by virtue of the fact that they were partners in the British Empire.
As the attitude of honorable memberson the other side, or most of them, towards the British Empire is perfectlywell known - and it is known that the party are opposed to the British Empire, even when they do not say so - it must be said that not only is the honorable gentleman’s party not entitled to the credit for the achievements of the Washington Conference, but that all that has been gained has come despite the policy and the opposition of honorable members of the Official Labour party, and that they are not entitled to claim any share whatever in the splendid results of that Conference.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Wireless Agreement, claiming this also to be due to the action of his party. Doubtless the honorable member referred to those subterranean machinations’ by which they manage to influence the affairs of the world, let- alone the affairs of the Commonwealth, but of which we see not the faintest signs above the surface of things. But the honorable gentleman’s, party is not entitled to any credit in this matter. On the other hand, whatever has been done has been done despite their opposition. What are the facts about the Wireless Agreement 1 The honorable gentleman finds himself in this position : Whilst he takes credit for the ‘agreement, he says that it should never have been executed. I think it may be said that one could secure unanimity on the other side for the execution of only one thing and .that is myself. Let me state the facts relating to this matter. A motion covering a draft wireless agreement was put before this House, and agreed to. The motion read -
That the House approves of the execution by the Prime Minister of the agreement proposed to- bc made -between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a draft of which has been laid upon the table of the House, subject to investigation and approval, with such alteration as they may deem necessary, by a Committee to consist “of six members of the House of Representatives, two nominated by the Prime Minister, two -by the Leader of the Opposition, two by the Leader of the Country , party. and three members of the Senate, such senators’ to be Senators DrakeBrockman, J. D. Millen, and Wilson.
When this motion was submitted, debate ensued, the honorable member and his party opposed the motion, a division waa taken, .and the Leader of the Opposition and his party voted against it. Whatever there is of virtue, either in the motion itself, the Committee which the motion created, or the decisions of that Committee, or the agreement, or its execution, comes as the result not of the support of the honorable gentle- man and bis party, but despite their opposition. They wore beaten in the division on the motion. The House authorized, and in fact directed the Government to take certain action -subject to certain conditions which were set out in the motion -
That the House approves of the execution of the agreement proposed to be made subject to the investigation and approval of a Committee to consist of six members of the House of Representatives, and -three members of the Senate.
The Committee was appointed; it met and considered -the matter at great length, and by eight votes to one recommended the ratification and execution of the agreement. The only dissentient member of the Committee, the honorable member for Batman, about whose attitude on this matter a certain amount of mystery seems to prevail, did not put in his minority report until a few days before, the assembling of Parliament. No doubt the honorable gentleman will say that this belated dissent has no political significance whatever, and that, its relation to party is so remote as not to be measurable. All I have to say to that is that while he may tell that to the marines or to his constituents the people of this’ country will never believe it. The facts are then, that the agreement was signed because this Parliament by a specific motion directed the Government to sign it, and neither for the idea, the motion, the Committee, or the agreement itself, are the Leader of the Opposition and his party entitled to one iota of credit. The honorable member next takes credit for the proposed expansion of post and telegraphic facilities. It is true, of course - and one must give the devil his due - that honorable members opposite are always in favour of expanding every thing. Insignificant as I am, I have had the* honour of their support on more than one occasion when I have moved motions which expanded matters in which; they . were vitally interested. When it is a question of imposing new burdens by the expenditure of public money, one may always rely with confidence on the support of honorable members of the Labour party, and it is no doubt true that they have always said that they were in favour of the expansion of postal and telegraphic facilities ; but the Leader of the Opposition must forbear with me a moment while I remind him of one or two rather painful facts. He and many of those who are with him to-day were followers of mine in days gone by. We were in office for years. We had ample opportunity to. do a great many things. We had an overwhelming majority - 72 members - in both Houses. The honorable member was not then, as he is now, a member of a party - poor, forlorn, rejected,- and despised, compelled to resort to most abject and miserable expedients in order to attract attention. On the con- .trary, he was a member of a party whose word was law. I invite him now to tell us what any of the Labour Governments, including my own - because we want to be perfectly fair in the matter - did for the telegraphic and telephonic communications of Australia. He cannot deny )h.at we could have done a good deal more in a direction which he now sees possible. 1 claim that - the present Government is entitled to the credit of having’ done and shown the way to do far more for the expansion of postal and telegraphic facilities throughout this country than was done by any preceding Government, and that the credit is not to be shared by the honorable member or his party. They did not do these things when they had the power. If they had the reins of power now they would, owing to the forces which control th,in, destroy this country.
The honorable member, having taken credit for the contemplated expenditure of some millions of pounds on postal and telephonic facilities next claims credit for the reduction effected in. the defence expenditure. There is something in this assertion which makes me a little apprehensive. When I see the honorable member associated, as he is now, with people whose ideas were abhorrent to him a little while ago, I cannot but feel ti little anxious when I learn that he and those with him approve of anything that’ this Government has done. We know very well what their attitude was towards this country during the war, and what their - suggestions were when Australia was standing with ite back to the wall and literally fighting for its life.
We remember their counsels for a premature peace, and their protests against reinforcements. What, then, nave we done in regard to the Defence Forces of thi, country that has secured the approbation of such a party? I shall say no more about this matter now than to remark that the fact that the honorable member takes credit for and supports the action of the Government in this regard is a rather sinister circumstance. During last session the honorable member did all that he could to put the Government out of office. He moved motions which, had they been carried, would, as he must have known, have destroyed the whole Military Defence Force of this country, thrown tens of thousands of men out of work, and rendered the Commonwealth helpless before her enemies. We must never forget that the honorable member’s motions which, if carried, would have destroyed the Defence Force of Australia, were moved long before the Washington. Conference had made a reduction in military expenditure possible. Even at a time when the honorable member said that such a Conference could not succeed, he wished us to go far beyond what we have done to-day. For the present reductions the Government, and the Government alone, are responsible. If there be some things for which, credit is due, which, since the honorable member supports them, I begin to doubt - the credit belongs to the -Government, and not to the honorable member, who would have had us disarm and leave ourselves defenceless in the face of the enemy before the Washington Conference had yet met, and arrived at those momentous decisions which have changed the face of the whole world, and particularly the Pacific.
The honorable member then spoke of immigration. Apparently ‘ he is much concerned about this matter. I am not quite clear as to what his charges are in this connexion. Nor do I know what is his attitude towards the question. The other day, in his attack upon the Government, I understood that the gravamen of his charges was that we were about to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Australia, which was already thronged with unemployed men.’ I gather now, and the honorable member will correct me if I am wrong, that we are now charged with doing nothing.
– With not having a proper scheme.
– Let me put the facts before the honorable member. They will speak for themselves. The foundation of the immigration policy of the Commonwealth Government was the resolution agreed to at the Premiers’ Conference in 1920, which gave the Commonwealth charge of immigration affairs overseas, and of the transport of’ immigrants from overseas to Australia, .and left to the States the responsibility for dealing with immigrants when they reached our shores and the right- to determine the number and class of immigrants to be admitted into each State. If fewer immigrants are arriving than we should like, it is solely the States who are to blame, unless it can be shown that the transport facilities provided by the Commonwealth are insufficient. But that is not alleged. I stated the matter very clearly at the Premiers’ Conference held in January of this year. I shall read an extract from a report of the proceedings. I said -
It is for each State to come forward with a concrete scheme. Nothing can be gained by a general discussion on them; but, of course, it is not for me to say what you are or are not to discuss. I propose to settle, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the matters outstanding between Sir James Mitchell and ourselves -in order that we may get that proposal dealt with. I have asked two’ gentlemen -
They were Senator Lynch and Mr. Gregory - to look at the lands over there, and afterwards, . as I have told Sir James Mitchell, we shall have to reduce the matter to a form df agreement; but all that can be done between ourselves. It has nothing to do with the other States. This other general scheme, however, has to do with every State, and with the Commonwealth, and I should like you to say that you will give instructions to your AgentsGeneral to look at the matter in a more friendly spirit.
Honorable members will bear with me while I deal with this subject a little fully, because it is a very important matter, and I hope my friends will not object if I touch very briefly upon one or two phases1 of it that were not referred to by the honorable gentleman .
Immigration as a practical- policy must be considered under three or four heads. The Commonwealth is cooperating with the States in every one of these.
The lines of its co-operation are very definite, and the co-operation is as complete as the circumstances permit. The Commonwealth has a very clear and practicable policy, which it has endeavoured, and is still endeavouring, to carry out. First of all, there are these concrete schemes to one of which I have just referred, . and with which I shall deal in detail later. Then there is the scheme of nominated immigrants, under which persons now resident in Australia nominate their friends in Britain or elsewhere. These are brought out here by assisted passages. This is an excellent form of immigration, if it be on a wide enough, scale, because the immigrants have friends lo go to, and these give thom counsel and’ aid, and set their feet upon the right road. Assisted passages are granted under various minor schemes. Fat example, in New South Wales the Commonwealth Government are recruiting agricultural trainees, known as “ Dreadnought “ boys, at the rate of sixty a month, for the State of New South Wales. In connexion with the Fairbridge Farm School, in Western Australia, the Commonwealth Government recently decided to co-operate with the Western Australian Government by providing portion of the maintenance cost of the school. The maximum contribution of the Commonwealth has been fixed at £2,600 per annum, and the total cost to the Commonwealth, is not to exceed £10,000, spread over a period of five years.
About 2,000 British officers of the Indian Army will shortly bo retired owing to tho intended reduction in the Army establishment in India. These officers aire young men in the prime of life, and they will each receive as compensation a sum of between £1,000 and £1,500. In response to inquiries recently made by General Lord Rawlinson, I have given an assurance that the Government will extend a hearty, welcome to any of these officers who may choose to settle ‘here. I have communicated this matter to all the States. Victoria has sent a representative to India. New South Wales has definitely offered to set aside 800 irrigated farms for these , officers, I hope that the other States will not lag behind. As each officer will have between £1,000 and £1,500, and is in the prime of life, it is desirable: from every point of view that they be secured for
Australia. The Commonwealth Govern/ ment have offered to send a representative to India to give all information that tie’ officers may require, or alternatively ‘ to pay the expenses of two of their number to Australia in order that they mav see the country for themselves. These’ constitute what may be termed the subsidiary schemes of our immigration policy. There are the nominated immigrants, who are given assisted passages, and those other schemes, such as the Dr. Barnardo Homes boys, the “Dreadnought” boys, and the Fairbridge Farm. Then wo have the scheme of the South Australian Government, who are bringing out ‘ 6,000 boys, with a view to placing them with farmers and training them for the work of land settlement. In all these schemes we are co-operating with the State Governments.
Now I come to the greater schemes which aim at developing the great resources of Australia by bringing out large numbers of immigrants from Britain and settling them on Crown lands. With Western Australia a draft agreement has been drawn up, and it sets out, with some wealth of detail, the circumstances under which we are prepared to co-operate with the Government of that State. Broadly speaking, the agreement is one for settlement in which the States and the Commonwealth - and since the passage, of the Empire Settlement Act, the United Kingdom also - are to co-operate in bringing people to this country and settling them on the land. Land settlement is a sine qua non of the Commonwealth immigration policy. The Government of the Commonwealth is not a party to any immigration proposal which has not for its object the settlement of men on the .land. I have already referred to the Western Australian undertaking, which I hope will shortly bo completed. I have discussed at great length with the Government of New South Wales a scheme covering large areas of land, both irrigated and dry, in different ports of that Stale, and I am very hopeful of being able to conclude a satisfactory agreement. I have been in close touch lately with the Premier of Victoria, una only yesterday I had -a communication from him, setting out in broad outlines a scheme in which foe wishes the Commonwealth Government to co-operate. We are looking into the matter now,and although we cannot commit ourselves to details, I have said in the most unqualified way that we most earnestly desire to act in co-operation with the State Government. The Premier of Victoria has set out that the whole object is to settle men on the land. That is the policy of the State of Victoria,and it is the policy of this Government. The High Commissioner of the Commonwealth has recently signed an agreement with the British Government relating to providing portion of the passage money for approved immigrants. Under this agreement the British Government bears half the cost. The liability of both parties is limited by the terms of the agreement.
The rate at which immigrants arc coming in this year shows a great improvement over last year. The total number of assisted immigrants who arrived during 1921 was 14,677; while the number this year, if the present monthly average is maintained, will be 24,652. This, of course, is still very far from satisfactory, but we anticipate that when the Western Australian scheme is in full operation that number will be doubled. And I do not hesitate to say that only in this way can this country be developed, and shall we be able to obtain results from the co-operation of the British Government and the State Governments with the Commonwealth, which will, I hope, mark a turning point in Australia’s career, and indicate to the world our settled determination to show ourselves worthy of the inheritance of a continent.
It has been suggested. I think, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Commonwealth rejected the immigration proposals of Queensland because a. Labour Government is in power there. That is quite untrue, as I shall prove by some extracts from speeches by Mr. Theodore himself. What the Commonwealth sets out to do is to assist immigration. The responsibility of dealing with unemployment in the various parts of the Commonwealth belongs to the States, and not to the Commonwealth Government. It is an unfortunate fact, as I showed on Friday last, that the number of unemployed in the State of Queensland is greater than in any other State. That is most regrettable, but it is also the most complete condemnation of the policy of honorable members opposite, either in esse or in posse, that can be imagined. But it does not affect, the position : that the immigration policy of the Commonwealth must not beused by the States to settle unemployment of their own citizens. Let me now read to the House what the Leader of the Labour Government in Queensland has to say about the matter. On 1st July, 1921, when a deputation of unemployed waited upon him, Mr. Theodore said -
He knew that there was depression in Queensland and unemployment. Unemployment was rendered more acute because of this depression, and there was distress in the pastoral industry in particular. Thefinancial stringency was having a bad effect on industry generally. At the present time, the Government could not offer the unemployed relief work. The Government could find employment for thousands of men if the funds were available. He had formed his own opinion that an expenditure of £15,000,000 over the next four or five years would make land available for 10,000 settlers, say, and find employment for 50,000 adults.
The following extract is from the Argus of 5th January, 1922 : -
Asked to-day what Queensland was doing in the matter of immigration, the Premier (Mr. Theodore) said “. . . The Government had not abandoned hopes of the Upper Burnett scheme. … It would endeavour to finance a vigorous land settlementscheme in the near future. This was one of the chief means of solving the unemployment problem.”
I commend to the Leader of the Opposition those words of wisdom from Mr. Theodore, that the only hope of solving the unemployed problem is not the socialization of industry, is not the policy represented by the flamboyant resolutions passed at the recent Labour Conference in Melbourne, is not any of those solutions which the honorable member urged upon us, but is the simple, time-honoured way, initiated by Adam, of going upon the land and producing more wealth. Mr. Theodore said, in Brisbane, on 5th January, 1922-
This is one of the chief means of solving the unemployed problem and making for the development and progress of the State that is so necessary, and strenuous efforts will be made by the Government to have such a scheme definitely launched this year.
Speaking at the Premiers’ Conference on l8th January, 1922, Mr. Theodore said-
Every State Government was restricted in its finances at that time. Weall recognise that, on account of the unemployed situation, we ought to open up lands for settlement, and to absorb intending immigrants in that way, but we could not finance big schemes at that period. We got no assistance from the Commonwealth to help us to finance any such scheme. At the present time, we arc endeavouring to finance the scheme ourselves, and if we are to succeed in putting this Burnett, scheme into operation we must look to our own resources, because the Commonwealth,, it seems, will continue to “dilly-dally” with the matter.
We hare had no difficulty in getting all the settlers we wont on the perpetual leasehold system on our Crown lands, and we would have no difficulty, if we could get £2,500,000 to build those railways and roads, in getting applications for 3,500 settlers in twelve months, if the aTea were made available under perpetual leasehold. We could get them in Australia.
We do not know what provision we can make to take immigrants from overseas twelve months hence; but if we can get assistance to open up land for settlement on a progressive scheme, our conditions will become such that we will be able, not only to reduce out unemployment difficulty, but to absorb a very large number of new immigrants, and that is the main thing.
There are two or three points that Mr. Theodore emphasized which I commend to honorable members opposite. The first is that there is no way of solving the unemployed difficulty unless we develop land settlement, and the second is that immigration is the main thing, and that immigrants must be settled upon the land. The third point which emerges from all this is, despite the fact that a Labour Government is in power in Queensland, unemployment is very prevalent there, as Mr. Theodore has testified in the three extracts I have read. In the course of a press interview on 31st January, 1922, Mr. Theodore is reported to have said -
Mr. Hughes had said the Ministry wanted positive ‘ assurances that the money would be used for immigration only. That was a new feature of the controversy. The Queensland Government did not >ask for money, to be used for immigration, but asked for money to be used for the development of the Burnett scheme, which would have the effect of enabling tho State to absorb thousands of newcomers.
That is the point upon which Mr. Theodore and I differ. I say that the first duty of the Governments of Australia is to look after their own fellow citizens, and that, so far as unemployment is concerned - of course, outside the scope of the Commonwealth Public Service - that duty fails properly upon t,he States. It is the duty of the States to develop land settlement in order to deal with their own unemployed. It is the function of the Commonwealth to deal with immigration, and we say to the States, “ If you desire immigrants, and will make arrangements for them to go upon, your Crown lands, we will assist you. We will advance you millions of pounds upon an arrangement that may be arrived at if you will present a definite scheme, which will show where every penny is to be spent upon reproductive works for the purpose of building railways and roads, clearing and preparing the land for the immigrant.” We laid it down, further, that a condition precedent must be that the immigrant be given twelve months’ work- upon the land. We are insisting upon this condition with every State. All immigrants are to go on the land, and all are to be guaranteed at least twelve months’ preparatory work on the land, and subsequently a block of land upon which to settle. The Commonwealth scheme of immigration, therefore, does not and cannot cause unemployment, but the very reverse. We shall not cause one man to be unemployed. All will be employed ipso facto. But Mr. Theodore, having got himself up to his neck in debt<, I suppose, wanted the Commonwealth to lend him money to provide work for his awn State’s unemployed. We could not do that; honorable members would scarcely expect us to do so. That is why we were unable to finance the Queensland- Government with, their Upper Burnett scheme. I take it that what I have said is sufficient answer to all that has been advanced. Mr. Theodore said, “ We will absorb Australian applicants for the land first.” That is quite right; he. ought to do so. But he must do so with his own money. We will assist him to absorb immigrants; but I insist that the State must absorb its own ‘ unemployed. The Commonwealth, will see to it that the immigrantdoes not compete with Australia’s unemployed by ensuring that the immigrantshall be settled on the land ; and I repeat that we will not make an agreement with any State unless it can guarantee every immigrant twelve months’ work on the land, and a block of land at the expiration of that term. I do not know whether the honorable member for Hunter is in favour of immigration or not. It is very difficult for any one to know his views upon, this subject. I do not think he knows them himself, for the position of his party at present is very much like that of the sick man who, upon being asked in the morning how he was, said that he could not tell until he had read the doctor’s bulletin to be published in the paper later that day. The Labour party does not know from day to day where it is upon any particular; subject. I do not know whether there is an individual member of that party in this Chamber who, if he were put up against a wall, and threatened with a firing party, could state what is his party’s programme. It is protean.
Let me now deal with coal. Coal has for the honorable member for Hunter an attraction such as honey has for the fly or the bee. The honorable member is in a. difficulty about coal, but he is merely in the same position as every one else in this country. We are all in trouble about coal. . Yesterday I bought some coal. I took the trouble to work out the cost, and found that it amounted to £3 6s. per ton. Coal appears to be a rather expensive luxury for a poor person, like myself, who is obliged to buy the commodity in dribs and drabs. But this experience is common to almost all of us. So I have come here to-day, being cold and very far from well, because coal is very far from being cheap. The honorable member for Hunter finds himself in a most difficult position. Let me state what that position is. A little while ago the honorable gentleman stood up in his place, and delivered what, in the case of another man, would, have amounted to a panegyric upon a. measure that had been passed into law upon my own. initiative. I allude to the- Industrial Peace Act. The honorable member said it was the finest piece of legislation ever passed in this country. Certain other people did not agree with him; but that was his formed opinion . The honorable member far Darling (Mr. Blakeley), for example, regarded the act as a covert blow at what was then the very, child of his bosom, namely, the Arbitration Court. But last week, or a, few days before that, the constituents of the honorable member for Hunter applied ta the Court for an injunction, or a mandamus; and it now turns out that the Tribunal is ultra vires the Act. Those whom the Industrial Peace Act was brought into existence to benefit have themselves destroyed it.
– Has the Court given a decision to that effect?
– If it has not done so it is not the fault of the honorable member’s constituents. What I want to know is this: In what position do I stand? I bring in certain legislation. The honorable member’s friends, Messrs. Baddeley and Willis, come to me and tell me that they have a passionate desire to obey the law. Of course, I know that they have not; I have known those gentlemen for a long while. But I ask of them, ‘* What is it they want? “ They tell me, and the honorable member for Hunter agrees with them. In fact, there is a general consensus of opinion upon what is wanted by these gentlemen. Even the mine-owners agree. All are opposed to the Arbitration Court. There is talk of direct action, of strikes, of confusion. The Industrial Peace Act is thereupon brought into force, and everything goes as merrily as a mar,riage boll. There are, of course, some stoppages, which the miners explain away. Everything is still going on all right and promises to continue to do so, as long as the tribunal created by the Act churns out at regular intervals an increase in the hewing rate, in the current rate of wages - which, in the opinion of the honorable member, is what the Tribunal was created solely to do. But at length there comes a frost - a killing frost. The employers say they, want a reduction of 33-J per cent, upon the rate of payment. Immediately the matter is referred to the Tribunal. The honorable member for Hunter and his friends, Messrs. Baddeley and Willis, fear that the Tribunal will not do what they hold that every arbitrator is supposed to do ; that is to say, give a verdict in their favour. Therefore, in that frame of mind, they say, ‘’ We will lay the Tribunal out.” And they do so. It is very difficult to know “where the honorable member for Hunter and his constituents are upon this subject. Have they lost faith in the Tribunal?
– They are quite within their legal rights in testing before the
High Court whether the application for the 33) .per cent, reduction can be regarded as a dispute.
– Their action pay be taken for granted as constituting an attempt to destroy the Tribunal.
– lt is obvious that all this, and the references made to it by the honorable member, comprise merely an Attempt to ward off the inevitable. “When, the other day, I mentioned the price of small coal in England, the honorable gentleman said I knew nothing about coal. That is quite true. I am not a coal miner; but I am a citizen of this country, .and I buy coal privately and, as head of the Government, buy a great deal of it. Above all, I am concerned in the welfare of our people, and when I am asked to deal with this question of unemployment, I affirm that the problem is very much aggravated, even if it is not caused, by the present high price of coal. Despite all the contradictions of the honorable member, it is true that the price of small coal, out of which coke is made, is very much lower in England than it1 is here. The honorable member for Hunter is reported to have stated that I said the English price was 9s. Perhaps he did not do me the honour to read my speech, for I stated that the prices were - Welsh smalls 13s. per ton, Scotch 12s., Midlands 15s., Tyne 15s., Leeds (non.coking), 9s. But non-coking smalls must be ruled out of consideration, because we were talking about the cost of coal out of which coke is made. The honorable member for Hunter must not try to confuse the unfortunate ‘members of this Parliament by introducing these subtle technicalities, which are too much for the overstrained mentalities of my friends on this side of the House. We must not allow him to evade the point by confusing us with the terminology of the industry. Ab a matter of fact, the honorable member cannot deny that it costs 37s. 9d., I think, to produce a ton of coke in Australia, whereas, in England, it can be produced for very much less.
– It is not tho coal that contributes to it.
– But it is coal that the Prime Minister is talking about.
– I know, and the coke is made from that coal.
– The price of this coal is one reason - I do not say it is the only reason - why men hitherto employed in the Australian steel industry , are idle today. I have said, times out of number, that as the cost of living comes down, wages also must come down. That is the universal law the world over. The honorable member for Hunter, or another honorable member opposite, had something to say about the high profits of the coal-owners. I believe some mine-owners are making huge profits, but I should like to point out that there was a studied silence on the .part of the coal miners in regard to this matter until the suggestion was made by the owners that the hewing rate should come down. So long as the Tribunal ‘ was giving increases to the miners and, naturally, making possiblegreater profits for the mine-owners,, nothing was said, but as soon as it was proposed to reduce the wages of the men, proportionate only to the decrease in the cost of living, then we were told that the owners were making huge profits. Probably, some of them are, and perhaps the best remedy would be to compel them to compete in the markets of the world. At the present time, as the honorable member for Hunter knows, our foreign trade in coal has almost entirely disappeared. That is a very bad condition of affairs for the country generally, and the coal-owners and miners particularly.
– Your embargo had very much to do with crippling our foreign ti’ ado in coal.
– I do not deny that; but the embargo was imposed as a result of representations made to the Government by the Governments of Victoria and South Australia, by the Premiers generally, and by the Coal and Shale Miners Federation.
– They never asked for it.
– I am telling the House what happened. They came to me officially. At the end of last year or the beginning of this year, Messrs. Baddeley and Willis asked me not to lift the coal control, but I said I would not agree to their request. Then requests were made by the Governments of Victoria and South Australia, and, as a result, coal control is still on. We shall never get stability in this industry, and. never be able to compete in the markets of the world, until coal gets down to the world’s priced I am sure we can produce coal here as cheaply as anywhere else in the world.
– Our best coal is produced cheaper here than in Great Britain.
– I know. If I thought for one moment that in order to produce coal at the world’s price the hewing rate would have to be so reduced that our miners could not maintain their present standard of living, I would not agree to it. But that is not the position at all. Some of the miners are making very high wages indeed, but some are not. The mine-owners are in exactly the same position ; some making huge profits and others unable to show any profit at all. That is the cause of the whole trouble, as the honorable member for Hunter knows very well. I regret very much that any attempt has been made to interfere with this reference to the Tribunal, which was brought into existence at the suggestion of the unions. It has worked very well, and has, at any rate, maintained a greater degree of peace in the industry than existed before its appointment. One fact emerges from all this trouble. Things cannot go on as they are. If unemployment is to decrease prices must be readjusted to world conditions.
To-day I received this telegram from Mr. Donnelly, secretary to the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures -
Resolution carried at meeting of New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures that a request be telegraphed to the Prime Minister, that whatever action lies in the power of the Commonwealth Government that would tend towards reduction in price of coal should be immediately taken, as the h*igh price of coal is one of the Chief causes of present industrial depression and consequent unemployment.
It is no use burking the facts, for there they are. Coal is the raw material of perhaps ninety-nine out of every hundred manufactured articles in this country. It enters into each manufactured article from 10 per. cent, up to 70 per cent., and unless and until it is reduced in price we cannot expect to be able to compete successfully and so provide employment for our citizens. I do not mean to say that the price should be reduced by cutting wages and leaving the profits of the mine-owners just where they are. The Sydney Morning Herald recently had an excellent leader on the subject. It pointed out that the suggestion had been made that the necessary sacrifice should be made by the men while nothing was said about the mine-owners. It disagreed with that view, and contended that this was a time for both parties to make sacrifices if any had to be made. With that I agree; it expresses my own opinions.
I now leans the question of coal, and come to that of sugar. I shall not go into it at any great length. The Leader of- the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) seems concerned about the high price of sugar. He is, of course, against reducing wages, for he believes in wages being high. Yet, curiously enough, he wants cheap goods. Moy I point out to him that there is one obvious way to get cheap sugar, and that is to get black-labour sugar. If the honorable gentleman doos not believe in that course, I recommend him to go and see the men engaged in the cane-fields. Let him watch those men at work; and if he gan then come and say that they ought to work for less than they are getting-
– I have not said that.
– Do not let us be canting humbugs about the matter; there is no way in which we can get white-grown sugar unless we can induce men to go to the tropical and semi-tropical’ parts of Australia, and do the hardest work that men can be called to do in this country. Personally, I would sooner do firing in the gas-works than out cane. We have to face the question; it is a fundamental one. We have to make up our minds to use black-grown sugar, or else pay the price for white-grown sugar. t We cannot discuss this great question now; but it will have to be faced. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making great profits. The figures I have here are those which I quoted when the sugar agreement was before the House. The refining charge of the company is £1 116. per ton ; the selling charge 7s.. per ton ; and cost of management £1 per ton, or altogether £2 18s. One penny per lb. is £9 6s. 8d., and £2 18s., I should say, represents about 5-16ths of a penny; but this honorable members can work out. If the price of sugar is high to-day, it is not- because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is getting exorbitant profits. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition said that the profits had amounted to 17$ per cent. All I oan say is that the books of the company axe audited by the Government auditor, and the honorable member can. have access to the accounts at our sugar office here. I say that the charges of the company do not account for the high price of sugar. The fact is, as the honorable member knows perfectly well, that we had to pay up to £100 per ton for sugar as a result of the shortage in the Australian crop; and as we were selling sugar at £46 ls. 6d., it was necessary for the Commonwealth to recoup its loss,, and that is being done. It has been said that we have long ago made up t-ha.t loss, but there is not a word of truth in the statement. There is still an overdraft. As soon as it is made up, sugar will drop immediately in price. However, this question cannot be dealt with as a. side question en an occasion like this. We hear a lot of talk from interested quarters about sugar, but I invite Those who talk so much to see the conditions under which sugar is grown. I invito those people to visit the great State of Queensland, at which some are sneering as if it were some foreign country.. The men in that groat industry in our Northern State are doing their best- and their best is very good - to develop our Vast and wonderful tropical lands. There are people who talk about Java as a place where cheap sugar may ‘be got j let those people go to J ava and see how sugar is grown, there and compare it with the conditions obtaining in Australia.
I have figures here showing tho prices of sugar in various countries of the world to-day. In Australia the price is £46 ls. 6d.; in the United Kingdom, £48 10s.; and in New Zealand, £48 10s. f.o.b. Auckland. The retail prices are - Australia, 6d. ; United Kingdom, 5£d.; United States of America, 6 cents, or 3d.; New Zealand, 4Jd. to 5Jd. ; and South Africa, 5d. We must remember that in South Africa all sugar is grown by coolie labour, and yet the price is 5d: per lb. We could sell sugar here at 5d., if it were not that we have to make up the amount we lost through buying overseas sugars when the price was high. I think those figures disclose a fairly satisfactory state of affairs. It is said that imported sugar could be sold here at a very much lower
Mr. Hashes. price than that which we now pay, and that the jam and other industries using sugar cannot compete in the markets of the world as a result. What are the facts? Java whites are quoted at £18, or landed here at £30 6s. 4d.; Cuba B £14 15s., landed £28 16s. 4d. ; American granulated £20 5s., landed £29 10s., and Belgian granulated £20,. landed £29. These figures show that imported sugars are only about . Id. less per lb. than the price of Australian coarse sugar, which is £39 15s. Australian jam manufacturers who manufacture for export get their sugar at 30s. per ton less than, the world’s parity to-day. Remember, it is the oversea trade to which we must look; we have long ago exploited our own comparatively restricted market. All these facts have to be assimilated. The extent to which our export trade is growing is not, perhaps, generally recognised. Sometimes, too, it is forgotten how for many years we in Australia had the cheapest sugar in the world, and nobody wen suggested that the sugar-grower in Queensland ought to bring his price up to the world’s parity. I remind honorable members again that not only jam manufacturers, but the manufacturers of milk, confectionery, biscuits, and the like for export get their sugar at 30s. per ton cheaper than the world’s parity, while such goods going into England get the advantage of the English preference, so that the man who exports to the United Kingdom, as the majority of our manufacturers do, are in a much better position than are the manufacturers in any- other part of the world. I repeat that the price of sugar to-day is regulated only in part by’ the contract, and in part is the result of the high price at which foreign sugars had to be purchased during the shortage. ‘
The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition refers only to old-age and invalid pensions, but he said very little about them. He complained that we had not indicated that wc intended to increase these pensions. He brought in this reference almost as an afterthought, at the tail-end of his speech. Every one desires to do whatever is possible for the aged, the invalid, and the unfortunate, but we have to consider the circumstances of this country. The Leader of the Labour party knows very well what our financial position is. He knows that, as Mr. Theodore: well put it, “ The States now find themselves limited in many ways by finance.” Invalid and old-age pensions to-day are on the same basis as that on which the Labour party put them when the scheme was first introduced. The Government recognise to the full their obligations to the aged, the invalid, the unfortunate, and are endeavouring by meansof proposals with regard to health which we hope to develop, to do something for them. We cannot, however, venture upon proposals that would land us in a financial morass. If we did the Leader of the Labour party would be the first to denounce us.
The honorable member’s references to old-age and invalid pensions are just an electioneering placard. When they were last before the country, the Labour party put forward a policy showing what they would do if returned to power. They said that they would increase the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 per week; that they would provide pensions for widows and orphans, and pensions for children whose fathers could not maintain them, whilst they would also provide food, and medical and dental attendance. My honorable friend the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who was then Treasurer, prepared a very effective return showing what it wouldcost to give effect to these proposals. He showed that they would involve an annual charge of £17,114,976 in respect of invalid, old-age, and these additional pensions, or a total increase of £11,320,000 per annum over the expenditure under these heads at that time.
My answer to the Leader of the Opposition must be exactly that made by Mr. Theodore to the unemployed when, in reply to a request for help, he said, “ We have not got the money.” The claim of the aged and invalid is, however, a just one. They ha ve as much right to be considered as any other persons in the community. They have, indeed, a greater claim. The circumstances of the Commonwealth, however, must be taken into account. It would be well, perhaps, for honorable members opposite to turn their eyes towards Mecca - I mean Moscow - and see how it fares with the old, the infirm, and the unfortunate in that part of the world. I think the position there is that, nowadays, no one lives long enough to become old. They all fall by the wayside. There, under the benign influence and protection of the dictatorship of the proletariat they are hit on the head by Chinese mercenaries.
As time is fleeting let us turn from this prospect of assassination as a remedy for old-age to the Trades Hall Congress - if I may in this colloquial way refer to such an exalted body - which met in Melbourne the other day. In the all too brief time available after furious internecine struggles between the rival factions, they dealt with world affairs which they shortly disposed of in one sweeping resolution which covered unemployment and all other ills from which modern civilization suffers. The aged and the invalid were there in long drawn out attenuated lines. And what did that Trade Union Congress do? They carried the following resolution -
That this Congress desires to place on record : -
That under its scheme for the socialization of industry there would be no unemployed problem.
That in its programme of hours and wages unemployment will be considerably minimized here and now.
That provision of food, shelter, and clothing for all citizens in want through depression is the duty and responsibility of the country through its Parliament.
Having agreed to this motion, members of the Congress went home - and they all travelled first class.
I point out to the besotted dupes outside that it is in this fashion the so-called Labour party now deals with all matters. It wrangles long over internal squabbles, it dismisses world problems with a windy resolution, and then goes home - in the first class. This last is their settled habit. It was made plain to us at the recent Economic Conference that representatives of the employees would not attend the Conference unless they were paid their expenses. Their expenses rested upon this foundation: That they should receivean amount equal to the wages they would have earned if they had been left at work, plus their hotel and travelling expenses. To this I agreed, and when one wage slave made out his account he put in for a daily wage of £2 5s.
– As did the employers’ representatives.
– I “will find out whether they did nor not. At any rate, they did not go about indulging in canting, whining humbug in regard to the unemployed problem. They did not. talk about the socialization of industry, and the class problem, nor did. they take up the standard adopted by Mr. Tom Walsh, who having said, “We are going to have the same kind of accommodation for the seamen on board ship as is provided for first class passengers,” then got me to provide him with a first class railway ticket and reserve him a sleeping-berth and first class accommodation while the crew had to travel second class and sit up all night. What canting humbug this is! What do these people care about the unemployed? They live on them.
There are many other points with which I ought to deal, but I am afraid I cannot do so at this stage, and must bring my remarks to a conclusion. Honorable members opposite, as one can see, aTe brought very low. They take counsel one with another, but no man dare lead, for leadership is not an attribute of such a party. The Labour party of today does not breed leaders. The members of the party receive instructions, and even these are contradictory.. They do not know what their objective is. Their position is like that of Mr. Theodore, who, at the Brisbane Conference in 1921, said, “ Must we’ swallow these Communistic doctrines without a struggle?” They were carried, and they had to swallow them. Speaking at the 1921 Conference, Mr. Theodore said -
It was extraordinary that there should be men at the Conference preaching the doctrines of Russian Communism and the Industrial Workers of the World of America. With very great respect to some of those gentlemen, ho stated that they had previously been propounding, these views as opponents of the Australian Labour party. They ought to understand very clearly where they were going. They were leaving the well-beaten path of the Labour movement, and were adopting totally new and strange doctrines, and he was perfectly satisfied that the workers of the old movement would not indorse such views and principles. He could not possibly do so. He would have to take some action that would put the Labourites of Queensland on the right track.
Since Mr. Theodore uttered those words tho 1922 elections have taken place in New South Wales, and what Mr. Theodore said has proved to be more than abundantly true. No man in the Labour movement now knows where he stands. The Conference that met the other day reaffirmed the Brisbane objective, and the representatives of the party are to-day men in hobbles, in fetters; their souls are not free; they cannot decide what they shall do, say, or even think. These two amendments moved by my honorable friend, Mr. Charlton, for whom I have the highest possible respect as a man show conclusively where members of the party stand. They are bankrupt of ideas. They arc tom’ in the grip of two great international forces. I say that deliberately, and they will be deserted by. seven out of ten of the genuine, Iona fide working men who are not themselves tied to the wheel of these forces, whenever an appeal to the electors is made. I am sorry t!hat the time of this House should be taken up by such amendments as the honorable member has moved. The charges he has made are written in water. This Government must try to carry on the business of the country without expecting any aid from a party composed as is the Labour party at present.
.- The administration of the Australian Labour party and trade union movement have far-reaching public consequences in both political and industrial spheres affecting the character of our Parliaments and the relationships of the workers in the necessary production of the country.
There has grown up in New South Wales, with its head-quarters at Macdonell House, Sydney, a Tammany junta, under Boss John Bailey, M.L.A., which systematically plunders and exploits the workers and pollutes Parliament.
So disease-laden has the whole machinery of the Australian- Labour party in New South Wales become - the germs of corruption having so infested the very warp and woof of the Labour fabric - the timbers of the -temple of Labour having its vitals so eaten out with rottenness, that internal reform and rectification have become impossible.
It is in the public interest that the disclosures I ^propose to submit should be made the basis of a searching public inquiry.
In 1917, as Labour campaign director for New South Wales, two corrupt Labour ballots for the selection of Federal Labour candidates for East Sydney and West Sydney came under my notice.
I was largely instrumental in having them upset. They represented to me an entirely new and isolated development, and, having had them upset, the matter ended. I shall refer in particular to these again later.
In 1919, in consequence of another extraordinary development, namely, an insidious and widespread propaganda of Russian origin within the Labour movement, I led a successful campaign to prevent the Labour movement adopting, as ite political programme what was in essence the Russian Soviet system,
Although an active member of the Australian Labour party for twenty-five years, and one of its leading organizers and campaigners throughout, I had not previously been associated with any internal rivalries or factions. But my experience in searching out the Russian white-anting campaign within the political Labour movement in 1919 revealed to me that I was part and parcel of a movement that now had strange characteristics that I could not understand. It was at this point that I joined a cleaning-up crusade.
The 1919-1920 New South Wales State election followed, and I was again in charge of the direction of Labour’s forces in a successful campaign that returned the Storey Labour Government.
Then came the 1919 Federal election. The late Mr. Ryan, who had retired from the Labour Premiership of Queensland to enter Federal politics, was made Federal campaign director, in order to create an official post -that would give him some Federal Labour status throughout the campaign. I was appointed, as usual, in charge in New South Wales, where Labour was- very successful.
During these two last-mentioned State and Federal campaigns two startling incidents came under my notice. The first was an amount of corrupt money coming into the Federal campaign per medium of John Bailey. M.L.A., President of the New .South Wales Central Branch of the Australian Workers Union, and the Tammany Boss of New South Wales Labour.
This caused me, after the election, to investigate the Labour selection ballot of the Goulburn State electorate, for which Mr. Bailey was returned, and I found it grossly corrupt.
At the 3920 State Australian Labour Party Conference for New South Wales, I had motions placed on the official’ businesspaper designed to correct both these vile abuses - (1) The receipt by the Australian Labour .party of corrupt money, and (2) the corrupt manipulation of Australian Labour party parliamentary selection ballots. But Tammany got in early. With a Conference packed by Tammany - with the order of business coming before Conference per the hands of an Agenda Committee appointed under Tammany’s direction - and with one> of Tammany’s chief agents - William Lambert - presiding at the Conference - my resolutions were at the convenient moment ruled out of order, and I was effectively gagged by what I afterwards discovered was a pre-arranged plan. Tammany dictated its own Australian Labour party Executive for 1920-1921 to control the movement and Government. Bailey selected the personnel, and had his own factotum made returning officer. The rest was easy.
The coming into power of the Labour Government provided Tammany with its golden opportunity. Tammany hastened the death of the State Labour Premier, John Storey, and Con. Wallace.
In an obvious reference to these two men at Bathurst, 17th October, 1921, James Dooley, now New South Wales Labour leader, said -
Self-seekers within the Labour movement are our only danger. Re intrigue against leaders. Many have gone down under it. The movement cannot live unless these are abolished.
The late John Storey appealed to me, as this Tammany gang was worrying him and precipitating his fatal illness, and said -
The Labour Conference approaches. I must go away a sick man. Try to save the old movement from a pack of savages. My Ministers will help you.
That was John Storey’s last .Labour message. When he returned from England it waa plain that his life was spent. Even then Tammany was sharpening its axe for him, as Cecil Last, one of Tammany’s subordinates, blurted out in the press, and the public reception I organized in. the Sydney Town Hall was intended as a checkmate to the villanies of the gang.
I appealed openly, frankly, and publicly to the Labour movement prior to the 1921 Conference to rescue itself from Tammany, by means of a four-page signed explanatory circular, part of which appeared in the public press on 27th March, 1921, the following being an extract : -
Unless some well-reasoned steps are taken to prevent a recurrence of what happened last year, there will be a dictated Executive with a pliable, and, therefore, dangerous, majority, and God only knows what may happen with a Labour Government in office, and an unprecedented industrial crisis in existence.
Before going to England Mr. John Storey informed me that the major time of Ministers was taken up trying to prevent intrigue and abuses. I gave my word that I would help within the movement to resist an uneducated and uncouth dictatorship.
Another development of the 1919 elections, the first time in all my experience in the management of Labour campaigns in this State, was that large sums of money originating from sources not’ made public were not bond fide administered. It would take too long for this nauseous subject to be dealt with in detail. To put a stop, to all the potentialities for corruption in this state of affairs also became a most vital matter. There are moneyed interests in Sydney that Wlil bribe their way through anything, and squeezing Governments in all manner of devious ways is their favourite get-rich-quick scheme. The Labour movement iB in serious danger of being overwhelmed with illicit money.
I appeal to the delegates to the 1921 Conference to act unitedly together to’ prevent our great and glorious movement being dragged in the mire of selfishness and corruption.
Percy Brookfield, M.L.A., was assassinated on his way from Broken Hill to Sydney to direct his own campaign amongst the 1921 Labour Conference delegates, aimed at this same Tammany menace. The following jb taken from Percy Brookfield ‘s appeal to the New South “Wales Conference delegates -
The question arises, are these corrupt Australian Workers Union duplicate tickets only used to fake selection ballots, or are they sold for gain by those who control them, or “both? Men who do this sort of thing are capable of anything. r
Any one winning a selection by means of this faked vote must knuckle under to those who control the vote, otherwise it will be used against them at a subsequent selection ballot, and they will lose their positions
The fact that there are duplicate tickets in existence may explain how it is that certain executive officers have a monopoly of union positions. Certainly if it oan be used to fake selection ballots it can be used in ballots for the union executive.
Without this corrupt vote this vicious Tammany gang are powerless, as the gang of sycophantic creatures who crawl around them only do so in the hope of having this faked postal vote operated in their favour. However, it is time this corrupt vicious gang were cleaned up. They are a menace to the workers.
Time does not permit of a description of the villany and the criminality of the 1921 Labour Conference. I explained it in the New South Wales Sunday Times on 16th April last. There was undoubtedly a good majority for a olean up; but Tammany having control of the official machinery governing the admission of delegates and the direction of Conference, and finding itself cornered, rallied a sectarian campaign to its aid, and just managed with all its corrupt practices to save itself from defeat.
I was again gagged in the 1921 Conference by the chairman, Mr. Lambert, refusing to “ call me” when I rose to speak on a dozen occasions. Whilst Conference was still sitting I issued an invitation to delegates to meet me in the Southern Cross Hall on 31st March, 1921. I sent a special invitation explaining the purport of the meeting, by hand, to Messrs. Bailey and Lambert, Boote (editor of the Worker), Grayndler (general secretary of the Australian Workers Union), and Hinchcliffe (Worker manager). Mr. Grayndler I learned was in Melbourne. Of those named only Mr. Boote attended. For two hours I described the corruption of John Bailey and his Tammany junta to the delegates. Bailey blocked any further action in Conference by commencing a libel suit for £2,000 damages, which he withdrew later on when I gave him eight days’ notice to set the case down for hearing. It was in pursuit of my inquiries for the defence of this libel suit that I discovered the widespread nature of the activities of this Tammany junta.
An extraordinary election having been forced on New South Wales, the Labour Government was smashed at the polls on 25th March, 1922. On 2nd April, after exhausting every other avenue, for the first time I published a carefully considered and mildly- wor ded analysis of Labour’s deplorable condition, with a constructive appeal to the whole of New South Wales Labour to join together in an effort to publicly and candidly put our house in order as absolutely essential if! .we were to be rehabilitated in the confidence and good will of the people. As every Labour channel of publication is under a strict censorship, which shields Tammany from exposure, the only means of reaching the rank and file of Labour was through the public press.
In violation of the constitution and rules of the Australian Labour party, and without any charge being preferred, the Tammany-controlled New South Wales Australian Labour party executive de clared my expulsion on 7th April last. Tammany’s two chiefs - Bailey and Lambert - were present directing the operations far my so-called expulsion.
Thus Tammany declared that it would not allow an investigation and a rectification of unparalleled wrong-doing - that to be a Labour member under the Australian Labour party every Labour member’s eyes must be closed to, and he must connive at, and bo a consenting party to, well-known, widespread corruption.
In the New South Wales Sunday Times of 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th April last, I produced overwhelming evidence ‘to substantiate the most sensational charges. Not one Labour member - Federal or State - nor, indeed, any other person, has answered or contradicted those charges in any shape or form. Corruption is so rampant, so generally accepted, and Tammany’s control so complete, that not one Labour member even so much as demands either an inquiry to resolve his doubts, if he has any, or reform, to correct wholesale wrong-doing, if he iB satisfied, as he must inevitably be, that the case against Tammany is unanswerable.
The New South Wales State Conference which followed, and which has just terminated abruptly in disorder, was more entirely controlled by Tammany than ever. In face of the gravest charges challenging the bona fides of the administration of the Australian Labour party at every essential -point - for serious charges were made by responsible Labour men even at this Conference - not one step was taken for either inquiry or reform. Tammany was able once again to stifle all who challenged its rotten administration.
Administration of the Australian Workers Union. From 1915 to the present, John Bailey has been president of the Central Branch, Australian Workers Union. During that period till the end of 1921 its secretary was W. H. Lambert. Probably this branch has handled upwards of £100,000 of membership con tributions in that time. Ite last credit balance was £52. These men came into office by the previous officers being jockeyed out between elections. They have since controlled the appointment- of the returning officer, and the conduct of their own election by postal ballot from the four comers of New South Wales. No one with inside knowledge believes that an honest ballot has been conducted “since 1915. The clearest possible evidence of wholesale, barefaced ballot-faking and impropriety and embezzlement in the administration of union funds is given by A. B. Berry, 14 Henry -street, Lidcombe, New South Wales, an organizer of the Australian Workers Union, in two pamphlets issued, and signed by him, dated 14th December, 1921, and 24th February. 1922. Mr. Berry will supply particulars to any person interested. Time does not permit me to go over the proofs of the. wholesale ballot-faking and embezzlement of union moneys which are given in Mr. Berry’s pamphlets.
At the last ballot for officers of - this organization, two organizers - Messrs. Berry and Dunn - paid a scrutineer £62 to watch the count, drawn out obviously to make the scrutiny so costly that the scrutineer would have to be withdrawn. It took seven weeks to count 2,000 votes. Out of a membership of 14,000, reduced from 23,000 the previous year - for tha Australian Workers Union members are becoming so disgusted with this rottenness that they are refusing to pay their contributions –only 2,000 votes were recorded. With this partial oversight at the count Mr. Lambert could only ‘ obtain 504 votes for delegate to the Australian Workers Union Convention. Bailey’s vote was 555. Their union offices were not contested. The whole membership is convinced of the dishonesty and futility of the ballots.
Messrs. Lavelle, M.H.B., Berry, and others appealed to the last Australian Workers Union Convention for an investigation into the affairs of the Central Branch. They obtained an auditor’s inquiry, but limited to £1,000 of expenditure out of some £25,000 for the year, when of this amount over £300 was proven to have been embezzled or improperly used. The auditors also showed that the representation of the union to the Australian Labour party Conference was swollen enormously, and that the funds of the union were used to fake up delegates from other organizations. But the auditors’ report has been suppressed, and the report of the Australian Workers Union Convention severely censored, so that the members shall not know how they are cheated and robbed. The manner in which the fund faking of the Central Branch is hushed up shows that the majority of the delegates to the Australian Workers Union Convention, who are mostly officials, are afraid of an inquiry” for fear of light being let in on the whole administration of the union.
In connexion with the 1919 election for the chief executive of the Australian Workers Union, a committee of inquiry was appointed, and it found that votes were cast for hundreds of faked members’ names appearing in the Central Branch books. It was also discovered that the Central Branch had obtained an undue number of duplicate members’ tickets from the Worker office.
Mr. Carmody, an old Australian Workers Union organizer, and constantly in touch with it, states that he has seen large numbers of unsold Australian Workers Union tickets being destroyed in the Central Branch office, hut they had the voting slips taken off. These slips are used for ballot-faking in Australian Workers Union elections and Australian Labour party selections.
For the past seven years Messrs. Bailey and Lambert have controlled the Australian Labour party in New South Wales by the manipulation of the machinery and funds of the central branch of the Australian Workers Union.’ It was barefacedly announced by Tom Arthur, at a meeting of the Australian Labour party executive, that lie was a party to a meeting which included Messrs. Bailey and Lambert, at Orange, 15th July, 1915, where it was decided to transfer the headquarters of the central branch of the Australian Workers Union from Orange to Sydney, for the express purpose of controlling the Australian Labour party. As the grip of this gang has increased, so has corruption become progressively widespread up to the present intolerable and unchallenged condition.
The Rabbit Skin Scheme. During the war, this central branch handled rabbits and rabbit skins for its rabbit-trapper membership. This ran into big figures, reaching as much as £150,000 in a year. No balance-sheet was ever published.
Some individual members, after the greatest difficulty in the world, succeeded h getting, in typed form, what were alleged to be balance-sheets. A few were thus sent out, but they were never published. I defy any one to show me a Worker report, or a report, of the central branch, or of the union as a whole, or to show a balance-sheet published in any of the official organs.
Instead of marketing these products to save the charges of the middlemen by union officers, as the members were led to believe, they were taken delivery of by John Bridge and Company, by arrangement with Messrs. Bailey and Lambert.
Clarence Bridge stated on 19th April, 1921, that tho skins marketed for the Australian Workers Union by John Bridge and Company reached as much as £3,000 per week, and that Bailey received a secret rebate of 2 per cent, as commission, amounting to £100 per week. Clarence Bridge ‘ indicates what steps should bc taken to substantiate his statement. He states that while shipping was held up during the war, special permits were obtained to ship skins to America, and that the profits from this source alone ran into additional thousands per week. These moneys were never accounted for to the membership. ^
At the 1919 Federal election, Bailey distributed £500 through the Australian Labour party, stating it was Australian Workers Union money. Some of this went to certain Federal members to help pay their election expenses. As campaign director, I challenged this money, that it was not from the Australian Workers Union. When cornered, Bailey admitted that he received £1,000 from John Bridge and Company in a lump sum at the time, that he put £500 into the Labour campaign, and could have kept the whole of it.
Mr. Blakely, president of the Australian Workers Union ‘ has boasted in the leagues of having defeated me for the secretaryship of the party in 1920.
I was excluded from meetings of the branches to put my case, and in my absence the best the honorable member for Darling could get in the district in which he lives was an equal division of nineteen for either side.
Previously, in a straight-out contest I was elected secretary, with the present Leader (Mr. Charlton) as my opponent.
In 1920, following the election and the distribution of this John Bridge money, Mr. Blakely, president of the Australian Workers Union, defeated me for the party secretaryship. Both before and since, the Labour movement appointed me to direct its campaigns. Mr. Blakely did not defeat me on service or ability. Certain members thought their campaign contributions came from the Australian Workers Union, whereas this money was -part of the stolen property of the- rabbit-trappers of New South Wales.
These are only some of the cases of maladministration of the Australian Workers Union. Much more could be exposed upon inquiry.
The Mark Lane Stevedoring Company. The chairman of this company is J. K. Trethowan, M.L.C. He is also chairman of the Farmers and Graziers Cooperative Company. In 1920, the latter took over the business of John Bridge and Company, and continued to handle the rabbit skins for the Australian Workers Union. At this time the handling of wheat at Darling Island was being carried out by day labour, under the Labour Government. At the New South Wales Australian Labour party executive meeting, 11th February, 1921, Mr. Tyrell stated he had reason to believe that the Minister for Agriculture intended giving this work by contract to the Mark Lane Stevedoring Company, thus abolishing day labour. He moved, and it was carried, that a letter of protest be sent to the Minister by hand next morning. At the same time, Mr. Mills, president of the Wharf Labourers Union, saw me and stated that Mr. Bailey was trying to have the Darling Island wheat handling dealt with by contractors. About the same time Mr. Bailey moved in the New South Wales Labour Caucus to abolish the handling of wheat for the Wheat Pool by day labour and substitute the contract system by wheat agents. Only five members voted for the proposal. Mr. Bailey had the audacity to have a list made of the voters - a threat of consequences by Tammany. .
Silo Construction. When the New South Wales Labour Government took office in 1920, the construction of silos was incomplete and suspended. The policy of the Labour Government was day labour. Mr. Bailey saw Tees dale Smith, contractor, and offered to arrange the contracts for build- . ing the remaining silos, and see that no objection was made by the Railway Workers branch’ »of the Australian Workers Union for the sum of £1,000. Teesdale Smith, in anger, came to me about the matter. I at once rang up the Minister for Agriculture, made an appointment, and reported the matter to him. Later on, one of the country Labour members informed me that Mr. Bailey had convened a meeting of country Labour members, and there urged the building of the silos by contract. This matter was reported by me to the’ Australian Labour party Conference delegates, 21st Marsh, 1921, together with a long catalogue of corruption. Mr. Bailey’ chose this item for the issue of a writ for £2,000 damages, thinking that as Teesdale Smith had since died I could not substantiate my statement. The Australian Labour party executive subsequently white-washed Mr. Bailey, in their own words they “ accepted Mr. Bailey’s assurance “ that there was no truth in the statement, and resolved to pay my costs if Mr. Bailey withdrew his writ. Upon a notice by me to set the case down for hearing, Mr. Bailey withdrew his writ, and the Australian Labour party executive subsequently paid my costs, between £60 and £70. Mr. Bailey stated the Australian Workers Union would pay his costs.
The Lord Mayoralty of Sydney. In 1920 W. P. Fitzgerald was Labour Lord Mayor. Mr. Lambert was an alderman, president of the Australian Labour party, and secretary of the central branch of the Australian Workers Union. A proposal to acquire a coal mine for the city council was under the consideration of Labour aldermen. The purchase price was £75,000, and it transpired that the mine had only cost £5,000. The thirteen Labour aldermen were caucused on it, and a small majority forced tho other’s to concur. Mr. Fitzgerald opposed this vigorously. Mr. Lambert had ambitions to become Lord Mayor. A canvass of his fellow aldermen showed he had no chance. There were two reasons to get Mr. Fitzgerald out r* the way.
Mr. Bailey was instrumental in hav.ug John Alexander, one of his off-siders; appointed an inspector under the Profiteering Act. Alexander went to the grocer’s shop kept by Mr. Fitzgerald and reported that a lady assistant demanded Id. over the fixed price for a pint of kerosene. There was a storm in the Sydney press, and the Lambert campaign to displace Mr. Fitzgerald as Lord Mayor was thereby advanced. Suddenly, the inspector’s report disappeared from the files of the Profiteering Court. There is evidence, that Alexander stole the report and returned it to Bailey.
A motion was then submitted to the Australian Labour party executive that Mr. Lambert should be made Lord Mayor for 1921, and that tho Labour aldermen should be directed accordingly. On the vote there were fifteen for and fifteen against, and tho acting chairman (Mr. O’Brien) gave his wasting vote in thu negative. - But the matter was raised again later. Mr. O’Brien, being promised the presidency of the Australian Labour party, reversed his vote. Other votes were secured, and by direction of the Australian Labour party executive the Labour aldermen were unconstitutionally and illegally directed and compelled to make Mr. Lambert Lord Mayor of Sydney.
During- Mr. Lambert’s career as Lord Mayor of Sydney, the press, by public exposure, frustrated a number of burglary schemes, such as the coal mine scheme, the metal quarry scheme, the asphalt contract, the wood blocks contract, the electric light poles contract, &c. At the elections the Lambert regime was peremptorily cut short, and personated votes alone saved Mr. Lambert himself.
Financial Administration of the Australian Labour Party. Under the controlling, influence of boss Bailey, the general blighting atmosphere of corruption permeated the Australian Labour party office. The participants carry out an understanding of mutual protection. 30th March, 1921. At a meeting of union officials, at which I was present, Mr. O’Brien, secretary, Musicians Union, stated he knew that £2,000 had been subscribed by the brewing - interests, and £1,000 by the bookmakers, and he would like to know who appropriated it. The money did not come into the Australian Labour party funds.
March, 1922. When the State election campaign commenced ‘ the Australian Labour party office was bankrupt. The Worker had stopped its credit, and it was impossible to issue the official organ - The Labour News. The paper actually ceased publication for one week for lack of funds. On the Campaign Committee I insisted, and it was agreed, that the origin of all moneys offered should be disclosed before acceptance in order that their bona fides could be tested. This was not done. The campaign waa conducted with oriental splendour. Before the Australian Labour party executive I charged Messrs. Power and Carey, the president and general secretary, with having received thousands of pounds from unnamed capitalists, and showed from the expenditure that large sums of money must have come from somewhere. Mr. Power admitted, on 4th April, before the executive in answer to my charges, that he and Mr. Carey had jointly and individually received £2,000 in. weekly amounts. As a matter of fact, they presented the accounts for running the Australian Labour party weekly to their capitalist supervisors, and received moneys covering them.. On 7th April, the night of my so-called expulsion, Mr. Power, who had been reflecting upon the charges I levelled at him, stated that he received an .additional £1,000 from, the Premier, Mr. Dooley. He had already admitted having received £2,000 in weekly sums. I happen to know that £1,000 could not have been received from Mr. Dooley.
In the end, all the Australian Labour party debts were paid, the Worker account for Lab our News printing, some hundreds of pounds, was paid, and large sums had been squandered .on alleged election expenses.
The safeguards with which I attempted to surround the receipt of sums of money to insure (1) that it was not a sordid and treacherous sale of the interests of the workers, and (2) that it would be checked to see that in the negotiations individuals did not receive a “ rake off,” were broken down.
On 4th April, Mr. Farrell, a member of the executive, demanded information as to the thousands of pounds I had compelled Mr. Power to admit having received, but the information was refused. Mr. Power stated that a full account would be submitted to tho Australian Labour party Conference. Neither the executive nor the Conference had any account submitted to it covering this money. 1 want to say quite frankly that I believe that men who accept moneys in secret and sell the power and influence of organized Labour themselves profit by tha treachery.
Upper House Appointments.- On the Campaign Committee this year, Mrs. Dwyer charged that graft had been in operation in connexion with the Labour appointments to the Upper House. She stated that she knew that £500 was paid in one case. If an inquiry is set up the public will learn more on this subject. “The Georgeson Case. -Mrs. Georgeson alleged that she paid £500 to ai Labour member to secure the release of her husband. A circumscribed inquiry was held, the evidence of which was suppressed. This, matter should be re-opened and probed to the bottom. It is amazing that the Labour Conference could have met without a single question being asked about it. 1921 Labour Conference. Bailey received £500 from the Liquor interests to pack this conference, and the money was used to primarily serve the interests of Bailey and his Tammany gang. On 9th March I had an appointment with the Solicitor-General at 7.30 p.m., to make a round of visits to the Alexandria, Newtown, and. Ryde Labour Leagues. He caine half-an-hour late, and explained that he had met Mr. Stooke, secretary of the Liquor Defence Union, who said lie had given £500 to Bailey to organize the Conference, that Mrs. Benson had guaranteed to’ organize a band of forty women delegates from various- parts of the country, and that everything would be well with the Government. Subsequently, at a meeting of Ministers, on 14th March, at the Education Department, Messrs. Sproule, Mutch, and Kavanagh., Ministers, being in attendance with myself, arrangements were made to impress upon Mr. Stooke that subsidizing Bailey must cease. It did cease, and within a few days Mrs. Benson, one of Bailey’s agents, approached an officer of the New South Wales Alliance, and said -
Mr. Hammond must bc spending thousands a year on his prohibition propaganda. For a few hundred we could fix the control of the Labour Conference, and have the platform arranged satisfactorily and swing the Labour movement.
Mrs. Benson was informed that there was “nothing doing.”
Grit newspaper, dated 20th April, 1922, and printed at the Worker office, states: -
A well-known member of Parliament was paid a princely sum to control the 1921 Labour conference iu the interests of the antiprohibition party.
This article was read by the reading supervisor of the Worker office, and must have been brought to the notice of the management. This corrupt Tammany gang was prepared one week to sell the Labour platform to the brewers, and the next week, when funds were stopped, to sell the platform to the prohibitionists.
An inquiry would reveal that the Labour platform had been tampered with to suit wealthy capitalist interests. Over a period of years a platform (policy relating to liquor had been evolved,” but this disappeared without authority by being dropped out of the printed rulebook and platform.
The Labour platform has been tampered with in other important directions It does not matter where the control of the movement in Sydney is touched, corruption, graft, and thieving are evident,
Labour carnivals. In 1919, E. Simmonds, !George-street, Parramatta, mad( a proposition to the Australian Labour party to raise £8,000 net between March, 1919, and February, 1920. An- agreement was made on this basis for a three years’ period. These carnivals are a collection of small side-shows and games of chance. I was a member of a committee which for months in 1921 endeavoured to obtain balance-sheets of various carnivals but failed. We eventually gave it up as hopeless. No balance-sheets have ever been submitted with the accounts to the Australian Labour party executive or conference.
In 1919 Australian Labour party accounts show bulk items of £2,085 received and £1,916 expended in Labour carnivals. The general secretary’s report states the profit was £156.
For 1920 income from carnivals, is shown as £75 and expenditure £53, giving a profit of £22.. No reference is made to the carnivals in the general secretary’s 1920 report. *
For 1921 income from carnivals is shown as £1,791, and expenditure £114, a difference of £1,677. But Mr. Carey, in his report, states the profit was over £2,000.
The funds by which the Australian Labour party’s office is run are so difficult to account for that all this juggling must take place in a desperate attempt to cover up their origin.
A perambulating Australian Labour party carnival visiting centres between Murwillumbah and Lismore, being unable to submit accounts, was closed up by the Government.
Those carnivals were supposed to raise funds from the public for a public purpose. There should be a searching inquiry into their financial administration, and . particularly in regard to those held in Hyde Park and Prince Alfred Park, Sydney.
Australian Labour party art union. In 1920 permission was obtained from the Attorney-General to conduct an art union for the purpose of establishing a library. This was a fraud on the public. There was no intention .to establish a library. Although these art unions were run in 1920 and 1921, the only books in the Australian Labour party’s office are Hansard volumes, supplied free by the Government.
The 1920 general secretary’s report stated -
Wc hope in the u.mr future to hare a library of economic and general educational value to the younger members of the movement.
The Australian Labour party balancesheet for 1920 shows that £152 was received from the art, union, and £156 expended. Those figures are absurd.
The 1921 Australian Labour party accounts show £186 as having been received on art union account, and £111 expended. Yet the secretary’s report declares that there was a loss of £70.
In March last I attended a meeting of tie Labour News Board of Control, where it was decided to take £200 from the Art Union Library Account to ‘ keep the Labour News afloat turning out mainly sectarian matter.
Matron Lackey (Royal Red Cross Medal), 83 Gray-street, Carlton, New South Wales, made the following statement on 27th April, 1922: -
I know W. A. Gibb, Mill-street, Carlton, very well. He is an office assistant at the Australian Labour party, Macdonnel House. Three years ago Mr. Gibb and his family were very hard up and I took an active part in securing relief for them.
Since this time, he has been employed at the. Australian Labour party head office.
Mr. Gibb manages with Mr. Simmons various carnivals for raising funds for the Australian Labour party.
He has an Englishman living with him named J. Collar, who is employed at Huddart Parker’s wharf. Gibb pays this man £1 per night for attending the chocolate wheels at the Labour carnivals.
After the Labour carnival at Hyde Park about twelve months ago, I saw ninety large boxes of chocolates at Mr. Gibb’s private residence. I counted them.
At tho time of the Parramatta Labour carnival, Mr. Gibb’s son Fred came to my house and said to his mother, “ Father wants you to come home. He has £100 for you to bank.” I saw Mrs. Gibb’s bank-book with deposits of £100, £37, £17, and £35, and other amounts.
The Australian Labour party conducted an art union, the permission being obtained from the Attorney-General on the plea that the funds were to be used to establish a library at the Australian Labour party. .1 saw between 300 and 400 books at Mr. Gibb’s house. They are there now. Gibb lent me about twenty of them, which are at present in my possession.
About six months ago Mr. Gibb managed a carnival at Cessnock for the Australian Labour party, and immediately afterwards took a trip to Melbourne. The railway fares for himself and son, including expenses, cost £40, as Mr. Gibb admitted to me.
About four months ago Mr. Gibb bought the cottage in which he is at present living, in the name of his wife, from Mr. Bathie for £1,100.
Mr. Gibb informed me that Mr. Simmonds and himself owned a number of the side-shows which figure in the Labour carnivals.
The accounts of the general administration of the Australian Labour party and Central Branch Australian Workers Union will not bear careful examination. Both should be searchingly inquired into separately and in relation to each other. In the one case I have mentioned in which £500 was received from Mr. John Bridges, but was supposed to have come from the Central Branch of the Australian Workers Union. Other amounts said to be Australian Workers Union money will be found, upon inquiry, to have- come in’ without having any Australian Workers Union origin whatever.
The Labour News. At a meeting of the Labour News Board on 27th March, 1922, it was stated that £500 had been advanced from Australian Labour party funds - this bankrupt Australian Labour party - during the first quarter of the year. A special report dated 20th’ Feb-; mary, 1922, of a committee consisting of Messrs. Magrath, Bartle, and Gibb re the
Labour News accounts, stated, inter alia -
We find it impossible to say for what purpose cheques for large and small amounts were drawn….. It was disclosed that in October, 1921, a Mr. Fitzmaurice donated £100 to the Labour News…..Other amounts from a number of persons can be traced back over a year….. We found that the Worker prints 3,500 copies. About 500 of these go to subscribers and 3,000 to agents, the effective sales of the latter being about 2,500.
Who Mr. Fitzmaurice is, Heaven only knows. What the official organ of the Australian Labour party lent itself to for this and other amounts might be usefully inquired into.
Mr. Gibb, assistant secretary, also stated at this meeting that there had been embezzlements, and that if Mr. Higgins, who hadleft his position as manager and editor without notice, had his deserts he would be in gaol.
Fraud and dishonesty will be disclosed in regard to other Australian Labour party officials if a proper inquiry is held. It was shown in March last that there had been a continuous heavy loss on the paper, and that no accounts had been posted since February, 1920. Yet Mr. Carey, the general secretary, reported on 21st January, 1921, for the Australian Labour Party Conference as follows : -
The Labour News has for some time been meeting all its liabilities from its own advertising and sales revenue. … It is a matter for congratulation that we have now the services of an official organ running on without subsidy from the organization.
As a member of the Labour News Board, of which Mr. Lambert was chairman until October, 1921, I repeatedly but unsuccessfully requested regular monthly meetings, and asked that some kind of supervision should be exercised over the business. That unknown persons, or that any persons, were financing the Labour News was never reported either to the Board or openly to the executive. The condition of affairs disclosed in March last was not submitted either to the executive or to tho June Conference.
The whole machinery of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales is manipulated to cover up criminality, graft, and corruption.
At the recent Labour Conference Mr. McGirr stated that £50 notes were put into the hand of Labour members by fat bookmakers to influence the course of taxation, and that wealthy brewers paid the expenses of other Labour candidates. There was an inquiry as to disputes between Mr. McGirr and his fellow exMinisters on matters of Labour policy, but there was no investigation which touched questions of graft or corruption.
In spite of the fact that what I have mentioned is widely known amongst the leading spirits of the Australian Labour party, and that I have carried on a campaign within the organization for inquiry and reform extending over more than two years, the last Conference has come and gone without any request for either investigation into or correction of widespread corruption.
I have by no means exhaustively dealt with the part financial corruption and graft play in the Australian Labour party and its associate, the Central Branch of the Australian Workers Union. I have not entrenched upon any confidences. But I have said sufficient to render imperativo in the public interest a searching inquiry into: - (1) The administration of a great union which bears the imprimatur of the Federal law, a union in which the members’ have no means by a general meeting of carefully following and reviewing the administration of their affairs, and which the law compels them to join by scores of thousands as a condition precedent to their obtaining employment. (2) The control and management of the Australian Labour party which now seeks to manipulate public affairs for corrupt purposes.
This is the first part of the statement which I feel it my duty to place before the House and the country.
– Is this only a little bit?
– Yes. I shall have to return to the subject on three or four more occasions in order to deal with other matters as vital and important as that to which I have referred to-day, but of a different character altogether.
It is incomprehensible that members who are put forward to carry the banner of this organization in New South Wales have not taken a united and determined stand for a thorough inquiry into and a correction of the widespread gross abuses.
In all the years during which I have been associated with the Labour movement, I have never before had any serious differences with my colleagues - certainly not in Parliament, and not with the executive body in New South Wales. During those twenty-five years no man has given more of the’ life-blood of his young manhood than I in the hard work of the Labour movement, in the organization of its campaigns, and in the preparation of its literature. It may have been a misfortune or otherwise - I do not know - that my part in the Labour movement was associated with the organization of its campaigns, and was intimately concerned with its management, but it was impossible for me to see what I saw going on recently without protest. Know, ing that a young man could not obtain selection as a parliamentary candidate unless he abased himself to the Tammany junta, which is up for the highest bidder, it waB impossible for ‘me to remain associated with such an organization without doing everything in my power to root that element out. It is of no personal advantage to me to take the stand I have. I could have sat down quietly and winked at the whole situation, but I have reported these matters to the Labour organizations in my own electorate, and I have attended Labour Conferences with resolutions on the authority of Cook branches of the Australian Labour party, and the approval of the Cook Federal Labour Council, placed on the business-paper in accordance with every requirement of the rule-book, but the motions have been brutally ruled out of order, because the Tammany junta would not allow an inquiry or a correction within the Labour movement.
This year, 1922, there was every prospect of a Labour Government being again returned to power to work great good for the masses in a difficult and trying time; but when I saw the Labour Government smashed, because the workers of New South Wales had experienced so much of the treachery and rottenness of the Australian Labour party that they spewed the thing out of their mouths, I realized that it was time for me to put the facts before the Labour electors in my State, particularly when the Labour press and the Worker suppress all criticism of the thieves and fakirs.
I repeat what I have said - and it will have to be repeated over and over again - that Labour, organized through the Australian Labour party, cannot be rehabilitated in the good-will and esteem of the country until there has been a . thorough cleaning-out of the movement.
– A very courageous speech.
– I have been amused and somewhat shocked to hear the extraordinary statements and accusations of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts). As my name was associated with what he has been speaking about, and as be has taken advantage of the protection which parliamentary privilege affords him to make a lot of allegations and assumptions of a very serious nature, I think it devolves upon me to show honorable members that there is not an atom of truth in any one of - those statements. The honorable member has abused all and sundry; he has referred to me as an associate of a gang of corruptionists, and as a person who has manipulated, corruptly the funds of a political body and a great industrial organization. Before I deal with those statements, I would like to mention one or two matters that concern the honorable member vitally. He stated that the late Hon. John Storey, shortly before his death, had an interview with him and said, “ For God’s sake, save us from .these savages !” Mr. Storey is a dead man, and that statement was made by Mr. Catts after his death.
– It was made before his death.
- Mr. Storey also made a statement in the presence of several members of the State parliamentary party in New South Wales, that the Federal Parliamentary Labour party was not worth its salt to allow a man .like Mr. Catts inside its ranks after the disgraceful Court proceedings in connexion with a certain law case of the honorable member. The learned Judge who heard the case remarked that the word of Mr. Catts was a word on which no one could rely.
– The Judge did not say that
– Was that a judicial decision?
– It- was a judicial utterance after Mr. Catts had gone through a very long cross-examination, and that was the opinion given by the learned Judge after he had heard the honorable member.
– I will give you the answer to that.
– I shall deal first with the honorable member’s statement m connexion with the Australian Workers Union management. That directly concerns me, as I was secretary of the organization for some eight years. Any moneys spent from the funds of the union are used in accordance with the rules, and not otherwise. The accounts of the organization are .thoroughly audited by chartered accountants every year. Balance-sheets are placed before the annual convention, the members of which are elected throughout Australia on a plebiscite vote of the members of the union. I also desire to refer to the statement that the Australian Workers Union is being used to maintain the Australian Labour party organization. The union certainly is affiliated with the Australian Labour party, but so are many other unions, each of which pays its affiliation fees, and the books of the organization of which I was secretary will show plainly that no more than the affiliation fees have been paid.
The honorable member has accused the Australian Labour party of receiving illicit moneys, but he has not adduced an atom of proof to support his allegation of corrupt practice. It is very easy for a man to come here like a coward, under the cloak of privilege, and attack men who are not in a position to defend themselves. He mentioned the names of men such as Mr. James Tyrrell, Mr. Woods, of the Wharf Labourers Union, Mr. Mills,1 Mr. William Carey (secretary of the Australian Labour party), and Mr: Gibb, who is at present acting secretary. It is most cowardly for a man to make such statements without endeavouring in the slightest way to prove any of them. These men have no means of defending themselves. They are. not able to institute action against the honorable member for damages; but I would like him to go outside the walls of Parliament and repeat these statements.
– That is the proper and honorable thing. That is the test.
– If the honorable member will go outside and make these statements in front of any member of the Labour party, or any member in this chamber, he would be doing me a favour, and he would be only doing justice to the men he has slandered inside the House. I heard the honorable member for Cook abuse the executive who expelled him from the Labour party, and he said that I and another gentleman attended the meeting, and directed the campaign against him. I shall read to the House an opinion of the executive expressed by the honorable member before that meeting.
– That did not refer to the same executive.
– It did. The executive was elected in March, 1921, and the following is an extract from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 5th April, 1921 -
Mr. J. H. Catts, M.H.R., said last night that, all -things considered, -he was delighted at the result of the election of officers for the Australian Labour .party. They lost the presidency, but .held their own with all the other official positions, and had done better than that on the executive. “ The executive,” said Mr. Catts, ‘* numbers thirty. Four Australian Workers Union men, known as -the most independent, were placed on our ticket. We picked them out because we believed they would hold the scales evenly, and would seek to do justly. They- headed the poll.”
Then he went on to refer to, and condemn some other persons who were elected upon a ticket different from his own. He continued -
Mr. Power, the VicePresident, has done well. He is a man of ability. The Conference has acted with great discretion. It has elected a strong, capable, and representative team that can and will work well together. It is the strongest and brainiest executive we have had for many years. It is distinctly an antiBailey executive.
– That is not the same executive as the one to which I referred in my speech.
– It is the executive that expelled the honorable member from the Labour party.
– Nothing of the kind.
Several honorable members interject, ing
– While the honorable member for Cook waa speaking, the House preserved complete silence, and in fairness to the honorable member who is now replying, I ask that he be accorded the same treatment.
– As is well known by honorable members, the honorable member for Cook has been a member of the Labour party for some years, but he offered himself to the National party some years ago before he was selected to represent Labour in New South Wales.
– When was that?
-I cannot state the exact date off hand, but the information is at my disposal elsewhere. If all that the honorable member for Cook has Bald be true, why did he squeal so loudly when he wad booted out of the Labour organization recently? He was intimately associated with the management and counsels of the Labour movement in New South Wales, and if his allegations have any foundation in fact, he must have been a party to all that was taking place, and must be held equally guilty with every other person connected with the organization. The honorable member has stated that money was illicitly received by some person or organization. I was president of the Australian Labour party for five years, and I voluntarily resigned from the position. It was not part of my duty, as president, to handle the cash of the organization; that is the duty of the secretary and the finance committee. The honorable member told the House that he heard somebody say that Mr. Bailey had received £1,000 from the brewers’ organization, and that he handed £500 to some Labour delegates, and pocketed the balance. He also alleges that he heard a lady say that she could get £500 from the brewers to pack the Australian Labour Party Conference. That was a most cowardly statement, and slanders a man and woman who, so far as I know, are decent and honest. On the face of it the statement is absurd. The Conference is composed of delegates elected from hundreds of branches of the organization throughout New South Wales, and from the big affiliated trade unions, and to talk of packing such a great body by means of an expenditure of £500 is ridiculous. It would be necessary for each and every one of the delegates to be corruptible. Usually there are over 200 delegates from all parts of the States, and at least 50 per cent. of them would require to be dishonest and ready to sell their vote for a couple of pounds. No doubt, if anything like that was taking place, the honorable member for Cookhad a better knowledge of it than I had, and he probably was the gentleman most concerned. He spoke about the criminality of the Labour Conference of 1921, and seems to be very much aggrieved because some motion brought forward by him was ruled out of order. The honorable member is one who would understand the standing orders of any organization with which he was connected, and he knows that most constitutions give the right to any member or delegate to move dissent from any ruling by the chairman. I believe that the honorable member for Cook did move some unimportant and superfluous motion in regard to a matter already provided for in the constitution, and his proposal was accordingly ruled out of order. A motion of dissent was submitted, but the ruling was upheld by about 200 votes to six. Apparently the honorable member accuses the 200 delegates who voted against him of being dishonest and corrupt, thieves, swindlers, and criminal intriguers. He quoted a remark said to have been made by the late Mr. Percy Brookfield about the duplication of Australian Workers Union tickets. All the tickets issued by the Australian Workers Union are printed at The Worker office, in Sydney, and the trustees of that newspaper are the only indentors of a particular class of paper. When the tickets are printed they are distributed to the branch secretaries throughout Australia in accordance with orders previously sent by them to the manager of The Worker. These branch secretaries must account for every ticket, and if they do not return intact all tickets unissued, they must pay for those that are missing. It is not likely that an officer receiving £400 or £500 per annum would pay for many tickets at 25s. each in Order to steal a few votes for himself. It is easy to say that the late Mr. Brookfield made a statement; the poor fellow has gone to his grave, and cannot deny the allegation. I understand, also, that the machine which prints the tickets in The Worker office has a special numbering device, and that it is almost impossible to imitate or fake that number in any way. On one occasion some bogus tickets did appear in connexion with a Labour selection, ballot in the old Naomi electorate, but I do not think that the candidates included one member of the Australian Workers Union, let alone an officer of that organization.
– It was an Australian Workers Union officer who exposed the corruption.
– Yes ; it was exposed by the returning officer. (He discovered that some forged voting-slips similar to those attached to the Australian Workers Union tickets had been used in order to record votes for a certain candidate; but those votes were not admitted. An inquiry was held as to the genuineness of the tickets, and the forgery was detected at a glance. Upon that incident the honorable member for Cook founds an allegation that there is widespread duplication of tickets in connexion with the Australian Workers Union, that there is. widespread fraud amongst its officers, and that the whole organization is corrupt and rotten. As for the statements of the honorable member for Cook - those in which he slanders various officers of the Australian Workers Union throughout Australia, and dumps them down here as criminals and, altogether, as persons who cannot be trusted, as men who are robbing the workers of Australia, - I would stake my reputation against that of the honorable member at any time. Morally or privately, or from the political or any other stand-point, my reputation will compare more than favorably with that of the honorable member. Moreover, there is not an officer in the Australian Workers Union to-day who cannot say the same. Each and every individual of those officers is elected, in hia own respective branch, by a plebiscite of members; not by any postal vote, but by votes marked in the various camps, or sheds, or quarries, or in whatever place members of the Australian Workers Union may be employed, by a deputy returning officer. These votes are sealed and addressed to a returning officer in Sydney. No person other than that returning officer has access to the papers, and he does not see them until he has opened the box concerned, and is ready to count the votes in the presence of two scrutineers.
The honorable member for Cook has also said that it is about time some searching inquiry was made into the scheme which I initiated for the benefit of the bush workers in 1918, or thereabouts. This project was known as the rabbit-skin handling scheme. I was then secretary of the central branch of the Australian Workers Union, situated at Orange.’ I could see that the rabbit trappers, who are mostly members of the Australian Workers Union, were not getting a square deal. The middlemen and small buyers at the various centres and stations and corners throughout New South Wales were buying up the trappers’ stuff at less than half the fair price. I initiated a scheme, and advertised it, and got, as best I could, into touch with practically all of the men concerned. 1 asked the’ trappers to send me their skins, and said I would rut them on the Sydney auction market, and would get them a fair price. The scheme was put into operation, and X put through many tens of thousands of pounds worth pf skins. I received actually, in some cases, as much as in the vicinity of 17s. for 1 lb. of skins, and sometimes as much as £80 odd for about 60 lbs. of rabbit skins. This was at auction. The carrying on of the scheme naturally entailed a little labour. I had an expert for a while whom I had trained up with the scheme, and I had also a stenographer. I was getting a rebate from the Belling agents of lj per cent, in.order to carry on the business, and pay for my labour. That lj per- cent, did not quite’ suffice to keep matters going. I considered, there-, fore, that it would be an absolutely fail thing if I were to make a further deduction. I thereupon deducted another $ per cent, from the returns sent to me. That was done, of course, with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the people who were sending me their goods. This $ per cent, made up a total of 2 per cent. Whether the scheme will be carried on further, I do not know. It has been practically dead for the past six months or more. There have been no rabbits to skin; the drought wiped out nearly all of them. Just latterly, however, the rabbits are becoming more plentiful again, and men are beginning to- drift out, and to take on trapping once more. Thus, probably, the scheme will be carried on further. I understand that the Australian Workers Union itself is about £50 behind in its funds as a result of carrying through the scheme. It was a matter of organization in order to benefit members of the Australian Workers Union, and also of organizing the men themselves into the union.
So much for the honorable member for Cook and his bald and unscrupulous statement. The honorable member knows that I went over the whole of the ground in connexion with the scheme before the Australian Workers Union, at an annual convention, and that I produced a balancesheet there, and was unanimously complimented by the conference of delegates from all over Australia upon the way in which I had initiated and handled the project. The honorable member for Cook made a deliberate and wilfully untrue statement when he said that there was no balance-sheet published in connexion with the scheme. A balance-sheet has been published from time to time, and the whole of the accounts in connexion with the scheme are kept by an. expert < bookkeeper in the Australian Workers Union offices. When statements of the kind which have been uttered by the honorable member are publicly made, one cannot roter to them other than by stigmatizing them as unscrupulous and untruthful - baldly, as lies - and as not being fair to anybody, either inside or outside of this House. It comes very hard upon honorable men outside of this chamber that they should be so attacked. It is particularly hard upon them that a person such ds the honorable member for Cook, under the protection and privileges of Parliament, should come here and make such a determined and cowardly attempt to destroy their characters.
The honorable member has mentioned a statement which he alleges was made to him by the late Mr. Teesdale Smith. It is significant that the honorable member did_ not announce that Mr. Teesdale Smith had told him certain things until after that gentleman had died. The honorable member seems to have a convenient knack of doing such things. He made some statement, I believe, at a gathering of his own friends in Castlereaghstreet, at the time of the 1921 Australian Labour Party Conference. Things wore not going too well with him at that conference, and he became so perturbed and disgruntled that he got a few of the malcontents around him. I hardly like
Ur. Lambert. to call them Tammanyites, for that would be employing a word which the honorable member himself likes to use, but which expression is so played out that only the honorable member would now resort to it. He gathered these friends about him, and, with a flourish of trumpets and the beating of drums, called them together in a little hall in Castlereagh-street. There happened to be one or two honest men there, and afterwards they made known what the honorable member for Cook had told those present. I understand that there were also representatives of tho press present. I do not think they published the honorable member’s statements, however, for the reason that they were too libellous. I sholl now quote an extract from the apology of the honorable member, made in connexion with this business. I understand that Mr. J. Bailey, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, issued a writ against the honorable member for Cook for a sum of £1,000, or the like. The honorable member for Cook has just stated in this chamber that he gave Mr. Bailey eight days in which to go ahead with the charge. I do not know just exactly what is the legal position in Victoria, but I understand that, in New South Wales, if a person issues a writ against another he has an option concerning when he shall go on with it ; that is to say, as to -when the case shall be dealt with. The extract from the honorable member’s apology is as follows:–
After the denial of the truth of it by Messrs. Alexander Brown & Co., solicitors for Mr. Bailey, I accept tha opportunity this evening to apologize in connexion with this Teesdale Smith matter. My apology is full, unreserved, and withdraws all imputations that might be considered made.
The honorable member for Cook has stood up in his place in the House of Representatives and has made deliberately untrue statements. I have the proof of their untruthfulness. Moreover, as I remarked at the beginning of my speech, in my own opinion, and in that of very many other men who know the honorable member, his word is one which cannot be taken by any honest person.
I do not propose to deal with every petty insinuation and obviously untrue statement that tho honorable member has made here. It is not a very pleasant thing for me to drag into this Chamber details concerning the organization with which I have the honour to be connected. It is most distasteful, indeed, that such matters should be aired in Parliament, particularly when they are altogether irrelevant to the subject under discussion. But since the honorable member for Cook has been allowed to get this “ dope,” or “ tripe,” into Hansard, then, no matter, how distasteful the task, I feel it to be my duty to make reply. In conclusion, 1 desire to point out that the honorable member for Cook is a disgruntled and disappointed man to-day. He has been kicked out of the Labour party for turning traitor; for being absolutely disloyal to the party. He has been disappointed in his aspirations; his ambitions have not been fulfilled. He has aspired to every position in the movement. I cannot help it if the movement has not seen fit to put him into any one of those positions which he has sought. He has aspired to fill practically every office offering in the Labour party movement, both State and Federal. But the members of the party, and of the Conferences, and of the executives, have taken the honorable member for Cook at his own face value. They have distrusted him, and under no circumstances have they been induced to give to him any position in the movement. Therefore, in his disappointment and chagrin at the failure of his intrigues, he has practically sold the Labour party. Whereupon, I repeat, for turning traitor, he has now been, expelled. Now he is endeavouring to expose a lot of faked or imaginary grievances and crimes, and having made the allegations so often, no doubt he is beginning to think that some’ of them aro true.
– As a personal explanation I should like .to say that the apology to Mr. Bailey in connexion with the Teesdale Smith matter has not been correctly stated by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert). Before the writ was served upon me, I was asked if I would go to the Labour Conference and explain the matter, and accept Mr. Bailey’s denial. It was .my object to get the whole of the facts before the Labour Conference, and I made a categorical statement setting forth the facts. It was a tactical method of getting the facts officially before the Conference. These facts were so terribly damaging to Mr. Bailey and others that his solicitor absolutely refused to allow them to . go before the Labour Conference. . I had ‘ drafted my letter in that particular way in order that the whole matter should go before the Conference, but they declined to allow it. As a matter of fact, therefore, that apology was not made at all: It was after the refusal, to regard this as an apology that the writ was issued. The honorable member for West Sydney merely read a few lines out of a threepage foolscap typewritten document, in which I sought to get all of the facts before the Labour Conference. I shall deal with other points raised by the honorable member for West Sydney on another occasion.
– I am very glad that, in view of” the Prime Minister’s unsatisfactory state of health to-day, the indulgence which he asked of the House was extended to him ; but making all allowances for his illhealth I must confess that I have never heard him flounder so badly as he did this afternoon in his attempt to reply to the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The real issues before the House were not. touched upon at all by the right honorable gentleman. He mentioned them, it is true, but then he endeavoured by a, skilful manipulation of words to evade any specific statement. He accused the honorable member for Hunter of being extremely solicitous now about the . carrying out of, a number of important public works in connexion with the Postal Department, and wanted to know what the honorable member or his party had done in connexion with- these public works. Without unnecessary boasting as to the achievements of the Labour party, at that time, it may be said that the first Fisher Government, which held office from 1910 to 1913, carried out, as part of a continuous policy in connexion with the Post Office, a number of important works, such as the undergrounding of telephones, with the result that tho honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), as Treasurer, is now receiving a considerable amount of revenue. I am sure the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) will admit that I am stating the facts. He knows very well that, in order to insure the best results, there must be continuity of policy in big public undertakings, and that it is unwise to shut down on works simply because the end’ of the financial year is approaching, because when Parliament has given the necessary authorization there must necessarily be some loss of time before the staffs can be assembled again. It was the policy of the Fisher Government to insure continuity in the carrying out of such public works, and, therefore, large sums of money were made available from time to time.
– That has been the trouble. It has not been done hitherto.
– I say it has. At all events, it, waa done by the Fisher Administration in connexion with the undergrounding of telephones, and there was continuity of work. I challenge honorable members opposite to deny this statement. On other occasions, I have pointed out these facts to the members of the present Ministry, so they cannot now claim to be the originators of the proposal.When the Prime Minister suggests that the Leader of the Opposition and his party have never done anything to push on with great developmental publio works in connexion with this great money-earning Department, he is certainly talking with his tongue in his cheek. My complaint now is that the Government did not make an earlier start with these developmental works that have been outlined. For some years, there has been absolute unanimity of opinion in the House as to the necessity for a more progressive policy in connexion with the Postal Department, and only now, at tho eleventh hour, have the Government oome down with a flourish of trumpets-
– Why are you complaining when it is being done?
– I am not complaining. I am only expressing regret that this policy was not adopted much earlier because the Government have practically had the assent of Parliament to this course of action. Nobody is more opposed than I am to the spending of public money without parliamentary authority, but when there are 13,000 people throughout Australia waiting to pour money into the Treasury as soon as they can get telephonic connexions, the Government would be justified in taking some definite steps promptly to secure the additional revenue. Parliament would readily assent to the expenditure for this purpose. The Government, somewhat late in the day, have oome down with a proposal to spend about £8,000,000 over a series of years at the rate of about £2,000,000 per annum to bring our telephonic and telegraphic services up to date, but I suppose that before anything is really done, they will await the vote of Parliament for the authorization of the first loan.
– I have only been head of the Department for six months. This is the first scheme I took in hand.
– I do not wish to be unfair to the Minister. I know he has been only six months at the head of the Postal Department, but for some three years he has been a member of the Cabinet, and he must have known there was a consensus of opinion in this House that these postal works should be proceeded with without delay.
– He has been there long enough to say that he will refuse to reduce the postal rates, but I think Parliament will make him.
– If my memory serves me aright, I think that when the Fisher Government introduced the proposal to reduce the postage rates from 2d. to1d. - and some people regarded that as the greatest reform ever carried out in connexion with the Post Office - I voted for the retention of the old rate of 2d.
On the question of immigration, I want to make it quite clear that my Leader and other honorable members on this sido have said, over and overagain, that as a party we are not opposed to immigration, provided a scheme is formulated to absorb the immigrants, as well as employ our own people. That must be done first. The Prime Minister declared that the States would receive no financial help from the Commonwealth Government unless their immigration schemes insured that the immigrants should go upon the land. But what are the results? I come in contact with many farmers, and I know what is happening. Only the other day I was informed by a returned soldier farmer that his experience and the experience of many others waa. that, after about a fortnight or three weeks on the land, very many of the immigrants gravitate to the cities seeking employment. I remind the House of what happened in Victoria. About twelve years ago we had a batch of immigrants settled on the land; but as soon as their doles had given out they came down to Melbourne and, metaphorically speaking, held a pistol at the head of the Government, declaring that if the Government did not provide them with jobs similar to those theyhad held in England theywould write home to their friends stating that Victoria was not a very desirable place tocome to. Those men, many of them, are now in our workshops and other city concerns. I am afraid that the same results will follow the adoption of the present immigration scheme, and that while the Commonwealth Government may advance money to the States for the purpose of settling newcomers on the land, by-and-by they will come trooping in their thousands into the towns and cities looking for employment. Only to-day I heard on very good authority how immigration is affecting men who have been engaged in the Newport Workshops for years carrying out important works of construction. Last week the order came for the displacement of a large number of them, and though there was no serious decline of work to justify such a step, these Australianborn citizens had to make way for others who have recently been brought from the other side of the world. Is this the sort of result that we are to expect from the vast sums of money that are being spent on immigration? Of course, the Government make certain grants to the States, but when the money has been handed over there is no sort of supervision on the part of the Commonwealth.
– That is exactly the position that does not exist.
– What I say has been the experience of the past, and we are going to have similar experience again.
– That is what we are safeguarding against.
– It cannot be safeguarded against, and the Minister knows that very well.
– We can safeguard against it.
– You cannot safeguard against it.
– We are not advancing money to the States for immigration.
– But the Government propose to do so. What has been done is to spend a quarter of a million on the other side of the world to maintain a big staff without any beneficial results.
– The honorable member is against immigration in any case.
– I am against the injudicious spending of money in any sphere for any purpose, and I am against bringing immigrants here when we have armies of unemployed in both town and country. The Prime Minister professes to be against any policy of the kind, but only this afternoon he said, speaking of millions, that the Government would advance money to the States if the States would guarantee that they required it to settle people on the land.
– Yes; on specified works such as railways, roads, and the like.
– That is what the Government say; but when the immigrants come, what guarantee is there that they will remain on the land ? Hitherto, owing first to unwise selection, men have been brought here out of the factories of the Old World, and placed on the land without their having any idea of practical farming. Then, as soon as the system shows any signs of breaking down, these immigrants come to the authorities and demand work under threats of letting the people on the other side of the world know that thecountry is no good.
– What the honorable member has proved is that he is against all immigration.
-No, I havenot; the honorable gentleman should not put words into my mouth. But I am against an inept Government, without sufficient brain power to find employment for our own people, at the same time giving encouragement to immigration. All we on this side are asking is that the Government shall first do something for our own people and then for the people who come to this country.
– My advice is that the honorable member should speak to Tom Walsh and a few others, and induce them toalter their ways.
– The honorable gentleman shows his spinelessness by his admission that Tom Walsh and others rule him, the Prime Minister, and the Government, although they have such a. majority behind them. It is an admission that I should not have expected from such a quarter.
– I say that Tom Walsh is one of the main causes of unemployment.
Mr.FENTON.- If the Government have any means of organizing to meet the unemployment difficulty, and to encourage proper immigration, they ought, in the name of all that is good, at once set to work and give some evidence of the fact. When the Government have done this, I shall be found with them up to the hilt, but their present course must, as in the past, lead to absolute disaster. I do not know whether any arrangement has been made with the Premier of Western. Australian to co-operate in the scheme which has been drawn up between that State and the Imperial Government, with the approval ofcertain organizations, to further emigration. It would seem that the Premier of Western Australia has made a good impression of the Imperial authorities, who are willing to support him in the scheme he has in hand.
– Western Australia is the State that, at the present time, offers the best facilities for land settlement.
– That, of course, comes well from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), but, in my opinion, Queensland is “ on top “ in that regard. I did see, the other day, that one of the most valuable estates in Western Australia had been acquired by the State Government at the small price of 30s. an acre; all I can say is, that if any decent estates in Victoria were required, even for the most benevolent purposes, the owners would open thoir mouths extraordinarily wide, and demand an exorbitant price. If the climatic conditions are all right, and proper facilities are provided, the Western Australian scheme ought to prove a good one ; but, at the same time - and I shall be borne out by Queensland representatives - I think the Queensland Government have put forward the best proposition up to the present. There are in that State the Burnett lands, a magnificent tract of country awaiting settlement, fertile, with certain facilities already there, and others to be provided. When, however, the Commonwealth Government is approached by a State Labour Government to take part in the development of this land,which would provide work for the unemployed and for immigrants, no desire is shown to cooperate. Immediately, however, a scheme is suggested in Western Australia, where the political complexion of the Government is different, the Prime Minister is prepared to offer help. Mr. Theodore, because he is the Leader of a Labour Government, cannot induce the Prime Minister to take any further interest in the scheme for the Northern State; and I charge the Government with, in this instance, drawing an obvious distinction.
This afternoon the Prime Minister made the wonderful statement, that it is the duty of the State Governments to see that the people are employed. The Commonwealth Government have a Post and Telegraph Department and a Works and Railways Department, and they are carrying out, or assisting in carrying out, such great schemes as that on the Murray. At present, millions are being spent in giving employment, and millions more could be spent if the Government were a little more sympathetic. It is the duty of the Government to find employment, seeing that there are Federal works which have to be carried out in the various States.
Another peculiar statement made by the Prime Minister is that to increase old-age pensions woulddraw the Government into a “ financial morass.” Did ever a more unsympathetic sentence fall from the lips of a Prime Minister, or any other member of this House? The dear old men and women of this land have gone through trouble and trials, of which wo of this day have had no experience, but of which we have heard, and yet these pioneers, in a time of high prices, are expected to live on 15s. a week. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) read the letter of a town clerk in one of the coal-mining districts to the effect that, owing to the revaluations that have taken place, the pensions in some cases have been reduced by 7s. a week. I do not wonder at some public authorities taking action when the Prime Minister states that tq increase old-age pensions would lead us into a “ financial morass.” What would the additional expenditure of £1,500,000 mean to a wonderfully wealthy community like this, especially when we are spending so much money in directions that do not mean nearly so good a return ?
– The money can be saved on the Defence Estimates.
– That is so; and we must remember that this money paid in pensions will remain in the community. Many of these old pensioners have now to live on “ bread and scrape,” with,perhaps, tea with no milk, and very little sugar. They are imperfectly clothed, and compelled to live inhouses that can fairly be classed as hovels, and a few shillings a week would mean much to them. Surely of all who need nourishing food, we must have regard to those in their declining years. “We have a revenue of £60,000,000. It is true that the Treasurer, Mr. Bruce, forecasts an insignificant deficit of about £200,000; but, owing to the Pacific arrangement, great savings can be made, and those savings might well be devoted to relieving the distress of our old people. I am astonished to hear such a stubborn, hard-hearted statement from the Prime Minister as that to which I have referred. The right honorable gentleman leads and holds theGovernment in the palm of his hand, and yet he declares that to grant this little extra money will mean leading us into a financial morass. Shame that such a sentence should be given utterance in the Parliament of a country like this!
As to the Washington Conference anybody would think from the speech of the Prime Minister that everything done there was due to himself ; but had it not been for the agitation on this side of the House, and on the part of both press and public, it is doubtful whether the Government would have Bent a representative, Almost “from the jump” the Prime Minister tried to “ throw cold water “ on the project; and when Senator Pearce was on his way to Washington, the right honorable gentleman spoke of the Conference in quite a contemptuous tone, saying, “ The Washington . Conference for what it is worth.” But I should say that the Washington Conference has been fruitful of far greater results than the Prime Minister ever expected. I thinkthat our protests in the earlier stages of the discussion on the representation of Australia at the Conference were well justified. No member of the Parliament was more of a militarist, or more under military control, than was Senator Pearce, and we were opposed to the appointment of such a delegate. Our desire was that Australia Bhould be re presented by. a man whose very soul was charged with a desire for the peace of the world, and who would do all within his power to bring about the disarmament of the nations. For the most part Senator Pea rce’s actions, up to that time, showed that his sympathies were in the opposite direction; but, ardent militarist that he was, the discussions which took place in this House had a very salutary effect upon his attitude at the Conference.
– He had no official standing at the Conference. He took no part in its deliberations.
– I am aware that we were absolutely dependent upon the British delegation for the expression of our views at the Conference ; but the honorable member will, no doubt, admit that Senator Pearce was able to tender advice to the British delegates as to Australia’s attitude. I rejoice that so eminent a man as Mr. (now Earl) Balfour was at the head of the British delegation. I believe that that honoured man went to the Conference burning with a desire to secure the peace of the world, or at least to obtain, so far as the Pacific was concerned, a cessation of the iniquitous and moneywasting naval programme being carried on by the great nations. Whatever may have been the advice ho received from Australia’s representative his strong personality, his fine eloquence, and his general attributes, tomy mind, had a marked influenceon the decisions of the Conference. I have no desire to detract in any way from the merits of the other members of the Delegation; but in my opinion he did more than any one else, not excluding President Harding or Mr. Hughes, the United States of America representatives, to bring about the results that we applaud to-day.
The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), finding that as the result of the Washington Conference he can save something like £1,700,000 a year on our Defence expenditure, should now use his influence to induce his colleagues to agree that further assistance shall be granted to the invalid and old-age pensioners. Even if those who support the Government are not prepared to vote for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Labour party, I hope that they will join with us before very long in expressing in such unmistakable terms their views on this matter that the Government will be compelled to liberalize the invalid and oldage pensions scheme.
The stand taken by the Leader of the Labour party is undoubtedly a proper one. I well remember the speeches made by him in regard to our representation at the Washington Conference. They made a great impression upon me, and I have a very clear recollection of the earnest way in which he insisted that Australia should bc represented. But because the- Labour party desired that all political parties in Australia should be represented at tho Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has had the effrontery to criticise the amendment to that effect which was moved by our leader when the question was before the House. Had the amendment been carried, our representation would have been extended, and I think that Australian interests would have been safer in the hands of three delegates than they were when only one was appointed to look after them. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that Senator Pearce probably did not have much influence on the decisions of the Conference, but our object in urging that all political parties in Australia should be represented,, was to insure that the Commonwealth should speak with a united voice.
Part of the Peace compact has to do with Labour and labour conditions in various parts of the world. Labour, for tho first time, has been recognised in a great international document, and it is clear that those who framed the Treaty intended that at future International Conferences the views of Labour should be heard. If they were, the secret diplomacy ana trickery now indulged in by some nations would be abolished. That is what we have in view. Without desiring in any way to be boastful, I think we may take credit as a party for the part we played in insisting upon the representation of Australia at the Washington Conference. As a result of that Conference, I am hopeful that we shall have peace for a number of years, and that much of the money we ‘have hitherto been spending on the Army and Navy will now be avail-
Mr. Penton. able for the development of this great country.
I come now to the question of wireless. I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is present, since I propose to take exception to the course he pursued as a member of the Committee appointed by this Parliament to inquire into the proposed wireless agreement. Honorable members on this side of the House, when the agreement was before us, urged that whatever the report of the Committee might be, no. agreement as between the Commonwealth Government and the Wireless Company should be entered into until it had been sanctioned by the Parliament itself. I admit that by the terms of the resolution agreed to, this House, to a large extent, removed from the shoulders of the Prime Minister the responsibility for entering into the agreement since it was provided that if the Committee, after inquiry, reported that the Government should expend £500,000 in the purchase of shares in the company, the contract should be signed by the Government and the scheme proceeded with. I compliment the Committee on having changed to a very considerable extent the face of the proposed agreement. The fact that it did so is a sufficient -justification for the stand that we took. The Committee considerably improved on the agreement as originally put before, us, but I agree with the minority report presented by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in which he states that the lost word has not yet been said regarding wireless, and I am at a loss to account for the haste that was shown by the Government in connexion with the matter. I think that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) on taking office as Treasurer should have retired from the Committee and have allowed another honorable member to take his place, seeing that as Treasurer he would have to authorize the proposed expenditure.
– I should very much have liked to have resigned from the Committee.
– I am not casting any aspersions on the honorable gentleman, but I think he should have resigned from tho Committee on taking office. I protest against the Government entering into any agreement involving the expenditure of £500,000 before the sanction of Parliament has been obtained. Notwithstanding the authority given by resolution of this House to the Wireless Committee, I do not think the agreement should have been entered into until it had received parliamentary approval. I have been glancing oyer the list of shareholders in the company, and find that, with the exception of the promoters of the company, the shares are held for the most part by big concerns. The Marconi International Wireless Company, for instance, holds 16,000 shares, and the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company 33,000 shares. The shipping companies in and around Australia are also among the large shareholders. There are Huddart Parker Limited, with 14,700 shares; the Adelaide Steamship Company; the companies that trade between the mainland and Tasmania; Burns, Philp, & Co. ; the Holyman Line ; McIlwraith, McEacharn, & Company; and the Melbourne Steamship Coy. Mr. Fiske, in Sydney, holds 11,000 shares - we might naturally expect that. The Marconi companies in London - they are supposed to be two different companies, but they are really only one - hold between them noarly 50,000 shares. Their voting strength and their power in this concern will be very great. Although some of the terms of the agreement have been altered, I understand that, in spite of protests, the wireless people still have a majority of representatives on the directorate. If that is so, they will control the company. It is all very well for the Government to say that they hold 500,001 shares, and that they can dominate the rest of the shareholders by one vote. I would be quite content to give away that one extra vote to the general shareholders if I could have a majority on the directorate. The majority on the directorate is made up of those who are in the wireless business. The Government are in a minority, and yet are subscribing more than the private persons who are in a majority on the directorate. An agreement of that kind is not right. I indorse the views of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and I would like the present Postmaster-General and his predecessor in that office to tell the candid truth about wireless. If tihey were to do so, I think that this House would be very considerably enlightened. The directors may order that more capital be called up, and, in that event, the Commonwealth Government would be made liable for the payment of furtherbig sums of money.
– What is your authority for saying that ?
– The agreement. These private organizations can always beat the Government; we may depend upon that. It is the directorate, and not the shareholders, that decide the policy of the company. They act, theoretically, of course, with the consent of the shareholders, but for the most part the general management of the concernis in private hands. That is a very undesirable position.
– Have not the shareholders controlling power?
– If I were to advance the same argument to my honorable friend as he advances to me, he would laugh in my face. He would say, “ Give me a majority of the directors, and I can do what I like with the company.” Is it not a mistake, seeing that we are paying more than the private individuals, not to have a majority on the directorate ? Provision to that effect ought to be made in the agreement, but, unfortunately, it is not made.
-One generally gets experienced men on a board of directors.
-Yes, we do; and I understand that the Government have a man on the other side of the world as their adviser in connexion with certain concerns who is the head of one of the biggest monopolies in the world. I refer to Lord Inchcape, who would, if he could, sink every Commonwealth ship that we own. I do not say that he is a desperate man ; buthe would like to see those ships swept off the ocean. He made an offer last session to buy out the Commonwealth Government Line; and yet he is the trusted Commonwealth adviser in regard to other concerns. By-and-by this Government will find themselves not only in a minority on the directorate, butthey probably will be mulct in expenses which the taxpayers of this country will have to meet. The directors will decide what the expenditure shall be.
– Surely the majority of the shareholders elect the directors.
– That is not in the agreement. The agreement gives a majority on the Board of Directors to private concerns. I do not know whether honorable’ members have read Mr. Brennan ‘s report on the Wireless Agreement. He said there was not a tittle of evidence to show that wireless communication between Great Britain and Australia could be successful as a commercial proposition, and that for such great distances it had not been proved to be practicable. Sending wireless messages over short distances and over long distances axe two quite different propositions. When the Government proposes sending wireless messages 12,000 miles through various atmospheres, and different weathers they are not likely to meet with the success they anticipate. Not one expert who was brought before the Committee was prepared to say- that such long distance messages could be successfully transmitted, yet in the face of that the Committee recommends the Government to spend over £500,000 on the venture, and to be content with a minority of representatives on the directorate. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) says we are going to get out of the Woollen Mills. Next to that, I suppose we shall abandon the -Clothing Factory, and then the Saddlery Factory, and, as a last resort, we shall run to the three-ball men to see if they will buy the Commonwealth Bank. The Government are already doing that in some directions. In Nauru, and under the agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, we are spending large sums of money, with what result we do not know. It is others who are having the final say. We are spending £500,000 in the wireless business, and there is no emphatic evidence that wireless between Australia and Great Britain is going to be a success. None of the experts in Australia - not even the most enthusiastic - would venture the opinion that it is going to be a commercial success.
– Large numbers of commercial men do not put their money into a concern like this for nothing.
– The honorable member himself has put money into concerns om the representation that he would make a. golden fortune, but the expected dividends have not come in. I do not wish to mention the names of individuals, and I have mentioned only companies, but there is a big Government servant on .-the other side who has an interest in this wireless. He is the man who would be forwarding information to this House and to the Prime Minister regarding wireless. I do not say that his reports would be coloured because of any little gain he would get, but it is certainly an undesirable position for a public servant to be in. He would be called upon to give advice from the other side of - the world to the Government in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– I presume that the Wireless Agreement that has been approved by Mie Parliamentary Committee that was appointed to go into the matter will be the subject of discussion when the Committee’s report is presented, and therefore I shall not further deal with it now.
Paragraph 14 of the Governor-General’s Speech refers to the unification of the railway gauges of the .Commonwealth. No doubt, definite proposals will be submitted to Parliament for the unification of the gauges, but I warn the Government that there is a combination of the great engineering firms of the world which must be remembered when the work is undertaken, so that any attempt to jamb us into a position in which we shall have to pay through the nose may be prevented. The matter, however, is one which can be fully discussed at another time, and I hope then to have some figures to put before honorable members, which will show the need for pausing before entering into engineering contracts.
As to the proposed amendment of the Constitution, I would remind honorable members that we have heard of Constitutional amendments almost ever since the establishment of this Parliament. With all respect to those in the new State movement, and with all respect to the State Righters, I question whether a more national proposal for the amendment of the Constitution has been put ‘forward than that of the Labour party. I am a thorough believer in local government, and I think, too, that we should have neither waste nor wasters in the community if it can be ‘ prevented. But I say to those who talk economy, that we shall never have real economy until our presentConstitutions - Commonwealth and State - have been thrown into the melting pot and new Constitutions - national, and local, or national and State - have been moulded more in harmony with the opinions of tho people, and more in keeping with the numbers of our population. Many of us would not have voted for Federation had we thought that the expensive State Parliaments would have continued.
– Let us sweep them all away.
– I am not a Unificationist, but I believe in a better form of local government. Many of the powers of the State Parliaments might well be handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament, and we might well have a better system of local government; substituting provincial Parliaments for tho present State Parliaments, and having more of the former, so that decentralization may bo of more real effect.
– Do you not think that Victoria sets a good example to the other States in the matter of expenditure? Her taxation is much lower than that of the other States.
– But the people of Victoria lack facilities that the people of the other States enjoy, and the granting of these facilities costs money. Victoria is behind Queensland and New South Wales in the educational facilities that it gives to its citizens, and the same thing might be said of other public facilities.
– Surely the honorable member does not argue that conditions are worse in Victoria than in the other States.
– I say that, even after due allowance is made for the cost of education in Queensland and New South Wales, because of the great area of those States compared with Victoria, the citizens of this State do not enjoy the same educational facilities; and education is one of the greatest blessings that can bc conferred on a community..
– The honorable member is arguing in favour of having smaller States.
– Yes. But I do not say that I agree with the new State movement. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has elaborated the Labour proposals for constitutional amendment and the establishment of provincial Parliaments and a national Parliament. At a Conference held on the other side of the border, those proposals were accepted; but I understand that at a recent Conference they have been rejected by one vote. I regard them as the most feasible and national proposals yet submitted. They provide for true local government and decentralization.
I presume that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), when elaborating his financial proposals, will have something to say about the reduction of the financial burdens of the community.
– The Chamber of Commerce has already taken him to task.
– Yes; and he will have some harsh criticism to undergo, both here and outside, though X think ‘ he is capable of bearing the burden of .Treasurership smilingly, even in such circumstances. I do not anticipate that he will be too liberal in his proposals for lessening the taxation of the community; but I have long been of the opinion that it would be fair to exempt from income taxation, remembering how much it costs these days to maintain a family, persons who do not receive more than £400 or £500 a year in wages or salary. Should the Treasurer propose to exempt such incomes from taxation, he would, I am sure, be heartily supported by every member on this side of the House.
– He would get support for exemptions from other . quarters as well.
– I believe that he would. We are not bound to accept the views of Ministers that the .old-age pensions cannot be increased, or the incidence of the income taxation modified. If we have the numbers, as I believe we have, we should see that what is just to the community is done, and that both the old-age pensioners and the smaller taxpayers are reasonably treated.
– Why should there be taxation at all ?
– The honorable gentlemain would be hailed as a heaven-born financier and true statesman if he could propound a scheme which would enable us to live without taxation. But I find it very hard to move him in the matter of telephone and telegraph expansion.
– The honorable member knows that the PostmasterGeneral is doing all that he can in that direction.
– I know that he is doing something; but I have official information to the effect that business men and country residents have been waiting a Jong time for telephone connexion.
Some persons who have already paid a year’s, rental aire still without telephones, although they applied for them eighteen months or two years ago. Such persons have good grounds for complaint against the Department, and until more is done to satisfy the public requirements I shall not remain silent.
In my opinion, the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) have been proved to the hilt. The Prime Minister made no satisfactory reply to them, and I should like to see the amendment carried.
.- It is regrettable that we have not had from. the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) a more favorable statement of the intentions of the Government towards old-age pensions and invalid pensioners. I am sorry,, too, that certain proceedings in this Chamber this afternoon were so unedifying. The provisions of this House should require that matters for debate should deal with the important questions of public interest which demand attention. Private grievances ought not to be aired in this Chamber. Those who have complaints to make which are merely personal should have the courage to drop the cloak of parliamentary privilege, and make their statements outside, accepting the ordinary liability of private citizens.
I shall confine the remarks I have to make to the subject of pensions. No member has more consistently asked for consideration for the old-age and invalid pensioners than myself. When Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer, I, with other members of the House, persistently urged the liberalization of their pensions.
– Is it only the honorable member and his friends who have done that?
– Tho honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) shows scant interest in the old-age pensioners at the present time. This continued practice each session of putting on the business-paper notices which prevent others from taking action on behalf of pensioners deserves exposure.
– It is interesting to hear these “ Johnny-come-latelies.”
– I may be here long after the honorable member has’ ceased to hold a seat in this Parliament. Youth is not to be imputed to any man as a crime, and I trust that in the end my record will compare more than favorably with that of the honorable member. I wish to impress upon the Government that old-age and invalid pensioners are going through hard and dimcult experience because the pensions granted them are inadequate, and because of restrictions and limitations placed upon those who may make application for this form of assistance. I have received from the officials of the Pensions Department every possible courtesy and consideration. Within the provisions of the Act they are administering they have done all that might reasonably be expected of them to assist aged and invalid people. They cannot be blamed for any neglect of their duty under the Act, but there are certain provisions of the law, or features of its administration, which require amendment. Only recently I have had several cases added to my already lengthy list of adult invalids who are deprived of their pensions because they are living with their parents and the father of tho household is in receipt of an income in excess of an average of £1 per week for the members of the family. The incapacitated in these cases are embarrassed by tho fact that they are made to feel solely dependent upon those who can ill afford to render them the assistance they require. Another result of the practice adopted in these cases is to add to the difficulties of the parents who are unable to set aside to provide for their future that money which is required to maintain an invalid member of the family. If an invalid leaves the home of parents and lives elsewhere, such person can claim a pension, but under the practice of which I complain a penalty is imposed upon invalids who wish to retain the care and comfort of their own home circle.
– An amendment of the Act is not necessary to secure an alteration of that practice.
– If that be so, it is but a stronger reason why the Government should do away with these restrictions and limitations upon the grant of invalid pensions.
Another matter I should like to bring under the notice of the Government, and one which should have been rectified longago, is that while aged and feeble persons, living in their own homes, receive a full pension, because of enfeeblement they leave their homes to live with a son or daughter or other relative, the rent which is received for the home is deducted from the pension. If they continue to live in their own homes these people suffer no reduction of pension.
– The Labour party secured that amendment of the original Act.
– Quite so. The Labour party has endeavoured to liberalize the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act in every possible way. If the present law is more liberal than the original measure, that is largely due to the action of the Labour party. Under the existing system, aged persons leaving, home to live with a relative or friend are deprived of any advantage from or reward for the thrift and sacrifice they have made to secure a home. It is only by constant sacrifice of comfort and pleasure that working people can secure a home, and in their declining years, surely they are entitled to enjoy the advantages which should follow from the assets they have been able to accumulate by their worthy efforts in earlier life. Although the Government set their face against such action now, I trust they will, at an early date, review the present position and liberalize considerably the administration of old-age and invalid pensions. “Whilst the amendment is especially directed to the action of the Government in connexion with old-age and invalid pensions, I may be permitted to direct attention to serious anomalies in the administration of other pensions, and particularly pensions received by returned soldiers and the dependants of deceased soldiers. On the merest technicalities and on the decisions of unsympathetic medical boards, many returned soldiers and dependants of deceased soldiers are not receiving what is their due, in spite of the promises made by the Government and their supporters to those who rendered service overseas. Twothirds of my time as a public man is taken up in the endeavour to secure justice for those who are deprived of pensions rightly their due, and to secure from the Repatriation Department the consideration which returned soldiers have a right to claim from it. Whether this is due to secret instructions from the Minister that pensions must be reduced as much as possible I do not know, but many of the cases brought under my notice demonstrate the fact that sympathetic and just consideration is not given ‘ to the claims for pensions by those who were invalided home, or by dependants of deceased soldiers. One case brought under my notice was that of a returned soldier who had a wife and three children. He died .on tho 4th January of this year. Although his death took place some considerable time after his discharge, there is, I contend, evidence to connect his illness and ultimate death with his war service.’ At the time of his death the eldest child was three and a half years of age and the youngest four weeks old. The family was left in absolutely destitute circumstances, but an application by the widow of the deceased soldier for an increased pension, which is rightly her due, has not received from the Repatriation Department the. consideration which it merited. I have a case at present before the Department which I hope will receive favorable considera- tion. It is that of a widow and child of a returned soldier who served approximately three years’ active service, and whose discharge was not due to misconduct, but who, it is alleged, was responsible for some misdemeanour against discipline. This woman has not been able up to the present moment to secure a pension. She has to care for a child nine months’ old, and finds it very difficult to earn her own livelihood. She has no relatives in Australia. Her mother and sisters reside in England, and I feel that one so circumstanced should be dealt with in a sympathetic manner.
– Will the honorable member give me the names in the cases he refers to?
– I will supply the honorable gentleman with the names in the cases I mention. In connexion with the’ case to which I have just referred a letter was recently sent to the Honorary Minister by myself, and I mention the matter here to-night in order to further impress upon him the necessity for doing something for this widow and her child.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon, in his reply to the amendment, spent all the time allowed to him by the Standing Orders, but very carefully evaded addressing himself to the amendment, which should have been his first consideration. Se recognises, as his supporters do, that the indifference of the Government to the aged and infirm cannot be justified, ‘and when we find that honorable members on the Ministerial side, even honorable members of the Country party, are willing to allow this debate to be continued solely by honorable members of the Opposition, and that they are not prepared to justify the attitude taken up by the Government, or offer protest against their unsympathetic attitude, it is self-evident that their conscience has stricken them. They cannot justify the attitude of the Government. When they meet their masters on the next occasion thuy will have great difficulty in reconciling their indifference on this occasion.
– The honorable member has given the show away. The amendment is an .electioneering dodge.
– That is a charge which cannot be laid against the Labour party. In season and out of season we have advocated the cause of the aged and infirm. From the commencement of this Parliament we have put forward our requests on behalf of these people, who are so deserving of our consideration. It is not an eleventh-hour advocacy. The honorable member may have it’ in his mind that the amendment is a sinister step designed for a certain purpose: That thought will not relieve him from his rightful duty to express himself either for or against an amendment whose purpose is to insure for the aged and infirm a greater measure of relief from the difficulties with which they have to contend for so long. The suggestion of motives comes with very bad grace from the honorable member, because the Labour party has always endeavoured to relieve the difficulties of the people, and make their portion in life more comfortable and congenial.
– Does the honorable member consider that the submission of this amendment is the best way in which invalid and old-age pensioners can be helped?
– We are prepared to avail ourselves of every opportunity to champion the cause of people so unfor tunately circumstanced, and the Leader of the Opposition is taking the course acknowledged to be correct. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) may be a very able advocate in many matters, and I know that he has been a good friend to a number of those who have been in difficult circumstances, but he has not displayed that activity I would like to have seen in this House in advocating the cause of invalid and old-age pensioners.
– The honorable member would sit down at once if the Government would promise to increase the pensions.
– But this is merely humbug. The honorable member knows that this amendment would put back the payment of any increase.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is an authority on humbug. His past attitude towards the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act amply, justifies my reproof.
– I shall give the honorable member a piece of his own medicine shortly.’
– If my retort is sufficient to bring the honorable member to his feet in order to advocate the cause of these people my efforts to-night have not been in vain.
– I would not advocate their cause in the hypocritical way in which the honorable member is speaking.
– The honorable member is the last ‘ man who should impute such unworthy conduct. His record is one of repeated inconsistency. Since I have been in public life I have always sought to assist those who are subjected to difficulties at the eventide of their life or who are suffering from physical disabilities. My efforts in that direction are sufficient recommendation as to my sincerity. I have always done my part in this House to champion the claims of these people. The charge of insincerity comes with ill grace from the honorable member. I lay my record beside his and ask the people of this country to judge as to which of us is prompted by the greater measure of sympathy for tho aged and infirm.
The reply delivered by the Prime Minister this afternoon cannot be regarded as satisfactory. Instead of dealing with the subject that should have been the main theme of this debate, he made excursions iri all directions, and very seldom approached the real purpose of the amendment. He carefully evaded any endeavour to justify tho Government’s lack of consideration for the invalid and old-age pensioners. It seems to me that these people can only expect to receive better consideration when the party now in opposition occupies the Government. benches. I trust that the date is not far distant when we shall be able to show, in some practical form, our absolute sympathy for them, by giving them increased pensions, commensurate with the increased cost of living, by liberalizing the qualifications for the pensions, and by obviating many of the anomalies and unfair aud unjust restrictions now imposed upon the pioneers, who at all times have proved themselves to be faithful and honorable citizens of the Commonwealth.
.- It gives me much pleasure that the first words I utter and the first vote I give in the new session shall be in the interests of the old people of the Commonwealth. But I cannot say that my feelings have been those of pleasure as I have listened to the debate as it has proceeded. What has most struck me is the fact that although the amendment moved by my Leader (Mr. Charlton) reads -
We regret that your advisers have made no provision to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions.
I cannot find in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), as reported in Hansard, more than a reference of about three minutes’ duration, in a speech, lasting over an hour,’- to pensions, the only subject-matter of the amendment. It was painful to me to realize that with an amendment before the House, submitted in the interests of the old people of this country, the Leader of the Government should spend the whole of his time in talking about Labour conferences and every other subject but the one properly under consideration. I can well understand the feelings of any old-age pensioner in reading this debate. He will imagine that honorable members pay regard only to their own interests, and give very scant consideration to those of old-age pensioners.
I do not propose to follow the Prime Minister’s example, and wander from Dan to Beersheeba. I shall confine my remarks to the question of pensions. I wonder how honorable members opposite propose to vote. If they vote against the amendment the effect of their action, camouflage it as they may, will be to say that they do not regret that the Government have made no provision to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions. If they do regret the lack of consideration for the pensioners of the Commonwealth, they should vote for the amendment. I would rather think of them as voting contrary to their feelings. I would rather not have it said that men, comfortably situated as honorable members on the Government side are, really feel that there is np need to give increased pensions to the very deserving folk whom we call old-age pensioners. As the honorable member foi Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has just pointed out, the liberalizing of the pensions, might be brought about in various, ways. He has mentioned the invalid pension, and I would like to speak upon;- the same subject. Unless the. father ‘^jiih an invalid dependant is prepared to- plead poverty or be heartless and -.’jack his dependant out into the . “street, there is difficulty in obtaining a pension for the child, if the earnings of the father average fi per week for each adult member of the family. Another way to liberalize old-age pensions would be to permit greater earnings. A pensioner is allowed to-day to earn an average of 10s. a week and still receive the full pension. That rule has been in operation for a considerable time, and it was introduced when the cost of living was considerably lower than it is at present. If we only permitted increased earning sufficient to keep pace with the greater cost of living it would be a liberal act.. The Prime Minister has twitted tho Labour party with having said on the hustings’ that we would increase the old-age pension to the extent of 5s. a week. This, he said, according to an estimate of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) would represent an increased expenditure of over £17,000,000.
– That is not what was said.
– The Prime Minister was dealing with a manifesto issued by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) before tho last election. The honorable member dragged in widows’ pensions, children’s pensions, and many other things; and I have no doubt that in preparing an election manifesto he stretched the matter as far as he could. The object of the Prime Minister, in quoting the honorable member’s statement in connexion with the amendment before the House, was to give the impression that an extra 5s. a week to the old-age pensioners would involve the country in an additional outlay of £17,500,000. .To make such an insinuation is wicked in itself, but it is particularly reprehensible considering the worthy object which members on this side have in view.
Referring to the inmates of charitable institutions, I understand that the Commonwealth Government pay to the State Governments the sum of 10s. 6d. for each pensioner, and that only 2s. per week is received by the pensioner himself, making a total of 12s. 6d., as against the 15s. paid to pensioners outside these homes. It seems to me that there might be a little more liberal treatment in that respect. I ask honorable members, some of whom spend 3s. a day on cigars, how they would like to manage on 2s. a week for. such luxuries as books, beer, and tobacco.
– Why speak of books and cigars together?
– Because,, in our library, I usually see honorable members with books and cigars, and surely the inmates of these institutions should not ‘be deprived of their “black stick” and newspapers.
– Is that not entirely, a matter of State administration?
– No. The pensions aTe under the control of the Commonwealth Government. I am informed that 10s. 6d. per week for each pensioner is paid to the State authorities, and that only 2s. goes to the pensioner himself.
– I think the whole of the pension goes to the State Government.
– According to information supplied’ to me by responsible officers, that is not the position. If the State authorities can carry on the charitable homes with the payment of tho 10s. 6d., surely the pensioners are entitled to the difference of 4s. 6d. per week between that amount and the ,15s. paid to pen sioners outside these institutions. Simply because old folks are living in these homes it does not mean that they are not deserving citizens. There is a tendency to think that if people have not succeeded in life there is some blame to be laid at their doors. Many of the . inmates of these institutions have played their part in blazing the trail in this young country. Those who have not yet received the pension cannot obtain it if they remain in an institution. There is no need for differentiation between a person who happened to be inside such an institution and one who was outside when the pension system was, inaugurated. A curious anomaly is that there may be one old-age pensioner receiving nothing apart from- his keep, while another gets the allowance of 2s. a week. This is bound to cause a certain amount of dissatisfaction.
Some people have an idea that there should not be old-age pensions at all. Constituents of mine have indicated to me that they have no sympathy for the pensioners because they have “ had their fling,” and wasted their money in earlier days in intoxicating liquor.
– Very few say that. It is a tale you are “ ringing in.”
– Perhaps the honorable member for Denison has been in Parliament so’ long that he has become accustomed to “ ringing in “ tales. I hope I shall not develop that habit. If the honorable member looks at Hansard, as I have, for the years 1906 to 1908, he will find that some honorable members belonging to the party he now supports plainly showed then by voice and vote that they were opposed .to the granting of the pension. A member of my party recently told me that it cost him ls. 6d. a day for tobacco. I, on’ the other hand, do not smoke. Suppose it became necessary for that honorable member to receive an old-age pension, whereas I happened to be more fortunate, on that one item alone my comrade would have paid through the Customs a considerable sum to the revenue, and he would be only getting back some of the money he had himself contributed.
– What about whisky?
– The same argument could be applied to that commodity.
– Public benefactors.
– I do. not for a moment suggest that a man should spend all he obtains so as to become entitled to draw a pension. As a matter of fact, I think the other course, if possible, is the better one to pursue.
– Did not honorable members on this side increase the pension from 10s. to 15s. per week 1
– I do not know which party was in power when the increase was granted, but I am sure that any move in that direction had the full concurrence of the Labour party. I should not be at all surprised if it was the pressure of that party that helped to produce that happy result. I remember that it was the’ pressure brought to bear upon the Deakin Ministry by the Labour party that brought Federal old-age pensions into being. Nor shall I be surprised if pressure from the same source has the effect of securing a further increase. It is those who smoke and drink, and insist on having the luxuries of life, who make other people rich, thus helping to obtain incomes from which the income tax revenue is further increased. It is commonly said that men should make provision for their old age. I was speaking to a man in a lift - yesterday, and he told me that he paid 35s. a week in rent. He had a wife and four children to maintain, and he earned £4 a week. How can that man be expected to make provision for a rainy day? There are hundreds even less favorably situated, and it is useless to say that such people should provide against old age.
I notice that one of the Melbourne newspapers has referred to this amendment as a sham. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has spoken of it as camouflage; and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has said, in effect, that it is merely political ammunition. It is altogether wrong for honorable members to profess to believe that no man can be sincere. I remember that about three weeks after I first entered this House, and when I was apparently taking matters rather seriously, the honorable member for Bourke’ (Mr. Anstey) stopped me in the corridor and said, “ Get out of your mind at once any idea that you will ever make anybody in this House believe that you are sincere.” I thought the statement awful, and it worried me for a long time ; but after two and a half years’ experience I am beginning to think that what the honorable member said was somewhere near the truth. Why should I not be sincere in urging an increase of the oldage and invalid pensions? I belong to the class to which most of the pensioners belong, and if the pension is increased it will be at the expense of the classes which honorable members opposite represent.
– The honorable member’s conscience is pricking him. .
– I am glad to discover that tho honorable member has the word conscience in his vocabulary; I hope that it is even deeper in his being. The honorable member belongs to a party that represents those people in the community who do not need ; I belong to a party that represents the do-needs, and the increased pension must be taken from the pockets of those who do not need to the same extent. I can be true to my class, true to myself, and true to my country in asking the Government to treat better those old people who deserve all that we can give them.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that all taxation comes from those who do not need?
– No; but I do say that for the purpose of increasing the old-age and invalid pensions we can draw something from those who do not need to give to those who do. No honorable member will tell, me that men or women can feed, clothe, and house themselves on a pension of 15s. per week. Why, then, will honorable members not vote for the amendment ? They do not mean by their opposition to it that they do not regret that the Government cannot increase the old-age pension, and why do they not say that they do regret it ?
– We regret it very much; but where is the money?
– Honorable members opposite do regret that old-age pensions, are not being increased, but because the amendment emanates from this side of the House, and because its adoption would place the Government in a difficult position, they think more of the needs of the Government and their party than they do of the aged people of this country. To accuse of insincerity a member who rises to fight the case of the old people is wrong. I love the old people better than I do the young, because I find that the old people are always more sensible. When I was twenty-one years of age, I thought I knew everything; but as I advanced along tho path of life I realized that I knew less and less. Now, -having reached the age of forty years, I know that those who have ascended higher up the hill can look back over my head, and have a wider vision. I like to be with the . old people, and when I have that feeling and come here to battle for them, it is not right that doubts should be cast upon my bona fides. No matter’ how honorable members opposite may vote, I will not believe that in their innermost hearts they do not regret that an increased allowance is not to bo given to the old-age pensioners. I shall do them the credit of believing that in voting against the amendment they will vote against their own feelings, for I am confident that if party politics were not involved, and honorable members could be free to consider this matter on its merits, the bulk .of them would vote for an increase of the old-age and invalid pensions.
.- I can heartily agree with the last speaker that it seems a tragedy that to-day our highest national interests and our most humane feelings should be exploited for political purposes. We have seen, during the last few years, the sacrifices and wounds of our soldiers practically publicly auctioned by political leaders, and every week for the last two or three months the biggest national industries of Australia being used as political pawns by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). To-night we are hearing the hardships of the aged poor being exploited for electioneering purposes. The party which I have the honour to lead sympathizes deeply with the old-age pensioners; we recognise how difficult is their position by reason of various regulations, which we desire to see altered. But we would like to pay a tribute to the efficient way in which the officers of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Department handle their work. There .must be many anomalies in connexion with the pensions, and we admit that during the last three or four years the old-age pensioners have suffered con siderably by the increased cost of living. But one of the primary causes of the increased cost of living is the excessive taxation being imposed by both Federal and State; Governments, which withdraws so much money from commercial and reproductive undertakings and is absorbed- in huge Government expenditure. We believe that a substantial reduction in Federal Government expenditure and a cessation of extravagant administration would- be more helpful than any other single factor in reducing the cost of living, but especially in view of the disappointing and unsatisfactory statement of the national financial position made by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) yesterday, we are opposed to any further increase in the current national expenditure at the present time.
– I am heartily in accord with the proposal to increase the old-age and invalid pensions, and to liberalize the conditions governing them. I know exactly how badly this amendment is needed, and I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite, who are taking no part in the discussion, but are questioning the motives of honorable members on this side. It is beyond my understanding how the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Pago) could rise in his place and say, in effect, that not now, but some years hence we may consider the granting of this needed reform. In the meantime the old people are starving. Not one word of protest does the Leader of the Country party offer to the proposal of the Government . to pay enormous sums in compensation to the “ brass hats “ who are being retired from the Defence Department. Generals and others who have been drawing as much as £1,500 per annum for many years are being retrenched, but there is no proposal to pay them 15s. per week. The Government, who cannot find sufficient money te insure that the old people may live in decency and comfort in their declining days, already propose to give large sums in compensation to men who for twenty years and longer have been drawing as much as £1,500 per annum, plus from £50 to £100 for motor cars, plus 25s. a day for travelling allowance and £80 per annum as a command allowance’.
– Not one of the. men who ia being retired has drawn, a salary anything like the amount the honorable member has quoted.
– The InspectorGeneral and the Chief of Staff each receives £1,500 per annum.
– Neither are being retired.
– The Commandant of the Military College receives £1,200 per annum, and he is being retired. A major-general receives £950; a brigadiergeneral, £850; a colonel, £800, a lieutenantcolonel, £750; a major, £650; a captain, £625; and a lieutenant, £400. The non-commissioned warrant officer, who may have been a colonel during the war, but did not belong to the military caste, and, accordingly, had to return to the ranks on his return to Australia, is to receive about £155 compensation for the loss of his employment. Yet the Government can pay enormous sums to “ brass hats,” many of. whom did not serve in the war, and who, in addition to their salaries have drawn travelling allowances varying from 14s. to 25s. per day, and for a staff command from £40 to £100 per annum. The Government coolly proposes that these heavy compensations be paid, and yet the Prime Minister ridicules a proposal that the old-age pensioners should have their allowances liberalized in any .way whatever. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) questions whether we, on this side, have any conscience when we put forward such a .proposition. He should.be the last man in this House to talk about conscience.
– I always stood. up for the old-age pensioners.
– A man who was booted out of the Ministry, and yet sits behind the Government without a word of protest, ‘talks about conscience! Long before the honorable member was thought of I was fighting the case for the old-age pensioners in the Victorian State Parliament. A former Leader of the Liberal party, the present Chief Justice of Victoria, said that the old-age pensioners were the recipients of charity. Before the pensions were introduced sons who, perhaps, were married and had children, were fined and sent to gaol because they could not contribute 10s. per week towards the support of their parents. That was the method which the so-called Libe ral party preferred to the system of oldage pensions. It was by fights such as we are putting up to-night that the scheme of old-age and invalid pensions was initiated, and before the pension was increased to 12s. 6d. the Labour party had to adopt similar tactics, and ultimately public opinion forced the Government to grant our very reasonable requests. In my own constituency I have, unfortunately, to come into contact with cases of poor old women who have to pay 8s. a week for a room, and they aro required to provide the necessities of life upon the remaining 7s. per week. How, in the name of God, can they be expected to do so in these times? I have quite a number of these pathetic old people who come to me every second Monday morning, and I hand them over 2s. 6d. with which to maintain body and soul during the few days following while they are awaiting payment of their pensions. The payment of a decent pension ought not to be a question of increased taxation. The Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), should bo ashamed of raising such an issue in debating the question of providing more money for old-age and invalid pensioners.
– How would the honorable member propose to raise the money!
– I would wipe out the Military Forces. If the Government were to reduce military expenditure to pre-war standards they would be able to find all the money necessary to contribute an extra 5s. a week to pensioners.
Respecting the payment of pensions generally, there are other phases which are altogether unsatisfactory. I may cite as an example the case of war-broken men who cannot be said to be totally incapacitated, and aTe not given pensions in keeping with such a condition, but who, nevertheless,, are utterly unable to earn a living. The Government make no provision for a man who has had his two legs broken ; he may starve for all they will do for him. No doctor will certify that a man who has had both his legs broken is permanently incapacitated; yet I know of such unfortunates who are absolutely dependent on private charity. “We are bringing tens of’ thousands of immigrants into this country. Labour proposes that some of the money which is being spent in that direction should be, and could be infinitely more worthily, devoted to the welfare of our very best type of new citizen, namely, the childhood of Australia. Honorable members need scarcely be reminded of the hard case of poor widows with families throughout the land. The breadwinner has been taken, and the responsibilities of the mother have become doubled. Her only hope in maintaining her children and providing the bare necessities of life is to scrub and wash for other people, while her kiddies run about the streets. Surely something should be done in the direction of providing pensions for widows! It ought to be one of the first’ duties of Labour, when the party to which I belong occupies the Treasury benches, to make provision for this struggling class in the community. I have already mentioned that the cost of providing, adequate pensions should be the last phase to be taken into consideration. Even if it required a million and a half of money, that money ought to be found. When money was wanted to provide munitions with which to kill people, was there any trouble in finding tens of millions? Now, however,, when money is needed in order to do the right thing by our old-age and invalid pensioners, ana to help others who should be in receipt of pensions, the question of cost is permitted to stand in the way.
.- The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), is very simple. It is very easily remembered, and is 83 easily understood. It consists of an expression of regret that tho Advisers of His Excellency have not seen fit to make provision for the liberalization of old-age and invalid pensions. Honorable members of the Opposition say they ‘ cannot understand how any honorable member will be able to refrain from joining in this expression of regret. I state without fear of contradiction, that the amendment, so eminently simple, was framed after most careful consideration and consultation between the Leader of the Opposition and his followers ; and I have no hesitation in saying, further, that its objects was not merely to promote the interests of old-age and invalid pensioners. I cannot understand the attitude and statements of some honorable members opposite - those, for example, of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), whom I respect as a sincere and straightforward man. I cannot understand his suggestion that the amendment has for its sole purpose the advancement of the interests of pensioners. Its object is perfectly clear. Itis framed most astutely. It was drafted for the purpose of putting honorable members on this side in a difficult and delicate position. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to deny that he thought to place such honorable members as myself, for instance, in a quandary; that he did not say to himself, “ The honorable member for Fawkner says he is in favour of increasing old-age and invalid pensions. If I bring forward this amendment in such a way as that he must choose between voting against the Government and against the amendment I will, undoubtedly, place him in a difficult position. For if he votes for the Government, and against the amendment, the public will say that he is not in favour of increasing pensions.” My friends know that that is. not my position. I repeat that I am as much in favour of increasing pensions as any other honorable member. I have occupied a consistent position with respect to this subject ever since I came here. When the question of granting a pension to the late Federal Chief Justice (Sir Samuel Griffith) was introduced in. this Chamber I opposed the motion on the ground that I would be no party to giving a pension in such a case until adequate provision had been made for people less favorably situated. I said we should consider the whole question of pensions, with a view to placing those who have been unfortunate in their circumstances in the best position possible.
With regard to the sincerity of the amendment, I would like to point out that it was moved when the Leader of the Opposition was attacking the Government. The honorable member for Hunter had been discussing the question of the Washington Conference, the subject of immigration, of the sugar agreement, and of wireless telegraphy ; and it was only at the tail-end of his speech that the honorable member said a few words about the cir- cumstances of old-age and invalid pensioners, and then he wound up with his simple amendment - an expression of regret, so simple in itself; but so well calculated to damage the Government. If by any chance he could get those in favour of increasing pensions to vote for the amendment there would follow the downfall of the Government; the Leader of the Opposition knew that.
– But it would not mean giving the pensioners more money.
– Of course, not! No honorable member would suggest that, if the sole object were to secure an increase of pensions, the best method would be to bring the matter forward after the manner adopted by the Leader of the Opposition. The merits of the case cannot be determined in this Chamber upon the lines along which the honorable member for Hunter has advanced. Upon the noticepaper there is, as the Leader of the Opposition knows full well, a proposal, in the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), dealing with this very subject.
– Which will never see the light of day if it depends upon the Government.
– It may be said that the motion of tho honorable member for Eden-Monaro is insincere, but that charge cannot be more truly made against that honorable member than against the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot vote for the amendment, because to do so would amount to a reflection on the Government. The Government have accepted it as a motion of want of confidence. I have to choose between voting against the amendment - which, if it were carried, would confer no advantage upon pensioners - and assisting to bring about the downfall of the Government, and I simply cannot do that.
There are many things which I regret m regard to the Governor-General’s speech. I regret, for instance, that provision has not been made for the reduction of parliamentary allowances. One reason given why our old people and in- valid pensioners are not getting more is that the country cannot afford to pay more. In this Chamber to-day there are those who have deliberately raised their own salaries by £400 a year. I ask honorable members, “ Are you ready to stand up and announce your willingness to make some sacrifice in respect of your augmented salaries in order that pensioners may receive a little morel” I, personally, am willing to make some sacrifice.
– Sacrifice! The honorable member is getting £6,000 a year. It is . most indecent of him to talk like this.
– Will the honorable member give me half of that sum for my annual income)
– I would like to have all over and above it.
– This is not a fair thing. There are one or two members of the Opposition who constantly make the subject under discussion a personal matter.
– And we give more than the fag-end of our time to our parliamentary duties, which cannot be said of the honorable member.
– I can say what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) cannot say. In order to perform my duties here, I have to make considerable financial sacrifices.
– The honorable member can well afford to do so.
– I have made a sacrifice in regard to my parliamentary allowance. I have done so purely as a matter of principle. In these hard times, when the poor aged and invalid people in our community are not being given enough to keep body and soul togetheras honorable members have explained in drawing their pathetic pictures - surely some personal sacrifice might be made. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) referred to an old woman who has to pay 8s. per week for her room, and has to accept a dole of 2s. 6d. to assist her to live. This unfortunate case has been described by ah honorable member who has raised his own salary to £1,000 a year.
– How much sacrifice does the honorable member make in reduction of his clients’ fees?
– I am not talking about that. When honorable members speak of giving more to those who get so little, they should be willing to set an example by making some personal sacrifice to that end. It is because I am convinced of the absolute insincerity of the amendment-
– There is no more sincere man in this House, and the honorable member knows it. He would have replied to the honorable member had he been present.
– I thought the Leader of the Opposition was in his place.
– He is not, or he would have answered the honorable member long before now.
– -I know the Leader of the. Opposition is a sincere man, and I now challenge the honorable member who has interjected to say that the object of this amendment was not to damage the Government.
– Its object was to try to get relief for the old-age and invalid pensioners, and we are asking the honorable member to help us.
– The honorable member for Maribymong is, at all events, truthful in regard to this matter. I accept his assurance that so far as he is concerned the amendment was nob designed to damage the Government.
– We have been fighting for this increase in pensions for years.
– I am glad to have his assurance that the amendment was not framed with the idea of damaging the Government, and of adding kudos to the party to which he belongs. But all members opposite cannot say that. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition is now in the chamber, and in his presence I repeat that, in ray opinion, the amendment was drafted with the deliberate object of damaging the Government, and framed in such a way as to make it most difficult for some honorable members on this side of the House who are in sympathy with the’ idea cif increasing the old-age and invalid pensions to vote against it.
– The amendment was framed for the purpose of giving this House an opportunity of saying whether there shall be an increase in the amount paid; -
.- This belated discovery from the Government side of the House, that an amendment moved from this side is not launched for the purpose of throwing bouquets at the Government, is rather refreshing. One would think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) had just arrived, judging by the innocence he has displayed and his disclosure of this nefarious plot against the Government. No one else on that side of the House seems to have discovered the fell design. It does not seem to have crossed the mind of the honorable member that members on this side should be trying to improve the conditions under which our old-age and invalid pensioners are living, irrespective of whether any such action may jeopardize the position of the Ministry.
– I did not suggest that.
– If the amendment threatens the position of the Ministry, there is a simple way out of the difficulty - the Government can accept it. The honorable member for Fawkner himself, a few minutes ago, emphasized a glaring discrepancy in the attitude of the Government, of which he is a supporter, when dealing with pensions for one social class in the community, and their attitude towards pensioners who belong to the great bulk of the people whom we, on this side of the House, claim to represent. The honorable member himself is suffering from an unfortunate affliction, and he, of all members, should be sympathetically inclined towards those who are suffering similarly, and who are not in his favoured position and not able to make any sacrifice in the amount that may be coming to. them. Were he. to belong to the working class at the present time, and to be suffering from the same disability, how would ho like to try to make ends meet upon the amount they receive.
– I did my best to have their position improved.
– At all events’, the honorable member is not in a very good position in trying to defend his present attitude, and deciding whether loyalty to his party should override his natural inclination to do what is right towards our old-age and invalid pensioners. Honorable members know quito well where I stand on this question. I Bay that the old-age pension scheme as at present administered is pauperizing and degrading, and that’ if the working class of this country had spirit and determination they would throw its benefits back at the Government as an insult to them.
– Do you suggest that they have no spirit?
– I suggest that they are too long-suffering and too tolerant towards the honorable member and his ilk. Every worker, when he reaches the age at which he should retire from active work, instead of receiving a miserable pittance of 15s. per week, should bc in a position to demand, as ‘ a right, an amount equal to the average wages received during his years of activity. At present, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has pointed out, an applicant for an old-age pension must bc practically disowned and pauperized by his relatives before he may receive a pension. Then, again, the objection is raised that it is difficult to find the money for any increase in the amount paid. “Where does the money come from for ‘those festivities that attend the reception of distinguished visitors from other countries? When it is a question of wining and dining the representatives of the social classes to which honorable mem-, bora opposite belong, any amount of money can be made available; but when it is a question of finding money for a decent existence for Australian men and women whose years of activity have passed, money cannot be obtained. I complain, also, of the manner in- which the Act is administered. At one time it was customary to include all those who received relief under the Miners Accident Belief Act of New South Wales. In other words, they were entitled to full benefits under our old-age and invalid pensions scheme. Section 4 of the Act provides - “ Income “ means any moneys, valuable consideration or profits, earned, derived or received by any person for bis own use or benefit by any means from any source whatever, whether in or out of the Commonwealth, and shall be deemed to include personal earnings but not any payment -
So long as the Miners Accident Relief Act was in force Broken Hill miners or their widows and dependants were entitled to full pension rights under’ the Commonwealth law, but when the State Act was superseded by another measure, under which compensation is paid to miners, their widows or dependants, the Pensions
Department of the Commonwealth ceased paying the old-age pensions to all those who enjoyed the benefits of the State Act. One lady in Broken Hill came to me and stated that she was willed upon to repay £40 which she had drawn as pension because she had received compensation under the New South Wales law. I have previously spoken concerning this matter on the floor of the House; and when I asked the former Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to amend the law, in order to make the administration conform to the former practice, he point-blank refused It is of no use for honorable members opposite to say they are sympathetic in this matter. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It is on record in Hansard that Sir Joseph Cook refused to make the alteration. I now ask the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) to give consideration to this question, with a view to having the section amended so as to remove the disability to which I refer.
– Yes, I shall do so.
-It has been said by honorable members that this amendment is moved with the object of embarrassing the Government. It is remarkable that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his speech, devoted very little attention to the amendment, and dealt with a number of matters which have no reference to it at all.
– That applies to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), to which the Prime Minister was replying.
– The Leader of the Opposition certainly dealt with the amendment, and in such a fashion that the Prime Minister apparently thought the best thing to do was to leave it alone. However, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) can see no wrong in any action or inaction on the part of the Prime Minister. Had the Honorary Minister happened to be on this side of the House he would have been loudest in his demands for an increase of the oldage pensions.
– Look at the company he keeps !
– We have many illustrations of the fact that the company a man keeps has an effect on his views and his utterances.
– Is that the reason why you do not ‘‘keep” the “company “of any party?
– I represent my own party at present, but I must say that I could do with considerable additions to it, for then tho work of the party would be much easier. However, I rose for the purpose of according my support to the amendment, because I think I should be lacking in my duty as a representative of the working classes if I did not do so by both voice and vote. My further object was to draw attention to the specific instances I have brought under the notice of the Treasurer.
, - I desire to make a few remarks on the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), but more particularly with reference to the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The speech of that honorable member, in .some of its aspects, hardly, it seemed to me, did justice to his standing in the House. Anyone listening to him would believe that the history of invalid and old-age pensions was a history in which the Labour party had always done the most it could for the invalid and aged poor, and that every one not of the Labour party had done the least possible. I desire to draw attention to a few facts as against the assumption of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I do this to enable those who read the debate to come to a more just conclusion than that at which they would arrive by listening only to him. The first fact I submit is that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was introduced and carried through this ‘House by the present AttorneyGeneral .(Mr. Groom). That Act fixed the old-age pension at 10s. For a considerable number of’ years, as a member of the party to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh now belongs, I endeavoured unsuccessfully to secure an extra 2s. 6d. for the old people. Practically all through the administration of Mr. Fisher that agitation was persistently kept up and persistently resisted, for the reasons that were given by the Prime Minister this morning.
– You seem to have som6 -influence over there; why not try your hand now?
– The honorable member does not know either what I am trying to do, or what we are going to do. I suggest that the proper time for such a debate as this is not now, but when the Budget has been introduced, and honorable members know what tha Government propose. I wish to place the fact on record that the agitation .for the increase of the old-age pensions persisted for some years, and that it was only in the last years of the last Hughes Labour Government that an extra half-crown was given. This is the record of the parties up to that time. The Deakin Government made it possible to bring in an old-age pensions -measure before the ten-years period under the Constitution had expired. That solved a problem that to us appeared insolvable - I mean the difficulty of getting over the constitutional provision under which the surplus revenue was returned to the States. An Act was introduced, and the pension fixed at 10s., and after eight years of persistent agitation, during which, I think, Labour Governments were in power for most of the time, we failed to attain our object until near the end of the last Hughes Labour Administration. As against that record, I ask honorable members to place the record of the Nationalist party, which has raised the pension from 12s 6d. to 15s., and extended it to the blind very much more liberally than ever before. In addition, the Nationalist party has adopted the principle now suggested by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), and in some cases, at any rate, provided that other pensions received shall not be counted in assessing the old-age pension; this is so in the case of a returned soldier. I submit that these facts show how much more enthusiasm there is among our Labour friends, on the eve of an election, for the poor, aged, and infirm, than there is when they are behind the Government of the day, and have the .power to do that which they are asking the present Government to do. I venture to say that if they were still supporting a Government led as the Government was by Mr. Fisher in the days gone by we should not have had the amendment-
– The cost of living has increased 60 per cent, since that time.
– In that case the request of honorable members opposite is considerably weakened, because pensions have in the interval been increased 50 per cent, so that they are entitled now to ask for an addition of only 10 per cent I do not say that the aged people can maintain themselves comfortably on the amount given, which is only some’ assistance towards their maintenance. I condemn the introduction of this amendment in this way at this time, and particularly do I condemn the assertion that has been made more than once in the debate, that all interest on behalf of the old-age pensioners lies in honorable members opposite, and that there is no such interest on this side.
– I should have liked to say a few words in reply to the honorable member (Mr Hector Lamond), but he has so bungled his facts that it is not worth while attempting to do so. It is a matter of history that the Labour party was the first party in Australia to place old-age pensions on their platform; and I have heard the men who left the Labour movement and are now behind the Government make that same statement’ dozens of times. That much has occurred since we recognise, and I do not intend to say anything about it We do know, however, that, so far as Federal old-age pensions are concerned, it was the Labour party
Which insisted that the surplus revenue should bc placed in a Trust Fund, in order that those pensions might be paid. Those who do not remember that fact have very short memories.
– Every Minister who has introduced a Bill to increase old-age pensions is on this side, and in this Ministry.
– It was from the Labour movement, and the Labour movement only, that old-age pensions emanated, and every Labour Government has liberalized the pensions, though former members of the Labour party may be now on the Government side.
– The present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) introduced the first Bill, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the second, and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton) the third.
– And tho Honorary Minister will remember who forced those Ministers to do so. The most remarkable feature of this debate is the disclosure of how sore a point the “ salary grab” is in some quarters; it certainly does seem to annoy a number of people. We have, a representative in this House telling- us how much he sacrificed when he accepted £600,. while the others were paid £1,000. Well, I took £1,000 because I was damned well worth it; the honorable member to whom I refer was never worth £600, because he gave only the fag end of his time here, and it was not of much use to the people be represented. The less he says about the “ salary grab “ the better it will be for himself and those associated with him. He has told, us that he could not afford to be a member of the Federal Parliament if it sat out of Melbourne - he could not earn his fees if he did. Yet he talks of the corruption and roguery of other people.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– I shall not say. The position in regard to these pensions is a very peculiar one. We all know that they should have been increased to £1 a week long ago, and I agree with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that the pensioners should get full pay instead of the paltry dole we suggest now. Will the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), at any rate, try to liberalize the conditions under which the present pension is paid?
– That might mean another million or two.
– If it meant twice as much, it ought to be done, because the present system is so unfair that I wonder it has been permitted so long. I endeavoured, along with a deputation, to place before the Minister in control of the Department certain disabilities under which the invalid pensioners suffer, owing to the cost of living and so forth; and I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) will give an indication that he intends to deal with this matter during the present Parliament. Of course, we cannot make the honorable gentleman do this; we can only draw his attention and that of the country to the position.
I marvel at certain honorable members who seem to regard the Labour party as guilty, of a heinous crime in daring to submit an amendment of this sort against the Government. But it is the duty of an Opposition to make a Government do what the Government may not wish to do, and I, for one, was pleased that the Labour party here decided to move the amendment. At any rate, this discussion will ventilate the subject, and let us see who are in f avour of an increase. I know that there are many members who do not wish to “face the music.” Some of them are very adept at explanations, and they may bc required to explain a great deal later on ; but if any explaining is to be done, it should be during this .debate. I shall not further detain the House, but I again express the hope that the Treasurer will consider the advisableness of at once liberalizing many of the regulations which govern the payment of invalid and old-age pensions.
.- In common with my colleagues of the Labour party I am anxious that no time shall be lost in ‘ ascertaining the will of the House with regard, to the amendment that has been moved by the Leaden of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and it is only because of a strong sense of duty that I rise to make a few remarks in reply to the statements made this evening by the honorable member’ for Fawkner (Mr, Maxwell). He should be the last of all honorable members to make any reference whatever to the increase allowed- to members of Parliament. Those who, like myself, have followed the political history of Australia during the last forty years know that the strongest enemies of progressive legislation in this country have been members of the legal profession. . In order to qualify for admission to- the bar they have to pass certain examinations, and to devote much study to musty books dealing with oldtime principles, which are altogether out of harmony with the views of the people of to-day. The honorable member for Fawkner knows that, in order to attend here, honorable members from other States have to make considerable business sacrifices. He must not think that he is the only pebble on the beach. When I entered this House I had to sacrifice my business, and from the date of my elec tion I have devoted the whole of my time and energy to the task of serving the interests of the people. The honorable member, however, never loses an opportunity to try to cast a slur on those who voted to increase the parliamentary allowance to £1,000 a yean. In order to attend to his parliamentary duties, he has not to sacrifice his home life as have those who come from other States, nor has he to sacrifice his practice as a member of the legal profession. He lives hi a Melbourne suburb, is able to go to his chambers every morning, study his. briefs there, and take some home with him at night. Attendance in the House does not involve any sacrifice of his ordinary income. He should not forget that honorable members who come from other States are not in the same happy position. I hope this will be the last occasion on which he will deem it his duty to sneer at those members of Parliament- who are less fortunate than he is - men who came from other States, and have not the opportunities that he enjoys to carry on their ordinary business or professional occupation. As a criminal barrister he draws his fees from the poorer classes of the community. He is briefed, not by the banking and commercial institutions, but largely by people in humble circumstances, who find it difficult to provide the’ fees necessary to engage him to appear in their behalf in the Criminal Court.
Coming to the question of invalid and old-age pensions, I think it was some thirty-eight or forty years ago that we first moved in the New South. Wales Labour Council - which was far ahead of the State Parliament of the day - to induce the Government to inaugurate an old-age pensions scheme. Trade unionists were the first to urge the provision of old-age pensions. They showed the people how necessary it was to provide for the aged and the infirm. We are told to-day that the Commonwealth Government cannot afford to increase the invalid and old-age pensions. Over and over again, we .have heard the same story.. Have the Government and their supporters ever studied this question 1 It seems to me that they have not, otherwise they would not say that the country cannot afford to liberalize the present pensions. The money which invalid and oldage pensioners receive from the Treasury) within three or four days of its distribution finds its way back once more to the banks. Unlike some sections of the Community, old-age pensioners do not spend their money on the purchase of pianos, or gold watches, or motor cars. They spend it on the necessities of life, and so benefit the primary producers. The Country party in this House is a mystery. It should be the first to urge that the invalid and old-age pensions should be increased, since primary producers benefit more than do any other section of the community from the expenditure of pensioners. Since the war, we have read from time to time of the departure of many of our citizens for a trip round the world. Those who go abroad take away much of the wealth of Australia. Invalids and old-age pensioners, however, spend all their money locally. People who set out on a holiday trip to the Old World lessen tho value of Australia’s production. These pensioners do not. For the twelve months ended 31st July, 1921, the value of the primary products of Australia was £348,183,000, while manufacturers, with the aid of Labour, during the same period produced £292,526,608 worth of manufactures, or a total of £640,719,608. Yet we are told that Australia cannot afford to give the aged and the infirm higher pensions than they now receive.
It is amusing to hear the supporters of the Government, who represent the gilded section of the community, protesting against the action taken by His Majesty’s Opposition in this matter. We arc simply carrying out our duty, by endeavouring to force the Government to do something in the best interests of Australia. It is our duty to point out to the Government the error of their ways, to remind them of their stupidity and want of knowledge, and to endeavour to educate them to a proper sense of the true functions of government. We do not care a button for the opinions of honorable members opposite. We neither study their feelings nor their positions. Wo hope this session to remove them from the Government side of the House.
– What will be the subject of the next censure motion?
– Government mismanagement. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has reminded honor able members that the Government propose to pay, by way of compensation, hundreds of thousands of pounds to certain officers of the Department of Defence, who are to be retired under the reorganization scheme. We were told the other day that a gentleman who is a Savings Bank Commissioner, and as such draws something like £600 a year, had been appointed to two Government positions, each carrying a salary of £1,500 per year, or £3,000 a year for the two, with £4 4s. per day travelling expenses.
– To what position does the honorable member refer?
– To a position iri connexion with the War Service Homes Commission. The gentleman, as I have. already said, draws a salary as a Savings Bank Commissioner, and is also, I think, in receipt of an allowance as a military officer. That is tho sort of thing that is going on. And yet honorable members opposite say we cannot afford to increase the invalid and old-age pensions.
The old-age pension scheme is as yet in its infancy. Our liabilities fender it must increase, because it is a rule, not only of the Public Service, but of many mercantile and commercial houses, that when a man reaches the age of sixty years he must be dismissed. I am convinced that before long Labour will be in power. The people are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to record their verdict, and, as a result of the next appeal to the constituencies, my party will be on the Government benches. Australia will then be governed according to Constitutional usage, and will not be subjected, as it is to-day, to the highhanded actions of one individual. I am not casting any reflection on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I have never said a word against him. The trouble is that he is supported by men who have not the best interest of Australia at heart, and the stand that he is at present taking is due largely to the company that he keeps. I do not fail to observe what is going on in this House. I am as keen and alert as 13 any other honorable member. Thank God, I am endowed with some ability and a certain degree of common sense.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said that the object of the amendment was to embarrass the Government. Why is he so anxious not to embarrass the Government? What about the. poor, unfortunate creatures who have not the means with -which to sustain life? Ought not they to be of some concern to honorable members of this House? What do honorable members of the Opposition care about embarrassing the Government ? It is perhaps as well that we Labour representatives are oh this side of the House at present, because when we get on the. other side there will be something of a revolution in the conduct, of business. We shall have to bring the country back to 1913, which was, without doubt, the best year in Australian history. Very few members of the Government have tho same practical work to do that Labour representatives undertake. I never go home without meeting some one who is distressed because a mistake or fault in the Pensions Act will not allow them to receive a pension to which they are justly entitled. My experience, like that of. other members of this party, is that the officers of the Old-age Pensions Department do their best. The officers of the New South Wales Department certainly have met with my approbation, because they have honestly endeavoured to carry out the provisions of the Act. We ought/ to bring that Act into conformity with the ‘ intentions of the Australian people. All that I am endeavouring to do and all that honorable members on this side of the House are endeavouring to do, is to carry out the wishes of the people. Is there a member sitting on the Government side of the House who honestly believes that the views expressed by honorable members on this’ side, horn the Leader of the Opposition downwards, do not represent the opinions of the people outside ?
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) expressed some very good opinions to-day from the Opposition side of the House,
– In my advocacy of Federation for many years, with Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Deakin, and others, I never thought I would have to be present at such an exhibition as I witnessed to-day.. I never imagined that honorable members would sit silently by and hear such a speech without taking steps to remove the offending member. It is a deplorable thing, and the less we say. about it the better. If I am in this
House for another twenty years I shall make no reference to it. I think that if it were not for the party Whip, honorable members on the Government side of the House would be actually in accord with the spirit of the amendment moved from this side. If the -Government would make a statement to the effect that the Treasurer, in his next Budget, would provide for old-age pensioners getting what we are asking for, the Leader of the Opposition, I have no doubt, would be quite satisfied. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has thrown slurs at us for accepting £1,000 a year. Whether he believes it or not, I certainly earn my thousand, and if I get out of Parliament to-morrow I shall not ask a soul for a threepenny bit without earning it. Next June the Treasurer will have an opportunity, owing to the larger amount collected from Customs and Excise duties, to augment the Trust Fund out of which pensions’ are paid. If the Customs and Excise receipts are not large enough for tho purpose, the Government might pay 2s. 6d. less per capita to the States, thus reducing the payment from 12s. 6d. to 10s. By this’ means the Treasurer could obtain abundant money to pay more liberal old-age pensions, and by so doing he would more than satisfy the community. If he has any doubt about the outcome of the next elections, such action as I suggest would be a very great lever in his favour, and I believe a majority of the people of Australia would commend him for it.
– I am somewhat concerned regarding the way in which this debate on the AddressinReply has . roamed, and I would be very pleased to have an indication from you, Mr. Speaker, as to whether honorable members who have spoken to the amendment, and confined their remarks to it, will be prevented from speaking to the Address-in-Reply at a later stage if further amendments are moved.
– While an honorable member is speaking it is held that he is speaking both to the motion and the amendment. If further amendments are moved at a later stage he does not lose his right to speak on those amendments.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) did the right thing in drawing attention to the neglect of the Government in riot bringing forward, in the very comprehensive ‘Speech of the Governor-General, proposals on the lines indicated. He, as our leader, would be neglecting his duty, and we, who are the members of his party, would be neglecting our duty, if we did not support him in drawing the attention of the electors to that deplorable neglect on the part, not only of the Government, but also their followers. The Governor-General’s Speech was formulated, no doubt, in the Nationalist party’s caucus-room, where the followers of the Government had an opportunity to .put forward their views in regard to it, and to secure the embodiment in it of certain proposals and the omission of others. What evidence have we that the members of the Government party did not discuss the matter of liberalizing the allowance to old-age and invalid pensioners, and that the proposal was not turned down in the caucus-room. The decision that the Government should do nothing may thus have been cut and dried’. The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) may withdraw the motion that stands in his name on the notice-paper, or he may be taken ill and not be here on the day that it should be moved, even if he wishes to move it. Perhaps the party whip will be flourished over him, so that he may not desire, on that day, to move it. I am afraid the Government have been too much concerned in getting rid of those very necessary services which were established in Australia during the period of the war to pay attention to such matters as old-age and invalid pensions.
It is rumoured in those circles which seem to know of the Government’s intentions before Parliament is aware of them, that the Commonwealth Government line of Steamers is to be disposed of. We have the statement of the honorable the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Mr. Greene), that it is the intention of the Government to get rid of the Geelong Woollen. Mills. I would like to have the opinion of , the honorable member for Corio -.(Mr. Lister) on that. Is he in favour of the disposal of these mills, and the cessation of woollen manufacture in his electorate! His views on the subject would be interesting. The mills were established to protect the people of Australia from exploitation, and it is essential, remembering the prices charged and the enormous profits made by private individuals during the war, that the Government should continue to operate them so that, if extortion were threatened, they could say to the private manufacturers, “ If your prices are exorbitant you will have competition.” The evidence of Royal Commissions shows that there has been exploitation df .the public in the sale of woollen goods, and. it is continuing. It is deplorable that influences are being brought to bear on the Government to put an end to these mills, and to leave the community unprotected against those who- wish to .charge high prices for woollen manufactures.
It is not altogether surprising, under these circumstances, that the matter of invalid and old-age pensions has not received consideration from Ministers. We are not concerned now with what has been done by previous Parliaments in the fixing of invalid and old-age pension rates, nor does it matter particularly who originated the scheme. If the rates are too low, or even if they are too high, they can be reviewed. Some of us were too young to be in Parliament when these pensions were first provided; but it is our duty now to see that proper pensions are paid, and that the pensioners are fairly treated. The insufficiency, of the pensions is not the only grievance of the .pensioners. Some members of the Police Forces and Public Services of the States are given, on retirement, pensions equivalent .to half, three-fourths, or the full amount of the salaries they drew, and they are. allowed also to engage- in business, and may make £1,000 or £2,000 a year in addition to their pensions. But the oldage pensioner, who has. not had a Public Service salary for the greater part of his life, is told that if he earns more than an amount which, together with his pension, comes to £65, the pension will be reduced. That is most unjust and unreasonable, and- operates very harshly in many- cases. Honorable members opposite have eontended that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), by moving the amendment under discussion, has placed them in an embarrassing position. I ask them -why they themselves did not discuss the matter in caucus, and have it referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. Obviously, nothing was said in caucus by any Ministerial supporter in favour of raising the old-age and invalid pension rates. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has given notice of a motion for increasing the old-age pension to £1, and, no doubt, if the Government would tell us that they intended to do that, the Leader of the Opposition would withdraw his amendment.
– The honorable member may not discuss the motion of which the honorable member for EdenMonaro has given notice.
– I merely referred to it in passing, and would like to know what the view of the Government is in regard to it;
Not only should the rates of pensions be increased, but the administration of the pensions system should be liberalized.
I know a young man who at one time could have done as much work as any member of this Chamber, but he has developed a disease of the spine, and the State medical officer of the town in which he lives has told me that he is now a confirmed invalid. The Commonwealth medical referee, however, will not give a certificate of permanent disability, and, as his .parents are keeping him, hie application for a pension has not been granted. Were his parents, who are poor people, to throw him on the street, and were he to become so ill . that the Commonwealth medical referee would give him a certificate, he would get the beggarly pension of 15s. a week. In another case, that of an old lady suffering from rheumatism, the Commonwealth medical referee would not at first grant a certificate, and the application was hung up for months, and the applicant had to travel a long distance and consult several other medical’’ men before her pension was granted. We, on this side, have no desire to unduly embarrass Ministers, but we wish to get justice for those who are weak and suffering.. I suggest to the Government that where the opinion of the Commonwealth medical officer differs from that of the medical man supporting an application for a pension, the application should not be refused until the opinion of some other reputable medical man, preferably from another town or district, is taken on the case. We know- that doctors differ, and though he.’ might be quite- sincere in the expression of.it, the opinion of the Commonwealth medical officer might be wrong. Rather than that an injustice should be done to an applicant for a pension, I offer the suggestion I have made, and if the Government give instructions for its adoption, it may prevent many complaints in. this connexion in the future.
There is another deserving class of persons who come under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. On the 22nd November, 1920, the then Treasurer, Sir Joseph Cook, introduced a short Bill dealing with the case of - pensions to blind persons. He said at the time -
Tt is a proposal to permit a blind pensioner to earn an amount which, together with his pension, will give him the basic wage as determined from time to time in any State, including the rate now paid in New South Wales, namely, £4 5s. per week.
I regret to state that, notwithstanding the passage of this measure, when I brought under the notice of the late Treasurer, and also of the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), the application of a body of musicians known as the Sydney Blind. Band, and asked that the provisions of the Act to which I have referred should be made applicable to them, the application was turned down in the first place because the information did not disclose their earnings. They play in the streets and accept engagements, and they are prepared to make, and have made, statutory declarations to the effect that their earnings are about £2 15s. each per week. Notwithstanding the fact that this statutory declaration was made, the Treasurer stated that it was not the practice to give pensions to such men.- He said, “ Let them go into an institution, where they can learn some trade and become selfsupporting.” But that is not the object of the measure to which I have referred. It will be found that Sir Joseph Cook said, on the second reading of the Bill -
I am particularly referring to those pensioners who may, in some sense, be considered as alongside the blind people - those who are pensioners because of some disease or other from which they suffer. The blind pensioners, on the other hand, are healthy people, who can, and do, marry, and have families. The marriage of these people ought to be encouraged in a country like this, if we are to increase our population. They do all the other things that normal men always do - indeed, they have no disability but their blindness. That furnishes a reason, I think, for treating them in a category by themselves. There are only about 400 of these blind people in the whole Commonwealth, and only about 100 of these are in the various institutions of the States. Altogether it seems to me thatthis is a concession whichthey well deserve,
Why should these men who are married and engaged in a legitimate occupation be asked to leave their homes and go into an institution? Why should the Government refuse to give them the benefit of a measure specially passed to deal with such cases? They are prepared to comply with the conditions imposed. They keep books and can give information as to their earnings, and yet their application is turned down. Isay it is most unreasonable and wrong that they should be asked to go into an institution before they can receive pensions. I bring the matter now under the notice of the Government in the hope that something may be done in the interests of these men.
– They ought to be encouraged to keep out of the institutions.
– Exactly. We do not want them in institutions. In my opinion, street playing in the various cities might very well be left to such men who are good musicians, and are engaged in a legitimate occupation. Whilst the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition deals particularly with oldage and invalid pensions, I hope that some consideration will be given to blind persons making applications for pensions.
I trust that honorable members will not cloud the issue as to who should receive credit for the passing of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act when the question before us is really whether pensioners are now receiving a fair pension or not. I think that there is no honorable member present who will contend that old-age and invalid pensioners are now receiving a fair deal in getting a pension of only 15s. per week.
It is most inadequate and unjust, and we on this side are doing only our duty to poor people who are not in a position to make their voices heard in this Chamber in moving an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply in an endeavour to secure justice for them.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fleming) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1922, No. 93.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220706_reps_8_99/>.