8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- (By leave). - It was with the very deepest regret that the Government learned last night that a former member of this Parliament, Mr. Hans Irvine, had passed away. Mr. Irvine entered this House in the year 1906 as the representative of the division of Grampians, and continued to represent that constituency until 1913, when heretired from public life. I venture to say that there is not an honorable member who had the honour and privilege of knowing Mr. Hans Irvine during the time that he was here, but will say that he left the House without making an enemy, and carrying with him the affectionate regard and esteemof all who were associated with him. We can recall his personality, his charm of manner and the assiduity with which he devoted himself to his public duties. Unfortunately we are hearing all too frequently of the death of former members of this Parliament, and are called on to record our regret at their loss and the sympathy that we feel with their relatives. Death is, however, one of those inevitable destinies of mankind that we must all share at some time or other. I can only express on behalf of the Government, and, I venture to say, on behalf of the Parliament, our deep regret at the news which has reached us of the passing away of this late esteemed member of the House, and tender to his relatives our heartfelt sympathy in their bereavement.
– No motion has been submitted to the House, but as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased gentleman I ask honorable members to rise in their places and to stand for a few moments.
Honorable members stood in their places.
Mr. MATHEWS, in the absence of the chairman, brought up the report, together with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee in respect to the provision of automatic telephone exchanges at Brighton, Glenelg and Prospect, South Australia.
Ordered tobe printed.
– In view of the great value of the Rowan collection of paintings to the Commonwealth I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government will favorably reconsider the question of the purchase of the collection?
– I believe that the matter is still under the consideration of the Government, and that no definite determination has yet been arrived at.
– Has the Minis ter for Trade and Customs received any report with reference to the conditionin which tie apples shipped by the Largs Say arrived in London! If he has any information on the subject will he kindly supply it to the House?
– On receiving a report in regard to the condition of the apples shipped from Australia ‘ by the Largs Bay we referred the matter by cable ‘to a special investigation committee, comprising many scientists, at Home, who pronounced the apples to. be affected by what is spoken of as “suffocation,” due to the consignment not having’ been so stored in the ship as to allow a sufficient current of air to circulate around it. That opinion, however, is not shared by Mr. McAlphine, who from time to time, on behalf of the State Government, has made exhaustive investigations into the causes of bitter pit and other diseases in apples. We are, therefore, making further representations to the British committee or conference, which, by the way, is known as the National Federation, so that it may continue its investigations and make the most exhaustive inquiries.
– I desire to ask the Minister in charge of the House whether the report lately submitted to the Government by Senator Bakhap in regard to the Australian Trade Commissioner in China is to be treated as secret, or whether it will be laid on the table of the House?
– I shall have inquiries made, and ascertain whether it is possible . to comply with the honorable member’s suggestion that the report should be tabled. There may possibly be certain matters touched on in it which in the in- . teressts of parties other than the Trade Commissioner, it would be undesirable to make public.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that some five years or six years ago a site was acquired for a telephone exchange to serve Ascot Vale and district, and that provision has been made on the Estimates at various times for the building’ of the exchange, the proposed construction of which has been approved by the Public Works Committee f Can the honorable gentleman inform me when the work is likely to be proceeded- with, so that the congestion existing in the present Ascot Exchange may be relieved?
– The question should have been addressed to the Minister for Works and Railways; but if the honorable member will give notice of it I will obtain for him the desired information. As soon as a proposed postal work has been referred to the Public Works Committee and approved by it the matter passes out of my hands. It is then for the Department of Works and Railways to carry out the work.
– I now desire to address my question to tho Minister, for Works and Railways. As the proposed construction of an automatic telephone exchange at Ascot Vale has been approved of by the Public Works Committee, can the Minister inform me what action has been taken to relieve telephonic congestion in that area ?
– I understand that I have already given notice of a motion in respect of that work. - If such is not. the case, I will undertake to look up the particulars.
Cockatoo Island Dockyard: Williamstown Dock: Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers
– In view of the reply given by the Minister representing the ( Prime Minister to a question which I asked yesterday concerning Cockatoo Island dockyard, namely, that the accounts would be dealt with as usual; and in view of the fact that no accounts having to do with Cockatoo Island have ever yet been published separately; <and that the dockyard is competing with private enterprise in . Sydney, -I wish ‘ to know whether he will ‘have ‘ accounts prepared and presented to the House at the earliest-, possible moment.
– I will consult the Prime Minister, whose Department deals with the subject-matter, and ascertain whether the balance-sheets can be prepared for submission to honorable members. I dare say that it is within the honorable member’s knowledge that in connexion with the trading concerns of the Government balance-sheets are presented every year. I do not know if these are tabled as parliamentary papers, but, in any case, the honorable member should have no difficulty in obtaining the information he desires from the records of the Department.
– With respect to the shipbuilding activities of the Commonwealth at Williamstown, can the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for External Affairs inform me whether there is any truth in a rumour current at Williamstown that the shipbuilding yard at that port has been or is about to be sold to a British firm?
– The honorable member should address his question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, as shipbuilding activities do not come within the scope of the Department of External Affairs.
– In view of the fact that, so far as can be ascertained, no balance-sheet having to do with the Commonwealth Line has been presented to the House since 30th June, 1920, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform honorable members when the balance-sheet for the year ending 30th June, 1921, will be made available?
– I will make inquiries, but I believe that the document will be presented by the Treasurer, in the ordinary course, among the papers laid upon the table in association with the presentation of the Budget.
– What is the latest information regarding the Commonwealth ships which are now lying idle in the Bay? What are the prospects of obtaining cargo for them, or of turning them to some profitable use? Or is there some difficulty in the matter of putting them to use owing to the competition of private companies?
– On behalf of the Prime Minister, and speaking subject to correction, I desire to say that there are at present only three Commonwealth ships out of forty-seven idle. One of those ships is definitely out of commission. The other two, I understand, are awaiting cargoes; and the first opportunity which presents itself will, no doubt, be availed of to commission the ships and send them abroad.
Perth Post Office Building Leases
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform me if the Government have considered the question of building shops in the proposed street between Wellington and Murraystreets, Perth, adjoiningthe new postoffice building; and, if so, whether it is intended to let the whole of the shops by tender or to give those persons who are in the shops about to be demolished a prior opportunity of leasing the intended new buildings?
– That question should be addressed to the Minister for Home and Territories, whose Department is concerned with the leasing of all Commonwealth properties.
– Can the Minister in charge of the House give honorable members any definite information concerning when notice of motion No. 1 appearing on the paper is likely to be discussed. I refer to that dealing with the proposed redistribution of parliamentary seats?
– I presume that when the House has finished the business immediately before it, and has got down to the work of the session, one of the first matters for consideration, following the discussion of motions having to do with the ratification of various treaties, will have, to do with the notices of motion appearing on the paper concerning the redistribution of seats.
– I wish to know if the Minister for Trade and Customs is in a position to announce the attitude adopted by his Department at present with respect to the denaturing of power alcohol.
Mr.RODGERS. - I understand that there is a question upon the notice-paper having to do with the same subject-matter. I do not wish my answer to anticipate the reply to that question; but I may say that the whole subject is being considered in relation to certain Commonwealth activities.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table of the House, and cause to be printed, an address presented to the Prime Minister at Bundaberg by representatives of refiners, raw sugar millers, cane growers and workers, who acted on behalf of about 20,000 people directly engaged in the sugar-producing industry, praying for a renewal of the Sugar Agreement on equitable and just terms?
Mr.RODGERS . - I will undertake to have the document placed on the table of the House.
– Will the Minister, at the same time, lay upon the table a document embodying a protest from the Fruitgrowers Association of New South Wales, representing between 20,000 and 30,000 fruit-growers, against the renewal of the Sugar Agreement upon any terms whatever?
Mr.RODGERS. - I will do so.
– Will the Minister also lay on the table the protests submitted by the Victorian fruit-growers against the renewal of the sugar agreement, notably the protest which came from Harcourt?
– I wish to submit a question to the Minister for Health. I was present the other evening at a more or less noisy gathering in the Assembly Hall, Melbourne, and heard the statement made by a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly that the fruit-growers of his State had discovered how to avoid the use of sugar in the making of jam. Will the Minister make inquiries in order to ascertain what ingredient is being used as a substitute for sugar, and whether it is not calculated to interfere with the health of the community?
– I shall be pleased to make the inquiries the honorable member desires, but the matter is one that comes within the control of the State Government.
– Is it a fact that Sir Mark Sheldon is engaged upon some secret mission for the Government? If so, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister let. the House know the nature of it?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral lay on the table all the papers in connexion with the postal inquiry into the forging of my name to a telegram ?
– I will look into the matter and let the honorable member know the result of my inquiries later on.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the number of persons now employed in the various Governmental activities not under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, giving separately -
Defence (Factories separately) ;
Navy (Cockatoo Dock separately)
War Service Homes.
Land settlement, pensions, and all other Australian Imperial Force activities.
Northern; Mandated, and Federal Capital Territories.
Commonwealth Shipping Line.
Sugar and other controls.
Institute of Science and Industry.
Bureau of Commerce and Industry and any other Board and/or activity not specified?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the reply given to question No. 1 on the business-paper of 12th instant, will he lay on the table of the House the papers referred to as being in the Attorney-General’s Department?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).I shall be pleased if it will meet the convenience of the honorable member to lay the papers in connexion with this question on the table of the Library.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with the proposed erection of a Note Printing Office in Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Victoria, will he inform the House -
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. Since the recommendation was made by the Public Works Committee in 1919 that a Note Printing Office be erected in Victoriaparade, Fitzroy, the Australian note issue has been transferred to the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank, and the site on which it was proposed to erect the new building has been purchased by the Bank with the object of building premises suitable for note printing. It is understood that plans of a new building have been prepared by the Bank’s own architects, but no particulars, such as those asked for by the honorable member, have been supplied to the Government by the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the wages stipulated in the regulations governing the employment of native labour in the Australian Mandated Territory?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).Section 73, sub-section 2 of the Native Labour Ordinance provides -
Minimum monthly wage for a male labourer shall be 5s.; for a female labourer, 4s.; for a boy under sixteen years, 4s.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Adelaide, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Dover, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Regulations’ Amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 81.
War Service Homes Act- Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at - Bega. Revocation of notification of acquisition of land, in New South Wales, at Newcastle.
Debate resumed from 12th July(vide page 368), 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: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to ourMost Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Scullin had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address-in-Reply : - “ but we declare that any action by the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth Government Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong will not meet with the approval of this House.”
– Before dealing with the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I wish to correct an error made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I was present at the meeting held in the Assembly Hall, Melbourne, on Monday last, at which the honorable member was speaking, and I realize that the circumstances were sufficient to affect his memory. The gentleman he has mentioned as being a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly made the statement that, owing to the high price of sugar, the fruit-growers of Tasmania had been, to a large extent, pulping their fruit and sending it to Great Britain to be converted into jam. To any other honorable member it would perhaps be unnecessary to make this simple explanation. But in case the impression gets abroad that some adulteration process is in operation, it is necessary for me to make that explanation. In regard to the statement made last night by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), I shall say only a few words. The honorable member made a personal attack’ upon me in connexion with the sugar agreement and the sham, hypocrisy, and humbug of the honorable member’s speech is shown by the fact that he was entirely silent regarding the meeting on Monday night, when there were present three honorable members from the Nationalists, two of whom sit cheek by jowl with him in the Ministerial party, and who made a direct attack upon the sugar agreement, and one of them upon the sugar-growing industry.
– Speak the truth!
-The honorable member made a deliberate attack upon me. What for? Not in the interests of the sugar industry, but in the interests of his own candidature at the forthcoming election. He knows very well that he will have to fight the Country party in his electorate, and, therefore, he passed by the attack made on the sugar agreement and the sugar-growing industry by members of his own party, and tried to score a point against the Country party by referring to something that happened two or three years ago. I have said sufficient in regard to that incident.
One cannot help asking himself what was the object of the vicious and personal attack which the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Greene) made upon certain members of the Country party yesterday. He lashed himself into a fine state of hysterics until he became a veritable Bombastes Furioso, and with his tongue in his cheek, and tears in his voice, said that the Country party was preserving its political life by defaming the country and the agricultural industry. The Minister and every honorable member of the House knows that he was not serious when he made that statement; it was only electioneering propaganda. A few minutes after the Acting Leader of the House had decried the Country party for defaming rural industries, he quoted from the Year-Book most dismal statistics regarding the present state of the mining industry, and later, in order to make an attack on the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), he painted a most doleful picture of the cattle industry. A more dastardly attack was never made upon any member of this House. If the Minister meant anything by his statement, he meant that the honorable member for Moreton was usinghis position as a member of Parliament to condemn the subsidy to the cattle industry in order that the smaller men might be crushed out, and he and other large cattle-owners might batten on their ruins.
– It has beendone before.
– It has never been done by a man of the type of the honorable member for Moreton - a man who quite recently received distinguished honours from his King for services rendered in the field, and who for clean politics, and as a man and’ a gentleman, has no superior in Australia, and very few equals.
– This House does not think otherwise.
-Then what was the meaning of thedirty insinuation which the Acting Leader of the House made yesterday?
– I, for one, did not hear it.
– The honorable member may not; but if the Minister did not mean to make a dirty insinuation-
– It took the honorable member for Franklin to find any insinuation of a personal character against the honorable member for Moreton. I made none.
– Hear, hear.
– No one but the honorable member for Franklin would think of such a thing.
– The Minister is very good at hard hitting, and he must expect blows in return. I ask him now what he did mean by his insinuations?
– I will tell the honorable memberhow some of us regarded it.
– I wish to know not how the honorable member regarded the attack, but what was intended by the. Minister. I know how it has been regarded in other quarters outside this House. A personal attack was made also upon the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in his private and professional capacity. Those who know the Acting Leader of the House, and those who know the Leader of the Country party can judge between the two men. I say that the insinuation made by the Minister reflects upon him rather than upon the honorable member for Cow per. What was the meaning of the personal attack made upon members of this party? Was it deliberate? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a tour of Australia, and in most of the States he visited he made a premeditated onset upon the Country party, especially upon its leaders.
– What has the honorable member’s leader been doing to our leader? Is he to attack as he likes, and are we to say no word in reply?
– I do not care how the Prime Minister or the Acting
Leader of the House attack us, but a Minister who claims a right to attack must concede to others the right to reply.
– That is all I ask for.
– Then what was the meaning of this attack?
– Members of the honorable member’s party have been attacking us for months.
– I tell the Minister that if he is trying to create a consolidated hostile Country party, antagonistic to the Government in this House, let him say so. I promise him that both in the House and in the country he will get all the fight he wants. If the Government are, as some of the best political experts in this country think, riding for a fall, so far as I am concerned they need not search far for a fence. The personal attack made by the Acting Leader of the House on certain members of the Country party yesterday was such that some member of that party had to reply and refute his statements.
The Minister quoted some statistics regarding the condition of the agricultural industries. Heaven alone knows what evil genius prompted him to quote those figures. But in reply to them, I shall quote to the House, not a prepared statement, but figures taken from the book issued by the Government Statistician. Surely the Statistician’s office costs the country sufficient to entitle us to say that the information it supplies is fairly correct? The book from which I am about to quote was issued in December, 1921, and it deals with the years that are completed. The figures for 1922 are not known to the. ordinary members of the House, though, of course, Ministers have other sources of information. The only time that we can hold a Government responsible for its actions is whilst it is in office. The Minister for Defence and Health (Mr. Greene) took very good care yesterday to deal with a decade, the figures for which answered his purpose fairly well, but I shall give figures for the last five years, during which the country and its agricultural interests have been under the control of the present Government.
– The figures for those ten years show a decline.
– That is so,but I confine myself to considering the posi tion into which the agricultural industries’ interests are drifting. The returns from primary production depend very largely on the seasons, and prices depend on the state of the market when the productions are sold. The real and only test we can apply to the conditions of an industry such as that of agriculture is the area under cultivation; that is the only standard that can be fairly applied as a basis for the condition of the industry.
– It is a well-known fact that there is not now needed nearly the area that was needed in years past.
– I propose to deal with the last five years, and there has been very little alteration in the system of cultivation during that time. In 1915-16 the total area under cultivation throughout Australia was 18,528,234 acres; in the following year it was 16,806,380; in the following year 14,298,982; in the following year 13,332,393 ; and in thelast year 13,298,516 acres. There is shown a steady declension year by year, with a reduction from 18,500,000 acres to 13,250,000 acres. When members who represent country districts point out the seriousness to Australia of this terrible decline in the area under cultivation, the Minister, with a sob in his voice and his tongue in his cheek, says we are defaming Australia in order to save our political lives.
– So you are!
– All I can say is that it will take a pretty good text to save the honorable member’s political life if what we hear is correct.
– The honorable member is taking abnormal years.
– No, I am taking the last five years, which afford the only true indication. In the Year-Book from which I am quoting there is a note stating that a table there published shows that the acreage under crop per 1,000 of the people has. consistently declined in all the States during the last four years, and this is particularly noticeable in New South Wales, where the decline proportionately is greater than in any other State of the Union. Yet the Minister has the audacity to come here and quote faked figures in an attempt to show that’ the agricultural industry is extending and not declining.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has just said that I used “ faked figures “ in this1 House yesterday. I say that that is a misstatement of fact; I quoted actual figures as supplied to me by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– I shall withdraw the word “ faked,” and say that very carefully selected figures were used yesterday with the same intention.
There are one or two other matters with which T should like to deal, and I now come back to the statement from which I have been diverted by the unwarranted attack of the Minister now in charge of the House. If that honorable gentleman is to continue to lead the House, I hope he will seek for some better example than that of his leader whose footsteps . he seems in this particular line, to be anxious to follow.
I am one of those who think that the Government have seriously failed to realize the seriousness of the financial position. We have a war debt of £400,000,000, and a peace debt of practically the same amount, invested largely in railway systems that show annual deficits. With taxation three times what it was ten years ago, industries thereby strangled, with State after State budgeting for deficits, with an expenditure; apart from war services, increased from £50,000,000 to £100,000,000, with a declining national income if prices slump further, one would have looked in the Governor-General’s Speech for some indication that the financial problem was to be attacked. We would also have looked for some effort to prevent the depopulation of the country districts and to secure a proper distribution of population, with decentralization by the encouragement of manufacturing towns, which alone can make the country sufficiently attractive. But we find the same old cures that have been tried, and have failed over and over again. The cure for an overgrown Public Service is the appointment of more Boards ; the cure for trade and commerce hampered by too much Government interference is more Government appointments; the cure for a disorganized postal and telephone’ service is not proper decentralization, with business control and management, and the retention of postal profits for the development of the Postal Department, but the appointment of another Commission.
I agree with the more intelligent members of the Labour party who declare that despite the enhanced wages that the workers receive, their position owing to* the increase in the cost of living is no better than it was before. I propose to put before the House an interesting statement showing the position of the workers in New South Wales. I have accepted the figures for that State, since they are more complete than are those which are available in respect of any of the other States. They are certainly surprising, and must cause every thoughtful man to recognise that there is ground for some of the discontent displayed in the industrial lifeof Australia. The return, which gives the average nominal wage, the index numbers of the prices of groceries and foods, and of the average effective wage in New South Wales from 1911 to 1920 is* as follows : -
From this return it will be seen that whilst the index number of the average nominal wages rose from 117 in 1911 to 188 in 1920, the index number of the price of food and. groceries rose from 103 to 230, while the index number of the average effective wage of the workers in town and country fell from 113 to 82. When a public man, in the course of his study of the economic situation, comes across figures like these it is his duty to the House and the country to make- them public, regardless of any consideration as to whether they tell in favour of one party or the other.
– Despite these figures the honorable member’s party would reduce wages.
– It seems to me that whilst the cost of living remains as at present, it is idle to talk of a general reduction of wages. Is it fair that the workers should receive no benefit from the enhanced wages which the primary producers, in common with all employers of labour, are paying, and that the advantage should go wholly to the profiteer? It is time that we set ourselves to the task of solving the industrial problems that confront us. We cannot hope to have them dealt with effectively merely by one political party charging the other with all sorts of political impropriety. The best minds in the public life of Australia should be directed to the task of finding a solution.
Another interesting fact is that whilst the population of Australia since 1911 has increased by 900,000, that increase is confined almost wholly to the capital cities, while few provincial towns have retained their natural increase. In dealing with the primary industries of Australia last night, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) did not mention that we have in the Commonwealth to-day 15,000,000 less sheep than we had ten years ago, and that our production of wool in 1920 was 164,000,000 lbs. less than it was in 1911. Notwithstanding these enormous decreases, we are told by the Minister that the primary industries are progressing and flourishing. Those of us who care to go into these matters realize to the full that the primary producing interests of Australia constitute the very life’s blood of the country. We know that it is only by means of the returns from the sale of our wool, meat, wheat, fruit, and minerals abroad that we are able to maintain our financial equilibrium. It is by this means alone that we are able to pay the interest onour loans and keep the wheels of industry in motion, and when we find a decline in our output of minerals as well as in our agricultural and pastoral products, while at the same time we have an ever increasing State and Federal taxation pressing on our primary producers, despite their inability, owing to this reduced output, feu bear it, we must recognise that it is time to call a halt in the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Despite the de creased output of some of our great primary industries which go to make up the real stable wealth of Australia, our expenditure continues to increase.
I was one of those who thought that the appointment of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) as Treasurer would have a very beneficial effect on the financial position of the Commonwealth. I believed that his advent to the Treasury would have a stabilizing influence. The public statements which the honorable gentleman has made from time to time, however, have been not only disappointing, but disquieting, from the point of view of those who thought that he would promptly bring about a financial reform. He seems to have fallen into the rut of his predecessors. It is extremely disquieting to find that no Minister can be held responsible for anything that has been done in any of the Commonwealth Departments during the last four or five years. As soon as a Minister gets a Department into a muddle he is transferred to another Department. His successor promptly disclaims any responsibility for the condition of affairs in the Department which he has taken over, asks the House to give him a chance, and declares that he will soon put matters on a good footing. But as soon as he also gets into trouble he is transferred, and another honorable gentleman takes his place. No one can fairly hold the Treasurer responsible for anything that took place in his Department prior to his joining the Ministry, but I disagree with those who say that since the Estimates had been passed before he took office he had to accept them as he found them, and could not effect any reforms. A man who was out to secure reform! would not have allowed the enormous increase in the expenditure of the Commonwealth which has occurred. The statement submitted to us a few days ago by the Treasurer shows the following revenue receipts over and above the estimated return for the year 1921-22: -
But for these wholly unexpected windfalls, which cannot be regarded as ordinary current revenue, the deficit in respect of transactions of the last financial year would have been not £205,000 as announced by the Treasurer, but over £4,500,000.
– Surely the return from income tax is ordinary current revenue.
– Not the whole of it.
– No; that is where the Treasurer has fallen into error. He has taken into the revenue accounts of the year just closed money received in respect of the accumulated arrears of the last three or four years. By that means alone has he been able to balance his accounts. The revenue so obtained will not recur. These arrears, having been swept in, will not again come to the Treasurer’s aid. Then, again, the revenue from the Customs Department was, roughly, £1,500,000 in excess of the estimate for 1921-22. We passed last year what was declared to be a Protectionist Tariff. The sole reason for itsintroduction which the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) advanced was that it would reduce importations.
– Has it not reduced importations ?
– The honorable member isin error.
– Of course I am, from the honorable member’s point of view. Every new member for the first two or three years of his political life thinks he knows everything, but as he begins to learn a little he discovers that there is a great deal more knowledge to be acquired.
– Nevertheless, my statement is correct.
– There was an increase of £1,500,000 in the revenue of the Customs Department for the year.
– The estimate was exceeded by that amount.
– That is so. What was the reason ? The Tariff was introduced to foster local industries. The local industries have not succeeded in some directions as anticipated. Some, indeed, have failed, and the people are paying enhanced protective duties on articles which are not protected at all. I have before me particulars of the imports and exports of the Commonwealth, which form a fairly good guide to the actual Condition of the country. For the eleven months ending 31st May, 1921, imports were valued at £153,834,494, and exports at £120,308,661 ; for the eleven months ending 31st May, 1922, importstotalled £90,846,091 and exports, £117,258,111. The enormously high figures relating to imports during 1921 were due to a huge accumulation of orders during the war period coming to hand throughout the year. It was not a period of normal and natural trade. For several years it was impossible for those in Australia who desired to purchase goods from England to secure delivery of their orders. These accumulated and came to hand, as I have just pointed out, almost overwhelmingly during 1921, thus constituting a very disturbing factor in the finances of the country.
I desire to show now how the Commonwealth Government are dealing with the urgent matter of the finances of the country, and to compare the results with those of the administration of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The following table demonstrates how the situation stands in regard to expenditure as between the Mother Country and Australia: -
While expenditure in Great Britain since the war has been reduced by half, expenditure in Australia has been doubled. It may be said that it is not fair to compare the circumstances of the United Kingdom with those of this country. May I be permitted, then, to compare New Zealand with the Commonwealth? Such a comparison would reveal a marked difference in the administration of the two countries since the commencement of the war. For the financial year ending 31st March, 1921, New Zealand’s revenue was £34,260,962 and expenditure £28,128,730, showing a surplus of more than £6,000,000 for the year. The accumulated surplus now’ totals £23,600,000, out of which £15,000,000 is being used in settling discharged soldiers. These figures stand, after paying to the Public Trustee 1 per cent. of the capital moneys borrowed for war purposes to be invested in a sinking fund. On the investments of the sinking fund 4½ per cent. per annum is received, by which, it ils calculated that each war loan will have been extinguished within forty years.
– Just three years longer than in the case of the Commonwealth.
Mr. MCWILLIAMS.But while New Zealand is reducing expenditure the ordinary expenditure of the Commonwealth is increasing year after year; and, no matter what windfalls the Treasurer may receive, no matter how good may be the seasons, or how large may be the accumulated revenue, the trouble is that expenditure is always brought practically up to a level with revenue. And, thereafter, when a bad year is experienced, back goes the country further than ever into debt.”
When in Brisbane recently the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) said there was only about £4,250,000 from which savings could be effected. I assure the Treasurer that the statement was intensely disappointing to the country. As for the party to which I belong, we say that the pruning knife will have to go very much deeper. There are many ways in which savings may be effected. I cite again the duplication of electoral rolls. On© of the gravest blunders which this Parliament ever made was to establish a Commonwealth savings bank institution in direct competition with the State Savings Banks, which are doing such good work throughout the land. The time is rotten ripe when the whole of the land and income taxes and electoral and Savings Bank duplications should be done away with. When the Treasurer publicly states that there are less than four and a half millions of money out df which savings oan be effected, I oan only reply that he should now go far more deeply and closely into the matter. He should refuse to adopt the course steered by his predecessors. He should out out the old advice of “ tax all you can, collect all you can, create Departments, create Commissions.” In the course of the Governor-General’s Speech, there are proposals for the creation of five different Commissions and Departments, in addition to those already at work. I trust that I shall be spared to vote against every one of those propositions, for not one of them can be justified. One of the greatest evils which this Parliament has done has .been to rout upon the backs of Commissions the responsibilities and duties which should rightly devolve on Ministers. A great mistake was made when Parliament appointed a Commission to control War Service Homes activities. It mattered not what blunder, or what extravagance, and worse, may have occurred, Ministers would wipe their hands of all responsibility, and repeat that Parliament had appointed a Commission to do the work,- thus taking the duty directly out of their hands.
The question of real and proper economy should not be a party matter. I do not think that we can mend the financial position of Australia by dismissing a few lowly paid officers here and there, or by taking a few pounds off the wages of a few struggling public servants. When I perceive the circumstances of some of those in the lower paid grades, I wonder how they continue to live and support their families. There are Departments which could be done away with altogether. A start should be made with a 20 or 25 per cent, reduction in the salaries of the Service, beginning at the very highest grade, and working’ downward upon a diminishing scale until one has reached the £300 salary mark. All officers drawing that sum and under should remain untouched. No man upon the £300 mark, or below should be called upon to sacrifice any part of his salary. It is in the highest paid realms that tha pruning knife can be most severely employed. Before we begin to cut down Departments, there must be a comprehensive and scientific percentage reduction beginning from the top.
– Hear hear, including Parliament.
– As I have mentioned - throughout the whole Service.
I support the amendment, and congratulate tho honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) upon his fine effort in bringing forward a subject of such vital public importance as the threat to dispose of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong. There is ample opportunity afforded by the amendment for those who believe sincerely in practical economy, for if the amendment be agreed to the effect will be to prevent the Government from ridding themselves of a public profit-making concern. There is no valid reason why the Government should sell it. The Government say ‘ that they do not propose to compete with private ‘enterprise in the manufacture of goods, and their attitude in this respect has affected another Government activity situated at Lithgow, in my electorate. The Minister for Defence has not intimated that it is his intention to sell the Small Arms Factory, but about 1,400 men engaged in the Factory have been dismissed on the ground that rifles are not required. It would certainly be useless to keep men engaged in manufacturing rifles that were not required, but sufficient evidence has been placed before the Government to indicate that other articles could be manufactured at a handsome profit at the Small Arms Factory, and much more cheaply than they can be by private manufacturers. However, the Cabinet has refused to allow these goods to be manufactured. It will not permit the employees of the Factory to compete against private enterprise in the manufacture of telephone parts, tools of all descriptions, motor car parts, motor cycles, water meters, and bicycles, which are largely used by the Department of the Postmaster-General. Some time ago, in answer to a deputation which waited upon him, the Prime Minister expressed sympathy towards the request of the members of the deputation that the Factory should be used for the manufacture of these goods. He asked whether there was machinery installed at Lithgow suitable for their manufacture, and when assured onthat point, he said, “ All right; appoint members of your association as commercial travellers to go out and arrange for the sale of the goods, and I promise to render them every assistance.” As the result of that assurance the great bulk of the men engaged in the Small Arms Factory lived in the hope that they would continue to be employed in the establishment, manufacturing goods totally different from rifles, but as time went by two or three hundred of them were dismissed. However, still expecting to be re-employed in the Factory, they did not leave Lithgow, and a further deputation consisting of representatives oftheSmall Arms Factory unions, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and citizens of Lithgow, waited on the Minister for Defence and suggested that the Factory should be kept going manufacturing almost any class of instrument, particularly those used in the Post and Telegraph Office. In reply, the Minister said that he saw no reason why these articles should not be manufactured. He asked whether the necessary machinery was installed in the Factory, and was assured by experts that such was the case. He was told that everything was in readiness if he would only give the word to make a start.
– Would that not be depriving fellows outside of the same work ?
– No, but it would mean interference with private enterprise, because the Small Arms Factory could turn out these articles more cheaply.
– In the first place the machinery is not at the Factory.
– Let me give some of the reasons why these goods are not being manufactured at the Small Arms Factory at the present time. These reasons are contained in a report by experts forwarded by the PostmasterGeneral to the Minister for Defence.
– Mention all the reasons they give.
– I shall do so. The report is as follows : -
A committee was appointed to investigate the practicability of the manufacture of telephones, especially with a view to the employment of returned soldiers on the work. The committee consisted of representatives of the Melbourne University, the Postal department, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the VictorianRailways, and the Department of Repatriation, and upon receipt of its report the whole question was considered by the Minister for Repatriation, but it is understood that, in view of all the facts of the case, the Repatriation Department did not wish to proceed with the matter.
This Department’s view is that the manufacture by it of telephone instruments would not be a sound undertaking. The establishment of a factory to carry out the work would necessitate the purchase of a large amount of specialized machinery, such as dies, jigs, &c., which have to bo specially made for a particular type of telephone, and this would undoubtedly be an obstacle to the Department’s keeping abreast of the advancementswhich are, continually being made in the design of telephone instruments, for, as the quantity of telephones the Department would make would be small compared with the output of the large factories in England and America, the Department would not be justified in scrapping all its dies, jigs, &c., whenever an improvement wasdeveloped. Moreover, the Department could not hope to maintain a large scientific research staff such as exists in the large factories in Europe and America, who have the world as a market, and these organizations would not be likely to consent to an Australian factory exploiting their patents should it desire to take advantage of their research work. I cannot imagine an Australian Government proposing an enactment by which the patents of Allied nations could be exploited. In any case, if a factory were established in Australia, and were to be run on anything approaching commercial lines, it could employ only thirty to forty returned soldiers. Those who would get the greatest benefit as regards employment would be scientific and skilled men, such as the manager, engineers, chemist, foremen, and skilled mechanics, whom the Department would have to import in order to establish a factory on proper lines. During his recent tour in America and Europe the Chief Electrical Engineer consulted various manufacturers of telephone apparatus with a view to ascertaining whether they would be prepared to establish factories here for the purpose, and in only one case was ho able to obtain .a favorable response. The conditions stipulated, however, in that case were that, in addition to certain duties and other concessions, the Commonwealth should discontinue the present manufacture and assembling of telephone apparatus and guarantee to the company a return of 10 per cent, on its average yearly investment. The representative of one company stated that in order to justify the expense that Would be required for plant, &c, an annual output equivalent to the requirements of this Department for three years would be necessary.
– The reasons advanced are pretty solid.
– One reason given is that the necessary jigs and dies are not available; hut let me inform the PostmasterGeneral that the whole of the machinery necessary for the manufacture of telephone parts is already installed at Lithgow.
– The experts say that that is not so.
– Certain stamps which may be very costly are not available, but they can be bought. It is idle to say that after a while the machinery used in the manufacture of the telephone parts would need to be scrapped. As years go by, other telephone instruments will be required. The manufacture of these parts can proceed year in and year out.
– I suppose the honorable member is aware that Footscray is also anxious to undertake the* manufacture of these telephone parts.
– I am speaking of a centre where the industry is already established. There are thousands of applicants for telephones which cannot be supplied, the reason given by the Department being that the instruments are not available.
– That is not so. The reason is that there are no switchboards or cables. We have no trouble about the instruments.
– I have asked the Department to have telephones installed, and the reply has always been that there are not sufficient telephones available.
– Can you produce any letter Ito that effect?
– Yes. The Government claim that they have attempted to cater for returned soldiers. There were about 500 returned men employed in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, but practically the whole of them have been dismissed. On Anzac Day they were asked to parade the streets to show their loyalty. On that same day there were in the office of the manager of the Factory notices of dismissal for 300 men. Scores of these returned soldiers are married. Some of them have partially bought their homes. Some of them have five, six, or seven children to maintain. Yet the Government throw these men out of employment because it is not proposed , to manufacture goods in competition with private enterprise. Never mind the assurances given” to the soldiers on their enlistment! Private enterprise must be protected !
Telephone parts are not the only articles that could be manufactured at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The employees were given permission to manufacture hammers. They did so. The hammers were sold at 2s. 6d. each, which returned’ a profit of 10 per cent, to the Factory. They were sold by the various firms at lis. 6d. each. The raw material for this class of manufacture exists close to the Factory. There is , abundance of coal at Lithgow, and there is an unlimited supply of ironstone. . There are steel works in the vicinity of the Factory which could supply as much steel as would be required, but because orders cannot be obtained at present these works are closed clown, while other countries are allowed to manufacture the goods that could be turned out on a profitable basis at Lithgow. Even if the statement contained in the report I have read, that not more than thirty or forty returned soldiers could be employed, be accepted as correct, it would be better to have that number employed there fib an to have them roaming about the streets in search of employment, with their wives and children practically on the verge of starvation. If the Postmaster-* General would consider the matter from a humane view-point, he would not bother so much about private enterprise, but would permit the Factory to engage in the manufacture of goods it is capable of turning out.
– I have found employment for 1,600 soldiers during the last six months.
– But not at Lithgow. It is all very well for the Minister to find employment for soldiers in his own electorate, but there are other people to be considered. The Government have asked that a system of strict economy should be brought into operation. Is the Minister for Defence economizing when he practically closes down the whole of the machinery in a factory that was in full working order .a few months ago? Are not the overhead charges still going on, whether there are 250 or 500 men employed ? Every possible appeal has been made to the Government to allow the industry to carry on and to compete with private enterprise, but despite the assurances that have been given, it is practically at a stand-still, only about 250 men being .employed in manufacturing a few rifles that are not required at the present time. The reply which the Minister gave to a question which I asked yesterday leads me to the conclusion that the Government do not intend to allow that establishment to produce anything but rifles. If the Minister would say definitely what his intentions are, those men who have been waiting for months in the expectation of re-employment at the Factory would know whether it was worth their while to continue there, or whether it would be better for them to seek fresh fields and pastures green. It appears to me that the Government have no intention of employing any more men at the Factory, and they care not what becomes of the soldiers whose interests, before they left Australia, they promised to safeguard on ‘their return. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) spoke of bringing experts from other parts of the world to investigate the possibilities of this establishment. Experts are already employed - -men who have had considerable .experience in the manufacture of machinery. They have been schooled in the industry for thirteen or fourteen years, and are experts at that class of work. One of them assured the Minister for Defence that the Factory could make a success of whatever it undertook to produce, and the only stipulation which the Minister made was that the Factory must not compete with private enterprise! If the interests of the workers are to be preserved and employment is to be found for them - the Government claim that that is their policy, and the Acting Leader of the House spoke yesterday of building railways and developing land - Jet the Government find work for the men at Lithgow who are searching for it. If they do not desire them to be re-employed at the Small Arms Factory, they might make some provision for their keep until fresh employment can be found for them. I know that some of the men are in distress, and the Minister said that if they were in positive need of assistance the Government would not mind helping them. I should like to know how many applications for assistance have been received, and how many have been granted. If the Factory is used only for the manufacture of rifles it will -operate at a. huge loss, which could be avoided if employees were allowed to carry on as I have suggested. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated definitely to a deputation that he was prepared to assist the Factory to manufacture articles used in the Postal Department, such as hammers, spanners, picks, and bicycle parts, and I hope that the Minister will honour that promise!. A great many bicycle parts are manufactured by private enterprise for the Postal Department, and if the Lithgow Factory can compete with private enterprise there should be no objection on the part of the Postmaster-General to its producing goods of that character.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr.. Mcwilliams) said that he believes in a policy of proper economy. If that is his policy I m ay reasonably assume that he will vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). He must know well that the Government will save money by continuing to operate the Woollen Mill, but I am afraid that his idea of economy differs considerably from that of honorable members on this side of the House. In fact his attitude is so peculiar that one does not know whether to take him seriously. I feel fairly certain that when the amendment goes to a division the honorable member will be conspicuous by his absence. I have heard him repeatedly attack the Government, and have then seen him vote for them. I have heard him denounce the Government for administrative apathy and neglect, but when a censure motion was tabled, he was one of the first to run away from it. To-day he claims that he is the father of economy, and that his policy is the only safe one for the guidance of this country. But when any proposal is submitted which involves the fate of the Government, the honorable member and his party are careful to vote to retain them in office.
– It is not that he hates Caesar less, but that he hates Pompey more.
– That may be the case, but I hope, nevertheless, that the honorable member will vote for the amendment.
.- The subject-matter of the Governor-General’s Speech, did we care to traverse it in detail, would have afforded material for1 a debate that would have extended over a considerable portion of the session., but I notice with some satisfaction that there is no intention on the part of honorable members to regard it as a serious production. For the most part, honorable members are content to discuss subjects which they consider of immediate and vital importance to Australia. .That is the line I intend to follow in- the few remarks I have to make. With other honorable members, I recognise that Australia is carrying on its affairs in very critical world conditions, which are reflected to some extent within the .Commonwealth. It seems to me that of late years we have gradually learned the importance of giving serious consideration to affairs outside Australia, because of the direct bearing they must have on internal conditions. I desire to discuss briefly a matter of some importance to Australia, the Washington Conference. That Conference was undoubtedly a very great event in the affairs of the world generally, and it thoroughly justified the attendance of an Australian delegate, even though he was, to a large extent, an onlooker rather than a direct participant in the negotiations. ‘ Our delegate, having returned from the Conference, has presented to the Government a very exhaustive report, perhaps as exhaustive as any I have seen presented on any subject in similar alrcumstances. It contains a great deal which has been the subject of discussion in the magazines for some time past. Very little of it, indeed, can be regarded as new, and what is new is not altogether admirable. The new material is contained largely in the conclusion, and I do not remember seeing in any other official documents as many personal pronouns as there are in that report by Senator the Right Honorable George. Foster Pearce. There is one expression to which I take serious objection. Senator Pearce says, “ I wish to1 place on record the magnificent services to the Empire rendered by Mr. Balfour at the Conference.” I, George Foster Pearce, wish to place on record the magnificent services to the Empire rendered by Mr. Balfour at the Conference ! That is a piece of impertinent and un called for patronage which I am sorry to see in that official document.
– He represented Australia, and speaks on its behalf.
– He might have left it te be taken for granted that the services of Mr. Balfour were of inestimable value to Australia, and appreciation of them could have been expressed in some less offensive way than by the introduction of Senator Pearce’s own personality. I was surprised to learn from the Treasurer that the cost to the Commonwealth of the delegation was £8,500.
I have been trying to discover how that sum could possibly have been expended, and I cannot arrive at any estimate within thousands of it, so I ask the Treasurer if he can help me with the details. The delegation consisted of Senator Pearce and three officers. The return boat fare would amount to something less than £500; I have allowed £480. There would, of course, be some railway travelling,, though not a great deal, from Vancouver to Washington, and I am allowing £100 to each of those gentlemen on that account. This, makes a total of £880 for travelling expenses. The delegation was about thirteen weeks in “Washington, and, of course, their stay would cost something. For this I allow the principal member of the delegation £50 per week, which I think is generous enough.
– Have you ever been on a delegation to Washington?
– I think £50 would fairly cover the expenses of our delegate at Washington, seeing that he was to a certain extent the guest of the Government of the United States of America. Now, thirteen weeks at £50 per week is a total of £650.
– I can help the honorable member by informing him that he could not possibly pay his living expenses the.re for £50 per week.
– I should like some proof of that. It will be rathersurprising information to the bulk of the people of Australia to know that a person cannot live in a perfectly wholesome and satisfactory manner in Washington for less than £50 per week.
– A bedroom and sitting room in Washington would cost £50 per week without paying f or food or other expenses.
– I beg to question that statement very much. I am now merely suggesting my inability to discover how this money was spent; and the Treasurer will probably be able to satisfy me and other honorable members in this connexion now that his attention has been drawn to the matter. As to the other three gentlemen, I allow each of them only £25 per week, on which they would probably manage to struggle along. The total for these three gentlemen is £975, and that with the amount I have allotted to the principal delegate, added to the travelling expenses, amounts to £2,505. We may suppose that the delegation would require a typist to type letters to their families as to the good times they were having and so forth, and I have allowed £200 under this head for the thirteen weeks. I hope that honorable members will not in turn accuse me of extravagance, because I am merely trying to arrive at some method by which the total of the expenses paid was reached. The payment to the typist brings us to a total of £2,705 on the somewhat luxurious scale I have indicated. I am still, However, a tremendously long way from £8,500, and I have to think hard how to make that amount up. I recall that Ministers when travelling are allowed £2 or £2 2s. per day.
-Itis 30s., I think.
– Trifles like that do not count in a transaction of this sort; but allowing the Minister to draw his daily allowance of £2, even while travelling on a ship where he is free from daily expenses of the kind contemplated, we have another sum of £325. If we allow each of the staff half the Ministerial allowance we get another £675, making altogether exactly £1,000. In my opinion, the allowance of £2 per day ought to be included in the £50 I have allowed for expenses when resident in Washington; but putting that aside, and allowing the party the full benefit of this £1,000, we reach the figure of £3,705.
– Still £5,000 short!
– If any honorable member can assist me further in making up the amount I shall be glad of any suggestion. There were some wreaths purchased to place on tombs - a very proper expenditure under the circumstances - and there might be cigars, shaves, and even drinks.
– America is “dry!”
– Then we shall leave the drinks out. With this £1,000 for odds and ends, the total amount is only £4,700, or about half the amount of the alleged cost.
– Where is it?
– I wish to know, and would like to see a detailed statement of the expenditure. This sort of thing has been going on for some time, and has reached a stage when, in view of the financial stringency of the Commonwealth, attention must be directed to it. I, myself, have no hesitation in concluding that in a return of this kind, presented under these conditions, there is a considerable portion of the expenditure that cannot be accounted for. If I were to use the ordinary term applied to an incident of this kind by the man in the street, you, Mr. Speaker, would probably rule me out of order. I, therefore, do not wish to make any trouble, but suggest that it is about time that this sort of thing is put an end to for good.
Now let me refer to matters of somewhat greater importance, but, I think, not of any greater significance. I wish to speak of the relationship which Australia has to this Washington Conference. A great deal more has been claimed foi” the Conference from the Australian point of view than should have been, largely because of an attempt to create a nimbus of glory for the exMinister for Defence and his chief. We are told that the Conference has secured our safety from foreign aggression. But if we were in danger of foreign aggression before the Washington Conference, then I say without hesitation that the result of the Conference has been to make us more open than ever to the same aggression. That, I know, sounds somewhat absurd on the face of it, and I desire to make myself perfectly clear. The Washington Conference has reduced the navies of at least the great Powers of the world to a point where they can hardly wage an offensive war anywhere. At that Conference the British Government abandoned their old supremacy of the sea - it is completely “gone by the board.” There ia no doubt that in the past we have owed our peace and our freedom from all foreign menace whatever to the fact that the Union Jack flew supreme over all the seas of the globe. To-day that safeguard no longer exists ; no portion of the British Fleet, of any consequence or sufficient fighting power, can be detached in order to safeguard Australia from possible danger. So that, if the’ view is correct, as expressed before the war, that Australia was in danger of foreign aggression of any kind, the Washington Conference has undoubtedly made us more open than ever to that aggression. But I welcome the Washington Conference, even with its reduction of the Navy of Great Britain, because I am not one of those who regarded aggression against Australia as possible, except from one quarter, and that was Germany. For years, and before the war broke out, I urged in this chamber the necessity for preparing for what I saw was ahead - the attack of Germany on civilization. But as regards any other Power, we are absolutely safe, and may sleep in our beds without any fear or apprehension j. there is no danger threatening us now in that way. But there is another danger that menaces us. The pressure, when it comes, against our White Australia principles will not be, in my opinion, by war. but will be an economic pressure; and I believe it will come from within our own Empire. We have had as a result of the Washington Conference a recent visit from an eminent Hindu gentleman. He was boomed by the press to a very remarkable extent, indeed, and lauded in many quarters because he stood as a great champion in India for the self-government of that country. He was welcomed everywhere in Australia as a champion of the principle of Democracy generally. The people who acclaimed this gentleman in that way did not know what they were talking about. There is a story that a few years ago, during a movement for Indian independence and self-government, there was a gathering in the city of Bengal of a number of eminent persons. Some of them were chiefs of the warlike tribes that have their homes in the north-west and northern frontiers of India. Listening to the boasts of the Bengalese babus, that by-and-by they were going to eradicate the English from India, one of the .chiefs of these warlike clans said, “ And six months after the British evacuate India there will not be a rupee or a virgin left in the whole of Bengal.” He might have amplified that statement by saying that within twelve months of the evacuation of India by the British it would have applied to the whole of India. As a matter of fact, the peace and prosperity of India have been preserved under British rule to a degree which that country never before enjoyed. So far from the agitation for self-government for India being an Indian movement, it represents only the demand of a very narrow, bigoted, and arrogant section of the community. “ Self-government for India,” in the mouths of those people, means government of the people by the Brahmins - the royal caste of India. And so much is this apprehended by the lower castes and the people who are lower than any caste at all - the outcasts - that they have formed a very powerful organization, the Nama Sudra, an organization having for its object the counter-acting of this agitation of the Brahmins for the control of India. These outcasts recognise that they are safer, more prosperous, and happier under the rule of the British raj than they would be under the control of the Bengalese babus and others of their kind.
This reference brings me to the object of the visit of this eminent Hindu gentleman to Australia. All that he asked was that the handful of Indians resident in Australia should be given the franchise. That, on the face of it, does not seem to be a great deal to ask of us, since there are only a few hundred of these people in the Commonwealth. But those who know anything about the Indian immigrants know that they live, to a large extent, a life altogether apart from the rest of the community. They are foreign in language, in religion, and, above all, in their social conditions and habits. They will not sitto eat with Europeans. I have known travelling Indian hawkers refuse food from those who have allowed them to camp at their homesteads for the night, and have seen them set to work to bake a chupatti on their little iron plates. It is a duty that we owe to ourselves to refuse the franchise to immigrants who are not assimilating with the community. I donot think I am narrow-minded, but I hold that such people, living a life entirely apart from the general community, have no claim to citizenship.
To my mind, this request for an extension of the franchise to a few Indians here is really the thin end of a very insidious wedge. India, we know,has sweltering millions struggling with one another for what, from our point of view, is the most miserable kind of existence. To those who contend that the control of India by Great Britain has been one of unexampled tyranny - there are within the British Empire people who are always magnanimous in their criticism of every country except their own, and who always take the worst view of their own country’s actions - I would say that under British rule the population of India has increased by leaps and bounds. That is a very significant fact, suggesting the beneficial nature of the British rule. Previously the Indian population, from time immemorial, had been kept down by war, plague, and famine, each in turn desolating the entire continent. That, however, was put an end to by British rule. While at the beginning of the nineteenth century the population of India was estimated at about 100,000,000, we find that in 1911 - the date of the latest census - the population had increased to 315,000,000. That process is likely to go on, and we shall reach a point at which there will be an irresistible clamour that India shall have other parts of the world offered for her surplus population, for whose subsistence she cannot provide. Where is it likely to be suggested that the surplus population of India can be thrust if not into the northern part of Australia? A very grave danger to our White Australia policy is to be apprehended from this source, and it is well that responsible men throughout Australia should not lose sight of it. It is idle to shut our eyes to the danger before us. It is absurd that we should bury our heads, ostrichlike in the sand and say, “All is well.” All is not well. All may be well for us, but all will certainly not be well for our children unless we seize upon the one thing that is vital to the continuance of a White Australia, and that is the introduction of immigrants of our own race. It is no use saying that there are reasons why we cannot take them in. There is one overwhelming reason why we must receive them, and that is the existence of Australia as a white community.
– Even if we starve them when they land here?
– We shall not increase our population by bringing people here to starve, but with the hearty co-operation of all classes of the community a sane policy can be evolved and carried out that willbring here the right class of immigrants and settle them comfortably on the soil where their labours can be utilized to their own advantage and that of the community generally. It is useless to bring them into the already overcrowded avenues of employment in our cities. But we have millions of acres of open country that can be utilized for the settlement of immigrants of our own race. I regret, however, that, with the exception of the efforts made by the Premier of Western Australia there has been no’ concerted movement to bring in these people, and to put them on the land in numbers that will make any material difference to the population.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should first settle our own people on the land?
– By all means let us settle our own people on the land, but there is room also to settle millions of others in Australia. There is enough land for all. Does the honorable member suggest that Australia cannot carry more than her present population?
– I had in mind a statement made yesterday by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene).
– I am coming to that. The honorable gentleman spoke of the difficulty of settlingpeople in certain parts of the State of which he is a representative. He was referring to the northern part of New South Wales, which has not been opened up by roads and railways to the extent that itshould have been.
– He also said that there were hundreds of applicants for every block thrown open for settlement.
– For every block within reasonable reach of a railway. There are vast areas which can be opened up by means of railways, and if they are so opened up we shall be able to settle upon them, not hundreds, but millions of people.
– Do not forget the little word “ if “.
– I am pointing to the necessity of doing away with the word “ if “ in this connexion, and urging that these means of communication shall be at once supplied.
– Is that not the first thing to be done?
– The Government should first of all assist the States by finding them the money necessary to enable them to open up the land and make it fit to carry the immigrants who are settled upon it.
– But what about the dumping of immigrants?
– I hold that there should be no dumping of immigrants in Australia until we are ready for their absorption on the land. But an active land settlement policy should be supported by all sections of the community, and my honorable friends of the Labour party should recognise the vital necessity for immigration, and should welcome such a scheme.
– We have never said otherwise.
– There has been, I think, a confusion of expression in that regard. In some instances, honorable members opposite have not made their position clear.
– We have been perfectly clear.
– The honorable member has a clear and emphatic style of speech, and probably has made his position quite clear; but that cannot be said of all his ‘colleagues.
I desire to go back to the point made yesterday by the Minister for Defence that there is not, in certain parts of Australia, the development of roads and railways which would give us the settlement we require. The difficulty is that the States have not the means to carry out these works. Their recognised sources of taxation, up to the outbreak of the war, have been and are now being exploited by the Commonwealth. Speaking as an old Federalist, I suggest that it should be the aim of all Federalists to get back to what was clearly understood when Australia entered into the Federation, and that was that direct taxation should be left to the States. I agree that that is not within the possibility of realization just at present, but it is an aim that ought to be kept before every Federalist. Unless we do get back to the old position it seems to me that the States will continue to be hopelessly crippled in so far as the provision of money for their proper development is concerned. At the present time one source of revenue after another is being taken from them. Unification was once, to alarge extent, the avowed policy of the Labour party. That, with them, was a straight-out policy, but, at the present time, the Government axe bringing about Unification by the strangulation of the States. I, as a Federalist, protest emphatically against that line of action, and will do my best to bring it to an end. I desire to see a better understanding between the Commonwealth and the States than that for which the present Government is responsible. I want to see every possible attempt made to reduce our expenditure, in order to enable the States to cany on their work of development. I know that a good deal has been done in the way of economy in the Department controlled by the Minister for Defence. The Minister has, indeed, done good- work, but there is a great deal more to be accomplished. We still have a toy fleet, absolutely obsolete. We still have a huge array of generals and other officers who are doing the work that used to be carried out. by sergeants and privates. Wherever one looks in the Department of Defence one finds waste and extravagance. There is radical necessity for further retrenchment in respect of both the Navy and the Army. Neither is needed, nor likely to be required in our day and generation. Therefore, I fail to see why we should not demand that expenditure in respect of both branches be reduced to an almost negligible sum.
There is one branch of this expenditure which I shall endeavour to abolish. I refer to the sums spent on cadet training. This business was one of the brilliant ideas of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Cadet training has been tried and found wanting. Military men say that the training of cadets is ofno military value whatever.
Its only effect appears to be, not to make soldiers of our boys, but to disgust them with soldiering altogether, as was shown conclusively by the poor proportion of Senior Cadets who volunteered during the. war.
– Is the honorable member, certain of his facts there?
– I have been definitely given to understand that such is the case. It has been contended that the training has proved advantageous in the matter of physical upbuilding; but even thatclaim cannot hold water. The few drills cadets get can have no possible effect on their physique, and, any way, marching and counter marching, forming linefrom column and forming column from line is of no use as physical training.
– Militarism would sicken anybody.
– That is not so. Properly conducted, military training has proved to be a good thing. I can testify personally to its value; and I know that, rather than having been sickened of it, I would be ready at any time to sling a rifle over my shoulder and take my place down along our coast-line if an enemy threatened. There are very many who, like myself, are proud rather than sorry to have experienced a share of military training, but not as boys. I intend to move at the earliest opportunity for the abolition of cadet training, on the ground that it is utterly useless, and that the money spent on it, therefore, is completely wasted. The time now given by trainees to such exercises as they get could be better employed in receiving a proper course of physical training under the responsibility and control of school authorities. To-day we are merely throwing away money and demoralizing our youth by this so-called military training, which is a farce, a delusion, and a snare.
There are many other directions in which economy might be achieved, but I have not the time to point to them at this stage. The Government are setting a very bad example to the people by the reckless maimer in which they are throwing money about. The appointment of Trade Commissioners, for example, has been deprecated by the whole of the business people of Australia. I understand that some of these appointments have been, or are to be, made merely to oblige political friends of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– How much are the Trade
Commissioners costing the Commonwealth ?
– Not much. Perhaps it is only a small leak, but the trouble is that there are hundreds of them. The task of stopping them belongs primarily to the Treasurer. May we get back soon to a careful control of all expenditure and to the old understanding between Commonwealth and States, so that the affairs of the country may be placed in a thoroughly satisfactory position.
.- The Acting Leader of the House, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), referred to the farmer yesterday as a man who is always grumbling. Either there is too much rain or there is not enough. The Government, however, are evidently determined that the farmer shall not grumble until he actually gets the rain, for it is now proposed to cut down the daily weather reports, which are so essential to the primary producer. I hope the Government will have the common sense to reflect, and either leave this particular business alone or add to the number and scope of such reports. It is necessary in the best interests of the rural community, find thus of the country generally, that all that may be practically possible should be made known concerning weather conditions.
Members of the Government, and numbers of those behind the Government, have been touring Australia through the recess telling the people that the Country party is a party of six and that they do not count. We are, as before, still a party of thirteen. If we do not count, what is the reason for the press editorials upon the subject? Why all these articles, some of them “ boosting “ the party and others “booting” it? Why all this fuss about the menace of a party which does not count? The fact is that we do count. Honorable members of the Country party are in this House as, representatives, not only of the primary producers, but of the people generally. I have been sorry to note the remarks of certain Nationalist members of this Parliament who represent city electorates, who have said that we constitute a menace to the country, and who avow that the existence of three parties in the Legislature is the greatest curse imaginable. It is a pity that there are not seventy-five parties instead .of only three in this House. If every honorable member Vere a party in himself, and voted according to his convictions
– There would be a lot of wire-pulling.
– That is not so; and there would not be so many purely political speeches as are heard nowadays. This is not the place for propaganda work. I intend to quote certain figures, but I undertake that they will be fair. They will not deal with isolated years in order to bolster up a false case. They will not be so selected as to incorrectly influence facts. The Minister for Defence was unfortunate in his references and in his statistics yesterday. I am sure he did not willingly misrepresent the true posit on He is the last member of this House who would attempt wilfully to mislead the people. The Minister pointed to Australia’s alleged flourishing condition. He spoke of its increased production and the like. If the situation is as the Minister painted it, if Australia is enjoying such great times, then the financial statement furnished by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) a few days ago did npt reveal the true position, and we must be in a very serious plight. According to the Minister in charge of the House, we are enjoying a very favorable period at present, and these are the best years we have ever known. Yet, according to the Treasurer’s own figures, we have gone back to the extent of £5,540,000 in one year. Our deficit is not £205,000, as the Treasurer has put it. When one considers the arrears of income tax, amounting to £4.500,000, and adds the item of £835,000 in respect of payments connected with the Army of Occupation in Europe - neither of which items represents revenue, but both of which are being counted as revenue - then one sees that Australia has receded t in this, her best year, to the extent of £5,540,000. The Minister for Defence says we have certain fixed commitments, and that we cannot possibly economize to the extent of £2,000,000. But, upon that point,’ and on another occasion, the Minister when replying to a question by the honorable- member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), stated that he could not say that the Government could not possibly economize to the extent of that £2,000,000. Anyhow, if a saving of £2,000,000 can be made, and is made, this country under the present Government will have gone back £3,540,000 during the best period which we have ever known.
– I advise the honorable member to study what the Treasurer said.
– I have done so. I have the greatest respect for and the highest opinion of the Treasurer. Unfortunately for him, he took his position at rather a bad time; but, probably, if he had not taken over the control of the Treasury, our national position would have been a great deal worse than it is. What will happen if Australia should suffer a drought? We have bad a succession of very prosperous years.
– We have had two years of drought in Queensland in the past four.
– In the great producing areas - the wool, and wheat, and buttergrowing districts - we have not had a drought. We have enjoyed good years, but we are now about due for a bad visitation. If that should come upon us what will happen ? Taxpayers have been looking for some relief, but none is promised or foreshadowed. Some reduction of the burden is essential; we have reached our limits. - Taxation has been increased from £4 to £12 a head. I hope that reduction will come’ about; there is plenty of room, for it.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) furnished certain statistics touching upon agriculture. I propose to do the like, but I shall not quote unfairly, with the purpose of misleading honorable members and the country. The Minister dealt with the years from 1911 to 1921, in respect of all the various lines of production except butter. Dealing with butter however, he went back to 1910. The reason for that was probably because 18,000,000 lbs. less was produced in 1910 than in 1911. That is not a fair way in which to provide statistics.
– The honorable member is mistaken. The Minister for Defence dealt with the whole decade from’ the financial year 1910-11 to 1920-21.
– I shall furnish the House with particulars dealing with the. acreage of wheat over a given period of years. In 1911-12, the total wheat acreage of the Commonwealth was 7,427,000. In 1912-13, 7,000,000 acres were put under wheat; in 1913-14, 9,000,000 were sown; and in 1914-15, 9,000,000 acres. Then we come to that period in 1915-16 when the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the various States appealed to the men on the land to produce more wheat, and they responded, with the result that we had the record cultivation of 12,484,512 acres. That was certainly one of the five years in which the present Government have been in office; hut the cultivation of wheat since then has steadily declined. In 1916-17 it fell to 11,532,828 acres; in 1917-18 it fell still further, to 9,774,658 acres; in 1918-19 there was a still greater fall to 7,990,165 acres; and, again, the year 1919-20 showed another fall to 6,379,560 acres. The decrease has been gradual since this Government has been in office.
– Does the honorable member claim that the Government are responsible for the decrease?
– No. They are no more responsible for it than they are for an increased prosperity in the country.
– What about the men who went off the land to go to the war?
– That was not the cause of the decrease in cultivation. I will show what the cause was.
– It was one of the causes.
– .Certainly ; but I want to be absolutely fair in what I say. The record production in 1915-16 took place when most of these men were away at the war. They were still away in 1916-17; but in 1920 they were back again, and yet the area of wheat cultivation was exactly half what it was five years earlier.
– What was the reason ?
– ‘One of the reasons was the exceptionally high- prices being obtained for wool. Another reason why men gave up growing wheat or dairying was because the Government continued to fix the price of wheat and butter. The immediate consequence was that the country lost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– It was more attractive to them to grow wool. .
– But this country cannot afford to have attractions of that kind. Wool will return an export value of 12s. per acre; an acre of wheat will return an export value of £2 Ss., and all expenses in securing that amount are incurred in Australia. An acre of land devoted to dairying will return £4 from the other side of the world.
– But the value of the land is very different in the two cases.
– That is so; and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) says that the whole cause of the trouble is the increased price of land. What has occasioned this increase in the price of land? Let me quote an instance which ‘has occurred in my own electorate. Although Commonwealth Government valuers had already valued one estate held by eight persons at £38,000, this year a new set of valuers has valued that same property at £58,000. Talk about the Repudiation Act of Queensland! The owners of this estate were asked to pay an additional £923 per annum for three years, practically £3,000 over and above what they expected to pay on a valuation previously made by the Government’s own valuers. Who, then, are to blame if the price of land is high?
– The same thing is being done everywhere.
– That is so. The true value of a piece of land is its actual grazing capacity. In South Gippsland magnificent grazing country, 2 acres of which will carry one bullock, is valued at £12 10s. per acre. In the Warrnambool district, land which will carry one bullock to 2 acres is valued at from £80 to £200 per acre.
– Very well, put the Government out!
– When a man comesto two roads, one leading to the devil and the other to destruction, he haslittle choice. That is the position facing us at the present time. We are not satisfied with what the present Government are doing, but we hope they will see the necessity for some system of economizing.
It is certainly the duty of the States to settle people on the land. Although for the last three or four years the Commonwealth Government have been supposed to be giving assistance to the States to help them in this direction, the Minister for Defence, yesterday, informed the House that not a single shilling had been advanced to the States for this purpose. It is time something was done.
– Whose fault is it that nothing has been done?
– It is evidently the fault of the Commonwealth. Government.
– No. The fault lies with the States.
– The Commonwealth Government have offered a sop of £100,000 to the meat-growers of Northern Queensland, but as the primary producers are responsible for three-fourths of the taxable wealth of the Commonwealth, naturally they contribute three-fourths of the taxation, so that the net actual assistance they get from this subsidy is one farthing out of every penny they are supposed to receive.
– Do you object to the assistance given to the meatgrowers ?
– I maintain that a wrong principle has been followed. The Government could have managed to get cheaper freights and lower wages without giving a sop of one farthing, that actually means nothing to the cattle men. It certainly reflects no credit on the Government if they could not succeed in getting these cost reductions in another way.
But while the Government give £100,000 bonus on the export of meat, they are imposing an extra burden of £100,000 on the man who is growing wheat, that brings a return of £2 8s. per acre from overseas. I refer to the deferred duty on sulphur, which the mining interests and the manure manufacturers now candidly admit will mean an extra 5s. or 7s. per ton on all superphosphate manufactured in Australia. Before the war the farmers were getting their superphosphates, without which they cannot grow wheat, at £4 6s. per ton. The price is now £6 3s. per ton on rail, or £5 10s. on boat, at Yarraville.
– While the world’s parity is £9 10s.
– That has nothing to do with the question. We were told that the farmers would receive great benefit from the deposits on Nauru Island. The Government, which have taken credit for everything, including the good seasons and the great prosperity that the country has enjoyed, have told us that their action in regardto securing for Australia a percentage of the phosphatic rock deposits on Nauru Island would mean cheap superphosphates for the farmers of Australia. The island was actually captured by Australians and the Australian flag was flown there. In fact, the position in regard to Nauru was exactly identical with that of German New Guinea, over which we have a mandate. But Nauru was immediately handed over to the Imperial Government, and instead of our having the whole of the rights to the deposits on the island, we have only been able to retain 42 per cent. of them.
– Yet last year we got 62 per cent. of the output.
– That does not affect the position as to the proportion we are entitled to get. It has been found necessary to work Ocean Island in conjunction with Nauru. A British company was working Nauru and paying Germany a royalty of1s. per ton on a ninety-nine years’ lease. After paying £3,500,000 for the rights of this company, the output for one year was 364,251 tons, the maximum that can be produced. Australia’s share was 265,903. Without taking into consideration the cost of administration, Australia’s proportion of the interest on the cost of the purchase amounts to £97,658. Instead of getting the phosphatic rock for a royalty of only1s. a ton, our interest bill alone amounts to 7s. 4d. per ton.
– That is the wonderful bargain our Government made.
– We should have taken up the same position that the British company occupied towards Germany.
If the States are not prepared to move in the matter of immigration our Governmen should do so, because every acre under cultivation for wheat means £2 8s. from overseas. There is, in the State of Victoria, any amount of room for extension of wheat-growing operations, but, first of all, roads and railways must be provided. The Commonwealth Government should inform the Victorian Government that it is willing to advance £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 to make provision enabling settlers to get their produce to market, instead of spending £20,000,000 on the unification of the railway gauge. If that be done, there will be no difficulty in filling our empty spaces and in growing something which will return four or five times more than can be secured from wool.
– We have already offered to do that.
– I am aware that in: Western Australia the Government have done something, but no other State appears to have taken action in this direction.
– The very matter is on the point of negotiation in Victoria.
– It has been at that point for a very long time past.
– That is not the fault of the Commonwealth Government.
– It seems to me that some one has been considering and considering for a very long time. Western Australia seems to be the live wire in this respect. The Government in that State are proposing to settle immigrants on the land in a way that no other State is attempting.
– Not only immigrants, but Australians also.
– I agree that the Western Australian scheme is absolutely the best that we can adopt. It is useless to have immigrants coming here with no experience and unacquainted with Australian conditions and being told, “You must go on the land.” It is useless to take them into the Lands Office in Melbourne and show them a map marked blue and say to them, “ There are ten or twelve blocks you can take up.” They are left to fight their own battles. They have to learn for themselves something about the climate and the characteristics ofthe country, but in Western Australia there is a Rural Industries Board of men who take the responsibility of explaining to the new settler what should be done and what are the peculiar conditions of the district in which he has resolved to settle.
– What is possible in one State is possible in all.
-Yes, but it is not done in all States.
– The honorable member cannot justly criticise theCommonwealth Government for that.
– I criticise the Commonwealth Government for not having done anything to assist the States to carry out their immigration policy.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I know as much about it as does the Minister, and probably I have had as much experience of the land in my shorter life as he has had. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) referred by interjection to the great assistance which the Commonwealth Government has given to the producers in placing their products on the markets of the world. The Government have given that assistance, but what has it cost them ? Not a threepenny bit ! The producers have paid interest on the whole of the money that has been made available by the Commonwealth, and I hold that it is the duty of the Government to stand by any of these proposals in a proper commercial way. As soon as any of the primary producers’ organizations ask for assistance the Government say, and rightly, that the proposition must stand on a commercial basis. All the assistance that the farmers have received has been on that basis, and we owe nothing more to the Government than we owe to the banks that advance us money. The banks have as much right to claim credit for the price the producers obtained as have this Government.
– Can the honorable member tell us when the Wheat Pools will be cleared up?
– I shall tell the honorable member what I know about the Wheat Pools. Defective Australian wheat and flour were sold to South Africa., and the Australian Wheat Board is being asked to shoulder the responsibility. The Prime Minister (Mr.. Hughes), when returning from Great Britain, called at Durban, and met there a body of speculators who paid they had been taken down by Australian merchants, who had sold them flour. He invited them to come to Australia and state their case, and he would see that they received justice, and that the firms responsible for the sale of the defective produce would be prosecuted.’
– And the people of the Commonwealth have had to pay £115,000 as compensation.
– Not the people of the Commonwealth, but the farmers, have had to pay that money. The wheatgrowers of Australia put their wheat into the Pools. The Australian Wheat Board sold wheat and flour to speculators in Australia. Those speculators, after they took possession of the flour, which was branded second grade, sold to speculators in South Africa. The Governments of the States, and the Commonwealth, and South Africa., and the Wheat Board had nothing whatever to do with the sales to South Africa. When the delegates from South Africa came to Melbourne they did not interview the Prime Minister, but saw the Wheat Board, and submitted a claim of £600,000. The Wheat Boards of Victoria and South Australia agreed to pay £83,000, and the Commonwealth Government agreed to pay £32,500, to them. The effect is that the wheatgrowers of Australia are being asked to buy back the good name of the Commonwealth in South Africa for the benefit of the whole community. Is that fair ?
– Does the honorable member know that some of the State Wheat Boards received double the value of the price they paid ?
– Would it be any concern of the honorable member if goods sold out of his business to another man were re-sold at a profit ?
– Does the honorable member, suggest that the Commonwealth Government are to be blamed for the South African flour transaction?
– No ; but the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) said that he hoped the Wheat Board would recognise their responsibility and refund from the Wheat Pool the £32,500 paid to South African speculators to buy back the good name of Australia. If Australian speculators sold to another .country the goods that were not up to sample, it was the duty of the Commonwealth to prosecute them and restore the good name of Australia in the only way that it could be restored. I hope that the Government will make known to the House the names of the firms who sold the wheat to South Africa and the names of the South African films who made a claim for £600,000 as compensation. The Government have agreed that this claim should be paid, and to what will thatlead? Are we to have claims from all parts of the world for compensation to be paid by the Wheat Board for the fault of private speculators?
– Why did the Wheat Board recognise the claim?
– As a matter of justice, the Wheat Board ought not to have recognised the claim, but it did so, for this reason: Notwithstanding what the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) said yesterday about reciprocity with South Africa in regard to maize, the South African people refused to buy a bushel of wheat from Australia unless the claims of the speculators who had bought the defective flour were satisfied. They have been satisfied by the payment of £115,000 in compensation, and the wheatgrowers have to bear this burden for the sake of the good name of Australia.
– Why do the honorable member and his party support the Government who made that arrangement?
– I have said before that there are only two ways open to us– one leading to the devil and the other to perdition. None of the Governments had anything to do with these contracts.
– The Commonwealth Government dealt with the Prime Minister of South Africa, not with the speculators.
– The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth never saw the Prime Minister of South Africa in this connexion. A body of men came from South Africa to Australia and carried out thewhole of the negotiations with the Wheat Board, and signed up an acceptance of £115,000 in full satisfaction of all claims. The Commonwealth Government promised to pay £32,500 of that amount, which the Treasurer now asks the Wheat Board to refund.
– Why did the Wheat Board accept the liability?
– Because it could not sell a bushel of wheat to South Africa until it did. It was a case of blackmail ; the bludgeon was held over our heads, and we had to yield for the sake of reopening the South African market. These speculators in South Africa knew that they were buying second-grade material.
– How much did they pay for it?
– I know that they paid up to 13s. per bushel. But it is no fault of the Government if foreign speculators paid too high a price for goods that they knew were second grade. The trouble is that immediately after the Australian wheat and flour reached South Africa a shipment of Canadian flour was landed at a little over half the price paid for the Australian article. The real fault of the Government was in allowing inferior wheat and flour to go out of the country at all. They should have prevented the export of second and third-grade material which was unfit for human consumption or inferior to the products of other parts of the world. If we wish to have a good market for our products in other countries, we can get it only by selling the best.
– The Wheat Board is to blame for having sold wheat without knowing where it was going.
– The original destination of that wheat was Japan.
– It was all right for the Japs! This is a new phase of the “White Australia” principle.
– Would not the honorable member have sold to Japan? The wheat was good enough for human consumption.
– It was not.
– Then why did the South Australian Government give a certificate that the wheat was second grade and good enough for flour?
Several honorable members interject
– Order! I appeal to honorable members to cease interjecting. It is hardly possible for the honorable member to speak two sentences without interruption.
– Honorable members who sit in this corner seem to cause a good deal of trouble to the other members in the House.
I desire to make some reference to the Commonwealth Shipping Line. Members of the Government have been travelling throughout the country saying that the Line has reduced freights for the man who is sending his wheat abroad. What are the actual facts? The Victorian Wheat Corporation, which has done its best to get charters from the Commonwealth Line, has succeeded in getting only three charters from it, because in respect of nearly every application, the price quoted was 5s. to 7s. 6d. more than was quoted by private firms. Whenever the Victorian Wheat Corporation approached the Commonwealth Line for charters it was told that it could not carry at the price quoted by private firms, and that fact was used as a lever by the private firms to keep up freights. The Commonwealth Line instead of saving the Victorian wheat producers 2d. per bushel as some of the Ministers have claimed, has actually kept up the freights on wheat. It is responsible for an increase rather than a reduction.
– Then why did not the Wheat Corporation give the charters to private firms?
– It did so, and only in three instances was the Commonwealth Line prepared to carry at the same rate as the private companies quoted.
– The honorable member will admit that during and since the war the competition of the Commonwealth Line has assisted in giving Australia cheaper freights?
– I say nothing about that, but I stand for private enterprise every time. During a certain period of the war it was necessary for the Government to do what they did for the benefit of the Australan people, namely, to acquire a Government fleet for the conveyance of Australian produce.
– Wait till the Commonwealth ships are sold and the farmers will feel the result.
– I suppose the- honorable member will vote shortly for the sale of the woollen mills at Geelong. If he is an advocate of the Commonwealth Shipping Line why will he vote for the discontinuance of the Commonwealth mill ? If reason exists for wiping out the Government Woollen Mills, the same reason exists for wiping out the Commonwealth Shipping Line. The fact is that both have served their purpose. I hope that now the Government propose to get rid of the woollen milk, they will carry out a similar ‘ programme in regard to the shipping and other ventures.
– That is your policy?
– Yes, and I see nothing wrong with it. Honorable members opposite, when speaking to the amendment, referred to. Government enterprises that have paid, but made no reference whatever to other enterprises which have resulted in absolute loss.
– Name them !
– There are the cattle stations in Queensland; and I ask any honorable member to- point to a single Government activity that has paid. However, I think that I have said enough on the present occasion. I hope that the Government will find some means of reducing rather than increasing’ taxation, and also of economizing so that in the future, if they happen to be still in power - which I doubt - they may get somewhere near squaring the ledger instead of showing a deficit of £5,400,000.
– I am somewhat surprised at the manner in which this debate is being conducted. The Government are charged by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) with disposing of the Geelong Woollen Mills, and it would seem that, rather than reply to that charge, the Government prefer to permit honorable members opposite, ©specially those of the Country party, to camouflage the position in the hope that the indictment may be avoided. The speech made by the honorable member for Yarra is worthy of reply from a Minister, for there never has been a better1 case made out in this House since I . became a member. .The honorable member for Yarra showed clearly that tlie Geelong Woollen Mills had been run in ,the interests of the country, and that, up’ to the present, the Government had given to the House no reasons for disposing of them. This factory was created, not by the Government in power at the . time, but .by Parliament itself. I satbehind the Government which was in power from 191Q to 1913, and the Bill establishing the mills was introduced and passed. Now we find the Governmenton its own initiative, without consulting Parliament, pursuing a policy which has become rampant - proposing to dispose of the business, although, as I have pointed out. It was the creation of Parliament. This shows where we are drifting. I have often had to say that responsible government is almost a thing of the past so far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned. One hears honorable members, especially those of the Country party, condemning the Government day after day, and declaring outside what they intend to do in this Parliament in. view of the Government maladministration, and then, whenever an amendment or motion is moved from this side of the chamber’ indicting the Government, voting to keep it in power. To-day we have the spectacle of member after member of the Country party stating that the Government have not kept proper hold of the reins, and that the. country has gone from bad to worse in consequence; at the same time, not a single member has said a word in reference to the amendment now before us. Every honorable member opposite has been careful to avoid the amendment, and to discuss general questions, although he knows that he has ample opportunities to discuss the latter on the main issue. We are now dealing with an amendment censuring the Government, and we find the honorable members to whom I am referring saying not one word in regard to it, although, both inside and outside the House, they lose no opportunity to condemn the Administration. The question really is - what is to be dome to oust the Government ? The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), says that he and those associated with him have to choose between the devil and something else; but if he and his party are sincere, .they know’ well that, if a motion were carried condemning the Government, the Labour party, as represented here, has not the numbers to govern the country. Neither has the Country party the numbers; and the result of an adverse vote would, therefore, be that we should be sent before our masters. That, however, is the very thing that honorable members of the Country party do not desire, as they show by their votes on every occasion. Day after day we hear those honorable members condemning the Government for almost every administrative act during the recess, and yet they refuse even one vote in favour of an amendment against the Government. What is the position to-day? We know that the Government are not carrying out their duties as they should; we know that many things have happened . in the last two years, on which -they should have been “ brought to book,” but every time we on this side move a censure amendment we are left entirely to ourselves without any support from honorable members in the corner.
– You would be sorry if we did support you.
– Every time an honorable member of the Country party has submitted a motion worthy of support, honorable members on this side have been found lining up in support of it. During the ten weeks’ recess last session the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and others,” were constantly telling the people through the press what they intended to do in regard to War Service Homes when the House met.
– We have not started yet!
– Quite so; that is the failing of the honorable member’s party. No doubt, when the session is over, and we have to go to the country, they will begin to talk again. Parliament is becoming humiliated because of the action of representative mon. If honorable members of the Country party consider that the Government are not doing their duty, why do they constantly support it in a policy detrimental to the country ? T leave members of the Country party to answer that question..
– Will the honorable member assist us in doing away with the Commonwealth Shipping Line?
– I will deal with that matter later, and the honorable member will then know my intentions. The Woollen Mills at Geelong have been of great service to this country, inasmuch as they are a paying proposition, and have been the means of saving the Government hundreds of pounds. Returns presented to Parliament in regard to this and other enterprises show that they are paying concerns. If honorable members opposite, more particularly members or the Country party, are so anxious about the finances of the country, why do they not support the amendment? Early in the debate it was shown by the honorable member for Yarra that cloth can be bought at the Geelong Mills at from 8s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. .per yard, while similar material elsewhere costs up to 19s. He also informed us that police uniforms can be made in this .factory at £4, as against a charge of -£17 before it was created. ‘ A further fact is that the factory has made a profit of £250,000. The figures show that this factory has resulted in reducing the cost of clothing to a large section of the community, and I do not see how any honorable member in this Chamber, who condemns the administration in regard to finance, can justify a vote against the amendment, especially in view of the general desire to reduce the cost of living. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has expressed the opinion that the cost of living is out of all proportion to the increases in wages received by the workers, and something should be done ‘to rectify that position. The amendment presents an opportunity to, reduce the cost of living so far as clothing is concerned; and why do the Government desire to abandon this particular enterprise? Is it because its existence reduces the cost of material to the people who are fortunate enough to get supplies from the factory? We can get no satisfactory answer to the question.
– Honorable members opposite will vote to wipe out this factory.
– Quite’ so ; and why? Because the Government always put private enterprise before the welfare of the people. Private interests must remain intact in the interests of Flinderslane, which will be permitted to regulate prices as before. When we recently, on the motion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), for which we were fortunate enough to get sufficient support, decided to compel manufacturers of such goods to supply orders of £50 worth, the Government whipped up their friends in the Senate and rejected the idea. The proposal was returned to this House in the form of an amendment, which was accepted here. If manufacturers could be compelled to supply such orders to the small storekeepers, living would certainly be made cheaper, because the stuff would gp from the factory to the consumer through those storekeepers. That, however, must not be tolerated ; the -idea of the Government is that woollen goods must be taken from the factory to -Flinders-lane, and that travellers from the Lane must go for orders from storekeepers in the very town where .the goods were manufactured. The wholesale firms will make what charges they like, and the consumer will pay, providing the high profits.
– What commodities are you speaking of?
– Of woollen goods and clothing principally. Why is it that when we are so anxious to reduce the cost of living honorable members are prepared to support an action by the Government which means an increase?
I The sale of’ these mills will assist those who control to-day the prices of various commodities. Every one knows that prior to the establishment of Commonwealth factories there was an understanding between the producers of many goods as to the prices at which they should be sold. We all know of the effect which the establishment of State brickworks in New South Wales had on the local price of bricks. In 1919 a Commission was appointed to inquire into the operations of the works. The then Liberal party, now known as the National party, had opposed their .establishment, and various charges were made in regard to their management. The inquiry showed, however, that the State brickworks had been able to sell bricks at 36s. 6d. per 1,000, whereas the private brickmakers were asking 50s. per 1,000 for them. If private enterprise can only get rid of the competition of Government-owned industries, it will be able to fix its own prices.
It appears to me that an understanding has been arrived at , between the Government and certain outside interests in regard to the disposal of the Commonwealth Woollen Mill, at Geelong, and the closing down of other Commonwealth activities. Sir Thomas Henley, soon after joining the Fuller Government, stated definitely that it was the policy of that Administration to abolish all State enterprises, and that if any one of its industries was allowed to carry on, care would be taken to prevent it from competing with private enterprise. What has- been the result of that policy? Under the Labour Government the State factory supplied bread at £d. per 4-lb. loaf below the price charged by the ordinary retailer. It is no longer allowed to do so. And so with the State meat works. The dosing down of the State brickworks is threatened, and the Government is talking of selling , the State timber yards. The manager of the State saw-mills said recently in Newcastle that the cost of a wooden cottage, which in ordinary circumstances would amount to £1,200, had been reduced by £150 as the result of timber being supplied by the State mills. Those mills are to be shut down. Apparently the influences that are at work in New South Wales are operating throughout Australia, and, I have no doubt, are being .brought to bear on the Commonwealth. Government.
What a change has taken place in the composition of the Ministry now led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The majority of the members of the Government which he formed shortly after he left the Labour party had served with him in the ranks of Labour. To-day, however, the only ex-members of the Labour party to be found in the Ministry are the Prime Minister, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton), and two Honorary Ministers.
– There is also Senator Pearce.
– I was referring more particularly to those who are members of this House.
– There are just as many former Labour men in the Ministry as there were at the outset.
– In addition to those whom I have named, we have Senator Pearce, Senator Earle, and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), who were former members of the Labour party. Seven out of the twelve members of the Ministry have been drawn from the ranks of the old Liberal party. They are in a majority, and their influence is in the direction of destroying State enterprise. The Prime Minister, as a member of the
Labour party together with many of us who still remain in the party, was responsible for the establishment of this Factory. In those days he stood for State enterprise. He wrote article after article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph in support of Government-owned industries.
– He delivered many speeches in years gone by in support of them. Take, for instance, the speech he made at the opening of this particular Factory.
– I propose to remind the House, not of what the Prime Minister said in this connexion many years ago, but of a statement that he made in his policy speech at Bendigo on 27th
March, 1917. He then said -
This Government does not come to destroy Labour legislation or . . . take advantage of the workers. … I say it will not touch one single stone in the temple of Labour legislation. . . . What Labour legislation has gained for them (the workers) will be left inviolate and their interests will bc safeguarded.
– This step does not involve legislation. No Bill was passed providing for the establishment of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills.
– Provision was made for them in the Estimates.
– That is not a stone in the Temple of Labour. It is merely the mortar between the stones.
– It represents a corner-stone in the edifice of Labour, and the removal of such stones is contrary to the principles which the Prime Minister espoused in the days gone by. The Government cannot interfere with a Commonwealth enterprise of this kind without removing one of the corner-stones of Labour.
– What about sugar control?
– I shall discuss that matter when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) make3 his longdelayed statement in regard to it. The Prime Minister advocated the establishment of this Factory. He was one of its sponsors, and took part also in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, as well as the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and other Government enterprises. If the Government dispose of these mills, other Commonwealth industries will be dealt with in the same way. This is but the thin edge of the wedge. The Prime Minister, if he succeeds in this proposal, will follow it up with others of a similar kind. I do not think he wants to close down these Commonwealth enterprises, but there is no escape for him. This is but one of the results of the company he keeps. One cannot mix milk willi water without affecting its quality.
– The honorable member will also find that out from his own personal experience.
– Every day I am discovering a departure on the part of the Prime Minister from one or other of the principles for which he stood as a member of the Labour party.
– The International Red will soon hurt the honorable member.
– It will not hurt me at all. I shall stand by my principles as I have always done. I have nothing to fear, and those who know me give me credit for having the courage of my opinions. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) is endeavouring to camouflage the real position, but he cannot. The facts have to be faced. Surely the Government is not entitled to dispose of a State enterprise, which is paying its way, without first obtaining the approval of Parliament! There is too much of this sort of thing going on. Honorable members of the Country party, who constantly complain of the failure of the Government to consult Parliament in regard to various matters, have not condemned them for their attitude in this connexion. They remain silent in this case, because the action contemplated by the Government will give private enterprise, for which they stand, a further opportunity to exploit the people. We hear them deploring from time to time the high cost of living and urging also that wages should be reduced. We hear the Prime Minister calling on the workers to “ Produce, produce, produce!” sp that we may be able to balance the national accounts. ‘Yet not a word is said by him or the Country party in regard to the sale of a Commonwealth factory which is not only paying its way, but saving the people’s money. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has determined that it shall be sold to some private individual who will be able to charge the public “more for its output.
– It will be a nice little plum for some of the supporters of the National party.
– Quite so. I am surprised that no answer to our complaint has been made by honorable members opposite. They speak of practically everything else except this all-important question. It is time that the public knew of the hollow criticism of the Government in which the Country party indulges. Members of it say that the administration of the Government is not in the best interests of the country, and from time to time they publish in the press statements as to what they are going to do; but, after all, actions speak louder than words. When this amendment is put we shall find them voting with the Government, as they did in connexion with the last two censure amendments. Their attitude last session was the same, and their only justification for not voting against the Government is that they cannot see their way to support Labour. Every one knows that if the Country party supported this amendment, with the result that the Government were defeated, the Labour party could not form a new Administration with any hope of carrying on, and that there would have to be an appeal to the people. Are we afraid to go before the people?
– Then since the affairs of the country are being administered in a slipshod way, why are not honorable members of the Country party prepared to support this amendment?
– Honorable members opposite are very anxious for a general election !
– I am prepared to appeal to the people next week.
– It will be well for the honorable member’s party to “ count noses “ before such an event takes place.
– I am convinced that, as the result of a general election, Labour would be the strongest party in this House. What are the signs of the times? Five or six of the Victorian supporters of the Government are likely to come back after the next general election as a separate party. One or two of the Government supporters from Tasmania are likely to join ‘the Country party, and another seat is likely to come to us.
Then, again, South Australia will probably return a couple of members of -the old Liberal party and two more members of the Labour party. In Queensland the Prime Minister recently put up a “ stunt “ to try to destroy the influence of the Country party in that State, knowing that it has there a chance of winning a couple of seats now held by Nationalists. There, again, the G”overnment will lose support. In face of all these facts, -why should the Postmaster -General suggest that we are ‘afraid to go to the people ? As a matter of fact, we have everything to gain from an appeal to the people. In any event, we have a right to put before the people who send us here what is oroposed to be done in regard to the Commonwealth factories. The Woollen Mills at Geelong have shown good returns, and if, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said, they have saved the Commonwealth some £250,000 during the past two years, what justification can there be for disposing of it. What influence is at work? There is in Victoria and New South. Wales an organization which has for its object the abolition of all “ State enterprises. It is out to see that private enterprise shall regain complete control of all industry. There is no reason why a factory of this kind should not be permitted to supply the public. Some people, of course, might raise the constitutional aspect, hut that would not count for anything. What is there to prevent the Government from permitting the employees and their manager to work the Factory on a cooperative basis, or in any other manner so long as the mill fulfils the purpose for which it was established ?. There could still be Government control and responsibility. If the Factory is disposed of, other public activities will no doubt be treated similarly. I suppose that the next interest to be sacrificed will be the Commonwealth Line. The Government would seek to justify the sale of the Commonwealth fleet, no doubt, on the basis of some trivial labour dispute. Everybody knows that Lord Inchcape wants to get hold of the Line, for then there would be brought about increased freights. And that would only go further to harm the people whom honorable members in the corner say they represent.
– But they do not care.
– If the Country party permit the Geelong Mills to go into the hands of private enterprise, what will be their attitude towards the Commonwealth Line? The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) will admit that the Commonwealth vessels have proved a source of security to the man on the land. The honorable member has said more than once that but for the Commonwealth lane exporters would be compelled to pay very much more in the matter of freights to the United Kingdom. The disposalof the Geelong Mills is merely the thin edge of the wedge. The Commonwealth ships will follow. Other Government factories and enterprises will then be sacrificed, and finally, if the Government dared, they would dispose of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government are taking advantage of the situation which has developed in the aftermath of the war. Now is the time when they can do away with these enterprises; at no other time would they dare doso. To-day the Government can throw more men out of employment, by handing these public activities over to the tender mercies of private enterprise.
There are honorable members who constantly condemn the administration of the Government, but they will not vote with the Opposition, for they find themselves, as they say, between the devil and the deep sea. For such a predicament there is only one solution. There is only one place for them to go to - one tribunal for them to appeal to ; they must go to their constituents. That is why I want those honorable members’ votes.I want to put Country members to the test. They have been talking of maladministration for more than two years. They have condemned the Government day after day, session after session, and they have gained the greatest prominence thereby. Yet, when they are given an opportunity of suiting action to their words, they shrink from doing anything. This afternoon those honorable members of the Country party who have spoken have ignored the amendment. They have chosen once more to verbally attack the Government, at the same time assisting them to remain in office, however, by talking upon everything else but the issue before the Chair. In one breath they say that the Government are not fit to retain office; in the next moment they vote to support the Government in the retention of the Treasury bench. Not one mem ber of the Country party will vote for the amendment. Members in the corner know full well that the disposal of the Geelong Mills to private enterprise will not prove to be in the best interests of those whom they represent.I am disappointed that they have not seen fit to refer to the amendment. The case established by its mover, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) calls, at any rate, for a reply from the Government. A better case was never put and clinched in this House. The honorable member marshalled his facts most ably and put his points clearly and forcibly; they cannot be ignored. Yet honorable members in the corner have avoided all reference to the amendment, merely demonstrating, as I have already mentioned, that all their criticism of the Government goes for nothing-. They have spoken one way and acted in the opposite direction, time after time; whenever an attack upon the Government has been launched. They now intend to do the same, for the seventh or eighth time in the history of the present Parliament.
.- It is interesting to honorable members of the Country party to perceivethat they are thefocus of the attentions ofboth the other parties in this House. The Country party has been described as one which is dying of political consumption, one which is fading away, one which consists of six members who are always asleep. My colleagues are taunted with the accusation that they do not really represent the people who sent them here, and that they do not express the views of their constituents. If the Coun- try party is so insignificant, why should its members be the target of both sides?
– Order! Will the honorable member please resume his seat ? His remarks, so far, have been quite beside the question before the Chair. I again remind honorable members that they must confine themselves strictly to the amendment. The introduction of irrelevant matter cannot be permitted.
– May I ask what is my position? I attempted, in a previous speech - following another amendment of censure - to keep strictly to the point then at issue; and I was informed by yourself, sir; that I had exhausted my right to speak upon the general question of the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– This same situation has arisen frequently before, and has been ruled upon. It cropped up only a few days ago, when the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) asked me if, in speaking then, he forfeited his right to speak on a further amendment. I then made the position clear. It was that, after an amendment had been moved, any honorable ‘member who speaks is taken to have spoken both to the original motion and to that amendment. Thus an honorable member has his opportunity to speak to both the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and to any amendment, that may have been moved thereto; and if he fails to avail himself of that opportunity to speak to the main question, he cannot at any later stage speak to it; but he does not lose his right to speak to any amendment moved subsequently, so long as he confines his remarks strictly to that amendment. It has been laid down that, once an amendment has been moved, any honorable member speaking thereto will be taken to have spoken both to the amend- ment and to the original motion. I would only now remind honorable members again that those who have not previously spoken still have the right to address themselves to the amendment and to the original motion. The honorable member for Cowper has previously spoken, in connexion with a prior amendment. At this stage, therefore, he must confine his remarks strictly to the present amendment.
– Members of the Country party repel the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that they have any desire to burke the issue raised in connexion with the woollen cloth mill at Geelong. We regard the amendment as one which raises a very important principle - one of the most significant, indeed, that can come under the attention of the Federal Parliament. The question is really whether the money of the taxpayers shall be used for the proper function of government - that is, for governing - or whether public funds shall be employed in the direction of trade competition with the citizens of whom the State is composed. Though there is much to be said, from the ideal point of view, of State ownership, the lesson which Australia has learned during the past seven or eight years has cured any ten dency to enlarge the scope of Government activities, or any leaning, indeed, towards the continuance of those in existence. I was gratified to note that the New South Wales elections turned very largely upon this issue, namely, whether there should be a continuous extension of Government trading, or whether private enterprise should be allowed to control commercial activities. Various difficulties have stood in the way of the disposal of the Government undertakings in New South Wales. I am glad that the Commonwealth Government have determined at last “to take a definite stand. There will now need to be a change, however, in the name of the Government party. Hitherto it has been called the Nationalist party; and rightly so, because, as the’ Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, it has attempted to nationalize nearly everything.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it should now be called the “Smashionalist” party ?
– -During. and even since the war it has nationalized many activities which can best be handled by private enterprise.
– Would the honorable member dispose of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Then the honorable member is not consistent.
– I propose to show what an injurious effect Government enterprises have had on the financial status and output of the country. For example, in the last Defence Estimates there was provision for taking over as a Government activity the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works. Hitherto this concern had been run by private enterprise. The public has never yet been vouchsafed an adequate reason why the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works should be taken over and conducted as a Government project. Again, in connexion with the matter that has come under discussion this afternoon^ a sum of £45,000 was put. on the last Estimates for the purpose of enlarging the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong; and now we find that those mills are to be disposed of because even at their present capacity they can provide in three months* of the year the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth Service.
– That is the Government’s excuse.
– It is the reason the Government have advanced ; but what has occasioned this sudden conversion? Last November we were told that it was imperative we should keep £45,000 on the Estimates for the purpose of enlarging these mills, and the Government fought for week after week against any reduction of the whole of their Estimates as presented, yet a few months afterwards they discovered that in three months of each year the Geelong Woollen Mills could turn out the whole of the woollen cloth requirements of the Commonwealth Departments.
– The personnel of the Government has changedsince the last Estimates were under consideration.
– But the personnel of the Civil Service has not changed to any extent in the same period. We have approximately the same number of civil servants to-day that there were in the Commonwealth Service at the time the Government proposed not to sell, but to extend, these mills. We should not treat this proposed sale as a separate matter. It is time this Parliament decided by its vote whether it is in favour of Government ownership or Government enterprise as a general principle, or whether it is disposed to give private enterprise a chance of developing those concerns which are now under Government ownership. Nothing has done more in Australia to bring about the centralization and the decreased production we all deplore than has the invasion by various Governments, State and Federal, of all those functions and activities which in nearly every other country are carried out more effectively and satisfactorily by private agencies. Take the instance of the railways. Honorable members opposite suggest that the Geelong Woollen Mills should be kept going competing in the open market. If that were done, the Commonwealth Government would be obliged to fight, because it would have no monopoly; but, in regard to railways in Australia, which are but an extension of the same principle that honorable members opposite advocate, the
Governments of Australia enjoy a monopoly. Nothing has been more damaging or destructive to the national life of Australia than the tyranny brought about by the Government ownership of railways.
– Would the honorable member sell the railways?
-I would have them dealt with in a different way. I would like to point out in this connexion what has happened to country district enterprises. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fleming) mentioned last week the treatment of the produce of works at Aberdeen, in New South Wales. The freight for meat products from that town to Sydney is 63s. per ton. The freight from Sydney to Aberdeen is 31s. 6d. per ton. The money of the whole of the taxpayers of any particular State is used in a way which is exceedingly detrimental to the activities of people who have invested their capital in country districts. This has also happened in Victoria.. Complaint has been heard in this House of the loss of mining population from country districts. I shall show how the influence of the cities over Governmentowned railway freights has brought this about. In places like Bendigo and Castlemaine, fairly large engineering establishments existed before mining declined, and they were in a position to compete with city establishments. But, in order to prevent this, the city influence on the Government was such that the railway freight on machinery from these outlying industrial centres was increased from 3d. to 7d. per ton per mile. Finally a compromise was arrived at, and the railway authorities agreed to carry the output of these country engineering establishments at 5d. per ton so long as it was not sold within 50 miles of Melbourne. Here was a Protective Tariff applied within a State boundary. Duties are usually, and ought to be only, fixedat the border, and are not applied to one particular area of a country. I have given one instance of where the Government invasion of industrial activities has led us. Now that we have the opportunity of abolishing Government ownership of woollen mills we should take time by the forelock and not let it slip.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I was saying that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) deserves the thanks of the House for having raised, at this time, the issue of whether the Governmentare to not merely dispose of the Geelong Woollen Mills, but also encourage, deliberately, initiative, enterprise, and individuality, without which this sparsely-settled continent of 3,000,000 square miles will never be developed. The issue involves also the question of whether the Government are to discourage those qualities by a policy of interfering with trade and commerce and entering into business competition, with advantages that are obviously unfair to private competitors. Most of the Government trading concerns, whilst they may, perhaps, be debited with certain charges for interest, sinking fund, and so on, do not pay taxation as private concerns are required to do. It seems to me that we have to decide much more than the future of the. Geelong Woollen Mills. We have to settle the question as to whether there is to be an outlook different from what we have had during the last few years, and whether the money raised by the taxpayers should be diverted to manufacturing purposes for Government material, or used in productive development.
– What does the honorable member mean by productive development?
– I shall state presently the manner in which I think the business of Government should be handled, and the effect that our use of so much of the public credit and funds as has been used for Government trading concerns has on rural and national development. On the answer to the question as to what we are to do in regard to these trading concerns will depend, to a large extent, the future cost of government in the first place, and, in the second place, the distribution of population. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), speaking yesterday in regard to the distribution of population, said that the causes of the drift to the cities were economic. To a large extent they are, but they are also political. This drift has been caused largely by the way in which industries have been built up about the cities, and especially by the manner in which certain Government Departments have been expanded and administered. If one studiesconditions abroad, he does not find in the United States of America, Canada, or the Argentine - all new countries with problems similar to our own - one city in a State practically monopolizing half the population. That is a condition that exists only in Australia. In those countries there are many cities and large towns, each with its own local secondary industries, and the reason why those cities and large towns have been developed is that the functions of Government have been restricted to governing, and have not extended to trading. Each of these many towns scattered throughout the territory functions as a centre of refinement, education, and industry, stimulates country development, makes the people more contented with their lot, and provides them with a local market. It is remarkable that during the last five or six years in which there has been a continual expansion of the spheres of governmental activity, and a continual invasion by the Government of avenues which hitherto were left entirely to private enterprise, with a resultant increase of population about the capital cities, there hasbeen a steady decrease in production and in the area under cultivation. In 1915-16, the second year of the war, when we had scarcely reached the stage at which we arrived in. the lastyear of the war, there was under crop 18,500,000 acres, whilst in 1921 the area under crop was only 15,069,000, or a diminution of something like 3,500,000 acres.
– What has all this to do with the Woollen Mills?
– A great deal, because the money, extracted from its proper channels in order to finance Government trading enterprises, should have been devoted to the development of the country and the financing of cooperative systems in rural districts. Moreover, the fact that somany employees naturally congregate about these Government enterprises has led to an increase in the total number of non-producers. The most important effect, however, has been the influence this policy has had upon the national outlook, especially in the matter of finance.For instance, in respect of governmental finance, as the result of the continuous nationalization of everything, there has been created acondition of affairs such as is illustrated by the War Service Homes scheme. Parliament decided to spend many millions of money in the provision of homes for soldiers, and where was it spent ? Just where the functions of government most operate - around and about the capital cities. That policy has also had a centralizing influence on private finance. During the last quarter something like £2,000,000 was spent on buildings in Sydney and only about £500,000 in the remainder of New South Wales. Wherever there are big Government Departments, especially trading Departments, there is centralization and increased development, and there alone will the big financial companies risk their own money in industry and building.
– I ask the honorable member not totravel too far from the amendment.
– I am trying to show that the issue which the amendment brings before the House is a very important one, because I believe that the decision as to whether we are to carry out all our activities by means of Government servants and plants, or allow private enterprise to do it, will have a material influence in determining whether or not we shall be able to pursue a successful immigration policy.
– The honorable membermay not go exhaustively into those matters on the amendment which is before the House. The amendment is very wide, but not wide enough to include in extenso the subjects on which the honorable member is speaking.
– I am endeavouring to show the effect that the extension of Government trading has had upon the general activities of the nation. With Government trading and the increase of Government activities there is alwaysan increase in the number of non-producers, and, by reason of the fact that the incentive to personal gain is not so great in Government Departments, there is always a tendency on the part of the employees to use what has been called the “ Government stroke.” There is not the same keenness on the job as is to be found in a private concern.
– Does that apply to the medical profession?
– Unfortunately we do most of our work for nothing. Any surgeon of repute does fully 50 per cent. of his work charitably and without fee or reward.
– I have never strucksuch a one yet.
– The honorable member has been unfortunate, for I could tell him of fifteen or twenty leadingmen in the medical profession in Melbourne who dohalf of their work for nothing, and of at least twenty in Sydney who give the bigger proportion of their services gratuitously.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to pursue that theme.
– Before the interjections provoked me to a digression, I was showing how Government trading activities overload the function of government. At this time we should confine as closely as possible the function of government to its proper avenues, and especially to development. We shall need all the money wecan spare, not for Government manufacturing concerns, but to bring immigrants to the country, so that we may settle this immense continent properly. Already there are indications that we can have abundance of money for this purpose. Financial companies are prepared to do as they have clone in South America : select an area . of, say, 100 miles square, provide roads, railways, and irrigation and power schemes, and otherwise qualify it to carry dense settlement. If we follow the example of other countries, we shall be able to secure as many people as America is getting at the present time, and make Australia one of the most attractive places in the world to live in; but if we pursue a policy of nationalization of all means of production similar to that followed by the Government recently, almost every phase of which has increased enormously the cost of government and the burden of the taxpayer, instead of making this country attractive to men from abroad,we shall make it a place they will shun, and from which those already here will flee. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) mentioned several successful Government enterprises. Let us not forget, also, the unsuccessful ones. Consider, for instance, the method by which we are trying to build the Federal Capital at Canberra. One can scarcely see where the money is going.
– Order ! Canberra is a long way from Geelong.
– I was using Canberra to illustrate how money can be wasted through not being spent by private contractors who know how to handle it properly.
– Through money being spent by people who have no responsibility.
– Exactly. Another instance is the saw-mills which we bought about four years ago. They are almost on all-fours with the Geelong Woollen Mills. They were taken over as a going concern at a cost of, approximately, £450,000. They were worked for a few weeks, and now they are practically idle, and the money expended on them represents a dead loss which will have to be made good by the taxpayer. Though we may occasionally see instances in which, for a short time only, these enterprises are successfully and satisfactorily conducted, they ultimately, when political influence gets control, become a dumping ground for friends. Like other similar activities, they become a drag on the wholecommunity; and, instead of being profitable, as this mill apparently is now, they simply form a sink for public money. For those reasons I am totally opposed to the carrying on of such enterprises. I do not think an industry like this should be sacrificed; it ought to be sold to good advantage. I should like very much to see the returned soldiers have an opportunity to purchase the mill on a cooperative basis.
– That is a get-away!
– I donot desire any “get-away”; my views have been very plainly stated on the question of private enterprise versus Government enterprise.
– Why not sell the State railways ?
– If the railways could be sold on terms similar to those we ought to obtain in the case of the woollen mills, I would be glad to see them sold, if proper value for money spent can be obtained.
– What about the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Commonwealth Bank is in a different position; but if I were to state my views regarding it I am afraid I might be ruled out of order. I may say, however, that, in my opinion, the proper function of the Bank is to provide an efficient system of rural credits, to assist co-operative enterprise.
– Co-operation is in the direction in which our efforts should tend in order to secure personal responsibility on the part of the men who are engaged in industries. Under such circumstances, we should not only be able to make our own tweed and cloth at reasonable prices, but, in time, the consumers would devise some co-operative distributive methods to lessen space between producer and consumer.
– I desire to say a few words about the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I do not propose to follow that honorable member through the wild whirl of words to which he treated us last night. The issue is a very simple one; it is simply the issue between those who believe in nationalization and those who believe in individualism. The gulf between honorable members opposite and those who sit on this side is a very wide one. The amendment of the honorable member for Yarra is one we would naturally expect from the Opposition, and I do not quarrel in the slightest with the presentment of their view. After all is said and done, they are simply, in this amendment, giving effect to the policy to which they are pledged and bound. Here is the definite objective which was passed by the conference of the Australian Labour party at Brisbane in October, 1921, and to which honorable members opposite are bound, whether they like it or not -
The socialization of industry by -
The nationalization of banking and all principal industries.
I presume my honorable friends opposite consider that the manufacture of woollen goods is one of the principal industries of this country, and they are now simply endeavouring to proceed with the definite policy to which they are pledged, whether they like it or not -
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member says “ Hear, hear ! “ because he recognises in that objective the objective to which he, at all events, is pressing forward, namely, theSoviet control of all industries.
– The all-red route.
– As the honorable gentleman says, “ The all-red route “ ; and it is not only the objective towards which they are looking, but the road along which they would travel.
– What about the “ Temple of Labour”?
– The “Temple of Labour” did not representthe objective to which I am addressing myself, and there are gentlemen associated with honorable members opposite who do not think that the two are associated. Here is what Senator Gardiner has said -
They would lose seats throughout the Commonwealth unless the old objective was restored. Did not they realize that in elections they had to side-step? They had to compromise. To bring in the new objective was stepping backwards.
It is not in the least to be wondered at that the Opposition has put forward this amendment; but what were the real reasons that led the Government to the step they have taken? I throw back in the teeth of the honorable member for Yarra the insinuation he made last night, because in it there is not one scintilla or iota of truth, as he knows perfectly well. This mill was established by the Government, and what for? Was it to do what honorable members opposite are now urging we should do? Not at all. It was created with the sole purpose of supplying the needs of the Government of the day. Those honorable members who at the time agreed to the establishment of the mill were one and all pledged to the policy of the training of our manhood in our Army or Navy, as the case might be. It was recognised that we should require a very large amount of cloth to provide uniforms for the Army which would be called into being as the result of our compulsory national training scheme. It was primarily with the object of giving to the troops cloth made in our mills that the Government of the day established these works, and it has been the policy from the very day the first yard of cloth was turned out never to sell to the public, but only to supply Government requirements.
– But the Government have sold to the public.
– Only to returned soldiers.
– What about the 100,000 yards sold to Flinders-lane?
– I have already stated publicly in the press that we made that sale pending the settlement of a final policy - until we were able to turn round and see exactly what the position was and what the requirements of the Government were likely to.be. Rather than throw a large numberof people out of work, we decided to sell a quantity of cloth to Flinders-lane.
– That is different from what you said before.
– It is exactly the same as I said before.
– You said the policy was not to sell to the public, and the Government have done so.
– I repeat that, rather than throw a number of people out of work we decided for the time being, in their interests, to sell this cloth. I have here a statement showing the actual Government requirements this year. Estimates have been obtained as to the requirements of the principal Commonwealth Departments which take woollenmill output - Defence and Postal - and, after allowing for stocks of various cloths, the demands from Commonwealth sources, so far as can be foreseen, for 1922-23 will not exceed 30,000 yards, and for 1923-24 possibly a little more. Orders from the State Governments and local government bodies are problematical, but from the present trend of events it seems likely that they will be less, owing to the policy of the State Governments of giving preference to goods manufactured within their own borders. For this reason it is thought that the reduced total of 50,000 yards is the utmost that may be expected for 1922-23. That is to say, the whole of the Government requirements of Australia, so far as we can see, will not amount to more than 80,000 yards.
As to the returned soldiers, we made a contract with them last yearto supply them with, I think, 198,000 yards. The soldiers did not take all of that quantity by a good deal, and the deliveries to the Returned Soldiers Associations became unsatisfactory. In view of the fact that they had their own mill at Geelong which would shortly be turning out cloth, and would presumably be supported by them, it seemed to us unlikely, ‘in view of the deliveries during recent months, that their requirements would amount to very much. The deliveries to the returned soldiers, so far as I have been able to ascertain them, for the first nine months of the last financial year were - July, 21,382 yards; August, 9,791 yards; September, 18,726 yards; October, 11,050 yards; November, 6,751 yards; and December, 1,085 yards. In. the following month they took 3,840 yards; in February, 7,894 yards; andMarch, 10,962 yards. This was not anything like the quantity they had contracted to take, and these irregularities of deliveries were one of the greatest sources of trouble to the mill. If a man has a customer who is taking 25,000 or 30,000 yards a month, and accepting regular delivery he knows what to do in running a mill, but with a consumer who takes 21,000 yards of material in one month - and even that may not be up to the requirements of the contract - while in the following month he cuts down his order to 1,085 yards, he finds it almost impossible to carry on.
– Is there anything to prevent the Government from running the mill to its full capacity and selling to the public?
– In view of that fact, together with the knowledge we possessed that the returned soldiers’ factory at Geelong would shortly be turning out cloth, and acting on the presumption that in all probability the returned men would desire to support their own mill, it seemed to us that we could not rely on any better treatment from the returned soldiers in the matter of deliveries during the coming year than we had experienced.
– Why did not the Government offer this mill to the returned men instead of compelling them to erect one for themselves?
– In the first place they had not the necessary capital to purchase it.
– They have been able to find the money to build their own factory. Surely the Government might have offered them the Commonwealth factory on terms.
– I do not want to give inaccurate figures, and, speaking from memory, I cannot say what capital they had.
– That shows that compared with the Commonwealth mill the returned soldiers’ factory is only a small one.
The Leader of the Opposition asked why we did not sell to the public. I presume he means that we should sell to the public, not through Flinders-lane, but by means of a distributing organization of our own. If we did, I venture to say that all the profits from the mill would immediately disappear. Are the comparatively few people living in the neighbourhood of the mill only to benefit from such sales tothe public? Are not the people outback, and indeed throughout the country, entitled to benefit? If we had to set up an organization, spreading over the whole community, to sell the products of the mill, the overhead charges would more than have swallowed up any profits obtained from it. Apart altogether from that question, it is here that we come to the dividing line between the policy of the Labour party and that for which we stand. We do not believein the policy which honorable members opposite advocate.
Let me give one or two instances of what has happened in connexion with the socialization of industry by Governments in Australia. No Government in this country has socialized industry to anything like the extent that the Government of Queensland have done. There they have their State butchers’ shops, State stations, State railway refreshment-rooms, State fish supply, a State hotel, a State produce agency, and a State cannery. The result of the nationalization of industry so far as that policy has been carried out in Queensland has been to add to the burden of the taxpayers of the State by a net accumulated loss of £79,205 6s. 3d. That, of course, is quite apart from the loss which the State Government will probably make when they come, to realize on the capital they have put into a number of these investments. ‘ For the year ended 30th June, 1921, the State stations showed a loss of £194,147 10s., the butchers’ shops a loss of £13,123 8s. 9d. the produce agency a loss of £27,734 0s. 4d., and the cannery a loss of £29,741 14s. lOd. The State hotel made- a profit of £1,065 19s., the State fish supply made a loss of £9,807 lis. 2d., while the State railway refreshment-rooms made a profit of £6,859 8s. 4d. In. passing, I may say that in the State railway refreshmentrooms of Queensland one gets the worst meal and the worst service that it is possible to obtain, in Australia. The net loss for the year in respect of these enterprises was £266,628 17s… 9d. The indebtedness to the Treasury of the several enterprises as at 30th June, 1921, was as follows : -
Mr. Theodore, speaking at Rockhampton, admitted that the State cattle stations, in which over £1,500,000 had been sunk, were a “bad investment.” He, at all events, is aware that they are going to make a big loss.
I do not propose to take up any more of the time of the House. I want only to refer to one remark made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in the course of his speech. I do not know- how he connected it with the amendment before the Chair; but, since he was permitted to make it, I presume I shall be allowed to reply. The honorable member referred to the area under cultivation in the years 1915, 1916, and 1917. If. he knew -anything about the subject he would be aware that the Government of that day made a special appeal to the farmers of Australia to put under- crop every foot of their land, if possible; and what happened was that in many instances; instead of fallowing their land, they rushed in a crop.
– That is exactly what I said this afternoon.
– I did not hear. the honorable member’s speech; but that is the explanation of the extra area under wheat in the years mentioned. The fact that that additional area was under wheat, however, does not affect by one iota the figures I gave the House yesterday, since, instead . of having that extra area under wheat to-day, we have it in fallow. With that I have done. The Government cannot, accept this amendment. For the. abundant reasons I have given, we propose to go- on with the sale of the mill’s,- because we do not stand for the socialization, of industry in. this country.
’. - I should like to. start, exactly at. the point where the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) stopped in his references to State enterprises in Queensland, by reminding the House that the present Federal Government^ was responsible for the purchase, of timber mills in Queensland - the biggest blunder ever made by any Administration - at a cost of £500,000, and then closed them down. This will result in great loss. Yet this Government has the unblushing effrontery to accuse the Government of Queensland of making bad investments. The Minister (Mr. Greene) says that they do not stand for State socialization of -industry, or for the Government entering into partnership with private individuals to carry on any business. What have they to say in regard to the £250,000 which they have put into the business of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company? What do they say as to the £500,000 which they have put into the Australasian Wireless Company? What have they to say, further, as to the £1,500,006° which they have invested in Nauru, with the result that our farmers to-day pay more for their manures than they ever did before?
I would go back to the genesis of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, and remind honorable’ members, of a speech made by Senator Pearce at the opening ceremony, since it seems to furnish a reason why the honorable senator was transferred from the Department of Defence to that of Home and Territories.
The head of the Disposals Board, which is now the real Government of Australia, is the Minister who has just attempted to reply to the splendid speech made last night by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). He is the chairman of the Board which is proceeding to dispose of the Commonwealth factories set up by the Labour Government between 1910 and 1913, and which, I think, I can safely say during the war saved the taxpayers millions. of pounds. Speaking at the opening of these mills, on 22nd December, 1915, Senator Pearce said -
Et* took special pride in the ceremony, hecause he had proposed the factory. The object in building this and other factories had been to eliminate, as far as possible, private profits from the war. . . . Whatever profit was made from these factories would be a profit to the people of Australia. The mill was intended to provide the soldier and sailor with uniforms and clothing during the war, and when the war was over it was to provide uniforms for the Citizen Forces and the Naval Forces, and, he hoped, for the postal employees.
If the recent decision of the High Court had been given at that time, Senator Pearce would have been able to say that there was no constitutional barrier in the way of this Government factory proceeding to sell to the general public.
The Minister has referred to what has happened in connexion with State-owned industries in Queensland. There is another side to the coin. After hearing a lecture by Ingersoll upon “ The mistakes of Moses,” a certain gentleman said, “ We have heard Ingersoll on the mistakes of Moses. I should like to hear Moses on the mistakes of Ingersoll.” We have heard the Minister’s attack on the State industries of Queensland. I should like to hear a reply by Mr. Theodore, who knows all about them. I am not concerned as to the exact profits made by some of these institutions; but I say that since the effect of their operations has been to prevent exploitation, the people have gained immeasurably. If the Disposals Board next proceeds to get rid of the Commonwealth Line of steamers, I believe that even the Country party will rise in protest. Surely they will say, in behalf of the people whom they are presumed to represent, that it is better by far for the Commonwealth to maintain ownership than that the ships should be turned over to the private profiteers. For have they not been an insurance to producers against Lord Inchcape and his Combine, which would very rapidly raise freights but for the steadying, influence of the Commonwealth Line? The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted last night from the reports of the Inter-State Commission. He demonstrated what private enterprise did during the war, and how it fleeced not only the Government, but the soldier, the soldier’s widow, the soldier’s wife and children, and the public at large. Apparently because private enterprise is possessed of such magnificent virtues as these-, the Government would retain it at all costs, and clear its field of competition. With such a heartless individual presiding over the Defence Department as the present Minister (Mr. Greene), one can understand why men and women have been unceremoniously turned out of employment, and their families ‘left to face the pinch of hardship.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I take serious exception to the honorable member saying that I have heartlessly sacked men from the Defence Department without regard to their women and children. The allegation is incorrect and is objectionable. I ask, therefore, that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw; but I know that there are women and children in my constituency who are starving because the Minister for Defence “has dismissed their breadwinners.
– The honorable member has no, right to say that.
– Will the Minister please keep quiet? I have possession of the floor.
– Order! I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) and honorable members generally to obey the Chair. Interjections must cease. This House is becoming like a bear garden.
– The Minister hasenumerated various institutions established by the Queensland Labour Government. He has had to admit some successes, but he has tried to show that there have been far more failures. I maintain that, when the sum total of the benefits which have accrued to the people of*
Queensland through the carrying on of various public activities has been fully set down, there will appear a magnificent credit.
I desire to turn attention now to the doings of Governments which would claim that they are anything but socialistic. I rejoice in the fact that, under the auspices of the Victorian Government, and by special Act of Parliament, we are on the eve of witnessing the institution of what will amount almost to a monopoly of the supply of electricity for power and light. A great citizen, who has proved himself a great soldier - I refer to General Monash - has been placed in charge of a magnificent project. I am confident that Victoria will enjoy superb revenues as an outcome of the electricity scheme, and that the State Government, as a result, will be able to reduce the burden of taxation. Here, under the regime of a Government which is anything but Socialistic, we have a most promising example of Socialism, pure and simple. Considerable profits have been made by the Queensland railway refreshment rooms branch, maintained as a public Socialistic activity. The same can be said in respect of the railway refreshment rooms in this State, for thousands of pounds are flowing from them into the coffers of the Victorian Treasury where previously, these revenues helped to build private fortunes. There is a Coalitionist Government in Western Australia. Has that Government abolished the State implement works? Would it dare to? Rather, I understand, it is extending them. Western Australian farmers have had bitter experience of private exploitation. They have made up their minds that they will have no more of it; and, the Government of that State, no matter how it might be composed, would not dare to close down the State works, or turn them over to the profiteers. The Commonwealth has its own railway systems, and postal services. Would the people stand for handing over those activities to the tender mercies of private exploiters? Some of the- States have their own insurance schemes. The Minister for Defence cunningly avoided all reference to the marked success of the Queensland National Insurance concern, which has reduced the cost of insurance throughout that State. Can any man estimate the benefit which has accrued to the people of Queensland as the outcome of that establishment alone? What if the Queensland Government has lost on its stations and its butcher shops ? I do not say that it has; but what if such were the case? The Government insurance scheme more than makes up for everything.
Why is the Commonwealth Government seeking to dispose of the Factory at Geelong? Is it not in order to give private enterprise a “ show “ ? As soon as Government competition is wiped out the manufacturers of woollen goods will have a clear field, and up will go the prices. What will the Government be called upon then to pay for the uniforms of its postal employees, and of the military, naval, and aerial personnel^ Even the Victorian Government has been influenced by those same unseen forces which are now forcing the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Private exploiters said, “ Do not give your orders for the uniforms of your police, and firemen, and railway officials to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory.” Why did private enterprise so speak to the State Government? It was because the official uniforms were being provided more cheaply, and of better quality, than the private exploiters could turn them out. But what of the people? What of their interests? Will they stand for the Government wiping out the only element of insurance against profiteering ? In Victoria, we one© had a number of contractors whom we allowed to grow fat at the expense of the taxpayers. But have any contractors built a mile of Victorian railway during the past twenty years ?
Why has the Victorian Government been pursuing its “ iniquitous “ policy of building its own railways? It is because it has .found that it can cut out the profits of the contractors, and avoid costly litigation, and that it can save considerable sums in the building of lines of better material, and lines which will last longer than those constructed by private individuals. What is being done at the Newport workshops? Once the cry was heard that i*” was iniquitous for the State Railways Department to compete against private factories. At Newport, there are being manufactured large tonnage engines of great haulage capacity at the rate of £1,000 per engine cheaper than engines can bc turned out from private factories.
On the whole, it is perhaps convenient that the Prime Minister is absent to-day. 1 desire to cast no aspersions; but, having listened to the Prime Minister for years, I can hardly imagine him sitting idly during the- discussion of such an issue as that before the House. If the right honorable gentleman were here, and if he had any conscience left at all, that remnant would surely be pricking him. However, the Minister in charge of the House is a man of different views. He cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be called a Socialist. Not one of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has been answered vo-night. The Minister for Defence has simply uttered a slogan for which he has received little encouragement from his own side. But if honorable members opposite vote to sell the Commonwealth mills they must carry their principle to a logical conclusion and take steps to sell the East- West Railway and the Commonwealth Bank. I delight in seeing those opposed to me committing political suicide. There are ex-Labour men in the’ Ministry. In the past they have, with eloquence, testified to the virtues of State ownership, but now, bound hand and foot to the Conservative party, they must stand by and see the principles they once supported crushed to the ground. How can the honorable members for Boothby (Mr. Story), Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), and Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) and other honorable members face their constituencies in advocacy of the stand taken up by the Government” in connexion with these activities without courting absolute defeat? However, they must bear the responsibility. There are some honorable members opposite who, like the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), would not regret disposing of the State-owned railways of Australia, but there are very few of them who would be prepared to advocate that course on the public platform. If common sense is to prevail, if the people’s money is to be saved, and if the best interests of the country are to be conserved, we must retain those institutions which not only in time of stress and war but also in peace time, have saved the pockets of the people from the exploiters. . There is no doubt that the present Government, by their lack of business acumen and maladministration ; have made blunders for which the community at large will have to pay, but all these things will be made known to the electors in due course. So many sound arguments have been advanced for the retention of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills that one can only conclude that there are influences at work upon the Ministry and honorable members opposite to dispose of them. When the retention: of the Commonwealth ownership -of steamers was under consideration in this House last session the Prime Minister informed us that Lord Inchcape had sent him a cablegram offering to buy the Commonwealth Line, and he told the House that he would accept its verdict as to whether the Government’s ownership of these vessels should continue or not. The House voted, unanimously in favour of retaining the steamers. I am now .told from a Nationalist source that Lord Inchcape and his crowd are spilling money in. Australia as freely as possible in order to bribe certain people to do things which will enable the Commonwealth steamers to become private property. Are the representatives of the people of this country to be tools of a financial magnate? Their votes on this and other questions which will yet have to be decided will be closely watched by the people, who will see from the division lists who are their friends aud. who are their- enemies and the supporters of those Combines and exploiters which are seeking to do all they can against the interests of the Commonwealth.
.- If the mover of the amendment and those associated, with him, instead of advocating the State’s entry into industry, would turn their energies into persuading the unions that stand behind their political organizations to use their strike funds in establishing industrial concerns the problem as they see it would be solved.
.- The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) has said quite sufficient to make it- quite clear why he was so brief, and the applause with which the sentiment he uttered was greeted by honorable members sitting alongside him whose attitude towards unionism in any form is well known to be anything but favorable, carries its own answer. 1 support the amendment, but not because I believe that State ownership of industry is Socialism, or is carrying out the socialization of industry. I ain one of those -who fail to see that the substitution of one employer - the State - for a number of employers introduces Socialism. I dp 110t support tho retention of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills because I regard these mills as a Socialistic institution. They are nothing of the sort. They represent State capitalism. The workers in the mills are just as much exploited when working for the Government, as they would be when working for private employers. I support the amendment because I wish to see an extension of State capitalism, in order that the workers outside may have their minds directed to where their real enemy is, and so that they- may not be sidetracked by various political shibboleths or phrases into believing that the State is anything but an exploiting agency utilized by the dominant classes in society. When the capitalist class own and control the State machinery, they utilize” it for the purpose of buttressing their power of exploitation of the working class. The principle before this House is to me not one of nationalization versus individual ownership of activities. Prom the workingclass point of view, the question is whether it is a working-class State or a capitalistic State that controls these activities. Nationalization in a workingclass State would be Socialism, but in thai State there would be no one but workers. If honorable members would take the trouble to trace the course of the historical development of the “ State “ they would find that it has been a constantly changing institution. There was no “ State “ before there was private property. Society certainly existed, but the “State” did not. It only came into being when private property developed. In . the development of any country, according as one class or another, obtained power or possession of the resources of the wealth of the community, that change in the economic condition was reflected in the political structure of the country. Thus- we have had the changing phases of Great Britain, from the tribal, to the feudal stage, and then through the aristocratic to the development of the parliamentary institution, until we have reached the so-called .” Democratic State “ of to-day, the result of a conflict between the- commercial interests and the land-owners of the country. Our present “ State “ is a continuation of that conflict. From the international working-class point of view, it is not a question of “ State ownership” or nationalization of industry; the fundamental question is - who controls the State? Honorable members on this side of the House, who believe that the “ nationalization “ of industry is something to he desired, know full well, as do honorable members opposite, that, whatever party is nominally in control of the destinies of this country, the Teal control is in the hands of the financial and exploiting institutions. That has been proved in our own history. In every State of the Commonwealth, whether a Labour Administration or a Liberal Administration was in control of the instrumentalities of government, we have seen conflicts occur between the’ workers in the factory and the people who nominally control them? Why? Because the economic conditions force these conflicts. Similar disputes, have arisen in the Commonwealth Clothing Factory. . In July, 1915, when the control of the factory was in the hands of a Labour Administration, the dissatisfaction of the workers was so acute that they went on strike, and the political organization, which controlled them carried a resolution deprecating the administration of the factory by the then Govern- ment. At the Islington Workshops in South Australia, at the State Brickyards in “New South Wales, and in the Railway Workshops in Queensland similar troubles have occurred from time to t’ine. That is the reason why I say that honorable members who represent the working class have to go a good deal further than the nationalization of industry. It is not the “ nationalization “ of industries, but the control of industry, that is required by the intelligent working class to-day. Bis*- marek, in Germany, forty or fifty years ago> favoured nationalization; but would any honorable member opposite claim that the nationalization of industry by a Bismarck, or a Lloyd George, or a President Harding, or a William Morris Hughes is
Socialism? We know that the Prime
Minister, in spite of the attempt of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) to disown all association with Socialism in any shape or form, still claims to be a “ Socialist,” but he means a “ Socialist “ only in the sense that honorable members opposite speak of Socialism - merely the nationalization of industry. The workers in this country, as in other countries, know full well that ownership by the State of any particular industry or industries is no more Socialism than is private ownership by, say, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, or any other group of capitalists who combine for the monopoly of an industry. Control by the Commonwealth of the shipping line is no more Socialism than would be control by the Shipping Ring. That is proved by the fact that the Commonwealth Government, who are in control of the shipping line, have entered into an arrangement with the Inchcape Combine. So this attempt to make it appear that these Government enterprises are Socialism is merely throwing dust in the eyes of the workers. Honorable members opposite, for electioneering purposes, wish to make out that “ nationalization “ is a terribly revolutionary measure. The audacity of members on this side desiring to nationalize various industries! The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) read out the programme adopted at the Labour Conference in Brisbane as an indication of the revolution that is said to have been planned by honorable members on this side for the purpose of socializing Australian industry. I am one of those who believe that honorable members opposite will prove, in the future, as they have done in the past, that in certain circumstances they will outdo honorable members on this side of the House in regard to nationalization.
– They are doing their best.
-And the honorable member is supporting them.. Every time the Government are in danger he votes for them.
– I should be sorry if I voted on the honorable member’s side at times.
– Will the honorable member return to the amendment?
– I am pointing out reasons why I am supporting the amendment. Those reasons are very different from those advanced by the mover. The’ honorable member for Echuca and his party are opposed to the amendment because they wish to convey to the, people who sent them to the House the impression that the nationalization of the Woollen Mills or any other industry is something to be deprecated; but we heard an admission by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), that in regard to finance they support nationalization, because it would give rural credits to the people whom they represent.
– Unfortunately, we do not get those rural credits.
– Honorable members in the corner are keeping the Government in power and it is their own fault if they do not get their price. It is quite apparent that the honorable member and his party would support the nationalization of the Woollen Mills and the Shipping Line provided they could get better prices for their wool or cheaper freights than they are able to get from the private companies. The whole burden of their complaint to-night was that the Commonwealth Shipping Line charges are dearer than those of private companies.
– That is so.
– Therefore, honorable members in the corner do not believe in the nationalization of shipping because it costs them more.
– There would be some advantage in nationalization of shipping if we got cheaper freights.
– That would simply mean that some one else would be paying for what the honorable member and his friends were getting cheaply. Honorable members will recognise the fact that nationalized railways have been found to be better, not for the workers employed in connexion with them, but for those people who exploit the workers. That is the only benefit of nationalization, because, whenever there is a desire on the part of the workers engaged in these instrumentalities to improve their positions honorable members opposite, who represent varied vested interests, combine against them. Any party which obtains control of the Treasury Bench in this or any other country under the present economic system must administer the existing “ State,” which is a “ capitalist State.’’ Therefore, it is futile for the workers to believe that they can obtain any lasting benefit from any political party which comes into office to carry on the existing order. If the existing order is to be altered the workers must demand, not the nationalization of industry, but working-class control of industry. As the class that is in control of industry is also in possession of all the coercive powers of the State marshalled through a Parliamentary Committee of the capitalistic class, it has also control of the State. Never yet has any class which has been in possession of the economic power handed over control of the State until it has been forced to do so. When the workers outside recognise that fact they will build up a party determined to put into operation the working class programme, with as much determination and astuteness as the capitalistic class show in their administration of the present State.
– Has the workers’ programme been formulated anywhere?
– Yes, in the programme of the Third Internationale.
– I respect the honorable member’s candour.
– I stand for that programme, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud to be here as the representative of the working class, and tell the House plainly, as the representatives of the capitalist class have told us on many occasions, that in the last resort force will be used to prevent us from giving effect to our ideals. I have been told in this House that my. ideals are very nice, but if practical effect is to be given to them, it must be in a constitutional or democratic manner. When I asked what would happen supposing a majority of representatives like myself were returned, the answer given was, “ If you try to rob us under cover of the law we shall have to defend ourselves.”
– What has this to do with the amendment?
– I am trying to show the futility of nationalization alone - that there is, something more required, and that that something is working-class control.
– I see nothing about that in the amendment.
– I am endeavouring to put it in.
– The honorable member may not do that.
– I am endeavouring to show that, so far as the amendment goes, I can support it, but I am also explaining that there are certain shortcomings which I would like to see remedied.
– I thinkthe honorable member is going too far in that direction, and is discussing the general question of nationalization, which is outside the scope of the amendment.
– I was explaining the answer I received on a former occasion.
– I know what the honorable member was doing, but that has nothing whatever to do with the amendment, which is all I am concerned about.
– I am sorry, sir, that you take that view, because I was of opinion that my remarks were very pertinent to the subject. I was endeavouring to show that what is required is not nominal control through the nationalization of industries, but working-class control; and I was telling honorable members that, on a former occasion, I. was informed that, unless we acted in a certain way, force would be used against us. My answer to that was, if that were so, there would no longer be democracy, because then the “ constitutionalists “ and the socalled “democrats” would become autocrats and call in the military. It is of this that I am now warning the working classes of this country.
– If the workers got control they would not work - there would be no workers.
– If the honorable member told the Mr Lyell workers that there would be “ a finish” so far as he is concerned.
– The Mr Lyell workers are too sensible to desire control.
– Their sense has not been displayed in their choice of a representative. The workers of this or any other country must recognise that while the present economic system is in existence, even with nationalization, that nationalization can only be achieved by pledging the public credit, as in the case of the railways. Under these circumstances, instead of paying in the shape of dividends to private owners, they will pay in the form of interest to bond-holders onaccount of the industries supposed to be nationalized. The state of exploitation must continue while capitalists, through their political automata, have control of the industries. In the meantime, those who think as I do support proposals such as that submitted by the honorable member for Yarra. It does not matter which party is in control of the nationalized industries of the country - it does not matterwhether the control is by the honorable member for Yarra and his confrères, or by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) and his associates - there must inevitably be a conflict of interests between the workers and the capitalist State controlling the industries. It is because that conflict is inevitable, and because the workers cannot learn by any other method than that of facing the stern realities of the situation, that I support the amendment. By the increased nationalization of industries, the workers will be brought to recognise that their real enemy is the capitalistic State, by whichever party it is administered. In this way the real aim and object will be clarified, and the working class will see that their only hope of salvation, in the economic sense, is to wipe out the capitalistic State, and have a workingclass State with full workers’ control.
.- Two or three weeks ago - I think on our first day of meeting - while the Prime Minister was. expounding the policy of the Government, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) interjected, “ Words, words, words !” Well, ever since that time, and particularly since the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) moved his amendment, I have beenlistening to “ words, words, words.” I, for one, intend giving a vote which I think will please my friends opposite, because I think they desire nothing more than to see me out of this chamber. I am going to give the people who are probably most interested in this subject under discussion an opportunity at the proper time to say whether I have done right or wrong.
I always believe in giving praise where praise is due, even if the person praised does not happen to hold the same views as myself, and I must say I listened with a great deal of pleasure to the fine speech delivered by the honorable member for Yarra in submitting the amendment. But unfortunately he and I have not been taught in the same school. Not only his speech of last night, but other speeches here, show me very clearly that he is an idealist who lives in the clouds, while I have lived in a school of hard practical experience extending over a good many years. It has been my lot to contend with things as they are, and not as I should like them to be. The principal point, so far as I can see, is whether this amendment is beneficial to the future development of Australian industry. Naturally the proposer and those who think with him regard it as beneficial.
– What did you say when you asked the Minister the questions?
– If the honorable member turns up Hansardhe will see exactly what I said, and recognise that it is quite consistent with the speech I propose to make to-night. We have only to look at the history of this continent to find sufficient evidence that it has made the most rapid progress and development under private enterprise. No matter where we go throughout this country we find evidence of the success of that system.
– Was that your belief when you asked that the Geelong mills might be extended so as to provide cloth for the public?
– Exactly; my attitude has been perfectly sincere.
– But inconsistent with your remarks now.
– I think that I shall prove that I have been quite consistent. My reason for asking the questions referred to was, in the first place, that people had approached me, as I suppose other members had been approached, to ascertain, if it was not possible to purchase material at the mill. As a matter of fact, the mill was not turning out the class of material required, and I asked the Government whether they would install a plant to manufacture worsteds instead of tweeds. Honorable members know that the mill at present is turning out little or no worsteds, it having been started for the specific purpose of turning out woollen goods. But the mill cannot hope to successfully enter into competition with private enterprise in its present form.
– What you asked for was the duplication of the present machinery.
– I was given to understand that it was the intention of the
Government to install the necessary machinery for the manufacture of worsteds. I agree most heartily with the honorable member for Tarra in his remarks as to the excellent manner in which the Geelong Woollen Mill has been managed. I I do not know that there could have been secured’ two .better men anywhere in the world than those who have managed this establishment up to the present time. They know their business from A to Z. They have made a success of the Factory, - and I regret very much that the Government have not seen fit to show in some practical, tangible way their appreciation of their work.
– Then the way in which this enterprise has been managed cannot be advanced as a reason for its disposal.
– Not at all. The management has been excellent,, and the same may be said of the work of the whole mills staff. I look, however, beyond the mills as they stand to-day. I recognise that if they are sold, in all probability there will be a rapid development of the industry. Such an extension, I know, will work against my personal political interests, but to that I pay no attention. When the mills are sold, and their machinery is duplicated, or machinery for the manufacture of worsted is installed, they will probably work two or three shifts a day, and so give employment to two or three times the number now working in them. I recognise that if that happens my -political interests will be affected to a considerable degree.
– Then the honorable member recognises that he does not represent the workers ?
– I do not recognise anything of the kind. I believe, however, that the majority of the employees in the Factory hold political views different from my own, and naturally desire to secure the return of one who represents the particular policy they advocate.
– What benefit would accrue to the public from the sale of these mills?
– The “taking over of the mills by a large company or firm would increase competition, which, at present, is very limited, and so benefit the public. I have been looking up Hansard lately, and am surprised that it has not occurred to others who have been similarly occupied during the last few days, that if we sell these mills, and Labour comes ‘into power again, every member of that party will have another opportunity to advocate die erection of Commonwealth mills iu his own electorate. We shall then have probably a repetition of the fight which took place between honorable members of the Labour party as to the location of these mills.
– We are not so parochial iu our outlook.
– Hansard shows that members, of the honorable member’s -party opposed the erection of these mills at Geelong, and wanted them to be established in New South Wales. State jealousies displayed in connexion with the erection of these mills were almost as pronounced as those engendered in connexion with the bush capital.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) has put before the House certain reasons why, in the opinion of the Government, the mills should be sold. Attempts have been made by the Opposition to show that “Flinders-lane” has been bringing influence to bear on the Government to induce them to dispose of them. It is all very well for honorable members to infer that undue influences have been operating, but when an honorable member says, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) did, a few minutes ago, that he knows that certain influences have been brought to bear on honorable members on this side of the House to induce them to support the sale of the mills, he should say straight out by whom, and upon whom, those influences have been operating.
– The honorable member’s vote will largely show the extent to which he has been influenced.
– My hands, politically, are as clean as those of the honorable member, and I hope they always will be. I have not been approached, either directly or indirectly, as to my attitude in regard to this, matter.
– No, because they know that they have “ got “ . the honorable member.
– Nothing of the sort. My opposition to State enterprises is not of recent date. Ever since I have known anything of politics, I have been opposed to Government interference in trade and business. General statements as to influence having been brought to bear on honorable members should not be made unless those who make them are prepared to follow them up by giving the names of the persons concerned. One of my objections to the State control of these mills is that, with the extension of their operations, the cost of distributing their products would be infinitely greater than is the cost of distribution in the case of privately-owned mills. “With few exceptions, the commercial travellers who are to be found in thousands in Australia do not travel with one particular line of goods. They are employed by firms who handle many lines, and the cost of distribution is proportionately reduced. If the Government had to establish retail houses for the sale of the products of these mills, which-are very limited in number, and had, in addition, to provide for the usual hangers-on of such establishments in the shape of an expensive staff of inspectors and so forth, the costs would accumulate to s’uch an extent that I do not think it would be possible to place the output of the mills on the market at the prices quoted by private firms who distribute their lines through “Flinders-lane. “Nothing is to be gained by labouring this question. I had intended to refer to other matters mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but as the hour is getting late, and no doubt many honorable members are very tired, I shall refrain from further occupying the attention of the Blouse. I felt, however, that it was my duty to give expression to my views on this question before we proceeded to a division. I have done so, and am conscious of the fact that the stand I take in this matter will probably operate against me politically, but that consideration will not in any way influence me in the vote I shall give.
.- I regret that the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Greene) is absent, since I desire to compliment him on the fact that his speech to-night shows that he is just as Conservative as he was when the Fisher Government was in power and brought down the Bill providing for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable gentleman, who was then in Opposition, declared that all efforts to establish the Commonwealth Bank would fail dismally; and that if we started to compete with the private banking institutions ruin would stare us in the face. Much bad feeling was created by the speeches made by members of the Liberal party in the course of the debate on that measure.
– Bad feeling?
– Yes. Some very strong speeches in condemnation of the Labour party’s proposal were made during the debate, and the honorable member was amongst those who did all they could to prevent the passing of the Bill. What has been the result of the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank? The predictions of failure in which the then Opposition indulged have not been, verified. “No doubt, they would have liked the Commonwealth Bank to be a failure, but it has saved this country hundreds of thousands of pounds. It has, in addition, been of enormous advantage to the commercial community, because during the war it kept down interest rates. It has also floated our loans at a very reasonable rate, and saved the Commonwealth much -in the way of commission that it had formerly to pay. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank stands to the credit of the Labour party; and the Government are seeking now to detract from our credit by selling the woollen mills which we also established, and which have rendered such good service to the people. The Government have not been able to point the finger of scorn at the mills, or the work turned out by them. They are a magnificent factory, splendidly situated, and the comfort of the employees in every respect has been considered. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) said that he would be injured politically by the sale of the factory. If the Commonwealth disposes of it, not only the honorable member, but the employees, as well as those engaged, in other mills, will suffer. The conditions of the workers in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills are better than those of the men and women employed in private factories. The high standard set up by us has led to improved conditions in. private enterprise. Once we dispose of the mills, the labour conditions, in privately-owned factories will go down. Another point is that by the sale of the factory injury will be done to those to whom its products have been sold. I am given to understand that there are 300 Returned Soldiers Association branches in Victoria which are prepared to buy the output of this factory, and that in other States the Soldiers Associations are also handling the same cloth.
– Yet there are 115,000 yards available for the soldiers and their dependants which they have never taken away.
– That is due to restrictions imposed by the Government, who will not permit the sale of the cloth to friends of the soldiers as well as to themselves and their dependants. Last year the Assistant Minister for 1 Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) succeeded in securing the passage of a Bill for the establish- ‘ ment of a returned soldiers’ mill at Geelong. I opposed the project, but the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) supported it, and the Bill became law.
– Has the money which was then authorized been spent yet?
– No; but I remember what the Assistant Minister said in support of the scheme at that time. He was no champion of private enterprise on that occasion. Here is a purely Australian industry - the manufacture ;of Australian raw material, and we have the best of its kind in the world. And; here we have the market to absorb the output. Yet the Government propose to sell the factory, and deliver it over to; private enterprise. How do we know that it will not pay the private manufacturers and importers of cloth to keep th.6 mills closed, and so throw all the hands out of employment ? I
– The honorable member need not worry about that.
– What provision are the Government making to insure that the factory shall continue its operations at full output? Is not private enterprise to be given a free hand to do what it likes ? The mere fact that this woollen cloth factory at Geelong has been in existence has had the effect of keeping prices down wherever the product has been sold throughout the Commonwealth.
What has been the history of private enterprise in another field, side by side with State activities? What about the private contract; for the construction of wooden ships in New South Wales ? The vessels built by the Government could, and did, float; but those in the hands of the private contractors are lying idle and unfinished in the waters of Sydney Harbor. Small boys are playing hide and seek among their timbers, but their mothers are warning them to keep off, or the vessels may sink Under them. What a beautiful example they afford of the efficiency and effectiveness of private enterprise, compared with State activity !
There is a private firm in New South Wales known as the Clyde Engineering Company, which has been building locomotives by contract. The Government railway workshops have turned out engines, constructed by day labour, which are of a better type, and are cheaper, and more satisfactory altogether. The Clyde Engineering Works are begging the Government to give them a contract, to show them preference. I do not object, but I emphasize the fact that the Government shops are doing better and cheaper work.
What of the future of the employees in the Geelong factory ? They have given the Government a fair deal. They have provided soldiers and their dependants with a cloth of excellent quality.
– And the Government have made about a quarter of a million sterling out of the factory.
– That is not correct. f
– The statement has not been denied.
– The fact of the matter appears to be that the Treasurer wants to show a surplus. He has been advised not to put on more taxation burdens. The Government prefer to sell the State instrumentalities inaugurated during a Labour regime, and thus the Treasurer will be able to announce a surplus.
– Would the honorable member support a State enterprise that did not pay ?
– The question of whether a State instrumentality makes profits is not everything. There are other considerations,’ which may confer great benefit upon the whole community.
Members of the Country party are continually worrying the Government to borrow money for the extension of the post and telegraphic and telephonic services. They are always crying for more railways to be pushed out into the back country, in order to open up more land. Would the Country party care to hand over these public facilities to private exploiters?
Would those honorable members advise the Government to sell the telephones in the best interests of people who are waiting for the extension of these facilities? This is a great, new land, with huge, undeveloped areas, which must be thrown open by State enterprise. If, then, the Government are going to settle new immigrants they must extend their State instrumentalities. Could private enterprise conceivably handleso huge a proposition? The present control is Socialism to a certain extent. If the Government now stand for private enterprise, to be logical they should sell the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Shipping Line, the Post Office, and the Railways. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) say that he was prepared to sell the last named.
– What is the matter with that statement?
– Does the honorable member stand for it?
– I am asking you what is the matter with it?
– And like a good Scotchman I am answering the question by asking another, Does the honorable member stand for that policy? The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), in May, 1920, asked the then Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) some questions about the proposed extension of the Woollen Mills at Geelong, and in reply the Assistant Minister said the Government were prepared to extend the mills and allow the material to be sold to private people. What is the reason for the change now? And what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Wireless Agreement? Are they not going into partnership with private enterprise, and are they not providing the largest share of the capital? If they are in favour of private enterprise why not allow the Amalgamated Wireless Company a free field? And what about the oil? Why not leave the discovery and development of our oil resources to private enterprise. At present we are spending thousands of pounds in the search for oil. If we were to wait until private enterprise people got into this business we should have to wait a long time.
-They aredoing it now.
– Yes, with Government assistance and the promise of a bonus if they find oil. My honorable friend is not talking about jam now. When he was in the jam business, of course he wanted the Government to pay a subsidy so that he might get cheap sugar and be able to export his output.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to inform the honorable member that I have not been connected, directly or indirectly, with the industry he mentions for many years.
-I am not saying that the honorable member is engaged in the business now, but, at all events, he was connected with the jam industry at one time. Coming back to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Yarra, I should like to remind honorable members that on 12th May, 1920, the honorable member for Corio asked the following questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: -
The Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) replied as follows : -
– That question was asked before the Washington Conference.
– And I am concerned only with the answer I gave.
– And so am I. I want now to know what influences are preventing the Government from carrying out the promises made tothe House and the country on that occasion.
– Common sense; that is the answer.
-Then the Ministerconfesses that common sense did not dictate his answer to the question put by the honorable member for Corio? He reminds me of a man who wanted, to sell some pups to a friend who refused them because they were Labour pups. After a few days the owner of the pups again approached his friend and offered the pups for sale on the undertaking that they were then Liberal pups, advancing as a reason the fact that in the interval they had had their eyes opened. The Minister has had his eyes opened, but apparently they were not open when he supplied the answer to the questions put to him last session by the honorable member for Corio. As members of the Labour party, we stand for the development of all industries designed for the benefit of the people, and it is to our credit that these woollen mills, established by a Labour Government, have proved entirely satisfactory. We want to see similar establishments all over the Commonwealth in order that we may utilize our own. raw materials and insure remunerative employment and good working conditions for our people. All this has been done by the Geelong Mills, so why make a change now? The Government did not go to the country at the last election on this issue. They did not say that if they were returned to power they would destroy any of the planks of the Labour party that had been put into operation. They did not say that they would sell the woollen mills at Geelong. The Government have no mandate from the people to sell these mills, though they may have received a mandate from certain people interested in a scheme to make money out of the people. Therefore the amendment is one which we are prepared to place before the country as a vital issue. We stand for purity of government, and the continuation of a policy that has proved to be in the best interests of the people. To be logical, the Government should also sell the Post Office, telegraph and telephone systems, get rid of our ships, our banking institutions, and every other Government activity. If honorable members want private enterprise, let them, go to China, India, or Japan, or any of those countries where cheap and sweated labour is available.
– What about Russia?
– Now that the Minister has directed my attention to himself, let me remind him of the pledges he gave when he went out of the ranks of Labour with Mr. Hughes, declaring that “ not one stone in the temple of Labour would be displaced.” Government ownershipof these activities is one of the stones in the temple of Labour. What will the honorable member say when he faces those people who sent him here as being “ as good as a Labour man “ ?
– I will get back on the next occasion.
– I hope it will be under proper colours, and not because the honorable member claims to be as good as a Labour man. If those honorable members of the Nationalist party who were formerly members of the Labour party stand true to their pledges to stand by the Labour platform, they must vote for the amendment.
Question- That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Will the Leader of the House consent to the adjournment of the debate ?
– Not at this stage.
– I am sorry that the Minister could not consent to an adjournment. We have laboured hard’, and so far the Government have garnered nothing, although the Opposition can safely lay claim to having, during the course of this debate, done something in the interests of the country we are trying to serve. I do not propose to traverse the Ministerial manifesto, known as the Governor-General’s Speech. It is more fitting that we should wait to see whether the generalities contained in that address will later on be crystallized into some serious shape in the form of Bills or other propositions. We have taken occasion during this debate to pillory the Government for various serious omissions and proposals. It is hard to tell which have been the more significantly bad - their positive proposals or their omissions.
As other honorable members have devoted themselves to particular subjects, I ask leave to direct attention to a matter about which I have acquired recently some little purely non-technical knowledge, namely, the question of wireless telegraphy and an agreement which the Commonwealth Government, so we are told, have entered into with the company known as “ Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.” If we turn to the gospel of the Governor-General’s Speech, at page 2, clause 12, we find it stated that -
The agreement will provide adequate and satisfactory means of communication invaluable to the commerce of Australia.
I venture to say there is not a tittle of evidence before this House, and there was not a vestige of evidence before the Government, to justify them in making that statement, or in putting it into the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. On the contrary, the only evidence before the Government was that it was a matter of the very gravest and most serious doubt whether a scheme of the kind to which they would lend themselves is in any circumstances practicable or possible. Therefore, to say, as they have said, that this scheme provides an adequate and satisfactory means of communication, is to say something which they know is misleading. It is a very good illustration of the light-hearted and careless manner in which the Government pledge the country to the expenditure of large sums of money.
In loose and inaccurate generalities the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) introduced this proposal to the House in December of last year. The matter has been investigated, and in the very teeth of the facts before him, as the result of that investigation, he repeats in the Governor-General’s Speech the same class of misleading generality which characterized the speech in which he introduced the matter to this Parliament. There is no evidence in the agreement itself that it will provide an adequate and satisfactory means of communication. There has been no evidence of that kind adduced since, and there was no evidence of it adduced before the Committee that sat to consider the merits.
When the matter was discussed in the latter part of last year it was upon a motion then moved by the Prime Minister for the adoption of a specific agreement, the terms of which were before the House. My honorable leader then claimed that this was a subject-matter that called for very close investigation and consideration. When he spoke on the Address-in-Reply he claimed that the members of this party were to be congratulated inso far as they had been instrumental in making the agreement a better agreement, and in having an investigation made into the matter at all. The Prime Minister disposed of my leader’s claim in these terms: He is reported, at page 185 of Hansard for 6th July, 1922, to have said-
A motion covering the draft wireless agreement was put before the House and agreed to.
These are the Prime Minister’s words, and I am quoting the motion he quoted. He went on to say -
The motion read -
That the House approves of the execution by the Prime Minister of the agreement proposed to be 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 Drake-Brockman, J. D. Millen, and Wilson.
The Prime Minister added-
When this motion wa-s submitted, debate ensued, the honorable member - referring to my honorable leader - and his party opposed the motion, a division was taken and the Leader of the Opposition and his party voted against it.
Then the honorable gentleman went on to say that the motion was carried, and that whatever was done was done, not because of the Opposition, but in spite of us ; that is to say, that this agreement was perfected and the investigation made, not because of my leader and his party, but in spite of us. Belying on the short memory of the average citizen, and possibly upon the fact that not everybody is a constant reader of the columns of Hansard, the right honorable gentleman has made that audacious misstatement.
Now the facts are something entirely different. The facts are that the motion submitted by the Prime Minister was that submitted by him on 7th December, 1921, in these terms : -
That this House approves of the execution by the Prime Minister of the agreement proposed to be made between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless ! (Australasia) Limited, a draft of which has been laid upon the table of the House.
When that motion was moved, the Leader of the Opposition said, in the course of his speech upon it -
I say that the strictest inquiry is needed. We are not justified in voting for its acceptance until the House has been able to investigate it. .
There was no suggestion in the proposal of the Prime Minister in the first place for an investigation by a committee or anybody else. It was a bald proposition that we should affirm a draft agreement which was there and then laid upon the table of the House. There was no suggestion that anybody should investigate it ; but, on the contrary, by special pleading, by all the arts and devices of the company promoter, by judicious concealment, and by an unscrupulous misstatement of the facts, the right honorable gentleman tried to induce us to accept the agreement as it stood. There was no pro- posal for any inquiry until and after my honorable leader had addressed himself -to the question.
– I think that members of other parties objected to the agreement.
– There were other members who thought it should be investigated; there was a sufficient number of members, including ourselves, to put a very different face on the matter before it had gone far. A Committee was appointed, consisting of two Nationalists, two members of -the Country party, and two members of the Labour party, one of whom has since ceased to be a member of that party, and who, I may say, took very little part in the consideration of this question. Leaving out the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), who found himself otherwise engaged and unable to take a prominent part in the deliberations, the Committee unanimously condemned the agreement which the Prime Minister had” asked us to accept. Still, he says confidently that we deserve no credit; and that he deserves all the credit, for he tells us that what he, as head of the Government, said went, and we were mere obstructionists. That is the historical record of the proposal up to that point. The Committee condemned the agreement as improper, and one that could not be recommended, and found it vitally defective in many particulars. So much for the original proposal of the Government, for the Government must take responsibility in this matter. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) was a member of the Committee, and invaluable as his services were, I think it would have been more fitting if he, being Treasurer, had not sat with the Committee.
– He was not Treasurer when he was appointed to the Committee.
– He was not; and that, no doubt, was the reason why he sat as a member of the Committee. However, I raised no objection to his presence during the sittings of the Committee, and I do not stress the point now beyond saying that it would have been preferable if he, as a member of the Government, had not sat with the Committee. I need not state in detail the grounds upon which we condemned the agreement proposed by the Government. One of them was well canvassed in this House, namely, that there was no provision for giving the Commonwealth equal power with the company on the directorate. That, in itself, was a fatal objection. There was the further objection which still remains, that the proposal was not proved to be practicable or feasible in any circumstances, and there was no provision in the agree* ment for taking over the Commonwealth’s existing wireless plant at a valuation or on any terms which recognised the’ Commonwealth’s claim to consideration in that regard. The truth is, then, that when the Prime Minister says, as he does without qualification, that we were opposed to his proposal, he is saying half the truth, which, as honorable members know, is worse than a whole statement of another kind. Why were we opposed to the agreement, and why did we condemn the proposal brought down by the Government in regard to an agreement under which the Committee was pledged to expend £500,000? The papers, the agreement signed by the representative of the Commonwealth, the Committee’s report, my own humble report upon the subject, and the notes of evidence taken by the Committee are before the House. And, in regard to my own report, let me be permitted to say this: A statement was published in the press that I had recommended the acceptance of this agreement by the Government, and the Prime Minister, following up that unauthorized publication of something which was quite wide of the mark, has referred to my position as being somewhat mysterious. Later he said, by inference, that my submission of a report at all was a mere act of party propaganda. The members of that Committee, if they have a fair recollection of what took place, will be aware that at a very early stage I intimated to them that in no circumstances would I favour the handing over of the rights of the Commonwealth in wireless telegraphy, either in whole or in part, to any corporation. We rejected the Government’s agreement, and afterwards very rightly and naturally, because the majority was evidently against me on the question of Commonwealth control of wireless, proceeded to make that agreement as good as it could be made, or, at all events, much better than we found it. I candidly admit that I took my little part in so improving the terms of the proposed agreement after having made the declaration that I personally did not propose to recommend its acceptance. There is nothing mysterious at all about my position ; but it is mysterious how my name became attached to the report, and I think it would have been graceful and proper for the Chairman of the Committee to have told the country, and to now tell the House, that he had no authority to attach my name ‘to the report.
– Were the Committee against it in the first place?
– The Committee were absolutely opposed to the original agreement as placed upon the table of the House. They condemned it unanimously. But they proceeded to amend it in many vital particulars, and eventually by a majority decided in favour of it as it now appears before us. I took some part in amending it, but before doing so, I told the Committee that I would not recommend the acceptance of any such agreement, because I was in favour of the Commonwealth controlling its own wireless scheme. The notes of evidence are before the House, for which we are indebted” to Senator John D. Millen. The honorable senator is a Nationalist, and is, therefore, not associated with the party to which I belong, or with the Country’1 party. I must say that he was of great assistance to the Committee, and brought a good deal of knowledge into our, deliberations. He took careful notes of the evidence adduced, and prepared the summary which I have read, and which is available to honorable members. As far as it goes, I think it is accurate, and when my right honorable friend tells us that everything is well, and that we have secured an adequate and satisfactory form of commercial communication with the Old World by direct wireless, he seems to entirely overlook the fact that he is expressing an opinion in direct contradiction of the evidence recorded at the inquiry by a member of his own party. We had the advantage of having before the Committee many eminent persons - some experts, some interested, and some disinterested; but interested and disinterested parties alike assured us that there was no just basis for concluding even with fair certainty that this proposal was a practicable scheme. The one exception was the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless(Australasia) Limited, who went as far. as he could - sometimes a little further than he was justified - and had to be drawn back to facts. What does this summary of evidence compiled by Senator John D. Millen say? I shall quote from the first page, which reads -
On the one band, the Committee bad the very valuable report of the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy Commission of 1920, which clearly defined a commercial wireless service as one that guaranteed rapid, reliable,and continuous operating for twenty-four hours every day, and which also very positively stated that such a service was not practical beyond the distance of 2,000 to 3,000 miles.
That was an Imperial Commission which sat in 1920, only two years ago. The Commission comprised world experts, which met in the heart of the Empire, and it was a Committee whose decision in 1920 was that such, a scheme as we are now committed to was not practical beyond a distance of 2,000 to 3,000 miles. We are concerned with, a distance of 12,000 miles, and. yet we have been assured that we have in this agreement an adequate and satisfactory means of communication with the Old World. Let us see who some of these witnesses were. According to the first page of the summary of evidence, they included -
Mr. E. T. Fisk, managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Company; Mr. L. C. Stewart of the Radio Communication Com- pany; Lieut. Commander Creswell, of the Navy Department; Mr. A. S. McDonald and Mr. H. F. Coffey, of the Commonwealth Radio Service; Mr. J. G. Balsillie, who was in charge of a radio service from 1912 until 1916, and Mr. Malone, officer in charge of the radio department of the Post Office. Mr. Malone also advised the Committee on many technical points that arose in connexion with this difficult problem.
The names quoted show that evidence was taken from experienced men of standing. The notes continue -
None of the witnesses was able to indicate a system operating commercial wireless telegraphy in any part of the world over a distance equal to that proposed to be covered by the direct service suggested, by either of the proponents. Various opinions were expressed as to the capabilities of the proposed circuit, and it was stated that a French wireless company was erecting a station to transact wireless traffic with French colonies 12,000 miles distant, and that the Radio Corporation of America had in course of Construction at New
York an installation to work direct with any part of the world. The longest wireless circuit to-day regularly ‘handling commercial traffic is between Honolulu and Cavite, in the Philippine Islands, a distance of about 4,600 miles, and the evidence of Post Office radio officers, supported by the logs of signals intercepted by them, denoted that this circuit was operating on a traffic efficiency basis far below that designated by the Imperial Commission as a commercial standard.
And far below what we have designated as a commercial standard in this particular agreement. The notes continue -
The causes for such inefficiency wereinvestigatedby the Committee, and the evidence indicated the following conditions asseriously affecting the reception of signals: - (1) Interferenceproduced by atmospherics, and (2) insufficient transmitting power to overcome the distortion and diminution of signal strength caused by the interference of other unexplained phenomena occasioning a fading of the signals during certainportions of the day.
It will be seen, therefore, that while it is true that a station is in course of erection in Prance, from which it is hoped communication will be established for 12,000 miles, and that in America a station is being erected which will be able to keep in communication with any part of the world, the important fact remains that there is no service operating commercially for a distance greater than 4,600 miles. I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
.- In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I ask honorable members to come prepared to-morrow to complete the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply by 4 o’clock. If a vote is to be taken, it must be not later. It is now three weeks since the session opened. There is much urgent and pressing business awaiting the attention of the House, and the Government feel that they cannot devote any longer time than that which I have named to the consideration of the Address-in-Reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220713_reps_8_99/>.