9th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chairat 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I rise to make a personal explanation on a matter which affects my honour as a member of this House and as a member of the Australian Labour party. On Monday last the Sun news pictorial published a special article in which it was set out that -
There is a proposal to form a National Labour party constituted ofa large body prepared to break away from the existing Official Labour party and theex-Labourites who formed the Hughes wing of the National Labour party.
In the article the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), thehonorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and I were mentioned as Federal leaders of the movement. When that was brought under my notice by a representative of the Melbourne Herald I made the following comment, which was reported in the Herald of that evening : -
Mr. J. H. Scullin, member for Yarra, whose name has been mentioned in connexion with the suggestion, was amused. When interviewed, he said, “ The thing is so ridiculous that it is not worthy of comment. Those who know my strong hostility to the Labour renegades are laughing heartily. I have never heard a whisper of such a weird scheme being mooted.”
A representative of the Sun also interviewed me, and to him I made the same comment. On the following day, however, the Sun published an article, full of insinuations, suggesting that every denial was simply a lie. Its special reference to mewas -
Mr. Scullin, M.H.R., was virtuously indignant when a Sun man saw him yesterday. “The statement is too absurd and ridiculous to be worthy of serious comment,” he said. “Every one who knows my strong position at all times in Labour ranks will laugh hilariously at the grotesque suggestion.”
I draw special attention to the deliberate misquotation of my denial. My state ment that “ Those who know my strong hostility at all times to Labour renegades are laughing heartily at the grotesque suggestion,” was twisted by the Sun into, “ Every one who knows my strong position in Labour ranks will laugh hilariously at the grotesque suggestion.” That is a ridiculous, boastful statement which I would not be guilty of making.
Because of the unfair tactics of the Sun in misquoting my denial,I take this opportunity of saying that, so far as I and, I believe, every one of the honorable members who were mentioned in the paragraph are concerned, there is not a scintilla of truth in the statement. There is no foundation for it in fact, or even in rumour. It is a stupid and insulting newspaper concoction,
– I also desire to make a personal explanation with reference to an article which appeared: in the Sun news pictoral on Monday last, in which it was said that I and other members of my party were taking part in the formation of abreak-away party, calling itself the Rational Labour party. The report is absolutely untrue. There is not the slightest scintilla of truth in it. I do not know of one member so contemptible as to take part in the formation of any such party. As to taking in certain members who were expelled from the Parliamentary Labour party, I have only to say that I would rather withdraw from public life than link myself with any of those members who so basely betrayed the Labour cause in 1916.
The report is not only untrue, but is sinister, inasmuch as it shows that the press in this instance has acted as the tools of those who are afraid to come into the open, but prefer rather to hand to the press articles for publication in the vain hope that at least some of the muck and dirt will stick. My reputation in the industrial and political Labour movement is such that this vindictive and scurrilous newspaper attack will leave no impression.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question of urgency and importance. Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that he has despatched a cablegram to the British Government suggesting that the proposed, Imperial Conference should be held at an early date, and, if so, has he received a reply to his message? If a reply has been received, will he lay on the table a copy of such cablegram, and give the House an opportunity to discuss and decide the matters to be dealt with at that Conference prior to the departure of Australia’s representatives ?
– If the honorable member will give the Government his assistance in disposing of the amendment to the Address-in-Reply which is before the House, I shall then be very pleased to consider a reply to any question he desires to ask.
Debate resumed from 2nd March (vide page 151), on motion by Mr. Hurry -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to by this House : -
May it please Your Excellence -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Anstey. had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but we regret that this House views with disapprobation the conduct of the Government in meeting Parliament with a Speech containing no evidence of any public policy. There is no mention of any intended policy upon the subject of international trade, which the Head of the Government has asserted to be fundamental to the progress and prosperity of Australia. There is no mention of a policy on the Sugar Agreement, which expires next June. There is no mention of a policy relating to the development of internal trade, which is so vital to the employment of our people, but, on the contrary, the administrative methods pursued by the Government accentuate unemployment.
There is no mention of the attitude of the Government towards Arbitration, towards the Oil and Wireless Agreements, or towards Oldage and Invalid Pensions. The Speech makes no mention as to whether the Government intends to investigate the War Service Homes and other matters of maladministration exposed last session by the Labour party.
In brief, this Government, which claims to be a Government of business men, gives no evidence of such qualification. There is not one subject in His Excellency’s Speech upon which is given a definite, a concrete, or a composite opinion.
Under these circumstances, and in view of the peculiar methods under which this Government was formed, and in view of the fact that this Government discloses an unseemly haste to reach the haven of a recess of several months’ duration, thus leaving in abeyance the discussion of these subjects vital to the welfare of our country, this House deems it necessary to protest and declare that this Government does not possess its confidence.”
.- In continuation of the speech that I was making when the House adjourned on Friday last, I propose to quote from the Sydney Sun of 6 th February, 1923, an article in which was discussed the question of whether or not the Governor-General, on the retirement of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) acted within his constitutional powers in sending for the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to form an Administration without first sending for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The article is as follows: -
Was it Constitutional?
Has the Governor-General acted within the ambit of his constitutional authority in sending for Mr. Bruce to form an Administration without first sending for the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition ?
This question is being keenly discussed amongst Sydney constitutional lawyers.
There is not unanimity amongst them, but several of them arc of the opinion that the Governor-General has exceeded the constitutional authority reposed in him as the King’s representative.
These lawyers declare that when Mr. Hughes tendered his resignation the entire personnel of his Administration became functus officio and “ dead,” and that the GovernorGeneral had not the constitutional power to resuscitate a “dead” Ministry through the instrumentality of a resigned and “ dead “ member of it before approaching the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition.
Some of these constitutional lawyers are, however, willing to concede that the GovernorGeneral would have been perfectly within the ambit of his constitutional authority in sending for Mr. Bruce, M.H.R., to form an Administration after a refusal by the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition to form an Administration, but not Mr. Bruce, the “dead” and functus officio Minister of the “ dead “ Hughes Administration.
They emphasize the point that constitutionally the Governor-General can take cognisance of two parties only in Parliament - His Majesty’s Government and His Majesty’s Opposition - and that the Country party, as a party, could not be constitutionally considered by the Governor-General as a coalescing factor with the one party or. the other, as long as the Leader of the Opposition had not been approached, and a refusal received from him that he could not form an Administration.
The article recalls to mind the fact that a former Governor-General of the Commonwealth was man enough to refuse the then Prime Minister a double dissolution at a time when there was in the Senate a huge majority in opposition to his Ad-, ministration, whilst he had to carry on in this House by the casting vote of the Speaker. In that case the strings were pulled, and the Governor-General retired to the Homeland. Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson replaced him, and he did what he was asked to do. Some time or another wo shall find it necessary to impeach a Governor-General, and then these facts will be brought to light. Australia will yet have to defend its rights against a Governor-General.
Let U3 hear now some views that are held concerning this wonderful conglomerate Ministry. ,1 take the following from the Sydney Sun of 13th December last : -
At Grafton, on Wednesday, Sir Granville Ryrie, in the course of an address, made a strong appeal for the Labour vote. “Who is it,” he said, “ who is the working man’s worst enemy, and is his hardest taskmaster? It is the. ‘ cow cookie,’ who stands over him, and makes him slave from sunrise until after dark, with the lowest wage that he can pay bini. The cockie has no time for Wages Board awards, and the wage that lie pays is the lowest one that he can pay. Only the other day I heard of a man who had got work from a cockie. The duy he started he asked his new boss what time he would have to get up in the morning. ‘ Oh,’ replied the employer, yon don’t get up so very early. The boys rise first, but you can lie in until 3 o’clock.’ “ “ The cockie is a slave driver,” lie said, “ and he is the very worst enemy that the working man of any kind can have, and the one from whom he can expect the least.” 1 have another quotation, which says -
When Sir Granville -Ryrie, in a speech last night, called Dr. Earle Page a “ blob,” and Mr. Prowse, M.H.R., a “buffoon,” this irritated Dr. Page’s supporters.
I have now to quote some remarks which were made by the gentleman of whom 1 have said that if my son were as good- looking I should be proud of him. I have said that I should be proud of the
Prime Minister were he related to me, but I should .be still more proud of him if he were prepared to do what he could to give every boy and girl in Australia an opportunity to acquire the splendid education he has fortunately been able to obtain. To make provision for this is a part of the platform of the Labour party which swayed me greatly in deciding to join it, and if the Prime Minister will help me to give effect to that part of the Labour party’s platform, I shall be proud to have known him. There is one matter which, I dare say, the honorable gentleman will explain later on. When he was at Maryborough, at which town the members of the Australian Natives Association first carried a resolution to give women, the same power as men in their organization,” the honorable gentleman said, according to the Argus of 10th October last -
If Mr. Hughes be thrown out, as some cheery optimists suggest, I may say incidentally that I will go out too, and I think we will put up a stiff fight against those who attempt to run the government of this country.
Enough said! These remarks recall to my mind that on another occasion the head and chief prophet of the Nationalist parry said that if certain proposals were not carried by the vote of the people he find his Ministry would resign. The proposals -were not carried, and the Government marched to the GovernorGeneral, and in the words of the old song -
They walked right in and turned around And walked right out again.
Without any precedent in British parliamentary history to support him, the GovernorGeneral re-appointed them. In this House, dealing with the Commonwealth Line of Steam-ships, the Prime Minister said -
I think the Commonwealth Line is entitled to claim some credit for what was done. Something has been achieved, I admit, but it is not very great, and I do not think it is sufficient to justify the continuance of a Government venture. … I cannot vote for continuing to carry on the shipping business.
I hope that the House will” be supplied with clear and up-to-date balance-sheets of the operations of the Line in order that the people of Australia, who have to foot the bill, may know what has been done. I hope that before so grave a step as the sale of the Commonwealth steamers is undertaken, the matter will be very seriously considered. The State ownership of these vessels should appeal to the Country party, because they are of great advantage to farmers throughout Australia in providing them with a means’ for the transport of their produce to the Homeland. I have often said that if Great Britain is assured of a food supply she can stand four square to the European world, but if through any circumstances her Fleet were destroyed, and her food supplies cut off, she would have to go down.
In referring to shipbuilding the Prime Ministersaid -
I am opposed to the continuance of shipbuilding by the Government. I think that if this shipbuilding is to become a successful industry in Australia it must be conducted by private enterprise.
That may be the opinion of the honorable gentleman, but it is not mine, as I see no reason why such enterprises cannot be carried out successfully by a Government.
I come now to the second leader of this hybrid Ministry, and the one who, according to some of his remarks, claims to be boss. I have always held that the second legislative Chamber, having the power to veto measures passed by the lower House, has always been practically the boss of Parliament. That has been proved in this State, where the Legislative Council threw out proposals for manhood suffrage sixteen times, and for woman suffrage thirteen times. I find that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is responsible for the following statement: -
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.
We will fight the proposal to sell the Woollen Mills to the limit. Honorable members should try to obtain some idea of the good they have done. I enter my protest against their sale. I will not say that the Leader of the Government is a party to the proposal because of the influences by which he is surrounded in Flinders-lane, but I will say that if there were a law in Australia against the making of unjust profits there are men in Flinders-lane who would be in gaol tomorrow. When General Sir James McCay was appointed at the head of a
Commission to see that goods were sold at fair prices he was, unfortunately, restricted by the State law in the matter of power to punish offenders selling at prices higher than those fixed by the Commission. If a man made an overcharge for a certain article be could bo compelled to return the amount in excess of the fair price for it, but he might overcharge a thousand different citizens and nothing could be done to him. I must say that General McCay tried to carry out his duty, and if he failed it was because his power to impose punishment was too restricted. I will not say that that had anything to do with the abolition of the Clothing Factory, but I shall quote some information regarding what that establishment did duringthe war period. Knowing that thecontractors were supplying three-piece suits to returned soldiers, I asked the ‘following questions in the House -
Answer: - Civilian suiting is issued to the Department at 4s4d. per yard by the Government Woollen Mills and sold to the contractors by the Department at 4s. 6d. per yard.
Answer - 3 yards.
Answer. - 25s.6½d. to 32s. per suit.
A little later on, I waited upon you, sir, when Treasurer, and asked if this material could not be made available to any Australian citizen, at an increase of 20 per cent., if need be, so that the people might be able to purchase suits of clothes at fair prices. You gave me your assistance, but the Government as a whole would do nothing. I have before me a cartoon by Wells, that genius who has decorated the pages of the Melbourne Herald for some years, in which the present Prime Minister is depicted as “ Svengali” and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) as “ Trilby.” I suggest that the characters should have been reversed, and that the Treasurer mesmerised the Prime Minister, because I have here a newspaper telegram from Grafton in which the Treasurersaid that he was satisfied that he had got ‘his way. He continued -
I said all along that Mr. Hughes would have to go, and he went. Apart from that, I think the Nationalists will play fair with us, ami so long as they do we will reciprocate, arid good government will result.
That is the voice of the boss.
What did the Treasurer say in reference to the Tariff? Although there has been a Protectionist majority in both Houses of this Parliament ever since itsinception, wo have not yet evolved an up-to-date Tariff as it is understood in Japan and the United States of America.
– No, but more articles would be made in Australia for Australians. We should inculcate the belief that the locally-made article is good enough for us, and let those who wish to import fancy goods from the Homeland or elsewhere pay highly for them, as they have to do in Japan and America. The draft policy of the Country party to be submitted by the Treasurer to the Prime Minister included this paragraph in reference to the Tariff-
Immediate consideration of agricultural duties and the Anti-Dumping Bill; a producers’ representative on the Tariff Board.
That may happen, but I think I remember the Prime Minister saying definitely that he favoured a Protectionist policy.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd February the Treasurer was reported as having said -
It was useless to ignore the facts, and it was obviously .more desirable that Mr. Bruce should be Prime Minister . than that Mr. Charlton should occupy that post.
– Was that the opinion of the Governor-General ?
– The blank speech which His Excellency was obliged to deliver to this Parliament shows that he, poor man, has to do what he is told.
Again, the Ar/e of the 10th February reported as follows the Treasurer’s address to members of the Country party after the coalition: -
Mr. Page explained at length the course of the negotiations and said it was a case of accepting the agreement as signed or breaking entirely with the Nationalists. He stressed the point that the Party had secured its great success in compelling Mr. Hughes to resign.
He maintained strongly that the new Government bore very little resemblance to the old and discredited Administration.
Yet he and the present Prime Minister are like brothers twain, or the Siamese twins, being equal in all things. I have a lot of other quotations which honorable members would find worthy of perusal, but I will not read them now. They are to be found in Hansard for 12th October last year, page 3793.
In this- morning’s Melbourne Sun it is reported that Mr. Justice Powers intimated yesterday that if the Federal Arbitration Court had power to raise the pay of employees when excessive profits ore being made, he would have no hesitation in doing so. Mr. Justice Powers refused the application of the employers in the theatrical and moving picture industry to reduce the rate now being paid to theatrical and amusement employees. 1 have never impugned a man occupying the seat of a Judge unless he deserved it. I thank Mr. Justice Powers for his remark yesterday, and I wish that a Committee could be appointed to inquire into the high prices by which the people are being robbed at the present moment.
Does any one know the details ‘of the colossal legal costs in connexion with the famous Wool Tops action? Does any honorable member know what is the real position in regard to .that transaction 1 Why should not a balance-sheet be produced to the House? That could be done without waiting a long time for the Government to prepare their programme.
The newspapers this morning record the sale of the Equitable Insurance Company’s interests in Australia. Insurance is one of the biggest gold mines in Australia. Why d ces not the Commonwealth set up its own life, fire and marine insurance department? Look at the results of State insurance in Queensland. There the Government office has challenged and beaten even the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Contrast that with the unfortunate position of the Victorian State insurance scheme, which is restricted to insurance against workers’ compensation. For the first time in my long recollection the State Department has returned the whole of the premiums paid in the year. Yet it is not permitted to engage in fire, life, or marine insurance business. The Melbourne Age, on 27th October, 1922, dealt ‘trenchantly . with that secret league of powerful rich men gathered together in trusts aud combines. No leading article, or special article, that has ever appeared in any newspaper will be more quoted by the people of Australia when they realize how they have been robbed in recent years. In to-day’s Age also there appears cabled information that should occasion the Commonwealth Government grave concern. I refer to the defeat of two Ministers at the British by-elections. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) would do well to be careful, and make the .most of ‘his time while in this Parliament, for it is written that before long he will be sent hence to the abyss of oblivion. The honorable member was returned principally on the Labour vote, and therefore his insulting references to the party will not be forgotten. /We shall wipe him out at the next election, just as his predecessor (Sir Robert Best) was rejected in December last. We do not forget insults.” I remind him that if we have the power to return him to this House, we have also the power .to destroy him politically. Some of his friends spoke about his glorious achievements on the plains of Flanders and the heights of Gallipoli. Others again referred to the soft “cushy” job that he had at the war. He occupied a high Government position during the peace negotiations, and yet had the illmanners to insult, the people who helped very materially in his election.
– The Labour candidate for Kooyong secured only about 4,000 votes.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Swan doubts what I am .saying. The position of the various candidates up to the final count was : - Mr. Latham, 9,591 votes; Sir Robert Best, 13,459; M’iss Daly, 5,341. In the final count no less than 4,769 Labour preferences were given to Mr. Latham, and only 572 to Sir Robert Best. Does any one think, in the face of these figures, that the recent election was a fair fight between the two men? Mr. Latham is a K.C. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us just what a man has to do to become a King’s Counsel? It is” not necessary to pass a difficult examination in law in order to take silk. The Vic torian State law provides that gentlemen, of the ‘ legal profession must not register separately as a barrister or solicitor, but as a solicitor and barrister. This matter was fought out in the State Parliament, and it happens to be the one law without a penal clause. That is how so many of our legal lights escape.
I should like the Government to do something in the matter of controlling advertisements that appear in the daily press, because, in many instances, these savour of the slave market employers. No man should be permitted to advertise positions vacant under a nom de plume, or require applicants to forward applications to a certain letter-box at the General Post Office. It suggests that they may have something to hide. No respectable firms adopt this practice now. It is time that we took the necessary action to safeguard the interests of those who have to offer their services for employment, and prevent them from being crushed out, or required to take a smaller salary than is necessary.
Many of the fire insurance companies that are ostensibly Australian concerns are controlled, body and soul, by English companies. I direct the attention of the Government to this aspect of that class of business. I am informed, on good authority, that one British fire insurance company has purchased no less than four Australian companies. The Australian Alliance Company, which I have known for the last fifty years, is now only a shell, so to speak, of its former self. Mr. Gillespie, the chairman of directors, when, declaring a ‘dividend of 5s. at the last meeting, was- really declaring a dividend for an English company.
On one occasion I ventured to propose that Germany, being a debtor nation, should have an opportunity of discharging her obligations to the Commonwealth by exporting to Australia goods not manufactured in this country. My remarks under this head were brought under the notice of the President of. the German Government by a German friend of mine, for I hold that friendship in this life is independent of colour, race, or creed - “ L’amitie c’est I ‘amour sans ailes.” which translated means: Friendship is love without its wings. I have here a rough translation of the reply from President Ebert. It is as follows: -
The letter of Mr. Maloney, in Melbourne, of 8th November, 1922, which you remitted to the Reich President, Ebert, on 27th December, 1922, has been handed to the Foreign Ministry for further official treatment. In the opinion of the Foreign Office it is inopportune to negotiate directly with the Australian Government about reparation actions. Australian separate proposals had rather been directedto the Reparation Commission, which latter, however would presumably say that Australian reparation claims are included in those of the Mother Country. It is also to be considered that the total reparation sum fixed by the London ultimatum will yet be considerably reduced since, as recognised everywhere almost at present, it exceeds the German possibilities of accomplishment. Copies of the Maloney letter to you, your own lines of comment, and this letter have been transmitted to the Reich Minister of Finance. (Signed) de Haas.
To Mr. B. Wecksted, Frankfurt-on-Main.
Honorable members may see the original of that letter if they doubt the translation. My charge is that bribery, corruption, fraud, and robbery, and injury to the majority of the people in this country, are rife and rampant. How shall we do away with these evils? There is only one way, and, having pointed that out, I shall conclude my remarks. We must have the referendum, the initiative, and the recall; that is the only way in which Parliament can be controlled. If for this view I required an argument stronger than another - and I speak in all reverence - it is that if God be God he never created anything more powerful than himself or equal to himself - he never allowed the created being to make itself his equal or his superior. Why, then, I ask, should the created thing called Parliament be allowed to make itself more powerful than its creators - the electors? Only one day in three years do the people control Parliament, but give them the power of recall, of the referendum, and of the initiative, then, in my opinion, we. shall sweep away the awful sea of robbery, jobbery, bribery, and corruption in which we are steeped to our very lip’s.
– Before dealing with the question immediately before the House, I think I am called upon to reply to some of the opening remarks of the previous speaker (Dr. Maloney), who quoted from a newspaper certain utterances of mine on the subject ofdairy farmers. The report from which the honorable member quoted has, I think, pretty well gone the rounds of the press. It originated in a Grafton newspaper which, at all events, was not sympathetic with my views or my party, but very much the other way. I may have unwisely made what, perhaps, were somewhat rude remarks to the newspaper reporter who was seated at the table on the. occasion of my addressing the electors, and, further, I fancy I abused the editor of this paper for not giving a fair chance to any except representatives of the Country party. However that may be, I can only say that if it were possible for that newspaper to misconstrue to my disadvantage anything I might say, it would do so. On that occasion I referred to dairy farmers as “ cow cockies.” I had never heard that phrase before, but I learnt that the people of Grafton so termed them. In any ease, what I said then was in a jocular way. In support of that distinct statement I now make, I may say that on the same occasion I told the story of the new chum who got a job with a dairy farmer, and who, on his asking what time he had to rise in the morning, was told by his employer that the other men got up pretty early, but the new comer need not rise before 3 o’clock. I referred to that dairy farmer as a slave driver, who evidently had no respect for wages awards or anything of that sort. But I again emphatically declare that all I said there, and in this connexion, was in a jocular strain. I must take leave of my senses before I seriously say anything of that kind alleged about men who are themselves primary producers, practically engaged in the same pursuits as myself. I can quote dozens of speeches of mine made at various places in which I refer in eulogistic terms to all primary producers, including dairy farmers. Quite a number of these men, like myself, are members of the Graziers Association, and it is ridiculous to suppose that I should decry them, and brand them as slave-drivers and so forth. I regret exceedingly that these jocular remarks should have gone the round of the press, and given rise to the impression that I am actually an enemy of the dairy farmers, whom I highly respect as primary producers.
– What about the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) ? Was that a joke, too?
– In that same newspaper article I am reported as saying that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) is a “buffoon”; that report I deny as absolutely false. Any one who would say that that honorable member is a buffoon must be an idiot himself. The honorable member is, I suppose, one of the most serious members of this House to-day; and I give the House my word as a man that I did not make any statement of the kind. The honorable member is a personal friend of mine, and the idea that I so described him is absolutely ridiculous.
– What about the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) ?
– I am afraid I said a few hard things about that honorable gentleman, who has, however, more than squared the ledger. I am one of the “ outs,” while the Treasurer is one of the “ ins,” and both the honorable gentleman and myself know the reason why I am “ out.” In any case, as I say, he has more than squared the ledger. I forgive the honorable member, because I feel that he may have done me the best turn in my life. To be relieved from the duties of office will give me more time to attend to my own private affairs, and to the interests of my constituents; moreover, I have now the opportunity to take over the command of the First Cavalry Division - work I like and understand. I know my own limitations, and I think I am better at such military work than at politics. I forgive the Treasurer for what he has done, and if he will forgive the hard things I have said, we may be good friends. I do not wish to be bad friends with anybody; I do not think I have an enemy in the world, and if the Treasurer should prove to be such, he will be the only one.
The attack launched by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) does not, I think, call for serious reply from honorable members on this side. The attack was made on several grounds. One of these was the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) dresses - the kind of raiment he wears. In my opinion, it is only becoming on the part of a man in the position of the Prime Minister of Australia to dress himself well. The honorable member for Bourke seemed to quarrel with the Prime Minister because the latter is a man of culture; but, again, it is well that one in such a position should have education and culture. Another attack upon the Prime Minister was to the effect that he had stabbed his leader in the back. That is incorrect. I know all the circumstances, and am in a position to say that the Prime Minister was loyal to his previous chief, and it was with the concurrence of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that he acted as he did. It was also said that the Prime Minister was more concerned in matters of Empire than with those relating to Australia. It is well that we have, as the leader of the. Government, a man who is a strong Imperialist, deeply concerned in matters of Empire, because without the Empire to assist us I do not know what would become of Australia. There are some honorable members opposite who consider only Australia, and who on every occasion would substitute the Australian flag for the Union Jack. If we are going to do that our house can. be likened unto one of cards.
– What is wrong with our flag?
– There is nothing wrong with it ; but we should not substitute it for the Union Jack. Matters of Empire should be closely considered by this Parliament and this Government, as we may at any time be in danger from foreign . aggression. To think of standing alone is impossible. The Prime Minister has rightly said that there must be a policy of Empire defence, and so there must be, because it is impossible for us with the limited facilities at our disposal to adequately defend ourselves. To attempt to do so would mean placing a crushing burden upon the shoulders of the people. We must have a comprehensive scheme of defence embracing the whole of the British Empire, otherwise there will be dangers ahead of Australia. Some honorable members opposite do not stand for the Empire as a whole, and that is one reason why Iintend to oppose the amendment.
– Why nob name the other reasons?
– I do not intend to enumerate them at this juncture. Although we have lately been lulled into a sense of security we still have to admit that the world is in a disturbed state. We have evidence of that every day. There are some who attach great importance to the League of Nations, and who believe that that international tribunal will be the means of preventing disputes between nations. I do not believe it will. I look upon the League of Nations as a great Arbitration Court before which international disputes should be settled. A few years ago when arbitration was first introduced, and tribunals were created for the settlement of industrial disputes, it was thought that industrial harmony would prevail, particularly as it was made compulsory for both parties to appear before the- Court ; but a year after the establishment of the Federal Arbitration Court strikes increased by 100 per cent. .If the work of such a tribunal cannot settle disputes between employer and employee I do not think the League of Nations will be the means of preventing conflicts between nations. It is well that we should be’ prepared.
The Prime Minister, in referring to Naval defence, said -that we must have an Empire, scheme, and in this connexion I desire to refer briefly to the criticism levelled against the late Government by the press and the public generally for having practically scrapped our submarines. In June, 1922, the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) asked the Naval Board to submit a report setting out how, in their opinion, the Naval estimates could best’ be reduced by £250,000. In their report the Board submitted the following alternative means: - (1) To lay up two cruisers, leaving only one cruiser in commission ; (2) to dispense with the submarine force, including the depot ship Platypus and the tender ship Huon; (3) to dispense with two light cruisers and the remainder of the destroyer class, or (4) to do away with the Citizen Naval Forces, and pay off the two destroyers. The Minister considered the second alternative the best, and, in my opinion, he was right, ^because the “ J “ class vessels are un wieldy, and practically cub of date, and it would cost £250,000 per annum to maintain them. It would also cost £150,000 to put them in proper order, and, considering all the circumstances, it was wise to scrap them. It is possible, although I cannot speak authoritatively, that we might secure, either as a gift or at a comparatively low price from the Imperial authorities, six of the “ L “ class submarines, which are 25 per cent, smaller, more modern in design, much faster, and consequently more serviceable. Tn my opinion, it would be a great mistake to do away with the submarine force; but at present it would not be wise to spend £150,000 on the old vessels. They were in use for a good while in the North Sea, and their trip out to Australia considerably curtailed their period of usefulness.
I hope that the present Government will re-establish the compulsory military training system on its old footing. This would be of the greatest benefit to Australia. We remember the magnificent way in which our soldiers acquitted themselves overseas in the late Great War, and there is no question as to the good effect of the training on the young manhood of this country. 1 trust, also, that the junior cadet training, as formerly carried out, will be resumed. There is no time when this training can be so effectively given as during youth. The period of drill has been seriously cut down, but the old schedule should be re-introduced. I have been struck by the splendid results of this training in the case of lads from one of the worst portions of Sydney, from which the “ Rocks “ push sprang. Despite their unfavorable, environment, a cadet competition has been won by the boys from this district, and a smarter lot of young fellows I have never seen. These boys came from an area that harboured the worst group of larrikins that, could be encountered in any part of the world, and yet, as the result of the compulsory training system, they proved themselves a credit to their country. 1 hope that the Government will adhere to the principle, of maintaining our Military Forces on a purely citizen basis, or on a basis as near to that- as possible. There must be a certain number of permanent officers and men for training and administrative purposes, and for a nucleus for certain technical arms. The Australian Army should, on the whole, however, he established on a citizen basis. The responsibility devolves upon the people of the Commonwealth to support a citizen army. If it is their wish that they should be defended by a force of that nature, they should encourage the efforts of Governments that will seek to maintain it. Parents should set a good example to the rising generation by, encouraging their sons to cheerfully submit to the training provided. Unfortunately that has not always been our experience. Some parents, in fact, have done all in their power to defeat the scheme.
– Is it the Government policy that you are now giving us?
– I am prepared to regard it as a matter of policy if the Government wish it.
Every encouragement should be given to the Flying Corps. I am .pleased with the results that have attended the efforts so far made in the direction of assisting civil aviation. We have some good postal services in operation, and they have proved to be of undoubted benefit to out-back settlers, some of whom are now kept in touch with civilization every week, whereas previously they probably had to wait months for their mails.
For the .present, I give the Government my blessing for what that blessing is worth. I am going to give them my support. I am not disgruntled because I do not happen to be a member of the Ministry.
– Were you one of the managers?
– No. If I had been chosen a manager, I might have been in the “ show “ now. I wish to tell the Government in all seriousness - and I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) to take notice of what I say - that, unless consideration is given to the returned soldiers- of Australia, there will be trouble brewing. They are a big body of men, and they are deserving of consideration. Everybody has been preaching about the splendid qualities of the men who risked their lives in doing their job for their country. The first returned soldier who “ got it in the neck “ was myself.
– What did you do to one who came back?
– I gave tho honorable member for Adelaide a Commission to clear his reputation.
– What did you do after a Commission proved me right ?
– The honorable member is not in order in interrupting.
– I regret very much that a returned soldier was not placed on the Public Service Superannuation Board. An application was made by a returned soldier, whose qualifications were equal to those of Mr. Page, who secured the appointment. One of the qualifications of this returned soldier was not placed before the authorities when the selection was made. It was not pointed out that he waa a properly qualified accountant, and that fact was not before the Cabinet when the appointment was confirmed. A.11 things being equal, there was no reason why the returned soldier should - not have been appointed. ‘
– Is it too late to rectify the matter now?
– I think it is. When I was the Assistant Minister for Defence I was warned to see that the officials of the Department did not “ sell me a pup,” but I believe the selection Board is selling the present Minister for Defence not a pup, but a full-grown mastiff. I speak in connexion with the supersession of Colonel Williams, who is my chief staff officer in the Cavalry Division. The proposal of the Selection Committee - which, I presume, has Veen before the Military Board - ‘has been to put TemporaryColonels MacFarlane and Foster above Colonel Williams. I take no exception to Major - or Temporary-Colonel - Foster; I am prepared to say, indeed, that he is a very fine officer. But the -point is that, because the Selection Committee does not want to put Foster over MacFarlane, it proposes to promote both officers over the head of Colonel Williams. That should not be allowed. I know these men; I know Williams and his war services particularly well. He was with me in the field for nearly five years. MacFarlane was in the field for nine months* Colonel
Williams gained the Distinguished ServiceOrder; Temporary-Colonel MacFarlane has not been distinguished by that award. Colonel Williams has as good a post-war record as the others. It will be a. scandalous thing if the promotion of these two junior officers over the head of the other is decided upon.
– It would be merely in keeping with the usual practice in the Defence Department.
– That is not so.
– In my personal experience it has proved to be. so.
– ‘There is no valid reason why Williams should be superseded, at all events, by MacFarlane. I ask the Minister for Defence to look very carefully into the whole matter.
The Prime Minister stated last week that - although such a purpose would have been sufficient - the reason why the composite Government was formed was not merely that it might keep the Labour party out of office. I say, without fear of being misunderstood, that I support the Government for the purpose of keeping Labour out. I shall always do my utmost to see that Labour gets no chance of securing control in Australia, because I believe that the Labour party is a menace. To permit the Labour party to sit upon the Treasury bench would be a source of danger to the Commonwealth. In speaking after this fashion I- do not wish to disparage individual members opposite; but, in the light of their objective - knowing, as I do, what they stand for - I repeat that it would be dangerous for Labour to be permitted to rule this country.
– Did the Fisher Government prove to be a menace?
– The party in those days was different from what it is to-day. Then there were men like the ex-Prime Minister (the Right Honorable W. M. . Hughes) in the Labour party. But both the party and its objectives are different nowadays. To-day it stands for Socialism, pure and simple; its ideals are absolutely the same as those of Soviet Russia. We do not want the kind of thing in Australia that Russia has experienced in the past few years. Bolshevik Russia has run red with blood, and we know that there are a great many in the Labour party in Australia at this moment who stand for the same thing. There are men here who. think the same thoughts as the men .who are running Soviet Russia; men who possess the same sentiments as the Bolsheviks. We should all determine, as far as may lie in our power, that they shall not hold the reins of power in the Commonwealth.
.- I rise to support the amendment to the AddressinReply moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). I have listened with all attention to the militaristic and imperialistic utterances of the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie). As one who served in the Australian Imperial Force, I emphatically protest against the principles which he has enunciated. We have just fought and ended’ one of the greatest and most terrible wars in the history of the world. . It was supposed to have been a war to end war; and, instead of talking of increasing armaments at a time like the present, we should all be turning our thoughts and actions to the great problems of reconstruction.
I congratulate the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry) upon his effort in moving the adoption of the AddressinReply. I appreciated the manner in which he sought to make the best of a bad job. Obviously, he was in a hurry to complete his task, for he was bereft of subject-matter on which to make any remarks of general interest - at any rate, to this side of the House. I also sympathize with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who, like myself, is still green to parliamentary procedure. I’ desire to employ this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the great honour conferred upon me by those Labour supporters who have sent me to this House to represent their interests. I am conscious of the splendid record of legislative achievement which stands to the credit of the Labour movement in Australia. No other party has done more for the well-being of the people: no other has accomplished more to create a spirit of national consciousness and a. real and virile patriotism. The Labour movement to-day is beset by misrepresentation. It has to withstand vile lies and a distortion- of its policy, just as it ‘had to do in 1910 and in earlier years in the political history of the Commonwealth. Our movement was conceived as the result of ruthless oppression, and we are here to-day to withstand just that same treatment, no matter whether it be in the guise of militarism or industrial tyranny. Honorable members opposite are fond of regarding themselves as patriots and loyalists; but the Labour movement is the true friend of the returned soldier, and of the working class from which the real soldier came - the man who won the war. As a returned man,I, with thousands of others to-day, pin my faith to the great Labour movement. It, at least, has never found occasion to change its name - to masquerade under an alias - as the parties opposite have been compelled to do. We have retained our policy. We have never worked in secret. Our cards have always been laid upon the table. We have ever set our faces against coalition. Our political slogan is, as always, “ to stand alone,” and we prefer political death to dishonour. The parties opposite which have coalesced to form a Ministry would sacrifice any principle so long as they retained the reins of office.
I desire to congratulate you, sir, upon the manner in which you have treated the Opposition since your elevation to the high position which you now occupy. You have, so far, given us a fair deal. As an Australian I congratulate you on your correct interpretation of Australian sentiment in having decided to dispense with the frills and furbelows which are usually attached to the office of Speaker. I sincerely hope that you will continue on that course. If you do so I feel confident that you will at least have the respect of the members of His Majesty’s Opposition.
This Government consists of members who, in the past, have always preached the practising of economy. At the opening of Parliament they had a splendid opportunity to effect economy by doing ‘ - ‘away with the pomp and circumstance that surround the opening of Parliament. Those powdered flunkeys on horseback, those grotesquely attired naval and military officers, would have had a fitter setting in some mediaeval country. I think that I am correctly interpreting Australian sentiment in saying that it regards with repugnance such a display.
The speech of the Prime Minister disappointed me. Like his colleagues, who are men of wealth and social position, men who care nothing for the sufferings of the great working class, whom we are sent here to represent, he has found time to make references to Empire problems and other matters, but has made absolutely no mention of the great and pressing problem of unemployment, nor has he told us what the Government’s proposals are in regard to arbitration or in regard to instituting a system of national insurance against sickness, accident, unemployment, and industrial diseases. He has uttered what might aptly be described as a wilderness of words, embodying nothing but vague generalities and a plethora of platitudes.
I, therefore, make no apology for sup- porting the amendment moved by* the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). My attitude is summed up in the following extract from a memorable speech which was made in this House by an honorable member who now sits on the Government side -
We object to the Government because of . their abandonment of principle, and particularly because they stand for everything we are here to oppose and denounce. We are opposed to it because it has no policy. We are opposed to it because it is made up of men who have nothing in common. We are opposed to it because it crawls on all-fours towards recess, and because it stands for nothing but reaction. We believe that this Government does not occupy the Treasury bench by the will of the people of Australia. We say that it is there first of all by a trick, and secondly as the result of a combination of men who have abandoned -their principles.
That is an extract from a speech which was made by the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) on a momentous occasion when he was opposing a coalition that was conceived in similar degrading circumstances to those surrounding the present coalition. I refer to the Reid-McLean Ministry.
It is quite apparent to me that the press ‘of this country, with one or two singular exceptions, is not prepared to give our movement a fair deal. It knows, that it cannot defeat us on our humanitarian policy, and therefore it sets about endeavouring to create schisms in our ranks and to discredit us by vile misrepresentation. I, in conjunction with the honorable member for Yarra, protest against that newspaper canard which appeared the other day in the Sun news pictorial. No party in Australian politics at the present time is so united as the Federal Labour party. As the honorable member for Yarra has said, there is. not a scintilla of truth in this misrepresentation. The time has come when Parliament should protect honorable members from misrepresentation of that character. Perhaps some newspapers have the impression that we again desire to have in our ranks the honorable member for North Sydney. I. can speak on behalf of the Labour movement. We do not want in our ranks any one who at any time has betrayed us and deserted to the enemy. At the same time it is possible, and reasonable, for us to decry the disloyalty which has been displayed by members on the Government side towards the honorable member for North Sydney. Judas Iscariot himself would turn in his grave at such arrant treachery as that shown towards this man who, on the public platform, fought harder for his party than did any member who sits on the Government side. Now that he has served their purpose, he is slung on the scrap heap. As the honorable member for Bourke said, that is in accordance with the principles ofbusiness morality. Just as the strike-breaker - or, as he 13 more popularly known, the “ scab “ - is cast aside by the employer after he has served his dirty purpose, so honorable members on the Government side are prepared to displace men after they have served their purpose, and can, with advantage, serve them no longer. It is a fitting fate for the man who betrayed a great and honest movement like the Labour movement in the hour of its trial. At the same time,I am waiting to see what attitude the honorable member for North Sydney will adopt towards the Government. I am at a loss to understand how he can support this unholy fusion. He owes a duty, not only to this Chamber but to the people of Australia, to state clearly and definitely what his attitude is towards these people who have betrayed him, and have accepted within their ranks those who have bitterly denounced him on the public platform - men like the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
I am quite satisfied that honorable members on the Government side have little faith in their Administration ; otherwise they would have picked stronger men. This Ministry might well be described as a hotch-potch Ministry, composed ofperson’s someof whom did not enter politics until a few years ago, and have not served an apprenticeship which would justify the people reposing confidence in their capacity to govern. Parliament is entitled to know what is the policy of this Government. Until it is so informed it cannot place any confidence in the capacity of the Administration to rule the destinies of the Commonwealth. I am quite satisfied that Australians do not love coalitions. The history of this Commonwealth indicates the fate that has attended people who have jettisoned their principles to obtain the spoils of office.
The Prime Minister has twitted the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) with being an advocate of revolution. Had I been a member of this Chamber as long as the honorable member for Bourke has been, had I witnessed so many acts of political degradation, in which principles have been sacrificed, I am inclined to believe that I would have been converted to his view-point. As a matter of fact, I am a firm believer in constitutional action; but I can quite understand and sympathize with the view-point of a growing number of people, who are losing faith in parliamentary institutions and in political action owing to the methods which have been adopted by honorable members sitting on the Government side of the House.
We have asked the Prime Minister to produce a policy. We have been told to wait a little while - no doubt until he can compose his differences with the honorable members comprising the late Country party. He has displayed a cynical indifference to this House, and the dark and devious methods by. which this so-called Composite Ministry has been brought into existence merit the censure motion which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has launched. Here we have men who have been sworn political enemies sitting cheek by jowl and co-operating in the government of the country. These men, only a little time ago, were openly denouncing one another on the hustings in unmeasured terms, and now they are associated in a Ministry. They expect us to trust them, to have confidence in them, and to grant them three months in which to propound a policy. We know that their failure to face this House with a policy is due to their inability to agree among themselves. That fact is obvious to members of the Opposition, and members of the Government well know it also; it requires1 no explanation. We are, however, entitled, as the elected representatives of the people, to know the terms of the compact that was entered into secretly in a merchant’s house in a corner of Melbourne. We, who represent a majority of the people of Australia”, want to know why the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten), the honorable member for Wentworth- (Mr. Marks), the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), and other honorable members have been excluded from the Ministry. During the recent elections the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) strutted round the country as a political Puritan. He claimed support as the leader of a party purporting to represent country interests, and pledged to retain its identity. Through these means he worked the confidence trick, and, as a result, many Labour electors were deceived, as the distribution of preferences showed, into voting for him. To-day, a few short weeks after the election, he is selling those who supported him in the belief that he was’ a man of the utmost political integrity. He is selling them into a form of political slavery. The history of Australian politics shows that the people have little faith in men of straw, who are prepared to abandon their political principles for office, and the writing on the wall indicates that this deceased Country party has signed its own political death-warrant, as other people who have sacrificed their political principles have done.
What of the Nationalist party? We find this great party, as its friends would term it, consisting of twentynine direct supporters, allowing itself to be dominated by a party of twelve, with representation in only one Chamber of this Legislature. It is a degradation of responsible government as we have always been taught to accept it. We have rule by an insignificant minority who have gained . votes on the plea of their separate identity. I would commend to the Treasurer the wisdom of the scriptural injunction which says, “ For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul,” including the identity of his party ? We have on this side of the House a party representing, on the figures published at the recent Federal election, a majority of the people of Australia. We won twelve seats out of eighteen in the Senate, and our increased number in this House is in itself a vote of noconfidence in the Government. Members of the Government have clearly told us that they, will do anything to keep us. out of office. They are circumventing the will of the people. They remind me of a quotation from Hamlet, which describes a politician as one “who would circumvent God.” I think the description might aptly be applied to certain members on the Government side of the House who have circumvented the people, and with a considerable amount of success up to the present. We are glad that the political pretence of the Country party has ended. They will now have to accept responsibility for the sins of omission and commission perpetrated by the Nationalist party in the late Administration. They will no longer be able to masquerade as a distinct identity, pretending to show special consideration for country interests. I am glad that the people will now be able to see for themselves how little trust they can put in politicians on the Government side of the House. We are asked to allow the Government to go into recess for three months to formulate a policy. I remember reading the Hansard reports of” the last Parliament. I do not always read that publication, because I realize the disadvantage that sometimes results from it. I noticed that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) said that he was “out to end the Hughes dictatorship.” Now we find him prepared to perpetuate a dictatorship so long as he is one of the dictators. I had a good deal of respect for the Minister owing to the way in which he raised himself literally from the depths, and learned in the hard school of experience, hut much of that respect disappeared when I found that, while outspoken in his denunciation of the Nationalist Government, he was prepared to sell his political birthright for a mess of pottage.
Turning to the Prime Minister’s speech, we find, as the honorable member for Bourke and others on this side of the House have said, a considerable amount of talk of Empire problems and the sacred rights of private enterprise. We have references to “ economy “ and “ efficiency,” and I want to ask whether these terms are synonymous with “retrenchment” and “wage reduction.” I have a bitter recollection of the Fuller Government in New South Wales going to the people with similar nice-sounding phrases, and as soon as they gained office, as a result of their political deception, they immediately interpreted those phrases as meaning retrenchment, unemployment, and the sacrifice of State industries.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister has made no reference to the great problem of unemployment. I can, however, understand the reason for that omission. He is a man who has never suffered the pangs of hunger. He has never had to look for work, nor has he had to work under the conditions that haveexisted in industry in this country. Therefore, to Mm, and to those associated with him on the other side of the House, the questions of Empire mean more than the problem of the unemployed worker. To-day we have about 50,000 people walking the streets and the country roads of Australia in a heartbreaking search for work. If we analyze the political records of this country in the last three years, we find that unemployment is a direct result of the maladministration of the Nationalist party. That maladministration is now being perpetuated in another form. What is the Government doing to cope with the problem of unemployment? Let us consider its policy, as submitted to this House. It has ceased shipbuilding construction, and intends to sell the harness works and the woollen mills. It is sacrificing on the altar of private enterprise everything that matters ‘to the people of this country. Private enterprise and the sacred rights of property are all that matter to members of the Government. The unemployed worker is merely a useful weapon for their masters, the financial interests of this country, to utilize with a view to breaking down the wage conditions established through arbitration. The people of Australia, I am confident, demand a Government that will develop the latent resources of this country. They demand a Government that will develop, not only our primary, but our secondary, industries. They are prepared to pay the cost. They are prepared to pay for a Tariff such as will enable our industries to be developed to the greatest possible extent. I have travelled the world and appreciate to the full the illimitable possibilities of Australia.From an economic stand-point, no other country can equal it, and it is the bounden duty of this Government not to talk about crushing industries or of setting the interests of a section against those of the great majority, but rather to develop to the fullest possible extent the whole of our resources. The farmers of the Commonwealth share in the universal prosperity, and if there is any tinkering with the Tariff or with our industrial laws they must inevitably share in the consequent economic disaster.
This Government talks glibly of preference to returned soldiers, but offers absolutely no proposal for providing them with employment. There are thousands of these men looking for work. They ask the Government for bread in the shape of work, and are given a stone in the form of a meaningless phrase. The Government tells them that it will give them preference; but at the same time it is prepared to throw them on the labour market and incidentally to sacrifice other men who have an equal claim to work. It is prepared to sacrifice other men in order to place soldiers in employment. In short, it is prepared to rob Peter to pay Paul. The Government stand convicted of being not the friends of returned soldiers, but their forsworn enemies.
I come now to the question of arbitration. In the amendment to the AddressinReply which has been moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) we as a party . refer to the failure of the Government to set out its attitude towards arbitration. We learn from the daily papers that a conference of State Attorneys-General and others is sitting at the present time. Like so many Guy Fawkes, they are plotting to destroy the supremacy of the Commonwealth Parliament and subordinate it to the interests of the States. The Government have a .policy of retrogression which the people of Australia are not willing to accept. I have read the Prime Minister’s speech on this matter^ and the only possible reference to the question of arbitration that I can find in it is the following :-
The question of the duplication of activities will be dealt with, and the Government proposes to put forward a definite proposition for discussion.
I ask the Prime Minister whether that was intended as a reference to arbitration. It is a veiled and cloudy statement, and its meaning is by no means clear. What proposition do the Government intend to submit to the Conference of Premiers? The House is entitled to know. I remind honorable members on the Government side that there are to-day in Australia 750,000 male adults who look to registered unions and compulsory arbitration as their only safeguard against oppression and injustice. Those 750,000 persons have not been forewarned of any intention on the part of the Government to tinker with the arbitration laws, and before any such attempt is made their advice should be sought. Arbitration is a subject concerning which I profess to know a great deal. ‘ Since boyhood I have been an official !of trade unions. Government supporters would say that I have been “ a paid agitator.” Be that as it may, I have at least done something for my fellow men. I am here to serve the people of my electorate, and Australia as a whole, to the best of my ability, whereas honorable members on the Government side of the House, judging by their policy, are here to serve their capitalistic masters and, incidentally, themselves.
During my fifteen years’ experience I have found that the workers of the Commonwealth want arbitration, and I am confident that they will not for a moment tolerate any interference with their rights in that respect. . As to the proposal to deprive State public servants of the right of access to the Federal Court, I can assure the Government that such a proposition will be strenuously and bitterly resisted by thousands of public servants - throughout Australia. They rightly claim that their right to go to the Court was won at tremendous cost. They spent thousands of pounds in getting to the Commonwealth High Court and obtaining there their Magna Charta, and I demand that that right shall not be taken from them. The Government is playing with fire when it talks of tinkering with the arbitration laws. There are honorable members opposite who speak of us as Bolsheviks. The popular conception of a Bolshevik is that of a person who is “out to disturb law and order and to upset the peace and stability of the community. If that definition be correct, then the real Bolsheviks in this country are honorable members on. the Government side - -those reactionaries who are out to undermine the stability of our industrial life. Arbitration, despite statements that have been made to the contrary, has prevented serious industrial disturbances, and the only people who desire that ‘the Arbitration Courts shall be destroyed are. a minority of wealthy capitalists. . During the recent Federal election campaign I received from the Single Purpose League for Abolishing Compulsory Arbitration a communication from which I now propose to quote. I may say, in passing, that it is like their coldblooded audacity and impudence to send such a communication to a. Labour candidate who, to a large extent, owes his election to this House to the opposition of public servants to any interference with the principle of arbitration. In this letter from the Secretary of the Single Purpose League we have the following: -
I am instructed by my Executive to ascertain your attitude in .regard to the abolition of compulsory arbitration and the substitution of voluntary conciliation.
For your information and guidance I desire to inform you that -
I should like to hear the views of those on the Government side of the House who have advocated the repeal of the industrial laws of the Commonwealth. A majority of the voters of Australia, as represented by this side of the House,* demand an explanation from those reactionaries who are out to put on the workers of this country the chains of economic slavery.
– It is said that the workers themselves will not obey the awards.
– The Judiciary of Australia is opposed to interference with the principle of arbitration. It cannot be said for one moment that Mr. Justice Powers, President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, favours the workers, but he has said -
The Court has, of course, been a failure in the eyes of militant employers who object to any tribunal fixing fair wages to be paid by them. They prefer to retain the right to compel employees to accept any wages they may offer. The Court has been a success so far as fair employers are concerned. It has enabled them to settle their many disputes on just terms without having their business dislocated by strikes and Buffering the losses incidental to strikes; and the Court’s awards, by compelling the unfair employer to pay the same rates as the fair employer was prepared to pay, have prevented unfair competition.
There we have the statement of an unbiased Judge upon the question of arbitration. That is an ample answer to the interjection made by my honorable friend. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) wishes to destroy compulsory arbitration, and to substitute for it conciliation Boards. If the honorable gentleman knew as much about arbitration as he knows about ‘ surgery he would know that his suggestion has been proved by actual experience to be impracticable. It is certain, of course, that conciliation tribunals would suit organized bodies of employerdom by enabling them to use the mailed fist upon the weaker unions. They are the only people who at the present time are advocating the destruction of the arbitration system. At the risk of wearying the House 1 cannot do better than quote the following from the Judgment, No. 13, of Mr. Justice Brown, President of the Industrial Court of South Australia. He said -
It is a common cry expressed in different camps according to the circumstances of the case, “ Let employers and employees agree among themselves.” I have frequently pointed out in judgments of the Court that there is indeed a large field for agreement between employers and employees. But one has to face the facts that sometimes disputants won’t agree even on fundamentals; that sometimes they may agree on standards which cause discontent and dislocations in other industries; that at times employers may be strong enough to impose intolerable conditions ou the workers; or, again, that at times the employees, as a result of the scarcity of labour, strong organization, or strategic positions, may be able to impose unfair conditions on employers. It is idle to speak of such possibilities as “ academic.” They actualize in actual experience, and enforce the necessity of choosing between the rule of force and the rule of reason. The practice of this Court has been, before finally adjudicating in an industrial matter, to constitute the parties an informal special tribunal for the purpose of arriving at some agreement. But the presiding Judge may, and frequently does, make suggestions, or give directions in order that an agreement arrived at may harmonize with the general scheme of public regulation of industry in force in thiB State.
The opponents of compulsory arbitration conveniently forget that the present system allows of round-table conferences. Mr. Justice Brown points that out clearly. Speaking from the knowledge of a ripe industrial experience, I also maintain that the present system gives ample opportunity for conciliation agreements. As secretary of a union for some years, I have, to a great extent, pinned my faith to agreements, in certain industries where employers are generous, whilst in connexion with other industries I have been compelled to seek the protection of the Arbitration Court to withstand the rapacity of employers and their greedy desire to lower standards of living to an impossible degree. The Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, does not force disputants into litigation unless they fail to come to an agreement. As one of my concluding remarks upon this .subject I should like to say that these proposals for taking away from the Commonwealth the right of industrial control over State industries may result In very seriously undermining the political supremacy of the Commonwealth Parliament, and is hound to create widespread industrial trouble. It is like a quack doctor attempting a delicate operation in surgery. Let me also say that a very big section of the community, who, I am sorry to say, do not always vote for the party I represent - I refer to the so-called middle classes, comprising the bank clerk and professional worker - have in recent years been forced to have recourse to arbitration to establish for themselves decent living standards and fair working conditions. This class regards with alarm the proposals of this and other Governments throughout Australia to take away the power of the Federal Arbitration Court and destroy its industrial efficiency. The Labour party favours an extension of the legislative powers of the Commonwealth in the matter of arbitration. We are prepared to support any measure introduced in this House which will have for its purpose the simplification of arbitration and the removal of much of the tedious litigation associated with it, for which we are not responsible. We will favour any measure making the processes of arbitration more expeditious in the interests of employer and employee alike. I would remind honorable members on the Government side that if they really wish to do anything they should try to extend the powers of the Federal Court instead of trying to fritter them away. Let me say that the proposal to limit the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to pastoral, mining, and shipping industries is sheer, rank hypocrisy. Honorable members opposite, the people they represent, and those at present attending the States’ Conference in Melbourne express a desire to give only miners, seamen, and pastoral workers the right of access to the Federal Court, because they are afraid to take that right away from them. They are prepared to sacrifice everyone else. But the principle of arbitration is either right or wrong, and if one section of the workers of this, country has a right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court, every section of our workers should have the same right. There should be no privileged class in this country, and we shall strenuously resist any attempt to establish favoured classes who are given special rights of access to any Court in the Commonwealth.
Australian sentiment favours the extension of the Commonwealth legislative powers. On one occasion, not many years ago, proposals for the extension of those powers were almost carried. I am confident that if the present Government have the courage to ask the people, not for a limitation of our legislative powers, but for their extension, they would find them ready and willing to grant .their request. However, the Government are not prepared to do that. They prefer to undermine the Commonwealth Parliament, and to hand everything over to the States, because they are afraid to face their true political responsibilities.
If the Government are sincere in their professed desire for economy, why do they not propose to secure it by reducing the cost of government? Why do they not come down with a policy for a unified Government for Australia? The intention to add to the expenses of government is indicated by the desire of a minority in thi3 House for the establishment of new States. The party on this side of the House is ready and willing to agree to a system of unified government, and thus bring about effective economy, from which Australia generally will benefit. At the Conference taking place in Melbourne at present, to which, no doubt, the Government is, or will ultimately be, privy, the majority of the people of Australia are not represented. The Labour party in this ‘House represents the majority of the people, and it is not represented at that Conference. We .protest against that method of discussing the amendment of the Constitution. We are opposed also to the proposal to call a Convention, because Ave regard it as involving a waste of public money. This Parliament is quite competent to consider amendments of the Constitution. It comprises many men of much riper political experience than can be claimed by any member of the present Government. It comprises men who have been in politics for thirty or forty years, and who know the merits and demerits of our present Constitution. If the Government consider that it should be amended, why have they not the courage to face this House with their proposals to that end, and give the elected representatives of the people a proper opportunity to discuss them? The Prime Minister, in one of his speeches, said that that country is best governed which is least governed. If he really means that, he should support a policy of unification, and should not come here with phrases which mean nothing to us or to the people of Australia. When the honorable gentleman made use of that expression, no doubt what he meant was that he was out to relieve industry of “ irksome “ restrictions, and to give his Flinders-lane associates an opportunity to profiteer. That is the interpretation -I put upon his statement made, I believe, to the Millions Club. That was the right atmosphere for such a statement, and we can best interpret an utterance when we consider the circumstances and environment in which it was made. The New States idea, which is a proposal emanating from a handful of visionaries in this Legislature, is absolutely absurd. I commend the supporters of the proposal to the following quotation from a leading article appearing in to-day’s Age, a journal which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) describes as a “ noble organ “ : -
The Commonwealth “ Constitution - which was framed by a .singularly able Convention that was already aware of New-State ambitions - provided a means by which the larger States could be divided or New States admitted. It recognised that not one of .the six sovereign contracting States could be divested of any part of its territories without it3 own consent. It was therefore provided that before New States could be made those who wanted to make them must secure the consent of both the Parliament and the people of the original State affected. It is arguable that the rights of an existing State would be protected sufficiently were the consent of its people, independent of its Parliament, the warrant for its division. But it is clear that the State’s own consent, by whatever means it may bc expressed, is imperative, for the sake of ordinarily honest dealing and justice, as well as for the contentment of the people under the Federal system. Thus the first work for the advocates of New States in, say, New.
South Wales, is to convince the people and Parliament of New South Wales of the fairness and wisdom of their scheme. Have they made an earnest and sustained effort to win either one or the other ? It seems to. be assumed that to secure a majority in the New South Wales Parliament by the nomination of candidates and vigorous campaigning at elections, is impossible. With due respect to the Now-State leagues, it may bo said that a real effort has not yet been made. If it be contended that the consent of a majority of the people of New South Wales-ought to suffice, why not submit to the people a constitutional amendment to that effect? Why spend hundreds of thousands of pounds, as well as energy and temper, in electing another Convention, that may or may not amend the New-State clauses, and will in any case have to submit its proposals to a referendum, as the simple amendment desired might be submitted at once ? In the proposal to turn the whole Constitution inside out for such a purpose there is a great deal of thoughtlessness, not to say callow folly. Were a Convention foolish enough to try and frame some revolutionary scheme for a wholesale redivision of Australia, its work would go for nought amidst -popular derision. And were such a body to submit even simple amendments to facilitate the creation of New States, they would have little chance of acceptance when associated with further amendments touching finance, industry, and other matters about which there are keen differences of opinion. A Constitution Convention will be effective in checking the New-States movement, and it cannot be justified for this or any other reason. If there be complaint about the present Convention, those who complain ought, as rational beings, to know the alterations they want. If they do know, the great men who framed the Constitution provided them with a cheap and direct means of ascertaining the public will. If New States are to come, they will come in singles in a sane, sound, and constitutional way.
I commend the wisdom of that article to the Treasurer and some of his political associates who have been advocating the creation of new States.
I come now to old-age and invalid pensions, a subject that is very near to my heart. An amendment of the Pensions Act is long overdue. I notice that the Prime Minister has promised to introduce a measure that will relax some of the existing hardships and anomalies. Any proposed amendments should be tabled now, so that the House might have an opportunity of knowing the Government’s intentions. I have given notice of a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this question, and I trust that the Government will agree to it. At no stage in the political history of Australia has the question of old-age and invalid pensions been regarded as a party measure, except during the last session, when honorable members opposite voted against a motion from this side of the House to increase the pension to £1 per week. The Labour party is willing and ready to facilitate the passage of legislation which will relieve the old-age pensioners of many of the hardships that the present Act inflicts upon them. In my electorate there are 2,000 old men and women and invalids who are inmates of public hospitals. During the recent elections the Nationalist candidate in my electorate, Mr. Frederick Reed, attended a meeting at which he promised the inmates of the Lidcombe State Hospital that their pension allowance would be increased from 2s. to 3s. per week as from the 24th December last, and he added, “ It will be a nice little Christmas box for you from the Nationalist party.” ‘ That was a deliberate and dirty attempt at vote catching, and it was absolutely typical of the methods adopted by Nationalist candidates. I told the old men and women, “ Believe it when you get it.” Some may be still believing, but they are not getting the increase. The Government’s insincerity on this question of old-age and invalid pensions is deserving of the severest possible censure. I brought Mr. Reed’s promise under the notice of the present Prime Minister when he was Treasurer in the late ‘Government, and was in a position to make those amounts available, and I received the following reply :-
Your letter of 12il, January is to hand. In reply I have to inform you that the whole question of payments in relation to old-age and invalid pensioners in State institutions is receiving consideration, and it is not possible at present to announce the Government’s decision.
It has taken the Prime Minister a long time to determine this question, and his evasive reply reflects the utmost discredit upon him. Old-age pensioners who are inmates of institutions are receiving a pension on the basis of 12s. 6d. per week, of which 10s. 6d. is paid to the State and the balance to the inmate for personal expenses. Nobody will say that that amount is adequate for the aged and indigent. I remind honorable members that the pension was increased to 15s. in 1919, and ever since that time these old people have been robbed of 2s. 6d. per week that. was due to them. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden), when representing Nepean, was asked by the old men and women to make representations to the Government with a view to having the extra 2s. 6d. paid to them.- Those representations were made late in 1919 or early in 1920, so the Government cannot complain of lack of notice in regard to this matter! The pensions should ‘be reviewed immediately. The Act reeks with anomalies, and the amount allowed to the pensioners is hopelessly inadequate. In 1901 Victoria and New South Wales established an old-age pension of 10s. per week. At that time the living wage was 30s., or, at most, £2, per week. To-day it is more than double’ that amount, and if the pensioners were receiving to-day a pension in proportion to the increased cost of living, they would be getting about 25s. per week. The last Government were prepared to pay bonuses to wealthy manufacturers, but when asked to give the .pensioners a slight, increase in their allowance, they said they could not do so because they had to economize. I hope that this brutal economy, at the expense of the old pioneers, the men and women who built up our industries, and now, in the sere and yellow leaf, are in indigent circumstances as the result of ‘bad luck and adversity, will be discontinued. The claims of these aged people should be recognised, and the pension increased to an amount sufficient to enable them- to pass the evening of their life in at least moderate comfort. Section 24 of the Old-age Pensions Act fixes a limit upon the amount of the earnings of an old-age pensioner. That section is completely out of date, and should be revised to provide for the higher living standard. Section 45 also prevents, under certain conditions, a pensioner, being an inmate of any hospital, from receiving a pension. That, also, should be removed. In order to leave no misunderstanding, I want to quote from a letter written by Mr. F. Reed, the Nationalist candidate for Reid, to an inmate of one of the hospitals. It is clearly and definitely shown that this promise was made during the recent election -
Re the extra la. per week. A definite promise was made by Mr. Hughes to Mr. Orchard, and Mr. Orchard assured me that he saw a telegram despatched to Melbourne authorizing the Treasurer to pay the extra ls. As Mr. Bowden is now a member of the Federal Ministry, 1 recommend that each of those entitled to the extra ls. per week write direct to Mr. Bowden. Keep on writing until you get it. I understand that Mr. Bowden, as well as myself, repeated the promise.
This is a matter which Mr. Bowden and his party and Ministerial associates are now called upon to answer. I hope the reply will not he long delayed.
I am gratified to learn that the Government propose to consider the question of a reduction in the postal rates, but I hope this will not be made at the expense of the employees. The .party which I represent, without equivocation, is opposed to any economies at the expense of the public servants. Furthermore, we maintain that these economies should not be effected if the expansion of postal facilities is to be interfered with. I wish also, in passing, to refer to ‘ the inequitable system of telephone charges. Liverpool, which is 22 miles distant from Sydney, enjoys the benefits of the metropolitan rate, namely, 2d. per call; but people less than 22 miles from Sydney, at Guildford, and other stations on the same railway line, have to pay trunk-line charges, the reason given by the Postmaster-General’s Department being that, as regards Liverpool, the rates applied prior to Federation, and as State rights were maintained, it has not been found possible to rectify the anomaly. In Bankstown, to quote another case, one part of the town is connected with the metropolitan exchange, and is charged metropolitan rates, whereas 20 or 30 yards distant there is another telephone, the users of which have to pay trunkline charges. These are only one or two anomalies to which I desire to direct attention. I trust they will be rectified at a very early date.
I wish now to refer to the work of the War Service Homes Commission. The Prime Minister has intimated that the Government do not intend to appoint a Commission of public inquiry into the gross maladministration of this Depart- . ment, and I want to know the reason. ‘ Is he attempting to conceal something from the people of Australia? As a member of the Opposition I demand a public inquiry into the grave scandals that have been .associated with the administration of that Department. I and other ^embers have been inundated with protests from victimized soldiers who have been charged excessive costs for their homes, and owing to the muddling administra- tion of the Department they are unable to ascertain where they are.
I turn now for a few moments to this talk of Empire. In my opinion, it is merely a red herring drawn across the trail by Government supporters to prevent the free discussion of questions that are of more immediate concern to the people of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that if we are to be loyal to the Empire we owe a duty, in the first instance, to our own people, and that the most practical form of Empire patriotism that we could adopt would be to put our own house in order, instead of tinkering with problems’ of Imperialism and military aggression. The action of France in invading Germany in a spirit of millitary aggression will, unless checked, inevitably lead to a further disturbance of the world’s peace. Yet the Commonwealth Government declined last week to submit a detailed answer to questions from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) upon this matter. We do not know what is .the Government policy. For all we know, during the next three months when the Government will be in the safe haven of recess, this -country may be embroiled in some scheme of military interference, ‘because not so long ago the ex-Prime Minister rashly promised assistance to Great Britain without first consulting Parliament. I, for one, distrust the attitude of the present Government in connexion with this grave problem. As one who proved his loyalty in a practical way during the war, and being a fervent believer in Australia remaining a self-contained British community, I am satisfied that the workers of the Commonwealth, . as well as the workers in other countries of the world, are entirely opposed to any further wars. We fought a war to end wars, and so we do not want to be embroiled in another conflict. If the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Eyrie) had his way Australia would be saddled with an enormous debt for military training and a more rigorous” system of compulsory military service. The security of this country is insured by the agreement between Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japan guaranteeing peace in the Pacific for the next few years, and so the time has arrived when the Government may, without jeopardizing the safety of the Commonwealth, consider the modification of -the irksome restrictions of our compulsory military service. That the scheme is obsolete was proved during the war, because our soldiers had to secure their effective training abroad. Recently I paid a visit to Duntroon Military College, and saw there a magnificent establishment with room for 160 cadets, and with a staff of about seventy instructors and others, but only thirty-two cadets. Why is the Government wasting thousands of pounds of public money in this way while thousands of workers are crying for bread in the streets of our cities? The Duntroon College should be closed, because it is not serving any useful purpose at the moment. If the Government feel that they must have military training for officers, let them send these men to Sandhurst or some other military school, and put our own huge establishment to some practical use.
I now come to the question of the construction of the Federal Capital. The Prime Minister the other day said something about a gradual erection. I say definitely and clearly that a time limit should be fixed for the completion of this work. It is time we fixed a definite date on which Parliament shall sit at Canberra, and we should brook no further delay in this great national project. Ten years have elapsed, and over £1,000,000 has been expended, and the result of this expenditure is lying latent and practically unused at this moment. This affords an excellent opportunity for honorable members opposite, if they are anxious to relieve Australia of some of its present domestic troubles, to solve the problem of unemployment. Why not proceed with the construction of the Capital, thus employing some thousands of mem ? If the members of the late Country party are really anxious to carry out a policy of decentralization, why are they not pressing the Government to proceed with the Capital? This would be a step in the right direction, and should certainly meet with the immediate and complete approval of the honorable members to whom I refer.
It was with a great deal of regret that I heard the Prime Minister’s announcement that he intended to “ close down “ on shipbuilding. 1 protest against the failure to use Cockatoo Dockyard to its fullest capacity. There the Government possess one of the finest shipbuilding plants, capable of turning out many commodities apart from ships; and yet the late Administration deliberately hamstrung a great national undertaking, refusing to allow the dockyard to accept outside contracts. Is it the intention of the Government to persist in that policy t Is it the intention of the Government, to dispose of a dockyard which is of the utmost value to this country from a defence and economic standpoint ? Hundreds of skilled artisans have been trained at this and similar institutions at considerable expense, but their valuable labour is lost because they are out of work, unable to obtain employment. At the Small Arms Factory there is thousands of pounds worth of expensive pl,ant practically unused. If the Government were prepared to compete with1 private enterprise, that plant could be worked for making things which at present are imported from abroad by Flinders-lane merchants and others.
The Prime Minister has told us that there is a great necessity for- bringing more people into Australia, and that it will be the policy of the Government to press on with their policy of immigration. The Government are evidently parties to the capitalistic conspiracy throughout Australia to-day to destroy our living standards and reduce the workers to a condition of industrial slavery; they, apparently, desire to create so much ‘ unemployment by the dumping of immigrants here that the workers will be compelled to accept whatever terms are offered at the point of the economic bayonet.
I protest against the methods of the Government, and charge them with the sins of. omission and commission of the previous Government, to which, to an extent, they are privy. The bungling efforts of the Government in this matter are a disgrace to Australia. Hundreds and thousands of immigrants have been brought here without any discrimination in their selection being exercised. Scores have been found to be suffering from incurable diseases, as proved by newspaper statements; but still the Government persist in their policy. I protest most emphatically against the actions of Mr. Percy Hunter, Chief of the Immigration Department who, instead of attending to his official duties, paraded the country with the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes ) . That action on the part of Mr. Hunter is in itself deserving of the utmost condemnation. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration under proper conditions and properly supervised, but we place Australia first, and we are not prepared to see immigrants dumped here before our own unemployed and land-hungry Australians have been first considered, and have had their wants satisfied. On this question we believe that “ charity begins at home,” and we resent the attitude of a section of wealthy employers who are prepared to subsidize the introduction of immigrants, and are not at all prepared to prevent unemployment being . deliberately created by the Government’s rotten methods.
I sincerly hope the Government will refrain from interfering with the Commonwealth ‘Shipping Line. We have no definite statement from the Prime Minister on the question, although it is apparent from some published statements by honorable members opposite that if there be an opportunity the Government will sacrifice this great national undertaking. If the Government should take that step, it will be to their eternal discredit and shame; it means cutting the throats of “the very people they profess to represent - the primary producers - to whom this shipping line has been of incalculable value in opposing the greedy avarice of the Inchcape Shipping Combine.
As to the Commonwealth Bank, I have no love for Sir Denison Miller, and I object to his industrial methods, and to his refusal to allow the Bank’s clerks to join their union. I attach paramount importance to that refusal; but, at the same time, I admire Sir Denison Miller’s capacity and his excellent ad ministrative qualifications. There is no warrant for the Government’s proposal to create further jobs for their supporters by appointing another Board of control which may ultimately have the effect of hampering the Bank and destroying its efficiency. The party on this side pins its faith definitely and clearly to Sir Denison Miller, with all his faults; and we regard the Government’s proposal as of sinister origin with a sinister purpose behind it.
In the speech of the Prime Minister there is one thing that blooms like a rose in a desert. He admits that industry in Australia is in a sound and prosperous condition, and on that statement I shake hands with the honorable gentleman; but I am quite satisfied that his masters, the employers, will give him a rap over the knuckles if he continues to be so indiscreet as to talk in that Strain. There are employers, who are the “ calamity howlers “ ‘ of Australia, who advance as an argument for the reduction of wages that Australia is on the “ high road to bankruptcy “ ! That statement of theirs is untrue, but it is part of their pernicious propaganda with the object of destroying our living standards; and we are glad to know that at least the Prime Minister admits that Australian industry is sound and prosperous. For that prosperity, however, no thanks are due to the Prime Minister or his Government.
I trust that the Prime Minister will refrain from reducing the wages of the public servants, for there is no justification for any interference with either wages or conditions, and they ought to be left in the enjoyment of what they have already gained. There is no more efficient Public Service in the world than the Australian Commonwealth Public Service, but in comparison with the States -with the State of New South Wales, for instance - the Commonwealth employees are, after all, not so wonderfully well treated.
I wish now to refer to the cheap sneers of the Prime Minister at our party and our policy. It was largely against distortion and misrepresentation that the Labour party had to fight its battles at the recent election, but we emerged from the contest invigorated with new blood, with youth, and with Australian sentiment and idealism, and we have come back to the House stronger and better as a party than we have been for many years.We have always placed our cards upon the table, and have never masqueraded as supporters of the Government have done, like burglars who have to adopt an alias to avoid arrest.
– That statement is not in order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw. I can only repeat that all our cards have been placed upon the table, andthat, notwithstanding the misrepresentation hurled against usby our opponents, I am sure that the time is not far distant when the present Government will be relegated to oblivion, when the Labour party will once more rule the destinies of this great Commonwealth, and the people of Australia will, as they did in 1910, enjoy true national government, true national prosperity, and true national expansion.
.- In opposingthe amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), I desire, inthe first instance, to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), whoseattention and interest I have apparently had the honour to attract. I do not propose to occupy the time of this Parliament in endeavouring to explain to the honorable member for Melbourne what a King’s Counsel is; but if he desires information on that point, I shall be pleased to enlighten him outside thechamber. As far as the remarks of the honorable member regarding myself personally are concerned, I propose to refer only to such as have a political reference.He stressed the point that I was returned to this Parliament in consequence of the’ assistance I received from the Labour second preference votes. I only desire to state that at every political meeting in my constituency I informed the electors that I was opposed to the Hughes Government, and that I wanted to get rid of it. I also said that I was opposed to the Labour party, because I found myself unable to accept their programme, which I had with me in black and white, and which I dealt with from the platform. I was asked whether, if the
Hughes Government were defeated, I would support the Labour party. To that question, I replied that I would gladly put them out, and I repeat that assertion here. I would do so merely because I am unable to accept their policy.
The amendment before the House is based on the failure of the Government to state a policy, and if the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had failed to outline a programme, I would have had to consider very carefully indeed whether I would support the amendment. The Prime Minister, however, has. outlined the programme of the Government, and at present I am prepared to accept the general outline of policy. I recognise that it. consists of promises, and if those promises are not fulfilledby the Government, I shall find it impossible to support them. I sincerely trust that the present Government will be a new Government, and will not in any. way be a continuation of the old Administration. Some matters referred to in the speech of the Prime Minister give me reason for supposing that the present. Administration will proceed in a manner different from that of the late Government. I refer in particular to the Prime Minister’s undertaking that the Government “will look into the matter of War Service Homes -very carefully. I trust that that will be done, and that the maladministration in the conduct of the War Service Homes Department, which is unexampled in the political history of Australia, will be thoroughly overhauled, and that there will be no hesitation in endeavouring to fix the responsibility by a public inquiry, if necessary, for the stupendous blunders which were made.
I also invite the attention of the Prime Minister to another matter in connexion with which it is very desirable that an investigation should be instituted. I refer to the sugar purchases, concerning which certain investigations were made last year by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. That inquiry, however, was only partial in character, and every one will agree that in justice to all concerned the whole matter should be satisfactorily cleared up by a definite and searching investigation. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that the present Government had no intention of renewing the sugar agreement. There are two recognised methods of assisting Australian industries, one of which is by means of Customs duties and the other by the payment of bounties. The system of making agreements with sections of the public in private and then subsequently submitting to Parliament an agreement with the force of the Government behind it is, I submit, subversive of all sound principles of. government. These matters should be debated before Parliament in the ordinary recognised way, and agreements should not .be arrived at before the representatives of the people have had an opportunity of expressing their opinions. May I mention, what is already known to many honorable members, that in the Wool Tops case, the High Court of Australia, in a judgment which has not been published in authorized form, has held that it is not within the power or province of the Ministers of the Crown of the Commonwealth to make agreements involving the expenditure of public money without statutory authority. There has been an idea in the minds of some that as the Government has control of public finances Ministers can spend money as they desire, but the High Court has now ruled that Ministers have no such power, and must derive their authority under Statutes passed by Parliament. If a new sugar agreement were entered into it is questionable whether it would be valid. The Commonwealth Government has no power to fix prices in times of peace, although there was authority to do so during the war period. The Commonwealth is not charged with the supervision of the trade and commerce of Australia, and this Parliament operates under defined and limited powers set out in the Constitution. There is no authority for the Commonwealth to deal in commodities generally.
Before the House meets again the Government should go very carefully into the financial position -of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. No authentic figures have been published for a long time, and there is no reason why the people of Australia should not at once have the material placed before them on which to form an opinion on the past work of the Line and its future prospects. The Commonwealth Govern- ment Shipping Line is not a private- business, but a public undertaking, and the accounts should be made available ‘to this Parliament and to the public.
I also express a hope that this Government will depart from the principles of their predecessors by refraining from interfering in directions where interference is unwarranted.
One matter to which attention might be given is that of passports. If an Australian desires to go abroad and travel in “ any country where he requires a passport, facilities should be provided to enable him to obtain one; but our present legislation, and the regulations of the Passport Office, require that any Australian above the age of sixteen years who desires to leave our shores shall obtain a. passport. The Act further stipulates that a Minister may cancel the passport, and a Minister may do that without reason. According to the present law, it depends on the will of the Minister as to. whether a particular Australian citizen shall be allowed to leave the Commonwealth. That is an unjustifiable interference with the liberty of the subject.
– Does’ the Act give the Minister absolute discretion ?
– Yes, in its present form. When appllication is made,_ the intending traveller is asked whether he has the permission of his wife to go abroad ; and all kinds of inquiries that this Parliament has never authorized are made. A start in the direction of economy might well be made by dealing with the Passport Office.
I welcome the accession to office as Prime Minister of a gentleman who believes in the League of Nations, who has had some experience of it, who knows and understands that it is a real thing, and who will not refer to it with a covert or an open sneer. I welcome.as Prime Minister a member of this House who recognises that the League of Nations, in one form or another, is truly the hope of the world. It is the duty of us all, however we may differ on purely Australian matters, to do our best for the League, realizing that it will be a success only if it is supported by the Parliaments and the peoples of the world. It may be that at present Australia has a small voice in international affairs; but df we have any contribution to1 make to the solution of world problems, any intelligence to exercise in relation to foreign affairs, or any proposal to put forward which might help to avert a war somewhere, it is our duty to take advantage of this opportunity of contributing towards the general well-being -of humanity. It is an easy aand -cheap thing to sneer at the League of Nations, and to say that the covenant of that League is only a “ scrap of paper.” Other people have spoken of “ scraps of paper,” and they have found out their mistake. Upon the League of Nations in one form or another the wellbeing - and perhaps tthe existence - of civilization, I believe, truly depends. I hope that this Government will not propose to appoint as our representative a.t> the Assembly of that League, to meet the statesmen of the world, a civil servant, whatever the position of that civil servant may be. I trust that the Government will make an early appointment of representatives to the next Assembly, and that they will bear in mind the desirability of sending a. member of the Ministry, nf possible. At least, they should select a member of this Parliament, in order that there may be a full degree of responsibility resting upon our representative, and in order that he may return to the floor of Parliament and state what he has done, accepting responsibility for it, and having knowledge to assist him in advocating the ideas and the ideals of the League. It is unsatisfactory to rely for our representation upon ladies or gentlemen who happen to .be travelling in Europe at the time. Despite the need for economy, this Commonwealth can well afford to send its best representatives to the League of Nations, and it ought to do so. There is one further matter of a practical nature, in relation to the League of Nations, to which I desire to refer. It is impossible for our representatives to perform their duties adequately unless they have proper information and an adequate staff. I suggest that an officer be assigned from among those on the staff of the High Commissioner in London to actas permanent Secretary to the League of Nations delegations. It should be the duty of that officer to keep in touch with all the developments of the business of the League, so that when our representa tives arrive, they will have some one in attendance who is capable of keeping thom au fait with the business of the Assembly.
Although the League of Nations is, I believe, of almost greater importance in world affairs than one can express in words, it is still necessary for us to attend to the defence of Australia. The Prime Minister has made reference to the defence question, and objection has been raised by honorable members opposite to a- Minister going to London and committing the Commonwealth to some defence scheme which has not received the approval of this Parliament. . In the first place, al defence scheme for Australia cannot be formulated intelligently from an Australian point of view alone. In considering the farces, naval or military, which Australia needs, it is necessary to bear in mind the forces with which they would be co-operating, and, accordingly, the defence of the Commonwealth is essentially a part of an Empire problem. The question should therefore be regarded from that point of view. At the same time it would certainly be very desirable to have a full discussion in the House before any Minister visits London to discuss matters of Empire defence. It will be a matter for regret if a Minister leaves for that purpose without having obtained an opinion from this House, and certainly if he goes without knowing that he is voicing the real opinion of the representatives of Australia. It has to be remembered, however, that unless this Parliament is going to follow the example of its predecessors by abandoning control over finance, and putting the Budget through in an all-night sitting at the end of a session, it is impossible for ‘ any Minister to bind the Commonwealth to an arrangement in London,’ because the carrying out of the arrangement depends on the will of this House. Any Minister going to London for such a purpose must feel assured that he has the support of the House behind him before he even goes so far as to say that he thinks such and such a proposal can be safely adopted.
The subject of defence brings one naturally to the consideration of foreign affairs. This subject is handled in Australia at present in a highly unsatisfactory manner. It is regrettable that an important decision, involving, it may be, the lives of Australians, should have to be arrived at over a week-end. Sometimes it may be that that is unavoidable, but such a decision should be come to by a body of men with knowledge. It is understood that communications are regularly sent to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, relating to foreign affairs. Wc have here an insufficient staff to handle those matters; if, indeed, we have any staff at all. I venture the suggestion that it would be a proper course to appoint a Committee from among the members of both Houses of this Legislature to consider the questions of foreign affairs which arise from time’ to time. It is a mistaken policy for one man to be required to carry the whole burden of even attempt- ing to consider, and deal with, such matters. I am aware that my proposal is not welcome to some members on the Government side; but it is desirable that members of the Opposition - who, in their turn, doubtless will be charged some day with the conduct of the affairs of the country - should have opportunities to make acquaintance with these questions from’ first-hand sources. And, surely, any members appointed to such a Committee could be trusted to recognise that they were so appointed for the purpose of representing and protecting the interests of Australia.
Foreign affairs have been the subject of much rhetoric, particularly since the establishment of the League of Nations. We are sometimes told that we are now almost an independent nation. There can be no independence without full responsibility and full risk. A great deal of nonsense is talked about the international status of Australia. Until we are prepared to take full international responsibility it is absurd for us to say that we are an independent or a separate nation. These new rights of ours require to be handled and dealt with very carefully. The first point in connexion with the foreign affairs of Australia - if, indeed, it be a matter of foreign affairs at all - is the maintenance of the unity of the Empire; because, with the Empire we stand and with it we fall. It would be pitiable if our separate membership of the Lea- gue of Nations were in any way utilized for the purpose of weakening the bonds which at present make us a united Empire. I recall that, in connexion with the first Assembly of the League of Nations, at Geneva, the then Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) announced in the London press that he was going to Geneva representing the Commonwealth as a separate delegation, and without any connexion with the British delegation. That statement was reported in the cabled news in our Australian press, and it was never denied. The path thus indicated is a dangerous path to tread; and, while I hope that we shall be able to utilize to the full our opportunities as members of the League, I. also trust that nothing will be done in any way to compromise that principle, which self-interest as” well as loyalty commends to us, namely, the. preservation of the unity, of the Empire - that is to say, the maintenance of our association with the Motherland.
With respect to trade, the Prime Minister referred in the course of his speech to the desirability of extending our activities in the markets of the Mother Country. Only yesterday we learned in the press that a meat contract had been given by Great Britain to the Argentine. There are serious difficulties and obstacles in the way of extending our markets in England, but there is another market available to us near at hand. I refer to the East, with its millions of possible buyers - people who are wanting our goods, if we can get them- there. Our trouble, however, is that we cannot get them there. The important factor, apparently, is the absence of transport facilities. I suggest, .with some diffidence and hesitation, that the Government give consideration to the matter of taking the Commonwealth Shipping Line off the Home run, where it is always getting into trouble with the shipping rings on the other side of the world, and transferring it to Eastern routes.
An Honorable Member.* - Let us build more ships !
– We have the ships; they are already available. Transport to the East is badly wanted. There is a tremendous market open to us in that direction; and my suggestion, I feel confident, is worthy of serious consideration.
Australia’s trade representation in the East has, apparently, done little towards the extension of Commonwealth interests in that part of the world. Australian merchants are objecting strongly to the manner in which our trade representatives are exercising their functions. Mr. Sheaf, I am informed, is sending orders, or trade inquiries, to individual merchants in Australia. I suggest that that procedure is wrong in principle. Mr. Sheaf occupies his post as a representative of Australia; and any communications of commercial interest which he may have to make should be made through the Trade and Customs Department, or through the Chambers of Commerce, or some other recognised representative body. It is wrong for n Commonwealth representative to enter into direct communication, in relation to trade orders, with individual merchants, and the matter is one which demands the attention of the Government.
Honorable members have been informed that Government Departments are to be re-arranged, and that repatriation is to come under the control of the Treasury. In that Department some 600 returned men. are employed at present; and, not unnaturally, they are somewhat anxious concerning their fate. I ask that the Government should make an announcement to the effect that, so long as repatriation work is continued, it shall be done by the existing branch, comprising, us it does, a skilled and experienced staff of ex-soldiers.’
Much has been said in the course of the debate regarding industrial matters. Some honorable members opposite have approached the question as though there were a matter of principle involved in particular industries having access to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In my view, what is required in industrial matters is that, in so far as there is control, there should be a single control of a single industry and not a dual control. I am not in favour of the abolition of compulsion in dealing with industrial affairs, for that would lead to industrial anarchy. This subject is a practical one, and it is being dealt with in an unpractical way. The words contained in the Commonwealth Constitution, namely, that the Par liament shall have power to make laws for-
Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State …. have been the cause of a tremendous volume of litigation. I may say that I speak with some knowledge. I feel somewhat ashamed when I think of the fees which I have earned -in appearing, at one time and another, for both sides of industry, before the High Court in an endeavour to find out what those words mean. The words which confer this industrial power should be plain and clear. There should be no necessity for High Court arguments as to their meaning. That power is a peculiarly limited power. The Parliament has power to legislate, not in relation to industrial disputes or matters, but only in relation, to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention or settlement of Inter-State disputes. Thus, Parliament is bound down to conciliation and arbitration, and cannot adopt any other means. Parliament should not be so bound. If this Legislature is to control industrial matters at all, it should, in relation to those matters have full control. It should not be limited in its choice of means. One result of this peculiar limitation in the Constitution is that an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is unalterable by any power in Australia. No Parliament can touch it; it is beyond the reach of this Parliament and of the Parliament of any State. That is inconsistent with our general idea of representative government. Where power is given to legislate in industrial matters, ib should be full power. Under such a power this Parliament might determine wages directly, or it might utilize Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration or Wages- Boards as it pleased. That, at present, is impossible. The criterion which distinguishes Federal from State jurisdiction at present is a totally unreal one, having no relation to the realities of the industrial, situation. The distinction depends upon whether or not a dispute extends beyond the limits of 3i State. When that clause was inserted in the Constitution it obviously was intended to refer to workers who travelled from State to State, and to industries which are a single industry throughout the Commonwealth. In practice, however, any body of employers or employees is able to create a “ paper “ dispute by serving a log and thus removing the matter from State to Federal jurisdiction. In consequence, we have both the States and the Commonwealth exercising jurisdiction over the same matters, and we have Federal awards, Wages Board determinations, and Industrial Court judgments all dealing with the same industry. The position is absurd. There ought to be a single control, whether it be by the Commonwealth or by the various States. Is it desirable that the -whole of the control should be by the Commonwealth? I suggest not. It is quite impracticable for a Commonwealth Court - sitting, as a rule, in one of the eastern capital cities, generally in Melbourne - to deal satisfactorily and expeditiously with the whole of the industries of this continent. At present, with a President and two deputy Presidents, working as hard as they can, I believe that no -fewer than 147 matters await hearing. As we all know, matters are strung out for years, because it is impossible for an Australian Court to deal within a reasonable time with everything which requires to be adjudicated upon. Accordingly, there ought to be some Hue of demarcation, some matters being left to the States and others being dealt with by the Commonwealth Court.
Reference has been made to the Conference of Attorneys-General now sitting in this city. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth will listen very carefully to what those gentlemen have to say, and will arrive at some means of dividing industrial matters between the Commonwealth and State tribunals.
There is the matter of State public servants. At present those officers are very excited at the prospect of. getting before the Commonwealth- Arbitration Court. -In that, no question of principle is involved. They believe - and doubtless they have grounds for their belief - that they are likely to get more favorable conditions from that tribunal than along other avenues. That is simply a position which happens to exist at the present moment; it is not a reason for making a big change - or for allowing one to be made - in the method of dealing with
State public servants. As long as we have a Federation we shall have a Commonwealth Government and State Govern- . ments, and it is as much the right of a State Government to control its servants as it is the right of the Commonwealth Government to control its servants. The position would be entirely different under a unified system. As long as we have a Federation, each Government should control its own Service.
It appears to me that the State public servants, in their present enthusiasm for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, do not realize what the result will be if they succeed in maintaining their present position - in which they have been placed owing to the recent decision of the High Court of Australia. The members of this Parliament, of course, will have nothing to do with it; the members of their own Parliaments will have nothing to do with it; the whole question will depend upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which cannot be appealed to, as appeals can be made to members of Parliament. Accordingly, it seems to me that these gentlemen are making a mistake in endeavouring to shift the responsibility - which really rests upon their own Governments and Parliaments - on to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The Prime Minister has not made a definite announcement in this House on the subject of the Commonwealth Bank, but there have been indications that it is proposed to appoint a Board of Directors. I regard the Commonwealth Bank at present as being a highly successful institution. While as a general thing it might bo said that one-man control is undesirable, I shall require to hear strong reasons why- a departure should be made from a system of control which now is highly successful. To introduce a Board of Directors would increase the head expenses, and any such increase in the long run leads to a diminution of the service given to the public unless it is shown that such increase improves the efficiency of the institution. Until some reasons are given which render imperative an alteration, I propose to stand by the present system.
Something has been said regarding an amendment of the Constitution, and a proposal to summon a Convention for that purpose. There are some matters in the Constitution which require the attention of this House and qf the people of Australia; one of them is obvious to us to-day. There are sitting - or entitled to sit - in the Senate to-day gentlemen who have been rejected at the poll, but who hold their seats until 30th June. That is not democratic government; it is inconsistent with the idea of democratic government. Yet those senators cannot properly retire; they have to do their duty for the full term. Some alteration in the method of electing senators should be made, in order to get rid of that difficulty.
There also is the question of finance. At the present time the Commonwealth Government is collecting millions of pounds that it does not want, for the purpose of handing to the States 25s. per head of population. The Commonwealth Government is incurring all the odium which necessarily accompanies the imposition of heavy taxation. The question of finance requires further consideration in order that, if possible, some allocation might be made of sources of revenue between the States and the Commonwealth.
The question of industrial powers I have dealt with to some extent. That matter can be handled, to a considerable extent, by the passing of legislation by the Parliament without any alteration of the Constitution. The question of State public servants can, for example, be handled effectively by legislation, without any alteration of the Constitution.
There is one other matter - probably an unpopular one - to which I wish to refer. In his Budget speech last year, referring to the necessity for practising economy in the Public* Service, the present Prime Minister said that a great obligation .rested upon this House to set an example. He forecasted the introduction of a measure providing for a reduction in the salaries paid to honorable members. I hope an opportunity will be afforded to us to consider the question of a reduction in members’ salaries this session. The people expect it, and the Prime Minister, in the last Parliament, said there was a great obligation resting upon Parliament to attend to the matter.
I am opposed to the proposal for a Convention to consider constitutional al- terations. When the Constitution was inaugurated there was no Commonwealth Parliament, and it was essential to form a body for the purpose of drawing up a scheme to submit to the people. That scheme contains provisions for its own amendment. It requires that amendments shall first be passed by Parliament and then submitted to the people by referendum. There is no provision in the Constitution for a Convention. If a Convention were held it would merely present a report with which the House and the Senate could deal as members wished. The report of a Convention has no legal or constitutional effect whatsoever. It would be merely the report of the persons who happened to be elected to it. It would involve what would amount to a general election, and probably a considerable number of members of this House would be elected to it. Why not follow the ordinary course laid down in tho Constitution,’ of making up our own minds and submitting our decisions to the people? I suggest that it is desirable to appoint a small Committee or Commission of experts for the purpose of advising upon the actual working of the Constitution since the establishment of the Commonwealth, in order that there may be something for Parliament to work upon in considering its proposals. It is desirable that alterations of the Constitution should be approached not merely from a party point of view. There are some matters, such as finance, which really ought not to be party questions at all, and which urgently require attention. If a Committee of, say, five persons were appointed for the purpose of reporting on the working of the Constitution, and suggesting possible alterations, it would be of great assistance to this House. . It would in no way bind Parliament, hut would provide a great deal of information which would be very valua’ble when Parliament comes to discharge the duties devolving upon it in relation to any amendment of the Constitution.
I thank honorable members for the hearing which they have given me upon the occasion of my first speech in this House. I wish to say, in conclusion, that if the performance of the Government equals its promise, I shall be prepared to extend my support to it, but performance is distinct from promise. ‘ I hope the performance will be forthcoming, and knowing the character of the gentlemen occupying the Government bench, I have no reason to doubt that performance’ will follow the promise.
. –I feel I should be wanting in my duty to those people who have intrusted me with their representation if I did not register their protest, and express their indignation, at the proceedings that have taken place in the public life of the Commonwealth of Australia during recent months. I desire to recount the circumstances of the elections of 1908, and to compare the marked similarity between those elections and that of recent date. In 1903 the elections were held in the same month of the year, and on’ the same date of the month, as the last elections, and marked apathy and indifference were shown by the people. The Government that went to the country, the Deakin Government, .came back with twentyseven members supporting it. On the present occasion the Hughes Administration returned, from the polls with twentyseven members supporting it. In 1903 the Labour party was able to advance its numbers to the extent of seven, which is the same gain as was secured by the Labour party at the recent elections. A Fusion Government resulted from the elections of 1903. I have no doubt that in some respects history will repeat itself upon the present occasion. The ReidMcLean Fusion Government, which was able to survive for ten months because of the great length’ of time it spent in recess, is to be followed in example by the present Government, which feels that the only security it can have is the salvation and shelter of an early and a long recess. Even under the favorable circumstances which presented themselves to the Reid-McLean Government, the Leaders were able to hold their supporters and retain the reins of government for a period of ten months. If the Bruce-Page Government is not defeated oil the present occasion, and is able to survive the same length of time after meeting the House again, it will be a great surprise to me. Any reconstruction of the Government that may take place will not bring to it security for a further lease of life, because I am satisfied that the chief factor prompting those who are members and supporters of the Government is pay and position. Their actions of recent months have proved that their only desire is for place and pay. I am satisfied that,- with the feeling of dissatisfaction prevailing, and the heartburnings of those who are outside the Governmenttowards those who are inside, the continual intrigues that will take place, and the constant efforts of the “ outs “ to secure the place of the “ins,” the Government will not long be able to retain the confidence “of a majority of the members of this House. I wish to give some idea of my reason for protesting against the Government occupying the Treasury bench one day longer, and to state why I support most heartily the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), which constitutes a well-merited rebuke. At the last general election the Labour party secured a majority of the first preference and transferable votes of the electors of the Commonwealth, and if the votes of the people and the manner in which they were registered are to count for anything in the counsels of this country, a Labour Government should now be occupying the Treasury bench. Taking the first preference and transferable votes cast for the Senate at the last election - and these are a true index of the desire of the people - we find that the Labour candidates secured a total of 789,248 votes, whereas the combined anti-Labour vote amounted to only 772,806. There was thus a majority o.f nearly 17,000 votes in favour of Labour. These figures are a true reflex of the desire of the people as to what party should administer the affairs of the country; but the constitution of this House has prevented effect being given to that desire.
Within the last few weeks there has been some alteration in the position of parties in this House; but at the declaration of the polls there were twenty-nine Labour members, twenty-seven Nationalist?, fifteen members of the party which used, but has ceased, to be the Country “party, and four Independents and Liberals. The one-time Country party of fifteen members has since submerged it3 identity by joining forces with a party of which it spoke disparagingly throughout the last Parliament, and which it criticised in the most hostile manner. With that party it is to-day linked arm in arm, in order to obtain the fruits of office. The Labour party correctly gauged tlie hypocritical character of the Country party, which in the last Parliament sat in the Ministerial corner and on different occasions moved votes of no confidence against the Nationalist Government, although when the division bells rang it allowed some of its members conveniently to absent themselves from the chamber in order to save the very Government which it had attacked. The present Treasurer (Dr. Earl« Pa.ge), as Leader of the Country party which existed in the last Parliament, advanced many reasons why the Nationalist Government of that day should not possess the confidence of the House; but when a want-of-confidence motion submitted by him went to. a division, some of his own followers professed not to have heard the division) hells ringing in a certain room, although they were heard by others in the same room. Then, again, there were members of the Country party which existed at that time who absented themselves from the House and did not even make provision for pairs when a division on a censure motion was taken. That was the attitude adopted by some of them in connexion with motions of no confidence launched against the Nationalist Government on behalf of their own party. Having regard to* the insincerity and hypocrisy thus displayed by the Country party when it launched attacks against the Nationalist Government, we may well be pleased that, as a party, 4t no longer exists. It has no claim to a place in this House. It is fitting that the Couutry party, as such, should cease to be, and now forms part of the anti-Labour alliance.
At the recent general election the Hughes Administration was rejected by the people, hut the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was in no hurry to vacate the office of Prime Minister. As a member of this House said of a former Government, he had almost to be dragged from office, like a screaming boy from a tart shop, in the words of the late Mr. Deakin. That remark is most applicable to the attitude . of the ex-Prime Minister on this occasion, who, notwithstanding the adverse verdict of the people, did his utmost to retain office.
Sit tiny suspended from 638 ito 8 p.m.
– This did not deter the right honorable gentleman from endeavouring to evade the consequences of the decision of the people, so emphatically declared at the election, and he tried to arrange with the party that had professed hostility to him earlier, a modus vivendi to carry on the King’s government in this country. There was move and countermove, plot and counterplot, for a number of weeks, in the effort to enable the right honorable gentleman to retain his position as Prime Minister, and carry on in defiance of the will of the people, as expressed on 16th December last. Although the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) takes great credit for having rendered a national service in deposing the right honorable member for North Sydney from, the office of Prime Minister, I want to say that the professed hostility of the Country party to the right honorable member was not so real as the Treasurer would have us believe. As a matter of fact, at one of its executive meetings, the Country party actually passed a vote of confidence in the exPrime Minister, and the Treasurer received, from a responsible officer of the Country party in Queensland a very clear indication of what supporters of the party in that State expected him to do, and that was to support the Nationalist Government led by the right honorable member for North” Sydney. We find that the Graziers Association of Queensland that assists materially to supplement the funds of anti-Labour political organizations; demanded that loyalty should be shown to the right honorable member for North Sydney, and indicated that if the Country party expected a share in the subsidy offered by the Graziers Association, the members of the party would have to do their part in loyally upholding the Government in power at that time. It was found that certain interests here were able to overcome the difficulties which stood in the way of deposing the ex -Prime” Minister, but a further effort was made by certain factions to still .act contrary to the will and wish of the people in the arrangements made for carrying on the King’s government. I am seeking information concerning the causes which brought these factions together, and the circumstances which have been considered sufficient to justify the Country party in losing its identity as a party, subordinating the principles it professed prior to the last elections, and becoming part and parcel of a National organization. I should like to know what it was that induced the members of the Country party to become reconciled with the people whom they criticised so severely in the last Parliament. I have been anxious to discover what good’ motives may have been responsible for the efforts of those who constitute the anti-Labour forces. Were they animated by a real desire to serve the best interests of the Commonwealth? What service did they desire to render the country, and how did they propose to render it? I found that there was no lofty motive prompting these persons in the bargaining, intriguing, and manoeuvring which took place, and which necessitated one of the chief actors in this political conspiracy leaving the train at a. station outside the capital of this State in order that he might secretly visit the other chief actor in one of the most fashionable flats in a most fashionable suburb of this metropolis. There was not one line of policy or common understanding to bring together these two leaders. The one and only consideration by which they were actuated was the desire to secure position and pay. The Treasurer has come through the present political situation with anything but credit to himself and those whom he previously led. The most sordid motives by which men can be actuated were the chief factors in bringing about the present fusion, coalition or composite Ministry. Its formation brings discredit, not only upon those who were the chief engineers responsible for it, but upon every person in this House prepared to stand behind it and pledge it any measure of support. The present Government came into office on the 9th February of this year. On the 8th February Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page announced officially that the following arrangements had been made by them -
That was the official announcement of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer regarding the basis of the agreement which had been arrived at between the two parties. But it did not contain one line of policy. Apparently the only tiling that concerned the managers who negotiated the alliance was their respective positions, and the possibility of their followers being agreeable to their acceptance of the Ministerial positions that were the plums in the political pie. We. were not told one word concerning the policy or principles which actuated these men in coming together. Another statement was made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) - the other half of the composite mind. In a press telegram from Grafton on the 14th February, the honorable member is reported to have said -
I knew what I wanted and I went after it in my own way. People may differ as to my method of doing things, simply because they do not understand the difficulties of the position, but I think it will be generally admitted that I have brought the party through with flying colours.
have every hope that the present arrangement will work well. We will keep our part of the compact, and so long as the other side does the same, and I believe they will, all will be. well. Criticism has been levelled at me because of the position of certain Nationalist members on the other side, but it should be recognised that there was a limit as to how far I could go in dictating the Ministers whom Mr. Bruce should select.
That statement also is devoid of any item of policy. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) in referring on the 7th February to the political situation, said -
Although there was absolute unanimity on the part of the Nationalists that a Composite Ministry should be formed, the division of portfolios should be on a reasonable basis.
Again we see that the only consideration in the minds of those who to-day sit on the Treasury bench was the division of the spoils; no regard was shown for the verdict of the people on the 16th December. Since the 9th February there has been ample time for an agreement between the parties in regard to policy, but a press report of the 20th February said -
It may be stated definitely that no agreement has yet been reached between Dr. Page and Mr. Bruce in regard to details of policy.
The Prime Minister has stated” that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is unreasonable,, inasmuch as the Government have not had sufficient time for the formulation of a policy. No previous Government has required so long a time to prepare its policy for submission to Parliament. In 1904, the Deakin Government met the House on the 2nd March, and a noconfidence motion was carried against them on the 21st April. The Watson Government which followed - the first Labour Government in the history of politics - required only three weeks in which to prepare its policy and submit it to the House. That Government lasted for four months, and was defeated on a no-confidence motion on the 24th August. It was succeeded by the Reid-McLean Administration - a. Composite or Coalition Government - which presented its policy to Parliament on the 7th September. Yet. in the face of such records the present Government ask for an indefinite recess in order that they may formulate a- policy. It must be remembered that the Government will not be compelled to call this House’ together before the beginning of July, because they have Supply until the end of the financial year. But it is unreasonable to ask that Parliament should go into recess for such a long period, and this House should not’” permit that course to be adopted. Evidently the Government feel the need for strengthening their lease of life, which is jeopardized by the manoeuvring and sharp practices which surrounded the formation of the alliance. High and lofty motives are claimed for all the intriguing and manoeuvring on behalf of those honorable members who now occupy the Treasury benches. They were selected by their respective parties as managers of the .conference or negotiations, and it is important to remember that, instead of reporting to their parties and securing indorsement of the agreement arrived at, they hurried along to the Governor-General to be sworn in. as Ministers of the Crown This sharp practice, amounting almost to base treachery against their colleagues, should not be forgotten. It was unworthy of men occupying positions as responsible Ministers of the Crown, and it is to be hoped that the people will have an opportunity, in the near future, of registering their disapproval. The Prime Minister admitted the other day that, notwithstanding the verdict of the electors on the 16 th December, the only objective of the Nationalist and Country parties was to keep Labour out. In reply to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who said that the parties in office had no common principles or common ideals, the Prime Minister declared that their common ideal was to keep Labour out of power. He added that some things were so terrible to contemplate that almost any action to effect that would be justified. Honorable members opposite who have come together in such an unworthy manner are now endeavouring to make the people believe that members on this side of the House are actuated by extreme motives. One honorable member, speaking from the Ministerial benches to-day, emphasized that the one great concern of his political life was to see that Labour was kept out during the whole of his political career. We have been told by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) that the composite Ministry will have his support for the same reason. I hope the electors will take notice of the degrading circumstances in the political history pf the last few months. I believe that if an appeal were made to them in the near future, Labour would be returned by an overwhelming majority in this Chamber. The position of the Government cannot be justified on constitutional grounds. I find in Todd’s Parliamentary Government of England, W. Ridges’ Constitutional Law of England and Sir Henry Parkes’ Fifty Years in the Making Australian History, authoritative opinion which proves absolutely that, under our Constitution, those who now occupy the Treasury benches have no justification for being there. Some regard should be paid to those eminent authorities. But honorable members opposite were so. eager and hungry for office that they disregarded the precedents which should govern the formation of «..« Administration. Even the manner in which tho Drc:,ent Prime Minister was summoned to undertake the responsibility of forming a Government was quite contrary to that observed under the British Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should also have been called into consultation and his advice sought by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. That he was not called upon I regard as a decided slight, indeed, an insult to the Labour party, which at the time had the greatest public following of any party in the House. I enter my protest against the way in which the Labour party was overlooked on that occasion; and two newspaper extracts which I shall read will show how the position was regarded by the press. I may say that I have very little confidence in the Melbourne press; it is guilty of exaggeration, and, at times, deliberate misrepresentation, contemptible in the extreme. There is an important service which the press can render to the country, but, unfortunately, a section of it has proved unworthy of any public confidence that may have been reposed in it. The two newspapers to which I refer are certainly regarded as having some right to speak on political affairs. One is the Sydney Daily Telegraph,, in which there appears the following: -
The electors crushed the Hughes Government at the polls, and drastically reduced his following. In view of his appeal for an absolute majority, the significance of this defeat cannot be watered down.
Those who constitute tho present Government were colleagues and supporters of the Hughes Administration which was re-‘ moved by the decision of the people at the recent’ election. Then, in the Age this appeared: -
The Hughes Cabinet has been routed by the people, and those of its members who remain can be allowed, by neither cringing nor audacity, to force their way into the new Government. Mr. Bruce has no more right to lead a Government of Australia than has the rejected Prime Minister, whom he backed in acts that the public hotly condemned, and with whom he vowed as a man of honour that he would go down.
The present Prime Minister’s professions of fidelity to his previous chief have been totally disregarded in the face of all constitutional authority and recognised procedure. He was prepared to accept the responsibilities of office, although at the time he was not an accredited or recog nised leader of any party. By careful manoeuvring and intriguing the two parties opposite were able to come to an agreeable arrangement, by which they couid divide the spoils of office and enjoy the emoluments of a position to which they had no right; and their conduct cannot be justified in the eyes of the people. The Prime Minister is certainly a man of “ big business.” He is a very successful and influential merchant of Flinderslane, and he has been associated with the directorates of some of the big insurance bodies and other financial institutions of the country. He has been a member of the directorate of the Equity Trustees Company; and, as I have said, he fairly represents “ big business.” We know that ever since the Labour Government left, office in 1916 the interests of the people generally of this great Commonwealth have been subordinated to commercial and financial interests; and it is only reasonable to suppose that the people will be called upon to make even further sacrifices in order to meet the wishes of the great financial corporations the Prime Minister stands for and represents. In the future we shall find still greater burdens placed on the shoulders ofthe people, to give to the masters of the Government greater concessions and rewards for services rendered in making office possible for the present members of the Government. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite know something about that ring of merchants in Melbourne known as the “ Seven Angels.” If the members of that ring are angels, they are angels of the wrong sort; they have been cast out of the better place, and have come to earth with the idea of exploiting the people of this and other countries. In Melbourne there are merchants who act in restraint of trade, and certainly do that which sends work and employment out of this country. All this they are able to do by their clever handling of the commercial position, not only in this, but in other cities of the Commonwealth. They are able to make exorbitant demands upon this Government in the matter Of concessions. I could cite cases of great industries operating in the Commonwealth which are in the power of this commercial combine known as the “Seven Angels,” and show how it is controlling industries, not only to the detriment of the undertakings themselves, but to the disadvantage of the people of Australia.
– “Who are they?
-I am in a position to give honorable members information concerning these commercial pirates who aresupporting the Government, and who are prepared to extract their full measure of advantage from them in return for the contributions they make towards their electioneering funds. An agency, which comprises seven commercial undertakings, is controlling industries in the Commonwealth, and compelling many who desire to patronize them and distribute their manufactures to purchase their requirements in other countries, because they are not prepared to adhere to certain stipulations. These are the true masters of this Government.
– I ask honorable members to please restrain their conversation as I find it difficult to follow the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– The prestige of politics in Australia has suffered severely in consequence of the recent actions of honorable members opposite, and it is difficult to endeavour to gain public confidence for our parliamentary institutions when such disgraceful and unworthy tactics as have been displayed are resorted to. Complaints have been made by supporters of the Government concerning the disregard which certain members of the community have shown towards constitutional procedure, and endeavours have been made to make it appear that we are the offenders. Those opposed to the Labour party are responsible for creating prejudice and destroying confidence in parliamentary institutions more than any other section. I trust, however, that before long we shall be able to prove to the people that they would be justified in placing their trust in the Labour party. I quite agree with the opinion expressed in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 19th February, 1923.
– That is a good democratic paper.
– It is one which seldom has a good word to say for honorable members on this side. That paper, in referring to the Composite Ministry, said -
If the debate is to be swung into sane lines, the lifting must come from the strong men outside the Cabinet. They can so swing it, and whether they do so or not will be a severe test of their sincerity and their patriotism.
I have never heard a stronger indictment of any Administration than that. It will be a very severe test of the sincerity and patriotism of the followers of the present Government if they place their confidence in them after what has happened. In the formation of the Cabinet South Australia has been treated disgracefully, and it is unreasonable to suggest that such an important State, which has always been able to claim adequate representation in the various Commonwealth Governments, should be deprived of its rights. An expression of indignation is surely expected from me, and I can assure honorable members that South Australians do not appreciate the idea of being represented in the Cabinet by only an Honorary Minister. While I amnot likely to display a parochial spirit in such matters, I feel that South Australia has a right to greater representation.
– But you have “ a gift from the gods.”
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) informed the people of South Australia that they have secured “ a, gift from the gods.” We do not want these generous gifts. We would prefer to have that to which we are entitled, namely, a Minister with a portfolio. Although I have strong objections to the political views of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), I believe that his experience and his status as a member of the House gave him a better claim to Ministerial position than that of any other member who might have been chosen from the anti-Labour representatives from South Australia. I hope that with any reconstruction of the Cabinet in the near future South Australia will secure adequate representation. Not till then can we expect that State to receive the consideration to which it is entitled. Part of the compact under which South Australia handed the Northern Territory over to the Commonwealth declared that the North-South railway on the direct route should be constructed, and until that compact has been honoured South Australia will not have been properly treated.
By referring to the pages of Webster’s dictionary, I have endeavoured to ascertain the exact meaning of a composite Ministry. I find “ composite “ there defined as “made up of parts.” The present Ministry, however, might more fittingly be described as being made up of odds and ends. If the Government were to appeal to the people for an indorsement of their position, there would be an overwhelming decision against them. There would be a condemnation of their action in accepting the responsibility of office when the voice of the people was so emphatically against them. I hope that it will not be long before some opportunity is afforded the electors to register their distinct protest against the unseemly rush for Ministerial positions by those who now occupy them.
.- It is with considerable hesitancy and reluctance that I intrude into this debate with a contribution that may unduly prolong it. There are, however, one or two subjects to which I feel it my duty to refer, and I am emboldened to do so by a knowledge of that traditional consideration which is always given to new members, and which I venture to hope may be extended in some special measure to one who, like myself, is not only new to this assembly, but to political life in general. I feel this more particularly because I am standing in the place of one who must have been a very familiar figure in these halls.
– And an able one.
– Yes, a very able. one. Mr. Fowler was returned to this Parliament at the first election, and, until this session, he had continuously filled a seat as the representative of the fairest city in the Commonwealth. I wish to pay respectful tribute to the public services of a man who for such a long and uninterrupted period, performed his duties in this Chamber, and his even more arduous tasks in connexion with special Parliamentary Committees.
The Governor - General’s Opening Speech, although it contains references to one or two important matters is, of itself, very short, and it must be taken in conjunction with the speech delivered by the Prime Minister last Thursday, which, like a postscript to a lady’s , .. – letter. is probably more important than the epistle to which it .is appended. I do not propose to review many of the subjects dealt with during this debate, and survey, as it were, the world “from China to Peru.” I wish to refer to two subjects in particular. .But before doing so I intend to make a brief reference to a matter that has been mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie). I refer to the appointment to the Public Service Superannuation Fund Board of a person who is not a returned soldier. I know that the matter is difficult and full of complications.- I have inquired a great deal about the subject, and I am inclined to think that, not only has an injustice been done, but that very probably the Government have been unintentionally misled. I strongly urge that the matter be carefully reconsidered. Although a certain decision has been reached, I understand that it is not irrevocable. I advance my plea in the interests of the Government themselves as well as of those of the men concerned.
Of the matters dealt with in the speech of the Governor-General, and in that of the Prime Minister, two stand out as specially important to myself as a representative of the interests of Western Australia. The first of these has to do with the constitutional position. During the past few days .there has been a conference in Melbourne dealing with some of the important points in regard to which Commonwealth and State powers have been clashing. I am pleased to learn from the Prime Minister that the Government intend to translate certain long-standing promises into actual fact, and that, at a later. period, they propose to institute a Constitution Convention. Questions relating to the respective powers of the Commonwealth and States are of great importance. Many instances of clashes between those powers may appear insignificant in themselves; yet there have been constant irritations and annoyances. These, like a small thorn in the flesh, may eventually give rise to a festering sore, and ultimately produce a dangerous gangrene. It is desirable that these petty sources of pain and friction should be eliminated. Many a matrimonial alliance has been due merely to circumstances of pro- pinquity. There is, in Western Australia particularly, a growing feeling that the sympathy and cordiality of the Commonwealth Government are in ratio to the proximity of the State concerned in the Central Administration. We have had many verbal assurances of sympathy and help. We have heard of an urgent desire oh the part of the Commonwealth to co-operate with the States; but this co-operation, when translated into practice, has meant a certain measure of incorporation; and the Commonwealth, when stepping in, ostensibly to assist the State, has applied measures. which have sometimes resulted in the absorption of State activities and powers. I am aware that it is difficult to avoid such an outcome, and that it is sometimes brought about by the States themselves. The latter cannot expect monetary assistance from, the Commonwealth without surrendering a certain amount of control in respect of those matters upon which assistance is sought; but there has been too great a tendency on the part of the Commonwealth to take advantage of the necessity of the States in order to increase the control and extend the right o? intervention of the Central Government. I am not arguing for or against Unification versus Federation. That, of itself, is a big question upon which I am inclined to think that the public mind is uncertain, if not altogether vague. We have a Federation; but the spirit of the Federation has, in many cases, been disregarded. I am encouraged, however, because the new Government propose to immediately tackle the question of the relationship of Commonwealth and States, and to do so in a comprehensive and business-like manner. It would appear, indeed, that the Government intend to adopt a really helpful and considerate outlook. That which is required is not necessarily an amendment of Federal laws and Constitution, but a changed attitude of mind. We want the Commonwealth to look sympathetically upon the remote States, which are struggling to do their part in the development of the Commonwealth as a whole, and to .regard them, not as exigent poor relations, but as members of the family, possessing equal rights and claims, and entitled to every possible consideration. The remoter States are not making appeals for charity; they are merely asserting their just dues as equal members of the family to which all belong. They are not demanding rights, but right!
Western Australia, in the past, has had many causes of complaint. I do not propose to deal with them in detail, but I may mention, as examples, the matter of transferred properties, the capitation grant, and the intrusion by the Commonwealth into State fields of taxation. In these directions the Commonwealth has done much to seriously cripple the financial government of Western Australia. There has also been serious overlapping of functions, which has involved expenditure alike to ‘State and Commonwealth. Grave overlapping has occurred in connexion with electoral and taxation matters. There has been a similar tendency respecting health control, immigration, roads, science, and industry, and industrial arbitration. The Commonwealth authority, advancing one plea and another, sometimes acting with the semblance of benevolence, and on other occasions directly exhibiting arbitrary power, has stepped in to take from the States rights and privileges formerly indisputably possessed by them. In all these matters, the Commonwealth holds the big end of the stick. I specially plead, however, that, in the interests of the distant States, the Commonwealth shall use that stick as a lever to. raise and help them rather than as a club to lay them prostrate.
I have known Western Australia for many years. I have learned to love it. I have travelled over a great portion of it. When you look upon that vast area, Mr. Speaker, and consider the comparative fewness of its* people, I feel sure that you will share with me respect and admiration for their courage and determination in developing it.
– They are mostly Victorians, from my constituency.
– Then they have been considerably improved by going to the West. It is an axiom that the greater includes the less. Western Australia has been able to incorporate amongst its citizens even the best from the other States, and to improve them.
The enterprise, courage, and foresight of the men who have tackled the problem of developing this, the largest State in the Commonwealth, are astounding. It is discouraging and heartbreaking to these men if, after all their struggles and difficulties, they do not get from the central Administration the sympathy and substantial help which they are entitled to expect. They are deserving of it. The Commonwealth as a whole cannot be expected to flourish and grow strong if one portion of it is neglected and is allowed to languish. I impress upon the Government the necessity for looking upon the relations between the States and the Commonwealth in an entirely different spirit from that which sometimes has been demonstrated in the action of Commonwealth Governments in the past.
The only other question to which I wish to refer is one on whichmy observations, I believe, will not be so favorably received by this House. I am delighted at the fusion of the Country party with the Nationalists, because of the view held by members of the Country party on Tariff questions. We have constantly heard that Protection is the settled policy of Australia. I know of no authority other than the people of Australia which is entitled to say that. I believe that the people of Australia have been sandbagged into a stupefied acceptance of that idea; but I believe also that they are slowly recovering their consciousness, and are beginning to reason the whole question out afresh. I am glad to know, therefore, that incorporated in the new Government is a large party which is pledged to a certain amount of Tariff reform. I do not expect miracles; I do not expect common sense in full measure to come even to an assembly of this kind, but I am sure that it will come in time. The prospect at the present moment is fair and smiling; the sea is smooth, and the sky is almost cloudless, but on the horizon there is a small cloud - no bigger than a man’s hand - and it betokens the coming change; to meet which I would advise the high Protectionist advocates to shorten sail. If one looks up history he will find that the position in Australia to-day is almost exactly parallel with that which existed in Great Britain at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the fiscal policy was changed. I feel convinced that public feeling is changing. I can speak with absolute certainty respecting the electorates in Western Australia. There is a feeling of absolute revulsion against the present excessive Commonwealth Tariff. That feeling is growing everywhere. Somebody said to me to-day that he did not think such a thing as a Free Trader lived. I can find plenty of them, even in Melbourne, and their influence is growing. Honorable members may laugh and jeer, but before long they will have to face the hard fact, which they will not be ableto explain away.
The fiscal policy of Great Britain was completely reversed very soon after the close of the Napoleonic wars. The conditions which led to a reversal of that policy which had been accepted for many years, are existing in Australia to-day. I have read of, or heard, some of the superficial palliatives which have been proposed to meet the difficulties with which we are conf ronted, and I have been astounded at the shallowness of the recipes put forward; they have been attempts only to soothe and allay the symptoms rather than to get at the root of the disease. The policy which the Country party may be expected to inaugurate undoubtedly is necessary to the farmers. Even that great thunderer, the Age, a day or two ago published a letter from a farmer setting out the evils of high protective duties in their relation to his calling. The Age considered it of sufficient importance to devote a very long argumentative leader to a refutation of the statements of the writer of that letter. It is admitted almost everywhere to-day that the farmers require a reduction of the Tariff in so far as it affects them. I hope that the Country party will persist with such a policy. They will have my hearty support in every way. I want them not to confine themselves merely to the farmers. What about the production in our great mining centres, where that industry is severely handicappel by the very high protective duties which, in some cases, have rendered almost impossible the prosecution of mining?
– You mean the main shaft in Hay-street?
– The honorable member knows what I mean, and he entirely agrees with me; he represents a mining district. Mining requires relief from its burdens in as great a measure as farming does. This relief should go further, and extend to other parts of the community. The whole of the public of Australia today are suffering from the high duties which they have to pay.
– The workers most of all.
– I am coming to that. The high protective duties which are imposed are the principal cause of the high cost of living in Australia to-day. Many industries in Western Australia are being strangled, and the development of the State is being retarded because of those high duties.
I was a little surprised to read in the Governor-General’s Speech congratulations upon the satisfactory state of the trade and commerce of Australia, but I thought at the time that the statement could hardly be serious. I was not surprised, therefore, when the Prime Minister, in his speech to this House, pointed out that the state of trade was not so satisfactory as might at first sight be thought, and he went on to point out, and to stress very particularly, the necessity for finding new markets for our products. I want to ask honorable members, “ How will you secure markets abroad for your products if you are not paid for those products? How will you get paid for them unless you receive goods in payment from the countries to which you send 1 How will you receive goods from those countries in payment for your exports if you put up protective duties to prevent the importation of goods from abroad?” Trade, which is the source of the wealth of any country, is the interchange of goods. I am astonished at the inconsistencies of Protectionists. We talkof building railways, providing harbors, improving means of transport, and doing this, that, and the other thing to try to improve the trade of Australia, and then we put up a high Tariff wall all round Australia so that trade may be hindered and prevented. What is the use of talking about trying to export greater quantities of goods to foreign countries when already the value of our imports is less than that of our exports? The high protective Tariff is hampering the production and development of Australia in every direction. Although this is not an occasion for a full-dress debate on Tariff matters in detail, I hope that an opportunity will be. provided to discuss many of the items of the Tariff schedule, and to give definite and tangible illustrations of the injury that the Tariff is doing to the trade of Australia.
The Anti-dumping Act, which was passed last session, is also a terrible encumbrance upon the trade of Australia. It is having a crippling effect upon industries. The varying interpretations placed upon its provisions and the uncertainty of the values which are to be declared for goods are preventing and hindering importations in all directions. I am constantly besieged with statements of instances of the gross injustice which is being done to honest and honorable importers by the operation of the Act, and by the disabilities in all directions which it places upon incipient industries and the development of the resources of the country. The Act is not fulfilling the purpose for which it was intended. It should be amended very soon, and the functions of the Tariff Board should be decidedly altered, so that it will more readilymeet the trade requirements of Western Australia and the other States of the Commonwealth.
I listened with very great respect and attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) with regard to naval defence. It is strange how, even in this connexion, the Tariff question is of importance. A naval policy will depend for its success upon the establishment of a strong mercantile marine. I have stood on the deck of a ship in Plymouth Harbor, and have witnessed the wonderful scene which I believe has been reproduced in a remarkable picture - “ The Source of England’s Naval Strength.” I have seen the fishing smacks beating out in the sleet and wind to the storm-swept channel; I have seen the schooners of larger size go out on their trading excursions; I have seen the great mercantile liners moving in and out of harbor; and I have seen the naval mosquito craft dashing hither and thither, while the great warships were nosing their way quietly through the fleets ‘ to the deep waters on .their lawful occasions. 1 could not help thinking how the Navy was, after all, simply the fine coping stone, as it were, of that wonderful defence which protects the shores of Great Britain. The establishment of a naval strength depends upon all those other branches of the mercantile marine in which seamen get their training and daring, and those great qualities which have gone to make the English Navy so powerful. We shall not be able to get a native Navy in Australia unless we fully develop all -the branches of the mercantile marine, and unless we build, our ships and train cur men as Great Britain does. I well remember a sentence which fell from the lips of the late Governor-General of the Commonwealth when he was talking about shipbuilding in Australia. He said, “ Australia is an island, and will never become a great nation until she learns to wash her face in salt water.” At the base of all this is successful and profitable shipbuilding. We must have our shipbuilding and our carrying trade if we are to become a great mercantile nation and a -strong naval power. It is a” remarkable fact that the carrying trade of the world is monopolized to such a great extent as it is by Great Britain, and that that carrying and the shipbuilding trade have been developed in conjunction with a reduction of Tariff duties. It is curious - and let those who quote America as a glorious example of Protection, take this to heart - that in the first half of the nineteenth century American ships and American shipbuilding challenged the world ; it even challenged the supremacy of Great Britain herself. America would, very shortly, have overtaken Great Britain, but it adopted a protective policy, while England adopted the reverse. A tremendous change then took place. Today American shipbuilding has gone to the dogs, and England retains the. carrying trade of the world, and always will so long as she preserves those conditions which make shipbuilding a success and enable her to continue to rule the waves.
Let ns look at the enormous Customs revenues which are being gathered in the Commonwealth, and ask ourselves, what do they mean? By means of a Tariff which it was supposed would prevent or
Wi”. Mann. check importations, we are gathering revenue that is not required. We are im-‘ porting materials which the public must have and must obtain from abroad, since they are not being produced in sufficient quantities in our own country; and the consequence is that the people have to pay the enhanced prices caused by high duties. It is in this way only that we can account for the enormous increase in the Customs revenue. And who will deny that the high prices which we have to pay, as the result of heavy Customs duties, constitute an undue burden upon the backs of the people? I am not very well known in this House, but I think I am sufficiently well-known to honorable members on both sides not to be suspected of being a reactionary Conservative. I object to the attempt that has been made to affix a title to me together with other honorable members on this side of the House. That attempt has been made merely to create party strife and party feeling. When honorable members opposite insist upon calling me an anti-Labour man, I repudiate the term.
– Then come over here.
– No, thank you ! I resent the term, for the reason that I believe the principles of the National party are directed far more towards securing the true and sound interests of the working or labouring man than are those of the Socialist and the Communist. I am sure that honorable members opposite will acquit me of any desire to speak in a personal or objectionable sense of them. T have among Labour, men in all the States many personal friends.
– Hear, hear! but the honorable member is mistaken in what hesays.
– That is a matter of opinion. Although I do not wish to speak offensively or insultingly of the opinions, of others, I certainly intend to stand by my own. One of the great causes of quarrel that I have with the official Labour party in Australia is that I do not think they properly understand or serve the interests of the working people of Australia when they endeavour to make out that it is to their benefit to have prohibitive Protectionist duties. I do not say that they deliberately try to mislead the people in this respect - I can respect a man’s opinions even when I think he is mistaken - but honorable members of the Official Labour party do not seem to realize that by means of such duties they are placing on every working man the biggest burden that he can possibly carry. There is nothing more oppressive to a working man of small means than to have to pay “ through the nose “ for everything he has to buy. This applies to not only the duties themselves, but the enhanced prices that he has to pay for all his requirements.
It has been estimated that one Tariff increase on the part of the United States of America alone caused an increase of something like 70,000,000 dollars in the revenues of the Government; but, at the same time, the additional cost to the public, by reason of the increased prices of goods manufactured in America, as well as those imported and affected by this Tariff alteration, meant an increased burden on the public of over 120,000,000 dollars. It is in this way that burdens are piled on the working man, and it affords a reason, and a very good reason, why I should range myself on the side of this Government, a large section of which is pledged to Tariff reform. That one fact alone, in my view, is going to -make the Government a great power in the land. Is is going to secure to them a great deal of support from the ordinary men of the community - not those who are thinking of only their own sectional interests, but the people as a whole, who are becoming sick and tired of the burdens’ that are laid upon them and which are too grievous to be borne any longer.
– I think that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) have had a. hand in this !
– The honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Forrest are quite able to speak for themselves, and, I am sure,” will debate this question with more ability and more detailed knowledge than I have shown. I can assure honorable members opposite that, whatever may be their views on this subject, there is in the State from which
We come a very strong and .growing’ feeling in support of the view I have just enunciated. It matters not whether at the present time honorable members opposite listen, to us or refuse to do so; some day they are going to listen to us. It matters -not whether they jeer or laugh to-day. The feeling to which I have referred is growing, and they must have respect for public opinion. It is not easy to put off the public with shallow, superficial arguments when the hard facts as to what he has to pay as .the result of a 0 high Tariff are coming home to -the mind of the average man every day in the week. If honorable members will put their ears to the ground, metaphorically speaking, I am sure they will hear the rumble of the approaching change; they will hear the approaching tramp of the people who are determined, no matter what politicians may say, that this burden shall be lifted. . The high Tariff advocates already feel that their position is being challenged. Unquestionably they will have to be put upon their defence. They will have once more to seek for fresh argument in the attempt to justify to the people the fallacies with which they have tried so long to deceive them.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of a land tax in lieu of Customs duties?
– That inquiry has no bearing on the point in issue.
I have no desire to weary honorable members by traversing the whole field that has been covered in His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech and in that made by the Prime Minister. I “ have only to say that there are two things which I earnestly desire the Government to pursue carefully and assiduously - two matters to which they have in some way more or less committed themselves, and which constitute a reason why I, at all events, am going to support them by voice and vote so long as they continue to carry out the intentions which they have expressed. The first of these two matters is the promise to give considerate and careful attention to the question of constitutional reform and the readjustment of the relations between the States and the Commonwealth; while the second is a considerable measure of Tariff reform in the direction of ‘ the reduction of the high fiscal duties.
– 1 rise with a great amount of diffidence to speak for the first time in this national Parliament of Australia, and the more so when I remember that circumstances have made me - the first representative of the electorate in New South Wales which is called after the first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the late Sir Edmund Barton. Honorable members on both sides will join with me -> in paying a tribute even at this time to the work of Sir Edmund Barton in the fashioning, of the Constitution under which the Commonwealth is being governed. Although, perhaps, the lapse of time has shown its weak points, it has still served to weld the States of Australia into one nation, bound together by one national sentiment. I wish, sir, to thank you for your promise of guidance to new members of the House, and to thank honorable members generally for the fraternal feelings and kindness shown to us. It seems to me that new members have never come into a Parliament at a more perplexing time for them, than the present. For that reason, if for no other, I shall be glad of the indulgence which I believe it is the custom to show, to new members of this House. I am not, however, asking for any more indulgence from honorable members opposite than was shown by honorable members on this side to the new member for Perth (Mr. Mann). They may feel themselves as free to interject as honorable members on this side did whilst the honorable member for Perth was speaking.
I have said that we come in here at a most perplexing time, and the first perplexity that meets new members on this side is that, whereas we expected to find, two parties occupying the benches on the other side of the House, we find there only one party. We heard throughout the elections that there were two parties,’ but when we look across the chamber we can distinguish only one. . I believe it is contended by honorable members opposite that after all they represent two parties, though we are strongly of the opinion that they are one party, sometimes designated the Composite party, and perhaps better described as the Anti-Labour party. Personally, I am disposed to believe that there is a certain amount of truth in the contention of honorable members- opposite, though it requires one with some experience in political science to discover it. I am reminded of something which occurred upon my fi ret experience of the world of science. Some, years ago I attended a scientific demonstration at * which we were told that it was possible, by passing an electric current through water, to decompose it into two elements. The demonstrator decomposed water into its Iwo constituent elements, which he told us were oxygen and hydrogen. He then went to’ great trouble to point out that separately and singly neither of these elements possessed any of the qualities of the original substance they composed. But we could not see either the oxygen or the hydrogen any more than we can see on the other side a Country party or a Nationalist party. The experiment was most interesting, and the demonstrator went on to say that it was possible to bring the two elements together again, and he proceeded to do so. Every one was very interested in watching the re-combination, but when the demonstrator brought the two gasses together there was a violent explosion, by which two of ‘the persons most interested in the experiment were severely injured. It seems to me that just in the same way the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) passed an electric current - perhaps, I . should say - a hydro-electric current, through the electors, with the result of splitting what was the National party into two elements. He has now succeeded in bringing the two elements together again and forming one political substance.
– When is the explosion to come?
– There was an explosion, and in” that explosion upon the recombination of the two parties, two very interested persons were severely injured. One was the gentleman who previously held the high position now occupied by Mr. Speaker. -As a matter of fact I believe that there were really more than two casualties resulting from the explosion. I have said that there is possibly a certain amount of truth in the contention of honorable members opposite that they still form two parties ; but. just as one could not wash his face in oxygen or dilute whatever he might happen to be drinking with ‘hydrogen, so in the same way neither of the political parties opposite, it seems to me, possesses any of the qualities of the original combination. It cannot, however, be denied that to. honorable members on this side the political parties opposite form one political party, and I warn honorable members opposite that it is possible that the present combination may be decomposed, and that on every occasion of the recombination of its constituent elements there is likely to be another explosion in which some of them may be injured.
The next perplexity, so far as I am concerned’ as a new member, is that the people whom we in New South Wales were led to believe were very conservative appear to be really radical. They certainly did show some degree of conservatism in connexion -with the constitutional procedure upon the opening of Parliament. In the matter of the pomp and ceremony of those proceedings they were very conservative indeed, but with regard to the soul and body of the constitutional precedent, I found them not conservative but actually iconoclastic. Many things which have been customary in the opening of Parliament were radically changed by our friends opposite. I expected in the first place that the Governor-General would have a speech put into his mouth, and that honorable members opposite would elaborate that speech. But we have found no policy at all proposed by honorable members opposite, who have been anything but conservative in that regard. Honorable members on this side might be considered conservative in desiring to retain the essential procedure of the opening of Parliament, and to place no importance at all upon the retention of the customary pomp and ceremony attending the function. Our honorable friends opposite have taken the opposite course. They have retained the pomp and ceremony, but have been quite prepared to change all things that are really important in the constitutional procedure. Instead of a policy, we have had from the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) a simple statement of the position in regard to a number of things. No controversial statements have been made for us to refute. The position would have been obvious whether the Prime Minister had stated it or not. Then we meet with another great perplexity. We have always understood that a Government formed after a general election should be a reflex of the opinions of the people, but in the Ministry before us, the opinions of the people are not proportionately represented. We understood that twenty-seven or twentynine members - the figures are in dispute - were returned to support the Nationalist policy, and fifteen to support the policy of the ‘so-called Country party. A Government has been formed from these two parties, but the representation given to each is certainly not in proportion to the support they respectively received in the country. Six Ministers represent the one-time so-called Nationalist party, and five represent the one-time so-called Country party; but the most bewildering fact of all is that, according to the statements of honorable members opposite, the six Ministers are to have no more power than the five ; the two sections are to be equal. I have always been taught that six was greater than five, but honorable members who’ support the Government have succeeded in confounding a mathematical truth.
Although twenty-seven or twenty-nine pledged themselves before the electors to support the Nationalist policy as then outlined by their then Leader, the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr Hughes), they axe to-night, I believe, supporting quite another policy. Of course, this is only an inference, but it is founded upon, the following statement made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to his constituents at Macleay -
Australia will not be led astray by Mr. Hughes, and the only way to secure government along sound lines is to support Country and Liberal candidates, and to give them sufficient strength in this new Parliament to form a stable Government from amongst those who are opposed to Socialism - not only of thenaked type of the Labour communists, but also of the disguised, fig-leaf type of Mr. Hughes.
On 19th February the same honorable gentleman reminded his electors of what he said just before the election -
Given an addition to the Country party’s’ strength, there will be secured co-ordination out of which will spring stable government, from amongst the Country party, the Liberals, and those of the Nationalists who are anxious to free themselves from the grip of Socialism in which they have been unwillingly held by Mr. Hughes.
The only reasonable inference that a person can draw from those statements is that those honorable members who once belonged to the Nationalist party, and who stated upon the hustings that they were supporting the policy outlined, by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), have deserted that policy in order to combine with the party led by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
The honorable member for North Sydney was hot acceptable to the Treasurer, because his politics were tinged with Socialism; and the present Prime Minister, who taunted honorable members on this side with not having stated upon the platforms our real policy, must accept condemnation for having gone before the people professing to support in detail the policy outlined by his Leader (Mr. Hughes) - for he has never told us in what respect he qualified his support - and later, when the Leader of the Country party refused to coalesce with a party led by that right honorable member because it was tinged with Socialism, having jettisoned the Nationalist policy and joined hands with the socalled Country party. The honorable gentleman may have been led astray, as an honorable member suggests by interjection; but of greater moment to Australia is the fact that all those who voted for the Nationalist policy have been betrayed by the tactics of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. They will not be represented as they should be by honorable members opposite. The electors voted for a certain policy, but that policy is not to becarried out. If the one-time Nationalist members dare to attempt to enforce their policy, the Leader of the Country party will hold a pistol to their heads. The immoral aspect of the situation is that those who voted for the Nationalist party have been tricked and betrayed by this so-called composite Ministry. I may be told that that is no concern of members of the Opposition; but we all are, or should be, guardians of the Constitution, and constitutional practice has been departed from in connexion with the formation of this Ministry. The original crime was the advice given to the Governor-General by the honorable member for North Sydney, then Prime Minister, to send for a gentleman, who did not lead any party in this House, especially as he had not convinced himself that the present Prime Minister would carry out the Nationalist policy as submitted to the people. In what position are those who voted for the Nationalist party? They certainly are not represented in this House to-day.
It is important to remember that though honorable members opposite have achieved office by a species of political intrigue and trickery, the people are looking on, and when they see that honorable members have combined to form a Government, and have sacrificed the principles which they confessed on the platform, the discovery will not add to their respect for either this Parliament as an institution or the laws which it makes. Honorable members opposite often taunt certain industrial organizations with not obeying the laws that are placed on the statute-book. That is a cheap gibe. If honorable members wish the laws of this Parliament to be respected by every section of the community they themselves should show proper respect for constitutional procedure and the rights of the electors. In future, honorable members who sit on the Government side will not have just cause of complaint if certain sections of the people say, “ You have no right to govern; you attained power by trickery, and we hold in low esteem the laws which you make.”
– I must remind the honorable member that it is not in order to suggest that honorable members havebeen guilty of trickery.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I will not say that they have been guilty of political trickery, but I would like honorable members supporting the Government to substitute a better word. If they do, I shall be only too pleased to employ it.
If a casual observer, knowing not the rule under which members supporting the Government sit on the right hand of the Speaker and members of the Opposition on the left, were in this House, he would, I am sure, come to the conclusion that members on this side were Ministerial, and members behind the Government in Opposition, because member after member on this side has stood up to speak of the needs of this country, and has outlined some policy in regard to the more important issues that confront the people. Government supporters on the other hand havebeen almost absolutely dumb. On the platform, during the re cent election, they declared they were prepared to govern the country, but now that they are here they are without a policy. It is a most bewildering position for a new member, such as I am. The only conclusion I can come to is that the Prime Minister is where he is very much against his will.
– They forced the marriage upon him.
– Apparently he is Prime Minister by compulsion. I do not know whether honorable members are familiar with the play of that great French ‘ dramatist, Moliere, Le Medecin Malgre´ Lui - The Doctor by Compulsionbut it seems to me that the Prime Minister is very much in the position of the chief character in that play. The principal characters are Sganarelle, a wood-cutter, and Martine, his spouse. There was a quarrel, and the husband, in the truly chivalrous fashion of his time,, had given his wife a sound beating. Those were early days, honorable members will bear in mind, and so the wife determined to have her revenge. Accordingly, when royal messengers came along inquiring for a doctor, she declared that Sganarelle was a doctor, but, .as he was a very eccentric fellow, he would pretend to be merely a wood-cutter, and. would only acknowledge his true profession if he were given a good beating. In due time the royal messengers discovered the wood-cutter, whom they addressed in these terms: “Are you a doctor?” Oh, no! he was not a doctor; he was only a wood-cutter. “Are you sure?” said they. Yes, he was quite sure. But after the application of the birch, he was prepared to admit he was a doctor, and ready to do their bidding. Thus he was enlisted in the’ service of his royal master. And here is further analogy between his circumstances and the position of honorable members opposite. Just as, during this debate, honorable members supporting the Government have been almost dumb, so in the royal house there was a dumb person, too - the patient. Of course, Sganarelle, the doctor by compulsion, not being the possessor of a diploma, made the mistake of looking in the wrong place for the heart of his patient, and when the people around, seeing his mistake, cor rected him, he replied, with perfect sang froid, ” Oh, but we have changed all that.” So it is in regard to mattei’3 and procedure in this House. Honorable members opposite, and the Prime Minister, have changed everything. But, of course, he is Prime Minister by compulsion. This must necessarily be so in view of the fact that he swore fealty to his late leader, and more recently led the party that set his leader aside. Moreover, the Prime Minister has told us that almost any political action would be justifiable in order to keep out of power those whom he now sees opposed to kim on this side of the House - the members of the Labour party.
And here, again, the Prime Minister bewilders us. In one breath he tells us that he has a great admiration, not only for members of the old Labour party, but also for the measures which they had placed upon the statute-book, including that tinge of Socialism, the Commonwealth Bank, which the honorable member for Cowper referred to as “ that fig- leaf of Socialism.” That splendid institution wa9 much better than a fig-leaf in hiding the financial nakedness of Australia, during war time. The honorable the Prime Minister in one breath tells us of his admiration for all these measures of the old Labour party, and in the next declares that almost any action would be justifiable to keep the party out of office. I would like to inform him that, after all, the policy of our party during the recent election was simply an extension of the pol icy of Andrew Fisher : nothing more, nothing less1. I would remind him that our present leader was a colleague of Andrew Fisher when he was Prime Minister of Australia, and further, that when Andrew Fisher came back to Australia and signified his willingness to reenter public life here, he contemplated taking his stand, not with members behind the Government, but side by side with his old colleague, Matthew Charlton.
– He would not have been found dead with the present Ministry and their supporters.
– He would not have worked alive with them, although he might not have had any serious objection to being buried in the same field.
But the honorable the Prime Minister goes further in his policy of bewilderment. He has declared that members on this side during the election said nothing about the socialization of industries. I happen to be one of those who was out night after night upon the public platform - unfortunately, it is necessary to do that before one can get into this august Assembly - and on every occasion I informed my audiences about this subject. I confess that our esteemed leader did not have it in his policy, because it was not in the policy handed to him. And, after all, the leader of this party is concerned, I believe, with doing the things that lie nearest his hand today. An eminent poet has said that it is prime wisdom to do first those things which lie nearest your hand. We feel that if we do first the things that lie nearest our hand, our objective will ultimately be reached. At present it is not part 01 our policy. It is not contained in our platform. It is a pious aspiration. Our policy is continually being changed; but if from day to day we do those things that lie nearest our hand, we. shall approach nearer to the objective of the party. Our objective will become clearer and we shall be able to> fashion it anew. At present it is simply an objective. Thousands of years may elapse before we shall be able to attain it, but it is one upon which our minds have been fixed, and we are not ashamed of it. A short time ago, in conservative old England, there was a great gathering of bishops of the Anglican Church, and from them a select committee was appointed, consisting of forty-eight, one of whom was as close to us as the Bishop of Adelaide, and the other as far away as the Bishop of Antigua. That committee was appointed to examine the industrial question as it affected the Old Country, and having spent days and days in investigations, it arrived at a decision which was described by the press and the people of England as a “kind of Socialism.” Let me read the report of this Lambeth Conference, as represented by those forty-eight Bishops -
While expressing no political doctrine, we may say that the next advance in the government of industry is to be ‘ made along these lines of industrial parliaments, of which the building trades promise n good example-
This is the industrial parliament which is recommended in our objective, and that is the report of forty-eight bishops - good, serious men. Their conclusion was termed by the newspapers of the day si “kind of Socialism.” Yet no one then said that those bishops wished to drench the country with the blood of their fellow-men, an accusation that is hurled at us time after time by honorable members opposite. No one came forward with that damning indictment against them, because the people knew .that in their case it was simply a pious aspiration and objective which might not be realized for years. It is, however, pleasing to us to know that the spiritual minds of the forty-eight bishops arrived at a conclusion so similar to that of the practical men in Brisbane when our objective was drawn up. So much for the Prime Minister’s taunt that we spoke not about our policy or our objective. But I ask the Prime. Minister whether he went out night after night and denied the policy of his then leader (Mr. Hughes). I ask the .Prime Minister whether he * has denied that policy, or whether . he is going to insist that there shall be a tinge of Socialism in the policy carried out by the Government. Does the honorable gentleman find the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) prepared to accept that tinge of Socialism from the present Prime Minister that he would not accept from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ? Who were they who were true to their policy and to their pledges on the public platform, and who, on the other hand, espoused a certain policy, and then for the sake of office - no, for the sake of saying the country - became Prime Minister against his will, a Prime Minister by compulsion? I ask the Prime Minister to remember that on another occasion, in another country, a man came preaching a new doctrine. I dare say that some honorable members opposite have heard of Paul, a preacher or apostle. I understand that when that preacher arrived at the city of Ephesus, he found that the people had heard nothing of Christianity, and worshipped Diana. Now, in order to be a good and true worshipper and follower of Diana, it was necessary to have in one’s house a little silver statue of the goddess, and of course there was good business done amongst the silversmiths of the city in making these. When Paul came with the new doctrine, which required no little silver goddesses, and which might destroy the business of the silversmiths, the people made a great demonstration, and, crying out “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” drove Paul away from the city. So it is that when any one comes now with a doctrine which may interfere with the business of the “goldsmiths” or “silversmiths” of the country, we still hear the cry “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” I remind honorable members opposite that, just as the doctrine of Paul succeeded, and went from country to country against all opposition, so nothing will stop the onward march of the Labour movement. I hope there will be no attempt to stop that onward march by introducing the reactionary measures we hear about. I am not personally concerned as to who brings in good measures for the welfare of the country, for its development, and for the benefit of , the people; if I find measures introduced which I think will be for the public good, I shall be quite prepared to support them on every occasion.
As to the socialization of industry, the very fact of that being an objective seems to show that there is some discontent in the land, that we are not satisfied with the progress we are making. As we know, that objective was introduced or drawn up very largely by the industrialists of the land, and I hope honorable members opposite will seek out the cause of the economic and industrial discontent. [ hope that the honorable member (Dr. Earle Page), who is so learned and eminent in a certain science, may be as successful in isolating the germ of industrial unrest as he has been in dealing with other germs. If that honorable gentleman looks into the matter with all those high faculties he has, he will find that, after all, the germ of industrial discontent consists in the knowledge on the part of our industrialists that they are restricted in their economic and industrial liberty. We all know, as well as does the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that there is a parallel between the times after the Napoleonic wars and the present time. That parallel is shown largely after every war. There is a parallel between actual war times, and between post-war times, because every war means tremendous profits for some people and tremendous sacrifices for other people. The history of every war is that certain sections of the people who can least bear it, are forced to make all the sacrifices to pay for the war, while other sections make great profits. It was so during the Napoleonic wars ; and it was then, when England became nationally great, that the foundation of many of the fortunes possessed by the noble families of that country to-day, were laid. But terrible sacrifices were made by certain of the people; and it was after those wars that that awful doctrine was introduced, which was suggested by the Prime Minister, and which is expressed in words to the effect that the country governed best is the one which is governed least. That doctrine has been responsible for more cruelty, misery, and tragedy in the industrial field than has been witnessed on the battlefields of any country in the world. It was a most inhuman doctrine, and it remains so, and it is connected with the doctrine of Free Trade, expounded to us to-night by the honorable member for Perth. The two doctrines go hand in hand, and they mean that things shall be allowed to run as they will - that there shall be free competition and freedom of contract, thus removing every scrap of protective legislation from the industrial worker. It is a heartless and inhuman doctrine, containing neither ethics nor morality, and it is strange to hear it expounded now. I do not say that the Prime Minister wishes to give effect to that doctrine in all its force, butI am rather afraid when I hearhim refer to it. Although maxims and platitudes quoted in those days were repeated he did not give us a clue to the policy he intends to submit for the government of this country. The suggestion is heightened by the fact that the honorable member for Perth has been expounding the doctrine of Free Trade. I trust that honorable members opposite are not going to adhere to the doctrine of the old Manchester school, and that they are not going to follow the suggestions of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). I would remind the honorable member that, while this Government is so concerned about the safety of the country, and the Prime Minister is going away to represent us, he should quote the best authorities in recent years, who have told us that the country which is best equipped in time ‘of war is that which has the most and the best factories which can quickly be turned -into ammunition manufactories. I ask honorable members opposite what condition Australia would be in if she were attacked and had no factories, and if by any mischance she was unable to secure help from outside? She would be in a most helpless state. I ask honorable members to recollect that the policy -of. Protection is closely associated with the defence of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Perth was wrong when he said that there was a striking analogy between the conditions in England to-day in regard to these matters and those in Australia. He ought to remember that Australia is in a very different position, producing as she does an immense quantity of raw material which could enable her to be selfsupporting and self-dependent. Great Britain, which does not produce raw material, is depending on her manufactures for her revenue, and upon that which may be brought in without the payment of duties. If the honorable member for Perth is seeking a parallel, I would suggest that he look to America as an example which will guide us much better. If he casts his mind back he will recall that when America declared her independence, one of the first things she did was to take a census of every kind of raw material available in the country so that she could ascertain what could be manufactured there. America has always had Protection, and although I am not going to take up the time of the House in discussing this matter at length or in advocating a policy of high Protection without certain safeguards, I may say that I believe that adequate protection to our Australian industries is necessary until we get the New Protection, which we on this side of the House advocate. I am prepared to support honorable members in assisting the industries of Australiaby some form of Protection. I would remind the honorable member for Perth that, although America cannot compare’ with the Old Country in her carrying trade, America does not depend upon her carrying trade for her greatness as the Old Country does. “When America withdrew her allegiance from Great Britain, she had a population of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people, but since then she has increased it to 110,000,000, while Australia, in the same period, has gained a population of only 5,500,000. I will not deny that certain other circumstances have contributed to that difference between the populations of the two countries - circumstances such as the nearness of America to the older countries of the world; but the increase is largely due to the fact that she was self-reliant, selfdependent, and self-supporting, and developed her industries. I trust Australia will do the same.
I am rather disappointed that reference was not made to the intention of the Government in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes. While we have to develop Australia, the supporters of the Government are not very much concerned with the development of the economic and industrial liberty of our people, which is the true test of the greatness of a people. I do not think any one would endeavour to test a nation’s greatness by the number of its people, or its aggregate wealth; that can only be done by ascertaining the standard of living and the economic and industrial liberty they enjoy. Honorable members will recall that a splendid period of development prevailed during the Fisher regime, from 1910 to 1913, which we might term the golden age in Australia. During that period we had. a larger measure of industrial liberty than we ever enjoyed before. I ask honorable members opposite a very plain question, and direct it particularly to those who would resort to any action to defeat the Fisher polioy. The question is this: In what measure has the economic or industrial liberty of the people of Australia been improved since Mr. Fisher’s Government went out of office?Let them point out one single way in which it has been improved, and I shall be learning something from them. They are suddenly dumb again. I trust that in regard to these matters honorable members opposite will remember that they will be able to command our attention and get support from this side for any measures which wil 1 be the means of extending the economic and industrial liberties of the people.
We are informed that a Premiers’ Conference is to be convened, at which we understand an attempt will be made to curtail the power of the Commonwealth Parliament in the matter of industrial arbitration. I trust that before any legislative or other action is taken in the direction of calling a Convention, in which the weight of the Government will be placed upon the side of dispensing with the Federal Arbitration Courts, the Government will obtain the opinion of the great industrial sections of Australia upon the matter. I hope that the Goverment will not do anything against the will of the industrial organizations of the Commonwealth, because we do not wish to see a trial of strength between those organizations on the one hand, and what we generally term, “capital” on the other. Reference has been made to the intention of preventing State instrumentalities coming before the Federal Court. It has been said by at least one honorable member that, as every person in the land has a right to go to the highest Court in other matters, even from the High Court to the Privy ‘001111011, surely the industrialists of Australia, should have the right to approach the highest Arbitration Court in the Commonwealth if they so desire. Who is going to deny them that right?
– They have to pay for it.
– Tes, and are they to be denied the right? Members of the Civil Service in New South Wales are now about to approach the Federal Arbitration Court. They have enjoyed a certain measure of economic and industrial! freedom for three years, because they have had the right to approach the Arbitration Court; but a Government that calls itself . Nationalist has now taken that right from them without any mandate from the people to do so, although nothing was said during the election campaign about the proposed action. I refer particularly to the school teachers of New South Wales. It is not a Federal matter, hut I invite honorable members’ attention to it, because they will agree that there is no more important question than that of education. In the- past, the best brains for educational work have not been attracted to the teaching profession because of monetary considerations. The moment the teachers were given the right to approach the State Arbitration Court their calling was placed on a higher plane, and there were attracted to the Service the best brains that the University of Sydney could, produce. That right has been suddenly taken away by a Nationalist Government. I hope that the Federal Administration will do nothing to prejudice the right of those civil servants to go to the Federal Arbitration Court. If it is acknowledged that they ar.e entitled to that privilege, I ask honorable members opposite not to look at the matter from a State point of view, but from a national aspect. I have taken the advice of the Prime Minister, and have read his speeches. I have no fault to find with the announcement he made in Sydney,, and I commend him for certain parts of his speech, especially when he advised us to think and act nationally. I told the Government of New South Wales that the civil servants there are certainly thinking, nationally, and they are also acting nationally, because the right to approach the Arbitration Court is one that belongs to them as Australian citizens. The State has no right to try to take from them a privilege that has been accorded them by the Commonwealth Parliament. If five or six State Premiers join in asking the Prime Minister to take away a national right, I sincerely hope that he will decline to do so. Although it has been customary in the past for Nationalist Governments to make onslaughts upon the rights of the people, I trust that Mr. Bruce will say, “We have changed all that.” If Mr. Bruce will take that stand in this matter, he will be doing something to benefit the people as a whole, and he will be adding honour to the high office he occupies. I hope honorable members will make it known that the rights conferred by Australian . citizenship are not to be interfered with by the State authorities or the State Premiers. May this be the policy of the present Government, in regard to not only the employees of the States, but employees all along the line. I hope that there will be no analogy between our history after the late war, and . what happened after the Napoleonic Avars, and that there will be no attempt to compol certain sections to make all the sacrifices while other sections are allowed to. make all the profits.
The honoured men who left our shores to fight were told that they were going to battle for all the rights and liberties implied by Australian . citizenship. They made . a name for themselves and their country on the battle-fields of Europe, of which Australia and the Prime Minister are justifiably proud. The record of ; our brave troops is not unremotely connected, I believe, with the fact that relatively and absolutely those who went overseas supported the party to which honorable members on my side of the Blouse belong. I believe that certain qualities came to our soldiers from the fact that . they belonged to this party. Honorable members cast at us the gibe that the policy of the Labour party is handed to us at the door, meaning that it is fashioned by the rank and file of our party. That is perfectly true, and we are not ashamed of it. For years I have been helping to fashion the Labour policy. Self-activity in all matters of government has given to the Australian a quality that is not possessed by the citizen of other lands. Honorable members opposite would prefer to see passive receptivity and compliance; but we believe that the interests of Democracy are best served bv each of our members taking an active share in the framing of our policy. It was the gift of independence in thought and action,, acquired in the ranks of the Labour party, and practised on the battle-fields, ‘ that made the Australian soldier stand out so prominently from all others. On every occasion when the desired objective was pointed out to him, he threw routine and the technique of; the drill-books to the winds, and gained it, because he made use of his powers of initiative. He did not possess, perhaps, the same appreciation of discipline that was displayed by other troops, but tested on the field he did not fail.’ Australia’s soldiers went overseas to fight for their rights and liberties; and, surely, now that they have come back leaving 59,000 of their number under other seas and in other lands, they are not to be told by honorable members opposite that their liberties, economic and industrial, are to. be lessened. Surely those honorable members will take up this position, rather, that the people in Australia who” can best bear the sacrifice should be told that the obligation rests upon them to make that sacrifice: I refer to the wealthy in the community. We heard, time and again during the war, that after it was all over the working man, generally speaking, would be in a better position than hitherto. We heard much of such things as the democratization of industry. But now all .would appear to” have been forgotten. Sacrifices are unquestionably being made to-day by our industrials. They know and feel it when they find their hours of labour lengthened and their wages lessened. The Great War . is over, but an industrial war has followed it. And again it is the workers who are making the sacrifices. T.n contrast with their sufferings, they see a riot and revel of riches. I cannot feel that wealth is making any sacrifices. But, just as brawn and muscle made sacrifices in the Great War, surely wealth should now come forth and take its part. Surely wealth can do something to emulate the example of Labour, something worthy of thos© 59,000 Australian soldiers who lie beneath other fields and seas. The Prime Minister has much more influence, of course, with the wealthy section of the community than has any honorable member’ on this side. I appeal to him, therefore, to put forward forcibly the views -that I have just expressed. If the great industrial sections see that sacrifices are being made to-day by wealth, which made none during the war, they will co-operate to bring about progress and development just as heartily as they joined voluntarily to win the great contest when all the nations clashed in arms. There is an obligation which rests upon wealth and which should be’ accepted now, not in this country alone, but in every land. It was the refusal of the wealthy to accept their obligation during the war which brought the industrial and economic chaos which prevails throughout the -world today. I. have nothing to say against wealth per se. There may be very wealthy people who, in accumulating their wealth and spending it, are committing no economic crime; for everything depends upon the manner of making it and spending it. But those who are possessed of wealth should remember that it is but a trust from on High, to be used for the good of their country and their fellow men, and not to be employed to the detriment of those who have taken a great share in its production. Let them remember that fact, and there willbe none - on this side in politics, at any rate - who will cast any aspersion upon wealth. This aspectof things has been expressed much better in verse by one of our Australian poets than I could state it in prose. Brunton Stephens it is who sings : -
Maker of earth and sen,
What shall we render Thee?
All thingsare Thine : -
All that our land cloth hold,
Increase of field and fold,
Rich oresand virgin cold,
Thine- Thine- all Thine.
Mighty in brotherhood,
Mighty for God and good,
Let us he Thine.
Here let the nations see
Toil from the curse sot free.
Labour and Liberty,
Our cause and Thine!
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gardner) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act-Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-Generalin Council - Financial Year 1922-23- Dated 28th February, 1923.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 19.
Naval Defence Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 16, 17.
Treasury Bills Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 21.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 22.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230307_reps_9_102/>.