9th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from7th March (vide page 203), on motion by Mr. Hurry -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneralbe agreed to by this House: -
May itpleaseyourexcellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, teg; to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which youhave 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 towardsArbitration, 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, whichclaims 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 ofseveral months’ duration, thus leaving in abeyance the discussion of these subjects vital to the welfare of our country, this House deemsit necessary to protest and declare that this Government does not possess its confidence.”
.- It has been said that there is only one pain greater than that felt by an honorable member in addressing the House for the first time, and that that is the pain which he inflicts on his hearers. Honorable members have my sympathy. It is with mingled feelings thatI rise to address the House. Whilst I am proud to be here as the representative of the great district of Robertson, I realize my own shortcomings, particularly when viewed in the light of the conspicuous ability and patriotism of the very eminent men who have graced these legislative halls, and when I bear in mind that there are on both sides of the House men of great capability and much more experience than I possess. At the outset, however, I am proud to be able to exercise the privilege of paying a tribute to my exleader, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). My case, as a Nationalist, is, as I shall show, a special one, and I do not wish to let pass this opportunity to acknowledge the great assistance that was given me by the right honorable gentleman during the Federal election campaign. I was proud at the time to be his recruit in view of the worth . of his war duties and his services, not only to Australia, but to the Empire; and remembering that at that most critical time he was one of the six great statesmen of the world, and by no means the least of them, I may be pardoned for availing myself of this occasion to do him homage. The right honorable member is now temporarily dethroned,but his dethronement was not of my seeking, nor were the circumstances within my control.
It has been said of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that he was very ready to step into his ex-leader’s shoes; but I do not think that he had control over the circumstances. Indeed, one of the very firstattributes that I discovered in the honorable member was his undoubted loyalty to his chief up to. the very last moment. In concluding these, my preliminary remarks, I have only to say that the efforts of my ex-chief in the recent campaign were very fitly epitomized in another place by an honorable senator, who, speaking of them, said that they were such that -
Even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
At the close of the debate last even ing, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) threw buta challenge to the Nationalists, and as a Nationalist who bears the distinction, if I may so describe it, of having defeated the Deputy Leader of the Country party, I feel it my duty to take up that challenge. I makebold to assert that, before I have finishedmy remarks, I shall have established to the satisfaction of not only the honorable member for Barton, but the House, that, although a Nationalist, I am acting quite correctly in giving my support to the present Administration. I wish, first of all, to congratulate the honorable member for Barton on the very able speech made by him last night. I envy him his eloquence, his lucidity, and his apt similes, but he must not complain if, since he has put me in a position to take up the gauntlet thrown down by him, I do so, and at the same time set myself right in the eyes of the electors who returned me. It was a very fine simile that he applied to the Prime Minister; but, having regard to the honorable gentleman’s solidity and that of his colleagues, by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that they are constantly liable to extinction by some form of internal combustion.I happen to toe in a very different position from that of the honorable member for Barton. Unlike him, I have not suspended, by a mere thread, over my head a sword ofDamocles in the shape of hia executive. I condole with the honorable member. Hewas good enough to condole with us. I condole with him in the position in which he finds himself. It is a pity that an honorable member who is going to yield to this House the gifts with which Nature has endowed him, and which he has cultivated, should have so little to which to look forward.What is there in store for him? He has before him the same fate that has befallen Mr. Dooley, the ex-Premier of New South Wales, and is to be pitied, since that is all that the future offers him. On the other hand, although I have been returned as a Nationalist, and circumstances have brought about a change in the Administration, I am responsible only to the electors of Robertson, and I hope to be able to satisfy them. No definite programme has been brought down by the present Government; but, despite the magnitude of the questions to be dealt with by them, I -feel sure that I shall be able to give them my support. Since my leader was not successful at the polls, however, and inasmuch as I have a definite policy to support - the policy on which I was elected - I must reserve to myself the right to review all proposals that the Government bring down to the House in the light of any pledges that I made to my constituents. I must see that the proposals of the Government are consistent generally with the policy I espoused, and that they are in the interests of the electors, of not only my own constituency, but the Commonwealth as a whole.
In connexion with another matter, I occupy a very different position from that occupied by the honorable member for Barton. I claim no greater sincerity than the honorable member, “but in our political outlook we differ upon a fundamental principle. The honorable member stands for the socialization of production, distribution, and exchange. “When the Prime Minister referred to this matter, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) cheerfully admitted that the members of his party do stand for that policy, and will endeavour to give it effect. I believe in a policy that will encourage individualism. Although we have progressed in science and invention, human nature is much the same to-day as it was 2,000 years ago. The people of the great German Empire led all other people in scientific research and technical education, but. they failed in the basic human virtues of simple justice and morality, and we know the fate they met with. If we are to consider any form of Socialism - and that is what the policy of honorable members opposite amounts to - we cannot afford to disregard the human factor, because, as I have said, human nature has not changed. There is implanted within each of us - call it the soul, or ego, or what you will - something which separates us from the brute creation, endows us with ambition, and gives us the desire of ownership. This is evident from the action of the child with his toys, the boy at school who desires to become head of his class, or the man on the cricket-field who aims at making top score. I stand for a policy to encourage individualism, which, in my view, will work out eventually for the greatest good for the greatest number.
Although the Prime Minister has not submitted a policy, he indicated in his speech some of the main questions which are occupying the mind3 of the Government. I feel sure, from the statement he made, that some desires of mine are going to be realized. I do not claim to possess great biblical knowledge, but there is an old truism, which I think is biblical, to the effect that “ a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” and as the greatest leaven must have the effect of leavening the whole lump, it seems to me that my position in this House should be made very easy in supporting the composite Ministry.
The Prime Minister had something to st.y on the subject of Empire defence. Because the honorable gentleman, realizes that Australia must stand or fall with Great Britain, and that any scheme of defence of the Commonwealth must be viewed, not only from the point of view of Australia, but of the Empire as a whole, it has been hinted that the honorable gentleman,’ in this connexion, is going to be unmindful of the interests of Australia. That is doing the Prime Minister an injustice. He has already represented Australia at an important Conference of the League of Nations on the other side, of the world, and his acttions during the war and since have been such as to warrant us in believing that any step he may take in the matter of defence will be calculated to safeguard the Commonwealth, and will be in the best interests of Australia, as well as of the Empire as a whole.
As the representative of one of the greatest producing districts in New South Wales, I was deeply interested in another matter touched upon by the Prime t Minister, and that was the marketing of Australian products. We realize that if we cannot obtain payable prices for our productions the result must be that the farmer and grazier will receive no adequate return for their labour. “We have learned something from our experience of the Pools which were created by the Nationalist Government during the war, and as a result of which no less a sum than £5,000,000 was paid to the producers of this country. We have learned the benefits of organization, and I am glad to believe that the Prime Minister and the members of his Government intend to give rery careful consideration to the distribution of our produce, either by giving financial assistance, as under the voluntary pool system, or in providing facilities for marketing, in order that those who bear the heat and burden of the day, and are called upon to battle with drought and pestilence, maybe assured of a reasonable return for their labours.
I may inform honorable members that Iam committed, straight out, to the furtherance of the building of the Federal Capital at Canberra, and I am glad to learn that the Government propose to submit a concrete proposal, by which the compact of the Constitution in this regard may be honoured.
I feel sure that an immigration policy will command the support of honorable members onboth sides. We realize that ifwe do not people this country we cannot expect to hold it as a White Australia. I must say that I share, to some extent, fears expressed by an honorable member on the other side, that our immigration policy may be allowed to drift as it has done in the past. We should profit by the experience ofmistakes in connexion with soldier settlement, which, I am prepared to admit, have occurred since the war, and I am hopeful that we can look forward to something hotter in the way of an immigration policy, treated as an Imperial matter, as a result of the agreement entered into between the Home Government, the Government of the Commonwealth, and the State Governments. The introduction of population will have the effect of lightening taxation, will increase the capital available for development, and, while it will swell the army of producers in the Commonwealth, artisans, shopkeepers, and all others will be immediately benefited as a result, provided our immigration policy is on safe lines, the immigrants are properly financed, and there is not a ten dency, which some honorable members opposite fear, to swell the number of unemployed in this country.
I may be pardoned for saying that taxation is a subject that I know something about. I have had the advantage of experience as an assessor in the Taxation Department, and I have also practised as a public accountant. I am glad to think that at last we bid fair to have but one taxgatherer in this country. That will decrease expenditure considerably, and will save the people the trouble of making out two returns of income. I do not take it upon myself to say what should be done; that must be left to a conference of Federal and State authorities, but I would, personally, prefer that the Common wealth should control the collection of taxation. I do not think that the State Treasurers can be anxious to take over the work. The raising of £2 15s. per head from 2,000,000 taxpayers represents a very big job, and I think that the State Governments will be prepared to leave the task to the Commonwealth Treasurer. I do not hold any brief for the Federal Taxation Department, but I think some consideration should be given to the initial difficulties it had to face. It was called upon to undertake the most extensive business of taxation collection in Australia. This Parliament, by the grace of God and the ability of honorable members, has been continually amending taxation Acts. Fresh taxation has beencontinually introduced; the collection of war-time profits tax and the entertainment tax was given to the Department, and in view of the task it was set, it may be admitted that the Department has done very well. I trust that the Prime Minister and. his Government will give the matter very grave consideration before consenting to hand over the collection of taxation to the State authorities.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) has intimated that he will probably reduce the postage rate from 2d to1d. That will mean a lightening of the burden of taxation, and both sides of the House will agree upon the general principle that it is wise to take as little money, in the form of taxation, from the pockets of the people as possible. Therefore, the proposal of the Minister commends itself to me. I trust that the prophetic words of the Prime Minister will be borne out by experience, and that there will notbe, as a result of this reduction in the postal rate, a starvation of the services. Rather should the provision which was made by the Nationalist Government be extended ; and I hope that the unfortunate people in the country will not be compelled to dip their hands into their pockets if they require an extension of office hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. If that should happen, I shall have to review my opinion regarding the wisdom of this reduction of taxation. I do not share the Postmaster-General’s optimism in regard to the increase that will occur in the number of letters written under a penny-postage system. His prediction may be realized, but I doubt it. Whilst” I am dealing with the Postal Department, I should like to refer to a small matter with which I dealt in my electoral addresses. I think the postmasters are poorly paid for the services they render to the community, particularly in comparison with the salaries received by State servants. Some postmasters, with thirty years’ service, and in charge of a staff of eight, controlling the ramifications of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, repatriation payments, and so forth, are receiving the munificent salary of £270 per annum, whereas every State servant with anything like equivalent responsibility receives approximately double that amount. I may be told that these payments are regulatedby the Arbitration Court awards, but I understand that in the reorganization of the Department efficiency is to be the watchword. If we wish to secure efficiency we must hold out greater inducements to good men than the mere pittance which is being paid to them today. have no time for that false economy which leads to inefficiency. After all, it is not the rate of wages paid to a person, or a body of servants, that matters so much; what does matter is the return that is given for the payment received. That fact should be borne in mind in connexion with the payments to officers of the Postal Department.
In regard to sugar, I do not profess to be, like the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), an authority on the cane-growing- industry, but I am concerned in the distribution of the manufactured article. We have had the assurance of the Prime Minister that whilst he realizes that the sugar-cane industry is an essential part of theWhite Australia policy, he will not he unmindful of the interests of those engaged in fruit-growing. I have the honour to represent Gosford, one of the biggest fruitgrowing districts in New South Wales, and I shall not be a party to the undue burdening of those who are engaged in the manufacture of jams and canned fruits, an export trade which is essential if the orchardists are to get a fair return from their industry.
I am glad that a revision of the Tariff in the interests, of not only the farmers and graziers, hut also the mining industry, is to be referred to the Tariff Board. Of course, we all have an eye on our own electorates, and, as there is still a spark left in the old goldmining districts of Mudgee and Hill-end and other places in my constituency,I am glad that there is a prospect of the mining industry receiving the same fiscal concessions as are likely to be received by the agriculturists.
I feel that as a new member I have unduly occupied the time of the House. I thank honorable members on both sides of the chamber for the kind indulgence with which they have listened to me. In conclusion, I hope that . the Government will be afforded a reasonable opportunity to prove themselves, and that in their legislative and administrative actions they will show regard for the interests of all sections of the community, and do what is best, not only for Australia, but also for that Empire to which we are all proud to belong.
.- Like other new members, I crave the indulgence of the House on the occasion of this, my first speech - in this chamber, at any rate. The recent elections showed, without a shadow of a doubt, the absolute necessity for a drastic alteration in the electoral law. The Constitution gives to every man and woman over the age of twenty-one who is not an inmate of a lunatic asylum or a gaol the right to vote, and the electoral law, based on the Constitution, should give every eligible person the right to record a valid vote. One has only to look at the enormous percentage of informal votes cast in every State during the last election to be convinced of the necessity for an alteration of -the law. When there is only one vacancy to be filled - as in electorates of the House of Representatives - why, in the name of common sense, should every elector be compelled to mark every name on the ballot-paper in the order of his preference? Undoubtedly the great majority of invalid votes were due to the fact that electors thought that where only one vacancy was to be filled they had to vote for only one candidate. In my own electorate, over 11,000 votes were cast, of which 10 per cent, were- invalid. The invalidity of a large proportion of them was due to the fact that the voters, not having attended meetings or even read the printed directions in the newspapers, were unaware that they had to signify their order of preference in regard to every name on the ballot-paper. What happened in my electorate happened in every other throughout . Australia.
In regard to elections for the Senate, what a farce it is, when only three vacancies are to be filled, to compel the voter to signify his preferences up to seven! When I questioned the wisdom of that provision while the Electoral Bil] was before the Senate, prior to the election of 1919, I was told by Senator Russell, who was in charge of the Bill, “ This is a preferential voting system, and if we do not compel the voters to vote for every name on the ballot-papers of the House of Representatives, and, in connexion with .Senate elections, for double the number of candidates to be returned, plus one, the principle of preferential voting will be destroyed.” I replied, “No; if you accept my amendment, you will arrive at the only true preference. You will give those who desire to vote only for ohe number of candidates to be returned the right to do so, and you will not compel them, after having voted for- the candidates wHo represent their principles, to continue recording a preference up to seven against the names of other candidates who are entirely opposed to their principles.- . But in a three-party contest, if we allow an optional preference to be cast, the elector who wishes to vote for three Nationalist candidates may mark them 1, 2, 3. Then if they preferred the three Country party candidates to Labour’s nominees, they could give them the fourth, fifth, and sixth preferences. But this preference should be optional. Electors should not be compelled to vote for double the number of vacancies, plus one, at the risk of making their votes invalid. At the 1919 election, when the principle was first put into operation, more than 10 per cent, of the votes cast in Australia were invalid. At that time this was not a party question at all, and the newspapers declared then that it was time such a dishonest system was altered. I hope that when Parliament gets down to business this question will receive earnest consideration, and that there will be an amendment of our electoral law making it easier and possible for every person, whether educated or not, to record a valid vote. The Constitution lays it down that every person in the Commonwealth should have the right to exercise the franchise. That principle should not be destroyed by a complicated electoral law.
A’ good deal has been said about the iniquity of the alliance between the Nationalist and Country parties. T shall have little to say under- this heading, but I should like to refer to a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) when in Hobart recently. To me it appeared inevitable that the parties should come together, because they have always been in direct opposition to Labour; but it would have Seen better had there been a little more candour on the part of candidates of the respective parties when they were before the electors during the recent election. It would have been better if they had stated definitely that at all costs they intended to keep Labour out of power. The Prime Minister, speaking in the Hobart Town Hall on 22nd December, quoted from and made some caustic remarks concerning a number of speeches made by Country party members in this Parliament during the preceding three years.
He said that even if he had to choose between a reactionary Conservative and an out-and-out Bolshevist, he would prefer the Bolshevist every time. His remarks so incensed the Mercury, the principal Nationalist newspaper in Tasmania, and one which wields a great deal of political influence in my State, that in a leading article on the following day it admonished the Prime Minister for his indiscreet utterances. I turn now, by way of contrast, to a speech made by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), also in Hobart, and before a gathering of 3,000 people in the City Hall. Referring to the fact that nearly all members of the Country party were opposed to arbitration, he said-
Very foolish tilings have been done by Wages Boards and Courts, but I know, after all has been said and done, that the balance is in favour of retention of the present system and the basic principle underlying it. iii disputes between workmen and employers, the law has to determine, if the parties cannot agree, what is a fair wage, and what are fair hours and conditions of labour. On this rock society is going to split. This is the great question behind a world of industrial unrest. Much of the trouble when analyzed amounts to Bolshevism. It is neither more nor less than revolt against the industrial system as it stands. It is an attempt to overturn the law and society as it exists to-day. If you believe in Bolshevism, well and good; then you stand for direct action. But if you believe in society as it exists, and in reforms which can be obtained by constitutional means, and against Bolshevism, then you must stand for the rule of law, and if you stand for that it must be rule of law in all things.
Then he went on to say -
The Country party stands for the abolition of arbitration. If you believe in that,’ you will vote for the Country party, but if you believe in a sound Australia you will vote for the candidates of the Nationalist party. I,noticE some gentlemen are standing on the Nationalist side who ave in favour of the abolition of arbitration. All I have to say about them is that they arc not supporters of the Nationalist party, for this arbitration is supported by the party. If you- want the Nationalist party, 3’ou must support those candidates who believe 111 the Nationalist policy.
Just a word or two now about a matter which might have attracted the attention of other honorable members when travelling up and down Australia during the last few months. I have been pained at the sight of so many limbless soldiers moving about, especially in the big cities aud larger towns, begging for almost any sort of a job to earn an honest shilling. If any phase of repatriation or soldier settlement should appeal to the manhood of the present Government, it is the plight of these unfortunate men, who are anxious to earn something to supplement the meagre pension which they receive from the Government. It is impossible to over-estimate their sufferings, and therefore we should do all that is possible for them in their present affliction.
I hope that we shall not have to listen to very many speeches couched in the same terms as, that delivered last night by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) on Tariff matters. I speak with a certain amount of feeling, because my own -State is just now getting on its feet, so to speak, in the matter of industrial development. For very -many years we were in a very backward position, but happily to-day, as the result of the great hydro-electric scheme harnessing thee waters of the Great Lake and other lakes for the generation of cheap electric power, and the inauguration of the great electrolytic zinc works, the position has somewhat changed. I am pleased to think that the hydro-electric scheme was launched by the only Labour Government that Tasmania has had, though, of course, credit is now being claimed for the success of the scheme by the Nationalist Government. That - great project has led to the establishment of a number of large industries, notably those known as Cadbury, Fry, and Pascalls which established themselves in Tasmania for two reasons - one because of the cheap electric power from the hydro-electric scheme, and the other because of the very suitable climate for that particular industry. The Electrolytic Zinc Works are, I believe, the largest in the world. The company is now engaged in manufacturing the finished article from the zinc tailings of Broken Hill ores. When a company finds it worth while to convey these zinc tailings from Port Pirie over hundreds of miles of ocean to Tasmania to be treated, simply because of the advantage of cheap electrical power provided by the Tasmanian Government, we ought to pause before we do anything that may tend to destroy such local industries. . I speak with all due deference to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), but the advice that he gives us is not that we should follow. That honorable member and one or two others from mining districts are inclined to support the idea that the Tariff question should be re-opened; indeed, I believe that quite a number of honorable members opposite, although they are ostensible supporters of the Government, are of the same mind. The idea underlying this desire for the re-opening of a fiscal discussion is that the present Tariff is prejudicial to mining interests, I may say that I started my career on the mining fields, where I remained for a number of years, and ,1 have made it my business to visit most of the mining centres, including Western Australia; so interested have I ever been in the subject that, as far back as 1905, I contributed a series of articles to the Argus dealing with - the Golden Mile at Kalgoorlie. It will readily be understood, therefore, that I appreciate fully the desire of the gentleman to whom I have referred, to see our mining industries go ahead ; but, as one who has had more to do with mining than any other branch . of Australian development, I ask whether those men who earn their living in the mines, down thousands of feet from God’s sunshine and fresh air, which are so necessary to health, wish to see all their sons follow the same occupation ? I do not think they do; and we must, while not hampering our primary industries, push ahead with our secondary industries, or otherwise we shall never fulfil the destiny for which we are fitted.
The other day I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) for some figures regarding the timber industry, which is of special interest to Tasmania as a big timber-producing State. Tasmania, though not large geographically, has developed as many important mines as any part of Australia, and to-day to° some extent depends on the mining industry. At present mining there is under a cloud, but there are distinct signs of a revival in the near future. However, I was about to say that the Tasmanian timber industry, for many reasons, has never had a fair chance, the chief reason being the cost 0f carriage to the mainland. South Australia has provided a splendid market for all Tasmanian timbers, and I believe that it was the great timber merchants of that State who first brought to the knowledge of Australians generally the many and useful qualities of white-top stringy bark. Undoubtedly Australian oak is quite as good . as
English oak -for the making of furniture and for many other purposes, and Tasmanian blackwoods have found a ready market in South Australia for many years. In face of these facts, when, during the last twelve months especially, I have read in the newspapers of the heavy importations of timber into Australia from outside, I have wondered where is the necessity to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in such purchases, seeing that in one part of Australia or another, including Tasmania, there is every variety of timber that- man can require. This is a question .which, I think, the Tariff Board ought to take into immediate consideration. I do not intend to weary the House with figures, but there are just a few which I regard as vital, and to which I should like to call attention. In reply to a question, !1 was informed by the Department of Trade and Customs as recently as yesterday that for the financial year ending 30th June last - the figures are not available for the first half of this yeanthere was imported from the outside world 218,185,911 super, feet of timber of all kinds, the money value of which was £2,492,817. Does it not seem a foolish policy to import that vast quantity of timber in view of our own resources? This heavy importation ought to be stopped by any kind of Tariff we can devise, and, as I said before, the Tariff Board ought to at once consider the matter.
When” the honorable member for Perth ( Mr. Mann) was speaking last night, his words carried me back twenty-one years, when I first listened in this Parliament to the notable speeches made by that great old advocate of- Free Trade, the late Sir George Reid, who was then Leader of the Opposition. During the first session of the first- Commonwealth’ Parliament, a session which, lasted eighteen months, the greater part of which was taken up in the discussion of the Tariff, the debates were conducted by honorable members who were said to comprise the cream nf Australian politicians; and in reply to the advocates of Protection on the Government side, who were pleading in the interests of unborn generations of Australian natives, Sir George Reid used a phrase which, speaking from memory, I think was as follows : - “ In the plenitude of time, when Australia shall have its teeming millions, this question of unemployment will solve itself.”
– It was worse than that!
– That is my recollection of what was said by that ardent Free Trader, who was then in opposition to the Government led by the late Sir Edmund Barton. As the father of several young Australians, I look back with pleasure to that period in the history of the Commonwealth. and I am glad that in the beginning of our national life we entered on a Protectionist policy. If we had followed the advice of the great Free Traders, where would Australian industries have been to-day? When I heard the honorable member for Perth last night, I wondered whether I was not listening to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) before he saw the- light of Protection. He was once a great Free Trader, but he saw the light in that direction, and he also saw it in another, which is responsible for him being in his present position.
The financial position of Tasmania should receive the earnest attention of the Government during the recess. As honorable members are probably aware, Tasmania is faced with such financial difficulties that the other day the State Parliament appointed an Economy “Board to go through the whole of the Public Service in order to see where economies could be effected, either by dispensing with the services of public officers or by reducing wages. The result of that investigation is that it is proposed to save a good many thousand pounds by amalgamating certain departments, and by the wholesale discharge of public servants. That is really what will he done if effect is given to the recommendations of the Board. I have had a good deal to do with public servants, both State and Federal, during my public, career, and have always held the opinion that the tirade against public servants and the application to them of the term “Weary Willies,” as some have been called, is unjustified. I believe the public servants of Australia earn their wages by rendering efficient service. Tasmania has found out that it will have to reduce expenditure in consequence of the muddling of the National Government. The blame can truly be laid at the feet of the
National Government, because a Labour Government has not been in office for many years. Tasmania’s present financial position has been brought about largely in consequence of the cost incurred in repatriating returned soldiers and in settling them on the land. I have no doubt that other State Governments are faced with a similar difficulty. I believe that wo cannot do too much for those who are in every way fitted to follow rural pursuits, but the whole question of the States’ liability in the matter of repatriation and the settlement of ex-soldiers on the land is one which should receive the close attention of the Government during the forthcoming recess. As the sending of the men to the war and their maintenance abroad was a Federal question, the whole financial obligations in connexion with their repatriation should be entirely undertaken by the Federal authorities. If, in the event of further international trouble, it should be necessary to send Australian contingents -overseas, the responsibility would naturally be shouldered by the Federal authorities, and, seeing that that is entirely a Federal question, the financial responsibility in the matter of repatriation should also be undertaken by the Federal Government. If that were done the State which I have the honour to represent would be placed in a much better position financially.
The question of shipping facilities is also of vital- interest to Tasmania, and concerns that State more than any other in the Federation. When I read that the Government proposed to do away with the Commonwealth Shipping Line I naturally wondered how Tasmania would be affected. We have not had much assistance up to the present from the Commonwealth Line of Steamers by reason of our geographical position. Those resident on the mainland have inter-State railway communication, and in the event of shipping trouble caused by strikes, quarantine regulations, or anything of the kind, con.nexion can be made between the differentStates by means of the railway. Tasmania, however, is completely isolated, and its people, and the trading community particularly, are seriously inconvenienced. I trust that Tasmania will not always be dependent upon privately-owned ships, and I am anxious that the Commonweal t1
Shipping Line shall not only be maintained, ‘but that its facilities shall be increased, so that passengers and cargo of all descriptions may be carried from Tasmania to the mainland at reasonable rates. If any small loss were incurred by the Commonwealth, I do not think the representatives of other States would offer any serious objection, because they must remember that Tasmanians have to bear their proportion of the heavy annual loss incurred in working the TransAustralian Railway. When a member of the Senate, I thought that the cost of that railway was one which should be borne between the two States directly concerned, and that it was not a fair financial obligation to place upon the other States; but when I visited ‘Western Australia in 1905, and my views became broader on the whole question, I willingly gave an affirmative vote when the question came before the Senate, not only for the original £20,000, or thereabouts, for a preliminary survey, but later when the. survey showed what the construction of the line would probably cost. We did it with our eyes open, knowing that for many years the taxpayers would have to contribute towards a heavy annual loss. The Tasmanian people do not receive any benefit, but their representatives supported the proposal because they were considering the interests, not only of Tasmania, but of the whole Commonwealth.
– Why assume that there is any such feeling on the part of Western Australian members?
– I am” not. I believe that the representatives of Western Australiawill be in favour of the continuance of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers as a means of assisting Tasmania out of her shipping troubles, and removing her people from the grip of the privately-owned lines. I trust that during the life of this Parliament a move will not be made in the direction of dispensing with the Line, but that the present facilities will be increased. During a period when Tasmania was seriously inconvenienced in the matter of shipping, quite a number of the Commonwealth ships were ‘lying idle in different ports of Australia and elsewhere.
Our producers were handicapped, and trade was seriously hampered because ships were not available to carry produce to the mainland, which, after all, is Tasmania’s chief market.
– Quite a number of the boats were laid up in Sydney Harbor.
– My assertion is supported by the interjection of the honorable member for Dalley.
During the recess I trust the Government will give consideration to another important question, and in this connexion I do not wish to be accused by the rerpresentatives of other States of approaching the matter in a parochial spirit. Tasmania, however, is entitled to special consideration, because of her geographical position. I believe, this Government must accede to the request of the Tasmanian Government for a continuance of the financial grant to that State. The question has been a live one since the inception of Federation. I was the first Tasmanian in either House to open up the matter in this Parliament. In about 1905 I moved in the Senate that within a year from that time certain provisions of the Constitution should be altered so that the whole of the Federal revenue collected in the various States should be pooled, and distributed on a per capita basis. The motion was only lost by a vote or two. Later on, however, a motion was passed in this House for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the financial position into which Tasmania had fallen in consequence of its joining the Federation. After all, the little State did suffer considerably in the early years of Federation through imbibing the Federal spirit. The people of Tasmania wished to be good Australians, and they largely gave up purchasing from the other side of the world in order to buy goods of Australian manufacture. For the first five years Tasmania did not receive from Customs duties the revenue to which it had been accustomed. The Commission, which was appointed in this House on the motion- of Mr. Jensen, investigated Tasmania’s financial circumstances, and brought down a report recommending the payment to that State of £90,000 a. year over a period of ten years. The Commission was appointed by the Fisher Administration, which agreed to the payment of £500,000 at the rate of £90,000 a year. The Fusion Cabinet, which succeeded the Fisher Government, granted a further sum of over £400,000, and the total sum of £900,000 waa exhausted on 30th June, 1922. The Tasmanian Government approached the then Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), and asked for a special grant for last year. That request was acceded to, but the payment was for one year only. I believe the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will be quite prepared to introduce the proposal to continue the grant to Tasmania. The sum payable should be at least £100,000 a year for the next five years, after which the position could be reviewed.
– Mind that you do not commit the Government to that.
– I hope that they will agree to it. I can see by the smile on the Prime Minister’s face that he is sympathetically inclined towards the suggestion.
It is impossible for me to indorse statements made bycertain members in past Parliaments to the effect that it was a sorry day for Tasmania when it joined the Federation. It is the height of absurdity to suggest that Tasmania should have remained separate from the other States. There was not the slightest hope for the island State if it had declined to enter the Commonwealth. If the Australian home market had been closed to it, Tasmania would have had to shut up shop. That has always been the attitude I have adopted in the press and on the platform in my State. Tasmanians who preach secession do not think sufficiently. It is quite wrong to say that the little State has been ruined. If it had to vote again to-morrow upon the question of joining the Federation it would simply have to join it. I hope, sir, that you will not be Speaker of the Nationalist Government very long, because I trust that there will not be a Nationalist Government for any great length of time.
– I am not Speaker of the Government.
– Of course, I meant to say Speaker of the National Parliament. I join other honorable members on this side of the House in their view that the present Government are of no use to the workers of Australia. If the Government do what many of those honorable members who sit behind them stated during the election campaign that they would do, that is, abolish arbitration - because a number of honorable members said that - and generally tear things up, they will find that they will be sorry for it. They will probably be sorry only once, but it will be for a long time. If one thing more, than another would produce chaos in Australia, or, perhaps, something worse, it would be tinkering with our arbitration laws. Especially inopportune is the proposal outlined in the report of the secret conference of State Attorneys-General, which terminated in Melbourne yesterday. There is a brief report in to-day’s press indicating that the conference came to a secret understanding as to a proposal to be made to the Prime Minister, who is to see if the present Government can make some arrangement by which tho limitations of State and Federal activities regarding industrial matters shall be fixed. Whatever alterations the Prime Minister may have in his mind, I hope that neither he nor his Government will listen to the proposals of the State AttorneysGeneral to take from employees of State instrumentalities their right to bring their grievances under the notice of the Federal Arbitration Court. There should beno line drawn between State servants and workers in private employment. A citizen engaged in connexion with a State instrumentality is entitled to the same means of redress, if he has a grievance, as a private employee. The very best means of redress he could have would be the right of access to a Court appointed by a Government which has been elected by the votes of the whole of the Australian people. For the sake of simplicity in working, I would not care if all State industrial matters remained within the ambit and control of State Governments - but for the one fatal consideration, namely, the State Legislative Councils. When State-. Governments seek to deal legislatively with their own industrial affairs, they are faced in almost every instance with the insuperable difficulty of getting their measures through a hostile Upper House, the. members of which have not been elected by the votes of the whole of the people. I know - speaking of my own State - that there can be no chance of any
Government passing a legislative enactment, of an impartial industrial character because of the calibre and the views of the Tasmanian UpperHouse. I would be content to leave all those activities, which now have access to the Federal Court, in possession of their existing rights. Indeed, I would extend the powers of the Federal Court in relation to the whole wide field of industry.
. -I offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) upon his attainment of so high and responsible an office. Measured by years, and by his years of political experience, the honorable gentleman might be described as being youthful; but he has already proved his possession of the necessary ability both to adorn and retain the supreme position which he now occupies. His invaluable experience in what has been slightingly termed the realm of big business is an entirely commendable qualification. I trust that the Prime Minister will enjoy a long and distinguished career as a leader in the public life of the Commonwealth.
As. a member of the Nationalist party, I regret that the apathy of the electors la st December should have been responsible for the defeat of the Hughes Administration, and, incidentally, of several gentlemen who have rendered conscientious legislative service both to their constituencies and the country at large.
– There would havebeen none of you left but for that apathy. Apathy was your best friend.
– In Queensland, where the State law provides for compulsory voting, the highest percentage of votes was cast. The Commonwealth Government should look into the matter of compulsory voting in order to see whether it would not be advisable to introduce compulsion in connexion with Federal elections.
– What was the result of the voting in Queensland?
– The average for the wholeof the electorates was about 82 per cent.
– What were the party returns ?
-Seven Nationalists were selected by the people, two Labour representatives, and one from the Coun try party. However, I am not so much interested in the political character of’ the successful candidates as in the fact that theState compulsory voting law reflected so markedly upon the Federal election. Seeing, that all the people have been intrusted with the franchise, it is only reasonable to expect that they should all do their duty as citizens by recording an opinion at the polling booths.
I am pleased that an. arrangement has been concluded between the Nationalist and Country parties so that the work of the Federal Parliament may be carried on. But I would have preferred to witness a complete amalgamation. These working arrangements may be all right, but they are not calculated to possess stability. I hope that when members of the two parties and of the composite Government shall have become better acquainted there will be a more lasting arrangement than the present one appeal’s to be. I intend to give the Government encouragement and support. I trust that they will be able to evolve a programme which will prove satisfactory to their supporters in both parties. Speaking for myself, the interests of Queensland demand that I should closely examine their policy in relationto the sugar question. The people of the northern State are sincere when they ask that the great sugar industry shall receive further sympathetic consideration from the Federal Parliament, seeing that it is one of the great activities of the Commonwealth, which is maintaining a garrison in far northern parts, and so guaranteeing the preservation of the White Australia ideal. The following is a brief quotation from the report of the Royal Commission which was engaged during 1920 in an investigation of . the sugar industry. On page 10 these significant remarks are recorded -
The sugar industry has been of great value in settling a population in many portions of our tropical and sub-tropical lands, which otherwise must have remained unoccupied. In the moist coastal regions of the tropics no other industry is yet in sight which promises profitable employment on any appreciable scale or permanence to white labour.
Apart from its directly economic value, this industry is exercising an important influence in. acclimatizing a large number of white people to tropical conditions of life, and in that respect is rendering valuable service towards future development.
It is claimed by the cane-growers that the existing duty is totally inadequate as a means of protection against the importation of black-grown sugar. Australian growers insist that something must be done promptly to safeguard and stabilize their industry. During January last a conference was held in Brisbane at which delegates from all the allied industries attended. These representative men recorded the following resolution : -
In view of the fact that the effect of the current Sugar Agreementhas been to substantially assist to stabilize’ the industry, and having regard also to the very great importance which the industry is economically, industrially, and nationally to the Commonwealth as a whole, and to the States of Queensland and New South Wales in particular, this Conference strongly urges upon the CommonWealth and State Government the urgent necessity o’f renewing the agreement at the same price for a period of five years.
Only a few days ago a delegation of Queensland sugar experts travelled to Melbourne especially to wait upon the Prime Minister. Those gentlemen placed the whole of the facts relating to the industry before the Government; and they suggested, as an alternative to the renewal of the agreement, the formation of a sugar pool.. If the Government have finally decided to refuse to renew the agreement, I urge them to give very careful consideration to the establishment of a Pool, All that theFederal Government would be asked to do would be to prohibit the importation of black-grown sugar, except so much as may be required to make up any possible shortage in the Australian production. The delegates do not expect the Government to risk one penny of the taxpayers’ money; they are prepared to undertake the whole of the arrangements. It is proposed that the Pool shall function for a term of five years, and not at any time during its currency would the price exceed 4¾d. per lb.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say the other day in reference to the sugar industry -
The Government recognises that it is vital to Australia that the white sugar industry of the Commonwealth should be safeguarded against the competition of black-grown sugar, and it proposes to take whatever steps are necessary so to safeguard it.
That is a very encouraging statement to Queenslanders. The Prime Minister madeanother statement, in which he said that the Government would not arrive at any conclusion on the question as to whether the import duty on sugar is too high or too low, until a very exhaustive inquiry had been made. It appears to me that the honorable gentleman is attempting to keep in favour with both parties. If this “ exhaustive inquiry “ will mean the delaying of a decision for six or twelve months, it will not be popular in Queensland. If there is going to be a long delay in the introduction of further legislation dealing with the sugar industry, there isa sufficient number of members in this House to carry a motion within twenty-four hours for the extension of the agreement. I do not say that threateningly or as a warning, but as a representative of Queensland it is my duty to state theposition as Isee it.
– Why did you not get the Hughes Government to submit it to tha House last session? You had an absolute majority.
– If the honorable member had taken a little more interestin Federal politics, he would have been more keenly alive to the situation.
– The agreement was never submitted to the House.
– The existing agreement had still nine months to run when the legislation was brought before the House. Parliament was about to expire, and had it attempted to bind the hands of the succeeding Parliament the Government would have been condemned by every honorable member.
– If you and the other Nationalist members had taken up a determined stand the Government would have had to do what you wanted it to do.
– It is very easy for the honor able member, who is a newcomer, and is anxious to make himself appear to be the only champion of the sugar industry in this chamber, to make a statement like that. I can assure him that not at any time have the Queensland members neglected an opportunity of making the sugar industry a subject for consideration; they at all times have done everything possible to push the interestsof Queensland in this matter. If the honorable member looks into the proceedings of the last Parliament he will find that it is a little bit late in the day for him to come here and make those absurd statements.
– You missed the bus. You had the opportunity.
– Order! These interjections must cease.
– I submit that the presentation of the case has been full and complete. This Parliament should be influenced by the representations which have been made rather than by the ridiculous resolutions that have been passed from time to time by the Housewives Association. Do the opponents of the sugar industry realize that it is carried on by 5,000 farmers, who are producing annually a crop valued at £12,000,000, half of which is paid to the 22,000 workmen who are engaged in the industry? Do they realize that the capital invested in the industry amounts to £16,000,000? Have our opponents forgotten that, when the world’s market price of sugar was £81 per ton, the cane-growers of Queensland supplied the people of Australia with sugar, under an agreement, at a rate of £27 7s. 6d. per ton? It was the price of the foreign-grown sugar, which was imported to make up a shortage, that was responsible for the high price which the consumer was asked to pay. Queensland desires to. have for the sugar industry a measure of security that will wipe out the uncertainty which has attended the carrying on of the industry since the early days of Federation.
-How much duty do you want?
– The proposal at the present time is that the duty shall be £14 per ton. The proposal to make the duty £11 6s. 8d. would have been agreed to last session had it not been for the intervention of the honorable member for Balaclava, who, I believe, was surprised at his success in that direction.
– Eight Nationalist members voted for the amendment.
– The whole of the Labour party voted against the higher duty.
– Why did not the Government make it a Government measure? They could have carried it.
– I can understand there being differences of opinion in a party such as the Nationalist party, in which no influence is exerted on honorable members, who are at liberty to speak as they like. I cannotunderstand why the whole of the Labour Opposition voted against the proposal to benefit the sugar industry when a real opportunity was afforded them for conferring on the industry some tangible benefit.
– The Labour party moved an amendment providing for an agreement.Why did you not vote for that amendment ?
– Order ! I have already warned the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I shall reply to the last interjection.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot obtain from the Chair permission to reply to interjections.
– No amendment ever came before this Chamber providing for an agreement. It was proposed, but it was ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker. I ask the Government to consider seriously the facts which have been made available, and to deal promptly with this question.
I do not think any good purpose would be served by agreeing to the amendment that has been moved to the AddressinReply. It would be perfectly absurd to expect the Government to bring forward any sort of policy in the limited time which was at their disposal before the House met. During the recess the Government will have time to survey the big questions that are awaiting solution. They will have every opportunity to go thoroughly into all those matters, and when they again meet us it will depend on their merits whether or not they receive the support of the House.
.- Although the Prime Minister last week did not put before this House any regular political programme, he mentioned a number of matters - some of which are of great national importance - which would receive the attention of the Government in the near future. There were two matters regarding which he made a definite statement. He said that the finances of the Commonwealth are in such a healthy state that he anticipated there would be a large surplus at the end of the financial year. That is a very cheering statement for the taxpayers of this country, if - as we expect will be the case - it means that the taxation is going to be reduced to the extent of this extra revenue.
The other definite statement which the Prime Minister made was that he and his Government would pursue a policy of economy - a statement which he qualified by saying “ so long as that policy does not do any injustice to any one.” That is a very laudable sentiment, of which we must approve. Not one of us wishes to do any injustice, but we want to see practised in Australia a policy of economy. The House has a right to know exactly what the honorable gentleman’s reservation means. If it means that $ie overmanning of Government Departments will continue, and that two people will be retained to do the work of one, or three to do the work of two, I am, strongly opposed to it. The people of Australia expect from the Government a real, and not a sham, system of economy. Any Government worthy of the support of the people ought to- act courageously and dispense with unnecessary hands in the Departments. No Government will get the continued support ‘of the people until it takes such action. We know something of the waste and extravagance that have taken place in the past. Millions “of pounds were wasted in the War Service Homes, in shipbuilding, and in the purchase of timber and woollen mills. Government undertakings have always resulted in a heavy loss, which has been placed on the shoulders of the taxpayers. The time has come when all this waste and extravagance must cease, and the people expect the Government to put an end to it.
In the matter of taxation, the party to which I belong considers, and I think most honorable members will agree, that we ought to have only one taxation authority. The existing system is very unsatisfactory from every point of view. We have State and Federal taxing Departments, and taxpayers have two different forms to _ fill in. Different questions are asked on each of these forms, and taxpayers are unnecessarily confused. The procedure could be simplified by having one taxing authority and one form for taxpayers to fill in. The primary producers of the country have been most unfairly treated in the matter of taxation. They secured some relief as a result of the Act passed by the last Parliament. They had been agitating for an averaging system, and the Act gave them a hybrid scheme. Primary producers are in a different class from other sections of the community, inasmuch a9 their income is subject to the variations of the seasons. In one season a producer might make a large profit, but in the following year he might suffer a loss which would absorb all the profits made in the previous year. Until the passing of the Act to which I have referred, he was taxed to the full on his income during a good year, and did not receive any allowance for the period during which he made a loss,.. Now he receives an’’ allowance for unprofitable years, but not an adequate one. The averaging system is applied only to the rate. To give the producers adequate relief, a system should be adopted of averaging incomes over a period of not less than five years. It has been estimated, and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statement, that before the passing of the Act a primary producer was at a disadvantage, by comparison with a man with a regular income, of about 450 per cent., and that be is still at a disadvantage of about 75 per cent. It is the duty of the Government to remove that anomaly and place the primary producer on as favorable a footing as other sections of the community.
Another important plank in the platform of the party to which I belong is decentralization. That word has been dangled before the people of Australia for thirty or forty years, during which time we have travelled very little, if any, nearer to its realization. There are outlying parts of Australia - I speak particularly of New South Wales - which are undeveloped, but which are capable of supporting a very much larger population than they carry at present. They should be opened up by railways, and other necessary facilities should be provided. I have resided in the Riverina for the past thirty-six years, and during almost the whole of that time we have been agitating for the building of lines, of railways to open up first-class wheat lands. We have also asked for water supplies, the extension of telephonic and telegraphic facilities, the opening of postoffices, and the provision of other facilities which would lead to the settlement of a larger population. Because the opening of these railways would take trade away from Sydney, we have never had a hope of getting them built until recently, when the New South Wales Government, under the pressure of the New States agitation, and of the nine Progressives in the State Parliamentwho hold the balance of power, agreed that the Victorian railways should be extended to link up with the railways of New South Wales. This should have been done more than thirty years ago. I do not think any honorable member will deny the necessity of decentralization, because without it the country cannot be developed and populated. The policy of the Country party is decentralization and the creation of New States. There is no hope of obtaining anything like effective decentralization until we get more States. There is much opposition to our proposal. Some of it comes from interested people, and some from those who have not inquired into what has happened in other countries. In the United States of America and Canada the population of States has quadrupled within ten years of their subdivision, and we have been assured that the country has gone ahead by leaps and bounds since the new States were created. Is there any reason why the same thing would not happen in Australia? We do not know, and I am not prepared to say whether we ought to have a Convention to alter the Constitution to provide machinery for creating New States. I have heard some honorable members maintain that it is not necessary. Perhaps it. is not. We should avoid the expense if we can, but we want to create the machinery and set it working as soon as possible, either by means of a Convention or by action taken by Parliament.
Postal reform was mentioned by the Prime Minister. For a long time there has been a serious drift of population from the country to the city. That is largely because the ordinary facilities of civilization are not provided for the people who are on the land. The policy of the Country party is to settle people on the land, and make the conditions so attractive that they will remain there instead of drifting to the cities.
The extension of the telephone system into the very heart of the bush is another very important matter. We are trying to settle people in the back country, but, unless they are provided with telephonic communication, schools,postoffices, water supply, and other facilities, they will not remain. One can well understand that people will not remain in the remote parts of Australia if they are not supplied with ready means of communicating with a doctor, for example, in case of sickness or accident. Such facilities should be provided for the people in the back country, and provided for them in the cheapest possible way.
– Wireless will soon put that matter right.
– I hope it will in time, but we have not yet reached that stage of development. I would also urge upon the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) the desirableness of extending the hours of country telegraph and telephone offices. At the present time they remain open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.; but as the average farmer leaves home for his work long before 9 a.m. and, as a rule, does not return until after 6 p.m., he has no opportunity to make use of them. In my opinion, all post and telegraph offices in country districts should be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Postmaster-General is familiar with the conditions of life in the back country, and I am convinced that he will give full and sympathetic consideration to these suggestions.
Let me refer briefly to the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamships. Speaking generally, I am altogether opposed to such Government enterprises, but an exception ought, perhaps, to be made of publicutilities and the development of public works. The Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers would come within that category, but it is for the Government to decide whether or not the Line is a business proposition and has been of reasonable service to the people. I do not think it has been of any service to them. It has practically been in league with the Shipping Combine, and until lately its rates have been the same as, or, in some cases, higher than, those of other lines. By way of example, I would point out that a first-class passage to England by one of the vessels of the
Commonwealth Line costs £126, whereas the fare charged by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steamship Company is £114, while a first-class passage on an Aberdeen liner costs only £96.
– What about freights?
– The Commonwealth Government Line has done well lately in reducing its freights, but the reduction hasnot been carried out on fair lines. The freight on wool, for instance, is £11 13s. 4d. per ton, whereas the freight on copra, which is not produced in Australia, is only 61s. 3d. per ton. Copra occupies much the same space pelton as does wool, yet the freight charged on it by the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers is less than one-third the freight that it demands in respect of wool. That, surely, is unreasonable. Wool-growing is an industry on which Australia and its finances are largely dependent, and I fail to understand whv wool should be singled out for this victimization. I hope the Government will look into the matter and remove the anomaly.
The co-operative handling of primary products is very important, and I hope that the Government will do everything possible to encourage it. I recognise that all that the Government can do in that direction is to encourage the pooling of produce. We have had some experience of the pooling of wheat, wool, butter, and other primary products; but since I have been growing wheat, as well as raising wool, for over thirty years, and am therefore able to speak with authority on the subject of their handling, I shall confine my attention to the pooling of those two products. Some people consider that the pooling system is disadvantageous rather than helpful to the wheat farmer. I do not know what has led them to that conclusion, but very few farmers in New South Wales will say that the pooling system in that State has not been of very great advantage to them. In connexion with the crop of 1921-22, wo had, in New South Wales, a voluntary Pool. Many of us feared that it would not be successful. We were afraid that a majority of the wheat-growers would remain outside. Fortunately, however, the majority put, their wheat into the Pool, and, as one who has been watching and dealing in the wheat market for thirty years or more, I have no hesitation in saying that that voluntary Pool put at least an additional1s. per bushel into the pockets of the wheat-growers of New South Wales. I remember a season, more than thirty years ago, when I had a splendid crop and was offered for it only1s. 8d. per bushel. I refused that offer, stored my wheat for some months, and ultimately sold it for1s.11d. per bushel. A number of my fellow-farmers who were in need of money had, however, to sell their crop as soon as they got it off, and were forced to accept1s. 8d. or 1s. 9d. per bushel for it. Honorable members know very well that it would be impossible to continue producing wheat for anything like so low a return. In the following season there was a world’s shortage of wheat, and so great was the anxiety of buyers to obtain supplies that they came out to our paddocks and offered us what, at the time, was considered the wonderful price of 4s. per bushel. One of the conditions imposed by them was that the wheat should be delivered within one month of the date of purchase. I scoured the country for teams to carry my wheat to the nearest railway station - some 25 miles away - and succeeded in delivering a portion of my crop within a month of the date of purchase, with the result that I obtained 4s. a bushel for it. A week later the price fell by 3d. per bushel. In the following week there was a further fall of 3d. per bushel, and within a month the ruling price was about 3s. per bushel. We did not realize at the time what was responsible for the fall, but, looking back, we see now that the wheat speculator was out - as he always is - to make a good deal for himself. The wheat speculator knows that in many cases a farmer has to realize on his crop as soon as it is harvested. Practically nine out of every ten farmers rush their wheat into the market in the months of January and February. They are forced to sell as soon as possible, and this is the speculator’s opportunityto obtain their wheat for lessthan it is worth. That is how if was that, until the Pool was established, the wheat-growers were absolutely at the mercy of the speculators. That position will be changed if we continue the system of Wheat Pools; but they cannot be continued unless the
Government give the producers some more encouragement. The Government should be a little more liberal in guaranteeing the first advance. The wheat-grower, in common with the producers of other primary products, must have some money soon after his produce is ready for market, otherwise he cannot carry on. If an adequate first advance is not made, he must sell outside the Pool for whatever he can get. Last year the Federal Government rendered material assistance to wheat-growers in guaranteeing 3s. per bushel, but there were a number whose commitments amounted to more than was covered by the guarantee of 3s. per bushel on their crops, and they were consequently forced to sell outside the Pool. The Government might, without any risk at all, have given an extra 6d. per bushel, and that would have meant a great difference to the farmers, and also to the Pool, because if that course had been followed, very much more wheat would have been put into the Pool. The same thing applies to wool. As a wool-grower, T am in a position to say that if it had not ‘been for the establishment of the company known as “ Bawra,” we should have experienced a serious collapse in the wool market. Honorable members may remember, as wool-growers do, what happened just before the formation of “ Bawra.” We had on the other side of the water something like 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 bales of wool, the accumulation of the war period. That wool was, for the most part, held by the Imperial Government, who were threatening to put it on the market, and realize upon it. If that had been done, the result would have been disastrous, not only to the wool-growers of Australia, but to the whole community. It would have meant the .demoralization of the market, and an absolute collapse in the price of wool. Far more wool would have been put upon the market than it could have absorbed, and, as I have said, the result would have been disastrous. Many wool-growers would have been ruined, and the effect won in have been felt by all classes in the community, because all are to a great extent dependent upon the wool-growers. When the wool-growers are prosperous the rest of the community is prosperous.
Fortunately, the wool-growers and others put their heads together, and “ Bawra “ was formed, and immediately after its formation the price of lower quality wools, which at the time were practically unsaleable, began to rise, as did the price of all kinds of wool. The speculators discovered that they could not get the cheap wool they expected, and would have to give a fair price. So the wool industry of Australia was saved, and, as a result of the formation of “ Bawra,” nt least from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000, which we would not otherwise have received, will come to Australia to be circulated throughout the country. These two examples show what can be done by co-operation in the handling of our products. It is the duty of the Government to assist the Pool system in every way they can.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the Federal taxation of leaseholds. On top of the high rents which leaseholders are called upon to pay in the different States, they are expected to pay this Federal tax. I admit that the tax has not been collected in a number of cases in New- South Wales, ‘but if it is collected, I can assure honorable members that the result will be that a great many people will be ruined. A great deal of land in New South Wales, particularly in the western division, and a good deal in Queensland, which I do not know so well, has been assessed for rent up to its full value by the State Governments controlling it. Many leaseholders had to throw up their holdings because of the high rents they were called upon to pay. The lessees have to face continually recurring droughts, and the ravages of rabbits, dingoes, and other pests. On the top of all this there is this Federal tax, which I consider iniquitous. . I do not believe that the Commonwealth has any right whatever to impose a tax on leaseholds, which are taxed to the full amount the lessees can afford to pay in the shape of the rents they are charged. In my view, the portion of the Act imposing this taxation should be repealed.
– If the leases are rented at their full value, the lessees will not pay any Federal tax.
– The tax was imposed some years ago and has not been collected. It has accumulated, and if the law is enforced many lessees will be ruined. The law should be repealed, as if any attempt is made to collect the tax, a lot of land will go out of occupation.
I wish to say a word or two on the subject of the duties on agricultural machinery. I have never been a Free Trader. I am a Protectionist, but a moderate and not an extreme Protectionist. I do not believe in extremes in anything. Although I am a primary producer, I want to see the secondary industries of this country prosper and develop hand in hand with the primary industries. In my view it is absolutely necessary for the good of the country that the secondary industries should be encouraged and developed. That will be found to be the best course to adopt to rapidly increase our population. At the same time, honorable members must admit that the present duties on agricultural implements, which are the farmer’s tools of trade, are altogether too high. The primary producers are in a different position from other sections of the community, inasmuch as they cannot pass on to other sections taxation imposed upon them. If we are to do what is fair by the producers of Australia, we must considerably reduce the duties on agricultural machinery. If necessary, local manufacturers of such machinery should be assisted by bounties, but something must be done, because the present duties on agricultural machinery are to a great extent crippling the farming industry. At present” prices it is impossible for many who would take up farming to pay for the machinery they require to commence operations. Many would make a start if they could get the necessary machinery at a. reasonable price. Present prices are so high as to absolutely prevent farming settlement. Something must be done to meet this, difficulty.
– Wait till the producer is at the mercy of the importer.
– I would be sorry, indeed, to advocate anything that would do any injury to our manufacturers. That they should be put out pf action is the last thing that I desire, and we can surely give relief to the producers without harming the secondary industries.
A good deal has been said about the formation of the composite Ministry. 1 was opposed to the formation of such a Government, because I did not think it was the right thing to do. In my opinion it would have been better for the Country party to give a general support to the National party, whose policy was nearest to our own, so long as it introduced legislation that conformed to our programme. But I was in a minority in the party, and now that a composite Ministry has been formed I shall do what lies within my power “to make it a success, providing that the Country party does not lose its separate entity.
– It has done so already.
– Make no mistake about that. I have been rather amused at hearing honorable members of the Opposition talk about “ the late Country party.” Our party is as much alive as ever it was. With honorable members opposite the wish is father to the thought, because they know very well that but for the Country party they would have been in stronger numbers in this House today; they might even have been in possession of the reins of government. The existence of the Country party did a great deal to prevent them realizing that ambition, and no doubt they would like us to be out of the field before the next general election, but they will find us an even stronger obstacle to their ambition then than we were on the 16th December.
Like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) I resent the application to me of the term “ anti-Labour.” I repudiate that designation. I have never been anti-Labour, but I am opposed to the policy of the party now sitting in Opposition simply because it aims at “ the socialization of the mean3 of production, distribution, and exchange.” It may not be the intention of honorable members opposite Uo bring into force that plank of their platform at the present time; indeed, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald), who last night made a very able speech, upon which I compliment him, gave us an assurance to that effect. He made out the best possible case for his party, but he utterly failed when he endeavoured to show that this objective of the Labour party is not to be feared. He said, in effect; “Do not worry about the socialization objective; it is designed for the future, and may not be brought into operation for a long time.” He might also have said - “ It may be brought into operation at any time if we have the power to do so.” Those honorable members opposite whose acquaintance I have made I respect personally, and I believe that the majority of them, if allowed to act on their own volition, would not do anything unfair to any section of the community. Unfortunately, as the honorable member for Barton practically admitted last night, there is outside this Chamber a driving force, the objective of which is the socialization of industry. Whether or not honorable members in this House desire to see that objective realized, the driving force outside insists upon its introduction as soon as possible, and if my honorable friends opposite oppose that force, they will find themselves in a predicament similar to that of Mr. Dooley, with little chance of receiving the support of their organization at the next election.
– Is not the honorable member a party man?
– I am not a slavish follower of any party. In conclusion, I hope that the Government will succeed in giving effect to the programme which the Prime Minister outlined. I believe that it will be to the advantage of this country, and I hope that even honorable members opposite will help us to put into law some of those proposals of great national importance.
.- Like other new members I respectfully ask for the indulgence of the House during the short period for which I shall speak. I sympathize with those two new members on the Government side who were called upon to move and second the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. A new member speaking in the House for the first time is always under a handicap, but his position is more than ordinarily embarrassing when he is asked to speak upon something which is nothing. Many things have surprised me since I entered this House. I was astonished at the pomp and ceremony that accompanied the opening of Parliament, but I have been even more surprised by the attitude of members on the Ministerial side in reference to the amendment before the House. I expected that they would defend themselves, and placebefore us argu ments and proposals upon which we could speak later. But each speaker, although no doubt intending to vote against the amendment, has by the nature of his utterances supported it. Each one has suggested something that should be done by the Government, but it is clear that the Government propose to do nothing but go into recess. I support the amendment, especially the concluding paragraph
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 those 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.
It is almost superfluous to discuss this matter, because the people of the Commonwealth have alreadyshown that they have no confidence in the Nationalist Parliament. Prior to the last election there was a Nationalist Ministry, and candidates indorsing the policy of the Government were defeated. No less than five Ministers, some of whom had held portfolios for very many years, and had been members of this Parliament since the inauguration of Federation, lost their seats. If that was not sufficient to induce the Government to resign, I do not know what would be necessary to make them vacate the Treasury bench, to which they clung so tenaciously. The Leader of the Opposition in another Chamber last week pointed out that the attitude of the Government in carrying on after they had been defeated at the polls, was unconstitutional. In my opinion, he was quite right. It is true that the antiLabour forces are in a majority in this Parliament, but during the election campaign they faced the electors as separate political entities. Each party had a definite platform and policy, and the respective candidates declared that, if elected, they would give effect to their policy. Now that there is a composite Government in occupation of the Treasury bench, they are not prepared to carry on, but, instead, want a respite of several months in order to formulate their policy. Of course, it ia all so much hypocrisy. Their attitude reminds me of the story told of a certain candidate who was seeking the suffrages of the people. After he had delivered his first address he said to his audience, ‘ ‘ Now you know what my policy is. If you don’t like it, I will change it to suit your wishes.” That really is the position of the present Government. They went to the country with what they declared to be a definite policy, but in the amalgamation of antiLabour forces there has been evolved a Ministry that is not now prepared to carry on. Though the members of the Country party declared that they were separate and distinct from the Nationalists, it is significant that during the life of the last Parliament they were instrumental in saving the life of the Government on many occasions. As further proof that the parties had much in common, I remind honorable members that a member of another place, when moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, offered his congratulations to the Government upon the formation of a composite Ministry from parties having the same views and objectives. This notwithstanding the fact that, as I have already said, the candidates of the respective parties went to the electors as members of different parties. It would be interesting to recall all that was contained in the policy speech of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), as Leader of the Country party, and see how much of it will be put into operation during the life of this Parliament. I am satisfied that the record will be such as to induce the electors to place the Country party in its proper position at the next election.
Many important matters should be dealt with prior to Parliament going into recess. One was mentioned to-day by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), namely, electoral reform. The Prime Minister the other day suggested that there was no occasion to deal with that subject just at presents - suggesting, of course, that an early appeal to the electors is not probable. Has there been an understanding between the Prime Minister, as the Leader of the Nationalist party, and the Country party on thisvital matter ? The present electoral system is so complicated that, with all due respect to honorablemembers, I feel quite safe in saying that some of them do not understandit themselves. Thousands of electors are unable to say what was the actual value of the votes recorded by them in December last. It is inconceivable, and certainly unjust, that, in the case of a Senate election, a seventh preference should, at some stage of the count, have the same value as a first preference vote. The Constitution provides that every adult person shall have a vote, but the practical effect of the present electoral law is to disfranchise quite a large section of the community. I refer, of course, to those electors whose votes are declared informal owing to the complicated system in operation. I have had experience as a scrutineer at elections, andI know how nervous some electors are when in the polling booth. Many even refuse to record a vote at all, because of the fear of making a mistake. In view of all the circumstances, I think that, instead of going into recess, Parliament should be called upon immediately to deal with and alter the present system of voting, so that the machinery may be ready whenever it is wanted. The electoral law should be altered in such a way as to comply with the terms of the Constitution in their entirety, by insuring adult suffrage and a system of voting thatcan be easily understood, thus giving full effect to the wishes of the people. However, I hope that the present Government will not have an opportunity to carry out that reform, but that the amendment before us will be carried, and, despite our faulty system of voting, that we shall soon go once more to the country. If that should prove to be the case, I feel sure that a Government will be returned prepared to put into operation a rational system of recording the wishes of the electors. I fancy that there are many honorable members opposite who before the last election, would not have been prepared to amend the system, but who now would be willing to listen to proposals in that direction. The reason for this change is that they have found out that the system in operation has not had the effect they wished and anticipated. What they then had in view was the consolidation of all parties against the Labour party; but, as a matter of fact, members on this side have been returned in increased strength under the very electorallaw that was intended to operate to their detriment. During my election campaign, and also when in the districts represented by others, I was often met with interjections to the effect that the Labour party was responsible for the introduction of the present voting system. That argument, however, was used only by those who recognised that the people desired a different method; as on other occasions, our opponents misrepresented the Labour party and made it responsible for any action or suggestion that would prejudice it in the eyes of the public. More especially by those who now occupy seats behind the Government, many suspicions were aroused in regard to the Labour party, and myself and others were often asked what guarantee there was’ that we would not act as other Labour candidates had acted in the past. The present system of voting, as I say, makes true adult suffrage impossible; and has brought this Parliament into being in the most extraordinary way. And, then, there is the fact that, just after we have been called together, it is proposed that we shall go into recess ; and this, I am sure, will not tend to improve the prestige of parliamentarians. There is already a suspicion of members of Parliament, and that, to my regret, will be increased by the adjournment of the House over a long period.
I should now like to refer to the question of immigration, although it has been dealt with by preceding speakers. During the last twelve months a large number of people have been brought to Australia, and, doubtless, more will arrive during the next few months, when we shall be in recess, and honorable members onthis side will have no opportunity to voice their objections to the policy of the Government. It is. quite true that emigrants are being brought here by misrepresentation. Only the other day I read a newspaper report of a speech by the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook), in which he told the English people that 90 per cent. of the people of Kalgoorlie owned their own h omes. It may be a fact that that percentage of people at Kalgoorlie do own their homes, but the statement by the High Commissioner was intended, by innuendo, to convey the idea that 90 per cent. of the people generally of Australia were in that fortunate position.
– Did the High Commissioner tell the English people what those Kalgoorlie homes are worth to-day 1 Mr. LACEY. - No; the High Commissioner merely made the statement I have quoted. 1 listened attentively to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) when he spoke the other day and cited the case of a disappointed immigrant who had been brought here on the strength of misrepresentations, and I, personally, am familiar with the facts of that case and many others of the kind. I have met a man who toldme that the lectures delivered and pictures shown in England, with a view to inducing people to come to Australia, are misleading, just as is Sir Henry Barwell’s scheme for bringing boys to South Australia.We of the Labour party are not opposed to immigration, but we are opposed to bringing out people for whom no provision has been previously made. There are hundreds of people in Australia to-day who desire to go on the land, but are denied the opportunity. If we have land for immigrants we have land for Australians, and the first step should be to make that land available, and thus increase employment. Having done this, we may allow immigration to keep step with the progress of the country. To immigration under such conditions the Labour party has no objection; but, in our opinion, those who are eager to induce people to come here, in viewof the present unemployment and scarcity of land, are actuated by a sinister motive. Certainly no encouragement was given to people here by the last Government to settle on the land.
Perhaps the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) will take notice of what I am about to say. Grey Division covers a large area, a considerable part of which is undeveloped, and the people now there are greatly in need of increased telephonic and other postal facilities. Such facilities were promised them during the last election campaign by their then representative, the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton). That gentleman, accompanied by postal officials, travelled throughout the district, not emphasizing the fact that he was on a political campaign, but interviewing the people as to their requirements in the way of postal facilities. Post offices were used for the placarding of advertisements of his meetings, and the people were assured that the promises made in this connexion would be duly carried out. I can only hope that the promises will be honoured, for that is essential to the development of that part of South Australia. In the past, so far as postal matters are concerned, the metropolitan areas in each of the States have had far more attention than has been conferred on the country districts, and this injustice can only be remedied by carrying the amendment and placing on the Treasury bench a party prepared and able to assist, in this and every other way, the development of the Commonwealth.
Another matter discussed during the debate is that of the Arbitration Court and its functions and powers. Along with other speakers, I trust that this Court will not be either tampered with or abolished, as I believe many honorable members opposite desire. Our arbitration laws require amendment so that the Arbitiation Court may be made more easily . accessible and unions and employers alike induced to take advantage of it on each and every occasion. During the past three years attempts have been made by the Government and those opposed to Labour, in some of the States, to abolish the Arbitration Courts. In South Australia last year, the State Court narrowly averted extinction. The abolition of our Arbitration Court and the question of immigration are very closely related, because those who wish our Arbitration Courts to be closed are also anxious that large numbers of immigrants shall be brought to Australia as quickly as possible. The supporters of this project wish our Arbitration Courts to be closed so that the workers of Australia will not be able to approach the Courts for an adjustment of wages and an improvement in their conditions of living. They wish excessive economic pressure to be placed upon the workers by the large influx of immigrants whose presence would be a guiding factor in the wages to be paid, and the conditions under which the workers should live. The Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell), whose name has been mentioned during the debate, possesses very Conservative views; but I honour him because he makes his position as a real Conservative perfectly plain. He believes in the introduction of coloured labour to Australia, and is not afraid to advocate it. That gentleman is also supporting the introduction of large numbers of immigrants into Australia in order to reduce the standard of living of the working classes. He also believes in the abolition of Arbitration Courts, so that the economic pressure on the workers will be so great that the standard of living will inevitably be reduced. There are many others also opposed to the Labour party who are prepared to support the Premier of South Australia, but, unlike him, they have not the courage to express their opinions publicly. Sir Henry Barwell is an honest advocate of real Conservatism.
I wish now to refer to the North-South railway, the construction of which was a portion of the policy announced by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) prior to the last election. The right honorable gentleman told the people that if a Nationalist Government were returned to power the North-South railway would be constructed. A similar promise was made about three years ago, and 1 sincerely trust that whatever Government may be in power during the next three years, they will take the construction of the line into serious consideration, not only because it is necessary, but because it is part of a compact entered into when the control of the Northern Territory was transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth. Section 14 of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act provides that the Commonwealth shall -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway, with a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith, is hereinafter referred to as the Transcontinental Railway).
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) dealt with this matter when referring to the pastoral position in the Northern Territory, and the members of the Public Works Committee, which took evidence on the construction of the line, are of the opinion that there are extensive mineral and other resources on the route proposed to be traversed still undeveloped. Whilst I believe this Government are not prepared to do anythinginthis direction, I trust the time will soon arrive when an Administration will occupy the Treasury bench which will bo willing to mete out justice to the residents in Central Australia and the Northern Territory.
At the outset of my remarks I said there were many honorable members opposing the amendment who were directly voting against principles in which they believed. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Marks), for instance, laid great stress on the fact that the naval defence of Australia was not all that it should be. I do not wish to deal with the question of defence at this juncture; but if the honorable member for Wentworth really believed that Australia is lacking in naval defence he has no right to support a Government going into recess without definitely stating their naval policy. The speech delivered by the honorable member was really in support of the amendment moved by the honorable member for’ Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and was, ‘ in effect, a charge against the Government. I do not agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth, and although I do not know him personally, I do not think he would make a statement which he did not believe to be true. The honorable member for “Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) dealt with the question of compulsory military training, and put the position from his point of view. Personally, I trust that compulsory military training will in the near future be abolished.. The great war proved that our soldiers needed very little training before entering the firing line, and many who have eulogized them have said that even without training our men were the best in the world. Notwithstanding this, the Government are prepared to continue the system of compulsory military training, which places an unnecessary burden upon the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. The expenditure incurred in this direction could very well be devoted to increasing the invalid and old-age pensions, which would be spending money in the right direction without incurring additional liabilities.
On the question of old-age and invalid pensions, however, I shall have more to say later, as I am sure it will he under discussion on frequent occasions during the time I am a member of this House. Although the cost of living has increased and wages are higher, invalid and oldage pensioners, who have been our pioneers, are ‘not receiving the ‘consideration to which they are entitled.
A certain amount of hypocrisy is practised by those who misrepresent the Labour party at election times. Ours is a progressive movement, despite- the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has said that we have our policy framed before we come into the House. We admit that to be so, and we are proud of it. We believe in government of the people, for the people, by the people. In order to put that principle into operation we give every member of our party a voice in the framing of Labour’s policy. In staging that we are revolutionary socialists, and a party to be feared, the Prime Minister is. only making the same utterance as was heard prior to the 1910 election, when the Fisher Government were returned to office.
When the Commonwealth Bank was launched our opponents declared that it would bring ruin in its wake. They asked what working-class people knew about matters of finance. We know now, however, that that Bank has proved a boon to the people of Australia, and has made huge profits. When the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) made his policy speech he said that a rural bank should be established. The Labour party indorses that opinion, but knowing as I do that the Treasurer is prepared to decontrol every industry that has been controlled, I do not think he would be now prepared to inaugurate a rural bank. On the contrary, he would be willing to assist in the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank. Just as our opponents forced Mr. Justice Higgins to retire from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, so they are prepared to hamper the Commonwealth Bank by appointing a Board of Control. They are not candid enough to abolish it in a straight-out manner, such as would be adopted by the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell). They prefer to achieve their purpose by bringing pressure to bear on the present Governor of the Bank. If the Government have their own way, this beneficent institution will be done away with in the near future ‘by the insidious means to which I have referred.
I have a question on the notice-paper, addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), with reference to the standard wheat bag, and I hope to receive a favorable reply.
– The honorable member is not in order in anticipating any matter that is on the notice-paper.
– I merely wish to say that the question to which I desire consideration to be given is the great weight of wheat which the standard bags often contain. They frequently weigh more than 200 lbs. each. It was very noticeable last year that many overweight bags reached our ports.
– The trouble is that you cannot get nearly 200 lbs. into them.
– As many as from fifty to a hundred bags containing that overweight were brought into port daily.
– That would not be 1 per cent. - not½ per cent.
– Some of the bags went up to 245 lbs., and the anomaly should be rectified. When the Chapman bag was first introduced very few sacks of wheat weighed over 180 lbs. The present trouble is not due to the wheat becoming heavier, and it is not because the farmer wishes it to be so. The reason is that the size of the bags has been gradually increased. I hope to receive some favorable information from the Minister for Trade and Customs on this point.
– If what you say is correct, I shall stop it.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Since the Chapman bag has been in use I do not think there is one farmer who would care to return to the old 4-bushel bag. I thank honorable members for their patient hearing, and I hope that those on the opposite side who have spoken in support of the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) will vote for it.
.- I intend to oppose the amendment. One of the matters mentioned in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), to which I desire to briefly refer, is that of a uniform railway gauge for Australia.
It was an act of unpardonable folly on the part of the States to allow varying gauges to be adopted in the different States, but the difficulty having arisen we must face it. The financial position of the Commonwealth to-day makes it impossible for us to commit ourselves to the unreproductive expenditure of many millions on the immediate unification of the railway gauges. The interest bill alone on such a work would be infinitely greater than the present cost of transferring goods at the break-of -gauge stations. It is quite true that the longer the unification is deferred the greater will be the mileage to be converted. Twenty years hence Australia may have doubled its population, and if in that period the mileage were increased by 20 or even 30 per cent., the financial burden per head of the population would be less than if the unification were undertaken now. Consideration should be given to the question of whether engineers cannot find a solution to the problem presented by the many breaks of gauge. There is a difference of only 6½ inches between the New South Wales gauge and the Victorian. To my mind it is incredible that engineering skill cannot solve the problem of constructing an axle on which the wheels may be moved 3¼ inches on each side, aud locked safely in either position. It would be wise tactics for the Government to lay the problem in abeyance, and trust to its being solved by engineers in the near future. Thus there might be saved an unreproductive expenditure of millions of pounds, which would not result in the production of one more bushel of wheat or an extra bag of potatoes.
The Prime Minister hinted at a reduction of postal charges. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) apparently understood the honorable gentleman to suggest that the ordinary postal rate would be reduced to1d., but I do not think that any specific reduction was indicated. I would willingly agree to some reduction in postal charges if that could be undertaken without curtailing the policy of extending postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities in country districts. I doubt, however, whether it could be brought about. I wassurprised to hear the honorable member for Robertson, who, I understand, has had training as an accountant, say that he thought it might be possible for the Government to cut down ordinary postage rates to1d. while at the same time providing additional facilities for the man outback. To do so, indeed, would be to burn the financial candle at both ends. A friend recently gave me a novel description of an optimist. An optimist, he said, might be defined as a man who bought something from a Jew with the intention of selling it to a Scotchman in the expectation of making a profit.We would require to be optimists of just such a calibre if we believedwe could proceed with necessary expansion of country facilities, and, at the same time, reduce postal charges. Some honorable members may not realize to what an extent certain parts of the outback lag behind metropolitan areas. I have in mind one place in my own electorate which is only 24 miles distant from a daily railway service. But it has a once-a-week mail service. The mail departs on a Saturday, and a reply to a letter sent on that day cannot be received before the following Friday. If I were to post a letter to-day in Melbourne eleven days, at the least, must elapse before I could receive a reply from that locality. If I were to post my communication to-morrow I could not expect to hear in regard to it before seventeen days. For an additional expenditure of only 12s. a week the district in question could be provided with two mails a week. I understand that an offer based upon that extra sum was actually made to the Department. It was rejected, however, although I am now given to understand that it is being reviewed.
– What is the population of that neighbourhood?
– I cannot say; but, even if it is not considerable, a onceaweek mail is inadequate.
In connexion with our postal charges the principle of the flat rate is universally accepted. Whether the charge is1d., or1½d., or 2d., it remains the same, no matter if the letter be carried one mile or 1,000 miles. If we agree to the principle that the profit on short-distance letter deliveries shall be used to balance the loss on the carriage over long distances, it is not too much for us to agree, further, that profits made on postal business in densely populated areas should be employed to make up for loss in connexion with postal business in sparsely settled districts.
I would liketo see a telephone installed in every bush home throughout Australia. The man outback requires a telephone more urgently than does the individual who is within close reach of the amenities of life. The immense cost of departmentally erecting telephone lines has been the great obstacle in the country. But telephone work can be done much more cheaply than it has been in the past. Some time ago, in my own district, a group of neighbours, including myself, desired to have a party telephoneline erected. The amount of guarantee demanded by the Department was greater than the cost at which we believed we could put up the line for ourselves.We decided, therefore, with the permission of the Department, to undertake the work. We secured the poles, standing green in the paddocks, and we prepared and erected them. We purchased and put up the wire and insulators.We even installed the actual telephones for ourselves, with the guidance of a wellillustrated book supplied by the Department. That line is nine miles in length; ncluding branches. Its cost, had it been erected by the Department, would have amounted to £450, which would work out at about £50 a mile. The material cost us only £45, and that amount was divided among the lot of us. I admit that the labourer is always worthy of his hire, but honorable members will agree that there could have been no better way in which I and my neighbours could have used our teams and our time in the slack season than in doing the whole of the work for ourselves - so saving the difference between our actual cost, namely, £45, and the departmental estimate of £450. The installation of a country telephone saves the farmer an immense amount of time which, otherwise, would often be expended in traversing rough tracks. Sometimes, indeed, atelephone wire is worth its weight in gold, when it is employed, for example, in urgent cases of illness. I ask the Government to enter upon a policy of boldly expanding the postal, telephonic, and telegraphic services in the country. They should do so even if there should be entailed the retention of existing postal charges. It is hotter to have good and adequate services, even though charges be high, than to bring about reduction of costs and retain inadequate out-back facilities.
The Prime Minister referred to the intention of the Government to write down the values of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. I was particularly glad to hear that statement. Some of the ships of the Commonwealth Line cost so much that it is impossible to retain them in commission on a business basis, in view of the heavy overhead charges. Some of the Bay steamers cost over £1,000,000 ; some cost as much as £1,250,000 - £5,000,000 for four ships ; a sovereign for every man, woman, and child in Australia. That represents an interest bill of about £250,000 per annum. The only means by which the Commonwealth Shipping Line can be made a bookkeeping success is to write down the values of the ships to present-day levels. I am glad that the Prime Minister has hinted that that will be done.
The honorable member for Capricornia ( Mr. Forde) the other day suggested that honorable members on this side were not concerned regarding cheap freights. Cheap freights are absolutely vital to primary production. A drop of one halfpenny in freight would mean that that halfpenny would go into the pockets of the primary producers, not only in respect of the goods which they export, but also in respect of local sales. It is not generally recognised that the primary producer who exports pays the freight, in a sense, not only on the produce which he exports, but actually on every pound of exportable material that is sold within Australia. So long as the export price automatically dictates the local price, if freights go up or down the local price goes up or down accordingly.
I also, remind the honorable member for Capricornia of a little episode thatoccurred in this Parliament about eighteen months ago, when an honorable member of the Country party - who no longer occupies a seat in this Chamber owing to- the fact that his electorate was wiped out in the redistribution - took the business of the House out of the hands of the Government on this question.
The Prime Minister also gave us an assurance that the question of the Tariff in its relation to fertilizers and farming machinery would be referred to the Tariff Board for its consideration. Some people think that the primary producers are particularly unreasonable in demanding special consideration when Tariff burdens are imposed on the staple necessities of primary production. Honorable members know what the position is in regard to sulphur. Sulphur to-day is imported from America duty free when it is to be used in the making of rubber goods, such as motor tyres, by the city manufacturer. Yet that same sulphur, coming from the same source, is dutiable at the rate of 50s. per ton when it is to be used for the purpose of making superphosphates. It is a reasonable supposition that if the indiarubber manufacturer were compelled to pay that duty, he would be in a position to pass on the increased cost; yet that gentleman gets off scot-free, while there is a duty of 50s. per ton on sulphur used in the making of superphosphates - which adds about 6s. per ton to the cost of those superphosphates. That is levied on the man who alone is unable to pass on the increased cost of production - the man who has to accept the open market price of the world, which price is discounted by the cost of transportation 12,000 miles.
The Country party is quite willing to concede to the secondary industries reasonable Tariff protection; but, where more than reasonable protection is demanded, especially on those articles which are staple necessities of primary production, it believes that the bonus system should be used to a greater extent.
I would like to put before honorable members one or two simple illustrations of the difference between the privileged position of the secondary industry which sells its product within Australia, compared with the primary industry which has to export its product overseas. Let us contrast, for example, wheat and the machinery with which that wheat is grown and harvested. I am not a wheatgrower, so can speak on this subject disinterestedly and dispassionately. Our agricultural implement makers in Australia have to compete with importations from Britain, Canada, and other places; they are in the advantageous position of having to compete against world’s price, plus freight, plus Tariff. To the world’s open market value of an agricultural implement, when it leaves either Great Britain or Canada to come to Australia, there has to be added the cost of ocean freight, and, in addition, a very high Tariff. The Australian implement manufacturer is in the fortunate position of being high and dry above world’s levels for agricultural machinery. The wheat-grower does not get for his wheat world’s values net; he gets those world’s values less the cost of transport 12,000 miles - which brings him down considerably below the Plimsoll line of world’s values, at least three rungs lower on the ladder of commercial advantage than the man who makes the agricultural machinery.
Let us contrast woollen goods with butter. The woollen mill is a secondary industry. The butter factory also might be regarded as a secondary industry; because, just as the growing of wool is primary, and the manufacturing of it into clothing is secondary, so the production, of cream is primary and the manufacturing of it into butter might be regarded as secondary. Looking superficially at the question, we would expect that all secondary industries would be on the same level. We have to realize, however; that those industries which export - such as the butter industry - are in a very different position from the woollen mill, which sells its product wholly within Australia. I would like to see established a greater number of woollen mills. I wish to see our secondary industries .expand and prosper; there is plenty of room for them. I do not wish honorable members to make the mistake of thinking that I would like to haul down the woe-Hen mill from its present privileged position. We cannot produce a quantity of woollen goods sufficient to clothe our people; we have to import a considerable quantity from the Old Country to make up the shortage. The Australian woollen mill is in the privileged position of having to compete against the artificially high level of prices brought about by the addition of freight and the Tariff to the world’s values. The butter factory is not in that position. We send a lot of butter to London. Could we send it by wireless or in some magical way get it on to the counter of the London grocer in as fresh a condition as that in which it is placed on the counter of the Melbourne grocer, probably we would get a price at least equal to that obtained for the choicest Danish butter. It takes two months for our butter to reach the London market. Even good butter deteriorates slightly; it loses some of its finest flavour, in a period of two months. The price we get in London for that product is one based on the fact that it is regarded practically as stored butter. So the butter producer gets world’s prices, less a certain amount on account of the deterioration which has taken place in transit, and less the figure represented by 12,000 miles of ocean freight. The woollen mill is two rungs up above world’s prices on the ladder of advantage; the butter factory is two rungs below the level of world’s prices. I am placing these facts before honorable members, not for . the purpose of making a case against secondary industries, which are privileged in this respect, but in order that honorable members may see that the primary producer, who is compelled to accept the world’s market prices, less huge deductions, is deserving of special consideration when heavy Tariff burdens, which he must pay but cannot enjoy, are being imposed. I hope that the Tariff Board, in inquiring into supplies of fertilizers and machinery, will do even-handed justice to the primary producers: as well as to secondary’ industries.. I ‘look upon primary production as all important to Australia. Australia’s future commercial greatness depends to a large extent upon the success and encouragement given to the man on the land. Primary production is the block upon which the house is built - the foundation upon which must be erected all the superstructure of the secondary industries. The size and stability of our foundation of primary production determines how much we can build upon it. The income, whether in the shape of imports or credits’, which comes to Australia in payment for exports, is the fund from which almost all wages are drawn for every trade. It will, therefore, be seen that the lightening of the burdens carried by the primary producer, and the consequent expansion of primary production and our export trade, will affect not merely the welfare of the farmer, but is of vital . interest to every man, woman, and child in this island continent.
There are some products of the soil which are consumed entirely within Australia, and can be protected in the same way as secondary industries. There is no reason why they should not be protected, for they have just as good a claim to protection as the secondary industries. I shall mention only two of them - sugar and maize production. Most honorable members will admit, regardless of their fiscal faith, that it is desirable, from the point of view of defence, that the tropical cane belt in Queensland should be peopled with a dense, prosperous, white population. If we say .to the cane-growers, “ You must not grow your cane as they grow it in Java, with cheap black labour, but you must conform to a White Australia policy, and grow your cane under White Australian conditions,” then it is only reasonable that we should grant them a Tariff to enable them to compete against the sugar produced by black labour in Java. The fruit-grower must <be safeguarded by sugar being supplied at open market rates for jams and processed fruits destined for export. The same argument might be applied to maize-growing. Maize has been finding its way into Australia from South Africa, where it is grown by black labour. If the sugar-cane grower should be protected from the black labour of Java, the Australian maizegrower ought also to be protected from the black labour of South Africa. I noticed the other day that the honorable member, for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) when speaking about sugar, a subject upon which he seems to be an expert, cited the fact that the boot industry ia particularly well protected. He argued that if the Government did not continue the existing sugar agreement it would be placing the sugar-growers in a position inferior to that of the boot manufacturers. That argument is not at all sound. The argument for Tariff protection can be applied with equal logic to the cane-grower as to the boot manufacturer. The policy of the Government in deciding to discontinue the sugar agreement when it runs out at the end of June, and to protect the sugar industry with a Tariff, merely means that the Government will put the sugar industry on the same footing as the boot industry. Tho honorable member for Capricornia would make flesh of one and fish of the other by upholding a Tariff for the boot industry and a special agreement for the sugar industry.
I would like to say a few words on the necessity for electoral reform, especially in regard to the Senate. There is no doubt that the present method of electing honorable senators is a blot on democratic Australia. Preferential voting is a sound system as applied to the House of Representatives. We have heard a little criticism, from honorable members opposite with regard to preferential voting as applied even to this House. I wonder whether those honorable members would be prepared to say they are satisfied that a, Conservative Government should rule in Great Britain at the present time just because a minority of electors have put that Government in office. In England the system of “ first past the post “ operates, and the result is a Conservative Government elected by a minority of voters. In Australia we have the preferential system, and in so far as it is applied to single-seat electorates, it ia sound and effective; but when the system, or an adaptation of it, is applied to the Senate, it does not meet the case. It results in many cases in one party with a very small majority winning every Senate seat. Three years ago the Country party was a smaller and weaker party than it is to-day. Its candidates were wiped out, and their preferences were distributed between the Nationalist and Labour candidates. The Nationalist party polled 54 per cent., and the Labour party 46 per cent, of the total votes. Yet the party that polled 54 per cent, won every Senate seat except one. It secured seventeen seats out of eighteen. Labour won one seat by an accident. I am an out-and-out Country party supporter. I hold no brief for honorable gentlemen opposite : they can very well defend themselves; but I believe in fair play, and I do not think that a system is morally defensible which permits one party with 54 per cent, of the votes polled to obtain seventeen out of eighteen seats, while another party, with 46 per cent, of the votes, wins only one seat. A certain amount of rough, crude justice has been done on the present occasion by the pendulum having swung an the opposite direction ; but a system which makes for violent oscillations is not nearly so good as one which would give representation in the Senate in proportion to the numbers of voters outside. The present system treats the three candidates of a party in one State as an indivisible entity. If one is elected all are elected, bar accidents. The system of proportional representation would make it quite possible for one member of each of the three parties - I repeat “ the three parties “ - to win a seat for each State. The method of counting votes is very extraordinary. I would ask honorable members to bear with me while I give them a simple illustration of what I mean. If an honorable member went into a. shop to purchase a hat for 25s., and placed £2 on the counter, he would expect a hat and 15s. change. He would be very much astonished if the shopkeeper gave him the hat and his £2 back, and invited him to make a second purchase with the same money. If such a lucky purchaser took the shopkeeper at his word and purchased another article for 25s., using the same £2 to pay for it, and was again presented with the article and his money back, and again invited to make another pur-1 chase, he would probably regard the shopkeeper as a modern personification of the hero of “Brewster’s Millions.” That is exactly what happens under the present method of conducting elections for the Senate. The analogy is almost perfect. A party comes along with certain block votes and, so to speak, .hands them over the electoral counter in an endeavour to purchase «. certain measure of representation in the Senate. Instead of some of those votes being absorbed or spent in the process of returning the first senator - instead of the quota being absorbed or spent - every one of those votes goes back, and on the second preferences that small majority can return a second’ senator of the same political colour as the first. The same thing happens in many cases in respect of the third seat, and the first, second, and third candidates of the one party are elected. If on the occasion of the recent election proportional representation had been in vogue, it is probable that Labour would have won the first seat in the representation of Victoria in the Senate, the Nationalist party would have won the second seat, and there would have been a fairly close fight between the Labour party and the Country party for the third seat. If a certain percentage of the later preferences of the Nationalist party’s surplus votes had gone to the Country party, the third seat would have been won by that party. I am not upholding the proportional system merely because I believe that at the recent elections it would have advantaged the party to which I belong; I have been for years a staunch supporter of the principle of proportional representation. Under that system any party polling more than onefourth of the total number of votes recorded at a Senate election in any State would secure one seat; any party polling more than one-half of the total number of votes recorded would win two seats, and a’ party that polled more than threefourths of the total would win all three. By means of proportional representation the unrepresented minority is cut down to a minimum. All the logic, all the arithmetic, all justice is on the side of proportional representation. All that is pitted against it is that attitude of mind which prefers a system that secures to a man his seat rather than one under which he might possibly lose it. The present system is nothing but a gamble. It is a case of winning all or winning none. While, under it, a certain measure of crude justice . may be done by the pendulum swinging on one occasion to one extreme, with the result that one party wins almost everything, and on another occasion to the other, so that another party gains almost every seat, it is not a system which gives to a party representation in the Senate in anything like the proportion of its supporters outside.
– Does not the honorable member think the proportional system should apply to this House?
– That is too big a question for me to discuss at the present time. I am absolutely in favour of the application of the proportional system of representation to the Senate. So far as its application to this House is concerned, I have an open mind ; but it is probable that the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages. The Federal electorates at the present time are large enough. If we had amalgamated electorates - divisions three times as large as those now in existence- they would be altogether too unwieldy.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech on defence which was made en Friday by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). I do not pretend to have the necessary technical knowledge to enable me to decide what should be done with respect to defence, but I think there is one policy which might well be adopted by the Government, and would have the approval of honorable members of all parties, whether’ pacifists or militarists, in this House. . The Government, in my opinion, should generously subsidize commercial aviation. I was pleased to read some little time ago of the success of commercial aviation in Western Australia - of the mails and the passengers carried long distances in safety by that means, and T am sure that if the Government would generously subsidize commercial aviation in this land of immense distances, it would make for progress and development along peaceful lines. It would also be a. splendid insurance against possible military contingencies, which we all hope may never occur. The materiel and the personnel of such an air fleet would be ‘ of the greatest possible value if such military contingencies did arise. Oliver Cromwell, some centuries ago, advised his famous Ironsides, who, as we know, were very religious, and prayed on every occasion before going into battle, to keep on praying, but to keep their powder dry. It seems to me that if we were to generously subsidize commercial aviation in Australia, it would be but a modern application of that advice. It would mean that we should keep our powder dry, and at the same time would not involve the throwing away of money in any sense of the word, since it would make for the progress and development of the Commonwealth along peaceful lines.
Before resuming my seat I desire to reiterate that we of the Country party are still a separate entity. I am one of those who are determined to do all in their power to preserve as a separate entity the Country party, and I do not regard that as being at all impracticable. When looking at the formation of the composite Ministry, it has to be remembered that at the time of Us creation not one of the three parties iD this House was strong enough, numerically, to govern. It was absolutely necessary that there should be some sort of co-operation between two parties in order that the government of the country might be carried on, and the fact that two parties are closely co-operating does not necessarily imply that they have in any way sunk their separate identity. I also wish to register an emphatic protest against a phrase that is constantly being hurled at these benches by honorable members opposite, who speak of us as “Anti-Labour.” Honorable members opposite may call me, if they please, “ Anti-Labour “ in a political sense, but no one will ever be able to speak of me as “ Anti-worker.”
During this debate a good deal has been said with regard to arbitration. It seems to me that honorable members opposite are presuming, on very thin evidence, that honorable members on this side desire to tear up the principle of arbitration. The railway men in my electorate, during the recent campaign, were particularly interested in the” question of arbitration, not because they specially favoured the Federal Arbitration Court, but for the reason they feared that if they lost their right of access to that Court they would have no protection whatever in the event of the noncontinuance of the Railway Classification Board. I gave those men my assurance that, while I did not think a great deal of the Federal Arbitration system - while I regarded it as a somewhat clumsy method of dealing with industrial matters, often resulting in decisions based more on legal technicalities than on common sense - I would not vote for their exclusion from the Federal tribunal until something could be drafted that would satisfactorily take its place. I said that there should be either a continuation of the existing Classification Board, which I realize, of course, is a State matter, or that there should be a State Wages Board of some kind to take the place of the Federal Arbitration Court. It may be said that honorable members of this Parliament have no right to suggest what should be done by another Legislature, but it seems to rue that if , at the express wish of the States legislation is brought before us to provide that State instrumentalities shall be free from, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, then we are entitled to say that we shall free them only on the clear understanding that some sort of protection, which will be satisfactory to these men, shall be provided by the State Parliaments.
I rose to oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and I have only to say, in conclusion, that I am prepared to give the neW Government a chance. It is only fair that we should not condemn men until we have given them a chance, and I am prepared to give support to this Government so long as they legislate for the country on what I consider to be sound lines.
.- It is with a great deal of hesitancy that I rise to address myself to this House in support of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). My hesitation is not, however, due to any doubt in my mind as to the wisdom of the amendment, because, in my opinion, there are grave reasons why we, as an Opposition, should submit such an amendment and heartily support it. As a new member, I must say that 1 did not appreciate the waste of time and money involved in the unnecessary paraphernalia and ceremony attending the opening of this Parliament. The time has arrived when we should pursue a policy of economy, and I was hoping that the new Government, who are supposed to stand for economy, would set an example of economy from the commencement and would abolish the foolery, which has preceded the settling down of honorable members of this Chamber to actual business. It would further have been fitting for a business and economical Government to submit a business-like programme. Honorable members have assembled here from all parts of the Commonwealth, prepared to do the nation’s business, and they meet a Government without a programme. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has said that the country least governed is best governed, and I will say that, in ‘ the matter of highly-paid officials and the duplication of State and Federal Departments, this country is too much governed. If the present business Government are out for economy they have ample scope to give effect to such a policy in putting an end to the duplication of public Departments, and it should be unnecessary for them to go into recess for four months to consider that portion of . their policy. If they really stand for economy, why do they not come forward at once with a definite proposal to bring about the amalgamation, of State and Federal Income Tax Departments and of State and Federal Electoral Departments? We have State rolls and Federal rolls, and highly-paid officials ia both State and Federal electoral offices. This is a matter which might very well have been dealt with by the Government immediately. Why should they propose to dilly-dally for four months before bringing about these necessary economic reforms? I have shown how this country is over-governed, but, on the other hand, it is under-governed- through the failure of this National Parliament to deal effectively with the activities and exploitations of those forces which honorable members opposite represent. We could do with a great deal more government designed to. control the activities of profiteers in our midst. I do not look to the Government, or to honorable members on the other side, to deal with this particular matter. I realize that they are where they are, not to represent the people, but to represent profits. They are there to serve the interests of Flinderslane and of the wealthy land-owners of the Commonwealth.
After the result of the elections was made known on the 16th December last, I had no doubt that the Federal Labour party would find a strong .united party on the other side. There is a strong and united party opposed to us. I did not doubt for a moment that the late Country party and the Nationalist party would amalgamate, because I realized that members of the. Country party represented interests similar to those represented by members of the National party.
A great deal of rejoicing seems to prevail amongst members over the action of the Country party in bringing about the downfall of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). They thought that if they succeeded in doing tihat they would have cause for satisfaction, and all would be well. The right honorable member for North Sydney, when he led the Nationalist Administration,, was commended on all sides for his splendid services to the Commonwealth and the Empire during the years of the war. Honorable members opposite took the right honorable gentleman to their hearts, because he was of use to them. Now he has served their purpose he is of no further use to them or to the capitalistic class, and so they have discarded and deposed him. They used him just as the employing class in this community use their faithful servants and employees. A man may be in the employ of a particular employer for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, but immediately he becomes a little old and feeble he is discarded. The employer has no further use for him, and no consideration for the faithful service he has rendered. Just as employers treat their employees shabbily in this way, so have honorable members opposite shabbily treated the man who served the Empire and the Commonwealth well during the serious war period. I am not here to sound the praises of the right honorable member for North Sydney. He severed his connexion with the great Australian Labour movement when he advocated conscription, and we as a party are finished with him. But that does not prevent us as members of the Opposition realizing the ingratitude of honorable members opposite to the man who stood loyally and solidly by the interests they represent.
I must take this opportunity to comment upon the interval that was allowed to elapse between the time when the result of the elections was made known and the resignation of the ex-Prime Minister. At the same time I express my disgust at the despicable action of the Country party, and alsoof the Nationalist party, in allowing so much time to pass in scheming, intriguing, and managing to provide leading lights on the other side with suitable jobs and good positions. The scheming, intriguing, and managing occupied several weeks, but since the formation of the Ministry there has been ample time for the Government to for mulate a legislative programme for submission to the House. Honorable members who supported the Country party prior to the last election, and are now behind the National party, had a policy. The policy of the Nationalists was declared by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at Chatswood. Yet, although each party had a policy, the Government, representing the two parties combined, meet the House without any programme. Their action is an indication of absolute incompetence. Some honorable members have expressed curiosity as to the terms of the compact made between the Nationalists and the Country party. I am not at all curious, for before I entered this House the question was already answered to my satisfaction. I realized all along that there has been only one party - the anti-Labour party. The honorable members who now sit on the Ministerial side represent the forces that the Australian Labour partyhas been fighting for the last thirty years. Although they claim to be two parties, one designation fits both of them - antiLabour. No greater proof of their identity is required than the announcement that the Government are determined to dispose of various Commonwealth business undertakings. We can see the influence of Flinders-lane in the decision to dispose of the Woollen Mills. It is not in the interests of the Lane that a Commonwealth Factory should compete with private enterprise. There seems to be a readiness on the part of the so-called business Government to close up those business undertakings which served the Commonwealth so well during the war. Many of them were established as a result of Labour advocacy, and there is no doubt that while the war was in progress they justified their existence. Having served their purpose of equipping the members of the Naval and Military Forces they are to be disposed of, thus exposing the people, perhaps, to extortionate charges and profiteering.
The mover and seconder of the AddressinReply seem to derive much joy and satisfaction from the fact that the present Ministry is all Australian in its personnel. As a member of the working class I am not concerned as to whether a man is born in Victoria or Queensland, in Australia, or in the Old Country.
I judge him only by the principles which he espouses. Being a Democrat, I would sooner sit behind a Government of men from the Old Country who were prepared to advocate democratic principles, than behind a Cabinet of Australian-born Conservatives and reactionaries. The same two honorable members found further satisfaction in the fact that the two leaders of the Government are returned soldiers. This certainly should give hope to the soldiers, for if they are ever to receive justice they should receive it now when the Government of the Commonwealth is led by returned soldiers.
In replying to the speech of the honorable member for Bourke, the Prime Minister paid special attention to matters affecting the Empire. I am more immediately concerned with matters affecting the Commonwealth. The honorable gentleman referred to the Northern Territory, Papua, New Guinea, the Federal Capital, postal services, shipbuilding, and so on, but he left untouched the most important problem of the present day - unemployment. He said that defence was a matter of greater importance than any other. Would the honorable gentleman and his supporters have been prepared to say during the war that in 1923, five years after its conclusion, the question of defence would be the most important requiring consideration? As a man who served in the war, I say it is a crying shame and a disgrace that the Prime Minister should place defence in the forefront of his programme. The most important questions for our consideration are those affecting the welfare of our own people. It is more necessary that we should consider problems of domestic politics than that we should attempt to meddle with problems of Imperial defence, foreign affairs, and trade relations. The Prime Minister might more fittingly have announced that he intended to start without delay to set our own house in order. Having attended to our own domestic problems, we may then turn attention to others overseas. Those 360,000 Australians who enlisted for service abroad during the war - including 60,000 who gave their lives - fought and died in vain if, four short years after the conclusion of the war, defence is held to be our most important problem. Such a result is no encouragement to men to offer their services in other conflicts. I warn the House that if an attempt is made by the Government to foist militarism upon Australia, or to involve the country in further trouble, their efforts will not be supported by the people as they were during the Great War. Very many of the men who’ left these shores to fight abroad were persuaded so to do by the declarations of the then Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes), Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson, and others to the effect that we were engaged in a war to end war and make the world safe for Democracy. When during the conscription campaign I was asked if I was prepared to enlist, I said “ No.” I realized then that there would be wars so long as men were prepared to wage war upon one another, and I believed that, notwithstanding victory for the Allies, there would be greater military and naval activity than ever. Eventually, like many others, I was cajoled into enlisting, in the belief that if the protestations of the European statesmen were to be taken at their face value, there would be a serious attempt, at ‘the close of the wax, to make future conflicts impossible. But what do we find ? Only a few months ago the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) expressed his readiness, without consulting the people of the Commonwealth, to commit this country in connexion with a threatened conflict in the Near East. Fortunately the situation there is now much more satisfactory. I am not prepared to allow the question of Australia’s participation in a future war to be -settled by Cabinet or any party. I am not content, even, to allow it to be settled after consultation with members of this House. I take the stand that the whole of the people should be consulted before a single man leaves these shores to take part in any future war. I do not forget that, whether men go voluntarily or under compulsion, those left behind must necessarily be called upon to bear the burden of war taxation.
I believe that in any discussion concerning Imperial defence, the attitude of members, of the Labour party will be misconstrued in this House and in the press, and that every attempt will be made to discredit the party; but the record of that great army of trade unionists who left these shores a few years ago to fight for Democracy will always be an effective answer. The Prime Minister should not be authorized to take part in any Imperial Defence Conference without first consulting this Parliament, and, if need be, the people of the Commonwealth.
In the course of his remarks a few days ago, the Prime Minister said that the Labour party of to-day was not the same as the Labour party in the days when Andrew Fisher was its Leader. Let me tell honorable members opposite that Labour to-day is just as strong, solid, and healthy as it was in 1910. The question of the socialization of industry, which is the objective of the party, has been raised. The Prime Minister and Ministerial supporters are . endeavouring to draw that red herring across the trail in order to prevent the free discussion of matters of moment to Australia at the present time. In this respect they are following the practice adopted ‘by the late Sir George Reid eighteen or more years ago.” In those days, Sir George Reid, in an endeavour to arouse the fears of the people, conjured up a horrible picture, and he likened the objective of our party to an untamed tiger, but notwithstanding the full force of the capitalistic press and the propaganda of our opponents, the Labour party was returned in 1910 with a, majority, and secured possession of the Treasury bench. If honorable members analyze the legislative programme of the party at that time, if they consider its achievements, they must admit that it deserved well of the country. I am satisfied that not one honorable member opposite would to-day advocate the repeal of measures placed on the statute-book during the regime of the Fisher Government. The years 1910 to 1914 were years of remarkable prosperity. Contrast Australia’s position then with that of Russia, where, owing to widespread profiteering, the Bolshevists came into power. If the present Administration give the wealthy interests of Australia a free hand, they must accept full responsibility for anything that may happen.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– The attempts made by the forces opposed to Labour do not in any way hinder its progress. In proof of that, I have only to refer to the result of the elections in New Zealand, . where the Labour party has been returned in largely increased numbers, and also to the results of the elections in Great Britain, where the strength of the party has been considerably augmented. Notwithstanding the efforts that are being made by the influences represented by our Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and his supporters, I feel sure that the day is speedily approaching when the Federal Labour party will occupy the Government benches in this Chamber. The Prime Minister undoubtedly speaks for the capitalists, and speaks in no uncertain voice, when he says that any combination is justifiable to keep the Labour party out of office. This demonstrates that Nationalist opinion is that any methods are permissible so long as the Labour party is prevented from carrying on the good work so ably and earnestly commenced by the Fisher Administration in 1910.
During the recent election campaign the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that the Labour party is not the same as it was when he was associated with it, and that is a mere echo of the sentiment expressed by the present Prime Minister. Then, Mr. J. H. Catts “also declared that the Labour movement is not what it was; but he is just as corrupt politically as he is morally. We find that during the recent elections Mr. Catts, as a candidate representing the “ Majority Labour party “ was able to find huge sums of money to devote to an attempt to defeat representatives of the great party with which he had been associated for the best part of twenty years. In the course of his speeches during that campaign, Mr. Catts described honorable members on this side of the House as Bolsheviks and disloyalists; and to my mind, he was very ably doing the work of our political opponents when he endeavoured to sow dissension in Labour ranks. The Australian Labour party is founded on grounds too solid to be riven in two by men like Mr. Catts, or by men like the right honorable member for North Sydney, or the present Prime
Minister. The Labour party is here to stay; and I feel sure that on the next appeal to the people our leader will have the honour of being returned with the largest following in the House, and we shall have the right to assume the responsibilities of government.
On Monday last it was alleged in the 6’n* that there was a movement afoot to bring about the formation of a National Labour party. Let me take this opportunity to deny the truth of that report, and, further, to say that, as my name was mentioned in this connexion, I have no need to look to a new party to carry on the great work so well begun by previous Labour Administrations. The faith of members on this side is in- the Labour party, and it is not likely that I, having “defeated a man for “ ratting “ and .proving a traitor and renegade in the ranks of Labour, should, as one of my first political acts, associate myself with a movement to create a new Labour party. The suggestion is made that we are waiting an opportunity to receive within our fold the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), but that suggestion is unfounded. That honorable gentleman gave up all right to be further associated with the movement when he attempted to conscript the 1 if o of this country du ring the war.
As I said previously, the Government have had ample time to prepare their policy. Each party in the House had a pre-election policy, but the present Government have seen fit to accept office, and now, when Parliament meets, they confess incapacity to present any proposals for our immediate consideration. Certainly the present Government have had sufficient time to arrive at a decision with regard to old-age and invalid pensions. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is included in the present Administration, and, that being 80, I must express- my keen disappointment at the failure of the Government to lay before us any proposal to increase the pensions. We have always looked upon that honorable, gentleman as the friend of the old-age and invalid pensioners, and: we fully expected that, at, the earliest opportunity, he would bring sufficient pressure to bear on his colleagues to insure the tabling of a concrete measure.
Ifr. C. Riley
The old-age and invalid pensioners are still in most pitiful circumstances,, hut there is no suggestion that their pensions should be increased from 15s. to £1 a week. I well remember the opposition there was to the proposal many years ‘ ago to increase these pensions from 10s. to 12s. 6d., the contention of the then Government being that the increase would cost the best part of £1,000,000 per annum, and that no such sum was available. Since then, however, wc have participated in a world’s conflict, and have been able to find over £400,000,000 for the purpose of destruction. A young country like this, which was able to find that huge sum in order to carry on a war, should be able to find, say, £1,500,000 to give the aged and infirm an extra 5s. a week. I address my remarks particularly to the Minister for Trade and Customs in the hope that, during the long recess which is proposed,, he will not only give the matter his consideration, but will see that when the House resumes some steps are taken in the direction I have suggested.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech on the Address-in-Reply, referred to immigration. Honorable members on this side realize that, in. this matter, we cannot go on as in the past. Before we provide for a continual stream of immigrants to our shores a broad and comprehensive policy should be drawn up to absorb them rather than bring them here to take the place of those of our fellow workers who are employed at present. In the absence of any vigorous policy of public works, new arrivals in Australia are only taking the bread and batter out of the mouths of our own people. The question of introducing boy immigrants is one that is worthy of the immediate consideration of the Government, because lads are being brought to Australia under the Dreadnought scheme, and placed on dairy farms, where they are sweated. I have received information to the effect that many lads, sixteen or seventeen years of age, who have been brought out under that scheme, are employed on dairy farms on the north coast of New South Wales from early morning until late at night for the miserable wage of 5s. per week.
– That is: not, true..
– An attempt is also being made on the part of several organizations to cause an influx of girl immigrants. It has been stated in justification of that course that sufficient domestic servants cannot be secured, and in an endeavour to meet the alleged shortage, it is proposed to arrange for several thousands of girls to come to Australia annually. We have ample domestic assistance available in Australia, but those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford domestic help do not make the conditions under which it has to work sufficiently attractive.
Reference was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Brace) to public health, and I trust the Government will avail themselves of the opportunity of not only seeking the assistance of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), but will also be guided by the professional knowledge of the Treasurer (Dr-. Earle Page). Public health has been neglected, and although I am not in favour of a duplication of the activities of Federal and State authorities, the Commonwealth should seriously consider many matters affecting public health. Particular attention should lie paid to the provision of sufficient money to enable research work to be carried on, not only in connexion with tuber.culosis and cancer, but also in relation to venereal diseases. The last-mentioned disease, which is rampant in our midst, has. not received from the Commonwealth and State Governments the attention to which it is entitled. I understand that £15,000 annually is being paid by the Commonwealth as a subsidy to the States, but that amount is altogether inadequate, and £50,000 might well be made available. Greater scope should be allowed to our Commonwealth and State health officials in connexion with tuberculosis and cancer, both of which diseases are responsible for the loss of about 10,000 lives annually. Whilst we did not hesitate to provide huge sums of money for the destruction of life during the years of the war, in times of peace we do not appear anxious to make adequate provision to safeguard the health of the people by making sufficient funds available for research work.
The question of a uniform railway gauge should not require much consideration by. the present Government. Commissions and committees have been appointed to inquire into the matter, and the advice of engineers from America and Great Britain has been sought. We have also had the opinion of the Commonwealth Railways Engineer, and all authorities are agreed that the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge should be adopted. Yet, notwithstanding the multiplicity of reports and recommendations, it is proposed to deal with the question at a Conference of State and Federal Ministers. The whole matter was decided years ago, and the work of altering the lines should be undertaken to absorb the unemployed.
The question of unemployment is one of great importance, as it not only affects many experts in various trades and callings, but has -an important bearing in relation to returned soldiers. In this connexion I wish to direct attention to the circumstances surrounding the death, in Sydney, of a returned soldier, familiarly known by his friends as “Paddy” Hauenstein. This man, who was thirty-six years of age, and 6 feet in height, weighed 15 stone when he enlisted in 1914. He returned in 1919 wrecked physically, and weighing only 9 stone. He had an honorable war record, was a good father and kind ‘husband, and provided for his wife and four children. He- was courageous enough to engage in any occupation, and after he returned from the front filled many positions. Eventually he was forced on to the labour market, and. for six months prior to his death was unable to procure work of any kind. I realize the difficulties confronting a man so placed, and his disabilities are common to thousands of men throughout Australia. I have had similar bitter experience myself, having walked the streets of Sydney for eight months looking in vain for work. I made scores of applications to Government and semi-Government Departments and various employers, and these had not the courtesy to even acknowledge my applications. Hauenstein had an honorable war record, was highly respected by the citizens, but was in desperation forced to attempt to rob the Hurlstone Park branch of the State Savings Bank. He failed, was afterwards arrested, and a few minutes after being taken into custody took strychnine and died. Subscriptions are now asked for to assist his wife and children, but so far as Paddy Hauenstein is concerned, it is too late to make amends. The damage has been done. I have referred to this case to illustrate what is going on in our midst. Thousands of our returned soldiers are experiencing similar treatment. I sincerely hope that the Government, after they have been given particulars of these cases, will realize the urgency of dealing with the unemployment problem. If they are in earnest in trying to safeguard the interests of the returned men, they will take steps to prevent them from being forced into criminal acts in order to support their wives and children. At no time have I stood for preference to the soldiers. I have always endeavoured to improve the conditions of the people generally. What would it profit me to know that I, as a returned soldier, had received special consideration and preference if my parents, or my brothers and sisters, were walking the streets and looking for work ? The present Government profess sympathy for the returned men, and they should show their sincerity by doing something of a practical nature, and doing it quickly. We have a land of illimitable resources, and it is a disgrace to the present Government and the previous Administration that there are 60,000 or 70,000 unemployed in Australia. We have seen themanner in which the previous Nationalist Administration - the Win-the-war Government which lost the peace - treated returned soldiers in the matter of war pensions. I have before me particulars of another case that is deserving of the Government’s earnest consideration : I refer to a man of fine stamp, 6 feet in height and 16 stone in weight. He enlisted in 1914, and was at the landing at Gallipoli. He was returned as medically unfit. There had been no misconduct on his part. He had been shot in the spine, his discharge sheet indicating gunshot wounds left of the spine. A communication received by this man’s wife from the Red Cross Society, ran -
We are glad to be able to send you good news, as we have just received from our agents in London the following cable dated 7th June : - “ 4874,- , 54th Battalion, in hospital at Netley; gunshot wound back; improving.”
It was very encouraging to the soldier’s wife to know that, although wounded, the man was progressing satisfactorily. No doubt the wife and children were eagerly looking forward to the time of his home-coming, but instead of their being able to rejoice upon his return, there was nothing but cause for disappointment. Although his wounds were treated by doctors at the Prince Alfred Hospital, he was not able to procure a war pension. The Repatriation Commission considered the case, and, in reply to representations made, it said, among other things -
The Commission, however, decided that any disability from which the ex-member was suffering could not be regarded as being due to, or aggravated by, war service.
How many honorable members have heard those phrases? The estimated expenditure on war pensions for 1922-23 shows a decrease of £278,379 compared with the expenditure in 1921-22. Is this Government of business men, who are out for economy, going to reduce the war pensions and treat our ex-soldiers in this shameful manner? I hope the Ministry will do the right thing, and see that pensions are granted in such cases as I have mentioned.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has advised us to think nationally. What does he mean? Thinking nationally suggests a regard for the welfare of the people. It implies an effort to make the people strong, prosperous, and progressive. Some folk imagine that national greatness is not reflected in a happy and contented people, but in huge armies and navies. If we are going to think nationally, we should endeavour to see that the conditions under which the people live are in their best interests. Instead of protection being afforded to the forces that are out to exploit the people, those activities should be restricted.
I drew attention, during the recent election campaign, to the action of the previous Nationalist Administration in closing down some of the great public undertakings in operation throughout the Commonwealth. The late Government shut down the Naval Dockyard, and put 16,000 men out of employment, thereby showing no consideration for the wives and children of that large number of workers. One can imagine the agitated condition of those men when they were obliged to break the bad news to their wives that their employment had ceased. The necessity for a shipbuilding programme has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). Every encouragement should be given to the Naval Dockyards at Williamstown and Cockatoo Island. Instead of 1,000 men being employed in those establishments there should be 3,000. We have some of the most up-to-date machinery in the world there, and yet the Prime Minister tells us that shipbuilding by the Federal Government is finished with, and that they are looking round for somebody else to take the work in hand. That policy cannot be accepted in view of the statement of the Prime Minister that he places Defence before every other question. If he and the Government consider Defence allimportant, they are not consistent when they say that the dockyards must close down, and that shipbuilding, as a Government activity, must cease. I was associated with an Australian dockyard in 1912, and was in a position to compare Australian workmanship with British ship construction. I have no desire to disparage the men in British yards, but I am bound to say that the Australian dockyard employees are far superior. Honorable members opposite may oppose the expenditure of even a few thousand pounds upon the upkeep of our works; but is it not well worth while to keep our own workmen employed in our own dockyards, and so circulate Australian money among the Australian people?
In the light of the admitted intentions of the Government, and remembering the actions of the previous Administration, I. am persuaded that there has been, and still is, a widespread conspiracy to bring about so much unemployment that our workers will be forced to accept lower wages and less favorable working conditions. I recall a significant statement of the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs in Japan when that official was recently in Australia. Commenting on the labour position in his own country, he remarked that the outlook was growing brighter because employment was less plentiful, with the result that workmen were not now in a position to display so much militancy as hitherto. Just as that information discloses what is in the minds of employers in Japan, so may we accept the actions and intentions of the late Government and the present Administration as being indicative of the desires of Australian employers. There is no greater tragedy than the case of a man who is hungry and anxious to work, but unable to secure employment. I hope that the Government will launch out upon a vigorous policy of public works so that our unemployed may be absorbed. A resident of Sydney advertised in the press some weeks ago for a man to cut the lawns round three of his cottages. About 450 men answered that advertisement, and were in attendance at 8 o’clock in the morning, in the hope of getting a few days’ work. The incident typifies the acuteness of the position. No man with the smallest spark of human nature can regard with equanimity the contrast between the luxury and gaiety of the wealthy to-day and the misery and poverty of our unemployed. For the sake of the latter, and for the welfare of. Australia, the Government should take prompt and practical steps to afford relief.
– Before proceeding to deal with arguments raised by honorable members in the course of the debate, I desire to congratulate the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. C. Riley), and his father, the honorable member’ for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) upon the unique fact of their association as members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Indeed, their record is almost unique, I understand, in Australian public life. I am under the impression that only once before - and then, in the New South Wales Legislature - have father and son sat together in Parliament.
– There were two such instances in South Australia, in connexion with the Butler and Hawker families.
– A father and son also sat together in Queensland. I refer to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser.), when he and his son were members of the Legislative Assembly.
– The association of the honorable members for Cook and South Sydney is unique in the Federal sphere. I trust that the relationships of the younger member may prove to be just as happy as have been those of hi3 father with his fellow members during the many years he has sat in this chamber.
I have listened to a great deal, of “ fudge “ with respect to the brevity of the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. Much has been said regarding the length of time which previous Governments have occupied in framing their policies and presenting their programmes. One honorable member stated that the first Federal Government introduced a programme of business within a very few weeks after its formation. It has also been said that when the Labour party took office in 1910 the Government accomplished a feat of miraculous speed in placing their policy before Parliament. As a matter of fact, the first Federal Government took office on the 1st January, 1901. and Parliament met on 9th May, 1901 - rather more than five months afterwards.
– Surely the Treasurer does not compare those facts with present circumstances !
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) spent quite a long time in making a similar comparison. It would be a physical impossibility for a Government, within a fortnight, to bring down to Parliament a comprehensive and wellconsidered programme of business. Coming to ‘ 1910, what do we find? The election took place on 13th April. The Labour Government took office on 20th April, and met Parliament on 1st July, a date which seems perilously close to the last day on which they could have met Parliament before the money which had been appropriated had been spent. It was nine weeks after their accession to office before they met this House.
– And then Parliament sat for eighteen months.
– We may keep honorable members sitting here eighteen months when we meet next. If we do they will have something of which to complain; at present they have nothing. Within- nineteen days we met this House, because it was necessary to observe the letter of the Constitution. Honorable members have been given by the Prime Minister a broad outline of the policy of the Government.
I have no intention of bringing to the dissecting table the composite .Government of which I have the honour to be a member, nor of performing any miracle of vivisection on it with the object of showing that it consists of two elements and not of one. To do so would have as fatal a result to this Government as the habit, which many children have, of putting in plants and, within two or three days, pulling them up and looking at the roots to see whether they are growing to vegetation. No matter what provocation may be given -by the enemies of stable government - whether in the press, amongst the Opposition, or anywhere else - I have no intention of periodically pulling up this growing plant to demonstrate to this House that it has a double root. The position with regard to this alliance has been stated fully and frankly by me in the proper place - before my constituents - with what some people might regard as brutal frankness. I have no intention of repeating my statement here, because it is well known over the whole of Australia, despite the fact that members of the Opposition pretend to be ignorant regarding what has taken place. I notice, however, that they keep on quoting newspaper reports which did not emanate from me, and for which I am not responsible in any degree.
Before dealing with other matters that have been raised by honorable members of the Opposition, I might be permitted to say that, outside this Parliament, there are three separate political parties, and three separate politica*l organizations responsible to and representing three separate political constituencies. Their very existence affords a better opportunity for a proper balance in government and a proper consideration of the interests of every section in the community than has been possible hitherto. It affords, too, an opportunity for consideration of the needs of the primary and secondary industries -in such a way as to insure that each shall receive its proper meed of legislation and of administration, thus ‘bringing about in the Commonwealth social equilibrium, which is the real antidote of unemployment. Unemployment is always due to a Jack of equilibrium, sometimes prodluced by national and sometimes by international causes. If the elements that go to make up the community are in proper balance, if they are in proper equilibrium, there is universal prosperity and a negligible amount of unemployment.
Of the three parties, two have thought fit to enter into an alliance with the object of producing sound administration, progressive legislation, and stable government. The dual character of this Government is reflected in the personnel of the Ministry, in the choice of the mover and seconder of the Address-in- reply, and in many other ways. I hope that it will be reflected in the legislation that is to be brought before this House. By reason of the fact that the two parties, separate outside this Chamber, will be able to view from different angles all legislation that is to be placed before this House, there will be a greater likelihood of the Government bringing forward well-considered legislation than would be possible if legislation were brought forward by one party only. Everybody is aware of the difficulty that is experienced in altering legislation on the floor of this House because of the damage to the prestige of a Government that is sustained in the process. In this House, however, there are only two sides - and there can be only two under present conditions. There is the side on which sits the composite Government and those supporting it, and there is the side on which sit those who oppose the Government. For the Government and its supporters, of course, the Prime Minister will speak on all matters of general policy and form ; but, in accordance with the principleof Cabinet responsibility, each individual Minister will speak for his Department, on which subjects he will bind the Ministry - as has always been the practice - and will bind the followers of the Government.
What is causing the Opposition so much concern, so much tribulation, so much chagrin, is the acceptance of this fact, and of the arrangement by both the parties that sit on this side of the House, because they know that it means a period of sound legislation, of progressive government, and of social progress, which will put farther and farther away the day when they can hope to have in their hands the reins of government.
The personalities that have been introduced into this debate are too contemptible to call for reply ; they simply are another evidence of the blasting of those hopes of attaining office which has been caused by the fact that the two parties sitting on this side of the House have found a ground of amicable arrangement, and a common policy on which they hope to govern this country.
There are four definite, urgent duties that this Government has to perform. First of all, it has to clear up the mess which has been caused by the various socialistic ventures that have been left to us as a legacy of the war. Secondly, by its handling of. the finances and by its general administration it has to endeavour to improve the public credit in order to permit of the conversion on the best possible basis for Australia of the huge war loans that are to fall due duringthe ordinary life of this Parliament. It has to determine and put into operation methods for abolishing completely and for all time the duplication of governmental activities which every party in the past has piously deplored. Such duplication the Government has determined to bring to an end during its régime. Finally, the Government has to prepare a definite constructive plan for national development, in relation, not merely to our affairs inside Australia, but to our position in the Empire. It may be the fashion for some people to sneer at our Imperial bonds, and to say that the question of defence is not the first matter of importance to us. Where would we be, and what would happen to our vaunted improvements and to employment in this country, if we did not first prepare for the safety and preservation of this Empire? Some of us have offended because we have had the misfortune to graduate from various universities. All of’ us have graduated, however, if not from an academic university, at least, from the university of life We have been accused of being unprogressive because we do not believe in Socialism - that is to say, in the general socialization of industry, trade, and commerce. I have yet to learn that the terms of Democracy and progress are synonymous with Socialism; they are not. If one goes to Europe, whence the particular brand of Socialism affected by the Australian Labour party came, he will find that even among Socialists there is no agreement. There are three or four different groups, each claiming that it possesses a panacea for the ills of mankind. There is State Socialism, Syndicalism, Guild Socialism, and many other varieties, but no one seems to know exactly what any one of them means. What has been the record of Socialism in Australia? Let me go back to twelve or thirteen years ago, when the Labour party had a certain amount of Socialism in its policy. I heard the honorable member for Barton ((Mr. F. McDonald) speaking on the subject last night. To him I owe a good deal of my early education.
– Not political education.
– No. I was fortunate enough to escape fron. his educative influence before he could impress his political doctrines upon me. The honorable member for Barton said that the socialization of everything under the sun, on the, earth, or under the sea was not actually on the fighting platform of the Labour party, but was a dream of the future. It was merely, he said, an objective, whose realization was a long way off. In 1910 the Labour party came into power with an absolute majority. What had been the position of affairs before that time? Under the old system, which members opposite deride and ridicule, between the years 1823 and 1875, a period of half a century, the condition of the agricultural labourer, the navvy, and the craftsman materially improved ; in fact, during the last five years of that half-century, it was estimated by those qualified to know that the condition of the craftsman, the labourer, and the agriculturist was twice as good as it had been fifty years before. Statistics further show that the improvement was maintained for the next twenty-five years. That was the position when the present century dawned. But when the Labour party came into power, not merely in the Federal Parliament, but in many of the State Parliaments of
Australia, a sudden change came over the scene. There has been a definite and continuous decline in the standard of living concurrently with the continued extension of the principle of Socialism in various Government Departments and activities.
– Had not the war something to do with the change?
– This trend of affairs to which I refer coincides, unfortunately, not with the war, but with the advent of the Labour party to office. According to the statistician to the New South Wales Board of Trade, in his report for the year 1922, there has been a continuous decline iu the average effective wage in the same period. For the year 1890 the index number representing the average effective wage was 100; in 1900 it had increased to 104, and in 1911 it was 113. Since then it has steadily and continuously declined, until now it is 82. The high cost of living has been largely brought about, as is shown in these declarations and examinations, by the extension of those processes which the Labour party tells the working man will improve his position. My contention is further borne out by a statement which was published in the Argus yesterday morning, and was confirmed to me by the Federal Statistician this morning. This shows that the consumption of ordinary commodities in Australia has decreased materially in the last nine years. The statement compares the annual average consumption per head of the population during the years 1904 to 1913 with the years 1915 to 1920-21. The Federal Statistician makes the following statement: -
The principal feature of the above com parison is a marked decline in the consumption of some of the leading articles of diet. The decrease in the amount of potatoes consumed amounted to 45 lbs. per head, and meat decreased by 24lbs. per head: while rice, sugar, and jam declined respectively by 4½, 4, and3 lbs. Considerable reductions in the quantities of maize and oats consumed have also occurred during the later period.
These are hard and stubborn facts, which cannot be got over. The Statistician’s report to the New South Wales Board of Trade said that leaders of the Labour movement were proceeding in a vicious circle in their attempts to declare a basic wage for secondary industries before they had taken steps to insure a steady and constant market for the primary products which have to be sold overseas. He showed that when the basic wage was £4 os. it represented only £1 18s., as compared with £2 2s. under the Harvester award of 1907. There was a definite decline in the standard of living in that period of from 10 to 15 per cent. The explanation is to be found in the continual extension of Socialistic activities, which simply mean an increase in the number of intermediaries between producer and consumer.
– To what Government activities does the Minister refer?
– There are many Government activities. The number of them is continually increasing. What really matters is not the number of people in Government employment, but the number engaged in producing wealth. lt is from these that the whole of our wealth comes, and it is only from the surplus wealth produced that we can hope to secure an improvement in the standard of living. Let honorable members consider what happens when a Government undertakes a business of any kind. I remember that in 1910 the Wade Government was defeated at the polls in New South Wales, and the Holman Labour Government came into office. Right at my door a tender had been called for a railway twenty-eight miles long; it was to have cost £163,000, and was to have been completed in eighteen months. The Labour Government said “ We must control this ourselves, on our own particular plan, and build the railway on the day-labour system.” It took four years to build that railway, which cost close on £400,000, or two and a half times as much as the tender. It took the Government, under the day-labour system., nearly three times as long to build it as the tenderer would have required. The result is that every ton of potatoes, every pound of butter, every foot- of timber carried over the line costs so much more to the consumer in Sydney, and returns so much less to the producers on the northern rivers, who are experiencing a wretched time. We had the same thing in Western Australia, where a tender of £250,000 for the construction of the Wyndham meat works was turned down by the Scaddan Government, and the work was carried out by day labour at a cost of £SOO,000, with the result that the price of meat in Perth is proportionately dearer. Yet another instance of the folly of Government trading is the bungling that has taken place in connexion with the construction of War Service Homes by the Commissioner. All these cases go to prove the failure of the system which the Labour party desires again to foist on the public.
– What about the Woollen Mills?
– As we desire to close this debate before to-morrow afternoon, I shall take another opportunity to refer to them. The average cost of 1,800 War Service Homes, built by the Commonwealth Bank by contract, was £634 each. On the other hand, about 2,000 were built by the War Service’ Homes Commissioner at an average estimated cost of well over £700 each ; but the actual cost has not yet been determined. What is more, a deputation of master builders in Sydney in 1921 told me that owing to the lack of supervision and control in connexion with the erection of War Service Homes by the Commissioner, men, who on leaving private employment were thoroughly efficient, lost 20 per cent, of their efficiency after they had been engaged for six months on such work. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) said last night that our soldiers did well at Gallipoli because of their initiative and individuality; yet the Opposition desire the continuance of a system which restricts the individuality and initiative of our men, and would make every one subservient to red tape and routine. Who has to pay for all these blunders? The returned soldiers pay for them in the form of increased rents, and the consumer in the shape of increased prices.
Socialistic legislation may aptly be likened to a drug of the morphine family. Just as a man who starts to take morphia soon comes to like it, and in time finds that he cannot do without it, so indulgence in socialistic enterprises leads to renewed cravings for them. This Government hope to bring these governmental activities to an end at the earliest moment, or, at all events, to reduce the doses in a very marked degree. The action of previous Administrations in going into almost every channel of enterprise has to a very large extent prevented the influx of capital for the building up of new industries. It is well known that British capital will be invested here in the development of the country, and the creation of new industries that will give abundant employment and provide a local market for primary industries, provided that it is not subjected to the unfair competition of Government agencies. What it wants is a reasonable indication that it will receive fair treatment, and not be exposed to all sorts of discriminations. Socialistic enterprise prevents development, and makes it impossible for its to attract immigrants to anything like the extent that such a country as Australia ought to be able to do. I am glad that there has at last been drawn in this House a definite line of demarcation between those who believe in the socialization of trade, commerce, and industry, and those who favour the encouragement of individuality and initiative. It is not a division between Labour and anti-Labour, because I believe, after all, that the Labour movement will ultimately free itself from the socialistic dream that has obsessed it. I believe it will come back to its senses, and will realize that this country can be developed to the fullest possible extent only by the encouragement in every possible way of those who desire to settle here, and seek an opportunity to prove their courage and enterprise.
We are constantly being told that, although we condemn certain aspects of Socialism we nevertheless support the Commonwealth Bank. But what happened in the Labour party in connexion with the proposal to establish that institution ? Did the Labour party unanimously adopt the scheme for its creation ? Had not the project to be fought for. year in and year out, in the ranks of the Labour party itself? Was there not almost a schism of the members of that party when legislation to provide for the establishment of the Bank was brought before this Parliament? I personally desire an expansion of the Commonwealth Bank in the direction of increasing, not Government trading, but self-reliance and the creation of a co-operative system of credits that will help the man in the back-blocks to obtain something like reasonable terms in connexion with the financing and marketing of his products. In countries where progress has been made in that direction, it has been the result of self-reliance on the part of the people themselves. When politicians, on a votecatching expedition, set out to push the Government to aid all such enterprise, the result is very like that which follows the over-watering of a plant. Just as a plant so treated, instead of thriving, shrivels up, so a country whose Government embarks on all sorts of trading activities fails to progress. Apart from that aspect of the situation, we must recognise that the time has come when Australia must face the situation that we are utilizing the massed savings of private enterprise from other countries to promote all sorts of socialistic enterprises. If those enterprises were being provided for out of our own revenues and earnings there might be some excuse for such a policy, but there can be no possible excuse when it is carried on by means of the massed savings of private enterprise in other countries.
– Capitalists abroad are still prepared to put their money into such investments.
– Because they know that every now and then the pendulum will swing towards sane, progressive government, just as it did at the last general election, which brought this Government into existence.
If for no other reason a combination of the two parties on this side of the House at the present time is justified by the fact that during the next three years we shall have to convert war loans amounting to something like £162,000,000. In other words, we shall have to convert practically onehalf of the total war loans of the Commonwealth. It is notorious that because of the tendency of Labour Governments to spend extravagantly, to live, so to speak, beyond their income, very great difficulty has been experienced by them in securing money at cheap rates.
– The honorable gentleman ought to prove that statement.
– I shall do so. The following is a comparison of the interest return on Queensland stock in London - as honorable members know there is a Labour Government in office in that State - with the interest return on
New South Wales, Victorian, and Commonwealth stocks: -
This return shows that in respect of loans with a twenty-two years’ currency New South Wales, which at the present time has not the privilege of having its destinies controlled by a Socialistic Government, is able to borrow money on something like 10s. per cent, better terms than the Queensland Government can do. In the case of Joans with a currency of thirty-seven years we have a difference of practically 6s. per cent, in favour of Victorian as against Queensland stocks. That is not all. It has been found, wherever an attempt has been made to put into actual practice the tenets which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) has said it is his aim in life to give effect to-
– What are they?
– Mainly the general socialization of industry, trade, and commerce. The immediate effect of every attempt to put such a policy in force is to depress the market for the loans of the country in which it is made. When in 1920 the Queensland Government was guilty of a distinct breach of faith with its landholders, it was found that Queensland stock depreciated to such an extent that it could be picked up on the London market to give a return of 9£ per cent. What is our position to-day? We have to renew loans amounting to some £162,000,000, and an addition of i per cent, to the interest on that sum would saddle the people of this country with an additional charge for interest of £800,000, for which we should receive nothing for the whole currency of the conversion. Indeed, the position might easily be worse than that. . At the prosent time our population is not increas ing in the same ratio as our indebtedness. Our debts, State and Federal, have increased by £45,000,000 in the last year or so, and our national income is not increasing in the same ratio as the interest on our debts. 1 can give another reason why it would not be a good thing for the national life of Australia that honorable members opposite should hold the reins of power at the present time. It as .that it is necessary at this time to put an end to the overlapping of Federal and State public Departments.
– We would dispense with the State Parliaments if we could.
– No doubt my honorable friends would do all sorts of things, but they have been in power in the Commonwealth, and what took place then? Reform in these matters cannot be obtained by rushing like a bull at a gate. The settlement of such questions must be the result of agreements between the Federal and State Governments. Because of the tendency of the Labour party when in power to encroach upon State rights and privileges, there was continued friction between the Federal and State Governments even when the heads of the respective Governments belonged to the same political party. We know that during the life of the Fisher Government there was an indecent conflict between Mr. Fisher and Mr. Holman - both at the time members of the Labour party - over the New South Wales Government House. They could not agree even upon a little matter like that. When a Labour Government held the reins of power in the Federal Parliament, and Labour Governments were also in power in the States concerned, they could not agree on the question of beginning the Murray Waters scheme, a national work of very great magnitude. It was not until Sir Joseph Cook came into power with a ma’jority of only one that it was found possible to bring the Governments into line, and secure the starting of that work of national importance and of InterState interest.
This Government is in earnest in desiring to translate into actual effect the pious aspirations of previous State and Federal Governments, and to meet the wishes of the people of Australia ir. bringing to an end the foolish and wasteful duplication of government activities as early as possible. The Government will use every means in their power by persuasion and in every other way to bring to an end the present condition of affairs, and save the people of Australia from the spectacle presented by the conditions existing at the present time. We believe that the present is the psychological moment for action in this matter.
– The psychological moment, for a recess.
– If we go into recess, I am satisfied that the people of Australia will appreciate our efforts in this direction more than they would appreciate floods of talk in this chamber during the next week or two, should we remain in session.
– We would appreciate a statement from the honorable gentleman as to what the Government are going to do.
– The Prime Minister has already outlined in a broad way the policy of the Government. The detailed programme, which will be submitted to the House when Parliament meets again-
– When will that be?
– Time will tell. The detailed programme which will be submitted in the Governor-General’s Speech when Parliament meets again will provide much food for reflection on the part of honorable members opposite. They will discover in it much that will be contrary to their prophecy. They will find that the establishment of stable, sound, and progressive government will have been placed beyond all question. It will be seen beyond all doubt that the composite Ministry formed by the alliance between the two parties on this side will have sufficient common political ground on which to base a progressive national policy.
– I am not going to attempt to cover the whole of the ground traversed by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), but I think I may say that every honorable member in this chamber is extremely dis1 appointed that we did not hear a great deal more from the honorable gentleman before he sat down. Every one has been keenly interested in the secret happenings that took place in connexion with the arrangement which resulted in bringing together two allegedly opposing parties on the other side. ,We are interested in the secret joining and leaving of trains, the back-stairs arrangements, and all the other features of the agreement arrived at. We did expect to hear from the Treasurer some explanation in his own way why these secret methods were indulged in.
– Did I not 3ec the honorable member at Albury?
– The honorable gentleman says that he saw me at Albury, and I intend before I sit down to remind him of some of the things that he told the people of Albury, and to contrast them with what he has told this Chamber to-night.
First of all I wish to deal with one or two things which I have heard the Treasurer say this evening for the first time. They represent the serious features of his speech, and as a member of the movement to which I belong, I do not desire that they should be allowed to go unchallenged. Unfortunately for the honorable gentleman, the whole political history of this country is against ‘the allegations he has made against the party with which honorable members on this side are associated. The Treasurer’ informed us that he received some of his early training from the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald), who made such a fine speech in this Chamber last night. I am very sorry that the Treasurer did not continue to receive his education from that honorable member after his schooldays. Had he availed himself of the advice which he might have received from that honorable member as to the political paths he should tread, he would not have fallen into the serious errors indicated by several of the statements which he has made to-night. It seems as if his education was neglected after he passed from the control of the honorable member for Barton. The honorable gentleman said that the conditions of the working people in Australia were a great deal better before Labour came into power than they are to-day. I did not think it was possible for any man who claims to have taken an interest in Australian politics to make such a statement. It is easy for the Treasurer to make assertions of that character, but, unsupported, they count for nothing. I shall not attempt to refute his allegations by pitting my word against them, but shall quote from reliable public documents. The conditions of the workers in the factories and in rural industries before the Labour party entered Parliament were reported upon from time to time by Commissions. The reports are available, and if the Treasurer had taken the trouble to read them he would not have been misled into making the absurd statements to which we have listened to-night. Tn 1882, an anti-Labour Government in Victoria appointed a Royal Commission to report upon the sweating evil, and the Melbourne Trades Hall Council financed a committee to marshal the evidence for presentation before the Commission. In 1884 the Royal Commission which inquired into working class conditions reported, amongst other things -
That has not happened since the advent of Labour into politics.
Those are not the declarations of a Labour organization, but of a Commission appointed byan anti-Labour Government that would have been quite in agreement with the principles advocated by the Treasurer to-night. The report disclosed an appalling condition of affairs such as could not happen to-day because of the advent of the great Labour movement. So much for the conditions of the city workers. I pass on to the report of a British Royal Commission which came to Australia to investigate the kanaka traffic-
The kanaka traffic was one long record of deceit, cruel treachery, kidnapping, and coldblooded murder. The number of human beings whose lives have been sacrificed in this odious traffic will never be known.
That was before Labour entered Australian politics. Those were the conditions in the bad old days which the Treasurer would like to see repeated. In his Conservatism to-night he has outHeroded Herod. I do not think anybody associated with him in his new- politi cal alliance could venture to believe in the ambitions which he has disclosed tonight, and which were a surprise to me. It is a pity that he did not learn hispolitics from the same master who gave him. his primary education.
Of course, the Treasurer is entitled to express his own views, but he certainly displayed a remarkable lack of logic: He referred to the maladministration, blundering, and corruption in connexion with the building of the War Service Homes. Who was responsible for those happenings? Not the Labour party. If Labour had been in power when these.things occurred, there would have been some point in the honorable gentleman’s denunciation, but they happened under a National Government, which was kept in power by the Treasurer and those who are allied with him to-day. To-night he has merely repeated these old charges for the edification of the people who listened to him at Albury and elsewhere; but the people did expect that when he got into power he would find a remedy for the evils he condemned, instead of continuing to recite them. We expected to hear to-night a statement of his policy, but he merely recapitulated the old charges, apparently with the idea of leaving the impression upon the public mind that the Labour party was responsible. The things to which he referred were bad enough, in all conscience; but the persons responsible for them were the members of a Government which he helped to keep in power. Honorable members on this side of the House moved several motions of want of confidence, but always the Government were saved by members of the Country party. To-day he is associated with the party that he abused on the hustings and criticised to-night. After the election he helped to throw the National leader overboard, and then came to terms with the aiders and abettors of that leader. Now, after all the weeks of secret bargaining, he throws the House a scrap of paper and asks us to wait until June before hearing from him how he proposes to deal with the evils in regard to which he professes to be so greatly disturbed. The Treasurer repeated this statement when he came into my own electorate during the campaign, and, of course, I know what he said. I have no desire to misrepresent him. It is quite clear that he spoke of the benefit of having three parties outside, in order, as he put it, to restore the equilibrium of Parliament; but he added that inside the House there must be only two parties. I propose, as I go along, to quote extracts from speeches made by honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who scouted the statements of members of the Labour party that there were really only two parties in Parliament. The history of parliamentary government in Australia for the last fifty years shows that whenever the ruling party became discredited, a certain section broke away on the eve of an election, changed its name, and, after managing to deceive the electors, came together again after the elections and became the same old stage coach with a new coat of paint. So as not to misrepresent the Treasurer on this point it is just as well to quote what he said in my own electorate -
The Country party would not sell its principles for the sake of office, nor did it see any reason for coalescing witjh a party whose policy was a negation of the principles for which the Country party stood.
Men on the land who have not very much time on their hands after the day’s work is over to study the political situation, would naturally take it for granted that all was well with the Country party. The Treasurer, in his speeches on the hustings, gave no indication whatever that any arrangement or alliance with the Nationalist party was likely to take place. He made it? clear, on the other hand, that there would be no coalition if members of the Country party got back.
– That was a pledge to the people.
– Yes, it was a definite statement from the Leader of the Country party, who said also -
Although the Country party is prepared to co-operate with other representatives on the floor of Parliament who hold the same ideals and principles as itself- that invitation applied to those who call themselves Liberals - it is not prepared to enter into any alliance which would in any way destroy its separate entity.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Riverina, who applauds the sentiment, made the same statement this afternoon in this House. Apparently he is not deficient in humour, whatever other quality he may lack. How it is possible to be separate and one at the same time passes the comprehension of members on this side of the House. I have only to say to the honorable member that I represent a constituency very close to his own, andI could read to him a number of resolutions that have been passed by an organization known as the Farmers and Settlers Asso-. ciation,. from which the honorable member expects to receive support in the future, condemning the action of the Country party in the formation of this composite Ministry.
– Why did they not elect your friend who was opposing me?
– The simple answer to that question is that the coalition has taken place since then. Prior to the election the honorable member himself, and, as I have shown, his Leader also, definitely gave the people to understand that a coalition between theCountry party and the Nationalists was about the last thing one need expect. But letme quote furtherfrom the final appeal by the Treasurer to the electors -
The electors, have the choice of three parties. As Leader of the Country party, I feel we are offering to the people a body of men of undoubted character, who are advocating a policy which, if given effect to, would result in unparalleled production and prosperity.
From this it is clear that the Country party declared prior to the election that they were a separate entity and had a definite policy. To show that the swallowing up has been complete in every detail, I have only to mention that instead of the Country party endeavouring to give effect to this policy, which we were told was to lead to unparalleled prosperity, this composite Government have handed us a scrap of paper which means nothing and leads us nowhere. Where is this policy?
– You will get it later on.
– This takes my mind back to a statement made by the Prime Minister. No greater compliment could be paid to the Labour party by way of contrast than that paid by the honorable gentleman when he said that, of course, the Government had no policy, because they could not frame one in time - he did not tell us why, though we know why - but that if the Labour party had been returned that party would have had a policy, because one had already been made for them. That, as I say, was a compliment, because it means that we went to the people with a definite policy, and declared that if we were returned there would be no delay, seeing that the policy had been drawn up in black and white by the men and wemen of the Labour movement. In that movement we invite every man and woman with the necessary credentials to help to form the policy of the party; and I submit that there is no more democratic way of shaping a policy than, by such collaboration.
I now leave the Treasurer and his speeches to refer to the statements of some of his colleagues, in order that the public may know exactly what has taken place, and realize how great has been the betrayal. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) had some very interesting things to say during his campaign, and I venture to say that no man or woman of Wimmera who heard him would ever dream that such an alliance as we see now was possible. On the 11th December last the honorable gentleman, speaking in his electorate, is thus reported -
He felt sure .that every party would be in the same boat after the election, and that no party would have the numbers to govern. He challenged Mr. Hughes to name one country that had fewer than throe parties in its Parliament.
That is to say, he gave the impression that if honorable members came back as separate parties, none with a majority, each party would retain its separate entity.
– Which the parties have done.
– I ‘am sure the honorable member will -not get any one outside - certainly he will not get any one here - to believe him. The report of the honorable member’s speech goes on, and this is very interesting -
He charged the Nationalist party with having attempted to bribe the Country party by offering them portfolios-
That is the very thing that has happened, and the honorable gentleman then describes it as bribery - bribery and corruption - and naturally the electors would think he would never stoop to accept a portfolio. The ^report of his speech proceeds - but they had refused to sink their political principles to assist in the misgovernment of the country.
Two days later, in another part of his constituency, he. is thus reported : -
He referred to the buying and selling of seats by the Nationalist party as a scandal, and challenged the Nationalist party te publish a balance-sheet showing where the money came from to do so. The Country party was anxious to find out about many matters upon which the Government had observed a silence, and the only way to get the information was to shift the Government.
It is very interesting to contrast the utterances of members of the late Country party when speaking their individual minds with their utterances as members of this “ Composite “ Government - that ds, when they speak from their “composite “ minds. The honorable gentleman at that meeting said he was not in the House when the sale of the Geelong Woollen Mills was proposed, and that he regretted the fact, and declared that had he been present he would have voted against the proposal, and that if another opportunity occurred he would do all in his power to stop the sale.
– He has a good opportunity now!
– He has; but he must now speak from his composite mind. The honorable member is further reported as saying on that occasion -
While he did not believe in wholesale nationalization he nevertheless thought that where combines kept prices up, as in the case of Flinders-lane, Government competition was justified.
He was against wholesale nationalization, but believed in Government competition in the case of Flinders-lane combines which operated against the Government mills at Geelong. Little did any one in the Wimmera who listened to him think that, when he returned to Parliament, one of the first things he would do would be to link up with the representative of Flinders-lane. I believe that the Prime Minister stands for interests, that are the interests of Flinders-lane; but that is his business. That brings me to a statement by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), another member of the late Country party, who is now definitely linked up with Flinders-lane itself. The honorable member, on 12th December, at Beeac, is thus reported : -
As an example of the progress made by the Country party he quoted the increase in the party’s strength in America and Canada, where he declared the old parties had practically disappeared. He stated that in Western Australia the party controlled the Government, and in New South Wales and Victoria it hold the balance of power. He favoured this third party form of government.
He favoured the third party form of government, and gave no indication that if the members of the Country party were returned they would enter into any coalition such as we see. When he and other members of his party were firing their blank cartridges at the Nationalist Government, the present Postmaster-General said -
The National Federation is an organization of vested city interests, drawing a colossal fighting fund from the manufacturers, and from Flinders-lane, and perhaps from other sources….. That was the party which said it was going to shoot the profiteer. Those profiteers could be shot with a short-range gun from an upstair room in Parliament House looking west.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was in danger of being shot by the gentleman with whom he is now associated. I ask the honorable member for Riverina if, after reading that statement, his electors would expect a coalition to be formed between the Nationalist and Country party members, and that a working arrangement would be made between the representatives of Flinders-lane and the members of his party. When I hear an honorable member occupying a seat in the Corner speak concerning the separate entity of the Country party, I am. not surprised at the Prime Minister and other members of the Nationalist party smiling. It can easily be seen that the members of the Country party have been swallowed by the Nationalists. The swallowing has been complete, and yet the members of the party occupying the Corner benches persist in. saying that their separate entity has been retained. In listening to the honorable member for Riverina, I could not help thinking that he appeared to be sneaking that statement into Hansard. He seemed to apologize for saying that the Country party would remain a separate entity. I am sure the people who listened to the honorable member on the hustings believed that the members of his party who were returned would not coalesce with a party which had committed bribery and corruption. It will probably suit the honorable member’s purpose if his statement is recorded in Hansard, but his constituents will treat it for what it is worth. The honorable member, however, will find that the men on the land who have been misled by the speeches nicely served up by the Leader and representatives of his party are not going to be further deceived by those responsible for their betrayal. I shall now quote a statement made by the honorable member when the secret negotiations for the formation of a Government were proceeding. The following appears in large headlines in. a morning daily–
– That statement is not. fully correct.
– These are the head-lines, “ Speech by Mr. Killen,” “Country Party Won’t be Nobbled.”
– I still say so.
– The statement reads: -
Commenting on the Federal political situation, Mr. Killen, M.H.R. (Country party), on Monday stated that if Mr. Bruce was looking forward to a Coalition Government his troubles were only just starting. Mr. Hughes had tried to “swallow” the Country party, and he had failed. No otherparty would be allowed to “ nobble” the Country party, which was elected as a separate party, and must remain so.
That was before the “ nobbling “ occurred. The honorable member said there was no danger of any “ nobbling,” and further stated that Mr. Hughes had made the offer of a certain number of portfolios because an election was pending. When the election was over, however, the very thing which he said the Country party would not do at the instigation of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) they did at the instigation of the present Prime Minister, who was Mr. Hughes’ lieutenant, and was equally responsible for the sins of the Nationalist party. I shall now quote a few statements issued by the representatives of outside
Country party organizations. In the electorate of Indi, when the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had resisted for u few days the temptation of entering into arrangements with the Nationalists, the president said that his organization had passed a resolution congratulating the honorable gentleman for not entering into an alliance, and further stated “If the Country party entered into an. alliance with the Nationalists they would lose their separate entity.” The honorable member for Riverina has a formidable contract to carry out if he is to prove to that organization that his party has not lost its separate entity. The statement continues -
It was clear that the members of the Country party were not seeking office. If they did seek office they would certainly lose their separate entity.
That does not coincide with the statement made by the honorable member. At a meeting of members of the Country party at the Bendigo branch, one of the honorable member’s colleagues, Mr. A. A.
Dunstan, M.L.A., said-
– That decision has since been reversed.
– Yes, by one vote, and the honorable member should have mentioned it. Mr. Dunstan said -
We view with great surprise the fact that the Country party has decided to join with the Nationalists. The question of whether Mr. Bruce or Mr. Hughes is leader is of no consequence. It is the same old team except chat as a result of the people’s verdict it is now in an emaciated condition. A party defeated and discredited at the elections, suffering the loss of eleven members, including five Ministers, in its feverish desire- to cling to office, was prepared to barter six portfolios to the Country party in return for the latter’s support. During the election campaign the Nationalists emphatically declared that the Country party must go, as it was an obstruction in the House. Even Mr. Bruce said at Maryborough that the members of the Country party were a lot of nincompoops, incapable of carrying on the affairs of the country. The Country party in return denounced the maladministration and blundering of the Nationalist Government, and even promised that an inquiry would be held as soon as the elections were over into some of the scandals perpetrated by that Government. What magic influence has been brought to bear to induce the Country party to suddenly change its tactics and enter into marriage with the party so severely condemned by it only a few weeks ago? Do they suppose that the electors are so shortsighted and kindhearted as to forgive and forget such glaring inconsistency? The Bendigo branch is absolutely opposed to such an alliance-, and we know that numbers of other branches hold similar opinions. The Country party held a strong position, but immediately it sinks its independence and identity and becomes the tail end of a discredited party, its power vanishes. When this Government suffers defeat, and even from its very birth it will begin to die, it will be judged from a one-party point of view, and, whether the Federal Country party endeavours to maintain its identity or otherwise, the verdict of the disgusted electors will be the same.
That is the statement of a member of the Victorian State Parliament, and an adherent of the Country party. I could not use stronger words with which to sum up the position. Honorable members opposite tell us that although they are one party, they are two parties. That kind of talk will not deceive anybody in this Chamber, and it will only deceive simple-minded people outside. The proper way to treat it here is to scoff at it as a statement of no value. The separate entity of the Country party is a thing of the past; the coalition is complete in every way. The Government say that because there has been a coalition of two separate sections they require six months to produce a policy. I remarked at the outset that we expected to hear from the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) something about the secret arrangements with the Nationalists. If there was to be an alliance, why were the negotiations not carried on in the light of day? I suppose the Treasurer did not like’ getting into association with those whom, in a memorable speech, he had accused of making off with the loot. I well recall his memorable statement in this Chamber that the Nationalists were “ getting away with the loot,” and that when the watchdogs of the Country party “ switched on the light the loot was dropped.” I suppose it was quite in keeping with the fitness of things that a gentleman who had accused those who were to be his associates of being looters, should have some hesitancy iu meeting them in the light of day. So the Treasurer went some distance out to a place called South Yarra. He no doubt pulled his hat over his eyes, aud turned up .his collar; and here the political tragedy began. I have likened it to a kind of political boot-box tragedy. There was the secret leaving of the train, and the visit to the flat at South Yarra that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) occupies. Then there were the secret negotiations. It is remarkable that the two gentlemen of the late Corner party who were appointed managers, managed matters so well that they secured portfolios for themselves. No doubt they will often sit round the festive board and congratulate themselves upon the way they deceived those who listened to them and voted for them at the last election. But I venture to say that, as time goes on, there will arise before them the spectre-like Banquo’s ghost - of the man on the land whom they deceived on the hustings. They told the man on the land that they were a third and separate party, and that Australia would be better for a three-party system. The spectre of the man on the land must ever rise before them to mar whatever enjoyment they may derive from having, brought about the present coalition. The Prime Minister has stated that the Labour party possesses a policy which has been ready-made for it. I admit that candidly. We have, indeed, a policy. But the Prime Minister said many other things of us, in the course of his speech last week, which I do not admit, but which I resent. He said things about our party which have been repeated for years, and which are just as false to-day as they have always been. The Prime Minister indicated that, on account of what he described as our communistic tendencies, although he had no policy, he would be justified in taking office for the sole . reason of keeping Labour’ out of power. I am sure that Mr.. Speaker did not agree with those false platitudes of the Prime Minister. It must have been hard for him to remain in his place, while the Prime Minister was speaking, without expressing his disagreement. During the recent election campaign the ex-Prime Minister (Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes) made use of just the same false statements and accusations as his successor has levelled at the Labour party. But Mr. Hughes went further. He said that the Labour party was composed of disloyal men who were against the Empire. He asserted that we stood for communistic and Bolshevistic principles. There is no need for me to deny, or attempt to refute, the statements either of the ex-Prime Minister or of his successor. I shall merely quote Mr. Speaker, whose words will surely be sufficient. For he is held in such high esteem, his views are so greatly respected by the Prime Minister, that he has been elevated to the highest position in this House which’ the Government had to offer. This is what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who is now Speaker, had to say during the election campaign: -
In that day’s paper he had noticed an unfortunate ‘Utterance by the Prime Minister. Mr. Hughes had said that the Labour party was led by disloyal men. In all his contests he (Mr. Watt) had been opposed to a Labour man, and he did not believe the Prime Minister’s statement to be a fair one. There were good and bad men in every party . . . and his own experience over twenty-five years told him that the heart of the leadership and rank and file of the Labour .party was as loyal to the Empire as that of any other party.
Then the honorable member for Balaclava referred to these other statements, namely, that we were advocating communistic and Bolshevist doctrines. I shall again quote his own words, once more remaining content to present them as the complete answer to the utterances of the present Prime Minister. The honorable member for Balaclava said -
Some candidates were trying to persuade the electors that Australia was menaced by Bolshevism, and that we were in imminent danger of a wave of disorder sweeping over the country, destroying our institutions and parliamentary and democratic forms of government, which we had won, and by which we had kept our freedom. At election time extravagant and excitable things were said. As one who was privileged this time to sit above the dust of party politics, he did not believe that Australia was in any danger from Bolshevism, now or in the future. He believed that in no British community was there greater respect for law and order than in Australia.
That should be sufficient. I am content to recall those utterances to the memory of the Prime Minister, merely reminding him that he must- surely give them great respect and attention. They are the remarks of one who is now, more than ever, “ above the dust of party politics,” of one whom the Prime Minister has found it convenient, if not necessary, to silence. I am not at all surprised that the Prime Minister has placed the honorable member for Balaclava in a position where he will be compelled to keep quiet ‘by appointing him to the Speakership. The late Country party candidates insisted that the only way in which it was possible to have necessary telephonic and other facilities installed throughout the country was to send to the Parliament the Country party in stronger numbers. If they have a policy on this matter, if they have any influence in this coalition - which, they say has not swallowed them up - why have they not shown some indication that something effective is going to be done to give the people out-back those facilities which make all the difference between isolation and civilization?
– We are going to see that those facilities are provided.
– We have heard these promises made before. Had honorable members opposite had a definite policy, these things would have been forthcoming. The man on the land has waited long enough, and does not wantany further dilly-dallying. The last Parliament agreed to a loan of £8,000,000 in order that these necessary facilities might be provided. On the hustings, members of the late Country party said that they would not enter into a coalition. They have entered into one. They say that the man on the land can rest assured that his interests will be preserved. The man on the land looks anxiously for a policy which will preserve his interests, and they hand him a blank piece of paper saying, “ In six months’ time we may tell you what we are going to do.”
The other night the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) spoke as though he represented the opinions of the man on the land. He referred to the onward march of a great movement which, he said, was manifest in this country; he could hear the tramping of the feet of this thing - whatever it was - that was coming along.
– The honorable member for Perth said there was a great movement backward to the old Free Trade policy. I shall expect, as time goes on, to find this gentleman advocating the use of the thumb screw, the wooden plough, and other such things. He said the man on the land was anxiously looking forward to a reversion to the policy of Free Trade. That is unfair to the man on the land, and does not represent his opinion. I did not cloud the issue at any place to which I went during the campaign. There were scores of organizers in my electorate telling the man on the land that if the Tariff were wiped out he would get his agricultural implements much more cheaply. I, and others who understand the position, including many men who are on the land, were able to prove that in New Zealand - which does not impose any duty - the man on the land has to pay more dearly for his agricultural implements than they cost in Australia. I challenge contradiction of that statement.
The honorable member for Perth said that his greatest objection to the Labour party - I am not sure that he did not say the only objection - was that that party stood for a high Protectionist policy. Let me put the honorable member right on that matter. Our fiscal policy is the policy of new Protection; that is to say, we do not stand for a lop-sided method of Protection. We want the benefits of Protection to be shared by the manufacturer, by the users of the manufactured article, and by the workers in the industries. We have submitted three referenda to the people with a view to putting that policy into effect, telling the people that if we were returned to the Treasury bench that would be the policy which we would adopt. But when we are faced with a choice between old Protection and Free Trade - accepting, for the moment, the statement that Combines are built up under both - We say we will have the Combines with which we can deal and which are spending their money in Australia instead of spending it overseas. If, of course, the Labour party were in power, the Combine evil would disappear under our policy of new Protection. If, under present conditions, you wiped out the present duties, and killed our local industries, is any one so simple-minded as to think that the consumers of this country would derive any benefit? They would then be in the hands of overseas Combines which could charge exactly what they liked and which we would have no opportunity of regulating.
During the campaign a great deal wan said regarding decentralization. To those people who spoke about th? drift from the country to the city, I would say they could do a great deal to prevent itby building up secondary industries, not only in the cities, but in the country districts throughout Australia. Our raw wool is as good in quality as that of any country in the world, yet we turn it into manufactured articles only to the extent of 15 per cent. of our requirements; the balance goes out as raw material to benefit the workers in Japan and elsewhere, to the detriment of Australian workmen. Here is a great opportunity for checking the drift from the country to the city. Let us build up our woollen mills and our other great secondary industries, thus giving employment to our own men and women. What is the Government going to do about it? We are waiting to see whether there is going to be co-operation by this Government with other Governments and people with the object of bringing primary production to its logical and profitable conclusion of secondary manufacture. Instead of manufacturing 15 per cent, of our woollen requirements, we ought to be turning into manufactured articles the great bulk of our wool. That cannot be done under the policy advocated by the honorable member for Perth. If honorable members are serious about decentralization, here is something to which they can give their attention.
My remarks represent a few of the impressions upon my mind. I leave them to the consideration of honorable members opposite, but I hope that no other member of the late Country party will rise during the continuance of this debate and attempt to tell the members of this House that they still retain their separate identity. I am glad we have come back to the present position. The veil has been torn away. We on this side of the House have always said that there are only two parties - the Labour party and the anti-Labour party. At the next election we shall be able to prove to the electors the truth of our statement. Whatever members of the Government say then, they will not be able to deceive anybody. There will be two distinct parties - Labour on the one hand, and anti-Labour on the other.I believe that when the people give their verdict again they will do so in no uncertain way.
There will then be no third party to deceive people. I believe the people will then return a party which has already been in office for six years, and has left behind it a record which stands as a monument to the capacity of a Labour Government to manage the affairs of this country. It has to its credit such legislative achievements as the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, of which the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) has spoken. In the last Parliament the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) boasted of £7,000,000 earned by that note issue, and many millions more earned by the Commonwealth Bank. Members on the Government side are to-day condemning those very things, which stood as the bulwark of the people’s safety during the trying time of the war, and kept interest charges down to a steady level. The best proof of the efficiency of Labour legislation is to be found in the fact that, although there have been anti-Labour Governments in power since, they have not dared to repeal one of the Acts that the Labour party put on the statute-book.
. -I can only say, in reply to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that if there are producers in Australia who believe the trash ladled out to them, who believe that by paying duties of 40, 50, or 60 per cent. on the articles that they want, they will get them cheaper, they deserve the worst that can befall them. I atn surprised that the honorable member should occupy an hour in flogging a horse as dead as the question of the formation of a composite Government from the parties on this side of the House. I am quite satisfied that he had his tonguein his cheek. I can imagine the consternation of members opposite, and on this side also, if an agreement had not. been reached. What would then have been the natural corollary? There would have been a dissolution, and who wants that ? Members opposite did not suppose that Country party members would co-operate with themin formins; a Government, and I am quite satisfied that there are no members on that side, and very few on this, who want a dissolution at the present time. I worked hard for the agreement, and I am glad that it has been reached. As a result, we shall have a stable Government. ‘We need a strong Government. A weak Government is the most dangerous kind we could have, for it must pander to various interests in order to continue in existence. I prefer an arrangement such as we have, in which both parties can put their views before the Government. Naturally, it means that both sides must give and take. I am expecting that, and am prepared to do some giving. On the other hand, I hope the conditions of the primary producers will receive a little more consideration in the future than they have had in the past. I am sorry that there has been so much abuse of the leader of the late Government. What has been the cause of public opinion turning so strongly against him? Has it not been his dabbling in socialistic undertakings? The people realized and appreciated the marvellous work he did in connexion with the war. He is a great Empire builder, and I would like to see his genius still ruling this party. But every step he took towards Socialism, in which direction he was following the direction of his old party, led to his undoing.
– No one supported him more than the honorable member, who voted for him every time.
– I had to. T had no choice, knowing how much farther in the same direction members of the Opposition would go if they had the opportunity. I had had experience of their extravagance when they were in power. I believe in economy, and I shall urge upon the Government that they economize now. There is room for economy in the administration of the public affairs of this country. We need, nevertheless, to expend large sums of money in building up and developing this country. Honorable members opposite should realize that if less money is expended in administration, more will be available for developmental purposes, and there will be less unemployment. There is no reason why the two parties which form the Government should not retain their separate identity. It is a partnership purely and simply into which they have entered. I am quite satisfied that the members of the Country party will endeavour to abide loyally by the agreement; though they recognise that they . will have to give away something. I hope Nationalist members will realize that the coalition is a partnership, and that all will work for the country’s good. We are, of course, working for the country’s good when we keep the Labour party out of office. Many honorable members may be dissastisfied with the Ministry, but to those who are dissatified, I say it is very much better that we should be statesmen out of office than politicians in office. In saying that I am not reflecting on any members of the Government. If the Ministry had been formed from members on the other side the lack of experience might have been even more apparent that it is now. I am prepared to trust the Government, and they can rest assured of the fullest support from me in endeavouring to carry on the work of the country. I approve very strongly of the Government’s intention to give up socialistic undertakings. I regret that they have seen fit to hand over the Repatriation Department to other Ministers. I want the. Government to carry out to the full all the promises made to the soldiers during the war. In no circumstances should they depart from the policy of preference to returned soldiers, which was promised not only by this Government, but by the Governments of most of the States.
I am. not at all in accord with some members of my own party in regard to the proposed Convention for the amendment of the Constitution. It would involve a wasteful expenditure of at least £200,000. Like the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), I see no reason why a special Committee, consisting of some members of the Judiciary and representatives of all parties, should not be appointed to confer and to submit to this Chamber suggested amendments of the Constitution. On the report of such a Committee we might be able to agreeupon certain amendments which we could submit to the people, together with amendments promulgated by the Opposition if they so desired. It would be dangerous, however, to put the whole Constitution into the melting pot at the present time. I appeal to the Government to seriously consider this matter hefore they ask Parliament to approve of a Convention.
– Why should not the Government submit proposals to the Parliament and let us thresh them out1!
– That certainly is the duty of the Government. I should not have spoken this evening but that Ministers are going to ask the House to adjourn for three or four months in order that they may obtain a full grip of their Departments. We complain when we find that Ministers are not properly controlling the Departments intrusted to them, but in the past they have had very little opportunity to do so. Ample time must be given the members of this new Government to obtain a full mastery of the details of their Departments, and to consider their legislative .proposals. Prom, time to time we have had submitted to us illconsidered legislation. Night after night measures have been hurriedly submitted to us, and even while we have been discussing them the Attorney-General has come forward with sweeping amendments. As a result of such hasty, illdigested legislation, still further amendments have been necessary. We desire that carefully considered, and not hasty, ill-advised proposals shall be submitted to us. The Government are well justified in seeking a fairly lengthy adjournment. I see no reason why we should not adjourn until the end of June in order that they may get fully into touch with their Departments and have ample opportunity to consider the legislation which they intend, to submit to Parliament.
It is not my intention to-night to deal with all that has been said by the Opposition in regard to Tariff matters, but I feel constrained to offer some reply to the remarks made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). Is it not an absurd belief that by the imposition of enormous Customs duties we are able to obtain goods at a lower price than would be possible if we had moderate or no duties at all? Is it not unreasonable that we should have combines here, obtaining for their goods whatever prices they choose to ask ? Our workmen are quite as clever as are those of other countries, but why is it that the production of Canada, per head of the workers, is greater in quantity and value than that of Australia? Why is it that Canada can produce a reaper and binder at a cost of £60, whereas we have to pay £100 for such a machine? As a matter of fact, we have to pay for a buggy almost as much as is asked for a motor car in the United States of America. The explanation of these increased costs is that they are due to Government interference and the existence of combines. The Government should get into touch with the State Administrations and try to prevent the restraint of trade that is going on in this country. The high Tariff and the restraint of trade that is being exercised are the two greatest evils from which Australia is suffering to-day. The poorer sections of the community are the greatest sufferers. When the Tariff was before the last Parliament, some honorable members almost went mad in’ their demand for high duties. Every request for an increased duty was immediately agreed to. One honorable member demanded the imposition of an enormous duty on. bananas. I should not have objected to the imposition of a moderate duty; but what has been the result of the high duty that was eventually imposed? Australia has been trying to make herself felt in the Pacific as the patron of the smaller islands, and has been endeavouring to bring them together as part of a great Australasia. The heavy duty on bananas, however, has destroyed, our trade with Fiji, which amounted to something like £800,000 per annum, and has made enemies of its people. Another result of it is that those who are trying to develop the great north-west country of Western Australia cannot obtain fresh fruit. Western Australia’s trade with Java, from which it used to obtain its supplies of bananas, has been destroyed. The people cannot afford to pay the heavy duty, and the people of Java, with whom we were developing a big trade, now say, ‘ We will not trade with you, since you have imposed heavy duties against us.”
The Tariff as- introduced by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.
Greene) was bad enough, but, as we proceeded with its consideration, request after request for still higher duties was agreed to, and in the end the Ministerial policy degenerated into a disgraceful rush to placate the constituencies. One honorable member desired a duty on onions. Another fought for a duty on ply-wood because there was a little casein in it; while yet another insisted that there should be a substantial duty on strawboard because the local manufacturers of that article purchased straw from the farmers. And so the debate went on. We had demands for increased timber duties, and even infants’ and invalids’ foods were not allowed to escape.
– Honorable members of the Country party desired only to protect the onion and potato growing industries.
– No; they gave fair consideration to the Tariff as a whole, but the House became, so to speak, Tariff mad. The people are beginning to realize the mistake then made. Day after day we read in the Argus statements showing that the high Tariff is affecting not only the primary producers but the people as a whole. By imposing such a Tariff, this Parliament has put the cart before the horse. This is essentially a country of primary production. I am convinced that we could settle on the land from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 people and make them prosperous. Let us give the people an opportunity to develop the country instead of hampering them by imposing duties on everything they require. The Tariff during the last two years has imposed heavy burdens on the pioneers in the West, who have been opening up virgin country. Surely the struggling pioneers who are clearing the country out back, who have in many cases to cart water for miles, and to pay high prices for wretched food supplies, deserve a thousand-fold more consideration than any other section of the community.
I propose now to show what, in my opinion, the Tariff is costing Australia.
– Will the Government reduce it?
– I hope that they will do something in the direction of reducing duties. I have no promise that they will, but I appeal to their good sense. The Customs and Excise revenue collected during the first eight months of the present financial year totalled £22,179,000, which means that by the end of the year approximately £33,000,000 will have been paid in this way by 5,500,000 people. In other words, this taxation amounts to £6 per head of the people, so that a family of five pays through the Customs £30 a year. Would any Government dare to impose direct taxation amounting in the case of a family of five to £30 per annum ? I think not. We have to add to the amount so paid by the people the profits of the wholesaler and retailer. Assuming that the Customs and Excise revenue this year amounts to £33,000,000, we must add to the purely Customs revenue, which will amount to approximately £24,000,000, say 20 per cent., in respect of importers’ profits, which gives us an additional £4,800,000, and 33 per cent. for retailers’ profits, which means a further sum of £9,600,000 that the people of Australia must pay. The value of goods manufactured in Australia during 1921 waa £324,000,000. From that total we must deduct, in respect of food and drink, £114,000,000. The value of other products amount to approximately £10,000,000. So that £200,000,000 worth of goods manufactured in this country are protected. I am quite satisfied that the cost of those goods is increased by Protection to the extent of 25 per cent. On that account we have to add £50,000,000. It has further to be remembered that one-half of the goods manufactured in this country will be distributed in the first instance through wholesale houses, and in respect of those goods we must add 33 per cent. for retailers’ profits. It will be found that the people are called upon to pay £130,000,000 extra because of the Customs and Excise taxation of this country.This is an enormous sum. The figures I have given are merely approximate, but any one who analyzes them fairly will be ied to the conclusion that the extra cost of goods due to Customs and Excise taxation amounts annually to anything from £120,000,000 to £140,000,000. The great proportion of this huge sum has to be paid by the primary producers of the country.
Let me say that I was more than astounded at the action of this Parliament in giving such power as has been given to the Minister for Trade and Customs under the Act. Honorable members know how I complained of the power given to the Minister under items 174 and 404 of the Tariff. If they will look at the weekly notices issued by the Trade and Customs Department they will find that if a manufacturer requires a certain article for manufacturing purposes the Minister at once issues a notice under which the article is admitted free of duty. There is nothing more urgently needed in this country than cheap superphosphate. The producers of the country are crying aloud for it. Any one who has any knowledge of rural industries must realize the marvellous importance of cheap superphosphate to the farmer. The manufacturer of the article here has to pay duty on the sulphur he requires for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, whilst the Dunlop Company and others are permitted to import sulphur free of duty for the manufacture ‘of the goods they produce. If honorable members will look at these weekly notices of the Trade and Customs Department they will see that the Minister gives permits for the introduction of certain machinery.
– What Minister?
– I am referring now to a power given by the honorable member, as well as other members of this Parliament, to the Minister for Trade and Customs. No such power should have been given to any Minister. This Parliament should itself determine what goods shall be admitted duty free and what goods shall pay duty. It should be the business of the Tariff Board to report to Parliament what goods should be admitted free of duty in the interests of Australia, and it should be the duty of Parliament alone to decide what goods shall be admitted free. We had an Anti-Dumping measure introduced, and instead of being a simple measure which persons of ordinary intelligence could understand,I venture to say that under the operation of that measure there is not one member of this Parliament, and I think there is not one importer in Australia, who is able to say under what schedule of the AntiDumping Act goods are being imported. Only recently, while the elections were pending, wire-netting of English manufacture, valued at £113, was imported into Western Australia. The Customs Department declared that the home consumption value of this wire-netting was £158, and they, therefore, imposed a duty on it of £45. Honorable members are aware how important it is when a man puts in a crop that he shall be able to protect it from pests.
– There are many pests that we should like to get rid of.
– The honorable member is the greatest pest. I am not much concerned about the respect which he pays to members of this House, but when he is lacking in ordinary courtesy to a Judge of the High Court of Australia, we may look upon the honorable member as one of the greatest pests we have. Only a little while ago a small electrical appliance known as a torpedo was imported into this country from Germany. The cost of the article was 4s., and it is retailed in London at 7s. 6d. The duty imposed on it here is 16s. 6d., or 412½ per cent. ad valorem. Such an imposition is monstrous. I am discussing these matters because the Governmentare going into recess.I direct attention to the fact that the State I represent is suffering severely because of the enormous Tariff duties which Parliament has imposed. We anticipated in Western Australia, that when we entered the Federation, we would get a fair deal, and would be treated with equity and justice. We do not mind paying some proportion of the cost of Federation, nor do we object to assisting in every way we can the people of the rest of Australia. But there should be some equity and justice shown us, particularly in viewof the huge area of our State, and the splendid efforts that are being made at the present time by our people to develop that great area ofcountry. I can prove from statistical papers that Western Australia is very severely hit by the Tariff. I am hopeful that, in the future, we will have an accounting period, as we had in the Federation up to 1910, so that it will be possible for us to know how much each of the States has to pay in Customs duties, and some fair return may be made to the States that are penalized by the protection afforded to Australian manufacturers. If we take the case of Queensland, we shall find that, in connexion with the production of sugar, that State is receiving a special subsidy amounting to £2,250,000 a year. The cities of Sydney and Melbourne profit through our enormously high Tariff to the extent of anything from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 each. “We in Western Australia are losing large sums as the result of the Tariff. Statistics show that in the first ten years of Federation the amount per head of population paid by Western Australia was considerably higher than the amount paid by any of the other States. In the last year of the bookkeeping period 1909-10, the amount paid by Western Australia, on a per capita basis, was £55,000 more than in the other States of Australia. I wish to. make this further quotation from the report of the Western Australian Commission: -
After making full allowance for special payments to Western Australia and Tasmania, beyond the 25s. per head provided for in the Surplus Revenue Act 1910, the State of Western Australia stands out above all the rest as having experienced the heaviest relative loss on account of Customs and Excise, namely, a loss during the twenty years ending 30th June, 1.92.1, of £10,571,863, or £31 10s. lOd. per head of population on 31st December, 1921, as compared with an average loss for all the States of £24 Os. lid. per head.
Hi these circumstances the State of Western Australia is entitled to special privileges. If special privileges are given to Queensland and to manufacturers of New South Wales and Victoria, Western Australia must be given privileges or the Customs duties must be reduced. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) told us last night that the people are beginning to realize the impossibility of carrying on under existing conditions. Unless the people of Western Australia receive more generous treatment from the Commonwealth, we shall find the cry of secession - which has already been raised” there, but which has had no sympathy or support from those who have desired to help the Federation - will grow until it becomes irresistible.
– .Quack ! A mere handful of people talking about secession !
– The State which the honorable member represents is getting the benefit of the duties that (the people in Western Australia and other
States have to pay. He may feel well content with the present state of affairs. But a centralizing influence is being fostered which is bound to be dangerous to this country’. Everything is being attracted to Melbourne and Sydney, and that cannot make for the general development of Australia.
I had hoped to speak fully upon immigration, but, as the hour is getting late, I shall content myself with urging the Government to give serious consideration to this matter. I ask the Prime Minister to appoint one of his Ministers to attend to immigration matters, to endeavour to co-operate with the States, originate schemes, and do everything possible to increase the stream of immigrants. To-day Australia, has the opportunity of her lifetime. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed in the Old Country, and the Imperial Government is prepared to expend under the Migration Act £3,000,000 annually for the next fifteen years to enable people to go overseas to settle on the land. We should embrace that opportunity. At the same” time we must be loyal’ to the Imperial Government and to the immigrant. There must be no painting of fanciful pictures as to the conditions that await the immigrant; we must be fair to him.- and also fair to ourselves. It must be made clear that we will not have the riff-raff of the Old Country, but that we shall welcome the people who are prepared to go upon the land and become permanent settlers. I have collected a wealth, of information about the wonderful possibilities that are before Australia. Not many years ago the Mallee country of Victoria, was regarded as impossible for settlement, but to-day it is yielding a marvellous amount of wealth, and we can estimate the enormous value of its production when the schemes for the locking of the Murray waters and irrigation therewith are completed. Room will be found for thousands of people. In Western Australia there are wide spaces in which tens of thousands of settlers can be accommodated so long as the Government can get the money with which to provide them with the necessary facilities. As the Prime Minister pointed out, we must provide facilities to enable the man upon the land to get his produce to market. I urge the honorable gentleman to depute one of his Ministers to give attention to immigration and, in conjunction with the States, evolve a big developmental policy. 1 listened with interest to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) upon the subject of naval defence. The greatest security Australia can have is the prosperous settlement of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 people here. We have ample room for them. But the immigration problem must be taken in hand at once. If the Government fail to do this, they will be looked upon as faint-hearted poltroons, and posterity will curse them. What right have 5,500,000 people to hold this huge continent, comprising 3,000,000 square miles - an average of one and a half persons to the square mile? The great north of the continent is almost entirely undeveloped. Australia is greater in area than the United States of America, which has a population of 110,000,000. Let us take our courage in both hands and set ourselves to make the people overseas believe that we have room for them, and that they can become in Australia prosperous settlers. An increase in population is the imperative need of Australia at the present time.
.- In - making my first speech in this Chamber I claim the indulgence of the House in respect of what may be considered a weary reiteration of what has been said before, and I am satisfied that honorable members opposite will treat me with courtesy and generosity. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in his reply to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) held that Australia must be a party to the Empire’s foreign policy, and that there was a grave necessity for a convention in London this year at which a Commonwealth Minister could attend and voice Australian opinion in regard to foreign affairs. The policy of the Labour party, as I understand it, and the sentiment of all Australians, should be that the foreign policy of Great Britain is entirely her own concern. What will happen if Australia tries to meddle with Britain’s foreign affairs? If we are to consult with the Old Country, and help to shape her policy in regard to Mesopotamia or the Turkish situation we shall find that honorable members opposite who are so anxious to prove their loyalty - which is a spurious loyalty to Australia - will urge us to participate in every Imperial war, whether it be just or unjust. Whilst I pay due regard to Great Britain, I hold that it is necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth that honorable members should declare their policy to be “ Australia first.”
Much has been said about the manner in which the Country and National parties have come together I admitfrankly the right of the farmers to be represented by a separate party. It is true that for half a century the daily press denied the right to the workers to have separate representation in Parliament. Even to-day that right is not conceded, for the method of the newspapers is to find fault with our policy, and misrepresent it in the hope of driving the workers’ representatives from the legislative halls. But notwithstanding the opposition and misrepresentation by the press, the Labour party has continued to be a power in Australian politics. I admit that during the war, owing to misrepresentation and misunderstanding, a great shadow came over the Labour movement. There is a book in which the writer speaks of Russia during its revolutionary period as being “in the shadows.” During the war a dictator arose who placed Australia in the shadows, and it was impossible for a man to speak Australian sentiments without being declared disloyal. I am pleased to note that with the passage of time people are returning to sanity, and once more a man may speak as a patriot, voicing what he believes to be in the best interests of Australia without having opprobrious epithets hurled at him. The fact that the Country party coalesced with the Nationalist party for the purpose of forming a Ministry is a clear indication that their existence as a separate party was not necessary in the special interests of the producers of the Commonwealth. Therefore, all this talk about the maintenance of the party’s entity is so much camouflage. The Nationalist party, as we knew it prior to the election, failed to secure a sufficient number of seats to enable the Government to carry on. Clearly they had no mandate to govern. But the Country party came to their assistance. I am a. farmer myself - every available penny during the last fifteen years has gone- into a farm in Western Australia - and knowing the farmers in that State, T can say that the action of the Country party in fusing with the Nationalist party does nob meet with their approval. I believe, also, that it will not be indorsed by the producers in the eastern States. After the defeat of the Nationalist Government, five members of which failed to be returned, it was clearly the duty of the Governor-General to send for the Leader of the next most, numerous party in the House.
– I remind the honorable member that it is not in order to criticise .the Governor-General .
– Very well, sir, I shall content myself by saying that in my opinion the Governor-General was illadvised in that matter. He was illadvised because it is essential that tha rising generation of Australia should have every respect for vice-regal authority, and the King’s representative in the Commonwealth should be placed entirely above party politics. We all realize, I believe, that if this country is to be strong it must be under the British flag, and that it is essential for the people of Australia to have every respect for those in authority.
I wish now to deal with certain questions that affect Western Australia particularly, and in doing so it is my desire to avoid any references of a personal character. We have had some very warm speeches to-night from representatives of my State, whose remarks were not received with a great amount of enthusiasm by my colleagues on this side of the House. But I want to be quite frank. I understand the reason for the heat shown by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I am no parochialist myself. I am an old Victorian, but I have been resident in Western Australia for twenty-seven years, and therefore it is my first care. I would be entirely lacking in my duty did I not voice the dissatisfaction which exists in some quarters of Western Australia regarding the results of Federation. I may say, in passing, that in the district which I represent there were, prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, the most ardent Federationists in the whole of Australia. The people who pioneered the goldfields of Western Australia were drawn from Victoria principally, though many came from South Australia, and a certain number from New South Wales and Queensland. When the question of Federation was occupying the minds of the people, the then Premier of Western Australia, the late Lord Forrest, was not desirous of linking up with the eastern States, so to counteract his influence the people on the goldfields got up the longest petition that has ever been prepared. It. was signed, I believe, by every adult, person on the goldfields, and its purport was “ Separation for Federation.” As Australians we were prepared to separate from Western Australia in order to join the Federation, and because of the pressure which we brought to bear upon the Government, that State eventually came into the Union. I am not suggesting that all the signatories to the petition were over the age of twenty-one years, because there were on the gold-fields’ a very large number of youths of eighteen years and upwards who were most enthusiastic about the proposal to federate. We proposed to send that petition to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in order to achieve our purpose. Although, as I have said, there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in some quarters. Western Australia, as a whole, is still loyal to the Federal compact. Certain acts of administration by the late Nationalist Government have given rise to considerable feeling. As a case in point, I may mention the attitude of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in connexion with the creation of the Australian Metal Exchange. For four and a half years during the war the goldproducers of Western Australia were unable to export their gold, which was at a premium, the reason given being that if, by any chance, it got into the hands of the enemies of the Empire it would help to stabilize their finances and thus prolong the conflict. Now I want to be chivalrous towards the ex-Prime Minister, and for the purposes of attack I would prefer that he were present. We had no fault to find with the reasons actuating the Government in the creation of the Metal Exchange, but there was very good reason for intense dissatisfaction at the restriction of our freedom. It was impossible in those days for men holding Labour views to declare themselves. Pamphlets were circulated which had the effect of setting Australian against Australian by an appeal to the lowest passion in human nature, that excited by the seotarian issue. All this emanated from a very high source, of which fact there is undoubted proof. We, the sons of Britishers, who love the Shakspeare that our fathers loved, and revere the great patriots of Britain - Cromwell, Hampden, and Pitt - were called disloyal because of the action of a man who was imported, or came of his own volition, from another country to Australia. I do not wish to raise the question whether a man is loyal or disloyal because horn in Australia or elsewhere; but I shall never forget that at that time, when Australia was in the shadows, those at the head of the Government robbed us of all semblance of British liberty. However, to resume my story, gold was sent abroad, and the producers were paid £4 4s.11½d., the normal price per fine ounce gold. That gold was all shipped to Great Britain, and on that score we have no fault to find. Since then, however, we have been told that all that the Federal Government made out of the transaction was £11.000. which was never paid to us, and which, indeed, we do not want. But Mr. E. C. Dyason, the President of the Gold Producers Association, in reply to a letter asking for information, sent the following : -
I think it can be established beyond doubt that owing to the prohibition of export, the gold producers lost between £2,000,000 or £3,000,000at least during the war period. On the other hand, the Government of Australia did not make this profit, for the gold was apparently sold to the British Government at the old par of exchange and distributed at their direction to the various countries to which it was shipped. 1 should imagine that the principal destination was America, for the New York-London rate of exchange was artificially pegged at 476 for practically the whole of the war period, and it was by means of shipping gold, selling securities, and borrowing that this was accomplished. Some profit was therefore probably made by the British Government in shipping this gold to America, but not as much as could have been realized by shipping elsewhere. . . .
I mention, this to show that one of the highest mining authorities in Australia is of opinion that the gold producers of Western Australia - for that State produces two-thirds of the gold of Australasia - lost over £2,000,000 as a result of the deal by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr.
Hughes). We submit that if gold was then bringing in the United States of America, through the exchange with Great Britain, about £2 per ounce over what the gold producers were receiving at one period, at any rate, from the Federal Government, they should be given some recompense. I know it is difficult to suggest a reasonable plan, but I submit that an injustice has been suffered. Farmers and others did remarkably well in war time, obtaining prices for their wheat and other produceconsiderably in excess of what would have been possible under other circumstances. Of course, I know that farmers always have a grievance, and, like Oliver Twist, keep on asking for more; and I do not blame them. In Western Australia, farmers who are at the pioneer stage live a very hard life. The first man on the land who does the pioneering work gets little or no material benefit, because by the time his farm has been placed on a payable basis he is too old to enjoy the fruits of his industry.
– We should alter that system.
– And no doubt it will be altered when the Labour party gets into power. I am strongly of opinion that the farmers of Australia will eventually be pushed into the economic position that farmers have been placed in the United States of America. When the monopolies that are now threatening us on every hand get this country into their maw, our farmers will, as in America, be driven., willy-nilly, into the arms of Labour in order to fight the common enemy. Land is getting more rapidly into the hands of the few, even in Victoria. In my own old county of Gladstone, on the Avoca, there is less population to-day than there was twenty or thirty years ago. Here I may say that it is rather remarkable, that the little town of Avoca, with its 700 inhabitants, should have produced two members of this Chamber, thp honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and myself. That, however, is by the way; the point I wish to make is that in that district the population has dwindled. This creates a problem that requires the closest examination by members of this Chamber, no matter on which side they may sit.
The party now in power claims to stand for primary producers, which phrase, I presume, does not merely mean farmers, but includes gold producers. With such a Government, the gold mining industry, which I think has done more than any other industry for Australia, is justified in expecting to receive that which is due to it. No doubt the British Government, which is composed of keen business men, got an advantage out of the deal, and we owe Great Britian several millions as a war debt. I think that in the circumstances even the greatest pro-Britishers on the Government side would be prepared to place _ Australia’s position in connexion with this industry before the British Government so that the gold producers might receive that to which they are entitled. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) can bear me out as to the conditions which prevailed in .Western Australia before the discovery of gold. We remember that from this side of the continent, Western Australia was regarded as the Cinderella of the colonies. It is said that a man from Victoria once went into the office of the Premier of that time (the late Lord Forrest), and endeavoured to change a sovereign, but an official refused to have anything to do with it. Even a Chinaman, although he may bite a sovereign several times to be sure that it is genuine, will eventually accept it; but in Western Australia in those days they did not know what a sovereign was, as the people had been accustomed to bartering in kangaroo ‘skins, kangaroo meat, and other commodities. The Swan River Settlement, as it was then known, was in a precarious condition; but men from Victoria, including Mr. Bailey and Mr. Ford, penetrated the hinterland and traversed the arid interior where previously that great explorer the late Lord Forrest, of whom I speak with the greatest respect, could not proceed without a large number of camels and au expensive equipment. These men, carrying their lives in their hands, discovered gold , and the news spread all over the civilized world. Immediately men flocked from California, Great Britain, but more particularly from the eastern States, because there was a great, depression in this particular part of the continent at thattime. As .the result of the discovery we were able to build up a community where previously it was impossible to think of living. If by any process of imagination we could have pictured a man, in those days, descending from Mars upon this particular part of the country, we would have expected him to perish owing to the absence of water. The nearest supply was then over 200 miles away, yet in that locality to-day the city of Kalgoorlie has been established, and there and in other inland towns, there are gardens which, if only small, are equal to any in the Commonwealth. The Government led by the late Lord Forrest, was responsible for the great scheme for carrying water 300 miles to make mining operations possible. The discovery of gold meant everything to Western Australia, and no one would contradict the assertion that without its discovery farming operations in Western Australia would not have reached their present position for the next hundred years. The settlement in that part of Western Australia meant a lot to Victoria at that time. I recall, as a money order clerk, that the amount of money orders executed totalled no less than £40,000 each week, which amount was sent from Western Australia to Victoria. South Australia, New South Wales, aud elsewhere. The gold mining industry has done a lot for Australia : but now it is confronted with hard times. Yet, strange as it may appear, at the present moment the great mines at Kalgoorlie are looking better than they have done for the past fifteen years. It is a wonderful snot, aud unique in its way when compared with other mining districts throughout the world. The mining industry is practically at a standstill. The mines are working on a narrow margin of profit, due not altogether, as some would think, to the rates of wages paid. The wages at the Great Boulder and Horseshoe mines, which are operating below the 3,000-feet level, do not exceed 15s. per day, although the cost of living is much higher, and the surroundings much less congenial, than in the eastern States. A great change, however, has occurred in consequence of the increased price of commodities, and it is the duty of this Government to deal with that important question at once. The price of the necessaries of life has risen enormously, and I trust, the Government will. see that the money filched, or shall I say withheld, from the gold producers in Western Australia, is returned to them in order to assist the industry. Since February, 1919, when the Gold Producers Association was allowed to export gold, the producers have been able out of premiums alone to secure a sum up to date of £3,406,656, out of which Western Australia’s share was £2,281,731. As I have already pointed out, the mining industry is in a peculiar position, and after having suffered for four and a half years during the war period, the producers have experienced a terrible blow in consequence of the high cost of commodities.
The Federal Government will also have to review the question of taxation on mining undertakings. Let me quote the case of the Celebration Gold Mining Company, which came into prominence some time ago. The following statement of a correspondent appears in the West Australian of the 1st March, 1923 -
Prom that report of the operations of the Celebration Gold Mining Company we learn that the expenditure of the company was as follows : - Federal taxation, £10,797 ; State taxation, £8,000; plant and machinery, £7,832; mining development and ore extraction, £12,000. Out of a total expenditure of £39,376 a sum of £18,797, or about 48 per cent., was claimed by the two taxation Departments before an ounce of gold had been won. The company’s revenue account shows a debit balance of £1,957. Referring to the exorbitant demand for Federal and State taxation, the report states - “ The payment of these taxes absorbed the whole of the company’s available cash balance, and in order to provide further working capital it was decided to create a mortgage to the extent of £10,000.”
Any primary producer will agree with me that when an industry is so severely handicapped immediate inquiries should be instituted. I suggest that the taxation should be remitted as a set-off against the money that was withheld from the mining companies during the period when their gold was exploited by the Federal Government. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in the House recently if the Government would honour the promise made by the Hughes Cabinet to assist the establishment of smelting works at Geraldton. It is impossible for one member to keep in touch with the whole of the requirements of such an immense district as mine. I travelled 3,600 miles on my election campaign, chiefly second class. I was unable to visit the country north of the Murchison River. My electorate comprises nearly one-third of this continent.
With all its disabilities there is no State in Australia offering such wonderful opportunities as Western Australia does to young men wishing to go on the land. While it is impossible to secure a farm in an eastern State without considerable capital, the Government of Western Australia are now practically giving land away. My holding cost me 11s. an acre, and I have thirty years in which to pay for it. I can guarantee that this land is not inferior to country in the Avoca district of Victoria, for instance, that is bringing £10 or £11 per acre. I do not object to people from the Old Country settling here, but I certainly wish the first opportunities to be given to the sons of Australians. We would be unworthy of the name of Australians if we did not show preference to our own people. Surely it will be generally agreed that the “ plums “ - and the lands now being offered in Western Australia are plums - should be made available first to the sons of the men who pioneeredthis country. In Victoria, for instance, there are hundreds of farmers’ sons who have not sufficient land for their purposes, and probably have not enough capital to buy holdings in States where land is dear.
From Esperance to Wyndham, a distance of over 2,000 miles as the crow flies, there is practically an unbroken stretch of auriferous country. In Victoria gold has been found in isolated patches in the Ballarat, Bendigo, and Beechworth districts, but in Western Australia, over an immense area, that is practically unscratched, there is mineral wealth compared with which the Great Bouldermine must pale into insignificance. From Geraldton northwards there is lead, antimony, tin, and every known mineral in quantities that would be payable if facilities were offered for the carriage of goods. In the Surprise District there is the richest lead mine in Australia. The Surprise mine, on the Murchison River, is being worked, and a large number of smaller shows could be started if there was a smelter at Geraldton. It has been proved that the Fremantle smelting works are obsolete. This fact has been brought home to the lead producers in my electorate. They have found that they can ship their concentrates to Antwerp, in Belgium, and get £3 per ton more than if they sent them to Fremantle. 1 am not afraid of any cry of State Socialism. It must be recognised that, in a newly-developed country like Australia., it is right for the Government to assist enterprises like the mining industry, just as it is considered reasonable for the farmers to accept seed wheat from the State, or advances of money, to enable them to cultivate their land. The Western Australian Government do not hesitate to advance money to legitimate settlers. Sir James Mitchell will supply a man with funds to enable him to send his wife to a lying-in hospital, if need be. In fact, the Government will bury a person and charge expenses to the Industries Assistance Board. The people of Western Australia are grabbing with both hands at everything they can get out of the most paternal Government - at any rate, to the farmers - in the world to-day. They demand what they want, and they get those things; and we, on this side of politics, are where we are, of course, in order to see that they do get what they require. But we say that, if such treatment is good for the fanners, State assistance is equally good for all classes of the community.
– Are there not State implement works in Western Australia ?
– There are; they were instituted by a Labour Government. And, while the farmers have been anxious to do away with the State brick-works and other State controlled industries, if I were to suggest that the State implement works should be closed down there would be a riot among the “ cockies “ in my electorate. How are we going to discriminate? Where are we to stop? If it is wrong to have State brick-works it is wrong to run State railways. Let us carry all things to their logical conclusion.
Neverhave I heard such an ultra-Tory and altogether ill-informed speech as that which the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) delivered this evening. If the Treasurer knows anything outside of medical practice, he must be aware of the experiences of farmers in the United States of America, who have been so severely exploited by the various railway companies. The motto of these private concerns has been, “ Let us get from the traffic all that the traffic will bear,” with the inevitable consequence that American farmers are out, npt merely for State Socialism, but for a form of Socialism which, if the Treasurer were called upon to inaugurate it in Australia, would render it necessary for himto call out the Commonwealth police.
I have a few words to say regarding the running of black labour boats on the north-western coast of Western Australia. The situation there, owing to the working of the Navigation Act, is unique. We have. State-owned white labour boats along that coast which have proved to be of immense benefit to the squatters. The squatters in my electorate are “ whales “ on State Socialism when it comes to State-owned boats; they will not hear of their withdrawal from the northwestern run. But, at the same time, there are three other ships trading along that coast and up to Singapore which are manned by Asiatics. I have no objection to the Asiatic in his own country. Indeed, I have quitea robust admiration for the Chinaman - in China. At Hong Kong the Chinamen are stauncher trade unionists than many white men among the working classes in other parts of the world. Some time ago a strike broke out at that port, and the strikers carried the day, because the Chinese coolies were “solid.” The Anglo-Indian” officah “ was greatly distressed. He adjusted his eye-glass, and sat in his club and “ demned “ them ; but, eventually, he had to give way. The much abused John Chinaman - adapting to his own requirements the methods of trade unionists in white countries - demanded five, six, seven, and eight times as high wages as he had been previously getting, his wage, in many cases, having been only 2d. a day and a handful of rice. The point is that the strikers stuck out solidly and won. The strike extended from among the seamen to the coolie labourers ashore. Even the rickshaw boys “joined up,” and the AngloIndian “ officah “ had to do his own walking. He spoke, of course, of calling out the troops; he talked of putting the “ demned “ Chinamen against a wall and shooting them. I fancy, by the way, that somewhat similar talk has been heard even in this country. Even the “ officah’ s “ lady was inconvenienced.
Englishwomen in Hong Kong have- as many as six or seven servants in attendance. But these native women also “ came out “ loyally, and the white lady in her fashionable suburb had to do her own cooking and washing. Very naturally, the strike at last ended in complete victory for the Chinese labourers, among whose unionist ranks there were to be found no “ scabs.” This strike incident, however, is merely by ‘ the way. I mention it to indicate that one can respect the Chinese in Asia: but, when it comes to a special suspension of portion of our Commonwealth Navigation Act in order to provide for the employment of Chinamen on our coastal shipping, the matter is entirely different. I understand that a new boat, the Gascoyne, is about to be placed- on the north-western run, and that she will carry a coloured crew. Her terminus is to be Wyndham, so she will be a purely Australian coastal trader. The significance of permitting vessels which carry coloured crews to trade along any part of the Australian coast may be brought strikingly home to honorable members when I mention that those ships replenish their stores at Singapore. But the Bambra - which I cite as a typical white-crew vessel - takes in her stores and undergoes repairs and the like at Fremantle. Altogether, about £155,000 is spent each month at that port on State ships, because our coastal ships carry white crews.
Sitting suspended from lt midnight to 1 a.m. (Friday).
– This is the first opportunity that I have had, Mr. Speaker, of complimenting you on your appointment. I have often heard of you in connexion with the Australian Natives Association. Whilst your views politically have always been opposed to those which I have held, I have always recognisedthat you have been a good Australian. Your actions in the past have been closely followed in the interior of Western Australia, and you have had the respect of very many people who do not agree with you politically.
I want to declare my position with regard to Protection. Several honorable members from Western Australia have declared themselves as being Tree Traders. They say that in Western Australia a large number of people owe allegiance to the policy of Free Trade. I admit frankly that that is the position. I have always been a believer in’ a high Protectionist Tariff. I have modified my views somewhat of late years. I am in a cleft stick; as an Australian who has travelled over the continent I recognise that there are in this country raw materials for the manufacture of everything to supply our needs, and I want to see Australian manufactures established. We in Western Australia, however, have not got from the Protectionist Tariff the ‘blessing which is being derived by the Eastern States. As a matter of fact, our primary industries - mining and farming - have suffered somewhat because of the Protectionist policy which has been adopted in Australia. I admit the force of the argument that if the country is opened up by her secondary industries a market is created for our primary industries. We think that we should not suffer on this account without gaining any of the benefits that have accrued to the eastern portions of Australia because of the Protectionist Tariff. The protection of industry in Australia has in some respects had the effect of creating monopolies. I cannot see how even the most ardent Protectionist can claim that there is even a semblance of New Protection when such a condition of affairs is established.
I want to deal first with the position of the farmer. Take, for instance, the price of harvesters to-day compared with the pre-war price. The wages of the workers in McKay’s implement works certainly have increased since the beginning of the war, but they have not increased in as great a ratio as the prices of those machines that are essential for the carrying on of the farming industry. The pre-war price of McKay’s 6-ft. harvester was between £80 and £85; today it is £136 - an advance of at least £51. The farmers have to pay for that, and 1 cannot see that any one can say that it is not a tremendous burden for the man upon the land. The 8-ft. harvester to-day costs £171, and the 9-ft. harvester £189. I do not know what the pre-war price was. The pre-war price of the binder was in the vicinity of £36 ; to-day it is £90. The pre-war price of the Massey-Harris reaper-thresher was £120; to-day its price is £214. I mention these prices in order to show my fellow-Labourites who are such ardent Protectionists the difficulty which we in Western Australia, who are Protectionists, have in trying to persuade the farmer that Protection has been an unmixed blessing to him. As a matter of fact, the policy of New Protection for which this party stands has not operated at all.
An evil which has to be dealt with in Australia to-day - one which has its hand upon the throat of industry to a greater extent than anything else - is the Trust problem. I do not care what may be the politics of any man who goes into the back country and makes a fortune by growing wheat or anything of that kind. So long as he is not exploiting the labour of others, I say “good luck” to him. Very likely the extent to which, in the early part of his life, he has devoted himself to that particular industry entitles him to the reward. There are thousands of opportunities of that nature in Western Australia for young men of eighteen and nineteen years and upwards who are willing to go over there with a couple of hundred pounds. In nine years, if they are prepared to lead the life of a pioneer, sure fortune is theirs.
The Trust problem in America has made it impossible for those who perform the work to be anything other than workers during the whole of their lives, no matter how hard they might work. Australia is a young country, and no people - whether they call themselves the Sunshine Harvester Company or anything else - should be able to filch from the people of this country an additional £51 on such a small article as a 6-ft. harvester. The Labour party has a platform designed for meeting these problems. No sane-minded person can do other than admit that the Trust problem has to be dealt with in some way or other by the people of Australia. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of men in Australia to find some method for checking this growing evil. The present policy of Protection has not met the situation. I am not old enough in Federal parliamentary life to suggest what should take its place. Old parliamentarians might be able to tell me whether a bonus would assist an industry of this character against the foreignmanufacturer.What was said by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) to-night has my concurrence ; I would sooner have an Australian than a foreign Trust, because we have the opportunity of dealing with the local article.
– The bonus idea, to a large extent, is a bogus proposition.
– I put that forward tentatively. Protection, as we know it today, does not help the situation as far as the producer is concerned, because in some cases there is an “honorable alliance “ between the foreign and the local manufacturer. It is not justice that the farmer or the worker should have to pay from £50 to £60. more for his articles than he should pay. The local manufacturer is buttressed in that position by our high Tariff.
I shall now deal with the question of mining and show how the existence of a monopoly in regard to the necessary commodities for the carrying on of mining has affected that industry. I believe that a reduction might be made in the Tariff on those things which are necessary for mining, but which cannot be made in Australia, or on those things that can be made in Australia but are unreasonably high in price. I do not wish to see any industry go out of business. This question was brought before the Tariff Board, while it was sitting in Kalgoorlie, by Mr. John E. Ede, who was sent there by no less a body than the Chamber of Mines. The Board sat in Kalgoorlie on 30th October last. Several suggestions were put before the Board for its consideration, but I understand that up to date it has not taken any action. I trust that it will deal with those matters at an early date.
To show how this monopoly is creeping into our public life, and rendering it almost impossible forus bo exploit our primary industries as we should do, letus consider the question of cyanide - which in modern mining costs a considerable amount of money. During the recent Arbitration Court case in Kalgoorlie the wages of miners were fixed. The highest wages that at present are being paid to miners who are working 3,000 feet underground is 15s. per day. I would not take on the work for £15 per day. For many years I have been studying those who are engaged in the industry. I have seen good, hard-working Australians, many of whom have been recruited from the eastern States, who have gone over there in the vigour of their youth and have been stricken down. One man in every three who are working in the face in the Kalgoorlie mines, according to Dr. Cumpston - a well-known authority - is afflicted with the dread disease of miners’ phthisis. One man in every three in the Woorrooloo Sanatorium has gone to that institution straight from the mines, and a large proportion of the other men who are inmates there have at some time in their lives worked in the mining industry. When allowance is made for the females in the institution, it will be seen that the mining industry is responsible for sending a very large number of people there. In these circumstances, 15s. a day is a very small amount for a man to receive for such dangerous work. Mr. Vail stated in the Court that, in his opinion, when German cyanide was allowed to enter the Australian market, the price would come down considerably. All mining supplies to-day are at least 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, above pre-war prices. What has happened in regard to cyanide? Before the war the firm of Strelitz Brothers, in Perth, were the Australian agents for German cyanide. The German article is the best that can be procured, but English cyanide, for all practical purposes, is good enough for the industry. The successors of Strelitz Brothers obtained not merely the agency for German cyanide, but for English cyanide also. It is now a case of, “ You pays your money and you gets your choice.” The price of German cyanide has not been reduced, but is the same as that of English cyanide. This factor, and the monopoly in the explosives business, are the cause of the high prices. It is impossible, in the circumstances, for the mining industry to progress as it should. The Golden Mile is better to-day than it has been during the last fifteen years, but the managers are holding their hands. Another thousand men would be employed there if it. were not for the high prices of commodities. Mine managers know that there is no possible chance of the workers’ wages being reduced while the prices of commodities remain at their present . high level. _ .£.; tfr. A. Green.
In giving evidence before the Tariff Board, Mr. Ede explained what had happened in the explosives business. He was a representative of the Chamber of Mines, and was not a representative of the Labour party who was trying to create a scare. This is what he said : -
The following particulars with regard to the explosives combines in the United Kingdom have been taken from the report, dated 11th May, 1921, prepared by a sub-committee appointed by the Standing Committee on Trusts. The report was presented to the Parliament of Great Britain last year.
The High Explosives Trade Association was formed in 1907. Its membership included the large majority of the manufacturers of explosives in that country, also certain German manufacturers. The Association controlled the price of explosives in the United Kingdom, and, by means of arrangements made with foreign companies, the British manufacturers were immune from serious outside competition.
In 1918, the control of the explosives trade of the United Kingdom was altered by consolidating thirty-three firms manufacturing explosives into one big company, called Nobels Industries Limited. On the 5th May, ,1921, the issued and fully paid up capital of this huge combination was £18,789,737. “Nobles Industries Ltd.”- one with a large branch in Glasgow, among the noble Scotch, and one with a branch in Hamburg. We have Nobels of Hamburg and of Scotland joining hands in this financial Trust to put up the prices of explosives to British and German consumers. Mr. Ede goes on to say -
The Association and Nobels Industries Limited will hereinafter be referred to as the combine.
I have marked many other passages in the report, but’ I will read only one more, which states- -
In view of the monopolistic control exercised by the Nobel Combine over the explosives industry, we strongly urge that its operations should be brought under the continuous and effective surveillance of the Board of Trade or some other Department of State.
Needless to say the British Government, with their methods, were unable to cope with this great Trust. The interesting fact is that it was proved afterwards that the Explosives Company in Melbourne was controlled by the Nobels Combine of the Old Country, and that the price of the article manufactured in Melbourne was not within the control of the Melbourne company, but was fixed by the Englishmen and Germans who control this big concern. British fracteur, or explosive, is admitted free to the Commonwealth, but explosives from outside Great Britain are subjected to a 5 per cent. Tariff. What the Chamber of Mines asked the Tariff Board to consider was a request that the 5 per cent, duty should be removed from the Cape product. The argument advanced by local manufacturers against that proposal is that the Cape explosives are manufactured partly by black labour. The reply of those engaged in the mining industry in the West is that no explosives, except 35 lbs. in three years, have been sent to Western Australian mines from Victoria, even though ordered in Victoria. The explosives have been brought from the Cape, where they are manufactured partly by black labour. Members of the Western Australian Parliament had a little illustrated booklet sent to them from the Victorian Explosives Company. The booklet contains views of the works, and it was stated in it that the explosives from the Cape were manufactured by black labour, and that it was therefore necessary to protect the Australian industry. While this company was appealing to us as White Australians to stand solidly for Protection, Nobel’s was only prepared to supply to Western Australia fracteur manufactured by black labour at the Cape. In these circumstances, I am prepared to say that I would like to see the Tariff upon South African explosives reduced, because, in any case, even if we order explosives from the Victorian concern, we have to use and pay a 5 per cent, tax upon other explosives, and we receive a product of black labour. These are facts which go to show how the explosives combine has interfered with the industry of mining. In 1905, a 50-lb. case of standard gelignite, 60 per cent, grade, such as is commonly used, cost £1 10s. in the United Kingdom and £1 13s. 9d. in Kalgoorlie. In 1914, before the war, the price waa £2 5s. in the United Kingdom and £1 19s. 3d. in Kalgoorlie. Honorable members will notice that the price was 5s. 9d. less in Kalgoorlie than in the United Kingdom, notwithstanding the cost of freight. The combine had the mining industry of Great Britain in its clutches, but because Cape dynamite was being used in Australia, the combine could not operate so thoroughly here, with the result that we in Kalgoorlie actually obtained fracteur a few shillings per case cheaper than users of it in Great Britain had.. to. pay-
– That was the result of German competition. Cape explosives were not in Western Australia in 1914.
– That is so. In 1921 the price in the United Kingdom was £4 5s., and at Kalgoorlie was £3 10s. 9d.. clearly showing that, because of the sole control by the combine in Great Britain, the people of that country had to pay 14s. 3d. more than we in Kalgoorlie, after the article had been shipped there. Even then we had to pay £3 10s. 9d. in 1921 as against £1 13s. in 1905. These problems cannot be dodged by any juggling with the Tariff. The Labour party recognise that. The great problem before us in Australia is how to assist industry and deal suitably with those monopolies that threaten the production of this country. I say frankly - and I do not wish to be personal or boom my own party - that I have never been able to see how a party which draws its funds largely from these wealthy concerns can be expected to fight them. That will remain for the Labour party in Australia to do. I agree very largely with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in his statement that Western Australia requires assistance, or some special treatment, whereby she may be helped at the hands of Federation.
– Western Australia received £140,000 last year from Federation.
– That is right, and I shall try to prove that she has paid away an immensely greater sum on account of Federation than she has received. I have been trying to prove, and it ought to be clear by now to the meanest mind, that the Tariff has created large industries on every hand in the eastern States. We are pleased to see them., for thousands of workmen are employed because of these industries. When we come to Western Australia, however, we find a different condition of affairs. There the people pay a much higher Tariff per head than is paid in any of the other States, bv reason of the fact that they are a consuming people and do not manufacture so much for themselves. Also, that State has a larger proportion of adult males in the community than the other States. Half the revenue of the Customs Department is secured from the Excise and Customs duties on narcotics and stimulants. A State which, has a larger proportion of males must necessarily be paying more than a State where there is a. larger proportion of females in the community. The people of the eastern States are securing something in return for the high Tariff, and I can well understand them supporting high Protective duties. I do not change my coat on the Protective issue in that respect when I go to Western Australia; but in regard to the primary industries, we should endeavour to assist those who are suffering because of the high Tariff. The Tariff has not led to the establishment of manufactories in Western Australia. On that point, let me quote from a report by Mr. Edgar T. Owen, Under-Treasurer of Western Australia, on “ The Financial Relations between the State of Western Australia and the Commonwealth,” in which it is shown that Federation has largely retarded the establishment and extension of factories there. Mr. Owen writes -
Comparing, therefore, 1901 with 1914 in the three States wherein the factories, &c, were tabulated on a uniform basis, we find that while the population of New South Wales and Victoria increased during the thirteen years by 35 per cent, and 18 per cent, respectively, the number of factories and persons employed therein increased by a very much larger percentage in each case, namely, in New South Wales 57 per cent, increase of factories and 76 per cent, increase of persons employed; while in Victoria the increase was 74 per cent, for factories and 78 per cent, for persons employed. Western Australia, however, whose population increased by 67 per cent., had in factories a .1.9 per cent” increase only, and in persons employed therein an increase of 45 per cent.
That quotation conclusively proves the point that I have been endeavouring to make. It shows that it cannot be refuted. It is further set out in this report that -
In 1901, 122,333 lbs. of tobacco leaf entered into consumption in this State, being manufactured here into tobacco, cigars and cigarettes; in 1916 the quantity of leaf manufactured was 9,000 lbs. only, and is now practically nil.
Thus, as a result of Federation, the tobacco industry in Western Australia has became extinct -
In .1001, when the population of the State was 180.000, the boot, and shoe factories of this State turned out 205,000 pairs; in 1916, with a population of 318,000, the number of pairs was 217,000. It should have been 108,000 pairs if the industry had kept pace with the growth in population.
A/r. A. Green.
I quote these statements, not with the object of suggesting that I aim an antiProtectionist, but rather to illustrate the special difficulties under which, because of Federation, Western Australia labours. But that I have only five minutes in which to complete my speech, I should quote further from this report to show that Western Australia, as a result of Federation, has suffered a total monetary loss of £8,055,000. Let it not be thought for one moment that I am . an antiFederalist. I am Australian -to the backbone, and that shall always be my attitude no matter how much I may suffer because of it in political life. I suffered once for a stand that I took on a certain question of vast importance to Australia. I might have been wrong in opposing conscription, but I shall always think that I was right. I announced myself, in Kalgoorlie, as an anti-conscriptionist after the people there had declared themselves, by a majority of three to one, to be in favour of conscription. I was an anticonscriptionist because I did not believe that conscription would be in the best interests of Australia. I refer to that matter only in passing. I am an Australian ; I believe in Australia. I founded the Australian Natives’ Association in Western Australia because I did not think there was a sufficient display of Australian patriotism there, and I am proud of that action on my part. It shows that my patriotism existed years before many people in the country discovered that they were patriotic. I am above all things a loyal Australian, but I want, nevertheless, to point out the special difficulties under which Western Australia labours. The Under-Treasurer of that State, Mr. Owen, has suggested that instead of Western Australia receiving from the Commonwealth 25s. per head, she is entitled on an actuarial basis to receive 36s. per head. We have, in Western Australia, a population of only one-third of a million, which is trying to develop a third of this great continent. It seems to me that in this respect we are sending a boy- on a man’s errand. We have as Premier of Western Australia at the present time Sir James Mitchell, and, although I am opposed to him in politics, I want to give him my tribute of praise. He is a fine man, a fine Australian, a man with, imagination who is trying to develop his native State, and I shall always take off my hat to him. 1 appeal to my old Victorian compatriots, as well as to “the representatives of New South Wales and the other States, to give Western Australia the help that she requires. The amount involved is not large. In Western Australia we have a wonderful State where the people of the eastern States can send their sons to settle on the land, knowing that if they have a couple of hundred pounds to start with they will be able to make a fortune: It is a country of vast pastoral possibilities. The population of Australia, at the present time, is lop-sided, and if defence means anything, a much larger population is required in the West. I appeal to honorable members from the other States to help us. I invite the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to go to Western Australia. - to visit the Kimberleys and the NorthWest as soon as the opportunity offers. I hope that he will do so. In order to understand a people there is nothing like getting into direct touch with them. A man who goes to Fremantle and discovers that, in order to reach the northern part of my electorate from that point, he has to travel 1,700 miles by sea, will gain- some conception of the enormous tract of country we have there to exploit. No State Government, uo matter from what party it is drawn, will ever be able to do the fair thing by Western Australia. No State Government will ever be able to square its finances. The task is too big for any State Administration. Sir James Mitchell, the present Premier of Western Australia, is showing a deficit of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. If a Labour Government came into power there it could do no better. Sir James Mitchell is trying to develop the country, and the people of the rest of the Commonwealth should treat those in the western State as fellow Australians. I have faith in the wisdom of my compatriots of the eastern States. I am and always have been a Federalist, and as a loyal Australian I appeal to the House to help the great western State.
– As the hour is so unpropitious it is nob my intention to speak at length on the amendment to the Address-in-Reply which has been moved by the honorable member For Bourke (Mr. Anstey), but as a Country party member, I cannot allow to pass this opportunity to declare my attitude towards the new Government, and also to express in some slight way the aspirations of my constituents in northern New South Wales on the great question of constitutional reform. My remarks on the latter subject will be more in the nature of an outline rather than a detailed statement, since I hope it will not be long before the question of constitutional reform, which, to my mind, is the great problem confronting -this Parliament, is before the House. I shall then have an opportunity to deliver, a fuller and, perhaps, more informative speech on the subject.
Before discussing that question I should like to deal briefly with some of the criticism that the Labour Opposition has hurled at the Country party for what they describe as its audacity in agreeing to assist in the formation of the present Administration in order that the government of the country might be carried on. I, as a member of the Country party, was very disappointed when that step had to be taken, because I had given my constituents the assurance that I would, at all times, stand firmly on the issue of a straight-out separate Country party both in Parliament and out of it. I felt rather disillusioned when, as soon as we were returned, it became necessary to explain the need for this composite Ministry. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is the trusted and admired Leader of the Country party, last night dealt very fully with that aspect of the question, and I have no doubt that, to all who wanted to see, he made the position very clear.
The Country party, despite the insistence of honorable members of the Labour party that it no longer exists as a separate political entity, inasmuch as it has to all intents and purposes fused with the Nationalist party, is, in our opinion, still in existence and still a distinct political entity. If the Opposition insist upon saying that we do not exist as such, I can only reply that we feel that we do. When a man feels that he is alive and does actually exist, no amount of insistence on the part of others will convince him that he is dead and that lie does not exist.
– I do not know whether I am dead or alive at the present moment.
– I hope that the honorable member, before T have finished will be showing more signs of life than he is just now. As to the cry of the Opposition that we no longer exist as a separate party, I can only assume that the wish is father to the thought.
In regard to this composite Ministry, I must say that I was disappointed that we had, at the very outset of our life in this Parliament, to take a step which placed us in a rather invidious position in the eyes of the electors, not only in country districts, but throughout Australia. No other course, however, was open to us. As one who was quite prepared to support a Nationalist Ministry on its merits - and the great majority of the Country party were prepared to do so, but we were assured that it was not practicable - I feel that I am acting in accordance with the promises I gave my constituents in giving the composite Ministry known as the BrucePage Administration the support that I was prepared to afford a Bruce Administration.
The members of the Country party are determined to keep the composite Ministry up to its obligations. They were assured that the course taken in the formation of the Ministry was the only course possible to secure continuous and sound government for the next three years. I am satisfied that honorable members opposite in their hearts believe that it is the best course to follow, not only in our interests, but in their interests also.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– They have told us that they wish to get to the country almost immediately; but I am quite sure that many of them would not relish the idea of going to the country inside the next two years at least. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) spent a considerable amount of time in castigating the Treasurer for statements alleged to have been made by him at Albury. The Treasurer, as Leader of the Country party, went to Albury and made a statement which he claims, and which we claim, justifies the action which he subsequently took. This can be seen from the following references to another speech made by the Treasurer at Maclean -
Dr. Page went on to say that he had stated that the Country party was preparedto cooperate in Parliament or in the government of the country with members or parties having similar ideals to his own, and whose policy was to cut asunder State enterprises and was definitely anti-Socialistic. In his policy speech he made a similar statement, but asserted that there was no possibility of working with the Nationalists under Mr. Hughes. In his final appeal to the electors on the eve of the elections he had said “ Australians will not be led astray (by Mr. Hughes), and can plainly see that the only way to secure government along sound lines is to support the Country party and Liberal candidates, and to give them sufficient strength in the new Parliament to secure stable government from amongst those who are opposed to Socialism, not only of the naked type of the Labour Communist, but also of the fig-leaf disguised variety as represented and practised by Mr. Hughes.” In a latter part of the same appeal he had said “ Given an addition to its strength, there will be secured co-ordination out of which will spring strong, stable government from among 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.” Dr. Page, continuing, said, “ After the result of the election 1 acceded to the opening of negotiations with the Nationalist party, but stated that the verdict of the electors must be recognised as regards Mr. Hughes, and that the guarantee of his resignation must precede any negotiations, as the Country party could not, in the face of that verdict, support or cooperate with any Government of which he was a member.”
According to that statement it is clear that the Treasurer merely carried out what he said on that occasion. He was prepared to co-operate with any party or group of members having similar ideals to his own. When he found a group of honorable members, whom I will not refer to as Nationalists or by any other name, because the name by which they call themselves is their own concern, ready to join with him in the formation of a Government, he agreed to the formation of the Ministry of which he is now a. member. He came to the members of his own party and stated the position as he saw it. We indorsed his action, and agreed togive the Government, of which he is a member, loyal support. I have said that the members of the Country party intend to keep the composite Ministry up to its obligations, but they are not out to exact unreasonable concessions or terms from the members of the Nationalist party. We want reasonable consideration for our views as a separate entity in politics, and we want consideration for the primary producers who are supporting our party.
So long as their interests are given reasonable consideration the members of the” Country party will not object to give a little on their own account.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer before dealing with the question of constitutional reform. Honorable members opposite are very fond of hurling allegations, not only al their old enemies, the Nationalists,’ but also at members of the Country party, whom they couple with the Nationalists. They say, amongst other things,, that we are all in favour of black labour. I had to meet that charge all through my election campaign. Everywhere it. was said that members of the Country party were allied with th, Nationalist party in an effort to introduce black labour into Australia. I consider myself as good an Australian, and as bitter an opponent of black labour, as is any member of the Labour party. I stated on the hustings - and I am satisfied that the majority of members on this side echo my sentiments - that if any attempt were made to introduce black labour into this country the full force of ibis side of the House would be allied with that of the opposite side to resist it. Members of the Opposition know that, and it is not only rank hypocrisy, but an insult to Australians, to suggest that there are any honorable members on this side who wish to introduce black labour for the purpose of undermining the economic conditions of the working class.
I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister refer to the possibility of’ the early introduction of proposals for constitutional reform.’ To that subject I have given a good deal of consideration, and I regard it as the most important that will be dealt with by this Parliament. Honorable members opposite are rather inclined to treat this question in a light and airy fashion. They deal with it as though it were a subject which, not being pressing, can be set aside and dealt with in the dim and distant future. To them, it does not enter into the region of practical politics. I do not know the reason for the change that has come over them lately, for a few years ago constitutional reform was a burning question with the Labour party, and they made it one of their foremost planks. I do not propose to deal at length with the New States movement to-night, or to enter into the pros and cons of the Unification policy as expounded by .members of the Opposition- -I hope to have an opportunity of doing that later - but I wish to deal with a few points that have cropped up during the debate. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Eeid (Mr. Coleman), who also treated the subject in a light and airy fashion, describe the New Staters as a “lot of visionaries.” If that description be true, I do not know how we should ‘ describe the Unificationists, who are advocating something which is quite impracticable. I have studied Unification, and was at one time an advocate of it. A lot of people call themselves Unificationists just as many others profess adherence to a particular religion without having a very fervent belief in it. Unification is like the blessed word Mesopotamia, and is trotted out on every occasion. I have tried to ascertain what it signifies in the opinion of various people, and I find that it represents a vague idea about abolishing all State Parliaments, as if they were so many mosquitoes that should be squashed, and creating a gigantic authority, probably this Parliament, to control all Australian affairs. I am afraid that honorable members opposite have not yet realized the extreme impracticability of that proposal. In the first place it presupposes that the people of Australia are ready to destroy the Federation. Various constitutional authorities say that that is not possible, and Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald recently that Unification cannot be introduced because the Federal compact is not dissoluble. The preamble of the Constitution specifically states that the union of the six States cannot be dissolved, and, therefore, Unification as proposed by the Labour party and others cannot be effected unless as a preliminary the whole Federal system is scrapped. We have first of all to make up our minds that we are finished with Federation, and, having thrown it upon the scrap heap, introduce the new-fangled scheme of Unification, which some honorable members opposite advocate without having very carefully studied it. The New Staters have a scheme which is the antithesis of that proposed by the Unificationists. The latter say that they notonly wish to adopt the Federal principle, but to also arbitrarily divide Australia into thirty-one provinces according to community of interest, thus doing away with artificial or arbitrary boundaries. But they are seeking to create another set of artificial boundaries, because a majority of the provinces they propose to set up will be nothing more than blank spaces for many years to come; in fact, owing to the distribution of population, it is probable that not more than a dozen of the provinces would have sufficient population to function governmentally. For that reason, the scheme is impracticable.
– The honorable member has not studied the map. We propose to fix the boundaries according to population, and not merely according to areas.
– I quote from the New States Magazine the report of a speech addressed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) to some students -
Mr. Makin said the Labour party proposed to abolish the present form of State Governments, and- to invest in the Commonwealth Parliament full sovereign powers, and thus make its enactments complete and supreme. Due provision would be made to conserve to the people the right of veto.
Further it was proposed, Mr. Makin said, to create thirty-one provinces in the place of the present six States, so that the principle of interests would be conserved. In each of these provinces a provincial Legislature would be given by the Commonwealth Parliament a uniform written Constitution, giving it powers to legislate for matters of domestic concern, where such did not conflict with Commonwealth concerns. It was suggested that the Commonwealth should also grant a written Constitution for municipal government within the provinces. It was proposed that these provinces should be governed by from . ten to fifteen members in provinces of fewer than 100,000 to 200,000. The total number of provincial legislators would not exceed 400, whereas there were 575 members in the existing State Parliaments. It was proposed to abolish the Senate and increase the number of members in the House of Representatives to 100.
I quote also a statement made in this House by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), who, I understand, is one of the chief advocates of Unification -
The Labour party propose, when returned to power in the Federal Parliament, to submit to the electors at the earliest possible opportunity the referendumto alter the Commonwealth Constitution, to provide full sovereign powers under its Constitution, and to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to create any number of provincial Legislatures as may be necessary for the good local government of the people. ‘
The Senate to be abolished, and the House ot Representatives to consist of 100 members; each electorate to have as near as possible an equal number of electors.
When making that statement the honorable member submitted a map, of which I have a copy, showing Australia divided into thirty-one provinces. That, he said, was, generally speaking, the plan approved by the Labour party. Therefore, unless honorable members opposite give us an assurance that we are mistaken, we may take it for granted that they propose to cut up Australia .arbitrarily on the basis of community of interest.
– On a population basis.
– The Unificationists are mostly city men. I notice that honorable members opposite who deal so glibly with the New States scheme are mostly representatives of city constituencies, and the New Staters say that the advocates of Unification have no understanding of tEe problem of rural development. The solution of that problem is not local government, as those honorable members seem to think, but local development, and we say that the scheme of Unification which proposes to set up so many glorified municipal councils, and invest all the developmental powers in this Parliament will not develop rural Australia. We advocate a scheme similar to that which has been so successful in the United States of America - gradual subdivision by the creation of new States as the growth of communities renders that course necessary. There are in Australia to-day at least half-a-dozen communities quite ripe for the formation of new States. The population of northern New South Wales is nearly as large as -that of South Australia; the Riverina has a population of about .100,000 people, both North and Central Queensland have large populations, and the people of each have been agitating for many years for the creation of new States. In Western Australia also there have been various agitations for new States, and there is no doubt that if the movement continues as it is developing at present, similar demands will come from other parts of the Commonwealth. If the Federal Constitution were amended in such a way as to enable the people in those areas to petition some sympathetic authority which had power to take the initiative in creating new States, as the Imperial Parliament had before Federation, there would be a new era of progress and development in Australia.
Quite recently a resolution submitted in the New South Wales Parliament by Lt.-Colonel Bruxner, the Leader of the Progressive party, led to a debate which opened up the whole question of the subdivision of New South Wales into two or three new States, and finally this amendment was carried on the voices on the motion of Mr. Chaffey, the Minister for Agriculture -
That the large area of the State of New South Wales makes it desirable that the creation of a separate State in Northern New South Wales should be taken into early consideration by a Federal convention summoned for the purpose, and to consider the boundaries of the States and distribution of legislative powers between the States and the Commonwealth.
That this resolution be conveyed to the Federal Government and Governments of. the States with a view to securing their concurrence.
I do not know if that resolution has yet been conveyed to the Federal Government but, if not, it soon will be presented. Recently also this resolution was carried in the Queensland Parliament on the motion of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who was then a member of the State Parliament -
That in the opinion of this Parliament the time has arrived for the remodelling of the Commonwealth Constitution, providing for the subdivision of Australia into a greater number of self-governing States, making for more economical and effective government, and also providing an easy method for the people living in any district, such as Central Queensland or Northern New South Wales, to obtain selfgovernment, and that the Prime Minister of Australia be urged to take the necessary steps to bring about these reforms.
Here we have two of the most’ important State Legislatures in Australia definitely requesting the Federal Government, and inferentially’ the Federal Parliament, to take some action to give effect to the demands of the New Staters. Quite recently also a resolution in similar terms was debated in the Western Australian Parliament, and defeated only by a very narrow majority. Probably on the next occasion it will be carried, in which event three important State Legislatures will have agreed to facilitate the subdivision of their present unwieldly areas.
Before I leave the subject of Unification, I should like to state that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), in an article written by him, and published in The New State Magazine some time ago, made this statement -
In conclusion, Jet me say that it appears to rae that the creation of another State, as you propose it, would be merely adding to the already heavy burden of costs which the people of Australia have to bear as a result of the present system of government, with its expensive and unnecessary duplication of effort. The high cost of government is crippling Australia. Therefore your party and ours stand upon common ground in seeking a solution. I believe that if some informal conversations could be held between responsible people representing each of our parties, a practical working scheme could be evolved that would be to the lasting benefit of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole.
There is a definite offer from the honorable member for Dalley, the one member of the Labour party who has made this subject peculiarly his own. I do not know if he was speaking on behalf of his party, but I can say that if honorable members on his side of the House are prepared to meet honorable members on this side who believe in the- New States movement, to see if it is possible to arrive at some basis of understanding, we shall be pleased to confer with them. I make this statement not only on behalf of the New Staters on this side, but on behalf of the Northern New States movement, of which I am the honorary general secretary.
– Then you have some appreciation for the proposal of the Labour party?
– We are quite prepared to discuss the Labour party’s proposal on its merits with responsible members of that party who are interested in the subject. All we ask is that they consider the merits of our proposals, and as this is a very big question which can only be dealt with on a non-party basis, I for one think it eminently desirable that some compromise should be arrived at. Otherwise we may postpone the solution of this problem for very many years. I am not making any offer, but I am authorized to say that we shall willingly accept the assistance of the honorable member for Dalley in order to arrive at some satisfactory basis of agreement before the question is brought before Parliament. In my judgment, the proposal put forward by the honorable members of the Opposition contains very serious flaws. I speak as one who has lived all his life in the rural areas of the Commonwealth, and I claim to know something of the nature of the difficulties from which the people in those areas suffer. Their problem, I repeat, is that of local development. We must insure for people in the rural areas more power for the development of their resources. If honorable members opposite will recognise this problem and help us, we shall accept their assistance with gratitude, and, perhaps, help them to realize some of their own aspirations in another direction.
I should like now to refer to a phase of the subject that was brought up yesterday by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who expressed the view that it would be a grave mistake to hold a Convention at all; that any proposals should simply be passed by both Houses of Parliament. The honorable member raised a point that had never been mentioned before, namely, that there is no power under .the Constitution to authorize the holding of an elective Convention to revise or amend the Constitution. He added that the only machinery available for this purpose was provided in the Constitution itself. If the point made by the honorable member be valid, it is strange that it was not raised during the debate on the Federal Convention Bill introduced in the last Parliament.
– The Government were not serious about the matter then.
– It seems to me that the Government must have been fortified with some knowledge not possessed by the honorable member for Kooyong, because they appeared to be quite satisfied that there was ample authority for the course then outlined. My own view is that, although there’ may be no provision in the Constitution for the holding of an elective Convention, there is no provision against that course, and apparently Parliament has power to take the action then contemplated for the holding of a Convention. The honorable member for Kooyong also suggested that the Convention would lead to an unnecessary expenditure of money and would be a waste of time. I think the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) stated that a Convention would cost £200,000. I do not know if that estimate is correct or not, but if the big issues at stake could be solved for an expenditure of that sum of money it would be a cheap investment for the Commonwealth.
-. - It could not be held.
– If, then, a Convention could not he held, Parliament in its wisdom should devise some scheme by which the proposal for the creation of new States could be put before the people on a non-party basis, because experience of previous referenda has shown that, if submitted on a party basis, it would have no chance of acceptance by the people of the Commonwealth.
– Ultimately, then, we must fall back upon the referendum proposal?
– Undoubtedly, but, as I have said, experience has shown that any proposal submitted on a party basis would in all probability be rejected. If this vital question of constitutional reform comes before Parliament, and i3 then referred to the people, it is essential that we should evolve some means by which it may be submitted freed of all party considerations, otherwise it will be defeated. My own view is - and in this matter I am supported by the majority of the New Staters in northern New South Wales - that if we could have an elective Convention it would be the best course, because in the election of the delegates there would necessarily be a certain amount of preliminary educationof the people in constitutional matters. This preliminary campaign would plough the ground, so to speak, and sow the seed, thus making reasonably sure that the crop would be reaped by means of the referendum. It should be remembered’ that the Convention would probably consist of a very competent body of men, whose particular duty it would be to analyze the Constitution, weigh the prosand cons of the various proposals, and finally decide upon the best scheme to place before the electors; and the people, having elected the Convention, would almost be morally bound to adopt its recommendations.
– Not at all.
Mf. THOMPSON. - If the recommendations coming from a Convention created by the people were reasonable, there would be more chance of their acceptance than if such proposals had gone direct to the electors from this House. That is my opinion for what it is worth. If it is proved that we cannot have an elective Convention, then the next best thing is a nominee Convention. If we are at all serious regarding constitutional reform, and if we wish to give this Parliament the power, which previous to Federation was held by the Imperial authorities, to create new States and centres of activity and energy in Australia, we must exhaust every means to formulate proposals that will be acceptable to the people as a whole. This is a matter that vitally affects the Parliaments of the States and this Parliament, and my suggestion is that, as a preliminary, there be a nominee Convention of representatives of the various State Parliaments, to frame constitutional amendments to be finally accepted by this Parliament, and put by it to the people.
– I do not intend to detain the House long, but the arrangements made for a composite Ministry seem so seriously to concern honorable members of the Opposition that possibly a few words on the subject may not be out of place. Some three years ago, in a speech made in this House, I gave some very good reasons why there should be a Country party. On that occasion I pointed out that country people were no lovers of party government, and did not love party politics, and had shown their earnestness in that regard by remaining out of party politics for years, and trusting to others to give them a fair deal. But, as a fair deal was not forthcoming, the country people had been forced to become a party, and in doing this, all they sought was sound government. , I said : - ‘
I am a member of a party that believes in sound government, though I do not say that members of other parties do not also do so. The rural community of Australia does not like party government, and. showed that by abstaining for nearly nineteen years from seeking “separate representation in this Parliament. They expected others to give the country sound government, and have now been forced by circumstances to create a political party to voice their views and needs.
The great difference between the Country party and honorable members opposite is *hat the latter gentlemen think only of party politics; they are purely sectional and cannot imagine representatives of the people seeking to carry on the government of Australia, through the King’s Parliament, in a legitimate and practical way. In all the speeches . made during this debate, I have not heard one constructive suggestion as to how the Government could be carried on df not under the arrangements which have been made. Neither the Nationalist party, the Country party, nor the Labour party could carry on the Government of itself; and I ask honorable members of the Opposition whether they contend that we should have immediately gone back to the country? Such a proceeding would have been absurd ; and the Country party and the Nationalist party were rational enough to endeavour to carry on the Government. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), as pointed out by the previous speaker (Mr. Thompson’), distinctly stated the position and attitude of this party. We complained of things done and neglected to be done because they were done from one party standpoint only; and much of the injury thus caused to country interests was supported by members of the Opposition.
I waa pleased to hear, not only the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who represents a National centre, but also the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) express the feelings and views of the people of the western- State. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has shown how Western Austraia is oppressed under the present conditions; and I speak to-night largely in order to emphasize what has been said by those representatives of that State. If honorable members observe the trend of trade, they must see how the high Tariff is already having its disastrous effects. Doubtless honorable members- have read “the recent report on the export trade in boots to New Zealand and other places. That report appeared in the Argus in December last, and I may be permitted to read an extract -
Tlie export trade in boots is reviewed in a statement by Mr. J. H, Sharwood, president of the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’ Association of Victoria, and the statement makes somewhat depressing reading. Mr. Sharwood points out that Australia’s overseas business developed very rapidly, but it is vanishing even more quickly The exportation reached its maximum In 1010-20, when the value stood at £837,000.
For the term 1921-22 the trade had declined to the value of £113,000. While the quantity of boots and shoes exported from Australia between January and July this year was worth £36,000, the total for July, August, and September was only £8,000. The trade with New Zealand has fallen from £474,399 to £65,812, and Mr. Sharwood states that this decrease is due largely to the higher duties imposed by the Dominion Government on imports of boots and shoes from the Commonwealth.
The Dominion- Tariff is a reprisal; and what else could be expected from sane people? As a matter of fact, we are creating a feeling of unfriendliness on the part of our neighbour si. The report goes on to say -
He adds that it appeared likely that Australia would lose altogether the business with New Zealand. Under the amended schedule of ‘ Customs duties boots and shoes from England was taxed at 22$ per cent., while boots and shoes from Australia had to bear a duty of 35 per cent. The South African market, which previously absorbed more than £100,000 worth yearly, now took only £1,400 worth. In addition, trade with the Netherlands, East Indies, Straits Settlements, Egypt, India, and New Guinea had declined in a marked manner. Mr. Sharwood ascribes the failure to hold business to the high cost of production in Australia, due not only to high wages, but also to increased Tariff duties on many materials essential to the manufacture of boots and shoes. These materials included linings, ornaments, silks, hooks and eyelets, and other items of grindery.
I wish honorable members to particularly note the causes of the decline in the foreign export trade, viz., high costs. It is the primary producer who creates new wealth for the whole of the people of Australia, and to whom the Protectionist policy of the Government is, after all, not of advantage, but a hindrance. I hear wails from honorable members opposite* about the prevalence of unemployment, so that it would seem that the great Protectionist policy has not had the effect in this connexion that was expected, and, as my leader (Dr. Earle Page) pointed out to-day, is not truly improving the standard of living. The £1 sterling does not purchase the amount of goods that it did before; and what we really have to do is to increase its purchasing power. Every added cost in manufacture, whether of a plough or of a pair of boots, increases the cost of living by reducing the purchasing power; the worst feature is that nothing can be sold except to our own people. The production of most commodities in Australia is too costly for sale in open competition outside. We are forcing ourselves into an isolated position and have amassed a national debt which must be borne by the taxpayers, who include many working men. The Tariff has not been framed on a scientific basis. I do not object to the New Protection. We have simply framed a Tariff which is in the interests of manufacturers, as has been evidenced by the statements made by some honorable members opposite ; but in order to protect the interests of Australia, in the truest sense, drastic alterations will have to be made, as we are now imposing a heavy burden upon the people of the Commonwealth by means of high Protection. The manufacturers here are not meeting the needs of Australia or preventing imports, otherwise the Government would not be receiving approximately £32,000,000 annually in Customs duties, and before the people of Australia place that sum in the Treasury at least £55,000,000 sterling will have been spent in increased costs. At present the Commonwealth has seven or eight sources of income; in my school days, there were only two, namely, gold and wool. Since then other sources of revenue to the country have been added by the sale of wheat, butter, fruit, hides, and other commodities, the total of which amounts to three-fourths of the country’s resources. Of the £300,000,000 which comes to Australia, approximately £240,000,000 is derived from the sale of the commodities I have mentioned. It should be manifest to every one that anything which injures these sources of revenue, is retarding the progress of the whole of Australia, and I cannot understand why’ honorable members Opposite will not readily admit that if it is impossible to manufacture competitively certain articles in our secondary industries under present conditions it is impossible to profitably produce primary products. In connexion with our secondary industries, reference is frequently made to the competition with countries in which coloured labour is employed, but the same argument can be adduced in connexion with primary production, because primary produce comes into competition with that produced by coloured labour in other countries. How do honorable members expect a man who follows rural pursuits to perform a superhuman act when they admit that others engaged in different pursuits cannot do it? They want Protection for one section of the community, but the other section is not only- not protected, but is called upon to pay the price of protecting them, and they are adding to it a responsibility which has not to be borne by producers in any other country. Sixty-one countries in the world allow agricultural machinery and implements of production to be admitted free of duty, but here, in a country which is essentially a primary producing one, we have the highest Tariff in the world. In addition to other disabilities, we are faced with that of lengthy sea-carriage to the world’s markets.
– Then why not remove the duties?
– Honorable members representing city constituencies must, sooner or later, come up against the great problem and learn the facts by bitter experience. I have already referred to boots. We know that the action of this Parliament in imposing a heavy duty on bananas has resulted in destroying a trade with Fiji which was worth £750,000 a year to the Commonwealth, quite apart from the offence given and the loss’ of trade with other customers. It has been the policy, if mot the practice, of past Governments to encourage rural development, and efforts have been made in Western Australia to find additional markets in the Far East countries, where 60>,000,000 people have to be fed. We want their trade. We are employing white people in all our industries,, and while we expect to maintain friendly relations with other countries, we impose a heavy duty on the commodities which we require from them. We are creating a position which will eventually become untenable. The representatives of constituencies where industries are established appear to be somewhat in- a quandary when the sugar question is under discussion. I have noticed a great display of inconsistency. If we are to protect everything manufactured in a secondary sense, in certain portions of Australia, to be consistent, we must be prepared to afford protection to the sugar industry. The Queensland sugar industry requires greater protection than would otherwise be the case, because of the high cost of living in Australia, which is of no advantage to either the wealthy man or the workman. The Queensland sugar-growers are finding that whereas a duty of £6 and a duty of £9. 6s. 8d. per ton would once suffice, £14 is now asked.
– They were paying Excise of £4 per ton, and getting a certain amount remitted.
– I know the circumstances to which the honorable member is referring, but at the same time we have been advised that £9 6s. 8d. is not sufficient, and that the growers want a protection to the extent of £14. If sugar came back to a normal rate, and we were paying £14 per ton, outside people would be purchasing sugar for that sum, or, in other words, the Australian people would be paying for one ton of sugar what those outside would be paying for two tons.
– The honorable member must recollect that the Australian sugar industry saved the Australian people a large sum of money.
– Tes, and the wheat growers saved them £45,000,000. They made a contribution to the Imperial Government, according to a statement made in the House of Commons, of over £40,000,000. The wheat growers, however, have to accept the fluctuating prices ruling in the world’s markets, for theirproduce.
– Because a National Government did not believe in pools.
– The wheat industry is a distinct advantage to Australia, and it has provided the people .with cheaper food than they could purchase anywhere else. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said that the Queensland growers produced 250,000 tons of sugar at £40 per ton, and that £10,000,000 sterling was brought into Australia. I cannot follow that line of argument. This amount is greater, by far, than that for which we could buy in the open market. We have also arranged an artificial means of protecting the jam industry, and when jam is exported, a refund on the sugar contents has to be made so that outsiders can purchase the product at a cheaper rate than we can, although Australia needs cheap food, lt does not seem to occur to honorable members opposite, that if people here have to pay dearly for their needs, industries cannot thrive, and the nation becomes truly great. A nation to be strong ‘must live cheaply, and the methods we have adopted of securing national greatness will not be the means of achieving that end. I am in sympathy with the Queensland growers because they are creatures of circumstance. The Basic Wage Commission reported that the basic wage, sufficient for a man to maintain a wife and three children, should be approximately £5 16s. per week. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) asked Mr. Piddington how that rate was to be paid., and he said that he had not been asked that question. The ex-Prime Minister said, “ I now ask you, and will give you twenty-four hours in which to answer.” The members of the Commission immediately secured the assistance of Mr. Knibbs and others, who reported that if the Government paid £5 16s. per week they would be paying 7s. per man per week more than they earned, and that at the end cf twelve months the basic wage would need to be approximately £8 per week. That proves conclusively that we are approaching a point at which there will, be no margin, and we would be commencing to live on our capital when competition with other countries would be impossible. In such circumstances the trade with New Zealand, or with any other country, would cease. I do not wish wages to be reduced unless workmen could purchase, with the lower wage, as much as they are buying to-day. When, however, we are on an artificial plane, we are isolated from every other country, and are bolstering up , industries by destroying those which should serve us best. If our primary industries are destroyed, who is to purchase the products of our secondary industries? No one outside Australia would buy, because our commodities would be too N dear, and if we reduced the number of purchasers within Australia what is to happen ? I was glad to hear the pronouncement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that the Government are prepared to submit certain matters to the Tarin’ Board for consideration. If that is done it will be found that some of the high duties, imposed by the last Parliament, have been detrimentally affecting primary production and the working nien of the Commonwealth. Let us act honestly. It is not always sufficient to say that certain articles can be manufactured in Australia, because the real question is whether they can be made here and sold in competition with the products of other countries. It is hopeless to expect that all classes of goods can be made in Australia with its handful of 5,500,000 people. When we find that this Parliament will put a duty on sulphur, a component part of the fertilizers so largely used in an agricultural country like ours, I question what the end will be. We have even placed a duty on the wrapping paper put around apples that are packed for export in costly cases. Our fruit-growers pay heavy charges to get their produce carried to the sea-board, and higher freights than their competitors to have the fruit taken to the markets of the world. Some of the orchardists do not get any profit at all unless they chance to strike a very favorable market: Only this week a complaint was made to me ‘by a cripple in Western Australia who uses a scientific appliance on his leg to enable him to walk. He went on the land, and got on fairly well. When he requires repairs done to his leg appliance he has to send it to England. The repairs on the last occasion cost him £6 6s., and he was charged £2 4s. Id. duty. When a country will go to that extreme in order to build up an artificial industry one almost ‘ despairs ; let it proceed on something like competitive lines, and there will be no ground for complaint.
I do not believe in party government, if it can possibly be avoided. ** I want every individual to act according to his conscience, and I wish to see sound government. I am glad, therefore, to find that the present Administration are prepared to consider questions openly from the stand-point of Australia’s best interests. If they do that they will have my support. I shall for all time, while parties exist, belong to the Country party. If half the people of Australia were not crowded into the cities and upon the sea-board making battle against those who are producing most of the wealth of the country, there would not be the difficulty that is now experienced in getting the representation that the country people deserve, by reason of the wealth they produce.
– You are not prepared to assist the sugar-growers in the north of Queensland.
– I shall assist any industry, if it will be of advantage to Australia to do so. It is ‘largely because of the protection now afforded to the sugargrowers that other industries are becoming burdened. Those who are getting good wages and making high profits under an unregulated Tariff naturally like it very much, but we must look beyond that aspect and have regard “for the future good of our country. When we pass a Protective Tariff, we must see that the people are not fleeced. What we need is true Protection. Three years ago I enunciated an idea that I still consider sound. Speaking on the Tariff, I then said -
We contend that if the protection of . secondary industries is to be continued to the detriment -of the more important primary industries, those who hold the belief that the secondary industries are the more important should play their part by supporting those industries by establishing a bonus system to which all the taxpayers .of Australia should contribute equally, and arranging that tha burden shall not be wholly placed on tha shoulders of the primary producers. If tha burden were levelled over the whole community in this way, and if the people centralized in factories bore their equal share, there would be some reason in the demand foi support for the secondary industries.
Let those honorable members, who think that the secondary industries are so important, make their fair contribution to the establishment of a bonus system for the assistance of those industries, and then we shall support them.
– Even at this early hour of the morning I think a few words should be said concerning the extraordinary mental attitude of certain honorable members. What one hears makes one almost think that this House is a prehistoric cave, where political economy is not understood, and has not even been heard of. Honorable members are dragging out ideas on political economy that have been long forgotten. Those notions were resurrected by Henry George, and subscribed to again by those having no power to adapt themselves to modern thought, because they imagined that Australia was exclusively a primary producing country. They would have us believe that the only people worth considering are those who plough and reap, that manufacturing industries should not be tolerated, and that tertiary industries should certainly not be developed. They would not have us send our flour away because that would be encouraging a secondary industry. One section of the party opposite would like to sell the railways of Australia. I refer to the remarks of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). Nothing would suit him better than to go back to the prehistoric days and place this country in the position of being the playground of all the “boodleiers” and of all the robbers it is possible to have hera People of this type would not only sell the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, but the Treasurer admitted- that, if it were possible to sell the railways of. Australia on the same terms as the Woollen Mills, he would do it. The very railways would be butchered by the present Government if he had his way.
– Butchered to make a Roman holiday.
– Butchered to make a “ boodleiers “ holiday. The Government want to hit the Woollen Mills at the start, because the interests of certain members of this House are affected by them, and because those who control the main party in the Government - I might say the dominant party - feel that their interests are affected by reason of the fact that the Woollen Mills have turned out goods at half the price charged by other mills, and made a profit. Those >,ho control the Government are the York-street merchants, the woollen merchants of Australia, and the Flinders-lane merchants, prominent amongst whom was the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) until a little while ago, and I dare say that his position as Prime Min-‘ster’ has not meant his entire dissociation from the business of vending rags in Australia, and, incidentally, making a good profit out of it. It is intensely interesting to notice member after member enunciating juvenile political economy such as we have heard tonight, especially from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is old enough to know better. : I well recollect the honorable member only recently castigating the Government, as forcefully as his gentle manner would permit, for their sins of commission and omission. In the last Parliament he cried aloud to the heavens that the primary industries of “this country were being ruined by a Government who did not understand the conditions of rural life. On every possible occasion, under the slightest provocation, he poured out a doleful tale about hundreds of thousands of men on the land being ruined through too high a duty on sulphur and too low an impost on onions and potatoes. If the members of the late Country party wield 100th part of the influence which their Leader and they themselves claim to possess in and over the composite Government, why do they not set out to put into practice their pre-historic ideas? Personally, I do not think that they exercise so. much power, authority, influence, or control in or over the Government as is represented by a snap of the fingers. The fact is that they have been swallowed and have been just about digested. It is all very well and interesting, of course, for honorable members to sit up all night and listen to lectures upon pre-historic political economy j but one is constrained to rise - even at 3.15 a.m. - to speak a few words of gentle rebuke to those who advocate selling our railways, instituting Free Trade, and wiping out everything, in fact, except onions and potatoes. I devoutly hope that the policy of the Government of this country. is not about to degenerate into an onion and potato policy. If the Commonwealth is to be maintained as a White Australia it must grow and manufacture the whole of its needs.
At this stage I feel that I must conclude my remarks. I have a vast amount of material before me concerning what members of the Country party have said of the National Government and what Nationalists have said of the Country party. I shall content myself, however, by indicating my hearty support of the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Anstey’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– It is my intention to move a further amendment, the subject-matter of which is of such importance that I can only express regret that the Government should have indicated that the debate must not proceed after mid-day to-day. If there is one question which Parliament should discuss before all others - for the reason that it is of paramount importance to the people - it is that of the Prime Minister’s proposed trip to England to take part in an Imperial Conference or Conferences.
– He is a good man!
– He may be; but there are many other good men in Australia whose lives may depend upon the outcome of the Prime Minister’s trip. I move -
That the following words he added to the proposed Address: - ‘‘but this House is of the opinion that, if Imperial Conferences are to be held to deal with matters of an Imperial character, this House affirms its right to know -
the proposals to be dealt with; and
who is to represent Australia at such Conferences, in order that this Parliament may express its opinions before the people of Australia are pieaa;ecl to policies on foreign matters which may be inimical to their interests.”
In the first place, I claim the votes of at least two honorable members opposite. They will support the amendment if they are true to the sentiments which they have already expressed during this debate. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) was emphatic when he said that the Prime Minister should tell Parliament exactly what he is going to propose, or has already proposed, to the Imperial authorities, and what are the subjects to be discussed. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) was equally emphatic when he stated that Parliament should know, prior to the Prime Minister’s departure, what was going to take place.
– As regards naval defence.
– I understand that both Naval and Military matters are to bo discussed; my complaint is, however,’ that I do not know. The purpose of my amendment is that honorable members may learn from the Prime Minister exactly what is to be proposed and done at the Conference, or Conferences. I do not forget that two individuals who have recently received from the people the order of the boot -I refer to the ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes) and of Great Britain (the Right Honorable David Lloyd George) - were, only last year, on the verge of precipitating mankind into another world’s tragedy. And only four people in all the British Dominions knew anything about it! I do not forget that, although the Commonwealth Parliament was in session, the ex-Prime Minister, upon receipt of a cablegram from the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, committed Australia -without first consulting Parliament or people - to the despatch of tens of thousands, and, if necessary, hundreds of thousands, of young Australians to participate in a war which appeared to be imminent with Turkey.
Later on we received advice which showed us clearly that Mr. Winston Churchill, Lord Birkenhead, and Mr. Lloyd George were the only people in Great Britain who knew anything about this proposition; even Lord Curzon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had to be notified, through the press, that an S.O.S. call had been sent throughout the Dominions. That was the first intimation he got of the seriousness of the position. Upon a bare cablegram from Mr. Lloyd George, this country was asked to participate in sending, and promised to send, troops abroad. It was to be a war, not to uphold the liberties ofBritish subjects, not in the interests of the British people, but simply as the. result of a quarrel between two capitalistic sections as to who should have the right to exploit certain mineral resources which formerly were held by Turkey. Without being consulted beforehand we were asked to participate in that war.
I have seen a little qf war, and have learned a good deal regarding the cause of the last tragedy. If in 1914 I had known as much about the cause of the war as I do to-day I would not have participated in it. There are thousands of Australians who think similarly. It was declared distinctly and emphatically that that was to be a war to end war; that there was to be no more secret diplomacy, that allthe cards were to be placed on the table in the future, and we were to know what were the causes leading up to any other war. Yet the flowers were hardly growing on the graves of the soldiers who had died when four or five men took upon themselves the grave responsibility of bringing about another world’s conflict. This country was placed in the humiliating position of being pledged to participate in a war without Parliament having had any say in the matter.
The Prime Minister is treating contemptuously this Parliament and the people of Australia. When Parliament opened we asked him a question, and he practically said he had no time to answer it. I tell the Prime Minister that members of this party are as good Australians and as good Britishers as he is. If we know the causes responsible for a war, and we are satisfied that it is in the interests of the working men and women of Great Britain, every Australian of military age will gladly offer his services in defence of those people. Let us realize the possibilities of another conflict, not on behalf of the freedom of our own kith and kin, but simply with the object of making profits for another section of the British community. I wish the Prime Minister clearly to understand that he is not going abroad with the sanction of this party to put this country to any expense or to take part in the framing of any Treaty with foreign powers. It is as well for the rulers of Great Britain to realize that, although we are in a minority in this Parliament, we represent the majority of the people of Australia. Atthe last election eighteen Senate seats required to be filled, and the Labour party captured eleven. Had the electoral system which operates in Great Britain to-day been in operation in Australia at the last election this party would have been occupying the Treasury Bench to-day. As the result of the present system, although we gained a majority of the votes cast throughout Australia, we still are in a minority in the House of Representatives Occupying that position throughout” Australia we wish our attitude to be clearly understood regarding any proposals for a future war.
I cannot understand how preparation for another war can be seriously contemplated. The Prime Minister had the audacity to talk about the Labour party and its “red” objective. At least, its “red” objective is something which has very fine aspirations; it is something that fills the hearts of the people with hope for the future; it as something which, when achieved - however far distant that may be - will mean the betterment of the conditions of all the working men and women of the community. I hurl back at the Prime Minister the insults which he has levelled at this party. He belongs to a party which has ruled since the dawn of civilization, a party which has never achieved any reform. He hurls his insults at a party from which has come every reform which the world enjoys to-day. He objects to a “red” objective. I point out to him that our “ red “ objective is something of which any one might be proud. It was his party, with its black objective, that landed this world in the last war, in which 70,000,000 men were mobilized, 13,000,000 were wounded, and 9,000,000 were killed. After that severe lesson, the party to which he belongs can offer no hope to the world except that of another, world tragedy. We belong to a party which believes that, should another war take place, it might result in the ending of civilization. Instead of bending their energies towards discovering something which will cure cancer or other at present incurable diseases, the scientific men with which on” laboratories are filled are conducting research to discover some liquid, a few drops of which will wipe out, not only armies, but cities and noncombatants by the hundreds of thousands. I have here a quotation which will demonstrate how serious the next war would be. I am quite satisfied that all your military preparations will not prevent war; that fact has been demonstrated in’ the past. If you prepare for war, the greatest certainty is that you will have a war. We want the people to understand what will be the nature of the next war. The chief of the Chemical Research Department of the United States of America said -
We have discovered a liquid, three drops of which, when applied to a man’s skin, will cause death. If, instead of carrying machine guns, aeroplanes were equipped to carry a tank of this liquid for discharge from nozzles like an ordinary street sprinkler, it would kill everything in its path; it -would be a weapon that would absolutely destroy troops and whole cities of non-combatants as well.
He goes on to say that the whole of the American Army of 1,250,000 men in France could have been wiped out by it in ten or twelve hours had the Germans had about 300 aeroplanes with which to distribute it. We, as a party, realize that some steps need to be taken to prevent a few individuals having control of the destinies of the British Empire. We certainly object to our Prime Minister going abroad without telling us why he is going, and what are the matters which are to be discussed. We do not respect any confidential information that he may have. We deny the right of our Prime Minister to enter into any agreement, to make any arrangement with Great Britain, regarding either naval or military matters. It is well for him to understand that in this country there is an almost overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to the present compulsory system of military training. There is a great majority of Australian people who, to-morrow morning, would put an end to the training of our youth. The Labour party, representing the majority of the people, has placed upon its programme the fact that it is bitterly hostile to, and at the first opportunity will completely abolish, the military training of our youth. We have done that designedly. That training is valueless and useless. We realize that if you fill the minds of the youth of the country with ideas of war, it is an absolute certainty that a war will take place somewhere in the near future. We know the horrors and sufferings which were brought upon humanity by the last war. Thousands of widows are mourning for’ their husbands, and mothers for their children. There are tens of thousands of fatherless children. Promises have been made by statesmen during the last few years that we were entering upon an era of peace. The ex-Prime Minister, when Senator Pearce returned from the Washington Peace Conference, declared that if anything could insure this country peace for the next ten years the Treaties then made would do so. He , said -
The Washington Conference has achieved great things. Its decisions are very material to us. They guarantee peace in the Pacific, as far as any effort of man can guarantee it, while human nature remains unregenerate . . With this assurance of peace we must hope that all the world will follow the good example set by these Treaties.
There is not a man sitting opposite who did not believe the ex-Prime Minister when he made the statement that at least for ten years in the Pacific we were safe from aggression, that there was nothing threatening the shores of Australia. Hardly ten minutes, so to speak, have elapsed since that statement was made, when the Prime Minister tells us, through the press, that he is going to a Defence Conference in Great Britain. He . is asked by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) to go to the Conference and commit Australia to the expenditure of vast sums of money on naval and military preparations, with the knowledge that the capitalistic sections who are in power in Great Britain and in Australia,, if unchecked and uncriticised by the representatives of
Democracy, may, at the forthcoming Conference, enter into negotiations for the expenditure of huge sums of money on the building up of militarism. We take this opportunity of demanding to know from the Prime Minister what he is going to that Conference for, and what he purposes doing? This opinion is not confined to members of the Labour Party. I will read something that was said by one who cannot be charged with being a disloyalist, one who took a very active and honorable part in the late war - General Sir Ian Hamilton - at the unveiling of a soldiers’ memorial on one Sunday following the British elections : -
The boya whose memories we are commemorating here to-day did not die for reparations; they did not die for the oil-fields of Mesopotamia. -They did not even die for Jerusalem. They died to kill the spirit of war. Lest we forget, we erect memorials. We do forget sometimes or there would be more war. But we had a striking demonstration recently of a man hurled from power, one who has held more sway in this country than any other since the days of Cromwell. The people thought that he was running the risks of war, they felt that some one was sowing a fresh crop of graves.
We in Australia are afraid that the Prime Minister, with his military instincts, may land this country into such serious trouble as will lead to the sowing of a fresh crop of graves. I feel that we would be recreant to our duty to the working classes of this country if we did not make known our hostility to any secret treaties being entered into between Great Britain and any other country, if it is expected that Australia should participate. Did we know, when war was declared between Great Britain and Germany, that secret treaties existed between England and France, and between England and Russia, which bound England to take part in any war in which France or Russia might be involved ? Only four men in the British Cabinet knew anything about them. If we are expected to be loyal to the Mother Land, we should be treated in this matter honestly, fairly, and squarely. I fought the last election upon this question, and I believe that I am speaking for the majority of my constituents. Much as I love the land which gave birth to my parents, I unhesitatingly declare that if the people of Great Britain enter into treaties for the acquisition of new territory or such things as oil fields, they cannot rely upon the loyalty of Australians to shed their blood on behalf of the capitalistic classes of Great Britain. In making that declaration we are in line with representatives of the workers in that country. At the recent election there, the pacifists who fought against England’s entry into the war - men like Ramsay MacDonald, who was stoned out of Leicester because he stood for peace, and E. D. Marr eli who on his native heath defeated ‘ Mr. Winston Churchill - were elected by the people. The attitude they take up is the one we are taking up to-night, namely, that Great Britain shall enter into no secret treaties with any country behind either the back of Parliament or the people of Great Britain. The more they talk about the subject in Great Britain the greater become the victories for the party that adheres to the principle of no secret treaties. By-election after by-election has been held since the general election of a. few months ago, and only yesterday the cable brought the news that Labour had won a seat hitherto believed to be a stronghold of Conservatism. The class that stands for secret treaties and diplomacy, and for bringing about war to make fortunes for a few individuals, is having to give place to Labour. Evidence is accumulating throughout the civilized world to show that no longer will this privileged class’ be permitted to deal with this question. I agree with an article published in the Age. I do not often praise that newspaper, but I believe this article to be one of the finest that has ever appeared in an Australian journal. In its summing up, with which I heartily agree, it says: -
The world’s only hope now is in the ordinary workaday men and women of Democracy. It is for them to realize that responsibility, for war is not something vaguely national but directly individual, and that each is in some measure blameworthy for the horrors .and disappointments that ever follow in war’s wake. With their minds enlightened and their consciences quickened they could be safely trusted to repudiate as a remedy the colossal stupidity and ghastly tragedy of war.
I honestly believe there is no hope for the world, no chance of escaping the horrors of another world’s conflict, unless the representatives of Labour become the rulers of the people, not only in Australia, but in most other parts of the civilized world. It is cheering to know the great victories the representatives of the workersare winning to-day in Great Britain, and to think of the victory we won in Australia on 16th December. As one of Labour’s representatives, I table the amendment, demanding to know from the Prime Minister what he is proposing. He is not sending a cablegram to some firm in London to buy a bale of wool or a piece of calico. He is dealing with Australia’s affairs, and we claim that there should be no secrecy. As a result of the lastwar 9,000,000 lives were lost, 30,000,000 men were wounded, and God know3 how many widows are sorrowing to-day because of secret diplomacy. I claim the right to know all that is passing between this country and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. At least, if we cannot get the information by submitting this amendment, I declare to the Prime Minister that this party will be bound by no treaty he enters into, and will be under no obligation to uphold any agreement he may make. Before we do our part in the Empire we want to be treated as partners. We want to know what the Government propose to do in the near future, and all they have done. I submit the amendment in the full expectation and hope that the members on the other side of the House, who have seen the sorrows and sufferings of the last war, and have realized that their leaders in the past have landed them into a world’s tragedy, will support me. These leaders see no other hope to-day but in building more battleships and more warplanes and drilling more men. To-day there are more men under arms in Europe than there were in 1913. This shows what & ghastly fallacy it is to talk of arming men to prevent future wars. The more they arm and train men, and the more guns, battleships, and aeroplanes they build, the greater certainty is there that in the near future another conflict will take place. We are told that the conflict will mean the wiping out, not only of men who are in the army, but also of cities, by the dropping of a few drops of liquid upon them. London, Paris, Berlin, and perhaps Melbourne and Sydney, with their noncombatant residents, may be wiped out practically by an unseen enemy. The party opposite and their class in Russia, Germany, and Great Britain, who were the originators of the last war, have the cool audacity to declare that they are going to hold another conference to consider secret treaties and the spending of the people’s money in building battleships and aeroplanes, and in drilling millions of men. I move the amendment in the hope that we shall get a definite- and clear assurance from the Prime Minister of what he is going to do, and a promise that he will not commit this country to the expenditure of one shilling on naval or military preparations.
– The amendment that has been moved is, in my opinion, quite unnecessary, and after I have said a very few words with regard to it I think the mover himself will agree -that there is no necessity to press it. It deals with the proposal for an Imperial Conference, and with the possible action which may be taken there by the representatives of Australia. I can say immediately that there is no possibility of such a conference being held before this House meets again, nor is there any possibility that any representatives from Australia will have gone, or that Australia will be committed to any line of action, before this House has had an opportunity to discuss the matter and express an opinion. I, personally, and the Government, realize that any questions dealt with at a Conference of this character would be of such profound importance to Australia, that no representatives could- go away from these shores and speak on behalf of the Commonwealth until the whole question had been fully ventilated in this National Parliament. -I should imagine that, with those assurances, there is very little that the mover of the amendment need worry about at this stage.
As to the present position of the negotiations for a Conference between the Governments of the Commonwealth and Great Britain, I can tell the honorable member in a very few words what it is. The proposal that such a Conference should be held in Britain has been submitted to all the Dominions. On behalf of Australia, the Government have replied that they consider such a Conference very desirable, and that it should be held at the earliest possible moment. When replies from all the Dominions have been received by the British Government, we should receive definite information regarding the date of the Conference.
– What is the earliest possible moment at which it is estimated the Conference could take place?
– The- earliest possible moment in contemplation at the present time is in the autumn of the present year, that is to say, October or November. I have stated that ample opportunity will be given to this House to deal with the whole matter before representatives leave Australia. I cannot think that there is any further assurance required by honorable gentlemen opposite, or honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, who are equally interested. I do not propose, at this hour, to deal further with this matter, save to say that I regret the character of the speech that was made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in submitting his amendment. My objection is that the honorable member endeavoured to. indicate that this party stood for military development and militaristic ideals.
– Honorable members opposite are a militaristic party.
– In the words of my honorable friend, he endeavoured to make it appear that we are a military party. That is totally incorrect. The Government, and those who support it, are just as bitterly opposed to war. as is any honorable member of the Opposition. As I said the other day, we stand absolutely for the reduction of armaments, and will do everything in our power to render the possibility of war as remote as it is conceivable for dfc to be. The actions of this Government with regard to defence are limited to the provision of what is requisite for the safety and integrity of Australia. That also should be the object of honorable members opposite. The fact that we may differ as to what is essential to that vital objective is no reason why honorable members opposite should suggest that those on this side of the House do not stand firmly for the maintenance of the peace of the world. Honorable members do not help Australia, and the cause of peace, by indulging in speeches in which the insinuation is made that Australia: - -one of the nations of the world to-day - is animated by military ambitions and objectives. We do not stand for the maintenance of anything at all beyond the bare necessities for the defence of the Continent we hold.
Australia is a member of the League of Nations. We emphatically believe in the League, and hope that in the future it will be a great force for peace. But the League is only going to maintain its position to-day, and strengthen its position in the future, if it has behind it the British Empire. Its future, depends upon the unity of the British Empire - upon the fact that that Empire stands for peace; for the maintenance of armaments necessary only for defence. I ask honorable members to try to visualize for one moment what would be the -position of the League of Nations to-day if the support of the British Empire were withdrawn from it. In the British Empire the League to-day has its greatest strength. A strong and united British Empire in the future will be, as it has been in the past, the greatest possible assurance for the maintenance of peace throughout the world, and any Conference that may be held between the representatives of Britain and the Dominions, and any scheme of defence that may be enunciated and considered, will be limited to Imperial defence. This Government is not prepared to assent to anything Snore than the minimum requirements for our own safety and that of the Empire. ,
With these very few words, I would ask honorable members opposite to consider whether it is necessary, at this very late hour, to prolong the debate on this question? They have the assurance of the Government that no action will bc taken bv them, and no representative will leave Australia to attend a Conference on the question of Imperial defence or on that of Imperial or foreign relations before this House has had the fullest and most ample opportunity of considering the matters which- will be submitted to that Conference. If- honorable members opposite think it necessary to continue the debate on this amendment, I would ask them to try to realize that at this very difficult period in the world’s history, we must not present to the world a false picture which conveys the impression that we have in office in Australia a Government which is committed to a policy of military expansion. It is utterly untrue, and it is very undesirable at this time that such an impression should gain currency. “We stand for nothing beyond the defences necessary for the maintenance of our own integrity and the security of Australia.
.The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) earlier in the debate was responsible for the discussion which followed from this side of the House and for the amendment which has been submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). Every one understood from him that vital and pressing problems had to be solved by the Conference. We are now given to understand by him that the problems, although vital, are not pressing. On Wednesday I asked the honorable gentleman certain questions in regard to the proposed Imperial Conference, but the only answer I received from him was that, after the debate on the Address-in-Reply had been disposed of, he would consider any inquiry that I might put to him. We are now informed that these problems, which were said to be vital and pressing, are still vital but no longer pressing. The Prime Minister told us the other day that Australia was in danger, that it was menaced, and that there was, on our part, a sacred obligation to provide for its safety. We wish to know whence comes the enemy. Where lies the danger? In what direction is it to be found? And how can we prepare for it? We want to know to what obligations we are to be pledged by the representatives of Australia at the forthcoming Conference. We were told by the Prime Minister that questions of international trade and the absorption of our produce were also vital, but we are now informed by him that, in respect of these matters also, nothing is to be done for months to come. Australia’s internal problems are not to be dealt with for months, and such questions as the defence of the Empire and its foreign relations are no longer pressing. Havipg regard to the assurances which have been given by the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, in the statement he has just made, I take it that, in the opinion of our party, it is unnecessary to proceed with the amendment, and that for that reason the amendment will be withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will ascertain when itwill be convenient for His Excellency to receive the AddressinReply, and honorable members will be notified accordingly.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1923 - No. 1 - PreservedFish Bounties.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Teritory (Administration) ActOrdinances of 1923- No. 2- Darwin Town Council. No. 3- Electric Energy Agreement.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 (South Australia) - Reasons for resumption of portion of Telegraph Reserve at the Katherine, Northern Territory.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. this day.
Invalid and Old- Age Pensions : Inmates of the Consumptive Home, Adelaide - Benevolent Asylum Pensions.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in making known to the House what the Government propose to do during the forthcoming adjournment referred to the relaxing of some of the regulations under the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act. I wish to bring under the honorable gentleman’s notice the position of the inmates of what is known as the ConsumptiveHome, but what is really a part of the Adelaide Hospital. No one is more pitiable or worthy of moregenerous treatment than those who are suffering from consumption, but the unreasonable way in which patients in the Consumptive Home, Adelaide, are dealt with with under the Invalid pndOld-Age Pensions Act is well exemplified in a letter sent by the Acting Secretary of the Adelaide Hospital Board to the Secretary of the T.B. Patients
Comforts Funds Committee. This fund was established to provide comforts for the unfortunate men and women who are suffering from this terrible malady. Invalid pensioners who enter the Consumptive Home retain their pension rights, and are allowed I believe to retain 2s. per week as pocket money, but those who apply for a pension after they have been told that they are incurable and have been received in the Home, are held to be disentitled to an invalid pension. Here is the letter to which I have just referred -
Inspector-General of Hospitals’ Office,
Adelaide, 1st February, 1923.
Mr. F. H. Harris, Secretary T. B.Patients’ Comforts Fund Committee, Consumptive Home, North-terrace.
With reference to your letter of the 16tb December, advice has been received from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, stating that- “Inmates of benevolent asylums proclaimed assuch under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and of which institutions the Consumptive Home is one by proclamation, are not entitled to benevolent asylum pensions unless such inmates were pensioners or pension claimants before entering the institution. “ Those inmates of the Consumptive Home who do not come within this provision of the Act, as quoted above, are therefore not entitled to assistance from this Department.”
Yours faithfully, (Signed) H. T. Young,
Acting Secretary, Adelaide Hospital Board.
The Prime Minister I am sure will recognise that this is an anomaly. I have also replies to one or two applications for invalid pensions which I prepared on behalf of inmates. In each case the applicant is informed that since he is going to remain in the Consumptive Home he is noli eligible for an invalid pension. It is an advantage to the city of Adelaide as well as to the sufferers themselves that they should remain in the Home, but if they care to leave it orcan find somebody who will take care of them at the pension rate, they at once become eligible for an invalid pension. I hope that the Prime Minister will give earnest consideration to this matter, and will relax the regulations so that these people will receive the treatment to which they are justly entitled. If there are any genuine cases of invalid pensioners, they surely are these poor people who are fading away every day, and whose life on this earth cannotbe long. When I was. making out some claims for them I questioned them as to what they required the 2s. for, seeing that they had a home provided for them. They told me that a number of things which they desired were not supplied by the institution, such things as toothbrushes, smokes, and one or two other little luxuries which are regarded as important by them. We can surely, at least, see to it that those whose days on this earth are numbered shall not be prevented by regulations under an Act of this Legislature from securing what they assisted to subscribe for when they were fit and well. I do not plead for any special cases, because all in the institution are suffering from an incurable disease, and they are unable to obtain the little comforts which they ask.’ I should be glad if the Prime Minister could see his way, when redressing anomalies that exist under the operation of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, to give his earnest consideration to the request of the persons for whom I plead.
– I will take a note of what the honorable member has said, and will consider the cases he has referred to in conjunction with those which are already under consideration, and which I hope we shall he able to deal with in the very near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.18 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230308_reps_9_102/>.