9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 14th June(vide page 104), on motion by Mr.J . Francis-
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to -
May it please Your Excellence :
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but we consider that your Advisers no longer retain the confidence of this House owing to their attempt to limit the rights of the Commonwealth with regard to constitutional powers, with special reference to financial and industrial matters; also for the unsatisfactory arrangements made in connexion with immigration. ‘
.- I am sure we all appreciate the atmosphere of Sweet Nell of Old Drury, which has been introduced into the chamber this session, and which I am convinced will have a marked effect on the debates of the House. In associating myself with the motion of no-confidence which has been submitted by my Leader (.Mr. Charlton) I should like to say that I sympathize with the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply in the difficult task that was set them of making good speeches out of the matter contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of Parliament. In different circumstances I am sure they could have given better evidence of their value to the Commonwealth as custodians of its progress and prosperity.
The gravamen of the charge made against the Government by the Leader of the Opposition is that they do not retain the confidence of the House, because, in the first place, they propose to hand over to the States the power to impose income taxation which has hitherto been, held and exercised by us. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in his reply to my Leader evaded the real facts. He made a purely diplomatic speech, and did not state the case as it presents itself to the people to-day. The Leader of the Opposition has rightly said that one result of the Premiers’ Conference is that it is proposed by the Commonwealth Government to shift the burden of the war from the shoulders of those best able to bear it to the backs of the workers. The Prime Minister has not denied that that will be the effect of the agreement arrived at, and I defy honorable members opposite to do so. When I was asked to express an opinion on the proposal I said that it simply meant taking the tiara from “ dummy’s “ head, putting it on his chest, and at the same time “ pinching “ a couple of his jewels. In the process of making the change “ dummy “ is to be deprived of one or two of his gems. Apart from the collection of income tax from companies, a power which the Government propose to retain - the financial interests by the way are even stronger than the Government, and we may be sure that the Prime Minister will do nothing to injure them - Customs taxation will be our only source of revenue. If our interest payments on war loans are to be made out of Customs revenue the effect will be most detrimental to the workers. A working man with his wife and family will have to pay the “ 5 per cent, blood money.” I use the words “ 5 per cent, blood “money “ advisedly, because I, as a member of this House, bitterly opposed borrowing for war purposes. I urged that while we were sending men overseas to fight for us the “ fat “ man was stopping at home and securing gilt-edged investments. The only democratic tinge that could be given to the plea for conscription! was that there would be equality of sacrifice. Has there been anything of the kind? What sacrifice has wealth made? Will honorable members tell me of any wealthy man who was ruined by the war ? I defy them to tell me of one whose assets to-day are less than they were before the war, or whose business has been hurt as a result of it. We have not to ask by whom the real sacrifice has been made. In this House alone we have the answer.
I hope that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will explain what influenced him to put on the market a conversion loan at 5 per cent., plus a bonus of £1, with a currency of twenty-five years.
Does such a flotation suggest that the wealthy are to make any sacrifice? Before the session closes I shall bring before the House one or two cases that will demonstrate once more that the sacrifices have been made and are still being made by men who should not be called upon to bear the burden of the war. Are the moneyed classes “ footing the bill “ of a war that was fought mainly to protect the interests which they control to-day? Let the Prime Minister answer that question. He has said that the taxation proposals of the Government, which are the outcome of the Premiers’ Conference, involve merely an alteration of the incidence of taxation ; but I remind honorable members that the alteration is to be along lines that will protect the interests of those whom he and his party especially represent. Surely we are not going to meet out of Customs revenue the interest on our war loans. If we are, then the people have been deluded - the Tariff has been imposed, not for protective, but for revenue .purposes. It presses most heavily upon people with large families. Compare the position of a man with no f amily with that of a woman whose case I intend to bring before the House. She is the mother of fourteen children. Her husband went to the war and “paid the price.” To-day she is receiving a war pension, but surely she and others with large families should not be called on to bear the brunt of the tax necessary to enable us to meet our war loan interest obligations. Families make up the bulk of the population of Australia, and it is upon them the Government would place the burden of meeting the interest on war loans. The Prime Minister did not tell us of any other way in which the cost of the war is to be met.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will clear all that up when he speaks.
– He is more clever than his Morganatic husband if he can. The Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear that it is the intention of the Government to put the burden on the backs of the workers. The Treasurer and Prime Minister know very well that if the proposals they have submitted are given effect to, that must be the result. They propose that the Commonwealth should give up- practically the whole field of income taxation. They admit that the only source of revenue that will be left to the Commonwealth will be land taxation, succession duties, and such taxation of companies as the Government may impose, which will produce only a negligible amount of revenue. The bulk of the revenue required to meet the expenses of government and “ the cost of the war will be derived from taxation imposed upon wage earners and those who, having big families, purchase the greatest amount of dutiable goods.
– That is what is inr tended.
– The honorable gentleman has said so, and I say so; but the Prime Minister has said that that is not intended. I say that he knowingly makes a misstatement.
– Order! It is not in order for the honorable member to suggest that another honorable member has knowingly made a misstatement.
– Then I suggest that .the Prime Minister is not well versed in the subject with which he dealt, or he would not have made the statement he did. In other words, the honorable gentleman suffers from political ineptitude. I hope to get him properly nailed down, as I wish that he may be seen by the people of the Commonwealth in, his true colours, stripped of his spats and everything else. This with me is a serious business. I do not come here merely to make flowery speeches. I come here, if possible, to assist in the passing of equitable laws and to make the Commonwealth a desirable place in which to live. I never repeat the Lord’s prayer at the opening of our proceedings as a number of other honorable members do, “ Thy kingdom come, Thy will be - d ie on earth - “. I feel funny when I hear honorable members saying that. Let them think out what it means, and consider what they will have to say to Peter when they get up above. However, that is their pidgeon, and not mine. If I came here to talk only for talking sake the sooner the people got rid of me the better. That is not what I conceive to be the duty of a member of this House. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the effect of the Government’s proposals would be to place the burden of taxation to meet the cost of the war on the shoulders of the workers. This was denied by the Prime Minister; but let us consider the matter and see who was right. In South Australia the amount of income exempt from taxation is £156 and there is an allowance of £15 for each child. Under the Commonwealth Act the exemption of £200 relieves the majority of the workers of the burden of paying for the war. Under Commonwealth legislation the taxpayer is also given an exemption of £40 for each child. How is South Australia going to make up the loss in her revenue which must follow from the cessation of the payment of the capitation grant? How will Sir Henry Barwell, make up the loss ? There can be no doubt that he will readjust the State income tax in such a way that almost all the exemptions under the Commonwealth Act will disappear and the taxpayer will be called on to make up the amount of revenue required under the State income tax. According to the figures of the Commonwealth Budget for 1922, the number of persons exempt from the payment of income taxation under the Commonwealth Act was 406,040, but some of the cost of the war will be thrown upon those 406,040 persons hitherto exempt from Commonwealth taxation if the scheme which the Government have submitted is approved. We know perfectly well that the Tory Governments of the States will not get the money required from the people from whom the Prime Minister says they will get it. The Leader of the Opposition is right in saying that the Government no longer retain the confidence of this House, because by the scheme of taxation they have proposed they are giving up the power of the Commonwealth to do what it was said would be done to cover the cost of the war. If honorable members will consider the position, they will agree that the Government have not only lost the confidence of this House, but the confidence of the electors, in shifting the burden of the cost of the war from the backs of those who it was first intended should bear it to those of the general workers, those least able to bear it. I challenge any speaker who may follow me to say how the deficiency in the revenue of the States due to the cessation of the *per capita payment is going to be made up if not in the way I have suggested. The Prime Minister has stated that the Commonwealth will be £1,500,000 to the bad under the arrangement, less an amount of about £400,000 which it is expected will be saved by putting an end to the duplication of taxation. I am not opposed to putting an end to duplication of taxation. We are not worthy of the positions we occupy here if we cannot take hold of the affairs of Australia, which belong to the Commonwealth rather than to the States, if the real will of the people were given effect. They do not want duplication of Government Departments. They do not want seven Parliaments or six Governors and a GovernorGeneral. They want Unification, not only in the matter of taxation, but in every other respect. The party on the other side hold back from the people what they desire. They are not ready to meet the will of the people. I can give honorable members an instance in connexion with a proposal for prohibition in South Australia to show how some public men fail to judge public opinion. A proposal in connexion with prohibition was made in South Australia by Tom Smeaton and one or two others, and Mr. Peake, the Premier at the time, said that he would make no alteration in the liquor. law, but would let the proposal be decided by a referendum on a cumulative basis, under which all votes for 6 o’clock closing, if not in a majority, would be added to those in favour of closing at 7 o’clock, and all votes for closing at 11 o’clock, if not in the majority, would be added to the votes in favour of closing at 10 o’clock. This wa3 the course adopted to discover the will of the people; but the system of cumulation was entirely unnecessary, because the 6” o’clock closing was carried by a two-to-one majority. The Government are proposing to put an end to duplication of taxation; they have suggested that an end should be put to the duplication of electoral rolls, but they are really toying with the subject. If they asked the people straight out whether they desire Unification, they would be told that they did in so loud a voice that they would be deaf for the rest of their lives. I make definite statements, and I want, not airy persiflage, but equally definite statements, in reply.
I propose to refer to the indebtedness of the Commonwealth, and. show what it is, and what it means ; to show what juggling there has-been, and how the people have been defrauded by the acts of the Commonwealth Government at a time when they should have been protected. The first loan at 4£ per cent., free of income tax, was described as a “ gilt-edged security “ ; but the men who had to go to the war could not make the condition that they should go free from the liability to be shot. They could place no reservation on their services overseas, but had to take the thick with the thin, and the bad with the good. The “ patriots “ at home in Australia were willing to supply the money, but before doing so they had to be given “ gilt-edged security “ - something that was not offered elsewhere. I shall quote from a speech made by Mr. Speaker, in his capacity as honorable member for Balaclava, and then show that really these “ patriots “ got something for nothing. The country is paying interest up to the rate of 6 per cent, cn money borrowed; and the Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page, has now a splendid scheme by which he proposes to again turn the money over - he intends to allow the yeast to rise, so that there can be another “ rake off “ for the next twenty-five years. The history of our war loans is fresh in the memory of honorable members. Mr. Fisher, after he became Prime Minister, fell away from the spirit of the movement which had elevated him to that position. He was not “ game “ to be the “ big man “ that he was when the Labour party realized his ability, and placed him in power. On the contrary, he turned to the financiers of Melbourne and asked them to tell him how to finance the war; and, by God, they told him! Those men “ financed “ the war, and so “ financed “ themselves that they are now “ on velvet.” What they “did in the Great War” I shall tell honorable members before I conclude. I need not traverse in detail the history of our loan issues, but simply say that one commendable feature was that the vultures were not allowed to get in too deeply. The loans were floated locally through the Labour party’s Commonwealth Bank, thus saving some of the commission which would otherwise have been necessary; and I may here say that all such commission might be saved if tho proper steps were taken. If the advice of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), instead of the advice of Mr. Fisher, had been followed at the beginning of the war, the Commonwealth would have been £219,000,000 better off to-day. Now that we are in the hands of the financial magnates of the country, we shall remain there until the people are educated up to the point of realizing that fact ; and this would mean that the country would be managed for their benefit, and not for the benefit of the financial magnates exclusively. There is much talk of bringing immigrants here; and if we were honest we could bring them tomorrow. Plenty of room could be found for them, with, work at remunerative rates, thus promoting the development and progress of Australia to a position second to none in the world - all that could be done if our desire really were “ Thy Kingdom come.” But we do not desire “ Thy Kingdom come”; and, if it were probable, every man on the Ministerial side would be pushing to keep it back, for it is felt by them that things are better as they are.
The debt to the extent of £219,000,000 is a fictitious one, due, as I shall prove, to juggling with the finances. If that statement is disputed, I hope that facts will be produced to support the denial. Mr.- Fisher desired to raise the enormous amount of £20,000,000, as he told us timorously at the beginning of the war. He was informed by his advisers that he must be careful - that it simply “couldn’t be done.” This is exactly what the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) would have said, and it was what Mr. Speaker, as the honorable member for Balaclava, really did say, when speaking on the first “War Loan Bill. I am not referring to that honorable gentleman now as the Speaker of this assembly, but as one who has been Treasurer in both State and Commonwealth; and he is quoted as a high authority on such matters. On .the 21st July, 1915, as reported on page 5147 of Hansard, the honorable gentleman said -
In my opinion. Ministers have managed to obtain very skilled advice, judging by the terms of the prospectus and the general outline of the Bill. To raise £20,000,000 in one sum would have been practically impossible, or at least would have M to the dislocation of important financial interests lying at the root of the employing industrial activities of the country.
He said that to raise such a loan was practically impossible, for the reason that immediately that capital had been withdrawn from industrial investment, industry would collapse like a pricked bladder. In the end, the Government appealed for £5,000,000, and, speaking from memory, raised £7,000,000; but six weeks had not gone over before the Commonwealth went on to the market and raised another £42,000,000. This, again, was followed by a loan of £50,000,000; and so we went on until our indebtedness reached £219,000,000. The honorable member for Balaclava never dreamed that the indebtedness would increase to that extent before the end of 1918 or 1919. Where is that money? If we study the statistics, we do not see that it was withdrawn from the banks, because the deposits without interest are now practically the same as then; the fact is that the . great financiers, with their four balls, are able to go a little beyond the ordinary Jew with his three. What does all this mean? If we could obliterate all our war expenditure, and the Treasurer were to propose a loan of £20,000,000 for certain purposes, and an honorable member had demonstrated that within five years the amount would be increased to £219,000,000, what reception would the proposal have had? The whole business is a farce; and once the people realize the truth they will put a stop to it. A practical proposal was submitted at the time by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who moved an amendment to the effect that £20,000,000 be placed to the credit of the Commonwealth Bank and operated on for war purposes. If that had been done the end desired would have been attained without approaching private financiers, and coming to an arrangement by which the Government accepted a hit of paper drawn by certain persons on another bank. If honorable members read the history of the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, they will find that Sir Joseph Cook and the late Lord Forrest suggested, when the. Bank was instituted, that it would be a haven for impecunious politicians. According to the Jeremiahs of the day, the note issue would be a disastrous experiment, and within twelve months we should be able to buy a £1 note for 12s. 6d., or perhaps a basketful for £5.’ When the note issue reached about £10,000,000 Sir Joseph Cook held up his hands in horror, and said, “ You are touching the danger line.” What is the gold backing to our . note issue to-day? What did Rathenau say? - “If all the gold in the universe were sunk in the sea to-morrow, the activities of the nation would not cease for one moment from producing what is required for .the people.” Sir Joseph Cook declared that we had touched the danger line when the note issue had reached £10,000,000. Since then it has jumped to over £53,000,000. Has it touched the danger line yet? Of course it has not, but the Government are now hampering its operations by the appointment of a Board; and to justify its existence the Board has put out little squibs of new- notes, although the present notes will be useful enough for the next half century. I have seen a digger with ‘a handful of francs betting, on the toss of a coin, a thousand francs not half so good as the notes that are being discarded in the Commonwealth to-day.
We have been told that we must- be very careful about the note issue, and the people have been warned about the Labour party’s method of financing. If the then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher) had not got into the hands of the “ hooknoses “ in connexion with the financial transactions for the war in 1915 - if he had followed the advice of the honorable member for Bourke - our position would have been much more satisfactory to-day. The burden is on the backs of the workers. Let me quote again the views of the honorable member for Balaclava on this phase of finance. It is nice to have these quotations. They serve a good purpose. In this case the considered opinion of the honorable member for Balaclava demonstrates that I am not pleading the case of the working man without justification. This is what the honorable member for Balaclava said on 15th August, 1915, on a Supply Bill -
Although competitive ‘ forces may not be fully operative during the period of the war, yet in the long run these taxes get down to the bedrock of human effort, which is wages of the manual or unskilled labourer.
– That is true of all taxation.
– I am very glad of the interjection from the Minister for Defence. The worker earns it all, but when the Communists in Sydney desire to bring about a better state of affairs, they are regarded as a menace to the community. Communists declare that workers earn the wealth which is spent by others in luxuries, while they themselves live in penury. Let me continue my quotations from the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava -
Through the varied strata, of human activity there is a filtering process -
This, I think, proves that, in the opinion of the honorable member for Balaclava, there was some jugglery in connexion with finance - down to bedrock, and that is the unskilled worker. In some shape or other, although it will not be always tangible and provable, his rents and prices will rise, or his wages will fall, and in that sense he will be an indirect contributor to the taxation, although otherwise he escapes.
This is what we have always contended. Of course, honorable members opposite, and the financial advisers of the Government, do not spread the net in sight of the bird, but they snare him just the same. The net is covered, hut the Government get the money nevertheless, and the people have to pay.
It is time we exposed this welter of lies about finance. The other day I read that our High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook) declared that capital was a “ shy bird.” This statement appeared in headlines in the Melbourne Herald, and it was repeated in the Adelaide press. Capital, we are told on this authority, is such a- very shy bird that, we must be exceedingly careful, otherwise the British money-lenders will not be willing to give us accommodation. I wish to God they would close their pockets ! We, in Australia, would he very much better off if. they did. But, after all, is capital such a shy bird? The other day the Mel- bourne and Metropolitan Board of Works wished to borrow £500,000, and so eager were the financial vultures that some of them almost climbed through the window to get there first. Within a few minutes the whole of the amount was subscribed. The contributors are the birds which are to be found on the bough of every tree. Are they shy? They are Shylocks, out to gain everything regardless of those who have to find the money. The chickens are now coming home to roost, and I can only refer to the words of the honorable member for Balaclava, when he said that what was then suggested could not be done. The heavy burdens of interest have to be met, and the. Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), with the financial magnates of the country, is now endeavouring to place an even heavier burden on to the working class of the community. “ Through the varied strata of human activity there is a filtering process down to the bedrock, and that is the unskilled worker.” I use those words as my text. The financial position of the Commonwealth is clear to those who carefully study it. The financiers are, as usual, seeking their pound of flesh, and the Treasurer ia prepared, to give them more than they ask. The loan floated at 4£ per cent., free of income tax, is now being converted on a 5 per cent, basis for a period of twenty-five years. Let honorable members capitalize that and see what the amount is. When these tremendous commitments have been met the amount will still be owing. Those successful business men or financiers who have contributed to our loans will not only receive an unduly high interest over a long period, but will also receive the amount which they originally contributed. We give them interest on their money and return their capital, but we cannot replace a “ Digger’s “ lost limb. Why do we not tell the truth, instead of throwing dust in their eyes? The Prime Minister, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) did not quote one specific fact. He did not tell us that it was the policy of his Government to further shift the incidence of taxation to the shoulders of those who made the. greatest sacrifices during the war. The ‘poor devils who went to the Front, arid who are now carrying on their ordinary avocations under great difficulties and endeavouring to rear families, are already carrying too heavy a burden. The Leader of the Opposition was quite justified in moving his amendment, and even if it is rot carried it will have the effect of drawing public attention to the position.
The Prime Minister made specious comments, on industrial affairs, but gave very few facts. What is the position with regard to arbitration? We know there has been congestion in the Court, and that at times the position has been almost Ifr. Yates. chaotic ; but that does not prove that under efficient administration the Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot function in the direction intended. We should attempt to- put our house in order instead of destroying it. lt is, of course, the desire of the moneyed class and those who represent the manufacturing interests that the Federal Arbitration Court should be abolished. I said a moment ago that we do not judge the psychology of the Australian people aright. If we set our efforts in the direction of Unification there could not be the duplication of today. A majority of the people favour one Arbitration Court, the decisions of which should be applicable to all. .The Australian people do not wish the power of the Commonwealth Court to be in any way curtailed. The Government suggest that another tribunal should be appointed, the duty of which would be to decide which industries should come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. This tribunal would, I suppose, be only one of many. It is not only the manual workers who wish to approach the Federal Arbitration Court, because public servants, bank clerks, and many others are desirous . of having their grievances adjusted by that tribunal. Petty prejudice animates the atmosphere - I will not say of the Court - hut of the States, and the States believe that they do not get the best results from the Commonwealth Court. The South Australian Premier (Sir Henry Barwell) is anxious to see all arbitration laws scrapped. That gentleman suggested the appointment of a Conciliation Board consisting of three, four, or five employers and five employees with a chairman without a casting vote. If the representatives of both parties could not arrive , at a decision what would result? A union secretary elected to his position by virtue of the confidence reposed in him by the members of the union would mot be allowed to sit on such a Board, because the employees’ representatives must be men actively engaged in an industry. I was engaged in a certain industry, and was appointed a member of a Wages Board, and, as I was the only one on the Board who was able to speak freely, I opened my mouth very widely indeed. When the employers’ log- was submitted the strongest argument of their representatives was that they were afraid of Victorian competition, but the presiding officer awarded a rate 2s. 6d. lower than that prevailing in this State. That is an indication of the necessity of a Federal Court. We adduced evidence to prove that the competition from Victoria would not affect the industry in South Australia, but that did not matter. I said to’ the chairman (Mr. T. J. S. O’Halloran) at the conclusion of the meeting, “ In view of the evidence adduced on what process of reasoning have you given your decision ? “ His reply was, “ I gave my judgment on my reasoning as a man of the world.” I then informed Mr. O’Halloran, who was a retired magistrate, that I would not sign the award, and he told me that he was the only man who had to sign it. That is what is suggested in place of arbitration; that is the reason why this move is being made in the direction of allowing the States to control their own industrial affairs, particularly in South Austraia, with its jerrymandered electorates. The States can send their representatives to this Parliament, where they can speak plainly; but in some of the States, owing to the manner in which the electorates have been gerrymandered, many of the people are practically without representation. They were so jerrymandered in South Australia that Sir Richard Butler was able to declare, “ Liberalism is safe for the next twenty years.” There is also in South Australia a Legislative Council which is an impregnable stronghold, one which cannot be reached by the masses. These are the people, cemented in their positions and throttled with the dead hand of the past, whom we are to be asked to intrust with full control in relation to arbitration matters. If we permit the Prime Minister to whittle ‘ away the rights and powers given to us bv the Constitution we shall not be reflecting the true feelings of the people of Australia. But this desire to give away the control of arbitration matters to the States is linked up with the policy of immigration. Before the “ Pommies” can be exploited, the Arbitration Court must first be.broken down. The immigrant who moves from a farm to the city and seeks employment in a metropolitan industry must now be paid £4 5s. a week. With the arbitration laws scrapped, it would be an easy matter to force these immigrants, because of the circumstances .in which they found themselves, to take whatever wages were offered or starve. A starving man is often compelled to sacrifice the principles that he holds dearest. Therefore, if we scrap the arbitration laws of the Commonwealth and leave the control in such matters to the State Tories, the absorption of immigrants will be an easy matter, and that is why the suggestion was put forward at the Premiers’ Conference. The Labour party in this House will not permit the Prime Minister to carry out his indicated intention in this regard without a protest. The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is a protest against the failure of the Government to do what Australia wants in this regard.
Yesterday, when the Prime Minister was attacking the Leader of the Opposition, he said that the position taken up by the Labour party in regard to immigration only required to be analyzed. I challenged him to analyze it. How far did he get when he attempted to do so? He said that we did not want any more people in Australia until all those already in Australia had employment.’ The Prime Minister knows well that no such assertion has ever been made by us. The point is never reached in any country at which ‘ there is no one unemployed. In industries which offer spasmodic employment it is impossible to keep men in constant work. The shearer cannot be employed all the year round. Farmers require more hands at seeding time and harvest time than in the intervening months. They do not pro- vide work for their labourers a’ll the year round; and the secondary industries in the cities are not waiting with jobs for these casual farm hands when they return to the cities. Necessarily there must always be a number of unemployed in Australia, and the Prime Minister knew this when he sought to make the people believe that the attitude of the Labour party was that every man in this country should have a job before another should be permitted to come here. The honorable gentleman went on to say that the question of immigration had to be solved, and would be much easier of solution if all joined in the attempt to solve it. We are ready to join him in the attempt. The Prime Minister next made reference to certain statements made by Mr. Garden and dissatisfied immigrants which had appeared in the public press, and he condemned the Leader of the Opposition for quoting them without having had them confirmed. He said he proposed to reply to them. However, he did not do so. In fact, he did not attempt to analyze the position of the Labour party in any respect, except to say that we . did not want any one to come in until all our own people were employed. As a matter of fact, our position is that we do not want immigrants brought here until there is a fair chance of their securing employment without interfering with the rights and privileges of persons already in Australia. That is the statement we shall make in no unmistakable language to the British Immigration Commission now making investigations in Australia. It is very seldom that I go to the Immigration Department, and I am thus obliged to rely upon the information given in the public press, but if the position has been misrepresented by the newspapers, surely it is the duty of the Government to take steps to correct the error, and thus prevent information going abroad which may be harmful to Australia. The Prime Minister did not place his finger on one spot where he . could hold the Labour party up to ridicule for its attitude towards immigration, although he evidently thought he had done so. We would welcome all the immigrants necessary to fully populate Australia if. they could be settled without being exploited. It would -be preferable to bring out great numbers of skilled artisans, for whom work could be provided, rather than introduce black labour, as the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell) was prepared to do. It is a mistake to say that the Labour party is hostile to immigration. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), in the absence of the Prime Minister, give me the details of one of the schemes of the Government for the absorption of immigrants ? Will any honorable member from Western Australia assure me that, under the scheme adopted in that State, a man leaving England will know what area of land he is to cultivate, where it is situated, and on exactly what terms it is to be taken up?
– You evidently have not studied the Western Australian scheme. It is a magnificent one.
– I shall be glad to hear more of it when the honorable member speaks. The Prime Minister promised yesterday to analyze the attitude of the Labour party towards immigration, but he has not done so, and I challenge any honorable member opposite to demonstrate that we are antagonistic. I would like to know what Mr. Percy Hunter is doing. The Prime Minister would find it difficult to justify the large expenditure on immigration, seeing that the results are so small. During the last election campaign [ believe I heard the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) say that it would cost £250,000 to bring out 10,000 immigrants. At the same time, there was an agitation for the abolition of the baby bonus, which gave encouragement to the best immigrant of all. If Mr. Hunter could not do better for a business firm than he has done for the Commonwealth, he would be bundled out neck and crop.
– The Prime Minister has sent him back to England.
– I think not. The Prime Minister does not know his own officers. I doubt if anybody in the Commonwealth knew Mr. Hunter was going back to England until he joined the steamer at Fre- mantle. He managed to dodge the reporters and everybody else; but there is one thing he will not dodge, and that is his £1,200 a year. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) suggests that everything is proceeding as satisfactorily as could be wished in his State in . immigration matters, and I hope itis true. I read details recently in the Adelaide Daily Herald of the case of an immigrant who was a protege of the Ugly Men’s Association. He had £200 when he reached Western Australia, and he was sent to Wyndham, where he was set to work at 25s. per week. When he found out the wages to be paid to him he left the job and walked to Perth. With four others he stowed away on a vessel, and reached Adelaide. The other men were sent back to Western Australia, but the immigrant in question managed to escape ashore by changing clothes with a fireman. In the Melbourne Argus to-day the following paragraph appeared under the heading, “Stowaway Migrants”: -
PERTH; Thursday.- At a meeting of the State executive . of the ‘.Returned Soldiers’ League a letter was considered from the Fremantle branch, which stated that former Imperial soldiers had been sent out to Australia in distressing circumstances. In England, if they refused to emigrate, their weekly dole of 15s. was stopped. When they arrived in Western Australia they were charged 3s. 6d. a day at the Immigrants’ Home, And 5s. a day after the expiration of a week. The branch suggested that these men should be given a sustenance allowance until they found work.
I do not vouch for the truth of that report, but I have sufficient confidence in the Returned Soldiers’ Association to believe that it would not promulgate a story of that nature if there was not a stratum of truth in it. I do not think an Imperial Army man would tell a “digger “ a deliberate untruth.” The authorities in England desire to get rid of their unemployed as soon as they can. Those who saved the world for Democracy were told by Mr. Lloyd George that the world was in a plastic state, and could be moulded just as they wished, but it is very evident that that is far from the true position. If any one of the unemployed refuses to emigrate when offered the opportunity the British authorities deprive him of the 15s. dole. Our first duty is to make provision for immigrants so that they will be able to live in comfort as decent citizens, and when that has been done they may come to Australia in droves. I do not know just what the position is in Western Australia under Sir James Mitchell’s scheme. Although I believe it is probably the best of those that have been propounded, I doubt whether it goes far enough. . Sir George Fuller has been urging that immigration is the only thing to save Australia. Before he left Australia he said, according to the latest report that I have read, that unless the land-owners threw open their lands his Government would put the Labour party’s policy into operation.
– He said that his Government would pay them for their lands.
– And the Labour party would also pay them - on the basis of the value they themselves place upon the land for assessment purposes, plus 10 per cent. Our policy in that regard is on record, and if we had the opportunity we would put it into operation. We have done it in the past, and will do it again in the future. The Labour party in South Australia is the only party that has done anything to break up large estates. I hope the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), when he rises to speak on this motion - if, indeed, his party allows him to speak - will try to justify the bringing out of large numbers of immigrants at the present time. What land scheme is there in South Aus-, tralia capable of absorbing immigrants, when even to-day there are qualified returned soldiers who are waiting for land ? The same statement I believe applies to the other States. The Prime Minister said there was a lot of undeveloped land in Australia, but does he propose to send the poor immigrant, who does not understand our climate or the peculiarities of our soil or methods-
– The immigrant also does not understand the methods of the honorable gentleman’s party.
– The methods of my party have never injured any one except the capitalist. We are out for his scalp, but so far we have managed to get only a few hairs. I once said that I was “ out to wring the neck of the capitalistic goose.” I am still out to wring its neck, and if I can get my hands upon it with sufficient tenacity there will be an end to its life.
Mr.R. Green. - How long does the honorable gentleman expect to live?
– I hope I shall live long enough to accomplish that task, after which I can die in peace. I do not fear in this House or anywhere else to state my position regarding immigration. I believe that it is our duty to see that there is no horseshoe in the glove before we invite persons from, other countries into our ring. The . following extract from the South Australian Hansard of 31st October, 1922, page 1239, will show how much South Australia can do for immigrants : -
Mr. REIDY. ; Did the Minister notice a report of the sale of the Canowie estate near Spalding, an estate that was said to be cut up and subdivided for closer settlement? . That report stated that one man who is already a large land-holder in the district purchased about 8,000 acres of the 12,000 acres offered. Will the Minister take steps that will prevent estates such as that, when being cut up, going back into large holdings again, and will anything be done to give an opportunity for settlers to be placed on such country ?
LANDS. - I have noticed the report. The land is freehold, over which the State has no control whatever. There is no question of approval to any transfer, and I cannot see that anything can be done to prevent this kind of’ thing unless Parliament sees fit to introduce legislation to make that impossible.
Mr. Reidy. ; It ought to be impossible.
This refers to privately-owned land in the most arable part of South Australia, and it has had a railway put through it. The owner of it holds move than he is entitled to hold in accordance with Holy “Writ, and has added another 8,000 acres to his already large holding. Speaking from memory, the price he paid was ?11 10s. per acre. I think the honorable member for Barker (Mr. D. Cameron), and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan Hughes), who were interested in that land in the early clays, will be able to verify my statement. The Minister said the land was privately owned, and that the Government could do nothing unless Parliament took action. Even if the gerrymandered Assembly of South Australia decided to take action, the dead hand of the- past in the Legislative Council would prevent them. If you invite a man to your house to have a meal, you should not place him on the door step to gnaw a bone, but should let him sit at your table and have at least a bit of celery. There, again, is the parallel between the Government’s attitude and the Labour party’s in regard to immigration. I go a little further in regard -to South Australia. Sir Henry Barwell has a really original idea. He is introducing boys. He believes that they will make the best immigrants. They are to be prohibited from joining a union, ‘or conferring with union organizers. It is intended to keep them free from the contamination of that section of the Australian community. They are to receive ?1 per -week, and their ages, judged by the batch which arrived Inst week, average about fifteen years. At. that age a boy is very sturdy if he is an “ Aussie.” I do not know what the C3 population of Great Britain is like at that age, but Australia has an Al population a little above proof, in mv opinion Where is .the farmer who will refuse to employ a boy fifteen years of age at ?1 per week, and who will not two years later, when the boy is seventeen, turn his farm hand out and put the boy in his place? .Thus the hoy immigrant will become the future settler of Australia, while the Australian farm hand will be reduced to obtaining a position as a rouseabout in a shearers’ shed. When the immigrant has been here for ten years he will be twenty-five years of age, at which age, if he is to ‘become the settler he ought to be, he should take a wife. In those ten years his total wages, at ?50 per year, would have amounted to ?500. How much land at ?11 30s. per acre could he buy for that sum? From his earnings must be deducted 6s. for pocket money, leaving him 14s. a week with which to repay ?26, the cost of his fare to Australia. In addition, he has to be clothed.. The boy will be “settled,” but not on the land ; his heart and spirit will be broken, when he ascertains the real meaning of the conditions to which he had been brought in this country. That contention is supported by the circumstances of a Scotch lad, who was sent to Wyndham, and whose case I related to the House during last session. Compare the immigration proposals of the Government with the fair and equitable suggestion of the Labour party that suitable economic conditions shall obtain before people overseas are invited to Australia. If our conditions were complied with, the Labour organizations would be prepared to welcome and assimilate immigrants. I support the amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I hope that before the debate is concluded the Government will realize the true position, and discontinue their present policy of immigration.
There is one noteworthy omission from the Governor-General’s Speech; there is no reference to the peculiar circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Victor Ryan as’ co-ordinating officer in connexion with the Empire Exhibition. I do not intend to criticise Mr. Ryan, because he is not the “squirrel” which has to be caught. My objection is to the choice of Senator Wilson to accompany the Prime Minister to the Economic Conference. I ‘take exception to the appointment of Senator Wilson because it was made, not on his merits, but merely as a matter of expediency. The Government thought it necessary to choose a delegate from amongst the members of the Country party in order to preserve the balance of power between the two sections of Ministerialists. But Senator Wilson does not really belong to the Country party, because he repudiated that party in Adelaide, and informed his then associates that they were a lot of disloyalists. I tendered that information to the House during last session. The extraordinary exhibition he has made of himself in connexion with the appointment of Mr. Victor Ryan shows that Senator Wilson is not qualified to represent Australia at the Economic Conference. Fine credit he will do to Australia if he tells Mr. Baldwin that “ he has got into the muck, and now has to get out of it.” That was the language he used concerning Mr. Ryan, whose appointment reminds me of a former selection made by another member of the same family. The peculiarities are evidently a family inheritance. When Mr. Crawford Vaughan was Premier of South Australia applications were called for the position of immigration officer. The period during which applications could be received precluded any nomination from overseas, but, to the astonishment of all, a Mr. Champion, from the Agent-General’3 Office in London, was appointed. This gentleman had not seen Australia for ten years, but he was a single-taxer, and Mr. Crawford Vaughan had determined to appoint him before calling for applications. Similar circumstances surround Mr. Victor Ryan’s selection. I am not criticising his qualifications, because, if the credentials of all applicants were examined, Mr. Ryan would probably he found to have had the most experience in the class of work that is required.
– I do not think they do. Another strange feature was the increase of salary after the appointment was made. Senator Wilson is not competent ‘to represent the Commonwealth at the Economic Conference. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) and his colleagues aver that they support the principle of preference to returned soldiers. but the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), proved by a speech he made in this House when a private member, that he does not , believe iu the principle, and if he doe3 grant preference to returned soldiers it will be only as a result of the representations made by the Returned Soldiers’ Association. During the war Senator Wilson was within the military age, arid I am not sure that if war broke out to-day he would not still be eligible. The Government Whip (Mr. Marr), although a returned soldier, was excluded from the Ministry so that the Government could appoint Senator Wilson an honorary Minister, and so preserve the balance of power between the Country party and the Nationalists. To the same end the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), who has had a wide and varied experience as a State Minister and as a member of this House, was omitted from the Ministry. During recent years the Minister for Trade and Customs has delighted to refer to. the members of the new Country party as “ Johnniescomelately.” Yet to-day the honorablegentleman is in office with those very same political neophytes. The fascination of office has broken down the prejudice which he previously had against the “ Johnnies-come-lately.” When the war broke out the Minister for Trade and Customs picked out several of the younger men in this House and pointedly suggested that they should go to the Front ; in fact, he stated emphatically that men who were within the military age had no right to sit in the House during the war period. To-day the Ministry have chosen to represent the Commonwealth at the Economic Conference a man who, although eligible for military service, did not go to the Front, and the Minister for Trade and Customs is to-day a colleague of men for whom, at one time, he expressed utter contempt. This kind of conduct is evidence of insincerity - to put it mildly. If Senator Wilson goes to England as the representative of Australia at the Economic Conference, it will be- an affront to the people of Australia, and I shall not be a bit surprised if he brings Australia into disrepute. ‘ I know the honorable gentleman’s career ; I know what he is. I challenge the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to tell me how long Senator Wilson has been a Country party man, and how he obtained admission to the ranks of the Country party. Senator Wilson is a creature of circumstance. But for the wattie would not have been returned to Parliament. He came in under the wing of the Liberal party, when one man each was chosen from the ranks of the Nationalists, the Liberals, and the Country party. He was shrewd enough to be admitted to membership of the Country party, and to obtain the nomination of that, party. He fought the Labour party bitterly, as a candidate for Sturt, together with two or three other Liberals. That must have given him his qualification; he does not possess it because he is a member of the Country party, or because he knows anything about economics - he does not know the alphabet of the science. The Government are deserving of censure for proposing to send such a tyro in politics to that Conference. They are not observing the spirit which appeared to animate this House during the war period, because they will not avail themselves of the opportunity to select for these two positions men wbn have fought overseas. T do not hold fetishly to the idea of placing a special value upon the services of men who fought for Australia. I do not want anything from the Commonwealth because of the fact that I went overseas. T simply gave my services for what they were worth. Honorable members on the Government side do, however, hold that view. The Prime Minister is a returned soldier, his off-sider is a returned soldier ; they are imbued with the idea that preference should be extended to returned soldiers; yet, in their Ministry is a man of eligible age - a man who, as the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said, is a “ J Johnny-come-lately.” The Minister for Trade and Customs .now ‘has to take his orders from that “ Johnnycomelately.” It proves what the blandishments of office will do to an individual. I protest against the appointments which have been made, and I accord my hearty support to the amendment which has been moved by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I support the amendment to the AddressinReply which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, whose lucid criticism of the Government policy really needs no further’ support from honorable members sitting on this side of the House. I resent the uncalled for remarks made by the Prime Minister in his reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The Prime Minister exhibited the manners of Little Bourke-street rather than those of Cambridge University, and lias arrogantly disregarded our request that we should be supplied with information. That: attitude ultimately will lead to his downfall. He forgets that we on this side comprise the largest party numerically in this House, and, therefore, are entitled to be treated at least with courtesy and respect by him and by the members of his Government. That respect so far has not been accorded to us. Our party will be prepared to take the gloves off to fight the Government, and deal out to them the treatment which their attitude towards us fully merits.
The Prime Minister, in stating the policy of the Government, has passed over the most pressing problem that confronts Australia, that of unemployment. Indeed, the policy of his Government during the last four months has accentuated unemployment. Many of the proposals that are contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will result in retrench-‘ ment, poverty, and want for the wageearners of Australia. The Government have had their attention directed to the existence of the coal dispute in ‘the Newcastle district, yet the Prime Minister - representing, as he does, the privileged and moneyed interests-has treated with contempt the warning of the honorable member for Hunter that a serious position will arise unless there is Government intervention in that dispute. Australia is standing on the brink of a !big industrial upheaval which will have far-reaching consequences to the whole of our people. The Prime Minister, with contemptuous indifference to the interest of the workers of Australia, has refused to intervene. The press of this and of the other States is filled with evidences of abject misery and poverty resulting from unemployment, .yet the Government propose to do nothing to contend against such conditions. The Prime Minister, by his attitude towards the Leader of the Opposition, has demonstrated that he is unable to submit to criticism or reasoned argument ;he is compelled to resort to abuse. Evidently the legal training which he obtained at Cambridge University has made him skilled in the art of sophistry, enabling him to create confusion in order to disguisethe fact that he and his party do not possess a constructive policy. I notice regretfully that honorable members on the Government side have lapsed into a condition of silence.
– They are not allowed to talk.
– Quite a lot of members on the Government side cordially disagree with many of the proposals that are contained in the Government’s policy, but they are committed to silence, and are compelled to become parties to this policy by reason of the fact that they are confronted with the spectre of the recent Queensland elections. They know full well that were an election to take place now they would be swept from the Government benches, which they gained by trickery and chicanery of the worst description.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in using those expressions.
– I withdraw them. I think that Ministerial members would similarly express themselves if they were not bound to silence.
– What about the “ Red objective ?”
– I prefer the “Red objective “ - which, after all, expresses an ideal, and indicates a desire to improve the status of mankind generally - to the objective of the honorable member, which is as black as the hobs of hell !
The Prime Minister, in much the same way as the Pharisees of old protested their righteousness, has said that his Government is without sin; but it seems to me that no Administration has been more deserving of censure at the hands of this Parliament. I regret that your position, Mr. Speaker, precludes you from taking part in the present debate, since, although you are opposed to us in politics, I am sure that, if free to express your opinions, you would indulge in a good- deal of criticism of the proposals before the House, and particularly the financial policy of the Government.
This Government has been in office for only four months, but in that time has done more to create industrial trouble and unemployment than any of its predecessors. It has sold the Geelong Woollen Mills - a matter that will be dealt with more extensively by others who are to follow me - and has curtailed ship-building and other governmental activities that were responsible for the absorption of quite a number of people who are at present amongst the unemployed. Apart from this, during the last four’months members of the Ministry have spent their time in attending banquets in the various States, and uttering platitudes and empty sentiments. The Prime Minister indeed excels in the art of uttering school boy aphorisms and epigrams. Except for this junketing with capitalists and profiteers members of the Government have not come in contact with the people. They have been afraid to face the people, knowing full well that if they came in direct contact with the electors generally their policy would meet with the utmost opposition. The Prime Minister declared yesterday that the Opposition wanted peace at any price. After all, considering the horrors of war, the desire for peace is a laudable ambition. The Government, judging by its policy, wants war at any price. It is out to provoke industrial war, and industrial chaos will be the result of the reactionary proposals as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, if given effect to.
In regard to taxation the Government has sought to convey to the people the impression that it proposes to reduce taxation, whereas it is only attempting to evade its rightful responsibilities. It is proposing only to shift its obligations, as a taxing authority, on to the State Governments. There is in Australia a growing Federal spirit. On the Prime Minister’s own showing in this House there is every possibility that within the near future there will be a tendency for our expenditure in respect of war pensions, repatriation, and war loans, sinking fund, and interest to increase. If ever there was a time when the Government should consider the advisability of retaining avenues of taxation it is the present. The arguments which have been adduced by the Prime Minister are sufficiently sound reasons why we should not surrender the avenue of taxation that it is proposed to hand over to the States, especially as we know that owing to the growth of Australia’s manufacturing development, the Customs revenue may decline in the near future.
I am pleased to learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intends to increase the invalid and old-age pensions, and also to relax many of the restrictive regulations that are imposed under the Act. But even in this regard the Government, to my mind, has been guilty of inexcusable delay. Last year the Leader of the Labour party, of which I have the honour to be a member, brought before the House a motion that the invalid and old-age pensions should be increased. The conditions then more than ever justified such an alteration, but our proposal met with opposition from honorable members on the Government side of the House. Any proposal introduced to increase the invalid and old-age pensions should have a retrospective effect, since these pensioners for some considerable time have been deprived of a rightful increase in accordance with the increase in the cost of living.
I desire, also, in passing, to refer to the position of pensioners in public hospitals. In March last I brought under the notice of the Government the fact that inmates of public hospitals in many cases, owing to the restrictive character of the regulations, have been deprived of the allowance provided for in the Act. The Government then promised to immediately investigate that complaint, with a view to providing that all pensioners in public hospitals should receive the allowance contemplated by the Act. I find, however, that the Government, during the last three months, has done absolutely nothing in the matter. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of manifest injustice, which are the result of Government inaction in this connexion. Any amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should also provide that pensioners shall be entitled to earn an increased amount. The Act lays it down that they may not earn more than 10s. per week, and so offers a premium to idleness. It denies to a pensioner the right to improve his earning’ power. This requires immediate atten- tion. A blind pensioner is allowed to earn the basic wage, whereas an ordinary invalid or old-age pensioner is allowed to earn only 10s. per week. I hope that any measure dealing with this matter that is put before us by the Government will also cover the question of the accumulated property allowance. The accumulated property allowance should also be increased.
Turning for a moment to the War Service Homes Act, I would remind the House that, in response to a question asked by me a day or two ago, the Prime Minister stated that the proposed Royal Commission would be restricted to an inquiry into one contract. The whole record of the War Service Homes administration reeks with scandal, and the exposures already made warrant the most searching and widespread inquiry. I regret exceedingly that the Government has not recognised that in respect of this matter it owes a big duty to returned soldiers more particularly, and to Australia generally. My constituency includes a large number of soldier settlements. The men in these settlements are groaning under a burden of discontent, but can obtain no satisfaction from the War Service Homes Commission. They have made complaints to me regarding the over-capitalization of their homes. The original War Service Homes Act contemplated that the cost of a soldier’s home should not exceed £700. By an amending Act the maximum was increased to- £800 ; yet many of these men are being charged as much as £900, or even more, for homes which have been assessed by private and Government valuers as being worth not more than £650. This is a scandal. The Government, owing to its inaction, is suffering, since many soldier tenants are leaving their homes, refusing to undertake these unjust obligations. I hope that the Government will agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, or some other tribunal, to exhaustively consider soldier grievances in regard to their homes. In addition to the complaint of excessive capitalization there are also complaints of faulty construction, the presence of borer in inferior timber used in building, and of delay in effecting repairs. The complaints made are such as to warrant the most searching investigation, and I hope that the Government will agree to make an investigation. Their attitude up to the present has indicated a desire to conceal the facts from the public with a view to protecting their own administration. I hope that in the public interest that attitude will be. abandoned.
In connexion with the question of industrial legislation the Prime Minister has spoken of the appalling confusion which exists at the present time. I do not admit the existence of appalling confusion, but, if adopted, the Prime Minister’s proposals will certainly accentuate the alleged confusion. He proposes to superimpose upon the present complex system of arbitration, another Court to define the jurisdiction of the Federal Court in dealing with industrial matters. Any one possessing an elementary knowledge of existing conditions in this connexion will realize that the proposal of the Government is calculated to bring about endless litigation and expense to both employers and employees. If the Government proposal is submitted to this House, at a later stage, I hope that honorable members will turn it down with the contempt which such a proposal deserves. The Prime Minister, ‘n excusing his attitude on this very important national question, has referred to the fact that proposals to increase the industrial powers of the Commonwealth have been defeated on three occasions when referred to the people. The honorable gentleman has overlooked the fact that the vote in favour of the extension of the Commonwealth industrial powers has gradually increased, and at the Referendum taken in 1919, three of. the States, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, recorded a vote in favour of increasing the powers of the Federal Government to deal with industrial disputes. The. proposals then submitted were defeated only by the small majority of 11,00Q. It may be said that the sentiment of practically the whole of the Australian people is in favour of the extension of the powers of the Federal Government in this regard. The fact that the people did not carry .the proposals submitted at the referenda does .not justify the present Government in whittling away the powers which the Commonwealth at present possesses to deal with industrial disputes. Those who voted at the Referendum in 1919, for the extension of the Common wealth powers, made their desire manifest, but those who voted against the extension proposed at that time voted at least for the retention of the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution as at present framed. I claim that the Government have been given no mandate to interfere with the existing arbitration laws, and they cannot claim that because proposals for the extension of the Commonwealth powers were lost at the referenda, they are entitled to interfere in the way outlined in the Prime Minister’s speech. The honorable gentleman said that employees may go to both Federal and State Courts, but that conveys a manifestly incorrect impression, because under the existing system employees are not permitted to utilize both jurisdictions simultaneously. That has been laid down by a number of judgments given from time to time. When the Prime Minister assumes the attitude of the schoolmaster, and talks to honorable members on this side upon industrial matters, he reminds me of the little boy who sought to teach his grandmother to suck eggs. Every honorable member on this side has given service and consideration to industrial organizations, and fully understands their problems. The Prime Minister’s experience of industrialism in Australia is very limited. The honorable gentleman’s knowledge . of Australia generally must also be held to be limited when “ we remember that his education and experience were largely gained on the other side of the world. I stress the fact that an overwhelming number of State public servants and workers generally favour their right of access to the Federal Arbitration Court: The Government are flirting with trouble in their proposals to deny them that right. If it be the right of one section of employees to approach an Arbitration Court, whether Federal or State, it is only just and fair that all employees should enjoy a similar right. To say that public servants, because they are in the employ of a State Government should be denied the right of going to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in connexion with arbitration matters, is too ridiculous and absurd to warrant serious attention.
– The proposals of the Government prove that novices are at work on. the other side.
– The honorable member reminds me that we have novices on the Government side in connexion with industrial matters. They have never made any sacrifices whatever, and have never passed through the hard school of experience. No doubt they live on interest from war loans, and many of them owe their present outlook to the fact that they have never had to work for their living.
– The Leader of the Country party appears to be gagged. He is evidently not allowed to speak.
– I have noticed that also. Although my experience in this House is limited, I know that it has been the custom in the. past for the Commonwealth Treasurer to submit his own financial proposals to the House, and at least to defend them. I have noticed that the present Treasurer has lapsed into complete silence during this debate. It is evident that the separate identity which he claimed to possess a few months ago has now ceased to exist.
Turning to the question of immigration, the Prime Minister said that we were dragging into the gutter of party politics this very important question. From practical experience, having travelled around the world, it appears to me that the Prime Minister is dragging the reputation of Australia into the international gutter by perpetuating the present pernicious immigration system. Hundreds of immigrants have been dumped into Australia without any provision being made for their welfare or for their absorption in industries. The press of Australia is filled with tales of the poverty and misery that have resulted from the present unscientific system. Hundreds of immigrants who were brought here under that system have returned to England to condemn Australia as a land of confidence tricksters, so far as Governments in this country are concerned. They have complained that they were lured here by false promises of work, which, after their arrival, were not fulfilled. The English press is filled with condemnations of the Australian immigration methods. Any Government having the effrontery and the cold-blooded audacity to ask this House to support the present system must be blind to the facts, and must be unaware of the big body of Australian sentiment that is strongly opposed to the continuance of present methods. No care appears to be exercised in the selection of immigrants Hundreds have come here whose physical and mental condition indicates that they were carelessly selected. The press of New South Wales was recently filled with reports of crimes, obviously committed by mentally deficient immigrants. Only recently one of the most monstrous and criminal outrages ever perpetrated in New South Wales was committed by an assisted immigrant. The Government, absolutely ignoring the facts, venture to champion and support the continuance of present methods. .
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the Prime Minister addressed the House .he attempted to escape responsibility for the present bungling methods of conducting immigration by distorting certain utterances of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), into whose mouth he placed sentiments never given expression to by him. For instance, the Prime Minister suggested that the Leader of the Opposition had stated that all the immigrants now coming here are derelicts - an absolutely untruthful misrepresentation of what was said. The Labour party recognise that the great majority of immigrants in the past, who came here assisted or unassisted, were eminently desirable; and our protest is against the scheme of assisted immigration subsidized by the Government. No care is exercised in . the selection of suitable types of immigrants; by this I mean the selection of people who can be readily absorbed by agricultural and other industries in which there is a scarcity of labour. Under the methods adopted by the Government hundreds of clerks andunskilled labourers are simply dumped into our streets, and numbers are in a condition of penury and want owing to the reckless disregard by the Government of their welfare. The overseas settlement scheme, which is subsidized by the British Government, is responsible for unloading on Australia a large number of physically unfit people. When I was in hospital, upon my return ‘from war service, I met one immigrant who had been passed by English and Australian doctors as physically suitable for farm work.
He had arrived here in the last stages of an extremely contagious disease, and he died three weeks after landing. This is one instance which shows the Government’s entire disregard of the national welfare, for this man’s family, together with his father and mother, became a burden on the Australian people. That is a case typical of many hundreds that have resulted from the present pernicious methods. I claim that the Labour party are quite justified in opposing immigration when recent statistics show that unemployment is increasing. There has been a large increase in unemployment during the last six months, and that, in itself, should induce the Government to consider its position in relation to immigration. Before introducing immigrants the Government ought to promote Australian industry, guarantee continuity of the Government shipbuilding programme, and afford opportunity for the development of the resources of the country to the fullest possible extent.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, said that the making of land available for immigrants is a matter “ for the States. I had not thought that the honorable gentleman would seek to so lightly disregard his responsibility. The question of making land available is a national one, calling for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth could effectively cooperate by breaking up large estates; if necessary, by imposing additional land taxation with that object. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration, but we claim that our policy is the only sane one under present conditions. Unemployment must at least be reduced to the minimum, and I am sure no one can claim, that there has been any such reduction. Further, the claims of landhungry Australians must first be satisfied, and sufficient funds made available for land settlement on the lines adopted by the Canadian Government, before any policy of immigration is discussed. Let the same degree of efficiency be exercised in this work as is shown in the conduct of Flinders-lane warehouses.
I have just received a copy of a letter which has been sent to President Harding by Mr. J. J. Davis, Secretary to the Department of Labour for the United States of America, setting out his views on American problems in relation to immigration. This letter, I consider, has a direct bearing on our own immigration policy, and justifies the attitude of the Labour party. Extracts from the letter read as follows: -
I am sure that no one who has the best interests of America and the future of humanity at heart can disagree with me when I hold that we must bar from America every individual who is physically, mentally, or morally unsound.
Times have changed materially, Mr. President, since you entered the White House. At that time, when the, three per cent, restriction on immigration was decided upon, you will remember that we had more than 5,000,000 of our working people idle, and that we faced what seemed almost certain industrial panic. Industries were closing because of lack of markets, wage scales were falling in many industries, industrial strife was spreading. Immigration restriction was one of the measures which helped to put an end to the industrial panic. . . . To-day, unemployment has been reduced to a minimum, wages everywhere are rising. During the past year, “even during the past few months, there -have been wage increases in practically all of the forty-three industries reporting to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. They have been very general in the basic industries, and have ranged from two to twenty per cent. Recently the larger steel plants announced general wage increases of eleven per cent., which will undoubtedly be applied throughout the industry. In the past year industrial pay-rolls have increased approximately twenty-five per cent. Production in basic industries during January of this year reached a higher level than at any time in history, except in May, 1917. Expanding freight shipments likewise demonstrate the completeness of our industrial recovery. Under these conditions, with labour everywhere in demand it is inevitable that there should be agitation among some for the lifting of immigration restrictions. It is unnecessary to point nut the evil of throwing open the gates at a time of prosperity in order to flood the country with workers and non-workers, whose very presence would serve to bring prosperity to an . end.
It is a short-sighted policy to seek cheap labour through immigration. To-day, because of the demand for workers, there is a perceptible movement of common labour of a low grade from a contiguous country. Large groups of this nationality are finding their way into our mills and factories. I have talked with employers who have taken on those men, and in every case they admit that an upstanding American workman would do two and one- half times the work that is accomplished by the individual of this racial group. That being so, it is quite apparent that it is cheaper to pay an American worker twice the wages which the foreigners receive. It has been my experience since the days when I worked in the mills that cheap labour is expensive labour, both for the industry which employs it, and for the community which houses it.
America found it necessary bo impose restrictions upon the unlimited introduction of immigrants who were really threatening the economic standards, and endangering the prosperity of every section of the people, including the primary producers. America’s problems are ours to-day. Mr. Davis, in his letter, also stresses the fact that it would be an evil now to throw open the gates to a large influx of population because the prosperity of the “United States of America would again be imperilled. Since the Prime Minister referred to the position in America, I felt justified in quoting from Mr. Davis’s letter to the President of the United States of America, because it bears upon this discussion and amply supports the attitude taken by the Labour party. In the communication to which I refer there is reference also to the necessity of examining immigrants and the selection of suitable types. Our party stands .for that policy in Australia. Any day honorable members may find in the Melbourne press reports of unemployed clamouring for work in this. city. From fifty to sixty per cent, of these unemployed are immigrants brought out to Australia under the policy of the Government. Honorable members opposite condemn bolshevism and communism. Apparently they overlook the fact that the callous indifference of the Government to their national obligations 13 so much effective propaganda for bolshevism and communism.
Early in the debate one honorable ‘ member referred to the “ red “ objective of the Labour party. That is only one of the bogies which our friends opposite introduce for the purpose of clouding the issues that face this Parliament- issues that for solution require practical legislation. The people of Australia will judge the Labour movement on the legislation already standing to its credit, and its policy for the future. Honorable members on the Government side used the so-called !< red “ objective against the Labour Government in Queensland, but; it cut no ice in that State. Mr. Theodore has been returned with an overwhelming majority simply because his Government are giving the people of Queensland what they are asking for - practical legislation - that insures the welfare of every section of the community.
– And that was the issue which we placed before the electors on the last occasion.
– My honorable friend, the Leader of my party, has properly reminded me that we contested the last election on this objective, with the result that the people gave their indorsement to our policy of idealism, as opposed to a policy of negation, black labour, and retrogression, submitted by honorable members now on the Government side.
– But you told the electors of Reid that that was not your objective.
– I told the electors of .”Reid just what I am telling this- House, and I advise the honorable member for Bass not to place too much credence upon statements appearing in the hireling press that is so ready to champion the interests of his party. He would not be here but for the fact that the anti-Labour press helped to cloak his shortcomings.
I am surprised at the absolute silence, the confession of ineptitude, on the part of members of the deceased Country party. We have not heard a word from them during this debate. I see, facing me at this moment, the Leader of that party, one who is supposed to be the Treasurer, and the- custodian of our finances, but, so far, we have not had a single sentence from him in explanation of the financial proposals which form b”y far the larger -portion of the subject-matter of the Governor-General’s Speech. I am, therefore, forced to the conclusion that, instead of being styled the Treasurer, his portfolio should bear the title “ Minister for Paralyzed Intelligence.” There is every indication that a condition of mental paralysis affects, not only the Treasurer, but also the honorable members for Indi, Swan, and Echuca, who, during the last Parliament were loud in their condemnation of the bungling administration of the Hughes Government. To-day they refuse to support our request for investigation into many of the great scandals about which they had so much to say then. In March last we were told they would hold private investigations into War Service Homes scandals. All we can get from them now, in spite of the public indignation and protests from the occupants of War Service Homes is that there will be an investigation into one contract. On this alone the Government stand condemned as unworthy of confidence. Instead of this Chamber being called the House of Representatives it ought to be termed, judged by the occupants of Ministerial benches, the House of Mental Paralytics. Members of the Country party, notwithstanding their protestations of separate entity, are politically dead. They have sunk all their principles in the formation of this infamous Coalition Government, and when the next election comes we on this side of the House will perform the pleasant task of burying them politically for all time.
– You would like to.
– We will, too. The result of the Queensland elections is the writing on the wall for this Government and their supporters, as they will find when next they face the electors. If members of the defunct Country party are courageous enough to express the disapproval which, I am sure, some of them feel for some of the actions of the present Government - up to the present they have been bludgeoned into a condition of silence - the Government will soon have to face the electors again and will be flung into oblivion. Australia needs a vigorous virile Government, and not one which deals in platitudes and schoolboy aphorisms. The Government confronting us to-day have not displayed any constructive ability or shown any intention of giving effect to a policy that would be acceptable to the people of Australia. When honorable members opposite speak of patriotism, I am reminded of an epigram of Dr. Johnson, who said that “ Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” That is proved by the record of this Government, and when Johnson expressed that sentiment he was doubtless referring to men such as those who comprise the present Administration. I have been a member of this Chamber for a short time only, but I have been here sufficiently long to realize that there is too much cant, hypocrisy, and humbug-
– That remark is out of order, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. I shall, however, say that I am satisfied that every member on this side of the House doubts the ability of the Government to carry outeven the programme submitted to this Parliament. The mere fact that Parliament is to go into recess within ten weeks indicates that the Government and their supporters are afraid of disruption in their ranks. I feel confident that when an appeal is made to the electors the Labour party will be returned with an overwhelming majority and with a mandate to govern the Commonwealth, which the present Government do not possess.
.- The silence of the Government supporters deprives one of much scope for criticism. Up to the present, with the exception of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), no one on the other side of the House has spoken. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, to which I shall endeavour to confine my remarks, asserts that -
We consider that your Advisors no longer retain the confidence of this House owing to their attempt to limit the rights of the Commonwealth with regard to constitutional powers with special reference to financial and industrial matters; also for the unsatisfactory arrangements made in connexion with immigration.
The kindly feelings I may have towards some members of the Government do not prevent me from supporting the amendment. I had the privilege and pleasure of hearing the speech of the Prime Minister delivered in Perth. It was a fine speech, but the audience, which was large, consisted chiefly of well-to-do merchants, shopkeepers, and others. The great mass of workers was not represented. After the meeting I was asked what I thought of the speech, and I said it was a very good one, but that it appeared from the utterances of the Prime Minister that this was a one-man Government, and if the Leader of the Government remains a dictator he will go further than its supporters desire. Could there be a better proof of that venturesome phophecy than the fact that Parliament is going into recess while he is absent in England ? If our existing laws were perfect, and there were nothingto amend or improve, his proposal would be justified ; but it appears to me that he does not wish to leave the government of Australia in the hands of the other gentlemen who occupy the Treasury bench.
If the Prime Minister represents Australia at the forthcoming Imperial Conference I trust that on his return he- will present to this Parliament .a balancesheet of his expenses, and if I judge him aright, I do not think he will be afraid to show in detail how he has expended the money. The action of Senator Pearce, who, when Minister for Defence, represented the Commonwealth at the Washington Disarmament Conference, and has not produced a detailed account of his expenses, which amounted to £8,000, was most dishonorable. The masses outside who had to contribute the money he expended, apparently, had not to be considered. I ask those who attended the public meetings which I addressed in Western Australia whether, if they had the power of recall, they would have allowed Senator Pearce to carry on in that way, and the reply was, “ We would like to drag him out.” Let us compare the action of Senator Pearce with that of that honorable and splendid man, the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, who when given £1,000 for his expenses on a visit to England, accounted for every penny,- and paid the unexpended balance into Consolidated Revenue. Strange to say, the ex-Minister for Defence is still a Minister, but not by the wish of his constituents in Western Australia, and I venture to prophesy that when he faces the electors on the next occasion he will be swept into political oblivion. I warn the Prime Minister that if he visits England it will be his duty, as an honorable man, to submit a balance-sheet of his expenditure.
Although the rights of the Commonwealth are imperilled, I do not suggest that it is the desire of the Prime Minister or his supporters that the Commonwealth should be made subservient to the States. Although it was understood at the inception of Federation that the States were to retain sovereign powers, it was never expected that the abominable system of maintaining six Agents-General in London would be continued. Was it anticipated that there would be six separate Chief Justices? God knows we have enough laws, but too little justice! The ringing tocsin throughout the length and breadth of Australia was that we would dispense with all unnecessary expenditure. Has that been done? The Commonwealth has been in existence for twentythree years, and we still have six AgentsGeneral. Australia House cost, approximately, £1,000,000 to construct; but I do not know how many thousands of pounds have been expended there yearly. I do know, however, that the present High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook), towards whom I have the most friendly feeling, has been complaining of the number of banquets he has to attend. Australia never sent him there to eat dinners, and if he- is being asked to partake of too much, surely the surplus can be distributed amongst the starving poor in London. What has Australia House done beyond introducing rich Australians to Royalty? Any one who has seen the “ kick-back “ the ladies are obliged to give in order to avoid stepping on .their trains when retiring from the presence of Royalty, must have laughed heartily, as I did when I had it explained. There is nothing more ridiculous in a pantomime. Australia is maintaining seven government agencies in London. I am sure that at least £50,000 a year could be saved in this direction.
The Prime Minister says the Government are whittling nothing away. He said, in his reply to the Leader of the Opposition -
The position was that the field which the Commonwealth was vacating compared with the payments which it was going to be freed from making would probably mean a loss tothe Commonwealth of £1,500,000.
Is not that a pretty substantial whittling away S
While I am dealing with the represen’tation of Australia in London, let me point out this further absurdity: Mr. Tate, the Director of Education in Victoria, who is now in Great Britain, has been credited with making the statement that in some of the school books in use in English schools it is laid down that in Australia children of white parents soon become as the tawny natives around them, and that it is an exception to see white children growing up in certain parts of the Commonwealth. It is not to be wondered at that the people of Great Britain know very little about Australia. According to a cablegram appearing in this morning’s Sun, the London Daily Herald has published an article in which it is declared that “ water is unobtainable in some districts” of Australia. It is true that water may be unobtainable in some’ districts in times of drought, but in my life-time there has never been such a drought in Australia that some part of the continent could not supply the food requirements of other parts. According to the Daily Herald also, “the inhabitants of some townships are forced to buy water.” I can remember when people had to buy water in the city of Melbourne, and even to-day water has to be bought in London, which is supplied by a private company.The Daily Herald article also says -
Mr. Lawson and Sir George Fuller omitted to explain why Australians huddle together in the sea-board cities, leaving the drudgery, loneliness, and privation of the backblocks to the tenderfoot.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Gregory), one of the acknowledged Free Traders in this House, is not in the chamber. I have heard him interjecting during the debate, but apparently he has had the padlock of silence fixed on his lips and dare not make a speech. I would remind the younger members on the Ministerial side that their constituents do not expect them to remain silent. They have brains to think, and tongues with which to speak their thoughts, and they owe the duty to their constituents to uphold their end in the discussions of this Chamber. If, however, they prefer to remain silent, I warn them that their electors are watching them. The Commonwealth Hansard is circulated to-day in more homes than ever before.
I am fairly well known in Western Australia, and when I am in Perth I am frequently stopped in the street by men who are seeking employment. My last visit to the western State was for the purpose of seeing my son, who is on the land at some distance from Perth. I took the opportunity of making inquiries among the farmers I met on that occasion, and found that I could easily have obtained work from them for at least three men whom I had met in Perth if the places which they might have obtained had not already been filled by men arriving from Great Britain. Those who have seen, as I have, the miserable conditions under which men live not only in the East End, but also in the West End of London, would never refuse to give those people a chance of making good in Australia, but it is not fair to bring men out to this country in order to cut down the wages of those already living here. One old farmer, with whom I had a long chat on this subject, said, “ I wish I had seen you before I wrote down to Perth in order to get one of those ‘ pommies ‘ to come up here. If he does not come up I will give the job to the man you mention.” I asked what the wages would be, and the farmer replied, “ They tell me in Perth that if I give a man £1 a week and his tucker ‘ it will be sufficient.” I saw where some of the men were accommodated on these farms. An aboriginal in his mia-mia would be more comfortable than I found these men to be. His bush knowledge would enable the blackfellow to ascertain which way the wind was blowing, and make himself fairly comfortable with his feet to the fire, but these men from the Old Country had not had the slightest training in the making of their camps comfortable. My son’s partner employed one of them when he was short of hands, but he gave the man £2 a week and his “ tucker “ to start with, and a decent place in which to sleep.
– If that statement had not come from the honorable member I would not have believed it.
– I do not know any one more capable in respect to the work he is doing than is the gentleman in charge of immigration in Perth. It is not his fault that these conditions exist. The excuse offered for the smallness of the wage is that the immigrant’s do not know the working conditions of bush life of Australia, and it is fair that they should draw only a small allowance until they get their footing in their new surroundings. Common sense, however, will tell one that if a farmer can get half the work done for £1 a week and “tucker,” he will not pay for a full day’s work the 13s. a day, which is the ruling rate in the district where my son is farming. I believe that there is no State in Australia which helps a man who is willing to work to go on the land more than does Western Australia. Fifty-one years ago I went on the land in Victoria, and surely there should have been enough land in those days for anybody willing to work. I was given a block, ten miles south of Warragul, among the heavy timber. Two years before I went there a railway was promised, but it was not built until a few years ago. Of the original settlers in the locality no survivor is now living in the district. I was a hank clerk at the time, and was not physically fit to cope with a block containing twenty-five trees to the acre, each over 8 feet in thickness. Comparing my experience with that of present-day settlers in Western Australia, the contrast is remarkable. When my son took up land there a railway route had been surveyed. It had been necessary to carry goods 60 miles, and water had to be carted a distance of 20 miles, but before eighteen months had elapsed there was a narrow-gauge line within a mile of my son’s hut. It is suggested that millions should be spent on the unification of railway gauges. Any one who has been accustomed to a bullock dray would value a railway of any gauge, even if the train did not exceed a speed of 5 miles an hour. Western Australia has a greater mileage of railways, and its country people are better catered for in the matter of railway facilities than the settlers in Victoria, which has four times the population and is a much richer State. A man willing to work has a better chance of making a success of a holding in Western Australia than in any other part of the Commonwealth.
– Except Queensland.
– I do not admit that, although I recognise the great potentialities of the northern State,
– (What Government is in power in Western Australia?
– A Government which supports the views of the honorable member.
– Yet you contend that Western Australia is the best place in the Commonwealth in which to settle.
– Past Labour Governments have left their legacies in the form of Liberal land laws. That legislation was fairly well based before the present Government took office in the western State.
– Party opposition is not active in Western Australia as it is in this Parliament. The various parties are working together.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. I suppose that Queensland and Western Australia will become strong rivals in doing the best possible for those who settle on the land.
Men who ought to be in gaol for bribery are going about free in Queensland today. A law should be passed providing that the individuals who were- bribed for the purpose of defeating the Labour Government of Queensland should remain in prison until they divulged the names of the rich people who bribed them. If that course were followed, those guilty of bribery would probably confess their offence, knowing that the men in prison might eventually disclose their names. If the people of Queensland were asked for their verdict, I think they would favour having the men kept in gaol until the bribers were discovered.
– The Government was very wise in getting hold of some of that money, and paying it into the Consolidated Revenue.
– The regrettable feature is that the guilty parties have so far escaped. Those who supplied the bribe are worse than the men who received it.
Some time ago three men representing the financial interests of Queensland took it upon themselves to go to Great Britain in order to throw the Labour Government’s borrowing arrangements into confusion. They told the British moneylenders that they must on no account advance money to the Socialistic Government in Queensland. The Premier (Mr. Theodore) went to another money market, and the result, happily, was splendid from a business point of view. He obtained money from the United States of America when the exchange rate was three dollars odd to the pound sterling, and now the rate is about four and a half dollars to the pound. The confidence of the people of Queensland in their Labour Administration has been clearly expressed through the ballot-box at the latest elections.
I strongly deprecate the action of the Commonwealth Government in proposing to take from the employees of State in’strumentalities their right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court. The highest Court in Australia, and the only High Court of a continent in the world, has declared that that right is undoubted. Australians are not all fools, and if the men and women employed in. State activities are prepared to forgo their right in this matter, I have sadly misjudged them. I cannot understand any man who speaks the English tongue suggesting that the public servant of a State has no right to approach a Court of the Commonwealth. How much better it is for a Commonwealth tribunal to determine industrial conditions and make them apply generally to the States than for varying laws to be put into operation in different parts of Australia. How much simpler it is to say that overtime shall be paid for at the rate of time and a half throughout the Commonwealth than to grant allowances of a varying nature.
Prior to the war I ventured to speak on the question of finance. I do not wish honorable members opposite to imagine that we on this side of the House are against capital. We adopt the view held by such men as Sir Leo Chiozza Money, who is not opposed to capital, but to capitalism as it exists at present, which masquerades in the name of patriotism. I admire true patriotism as much as any man, but not the false patriotism of the rich men. of the city who refused to contribute to war loans in comparison with their wealth. As a matter of fact, some of them contributed to the war loans Only when the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) flourished his lash and threatened to take their money from them if they would not lend it voluntarily. Those are the men who wave flags, who create distress, and who glory in monuments. I can speak on this matter as the only member of the State Recruiting Committee of Victoria who went through the recruiting campaign from beginning to end. Others who were with me at the start have gone into the limbo of political oblivion. The chairman attended a few meetings, and then disappeared; another took his place, and disappeared likewise, and so it went on. The wealthy people of this community have not done their duty in assisting the present and past Governments to do justice to the returned soldiers, or to float loans. Over 700,000 Australians offered their services in response to their country’s call. Out of that number 430,000 were accepted, and 337,000 went across the seas. They offered their lives, and it is as well to remember, in the words of Ruskin, that “ Life is the only wealth.” What were they promised? I can answer that question as one who was instructed to promise them that their women folk and children would be looked after. Certainly after no previous war were the veterans and the wounded so well cared for, yet the promises made to our men have not been fully kept. Promises made in this Chamber by the State Government during the South African war were deliberately broken. One great man, Sir John Madden, who was at times Acting Governor of Victoria, was manly enough to say publicly that the promises which his lips were made to utter had been scandalously broken. Twenty years after the money was subscribed for the purpose, a monument is being erected on St. Kilda-road to the memory of those who fought in that war.. Who were the members of the Committee which was concerned in that matter ? They were the swells of Melbourne, and it is they who have held the money back all that time. The men who served in the South African war were treated shamefully in comparison with those who enlisted in the Great War. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is a medical man, will agree with me that it is absurd that a soldier returning to this country with nervous ailments of which the medical profession had little knowledge before the war, and who is liable to be ill at any moment, should be compelled to attend at fixed red-tape hours to obtain an order for his admission to a hospital. I feel sure the Treasurer will take steps to remedy that.
Our Australia, in. the words of the late Sir Denison Miller, is worth over £2,000,000,000. That is a very conservative estimate. If any honorable member would like to know my views of Sir Denison Miller, as expressed in his presence, I would refer him to the Honorable Mr. Higgs, who was once Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and I give Mr. Higgs my permission to relate everything that occurred. Mr. Scott asked Sir Denison Miller whether he would be prepared, as he had advanced £365,000,000 to the country for war purposes, to advance a similar sum to organize Australia on good business lines. Sir Denison Miller replied that he would do his best. I am quoting these facts from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 8th July, 1921. At a later stage, Sir Denison Miller said that he would be prepared to advance the money if asked to do so by the Commonwealth Government. He knew the potentialities of Australia, and he knew that what we wanted was more capital, but not an extension of the system of capitalism under which we now suffer.
Before I leave the subject of the war, there is another point to which I would like to refer. There are two other classes of intelligent beings in the world besides human beings, namely, the ant and the bee. If one race of ants fights against another race and defeats it, the defeated ones have either to go into slavery or suffer death. The conquering ants, however, are not so foolish as to hand on the cursed cross of interest, as the human being does, for future generations to pay. The children of the men who died at the front are helping to pay the interest on our cursed war debt, and yet the world is as rich to-day, if not richer, than ever it was, for the genius of invention is at work even in these times to assist us to increase production. The Government, in view of the .fact that the unimproved value of land is given to it entirely by the people who reside in Australia, should provide that during the next ten years, or until the war debt has been paid ofl, the unearned increase should be appropriated. This would be quite fair. Mr. Sol Green, with others, has purchased a valuable block of land at the corner of Collins and Swanston streets, and I am told that their tenants’ rents have been quadrupled. I do not know what the property is worth, but if we suppose- that it was worth £60,000, and has increased fourfold, it is now worth £240,000. Mr. Sol. Green and his associates have not created that value. I have looked at some of the tenants, and I can see the lines of care on their foreheads and in the corners of their eyes indicating the difficulties they are encountering in paying their rents. The Commonwealth Government says that the law of the Commonwealth - a terrible thing is law - has nothing to do with landlords or their tenants. The Government could, however, refer the matter to the Premiers and the Treasurers of the various States, and ask them to bring in a Fair Rents Act, which would insure that only a fair rent was charged. There is, however, no chance of that. I am looking through the columns of the press, the great educator of to-day, and waiting until a statesman arises and says that it is his aim, ideal, and hope that the head of every family shall enjoy his own home unafraid of the landlord’s intrusion.
The Government have power to institute that innovation. The late Sir Denison Miller stated that he was willing to advance as much as £350,000,000 if requested by. the Commonwealth Government. It was stated that it was impossible to build the city railway under Hyde Park, in Sydney, but Sir Denison Miller, within seven days of being approached, undertook to finance the scheme. I have gained my knowledge of landlordism from the Old Book. The Jewish jubilee occurred every fiftieth year, and in that year the Jewish people could return to their homes; that privilege extended also to children whose parents had died. The law provided that no home could be alienated for more than fifty years; if a house or block of land was disposed . of five years after a jubilee, it reverted to the owning family in forty-five years. On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s jubilee, she was the recipient of innumerable gifts, although she was already one of the richest women in Europe; but under the old Hebraic law the jubilee year restored to every man, woman and child his or her home. The Government of Western Australia, to its credit, has enabled many railway workers, in the district of Narrogin particularly, to obtain cottages at a minimum cost, an example which could be followed with advantage by the Governments of Victoria and the Commonwealth.
The price of foodstuffs have been unduly raised ‘by men connected with Flinderslane. One case of overcharging by a nian in Flinders-lane was investigated by Major-General McCay. Unfortunately, the offender could not be imprisoned, but he was ordered to refund the overcharge. If General McCay had had the power to imprison men found guilty of this fraudulent practice, there would have been a different tale. Mr. Harrison Ord, the first secretary of the Labour Department of Victoria - not a Labour man, but a good stalwart Liberal - quoted in one of his reports an instance of fraudulent practice. A manufacturer was paying girls, termed apprentices, only 2s. 6d. per week. They were paid on the Saturday morning, and the 2s. 6d. was collected from them on the Monday morning on the pretence that they were being taught a trade. Mr. Ord stated that if any girl asked for an increase of wage she was “ sacked.”
The Government intend to limit, this session to a period of ten weeks. The people outside do not approve of the
Prime Minister and other Ministers continually tripping to England, and Parliament being idle during their absence; and if Ministers think otherwise I advise them to be warned by the fate of the ex-Lord Mayor of Perth (Sir William Lathlain). He was advocating in the City Council the purchase of a certain area as a site for a new Town Hall. There were eleven votes for the proposal, and twelve against. Sir William Lathlain, as Lord Mayor, voted for the purchase, and then declared the proposal carried on his-casting vote. Trouble arose amongst the citizens, and ultimately the Lord Mayor threw down the gage of battle by resigning from his exalted office in order to test the feeling of the ratepayers a’v a mayoral election. When the votes were counted he was third on the list. Let the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) take notice that the people of Australia do not support him in his present proposals for limiting the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, and making the Commonwealth more subservient to the States; nor do they approve of his intended visit to England. If he doubts my word, I invite him to contest the constituency of Melbourne; I will resign to give him an opportunity of testing the feeling of the people.
– That is a fair challenge.
– I extend it to any other honorable member who cares to accept it. If I felt that I did not represent the views of the majority of my constituents, I would have no hesitation in submitting myself to their will.
– The honorable member has a personal following which no one else would have.
– That is very complimentary; but what does a personal vote signify ? I believe I am the only man in this Assembly who has sufficient confidence in his constituents to give them the right of recalling him at any time.
The Prime Minister proposes to attend the Imperial Conference, and insists that there shall be no legislation during his absence. No attitude could be more absurd, and I cannot understand how honorable members on the Government side can indorse it. The only explanation is that the present Government is a oneman Ministry. I should like to quote a speech on finance which I made in 1912, and which won encomiums from people in Canada and South Africa, members of the House of Lords, the House of Commons, and the Admiralty staff. In that speech I showed that a considerable amount of money, approximately £20,000,000, could be saved by the transfer of State debts to the Commonwealth, and I suggested that the money thus made available should be spent upon warships and other means of safeguarding the Empire’s food supply routes during war. Had that £20,000,000 been saved and so used it might have had a quietening effect upon the Kaiser in regard to a declaration of war. I quote from a speech made by Mr. Bonar Law, ex-Prime Minister of England. He said -
Ten years ago we not only had the command of the sea, but we had the command of every sea. What is the position now ? We have the command of no sea in the world except the North Sea at this moment. The change has been taking place before our eyes, and many times I have myself been reminded of what happened in the time of the decline of the Roman Empire, when pressure at the heart forced them to call their legions home to Rome. That has happened to us. We have had to call back our legions, and to call them back for precisely the same purpose. Nothing shows more completely how that has happened than an incidental remark of the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he said that a ship we intended to send to China and a vessel belonging to New Zealand had been retained for home service.
We are spending money in fitting men to take their places in tie Army and the Navy. One honorable member of this House has said that it will cost. £1,000 per student. There are more masters than there are scholars, and much that is taught could be included in the studies at our Universities. Certainly we had control of the North Sea as long as there were no submersibles. What happened when submarines came upon the scene? The strongest array of naval ships that the world has ever seen was forced to lock themselves up like prisoners. A. sloop of war of 100 tons, in the time of Nelson, sailed the seas of the world with greater freedom than is possible to-day to these mighty engines of war, which are always confronted with the possibility of being sunk by a torpedo from a submersible. Since the last war improvements have been effected in this type of vessel, yet there are still fools, decorated with epaulets, who advise us ito build capital snips. The naval Base at Singapore will cost £9,000,000 to build. For what use is it intended? It is intended to be used for .these big capital ships, which are a thing of the past. Investigations that were carried out in the United States of America demonstrated that though a bomb does not touch a ship, if it explodes near the ship the force of the explosion may destroy every electrical contrivance on board. Honorable members are aware that if the electrical contrivances on board a man-o’-war are interfered with it is all up with the ship. Admiral Sir Percy Scott states that the only reply which he has received to his question, “ What use is a battleship ?” is that . it is “ no damned use at all !” In an article on the subject Sir Percy concludes by saying -
The question is, in time of war, how will capital ships get to Singapore, and what will they do if they get there?
The expenditure necessary to build a capital ship to-day would be sufficient to build an air force that would extend round our 12,000 miles of sea-girt coast. If we possessed such a force of aeroplanes, each carrying only two men with bombs, what Admiral would dare to convoy a fleet to invade Australia? Every aeroplane station would have a radius of 250 miles. It was idiotic to talk of building capital ships even when the submersibles had not reached their present state of perfection and when aeroplane construction was not nearly so far advanced as it is at the present time. The capital ships then had to lock themselves up in order to remain in safety. Certainly they prevented the German fleet from doing any damage. The men who manned the ships of that fleet were as brave as any men who have tramped on any deck since the world began.
– Can the honorable member give us the cost of building a modern Dreadnought?
– When I last sought that information the cost was £9,000,000. When I was in Japan last year I saw lying alongside the Renown the strongest man-o’-war in the world. Japan has made a wonderful advance in the construction of deadly vessels of war. That particular vessel was estimated to cost over £10,000,000 of our money.
– Built by Japanese workmen ?
– Yes. I shall deal now with the Henderson Naval Base.
On one occasion I went with the then Minister for the Navy to inspect that Base. The officials endeavoured to prevent his going down on the Mole, saying, “ You can see it from here, sir.” He was man enough to say that he would go down and have a look at it. He did so, and I went with him. It was built of material that I took to be a species of limestone which hardens when exposed to the weather. It had been quarried at a short distance from the water, being blasted out with dynamite or some other explosive. But after being dumped at the end of the mole a large portion was washed clean away. The water near the mole looked just like milk. We- were told that a little rough weather which was experienced one night caused 50 yards of the mole to be washed away. That Minister made great changes. He was wise enough to bring back with him a bag )f the material. What is the use of spending millions on that Base to accommodate capital ships? A Base for submarines is quite a different proposition, as any naval architect will tell honorable members. We have in Australia naval architects who can deal with these matters. If you ask a naval architect whether a Base that is suitable for the accommodation of capital ships would be suitable for submarines he will say, “ Yes.” If you ask whether a Base for submarines could be provided at a fraction of the cost necessary for a Base for capital ships, “ Yes “ will be the answer. Therefore, why continue wasting the people’s money in this manner? The people have no say in the matter/ We are supposed to be the judges, and we should certainly prevent the continuance of this state of affairs. Victoria, having regard to its limited opportunities, as compared with the larger States, has done well in the matter of soldier settlement. Reference is often made to the excessive price of farming lands in Australia, but in a book entitled Foundations of Japan, by Robertson Scott, who, under the pen-name of “ Home Counties,” is a well-known contributor to’ English newspapers on farming and such like subjects, it is pointed out that in Japan as much as £500 per acre is frequently paid for rice land, and that occasionally as much as £1,000 per acre is secured. In
Japan I have stood on land used only for agricultural purposes, for which no les3 than £1,800 per acre has been paid. In the light of the information given in this book, and of my own first-hand knowledge, I cannot help thinking that it would be well for the Commonwealth Government to acquire a large block of land for settlement purposes, and to deal with it very much on the lines followed in connexion with the Kendenup settlement, in Western Australia. The success of that enterprise was blocked only by the failure of an American firm to keep its engagements. I visited Kendenup, and was astonished at the progress that had been made in its development within the short period of eighteen months. It is linked up by rail with the nearest port, 40 miles away, and. although portion of it consists only of second-class country, it also comprises some really splendid land. I saw there fruit trees, only eighteen months old, that were over 6 feet in height. There is not an acre of land in the estate that; would not grow good fruit. The seventy returned soldiers who settled on Kendenup are surely entitled to receive from the Commonwealth Government the help that would have been given them had they availed themselves of the repatriation scheme, and I am glad to know that other settlers there will be assisted by the State Government. I came round from Western Australia by a steam-ship on which there were a number of immigrants - a fine body of men and women - journeying to the eastern States, and, having regard to the fact that early this year, in New South Wales, there were over 1,060 applicants for one block, I fail to see how these and other immigrants are to be settled on the land unless action is taken by the Government in the direction I have indicated. The Government should acquire a large block of ground, provide it with railway communication, subdivide it into farms and township blocks, and set up a school and a co-operative store. We have in Australia any number of menwho would be able to manage such a settlement. My first experience of village settlement was when the late Sir James Patterson was Premier of Victoria, and the office of Minister of Lands was held by Sir John Mclntyre. They never intended that village settlers should be given a chance, since they put them on land which would not carry even a goat.
Had good land been secured, they would have made a great success of the scheme. I was one of the caustic critics of the original Mildura settlement scheme, and frequently asked the Government of the day why Chaffey Brothers were allowed to charge £25 and more per acre for land which ‘ they had obtained on extended terms for £1 per acre. Some years later, however, I said good-bye to an engineering friend of mine, who, after working a block at Mildura for some years, was able to set out on a two years’ tour round the world, and who told me that he had let his block for £10 per week. Mildura, when first thrown open for settlement, was 150 miles away from a railway station, and it is 300 miles from Port Melbourne. There is room for more work in the same direction.
I have spoken of the high rents which the people are compelled to pay. Early in the war I asked the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to bring in legislation to prevent landlords from charging exorbitant rents. The right honorable member could have dealt with the matter under the War Precautions Act, just as, availing himself of its provisions, he declared a moratorium for his own particular benefit - I have in mind the SmithHughes episode - but he would do nothing in the direction of requiring that the demands of landlords should be based on a fair rental value. I object to the Commonwealth floating loans on the English market. We can raise locally all the money that we want. The Commonwealth Bank has behind it a whole continent, and, what is more, a continent in which only one language is spoken. Never did a bank start with such advantages as those enjoyed by the Commonwealth Bank. The balance-sheet of the Bank to-day shows assets amounting to no less than £126,438,717. Never in the history of the world has a bank grown so quickly and so safely as this Bank has done. Whilst giving all credit due to the late manager of the Bank, let me say that any well-accredited bank manager or financial expert would have succeeded with the opportunities that he had. When the Commonwealth Bank was formed, it took over the note issues of thirteen associated banks in Victoria, fifteen in New South Wales, and altogether of about thirty-seven different banks in Australia. When I estimated that in a year or two, the note issue of the Commonwealth Bank would touch £10,000,000, I was laughed at. But what is the position to-day ?” The note circulation of the Bank to-day represents £51,971,431. It has to be remembered that there is now only one bank note currant throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Prior to the - establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, if a man in Victoria had a Western Australian bank note, or a note of a New South Wales bank, he had to pay a shilling in the £1 to get cash for it. That has now all been done away with, and there remains only the confounded commission on cheques, which honorable members having bank accounts in the other States will be aware of. With the Commonwealth Bank there is no reason why we should go to other countries to float our loans. We should control the loan business in Australia, and in this connexion let me say that the best note struck by the Prime Minister when speaking at Perth was sounded in his references to the proposal to put an end to non-taxable loans. The honorable gentleman explained that whereas men of small means could only secure 5 per cent, on Government bonds, the wealthy in our community could secure a return equal to 10 per cent. . Why should any of our bonds be free from taxation ? To quote the code of the great Napoleon, property consists of two kinds, movable and immovable. No country so far has sacrificed its right to tax land. Land is sold only nominally and not actually, because no law can prevent a Government so inclined, and backed up by the people, from raising taxation on land up to its full ‘ value. Why should the present or past Government attempt to make the bonds of the country free of income tax? When I asked for a list of the richest men in the Commonwealth who paid income tax, in order to discover what amount of money they had taken up in the bonds of the country, I was refused the information. The wagesor salary of the King and Emperor of the British possessions, of those employed in the Navy, from the Admiral down to the powder monkey, in the Army, from the General down to the private, of Judges throughout the Empire, Prime Ministers and Ministers, Presidents and Speakers, and of every public servant throughout the British Dominion, are published. That being so, I ask why should not the incomes of all who pay our income tax be known. The publication of their incomes would prevent very often the evasion of the income tax, and we would know whether they had done their duty in taking up the bonds which it has been found necessary to issue to enable us to carry on the government of the country. What is Mr. Brown, even if he is a millionaire ? Is he as important as the King of England ? We know that he is not, yet the salary of the King of England is known. Because, forsooth, some people are able to pull strings, whether in Flinders-lane, Melbourne, or in George-street or Pitt-street, Sydney, what they earn must not be known !
Ref erring to the immigration question, let me say that I do not know of any man belonging to either the present or past Labour party who ever objected to persons coming to Australia to share in the advantages enjoyed by our people, so long as they are given a fair show. But I never knew one, whether of the past or present Labour party, who did not object to people being brought to Australia to reduce wages. People are being brought out to this country for that purpose. I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a pamphlet which I have here, and which it will give me much pleasure to hand over to him. It is the work of a man whom the King of England thought fit to honour with a knighthood because of his great financial ability. I refer to Sir Leo Chiozza Money. 1 was sorry to see that the Age newspaper of to-day takes up a position against my Leader, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Notwithstanding the general character of the leading article in to-day’s Age, I should like honorable members to read the articles on Trusts and Combines published in that newspaper, commencing with the issue for the 3rd July, 1919. They will see from those articles how well we might be employed during “the recess which is to be forced upon us because the Leader of the Government is going to England: I think I should read one sentence from the article in to-day’s Age, which commends the Leader of the Opposition. As praise from Sir Hubert is praise indeed, this is worth quoting. The Age says -
Mr. Charlton was quite right in demanding that land should be provided for newcomers, and that they should not be brought here to compete with our own people for employment.
I welcome that statement. If Parliament continues to sit during the absence of the Prime Minister -in England, an effort might be made to make the incidence of the income tax fairer. Then, again, Fair Rents Courts are certainly needed in Australia,, and if their creation prove to bo beyond the powers of the Commonwealth, efforts could be made to induce the State Premiers to introduce the necessary legislation. If the Prime Minister has not sufficient confidence in the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is second in command, he could avail himself of the services of that parliamentary veteran, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman). Another piece of legislation that might receive attention, if Parliament were to continue to sit, is the establishment of a national system of insurance, to which I think no objection is raised by financial experts. Why should a man, willing to work, not be supported if he be thrown out of employment? I ask leave to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
. - I am not opposed to our meeting on Tuesday, but it is ratherunfair on the part of the Prime Minister, after having kept the House in recess for four or five months, to suit his own convenience, to now propose, because he isgoing to London in ten weeks’ time, to again suit his convenience at the expense of honorable members. Many honorable members have believed that the usual sitting days would be adhered to, because it is only at the end of a session that additional sitting days are proposed. It is generally realized that the -programme outlined by the Government is sufficient to keep Parliament busy for the rest of the year ; and, indeed, there is no reason why we should not sit on, in spite of the Prime Minister’s absence. I am not endeavouring to evade work;in fact, I desire the work to go on, but of course in a proper manner. There should be no attempt to rush through in a few weeks important legislation affecting the welfare of the coun try merely to suit the honorable gentleman’s convenience. Because he is going abroad he proposes that Parliament shall shut down, and the remaining members of the Government permitted to administer the affairs of the country without Parliament having the opportunity to exercise its right of criticism. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with all his faults, never took such a course as is now proposed, but, when he went abroad, permitted the business of Parliament to proceed. The present Prime Minister knows very well that he could be provided with a pair, so that his party would experience no loss of strength in his absence. Surely there are sufficient brains on the front bench to carry on affairs in the absence of the Prime Minister. The only inference to be drawn from the motion before us is that, in his opinion, there is no one associated with him fit to take his place. What surprises me is that the members of the Country party, few in numbers as they are, should be like dumb dogs - for not one of them, notwithstanding what they say outside about preserving their separate identity, has said a word.
– I have allowed the honorable member the utmost latitude, but I must remind him that the terms of the motion are that the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, and he must confine himself strictly to that question.
– I am endeavouring to give reasons why we should not adjourn until Tuesday next; but, on the contrary, meet on the Wednesday as usual. The Prime Minister has not given any reason in support of his motion, and I submit that the House is entitled to know what actuates him in the course he is taking. There ought to be some courtesy shown by the Government towards honorable members. The present procedure is something new to me. Never in my experience has an Opposition received such treatment. Such methods may be all very well in ordinary business affairs^ but they are quite’ out of place when applied to the business of the country. The rules of Parliament should be adhered to as nearly as possible, and the unwritten rule of meeting on Wednesday ought, I submit, to be observed, unless there is some special reason for departing from it. Possibly the Prime Minister knows that he has the numbers “behind him; but if new members, who are, perhaps, not fully cognisant with parliamentary procedure, allow their rights to be frittered away in this manner, they will find out their mistake in the near future. The Prime ‘ Minister will have to learn that, in conducting the business of this Chamber, he must take the House into his confidence; we cannot accept without question any and every proposition that falls from his lips. We should not be expected to do that. Honorable members supporting the Government will be unable to justify themselves if they accept this proposal, which should be dealt with on its merits on the floor of this House and not at party meetings. The Prime Minister must not treat us- in this cavalier fashion.
– You had no objection to similar action by the Fisher Government, in 1915.
– The- Fisher Government, at all events, did some work, whereas the present Government have done nothing. The legislation passed ‘by the Fisher Government stands- as a monument to the Common wealth, and carried Australia successfully through the recent war.
– The Fisher Government. and their supporters conceded no. rights, to the Opposition at all. Theywould not. allow a member to speak.
– The Fisher Government never used the “gag.”
– I can produce about thirty forced divisions in 1915 to prove what I am saying.
– The Prime Minister; at all events, should give some, reason for the proposed departure from the ordinary procedure in regard to the sittings of the House at such an early stage of the session, and should explain why members are to be asked’ to come back on Tuesday. I am not pleading on personal grounds, because I do not want to shirk work. I am prepared to remain here until Christmas to discharge my parliamentary duties, and’ I think, we should be here until then if we are to do our duty properly.
– The Prime Minister’s proposal is to do more work in the week.
– And the honorable member’s desire is to ignore the work of the country and get back to his home in Queensland; but I remind him he is paid to be here, not in Queensland.
– Order !
– Apparently, thehonorable member for Wide Bay is not interested in the legislation that has to come before this Chamber, but is prepared’ to allow the Ministry to legislate? behind’ the back of Parliament. It is imperative that we should be in session for the rest of the year, to deal with the problems that may arise from time totime.
– We can give you: chapter and’ verse for the application of the “ gag “ by the Fisher Government.
– Well, there must, have been some, justification for it.. On the present occasion there is none,, for upto. the present the Government have done nothing.
– I repeat that the. Fisher Government, on occasions, would, notallow an Opposition member to. speak.
– All I can say isthat the honorable member has plenty of time to speak now, but he- and other Ministerial supporters prefer to remain silent and allow the Prime Minister to do thework of the- country in his own way. This habit seems to be growing. Some honorable members appear to havecome to the conclusion that- it is not necessary to attend to their legislativework. I know that, in certain, sections of the press, there will be an attempt tointerpret my remarks as meaning that.I do not want this House to sit- more thanthree days in each week, and. so I wish it to be clearly understood that I. desire. to sit right up to Christmas. We are. responsible for the welfare of the Commonwealth, and. it is our duty to- give diligent attention to the legislative programme before us. It is strange that, the Prime Minister should, at this earlystage, depart from the ordinary procedure without giving honorable members any reason.
– This matter has been decided at their Caucus meetings !
– I do not know what may have happened elsewhere;I am concerned only with what happens inthis Chamber. Other Prime Ministers have treated us with reasonable courtesy… and I remind the honorable gentleman that in his present action he is making a. rod for his own back. We have always been reasonable in our attitude towards Government measures, . and after fair criticism have allowed them to go . through ; but we are not going to be stifled. We shall use the forms of the House for the purpose of putting our position clearly, so that the people may know how the business of the Commonwealth is being carried on. I remind the Government and their supporters, especially the younger members, that beyond this House there is another tribunal, and that, if they wish to justify themselves in the eyes oftheir . constituents, they must see that the business of the country is conducted in a reasonable manner.
– But the Prime Ministetr’s proposal is made in order that there shall be more . time.
– And our suggestion is that we be allowed to sit here until about Christmas to do the work that has been placed’ before us-; not that we shall get up in ten weeks’ time to suit the convenience of the Prime Minister. If honorable members are going to submit to this sort of treatment, and allow indignities to be placed upon them in this manner by the Prime Minister, . that is their business. I strongly oppose the proposal. At the proper time, if we are not making satisfactory progress with our business, I shall be prepared to sit five days a week, if necessary. We have done that before, and no doubt we shall do it again. It is well known, of course, that the Prime Minister wishes to get away to the Imperial Conference, which, like the Conferences with State Ministers, is of very little importance to the Commonwealth.- There may be some Imperial titles “as the out- come . of that gathering, but it is improper that any personal considerations -should he allowed to interfere with the work of this House. The Prime Minister is a young man. Prior to the elections he did not dream that he would occupy his present position, but now that he has attained to place and power he is ‘attempting to bludgeon this Parliament into sitting an extra day at the outset. We should not assent to this motion, but, at this early stage, should give the Government clearly to understand that we are prepared to do the business of the country under the ordinary rules of -procedure. The country will not benefit, because the watch-dogs of the people will not be here to see what the Government are doing by their administrative acts.
.- The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in reference to the Prime Minister’s comparatively recent appointment to the position of the Leader of the House are -uncalled for. The Prime Minister, who is supported by a majority in the Chamber, is the most suitable representative the’ Commonwealth could have at the ‘forthcoming Imperial Conference, and a majority of this House is of the opinion that we should adjourn in sufficient time to allow him to be present at that gathering. This House should, therefore, meet on a greater number of days than customary in order to get through the business and enable him to leave. The Leader of the Opposition was rather unfortunate in saying that the Government were exercising their brutal majority in inflicting their will upon the House, as one only has to refer to Votes and Proceedings to ascertain that the Labour party in 1915, when led by Mr. Andrew Fisher, exercised their brutal majority. According to Votes and Proceedings., pages 249 and 257, we find-
– Is the honorable member in order?
– The honorable member is not in order.
– When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I interjected that fifteen divisions were taken on one day ; but I -now find that the number was twenty-six. The Leader of the Opposition said that no previous Government had ever had the indecency to treat the Opposition as they are now being treated.
– I, in common with many other honorable members, have to journey from Sydney to Melbourne to attend the sittings of Parliament, and I am quite prepared to sit an extra day if necessary.
.- It is remarkable the manner in which the people of the Commonwealth are being treated by our elegant Prime Minister. We have always said - or, at least, those of us who have given attention to the procedure in democratic institutions in British communities - that the members of assemblies such as this are entitled to some explanation. The Prime Minister, however,has thrown at the head of honorable members a motion which, if carried, entails sitting am extra day, without giving reasons. If we are to sit an extra day to deal with pressing problems, I, and I believe every other member of the Labour party, will welcome it. But it is not for that purpose; this motion has been moved merely to get into recess so that the enemies of the people, the exploiters of Flinders-lane, and the “ boodleiers “ of Australia may inflict hardships upon the community while the doors of Parliament are closed. We are told by our cultured and elegant Prime Minister, who comes along like a chocolate Mussolini, and who, like the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell), has apparently been carried away by the actions of that gentleman, that we have no right to object to being treated in this cavalier fashion. Have not the people of the Commonwealth any rights? Why should we be treated in this way by this chocolate Mussolini ?
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I’ am endeavouring to do that, and to show that the House is entitled to some explanation from the Prime Minister. One can see that the cane has been administered very effectively to the members of the so-called Country party; but what will they have to say to the primary producers in explanation of their attitude. The men on the land wish those problems which are affecting them dealt with by this Parliament, but at the behest of this Australian Mussolini they are agreeing to Parliament going into recess.
– A certain amount of heat has been introduced into this debate by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and I understand that he considers that I have treated the Opposition with lack of courtesy. I can assure the honorable member and his supporters that nothing is further from my desire. The necessity for this motion was made “ perfectly clear yesterday, when I said that we have a certain amount of work to get through, and it is because of that that we have decided . to do what is proposed. Subject to that determination we wish to extend to the Opposition every possible courtesy and consideration. We propose meeting on Tuesday in order to devote the whole of next week to the further consideration of the Address-in-Reply; but if the Leader of the Opposition can give me an assurance that the debate will in any case conclude by the end of next week, I am prepared to withdraw the motion. We would then meet on Wednesday in the usual way.
– I shall make no arrangements to facilitate the closing of Parliament by the Government within the time suggested.
– I cannot do more to meet the honorable member. I am extremely sorry thathe should have the impression that I have treated him without that measure of courtesy which his position in this House certainly entitles him to receive.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sir Denison Miller ; Ventilation of the Chamber ; Sale of Williamstown Dockyard ; Irish Envoys : Immigration Board’s Report.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have been requested by Mr. J. M. Scott, secretary to the Australia First Citizens Party, to read the following resolution carried at a public meeting held in Sydney: -
This meeting of citizens wishes to place on record its full* realization of the awful loss Australia and the British Commonwealth of Nations have sustained through the death of Sir Denison Miller, Governorof the Australian Commonwealth Bank. In reviewing the past since 1903, when the agitation commenced for the Commonwealthing of all the banks, and in tracing one event after another since that date, we are almost justified in having the opinion that Sir Denison Miller was born on this earth with a special mission which hehas. performed . We thoroughly realize the economic catastrophe that would have been brought about in Australia during the War, when the private banks in 1916 refused to further finance the Federal Govern ment, only for the action of Sir Denison Miller by quietly taking dominion over the minds of the private banks and the members of the Federal Government, and having hid will worked to prevent the evil intended. In addition to rearing to strong young manhood the mighty financial institution placed in his charge, Sir Denison Miller delivered to the people messages to carryus through all the problems that face us. The question is - Are we, the people of Australia, deserving of those messages? In July, 1921, Sir Denison Miller undertook to finance Australia for £350,000,000, the only condition being that the Premiers call on the Bank to finance any constructive developmental work passed by Parliament. That message was delivered to Premiers Storey, Dooley, and Fuller, but they did nothing. In December, . 1921, Sir Denison Miller, in his address to the Press Club, said, “ Australia could easily carry a population of 100,000,000.” He suggested an essential work, the unification of our railways, and said he would see that the money would be forthcoming. These great offers have been ignored by our Parliaments, and in view of these and other . great messages delivered by Sir Denison, we citizens assembled, urge the people through the Prime Minister that the railways be unified, the work to be looked upon as a monument to the memory of the great man we have lost; and, further, wesuggest that the title of “ Governor “ be not given to the successors of Sir Denison Miller, but that some title (be created such as “President” or other suitable name, so that the people down through the centuries will come to think of Sir Denison Miller as always being with them as Governor of their Commonwealth Bank, assisting in the shaping of Australia’s great destiny.
.- Yesterday afternoon the air that entered the chamber was of such intense humidity that it must have been dangerous to the health of honorable members. I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether yon have obtained any report in regard to the matter referred to you yesterday, and whether you will seriously consider the advisability of appointing an engineer who is an expert in ventilating processes to sec if some improvement cannotbe effected.
-Yesterday I received such a dose of the air complained of that I made, up my mind to ascertain, if possible, during the week-end the conditions under which the chamber is ventilated, and to see if early attention would not effect some improvement in them.
– I desire to inform the House that the sale of the Williamstown Shipbuilding Yards and Dockyard has been effected. The purchaser is the Melbourne Harbor Trust Commission, and the price is £150,000. The sale has been made subject to the following conditions: -
I have received the report of a Board’ appointed under the Immigration Act to inquire into the cases of the Reverend Michael O’Flanagan and Mr. John Joseph O’Kelly. I lay’ the report on the table.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230615_reps_9_103/>.