9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- (By leave.) - The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) informed the House last night that a deputation of the unemployed, introducedby the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), ‘had waited upon him during the day, and that, in consequence of the representations made by it, the Government had determined to make available to the States, with the least possible delay, the grant ‘ of £500,000 for. main road development which was promised at the recent Premiers’ Conference. I think honorable members on all sides of the House will be very pleased to know that an effort is to ‘be made to find employment for the unfortunate people who are out of work to-day. It must be evident, however, that some time must elapse before the States will be able to make arrangements to start new works that will absorb the unemployed, and since there are so many thousands of unemployed in Australia, prompt action should be taken to provide for them in other ways. I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement, that this is a matter for the States, but I hope that immediate action willbe taken by the Government to obtain the sanction of Parliament to ..the proposed grant. In order that there may be no misunderstanding . I desire to say, on behalf of my party, that, if the Prime Minister will submit to the House the necessary measure us soon as the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply is disposed of, we shall do all that we can to expedite its passage.
I ihave also a suggestion to make, the adoption of which, I think, would enable employment to be found for these men much sooner than would otherwise be possible. I said last night that in August last we voted £250,000 to be allocated to the different . States, on a population basis, for the carrying out of public works, and I propose now to put before the House certain figures in confirmation of my statement as to the failure of the States to expend that vote. On 22nd May last the Treasury officials, at my request, supplied me with the following return showing the allotment to each State and the amount distributed to date : -
Although this money was made available ton months ago, Tasmania is the only State which has actually drawn its full quota. I urge the Prime Minister to ascertain immediately why the whole amount has not been applied for and expended by the other States. I presume that the unexpended balances . will revert to tho Treasury on 30th inst. unless immediate steps be taken to ‘apply for and utilize them. My suggestion is that by utilizing the amounts remaining unexpended the States could at once provide work for a large number of men, and that their employment could be continued on the passing of the further grant nextweek.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether there is any reason within his knowledge for the failure of the States to expend the whole of the moneys allocated to them by the Commonwealth last year for. the carrying out of public works! .
Dr.EARLE PAGE. - I suggest to the honorable member that he give notice of his question in order that it may be fully answered. I should like, however, to say at this stage that certain conditions laid downby several of the States have practically precluded the spending of the’ whole of the money provided for them within the financial year.
– In view of the assertions made as to the great dearth of employment in Australia, and having regard to the Government’s immigration proposals, will the Prime Minister at once make a statement in refutation of the allegation that we have in Australia an enormous number of unemployed; or, if he cannot do so, inform the House what is the reason for so many men being out of work?
– I made it very clear to the deputation- representing the unemployed which waited on me yesterday,’ and I tried to make it clear to the House last night, that the position with regard to unemployment is far better in Australia than it is in any other country. I welcome this opportunity to state publicly that the number of unemployed in Australia, in proportion to the population, is extraordinarily small. The Government propose to submit the measure . to which I referred last night merely to enable the States to make provision for those numbers which they have to handle. I desire it tobe very clearly understood that the number of persons out of employment is not great, and does not indicate that there is a condition of serious unemployment in Australia to-day. The number can be regarded only as the normal number of persons out of employment in circumstances that occur from time to time, and which we all regret, but which have been found to be quite inevitable under any system of government yet invented.
– In view of the fact that the. official figures published by the labour bureaux in New South Wales show that at the end of last month there were 6,000 unemployed in the city and suburbs of Sydney and 3,000 unemployed in the country districts, making a total of 9,000 for the whole of the State, and in view, also, of the fact that those who are registered at the bureaux represent only about one-half of the total number of persons unemployed, will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to push on with work at Canberra, so that some of these men may he able to obtain employment?
– As I am sure the honorable member wishes his mind to be relieved very rapidly with regard to Canberra, I will answer his question without notice. I deprecate very much statements being made in this the National Parliament of Australia indicating that there is & very great amount of unemployment at present prevailing throughout the Commonwealth. That is not so, and it is very detrimental to the interests of Australia that such statements should be made by responsible men. In reply to the honorable member’s question, I may tell him that yesterday when I saw the deputation of unemployed I told them that I would have inquiries made as to the position at Canberra, in order to see whether any of the unemployed could be absorbed there.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is in a position to make any statement concerning a suggestion I made some months ago for the interchange of Australian light cruisers with those of the British Navy?
– The present position is that we are incommunication with the British Admiralty to try to give effect to the scheme suggested. The Admiralty authorities desire that the exchange should extend over only six months. Our suggestion was that the Australian cruisers should remain for training with the Grand Fleet for twelve months. The Australian ships are at present on a northern cruise and will not return until about the end of August or the beginning of September. In the circumstances it is considered advisable that the whole question should be discussed by : the Prime Minister when he is in England.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House regarding the proposals of theGovernment concerning the sugar industry, and, if so, when does the honorable gentleman expect to be able to make the statement?
– The present position with regard to the sugar industry and the proposals of the Government is that we are in negotiation with the Queensland Government and representatives of the organizations in the industry. As soon as a definite position is arrived at I will make a statement to the House with regard to it.
– I ask the Prime Minister if when putting the proposals of the Government before the Queensland Government he will also get into communication with the growers’ associations in the North Coast district of New South Wales and obtain their opinion upon them, because the conditions there are very different from what they are in Queensland, where there is legislation under which the Government acquire the output of sugar ?
– The position at this moment is that all those interested in the industry are being asked to express an opinion on the proposals, and those in the north of New South Wales are, of course, included.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government have come to any decision with regard to the disposal of the Randwick Rifle Range, which has been under consideration now for some years ?
-The whole question of the transferred properties is still under consideration by the Commonwealth and State Governments. It is hoped that an early arrangement regarding these properties will be come to. The position of the Randwick Rifle Range will then be considered.
– In view of the shortness of the session, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to give the House an opportunity to deal with the Budget, or whether he proposes merely to put a Supply Bill through before he enters upon his trip round the world?
– I am afraid that the honorable member has not listened to all that I have said. I have stated on many occasions that ample opportunity will be given the House to consider the Budget, which will be brought down very early in the financial year.
– I ask the Prime Minister when he will be able to place in the hands of honorable members a proper and business-like balance-sheet of the operations of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steam-ships for 1921-22, and also whether he will place in the hands of honorable members a proper balance-sheet of the operations of the Line up to date, before any legislation affecting it is proceeded with ?
– I hope to be able to make the balance-sheet for 1921-22 available very soon. The fullest information as to the operations of the Line, right up to the present time, will be given to honorable members before the House is asked to come to any decision with regard to its future management and control.
Naming of Commonwealth Ships
– I ask the Prime Minister why the practice of bestowing Australian names on vessels built in Australia by the Commonwealth Government has been departed from in the case of the ship Fordsdale, which is being launched at Cockatoo Island to-day ? Where did the Government get the name, and why has the practice hitherto adopted been departed from ?
– I am aware that honorable members have not had an opportunity for a few days past to ask questions, and perhaps one ought, therefore, to answer some without insisting that they should be put on the noticepaper. In reply to the honorable member, I am afraid his knowledge of Australia is not as great as I always hoped it was. There has been no departure from the practice of calling these ships by Australian names. If the honorable member will carefully study a map of Australia, he will find the name of the ship being launched to-day recorded on that map.
– With an experience of thirty years of the unemployment problem in Australia, and knowing the dilatoriness of the Various State Premiers - and also the penurious reputation of the present Treasurer of Victoria - I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, while considering what action is to be taken, he will endeavour to hurry up the Treasurers of the States, so that the hungry and the homeless may be provided with food and shelter ?
– I appreciate the spirit that prompts the question of the honorable member, but I must remind him that I cannot take any definite action to interfere with the functions of any other Government. However, I am quite in sympathy with early action being taken if anything is to be done, and I have no doubt that notice will be taken of the honorable member’s remarks.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have yet arrived at a decision as to what is to be done with the Commonwealth Government’s saw-mills and timber areas, which were purchased in Queensland in 1921 by the late Administration at a cost of £460,000, and closed down, thus causing considerable unemployment? As six months have elapsed since the general elections, and as the saw-mills are still idle, with resultant unemployment, will the honorable gentleman take early steps to have these mills worked, or sold to persons who will work them?
– This question should really be addressed to the Minister for Works and Railways, who, however, is absent through illness. I think that if the honorable member has watched the newspapers carefully he will have seen what has taken place. We have already advertised several of the areas, and have announced our intention to continue disposing of them.
Proposed Declaration by Candidates.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not considered that this is a matter which should he governed by electoral regulation, but that it is one for settlement between honorable members and their constituents.
Br. MALONEY asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth has no power to take action in this matter.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government intends to guarantee an advance to the wheat growers of Australia on the current season’s crop on similar lines to that made last year; and, if so, how much?
– Any representations made on behalf of the wheat-growers for a continuance of the arrangement made by the Government an respect of the 1922-23 wheat crop will receive careful consideration. .
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
-The answers to . the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Case of Mr.o. A. Junck.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In the light of the statement of the’ Acting Public Service Commissioner, in the course of his report recently furnished, where such report refers to the case of Mr. O. A. Junck, namely - “‘The whole case has been dealt with without proper attention to the provisions of the law “ - and as the correspondence quoted appears to bear out this statement - will the Prime Minister state whether or not the criticism of the Acting Commissioner is justified by the facts?
– It is anticipated that this case will shortlybe reviewed by the Government with a view to a settlement being arrived at.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained, and will be supplied as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the widespread desire in country districts for an increase in the number of daily reporting weather stations, he is prepared to provide additional funds for this purpose?
– This matter will be -considered in connexion with the forthcoming Budget.
Appointment of Major-General White
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, at the conference lately held re wireless broadcasting, any progress has been made in the direction of finalizing the matter?
– Yes; regulations in accordance with the agreement arrived at at the Conference will be submitted to Cabinet as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In the case of bonds transferable by delivery, what steps are necessary for the owner to take, if such bonds are stolen, to prevent the interest on and principal of the bonds being paid to any person to whom the thief may deliver them ?
– The Registrar of Inscribed Stock at the Commonwealth Bank in the capital city of the State should be at once notified of the loss of any Commonwealth bonds which are transferable by delivery. Everything possible will then be done to prevent the negotiation of the bonds and to trace the persons presenting the coupons.
Correspondence with Imperial Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with the request by the Imperial Government for’ Australian’ soldiers to be sent to the threatened war between Great Britain and Turkey, he will lay on the Library table all correspondence that passed between the Australian and Imperial Governments in respect to the matter?
– As the correspondence in question is of a secret and confidential nature, it is not considered advisable to lay it on the Library table.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Reports received by the Home and Territories Department indicate that this is so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House all papers in connexion with the applications for war pensions from ex 4874 Private T. Leary, 54th Battalion; J. J. H. Goodwin, 103rd Howitzer Battery, 3rd Brigade; and ox 3185 Private C. G. Sampson. 34th and 63rd Battalion, A.I.F.?
– It is not; considered desirable to lay the papers on the table, as they contain confidential information as to the circumstances of the persons concerned. If, however, ‘there ore any phases of these cases upon which thehonorable member desires information, I shall he glad to. supply it on receipt of a request from him.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the national importance of the producers’ industries to Australia, and the fact that the rabbit pesthas become one almost impossible to combat, and realizing that the netting of holdings is the main method by which to deal with the pest, he will takesteps for the manufacture of wire-netting and barbed wire within the Commonwealth, for sale at a reasonable price to holders, payments to be spread over a number of years?
– The matter will be considered.
Proposed Arrangement withStates.
asked the Treasurer, upon no tice -
In order that this House may analyze thoroughly the effect of the incidence in the proposed taxation arrangements, will he obtain a statement showing -
The amount of Federal taxation as sessed to taxpayers other than companies for 1922-23, arranged in grades of taxable income, which it is proposed to leave for the States to tax;
the amount of corresponding State tax assessed in grades of taxable income;
the amount of company profits assessed by each State, and the total tax thereon ;
the amount of company profits assessed by the Commonwealth, and the total tax thereon;
the amount of company profits allowed, as dividend distribution by the Commonwealth in its company assessments ?
– The information asked for will not be available for some time. I may say, however, that full particulars will he given to the House when the proposed taxation arrangements are being considered.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As I have already announced, this matter is . receiving consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– These questions are considered to be premature in. view of the fact that the proposed arrangements have not yet been finally settled.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give any information at his disposal in regard to the removal of the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and the use of the land as a site for a residence?
– The whole question of transferred properties is still under the consideration of the Commonwealth
Government and the Governments of the States. Until a decision is arrived at - which is anticipated at an early datethis matterremains in abeyance.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the loss of revenue through individual non-payment of tax on Federal loans, including the conversion loan of £38,723,590?
– It is not possible to answer this question, as the amount of tax is dependent upon the amount of income received from other sources.
Messages recommending appropriations in respect of the following Bills reported : -
The following papers were presented : -
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1923, No. 75.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1923 - No. 8- Mineral Oil and Coal.
Debate resumed from 20th June (vide page 236), on the motion of Mr. J. Francis -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernovGeneral be agreed to -
Mayit please Your Excellency:
We, the House of. Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address: - “but this House is of the opinion that a Special Committee should be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the operations of the Oil Agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the AngloPersian Oil Company.; also the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refinery Company; further, to inquire into the Agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company with regard to oil exploration in Papua.”
From a number of speeches made during the past two weeks facts have been elicited which’ are, indeed, grave, and upon which the fate of any Government a few years ago could have very easily been decided. Of late, however, the party discipline has become much greater, and if a Government has a majority, that majority invariably gives them support, whether their actions are right or wrong. Exceedingly grave indictments have been made against this Government concerning their acts of omission and commission, and, notwithstanding the gravity of the charges, and the almost overwhelming mass of evidence, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), with a languid and more or less bored air, is content to give fifteenminute lectures to members of the Opposition. Of course, I can understand the Prime Minister’s boredom, and his feeling of contempt when matters, grave as they are to members of the Opposition, are to him only incidents which are not unusual in his accustomed surroundings. His view-point is totally different from that of the Opposition. He is head of a big business Government. He is a business man, conversant with the morals and usages of big business, which are totally inapplicable to the policy of the Labour party. The Prime Minister cannot understand this outcry, and our desire to protect the people’s interests. Although there are honorable mem bersoppositewho came from the fields and farms to clean upmany of the scandals which occurred during and following the war, they are now like the village maiden who was lured to the city, and who eventually fell. They were imbued with high ideals, but they have now been captivated by the jazz cabarets and changed surroundings. When the time arrives to do some of those things which ‘their constituents sent them to ‘this Parliament to do they are dumb. Although the indictments against the Government have been grave, the speeches made in support of them have been couched in moderate and courteous language, but the only reply comes from, the Prime Minister. No other Minister is apparently capable of handling any of the questions brought up, and even the Prime Minister simply rises and states in a light and airy fashion that everything: said is a rehash of what has been saidbefore. And after dismissing our charges in this way he has given us a little schoolmasterly lecture in which he has told us how to conduct ourselves, and advised us that we could do very much better by altering our tactics and our style.
The matter upon which I shall touch this afternoon is only one of many scandals thai have marked the career of the present and the last Government. I can
Bee very little difference between the two Ministries, except that possibly a few members of the late Ministry, crowned with halos, paid a visit to a bathroom and emerged broken and beaten, or, as it has been elegantly stated, with their political throats cut. Last night the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted figures in reference to the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, which the Prime Minister did not even attempt to controvert. There is also the scandal connected with the Kidman-Mayoh contract.
– That has to come yet.
– But we had it brought up previously, and since the matter was ventilated in this Chamber the Government have been sheltering people who, as was mentioned last night, should have been indicted. There are countless scandals in connexion with War Service Homes administration. The Government, as a sop to the people, have said, “ If you are not satisfied we shall give you anotherRoyal Commission.” There is also the wireless scandal. Of course, all these things . affect that “ big business” to which Ministers and their supporters have been accustomed and which they uphold, but when all these affairs have been placed on record in their proper sequence, it is to be hoped the people of Australia will have a different view of what should be the ideals of a Commonwealth Government.
What has occurred in connexion with the Oil Agreement is another illustration of the methods adopted by “ big business “ and of the capacity of the Government to enter into contracts, not in the interests of the people of Australia, but, in this instance, in the interests of a big capitalistic concern, the membership of which is unknown to us, except that we are aware that a certain number of shares are held by the British Government and a certain number by private shareholders. In 1921 the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), whom I am glad to see in his place to-day, made a speech in this House which was very much like a company prospectus. He dealt with the amount of oil used since oil was discovered, and with the amount that was likely to be used until the supply runs out. He went into the genesis of all the oil companies of the world and forecasted their future. In fact, he did everything except give the House the information it required. He was exceedingly enthusiastic in his gratitude to this big concern which had decided to confer a benefit upon Australia by establishing an industry here. The agreement into which he had entered and which he brought down to the House for ratification was an extraordinary document, and, may I say, was presented to us by an extraordinary man. It provided for a share capital of £500,000, of which the Commonwealth Government were to contribute £250,001, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company £249,999. One would naturally have thought that the Commonwealth Government, having the majority of shares, would have a majority on the directorate of the proposed company. But that is not the way in which “big business” is conducted. It would be unheard of that the taxpayers of the. Commonwealth, the last, people in the world to be considered, should have the direction of a company to which they had contributed the majority of the share capital, and therefore the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. W. M. Hughes) agreed with the Anglo-Persian group of financiers that they elect a majority of the’ directors, despite the fact that they were contributing a minority of the share capital. To this proposal a majority of honorable members of this House agreed, although some of us endeavoured to secure by means of a special Committee the information which the then Prime Minister refused or was unable to give. We wanted inf ormation as to the supplies of oil available, the means of distribution, the price to be paid, and the means by which it was- to be conveyed from the Persian Gulf to Australia. We were anxious to know what the Commonwealth’s obligation to the AngloPersian Oil Company would be. As the House declined to obtain the informatiou in the way suggested honorable members were practically told nothing as to the obligations into which the Commonwealth, was entering and as to what was to go to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The Agreement adapted by this Parliament provided that the company would have certain valuable concessions in Australia for fifteen, years.
It provided that the private company should, until Australia can furnish its own crude oil, supply to the Commonwealth Refinery - of which the company owns very nearly a half interest- up to 200,000 tons of oil per annum, at a price to be fixed by the Commonwealth and by the company. It states that the price for the first period of two years shall be determined at least three months beforethe estimated date of completion of the first refinery. That refinery has not yet been completed. As a matter of. fact, five monthsafter the agreement had been assented to, the site had not been procured. We have been informed that the refinery will be ready for operations towards the end of this year. I am doubtful whether this House, as custodian of the people’s money, has sufficient evidence before it regarding this project. We should know just where we stand with respect to the Refinery Company and the explorations inPapua. We should ascertain what our obligations are, and what will be the result when operations at the refinery commence. The company is protected in many ways, even from competition by outside organizations. The Commonwealth Government, as shown in clause 14 of the schedule, has agreed as follows : -
In order to insure the full success and development of the oil-refining industry in Australia, the Commonwealth will, so long as the prices charged by the Refinery Company for products of refining are considered by the Commonwealth fair and reasonable, but not further, or otherwise -
exercise or cause to be exercised such statutory and administrative powers as it deems advisable to prevent clumping and unfair competition by importers of refined oil from other countries ;
refund to the Refinery Company any Customs duty paid by the Refinery Company upon the importation into Australia of crude mineral oil purchased from the Oil Company and refined in Australia bythe Refinery Company ;
That is to say, the company is to be protected by the Commonwealth Government. Before that is done, this House should, have more information. The oil importers can be completely cut out of the Australian trade. We could not get any. information on. the matter when the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was in office, and he may now be able to tell us something, belated though it will be, as to how the agreement came into existence at all. Let the files be placed on the table showing who instituted the negotiations. Let the honorable member be frank, and take some of the responsibility that he would not shoulder when he was Prime Minister. The agreement further provides that the Commonwealth will -
It will be seen from the agreement that a private institution is to receive a concession that is exceedingly valuable. It practically amounts to a monopoly of the oil trade of Australia. If the present Government continues to carry on the “ big business “ methods of the late Administration, it will mean that the company will have an absolute monopoly, and the people of the Commonwealth will be unprotected. It is a very fine business scheme to permit the people to be entirely at the mercy of such a company, and God forbid that they should dare to ask that this or the last Government should protect their interests. The present Cabinet is not ‘troubling about looking after the welfare of the workers of Australia, of whom some 30,000 are unemployed. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company has quite a number of rake-offs under the provisions of the agreement. First of all, it can make a profit out of the raw product sold by it. The method by which the price of the oil sold to the Commonwealth is to be fixed is just as vague as the explanatory speech of the ex-Prime Minister when he introduced the Bill, and Heaven only knows that that was vague enough. The second profit of the company occurs in connexion with freightage. Notwithstanding protests from honorable members on both sides of the House, the ex-Prime Minister had a sufficiently docile following to prevent an inquiry as to what would be fair freight from the Persian Gulf to Australia. The oil is not to be carried in Commonwealth vessels, but by ships belonging to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which is also to fix the freight.
– Tank steamers would be used, and we have none in Australia.
– Perhaps so. The freights provided for in the agreement are described as current freights, and I desire to know on what basis they are determined. Arc they determined on the basis of the current mileage rates for similar services rendered by Commonwealth boats, or are they to be current rates as fixed by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company? Whatever rates are charged the company will make profits, as a private concern, on the carriage of the oil. That, however, does not complete the company’s list of profits.
– Does the honorable member intend to read the other provision regarding freights?
– Will the Prime Minister take an opportunity of saying a few words presently? It is to be hoped that he will give us some information.
– I wanted to give the honorable member an opportunity to state the position clearly.
– I have no doubt the Prime Minister will he able to do that. Last, but not least, as to the profits from the Commonwealth Oil Refinery, the company will receive half the profits from this source. Thus it will have three sources of profit, and perhaps a fourth. If it undertakes the distribution of oil per medium of its own boats, which it may well do, because it has, as a private company, already erected several huge oil ‘ reservoirs in the different States, and its oil boats will quite likely be operating on this coast, it will derive a fourth profit. Not only will the company be the controlling voice of the Commonwealth refinery, but it is already in active operation as a seller of oil in Australia. One cannot imagine a private company, operating as such’, participating also in a semi-public company over which it has full control, acting in the interests of the people of Australia. Whatever may be the policy of the Commonwealth Refinery Company, it will be determined by the directors of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The responsibility for the consequences must be taken by those who created the extraordinary position of providing for four directors to represent the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and three to represent, the Commonwealth. That was a most unusual departure from common practice. Because of the vagueness and laxity of the Government, and its disregard for the interests of the people, it would appear that by a very small manipulation of prices the company could easily recoup itself the whole of the money it has paid into the undertaking. Assuming the company sells 200,000 tons of oil per year, it would only need to increase the price by a penny per gallon, to augment its income in thirteen months by £250,000. Thus, it would recover all it had paid into the venture. The Government has apparently not worried the company about starting its works. The whole of the erection of the machinery of tie refinery is completely in the hands of the company. The directors’ of the company are the experts, the advisers, aud the beginning and end of the whole concern, with the unfortunate exception that the people of Australia are subsidizing them to the extent of £250,-000. The company will continue to supply 200,000 tons of crude oil per annum until such time as the Commonwealth can supply its own oil.
That brings me to a consideration of the position in’ Papua. It is a number of years since the Commonwealth Government decided to exploit the potential oil deposits of Papua. Petroleum was first discovered there in August, 1911. At first the Commonwealth Government decided to permit private operations, but afterwards this decision was cancelled, and permits were refused to private enterprise. It was not until the end of 1912 that the Government itself decided to exploit the territory. Dr. Wade was appointed to investigate, and submitted a report in 1914. In 1915 he was made Director of the Oil Fields. Up to the 30th June, 1917, a sum of £11,000 had been spent on four plants. The Government has been exploring ever since, and has spent over £250,000 in the search for oil. When giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, one experienced witness said that the prospect of obtaining oil in Papua was distinctly good. The witness added that -
Owing to the fact that oil, being liquid, is able to migrate, there ought to be as many people as possible trying to get oil. The more people there are in New Guinea putting down bores, and trying to develop the field, the more likely it is to hit the place of a good supply.
The first plant purchased was apparently faulty, and Dr. Wade, in his evidence, said, “ The material we are obtaining is too shoddy.” Time went on, and then came the preparation for the “ big killing.” It was decided, quite secretly and without any warning to the people of Australia, “that the Anglo-Persian Oil Group should be introduced into Australia. The way was to be opened so that they could have full privileges to exploit the people of this country, but the exPrime Minister did not first take the step of asking Parliament, to sanction- an agreement providing for a Commonwealth oil refinery. It was arranged between the ex-Prime Minister and the British Government that an agreement should be signed by the two Governments, whereby each should pay in £50,000 to explore certain portions of Papua for petroleum. The agreement, which was brought down and ratified by the House, notwithstanding the protests of members of the Opposition, provides that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company shall have full and complete power- in Papua. It has been engaged in Papua since 1920.
– The whole of the honorable member’s remarks are utter nonSense, but his last utterance is worse than the others. It is not true that the Commonwealth Government, the British Government, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company came to an agreement.
– The British Governmnent and the Commonwealth Government entered . into an agreement which was brought down to this House by the honorable member when Prime Minister. It .provided that each Government should contribute £50,000.
– That is so.
– But the main clauses of the agreement provided that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company were to have full control of the expenditure of the money.
– They were our servants.
– They were put in complete control. They were not to be trammelled by the Government or this Parliament. Immediately the AngloPersian Oil Company find oil in Papua their job, as a private company supplying oil to Australia, will disappear. That is a scandalous position, to say the least. While the company have one gallon of oil to sell to Australia, their officers operating in Papua will not find oil. Heaven only knows that the circumstances surrounding oil exploration and development in Papua during the past seven years have been scandalous enough. Over a quarter of a million pounds has been expended; men have come and gone, and a variety of accidents have happened. Every conceivable accident which could happen to an oil derrick or a drill has happened. Faulty material was sent to Papua, and incompetent raes placed in charge of the work, with the result that oil has not yet been. discovered, in spite of the evidence of very reliable authorities that there is oil in that country. In some instances the oil flows on the surface, but up to date the oil experts of the Anglo-Persian Company have taken fine care not to discover oil. In 1913, a report was forwarded to Berlin on the prospects of finding oil, gold, petroleum, (fee, in German New Guinea. A copy of that report is in the hands of Captain R. Hanlin, formerly of the Commonwealth Defence Forces. It commented favorably on the prospects of drilling. In 1921, a private company sent an engineer to Papua to report on the prospects of discovering oil. He found oil seepages and reported that it was an absolute cer- “tainty that oil would be found. Several private organizations attempted to obtain concessions, and I personally voted in this House against such concessions being granted. But it would have been infinitely better for the people of Australia if private enterprise had been allowed to operate in Papua, and discover the oil which the Anglo-Persian Company refuse to discover, because it would not pay them to do so. The last report on the operations of the officers of the AngloPersian Company in Papuan territory is dated July, 1921, and I wish to know why it is that, when a member of this House asks for information, he is referred to a report so long out of date. These reports should be furnished to the House at least every three months. No honorable member knows what is actually being done by the company. At one period, six . geologists from England were operating in that territory, and for nine months not a drill was turned. I know that reports are available, but honorable members are prevented from having access to them. If the Prime Minister has information concerning oil exploration and development in Papua, surely this House is entitled to it. Any available reports should be laid on the table of the House and printed, and not kept in the archives. Because of the extraordinary position created by this agreement Australia may incur very heavy expenditure if the Commonwealth Oil Refinery Company carry out its provisions. I am not at all satisfied with the freights and price to be paid for the oil. For instance, the agreement provides -
The price payable by the Refinery Company for crude mineral oil shall be a price f.o.b. at the port of shipment, and the price paid to the Oil Company for crude mineral oil shall not exceed the price f.o.b. paid by the British Government to the Oil Company for crude mineral oil.
That is delightfully vague; we have to depend upon what is done by the British Government, which has the controlling interest in the company. It may be that the British Government are playing exactly the same game as is being played by the Commonwealth Government, and if that ‘be so we axe absolutely at the mercy of the company. The fact that the British Government have invested money in the company, and hold the majority of the shares, does not afford any protection whatever to the people of Australia, nor does the fact that the Commonwealth also is a partner in the company, because of the extraordinary nature of the agreement which was drawn up and entered into by the Hughes Ministry. My only desire is that the Commonwealth should be protected, and I ask those who are responsible for the agreement to allay the anxiety of the general public in this respect. Since the time of the signing of the agreement the press and the public men of this country have been keenly critical concerning the oil exploration in Papua, and the operations of the Refinery Company and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. If the Government have nothing to hide, surely they will have no objection to the appointment of a Special Committee, so that the people of Australia may know to what extent they have been protected, and what will be their obligations when, the Refinery Company commences operations.
– This is the fourth motion of censure that has been launched against us, but I think they are becoming steadily less effective. I never imagined that even the Opposition which, apparently, tries everything, would go back to the oil arrangement to attempt to justify a vote of censure and demand the appointment of a Special Committee. Those who were members ‘of this House at the time will remember that when the agreement was entered into, in 1920, the whole matter was fully discussed. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has not to-day said one word which he did not say on that occasion. All these points were raised, and this House deliberately decided to enter into the agreement after it had considered all the aspects of the case. There is nothing in what has been raised to-day which calls for reply. This subject is of very great interest and extraordinary importance. When the agreement was entered into we traversed the whole position with regard to the oil supplies of the world, realizing the fact that oil is going to be one of the great factors in the commercial .development of the future. We considered the question of the location of the oil supplies, the manner in which the great Combines have gradually obtained control of those supplies, and the position of the AngloPersian Oil Company - which the British Government controls, and which is the only oil company in the world free from the entanglements of those Combines. After the consideration of all these facts and the realization of our necessities in the future, we entered into this agreement, which provided for the establishment in Australia of refineries. The matter was one of urgency and importance. We had made arrangements to stimulate prospecting for oil. What, would have been the use of discovering oil if we had no refineries here? The making of this agreement was a long-visioned action by the Government, who saw what the necessities of the future would be. When this agreement was discussed, I took part in the debate, and I venture to suggest that I probably put forward the greatest number of criticisms with regard to it. The Government met me in all those matters. The agreement was altered, and as it left this House I was perfectly prepared to accept it. I thought then, and I still think, that it was a good arrangement for Australia. Honorable members opposite on that occasion gave no assistance; all that they could say was, “ Let us have a Select Committee.” They wanted the appointment of a Select Committee to examine an agreement that was placed upon the table of this House, before they had considered that agreement or had made an attempt to remedy any defects it might have contained. I opposed that view then, and I think that honorable members would oppose it now. It was a useless suggestion then; it is a more useless one to-day.
– Are the refineries built yet?
– I shall deal with that question in a moment. There is one point which I want particularly to stress. When this agreement was being considered on the second reading of the Bill,. I made many criticisms of it, and in Committee a number of alterations were made.
– No vital alterations.
– The honorable member has said that freight was to be provided by the company at current rates, and that this placed us at their mercy. I did my best to get the honorable member to put the position fairly, but he would not accept my suggestion. In dealing with the original agreement the question of “ current freights “ was discussed and considered. I said in that debate -
Another matter referred to in the agreement is the basis of . freights at current rates. It must be obvious that the clause is too loose.
The clause was altered, and it does not now read in the way the honorable member has suggested it does. This is what the agreement provided after it was altered -
The Oil Company shall make all arrangements for freight at current rates to the port of discharge in Australia in respect of crude oil supplied by the Oil Company, provided that the Commonwealth shall have the option of making the freight arrangements, if it can do so, at a lower rate.
Those words were placed in the agreement as the result of my objection. The honorable member has not told us anything about that. The next thing which was worrying him very much was the question of the directors. “He said that we have three directors, while the company has four. The actual wording of the agreement is that we shall have “ three-sevenths “ of the directors. That matter was fought out at great length in this House, and the House came to the conclusion that it was better to leave the actual running control in the hands of the people who understood the business.
There was another feature which, I think, has led honorable members in this House not to view with any very great alarm the fact that the company directors number four, while those of the Government number three, and that was the fact that the Government directors had the power of veto with regard to a great number of matters. The British Government has put £5,000,000 into the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and it has two directors out of a total of fourteen.
It is prepared to abide by that arrangement provided that it has the power of veto upon certain vital questions. The power of veto which we have in our agreement is practically identical, with that in the British agreement. So I do not think that aspect need disturb us.
The honorable member was very worried in regard to the price; he said it was described merely as being the basis upon which the British Government was to get its supplies, and that that was of no use at all. Might I remind the honorable member that the British Government is getting its oil mainly for navy requirements? In 1914, when the British Government acquired a majority interest in the company, it was clearly understood that that Government was going to get its navy supplies through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company for about 25 per cent. lower than the world’s price. We are to get ours at the same price. We must also remember that the British Government is the biggest consumer of the AngloPersian Oil Company’s product, and it is the holder of £5,000,000 in the capital of the company. Is the British Government, then, going to act against its own interests, and pay an unfair price for oil? The position is a perfectly safe one from that point of view. The whole ofthat aspect was considered at the greatest length when this agreement was entered into.
Another point was raised in regard to the price at which oil might be sold in this country. A clause was put into this agreement providing -
The ‘Refinery Company shall sell its oil products at such prices as are fair and reasonable.
I thought my honorable friends would have been derisive in regard to that provision , but, unfortunately, they were not. There is, however, something else hanging to that clause, and it is this -
In order to insure the full success and development of the oil refining industry in Australia the Commonwealth will, so long as the prices charged by the Refinery Company for products of refining are considered by the Commonwealth fair and reasonable, but not further or otherwise -
exercise or cause to be exercised such statutory and administrative powers as it deems advisable to prevent dumping and unfair competition by importers of- refined oil from other countries ;
refund to the Refinery Company any Customs duty paid by the Refinery Company upon the importation into Australia of crude mineral oil purchased from the Oil Company and refined in Australia by the Refinery Company.
These paragraphs in the agreement relate to the oil which the company brings into Australia. In short, they -provide that as long as the oil comes from the company’s own fields and the prices charged for it here are fair and reasonable, the Government will allow it to be introduced free of duty. If those conditions are not carried out the company will lose that advantage.Then there is the further provision that the Government will -
These provisions were inserted in the agreement three years “ago to prevent what the honorable member now suggests is going to happen and should be dealt with by a Select Committee. There is not the slightest foundation, for any of the fears expressed by him. These are the only points of any moment which the honorable member has raised, and there is nothing inthem. I waited patiently, but in vain, to hear from the honorable member any statement that would attach to his amendment the slightest importance.
Another matter discussed by the honorable memberwas the delay in regard to the building of the refineries in Australia. Apparently, then, the company is not anxious to take advantage of those immense benefits which the honorable member says this agreement confers on them. Although his statements would lead one to believe that nothing has been clone to carry out the arrangement made, the position is that the refineries should be completed during the present year. It took some considerable time to determine the site of the refinery and to carry out the negotiations for the acquisition of the necessary land, but the construction work was actually commenced a year ago. The erection of a 10,000-ton tank at the transit site of Spotswood has been completed and the wharf is under construction. A pipe-line has been laid from the tank at the transit site to the refinery, 3 miles away ; the construction of one 10,000-ton tank and two 5,0.00-ton tanks is almost completed at the tank farm near the refinery; the branch line from the G’eelongMelbourne line to the refinery site and the siding have been constructed; some stills and condensers are completed ; and the erection of all necessary buildings is well ii>. hand.
– Where is this work being carried on ? .
– About 3 miles from Melbourne. The Government has been carefully watching operations and has been pressing for the earliest possible completion of the work. There were, however, certain difficulties in connexion with the erection of the tanks. In reply to the Government’s representations the company has stated that it has advertised both in Australia and Britain for tenders for the construction of the tanks in order that the most satisfactory tender should be obtained, and that this necessarily occupied a considerable time. The Government has been pressing its representatives on the Board to expedite the work. While we, like every one else, had hoped that the work would be completed earlier, we are satisfied that everything has been done to complete the erection of the refineries with the least possible delay, and I am glad to say that they should be in operation at the end of this year. Their establishment is going to be of very considerable advantage to Australia. Under the arrangement made, the AngloPersian Company is to supply up to 200,000 tons of oil, and the mere fact that these refineries are being erected is already having some effect upon the price of oil and the oil position generally, since I am informed that during the last two years there have been two reductions in price in Australia, although corresponding reductions have not been made in either America or Britain. I give that information for what it is worth, but it appears at least to be some evidence that these refineries, when erected, will have a good effect.
Another question with which the honor able member was concerned was the search for oil that has taken place in
Papua. The honorable member did not present his. case quite correctly. He suggested that there was an agreement between the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and the Australian Government with regard to a search for oil in Papua. There was never anything of the sort. The British Government and the Australian Government entered into an arrangement to search, for oil in Papua on the basis that each should subscribe £50,000, and the AngloPersian Oil Company was to act as agentsof the two Governments. The arrangement, while the British Government was a party to the agreement, was that if oil were found there should be a division of it between the British and the Australian Governments. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had no rights, and would have had no interest whatever in any oil so discovered. It was to receive actual outofpocket expenses only. The operations, while appearing to give indications that oil will be found, have not up to date been successful. The honorable member threw the gravest suspicion upon the good faith of the company, and suggested that it was making no effort whatever to find oil in New Guinea. That possibility was suggested when the agreement was under discussion in this House, and various opinions were expressed. Dealing with those expressions of opinion, I said that I saw the danger to which the Opposition pointed, but I refused to believe that a great commercial enterprise like the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, having undertaken a contract to do certain work for the British and Australian Governments, would deliberately nullify all efforts under that contract in order that no discovery should be made, and 200,000 tons of oil could be brought into Australia from its Persian fields. The present position is that oil has not been found. The British Government, after the first £50,000 had been spent, indicated its desire to go no further. We then bought out the British Government, paying £25,000 for its share of the plant. From that time on, the whole of the money expended on the search has been found by the Australian Government - the whole venture has been at our risk. The Government, after full consideration of all the facts, recently decided that the arrangement made shall continue only until the end of the present month. We found that the money made available was just sufficient to enable that to be done, and so we decided that operations should cease at the end of the month. We are not satisfied that we can hope to find oil in Papua unless we are prepared to spend a vast sum of money. We will have to incur very great expenditure to achieve anything. Holding this view, the Government propose to permit private individuals to search for oil in Papua under licence. That will be an end of the existing position of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in connexion with the exploration for oil. So that even if the honorable member for Darling doubts the integrity of the company, he will see that there is no need for the appointment of the Select Committee for the simple reason that the AngloPersian Oil Company will be doing nothing in. Papua on behalf of the present Government. The search for oilhas presented a very difficult problem. A great deal of money was spent by Australia in the attempt, long before the Anglo-Persian Oil Company came on the scene, but no results whatever were achieved. I repudiate the suggestion made here by the honorable member for Darling that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, who have been, conducting operations in Papua only as the servants of the Commonwealth Government, have not been acting in good faith, and have not endeavoured, as far as lay in their power, to try to discover oil. The facts are that the company have been pressing the Government to undertake much greater efforts and spend larger sums of money, to see if oil cannot be located. They have even gone so far as to offer to find the money for the Government on long-dated loan, if we consider that that would enable the work to be carried on. That certainly does not suggest that they have been doing all they possibly could to prevent oil being found. I do not know that anything more need be saidupon the amendment now before the House. I see no possible reason for the appointment of the proposed Select Committee, and I am sure the House will take exactly the same view of the matter as I do.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Blakeley’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- As a new member, I feel there is no need to ask any indulgence from the House, because it is already assured me by the manner in which other new members’ have been received. I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply ; and, first, I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) on the able manner in which they respectively moved and seconded the motion. I also desire to congratulate the Government on the policy they have laid before the. House and the country. It involves proposals that afford, much food for thought, and, if honorable members desire, provides them ample work.
We heard a great deal from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) about the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) taking up time in visiting the different States. I totally disagree with the complaints of the Leader of the Opposition on this score. As a Tasmanian speaking on behalf of the Tasmanian people, I desire to congratulate and thank the Prime Minister for his visit to that State. The honorable gentleman, in his very concise speeches there, convinced his audiences that it was the duty of a Prime Minister to make himself acquainted with the affairs and conditions of every part of Australia, and his expressions of opinion as to the position of the country as a whole were highly appreciated. I fail to see how any Prime Minister, or any Government, could introduce a comprehensive policy, such as is now before us, without visiting each of the States as often and as regularly as possible, for otherwise he could not possibly be possessed of that information so necessary for the proper conduct of the government of the country. As ah instance of the value of such visits, I may point out that the Government foreshadow some measures which the people of Tasmania have expressed a desire to see .carried into effect, and doubtless these will .be considered during the present session.
I wish to bring under the notice of the House a matter that vitally concerns, not only Tasmania, but, Australia as a whole. I refer to the canned fruit industry, which at the present time is in a very critical position. The Government have on hand in Australia very nearly 1,000,000 cases of unsold canned fruits, in addition to over 100,000. cases in England, and unless this is got off the market quickly the growers are faced with utter ruin next season. Not one single pear, plum, peach, or apricot will then be required, because, as I have already pointed out, the Government have oi hand enough fruit of the kind for the next two years. The American people are to-day selling in England canned apricots at 7s. 6d. per dozen,- peaches at 7s. 3d., and pears at 12s. 6d., and America is our greatest competitor. I have here a telegram which has been sent by the Government to the agents in Tasmania and, I take it, to the agents .in other parts of Australia, intimating that they are required to obtain 10s. per dozen for apricots, 8s. for peaches, and 12s. 6d. for pears f.o.b. If such prices are demanded by the Government for a crop that is practically a glut on the market, there is no chance of any sales, and the sooner the Government realize that they must lose thousands of pounds, the better for Australia. The growers are “ right up against it.” The Government have spent large sums of money in placing returned soldiers on the land, and if these men have another bad season in addition to their present troubles, it will mean ruin to them. I hope the Government will take the position seriously into consideration. I do not desire to place the whole of the responsibility on the shoulders of the present Government, because much that led up to the present troubles was the work of the late Government. My suggestion is that the Government as quickly as possible get rid of the canned fruit now on the market. I realize that the position of the Government is most serious, and that they have been trying to do their best under the circumstances ; but still a heavy loss is inevitable, and it is better to meet it at once. It is absolutely impossible for the fruit to be sold at the prices the Government are asking the agents to obtain.
– Are you speaking of the revised prices issued the other day?
– Yes. I am informed that should an inquiry come from the East - India, China, or Japan - for canned fruits, it must be sent to England before a price can be given. There is no possibility of the Government doing any business under such conditions. In these days everything must be done in the quickest possible manner, and if cables have to be exchanged between, England and Australia before a price is fixed, deals will be “off.”
According to the press reports Messrs. Waddell and Company, a reputable English firm, the Overseas Farmers Association, an Australian firm with a good name, and Messrs: Peabody and Company, a large American company, have been appointed agents in England to sell Australian fruit. It seems most unreasonable that the Government should appoint an American firm to assist in. disposing of Australian fruit while the American product is on the market, and it should, in my opinion, have appointed Australian agents.
The Australian Fruit Council, which comprises representatives from each of the States, and is, I believe, supported ‘by the Government, has .rather exceeded its functions, as it has issued a regulation which provides that Moor Park apricots are to ‘be sold as second quality fruit, although in Tasmania, where they are principally grown, they are regarded as superior to anything produced on the mainland.
– Are they the best for canning ?
– Yes. They are in every way suitable for export. Notwithstanding this, the Fruit Council has said that Moor Park apricots can be shipped only as second quality fruit. The Government established a voluntary Fruit Pool, which pays certain prices for apricots and plums, and experts were sent from Victoria to Tasmania to see that the fruit was harvested in the best possible condition for canning, and that when it reached the factory it was graded both as to colour and size before being treated. When my attention was drawn to the fact that although apricots had been graded as directed, they were not allowed to be exported from Australia, I interviewed the Collector of Customs at Hobart, and also one of the experts in the factory, in whose presence some of the tins of preserved fruit were opened. I asked the Government inspector why the fruit was not allowed to he exported, arid he informed me [that ,it had not (sufficient colour, although experts had seen that it had been graded as to colour and size. The Tasmanian growers realize that apricots grown there have not the same good colour as those on the mainland, because their trees carry more ‘foliage and the fruit does not get as much sunlight. When I asked the expert if the quality was satisfactory, he said that Tasmanian apricots stand alone as to flavour, and that he did not know what a perfect flavour was until he sampled the Tasmanian product. Consumers consider the flavour of fruit more than the colour. After a good deal of correspondence, the Fruit Advisory Board allowed the fruit to be exported, but as the season is now over the producers will suffer very heavily next year, as there will not be a demand for the next year’s crop. This is not only a serious matter for the fruit-grower, but it is one of vital concern to the sugar producer.
I congratulate the Queensland members upon the success which has followed their efforts in securing concessions for the sugar-growers.
– Would the honorable member mind mentioning some of them?
– When compared with the consideration shown the fruitgrowers, they are in a very favorable position. The sugar-growers are protected by an embargo on imports until 1925, and the price of sugar has been fixed at £30, although it is to be reduced to £27 per ton. These concessions are of great importance to the sugar industry, and allow the growers to pay high rates of wages to those engaged in harvesting their product and returns to the grower a margin of profit. The fruit-growers have also to pay high rates for labour, and are not receiving similar concessions. The formation of the two Fruit Pools, one in 1921 and another in 1922, saved many from absolute ruin; but what were the prices paid for fruit placed in the Pools? For plums the price was £d. a lb., and for apricots it was Jd. or Id. per lb. Could sugar be grown at Id. a lb. ? No. It is certainly impossible to grow fruit at those prices, yet that was all that the struggling fruit-growers could get for their fruit. If the Commonwealth Government could give them any assistance it would be of great benefit to them. A little while ago I had the pleasure of waiting on the Minister for Trade and Customs in company with some returned soldiers engaged in fruit-growing in Tasmania. These men have been struggling for an existence ever since they have been put on the land, and they are likely to continue struggling unless they are given some assistance. They cannot send their fruit to Great Britain because they cannot afford to wait six, eight, or nine months for a return. They must sell their fruit speedily in order to get money with which to carry on, and one of the ways in which they can do so i3 by selling to the drying factories- in the district in which they are situated. The drying factories of Tasmania are obliged to export, and the most they can afford to give for green apples is 9d. a bushel of 50 lbs. I do not know how any fruit-grower could make a success of growing fruit at such a price.
When I waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs I asked if the Government would give a bonus of1d. a lb. on all dried apples sent out of Australia, and I pointed out that such abonus would enable the drying factories to give the returned soldiers and other fruit-growers 1s. 3d. a bushel for their apples. However, in his smiling way, the Minister replied, “ Mr. Seabrook, I am sorry that we have to turn down that request.” The bonus would possibly have cost the Commonwealth Government about £4,000 per annum. It is hard on the fruitgrowers that their request should have been turned down for the sake of such a small contribution from the Commonwealth revenue. At any rate, I hope the Government will see their way clear to five these growers more assistance than as been extended to them in the past.
I am satisfied that the Prime Minister will very ably represent Australia at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. It is time that we knew our position among the nations, and I am sure that our representative will uphold the great traditions for which the Commonwealth stands.
I shall support the Government’s proposal to . increase invalid and old-age pensions.
There has been a great waste of money in connexion with the building of War Service Homes. The work done in some of the dwellings erected in Tasmania is not creditable to the Government. The War Service Homes Commission’s architects, unfortunately, have not sought to economize in a way that would have enabled the soldiers to get homes at the lowest possible cost. Where a Government is building a number of houses, plans should be standardized.
– Plans have been standardized. If cheaper homes are required, it will be necessary to induce the workmen to lay more bricks than they have been doing. ‘
– In Tasmania, at any rate, the plans were not standardized. A great deal of money could have been saved if this had been done. Tenders could then have been called for the erection of a number of homes. In Tasmania, one cannot find two war service homes alike. I feel sure that if contracts had been let on a standardized plan, as much as £100 a house could have been saved. In nearly every instance, the prices quoted for the homes already built have been exceeded to the extent of from £100 to £200.
– The honorable “member does not mean that all soldiers’ houses should be alike.
– No. There would be no need for that, even with standardized plans.
The Government’s immigration policy has my fullest support. It is absolutely impossible to hold Australia with the few people now in it. Honorable members opposite seem to think that if we bring out immigrants wages will suffer a reduction and unemployment will be created, but they should realize that every man placed on the land provides work for three men in the cities. Therefore the unemployed problem now spoken of should be solved by the adoption of an immigration policy.
– You must have a reasonable policy for putting them on the land.
– There is plenty of land available. I would suggest a system of colonization of immigrants in order to create a social atmosphere, and prevent any tendency for the settlers to drift to the cities. Honorable members opposite are consistent only in their inconsistencies. If Australia is not kept white it will be black, and yet honorable members on the other side always oppose immigration, which will, among other things, tend to solve the unemployment problem.
I am pleased that the Government have decided to dispose of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers with the exception of the “ Bay “ liners. I would like to see the whole of these vessels sold. Tasmania has had no advantage from the Commonwealth Line.
– We have never stated more than that it is proposed to place the Line under independent non-political control.
– The Government should not come into competition with private enterprise. Up to six months ago Tasmania had to pay £1 per ton more than any other State in freight on goods from the Old Country. The fact that the freight is now the same in all the States shows that Tasmanian importers have been robbed. The Commonwealth Shipping Line will never be a paying proposition under present conditions, and I see no advantage in retaining it. It is better to pay a little extra freight - although I do not admit that that would be the result of disposing of the Line. - than to continue as at present. Tasmania has suffered more than any other part of the Commonwealth from the provisions of the Navigation Act. ‘My State possesses one of the. finest harbors in the world, but only one steamer calling there can be considered a regular trader. The wharfs for the most part are idle owing to the provisions of the Navigation Act, and the port and light dues. At one time there was a regular passenger service between New Zealand, Hobart, and Melbourne, and we had the Shaw, Savill, and Albion and New Zealand Shipping Company’s liners calling with a cargo every fortnight, but now we never see those vessels. Until the Commonwealth ships -are got rid of there will probably be no relief from the present position. Mention was made in the Governor-General’s Speech of a measure relating to navigation, and it is to be hoped that some improvement will be brought about. Tasmania depends largely on its tourist traffic, but the overseas vessels that call for the fruit of the island are prevented from carrying a single passenger. By way of a concession the Federal authorities permitted people to be conveyed by overseas steamers from Sydney to see the Melbourne Cup run, so I fail to know why provision should not be made for the carrying of tourists to Tasmania.
I am quite in accord with the action of the Government in selling the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. I have never known an instance of a Government enterprise proving profitable. The woollen mills may have returned a profit during the war period, but they are much more likely to be successfully developed in future by private enterprise, under which more labour would be employed.
The nationalization of the main roads is a proposal that has my hearty support. It would do a great deal to promote closer settlement, because the men on the laud need better roads to enable them to market their produce expeditiously. I believe the vote of £500,000 is not large enough. It should have been £1,000,000. When we hear in mind that the Government last year received over £2,000,000 in duties on motor cars and motor bicycles, it should at least have spent £1,000,000 on the roads. I understand, from the Prime Minister’s remarks yesterday, that £300,000 out of the £500,000 will be distributed on a population basis, and the remaining £200,000 on an area basis. I am quite in accord with the “proposal to distribute the money on a population basis, but not on an area basis. Western Australia and Queensland have enormous areas of land undeveloped and unpopulated. Tasmania has 6,000 miles of macadamized roads to maintain. If the sum of £200,000 is distributed as proposed, on an area basis, Western Australia will receive about £85,000 and Tasmania only £2,000. The “ proposal is wrong in principle and wrong morally. It is unfair that Tasmania, with 6,000 miles of macadamized roads te keep in repair, should receive only £2,000 out of £200,000. I urge that the proposal should be reviewed, and that something better should be done for Tasmania. I hope the Prime Minister, as a fair-minded man;, will give Tasmania a juster proportion of the grant.
The industrial position is very serious in Tasmania. No State in the Commonwealth is suffering more severely from the effects of Arbitration Court awards. Many of the awards of the Court are hitting Tasmania very hard. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said the Government should not give away any of its rights. I say that the Commonwealth, in the first place, should not have taken the rights from the States. When Mr. Justice Higgins was President of the Arbitration Court, he laid down the dictum that if an. industry could not pay the wages awarded by the Court it. must close down. The timber industry in Tasmania cannot pay the wages and observe the conditions laid down by the Court, and .is, in fact, closed down. No fewer than sixtythree of the largest saw-mills in Tasmania have been closed down as a result of the award given by Mr. Justice Higgins, and 2,000 employees thrown out of work. No saw-mill owner objects to paying the . wages specified; the objection is to the conditions that have been laid down. It. is impossible for any Court to make an equitable award for the whole of Australia, owing to the variations in climatic conditions. In Tasmania we have at least one hundred wet days and eighty windy days in a year, and the men- have a right under the award to say that they will not work when the weather is wet or windy. Though they refuse to work, they, nevertheless, have to be paid £6 per week. No industry on earth could carry on in such conditions.
With two strokes of the pen the J udge in the Arbitration Court put a burden of £14 pei” acre on every fruit-grower in Tasmania. Orchardists formerly obtained their fruit cases for 4£d. each now they have to pay ls.; and the men who work on the small river steamers that take the fruit to Hobart have had their wages raised by 100 per cent. If we take the average yield at 370 bushels to the acre, it will be seen that an increased cost of 7£d. on a fruit case, and 2$d. for freight, amounts to £14 per acre per annum. The unfortunate fruit-grower was not even asked whether this was a fair and legitimate thing to do. The extra burden was placed on the saw-millers and the shippers, who passed it on- to the man on the land.
– What do Tasmanian fruit-growers make per acre?
– Nothing >at present; they are losing money. Some of them had as much as £127 to pay this year for fruit landed in England in a rotten condition by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The position of these m elb is harder than that of any other man on the land. Everything is- passed on to them, but they have to sell their product in markets abroad for what it i3 worth.
– Fruit-growers in Victoria have to pay ls. each for fruit cases.
– I do not deny it, but the extra cost has, nevertheless, been placed upon the man on the land. Raspberry-growers are a class of men who have to struggle for existence. They have to go out on Saturday afternoons and Sundays to clear land and plant a few canes, and this week they have had to send a representative to the Arbitration Court, at great expense, to defend a case brought against them.- The unions have served a log upon them, demanding £6 ,10s. per week, with keep. Under good conditions a man can pick 1 cwt. of raspberries a day, and for that work he is asking 25s. a day. The fruit is carted sometimes, from 5 to 10 miles to the factory, where the grower obtains 2d. peT lb. or 18s. 8d. per cwt. These growers are compelled to send representatives to Melbourne to put their case before the Arbitration Court. It is time that tribunal was wiped out of existence.
– The honorable member does not believe in the Arbitration Court t
– Would any honorable member believe in it if he were being robbed ?
– The honorable member is doing Tasmania a lot of harm.
– I am stating the position of the growers in relation to the Arbitration Court. Industrial disputes should be decided by State tribunals in order to prevent overlapping of awards. What is the use of Wages Boards and the Court of Conciliation in Tasmania making awards if the men can approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when they are not satisfied ? The principle is absolutely wrong. Each State has its own peculiar conditions, which govern the amount the grower can pay. If the claims of the raspberry pickers are granted, the grower will say, “ To hell with the raspberries j I will not grow them.”
I have here the new log issued on the timber millers. At present, sixty-three of Tasmania’s largest mills are shut down. Under the old log, these rates are now claimed - For men working a circular saw, £10 4s. per week; for men tailing out behind a circular saw, £10 4s. per week; and for saw-sharpeners £12 12s. per week. The lowest rate claimed for any man employed in the industry is £8 8s. per week. This sort of thing is killing the industry, as no man will start a mill when he is threatened with wage conditions such as those I have indicated. If the claims of the men are granted, the mills that are now working, will close down.
– What are the conditions under which these men work in the back parts of Tasmania ?
– Some of their conditions are the best possible.
– I was there not a month ago, and I saw the conditions.
– The . mill-hands have to be paid for fifty-nine hours per week. Under the award they are supposed to work forty-four hours, but the longest period actually worked in any one week is thirty -five hours. If that log is granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the timber industry will be ruined. It should be the aim of the Government to create conditions under which industries will thrive, instead of being crushed out of existence. One of the worst features of the log is the claim that nob more than one boy shall be employed to every six men. To-day, there is a scarcity of trained men in all skilled occupations, because boys are not allowed to learn the trades, and in ten or fifteen years’ time, there will be no qualified tradesmen in the country. I am a carpenter by trade, and I know what the present conditions are. Any one who has a hammer and a saw can claim to be a carpenter, but if half of. these alleged carpenters were asked to make a button for a closet door, they could not do it. The boys are not allowed to learn a trade, and consequently, we have the spectacle of able-bodied men selling balloons for children in the city streets. That condition has been brought about by the operations of the Arbitration Court. These are the wages that are being claimed for boys in the sawmills: Under seventeen years of age, £4 10s. per week; from seventeen to eighteen years, £5 10s. per week; and from eighteen to nineteen years, £6 10s. per week. For . apprentices to the carpentry trade these rates are asked - First year, £3 10s. per week; second year, £4 10s.; third year, £5 10s. ; fourth year, £6 10s. ; and fifth year, £7 16s. If such excessive rates are prescribed, it will be absolutely impossible for any boy to learn a trade. The increased cost of houses is due to the scarcity of artisans. The award rate for bricklayers is £1 a day, but employers have to pay 30s., in order to obtain their services. The men lay, on an average, 400 bricks per day. When I employed bricklayers some years ago, the daily wage was 10s., and they laid 1,500 bricks comfortably in a day. Yet the honorable members opposite cry out for cheap houses. How on earth can people obtain cheap houses under those conditions ? The position will become worse as time goes on, as even bricklayers will not be procurable. To-day there is one bricklayer’s apprentice in the whole of Hobart, although boys are walking the streets in search of work. Technical schools have been established at great cost so that boys may learn a trade. At these’ institutions they learn to be electricians, carpenters, cabinet makers, &c, but when their schooling is finished, they cannot get work, because a master tradesman may not employ anapprentice unless he employs four journeymen.. It is an absolute scandal, and the sooner it is altered the better it will be for the community. Why have we unemployed at our doors? Because the laws of the land will not allow them to work. Under the Arbitration Court awards these men have to be paid the same amount as an artisan receives, and they cannot earn it. If they were allowed to work for the amount that they are able to earn, they would not be walking about the streets.. If an alteration is not made in our arbitration system, the number of unemployed will be added to each year. I have here a copy of the rural workers’ log, which is claiming from £5 5s. up to £7 a week. I would like to see that loggranted in its entirety by the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Bourke would not . then be talking about the starving millions in England; his whole attention would be taken up by the starving millions in Australia. No agriculturist could pay those wages. No man on the land is going to be such an utter fool as to work twelve or fourteen hours a day to feed men who want to work only forty and forty-four hours a week. The position is becoming intolerable for business people in every State. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court should deal only with Federal matters, leaving for the States the question of settling their own industrial troubles. Every State is of that opinion. I do not believe that any Arbitration Court can give a fair and just award covering the whole of Australia.. I hope that the Government will introduce legislation to wipe out the Arbitration Court, or at least to curtail its operations to a very great extent.
.- During the whole of this and last week honorable members on this side have been assailing the Government in connexion with the maladministration of certain Departments and actions which at least call for grave, deep, and searching inquiry. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and other honorable members on this side have placed before this Chamber plain and logical arguments in support of their contention that the Prime Minister has no authority to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference in London. Those arguments have not been answered; they are unanswerable. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) himself - unconsciously, no doubt - placed before this House an argument which is stronger than any used by honorable members on this side. In effect he told us the matter he is going to deal with is so hopeless, and he is so incompetent to deal with it. that it is necessary to close up this House. According to him, that action has not been rendered necessary because he cannot be done without, or because he is afraid that his colleagues will run wild while he is away. He is not afraid that the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) will do anything detrimental to his interests in his absence. The House is to be closed because it is necessary that members sitting on this side should be gagged. The honorable gentleman has said in effect that in spite of having control of the cable service, and having the press of the world under their domination, so hopeless is the camouflage and humbug surrounding his mission, so patent to the Australian people and to the world are the principles which he is going over there to advocate, that a few men speaking on the floor of this House, 12,000 miles away, can render nugatory any efforts of his to carry into effect his Imperialistic schemes.
The honorable gentleman spoke as one defending Flinders-lane. He . said the warehousemen were very useful citizens, and were not getting unjust profits. He dealt extensively with the great organization which would be necessary if the Government were to continue to carry on the woollen mills at Geelong. I shall give one instance of the callousness of those people, showing how they exploited the widows and families of the soldiers in France. If the Government of the day had done its duty many of them would have been gaoled for robbery. No doubt the Prime Minister has been engaged in big business, and has been reared in the atmosphere of the wholesale trade of Flinders-lane; but he cannot tell me anything as to the retail trade carried on in the country towns of Victoria and New South Wales. During the war period, when there was, on the part of relatives of men who had fallen at the Front, a great demand for black materials, the wholesale softgoods merchants of Australia had, in reserve, large stocks of materials known as panania and Sicilian cloth, for which for years there had been no demand. In former days we used to pay from ls. to ls. 8d. per yard for them. When this shortage of black materials, due, we were told, amongst other things, to a shortage of dyes, occurred, panania and Sicilian cloths were “ dead “ stock. The wholesale houses could not sell them, and large quantities which they held had been written off their stock sheets. Taking advantage of the shortage of black materials, however, they took them out of their cellars and placed them on the market,, not at the old rate of. from ls. to ls. 8d. per yard, but at prices ranging from 8s. to 10s. per yard. The Prime Minister stands here in defence of men who engaged in that sort of thing ! On another occasion during the war period I had placed with a firm of warehousemen - in York-street, Sydney, an indent order for a quantity of print. One morning I received from the firm a sympathetic letter advising me that the vessel by which my order was shipped from England had been torpedoed by a German submarine, and that the whole consignment had gone to the bottom of the sea. They were very sorry, they wrote, that they could not provide me with what I required at the price of 12d. per yard, which had been agreed upon, but they had placed further orders for the material, and when supplies came to hand about three weeks* later, would be in a position to let me have what I wanted at ls. 6Jd. or ls. 7d. per yard. I was then in business in a country town in New South Wales, and on proceeding at once to Sydney I found that this York-street warehouse had an enormous stock of the very material which they said had been submarined.
– Submarined by Yorkstreet.
– That is so. The prices of these and other materials necessary for the clothing of the dependants of soldiers in country districts were inflated in this way during the war by the wholesale merchants. I should not have referred to this matter but for the way in which the Prime Minister referred to the “ useful service to Australia “ that was being rendered by the wholesale houses.
We have had from the Prime Minister a rambling statement by way of explanation of the action of the Government in disposing of the Commonwealth Woollen Mill at Geelong. The honorable gentleman did not tell us why, in the advertisements calling for fresh tenders, attention was not drawn to the variation of the original conditions. The alteration was made to suit some favoured individuals. It seems to me that the honorable gentleman made no attempt to answer the salient points raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I altogether deny that it would have been necessary, as the Prime Minister suggested, to build up a huge organization to enable the’.mill, had it remained in the hands of the Government, to sell direct to retailers throughout the country. As one who has worked behind the counter in many country towns, I have no hesitation in saying that if the output of the mill were available to retailers at the prices at which it was sold to our returned men, it would not he necessary to send out one traveller to solicit orders. As a matter of fact, the mill would he inundated with orders from retailers in country towns. Business people long ago clamoured for a direct supply, and were prepared to send their orders, accompanied by their cheques, direct to the mill. They could not, however, obtain supplies.
– Does the honorable member know that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League’ of Australia did not avail itself of the opportunity to purchase all the material which the mill had contracted to supply to it?
– I know nothing as to that, but I do know that business people in the provincial towns of New South Wales and Victoria would be glad to obtain supplies from the mill at any- thing like the prices at which its output was supplied to (the returned soldiers. As a matter of fact, retailers in the provinces would send their orders direct to the mill if they could obtain the material at a price even 25 per cent, above that which our returned men had to pay.
Some hundreds of thousands of -pounds wore involved in the woollen mill deal, .but I propose now to refer to a blunder on the part of the ‘Government which involves the taxpayers of Australia in a loss of no less than £1,300,000 per annum. I refer to the stupid arrangement under which a loan of £92,000,000 was made available to the Commonwealth by the British Government. As is well -known, the British Government during the war floated extensive loans in. the United States of America, and part of the money so obtained was made available to .the Commonwealth Government. Recently, as reported in the press, the British Government has been successful in funding the whole of this debt with the United ‘ States of America, and will now pay interest on it at the rate of 3£ per cent. The Commonwealth Government, however, has still to ‘pay 5 per cent, per annum on the £92,000,000’ which it obtained from the British Government, so that the latter will make a clear profit of £1,’300,000 per annum on the transaction, until the debt is paid off. By the time that it is paid off, the taxpayers of Australia will have paid from £16,000,000 to. £18,000,000 more than they should have done for this loan.
– I should like the honorable member to be accurate in his statements.
– I hope that when the honorable gentleman attempts to refute my statement he will submit facts and figures, and not indulge in mere vague generalities. I have stated the facts. The Commonwealth Government are paying the British Government for this money a Shylock rate of 1-J per cent, profit, and will have to pay £1,300,000 more for it than will be paid by the British Government, who borrowed the money. We are told now that we must give help in connexion with the establishment of a naval base at Singapore, and in connexion, generally, with Imperial defence. I suppose that we will be called upon to pay from £16,000,000 to £18,000,000 in this direction before we have heard the last of the matter. Is this Australia’s reward for having sacrificed relatively more men and more money in the Avar than any other part of the Empire? Is this the price we are to pay for Imperialism ? If it is, I, as an Australian, do not Avant it. Are honorable members aware that gold was removed from the vaults of Australian banks at midnight, and shipped to the Argentine to pay the farmer there 7s. Sd. per bushel for wheat, whilst the Australian farmer could only get 4s. 9d. per bushel for his wheat? How do representatives of the country districts like that sort of thing ? Our gold was shipped to America aud Japan to cancel Britain’s debts, because the exchanges were unfavorable to Britain. On top of that the British Government sent an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth not to publish the exports of gold, during the war. The people of this country were left in the dark, and we do not know what amount of gold was shipped. If honorable members will consult the Commonwealth Year-Boole to discover the exports of Australia during those years they will find this note at the foot of the page : “ Exclusive of the export of gold.” When I asked Sir Joseph Cook, who was Treasurer at the time, the reason why the Commonwealth Statistician did not supply information giving the exports of gold, he replied that the omission was by direction of the Government on instructions from the British Government. The interests of Australia are continually being sacrificed to satisfy the people who are behind and control the Government, who represent practically the same people, as those who were represented by the last Government. If the sacrifice of Australian interests is to continue as the price of great Imperialism, I, as an Australian born, citizen, do not want any of it. We are now being asked to do something more for Great Britain’. Australia is called upon once again to fill the gap. The Commonwealth Government and the Nationalist Governments of the States are committed to an immigration scheme, to enable Great Britain to be relieved of thousands of the people who are starving in the Old Country at the present time. The Prime Minister told us last night and to-day that, whilst he admitted that there was unemployment in Australia, he was pleased to be able to say that it was not as prevalent here as in other countries of the world. It does not matter if little children in this country are not properly nourished and mothers are trying to rear children without being in a position to properly house, clothe, and feed them; the honorable gentleman is satisfied so long as there are a few more in a similar position in other countries. The argument put forward by the honorable member for -Franklin that unemployment is due to high wages is answered by the statement made by the Prime Minister. Are wages extremely high in Great Britain to-day? If artisans and other workers in that country received phenomenally high wages - the honorable member for Franklin talked of £12 per week - there would be some support for the honorable member’s argument. But we know that in Great Britain to-day many thousands of people have been compelled to get back to the conditions of the old Elizabethan period and live upon poor law relief. They cannot get sufficient wages to keep body and soul together. At the present time the British Government are spending £100,000,000 a year on poor law relief to supplement the wages which coal miners, factory hands, and artisans are receiving. Men cannot subsist on the wages paid in the Old Country at the present time, and yet there are millions of unemployed there. The position in Europe in this regard is worse still. In view of the facts, the argument that high wages produce unemployment is so stupid that I am at a loss to understand how an honorable member who could use such an argument could induce a sufficient number of people to return him to the Parliament of this country. I say, deliberately, that the New Settlers League in Australia, which has the Government behind it, is assisted by Nationalist State Governments and supported by Commonwealth money to carry on the work of immigration, are unloading upon Australia, not only unemployed artisans and workers, but criminals as well. I am still waiting for an answer to a question I put when thi3 Parliament opened. I asked the Prime Minister whether he was aware that a man was released from gaol in Great Britain on the definite understanding that he would take advantage of the immigration scheme to come to Australia? I was promised that investigations -would be made, but, so far, without result. The worst criminals who ever lived are being brought to this country under the immigration scheme now in operation. The New Settlers League in New South Wales is taking advantage of the action of the Nationalist State Government in abolishing the basic wage for rural workers - a Nationalist State. Government which has behind it the Commonwealth Government-:- and is bringing men out here to work for £1 per week. These men were duped by the glowing accounts given in England of Australian conditions and prospects of employment, and some of them have made statutory declarations which I propose to read. These men came to this country under the immigration scheme, and because they refused this princely wage are now out of employment. If the Government desire to inquire into these cases, the names and addresses of the men concerned can be supplied at any time. The evidence shows that there is nothing haphazard about the bringing of men to Australia under such conditions as is shown by the following telegram which was sent to the secretary of the New South Wales New Settlers League from theRiverina district: -
Send Imperial service men immediately. Wage 20s. per week.
The following is a statutory declaration by a former resident of Liverpool, England: -
I was induced by the accounts given of the conditions in Australia, by the literature distributed from Australia House, to come to Australia. I arrived toy the Jervis Bay. Before coming. I was informed there was plenty of work.
This man did not come out here to go on the land, but to do other work -
I went to the Government Labour Office in Elizabeth-street, Sydney, and was told there to go to the office of the New Settlers’ League in Pitt-street, Sydney, the secretary of which is Mr. Fleming. I was asked if I would take a job at £1 per week. … I went to the office again (later date), when the same proposition of a job at £1 per week was put tome. . . . I . . . was seriously misled by the accounts distributed in England of Australia. Had I known the true conditions in Australia I would not have come out. . . .
The next statutory declaration is by a former resident of Barrow-in-Furness, England -
I arrived in Sydney on the Jervis Bay. I applied at the Labour Exchange, Elizabeth-street, Sydney, and was directed from there to the New Settlors’ League, in Post Office Chambers, Pittstreet, Sydney. … Iwas asked if I would accept work on a farm at £1 per week - the point being stressed that I was not worth more than £1 to an employer. I was asked to sign for the £1 per week for a period of twelve months, but this I refused to do. Upon refusal I was sent out of the office, and another applicant for work was taken in … I was induced to come to Australia by the glowing reports which I read in pamphlets, illustrated and otherwise, which I procured by post from Australia House, London. In addition to the pamphlets the papers in England emphasized that there was room for 25,000 immigrants per year, and that there was plenty of work and good prospects for willing workers.
There is not a word from this man about settling on the land; all is to the effect that he was told that this was a good country to come to in order to find work. The third statutory declaration is from a late resident of Holloway, North London -
I was told that Australia was a land of opportunities and plenty of work.” I arrived in the Orvieto - it having, with expenses, fares, &c, cost me approximately £100. … I was directed to the Now Settlers’ League, in Pittstreet, and offered work at £1 per week. I can -see no opportunity of procuring work in this country at anything above “ starvation “ rates, and certainly the prospects are not as depicted by the immigration agents in London.
Another statutory declaration is from a former resident of Devonport, England -
I arrived on the Moraton Bay and went to the Government Labour Bureau in Elizabeth-street. I was given work to go to at Culcairn for Mr. - . I was told at the Bureau that my wages would be £1 per week. After I hail been working for a couple of weeks Mr. - informed me that he considered that the immigrants should work for 15s. for the first six weeks, and then for £1 per week. I was not agreeable to work for less than £1 per week. . . I am now out of employment, and have no prospects of work.
– That was not with keep, I suppose?
– It was £ 1 a week and “ eat” himself. I have read only three or four statutory declarations, but similar evidence could be obtained from all over this country. It is’ futile for either the State Governments or the Commonwealth Government to camouflage the issue by telling the community that men are being brought out only for land settlement. But even if that be the case, I recommend the Governments of both State and Commonwealth to first of all settle the land-hungry people already in Australia. If I were given the opportunity I could, from my electorate alone, produce twenty or thirty experienced men who have been working for years on sharing terms in dairying and other rural industries, and who have been obliged to give this up and take to ordinary work. There are Australian-born men, and others who have been here for half a life time - men who know thoroughly the conditions of the country, and could make a success on the land hut who are denied the opportunity. All over the country these men are being driven into the cities because they cannot obtain land, although they would willingly take up areas under conditions much worse than are being offered to men overseas. I wonder if it is because these men know the land conditions too well that they are not given assistance. The War Service Homes scandals have disclosed that returned soldiers have been placed on land where the most experienced men would starve. Parcels of land which for years were on the market at 30s., 35s., and £2 an acre, have been, unloaded for soldier settlement at £7 and £8. I wonder if the desire is . that only men who do not know Australian conditions shall be brought here, so that more speculation may be indulged in at the expense of the taxpayers. I take up a completely legitimate attitude when I declare that, first of all, every man who knows the land conditions of this country should be settled before immigrants are brought out. These men are familiar with the country, and, above all, when land is offered them, they know perfectly well whether they can or cannot make a living on it. These are the men who should be first considered when land settlement is- the object.
Now I wish to deal briefly with industrial matters generally, in which is involved the unemployment problem. I take an entirely different view from that just presented by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). The Government have declared that they are prepared to give £500,000 towards the relief of unemployment- a proposal which 1 myself, and I believe every honorable member on this side, can support. But we do nOt want this “ stop-gap “ business - this dole. What is £500,000 anyhow, having regard to the unemployment in the Commonwealth at the present time? What is required is something more permanent; we ought to so develop the resources of this country as to make unemployment impossible. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has told us that unemployment is inevitable. Was there ever a more condemning indictment than the Prime’ Minister’s own utterances. In this country we should have a population of from 100,000,000 to 120,000,000, all happy and prosperous, whereas at present we have 5,500,000, half of whom are starving.
– That is nonsense. It is a lie!
– The honorable member may use such strong terms if he wishes, but he cannot deny that one half of the people are on the verge of starvation; at any rate, they are on the bread line.
– .That is discrediting your own country.
– It is true, and if the honorable member were conversant with the conditions in industrial areas in his own city he would not speak as he is doing. It is said that my statement is not true. I suppose the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) never leaves the fashionable suburb in which he resides, and consequently knows little or nothing of the unemployment and “destitution which exist in this city. He goes along with his head in the air and believes that all is well.
– Why does the honorable member hold that opinion?
– The honorable member’s utterances prove that he knows little of the conditions which exist- in his own’ city.
I wish now to deal with the position in New South Wales, and particularly in my own electorate. In the coal industry and in many others in New South Wales industrial troubles are brewing. Thousands of men are out of employment, and thousands classed as employed are working only two or three shifts per week, and consequently earning insufficient for the maintenance of their families. A deputation from the coal-fields recently waited upon the Prime Minister and placed before him cases of the most harrowing nature. He was given instances of children dressed in bags, and mothers giving birth to children 3 lbs. in weight in consequence of- malnutrition. When these distressing facts were placed before the Prime Minister he said, “I am sorry, gentlemen. Everybody must sympathize with you, but this Government cannot do anything to divert trade from its natural channels.” Shortly afterwards he deliberately violated his own economic doctrine by allowing the squatters a subsidy of d. per -lb. on their meat.
– That is only a loan.
– It may he so regarded hy the honorable member, hut he will find that very little of it will he repaid. The Government are to assist the squatter, and what is good for him is also good for the miner. Why has this subsidy been granted? Evidence was placed before the Prime Minister showing that, as the Argentine was nearer to Europe, beef could be imported from that country, and also from Canada, at cheaper rates than from Australia, and. because it was said that the industry in Australia was languishing he considered that something .should be done. I wish to pin it/he Prime Minister down to his economic doctrine. If it is right to assist in diverting the meat export trade from its natural channels, is it not also Tight to assist the miners when many of them are starving? I am not opposing the subsidy. I realize that very often such concessions have to be made, and the Labour party favours the development of Australian industries. What is .sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander in the economic as well as in any other sense. The squatters are not starving, their children are not dressed in bags, and their wives are not giving birth to children 3 lbs. in weight owing to malnutrition. These appalling conditions do not exist in the pastoral industry ; but the Government . are compelling the unfortunate coal-miners, as well as other unfavorably-circumstanced people in the community, to contribute towards the subsidy of a farthing per lb. which is to be paid on meat’ for export. The. unfortunate miners are not only compelled to contribute to this subsidy, but have also to pay their share of taxation in the form of Customs and Excise duties. These men did not come to the Government cringing and asking for charity. They do not want it. They are merely asking the Government to use their power against the great coal barons who are endeavouring to turn these men into serfs, or something worse. That is the position of the men engaged in an. industry without which Australia could not carry on for five minutes. The Government will nob assist men being maliciously treated by their employers. The industry is languishing, and a great crisis is threatening; but no efforts are being made to prevent it. The
Prime Minister has said, in effect, that there are not sufficient men out on strike, and when more come out the Government will intervene.
– It is an inducement for the men to extend the trouble.”
– Exactly. The Prime Minister suggests that the Government will not intervene until the position is more serious. The dispute at present is confined to the northern fields, where the men are fighting for a principle, which in spite of this or any other Government in the Commonwealth they will not surrender. The union representatives have found it difficult to restrict the dispute to this particular field, and have done everything possible to prevent the trouble spreading. Those in the industry who are working are being levied to the extent of 15 per cent, of their earnings to keep the unemployed. Why are the Government not making an effort to settle the trouble? Do they want a general strike in the industry? Do the coal barons want a general strike, and are this Government assisting them ? Do the Government want to see more men out of employment? When men went on strike years ago we always ‘heard the cry from honorable members opposite that if they would go back to work on a pre-dispute basis and obey the award of the Court, the position could be discussed. The miners to-day want to go back on a predispute basis. They are asking this Government to enforce the conditions as laid down prior to the dispute by a tribunal appointed under a Commonwealth Act.
– Why did the men knock off ?
– They did not knock off. They have been locked out. There is no work for them. They have been locked out because the mine-owners want the right to say whom they shall employ, and wan t, as they say, “ to secure control of their own industry.” Let them have that control, but let them first put the industry on the footing of all other industries. That is to say, let them abolish the cavil and the contract system, and employ the men on a basic wage which they will be certain to get. If they choose bo continue the contract system and the cavil, the miners will adhere bo the principle of the last man on being the first to go, a principle which is as old as mining operations in this country and in Great Britain. The men know that if they do not adhere to this their positions will no longer be safe, because immediately a man becomes a little old he will be tossed out if the mine-owners think that they can put a younger man in his place, and the worker who dares to stand up in his lodge or on a public platform to defend the claims of his union will be deemed to be a red-ragger or communist, and will be dismissed. If these conditions are sought to be imposed on the miners no coal will be won from” the mines of Australia unless the mine-owners dig it out for themselves. The present position is that the Commonwealth Government are helping to brow-beat the men, to starve the little children, and to bring about conditions in which, through malnutrition, the women of Australia will give birth to babies not more than 3 lbs. in weight. Honorable members who stand behind the Government will be held equally responsible for such a condition of affairs.
For nearly a quarter of a century honorable members of the Labour party and a number of honorable members supporting the Government have been fighting to get wider powers for the Commonwealth. At referendum after referendum the people have been asked to give these wider powers which it was thought the Commonwealth did not possess, the High Court having held that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not function in certain spheres. But now the High Court has declared that the Federal Parliament has these powers the Government propose to take the retrograde step of handing them back to the States. In doing so they would be acting- in direct opposition to national progress, and throttling Australia’s aspirations to become a great nation. Every one who has studied the question realizes that the Commonwealth must have extended powers. Even business men who a few years ago were bitter opponents of the proposals put forward by the Labour Government to give these wider powers to the Commonwealth are now in favour of the Commonwealth having them. But now, instead of trying to develop a national Australian sentiment, instead of seeking to out out those artificial State boundaries which set the people of Australia against one another, for the purpose of maintain ing petty State jealousies, our Government, dominated by the parish-pump politicians of the different States, would, by scrapping much of the Federal industrial legislation, barter away that for which the people of Australia have fought so hard. The proper course is to make the Commonwealth supreme in all matters, and when the proper time comes the Labour party will bring that about, so that the Commonwealth, armed with all these powers, will be able to’ delegate to properly constituted provinces whatever authority is necessary for local self-government. It is absurd to say that the Commonwealth Parliament, which deals with matters that concern the life and death of the people of Australia, should continue to be subservient to State Constitutions, or put in such a position that a small section in a State could prevent it from doing whatever it deems beneficial to Australia as a whole.
– Does the honorable member think that Mr. T. J. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland, was doing the right thing when he prevented fat cattle from crossing the border into New South Wales?
– If honorable members opposite manage to discover something- that a Labour Government have done to which they think exception can be taken, they imagine they have disposed of our arguments. The policy of the Labour party clearly stipulates that the powers of the Commonwealth should be supreme. I much regret that, owing to thenumbers being against us, our efforts to bring this Parliament to a sense of its responsibility have been unsuccessful; but the Government will one day have to answer to the people, and it will then be difficult for our opponents to justify the votes recorded during this debate. When the Labour party does get into power it will not be prepared to belittle Australia and sacrifice its interests. Its slogan will be “Australia first and always.” It will legislate for the Australian people and. place their interests before those of any other country, whether inside or outside the Empire.
Sitting suspended from 6.24 to 8 p.m.
– I have to inform honorable members that Mr. James Wignall, a member of the House of Commons, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall ask him to take a seat on the floor of the House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Mr. Wignall thereupon entered and was seated accordingly.
– Having listened to the speeches of the members of the Opposition, and having read their amendments very carefully, I feel that the Governor-General’s Speech completely answers the accusations that they have made. There is, therefore, little necessity for me to speak, and, probably, I would not have done so but for the fact that on the third amendment definite charges of corruption were made against the Government. It is desirable that 1 should put before the people some more facts regarding the subject, so that a true statement of the case may appear in Hansard alongside the scurrilous accusations which have been made under cover of the privilege of this House. The first amendment was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). It dealt with the proposals put forward by the Government for the separation, as far as possible, of State and Federal finance, and for a proper delimitation of the industrial spheres of the Commonwealth and States. I can scarcely understand anybody opposing propositions which have those ends in view. For as long back as I can remember, and for many years before I entered politics, proposals for delimiting the Commonwealth and State industrial spheres have been subjects of discussion even in Labour Councils, and separation of the finances of the Commonwealth and the States has become a matter of very acute moment during the last eight years. The Government tried, as soon as possible after taking, office, to give effect to the proposals which it had elaborated during and since the elections. The second amendment was moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr.
Anstey), in a very able speech, ..and with remarkable rhetoric. The charges made in it had already been com- ‘ pletely answered in the words of the Governor-General’s Speech. It asked the House to declare a political truism, held by all parties, namely, that any policy for the defence of Australia should be formulated on the floor of this House. One might as well add to the Governor-General’s Speech that “The world is round,” or “The sun will rise to-morrow morning,” as put in it the words which the amendment sought to add. The third amendment - that of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) - dealt with the sale of the woollen mill. In connexion with it we had the spectacle of an honorable member whipping himself into a fury, imputing dishonorable motives to members of the Government, and making far-reaching insinuations as to what “ big business “ meant. Had these motives not been imputed, and these insinuations made, there would scarcely have been any necessity for me to reply to the speech. If there was an issue that was decided emphatically at the last elections, it was that the Government should, at the earliest possible moment, evacuate those spheres of trading into which it had been led by the necessities of the war.
– The question was not put before the electors.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) fought his election on that issue. He spoke continuously during his election campaign in support of the proposal to dispose of the mill, and, . although the mill is in his electorate, he was returned as a member of this House. He said in his election campaign exactly what he said in this House last night, and honorable members may read his views in Hansard when published.
– Geelong is not Australia.
– Geelong is the place where the mill is situated, where the question was raised, and which it most keenly affected. Yet even in that constituency it was impossible to induce the electors to give a decision adverse to the proposal to sell the mill. The amendments have been used merely as pegs upon which to hang personal abuse of and attacks upon honorable members who sit on this side of the House.
– The Treasurer did the same kind of thing ito the previous Government.
– I have never indulged in personal abuse of my political opponents, nor have I wearied the House by describing them as “ mental paralytics.” There is no need for such tactics in public life. I respect the opinions of a political opponent. That I differ from him does not give me any justification for not respecting him. I do not think it is a sign of mental degeneration that he does not hold the same views as I. After having listened to these vilifications, hour after hour, one cannot help looking round the House and studying the men who sit on this side of it. If any member of the Opposition who has described supporters of the Government as “mental paralytics” were to get into gaol, to whom would he look for assistance?-. He would probably go to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who is one of the most noted criminal lawyers in Australia. Among the “mental paralytics “ we have also the honorable member for. Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who is an eminent constitutional lawyer, and the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), who is not only noted in his own profession, but, as I can testify by my own personal observation, carried through work of an unprecedented character, which earned him great distinction, during the war. On this side of the House will be found men like the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who shared the responsibility of the whole of the Wheat Pool transactions of the Commonwealth during the last seven or eight years. This talk of mental paralysis comes with very ill-grace from honorable members opposite representing people who, with the rest of the community, owe so much to the work of such men as the honorable members I have mentioned. The attacks upon the Country party are just as vigorous and as fierce now as they were during the last Parliament, when the Opposition endeavoured to force the Country party to combine with other honorable members of this House to form a Government. They are just as bitter now that we have carried out their wishes as they were at that time when they were full of good advice as to how to vote and so on. They continue to launch at the Country party as many barbed darts as possible. We have not pleased the Opposition) even yet, but we do not forget the moral of the fable of the old man, the boy, and the ass, and are not so foolish as to hope to please every one. We will simply continue on the course we have marked out for ourselves, and do our utmost to benefit the people throughout the length and breadth of this continent. The underlying purpose of the attacks on the Ministry is to sow dissension among the two parties which, for the time, have collaborated and combined to carry on the government of the country. Frontal and flank attacks have been made to try to alter the present position, force me to speak out of my turn, and bring about the disruption of the Government. I wish to make it absolutely clear that no personal considerations are actuating us iu the slightest degree. We desire to pass legislation which will have a permanently beneficial effect and leave some indelible impression on the administration of this, country and make for its continual improvement and rapid development. The censure motions moved by the Opposition will not tend to disintegrate the- Ministry, but rather will bring into closer harmony the two parties on this side of the House, with consequent good to the whole community.
I noticed that after certain honorable members had returned to Sydney during the last week-end head-lines appeared in the newspapers concerning friction in the Country party and the great dissatisfaction which existed between members of that party and the Nationalists. All sorts of statements were made, in which the wish was clearly father to the thought. Some head-lines were to the effect that, because I was silent in this House on occasions, the Country party was thoroughly dissatisfied with the trend of affairs. I give that statement an emphatic denial. The Country party, as a whole, is perfectly satisfied with the manner in which the Government are progressing towards the attainment of those ideals which for so long we have fought and striven to bring into practical operation through the medium of the
Legislature. The relations between the members of the National and Country parties, both in and out of Cabinet, are most cordial, much to the chagrin of the Opposition. During the period this composite Ministry has been, in existence no decision has been made on party lines. It has been our unanimous aim to try to give effect to a practical and comprehensive programme which will make for the well-being and development of Australia. The real cause for the attacks by the Opposition is that they have been thoroughly “ scuppered “ by the businesslike programme brought forward by the Government. Despite their taunts, we are determined to continue our policy. During the past four months, the Prime Minister, as executive head of the Ministry, has acted as its spokesman; and he will continue to do so while he remains in Australia. That procedure has been adopted with the complete approval of the whole of the members supporting the Government. The Ministry have been able to formulate a common-sense and comprehensive policy, which has received the cordial approbation of both sections of the Ministerial party.
– Does the honorable member think that the two parties will be able to continue the separate meetings and discussions?
– That procedure is working very satisfactorily indeed.
– Does it not add to the rent bill?
– I know that honorable members opposite deride that practice, and are disconcerted because such a cordial relationship exists. For many years I have worked in the medical profession in active partnership with other men, and I know that at an operation many men may assist, but only one uses the knife. That is the principle upon which the Government intend to work. We have one executive head, and following the procedure we have adopted, matters will work smoothly despite the taunts of the Opposition..
Since the session opened, honorable members opposite and certain sections of the press have criticised the proposal of the Government to limit the session to ten weeks. It is suggested that it is not possible to compress into that time all the necessary legislation and dis cussion. This is not a new idea. I have always held that this Parliament is teo much in session, and that its work could be done just as effectively by sitting for only ten or twelve weeks in each year. Some honorable members opposite hold the same view, but they have not the candour to confess it. It is absolutelyessential that Australia should be properly represented at the Imperial Conference in England, and to allow of that,, there is no reason why we should notdeal quickly and definitely with the measures which it is necessary to pass during; this session. From what has taken placein the last few days we can see that thereis going to be systematic opposition toprevent our carrying into effect this programme, which has been shown to be acceptable to -the whole of the people of Australia. Honorable members o’f the Opposition are grievously upset because the Government have been able to put forward a policy acceptable to both parties on this side of the House. They recognise that the carrying into effect of this policy will draw more closely togetherthe two component parts of this composite Ministry, and they are going to try toprevent that being done.
What are the measures that the Labourparty are determined to obstruct ? Why should they obstruct us in our endeavour to increase and liberalize old-age pensions? I have always understood that they would assist the passage of such a measure; though I have been very much astonished to find that practically all the increases made in’ old-age pensions have been m’ade, not by the Labour party, but by other parties in this House. The system itself was initiated by the Deakin Government, and not by the Labour party. Judging by the attitude of honorable members opposite, they intend to try to prevent the holding of a proper investigation into *be administration of War Service Homes. The more successful they are in obstructing business, the more difficult will it be to deal with that matter. They will try to prevent the appointment of a Shipping Board, and will oppose the Government in their desire to eliminate the duplication of taxation, and thus relieve 750,000 taxpayers from the necessity for sending in two returns.
– What about doubling the rates in South Australia, and putting the war costs on to the worker?
– The Prime Minister has outlined fully the financial proposals of the Government, and it is necessary only that I should deal with some of the objections that have been raised by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and his Leader, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The idea of those honorable members is that under these proposals the rich man will pay less and the poor man pay more. That is absolutely absurd on its face; it could occur only if the State Parliaments deliberately recast their taxation systems in such a way as to make the onus of taxation press heavily on the poor.
– That is what they will do.
– -There is no reason why they should. The whole tendency of State legislation is to avoid doing that to any extent. During the last few years we have seen the raising of the exemption in practically every State. In advancing these objections the fundamental fact seems to have been lost sight of, that although alterations, are made in the method of collection, the same amount of money will be collected by the State Government as has been collected by the State and Federal Governments in the past; the collection will be made over the same field, and it is merely a matter of fixing a proper basis on which the rich man shall pay his share. Do I understand from “the Leader of the Opposition, or from the honorable member for Adelaide, that- it is the idea of the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Theodore) to recast his taxation in such a way as to impose greater hardship on the poor?
– You are picking out the sole exception in the six States.
– The honorable member is begging the question. It has been urged that the aggregation system adopted at present by the Federal Income Tax Department cannot be adopted by the States. That matter can be adjusted satisfactorily. At the present time Victoria and Tasmania reckon their probate duties, on the basis of the whole of the Australian estate of a deceased person.
There is no reason why there should be any loss if a proper system of adjustment is adopted. The payments to the States have been made in the past out of Consolidated Revenue. Our proposition is that in the future, instead of the Commonwealth collecting money and handing it to the States, the States shall raise almost the whole of it themselves. I have noticed that at various Labour Congresses which have been ‘held since 1908, that has been regarded as a sine qua non of sound policy. Labour representatives have said repeatedly that nothing is more demoralizing to any Government than to have the spending of money that is raised by another Government. ,The Leader of the Opposition has argued that the war should be paid for out of the returns from direct taxation, and not out of Customs duties; he says that only the poor man pays the Customs duties. Who raised the Customs duties to their present height? There was only one party which was unanimous on that matter during the last Parliament, and that was the party which. is sitting in opposition; they put the duties up higher and higher, and now they are going round the country complaining that the poor man pays.
– That statement is untrue.
– Order ! The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) is out of order, and must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it; but the division lists will show that what I have said is correct.
– Order ! That is not a withdrawal. The honorable member must withdraw unconditionally.
– I withdraw.
– The Commonwealth Government propose to relieve taxation in the Federal sphere. Their proposition is to bring about economy in administration. They hope to be able to save at least £400,000 by doing away with duplication. In addition, they have offered to make certain payments, which will bring about a further reduction of expenditure by something like £1,000,000.
– The Government propose to save £400,000 and at the same time to give away £1,400,000.
– With, the presentation of the Budget, the Leader of the Opposition will discover how we propose to effect these savings. The only means by which it is possible to secure economy throughout the Commonwealth since, is to make the whole of the States responsible for the raising of the revenues they spend.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), during the debate have complained bitterly of the terms of the Conversion Loan. When they were first announced, it was said they were so liberal that there, would be a wild scramble on the part of the public to subscribe to the loan. It was suggested in the press that we were proposing to make a huge present to investors, but the answer to both these statements is that the whole of the loan has not yet been subscribed.
– What fools investors would be not to take up the loan on the terms offered by the Government.
– Unfortunately, the general public do not seem to share the honorable member’s view. The fact that the loan has not been fully subscribed shows that there is no foundation for the fears that have been expressed, or for the charges that have been made by the honorable members to whom I have referred.
– Can the honorable, gentleman give us any information now as to how the loan stands.
– I hope to do so later.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! This debate must proceed in accordance with the Standing Orders, and I ask honorable members to support the authority of the Chair. The Honorable the Treasurer has possession of the floor, and must be heard in silence.
– During this debate various statements have also been made with regard to the Commonwealth Bank. I avail myself of this opportunity to pay a tribute to “the splendid work done by the late Sir Denison Miller in connexion with the establishment of that institution. His work in that respect will live long after him. He founded the
Bank on an enduring basis, and his untimely death is greatly deplored. His sudden passing emphasizes the point we have made from time to time., that only by the appointment of a Board of Control can continuity of policy for the Commonwealth Bank be assured. The Government in due time will bring down definite proposals for the establishment of such a Board, and when they are submitted, the Leader of the Opposition will find that there is no ground for his fear that the operations, activities, and usefulness of the Bank are to be curtailed in any way.
– And this is how the Government live up to their principle of “ No Government trading.”
– That interjection comes fittingly from the honorable member since he is one of the- few members of the Labour party- who consistently, in season and out of season, advocated the establishment of a National Bank. Had other members of the party shared his views, the Bank might have been very different from what it is to-day. It is on record that for many years there was the most bitter opposition in the Labour caucus to the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is an outrageous statement.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about.
– The only complaint was that the scheme for the establishment of the bank did not go far enough.
– I notice that the denials do not come from those who have a right to answer my charge. Our policy in regard to Government trading enterprises - a policy which the honorable member for Bourke has questioned - has already been declared. It is our intention, as far as possible, to do away with Government enterprise in matters of ordinary trade.
– But that policy is not to apply to the Commonwealth Bank.
– When the Bill for the appointment of a Board of Control is introduced, I shall give the reasons why we think we should have a National Bank. Our policy in regard to Government enterprises is now being carried into effect. The Williamstown Dockyard has been sold ; the
Commonwealth Harness Factory has gone; and the Commonwealth “Woollen Mill has ‘been disposed of.
– When is the Commonwealth Government Line of Steam-ships to go ? .
– The Line is being brought- into proper focus, and when the Prime Minister submits his proposals in regard to it the House will know exactly where it stands. The question as to the sale of the Geelong Woollen Mill has been rather aptly raised at this juncture by the Opposition. The refusal of this House in 1921 to pass an item on the Estimates prodding for an expenditure of £45,000 on the extension of the mill, marks, in my opinion, the actual date on which it was decided by this House that the whole system of Governmen£ trading that had grown up during the war - the practice of trying to nationalize almost everything - should come to an end, and that a start should be made to get back to pre-war standards and methods of handling business. I should like to point out to honorable members that when the discussion ou that item in the Estimates took place the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was not in the House. He returned from the meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations just at the close of the discussion of the Estimates, so that there is absolutely no foundation for tho charge that has been made that the first suggestion to dispose of the woollen mill occurred after he had joined the late Government. Honorable members, on referring to the press, will find that it was late in 1921 that a statement was made by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) with regard to the position of the mill. The honorable gentleman said that it could not carry on profitably without extensions of machinery for special work, and when the item of £45,000 was removed from the Estimates by the House, it was announced that the Government intended to sell the mill for the reason that it was unable to dispose of more than one-fourth of its output to Government Departments, and that the requirements of the Government Departments were sufficient only to keep it going for three months in the year. The decision to dispose of the mill was a wise one. I applauded it at the time the announcement was made, and am pleased that it has been carried into effect. Admittedly the price obtained for the mill was less than its book value, but the most open form of tendering that could be devised was adopted. I wholly disagree with the suggestion that if a third series of tenders had been invited the returned soldiers would have been able to purchase the mill and to work it for themselves. The position of the Returned Soldiers Woollen Mill Company is such,’ unfortunately, that it is rather hard for it to increase its capital or to enlarge its factory. Every one is familiar with the circumstances under which the returned soldiers commenced operations.. It is well known that the Government advanced them £50,000, that they raised £65,000 or £70,000, and that the Government also made advances to them on the security of war gratuities. The money raised by the. soldiers was secured only after the whole of Australia had been systematically canvassed. It was, perhaps, unfortunate that the suggestion to make use of war gratuities in that way was not made earlier. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested in the first speech that fie. made in this House that war gratuity money might be used on similar lines, and if that suggestion had been widely adopted at the time, we would, probably, have many more co-operative woollen mills and other co-operative concerns throughout Australia. During the last three years there has been a continuous increase in the number of woollen mills established in the Commonwealth, and practically all of them are co-operative mills. The Government could have successfully operated the Commonwealth Mill only by keeping it going throughout the year, and by organizing a system of distribution of output which would be very costly, and would ultimately lead to a great deal of trouble and loss. They would also have been in direct competition with the ‘mill at (their very door, in which the returned soldiers are interested, and in which Commonwealth funds, to a considerable extent, are invested.
– Will not the Commonwealth Mill in the hands of the company that has purchased it be in competition with the returned soldiers’ mill ?
– Why should the Government take advantage of the whole of the Commonwealth resources to place a mill carried on by themselves in a better position than a mill alongside belonging to returned soldiers, or, for that matter, compete with any other co-operative concern in Australia ? I fail to see any cogent reason why the Government should carry on in competition with private enterprise only activities which are found to be profitable. The Government’ have to raise revenue from taxation, and if they left only unprofitable enterprises to the citizens there would shortly be a condition of stagnation and retrogression in the country.
– Then the Commonwealth Mill was a profitable undertaking!
– The profit made by the Commonwealth mill was due to abnormal conditions which would not. exist in peace time. If the Government had continued to operate it, that would have involved a big, expansion of government trading in the handling of the material turned out by the mill. It has been said that no one would sell a business concern at less than its book value, but I can inform honorable members that I . possessed a concern of an exactly similar class, and was unfortunate enough to hold on to it for four or five years longer than I should have done. It returned profits during the war, but the time came when it failed to show a satisfactory return, and I ultimately sold it, about four months ago, for about a quarter of the amount I could have received for it three years before. The concern was well managed, but a condition of affairs arose under which it . came into competition with State enterprise.
– Does the honorable gentleman contend that the Commonwealth Woollen Mill was in that position ?
– I do not, but I contend that that is the position it would have got into if we had continued to operate it. I know of industries started by the State Government in New South Wales that, after being successful for a year or two, ultimately got into difficulties. Their timber and joinery works showed a loss on two years’ operations equal to the total capitalized value of the plant. Unfortunately for honorable members oppo site, the biggest losses on the State enterprises occurred when representatives of the Labour party were handling the finances of the State. The Federal Government have had a very bitter experience of this kind in connexion with their saw-mills. It is timewe got down to bed-rock principles. The National Government of Australia is not concerned with small things, but with big national problems. It is, perhaps, arguable whether business enterprises may not be carried on. by the Government of a State ; but that is not a function of the National Government of Australia, which was formed for quite other purposes. During this debate the speeches of honorable members opposite have been barren of any constructive criticism. We are anxious to hear the opinions of honorable members opposite, if they are in a position to give the Government some assistance.
– The honorable gentleman does not like their opinions in the form of motions.
– We do rather like them in that form, when the motions are very quickly allowed to go to a vote. Honorable members opposite have submitted motions which they have themselves been anxious to drop very quickly. As soon as one or two honorable members have spoken upon them they have been anxious to go to a vote, knowing that the position taken up was absolutely untenable. I hope that during the session they will follow the same practice and will allow their motions to go to a vote when one or two honorable members have spoken upon them. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) made an impassioned speech in f avour of what he called “ The red objective,” or the socialization of trade, industry, and commerce, and all the means of production,. Only a few months ago the honorable member was somewhat opposed to the extreme methods which are adopted in some coun- . tries abroad. The Government have no intention of adopting imported foreign methods in handling the problems of this country. They prefer the methods which are known and practised in all the British Dominions. The Government intend to utilize methods that have been in constant practice in . the Dominions for many years, and have stood the test of time; and I venture to say that the practical ‘propositions with which honorable members will be asked to deal during this session will receive the approval of Parliament and people.
– If any one is looking for a reason for the Prime Minister (Ma-. Bruce) proposing to close this ‘ House when -he takes his trip to England, one is provided in the speech of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to-night, who has demonstrated by his display that the Prime Minister, is wise in not intrusting him with the reins in his absence. The honorable gentleman accused the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) of making a scurrilous speech full of inaccuracies in stating his case against the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mill; and in order to reassure honorable members, such as the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), who were perceptibly disturbed, lie said he intended - to lay bare the facts of the case. On this I am sure that every one in the Chamber expected that the Treasurer would at once deal with the principal ‘ accusations made by the honorable member for Yarra. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that the Treasurer has left his own supporters profoundly disappointed, at his failure to in any way touch on those charges. It is very natural that the honorable member for Corio, in whose electorate the mill is, should be perceptibly disturbed by the speech of the honorable member for Yarra.
– How did the honorable member perceive the disturbance ?
– Well, because he looked about as uncomfortable as a pig in a synagogue. I do not wish to liken the honorable member for Corio to that quadruped, but he looked just about as unhappy as it would look in such a place.
– I hope the honorable member does not liken this House to a synagogue !
– The Treasurer rose to perform a certain task, and without wishing to speak unkindly, I must say that he miserably failed. The reason for the Treasurer rising at all is provided in this morning’s newspaper. It is there reported that the secretary of the late Country party had, in his little way, attempted to reassure the country by saying in Sydney that the fact that the Treasurer left on the prime Minister the onus of replying unaided to the charges made against the Government was not any indication that the Treasurer had lost the confidence of his own followers. And, now, with a view to removing any suspicion of the kind, the Treasurer feel3 called upon to. let the country know that’ this is not a one-man Government - a Government with only one head. On the contrary, it is a Government which is, as it has been described, a Government with two tails and no head at all!
The Prime Minister spent some time in his endeavours to refute the charges, while the Treasurer has not even’ made an attempt to answer them, and, after all that has been said, they stand to-day as a grave indictment which the Government cannot afford to ignore. W!hat are the charges made by the honorable member for Yarra? The Treasurer said that the Government had been charged with corruption, and I vainly waited for some attempt at a refutation. What is the answer to the charges? The people of the country, as well as the electors of Corio, will wish to know what the answer is. The honorable member for Yarra stated that an engineering firm, appointed by the Government, was requested to value the plant and all connected with the Geelong Mill ; that the valuation was £267,000, but that the Government had sold the mill for £155,000. Further, the honorable member for Yarra declared that the Government had altered the terms of the tender in such a way that the purchasers were asked to pay, by way of deposit, not onethird of the purchase money, but onetenth, and the time for payment was extended from five years to ten years, with a reduction in the rate of interest from 6 per cent, to 5$ per cent. It was further stated by the honorable member that the altered conditions were never advertised anywhere .before tenders were closed. These are definite and serious charges, and we expected that the Treasurer would answer them. Instead of doing so, however, he talked about matters that have no reference to the charges - he left the serious indictment absolutely untouched. The fact that the Treasurer did not direct his efforts to answering the charges compels me to follow on the lines pursued by that honorable gentleman. We on this side were told that we are quite wrong in referring to the Treasurer’s followers, and his present associates, as “ mental paralytics.” I remind the House, however, that it was not honorable members on this side who so described the present followers of the Treasurer. We may think that those gentlemen who sit in the Corner are “mental paralytics,” but we have never said so. As a matter of fact, it was the present Prime Minister who so described the Treasurer and his followers of the late Country party. Notwithstanding all this, however, the Treasurer went on to-night to say that the Government and their supporters are now a happy family. When that claim is made I cannot but look at the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), and ask myself what his feelings are. We are just fresh from an election, in the course of which the Treasurer maligned that honorable member at every turn - spoke of him as one who had conducted the affairs of the country in such a way that the public watchdogs had everlastingly to be at his heels, and said that on many occasions the light had had to be switched on in order to make him drop the loot. Under such circumstances, the Treasurer asks us to believe that honorable members opposite are quite a happy family, and that everything is going on swimmingly. Well, if honorable members opposite are a happy family their looks belie them. The Treasurer also referred to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). That honorable member is an expert in many directions, and I believe that had he been appointed one of the party managers, he might at the present moment have controlled the Post Office or some other Department. Unfortunately, however, the honorable member was not “quick enough off the mark,” and he was not one of the party managers. It is interesting to look back a little into history. The honorable member for Echuca was one amongst others who was waiting at a meeting of the Country party to express disapproval of the fusion of that party and the Nationalists; but the Prime Minister, who was naturally expecting something of the kind, ascertained that the party meeting had been fixed for 3 o’clock, and very cleverly and cunningly arranged the swearingin ceremony for two hours earlier. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) was then compelled to return to his electorate. An honorable member’s constituents usually look to their representative for a lead, but in this instance the honorable member visited his constituency and then stated that his supporters were willing to give the Government a chance. The Treasurer stated this evening that the members of the Government were a happy family, but we should remember that Mr. Dunstan, a member of the Country party, said at Bendigo that if they went to the electors at the next election and told the people that the Country party had preserved its separate entity, they would be laughed off the platform. Prior to the elections, the present Treasurer said, “ The Country party would not sell its principles for the sake of office, nor did he see any reason for coalescing with a party whose policy was a negation of the principles for which the Country party stood.” In view of such utterances, and the subsequent actions of the members of the Country party, men such as Mr. Dunstan, who cannot see what is actually happening, are profoundly disappointed. The members of the Country party do not like these exposures concerning the manner in which they have allowed the Prime Minister and his followers to swallow them. The Treasurer, instead of attempting to answer the charges made by the honorable member for Yarra, trotted out the old fabrication used against this party from time immemorial in an endeavour to camouflage the real issue, by stating that the policy of the Labour party is framed outside Australia. Any one who cares for the truth knows that the platform of the Labour party is drawn up by the meal and women of Australia who are members of the movement, and we invite every man and woman in Australia to come into the movement if they are prepared to abide by its principles. _ Mr. CHARLTON - And it is the policy which will be indorsed by the people shortly.
– Exactly. The Treasurer, in speaking of the taxation proposals, said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was mistaken in saying that they were framed with the intention of increasing taxation on the poorer section of the community but he should read a speech recently delivered by the Treasurer of New South Wales (Sir Arthur Cocks), a member of his own party, who clearly indicated that sufficient revenue could not be raised unless taxation on the poorer section of the people was increased. If the Minister had left it at that, the matter would not have been worth pursuing, but when he found himself in difficulties he said that taxation was high in consequence of the Customs duties which he stated were imposed by the party on this side of the House. I represent a farming community, and make no apology for the votes I have recorded on fiscal questions. I have never flinched an inch on the question, and have always told my supporters that the members of the Country party do not represent the man on the land. Prior to the last general election, the Country party issued a document containing fourteen points, but in perusing the Governor-General’s Speech, there is no indication of any of those points being embodied in legislation. The members of the Country party were like porcupines - full of points. Doubtless many of the supporters of the Country party, who have to work long hours, and who have not sufficient time to give close attention to the policy of their representatives, swallowed all they were told. Point number nine reads : “ ‘ The cheapening and extending of production by the reduction of duties on the staple necessities of the primary producer, and the admission of implements and tools of trade free of duty when made within the British Empire.” This plank of the Country party’s platform was freely advertised, and a definite assurance given that this burden would be removed from the man on the land. I never agreed with their point of view, but no effort has been made to keep their promise. The only way in which they proceeded to give relief was to close Parliament for four months, and then to bring down proposals in which there is no mention of the matter, and allow the “Prime Minister to go round the world while Parliament is again closed for several months. In the meantime they will tell their constituents that the only hope of giving effect to their fourteen points is to wait until the Prime Minister
Ur. Parker Moloney. chooses to return and re-open Parliament. If they are honest they must admit that these particular Customs duties cannot be touched until it pleases the Tariff Board to take action, which fact they well knew when they were making these statements during the elections. I am afraid that when they meet the men on the land whom they have grossly betrayed by joining in the fusion, this ghost of the past will present itself to them.
There is only one other statement made by the Treasurer that calls for reply. He declared that- it was decided to sell the Commonwealth Woollen Mills long before the present Prime Minister joined the late Government. ‘ As a matter of fact, it was decided in June, 1922, to sell the mills. The Prime Minister joined the Hughes Government in. December, 1921.
– That is quite right.
– I am pleased to hear the admission of the Prime Minister that my statement is correct, and I hope that, although the parties to the fusion meet in ‘separate rooms, he and the Treasurer will be able to come together sufficiently long to enable him to tell his colleagues that, when next he rises to make a deliberate statement in this House, he should adhere to the facts.
– What the Treasurer said was that the first suggestion to sell these mills was made when I was away in England and before I became a Minister.
– The first ‘indication that Parliament had that the mills were to be sold was when the announcement was made in June, 1922. What the Treasurer has said to-night was, to say the least of it, misleading. Last night I listened to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and I could not gather where he s’tood; in fact, he does not know himself where he stands. He told us that he would vote with the honorable member for Yarra if he could believe him.
– I asked for more proof. Mere assertion is not proof.
– It was in order to satisfy the honorable member that the Treasurer spoke, but the honorable member cannot say that his speech furnished the proof which the honorable member required. At any rate, the charges made hy the honorable member for Yarra were not answered, and I hope the honorable member for Corio will stand by his declaration. He will find all the proof he requires in the files, which it is his bounden duty, as the member for the district, to peruse in- order to make’ himself acquainted with the facts.
I do not wonder at the Treasurer’s statement that he would sell everything in the form of Government enterprises, when we know that he has said -
Nothing has been more damaging or destructive to the national life of Australia than the tyranny brought about by the Government ownership of railways.
He would sell the railways arid everything else. I contrast his remarks with a statement made by the Prime Minister last night to the effect that “while he was a whole-hearted supporter of selling the woollen mills at Geelong, he would not sell the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, because they were a splendid insurance against the high freights that might otherwise be charged by the Shipping Combine.” Of course, this argument was quite the opposite to that which he had. used in support of the decision to sell the woollen mills. The honorable member for Yarra declared that these mills were the best insurance we could have against the high prices charged by Flinderslane ; but I suppose the Prime Minister naturally could not indorse such a statement, seeing that he is a representative of Flinders-lane, and is one of those of whom the Postmaster-General spoke when he said that from a window in this building looking to the . west one could “ shoot the profiteers with a shortrange gun.” The Prime Minister is a whole-hearted Socialist in regard to shipping freights, but takes up the opposite stand where the interests of Flinders-lane are concerned. However, I contrast his utterance with that of the Treasurer, who would not only sell the Commonwealth “Woollen Mills and the Commonwealth steamers, but also the Government railways, and everything else in the shape of Government enterprise.
The Treasurer said that he proposed to pillory the honorable member for Yarra, but lie failed to do so. Honorable members have heard the charges made by that honorable member, and the Ministerial reply. I leave the two utterances side by side for the. benefit of the honorable member for Corio and others who say that they want to hear the truth. If honorable members look at the two statements from an unbiased standpoint, the best indication of what they aro likely to do was supplied last night, when the only independent member in this House voted with the. honorable member for Yarra. If honorable members opposite were -allowed freedom of action in this matter, there would be an overwhelming verdict against the action of the Government in disposing of, to its friends outside, this great public institution which for a number of years has returned a handsome profit for the benefit of the people.
.- We have been told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that we have only ten weeks in which to deal with the long programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. Even- honorable members opposite will agree that if full opportunity is accorded to both sides of the House to discuss one-fourth of the matters mentioned in the Speech, it will be impossible to close the session in the time indicated. The announcement by the Prime Minister has raised the ire of one of his chief supporters among the press of my State. The Hobart Mercury, a journal that has always opposed the Labour party, and favoured the Nationalists, referred recently to the Prime Minister’s decision, to curtail the session. It stated that a famous statesman was once described as a young man in a hurry, and that the. Prime Minister was evidently qualifying for that title. It seems to me that the designation would be appropriate in the case of both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
Reference was made in the Speech to the splendid industrial position of Australia. The Government profess to be a Protectionist Administration, but when one remembers their inaction in many matters that seriously affect some of the big industries of this country, one begins to wonder whether the claim is justified. The carbide industry in Tasmania is entirely Australian in character. All the raw material necessary for the manufacture of the finished article is obtained in that State, and it has been proved conclusively that, given a reasonable chance, the company trying to develop that enterprise would be able to satisfy all the requirements of Australia in that particular commodity. An embargo was placed on the importation of carbide in order to enable the industry to hold its own, and then the embargo was suddenly removed.
Mr.Foster. - Why?
– The honorable member can tell the House why.
Mr.Foster. - You know why.
– I am perfectly well aware that when the embargo was imposed an assurance was given by the company that it would duplicate its plant to enable it to satisfy the reasonable requirements of Australia at a fair price, and the company was prepared to allow the Government to take a hand in fixing that price. The company was unable, however, to take advantage of the embargo during the short period of its operation; because it was spending what little capital it had in the duplication of its plant. Then without warning, at a most critical time in the financial history of our country, the embargo was lifted, and in a very few months the company found itself with £17,000 or £18,000 worth of carbide on hand that it was unable to sell to the consumers of Australia, because carbide from overseas was being dumped into the country. Certain foreign companies that had a surplus of this product that they had accumulated during the war period wished to get rid of it at any price, and the financial institutions behind them were prepared to sell the stuff for what they could get for it. The result was. that the struggling Australian company carrying on a purely Australian industry, and employing Australian workmen, practically had to shut down.
– That is not correct.
– I live in the neighbourhood of the company’s works, and I know that whatI say is true. The Prime Minister visited Hobart a short time ago, and was received with open arms by his numerous supporters. A deputation waited on him, and he promised to reconsider the question. Within a few days of his return to Melbourne it was announced that the Government had decided not to re-impose the embargo. I am glad to know that the Government has sent an expert to Tasmania to make an independent, report. The matter is of vital moment to many of my constituents, and when that report comes to hand we hope to receive assistance from the Government in some other way if they adhere to their decision not to re-impose the embargo.
I desire to refer to another industry that is entirely Australian in character. If I am accused of parochialism in dealing with the carbide industry, I cannot be similarly twitted in the present instance, because financial interests outside Tasmania are concerned. I refer to hop growing. It was decided last year to prevent the dumping of hops from the United States of America. When that country “ went dry ‘ ‘ its hop-growers were pleased to get any price they could in any part of the world, and when their hops were dumped into Australia they were readily purchased by the brewers at a low price, with the result that hundreds of growers in Australia were ruined. Being of the class known as small producers, these people are admitted to be among Australia’s best citizens. On 12th October, 1922, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) made the definite statement that if the brewers of Australia continued to. purchase the cheap hops, and would not stand by the agreement that had been arrived at by negotiations between the interested parties,he would take drastic steps to meet the difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was largely responsible for the agreement that was arrived at, as will be seen from a perusal of Hansard of 12th October last. It was pointed ‘ out by Mr. Rodgers that Mr. Charlton, acting on behalf of the growers of southern Tasmania, had rendered valuable assistance in the matter. An agreement was drawn up by which the brewers promised, in return for the protection afforded to their industry, to purchase 85 per cent. of their requirements of hops from Australian growers, provided that they were allowed to import 15 per cent. That arrangement suited everybody. The brewers claimed that they wanted 15 per cent. of foreign hops, for reasons best known to themselves. They were told quite plainly by the Leader of the Labour party that, although there was an Excise duty on Australian beer, there was an import duty on imported beers, and that Parliament, in following the recognised policy of Australia and giving protection to Australian industries, was also protecting the brewers. But they did not carry out their agreement. It is a well-known fact that for a long time past they have been importing far more than 15 per cent., and have been taking from Australian growers far less than 85 per cent, of their requirements of hops. This matter is to some extent being considered, and I hope the Government, through the Tariff Board, which was appointed for the purpose of assisting .to carry out the declared Protection policy of Australia, will see that something more is done in the near future than has been done in the past to protect at least these two Australian industries. Members of the Tariff Board are drawing large salaries for doing this very work. I do not say that they are not attempting to do it, but in connexion with the two industries which particularly concern the State of Tasmania^ their actions have met with the disapproval of thousands of people. They seem to have been very slow, and -I hope they will soon speed up.
I notice from the newspapers that ail attempt is being made by Country party members who support the Government to have the duty on sulphur altered. I do not know whether the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) is one of them, but his Voice will be heard no doubt. For many years his voice was heard in the State Parliament, and he will be able to speak for himself here. While holding broad Austraiian views, members of this House have to look after the particular requirements of their own constituencies. I represent the constituency of Denison, which is largely industrial, and I intend to raise my voice, and Use my vote–if I am given the opportunity, which the Government threatens to deny me - in opposition to any attempt to reduce the duty on imported sulphur, A very big industry for the manufacture of sulphur is on the point of being started at Hobart, and there are other factories for the manufacture of that article in Australia. It is au industry that’ ought to have been established in this country much earlier. It suits the members of the Country party who support the Protectionist Go*vernment to tell their constituents that they will vote for cheap sulphur. I shall certainly fight against any reduction of duty.
The heavy importations of- timber which are now taking place, are Of vital interest, not only to many workers in Australia, but to tens of thousands of Australian people. When I look at the Government’s inaction in regard to timber importations’, I wonder whether it is the Protectionist Government that it claims to be. In ohe of the pictorial newspapers of this city, a picture was published last week of ‘the ship Lyngo, which had just arrived im-port from Fredrikstadt, after a voyage of 128 days, with 2j000j006 feet of Scandinavian timber on board. I want to know where we stand as a Protectionist country in the face of that fact.- This was only one ship-load* but timber cargoes have been arriving from abroad for a long time past. This cargo, no doubt consisting of softwood, would be worth at ‘ least £1 per hundred feet, which would make its total value £20,000.
– Australian workers refuse to use Australian hardwood.
– I have heard that statement made many times, and I have seen it proved over and over again that the workers can be made to use hardwood. Those who know Australia thoroughly, and have traversed its forests in every State, have demonstrated that the daily requirements of Australia can be satisfied without importing one foot of timber from overseas. For the most commonplace use, such as flooring, as well as for the most ornate purpose, there are suitable timbers in Australia. That we cannot get some Australian workers bo use Australian timbers, if they can get softwood, is quite true. Any man would work softwood rather than hardwood. Many Australian woods, however, should not be put into the category of hardwoods. If we refuse to permit shipments df timber to come from oversea, We Would assist a large Australian industry which is now languishing because the Govern - ment, which is supposed to be a Protectionist Government, is not applying the Protectionist policy of the country.
– That is the reason why the saw-mills are closing down in Tasmania.
– -The honorable mem-, ber for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), who is my personal friend but political enemy, this afternoon worked himself into a fury because of what he termed the devastating effects of the industrial arbitration laws, which, he said, had been the cause of the closing down of sixty-three sawmills in Tasmania. The fact is that a number of saw-mills shut down some months ago, although some of them have re-opened since. The honorable member’s statement applied to southern Tasmania, hut he quite overlooked the fact that the mills in northern Tasmania were working full time, and making large profits. The honorable member is really a political troglodyte. He does not believe in the regulation of wages, hours, and conditions, of labour. He would revert to the old conditions, when the worker had to accept anything the employer offered. With great pleasure I noticed the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech stating that the Government do not intend to completely dispose of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, although we have been frequently informed to the contrary by the press. Tasmania, is geographically isolated from the rest of Australia, and if any shipping dispute occurs the people on the island are at the mercy, of the Shipping Combine. The Combine, as represented by the Union Steam-ship Company, the Huddart Parker Company, and the Tasmanian Shipping Company, is the only link between Tasmania and the mainland; but the condition can be remedied. I have on the notice-paper a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the necessity for providing an adequate, up-to-date, regular, and direct service between Melbourne and Hobart. The northern part of Tasmania is to some extent well served by the Combine in normal times at their own prices, but the southern part is quite isolated from the mainland. I shall enlarge on that subject later if the Government will give me an opportunity to move for the appointment of a Select Committee.
The coal industry is closely associated with the shipping industry. The Leader of the Opposition has urged the Prime Minister to intervene. in the coal strike, or lock-out, in New South Wales, but the Prime Minister considers that that is not his duty. If the Prime Minister does not intervene without delay, and the dispute develops into a gigantic struggle such as is feared by some people, the effect upon industries will be disastrous. Iu that event Tasmania will suffer more than any other State, because, in addition to experiencing a dislocation of industry, it will be practically cut off from the mainland. It is certainly the Prime Minister’s duty to intervene in this dispute if by so doing he can prevent the spread of the trouble.
– A conference convened by the Premier of New South Wales is to be held to-morrow.
– I am very glad to hear it. I support the Leader of the Opposition’s assertion that if the conference’ convened at the instigation of the State of New South Wales fails, it will then be the duty of the Prime Minister to take action. It is futile for the Prime Minister to say that he is not entitled to intervene. We know perfectly well that the people who are supporting the present Government are on the side of the coalowners, and I freely admit that the large majority of the people who support the Opposition are on the side of the coal miners. I make no secret of that fact. If honorable members opposite had had experience of the stern realities of metal and coal mining, they would sympathize with the miners in this struggle. If honorable members opposite knew, -as many Labour members in this and the State Parliaments do, what it means to descend a mine at midnight, and work up to their knees in water, and away from the pure air, for eight hours at a stretch, arriving at the surface wet and miserable, and then having to “ bach “ in huts,, as many men do in the far-back mining centres, they, too, would be on the side of the miners when industrial trouble occurred.
– If they had to do that, coal would be sold in the chemists’ shops at so much per ounce.
– That is so. If honorable members opposite had to do that work, the products of both coal mining and metal mining would be scarce. Yet the honorable member for Franklin would wipe out of existence the Federal Arbitration ‘ Court. The regulation of hours and wages has done much to benefit those who for too many years were labouring under inhumane conditions. From the inception of the mining industry in Australia these men knocked at the doors of Parliament in vain until the Labour party came into existence, and compelled the State Parliaments to enact legislation giving better conditions to the miners. If we adopted the suggestion made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and wiped out all Arbitration Courts, we would return to the conditions existing in the days when there was absolutely no check imposed upon the quality of the ventilation in any of the mines, and men had to work in all sorts of illventilated mines. Any one who has travelled Australia has seen the wrecks of men, still in their youth, who a few years ago were strong and able-bodied citizens. That was the result of their having to work in mines before the Labour party compelled the Governments to see that decent ventilation was. provided. When we hear speeches of . that character, it makes us wonder where we are.
The question of immigration concerns honorable members on this side much more seriously than it does honorable members ou the other side. I have listened to beautiful speeches on the subject of immigration, and then I have witnessed spectacles such as that which I witnessed yesterday, when, in. company with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I introduced to the Prime Minister a deputation of unemployed. Many of those men were very fine samples of young Australians, and a number of them were fathers of families. The great majority of them, it was plainly apparent, keenly desired to obtain any kind of work which offered reasonable conditions, and which would enable them to earn sufficient to keep their families. They were only a small proportion of the number of the people that are unemployed in this city, who to-night do not know where- they will get to-morrow’s breakfast. I know that what is happening in this city is happening in the other cities and towns of Australia. The other day, in Tasmania, 160 men were thrown on to an overstocked labour market as a result of the compulsory closing down of the carbide works, because the Government could not give the assistance that was asked for. Already too much poverty existed in that district because men were unable to get work. I am in favour of immigration when the Australian men who are out of work to-day and who want work have been placed in positions in which they can earn a living. It is all very well to talk about putting them on the land. Proper arrangements have not been made in my State for placing these men on the land. If we can get the State Governments to make reasonable and proper provision for putting these men on the land, housing them decently, and giving them a start, it will be all right. We are paying out tens of thousands of pounds every year in connexion with this big immigration policy, and we are going to continue doing so. The net result will be that the labour markets of all the cities and towns in Australia will be more overstocked than is the case to-day, as the great majority of these men, who are being brought out ostensibly to go on the land, will find their way to the towns and cities. Some advocates of immigration, such as Sir Henry Barwell, seem to be very keenly in favour of bringing out boys. What about our Australian’ boys? Thousands of Australian fathers to-day cannot find work for their boys in the different channels of employment. This Government is not doing what it could and should do to see that the best citizen of all - the Australian native - is given a reasonable chance.
The honorable member for Franklin this ‘ afternoon declared himself a bitter opponent of State-owned or Federalowned ships, and of State control in all its phases. He would have nothing to do with the Commonwealth Line of Steamers because it was Government controlled. He blamed the Commonwealth Line because the Australian fruit-growers to-day are not getting overseas prices that will enable them to pay their expenses. We know that they are not. He forgot to mention, however, that the main factor in regard to expenses is the tremendously heavy freights that are being charged, not by the Commonwealth Line, but by the privately-owned steamers. We know that the Commonwealth Line made a certain reduction. Had we not had the Commonwealth steamers to carry . some produce overseas from Australia, very much higher prices would have been charged the Australian producers by the big Shipping Combine, which has Australia in its grip in precisely the same way as the smaller Combine has Tasmania in its grip.
I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision to close this Parliament in ten weeks’ time. ‘ Of CoUrse having the numbers, if it chooses it can do so J it3 supporters will be sufficiently obedient to vote in its favour at the crack of the party whip. We have been in recess for four of five months. There is an enormous amount of business which could be done for the benefit of Australia. Many big national problems require grappling with without further delay. The business of the Conference which is taking the Prime Minister away could be carried on equally as well if this Parliament were in session. We hope ‘that the Prime Minister will listen to reason, and withdraw his threat that he intends to close the business of this session at the end of ten weeks- If he sticks to that resolution, some pretty lively times are in store for the Government. In all past Parliaments since Federation was established, the first session has occupied six months or more. I know how earnest are the members of this party in their desire to see that many important problems are grappled with, and that the business which they were sent here to do is done. It is to be hoped’ that these “ two young men in a hurry” - as they have been called by their. press supporters - (Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page) will reconsider their decision, and give the Parliament of Australia a reasonable time iri which to discuss the many important problems which to-day are affecting seriously the interests of all sections of the Australian people.
– I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I am greatly in favour of the Prime Minister’s decision to visit Great Britain for the purpose of attending the approaching Conferences. It is not only desirable, it is practically necessary, that he should go. Since the last Conference was held great changes have taken place. More than half the Prime Ministers who were present at that Conference no longer are the Prime Ministers of their different countries: Apart from the importance of the questions that have to be discussed it seems desirable that the heads of the various parts of the British Empire should come into personal touch with one another. It is desirable that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth should meet, not only the Leaders of the British Government, but also the Prime Ministers of the other selfgoverning Dominion’s. This is all the more necessary because of the need for Imperial reciprocity. It seems to me to be a particularly suitable moment for the Prime Minister to be going Home, as he is at the beginning of his career as the Leader of this House, and it appears to be highly probable that a term of at least three years as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth lies in front of him.
I do not propose to say very much in reference to the matters that are to be discussed at the Imperial Conference. I shall confine my attention to the question of Defence. What I shall have to say on that subject will probably be regarded by honorable members as consisting largely of platitudes and truisms. That I cannot ‘help. Some of the remarks I have heard from the Opposition side of the .House during the last week or two have been so strange as to throw one back to elemental ideas. We are often told that there has been no change in the Labour party. We are told that the Labour party is now what it has always been. I do not ‘think that is so, and the change in their policy in the matter of Defence, to which the Prime Minister has referred, supports my view. I shall read an ‘extract from Professor Scott’s Short History of Australia, which sets ou!t the position more tersely and more cogently than I could hope to put it. In this book, which was written before the Labour party had adopted its present at’titude to Defence, so that the professor could not be considered .guilty of airy party bias, we have, at page 326, this statement-^
A remarkable circumstance affecting the new Australian Defence policy was that, although the political parties of the country were bitterly at enmity, as shown in the previous chapter, they all, at about the same time, became converts to the principle of compulsory military service, and all became eager supporters of the establishment of ah Australian Navy. Indeed, after these two things had been enacted, there was some brisk controversy as to which party had first proposed them. Defence became a non-party issue. At one time it seemed that there could not be such a thing asa non-party issue in Australian politics; but these two very far-reaching changes did actually attain to that unique distinction.
It is a case of looking at two pictures - gaze on. this picture and on that. Professor Scott further says -
If any one had predicted before 1900 that Australia, with her democratic tendencies, would be the first portion of the British Empire to adopt -compulsory military service, he would have been . deemed absurd. But, as the Defence problem was more thoroughly studied, men asked themselves why it should he considered undemocratic to compel citizens to train themselves for the defence of their country. The payment of taxes is not voluntary, though it . is never very agreeable. The observance of . Health Acts and factory regulations is not necessary. Why, then, men said, should it be left to the choice of the individual as . to whether he should make himself efficient to defend the country whose protection he enjoys? And if a Democracy was not prepared to defend itself, had it any more reason to expect that it would survive than other forms had done elsewhere?
That quotation puts better than I could express it what I feel. One wonders why there is this change in the attitude of the Labour party.
– Because we have had a taste of (militarism in Australia.
– Some of us have had a good many taste? of it elsewhere, and have come to a different conclusion. I venture to say that militarism has never been experienced in Australia in anything like the form in which it was experienced by soldiers at the Front. Why has this change on the part of the Labour party taken place? Defence is a matter of the highest importance. It is, so to speak, the fire insurance of Australia. Are we going to let the fire insurance lapse? Is it that honorable members of the Opposition are not proud of what our soldiers did in the war?
– We haveour insurance in the League of Nations.
-I propose, later on, to refer to the League of Nations. Is this change of attitude on the part of the Labour party due to lack of pride in what our soldiers did in the war? Certainly not. Is it that honorable members of the Labour party do not like the idea of discipline being enforced ? I can hardly believe that to be the reason.
– Civilization should not make provision for the killing of people. “ Thou shalt not kill.”
– I quite agree with the honorable member. We are at one in our desire for peace; we differ only as to the way to insure peace. I think honorablemembers opposite will agree that no one is the worse for a certain measure of discipline. For my part, I consider that our young men, and the men of the coming generation, will not be any the worse for discipline. It is due to the men who were killed in the war that this generation and future generations shall not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities, and I shall have no part in allowing them to do so.
We are told very often that our soldiers went to the war in order to end war. I do not think that is quite correct. Doubtless, a great many of them went to the war with the hope that it would be the last. Certainly a great many hoped that for the next generation, at least, there would be peace - that the next generation would be spared the unpleasant experiences with which the present has had to contend. I do not think, however, that any man in his heart of hearts believed that by going to the war he would help to end war for all time. People do not go to war because of theories and abstract ideas of that kind. Our men went to the Front because blood is thicker than water; because they had British blood in their veins; because they thought civilization was imperilled; and believed, and rightly believed, that the Empire, and particularly Australia, was in danger. These were the reasons that prompted them to go to the Front. What would they think if they realized that that for which they fought, and for which many gave their lives, was in danger of being weakly surrendered, owing to negligence, or class hatreds, or political partisanships ?
I have said sufficient to make it clear that I am in favour of adequate defence, and I rejoice to see that the Government also is strongly in favour of it. That much is made perfectly clear in its policy speech. Wars will recur, however much we may seek to prevent them. A hundred years ago it was thought that the Napoleonic wars were the end of all war. Let me make another quotation from a recent publication -
The army -
This, of course, was in Great Britain- in 1837 consisted in actual strength of about 100,000’ men, of whom 19,000 were in India, and 20,000 in Ireland. There had been a strong movement, after the peace, to abolish the army altogether on the ground that another war was almost unthinkable.
That was eighty-six years ago -
The Duke of Wellington was only able to keep up this small force by hiding it away in distant parts of the Empire; the total number of troops in Great Britain was only 26,000.
The story then, as now, was, “ We shall have no more war.” I hope that we may have no more wars, but when I look back upon history I say that the probabilities are that some day we shall be engaged in another war, and it may not be carried on 12,000 miles from our midst. It is our responsibility to make provision to meet that contingency should it arise. I decline to follow the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite into speculations as to the direction from which war will come, and the country which is going to engage us in war. To do so would be mostunpolitic. I see no good purpose that could be served by such speculations. To use again the fire insurance analogy, let me say that when a man insures his house against fire he does not tell the insurance agent that he expects that the fire will attack his house from a certain direction, or that his crops will be set on fire by a certain man. He decides to insure his house after consideration of the general situation about him. That is what . I suggest we should do.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and other honorable members opposite suggest that we should rely upon the League of Nations. I say, by all means let us give the League of Nations such assistance and encouragement as we can, and follow it with our good hopes. But the League of Nations at the present time is not in a position to protect us under its wings.’ There can be no question about that. I personally wish the League of Nations all success. Twenty years ago I was brought up on international law. One read that for hundreds of years jurists, politicians, and statesmen had said that international law would save the country from all war in the future. One read of The Hague Conventions and expressions of opinion by parliamentarians that by degrees the world would reach a stage when there would be no more war. In the latter part of 1914 and early in 1915 I witnessed all these splendid ideas about the effect of international law go to the wall, and. the worst features, which, at was supposed that international law would eliminate from war, brought into it. I see no reason to imagine that at the present moment the League of Nations can do very much more for us than international law was able to do before the last war. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, America, Germany, and Russia are not members of the League. Their absence from the councils of the League indicates its weakness. The fact that theFrench occupation of German territory has never been ref erred to the League is a strong indication of ‘ its weakness. Obviously it has not been referred to the League of Nations because it is known that the League is not in a position to do anything effective to deal with the situation, and such a reference to it would have tended to cripple rather than help the League. Then, with regard to disarmament, so far as I know, the League of Nations has never suggested that any nation should disarm or should disarm to any particular extent. I mention this point because I think there is in the country a very wrong impression as to what is provided by the Covenant of the League of Nations with regard to disarmament. Article 8 of the Covenant of the League says this -
The members of the League recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. “The Council, taking account of the geographical situation and circumstances of each member of the League, shall formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of the several Governments. Such plans shall be subject to reconsideration every ten years. After these plans -shall have been adopted by the several Governments the limits of armaments therein fixed shall not be exceeded without the concurrence of the Council.
First of all, there is nothing contemplated in Article 8 of the Covenant beyond the reduction of national armaments to “ the lowest point consistent with national safety.” Most people are unaware that these words “ consistent with national safety” appear in the Covenant of the League at all. The second point I wish to make is that it is for the League, first of all, to suggest to nations what are the armaments which they should keep up. So far as I know, from the time the League was instituted up to the present it has never suggested to any nation what is the establishment which it should maintain. When the League has suggested the establishment, it is then for the nation concerned to decide ..whether it will adopt it or not.
– Does the honorable member think it is possible for the League of Nations to be of any use whilst the Versailles Treaty exists?
– That is rather >a big question to open up, “but I certainly do think so. The League of Nations has not, of course, fulfilled the hopes of every one, but it has already been largely instrumental in preventing three wars. In view of the fact that the League has achieved so much during the existence of the Versailles Treaty, it cannot be suggested that it has been ineffective. We all desire that its effectiveness should be continually increased. In the meantime it is necessary for us to have something else to rely upon until we can safely rely upon the League of Nations. One would have thought that the war would have made members of the Opposition realize the interdependence of the various parts of the Empire, but apparently that is not so. If they did not realize it from the point of view df sentiment, I should have thought that they would have realized it from the point of view of prudence. But we find that they are not only opposed, so far as I can follow them, to co-operation in defence, but also, according to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey),’ to Imperial reciprocity. I take the entirely opposite view to honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member is quite in error. What the honorable member for Bourke said was that Imperial reciprocity was impracticable.
– I apologize if I have misrepresented the honorable member for Bourke, especially as he is not present; but I certainly was under the impression that he said he was opposed to Imperial reciprocity. I take the view that it is absolutely necessary for the future of this country that we should not only maintain the present links with the Home Land and the other parts of the Empire, but that we should also strengthen the ties between us. I suggest that we will be assisted in doing so from time to time by the arrival of new migrants. I could rot help wondering what new migrants would think if they read some of the speeches made by members of the Opposition on the subject of defence. I am grateful to the Government for taking the stand they have taken on this question, which is the critical question, on which all others depend. I would support the Prime Minister going to the Imperial Conference if he were going solely in connexion with the question of defence.
I wish to refer now to the Northern Territory and the railway construction proposed there. I was glad to observe the following paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech: -
Recognising the national importance of railway communication with the Northern Territory, and the Commonwealth Government’s obligation under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, my Ministers will submit proposals to extend the existing railway from Emungalan southward to Daly Waters. This extension will facilitate the development of a large tract of fertile territory.
It is gratifying to see that recognition of the Commonwealth’s ‘ obligation, because the people of my State have gradually got into ‘the .position that they are expected to regard as concessions what, they believe to be their rights. There is a contract with South Australia, and that contract ought to be fulfilled.
– New South Wales also has a contract which ought to be fulfilled.
– I was about to say that -I shall support the removal of the Beat of Government to the Federal Capital, because it fulfils the condition on which New South . Wales came into the Federation. New South Wales has the right to have the capital of Australia within her borders, just as South Australia has the right to a railway through the heart of Australia, as was always intended. It is satisfactory that a start has already been made on this railway, and .that .150 miles of it are to he constructed. I wish, however, that the Government had seen their way to expedite construction by . working from both ends. It seems to me that’ to work from Darwin’ southwards is not to work from the natural base, which I should say is Oodnadatta. I .am not “ looking a gift horse in the mouth,” but it would have been much better if the -railway had started from the southern end, and means thereby provided as quickly as possible for opening up the magnificent country in the Macdonnel Ranges. I am rather disappointed that, in the speeches to which I have listened this session, not many references have been made to the Northern Territory, which is primarily one of the great responsibilities of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, the Northern Territory has hardly been mentioned, but doubtless we shall hear more from the member for that part of Australia. I trust that the Northern Territory, as a result of the construction of this railway, will progress until it becomes that prosperous portion of Australia ‘which we all hope it will be sooner or later.
I now wish to touch on the question of 0’ld-age and invalid .pensions. I am thoroughly in favour of the rectification of anomalies, but I cannot approve of any increase in old-age pensions at the present time.
– “Why did the late Government not increase the pensions?
– I am unable to say. During my election campaign, I referred to this question at every meeting, and always expressed the opinion that I have just now submitted to honorable members.
– If the honorable member had to live on 15s.. per week, he would see some reason for an increase!
– I am not suggesting that any man would not gladly increase the pensions if he thought it proper to do so to-day.
– Give your reasons for objecting to an increase.
– One reason is that Parliament is the trustee of the people’s money, and we have no right, in the present financial situation, to sanction an increase. On 30th June, last year, ,144,3.15 people were drawing pensions, representing nearly £5,400,000, and to increase the old-age pensions alone by an extra shilling a week would mean an added expenditure of close on £375,000 per annum, or nearly as much as it is anticipated will be saved by the proposed taxation arrangements. If pensions are once increased, there is difficulty in reducing them.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member may say, “ Hear, hear,” but I suggest that in fifty or one hundred years’ time, when there is, perhaps, a population of 50,000,000, this expenditure will prove a heavy burden on the people. Even with the pensions at the present rate,, an expenditure of something like £50,000,000 would be involved. There is altogether too much attention paid by some honorable members to the present time. They seem to forget what has been done in the past, and what has to he done by future generations. We are not legislating for to-day, hut for 50 or 100 years hence; and that is one reason why I take my present stand in regard to old-age and invalid pensions. Ry all means let anomalies be removed, but I trust the Government will not propose any increase. These pensions in Australia compare favorably, I think, with similar pensions in any part of the world, and this is a time when we ought to be conserving our finances.
– (Would you favour an increase in the maternity allowance?
– I certainly would- not. I am glad to pay my tribute to the Government for the broad national lines upon which their policy has been framed. We have been informed this- evening by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that members on this side of the Chamber are an unhappy looking lot, who do not seem to be working -well together; but I am afraid this is only one of the theories of the Labour party which will come - has already come - up against hard facts, because since the Government took office they have been daily strengthening their position, and can look forward to a very successful term in office.
. - I desire to preface my remarks by voicing my distinct disapproval of the action of the Government in (disregarding their obligationsby declining to send an Australian delegation . to the International Labour Conference at Geneva. Their, action in this direction, quite apart from any other, proves their desire to join with many other nations in confining the operations of the League within the narrowest possible limits. I doubt the statements of those who made such loud professions of their adherence to the principles for which the League of Nations stands when they are not prepared to give practical effect to their utterances and render that assistance which would make the League a most effective instrument. The Government indicated in their policy speech that it was their intention to send representatives to the International Labour Conference at Geneva this year, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in answer . to a question I submitted on the 14th June, intimated that owing to an alteration in the agenda, only one item, namely, “ General Principles for the Organization of Factory Inspection,” was now listed, and that as the system of factory inspection here was equal to any in the world, there was no need to send a delegation. We are not only under an obligation to ourselves but also to other nations, and as no man liveth to himself, neither does any nation live unto itself. The industrial conditions in other countries are, to an extent, reflected in the conditions prevailing in the Commonwealth, and even if our standard of factory legislation is higher than elsewhere, we should give information to other nations so that full advantage could be taken of our experience. Although we have made some progress in industrial legislation, and factory operatives are. not allowed to work under the vile and deplorable conditions existing in other countries, we have not yet reached perfection. It is probable that with an interchange of ideas very valuable advice and assistance might be rendered, and that as a result of deliberation, improvements could be made in our own legislation. In the matter of medical inspection, for instance, we might learn a good deal from other nations.
While I feel that past arrangements made for representation at these gatherings have not proved satisfactory, it is better for the Commonwealth to be represented than to have no representation at all. We pay a substantial contribution towards the expenses of the League of Nations. Let us therefore be adequately represented at any of its . gatherings. Unfortunately, political patronage has played . a part in the choice of the representatives of Australia at these gatherings. We have not requisitioned the services of those who would most likely be acceptable to the people. The electors have not had the opportunity of expressing their opinion as to whom they consider would be best able to represent them. . The choice has generally been leftuntil such alate stage that the political friends of the Government have been selected rather than men with a thorough knowledge of the subjects likely to he discussed, who would be in a position to represent us to the best advantage. Although the Government have intimated that they think it desirable that on this occasion Australia should not send a delegation to the “ International Labour Congress, I hope that they will give tie matter immediate reconsideration, . and if they are favorable to this request I trust that they will give full opportunity to ‘the organizations able to make a choice of the delegation to do so in a way that will be entirely satisfactory to them. I have received a letter from the South Australian branch of the Australian League of Nations Union . conveying a copy of the resolutions carried at the Inter-tState Conference of the Australian League of Nations Union held in Melbourne on 26th May last, and so that the people of Australia may know what those directly interested in this matter desire, I take this opportunity of placing them on record. The resolutions are as follow: -
That the attention of the Federal Ministry be drawn to the Treaty obligations of Australia under Part 13 of the Treaty dealing with the International Labour Organization -
When the Prime Minister was dealing with Imperial relations and- foreign affairs, it seemed to me that in common with the leading members of the other Governments of . the British Dominions, excepting Canada, the Commonwealth Government desire to continue building up armaments with an utter disregard for the principles for which the League of Nations was brought into existence. Not’ only does this show on their part a lack of confidence in the League, but utterances such as his will not inspire in the other nations of the world the belief that Great Britain is not pursuing an aggressive policy, or that its desire is to live at peace and in harmony with the rest of the world. No nation can be expected to have a sense of security when a spirit of aggressiveness is manifested, and the desire to build up great . armies and navies isunmistakeable. Great Britain, by its great strength and its undoubted influence in international councils, has a singular opportunity to lead the nations in the direction of peace. Surely we have had lessons from the last war, and it is eminently desirable that an earnest attempt be made to secure the true progress of the peoples of the world by encouraging permanent peace. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 o’clock a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House donow adjourn.
– I do not consider that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) treated me fairly in regard to the questions I asked to-day. The subject of income taxation and the action taken at the Conference with State Ministers are of the utmost importance to the taxpayers, and I desired information to’ enable me to refute some of the statements that have been made. I require satisfactory replies to my questions before a serious mistake is made, and the Treasurer should not have treated me in the off-hand way he did. I hope to be able to show that if therewere a uniform system of taxation throughout Australia, duplication in the preparation of returns could be avoided. That would be a step in the right direction, and would help to improve the present muddled system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230621_reps_9_103/>.