9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he will have prepared a return showing the number of insulators manufactured in Germany and purchased by his department during the last financial year, also the price paid for them, and the price quoted for the same class of insulator manufactured in Australia?
– Absolutely none have come from Germany during the year. The whole of the insulators supplied have been of Australian manufacture.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral have prepared a return showing the number of insulators purchased by his department during the financial year for use inWestern Australia, stating through whom they were purchased, and the price paid for them?
– I shall have the return asked for prepared.
Mr. GREGORY, as chairman, presented reports, together with minutes of evidence, from the Public Works Committee in connexion with the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Toowong, Queensland, and at Brisbane Central, Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
Attitude of Government of Great Britain
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning a statement in which he charged Mr. Ramsay MacDonald with having stated that the White Australia policy of Australia is a menace to the peace of Europe. The right honorable gentleman, in reply, said -
I referred to a speech that was mode by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in the House of Commons, and quoted from the report of that speech which is contained in the Hansard of the House of Commons.
As I have gone carefully through the reports, and find no remark of the kind, there must be some misunderstanding, and I ask the Prime Minister whether he will agree to my making a statement now to clear the matter up, as it is of considerable importance to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.
– I quite agree that the honorable gentleman should have the fullest opportunity to deal with this matter, but I suggest that the appropriate time to do so would be on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I should, of course, have to reply to any statement he made, and I repeat that in the speech to which he referred I was quoting from Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s speech as reported in the House of Commons Hansard. It is, no doubt, to that Hansard report the Leader of the Opposition wishes to refer.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if he has any further information to give the House with regard to the number of men put off at Garden Island? The honorable gentleman promised to make inquiries on the subject.
– The information will be available to-morrow afternoon.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether theCommonwealth Government has been consulted in regard to the proposed European Security Pact; and, if so, whether this Parliament will be given an opportunity to consider the arrangement, in so far as it commits Australia?
– The Commonwealth Government has received the fullest information in regard to the negotiations that are taking place, and when a discussion can usefully take place, this House will be afforded an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject.
– Will the Treasurer say whether or not it is a fact that instructions were issued by the Federal Taxation officers in New South Wales that graziers might deduct from their statements of incomes 40 per cent. of all subscriptions to the fund for fighting the shearers’ strike. If such an instructionwas issued will the Treasurer place a copy of it on the table and state the names of the officer or officers responsible for it? Does the Treasurer consider that such a concession was fair and equitable?
– So far as I am aware no such instruction was issued. I shall make inquiries into the matter, and I think I shall be able to assure the honorable member that his information is incorrect.
– An intimation has been given to the public and importers through the Governor-General’s Speech that a revision of the tariff is contemplated. Will goods that are in transit to Australia when the revised duties are tabled in the House be subject to those duties? In order to prevent the Commonwealth from being further flooded with imports will the Minister introduce the amending tariff at an early date?
– As is customary, the new duties will operate from the day on which they are tabled in this House. In regard to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, it has never been usual in this Parliament to anticipate alterations of the tariff, and in that respect alsopast practice will be continued.
– The statement has been made that the Postal Department proposes to discontinue the payment of commission upon the sale of postage stamps by private vendors.Will the Postmaster-General, before arriving at a determination, consider the circumstances of a large number of people who rely upon such commission to supplement their ordinarily slender resources, and see that no undue hardship is imposed upon them?
– It is not the intention of the Department to cancel all licences. Many licences held by people whose business premises are open after the usual post office hours will be continued, and the convenience of the public will be served by allowing them to sell stamps” upon commission.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has convened a meeting of the Loan Council for an early date. Having regard to recent political changes in New South Wales, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of postponing the conference in order to give the new Labour government in that state time in which to settle down?
– The Loan Council, which consists of the Treasurers of the Commonwealth and the states, was due to meet early in May, but owing to the fact that elections were taking place in two states, the gathering was postponed until to-morrow. Unfortunately, owing to the complicated electoral system of New South Wales, a considerable time was required to determine which party was entitled to assume the reins of government, and arrangements having been made . for the meeting to-morrow, and the Acting Premier of Western Australia and representatives of other states having decided to come to Melbourne, a further postponement is not considered desirable. Of course, the circumstances of New South Wales are understood, and we have suggested that the permanent head of the Treasury Department of that state should attend, so that all preliminary work can be done, and a decision arrived at expeditiously when the political position in New South Wales becomes more clearly defined.
– Will the Minister f or Works and Railways consider the advisability of making more elastic the conditions governing the Commonwealth grant to the states for the construction of main roads, so that the views of the State Governments may be met? At present some of the states cannot take full advantage of the federal grant.
– The conditions governing the grant for this year cannot be varied, but the Government has under consideration the whole matter of federal assistance to the states in respect of road construction.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the salary paid to Mr. Percy Hunter, the Director of Migration, the expenses drawn by him in respect of his trips between Australia and Great Britain, and other costs to which that gentleman is putting the Commonwealth taxpayer?
– The salary received by Mr. Hunter is set out in last year’s Appropriation Act, but if the honorable member will put a question upon the notice-paper, asking for specific information regarding travelling and other expenses, I shall see that an answer is supplied.
– The statement has been made by the press that a quarterly report has been received by the Government from the Federal Capital Commission. I have made strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to obtain a copy of it, and I assure the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories that unless I receive a copy promptly I shall make even more strenuous efforts. Will the Minister explain the reason of this star-chamber method of conducting business? Why cannot all honorable members have a copy of the report ?
– I am not aware of any such report having been received, but I shall consult the Minister for Home and Territories, and advise the honorable member later.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that very inferior wheat sacks were imported into Australia last year and sold to the farmers at prices ranging up to 22s.. per dozen ? The sacks were not even secondclass
– Order ! I draw the attention of the honorable member for Gwydir and of other honorable members to the fact that it is not permissible to make definite statements or assertions when asking questions. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro also offended in that respect. Old parliamentarians should be able to put a question in proper form, and the requirements of the Standing Orders in that regard must be observed.
– I am sorry that you did not rebuke the honorable member for Eden-Monaro before calling me to order, for he is an old man at the game. My questions are: Is the Minister aware that cornsacks of a most inferior quality were imported into Australia last year, and will he take steps to see that this year’s importations are of a proper quality ?
– The Customs organization is always being exercised in favour of the users of imported goods of that description. Yesterday the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) asked me ‘a question about cornsacks, and this morning I ascertained the facts. Not more recently than October, 1923, have we had any definite complaints of the description voiced by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), but as recently as January of this year the Customs Department returned some sacks that it considered were improperly imported.
Construction of Cruisers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions ave as follow: -
Ltd., Hebburn-on-Tyne;, The Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Ltd., Govan, Scotland; William Beardmore and Co. Ltd., Dalmuir, Dumbartonshire; Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. Ltd., NewcastleonTync; Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Wallsend-on-Tyne; Cammel Laird and Co. Ltd., Birkenhead. For ships built in Australia. - Vickers Ltd.,. Barrow-in-Furness; Government Dockyard, Walsh Island, Newcastle, New South Wales; Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, New South Wales.
Tenders for building in Australia. - Tender for one vessel built in Great Britain, British shipbuilder, £1,097,030. Tender for one vessel built in Australia, British shipbuilder, £2,265,630. (This includes cost to Commonwealth of the condition that the dockyard and plant should be placed at the disposal of firm free of all capital maintenance and depreciation charges, and that certain services such as power, light, water and local transport he provided free of charge.) Cockatoo (Australian built machinery), £1,903,856;. Cockatoo (British built machinery), £1,835,227; Walsh Island (British built machinery), £2,161,394.
Note. - The British shipbuilders’ tenders for building in Australia are dependent on receiving an order for one ship in Great Britain also.
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What has been the amount of the bonus paid to Australian manufacturers of wire and also of wire netting each half year since the bonus has been made payable?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Use of Live Shells
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he furnish a statement showing what consignments of electrical machinery and appliances have been admitted through the Customs under schedule items 174 and 404 from 1st July, 1021, to 31st March, 1925, and containing the following information : - (a) the general character of each importation; (6) the person, firm, or body to whom consigned; (o) the amount of duty that would have been payable had duties been imposed under the tariff schedule pertaining to such classes of goods; (d) the reason why the concession was granted in each case; (e) the instances in which applications were made for similar concessions in connexion with similar importations and were refused?
– This question is receiving careful consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Construction of Vessels - -Manning the “Kyogle.”
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House all papers relating to the dispute last year in connexion with the manning of the lighthouse steamer Kyogle f
– The papers will be laid on the table of the Library.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish a return showing what bounties or bonuses have been given since January, 1922, for what purpose, and to whom?
– The information is being obtained.
Construction of Roads - Occupation of Parliament House
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Willhe inform the House when definite steps are to be taken to construct the needed roads and railways at Canberra to connect the Capital up and so facilitate transport?
– This question should have been addressed to the Minister representing theMinister for Home and Territories. The answer supplied is as follows : -
The Federal Capital Commission is proceeding with the construction of the roads in the Territory. The Federal Capital Advisory Committee and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner reported that the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra is not necessary at present, and the Public Works Committee in their report of 6th May, 1924, endorsed this opinion. The Federal Capital Commission is now negotiating with the New South Wales Railway Commissioners for the provision of adequate railway facilities for passengers from Sydney and Melbourne to the Capital, and it is proposed to press this scheme as an alternative to the construction of the railway. A further statement in regard to these matters will be furnished at a later date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he give the House some information regarding the date, or approximate date, when Canberra will be ready for occupation, and when the opening of Parliament will take place there instead of in Melbourne?
– The recent floods in the Territory have caused some delay in the works being constructed at Canberra. A report on the subject referred to in the question by the honorable member has been received from the Federal Capital Commission, and the Chairman has intimated that a further report is being forwarded. Pending the receipt of this and the consideration of the reports, it is not possible at this stage to give a definite reply, but a statement on the subject will be made at an early date.
Derby- Wyn dh am Extension - Proposed Emerald to Brisbane Route.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he grant a subsidy on a proposed air service from Emerald to Brisbane, via Spring sure,Rolleston, and Taroom, if certain residents of Central Queensland are prepared to supply the necessary machines.
– If the honorable member will kindly furnish me with details of the proposal which the residents have in view, I will be pleased to investigate the matter.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will place on ‘the table of the House the whole of the papers in connexion with the appeals lodged by clerks to country District Returning Officers in connexion with the classification ‘by the Public Service Board on the maximum salary of £276 per annum - £13 less than certain country clerks were in receipt of under the Arbitration award?
– As the appeals referred to have been lodged and disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act, it is not proposed to place these papers on the table of the House. Should officers be dissatisfied with their classification, a statutory course is provided in the Arbitration (Public Service) Act for review of the salary conditions of the public servants concerned.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– So far as appoint- “ ments to the- Service of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea are concerned, the replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was Dr. Cumpston commissioned to inquire into and report on the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis? If so, will the Prime Minister make the report available for honorable members ?
– Dr. Cumpston- was not specially commissioned to inquire into and report on the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis. He, however, took advantage of the opportunity during his visit to England to discuss the subject very thoroughly with the British Minister of Health. As a result of these discussions it was apparent that there had been no new developments since the matter had previously been considered.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The recommendations contained in the report of the Royal Commission on the Assessment of War Service Disabilities are still under consideration by the Government, and I propose at an early date to make a full statement to the House on the subject.
asked the Treasurer upon notice -
Whether the Government intends this session to bring in an amendment of the Repatriation Act in accordance with the recommendations of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the assessment of war service disabilities?
– The report of the royal commission is still receiving the consideration of the Government, and I propose at an early date to make a full statement to the House on the subject.
Mr.FORDE asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total quantity and value of motor petrol imported into Australia in 1924 ?
What was the quantity and value of power alcohol manufactured in Australia in 1924?
Will the Government take whatever action is necessary to establish the power-alcohol manufacturing industry in Queensland?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.FORDE asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government intends to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act of 1924 to embody the amendments suggested by the Queensland Council of Agriculture on 28th May, 1925?
– The amendments’ suggested are now receiving the consideration of the Government.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the House with the following information: - The amount of business and receipts transacted annually at the. Port Kembl a post office; also the savings bank returns of that office?
– The total revenue derived from thePort Kembla Office during the last complete financial year (1923-4) was £1,808. Approval has been given for the erection of an official postoffice building at Port Kembla, and it is anticipated that tenders for the work will be invited at an early date.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following question: -
Whether the Minister for Works and Railways would consider the advisability of establishing a wireless receiving set on the lounge cars of the trans-Australian railway with a view of keeping the overland travelling public’ in daily touch with world events?
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the efficacy of wireless on trains is yet rather doubtful, but the matter will be brought under notice of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. A summary of the news of the day is wired and posted up in the train daily.
– Earlier in the sitting the, honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked a question with reference to a report received from the Federal Capital Commission. I stated that I was not aware of such a report having been received, but would make inquiries. I have since received from the Minister for Home and Territories an intimation that a report has been received, and a copy may be obtained, but its supply must not be regarded as a precedent.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Debate resumed from 10th June (vide page 37), on motion by Mr. Cook -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to : -
May it Please Your Excellence,-
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
£3.13]. - The action taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. .Charlton) last night, though somewhat extraordinary, is certainly viewed with pleasure by the Government if it is to be regarded as an admission by the Opposition that our administration since the House last met has been such that no one can do other than commend it. I appreciate the embarrassment , of the Opposition in the circumstances. Its leader took exception, to our action in causing Parliament to be prorogued, and in opening a new session with a speech by the Governor-General. He said that when the House adjourned last October a resolution was passed enabling members to be called together again by Mr. Speaker. But no one knows better than does the honorable gentleman that that is the ordinary method of adjourning the House at the end of a session, and that in the past, after resolutions of that nature had been passed, Parliament has on many occasions been prorogued, bo be summoned later by proclamation. The course adopted in this instance is that which was universally followed prior to the war, and is the proper course to be taken in connexion with the summoning of any Parlia ment which operates under a Constitution such as ours. A Governor-Generals Speech at the opening of a session is necessary if an opportunity is to be afforded, not only to the members of the Opposition but to every member of the House, to criticize the actions of the Government during the period of recess, to speak about the measures that the Government contemplates bringing forward, and, generally, to exercise his rights as a member of this Assembly. That was the reason for the Government’s action in summoning Parliament by proclamation, and for introducing the business of the session by a GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Because of the short duration of a Parliament, this course has not always been pursued in the past, and sittings have been resumed after long adjournments. The honorable gentleman has, however, overlooked the fact that when that course has been followed the Government of the day had been unable to complete its programme at the time of the suspension of the parliamentary sittings. Last year, however, owing to the excellent work performed by honorable members, at the instigation of Ministers, the programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech was completed before Parliament adjourned. Having reached finality in regard to the matters which had been brought before Parliament, it was only right to prorogue it, and, later, to call members together again by proclamation, to hear a new speech from the Governor-General, embodying a further programme of legislative work. That course the Government has adopted on this occasion. It has been suggested that by beginning the session with a Governor-General’s Speech, something is being done that tends to waste time. But I remind the Leader of the Opposition that if there had been no GovernorGeneral’s Speech on this occasion, he, in the exercise of his undoubted rights would have demanded from the Leader of the Government a statement of the Government’s programme, and the delivery of such a statement would have inaugurated a debate practically identical with that customary on the motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply. Apparently, however, the Opposition has no desire to participate in any discussion of the Governor-General’s Speech. In so far as that desire is dictated by commendation of the administrative acts of the Government during the recess, I have no quarrel with them. “It indicates that members opposite recognize a good Government when they see it. On the other hand, one can have nothing but condemnation for the attitude of the Opposition towards the work of the session upon which we have now entered. Its members rate their powers very low if they believe that they can contribute nothing to the improvement of that work. I say nothing as to their ability to contribute anything of value, but I suggest that the motion now before us provides a proper opportunity for the Opposition to deal with the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to point to matters that it may think have been wrongly omitted from it, and to render to the Government what assistance is in its power.
– We shall do that when the bills are introduced.
– The Opposition should be willing to assist in improving the measures brought forward, and to suggest other measures which should be introduced. No action of the sort is, however, contemplated by the Opposition, the members of which apparently are prepared to leave everything in the hands of the Government. They appear to be quite prepared to let the Government bring down its bills as it pleases. They have nothing to suggest at present which would induce the Government to frame its measures in a way more acceptable to them. They are merely waiting to criticize, and probably to obstruct. I can assure honorable members of the Opposition that their failure to take this opportunity for dealing with the matters which they consider should be brought before this Parliament will convince the people of Australia that they have no other than party interests, looking at everything from a political angle. I think that is an attitude which will not commend itself to the electors.
Do honorable members opposite suggest that the Speech contains nothing on which they desire to comment, because that is what their action in refusing to speak on this motion implies ? Has the Leader of the Opposition no response to make to the announcement of the proposed visit of a fleet of the navy of the United States of America 1 I suggest that the members of the Opposition should, in common with us, express their pleasure at the proposed visit, and, by their words, try to create good feeling which will go far to cement the friendship between Australia and that great country. But we have had not one word from the Leader of the Opposition on that subject. I think it will be a very bitter disappointment to his supporters outside to’ find that he has decided to play no part in connexion with the discussion of any of these great national matters which so affect Australia.
Has the Opposition nothing to say with regard to the finances of Australia - the ordinary revenue and expenditure of the country ? Surely honorable members opposite might be expected to have something to suggest in that connexion. But not a word. What has caused me most amazement is to find that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has had not a word to utter. There is a reference in the Speech to the loans which fall due at the end of this year. I have observed that the honorable member has been travelling through the country as a financial expert. I cannot say that I entirely agree with the views that he has expressed, but it amazes me now to find that he has no desire to assist the Government in some way with his advice and knowledge on this subject. I have observed that the honorable members of the Opposition say that this motion is of no consequence, and they will deal with the various measures referred to when they are brought before the House. But I remind the honorable member for Bourke that ‘ action has already had to be taken in connexion with the proposed conversion loan of £68,000,000. The Government must come to a determination as to the methods to be taken in relation to this conversion loan, but the honorable member has nothing at all to say on the subject.
Defence is dealt with in the Speech at considerable length, yet honorable members opposite have nothing to say about it. I am not altogether surprised at that, because whenever the subject of defence comes up they find themselves in an embarrassing position. Some want to go forward, and some want to go backward, and their Leader never knows what to do, because he does riot know what his followers want. Therefore, I am not surprised at their silence. Yet when one remembers, all that one has read recently of conferences that have been held, and attempts made by the Labour party to produce a defence policy of some sort, I think that the Leader of the Opposition, in fairness to those outside, who are struggling so hard to appear to have a defence policy, might at least have had something to say about defence. I think that the honorable gentleman’s followers will be really disappointed with him.
The administration of the Northern Territory is referred to in the Speech, and the Government says quite frankly that it is going to introduce a measure to deal with the matter, and gives an indication of what the measure will contain. We have a representative from the Northern Territory here. On many occasions he has dealt with questions concerning the Territory. Does he not recognize that this is the time when he has an opportunity to assist the House by raising his voice in the interests of those whom he represents, putting their views before the Government, so that in the framing of the promised measure every possible fact in regard to the Northern Territory will be under consideration ? Apparently the honorable member has nothing at all to contribute.
– If the Government is stuck for a policy, I will give it one.
– The Speech contains a reference to the construction of a railway towards carrying out the Commonwealth’s obligations to South Australia. Does not some Opposition member from South Australia desire to express any views, or put forward any considerations which should be taken into account in connexion with that matter?
The subject of a uniform railway gauge is dealt with in the Speech. There are honorable members who have expressed views on this question, but at the moment they have nothing to contribute at all. The Government . has limited its proposal to one additional line beyond the line from Kyogle to Brisbane. Is that what honorable members opposite want? Do they concur in the course proposed by the Government ? We have had not one suggestion from them ; no contribution to the discussion of the matter, and nothing to assist. This is their opportunity to make known their views and those of their constituents.
But merely because they imagine - and with the utmost respect to the Leader of the Opposition I entirely disagree with his judgment - that some party advantage may thereby be gained they have determined to say nothing at all.
There are also the questions affecting the Murray River and the developmental schemes being carried on there. We have an honorable member on the Opposition side who has much to say on most occasions on this subject, but he has nothing to contribute about it at present.
Reference is made to the disabilities of Western Australia and other important matters, but I do not propose to go right through the Speech to enumerate them all. Let me mention, however, the subject of the tariff, which is referred to in the Speech. Honorable members opposite know the procedure followed in connexion with any revision of the tariff. ‘It is that the Tariff Board has to take evidence, upon which it forwards a recommendation to the Government. The decision as to which, if any, of the recommendations of the Tariff Board shall be given effect rests with the Government. Are there no honorable members opposite who desire to state their view3 with regard to our secondary industries, in order that information which they can supply will be in the hands of the Government when ‘ it is considering the reports of the Tariff Board which are now before it? Surely this matter is one of sufficient importance to the people of Australia to induce honorable members opposite to sink party considerations, and give to the House and to the country the benefit of all the assistance they can render in this connexion. But we have had not one word from the other side, although every honorable member must know that at the present time the Government is considering reports from the Tariff Board, is investigating them, and coming to a decision as to the proposals which it will make to this House, and the items to be embodied in any tariff schedule it introduces.
There is in the Speech an indication that the Government proposes to introduce amendments of the Arbitration Act. Is there no honorable member on the other side who is interested in trying to preserve the great legislative experiment we have made in Australia for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes to put forward the views of those whom they are said to represent?’ Not one word is being said on the subject from the other side. Apparently, it does not matter at all to them what sort of an arbitration measure the Government brings down. Apparently, in their view, the worse the measure introduced the better they will be pleased. They appear not to want us to introduce a measure framed after we have had the opportunity of hearing the views of representatives of all classes in the community. They sit silent, and in their hearts they hope that the measure introduced will be of such a character that they may use it as an instrument for the defeat of the Government. They know that this question is of vital importance to every section of the people, and they should, therefore, do everything in their power to assist in the framing of a measure which will be effective, and will achieve the object we all have in view.
But it seems useless to refer to these questions or to appeal to the Opposition to recognize its duty. An opportunity is now given to every honorable member of this House to deal with the matters affected by the administration of the Government during the parliamentary recess, and to offer criticism upon the proposals we have indicated intention to bring forward. Members, too, can now advance views concerning other matters which should receive the consideration of Parliament during the session. Of course it is for the Opposition to determine it3 own course, but I must express very deep regret at that which they are pursuing. They followed a similar course on a previous occasion, and then their action was disastrous to the people of Australia. When after the Imperial and Economic Conferences I returned to Australia the Opposition refused to deal with any of the matters under consideration at those conferences. They refused to speak upon them, and to supplement the efforts I had made in Great Britain to obtain preferential treatment for the products of Australia in the British markets. They declined to do anything at all, because they thought that their silence might have the effect of making my visit to Great Britain appear of no account. But the effect was to weaken the hands’ of those who were trying to secure this preference for Australia, and to render to Australian producers and those who have to export their products a very great disservice, the extent of which it is impossible to calculate.
– Fortunately, the people know all about it already.
– It is, apparently, quite useless to appeal to the Opposition to deal with national questions in the spirit in which they should be dealt with by any person elected to this Parliament, which represents the whole of the people of Australia. I shall leave it at that. Although honorable members of the Opposition may not desire to speak, I can assure them that the Government has no intention to curtail the rights of other honorable members in order to suit their convenience. The Government will give every opportunity to honorable members who desire to speak on the grave and large questions referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– An invitation to waste time. No business!
– Honorable members opposite are going to get all the business they want. They need have no fear of the Government being in difficulties to provide them with ample measures to occupy their time.
– I had no intention of speaking in this debate. It appeared to me that after the Leader of the Opposition had declined to participate in the discussion, the wiser course would have been to proceed to deal with the rather formidable list of measures indicated in His Excellency’s Speech. But as the right honorable the Prime Minister has appealed for assistance and advice, even if barbed with a little criticism, I feel that, whatever honorable members opposite may do, I cannot remain silent. I shall, therefore, try to help him as much as I can by saying a few things which I think urgently require to be said. I have been a principal in the drawing up of many Governor-General’s Speeches, and have heard many others, but never one quite so long as that now before us. I am the last to criticize the Government for submitting for the consideration of Parliament all those measures which it thinks desirable and necessary in the public interest. But may I remind Ministers that we are in our last session, and experience teaches us that in the last session of a Parliament little is done. Before us is a gulf into which many a Quintus Curtius must leap in order to save his country, and in oblivion find his epitaph. At such a time as this honorable members speak with one eye on the gallery; there is much talk, but little work. However, the Prime Minister has asked us to address ourselves to the formidable programme that the Government has submitted. I say not one word against any of the proposals therein contained ; on the contrary, I am delighted to see some of them mentioned, the more so because, when brought forward by the Government over which I had the honour to preside, they were the subject of much hostile criticism by some of those gentlemen who now support them. The unification of railway gauges is an instance. I well remember the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) speaking in opposition to a similar proposal when submitted by me. He found no good in it then ; but last evening it was to him the cupola of a glittering temple of legislative and administrative achievement. There is also in the Speech, I think, a fleeting reference to the sugar industry - if not, the Government has been guilty of a ghastly omission - and I seem to remember sitting where the Prime Minister sits now, and hearing from the Country party’s corner scathing references to a policy which honorable members on those benches said was ruining Australia. I am glad to note that all those honorable gentlemen have since been converted. I am not here to condemn the Government for what it proposes to do, but when I look at this programme, and remember that for nearly eight months Parliament has not had an opportunity to do anything, I am moved to complain a_ little at having been denied the opportunity to tender long ago that advice for which the right honorable the Prime Minister now belatedly appeals. As to the measures that are suggested, I shall await their introduction, because at present I know nothing of the form they will take. I am delighted to hear that something is to be done in regard to industrial arbitration. I too have tried to do a good deal in that direction. But there are many things yet to be done, and many ways in which the law can be amended. Some amendments which might be suggested would be disastrous. Therefore, I withhold all comment until I see what the Government measure contains. But the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues -may rest assured that criticism of that measure will not be withheld, no matter what form the proposed amendments may take.
The Prime Minister deplored the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had not thought fit to advise and instruct the people of the Commonwealth in regard to the League of Nations Protocol. The Leader of the Opposition and I hold completely opposite views of that Protocol. I do not believe in it. I am opposed to it, root and branch. My attitude towards it remains as it was when it was first mentioned in this chamber, at the conclusion of last session. But on that occasion, unless my memory fails me, the Prime Minister was strongly in favour of it, and I was a little surprised that Parliament was not called together in order that the representatives of the people might express their opinion upon a matter all important to the peace of the world; for I may be wrong in condemning the Protocol, and the Leader of the Opposition and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) quite right. In any case, we ought to have heard the case for the Protocol from those two gentlemen, who came fresh from the seat of the great debates by the representatives of almost every civilized country that attended the Assembly of the League of Nations, and learned the reasons that moved them to do that which I think should not have been done. But Parliament was denied that opportunity, and we were merely told through the press that the Government had decided that it could not recommend the Protocol for acceptance by this Parliament.
There is very much to do and little time in which to do it. In addition to the measures set out in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, we must deal with the financial situation and the Estimates. The budget and the Estimates, if dealt with effectively, involve six weeks’ work for any Parliament. Will any man say that there is any reasonable hope of dealing with the financial position, reviewing taxation, and completing this formidable list of measures presented to us? If we have been called together merely in order that discussion may be curtailed until it becomes a burlesque, and the guillotine substituted for intelligent and reasonable debate, I protest against the Government’s long and inexcusable delay in summoning Parliament. Why was Parliament not called together long ago ? I was under the impression that one of the grounds of objection to my administration was that I had usurped the functions of Parliament. We wore promised that the new regime would restore parliamentary government, that Parliament would again become the arbiter of the people’s destiny, and that no longer should the fate of the country rest in the hands of a dictator. The present Administration came into office to remedy all this : but never has Parliament been so little consulted and so completely ignored. And the blame rests not with the Prime Minister, but with the other wing which has attached itself to the Nationalist party, and makes him fly aimlessly in a circle. Parliament, which was to have been the supreme arbiter of the people’s destiny, has seldom been called into consultation. Even when so called, it has been subjected to a strain under which members have broken down. I venture to say that the total number of sittings of Parliament under the present regime has been far less than in any similar Parliament.
– There- have been about 135 sitting days.
– Parliament has been a body called together merely to confirm that which has already been done, and those who did not concur fell under the bann, and to them and their speeches an end was put. In saying this I do not for a moment deny that Governments have a right to do that which this Government has done. I believe that Governments should act with firmness, and take responsibility for their actions, and I do not censure the right honorable the Prime Minister because he rejected the Protocol. I should have censured him had lie accepted it. But the proper course was to call Parliament together, give it an opportunity for full discussion, and be guided by its decision. But Parliament remained closed, and the representatives of the people were denied an opportunity to discuss and decide a question of vital importance to the whole world. I did not think him in the wrong in going to Great Britain. I thought he did right, but, as I pointed out at the time, his mission was not likely to achieve success beyond obtaining certain tariff concessions in regard to dried fruits and other products. However, all that is past, and we have now to deal with the things that happened during the recess. Many things have been done with which I do not agree: things have been left undone that ought to have been done.
Regarding the contract for the construction of two new cruisers, I shall say very little, because I expressed my views when the matter was before the House last session. I think that a great mistake has been made, particularly in the misinterpretation of the feelings of the Australian people. A blow has been struck at Australian national spirit. The Commonwealth is a nation - a young nation, but still a nation - and it is an abject confession of immaturity to say that we cannot do something without which we should be left helpless and defenceless in the face of the enemy. Readiness at all times to defend himself is the mark of a man. And to say that Australia, as a nation, is unable to do that without which it is, according to the right honorable gentleman’s own statement, helpless, is to confess our immaturity; a declaration that Australia has not reached manhood. What has been the experience and practice of other nations? The United States of America, in her youth, had such an opportunity as we have now. She could have had vessels built much more cheaply in Great Britain than in America. But the Administration that proposed that policy perished, and the party that supported it was out of office for 25 years. The United States of America, by its action, declared to the world that it was a nation. I know the reasons that prompted the right honorable gentleman’s decision, and I recognize that they were entirely honest; but I differ from him on the matter. He thinks it well to save £800,000 by getting these vessels built abroad, but I think it better that we should spend a little more in order to inspire and foster an Australian national spirit. We have to man these ships. When we receive them they will be merely pieces of inert material. We have to give them a soul - the spirit of Australia. Until they are manned by Australians who believe in their country, and who see in these vessels and the flag that flies over them the emblem of their country, and of all that is best in it, our navy will be worth nothing. The best way to inspire an Australian national spirit is to say of these vessels, “ These are the handiwork of the Australian people, of the artificers of Australia.” Before I leave that subject I think I ought to say a word about the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who, in this matter, is in a very weak position. I do not agree with his policy at all. He does not believe in making adequate and proper provision for defence, and, therefore, criticism in his mouth loses much of its force. But I have stood for many years in this House, both when in the Labour party and when out of it, for the adequate defence of this country, and I have never wavered in my views on the subject. Therefore, I think that I have- a right to speak as one who has proved himself a believer in Australia and in making adequate provision for its defence.
I leave this subject now and proceed to another of great importance - the proposal to sell the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Last session we passed a bill that created a board of control, and for all practical purposes vested in that board the management of this great line, free from all political control. I protested at the time against the writing down of the capital value of the ships which then took place. A sum of £8,000,000, which I thought too much, was written off. But I entirely agree with the view of the right honorable the Prime Minister that this action gave the board a splendid opportunity of proving that the line could be carried on as a commercial proposition. Yet, after some time had passed, and we were in recess, a statement appeared in the press to the effect that during twelve months the line had lost something like £480,000, and that the Government had decided to sell the ships. I made a protest at the time against selling the line, and I followed it up subsequently, dealing with the question in ampler detail on two or three occasions. I thought that the proposal to sell the line was wrong, and I deplored the circumstances that led the right honorable gentleman to offer the line for sale. I ventured to point out that it was impossible to sell the’ line - it could, of course, be given away - under the conditions laid down. I should like honorable members to give their attention for a few moments to those conditions. The right honorable gentleman said that there were three alternatives. One was to place the vessels on the English register, and with that he would have nothing to do; the second was to sell them outright: and the third was to sell them upon conditions involving the maintenance of an effective service, with freights and fares that would not be excessive, and would be subject to the approval of the Government or a body appointed by it. A further condition was that the purchaser should not be a member of the shipping combine or in any way connected with it. The righthonorable gentleman said on many occasions during the recess that he had no doubt whatever that a buyer would be found willing . to take the line on those conditions. But any one who knows anything of the shipping world, and of the conditions under which British shipping is run to-day, knows that that was impossible. Every ship that sails from Great Britain, that is not a tramp, is controlled by one or other of two great combinations. I do not say that- they are owned by these combinations, but they are controlled by them. The shipping companies are members of- these bodies, and submit to their decisions. For all practical purposes, this part of the world is under the control of one great corporation, and it is with this state of affairs that the right honorable gentleman has to deal. He believed that he could sell the ships to some one outside this great and powerful combine. But where is such a buyer to be found ? In 191.9, and again in 1921, -it would have been possible for me to sell the line at a profit. When I returned from England in 1921, I explained this to the House. I promised those who made me the offer that I would a’gree to whatever Parliament decided. I told them that I did not” approve of selling the line, but that I would not set my opinion against that of
Parliament. I submitted the proposal to Parliament, and said that I would abide by its decision. It was then possible to sell the line at a profit of some millions upon its original cost. In 1921 offers came from two quarters, but both were directly from members of the great combination to which I have referred. I wish to make my position in relation to that combination perfectly clear. British shipowners are waging a fierce war against most unfair competition from foreign countries. They have to live, and if that combination were destroyed I do not believe for a moment that the mercantile marine of Great Britain would survive. From their stand-point they are amply justified in combining; but I have always looked at this matter from the stand-point of the Australian people. Naturally, when a monopoly secures control over a certain field, it endeavours to exploit it to the best advantage. I defy any honorable member to deny that the only effective competitor, nay, the only possible competitor, of that combination has been, and is, the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, owned by the Government oi the people of Australia. Wipe that line out, and the influence of this mighty corporation must inevitably ‘ be felt. The right honorable gentleman does not know the facts as I know them. I say emphatically that as soon as we wipe out the- Commonwealth Line - and I am going to speak about the difficulties of continuing it - all the primary producers of this country will fall into the grip of the combine. I do- not- say for one moment that it is possible to maintain the Commonwealth Line in all circumstances, but I wish to express my very keen regret that during the industrial trouble which preceded the declaration of the right honorable gentleman of his decision to endeavour to sell the line - when the seamen of Australia, led by Mr. Walsh and Mr. Johannsen, resorted to tactics that would make it impossible for any organization to continue on a commercial basis - the leaders of the industrial and political Labour movement of Australia did not put those gentlemen in their proper place. The right honorable gentleman has talked of bringing in amendments of the arbitration law by which this can be done. He does not know what he is talking about. There is only one authority that can put these people in their place, and that authority is not Parliament, not the employers, but the organized forces of labour in Australia. That power, and no other, can restrain them. I have always regarded Mr. Walsh as a fanatic, though a sincere one. I endeavoured, when I was in the Labour movement, to restrain him, and on some occasions I was successful. I am at least as sincere and earnest a supporter of the Commonwealth Line as any man can be; but I cannot refrain from saying that the Seamen’s Union seems bent on destroying the Line. If the leaders of that union were the paid agents of the great shipping combine - I do not say that they are - they could not act more effectively. No doubt, the right honorable gentleman will tell us later what he proposes to do regarding the line, which he declared, only the other day, he was firmly resolved to sell, and now declares he intends to retain. Yesterday I heard the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) ask him whether it was a fact that the manager of the line tendered, or was concerned in a tender, for the line. I have heard very disquieting rumours about this alleged tender. In a matter involving the people’s money Parliament has a right to be told what the position is. The facts to a certain extent support the suggestion that the manager of the line was engaged -in endeavouring to raise money to purchase it. Such an act suggests a very sinister motive; I do not like it. I have heard the right honorable gentleman’s reply, and I do not question his right to reticence on a matter that was inchoate, but we have a right to know, as the custodians of the people’s money, all the details of this proposed sale. I leave these matters with this comment. The Protocol has been rejected. The sale of these ships might have been effected. It was all over, in fact, but for the turn of a wheel. The primary producers would have been robbed of the only means whereby they can be protected from exploitation. And Parliament was not consulted in any way. Were we confronted to-day with the sale of these ships, what could we do? Had the Government said: “We have sold this line,” what would have been the position of this Parliament?
– That was never suggested.
– Was the sale to have been subject to ratification by Parliament? I saw no suggestion to that effect in any of the press reports. Yet I can hardly believe that the right honorable gentleman contemplated selling the line except subject to parliamentary approval. But supposing he had done it, we should have been faced with the position that the thing was done and could not be undone, and parliamentary discussion would have been useless.
The same thing .may be said about the Protocol. The right honorable gentleman professes to be very anxious that the people of this country shall inform their minds on matters of foreign policy. Yet here was, perhaps, the finest opportunity that could be conceived for a debate on these ‘matters, when both £des would have been free from local prejudice. But the opportunity was ignored. We are told that [he Protocol has been rejected. I am very glad that it was rejected. Had I had the Protocol before me for consideration in Parliament I should have denounced it; but I regret very much that the opportunity was not given to me, and the other honorable members, to hear what the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) had to say about it.
I turn now to the tariff. Some fleeting references were made to it las’t night by the honorable gentleman who moved the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. He said something that was almost original about the line that should be followed to provide reasonable protection along which both parties were to proceed - I understood him to say “ hand and foot.” But what does the Government propose to do? It is unhappily too true that many of the great industries of this country are languishing. In this very city there are to-day literally thousands of nien unemployed. They are unemployed because goods which are coming into this country from foreign countries are manufactured under conditions which make competition by the Australian manufacturers impossible. The welfare of the people should be the supreme concern of the Government, and if there is any question of greater importance than another it is the basic one which concerns employment. I think I may say that the Government over which I had the honour to preside submitted, and won the approval of, the Parliament of the clay to the most effective tariff that this country has ever known. Some people said it was too effective. At any rate, at that time it certainly was an effective tariff. But the world move’s quickly. Wages have fallen in Great Britain and Europe since then. The world has adjusted itself to post-war conditions; and one of the effects of this is that goods are being made abroad under conditions with which the Australian manufacturer cannot compete. Notwithstanding this, the Commonwealth Parliament has been for nearly eight months doing nothing to help them. It should have been attempting to remedy this state of affairs. With due deference to what others may think, I submit that this House should have been called together to deal with this important question. I know it is a. difficult matter. I know it, for I have been here on the many occasions when tariffs have been under consideration. Reference has been made to the law, and to a certain procedure that has to be observed, as though we were confronted by laws like those of the Medes and Persians. But what law is there that can cramp the power of this Parliament? Can any law be permitted to prevent us from doing justice to the great industries of this country? If there is such a law, let us trample it under foot, and put another in its place. Let there be no talk about laws of that kind to us who are the law-makers. The Tariff requires radical amendments; nothing less will serve. We are now resuming our long labours. N.0 doubt the road is strewn with many and great legislative fabrics, but here is something that should be done at once. I venture to say that we must not deal with this question in any piece-meal fashion. Let us deal with the matter once and for all, and do what is necessary. Let us look at it from a national stand-point, and put the tariff on a sound footing. This is an urgent question which should be attended to without delay. Parliament should have been calif- d together sooner to deal with it.
Why was not Parliament called together sooner? I confess frankly that I do not. know. That will perhaps be revealed to us later on. When the Prime Minister went to England in- 1923, I could not see. that there were any particular reasons why Parliament should not remain in session. I was compelled to keep Parliament open during my absence when I was Prime Minister, and no sooner had I reached England than honorable gentlemen in the Country party corner opened a bitter attack upon me, and demanded my return. They did everything they could to embarrass mc. The point I wish to make is that in 1919 Parliament was kept in session when I had to attend a far greater conference, one which faced far greater issues than those which faced that attended by the Prime Minister in 1923. You, Mr. Speaker, were Acting Prime Minister in my absence. I attended as the representative of Australia, the greatest conference which this generation, and I may even say this world, has ever known, and while I was absent Parliament was open. But let us pass that by. There were circumstances which, perhaps, excused this Government for closing Parliament in 1923. The Government was young and inexperienced, and the Prime Minister probably thought that if the session were allowed to continue in his absence the Government would not last very long. There may have been some justification for that belief. But these were not -the circumstances during the last recess. No conference was then being held, yet Parliament was kept in recess. I do not know why. No doubt Ministers have been busy with the multifarious duties which confront Ministers of the Crown. The Treasurer has been to America and England, but even that can hardly be regarded as a sufficient explanation why Parliament has been kept in recess when great questions were pending, while creeping paralysis was overtaking the great industries of this country. During the recess this paralysis has been extending, yet the proposal was made to throw the primary producers of the country into the hands of the greatest combine in the world by the sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line; the Protocol was rejected, and the question of where the new cruisers shall be constructed was settled. All these things have been done, and Parliament has not been consulted. The tariff has been allowed to wait. The Prime Minister told us to day that there was a certain routine to be observed. I do not know whether there is or not. I know this, that I never’ allowed any routine to stand between me and the things that I wanted to do. If routine stood in the way it was a bad thing for routine. No one ever heard anything from me about routine. If a thing had to be done I did it. I hope that there will be no further delay in dealing with the important matters that I have mentioned, particularly the tariff. Some honorable members of this House do not believe in the tariff. Well, let us decide whether they are right or whether we are. Everybody wants the matter settled. Let us know what the policy of this country is to be, and then give effect to it by a comprehensive measure.
I have detained honorable members longer than I had intended to do, but this arises in part from the fact that I came entirely unprepared by previous thought to undertake this discussion. I rose at the bidding of the Prime Minister, to give him some advice, and to help him to rid his mind altogether of the idea that the people of this country are so supremely satisfied with what he has been doing during the long closing of these halls of legislature that they do not want anything -said. Honorable members of the Opposition have elected on this occasion to be silent. It is not for me to say whether they are right or wrong in adopting this attitude. I suppose they will look for compensation later on. But when they do begin to speak there will be very little time for anybody else, and the Prime Minister having asked for advice, I have given it to him. Perhaps honorable members opposite thought that he would rather hear from me than from them on some of these matters. At any rate, I submit these things for his consideration, and I remind him that the sands of time are running out. This party and this Government has a policy, and lest it should be further clouded or watered down to nothing, I think it is well that we should have something definite and clear set before the people, I, for” one, decline to be dragged at the coat-tail of .any one who will not rise to national issues. I wish to make that perfectly clear, and surely if any man may call himself a Nationalist. I, who formed this party, may do so.
.- The Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral contains, in my opinion, several proposals which are vital to the welfare of this country. I propose to deal with two or three of them which I consider to be of most importance. Among these are the questions of defence and the development of the Northern Territory, two matters which to my mind cannot be separated. We have an immense territory in northern Australia which is capable of supporting a large population, but which is practically uninhabited. Until we get this Territory at least reasonably populated we cannot expect to be in a position to defend our country. If we do not populate the Northern Territory, we may be very sure that some other nation will do it for us. I would give way to no one, either inside or outside of this House, in my endeavours to prevent war. I have always had a horror of war, and my loathing for it was increased by the experiences through which we passed during the great war not long over. I would go to almost any length to prevent war occurring in the future, but I would not go so far as to advocate peace at any price. I, therefore, approve of the measures which the Government proposes to take for the defence of this, country. Che Government is right in supporting the establishment of the Singapore naval base. No Government which neglected to take adequate measures to defend its territory from invasion would be doing its duty.
From, its proposal to subdivide the Northern Territory into one or more new states, it is evident that the Government realizes that it is impossible to administer that area economically from either Melbourne or Canberra. With that view I agree, but I regret that the Government does not contemplate extending the principle to provide for a general division of Australia into” new states. It is absolutely essential that this country should he populated and developed in the shortest possible time, and the division of the larger states into smaller areas would materially assist in that direction. Those areas will never be properly populated or developed so long as they are administered from distant centres. In the pastoral industry I have seen examples of the difficulty attending the administration of large areas from a distance. I know of cases where companies and banks have endeavoured to manage pastoral areas situated hundreds of miles in the interior, and although the managers of those institutions were able men in their own spheres, they have absolutely failed to make a success of the properties under their direction. In the first place, many of them had no practical knowledge of the local conditions; and, secondly, they were not on the spot to act promptly when necessity arose. I am glad that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has a motion on the notice-paper for the creation of new states, and I hope that good results will accrue from it.
The appointment of a commission to administer the Northern Territory is a step in the right direction, but only as a temporary expedient. It will never be properly developed until it has a local Government which understands the local conditions and is capable of developing it along proper lines. The success which attended the shipment of chilled beef which was recently sent to England augurs well for the development of the Northern Territory. Previously, owing to our greater distance from Europe, Australia was unable to compete with beef from the Argentine; but now it seems that we shall be able to compete in the world’s markets on almost equal terms with that country. Hitherto, because cattle were not a paying proposition, much of the Territory could not be profitably occupied’, but a brighter day seems to have dawned. The extension of the railway system and the provision of other utilities which are necessary to the proper development of the Northern Territory are matters which should engage the attention of the commission when appointed. If adequate steps in that direction are taken, I have no doubt that within a reasonable time the country will carry a large population. In the development of this area there should be no stinting of the necessary money.
Another matter dealt with by His Excellency was the effective organization of the overseas market for our primary products. This is a matter of vital- importance to our primary producers. I do not know why the State Governments do not do more towards an increase in the local consumption of our products, nor do I know whether this Government can do anything in that direction; but it should be possible to secure to the primary producers a better price for their products, and at the same time make them available to the consumers at a considerably lower price than obtains today. In every suburb of our capital cities, we see to-day six or seven butchers’ carts serving the residents of one street, where one would be sufficient. The same remark applies to the vending of milk, fruit, and other commodities. Such aystem is not economical, and should be discontinued.
– Does the honorable member suggest a measure of socialism in this connexion?
– No. I am absolutely opposed to anything of the kind.
– What method would the honorable member employ to meet the difficulty?
– The Government should introduce a scheme to prevent the present waste between the producer and the consumer. I suggest that something should be done to dispense with hundreds of unnecessary middlemen.
His Excellency referred to a contemplated revision of the tariff. This is one of the most important matters referred to in his Speech. I desire at once to say that all my life I have been a protectionist, . and that I am a protectionist still. Under freetrade this country would not develop as quickly as under a policy of protection. But while I desire to see secondary industries established in our principal country towns, and adequately protected, I desire that a corresponding measure of protection shall be afforded to our primary producers, who, at present, are penalized in that they have to sell their produce in a freetrade market, whereas their purchases are made in a protected market. I am pleased to see that the Government proposes to remove some of the anomalies existing in the tariff. There are two directions in which action may be taken. We should either allow the machinery and tools of trade required by our primary producers to enter Australia free of duty, and give a bounty to the manufacturers of such articles, which would place them in at least as good a position as they occupy at present, or we should continue the present duties, and provide an export bounty on our produce shipped overseas. I know of no other way by which our primary producers can be given the same measure of protection as is now enjoyed by those engaged in our secondary industries. If any honorable member can show me that the same result can be obtained by other means, I shall be pleased to support any proposal to that end.
Reference has been made to the stabilization of the sugar industry. As this question is intimately bound up with the ideal of a White Australia, honorable members generally will agree that this is an industry which should be encouraged, so that Australia may continue to produce her own sugar.
Another important matter already referred to is the provision of inland wireless communication for the Northern Territory. I desire to make it clear that I have no financial interest in the Northern Territory. All my remarks are actuated by a desire to develop that area in the interests of Australia. The people living in the back country are at present almost without communication with the outside world, a state of affairs which should be remedied as soon as possible. The cheapest means by which this can be done is by wireless communication, and I hope that something will soon be done to assist them in this direction.
I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) that the Commonwealth Government should abandon the field of direct taxation. This is a matter which should be left to the states. The Customs duties collected by the Commonwealth Government should be ample for its requirements if the affairs of the country are economically administered.
– What about wiping off some of the war debt?
– That, of course, must be done, and arrangements to that end have already been made. The imposition of a double tax on our primary producers is retarding the development of the country.
I regret that members on the other side are opposed to immigration.
– That is not correct.
– The statement may not apply to the honorable member who has interjected, but it is true of the majority of honorable members opposite.
Honorable Members. - No.
– The statements which have been made by honorable members opposite from time to time lead one to believe that that is their attitude, but if they would study the history of other countries, and particularly that of the United States of America, they would realize that the more people we can attract to our country the better it will be for all classes of the community. That has been the experience of the United States of America. They encouraged immigration up to a short time ago, when they found it necessary to restrict it to some extent. We have reason to look for a similar experience here. It is a great pity that our honorable friends opposite do not wholeheartedly support a proper system of immigration. I do not say that there should be unrestricted immigration. I am opposed to that; but every inducement should be offered to the right sort of immigrants, for whom we have ample room.
– What about giving our own people a chance first?
– I have always been in favour of giving the preference to our own people. They should be placed on the land before land is found for immigrants. But if we had the necessary developmental work done we could provide for thousands of immigrants. To give an instance of what might be done, I may mention that in my own electorate there is a considerable area of country on the Murray River, and by the construction of a dam to permit of irrigation by gravitation something like 40,000 or 50,000 acres might be made available for closer settlement. The land is at present used in large areas for grazing only. On the other side of the Murray in Victoria there is a settled population ten or twenty times as great as that on the New South Wales side of the river, and the land on the Victorian side is worth three or four times as much as that on the New South Wales side. The land to which I refer, which is now used for grazing, might be made capable of settling a large number of people with the expenditure of, perhaps, £300,000 or £400,000 on a dam and the necessary channels for irrigation. That is only one instance of what might be done to make available large areas of land that at present are not being used to the best advantage.
– Would that be a dairying proposition ?
– The land to which I have referred might be used for dairying, but I think the best use to which it could be put would be mixed farming, the raising of fat lambs, and fruit-growing.
His Excellency’s Speech makes mention of the construction of main developmental and arterial roads. This is a matter of the utmost importance. We have railways in certain parts of the country with large spaces between them that are served by very bad roads. Motor transport is fast developing, and motor tractors are being largely used. Unfortunately, for a great part of the year, owing to the condition of the roads, these have to be laid up. If decent roads were provided they would act as feeders to the railways at less expense than would be involved in the building of additional railway lines. It is proposed to allocate a considerable sum of money to the development of country roads. I consider the proposal very important, and trust that the Government will give it effect.
Mention is made in the Speech of the rabbit and dingo pests, and the necessity of coping with them. I can say something on this subject from experience. We have now a large area of country in Australia that is practically given up to the dingo. It is carrying a few cattle, whereas, if the dingoes were destroyed, it would carry large numbers of sheep. With reasonable provision such as the South Australian Government has arranged for the wire netting of holdings and groups of holdings, and the assistance to be afforded by the proposals of the Federal Government, much may be done to get rid of the dingo pest, and country now given up to the raising of cattle, and providing employment for only a few people, might be stocked with sheep, and many more people might be employed.
– Is that not called the “Kidman blight”?
– It is called the “Kidman blight,” but Sir Sidney Kidman is not to be blamed for that. Sheep had to be taken off the country, because owing to the dingoes it was impossible to keep sheep there, and if Sir Sidney Kidman or some one like him had not taken it up and stocked it with cattle, it would now be lying in an entirely unproductive state.
– Is it not a fact that fences and dams were destroyed on a number of sheep stations, and that these are now cattle runs ?
– The fact is that cattle broke down fences and did a certain amount of damage to dams, but not nearly so much as many .people believe. I can speak with knowledge on the subject, because I saw the country to which I refer quite recently. Under Sir Sidney Kidman’s occupation, this country is carrying cattle only, and gives employment to one man for every 250,000 acres, whereas if the country was stocked with sheep, eight or ten times as many men could be employed on similar areas, and production greatly increased, to the great benefit of the whole community, and particularly of the surrounding districts and towns. The rabbit pest, which is referred to in the Speech, is also a very serious pest, and I am glad to know that the Government proposes to continue its policy of advancing wire netting to the states on reasonable terms, in order that settlers who are not able to pay at once for the netting they require will still be able to net their holdings and put down the pest.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has referred to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and I wish to say that I do not agree with him that the Government was wrong in attempting to sell the steamers. I should have been very pleased indeed if it had succeeded in disposing of them under the conditions imposed. That was not possible, and if that cannot be done it is, in my opinion, the clear duty of the Government to sell those steamers without any restrictions at all, and so get rid of the huge annual loss which the taxpayers have had to bear for years past in connexion with this line of vessels. We have had for some time to bear an average annual loss of over £1,000,000 for this line. It is like nearly all enterprises undertaken by a Government. Whenever a Government undertakes an enterprise of this kind, the result is nearly always the same, and a huge loss is incurred, which the taxpayers have to pay. The sooner we cut the loss on the Commonwealth Line of Steamers the better. I do not agree with the right honorable member fm North Sydney that it is necessary to maintain the line in order to keep down freights and fares. It has had no effect in that way in the past, nor will it have any such effect in the future. A great majority of the primary producers do not desire that it should be continued by the Government, because they realize that it is of no use to them in securing a reduction in freights and fares.
I hope that our honorable friends opposite will co-operate with honorable members on this side in trying to pass a number of the much-needed reforms indicated in the Governor- General’s Speech.
.- On two occasions during the life of this Parliament the Opposition, through its Leader, has declared that it has nothing to contribute towards the solution of the problems connected with the Government of the Commonwealth . W e are left to draw our own conclusions as to whether that inability is due to bankruptcy of statesmanship or to barrenness of ideas. The first occasion was when, on the return of the Prime Minister from England, important matters connected with the Imperial and Economic Conferences were submitted to this House. The Leader of the Opposition then adopted the same attitude as he adopted yesterday, and merely submitted a motion which, if carried, would have had the effect of asserting that this country should attach itself blindly to the foreign policy of the then Labour Ministry led by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. That proposal the House rightly rejected. Had it been carried, it would have had the result of associating this House and the Australian people with an attempt to place the neck of British liberty under the heel of that ghastly human tragedy called Sovietism. It is well to note the inability of an honorable member, who was greeted by his followers yesterday as : the next Prime Minister of Australia,” to take a broad view of matters of national concern. As on a former occasion, he declared that there was nothing of importance in the Governor-General’s Speech, and nothing he could do to assist the country in its solution of the great problems that confront it. I suggest to the honorable member that there are very many matters in regard to which he had no right to be silent, and upon which the people have a claim to hear his views. He cannot claim to have the interests of the country at heart when his contributions towards the deliberations of this chamber are only of a destructive and critical nature. On this occasion there is at least one important matter in regard to which the House has a right to demand the views and experiences of the honorable member. I have heard the action of the Opposition yesterday described as “ clever political tactics.” I remind honorable members opposite that a lot of people are beginning to think that too much of the time of the House is occupied with mere political tactics, and they are asking for a more serious spirit in our councils and less levity than has been displayed by members of the Opposition, who claim to have the confidence of the public. In regard to the revival of the custom of opening Parliament with a speech by the Governor-General, to be followed by a debate on the Address-in-Reply, perhaps (he Leader of the Opposition was right in saying that it is not necessary that the House should be afflicted with speeches from his party”, but I agree with the Prime Minister that the right of speaking to the Address-in-Reply is one which private members should jealously guard, and it should not be lightly taken away. I, at any rate, would severely criticize any attempt to deprive honorable members of that opportunity. We have our rights and privileges, and duties to perform, and it would not be right if, in order to suit the convenience of the Leader of the Opposition, members on this side of the House were denied an opportunity of expressing their opinions on matters of interest to themselves and their constituents. In the speech very many important matters are mentioned, to some of which I propose to address myself.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that debate should be withheld until the measures forecast in the Governor-General’s Speech are before the House. I take a different view. When bills are submitted to the House honorable members have very little opportunity to alter or modify their contents, but after a long recess, during which honorable members have been in close contact with their constituents, they have a chance, when debating the Address-in-Reply, to express their opinions freely and openly, and thus possibly to influence the modelling of measures, or cause the modification of those which have been already drafted. It is perfectly true that private members have not the responsibility, influence, and power which is enjoyed by the members of the Cabinet, but if we are to have no voice at all in formulating the opinion of Cabinet in regard to bill’s which may be even now in a more or less incomplete state; if we are not to have an opportunity of warning Ministers of the danger of certain possible forms of legislation, what are we here for? Are we mere voting machines to say “ aye “ to the decisions already made by the Cabinet? I take a different view of our responsibilities. There are many matters pending in regard to which honorable members -should give careful thought, and upon which they should express their opinions courageously. Those with which I wish to deal are in three classes - those which may be considered internal or domestic, those of more or less Imperial importance, and those wider issues which affect foreign policy and our relations with other countries.
In regard to domestic matters, I believe that the financial affairs of Australia have reached a very critical stage, especially in connexion with the relations between the Commonwealth and the states. The troubles of the state which I have the honour to represent are being investigated by a royal commission, and, therefore, 1 do not propose to say on this occasion anything which applies particularly to Western Australian disabilities. My remarks will have equal application to almost every state of the Commonwealth, and the study of the recent troubles in Western Australia has caused me to formulate certain opinions for which I ask the consideration of the representatives of other states. The financial position of many of the states is becoming worse. Of course, the pressure is being felt most in the more remote states, but unless I am greatly mistaken the circumstances which are leading to trouble in them will eventually have a similar effect in the more populous states. It is well that the latter should be warned by the troubles of their neighbours. The main cause of the financial embarrassment of most of the states has been the arrangement governing the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the states since the expiration of the Braddon section in the Constitution. I am perfectly aware that this
Parliament had full power to do that which it did, but I suggest that that power was used unfairly. I am not saying that this Parliament deliberately and maliciously abused its power; I rather suggest that decisions were arrived at, and arrangements made, quite naturally without a full realization of their import. This Parliament, I believe, tried to give the states a fair deal, but if experience has shown that the arrangements it made, admittedly in good faith, have proved disastrous and unfair, and put an undue burden on the states, this Parliament should, in the same spirit of fairness that it claimed in the first instance, recast the arrangements. There is too great a ten- .dency to look upon the Commonwealth and the states as hostile powers, and to consider that the stronger authority should take all the money , that it needs - that the weaker authorities should be left to paddle about in shallow financial waters, while the Commonwealth swims out boldly into the ocean. That is not a proper view of the relations of the Commonwealth and the states. The federal authority should have as much regard for the finances of the states as it has for its own. It is so easy to say that the Commonwealth must prevail, and that the powers it possesses can be used without question. The finances of the states have been entirely disorganized, and the development of some of them has been disastrously hindered by the expiry of the Braddon section, and the failure to substitute in lieu thereof an arrangement approximately as fair. I do not say that that result was foreseen at the time, but it has been made apparent by later experiences. When the people were asked to federate, they were reluctant to do so until the Braddon section was inserted in the Constitution, because they realized that in the disposal of revenues some arrangement must be made to safeguard the finances of the states. The so-called “ Braddon blot” operated for ten years, during which conference after conference was held in order to arrive at a satisfactory substitute. The reports of those conferences provide most interesting reading, and I commend to the consideration of those honorable members who have not read them the reports of the 1.905 conference in Hobart, the 1906 conference in Melbourne, the 1907 conference in Brisbane, and the 1909 confer ence in Melbourne. It is of extraordinary interest to trace the development of the discussions, and to note the proposals that ‘ were put forward as solutions of the problem. Over and over again substitutes for the Braddon section which would in a measure preserve to the states the same safeguard that that section gave, were submitted by the premiers of the different states, but agreement was not reached, until eventually what appeared to be a very sensible arrangement was brought forward by the late Lord Forrest, the then Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who, having had a long experience m state politics, had a natural sympathy with the smaller states, and was able to appreciate some of the difficulties which confronted them. He propounded a scheme which was submitted to the Premiers in 1906. They did not quite accept it, and it was again discussed in Brisbane in 1907, when an arrangement was made which was far more statesmanlike and fair to the states than the per capita grant which was afterwards instituted. It is an astounding fact that, after an agreement had been arrived at and all differences had been composed, in 1909, when the Braddon section was about to expire, a further conference was held; and, whereas the debates of previous conferences were fully reported, and all points of view recorded, this gathering was held in camera. Day after day the conference sat in committee, and one is not able to gain the slightest information as to the nature of the discussions. All we know is that the agreement which was made in 1907, and met with the approval of State and Commonwealth Governments, was scrapped. The members of the conference emerged from their secret sittings to announce an agreement on the per capita basis. This is absolutely inexplicable to. any one who was not in the conference. Even then, the agreement included one safeguard. Those who consented to the agreement decided that it should not rest merely upon the goodwill of the parties, but should be safeguarded by a constitutional provision, which should be alterable only by the means by which constitutional changes can be made. A change of Government took place, and the Labour party which came into power introduced a bill providing for per capita payments, but left out the constitutional provision that made the per capita payments acceptable to the states. The states, having handed over their Customs revenue to the Commonwealth, can receive back only 25s. per capita, and they do not know from day to day when that payment will be abolished by this Parliament. It is not a just or fair position in which to place a state. I ask the larger states, which do not feel the pinch at present, to take warning from the difficulties of the smaller states, for inevitably, unless they help us to right this wrong, and realize that their interests are coincident with ours, the same difficulties will in due course come upon them.
– The Labour party’s platform now includes the provision that the per capita payments shall remain.
– I remind the honorable member that the Labour party’s platform is not the law of the land, and I hope it never will be. This is a matter of grave importance, in view of the agitation for the Commonwealth Government to vacate the field of income taxation, and for the abolition of the per capita grant. It has always been admitted that, although the Commonwealth Government had the right, it ought not to intrude into the field of direct, taxation except in a national emergency, such as that which arose during the Great “War. I do not say for one moment that the Commonwealth Government was not justified in imposing an income tax for that purpose; but if it is to be viewed as a right to be exercised only under most exceptional circumstances, by what right reasoning oan it be alleged that if the Commonwealth Government vacates the field of direct taxation it is entitled to demand some form of compensation from the states? I cannot- follow that argument. As the direct taxation was imposed for war purposes, and. was said to have been in fulfilment of the pledge of “The last man and the last shilling,” the proceeds should be considered as the particular fund which is ear-marked to meet what we can still call the war expenditure of the Commonwealth. There is much room for economy in expenditure. “We cannot afford to abolish direct taxation ; but to say that we can abolish it if we cease to pay the per capita grants is childish want of logic, because the per capita grants if abolished must be replaced by direct taxation by the states. In view of that, where does the taxpayer benefit? It is merely a demand to relieve certain classes of the community. I approve of giving them all the relief we can, but we should not assume credit for what cannot be anything more than a hypocritical sham by saying that we will forgo direct taxation if the states surrender the capitation grant. The states are asked to give up voluntarily a source of revenue which is unquestionably theirs by right, and the Commonwealth, in return for that generosity, proposes to give up a form of taxation which is only its right in case of emergency. I hope that the Government will not listen to the representations that are made, or yield to the pressure upon it.
The immigration agreement will have a tremendous bearing upon the financial relations of the states and the Commonwealth. I am as strong a supporter of immigration as any man in this House. I am convinced that immigration is absolutely necessary if we are to build up a nation in this country. I am prepared in every possible way to support an agreement to promote immigration, but when I come to the terms of the proposed agreement I have to confess that I am not very much enamoured of it. It has not been looked at. from all points of view. Its terms are unquestionably much better than anything we have had in the past, but are they as good as we ought to have ? ls the Commonwealth taking its proper place in the triangular agreement? I submit that it is not. With the best of intentions and the most laudable national purpose, the Government has not given sufficient consideration to some of the consequences of the agreement. The terms of the agreement .are that for the first five years the states must pay 1 per cent, of the interest, that for the next five years they must pay one-third of the total interest, and that the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government must each pay another third of the interest. At the end of ten years, the whole of the responsibility for the loan and the interest must fall upon the states. In addition to that, all the costs of flotation, which may be very heavy, will fall upon the states. With the rise in the rate of interest we may have to float the loan at a figure considerably below par. The amount by which the stock is sold below par will be a charge upon the states, in adelition to about i per cent, cost of flotation. If we ask £98 for each £100 of the loan, we immediately lose £2 per cent., plus flotation charges of 10s. That loss will fall upon the states. Let us consider whether the distribution of the interest charge is fair. The idea seems to be that the ultimate responsibility for the loan should fall upon the states, because they will get all the benefit. That is quite an erroneous view. There is some confusion of thought when discussing this question. We have to consider whether we are regarding a state as an aggregate of persons or as a unit of government, represented by a cabinet or a parliament. I wish to speak absolutely and solely of the state as ‘a board of directors, a government, or cabinet. In that sense, a state can only derive benefit from immigration to the extent to which immigration increases its field of taxation. When an immigrant arrives in Australia, he becomes subject to two taxation authorities - the Commonwealth and the state. Almost immediately ou arrival he has to pay a contribution to taxation through the Customs. That amounts to £6 per head per annum. As a revenue-earner for the state it is some time before he is of any value, especially if he is settled on the land.. It takes a while for his property to develop to the extent that his income from it is taxable, and for the first few years the Commonwealth alone draws revenue from new settlers. But let us assume that the preliminary stages have been passed, and that the new settler has progressed and has become a revenue producer for a state. The figures then work out like this - he pays £8 10s. per annum to the Commonwealth and £3 6s. per annum to the state. These are round figures but the approximation is very close to the actual amount. Therefore, every settler who arrives in Australia contributes more than twice as much to the Commonwealth Government as he contributes to a State Government. In these circumstances I submit that the permanent responsibility for the repayment of these immigration loans should be borne by the Commonwealth and not by the states. The national Government derives more than twice as much revenue from the new settler as the State Government. At any rate, the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and State Governments should be divided on a much more equitable basis than is at present fixed.
– (Has not the state an asset in the public works which are constructed by the expenditure of this money?
– Evidently the Treasurer was not in the chamber during the early part of my address, for I pointed out the fallacy of that view. You cannot take into consideration the state as an aggregate of persons as against the state as a governing body. The state, as a governing body, does not derive as much revenue by half from new settlers as does the Commonwealth as a governing body. The method that I described in the early part of my address is the only safe one to adopt for generalization. It does not matter how long a settler has been established,’ the experience throughout Australia is that he contributes more than twice as much to the Commonwealth Government as to a State Government. In these circumstances, however desirous we may be to assist immigration in some of the states, we must necessarily hesitate to adopt the plans proposed by the Commonwealth Government. It must be remembered always that the expenditure of the Commonwealth Government on new settlers is comparatively slight. I am dealing chiefly with, rural settlement. The state which absorbs a large number of immigrants has to incur a great deal of extra expense in order to provide roads, railways, and means of transport for them. The Stale Government is out of pocket “all the time. Under the Commonwealth proposal it is relieved for a while of the interest ‘bill, but presently the whole burden falls upon it in a heap. I very much fear that some of the states with the best intentions in the world to assist immigration will find themselves in difficulties if they adopt this scheme.
Let us, for a few moments, look at the position in regard to the proposed withdrawal of the per capita payments. I admit that the Federal Government has a most laudable desire to help the states. I have always insisted that the present Ministry, individually and collectively, is serious and earnest in this intention. In pursuance of this policy it has instituted certain methods of helping the states financially. The main road subsidy has been provided for this purpose. But this is the position which must be faced - if you take away from my own state for instance the per capita grant of about £500,000 per annum, and in its place give a main road grant, which amounted to £92,000 last year, and which, if the grant forecast is given, will amount to £180,000 this year, it is quite apparent that you are taking away more than you are giving. You are not diminishing our difficulties, but rather adding to them. As I pointed out last year, you are imposing upon the state the necessity for raising £1 for every £1 which is received from the Commonwealth, and in some cases that means that the state is being obliged to spend more than it ought, legitimately, to spend on road work. I trust that this year the conditions under which the “main road subsidy will be made available will be liberalized. There must be some relaxa: tion in the provisions if the grant is to serve the purpose for which it was intended. I know that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) is giving very careful consideration to this matter, but, personally, I would like to see these special grants abolished altogether and the Government take into consideration some general scheme by which the finances of the states could be put on a sound basis, and under which they could manage their own affairs without coming to the Commonwealth for special grants year after year. The continuation of the present policy will inevitably tend towards the adoption of a scheme of unification. I am sure that anybody who gives two thoughts to the position will realize that the abolition of the per capita payments will only increase the burden of direct taxation in the states, and is much more likely to render them incapable of carrying their financial burdens than they would be if the payments were continued. If the per capita payments are abolished, the states will be compelled more frequently to come, cap in hand, to the Federal Treasurer. That is not a satisfactory position, for it will unquestionably lead to the intrusion of the Commonwealth into the internal affairs of the State Governments, for the Commonwealth will naturally and properly desire to know how the money that it makes available to the states from time to time is expended. I do not propose, at present, to discuss the values and virtues of unification, nor to express any opinion upon it. All I will say is that it was not supposed to be a scheme of unification that we adopted at the time of federation. I do not consider that the substitution of federal grants will be in any way an adequate substitute for the Braddon section in the Constitution. If the Braddon section or something on those lines is not replaced, we shall be forced to adopt a scheme of unification, and that is contrary to the spirit of federation and the arrangement or bargain which the states made at the time of federation. I believe that these are matters which should be discussed at a conference representative of all parties and states and the Commonwealth. They ought to be discussed apart from the consideration of any possible consequences in which political parties might be involved. It would be a good thing for us to have such a conference. The states have now been federated for 25 years. If you take off five years of that time - for the natural development of the Commonwealth was hindered and distorted during the war period - it will be seen that we have had twenty years of federation under normal conditions. It is time, therefore, that we took stock of our experience with a view to seeing whether some improvements in our governmental methods are not possible. It would be the rational, sensible, and fraternal thing for representatives of the Commonwealth and the states to get together to discuss their mutual difficulties. I know that I shall be reminded that provision has been made for amendments of the Constitution, and that the power to initiate such proposals rests with this Parliament. But is it unreasonable to suggest that, having had twenty years’ experience of federation under normal conditions, we should attempt to meet the difficulties that have arisen? A Federal convention such as I have suggested could usefully debate all these matters, whereas any proposals for the amendment of the Constitution which may originate in this Parliament are liable to be met with opposition arising from party considerations.
– Has the honorable member no confidence in Parliament, or does lie think that Parliament has not the confidence of the people?
– If I have made one point during my speech which is unassailable, it is that experience has shown that Parliament is not to be trusted in this matter. I have already explained that I consider that Parliament intended to do what is right. I have not questioned the intention of Parliament, but I have stated that it had not sufficient knowledge of the consequences of its actions, and that the people have a right to say that Parliament has not done as well as it ought to have done, or half as well as it intended.
I wish now to refer to one or two matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech which are of special interest to us as part of the Imperial family. I am one of those who believe strongly that our strongest material tie with the Old Country is to be found in our mutual trade relations. I shall not refer at this stage to the proposed alteration of the tariff’ mentioned by His Excellency. The whole of those allusions are too vague and too general for us to express an opinion on them at present. We must wait and see what the proposals are, but I do differ materially from the opinion expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) - though, of course, in view of his statements in his electorate we expected nothing else from him - that there is absolute necessity for an increase of the duties. I say rather that there has been over-protection, and that many of our present troubles are due to an excess of a mischievous principle. When the honorable member talks of a flood of goods from abroad causing un- employment in our own country he is supporting an economic fallacy. While I do not propose at this stage to say more regarding the proposals to alter- the tariff, I desire to say something about Canadian and British preferences. When the proposals for Canadian preference were before this House last session I accepted them, but I felt an extreme degree of scepticism as to their practicability. I think I said in the House - at any rate I knew it - that 30 years had passed in useless negotiation between the different dominions in an attempt to arrive at a reciprocal trade arrangement. It is often urged that the value of protective duties is to give an opportunity to bargain with other nations, but the facts are that bargaining is practically impossible between two nations each with a policy of protection. I anticipated then what has actually happened. It has happened time and time again. When two countries, each with a protective tariff, come to grips, you find that the personal and selfish interests of each prevent a mutual agreement being arrived at. That is what has happened here. I was astonished that after 30 years of unsuccessful attempts in ‘that direction the Minister for Customs should bring down the text of an agreement which, we understood, had the approval of the Canadian Government. It appears, however, that that was not the case, as the agreement was not approved then, nor has it been approved since. It may not be safe to assume the role of a prophet, but I venture to say that no agreement on these lines which will be of benefit to each country will be arrived at between Australia and Canada. Protective tariffs do not give bargaining power; rather, they hinder it. That was well illustrated recently’ in Europe, when many of the nations after the war tried to enter into trade agreements with each other, but the only one which did so with any degree of success was freetrade Great Britain. It is easier to negotiate with, and obtain concessions from, other nations when you are giving them the most favorable treatment than when each has to haggle and bargain to maintain its own selfish interests. Last session the Minister for Customs brought down a statement of the intention of the Government regarding British preferences, in which the proportion of British labour and value required in imported goods was to be raised from 25 per cent, to 75 per cent. I criticized and opposed the proposal from the beginning, and asked the Government to afford the House an opportunity to discuss it. I maintained that such an arrangement should not be entered into by the Minister without the authority of this House. I obtained from the Minister a half promise that an opportunity for discussion would be afforded, but the only opportunity I obtained was one which I had to make for myself, and it required some 3- o’clock-in-the-morning courage to- deal with the subject when the Supplementary Estimates were under discussion in the dying hours of the session. All that I said then about that preference arrangement has been fulfilled to the letter. In a recent statement in Adelaide, the Minister for Customs said that by this agreement he had substituted for a complicated rule-of-thumb method something which he considered was a great Imperial gesture. I hardly know the sense in which those words were used by him - bow a ruleofthumb method can be complicated I do not know. That method usually provides a simple way of settling a problem by arriving at a direct, but approximate, answer. Nor do I understand how what was done can be considered an Imperial gesture. The preference arrangement, which was said to be aimed at the foreign competitor, was really directed against the British manufacturer, as the Industries Preservation Act provided sufficient protection against foreign competition.
– The whole thing was purely destructive.
– I cannot see that it was an Imperial gesture. It appears to me to have been a mere mischievous gesticulation. Further, it caused trouble in England and Canada. We were told that we were acting in concert with other dominions, but on inquiry it was found that we were acting with New Zealand only. Now, New Zealand has postponed the arrangement until the 1st of October next, probably because difficulties in the way can be seen. At the time I protested against these proposals, and stated that they were matters which ought to be dealt with by Parliament and not by the Minister. I publicly challenged the Minister on the matter, but he did not deign to reply. I heard that some persons whose businesses were affected had obtained legal advice in the matter, and made inquiries, when I ascertained that opinions were obtained from two of the leading King’s Counsels in Sydney and from, one in Melbourne. All three opinions were to the effect that the declaration or order - regulation it was called, but such it was not - was ultra vires, and that if the Minister persisted in his contemplated action he would be liable to claims for damages, because he was acting beyond his authority. That is a very serious position - a position which I pointed out last year, but at that time no notice was taken of my remarks. The unfortunate thing about the whole matter is that while we are striving to bring about closer Imperial relations, we are using a weapon like this to strike a. blow at those very relations which we are attempting to foster. The whole thing is most regrettable, and should not have occurred. Whether the Minister knows it or not, one cannot help feeling that his action has been taken at the behest of certain interests.
I desire now to refer to foreign affairs. This is an occasion on which the House has a right to demand from the Leader of the Opposition a statement on one important matter. Last year he was sent from this country as one of our delegates to the Geneva Conference. One result of that conference was a, Protocol which was afterwards rejected by the Imperial Government and the dominions. I join with other honorable members in expressing regret that the matter has not come before this House. I believe that if there is one means by which the sometimes parochial deliberations of this chamber can be raised to a higher level, it is the intro.duction of some of these larger world problems for discussion, both for our own education and for the education of the people generally. At the same time, I wish to make it clear that I believe that the Government was right in rejecting the Protocol. It could do no other. But the public has a right to know why it was rejected. There was only one short statement in the press. I presume that the Government will make a full statement setting out the reason for its action; but as there is an allusion to it in the Governor-General’s Speech, I have taken what may be the only opportunity I shall have to refer to this matter. Since his return from Geneva the Leader of the Opposition has stated on many occasions that the Protocol should have been accepted.
– What did the AttorneyGeneral say ?
– The Attorney-General made no statement. He knew he had to put his views first of all to the Cabinet, and he was not free to speak without the assent of his colleagues. The Leader of the Opposition went from one end of Australia to the other as an advocate of the adoption of the Protocol. When he came into this House, though he was not very clear in the remarks he made, so far as I could gather, he suggested that the Protocol should have been accepted. If that be so, why did he not say why he believed it should be accepted? As one of our delegates, if he thinks that the Protocol” should bo accepted, is it not his duty to come before this House to give us his reasons, and to bring his influence to bear on his follow members 1 Is it not in this House, rather than anywhere else, that he should express his opinions, and give his reasons for them ? Why did he not do so? He referred to the Protocol, but told us that he is not going to say anything about it. If that is the result of the novel and generous experiment of trying to make these matters non-party by sending the Leader of the Opposition as a delegate to Geneva, it does not encourage repetition of that experiment. We should all have been glad to hear the honorable gentleman, coming straight from Geneva and the counsels and deliberations of the conference, explain why, in his opinion, the decision of the Government was wrong. I do not say’ that they were made with that deliberate intention, but some of the statements with regard to the Protocol are certainly likely to mislead the public as to its purpose. There are two main issues emerging from the acceptance of the Protocol. One is connected with the White Australia policy, and the other in regard to sanctions. It has been suggested that the Protocol weakened the position of Australia on the White Australia policy. It did nothing of the kind. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) some months ago in a communi-. cation to the press pointed that out clearly. Any one_ who studies the matter will find that with regard to the White Australia policy the Protocol provided for a more extended system of negotiation, discussion, and delay before any foolish or undesirable decision might be come to between contending countries. It is said that that policy is one which should not go before the League of Nations at all, and that we should say, “ This is a matter of domestic policy, and, therefore, the League has nothing to do with it.” But to adopt an attitude of that sort would be somewhat like the conduct of children at play, who say, “ Ah, you cannot touch me. I have got my fingers crossed.” It is all very well for us to say that it is a matter of domestic policy, but if it wounds the national sentiment of another country we cannot say that that country has not a right to fight us over it. If such a danger should arise, the greater the discussion, deliberation, and argument the less the likelihood of an open rupture, and in that respect the Protocol gave more safeguards for our safety in this matter than previously existed. Although the Protocol is dead the question can still be brought before the League of Nations, but without the safeguards which the Protocol would have provided. On this score I should have said that the Protocol ought to have been accepted. But its other proposal, relating to sanctions, is to us of greater importance. This is fraught with such tremendous issues, not only to Australia but to the Empire as a whole, that under the arrangements proposed by the Protocol it was impossible for us to accept it. The reasons are these: I may give one or two simple illustrations, and if I mention particular countries they will be referred to only by way of illustration, and to help honorable members to understand what I mean. Suppose that Japan caused some trespass on China. Suppose that Japan committed a breach of the covenant against China, it might be said that her action would not concern us. But under the sanctions of the Protocol we should have to step in as a member of the League and put the necessary pressure on Japan to prevent her from continuing what she was doing. If the matter went to extremes the British “Navy is the only force that could compel compliance with the wishes and desires of the League of Nations. These are serious words. Whether the British Navy succeeded or failed in its conflict with Japan, it would certainly be left terribly shattered and, possibly, actually defeated. If it were only weakened the Empire would be left a possible prey to otherwise insignificant foes which might arise. If it were defeated we should lose the Empire. These aTe serious considerations, surely. Let me consider another possibility arising out of the sanctions. Suppose Great Britain enters into obligations, and under them has to carry out the commercial blockade of a European country. America is not a member of the League of Nations; it is a neutral country. America, during the process of that blockade, might, desire to carry on trade with the country concerned. Great Britain, as a naval power in carrying out naval operations, has always insisted in the case of a blockade on the right of search. That right has always been disputed by America. It was the cause of the war of 1812, and was very nearly the cause of a rupture between England and America during the last great war! That rupture was avoided through America coming into the war herself. Suppose that similar circumstances again arose under the Protocol, and in pursuance of the blockade which Great Britain was carrying out on behalf of the League of Nations she fell out with America on this point of the right to search, she might find herself launched into a war with a neutral country, not in her own interests, but purely ‘in the interests of the League of Nations, which would be unable to protect her from the consequences of that war.
– Being a member of the League of Nations she would not be an isolated nation as the honorable member seems to suggest.
– The honorable member fails to grasp the point, that in the matter of naval operations under the circumstances I have suggested, Great Britain would be acting practically on her own because of her naval power. She would have to bear most of the burden and accept most of the responsibility. In either of the cases I have suggested Great Britain would have to bear- most of the cost involved. In the event of a war with Japan for the protection of China most of the cost would have to be borne by Great Britain. I am aware that nominally under the Protocol the cost is to be , borne by the aggressor country, but from past experience we know only too well’ the value of such a provision as that. Great Britain in the circumstances suggested would have committed herself to tremendous expenditure, and would risk the continued existence of her Empire. We must insist upon retaining the right to decide whether our interests require our interference in any international dispute. These are some of the considerations arising out of the Protocol which, to my mind, show how utterly impracticable it was. They also indicate with what great care and seriousness we should watch developments in connexion with what is now being discussed as the ‘ ‘ security pact ‘ ‘ of Europe. Despite what some honorable members may say, I contend that if England undertakes responsibilities which may involve her in war, when she is at war we also are at war. We may say that we are not, and that we will take no part in it, but that declaration will not be accepted’ by an enemy nation.
– Canada is very emphatic in her adoption of that attitude.
– I am very well aware of that, but surely the honorable member’s own common sense is sufficient to show him that if Great Britain were at war with Japan, and we said that we would not take part in it - that we were not at war simply because Great Britain was at war - Japan would not accept that position.
– It is most foolish for the honorable member to make use of the name of that country every time he wishes to illustrate an argument.
– I have not said anything to which the slightest exception could be taken. The difficulty is only in the honorable member’s mind. If it were not for his interjection, nothing objectionable could be inferred from my remarks.. If any country were at war with Great Britain, its people would say to Australia, “ You cannot call yourself out of the game. We shall treat you as an enemy because you are a part of the Empire,” and what we might say would be of no use. The enemy country would hold the view that being at war with Great Britain she was at war with us.
I have only one further remark to make with regard to foreign relations, and it is this : I feel, as I know the Prime Minister feels, for he has expressed his sentiments in this House, the great difficulty in devising a method of keeping in close touch with developments in the affairs of foreign nations. We- all know what has been said about having a resident Minister in London, and so on. The difficulty is in keeping sufficiently in touch with affairs abroad to fulfil our obligations properly and exercise such checks as we may desire in Imperial affairs. I need only refer to that most unfortunate - as I still consider it - Lausanne Treaty, to which this House consented without knowing anything about it, and under circumstances which did not even afford us time to discuss it. It has had very many unfortunate results, and its adoption can only be called the making the best of a bad bargain. I say that we need some machinery to enable us to avoid these troubles in the future. Some very valuable articles appeared in *The Time** of Great Britain in February last, for a copy of which I feel deeply indebted to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). Realizing the importance of the articles, I believe the honorable member sent several copies out to Australia. While at the centre of things, he recognized the importance to Australia of the proposals made. The articles to which I refer should be read by every member of the House. The gist of the conclusion arrived at by the writer is that it is necessary for us, if we are to fulfil our obligations, to keep properly in touch with developments in the Old World, and therefore to establish what might be called an ambassadorial system. This system must not be a mere makeshift. I venture to say that it would not meet its ends if the ambassadorial position were filled by expoliticians of this country. Ambassadors should be above the influence, conscious or unconscious, of party politics. The position calls for special training and selection. Without some such system enabling the Government here to be kept in continual and full touch with all developments in foreign affairs, not only those visible, but also those invisible to the ordinary eye, we can never hope to exercise much influence and secure the place which we hope to occupy - and in this connexion I may say that I sometimes think that we have somewhat exaggerated notions of our importance in international affairs.
There are many proposals included in the Govern or- General’s Speech with which £ heartily approve. I hope that because I have mentioned one or two matters on which I feel strongly, and on which I may, therefore, have adopted a more critical than approving attitude, it will not be assumed that in connexion with most of the items of its policy the Government is, in my opinion, wrong. Some of the matters to which I have directed what I hope is constructive criticism, are matters now under the consideration of the Government. I can only hope that, in some slight measure, not out of proportion to my standing in. the House, the remarks I have made will have some influence with the Government. I overlooked one point in connexion with the proposals for the remission of direct taxation. I have suggested that some revision of direct taxation should take place, and I have already pointed out that if the Government desires to give a real measure of financial relief to the community without risking the disloca tion of the Commonwealth finances, it should do so- in the area of indirect taxation. I should like to add, that if the Treasurer cannot remit all the direct taxation, he can do much to remove the present annoyances associated with its collection. I hope the honorable gentleman will not think me personal when I say that he appears a little disinclined to adopt a proposal unless he himself has originated it. For two years I have been urging the desirability of softening the collection of income tax. I can see little difficulty in making the tax payable quarterly, and a measure which proposed that, and a certain reduction of the impost, would be most acceptable to the community. Mirny a man, on receiving his income tax assessment, has to get an overdraft in order to pay it. He cannot afford to have money lying idle while he is waiting for the assessment to be delivered; and is it right that the assessment, when it comes, should dislocate his ordinary financial methods and compel him to pay interest upon an overdraft? The Department treats the taxpayer as if he were an ox, to be goaded; an ass, to be driven; and, almost, as a toad, to be trodden on. Why not show some consideration for the feelings of the taxpayer? The constant irritation arising from the present method of collection is behind a good number of the complaints regarding the amount of the impost, and the Treasurer would be well advised to take my suggestion into consideration, because the 60 days’ grace which he gave as a concession last year does not nearly meet the needs of the community. If the Treasurer will agree to an easier method of collection he will confer a considerable benefit upon the taxpayer, and remove a grave cause of complaint.
– I was surprised at the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that there is nothing of sufficient importance in the Governor-General’s Speech to call for discussion. I have looked through the Speech carefully, and it seems to me to traverse every important issue that confronts the people of Australia to-day. The declaration of the leader of a party which jubilantly proclaims that it will soon occupy the Federal Treasury bench, and be in complete control of government in Australia, that there is nothing in the Speech worth talking about, is an indication that that gentleman is either lacking in a sense of proportion or has some ulterior political motive which is worthy of analysis and consideration. It is remarkable that there should be this sudden desire to economize in the time of Parliament - and time means money - on the part of gentlemen opposite, who in the last two and a half years have wasted a considerable amount of that valuable commodity. Of course, their ideas of time-wasting differ substantially from ours, but I suggest to them, with all respect, that the longestablished practice of discussing the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is by no means wasteful. If in the opinion of honorable members opposite the Address-in-Reply is a waste of time now, why was it not so before? Why have they taken so long to arrive at the conclusion that this familiar procedure should be abolished ? If they are sincere in their protests, they have made an important advance, and if they will favour the House with further suggestions for saving time, we may be able to so amend parliamentary procedure as to practically revolutionize the system of government. I have already said that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition showed his lack of a sense of proportion. I have not only a great respect for the honorable member personally, but I also admire his ability ; and, if it should be his good fortune to become Prime Minister of Australia - a consummation that is not so imminent as some, of his supporters profess to believe - I think he will discharge the duties of the position ably and worthily. Holding that view of him, I cannot understand why he should declare that in a document, which represents the concentrated brains of the Commonwealth Ministry, there is nothing worth debating. In casting about for the ulterior motive which is behind that attitude, I have come to the conclusion that the present Labour party has no definite constructive policy. That has been obvious to students of Australian political history for some time. Ten or fifteen years ago, the Labour party had a constructive policy, which it was always dinning into the ears of the people ; it was never tired of proclaiming that it had a remedy for this, that, and the other thing, and in connexion with every big issue that was before the country it had” some suggestion for setting matters right.
Eventually the Labour party got its opportunity, and I give it credit for using its powers wisely and well. To-day, the party is without a constructive policy, and is merely drifting upon an ocean of destructive criticism. During the recent state elections in New South Wales I came into contact with members of the party, when at street corners, in the fashion of the “ soap-box orator.” I attempted to refute some of the criticisms they were levelling against the Commonwealth Government. I find that members of the Labour party criticize very severely, and often entertainingly, but they never advance any concrete suggestion that would convince a thinking man. I belong to a party composed of men who are able to think, and who, to a large extent, are independent of the political machine. I and my colleagues are quite prepared to be influenced by constructive criticism from whatever source it comes, but during two and a half years’ experience in this House, I have never heard a constructive proposal of a national character from the honorable members who sit opposite.
I direct the attention of honorable members to a few items in this Speech which, the Leader of the Opposition said was not worth discussion. The first is the forthcoming visit of the American fleet. Is not that a subject that is worthy of remark? I was keenly disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition did not refer to it. The Labour party is a big and responsible body in Australian politics. What is its attitude towards this important event in the history of Australia? Is it ‘pleased that the fleet is coming, or does it feel cold and unsympathetic? Another subject which surely is worthy of discussion is the financial situation. There is nothing more complicated and more vexing to the people of Australia than the problem of public finance. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), in past sessions, has frequently given us the benefit of his views upon finance. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is a challenge to honorable members opposite to tell the House where the Government financial proposals are wrong, and how they can be put right. Another matter of great importance is the Singapore Naval Base. What is the attitude of the Labour party to-day towards that project? Has it altered since the matter was last discussed in this House? Mot long ago members opposite not only fiercely opposed the construction of the base, but, also, we may assume, used their influence with the then Labour Government in Britain to have the work discontinued. The present Imperial Government has decided to proceed with the base. Is the Labour party in this House still hostile? If so, it should state its reasons. If it is not prepared to discuss these matters we can only conclude that it does not think it advisable to express any opinion. I think the real reason for the silence of honorable members opposite upon these important political issues is that they do not know their own minds. They are calling for bills. Apparently, they want the Government’s proposals before them in order that they may be able to formulate opinions of their own. At present they have no opinions, and they do notwish to commit themselves. Also, there are so many dissentient views amongst honorable members opposite that their leader probably showed himself a good tactician by avoiding any discussion at this stage, so that the party may have an opportunity to make up its mind and evolve a constructive policy. All of us will be keenly interested to hear from the members of the Opposition their proposals for the better government of the country. Their attitude brings to my mind the excellent and entertaining speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), a gentleman for whom we all have the greatest respect, one of the great political figures of this country, and one who occupies a very high place in the esteem of the people. I felt as much disappointment after hearing his speech as I did at the bankruptcy of ideas of the Leader of the Opposition. It was a case of Satan reproving sin. The right honorable gentleman’s speech was simply a tirade of ridicule directed at a Government, to which he belonged for some time, and at party in which he has exercised a very powerful influence. Most of the things which to-day he ridicules he at one time has been responsible for carrying out. He ridicules the rushing through of Estimates. The present Government has not rushed Estimates through, but during his political career the right honorable gentle man rushed Estimates through in one week. To-day he condemns the idea of selling the Commonwealth steamers without the consent of Parliament, whereas he himself bought those steamers without that consent. It is true that the steamers were bought because of the exigencies of war, and the right honorable gentleman, as a statesman, had to act quickly. He certainly did a good thing for Australia then, and his action was subsequently endorsed by Parliament. The position is, nodoubt, different to-day, yet it savours of inconsistency and lack of sincerity on his part to ridicule so savagely the members of a Ministry, most of whom are practically political novices in comparison with himself, to whom he ought to give help instead of offering obstruction. It would be more befitting his high political career and the esteem in which he is held by the people in Australia, if, instead of discouraging Ministers by ridiculing them or offering destructive criticism, he were to afford them a little real help and advice. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman informed the Prime ‘Minister that it was his intention to offer advice, but after listening to his speech we found there was very little advice in it, and that it was simply an expatiation on what he had done or what he might have done if he had had the chance. He did not contribute to the debate any constructive ideas, and did not raise himself in the esteem of honorable members, who think that he at least owes some loyalty to the party which has placed him where he is . to-day.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). I tried to follow him closely, but I confess that he left me in a certain state of mental confusion as to what he actually thinks about the Protocol - whether he is for it or against it. The criticism levelled against the Government for not calling Parliament together to concider the Protocol is more or less hypocritical. Ido not think any honorable member would suggest that a special session of Parliament should be held to consider something about which we are unanimous.
– What right has the honorable member to say that we were unanimous about the Protocol ?
– Let me put it this way : if the Protocol had been . placed before the House, and its terms had been thoroughly understood by honorable members, there would have been only one decision in regard to it. In the last issue of the Bound Table - a -well-known review, containing articles by recognized authorities, -.-‘whose names are not given, upon questions affecting the Empire - appeared the following: -
The ‘Protocol provides that any state which goes to war in defiance of its obligations under the covenant or the Protocol is an aggressor. Tt also provides that, in the event of hostilities, any state shall be presumed to be an aggressor which (a) has refused to submit a dispute to the arbitral or judicial procedure for settlement which it lays down; (6) has refused’ ito comply with an arbitral or judicial award so obtained, or a unanimous report by the council; or (c) has made military preparations during the negotiations for pacific settlement. The council is bound to call upon members to apply economic, military, and naval sanctions against the aggressor state, and members are automatically bound to take such sanctions in loyal and effective co-operation with the council. Thus the Protocol differs from the covenant in that it leaves no choice whatever– to the members. Every member is bound to a procedure which not only compels it to submit every dispute to arbitration, but also determines by an automatic process when and on what side it shall go to war.
If that is a fair statement of the position, the Protocol would not have been given five minutes’ consideration in this House; and as we know that it was rejected by the British Government, and was not given a moment’s consideration by the Government of Japan, I think the Commonwealth Government acted quite rightly in not going to the expense of calling Parliament together to discuss it. In simply indicating that it would have nothing to do with the Protocol, I believe the Government was speaking on behalf of the people of Australia. It would have been an absolute waste of time to call Parliament together to deal with it. There is no honorable member on either side who is prepared to place the White Australia issue on the table of the League of Nations, or before any international arbitration court whatsoever.
– The Attorney-General, who was our delegate to the League of Nations, was apparently prepared to do so.
– Probably, at that time, like the Leader of the Opposition, the’ Attorney-General may have been prepared to do so. We have not heard the views of the Leader of the Opposition on the matter. We are all anxiously waiting to hear them.
– It is just as well for the honorable member to wait until he hears our report, and then he will know something about the matter. He knows nothing about it now.
– Even if we know nothing about it, the fact remains that the Governments of Great Britain and Japan, the two principal factors in the success or otherwise of the Protocol, knew sufficient about it to turn it down without much consideration.
– Does not the honorable member think that we ought to wait for the report of our delegates to the League of Nations?
– I think we should have their report, and I hope we shall get it, but I also think the Leader of the Opposition should have taken the opportunity yesterday to tell us about it.
– -No; that was not the time for me to do so.
– That would have made it a party question.
– I do not think it would have done so. There is no question about what the attitude of this Parliament would have been. We would have been largely influenced by the action taken in Great Britain, and more influenced by the action taken in Japan. Having the position clearly before it, the Japanese Government without hesitation rejected the Protocol, simply because it would have placed’ the racial issue on the table of an arbitration court. I do not think any honorable member of an Australian Legislature need look further than that for guidance. It seems to me that the position was so clear that even if some honorable members of this Parliament had valid reasons for subscribing to the Protocol in their capacity as delegates to the League of Nations, the Government acted quite rightly in instantly interpreting the sentiment of the people of Australia, namely, that the White Australia issue should not be endangered in any arbitration court that could possibly be set up.
– The logical conclusion of the honorable member’s remarks is that the Japanese Government turned down the Protocol because it endangered the White Australia policy.
– I shall reply to the honorable member’s interjection after tea.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was about to answer an interjection by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), to the effect that the logical deduction from my remarks was that Japan rejected the Protocol out of regard for the White Australia policy. I deny that. Japan obviously rejected the Protocol OUt of regard for the most vital issue of all to her - the racial issue. The statesmen of Japan have made it quite clear that that issue will not in any circumstances be placed before an arbitration court. That line of action iu Japan is sufficient guide to a country like Australia, which also regards the racial issue as the most vital in its political economy. But it is absurd for any honorable member to assume that such a deduction could be drawn from any speech made in this House. The Government did the right thing in following the example of Great Britain and Japan, and. not losing time in rejecting this remarkable international instrument. The fact that it has excited so little international controversy shows conclusively that the originators of it were labouring under perhaps one of the greatest delusions in the world since President Wilson evolved his League of Nations. There is only one thing that is of any value to a country like Australia, and that is the security afforded by the right arm of Great Britain. If we are not to be guaranteed that security, all the paper treaties and agreements in the world will have no more effect in saving us from the consequences of our own helplessness than they had in saving Belgium, Servia, and other countries in 1914.
That brings me to a consideration of the paragraph relating to the Singapore base. It is somewhat remarkable that so little attention this session . has been devoted to this gigantic work. It is true that the session has hardly begun, but one might expect that the speeches of honorable members would take more cognizance of this important issue. I am, personally, very keenly interested in the Singapore base controversy, and have been following developments carefully. It seems to me that it would be a very good thing for this Parliament to express emphatically its adherence to the principle involved in the construction of the base, and also to assure the Government of Great Britain that this country is prepared to make some contribution, in money or materials, to its construction. We know what the sentiment of the people of Great Britain is towards the White Australia policy. I agree with the remarks made by the Prime Minister in a public speech the other day, when he said that we had no guarantee that Great Britain would at any time in the future go to war to safeguard the White Australia policy. He added that it Avas a great pity that Ave had not such a guarantee, and he. said that, so far as the future Avas concerned.
Ave were simply in the air. Those of us who have studied the sentiments of the people of Great Britain towards the White Australia policy are fully aware that they are not very favorable to our policy. That is probably due to the ignorance of the people of Great Britain of the issues involved. The Singapore base is a tangible recognition by the statesmen of Great Britain of the fact that a duty devolves upon them regarding the future of Australia.
– Has not India something to do with it?
– There is no doubt about that, but I feel quite sure that the guiding motive of the statesmen of Great Britain is to give the people of Australia an assurance that steps will be taken within a reasonable time to prevent the disaster of invasion and possible conquest of this country. I urge that this* question should receive more attention in this. House. and that the Government should bring down a definite policy in its defence scheme for making a contribution towards the cost of the base. The Government of Great Britain is in no hurry to complete, the base. I believe that it is estimated that it will be completed in from ten to fifteen years. A lot may happen in that time, and if we could have a guarantee that we should be safeguarded for that period, we need not worry. It is the urgent duty of the Government to come to a definite understanding Avith the Government of Great
Britain about , the base. The reason for that is not that we fear an attack by Japan. It is ridiculous for honorable members to suggest thatwe should not mention the. possibility of an attack by Japan. There is the possibility of anything happening. After the experiences of 1914, no one in his senses would say that such a country as Australia is immune from attack. We are so weak in sea and land defences that the Government will commit an unpardonable offence if it does not secure a definite understanding with Great Britain as to when the Singapore Base will be completed, our responsibilities towards it, and its actual strategic advantage to us in the event of hostilities. The defence policy of the Government is essentially weak in not taking greater notice of the moral part Singapore is playing at the present time, and the material part it will ‘play in the future. I hope that before the session ends the Government will open negotiations with the Government of Great Britain in order to reassure the people of Australia. The Prime Minister has said that we have no guarantee. It is time thatwe had one. Members of the Oppositionwould agree with me if they could realize that Great Britain is not actually committed to secure this country and the White Australia policy. If there is any doubt about that it is theduty of the Government to remove it.
I should like to make another reference to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes).. He spoke of the record of this Government in parliamentary business, and indulged in a characteristic gibewhich, I think, came with very bad grace from him, about the slackness of the Government. One need refer only to the actual figures to see how unsubstantial and uncalled forwas his gibe. The figures show that from 1914 to 1917, a period of a little over three years, the number of bills passed by this Housewas 49, the number of sittings was 147, and the total number of hours of sittingwas 1,092 . From 1917 to 1919- the period duringwhich the right honorable gentleman was in control - 32 bills were passed, and there were 172 sittings, totalling 1,387 hours, From 1923 to 1924, a period of two years, during which the present . Government has been in office, the number of bills passed has been 97, the number of sittings 129, and the number of sitting hours 1,040. With only two years gone, and one session still ahead of them, the present Government is only 50 sitting hours short of the total of the Parliament that sat from 1914 to 1917,when a Labour Administrationwas in charge, and 300 short of the sitting hours of the Parliament of 1917 to 1919, when the right honorable member for North Sydneywas in charge. Those figures prove conclusively, both in regard to the number of hours and the amount of legislation passed, that the record of this Government compares very favorably with the record, not only of the Government of the right honorable member for North Sydney, but also of the Labour Government.
Having referred to two such distinguished gentlemen as the right honorable member for North Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition, I shouldnow like to refer to another member of the Opposition,who happens to be the only member of the Opposition, except the Leader,who has spoken during this debate, I refer to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). It is pitiable that the Deputy Leader of a great party like the Labour party should behave as he did last night. It is time that some of the members on this side of the House expressed their indignation and disgust at it. Although that honorable gentleman has very great talents, I feel that I am justified in saying that he very often prostitutes them in this House. For a gentlemanwho is spoken of as the future Treasurer of the Commonwealth to give a comic opera display such as he gave last night, is not only to make a travesty of the proceedings of Parliament, but also to bring this House into the public contempt to which he and honorable members on that side are always drawing attention. He said that for the third time the Government had been led into a trap. What Government would not be led into a trap if this sort of thing is to be the procedure of Parliament ? He said thatthe Ministry expected members of the Opposition to “barnstorm” for eight days. He “barnstormed “ for half an hour, and I feel sure that the only opinion, members on this side of the House can have of him is that as a barnstormer he is second to none, and that in this Parliament he has not shown any other kind of ability. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the play “ On our Selection,” and I have formed the opinion that the honorable member is a worthy rival of the gentleman who impersonates “ Dave “ in that remarkable comic.
Turning now to the policy speech, we have first the reference to the proposed visit of the American fleet. In connexion with this important event, I hope that the Government will, as an act of courtesy to the United States of America, refrain from placing intoxicating liquors upon the table at all public functions promoted by the Commonwealth. As our visitors are coming from a land which has adopted prohibition, and where the Administration is spending tremendous sums of money to enforce its policy, it is only fair that, before they partake of the bounty of this country, they should at least be asked whether they desire that policy to be continued. It would be a very graceful act if in this matter the Government set an example to outside interests that are likely to endeavour to share some of the social limelight from the visit. This will be a most important event in the history of Australia. We all remember the regular orgy of jollification during the 1908 visit of the American fleet. And what an important event that was for Australia. There is not the slightest doubt that it influenced public opinion and led to the creation of the Australian Navy, which practically saved Australia upon the outbreak of war. I regard this second visit as of even greater significance to Australia, and I believe that it would be more in keeping with the dignity of this country if it were treated as a great international event, and not an international picnic. If the newspapers received a hint from the Government to give a high tone to their reports of the visit, they would probably do so, with the happiest of results to all concerned.
I listened with great interest to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) concerning tariff revision, and I sympathize with him, because I happen to be a high protectionist myself. The Country party by some people is unjustly regarded as the. freetrade wing of the Nationalist party. It is nothing of the kind. It is, in the main, a Protectionist party. The majority of its members are protectionists. In the light of his past it is remarkable that the right honorable gentleman should today appear in the role of a leading exponent of high protection in this Parliament. His conversion from freetrade to high protection is certainly one of the most remarkable - perhaps one of the most astounding, changes in his career. But whilst we, as members of the Country party, endorse the policy of protection, we do not stand for a policy that will place crippling burdens upon the primary producers of the Commonwealth. The Country party was created particularly to safeguard the interests of primary producers, and its members would be remiss in their duty if they failed to do that. Other industries can pass Customs duties on to the consumer. The man on the land is not in that position. Time after time he is hit by Customs duties. We say that if there is going to be more protection for our secondary industries, which after all are located mainly in the big capital cities, where the supporters of Labour are being massed in everincreasing numbers, we, as a party, will fight our hardest to see that the primary producer gets a “cut” out of it, too. If there is any sincerity in the protestations of the country wing of the Labour party - we hear about it now and again - those members of the Labour party should support the Country party in its efforts to save the primary producers from being massacred when this high protectionist tariff is again under consideration. We believe in legitimate protection for our secondary industries, but we are determined that the primary producers, who, after all, are the backbone of the country, shall not be loaded with more burdens. We intend to ask the House to reduce this load. At present the man on the land has to pay almost prohibitive prices for his agricultural implements. If the commercial interests and the industrial classes are to get benefits from a national protectionist policy, it is fair that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth should contribute towards easing the burdens of the primary producer. It is amazing that some high tariffists can reconcile their desire for prohibitive duties with their knowledge of the finances of Australia. The Commonwealth is being financed out of Customs revenue. If that revenue is to be cut in halves by higher, and perhaps prohibitive, duties, the finances of the country will be thrown into a ‘condition of chaos. The Treasurer is having demands made upon him for increases in old-age pensions, for more money for post office works, and for expenditure in many other directions. If Customs revenue declines seriously, _ how can he give effect to these requests ? The budget is based largely upon the expectation that revenue from Customs is going to be maintained. If imports are to be shut out, as suggested in some quarters, the finances of Australia will be crippled. Any attempt to get the additional revenue from direct, taxation will probably lead to a revolution. I doubt if even honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House would be venturesome enough to ask the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to stand another £20,000,000 of -direct taxation. I hope that honorable members, in their enthusiasm for tariff revision, will .keep this matter in mind. Provided Parliament does the fair thing by . the man on the land, the Country party is in favour of fair. and legitimate protection for secondary industries, although, as I have said, that policy will benefit chiefly supporters of Labour in the capital cities.
A good deal has been said of late about the construction of cruisers for the Australian Navy. Most of the criticism has come from members of the Labour party. If that party was sincere in its desire to establish an Australian Navy, its criticism would have been legitimate and fair. During the recent state election in New South Wales I was frequently asked why the Commonwealth Government placed the order for the two cruisers in Great Britain. I found that invariably the question was asked by a supporter of the Labour party with the object of embarrassing the Nationalist party. Members of the Labour party forgot to tell the people that if they had had their waythere would have been no cruisers at all, and that, therefore, their policy would not have helped Australian workmen, who, according to them, are now to be thrown out of work because these cruisers are being built in Great Britain. I am a firm believer in the Australian Navy. If members of the Labour party are prepared to revise their policy they will find many supporters from this side of the House. As a fact they are absolutely hostile to anything in the shape of a navy, so when they endeavour to make political capital out of the Government proposals they are guilty of political hypocrisy. Their attitude makes one wonder whither we are drifting under our democratic institutions.
The proposal of the Government to create a new state or states in the Northern Territory is one that commands attention. The Northern Territory has for so long been a problem that we have almost ceased to worry about it. Nevertheless it is a problem that has to be faced, but until the Government brings down its definite proposals we shall not be in a position to offer criticism. I am very . much afraid that anything iu the nature of a new state in the true sense of the word is a long way off yet. I believe, however, that it would be better if, instead of tinkering with a proposal to appoint a commission, the Government considered the creation of a new state at once. The appointment of a commission is- not likely to prove satisfactory. If the Government took a bold step and negotiated with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland for the incorporation of territory in a proposed new state north of the 20th parallel, it is probable that the State Governments would meet them. The Premier of Queensland has, I believe, expressed his opposition to the appointment of a commission, but said that if the Government proposed to create a new state it would be another matter. A bold course such as I suggest would strongly appeal to the imagination and common sense of the people, and probably would have better results than are likely to follow the appointment of the proposed commission.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should carry the financial burden?
– If sufficient people were included in the territory of the proposed new state, they would probably be able to carry the burden themselves, and it is likely that within ten or twenty years we should add another valuable member to the family of states “in the Commonwealth. If, on the other hand, only 2,000 or 3,000 people are to be included, it will be almost impossible to achieve any good results.
I should like to express my. appreciation of the action of the Government, belated as it is, in at last taking a definite step to consummate, the north-south railway project. I am a firm believer in that proposal, and I have always supported it. If the Government goes ahead with this national undertaking it will gain a great deal of credit from the people of Australia for keeping faith with South Australia. The construction of the line will prove a great territorial asset. If the railway is pushed forward to completion it will help the proposal for the creation of a new state in northern Australia, and the people will have every reason to thank this Government for its far-sighted policy.
We have in Australia, in the person of Sir George Buchanan, a very high authority upon ports and harbours. I am very much interested in ports and harbours, but I cannot understand the exact motive of this visit, for most of our ports and harbours are controlled by the states. They are ‘being shockingly neglected, and I cannot see that there will be any advantage in obtaining a report on them from Sir George Buchanan unless the Commonwealth Government has in mind some scheme of development to submit to the states.
– Sir George Buchanan came to report on the Northern Territory.
– That is so, but he is reporting on ports and harbours as well’.; It is one of the -greatest scandals in Australia that with the exception of two or three specially favoured ports in the several states, our ports and harbours have been locked up and neglected. Port Stephen is one of the finest ports in the world, but it is in the same condition to-day as when Captain Cook landed. The Government of New South Wales has deliberately adopted a policy of suppressing the development of ports. The same thing may be said truthfully of Victoria and most ‘of the other states with the exception of Queensland, and whatever good may have been intended in Queensland has been nullified by the policy of attracting all the traffic to Brisbane by means of differential railway rates. If the Government has any real intention to develop our ports and harbours it would have to work in conjunction with the states, and it would be advisable to let this Parliament know as soon as possible what it has in mind. So far the states have been most opposed to using any ports except those at the capital cities, and unless the leopard has changed his spots, I. do not think it is likely that an improved policy will be adopted without heavy pressure from the Commonwealth. If the Government has any policy in mind it should be announced immediately.
It is proposed to continue the policy of spending money on developmental roads. The following sentence appears in the Governor-General’s Speech: -
The policy initiated by ray advisers of assisting the states in the construction of main, developmental and arterial roads has proved so beneficial that you will be invited to continue this policy.
I should like to have some definite indication of exactly where these beneficial results have been obtained, for I am in the dark on that matter at present. We have spent much, and it is proposed to spend much more money on roads, but I submit that no tangible evidence is forthcoming of actual benefit having resulted from that expenditure. We can go on pouring money on to the roads in Australia, for most of our roads are in a very bad condition, but we shall not see any substantial results until a concrete and comprehensive policy is adopted. I contend that the Government is following the line of least resistance. So far as I can see it is handing this money over to the states, and then washing its hands of the whole business. No doubt it believes in the bona fides of the states, but I fear that a good deal of the money that has been allocated to the various states has. been used from political motives. Money has been spent in certain quarters because there has been a particular clamour from them, whereas no money has been spent in other quarters where it is more needed because there has been no clamour. If the Commonwealth wishes to get proper value for the millions it is proposed to spend, it should tighten up its methods, and insist upon the states adopting a systematic scheme of road construction work instead of allowing them to fling the money about in the present slap-dash fashion.
The Government’s proposal to reorganize the Institute of Science and Industry does not seem to be a very important matter, but really it is so. It will be generally admitted that the Institute has not been the success that was expected. It has produced no big results that the people of Australia can see. When I think of it, I am reminded of the Academy of Lagrado mentioned in Gulliver’s Travels. The professors of the academy were always making experiments with a view to obtaining sunbeams out of cucumbers, coloured silks from spiders, and other things like that. It seems to me that it is very much the same with the Institute. A good deal of money has been spent on it, but we have nothing to show for the expenditure. The Institute puts out a lot of literature which is interesting, but which does not yield any very substantial results bo the people. If the Government can re-organize it in a way that will make it an effective instrument, it will be worth while, but I doubt whether that can be done. I can mention half-a-dozen pests which are costing Australian producers millions of pounds a year. Blue mould in tobacco, for instance, is doing great damage to the industry. Bunchy top in bananas is another; and there are a large number of fruit-fly and other pests which are a very great handicap to the fruit producers of Australia. I believe there is a disease in sugar cane that is likely to have very serious effects. The boll worm in cotton will prove a tremendous problem if the cotton industry develops. Unless the Institute deals with problems like these, I fear that it will become a second Academy of Lagrado, and if it does that, the sooner it is closed the better.
A good deal of work has been done during the recess by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but while I do not desire to criticize the Postmaster-General adversely, I assure him that he will have bo adopt a much bigger works policy in the country if he desires to obtain credit for his administration. The congestion in the capital cities has been so great that the postal facilities, generally speaking, have become inadequate. New post offices are being built in mushroom suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne, while a great many country towns are required to put up with dilapidated post offices which were built 30 or 40 years ago. It is like trying to fly to the moon to get the Postmaster-General’s Department to do anything for these country towns. An odd job may be done here and there, but if one dares to suggest that a new post office should be built in a, country town, the departmental officers almost fall down with amazement. Money should be made available for rebuilding numerous country post offices, and better postal facilities generally should be provided in the rural areas.
A good deal has been said lately about migration . The members of the Labour party have been castigating this unfor- tunate Government for the last four or five months for what they have called its wickedness, in inducing southern Europeans to coane to Australia. I contend that these are most unscrupulous political tactics. The Government is not blameworthy in this matter. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who is one of the guilty parties, has been adversely criticizing the Government for encouraging what he has called . cheap southern European labourers to come to Australia. He knows very well that, the Government cannot prevent these people from coining. If, instead of uselessly criticizing the Government for what is going on, the Labour party would propound a workable scheme for keeping out these people, or at least regulating their influx into the country, many honorable members on this side of the chamber would assist them to give effect to it. The Labour party knows very well that the Government can hardly help itself in this matter. The Prime Minister has explained the steps that have been taken to regulate the influx of Italian migrants, and he has spoken in detail on the international obligations of the Government. In spite of this, members of the Labour party continue to criticize it for allowing what they call “ cheap foreign labourers, who can live on the smell of an oil-rag,” from entering Australia. It is grossly unfair for a party which has not a shadow of an idea on the subject to take this attitude, but we know very well that this course is being taken for the purpose of making political capital. I assure honorable members opposite that if they will propound a practicable scheme for regulating the influx of these people into Australia we will help them to sec that it is put into operation. I must remind them that the state which is attracting most of these immigrants is Queensland, where there has been a Labour Government in. power for so long. It is rather surprising to find Mr. Theodore, the ex-Labour Premier of Queensland, standing on a public platform welcoming these people, and saying that they are most desirable immigrants. The attitude of Mr. Theodore on the one hand, and of some other Labour men whom I could name on the other, show that the Labour party is guilty of a monumental piece of political inconsistency in this matter. They may be able to explain their position to the satisfaction of their own supporters, but I am sure that they will not be able to explain it satisfactorily to the people of Australia. I hope that the Government will make no mistake with its programme this session. The people of Australia are looking for big things, and they will not be satisfied, with the Government if it spends its time dealing with matters which can have but little effect on the development of Australia. In the absence of any big proposals from the Labour party, I am sure that if the Government gives effect to the proposals which’ have been outlined in the Governor-General’s .Speech the people will be satisfied with its performance, and will decide at the next election that their destiny is safest in its hands.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE (Warringah) ‘S. 42]. - Honorable members opposite seem to bc very eager to hear me. I do not understand the reason for their eagerness, but I take it as a great compliment. I shall not say very much about many of the matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, nor do I intend to refer at any length to the silence of the Labour party on the Government’s proposals. Any one can sec through their poor little trumpery political dodge; it is hardly worth noticing. A school child could see through it. Of course, they regard the visit of the American Fleet as a trifling matter. They cannot realize the meaning of the visit of the fleet of a great nation like the United States of America. It conveys nothing at all to their mind. I shall not say much about the proposed sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, for a little later on we shall hear about that ad nauseam from the Labour party. They will thrash the whole subject out, and turn it inside out, in the next few weeks. The same remark may be applied to the building of two new cruisers in England. I shall content myself on that matter by referring to the excellent point made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). He said that our friends opposite were only anxious for the cruisers to he built here in order that employment might be provided for the working men, but if they had had their way there would be no new cruisers built.
The subject which I really wish” to discuss is one that I approach with some trepidation. It may be taken as presumption on my part to discuss it at all, but I feel that it is my duty to do so, and therefore I arn . going straight ahead. I wish to bring the erstwhile Prime Minister to book for the speech he made in the House this afternoon. I suppose no one has been a greater champion of the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) than I have been, both in and out of the House. I have stuck to him through thick and thin. I have lauded him to the skies , as the greatest man in Australia, and I do not say that he has ceased to hold that enviable position. I still claim that he stuck nobly to the Australians in the field during the recent war; but I think he made a most unwarrantable speech today. When friends of the party opposite carried a motion at Perth in favour of peace by negotiation with the Huns, I said to myself, “ Thank God, there is one man in Australia who will stick to us.” When the waterside workers held up the ships and would not allow reinforcements to be sent to the Australian troops, we heard that the honorable member for North Sydney had cut adrift from the Labour party by walking out of the caucus room, not knowing whether he was going to political obscurity. It was through standing up for him that I lost my position in the Ministry. I have always remained loyal to him, but what has come over him to-day? I wish that he were here now, so that I could tell him to his face what I think of his utterance. He seems to have “ gone sour “ on the Prime Minister, myself, and the whole lot of us. When we read his speech in cold print in Hansard, it may not appear to contain much abuse of the Government and of the Prime Minister, but the manner of its delivery was such that it was full of bitter innuendo and biting sarcasm. My constituency adjoins that of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I will not have it said that I remained silent under this attack on the Prime Minister and the National party. Although the Prime Minister left me out of the Ministry, I am still a loyal supporter of the Government, and I do not intend to remain silent. If the speech of the right honorable member for North
Sydney amounted to anything at all, he sought to throw the Prime Minister and the other members of the Government to the wolves. The only effect his utterance could have was in favour of our opponents, who consort with anarchists and communists from the other side of the world, and with the secret agents of the Russian Soviet, who have a stranglehold on the Labour movement to-day.
Several honorable members recently had a most interesting trip to what has been called the “ dark continent “ of Africa. An opportunity was afforded us of visiting the greater part of the Dominion of South Africa, nearly the whole of northern Rhodesia, and a portion of southern Rhodesia. Thanks to the Empire Parliamentary Association, it was an excellentlyarranged tour. In the course of our journey we visited Zululand, and there saw a war dance with all its savage display. At the conclusion of speeches by the Prime- Minister of South Africa (Mr. Hertzog), a Zulu chief gave a most dignified address. At all events, his bearing was dignified, and his speech, as interpreted to us, was impressive. He said: “We, the Zulu nation, have never been across the ocean and have not seen the great white Queen “ - he was referring to the late Queen Victoria, who protected the Zulus and prevented their lands from being acquired by the Dutch - “ but we are loyal to the British Empire “, he added, “ and if you want any men to fight for you, you may call upon us.” Then we proceeded to Basutoland and witnessed a gathering of from 25,000 to 30,000 mounted Basutos. Again there were loyal speeches, and the paramount chief of the Basutos expressed sentiments similar to- those of the Zulu chief. He remarked, “ We are loyal to the British Throne, and if required we can put 50,000 mounted men in the field at a moment’s notice.” We also found that the Boers, with whom we were at death grips a few short years ago, were, with perhaps very’ few exceptions, loyal to the Empire. We travelled some 8,200 miles from one end of the Dominion to the other. Among the notable South Africans accompanying us was ex-President Reitz who drew up the ultimatum which Kruger served on the British Government at the commencement of the South African war. This gentleman naturally had republican sentiments practically up to the time of our visit. During the course of the trip he became friendly with us. On one occasion Sir George Foster, a Canadian, drew an analogy between the Boers and British in South Africa, and the French and English in Canada, and at the banquet given in our honour at Capetown, exPresident Reitz, raising his glass high above his head, enthusiastically submitted the loyal toast, calling “ The King ! The King I” He said that their only hope was for the people of the whole of the Empire to honour the King as their head, and that he and his countrymen were now loyal to the flag. Why is it that no other race in the world but the British can achieve such results as that? It is because the Union Jack is the emblem of justice and fair play. Although the black races and the Boers in South Africa are loyal to the flag, we have in the party opposite those who consort with anarchists and communists, and with spies from Soviet Russia.
– That remark is most offensive and absolutely untrue. I ask that the honorable member be ordered to withdraw it, and apologize for his insulting and disgraceful statement
– I presume that the honorable member objects to the suggestion that honorable members of this House are consorting with spies and anarchists. If that is so, and if that is the suggestion, it is unparliamentary, and I. am sure that the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) will withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I do not refer to honorable members of this House. I intended to say that there are in this country people who consort with the individuals to whom I have referred.
– What is the Prime Minister doing that he does not get rid of such characters?
– The Prime Minister exercises his own judgment. No doubt there are legal obstacles in the way, but I know what I would very promptly do with those who are trying to hold up shipping and disrupt the commerce of this fair country. I would have them arrested in the dead of night, placed aboard ship, and sent to some country where they would have congenial companions.
I rose particularly to refer to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney, who remarked that it was wrong to come to any ‘ decision concerning the Geneva Protocol without consulting Parliament. He knows perfectly well that at the time of the discussion on the Protocol the British Parliament was sitting, and he is also aware that when Mr. Austen Chamberlain went to Geneva, and saw the terms of the Protocol, he declined to be a party to it. If that is good enough for the House of Commons, it should be good enough for us. I do not want to discuss the Protocol, but had Parliament been called together for the purpose of discussing it, honorable members opposite would have been the first to blame the Prime Minister, on the ground that we were practically unanimous in condemning it. It hurts me to criticize the exPrime Minister, as for many years he was my idol, and I supported him through thick and thin, but he must have spoken with his tongue in his cheek when he said that Parliament should have been called together to discuss the Protocol. He complained also that the vessels belonging to the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers were to be sold without authority from Parliament. Did he not himself buy them without the authority of Parliament? If it was right for him to buy them without parliamentary authority, it would surely not be wrong for his successor to sell them without authority. Until recently, when I ascertained what would bo the cost of constructing the cruisers in Australia, I was in favour of their construction here. I argued that if they engaged in battle, there was every probability that they would be damaged, and consequently would need repairs. It, therefore, seemed reasonable that we should have in Australia an expert staff capable of repairing them should necessity arise. It ill became the ex-Prime Minister to traduce Mr. Bruce, because when Mr. Hughes was the Leader of the Government no one could have been more loyal to him than the present Prime Minister. I say that deliberately, as one who was at the time a member of the Cabinet, and without disclosing any Cabinet secrets. I say that it was at the suggestion of Mr. Hughes himself that the different arrangement was made. Mr. Hughes seems to find pleasure in venting his spleen upon the present Prime Minister, and those connected with him. He has been a great man, but on this occasion he is at fault, and I, for one, am not prepared to let his remarks pass without comment. There is no doubt that the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, if taken seriously by the people of this country - and they are apt to take his remarks seriously - are calculated to do harm if not contradicted. I am not prepared to allow them to go uncontradicted. Not only were his remarks incorrect, but they displayed poor taste on his part. His comments constitute an injustice to the Prime Minister, and the speech is one of which the right honorable gentleman should be heartily ashamed. Personally, I am ashamed that an honorable member who was prepared to sit in the party room, and listen to the deliberations there - a difficult task at times, because of the lusty manner in which the members of the Labour party in the room below were singing the “Bed Flag” - should have spoken as Mr. Hughes has done. I hope that the members of the Labour party will yet have something to say on the Address-in-Reply.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) has relieved me of the necessity of saying much that I had intended to say, but it is much more fitting that he, rather than I, should have referred to the remarks of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) . I was certainly impressed with the inconsistency of the right honorable gentleman, who seemed anxious to accuse the Government of having done certain things without firsthaving obtained the approval of Parliament. My memory takes me back bo the time when the right honorable gentleman was in charge of this House, and in a great many cases during his administration we found it necessary to approve of expenditure after the money had been expended. Occasions of that nature were much more frequent during his term of office than has been the case under the present administration. Since the present Government assumed office Budgets have been presented to this House at an earlier stage iu the financial year than at any previous time in the history of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Warringah rightly pointed to the inconsistency of the ex-Prime Minister in condemning the present Government for its decision to sell, without parliamentary authority, the vessels which he, without such authority, purchased. Judging from its frequent communications to me, the Labour party seems anxious to know my attitude towards the proposal of the Government to sell these vessels, and whether I should be willing to support the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the matter. Before expressing willingness for the appointment of a royal commission, I should like to have a statement from the Shipping Board and the Government setting out the financial position of the line of steamers. It seems strange that the Labour party should, take, such serious objection to a Commonwealth Prime Minister selling a Commonwealth line of steamers when one of the first acts of the Labour Government of Tasmania was to dispose of the state steamships which had been purchased by a previous Nationalist Government.
– The Nationalist Government bought vessels that were no good.
– Because of the impecuniosity of that state, the Tasmanian Government was able to realize that a loss was being made. In the case of the Commonwealth, however, where such losses are not so quickly felt, the desire seems to be that we should retain the vessels until our financial position is such that we feel the loss. Sound statesmanship demands that we examine carefully losing propositions of this nature, as sooner or later losses will make themselves felt. The position is the same as in the case of - the locomotives for the Oodnadatta railway which were made at Castlemaine. Their construction may have benefited Castlemaine, where there was no talk of unemployment, but the losses must reveal themselves in connexion with the working of the Oodnadatta line, or result in increased freights and fares. I shall say no more regarding the disposal of these vessels until the promised statement showing the transactions, for the past twelve months has been placed before us, when I shall determine what attitude I shall adopt. I do not, however, agree with the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that the disposal of these vessels would occasion loss to the primary producers of Australia. Before there was any talk of a Commonwealth Shipping Line, there were primary producers in Australia even more successful than those of to-day, and freights were more moderate. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), who was in control of the Victorian Wheat Pool, could tell us that in open competition for 80 or 90 ship-loads of wheat for which tenders were called, the Commonwealth Shipping Line secured tenders for two only. I cannot see how it is possible that a line of steamers, subject to a Navigation Act which is in advance of the legislation of any other country, not only with regard to conveniences for the crew - which no one would deny - but also with respect to rates of pay and overtime, can be a success financially. One would think that the members of the Opposition, and the officials of the Seamen’s Union, having attained their ideal of stateowned vessels, and possessing advantages enjoyed by no other nation, would make every effort to ensure that the vessels would be a success. Bub what has been done 1 The men have allowed themselves to come under the domination of Tom Walsh, and permitted vessels to be held up on the most trivial excuses. Yet while acting iri this manner they expect us to retain the vessels. The primary producers will not be misled by the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney that the vessels should be retained to guard them against freight exploitation. During the last session of his term as Prime Minister, this one-time Free Trader amended the tariff in the direction of removing the duties on wire netting, galvanized iron, and traction engines, and made what was really a very fine Country party speech, in which he showed that the primary producer was unable to pass the burden on. Since then he has removed from a country constituency to a city manufacturing constituency, and is now the advocate of a high protectionist policy. It is not my intention to traverse the whole of the Governor-General’s Speech. There is much in it which merely indicates the Government’s intentions without giving any detail. It is, nevertheless, important, and, with the Prime Minister, I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) did not in the ordinary way discuss the Address-in-Reply. He need not necessarily have approved of it, but he should have shown us in what direction it could have been improved.
I do not know whether honorable members opposite are afraid, or whether they are keeping their policy secret, a sort of cat-in- the-bag business. Nevertheless, the opportunity is given to members on both sides of the House to comment upon the speech made by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I, too, hail with great pleasure the proposed second visit of the fleet of the United States of America. I regard it, not as a picnic, as some people do, but as a mark of the respect that must exist between two great Englishspeaking nations. All those who desire and love peace and mutual protection will look forward with great pleasure to this visit, and will show that courtesy and respect which is due to a great nation built up by that endurance and spirit which marks the progress of the Englishspeaking race wherever it goes. I cannot approve of the declaration of fiscal faith entertained by two of my party brethren. They have somewhat digressed from the platform to which they should subscribe.
– Nonsense !
– Doubtless, their de claration, if stated truly, would differ very little from their party platform. Since the people , of Australia owe nearly £1,000,000,000, there must be a revenue to pay that obligation. I am not exactly conversant with the recurring obligation of Australia, but it is approximately £60,000,000 per annum. It is manifest, therefore, that we must have a revenue, and I believe in a revenue tariff. There are many items that could bear a heavy tariff for that purpose; but when we foolishly levy duties upon things which in’:themselves are more important than the very industries those duties are desighed to’ create, we surely ride for a fall. Records will show that there are in Australia 31,000,000 sheep less than there were 30 years ago. Wool-growing is the first industry in Australia. The whole of our people are practically living on the sheep’s back. Had we those additional sheep, their value at a low estimate would represent a revenue to this country of another £31,000,000. An honorable member interjects that droughts were responsible for the reduction in our flocks. The “rabbit drought” is the worst that has ever come to Australia, and the rabbitand the dingo have taken the place of those sheep. There are millions of acres in Australia that will carry sheep, certainly not so many sheep to the acre but requiring so many acres to the sheep. What is necessary is to fence those acres, but fencing material has been made too costly to justify the use of such land. Fencing material should be sold at the lowest possible price to enable the woolproducing industry to grow. The viewpoint of certain honorable members in this House is that it is of vital importance to maintain the high price of wire nettingin order to employ a few extra men in the centralized portions of Australia. This places a burden upon those who are endeavouring to bring into productivity and wealth the vacant lands of Australia. It was pointed out in this House that the tariff had “run mad.” When the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) how many factories were making shovels, and how many men were employed therein, the reply was - three factories, and fifteen men. Honorable members in this chamber know that there is a 45 per cent. duty on shovels. They also know that Australia is an agricultural country, and that every household should have a shovel. The more the shovel is used the greater will be the prosperity of this country. These matters do not seem to enter the minds of honorable members who represent constituencies in the centralized portions of Australia. They forget that it is far more important that our major industries should be developed rather than crippled by being called on to carry the load of minor industries. That is what is really taking place in Australia to-day. Canada has a Tariff Board, and so has Australia. They both bear the same name, but the view -point of the Canadian board is quite the opposite of that of the Australian board. It seems to be the function of the Australian Tariff Board to develop secondary industries no matter at what cost to the primary industries. Canada has recognized that her primary industries are her foundation industries, and, therefore, first attention must be given to. them. Certain honorable members have referred to the’ value of a home market.
– Is not a home market of value?
– There may be round about Melbourne a few vegetable growers who think a great deal of the local market, but the producer in Western Australia gets no benefit from the local market. People in the centralized portions of Australia insist that they should get- everything at London parity. We have had the spectacle of Mrs. Glencross and the secretary of the Trades Hall clamouring for a reduction in the cost of living, and attacking the primary producers. Mr. Holloway, of the Trades Hall, said: “ We have had a big crop this year, and why cannot we have cheaper bread 1 ‘ ‘ Yet he would not like me to say, “ There is plenty of labour; why cannot we employ it at a cheaper rate ?” Does he not know that the primary producer runs the risk of fluctuations in the seasons and prices, and, like the gold prospector, expects some day to obtain a reward for his labour ? These individuals wish to use the force of their vote in this Parliament and the State Parliaments to lay upon a minority of the people burdens which they are really unable to bear, and yet expect them to produce at world’s parity. A dairyman, his wife, and his children, before and after school, will labour in the milk yard every day in the week, including Sunday, wet or dry, to produce butter. Yet we have Mr. Holloway and Mrs. Glencross, and their numerous satellites here, demanding that product at less than cost price. If butter were sold at a proper price, taking into consideration the full cost of production, the people would be paying for it double what they pay now. Such persons refuse to take a broad view. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) wants to make out that he is a great Australian, but I should rather place the man on the land in that category. The right honorable gentleman knows that 98 per cent, of the exports of Australia are primary products. Cut them off - as Tom Walsh would cut off the shipping, as the Labour party would close down industry by strikes - let the farmer go on strike and cease producing for twelve months, and Australia will be in much the same position as a besieged city. An old Shepparton fruitgrower who waited upon the Prime Minister the other day said: ‘ “ Mr. Prime Minister, you have put three babies on our doorstep, and we are not their fathers, you and the Parliament are their fathers.” The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), with his usual courtesy, said, “ To what babies do you refer?” The grower replied: -
You put the Customs tariff on our doorstep, and we paid twice as much for shovels and machinery we use in tilling the soil as we did previously, and we do not get any more for our fruit. You put the Arbitration Court on our doorstep, and we paid double the wages that we used to pay, and yet we do not get any more for our fruit. You put an embargo on sugar importation and made jam so costly in Australia that the people do not eat half enough.
The sugar industry is so lucrative - and the- right honorable member for North Sydney has always been a great supporter of it - that those who grow sugar, notwithstanding the operations of the Italians along the Johnson River who are makingsmall fortunes, are so prosperous that last year. the cane crop exceeded Australian requirements by over 50,000 tons. This quantity was sold to outsiders at a lower price than sugar is sold to our own housewives. Surely that is placing in the hands of our competitors a weapon with which to thrash us.
– What about wheat ?
– The right honorable gentleman should say nothing about wheat. As a matter of fact, the wheatgrowers of Australia, through the agency of the right honorable gentleman, forfeited £40,000,000 in sales of wheat.
– But for the action taken by the right honorable gentleman thewheatgrowers would not have been able to get anything for their wheat.
– I am not complaining on that score, but I. ask the right honorable gentleman not to mention wheat. It is estimated by the cane-growers themselves that the crop in Queensland this year will exceed requirements by 200,000 tons, and this surplus will be disposed of outside Australia at a lower price than we ourselves pay for the same commodity. Again I say that we are placing in the hands of our competitors a weapon with which to thrash our secondary industries.
– It proves that the local market is the best market.
– We cannot consume all the sugar. We have made the manufacture of jam so expensive and the cost of living in Australia so high that it takes 36s. to buy what £1 purchased in 1914. Honorable members who favour such a policy persuade themselves that they are in Paradise, but let me tell them that it is a fool’s Paradise. The returned soldier is placed on the land to produce the fruit with which to make jam, and sugar, because it is not produced on a competitive basis, is sold locally at a greater price than it is abroad. When those engaged in local industries have overtaken the localdemand they find themselves up against a stone wall, because their production costs are so high. Australia is honeycombed with combines operating behind a tariff wall supported chiefly by honorable members in Opposition to-day. They talk glibly about the new protection, but they have no more intention of examining manufacturers’ profits than I have of flying to the moon. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) finds that some of his constituents benefit from the protective policy at the expense of other people, and that is why he speaks as he does. We are supposed in this House to take a broad outlook, and the honorable member might occasionally cast his mind to Western Australia and consider the conditions there. I should have a great deal more to say about Western Australia at this juncture were I not able to commend the Government for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the position of that state as a unit of the federation. This action on the part of the Government has very much curtailed the remarks I should otherwise have been disposed to ‘ make concerning Western Australia. The people of that state greatly appreciate the action of the Government in appointing the royal commission to inquire into its disabilities, and I hope it will follow this up by the appointment of a commission to make a similar inquiry regarding Tasmania. Many honorable members opposite profess to be against the big capitalists, and to prefer to assist the weak against the strong, but apparently, when it is a case of a big state against a little state they have no objection to the little state being fleeced by the capitalistic big state. They do not hesitate to exercise the power of the vote in this House to force the people of Western Australia to buy in the eastern states, the dearest market in the world, although they must themselves compete in the world’s market. The honorable member for Corio thinks that we should maintain the home market, but the people of Western Australia have no home market in the eastern states.
Mr. -Penton. - The honorable member ought to live in China.
– That is the kind of statement which provokes people in Western Australia to battle for secession, and would prompt me to join others in doing so. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) is one of those who vote for protection to continue the evil of centralization. The only product of Western Australia which is purchased by eastern states is a little jarrah timber, and that is because its like cannot be obtained in any other part of the world. The people of Western Australia are forced to trade with the eastern states by Commonwealth legislation. The honorable member for Maribyrnong would contend that two men enjoying the same amount of taxable income in Western Australia and in Victoria should be taxed alike, and that £1 earned in Western Australia should be regarded as the equivalent of £1 earned here, although £1 in Western Australia is worth lis. 7d. as compared to 14s. 5d. in Victoria. When I refuse to remain silent in these circumstances the honorable member says I ought to be in China. Are not the interests of the state from which I come to be defended? Is a majority in this House to gibe in the most unsportsmanlike manner when one submits facts that are’ incontrovertible? Honorable members talk of loyalty to the federation and of brotherhood and equality amongst the people of the different states. The time will come when the report of the royal commission will be placed before this chamber, and let me hope that the good -sense of representatives from all parts of the Commonwealth will recognize that the benefits of a very high fiscal policy are not enjoyed by the people of Western Australia. Honorable members opposite will win only if might and power are considered right, and not equity and reason.
I commend the Government to the fullest extent for deciding, in view of the comparative cost of manufacture in Great Britain and in Australia, upon purchasing the two cruisers from England. For the amount which it would have cost to build the cruisers in Australia we could purchase them in England, and in addition, as I pointed out before in this chamber, lay down 750 miles of good road in the Commonwealth, which would in itself be a very fine form of defence. By the adoption of this course, the surplus saved by the purchase of the cruisers in England would be spent upon labour, because in road construction the money all goes in labour. Honorable members who advocate that no matter what they cost these ships should be built in Australia, forget that they must be paid for by borrowed money, and we oan only get that money from England yith goods. We must provide die labour for the manufacture of those goods. By the construction of the vessels in Australia we should be throwing away something approximating £1,000,000 sterling, and with the saving which can be made by purchasing them from. England we can, as I have said, put clown roads that may be as important as warships in the defence of the country, because we must have satisfactory means of transport by land.
– Is the honorable member sure that we shall pay for the ships with loan money ?
– In view of the. millions we owe we cannot do otherwise. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) does not care what would be the cost of the cruisers if built in Australia, because he would not have to pay for them. If he were dealing with his private affairs, he would hesitate a long time before he would pay £800.000 more than it. was necessary for him to pay I am glad that the ideas he entertains are not to be carried out in this matter, that the present Government has decided on a saner policy, and will not make Australia ‘ ridiculous by paying double as much as she need pay- as a premium for this form of insurance. I cannot imagine the right honorable member for North Sydney or any other honorable member paying twice as much as is necessary by way of insurance premium. People will sometimes prefer to do busine’ss’ with a foreign office if the premium they are called upon to pay is a little less than would be charged by a local institution, and in the case of the two cruisers their construction in Australia Would mean the payment of practically a double premium.. If we consider the cost of building other ships in Australia, such as the Fordsdale, and the amount by which its estimated cost was exceeded, it is not unreasonable to say that the cruisers would cost double the amount if built here.
I also commend the Government for its wisdom in returning to people in the country some of the £30,000,000 to £38,000,000 taken from them under the operation of the tariff. The amount proposed to be returned to them is certainly very small, but it is very much bigger than any other Government thought of giving. The Government gives £500,000 a year to the states on a £1 for £1 basis for the construction of main feeder roads. The idea is a very good one, as it gives back to the people of the country a little of what they have been called upon to contribute to the revenue. This is a kind of sop that in the circumstances we are obliged to accept. The sheep-grower and fruitgrower would very much prefer that the Government should take the babies off their doorsteps and give them a fair fly. They might very well say, “Do not protect us; we do not look for protection, but take the burden of the protection of others off our shoulders.” In some states a great deal of use is being made of the grant for road construction. Some of the states find it very difficult to comply with the £1 for £.1. condition. I hope the Government will see that the defects in the administration of the fund are remedied and will make it more effective, so that the states may derive more benefit from the money granted to them for this purpose. I trust that the Government will insist, under its regulations, upon the adoption of the contract system for road construction, otherwise we shall find that party political capital will be made out of the construction of main roads in this country. In Western Australia workmen from the cities, with no previous knowledge of road construction, have been employed at the work. They are, very properly, paid arbitration rates of wages, but constituents of mine complain that they are not getting in roads half that which they previously received for the expenditure of the same amount of money. However, I support the’ proposal, because I consider it of national advantage.
The Government appear to forecast greater assistance than has been given in the past in the- destruction of dingoes and rabbits. The destruction of these vermin should, in the interests of all concerned, be regarded as a. national work. I have to compliment the Government upon the passage, last session, of an amendment of the Income Tax Act, under which money spent on vermin-proof fencing is regarded as expenditure. That will, no doubt, he a.help to men on the land, because if it were not for these vermin a six-wire fence would be sufficient to keep their sheep within bounds, and they would not have to be at the heavy expense of providing vermin-proof fencing. When the Commercial and Industrial Bureau of the Board of Trade was established, the country people thought it would work more on thelines of such institutes in the United States of America, which are designed to bring about greater production from the land as well as increased manufactures. But, so far as I am aware,the bulk of the time and energy of the bureau has been devoted to suggesting higher tariffs to assist the manufacturers to a greater extent than they have been assisted in the past.
I regret that both this and the previous Government failed to restore to Western Australia the laboratory that it formerly had. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) promised that it would be restored at the expiration of twelve months. I hope that the Government will give effect to that promise.
I compliment the Government upon its successful endeavour to bring the Postal Department up to date. During the last three years greater satisfaction has been felt in country districts than previously was the case in regard to the telephonic services, but I believethat greater facilities could be provided for the money that is expended. There is still too much red tape associated with our telephonic system. I am pleased that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) holds the views that I do, and, as rapidly as possible, is reducing the cost of telephonic construction for the benefit of the people generally, but particularly to help those who are blazing the track in the country districts.
The immigration policy that is suggested by the Government is the best that has so far been put forward. I, however, hold the view that was expressed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that when the matter is properly analysed it is the Commonwealth that should bear the greater part of the cost of bringing immigrants to Australia and settling them here; because, from the time that an immigrant lands upon our shores, he becomes a contributor to Commonwealth funds whilst at the’ same time he is a charge upon the finances of the state in which he is settled.
I look forward with great interest to the proposals of the Government in connexion with conciliation and arbitration. Our Arbitration Act to-day allows certain people to subvert the democratic government of this country. The people of Australia feel - and I think that the feeling is shared by many honorable members opposite - that, as every adult may take a part in the election of representatives to this Parliament, no individual or body should be allowed to place himself or itself above the Parliament. Yet during the recess we witnessed the spectacle of one man, who had not the backing of all honorable members who sit opposite, subverting the authority of this Parliament.
– Who was that?
– Tom Walsh. Hiding behind technicalities, he made arrangements to subvert the laws of this country. I presume that the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) intends to frame legislation which will prevent any individual or body from subverting the prerogatives and rights of this Parliament that has been elected by the people.
– Contrary to the expectations of the Prime Minister, I have quite a lot to say upon the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and upon matters affecting the development of the Northern Territory. When the Prime Minister singled me out as an example of inaction I came to the conclusion that he was suffering very greatly from nerves. I could have understood his attitude had he made his attack upon me after having heard the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). Evidently it is a habit of the Prime Minister and of his party to make these attacks upon honorable members. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), when I made a statement respecting certain proposed legislation, said that I would oppose anything that emanated from this Cabinet. It is. therefore, taken for granted that I am sent here to oppose all legislation that is introduced by this Government. The right honorable gentleman did not chide the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) for failing to rise to his responsibilities. It is because I sit behind the Labour party that the reflection was cast upon me. The right honorable gentleman knows that I owe allegiance .to no party. He must know, also, that I welcome good legislation, no matter from which source it springs. But I at all times reserve to myself the right to pass an opinion upon legislation affecting the Northern Territory. The Prime Minister has not on any occasion, when matters affecting the Northern Territory have been before this chamber, had cause to say that I shirked my duty to the people who sent me here. He should first have ascertained whether it was my intention to speak to this motion. The refusal of the Opposition to discuss the motion left the Government high and dry, and compelled the right honorable gentleman to appeal to his supporters to “For heaven’s sake, save the situation by saying_ something.” They adopted his suggestion, but I do not think he can be very pleased with what they have said. The right honorable member for North Sydney condemned the Prime Minister and the members of the Country party. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), so to speak, tore to pieces the right honorable member for .North Sydney. Then members of the Country party tote to pieces all and sundry. Surely, . sir, it is a bear garden. Ministers are not paid to come to this House without any business to place before honorable members. It is quite apparent that the Government is not in a . position to proceed with any legislation.
During the course of the debate not one honorable member- opposite has omitted to say that he reserves to himself the right to speak on any matter that is brought before the House. I have listened to similar assertions on previous occasions, but honorable members opposite failed to live up to them when different measures were before this House. They are perfectly well aware that legislation is agreed to in their caucus room, not in this chamber. 1 heartily agree with the proposal of the Government to build a railway to Alice Springs. For a long time that line has been an urgent necessity, but for 50 years successive Governments have ignored the fact. There is no necessity for me to stress the dormant wealth of the country that will be tapped by that railway; 1 shall have an opportunity to do so when the enabling bill comes before the House. I desire, however, to discuss the proposed appointment of a commission to govern the northern part of Australia. Honorable members will doubtless remember that in the last session of this Parliament a measure was passed dealing with the land laws of the Northern Territory, and a costly board was appointed to administer the act. If the commission that it is now proposed to appoint is to be similar to that Land Board. God save the Territory from it ! The chairman of the board receives £1,500 a year, and there are two members each of whom receives £1,000 a year. They have been sitting in Darwin ever since they were appointed, eight or nine months ago. It has not been able to function in any way. The Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories must know that what I am saying is correct. The board has a big duty to perform, lt must travel over the whole of the Territory in order to intelligently administer the ordinance, but when it reached Darwin the Home and Territories Department refused it a conveyance. The result has been that the commission has sat in Darwin ever since and done nothing. That fact has been conveyed to the Minister by the chairman of the board. Further than that, the board has been broken up. One member of it has remained in the Springstreet “ rest house,” Melbourne, for the purpose of framing regulations under the ordinance. If twelve months is occupied in the framing of regulations, what time will elapse before the board commences to function? It is absurd for one member of the board, formerly a permanent officer of the department, to be entrusted with, the framing of regulations while the chairman and the other member of the board are in Darwin working in the dark. Yet the Government proposes to appoint another commission. What need is there for such an appointment? Anybody who has studied the development of a huge unpopulated country knows that the three first essentials are railways, roads, and harbours. Why, in the name of heaven, does the Government desire to appoint a commission at salaries’ amounting to £5,000 or £6,000 per annum, plus expenses, to tell us what we already know ?
– Perhaps the desire is to create fresh billets.
– The same thought has occurred to me. Indeed, this proposal seems to be the swan song of the Minister for Home and Territories. The statement has appeared in the press that it is the intention of the Minister to accept the chairmanship of the commission. No doubt such a position, carrying a salary of £2,000 or £3,000 per annum, would provide for him a nice exit from political life. What will happen ? The commission, comprising a chairman at, say, £3,000 per annum, and I do not know how many other members at £1,500 per annum each, will go to Darwin and report to the Government that the country must have railways. Everybody knows that railways are necessary, so where is the sense in appointing a commission at huge expense to tell us that? It may be that the commission will function from Melbourne. A proposal has been made that one member of the Land Board should remain in Melbourne, another in South Australia, and another in the north. This will lead to divided control, so that the Minister will at all times have the whip hand. Possibly a similar policy is intended in connexion with the proposed commission. No doubt all the measures forecast by the Government have been already accepted in the party rooms ; hence their appearance in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The Prime Minister has said a great deal about Australia’s right to be represented on the League of Nations, but if the request of the Northern Territory for direct representation on the commission is presumptuous, so is the claim made by the right honorable gentleman. If one is justified, so is the other; but.no provision will be made for the people who have pioneered the country and are conversant with its resources and conditions to be represented on the commission. I have studied the various systems of governing Crown colonies and protectorates, and I find that invariably little progress was made until the people were given direct representation. Who could render greater service on a commission of the kind proposed than a man who has spent 30 or 40 years in the Territory, and can sit at a table with a map and give complete information regarding the land, its stock-carrying capacity and mineral possibilities. Aided by such local knowledge a commission could function immediately, but without that guidance, it must spend years in travelling over the Territory, probably gaining, be- cause of lack of experience, false impressions of the land. To a newcomer certain portions of northern Australia may give a favorable impression ; other- portions may appear to be almost worthless, whereas the laud which seems good is often really bad, and the land which appears bad is really good. Only with the aid of sound local knowledge can there be an intelligent administration of the Territory. Why should the pioneers, who have spent the greater portion of their lives there, be refused representation on the commission? Is it fair in a democratic country like Australia to practically disfranchise the people of the Northern Territory? It is true that I have the right of speech in this chamber, and can disclose to the House the grievances of my constituents and the iniquities of the Government, but I have no vote, and more often than not, when I speak, Ministers wish that I had remained silent, because I disclose the things which they most desire to be hidden. I am afraid that the same influence would operate in connexion with the appointment of the proposed commission. The’ Government would be afraid that men with local knowledge would speed up the commission to do quickly something practical. -This sort of thing may be continued for a time, but sooner or later the patience of the people will be exhausted and they will rightly rebel against it. The Minister for Home and Territories said that, the proposed commission would be the salvation of the Northern Territory. I know from past experience what will happen. I have observed during the last few years the method of re-appraising the land in the Territory. A former official of the Home and Territories Department went into the country, which comprises 526,000 square miles, to appraise blocks situated north, south, east and west. The task should necessitate travel for at least a year, yet that officer, who is now a’ member of the Land Board, was only absent from Darwin for a few days, and on his return the whole of the re-appraisements were made. It was impossible for him, or for any one else, to cover, in the time, the country it” would- be’ necessary for ohe to traverse in order to re-appraise properly the rents of the holdings in the Territory. I have a list of the re-appraisements he made, and the point that strikes one most is that invariably the man holding a small area of land has had his rent increased by 50 per cent., while, with one or two small exceptions, the rents paid by the big interests in the Territory have remained unaltered. The re-appraisements were not made in the Northern Territory as a result of an inspection of the carrying capacities and values of the holdings, but were made in Spring-street, Melbourne; and while that officer is stationed in a Melbourne office, Ave have no guarantee that this sort of thing will not be carried on again in the future. From other evidence, we know that it is impossible for the Land Board to function. Agricultural development in the Territory is being cruelly murdered by the Admini stration. The ordinance demands that surveys shall be made and improvements effected on agricultural blocks within a definite period, yet there is not one surveyor in the Territory. All the survey.01’s were retrenched four or five years ago. The ordinance which was submitted to this Parliament in the shape of a bill was nothing but a mockery, because the Government has not supplied the machinery to give effect to it. As a consequence, the Land Board is sitting in idleness in Darwin, absolutely helpless to assist matters of primary production. And that is just what Ave may expect from the proposed commission. I have noticed that Western Australia and Queensland have not rushed, . openmouthed, as it were, to come in under a scheme which is to be the “ Saviour of the North.” The Governments of those adjoining states know perfectly well that it will be practically impossible to administer practically one-third of Australia roughly 1,000,000 square miles of country by a commission. We know the fundamental principles of development, and we should concentrate our energies upon them. If Ave were serious about developing the Northern Territory we would get to work straight away upon road construction and upon the building of railways and harbours. When we have done that, it will not be long before development will have made such progress that there will be sufficient people going there to justify the creation of a new state. It is expenditure that must be eventually tackled, and if Ave are not prepared to tackle it, at any rate do not let us waste money on such useless things as land boards or commissions to administer the Northern Territory.
It Avas imperative that I should reply to the charge of the Prime Minister that I was neglecting my duty by failing to avail myself of this opportunity tq speak upon matters vitally affecting the Territory. The Prime Minister would be better employed in paying a little more attention to honorable members who protest their loyalty to him, yet in this House do nothing but criticize the Government from start to finish. The right honorable gentleman knows that »the party behind him lacks cohesion, and for that reason he has felt it incumbent upon him to attack me. Let me tell him that if I think it desirable to advocate particular measures I shall do so conscientiously, and not from any fear of any person as to the political views I hold. When Ave come to decide whether a commission should be appointed to administer the Northern Territory, honorable members will find that I shall have quite a lot to say on the subject.
At this juncture I should like to remind Ministers of the treatment that is being meted out by the big interests to the small pastoralists in the Northern Territory. I have complained here and elsewhere that they are out to squelch and prevent development, and I have had absolute proof of this within the last few months. Prior to my election to- this House I was very much concerned about finding a market for the cattle produced by the small pastoralists in the Territory. I got into touch with the Eastern countries, and finally succeeded in locating a market for five cattle. I published the fact that these markets were to be had, and when I was elected to Parliament others carried on the work I had started. A man in Melbourne got an order for 5,000 or 6,000 head of cattle. He shipped them, but the big interests approached him, and said, “ We have an abundance of cattle, and we are interested in the live cattle trade. It would be to our mutual benefit to stand in with you on a 50-50 basis.” He “ fell “ to the influence of these interests, and joined them on a 50-50 basis; but when he had completed his contract, and sought to renew it, the big interests told him that they had secured the contract and would carry it out on their own. They did so, but they began to ship poor, debilitated cattle that could not possibly arrive in the East in fair condition. The result was that there was heavy mortality, and finally the authorities in the East ceased the importation of cattle from the Territory. However, we got busy again, and had the trade re-opened on condition that the shipments were made under the inspection of the Chief Veterinary Surgeon of the Northern Territory. Under his supervision there were no mortalities. The cattle landed up to expectations and in prime condition, and the trade was started again. But the big interests again shipped debilitated cattle, and again the people in the East were about to turn the trade down. In these circumstances the small men in the Territory . sent a man over to look after the cattle, and while he was there he negotiated a contract for a further supply of cattle. He got into touch with the small men and organized them. As a result the latter were able to ship cattle at a reasonable profit. The first shipment was the best that ever left the Territory. Notwithstanding that the big pastoralists had always been saying that every shipment must have a fair proportion of poor stuff, as the buyers wanted lean cattle, they recently cabled to the East offering to supply cattle 1 cwt. heavier, and at a price the small men could not look at. They also offered to pay the cost of shipping, fodder, and attention on board, and to be responsible for all mortality. That offer, of course, put the small men out of the market altogether. It spelt ruin to them. If the Commonwealth Government is serious in its developmental policy, and desirous of seeing the Northern Territory settled with a progressive and industrious race, it must pay some attention to the requirements of the small men. These are the men who are usually living on the spot, and have large families. They are the biggest factor in the development of a country, and much more necessary to its successful development than are the big absentees. It is the duty of the Government to protect these small men, to look after their markets, to find shipping for them, and to see that the big interests do not squeeze them out of existence.
The administration should attend to such things. I could speak for hours on the treatment meted out to the settlers, and 1 shall take an opportunity later to show that criminal neglect by the administration is the chief reason for the lack of development.
– What has been done to combat the buffalo fly?
– That matter is in the hands of the Institute of Science and Industry, but goodness only knows when any steps will be taken to eradicate the pest, or even to suggest a remedy. We know that the pest is spreading westward, and that it is a more serious menace than the tick. The Government is so lackadaisical that by the time it starts to apply remedies the people are in a hopeless position. This year has been very successful for the farmer, not because, but in spite of, the administration. I have seen 30-ton crops of peanuts valued at from 8d. to lOd. per lb., and the small man has been positively robbed of his year’s earnings by the administration without the possibility of redress. For samples of peanuts sent by the farmers to the south lOd. per lb. was paid, and orders were placed for the balance of the crop. Subsequently, owing to the delay of the mails, and the long period between mails, the unfortunate farmers were induced to sell their crops through the administration, which alleged that it could obtain better prices than those offered. The unfortunate farmers agreed, and the peanuts were railed to Darwin, and stored in unsuitable, ramshackle buildings. Some weeks later it was found that they had been riddled by weevils, whereupon the administration offered the unfortunate farmers ]Jd. per lb., or some such ridiculous price, for them. The tragic condition of the Territory is the direct result of bad administration. What is the position of agriculture there? Nothing is known of the contents of the soil. All work is experimental, and the experiments are always made at the expense of the poor man. Any progressive country that was endeavouring to establish a system of agriculture would appoint experts in the various branches of that science, and steps would be taken to analyze the soil, and ascertain what could be produced. If the soil was deficient the farmers would be advised of the nature of the deficiency, and remedies would be applied. No such practice is followed in. the Northern Territory, where the farmer just plods along, and, even against terrific odds, is able to show a profit. The irony of the situation is that there is a Director of Agriculture, whose only qualification is that he was formerly a gardener to a gentleman in London. He is supposed to be directing agriculture in the Northern Territory, and yet some people wonder why agriculture inthe Territoryis a failure. We who live there know that it is a failure because no one there is competent to advise. It seems to he the policy of the Government not to send any one to the Territory who can give intelligent advice. Similar criticism can be levelled at the administration of the Mines Department. In the Northern Territory there is a greater deposit of minerals than in any other part of Australia. I have seen silver lead “ shows “ from 100 to 300 feet wide. Those deposits would not lie dormant for five minutes in any other part of Australia. If the Government was progressive it would open up the country, and make the working of such deposits profitable. Mineral wealth in the Macdonnell Ranges has been lying idle for many years. If the Government was serious in its policy of developing the Territory, it would mate all these great wealth-producing centres accessible. It is impossible to travel to the Gulf Country and Arnhem Land, except on horseback. But there are valuable deposits there that are only 80 miles from a river that is navigable for 80 miles. Nothing has been done in the Northern Territory in the nature of systematic development. People who live there know that the only way to develop the Territory is by the construction of railways, roads, and harbours, and, knowing that, hold that there is no need to appoint a commission to inform them of the fact. In any case, a commission will have to take its advice from experts, and its reports will be referred to the Public Works Committee. The reports of the experts might be obtained and submitted direct to the Committee, without the intervention of a commission. In that way the Government could do the spade work of development, and, unless it does something along the lines I have suggested, its talk about development is only so much gabble.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to receive the AddressinReply, and will notify honorable members accordingly.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
The following papers were presented : -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Fourteenth Annual Report 1923-24.
Ordered to be printed.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1924 (4th year).
Treaty Series No. 36, 1924.
Agreements concluded between -
Signed at London, 30th August, 1924 (Paper presented to British Parliament).
League of Nations. - Report of the Commonwealth Representative at the Second Opium Conference convened by the League of Nations, and of the Draft Convention and Protocol relating to Dangerous Drugs, signed at Geneva on 19th February, 1925.
White Australia Policy - Statement my Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do how Adjourn.
.- Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a Fact thai he has made a statement to the effect that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Lender of thc Labour party in Great Britain, hod stated that the White Australis, policy is a menace to tha peace of Europe? IF. the right honorable gentleman did make that statement, what was the authority for doing so!
The right honorable gentleman gave me the following reply : - 1 referred to a speech that was mads by Mr.
Ramsay MacDonald in the House of Commons, and quoted from the report of that speech which is contained in the Hansard of the House of Commons.
This is a very important matter. i have caused to be made a search of all the Hansard reports of debates of the House of Commons during the life of the present Parliament - 1 take it that the statement made by the right honorable gentleman was based on a speech made by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald after the British Labour Government went out of office - but I can find nothing to justify the Prime Minister’s remarks. Hansard of the 23rd March, 1925, contains the report of a debate in the House of Commons on the Navy Estimates, and dealing particularly with the Singapore Naval Base. I have no doubt that the speech made by Mr. MacDonald during that debate is that to which the Prime Minister referred. It’ the right honorable gentleman is able to show that Mr. MacDonald made the statement alleged, then ho was perfectly justified in endeavouring to censure the ex-Primo Minister of Great Britain, for giving utterance to it. But I can find no record of any such statement. Amongst other things, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said -
Honorable members roust remember that the Empire is not Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps 1 should also add Newfoundland, because the Newfoundland Government at the lime we took office associated itself with Singapore. The other parts of the Empire did not. So that when we talk about the Empire we must remember that our Empire does not consist solely of those two very important communities in the South Pacific. When we consider what is the effect of Singapore upon the
Empire as a whole I think that the conclusion that we como to is that it is going to weaken the Empire, because it will increase the warmaking impulses in the world. It may be that if we lake the argument which was put up in that very quiet but remarkably “well informed speech delivered by the honorable and gallant gentleman, the member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) in the last debate, he not being under the restraint of ever having been on the front Bench, or of being on the Front Bench, said quite bluntly that Singapore is necessary as a naval base “in order to maintain a White Australia policy. What does that mean? It means that he anticipates that because Australia will undoubtedly persist in its opposition to receiving Japanese immigrants, that political and racial policy will inevitably result in a military conflict between Australia and Japan. If that is not his argument the whole of his case falls to the ground. If that be so, it is obvious that this cause of a quarrel between Australia and Japan, and the preparations made to carry it to a successful conclusion, so far from increasing the security of the Empire, as a matter of fact is a special and an extra reason why the whole Empire is sooner or later going to be involved in a war.
– That was not Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s argument.
– No. It was really a statement of the views held by one of the members who was advocating the Singapore Naval Base. Later, in the same speech, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said -
Therefore, from my point of view the policy expressed in the building of Singapore is a policy which strengthens the military solution of this problem and weakens the judicial solution upon which I base nearly all my practical hopes, tho development of the work of the League of Notions, and its various supplementaries, economic immigration, and so on. Let mc remind the House that those of us who take that view have already won the first round in the fight. We know now perfectly well that if the international court has to decade whether a conflict between Japan and Australia arising out of the question of immigration was an exterior matter, an international matter from the point of view of Australia, or a purely domestic matter from the point of view of Australia, international law says that immigration is purely a domestic affair for the country that is responsible. That is the first round of the fight to be settled, and it has been settled on our side.
That is all I can find in any Hansard report of the House of Commons debates which has any bearing on the subject.
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that I have not the slightest desire to misrepresent Mr. Ramsay MacDonald or any one else. In my address at Ballarat I referred to the speech made by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald which the honorable gentleman has just quoted. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I did not say what Mr. MacDonald might have meant, but read what he actually did say. I read the extract.
-Read it now.
– Was that the extract?
– If honorable members will allow me, I shall quote whatI read in my speech at Ballarat. My quotation was from the speech to which the honorable gentleman has just referred. I was dealing with the possibility that, in the future, Australia might become involved in trouble because of the White Australia policy, and I was urging upon the people of the Commonwealth the necessity of recognizing that this country could not at all times with absolute confidence rely upon the support it has always enjoyed from Great Britain and the British Navy. I indicated that parties change, and that different views are taken by people concerning this very important subject. I stressed the fact that there were many people who desired that such questions as the White Australia policy - questions involving national honour - should be dealt with by an international tribunal and I quoted the following from Mr.Ramsay MacDonald’s speech : -
From that point of view, from the point of view of the risk the Empire is running because Australia is pursuing a White Australia policy, what is the best counter-offensive? Is Singa pore the only one?
Further on, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said -
The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that there are being built up in connexion with the League of Nations a large group of activities meant to take the whole of this intricate question of the immigration of Asiatics from the sphere where it is to be met by military preparation, and handed over to’ the sphere where it is to be met by legal decision.
Those are the extracts I made from Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s speech. I submit it was a perfectly fair statement to make, and I do not think that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald or any one else would take exception to it.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald did not say that the White Australia policy was a menace to the peace of Europe.
– I have read whathe said.
– Such a statement is not there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 June 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250611_reps_9_110/>.