10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - Notwithstanding that a motion of censure is before the House, the Government has decided, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, to take an administrative act which, I am sure, will have the unanimous approval of honorable members. The Australian public has been thrilled during the past few days by the wonderful rapidity of progress of Mr. Bert Hinkler . in his flight from Great Britain to Australia. He has now flown a distance of 10,500 miles in a small plane equipped with an engine of remarkably low horse-power. By this feat he has proved that small aeroplanes such as have hitherto been regarded as almost in the nature of a toy, are really very valuable machines for serious aviation. This flight was no mere stunt or freak performance, but has contributed very materially to the advance of the art and science of flight. The fact that
Mr. Hinkler, unaccompanied, has steered his way through the ether half-round the world, is testimony to his amazing skill as pilot, mechanic, and navigator. He has modestly attributed the success of his flight to the efficiency of his plane. It is true that Mr. Hinkler has demonstrated the efficiency of the small plane, and that in itself is a valuable work; but the greatest credit for the performance is due to the man himself. In comparing his achievement with other great flights, we do no injustice to his predecessors in this field of adventure; in fact, they as gallant sportsmen would be the first to acknowledge the greatness of his accomplishment. The first successful flight from the United Kingdom to Australia by Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith won ibc admiration of the world. It was achieved with a machine equipped with dual engines, each of 360 horsepower; the whole route was carefully mapped in advance, and special landing grounds were prepared for their reception. Obviously, that performance was in a category different from Mr. Hinkler’s flight. Another outstanding achievement in aviation was the solo flight of Colonel Lindbergh across the Atlantic, a distance of 3,000 miles. The outstanding feature of the performance of the Smith brothers was the greatness of the distance travelled ; Lindbergh’s flight waa noteworthy in that alone he piloted the machine continuously for over 30 hours from America to France. Hinkler’s flight combined the characteristics of both the others; it was a solo flight and extended half-round the world. It is almost incredible that a man could have continued day after day, flying an average stage of 700 miles, and rising next morning to repeat his perilous venture. For- tunately his daring has been rewarded with success, and I am sure it is the wish of the Australian people that this Parliament should in their behalf pay a well-deserved tribute to this distinguished aviator. The Government therefore proposes to invite him to Canberra, the national capital, where an appropriate welcome will he extended to him, and he will be asked to accept from the people of Australia .a cheque for £2,000, and a memento, of his great and historic flight. It is fitting that we should recognize in a substantial way the skill, courage, and indomitable resolution thai he has displayed, and I am confident that the action proposed will have the complete approval of our people. We are all proud that Hinkler is an - Australian. During recent years every nation has been striving to accomplish some outstanding feat in the realm of aviation, and possibly the British people have felt that they have rather lagged behind in this matter. Hinkler’s flight, however, reestablishes the prestige of British airmen in the eyes of the world, and upholds the reputation of our race for initiative, courage, and determination. The qualities he has displayed are those which made our soldiers famous during the war, and they are the qualities that will make this nation great in the future.
.- (By leave.) - I am very pleased to have the privilege of supporting the remarks of the Prime Minister. Hinkler’s brilliant flight has thrilled the Australian people with pride and gratitude, and the action proposed by the Government will have their wholehearted endorsement. It is almost incredible that such a great distance could have been covered in a solo flight. This achievement shows that Hinkler is a man of courage and endurance, and of such great determination that he will admit no failure. We should be especially proud of the fact that he is Australian by birth. His flight reminds us and the people of the world of what Australians are capable. In recent years Australians have shown themselves pre-eminent in almost every sphere of action, and now they can claim credit for one of the greatest achievements in the history of aviation. In paying this tribute to Hinkler, I have no desire to detract from the credit that is rightly due to those who preceded him on this aerial journey. The Smith brothers and Parer and Mcintosh created imperishable records; they reached ‘ the highest point of aviation in their time. But Hinkler flew alone, and has reduced the time occupied in the flight, and thus has created a new and- double record. This performance speaks wonders for his capabilities as an aviator. Australia requires men of the type of the Smiths, Mcintosh, Parer, and Hinkler, not only, for its economic development, but also’ for its defence. Another gratifying feature of this flight is that it has been accomplished with a British machine. Though small, light, and of limited horsepower, it has demonstrated’ the capabilities of British mechanics. Australia has produced great aviators, and I see no reason why it should not be equally successful hi mechanical production. I and my party heartily approve of the action proposed by the Government. Hinkler’s accomplishment is worthy of substantial recognition, and I hope we shall have the pleasure of welcoming him at Canberra at an early date.
– (By leave.) - I heartily concur in the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Hinkler has definitely placed Australia among the great aviation countries of the world. His achievement is most meritorious, and the Australian people will be mighty proud of it. The flight was unofficial ; it had not the blessing of governmental authority when it started. I feel impelled to remind the House of the circumstances under which the flight of Parer and Mcintosh was accomplished. It also was unofficial. They had only an old machine; they had to stunt their way from the United Kingdom to Australia, and had the greatest difficulty in obtaining supplies of fuel to bring them here. What they accomplished in the face of almost incredible difficulties won the admiration of the Australian people. But the National Parliament failed to do justice to those intrepid fliers. I have no desire to detract from the merits of Hinkler’s flight, but I think Ave have a duty to perform to Parer and Mcintosh, and when the Government is proposing to recognize in a substantial manner the achievements of Hinkler, it would be fitting to pay a similar tribute to his predecessors. Parer is a great asset to Australia, and he is still doing pioneering work of untold value. I had the pleasure of flying with him some time ago, and he showed then his possession of almost uncanny initiative and resource. I recollect that his machine sustained damage when landing at a remote spot in the interior; but with an axe-head for an anvil, a tomahawk for a hammer, and a bush fire, he drew out a J spindle to a jj- inch diameter, put a bamboo “ bush “ over it, replaced it, and flew back to his base. Men of that character are invaluable for commerce and defence, and I think the service he has rendered to Australia is equal to any achievement before or since.
– He is pioneering aviation in New Guinea to-day.
– -That is so, and he is worthy of the greatest recognition.
– . (By leave.) - As the representative of the Bundaberg district in this House, I wish to express my appreciation of the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government proposes to recognize substantially Mr. Bert Hinkler’s wonderful flight. Hinkler was born in Bundaberg, and lived there for many years; his mother and other members of his family are still resident there, and I know that ‘when he arrives there the whole of the people in that portion of Queensland will rejoice, along with the rest of the people of Australia, at his having reached his destination after completing one of the greatest air flights on record. Mr. Hinkler, by his intrepid, daring and wonderful recordbreaking achievement, has shown that the great and indomitable spirit which characterized the efforts of the early pioneers of Australia still lives. He has put Bundaberg, Queensland and Australia itself on the map and has given the lead to the rest of the world.
– I take it that it is the wish of honorable members that I shall direct the clerks to record on the journals the tribute the House has paid to this distinguished airman.
Debate resumed from 23rd February (vide page 3392) on motion by Mr. Chari/ton. -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government is deserving of severe censure for its failure to adequately protect Australian industries and to limit migration to the nation’s ability to absorb new arrivals, together with its neglect to formulate proposals to deal with unemployment.
– Last night I was dealing with some of the arguments put forward in reply to the motion of the Leader of the Opposition; this morning I propose to address myself for a few minutes to the motion itself. I shall begin with the first indictment contained in the motion - the failure of the Government to adequately protect Australian industries. It is useless for Ministers to quote statistics or advance academic arguments in an endeavour to prove that Australian industries are already adequately protected, because the fact is staring us in the face, and no one can deny it, that Australia is being flooded with goods manufactured abroad; many of them in countries where the conditions of the workers are infinitely lower than those enjoyed by Australian workers. I understand that the engineers of Australia, in order to protect and ensure employment for themselves, are now threatening to refuse to use tools of trade not manufactured in Australia. In that attitude they should have the support of this Parliament and of every individual in Australia. It is a poor Commentary on the statesmanship, capacity and policy of the Government that workers should have to set them a lead in this respect. Honorable members opposite might possibly call it direct action, but the workers have adopted this commendable course of action in order to compel the more adequate development of Australia in the manufacture of goods which are vital to the nation and without which no nation may become selfcontained. This Parliament must afford our industries that higher protection which is so necessary to the maintenance of the present economic standard of Australian workers. By its policy of laissez faire the Government is permitting inroads to be made on that economic standard. I can come to no other conclusion than that Ministers are anxious to fall into line with governments in other countries and the controllers of industry throughout the world in a world-wide offensive against the economic standards which after years of struggle the workers have now achieved.
Another thing that affects Australian industries even more vitally in many ways than does,, the lack of adequate protection is the determination of our Government and of all Ufa tiona lists Governments in Australia to persist with a policy of wholesale borrowing abroad. In spite of protective tariffs and other artificial means taken by legislative action to prevent it, the importation of goods cannot be restricted while such a policy is continued. When the Government borrows money abroad - whether the amount be £5,000,000, £10,000,000 or £20,000,000- we must buy £5,000,000, £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 worth of goods from the country in which the loan is floated. The Minister for Trade and Customs recognizes this fact more clearly than do most of his colleagues, and certainly more clearly than do honorable ministers who sit behind him. Embalmed in Hansard are two very fine speeches made by him when he was a private member. So full of information, statistics and” figures was he when he delivered those speeches, that if my memory ‘serves me rightly on both occasions he was granted a considerable extension of time in order to allow him to deal fully with what he was emphasizing. With many of his conclusions I did not agree; but I did agree, and any one who professes to know anything on the subject, could not fail to agree with the basic principle he laid down in both speeches that borrowing abroad must cease. He did not say that it must be curtailed ; he said emphatically that it must cease. On one occasion when the Treasurer was speaking the honorable member interjected from his seat in the corner, and the Treasurer replied that the Government intended to carry on its policy of borrowing abroad. The only complaint I have with the honorable member is that when he became Minister for Trade and Customs, within 24 hours after completing his second speech, in which he had laid down principles worthy of every consideration for the economic development of this country, he tamely acquiesced in the proposals of other Ministers, who told him that they intended to continue a policy which he had described as economic suicide. I have not heard one word on the matter from him since in this House, whatever he may have said outside, nor do I know of” any action he has taken to influence his Government to recognize the basic principles which he had laid down as a private member. However, my convictions on the point are very strong.
I shall deal briefly with another phase of the matter when I am speaking on immigration, but I must say that we are doping our mentality if we try to persuade ourselves that we can continue a policy that carries with it the inevitable consequences of economic stagnation and industrial retrogression. When we indulge in such a policy and at the same time talk about building up industries we are talking with the tongue in the cheek, are blowing hot and cold and are refusing to face the definite issue. We are doing something which is more detrimental to the economic development of Australia than a refusal to increase the tariffI do not wish to ‘be misunderstood. 1 do not say that the tariff should not be increased. Surrounded as we are by countries like Japan where the standard of the workers is very much lower than that of the workers of Australia, we must have a higher tariff. Japan’s currency is operated in such a way that the equivalent to the British sovereign has five times the purchasing power of the sovereign in Australia. In those circumstances it is hard to frame a sufficiently protective tariff for Australia . Yet while we have this competition from overseas we are continuing the policy of pawning Australia to other countries, which means that we must consume the output of the factories of those countries while Australians walk the streets vainly looking for work. It is a policy that can only lead to economic strangulation. Any government which claims to be national and to desire to develop Australia on sound economic lines so that it may become a nation of not a few millions people but of ten times that number - a self-contained and efficient nation must face the issue now; not at some future date.
The Government has committed another offence against Australian industry by its passivity in permitting private financial institutions to stifle industrial development. Its policy of sabotage of the Commonwealth Bank, that wonderful instrument placed in its hands by this Parliament when Labour was in power, has enabled these private institutions to hamstring industry. Had the Commonwealth Bank been used as Labour intended, it would have done much for the peaceful industrial and economic development of our country, but to-day, that development “is being retarded because private financial institutions are curtailing credit expansion. Owing to the stupid shortage of legal currency, the only means by which industry is able to get currency is by an expansion of the credit system, and the right to expand that credit is in the hands of the private banks. That is too dangerous a power to entrust to private individuals. The banks to-day are wielding it in a deliberate attempt to curtail credit. They are calling up overdrafts, refusing accommodation to industry and stifling Australia’s development. I shall relate an incident to illustrate the attitude that is adopted by these institutions. The facts were given to me by a man who is controlling the industry concerned. A few months ago 1,000 bales pf Australian raw material had to be shipped 12,000 miles to Liverpool and then reconsigned to- Australia so that this particular industrial undertaking could obtain sufficient credit to enable it to manufacture the raw product into the finished article. The reason was that thi. private banking institutions of this country had refused to make available further accommodation, despite the fact that the industry was in a flourishing condition,- and had doubled the value of its assets in the period that had elapsed from the date when it had previously sought accommodation. This policy is adopted by the private financial institutions with the definite object of bringing about depression in industry to such an extent that prices will drop and enable them to double or treble their ecomonic wealth. During the war prices soared to a high level. The war loans were floated when prices were at their peak. Those bonds were cheap in comparison with the commodity value of money. Although their face value is determined, these financial institutions have been enabled to double their wealth by causing industrial depression, with a resultant lowering of prices to the level at which they stood in pre-war days. Let me illustrate my meaning. If in 1915, 1916, 1917, or 1918, when prices were high, a bond the face value of which was £100 would buy 100 pairs of boots at £1 a pair, and the value of that commodity was forced down to the level of 10s. a pair, it will readily be realized that that same bond would then purchase 200 pairs, and thus the wealth of the person who owned it would be doubled. This system of finance has operated ever since the private banking institutions evolved the cheque system and a policy which aimed at the expansion of credit. A deflation of currency was experienced in Europe and Great Britain after the Napoleonic wars, and in the United States of America after the war which was waged for’ the abolition of slavery. In the latter case the Government of the United States of America repudiated its obligations with respect to the paper money it had issued, and allowed currency to be deflated and prices to be reduced. This is a definite policy that is carried out by financial institutions, not alone in Australia, but in every other country in the world, with the object of tightening their economic grip on the nation. The face value of the bonds remains unaltered no matter to what level prices may fall. This Government has assisted the policy by sabotaging the Commonwealth Bank, the only institution in existence which was capable of restraining it. It has sat placidly by and has done nothing, while the . private financial institutions have been crippling industries in Australia. Until we take away from private corporations the right and the power to inflate or deflate currency at their own sweet will, and place those privileges where they rightfully belong - in the hands of the Government of Australia - this country will not be able to meet the issue which faces it to-day. If an individual should issue a counterfeit £5-“ note he would be sent to gaol as a criminal; but those who issue what is virtually a counterfeit currency on a big scale are regarded as exemplary citizens, and are sometimes rewarded with titles. Last year the private banking institutions issued such false money to the amount of £160,000.000. They had not at any time in their possession legal currency amounting to more than £40,000,000. Yet they issued shortdated loans, overdrafts, &c, amounting to £202,000,000, in cheque pounds, which to-day represent 95 per cent, of the currency of Australia, on which they charged an interest rate of 5 per cent., 6 per cent., or 7 per cent. Currency is the economic term that is applied to anything which brings into circulation goods that are necessary to economic life. A cheque, or anything else which circulates the economic goods of life, is currency. No writer on finance of any standing would deny that cheque pounds are currency. They represent 90 per cent, of the currency of every country in which the cheque system operates. These financial institutions do not lend money; they have practically no money to lend. They can hold £10 in their banks and expand credit to the extent of £100, thus creating £100 worth of currency. From the days of despotism it has been the function of governments to issue the currency necessary to meet the needs of the nation. Because this Government has refused to tackle the question, the private financial institutions -have been able to expand credit to such an extent that a currency vacuum has been created and then filled by spurious cheque pounds. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), admitted in his budget speech a couple of years ago that the private banking institutions manufacture currency in this way. No person can deny that that is so. One has only to turn up the Year Book for proof of it. It is useless to assert that these men have something behind them; they have nothing. When an individual or an industry approaches these institutions with an asset valued at £5,000 and obtains an overdraft of £2,000 he or it provides the credit, not the bank. Those to whom the banker issues his false currency in the shape of cheque pounds create the credit. The banker does nothing; he has not the money to give them. If to-morrow I were to come into possession of gold in a quantity sufficient to make sovereigns with a gold content 10 per cent greater than that of properly minted sovereigns, I would be prosecuted as a counterfeiter, and sent to gaol. In America some years ago, when the price of silver fell to a low level, a number of persons obtained a sufficient quantity to turn out silver dollars worth 10 cents more than those minted by the American Government, yet for doing so they were sent to gaol for periods ranging between five years and seven years. The metal value of the coins which they turned out had no bearing on the matter.’ Under the laws relating to currency it is the prerogative of the Government to issue it, and they were convicted as counterfeiters. The private financial institutions in Australia have been given the right to usurp that function of government and are issuing 90 per cent of the currency of the nation, with the result that they are retarding industry, holding up our economic development, and causing retrogression, for the sole criminal purpose of doubling their own wealth.
Any person who gives serious consideration to the subject of unemployment must admit that we have it in our power to take palliative measures which will give immediate relief. I want that action to be taken immediately; but I also wish the Government to go to the root of the problem and solve it definitely for all time. Financial reconstruction must take place and the finances of Australia must be placed on a proper footing. The Commonwealth Bank must expand its influence, throughout Australia until it finally becomes the only banking institution in this country. Only then will the cheque system operate in a proper way. It is a government institution, and its expansion of credit is for the benefit of the nation and its cheques are legal currency equally with a 2s. piece, a f 1-note, or a sovereign. “When the currency system is operated by private individuals it is counterfeit money that they put into circulation, and as spurious as any counterfeit £5-note which is issued by a criminal.
There is another aspect of industry which must be considered: I refer to the financing of industries by private financial institutions, as a result of which those industries become over capitalized and the nation has not the capacity to absorb them. Too .many units of an industry are developed because they are able to secure the guaranteeing of their credit with banking institutions. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr, Pratten), as a business man, knows that this practice is in operation. The result is that some industries which could develop tenfold and yet not be in a position to fulfil the requirements of Australia are unable to obtain accommodation from financial institutions, no matter how good their assets may be, because they are merely branches of bigger institutions abroad which are financing industries in other countries and do not wish to see further development within Australia. The result is that these concerns close their books against business enterprises which are intended to rival companies engaged in similar industries overseas. Unfortunately we have too many overcapitalized industries in Australia. It happens frequently that men with money act as guarantors to experts in various lines of industry who have not much money, and enable them to set up in businesses which are already too well represented in our commercial life. The flour milling industry is a clear example. At one time there were small flour mills dotted all over the country, but to-day one sees only their crumbling walls and rusting machinery, the reason being that too many mills were established to supply the flour that our people required. Numerous persons engaged in these concerns became bankrupt, and so national waste was caused which meant loss to both producer and consumer. I submit that the nation should control not only the output and prices of the goods manufactured here, but also the amount of capital invested in industry. Otherwise chaos must result and cause damage to our whole economic system. We need a stringent and uniform company law in Australia to prevent the overcapitalization of industry, and to control company operations generally. Our newspapers are full to-day of the rumour that various Broken Hill mining companies intend to cease operations because the price of lead does not enable them to earn a fair percentage of profit on the amount of capital invested in their business. If these mines were operating on the original capital which was subscribed by the companies’ shareholders, they would be able to make a very handsome profit with lead at its present price. But it is well known that in the days gone by many of these concerns made huge profits which they distributed in the form of bonus shares. In some cases their stocks were watered shamelessly. The result is that they, are now hopelessly over-capitalized and must obtain a very high price for the lead that they produce in order to pay.,a profit ou their capital.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) was asked yesterday by interjection why Australia had no export trade in coal. Unfortunately, our coal mines, like the mines at Broken Hill, are in many cases seriously over-capitalized. I know of a company in our northern field which was formed with a capital of £8,000 in 190S, but which has made such huge profits that it has re-constructed on two or three occasions and is now operating on the basis of a capital of £2,000,000. Like Frankenstein’s monster it must destroy its maker, and so must all similarly over-capitalized industrial concerns. If we were honest in our desire to solve the problems which face us, we should tackle this one. Unfortunately many of us are living in the house of make-believe. ‘We shall never win through to substantial and permanent prosperity until we eliminate these economic excrescences from our national life.
In the course of his speech yesterday the Prime Minister stated that the unemployment which is to be found in Australia to-day is due to droughts. By making that statement the right honorable gentleman showed himself to be unfit to be a Prime Minister in the national Parliament of a civilized community. He should be a painted savage leading a tribe of other painted savages. There is some excuse for uncivilized people blaming droughts and nature for the hardships through which they have periodically to pass; but surely there can be no such excuse for people who consider themselves to be civilized. The savage has neither the mentality nor the vision to anticipate the vagaries of nature; but it should not be so with us. We have lived long enough in Australia to know that we must expect periods of depression. Our national statistics show that droughts come upon us in cycles, and a person who, in the light of the information that is available here, is satisfied calmly to sit down and say that though he is sorry for the people who suffer hunger and loss during these times of depression nothing can be done for them is not fit to be the leader of a national government. Droughts are inevitable in Australia. They are as sure to come upon us periodically as the sun is to rise toT morrow morning. But there are times when nature is bountiful to the point of prodigality. In such periods we should prepare against the lean years which we know must overtake us. We should be able in the years of plenty to make provision for the years in which our crops will be only 20 per cent., 30 per cent., or 60 per cent, of the average yield. Sometimes we are short of water in Australia, but in the last few months sufficient water has run into the seas which surround our coast to have provided for our needs for ten years. We should long ago have taken steps to carry out extensive water conservation schemes.
– Stock cannot live on water alone.
– But we have had it demonstrated in this beautiful city that given water great things can be done in country which is otherwise not attractive. We should be conserving water in huge reservoirs and fodder in national granaries. Thousands of years ago the Egyptians showed us how this could be done, but like the Bourbons this Government learns nothing and forget? nothing. This Parliament should take steps to build granaries and dam our rivers and creeks. Then when lean years overtook . us we should be able to provide food and work for the people who required it. Perhaps the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) is waiting for an opportunity to tell me that fodder cannot successfully, on account of the destruction caused by weevil or other pests, be conserved for two or three years at a stretch. I am aware of that; but our storehouses could be emptied each season and refilled with the newly-grown fodder. A government of real vision and capacity would attempt some great national work of this character ; but it is quite evident that this is not the Government to do it, for its leader is content to say, “ I am sorry that there is unemployment about; but we must expect it in times of depression. I am sorry that we have hungry men, women, and children in our midst; but the drought is responsible for it.”
– Has the honorable member had any experience in business?
– I have; but I am not like the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), who values a thing only because of the profit which it will yield. If he and those who think like him meet a business man who can show a profit of 20 per cent, one year and 30 per cent, the next year they say, “Here is a keen business man.” They laud such a man to the skies. But if the worker asks for an increase of ls. a week in his wages he is regarded as a Bolshevik, and one to be suppressed. The honorable member should realize that between service and profit there is a chasm as wide as the distance between the poles.He and his colleagues appear to be concerned only with the making of huge profits. If the Government accept responsibility for a business undertaking they think it should make a big profit or should be put down as a failure. The honorable member appears to imagine that his main business in life is to cure bacon and sell it at a profit to himself. He has no conception of national service. He does not seem to realize that if a national undertaking makes a profit of £10,000,000, it makes it out of the people. There is little sense in running a business to make a profit out of one’s- self’. The objective of honorable members on this side of the chamber is. national service for the good of the people. Honorable members opposite think that the only kind of service that is worth while is that which will yield a profit.
I wish to make a few observations on the subject of the limitation of migration. We have been told quite frequently of late that the only migrants who are being brought to Australia are those who are prepared to go on the land. If that were true, which it is not, migration could never solve the problems which face our country, for it would not be long before we should be harvesting more produce from the land than we could use. We should have to send our surplus to markets which are 12,000 miles distant, and which are always more or less precarious and subject to the rigging of so-called shrewd business men. We should always be at the mercy of the exporter and the middleman. Unless alongside of our primary industries we establish, secondary industries our development will be lopsided, and we may experience worse troubles than those which we are now being called upon to face. Migrants are being brought to Australia with the intention of settling them on the land and yet no legitimate attempt is being made to assist suitable Australians who have had practical experience in rural work. There are tens of thousands of men in Australia to-day who would willingly go on the laud and become successful farmers if the conditions offered them were one half as good as those which migrants are receiving. I could supply the Prime Minister with the names of hundreds of share farmers in my electorate who have had years of practical experience in land development and production who would willingly talis up land if facilities were provided for them. In this regard I do not discriminate between Australianborn men and those who have come from overseas, if they have had the necessary experience. It seems preposterous to endeavour to obtain laud for migrants who have had little or no experience in rural work and at the same time to refuse to assist those who have had many, years of experience of the actual conditions encountered in Australia. Surely no one will dispute the fact that if we establish additional secondary industries and develop’ those already in operation, there will be a better market for our primary products. It is ridiculous to bring migrants from overseas with the intention of settling them on .the land and allow most of them to find their way into the industries of this country and thus cause general unemployment. Many of the men who arrive in Australia are without friends, and when the little money they possess is expended are stranded and become a charge upon the State. That is not only a stupid policy, but a criminal act on the part of those responsible. Instead of endeavouring to overcome the difficuties surrounding us, the Government is creating greater problems, which will become exceedingly difficult to solve as time goes on. The Prime Minister said that the members of this party were always making promises which could not be fulfilled; but I remind the right honorable gentleman that all the promises which he has made - many of them were almost criminal - have not been honoured. The Prime Minister makes promises not only to the Australian people but also to those in Great Britain.
Five years ago, in delivering a series of lectures in Great Britain, he told the people in that country that there would be no unemployment in Australia. He said that a royal commission had been appointed before he left to investigate and report upon insurance against sickness and unemployment and that the Government intended to give effect to that commission’s recommendations. That promise has not been kept, although it was made over five years ago. Probably it will be made again before the next elections in an endeavour to secure support.
– Certain recommendations were submitted by the commission eighteen months ago.
-Yes, but nothing has been done. The right honorable gentleman now says that it is unwise to speak of unemployment, as our utterances may affect Australia’s credit abroad. Is the Prime Minister honest in this matter ? Does he wish to pursue a hush policy so that the borrowing of money overseas may not be interfered with? Apparently he wishes to obtain loan money under false pretences. His argument suggests that something of that nature is in his mind.
– The honorable member must not make improper suggestions.
– That is only what his remarks suggest to me. We are told that we must not speak of unemployment because what we say may affect Australia’s credit. Nevertheless, unemployment is prevalent, and an earnest endeavour should be made by the Government to alleviate it. Does the Government think that the floating of loans abroad will be prejudiced, and that it will be embarrassed if we state the facts? Honorable members on this side of the chamber, particularly those representing industrial constituencies, fully realize the seriousness of the situation. Unemployment is particularly acute on the south coast of New South Wales, and in the mining and other industries carried on by private enterprise. This Government and the Nationalist Administration of New South Wales are accentuating the position by cur tailing as far as they possibly can the expenditure of public money. Although the Port Kembla railway, in the Wollondilly electorate, which is being constructed under an agreement entered into with Hoskins Brothers in connexion with the iron industry at Port Kembla has been commenced 100 men have been put off. A State by-election is to be held in that electorate on the 3rd March, and maybe after that date the men will be reinstated and the work continued. The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition had introduced this motion merely because an election is approaching; but I suggest in all seriousness that it is the desire of this Government to curtail expenditure on public works in order to keep men out of electorates in which they think the seats held by Nationalists are insecure. If development were being carried on, as it should be in the Macquarie electorate, the honorable member who now holds that seat would not have a dog’s chance of being returned to this Parliament. The same position exists in other electorates where the majorities obtained by supporters of the Government were small. Ministers obtained their majority at the last election by creatingindustrial turmoil and then going to the country and asking for the return of a government which would maintain law and order. They have now introduced an amending arbitration’ bill, the effect of which, if passed, will be to cause industrial trouble. When that becomes acute the Government will appeal to the electors as it did on a former occasion in an endeavour to secure control of the treasury bench for another three years. The Prime Minister refers to unemployment as of a temporary nature, but unless the Government assumes responsibility and undertakes developmental work, continuous retrogression will immediately commence. An attempt should be made to get out of the difficulties with which we are now faced and there should be an endeavour to break new ground. It is stupid and useless to be always looking for precedents as this Government is doing. We have to face difficulties as they arise and not resort to palliatives and socalled solutions under a laisserfaire policy such as this Government is following. In the interests of this great Commonwealth I hope that we shall soon have a Government on the treasury bench capable of undertaking a developmental policy under which employment can easily be found for those deserving men, many of whom have families dependent upon them, who are now vainly seeking work. The people of Australia have been doped for a long time; but they are beginning to awaken to the real position. At the elections they were stampeded by the press and by Nationalist and Country party candidates who, with the usual parrot cry of the necessity for the maintenance of law and order and loyalty to the Empire succeeded in securing the return of an anti-Labor Government. We have often heard that “you can fool a part of the people for the whole of the time and the whole of the people for a part of the time, but that you cannot fool the whole of the people all of the time.” I believe that the electors now realize that it is time a change was made, and I hope that after the next election we shall have a Government on the treasury bench which will display some courage and determination.
– Hope !
– 3Let me ask the honorable member for Fawkner if this Government has been responsible for one constructive act or has done anything to develop the vast resources of the Commonwealth? Anything of value that it has done has been suggested by the Labour Party. The honorable member for Fawkner knows what has happened in the past and that we shall never get out of the slough of despond until a Labour Government is in power.
.- After listening to the debate on this motion one cannot but think that the statement made in the press yesterday was probably true, and that it was a last moment decision of the Opposition to submit the motion. We cannot but be impressed by the fact that the case is not being presented with any force, and that no concrete instances have been given in which the Administration has failed in its duty to the people which it has governed so well during the past few years. It seems to me that motions such as this - I say it with due deference - are submitted simply to waste the time of this Parliament; because the result is foreseen. Nothing that has been said during the debate will help to reduce unemployment or to remove any of the evils, which the members of the Opposition say are with us. If we seek for the reason for the unemployment in Australia today we must admit that it is the artificial level of wages and the unnatural conditions which exist. Surely it is apparent to every one that employers must expect a return for the wages they pay, so that the labour employed will give value to them. There is a limit to the labour that can be profitably employed. When unemployment is rife - and I donot suggest that it exists to an alarming extent at the present time - it is impossible for employers to provide work for as many men as they would like to assist.
The Leader of the Opposition and others have criticized the Government on the ground that the industries of Australia are insufficiently protected. The Massy Greene tariff, which was introduced in 1921, was the forerunner of increased duties; but these will not bring about a solution of the problem of unemployment. We must search for the cause of the trouble. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), during the budget debate, pointed out that there must be something wrong with the economic conditions of Australia, and he agreed that a conference should be called to consider why the Commonwealth was not progressing industrially as it should. As the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) said last night, the expremier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, is responsible for much of the unemployment that now exists in that State. It is ridiculous to say that the present State, government, which has had only four months of office, is responsible for the present distress. One of the reasons for it is the operation of- the Workmen’s Compensation Act. To a great extent that measure meets requirements; but it wasso ill-considered that it is impossible to put a legal limitation on the responsibilities of a man who employs labour. The day after the bill reached the committee stage in the’ State Parlia- ment the Minister in charge brought down 84 amendments, and allowed only six of them to be debated. The whole. measure having been put through practically without debate, it is easy to understand why high premiums were charged by the insurance companies. Another measure that the Lang Government passed was the Rural Workers Accommodation Act. While I admit that in some cases the accommodation provided is not as good as it should be, yet in the majority of instances it is quite up to the mark. When that stringent legislation was put into operation many small employers were called upon to face an expenditure that they could not possibly meet, because the measure applied to any person who employed more than six men. Many small sheep-raisers have shearing sheds and have invested money in plant and accommodation for workmen, and the act is a source of great concern to them. The shearing is in progress for perhaps only three weeks annually. The shed and hut are probably out of use for the rest of the year ; but that is unavoidable. The measure resulted in drastic alterations to a large number of shearers’ huts that had served their purpose quite satisfactorily. Consequently the small man had to seriously consider his position, and in many cases he said, “I cannot comply with this act. I have not sufficient money to make the alterations required.” The result was that communal shearing became the vogue in New South. Wales, and men who had been employing a small number of shearers made arrangements to get their shearing done by contract at large sheds. That gave rise to a great deal of unemployment. Another measure brought in by Mr. Lang was a heavy tax on industry to make provision for child endowment. Action of that sort was condemned by nearly every other State Premier in Australia. Industry cannot afford to be penalized to the extent of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. for child endowment.
– How does the honorable member explain the prevalence of unemployment in South Australia?
– The Ministry in that State is carrying a burden left by the previous State Labour Government.
– Will the honorable member admit that unemployment exists?
– Yes, but I do not consider that the present Government should be held responsible for it. The Leader of the Opposition showed an astounding lack of knowledge of country conditions when he said that there was very little drought in Australia and that it was confined to small areas.
– That is not a fair representation of his remarks on the matter.
– When the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) accompanied me through my electorate last August we saw not a blade of grass, and dead sheep were a common sight. In Queensland, between 6,000,000 and 8,000,000 sheep have been lost, and drought conditions obtain there still to a considerable extent. We know that the people on the land incur an intolerable burden of debt in trying to keep their stock alive during dry periods. It is idle for a responsible man like the Leader of the Opposition to airly dismiss the appalling conditions in the two large pastoral States. That is not what I expected of him. It shows that the Labour party has not studied the pastoral and agricultural conditions of Australia so well as it might have done. I am further convinced of this fact by some of the statements of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) regarding water and fodder conservation. Let me remind him that one thing that will prevent water conservation in many parts of Australia is the fact that we cannot make water run up hill. It is useless to talk of water conservation in certain districts; the configuration of the country will not permit of it. I recall a remark by Mr. Lang that he would get expert officials to look for a plant that would withstand all drought, and he would have it planted throughout the drought-stricken areas of New South Wales. Some of us do not realize how much droughts cost Australia, and particularly the settlers in the dry areas. I know of persons in my own electorate who will be among the unemployed, because their stock have died, and they have been driven from their holding’s. But can we blame the present Commonwealth Government for the drought that has wrought havoc in northern New South Wales and Queensland ? When the honorable member for Werriwa speaks of storing fodder for three or four years, and, when good seasons return, disposing of it and getting a fresh lot, his suggestion is so foolish and impracticable that it does not merit a moment’s consideration. One of his remarks, however, should receive attention. Last night he said emphatically that any industry that could not pay a decent wage to the men employed in it should cease. By the silence of honorable members around him, I take it that his observation was firmly endorsed by them. I am reminded of the deputations that have awaited on the Prime Minister asking for assistance to the mining industry, which is confronted with economic difficulties. According to the honorable member for Werriwa that industry, because it cannot afford to pay the wages now ruling, should be wiped out of existence. If that course were adopted would it reduce unemployment throughout Australia? Remarks such as that of the honorable member are calculated to do a great deal of harm. When one listened to further observations by him one could readily see that he was leading up to his pet subject, the socialization of industry. In the opinion of the honorable member and other members of his party, our one great objective should be a social system under which the State would provide employment for all, and pay a wage that would keep everybody well supplied with all that he needed, whether the industry engaged in was commercially profitable or otherwise. While these ideas may be very attractive in theory, they would not work out satisfactorily in practice; in fact, they are absolutely impracticable. Recalling the honorable member’s statement that an industry that could not pay the ruling wages should cease, I am reminded of the experience of the Yellow Cab Co. in Sydney. Owing to legislation passed by the previous State Labour Government, the company was forced to call its employees together and point out to them that it was impossible forit to pay its way under the conditions of employment then obtaining. The drivers of the taxi cabs thereupon held a meeting and voluntarily offered to work 48 or 50 hours a week, although at that time their working hours were 44 a week. They did that without any intimidation by their employers, and because of their action they were classed as scabs and traitors to the Labour cause, and were subjected to a good deal of abuse. Prom my point of view they were very sensible men. I discussed the subject with them at odd times, and one driver informed me that half a loaf was better than no bread. He added “ What would be the use of refusing to work long hours when such refusal would mean the closing down of the company and the dismissal of its employees ?” The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), would say that the company should close down because it could not continue its operations under a 44-hour week, and when that had happened would blame this Government for the fact that 300 or 400 men had joined the ranks of the unemployed. The attitude of the Labour party is inconsistent. ‘ I frankly admit that a great deal of unemployment is caused through strikes. These, while perhaps they do not last long, occasion a great deal of trouble and dislocation of industry. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) last night referred to the loss of our export coal trade, and gave certain reasons for it, but he forgot to mention that the outstanding cause has been the dislocation of the coal industry by constant strikes.’ In 1926 there were 356 strikes in Australia, 227 of ‘them occurring in New South Wales; in 1927 there were 437 strikes, 216 of them occurring on the’ Newcastle coalfields’. Australia’ can never hope to establish an export trade if the continuity of supply is to be interfered with by frequent stoppages of work. Let me give one or two instances of strikes. The following paragraph appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2nd July, 1927 : -
Shot Firer Discomfited
Followed by Procession.
Strange, tactics to intimidate a shot firer at the Excelsior Colliery have been employed by miners who went on strike a month ago. when he incurred their displeasure.
A week ago, about 200 men and boys formed a procession when the shot firer left the tunnel, and followed him to his home at Thirroul. They were headed by a man on a pony, a band of youths equipped with mouth organs and other instruments, and by a banner, adorned with skull and cross bones and the words “ Shall we work with him ? No, we will starve first”.
A number of plain-clothes police followed.
The procession is now a daily occurrence, and continues, despite the fact the man has not gone to, work for two days. After forming up at the mine, the men march to his residence, where they disperse quietly.
The man in question is an old resident of the district, and has been a prominent unionist for years.
The trouble began over the action of the manager in engaging the shot firer to make a trial of an alleged deficiency place. It was agreed by the manager and the officials of the union that the place should be tried by a mine or shift man. The shot firer was chosen. He was formerly a miner, but had not worked on the face for six months. He filled five skips by himself in a shift, where two men were filling four skips in a shift.
In that instance work was held up for two months because a man worked too hard, and for his action he was hounded from the locality. Is the Federal Government to blame for that? Take another case. On the 22nd October, 1927, work was held up for two days at the Aberdare Central Mine. A football team representing Aberdare Central Mine won the final round of the local competition, and thus were winners of a cup trophy. The players took the cup with them to the colliery on the morning following their triumph in the field and proceeded to fill it with beer. When the supply ran out, all hands adjourned to the nearest hotel, held an impromptu meeting in the bar, and decided to take a holiday. The employers were deprived of a day’s output and the men, lost a day’s pay. As the mine employed 700 men, and the daily output was 1,600 tons, the loss was heavy. There have been other equally unnecessary and irritating causes for the dislocation of trade and commerce; yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has moved a motion of censure to the effect that the present Commonwealth Government is responsible for unemployment and industrial unrest. A great deal of the unemployment in this country is due to the fact that Labour leaders, instead of leading the workers, are driven by trade union officials over whom they have no control.
– Labour leaders make no attempt to check strikes. Why did not the honorable member for Werriwa go to the assistance of the shot-firer who was hounded from Wollongong?
– That is a misstatement.
– Will the honorable member take the responsibility of vouching for the accuracy of the newspaper report of the incident at Wollongong?
– I am quoting the Sydney Morning Herald, which has not been contradicted. Honorable members know that- I have stated nothing but facts. A great deal of the industrial unrest and unemployment is caused by Labour leaders submitting to the control of extremists. The ex-Premier of New South Wales, when speaking at the Sydney Trades Hall some time before the last elections in New South Wales said, “I am Premier of New South Wales; tell me what you want me to do and I will do it.” The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) quoted statements made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) concerning the hours of work, and they were indeed sound and to the point, but how different are they from his views now that he represents an industrial area and. has to yield to pressure by certain individuals. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) contended that the working man had a right to live, but we say they also have the right to work. That right has never been disputed by us. People should not be debarred from workif they desire to work, but I have already quoted an instance in which a man was prevented from working because he worked too hard. If we could bring about a better understanding between employer and employee a great benefit would be conferred upon the community. That understanding exists in certain cases. There are many honorable members in this Chamber who have employed labour for years past. I myself have employed men since I was a young man, and have never had the slightest trouble with them. If we could1 extend that feeling of goodwill throughout the Commonwealth much good would result and there would be no lack of employment. Honorable members opposite, if they wished, could play a great part in bringing that about, because they are the recognized leaders of men. It is certainly not within their province to stir up the passions and prejudices of working men against employers. Had we their co-operation and a better understanding between capital and labour, there would be no need for a censure motion such as has been moved in this chamber. The Prime Minister is convening an industrial peace conference, and his action has been opposed by certain members of the Labour party. Every time that the Government attempts to obtain a closer understanding between employer and employee, its proposals are scoffed at and ridiculed by honorable members opposite, mainly because they are driven to that step by the extremists in the Labour party. The Government has done its utmost to govern this country wisely, and well, and this is undoubtedly recognized by the vast majority of the people of Australia.
– Where did the honorable member get that information?
– I am prepared to vouch for that statement. The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition will not be carried. This Government is certainly not responsible for the industrial unrest existing at present. I contend that unemployment is due in some measure to the economic situation of Australia, but mainly to the ill-advised tactics of those who lead the workers of this country.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I rise to support the motion of censure submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) condemning the Government for its callous ineptitude in administration and for its refusal to take action to relieve the severe industrial depression that prevails throughout Australia. Apparently the Government wilfully and unfeelingly refuses to face the facts, or it is incapable of realizing what is happening in Australia to-day. In my opinion the present industrial depression is a result of a number of contributing factors. It is due in part to the flooding of the country with migrants from overseas, and in part to the policy of retrenchment in bothpublic and private undertakings, so as to make possible a reduction in wages or an increase in hours, or both. Many hundreds of millions of pounds invested at varying rates of interest in industries, the basic wage for which is £4 5s. or £4 7s. 6d. a week, would be enhanced by many added millions of pounds if the present industrial depression brought about a reduction in the basic wage, or an increase in the hours of working. Notwithstanding the declaration of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and of some ministerial supporters who have spoken to the motion, I give members of the Ministry credit for realizing that a severe industrial depression means keen competition for jobs available, a consequent reduction in wages and a subsequent reduction in the cost of production and the cost of living following on a reduction in wages.
The Government, or the Prime Minister, as the mouthpiece of the Ministry, yesterday went to great pains to prove that industrial conditions in Australia to-day were not by any means abnormal. Indeed the Prime Minister suggested that under the wise and beneficent rule of this Government, the country was prospering. I leave it to the people outside, and particularly to those engaged in industry, whether it be at the top or the bottom, to express their opinion as to the truth or otherwise of the right honorable gentleman’s statement. We are borrowing from Great Britain £34,000,000 for the purpose of increasing population by means of migration. Up to date the Development and Migration Commission has cost Australia. £109,000. That body has not created new positions other than those directly connected with the commission itself - 81 in Australia and 99 in London. I anticipate, also, that many of those who are employed in Great Britain in connexion with the work of the commission are deluding the people of the Mother Country as to the prospects in Australia, and are -therefore persuading them to come to this country under false pretences. The official figures showing the excess of arrivals over departures for the past three years are as follows : - 1925, 38,582; 1926, 43,862; 1927, 51,112. If the beneficence and wisdom of a government are to be judged by the number of people which it induces to come to Australia, undoubtedly this Ministry is doing a good work. I point out however, that the 51,000 people who were brought to Australia in 1927 wereactually in competition in the labour market with 51,000 unemployed Australians. I do not blame the migrants themselves, irrespective of their country of origin; but I do blame the Government and the migration authorities directly under its control, including agents who visit the rural towns in England with the object of persuading the people that immense fortunes may be picked up by people who come to Australia. Apart from the work of such agents, and the manner in which they seek to impress the people, the Commonwealth Government, must determine whether it is to govern Australia or whether its domestic policy is to be influenced by the view of people of other countries.
Migration to Australia is essentially a domestic matter. It is a responsibility which must be shouldered by the Commonwealth Government. On many occasions when honorable members on this side of the House have protested, against the introduction of Italian migrants, the Prime Minister has urged that a treaty having been signed by Great Britain and Italy, the latter country is entitled to allow its nationals to migrate to any of the British dominions. The right honorable gentleman takes the stand that Australia is bound to honour that treaty. I have yet to learn whether his declaration on that point has .the endorsement of the people of Australia. I have yet to learn whether the British Government, functioning 12,000 miles away, has the right to determine the migration policy of the Commonwealth. But the Prime Minister has a further excuse. He fears that grave international complications may ensue if Australia refuses to honour the treaty entered into between Great Britain and Italy. On that point, all I wish to say is that I hope the day is not far distant when we shall have a government sufficiently Australian in outlook to lay it down definitely that no treaty - it matters not by whom it may be made - shall be honoured by Australia unless Australia is consulted in the making of it. A third excuse offered by the Prime Minister - he apparently has a hundred and one excuses - is that the League of Nations might have something to say if Australia took a definite stand against the introduction of foreign migrants. The right honorable gentleman appears to be extremely perturbed at the thought that CzechoSlovakia, Germany, France, or the governments of other countries might object if Australia dared to do such a thing as to determine her own domestic policy. After all it- is extremely problematical whether the League of Nations could or should be allow.ed to interfere in any question of domestic concern. X am perfectly certain that the Australian Labour movement - and its capacity to determine questions of international import is equal to that of this or any previous government - will not be disturbed at the thought that the League of Nations might attempt to impose penalties upon Australia if she refused to fall into line with the views of the League with regard to migration.
The Prime Minister also wishes us to consider what the States would say if the Commonwealth curtailed its migration activities. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should read the newspapers. If he -does that he will discover their views concerning the industrial effect of this influx of foreign migrants. Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia - a State which, if the- position were favorable, should be prepared to welcome newcomers from overseas in view of its extensive developmental schemes in hand - has in the Parliament of Western Australia and in the press of that State made direct and personal representations to the Prime Minister on this subject. The Lang Government of New South Wales also made similar representations. The Queensland Government has been protesting for the last six years against indiscriminate migration, and the Victorian and Tasmanian Governments have also expressed similar views. Even State Tory governments have raised objections to this insane policy of indiscriminate migration.
The Treasurer and the Prime Minister, and now again some of the rank and file of the Nationalist party, have at various times enunciated the economic doctrine that a steady flow of immigrants means more employment for all. One can hardly conceive of such a fallacious policy receiving the endorsement of men who otherwise would be considered sane. The industrial position, which was acute six months ago, is becoming more serious as the result of the steady stream of migrants to Australia, together with the insane policy of retrenchment that has been adopted by this and other Tory governments. Great Britain has spent over £400,000,000 in doles to support her army of unemployed, and is now sending them to Australia at a per capita cost of £56. This would be an excellent thing for Australia if the fallacious economic doctrine to which I have referred worked satisfactorily: that is to say, if, in every instance additional population meant more employment. But economists in Great Britain found that the best way to rid themselves of their unemployment problem was to send the unemployed from the country. They are now spending large sums of money in that direction. Some time ago, a delegation representing 200 unemployed waited on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and myself. We approached the Prime Minister who received us sympathetically, and admitted that the Commonwealth Government was under an obligation- to do something for the unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory. But before he would commit the Government, he said that he would have to consult the Federal Capital Commission in the matter. Later, the right honorable gentleman replied that, if the Commonwealth Government were to accept responsibility for all the- unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory, the unemployed from all the States would flock to Canberra.- As it was obvious that Canberra could not absorb the whole of the unemployed throughout Australia, he said the Government could do nothing. But the Government not only did nothing to relieve the situation: it aggravated the difficulties when it decided to reduce by £250,000 its contemplated expenditure in the Federal Capital, with the result that 1,000 workers were dismissed. Believing that a policy of progressive development would be followed in connexion with the Federal Capital for at least five years, in accordance with the Government’s declared policy, numbers of business men established businesses in Canberra, only to find that a departure had been made from the Government’s public works programme. Should the Prime
Minister desire to obtain evidence regarding unemployment in the Federal Capital, he should interview a number of these business men..
I understand that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is to be the first to put into effect the policy of retrenchment. In its desire to dispense with the services of a number of its employees, the Government appears to be blind to the requirements of the people in relation to telegraphic, telephonic and postal services. During the war period, the Postmaster-General of the day, in a valiant effort to save the Empire and win the war, concentrated his energies upon savings on string, pens, nibs, pencils and sealing wax. Before that great economy campaign was over the war was Avon and the world saved for democracy! The Postmaster-General then found that there were thousands of applicants waiting their turn to have their residences or places of business connected with the telephone system. These people were willing to pay £5, £6 or £7 per annum for the privilege of having a telephone. In the light of the experience of that time the present Postmaster-General should protest against any retrenchment in his great department.. As a Christmas gift from the Nationalist Government, 400 men in the Postmaster-General’s Department in Sydney, as well as nearly 700 men in the same department in Melbourne, were given notice of dismissal. Instructions have recently been issued that where it is possible to substitute a junior for a senior officer, that must be done; that, even though the policy is detrimental, to the interests of the department, mert, must, wherever possible, be dismissed. In the Darling electorate, the Government’s retrenchment policy is already having an adverse effect on the people. Persons who desire to have their premises connected with the telephone system are still waiting for telephones. This state of affairs exists notwithstanding that only recently thedepartment sent canvassers throughout the country to ascertain the number of people desiring telephones. That campaign was so successful that large numbers of country residents decided to makeapplication for telephonic facilities; but now that this retrenchment policy has– been inaugurated they will have to wait. As to mail services, I do not know whether the existing state of affairs is the result of the Government’s policy of retrenchment, or is due to the fact that the annual tenders for mail services recently closed; but I could give to the Postmaster-General at least five instances in which mail facilities have been reduced from three to two deliveries, or from two to one weekly, while in one case a service has been abolished.
– I should like the honorable member to give me particulars of the cases he has mentioned.
– I shall do so. If a saving of money by dismissing employees and curtailing the privileges of the people in out-back districts is wise administration -
– There has been no curtailment of privileges.
– I disagree with the Minister, and suggest that he should immediately telegraph to the Dubbo postal district for particulars of the number of men now employed and the number employed at this time last year on telephone and telegraph construction and maintenance works. Usually up to 400 men are so employed at this time of the year in that postal district.
– That is a different question.
– At the same time, the Minister should call for1 a return showing the number of persons waiting for telephones now and the number in a similar position a year ago, and also the mail services which have been abolished for various reasons. He would then find that there are many more than the few cases I have mentioned. I have no doubt that many honorable members supporting the Government could supply further evidence of the ill effects of the Government’s insane policy of retrenchment.
– The trunk line programme has been completed.
– That does not apply to the Dubbo postal district, where either insufficient lines are available or material, which should be supplied in order to make- the service satisfactory, is refused. The. Minister should be ashamed of the trunk line service between. Melbourne and Swan Hill, and towns in. New South “Wales beyond that point. Either he does not realize how bad it is or he wilfully refuses to accept facts. Whether the reason be lack of material or a refusal to do the necessary work, the fact remains that the people in that district are without an efficient telephonic service. In the Hay district also people are forced to wait for telephonic facilities.
The National Governments of New South Wales and South Australia have also decided upon a policy of retrenchment. No sooner had the Butler Government in South Australia assumed office than in. an attempt to save money it dismissed 2,000 men from the State railways and indicated that a similar policy would be followed in other departments. The lead set by the government in that State spread to private enterprise; private employers also decided on a policy of retrenchment. As soon as a government goes mad like that, private enterprise is compelled to try to protect itself. Industry in South Australia is now stagnant, and the city of Adelaide is in mourning, commercially and financially. One has only to go into King William-street or Rundle-street, Adelaide; Flinders-lane, Melbourne -
– Go to Newcastle.
– Or to the City of Newcastle and inquire from the business men their opinions of the position generally to realize how desperate matters are in all the States. Ask them what they think of the present Government. Commercial travellers who visit the various States are also able to give enlightenment as to the depressed condition of trade. The dismissal of those 2,000 men from the railways of South Australia - which is not an isolated instance; similar occurrences are taking place all over Australia, and mainly because of this insane, policy of retrenchment - means the’ withdrawal of at least £11,000 a week from the trade and commerce of the State, and particularly of Adelaide.
– There are 4,000 unemployed in Adelaide, -which means, at the- low average of £4 a week)- a withdrawal of £16,000 a. week- from the trade of. the city.
– If that is the number “ recorded “ one may safely say there are at least 6,000 unemployed, which means a definite withdrawal of £25,000 per week from the trade and commerce of the State. The matter does not concern only those who are out of employment. It is like dropping a pebble into water, as the ripple of adversity has a most extensive and disastrous effect. Many people who have been carried away by insidious propaganda about the “ red domination of Moscow “ and an alleged “ Bolshevik labour section are now perturbed about this Nationalist Government, whose only “ Nationalist “ actions have been ‘ to assist its plutocratic supporters. The Government stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the existing industrial depression. “Without offence, I suggest to the Prime Minister that, if he has not been recently in communication with the various managers of the private businesses in which he is interested1 - and’ that is suggested1 by his speech - he would, with profit to. himself, gain quite a lot of knowledge by conferring with- them as to the prevailing condition of Australian commerce. Let the right honorable gentleman consult his manager- in York-street, Sydney, or in Flinders-lane, Melbourne, and ascertainthe true- position. He will discover that Ms business, as with all other businesses in the Commonwealth, is seriously affected. I suggest also that the right honorable gentleman should interview the various Chambers of Commerce throughout Australia, from whom, no doubt, he would discover that conditions are much more parlous than has beenpictured by honorable members on this side. All engaged in commercial activities in Australia are wondering just what is going to happen.
I admit frankly that one cannot expect private enterprise to bolster up the position when the Government refuses to faceits obligation. Nor can the worker be expected to do so. It is the responsibility of a government, as far as possible, to keep its citizens employed at a regular and fair wage, with a “pay envelope” every week adequate for- the purchase of the necessities of life. Any government which fails in that regard does not de serve to govern. This Government displays a callous disregard of the Welfare of its citizens. Is the Prime Minister aware, when airily dismissing the contentions of the Leader of the Opposition, that practically in every city of Australia leading citizens have met and have discussed the gravity of the existing depression, in the endeavour to formulate a scheme whereby the problem of unemployment might be alleviated? A committee operating in South Australia is endeavouring to stem the tide of overseas immigration, which is flooding our unemployed market. The Government has practically caused a panic by its migration and retrenchment policies. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that recently, when six men were advertised for as boilermakers’ assistants, over 1,000 men attended’ the Sydney Town Hall in the endeavour to obtain one of those jobs? I was amongst the crowd, and I noticed that a large number of the applicants were recent arrivals in Australia, brought here by the Bruce-Page Government to swell the existing hordes of unemployed. It is time that the Prime Minister acquainted himself with the true position- Instead of endeavouring to do so, he accuses the- Leader of the Opposition of endeavouring to decry Australia. Members of this party are not decrying Australia; they are- merely actuated by the desire to help the people of this country. We are censuring the apathy of the right honorable gentleman and his Government; we are condemning their ineptitude and callous disregard of the welfare of our citizens.
Yesterday,- the Prime Minister, eitherdeliberately or through lack of knowledge, placed before this house a set of figureswhich was very incomplete. I do not quarrel with the right honorable gentleman for selecting figures that suit hiscase. That is his job. But the right honorable gentleman deliberately misrepresented the. position.
– Order !
– -I shall put it this, way : The Prime Minister quoted figures from Commonwealth statistics, and -stated that, for the last quarter of 1927, therewere 31,032 unemployed in Australia. T. firmly believe that the right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that his figures were incomplete. I cannot imagine that any responsible public man could make such a statement and believe it to be correct. Its acceptance would be a grave indictment of one’s capacity and mentality. Had the Prime Minister looked further on the same page, and practically in the same paragraph, he would have seen that the figures on which the return was based were taken only from the membership of unions reporting.
– That is what the Prime Minister stated.
– But the right honorable gentleman deliberately withheld the information that the trades unions reporting, upon which he based his figures, had a total membership of only 445,000, whereas the total membership of trades unions in Australia is 851,000. Therefore on the figures quoted by the Prime Minister, at least 62,000 were then unemployed in Australia instead of the 31,032.
– That is exactly what the right honorable gentleman intimated.
– He did nothing of the kind. The right honorable gentleman deliberately misrepresented the case.
– The Prime Minister deliberately stated that the number- of unemployed at the end of 1927, taking the figures from the only available source of information, was 31,032.
– And he said that the trade unions supplying those figures represented the bulk of the unionists, whereas they represent only one half.
– The right honorable gentleman gave a return supplied by unions representing only half the number of unionists in Australia, so that on his basis of calculation, there must be 62,000 unemployed in Australia.
– That is a guess.
– I can give the honorable member facts and figures, but I cannot equip him with the necessary understanding. He emulates the ostrich by putting his head into the sand. I refer him to page 61 of the Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics, and I hope that he will do the honorable and manly thing and apologize for taking exception to my statement. The Prime Minister further misrepresented the position. He gave the figures for 1927, but he did not take the actual number of unemployed for the last quarter of 1927, although he was asked to do so. The number was 38,641, sp that on the basis used by the right honorable gentleman, there must have been over 76,000 unemployed in Australia. The honorable member knows that all the workers of Australia do not belong to trades unions. The great majority do, but there is a large number over which the trades unions have no control, and concerning whom the unions have no information. There are those workers belonging to nomadic industries, which cannot be organized. It is true that the workers in many nomadic industries have their organizations, which are suitable and efficient, and which have the maximum number of enrolments. But there are many people operating in industries which are not sufficiently large, or which are so wide-flung that it is impossible to organize them. It must be borne in mind that figures supplied here come from industries which are well organized, and whose operatives are working chiefly in the large capital cities, where the trade union officials are able to get all necessary information as to the extent of unemployment amongst their members. I venture to say that the total number of unemployed in this country to-day is not less than 100,000 men and women. There is a case for the Prime Minister, to answer. There is a case for any of those honorable gentlemen on the opposite benches to answer. It is of no use saying that there is not a great deal of unemployment in Australia. It is of no. use saying to the trade unionists of this country that no unemployment exists, and that the pay envelopes are being distributed as hitherto. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to .say that the position is not serious, when, as a matter of fact, it is very serious.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) ‘ have brought their respective King Charles’s heads into . the debate, and have interjected time and time again with parrot-like repetition, “ What about strikes?” On every possible occasion these people, whose political propaganda and arguments seem to consist exclusively of such cries, and who apparently never take the trouble of investigating the situation for themselves, have brought up this subject of strikes. The Prime Minister is one of the chief offenders in this army of people who misrepresent the position. They know perfectly well that the unemployment created by strikes is infinitesimal as compared with the unemployment created by scarcity of work, by sickness and accident. If they do not know this, they should. The unemployment caused by strikes in 1927 was less than 3 per cent, of the total number of people employed; but 50 per cent, of the unemployment was caused by scarcity of work - 50 per cent, as compared with 3 per cent! Less than £1,000,000 was lost in wages owing to strikes in 1927; but £50,000,000 was lost in wages owing to scarcity of employment. This ostrich Government might well drag its head and portion of its body from the sand in which it is buried at present, talk less about the go-slow policy, and the loss of wages through strikes, and concentrate its attention on the scarcity of employment, and consequent loss of wages.
I have dealt with migration and unemployment, and now I come to the third factor operating in the same direction - a factor which is being used to the fullest advantage by capitalism, and by this Government, in an endeavour to bring about a certain political condition in the country.- The fiscal or hybrid-fiscal policy of the Government has not pleased the people on the corner benches, nor those outside whom they represent. Bather it has antagonized those supporters. In its endeavour to balance on the fiscal tight-wire, the Government has pleased nobody. Not only does it refuse to stem the tide of immigration, not only has it refused to curtail its policy of retrenchment, but it is apparently doing everything possible to prevent the development of Australian manufactures. Yesterday the Prime Minister, possibly with his vision enlarged by recent developments in the Country party, and probably with an eye to the coming conference of that party, or perhaps as a result of business experience and operations as applying to his importing firm of Patterson, Laing and Bruce - I do not say it offensively - made a speech in which he claimed that everything possible had’ been done in five tariff schedules to place Australian industry on’ a perfectly sound footing.
In my opinion, one of the factors tending to produce our present adverse trade balance is the refusal of the Government to protect the established industries, and to give encouragement for the establishment of new industries. I need only quote to the Minister for Trade and Customs the case of the textile industry, and the fact that there were £42,000,000 worth of textiles imported for the year 1927. Whatever has been done to assist the textile industry has been done reluctantly by this Government, and even the best which it has done has not solved the problem. There are twelve or fourteen textile companies in Australia, principally in Sydney and Melbourne, and during the past six months, with hardly an exception, all these firms have had a very bad time. Their output has been restricted, their machines have been lying idle, and their operatives have been unemployed. I recently visited a factory in Sydney, and on every floor were to be seen numerous machines, hundreds in number, lying idle with covers over them, while the operatives who usually work on them were at home unemployed. In the meantime there comes from Japan, from France, Germany, and England large importations of the very goods which these machines could,- and should, be manufacturing. There has been a huge over-production in America, Germany, France, and other countries, where the warehouses are filled to overflowing. No avenues are available in the countries of origin for the disposal of these goods. Therefore, they come to Australia, a country in the control of a Government which apparently welcomes cheap goods from foreigners in preference to the slightly dearer goods manufactured in Australia under Australian conditions. These goods have been imported into this country at less than the cost of production, the manufacturers concerned believing that it is better to have a small loss than a total loss on their over-production. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Government supporters, stand idly by watching these importations coming into Australia, and being sold at prices at which they could not even be produced in the countries of origin. Last year there was imported into Australia £42,000,000 worth of textiles, 75 per cent, of which we should have manufactured here under Australian conditions and at Australian rates of pay. My leader yesterday mentioned iron and steel and raw materials imported into this country to the extent of over £8,000,000. I shall take the matter a little further, and speak of £52,000,000 worth of iron and steel products, both raw. material and manufactured articles, which were allowed to come into Australia. I have visited many factories, including the iron and steel factories at Newcastle, and a factory in Sydney that is engaged in the manufacture of electric meters. I do not think that there is a more intricate work than that which is involved in constructing the mechanism for the registration of electricity, but we are doing the job in Sydney, and doing it just as efficiently and well under Australian conditions as any job brought into Australia previously front other countries. We are also making petrol pumps. This, it is- true, is not a very intricate job. It is one which the ordinary foundry or factory can turn out, and which the ordinary mechanic can do. But I remember the time when a member of this party, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) exposed the importation of 50,000 petrol pumps into this country. The Government had made no ‘attempt whatever to prevent the importation of these petrol pumps until the honorable member for Maribyrnong demanded that something should be done.
– That figure is wrong.
– What is the difference whether it is 50,000, or 5,000? The principle is the same. I am sorry if I misquoted it, but I honestly believed it was 50,000. The importation of £52,000,000 worth of iron and steel products into this country shows that the Government is not fully alive to its responsibilitie’s. The Minister for Trade and Customs might take the first opportunity to convey to the House the eulogistic testimony he has received from the iron and steel masters, notably the Broken
Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Hoskins Limited of Lithgow, in respect to the manner in which he and his Government have protected their industries ! And the Prime Minister, who speaks glibly of protection, and at the same time endeavours to convince the. Country party section of his following that too much protection is not good for any country, might ascertain the views of the chambers of manufactures in regard to the Government’s fiscal policy. I have not the slightest doubt that the declaration of both the chambers of manufactures and the ironmasters would be that the Government has failed to recognize its responsibilities in regard to the establishment and maintenance of Australian industries.
While the honorable members for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) were speaking, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) interjected regarding the coal industry, and their remarks seemed to win some approval from others on the Ministerial benches. Apparently the honorable member for Gwydir spent some hours in delving into the files of the Sydney Morning Herald for information regarding the conduct of the Australian coal miners. He quoted from that journal a statement in regard to an alleged strike at Bulli, to the effect that one man had been victimised by the trade unionists at that colliery because he had gone ‘ into a face and filled five skips, whereas two men had only filled four. The honorable member would be well advised to confine his remarks to wool and sheep. ‘Obviously he knows nothing about coal mines or manual labour generally, or he would not have sponsored such a silly statement. We may see any day about this city trucks in which muck is shifted. Some of them hold half a cubic yard, some three-quarters of a yard, and others one yard. The rate at which these trucks are filled can be readily estimated by any casual observer. Certainly there is no skip used in any coal mine so large that the filling of it twice would keep two men even reasonably employed for a day. The honorable member for Gwydir does not understand the conditions under which coal is mined. He appears to be ignorant of the fact that almost the whole of the coal output of Australia is won by contract labour. The .coal miners and the metalliferous miners work on contract, and at Broken Hill the number of wages men is very small in proportion to the total number of employees. That is true also of the gold mining industry. Practically all the employees, including even the platmen and the bracemen, are on contract. An exception is made in respect of what are known as “ deficient places,” where, on account of the danger or the inaccessibility of the coal, the men cannot earn the guaranteed minimum of 19s. 9d. a shift. I assure honorable members that the coal miners endeavour to earn as much as they can in the limited hours for which they are permitted to work.
The honorable member for Gwydir made a rash statement regarding the injury done to the coal-ruining industry by constant strikes and stoppages, and the honorable member for Swan interjected that such occurrences had wiped out the coal export trade. Both those honorable members might profitably spend a few hours in informing their minds regarding the coal industry. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Newcastle, the embargo placed upon the export of coal by the Nationalist Government was the first and principal cause of the cessation of the export trade. Another important factor is the increasing use of oil fuel on vessels. I regret that the honorable members for Newcastle, Hunter, and Werriwa, who represent the coal areas, and have a lengthy and intimate experience of the coalmining industry, have already spoken, and are, therefore, unable to refute the misleading statements that have been made to-day; but I propose to quote a few typical figures regarding the hours worked by coal miners. At the Mount Kembla colliery, on the south coast, no industrial trouble has occurred for twelve months; yet the men have been able to work only four days out of every ten. Mount Kiera also has been free from industrial trouble for the last twelve months, and the miners have averaged three clays’ work a fortnight. At Bulli industrial peace has reigned for eighteen months, and the miners have averaged five days a. fortnight; at Old Bulli, notwithstanding a similar immunity from industrial trouble, the men have worked only five days a fortnight. At Corrimal five days were lost through industrial trouble in the course of the last eighteen months, and the men have averaged five days’ work a fortnight. At Helensberg, ten days were lost in the last year through stoppages of work, and the men averaged four days’ work a fortnight. At Dudley there has been no industrial trouble for two years, and the men have averaged five days a fortnight. The records for New Lambton and South Waratah tell a similar story.
The honorable member for Gwydir explained his notions regarding the cause of the industrial depression in Australia. Apparently he has inherited the views of his family predecessors in political life. He placed the whole of the blame for existing conditions in New South Wales upon the Lang Government, which had left the affairs of the State in such a mess that the Bavin Government in four mouths of office has not been able to improve the position. He said also that the child endowment scheme,- for which Mr. Lang was responsible, was one of the main causes of industrial depression and unemployment. Surely the honorable member spoke with his tongue in his cheek, for he must know that the Nationalist Government has taken no steps to repeal that measure, or the compulsory provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which he also denounced. I am surprised that the honorable member did not also blame the widows’ pensions as a cause of unemployment in New South Wales. The Labour Government passed into law the childhood endowment scheme, the compulsory provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act, the widows’ pensions, and the Rural Workers’ Accommodation Act. In opposition to those four measures the Nationalist and Country parties faced the electors recently, and although they were successful at the poll, not one. of the acts has been repealed. The honorable member for Gwydir, who breeds sheep, and apparently voices the views of the squatters, stated that the Rural Workers’ Accommodation Act had had a very grave effect upon employment in country districts. If that declaration -was made in good faith, the honorable member has no more knowledge of the pastoral industry than he has of coal mining. He solemnly told us that grave unemployment was caused because the squatters were compelled to house their employees on a par with their stud rams, bulls, and stallions ! For the last 25 years the workers’ organizations have been struggling for an improvement of the conditions of rural workers.
My first experience of the callousness of the Australian squatter was when, as a boy, 25 years ago, I went into a shearers’ hut in which were accommodated 100 men on three tiers of bunks. Being a boy a bunk on the topmost tier fell to me. Down the middle of this huge structure ran a dining table. There was not sufficient space between the bunks and the table for a person to pass along while the men were at their meals. The men had to tumble out of their bunks, wash outside in kerosene tins, and come back and take their meals in the room where they slept. That was an extreme case, I admit, with 100 men in a room with three tiers of bunks and a table in the centre. But ten years ago I visited many stations and found anything from 20 to 30-. men in one room,- and in some instances two tiers of bunks. The introduction of influenza by any one qf those men meant that the whole of the workers were laid up with that disease. . In some instances there were no partitions in the huts, the roofing and the walls were inadequate, and there was no protection against draughts or no proper ventilation. The Labour Government of New South Wales decided that the great pastoral industry was sufficiently wealthy to provide its employees with better accommodation, and who in this Parliament, or anywhere else, could say that the rural workers engaged in the wool industry -are not entitled to consideration? On the average stud station elaborate precautions are taken to. protect stud stock; but, until the Rural Workers’ Accommodation Act was brought into operation no consideration whatever was given by the pastoralists to their workers.
In order to excuse the squatters who are not providing better accommodation for their workers, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) says that the workers do not live in the huts for more than two or three weeks in the year. The honorable member shows lack of knowledge, or he is wilfully misrepresenting the facts, because he knows perfectly well that theseworkers are engaged in the industry. for nine or ten months in the year, and that,, if they were not living on one station under conditions not fit for pigs, they were on another station. This state of affairs, the housing of men under conditions not fit for human beings, has been altered by State labour legislation, and the honorable member for Gwydir, representing as he does the wealthy pastoral interests, cries aloud to the heavens because human beings are to be given proper accommodation.
With ostrich-like tactics the Prime Minister and his Government refuse to see that a grave industrial crisis faces Australia, and that there are large numbers of men unemployed. With not less than 100,000 out of’ work huge sums will have to be paid by the State governments in sustenance money. Where is the economy in sacking men and then handing them out sustenance money? It is a policy that is not at all in the interests of the people, because 100,000 workers out of employment means a loss of £500,000 a week in wages. With the purchasing capacity of the workers to ‘ that extent diminished, it is obvious that trade’ and commerce and the whole of the activities of society must be deeply affected. The further the position is allowed to drift the worse it will become. The Government, instead of pursuing an insane policy of sacking men, ought to accept its responsibility now and make a start with public works of a developmental or productive character. Instead of curtailing expenditure at the Federal Capital, let the Government reemploy the 1,000 men who have been sacked. Let it extend its operations in the Murray valley, and hurry up the 50 years’ programme of the Murray River Water Commission. Why cannot a start be made with the locking of the Darling and the Mumimbidgee ? In a word, why cannot the Murray works be completed as quickly as possible? Why cannot a start be made with the BourkeCamoowealNorthern Territory railway? We do not expect these works to pay to-day or to-morrow - they may not pay in our time - but ultimately they will prove Something of value which we can hand <lown to those who come after us. Let there be an intelligent application of tariff duties, so that industries in which large sums of money have been invested, and in which a great number of men could be employed, may have a chance to succeed, and so that persons and firms desirous of starting new industries here may be protected. There is ample scope for Commonwealth activity. Let the Government cease the insane policy of retrenchment, let it commence developmental public works, and stop the equally insane policy of bringing people to Australia from overseas, irrespective of the country of departure, when we have already a large number of unemployed in Australia. When the Government has done all these things I venture to say the people of Australia will be more happy and contented.
.- Unemployment is a question we are anxious to approach on right lines. I have had a taste of it in my life. There are probably others in the chamber who have had the same experience. But the remedies suggested by honorable members of the Opposition would, if carried out, make confusion worse confounded, and add materially to the number of unemployed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) claims that if we had an efficient tariff we could find employment for all our unemployed, and also absorb newcomers. The Prime Minister has told us that Australia has the highest tariff in the world.
– That is not so.
– While the tariff of the United States of America is 13 per cent., that of Australia is 18 per cent. Surely 18 per cent, is a reasonable instalment of protection, and when we also take into consideration the distance we are from other countries we must realize that local industries have been given considerable assistance.
Protection has been given to the manufacturers as an instalment of justice for the share they take in upholding our White Australia policy, and in order to prevent importations from countries where industrial standards and conditions of living are considerably lower than those in Australia. For the consideration extended to them the manufacturers owe it to the country to play the game; but in many cases they have not played it as f airly as they might. They have added to the price of their goods every ounce of protection they could get, and have squeezed out of the consumers every penny of profit to be got. We must all bear in mind that there is a third party to be considered beside the manufacturer and the worker. That third party is the consumer. Too little thought is given to him in discussion’s in this chamber.
The Arbitration Court was given to the workers as an instalment of justice to prevent unscrupulous employers from sweating employees, and it has been responsible for shortening hours of labour, increasing rates of pay, and improving working conditions, until I venture to say that in many instances Australia leads the world. For this consideration the workers owe it to the community to play the game. Have they done so all round? We have had glaring cases of deliberate slowing down, just as many as we have had instances of profiteering. And the interests of the consumer have been overlooked. So far as the economic position is concerned I think the nation ought to be viewed in the light of the individual. I_ have a considerable amount of work I could provide to-morrow if I could see my way to get a return; but under existing conditions I cannot and consequently I shall not provide that employment until I am forced to do so. That, I think, is the position of all individuals; but it does not seem to be considered that it should apply to the nation. We as a nation have spent many millions of pounds on what are claimed to be productive works on which we have not got more than Ss. or 10s. worth of work for every pound spent. An individual could not possibly stand that sort of management. ‘Nov can the nation stand it. I do not regret the £10,000,000 shortage in our last loan flotation. I am inclined to regard it as a blessing, because it is an indication that we must put our house in order and play the game a great deal more squarely all around.
I have had a fairly wide municipal experience. Twenty years agc £1 went slightly further than £2 will go to-day. We cannot blame the tariff for. that condition of affairs. We cannot blame anything in particular for it. A multiplicity of factors has brought it about. The tariff has substantially increased the cost of living. Primary producers as protectionists realize that protection is the accepted policy of Australia ; but it imposes a considerable burden on them. Evidence was given before the Tariff Board in 1924 that a reaper and binder for which our cousins in Canada pay £47 pays a duty of £26 5s. and landing costs amounting to £18 16s., making a total of £92 lis. that the Australian farmer has to pay. Yet the farmers of Australia do not squeal. They know that they have a local industry capable of manufacturing reapers and binders, and they are proud of it, but they say that there must be give-and-take. It cannot accurately be said that the Canadian workman receives less wages than his Australian prototype, as the following table will show: -
– We have heard this about sixteen times.
– It might do the honorable member good if he heard it about 60 times, for he seems to be afraid of American competition. I should be quite prepared to compete with any “ Yankee “ of my age, at any time.
Contributing factors to the unsatisfactory position in which we find ourselves to-day are the coastal sections of the Navigation Act - which, if I had the power, I should repeal to-morrow - and our arbitration court awards. The primary producers ‘of Australia provided 98 per cent, of our total exports last year, but they only did it by working long hours. In the rural areas a husband, his wife, and family work, in many cases, not 44, but 88 hours a week, and do not receive time and a half for overtime and double time for holiday and Sunday work, nor even a minimum wage of £4 4s. per week. Nevertheless, they have been able to hold their own against the producers of other countries in which sweated labour conditions prevail, and pay a substantial amount of interest on our borrowed money, as well as contribute largely to our sinking funds. Why is it that our secondary industries are not in this position ? It is because of the deliberate slowing down of the workmen and the failure of their so-called leaders to lead them. There is more chaos in the ranks of the Labour party in Australia to-da’y than ever before. The party is more disorganized than any political party in any other part of the world. One of the reasons for this is that the elected representatives, the so-called leaders of the industrialists, are afraid to speak the truth. They know very well that if they do so they will be defeated in the pre-selection ballot. Not many of them are seriously concerned about the result of the general election, for they know very well that if they can survive the pre-selection ballot they arc very likely to be elected to Parliament. This motion has been moved for the purpose of providing election propaganda.
Only the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), among honorable members opposite, has so far had the courage to even hint that this is so. It is very well known that we are not getting more than 8s. worth of work done for every £3 that we are spending on public undertakings in Australia to-day, and we cannot continue to carry on for long under those conditions. I’ am quite prepared to go to the extent of declaring that if a thorough investigation were made into the cost of some public works at present under construction in the Federal Capital Territory, it would be found that we are getting only about 2s. worth of work for every £1 we spend.
– That is a slander ou the workers.
– It is not. It is not the fault of the workers; it is the fault of those who are controlling the workers ; their foremen, overseers, and so on, are responsible, and should bear the blame. I defy any honorable member opposite to disprove my statements in this regard. We cannot continue to pay from 20s. to 30s. per day in wages without receiving an adequate return for the expenditure. It is well known that in Canberra roads and footpaths are continually being laid down and torn up again, only to bp laid down in slightly different positions, and some of the lawns have been rooted up about three times.
– Yet the honorable member is still supporting the Government responsible for it.
– The Government is not responsible. The plain truth is that a fair thing is not being done by those who are in charge of the workers. It is of no use to blame the Government. A few days ago two or three men were dismissed from a job in Canberra, presumably for the reason that their work was unsatisfactory, and a general strike was threatened unless they were reengaged. That kind of thing is going on to-day in many places throughout Australia. I do not care a snap of ‘ the fingers from the political point of view whether .1 retain or lose my seat in this chamber; but I intend to speak the truth while I am here, and to lay bare to the public these unsavoury facts. Honorable members opposite know very well that .1 am speaking the truth. It would be hypocrisy to pretend otherwise. In my opinion it is a disgrace to the industrial workers of Australia that they cannot export their manufactures as the primary producer is able to export his products; but I feel sure that they would do the fair thing if they were wisely led by their elected representatives.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. Riley adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Ministerial Changes: Statement in “ Canberra Times.”
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn. 1 wish to refer to a paragraph which appeared in the Canberra Times this morning respecting the Ministerial changes that I announced yesterday. In outlining the changes the newspaper made certain comments, among which was the following : - ‘
The true facts of the case, however, which have been ascertained, arc that on Wednesday morning Major Marr approached the Prime Minister and told him that owing to family illness he felt he could not withstand the strain of ministerial duties, and at the same time announcing his intention of cither resigning from the Ministry or from Parliament.
The Prime Minister, it is understood, rejected the latter alternative and suggested that Major Marr might bc relieved of the Ministership of Home and Territories. Thus the compromise was effected.
There is not the slightest foundation for those statements. Major Marr has never spoken to me about any family illness or suggested that his health was such that he could not continue to carry the burden of Ministerial responsibility. The facts were as I stated them to the House yesterday. . Major Marr became Minister for Home and Territories when Si Neville Howse, one of the senior members of the Ministry, who had held the portfolio of Defence for two years, was compelled, owing to ill-health, to relinquish that office. Honorable members have noted with much pleasure that Sir Neville has made a splendid recovery from his serious illness of last year, and is now completely restored to health. In fact, he is in better health than he has enjoyed since he first became associated with us in this Parliament. The Government was placed in a rather invidious position. One of its senior Ministers, who had held full cabinet rank for two years and had laid down his duties only on account of serious ill-health, was now without full cabinet rank, although completely restored, to health. Major Marr had administered the Department of Home and Territories for a period of twelve months with great credit to himself and to the full satisfaction of the Government. But it was felt that, in the circumstances, it would be wise for Sir Neville Howse to resume his position as a Minister with portfolio, and at my invitation he agreed to do so and to take over the Department of Home and Territories. Major Marr, who has behaved in a most generous and sporting manner over the matter, entirely concurred in the decision of the Government. In the circumstances, it is extremely unfortunate that newspaper paragraphs of the character to which I have referred, which completely misrepresent the situation, should be published. There was not the slightest justification for this paragraph.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280224_reps_10_117/>.