10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 29thFebruary (vide page 3469) on motion by Mr. Charlton -
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.
.- When the House adjourned last night I was discussing migration and particularly the influx of Europeans. The majority of foreign migrants to Australia in recent years have been Italians, and I sought last night dispassionately and impartially to do justice to those migrants and to defend them against the extravagant charges that have been made from time to time in the press by politicians and other public men, mainly for political propaganda purposes. I pointed out that in 1926 approximately 3,000 Italians entered the Commonwealth, and I proved conclusively that that influx was not a menace to the predominance of British character in our population. Immigration at the existing rate cannot change the character of our population. My reasons for choosing the year 1926 was because at that time the Labour party was in power in five of the six stales of the Commonwealth. How did those foreigners come to Australia? The suggestion has been made on many occasions that some secret arrangement exists between our Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and Signor Mussolini, the dictator of
Italy.That suggestion is fatuous to a degree and worthy of the source from which it emanates. The conditions under which Italians are able to enter the Commonwealth are, or should be, known to every honorable member, but in order to refute the charge that the Government is actively importing foreigners, and to educate those of the public who might be misled by statements of this kind, ‘ I shall briefly relate the facts. To any one who has studied thesubject it is clear that the migration of Italians is a ‘ world-wide movement. While immigration to theUnited States of America was more or less unrestricted, Italians flocked into that country at the rate of hundreds of thousands a year. The migratory impulse in them was so strong, largely because of the economic conditions in their homeland, that when the application of the quota practically closed the doors of America to them they sought other fields in which to settle and labour, and naturally began to give increased attention to Australia. In my electorate are many Italians, and it is a remarkable fact that for some obscure reason this race has shown a predilection ‘ for the sugar industry in all parts of the world. Men from Italy are to be found working in large numbers in Kenya Colony, Damaraland, Manilla, and other parts of the Philippine Islands, and Cuba. Those who are in Australia came of their own volition and complied with the requirements of our immigration law. The majority were fired with the ambition to become landed proprietors, and being hard working, frugal, and thrifty, a very large percentage of them realized, that aspiration. The others continue as labourers in the sugar fields, but it is significent that they are welcomed into the ranks of the Australian Workers’ Union, and that the Labour Government in Queensland’ has never exercised its power to prevent these foreigners from gaining a livelihood in this industry. On the Queensland statute-book Is “ an Act to prohibit the employment of certain forms of labour in the production of sugar . and for other incidental purposes “ and for the information of honorable members I quote from it the following provisions : -
The expression “ Certificate of having passed the dictation test,” means a certificate under the hand of a State officer, authorized for that purpose by the Secretary for Agriculture, that, when the said officer has dictated to the person concerned not less than , 50 words in such language as the Secretary for Agriculture may direct, such person has correctly written them out in that language in the presence of the said officer.
The expression “ Occupier “ includes owner in fee simple or for any less estate and lessee for life or for any term of years or at will, and whether on the share system, or otherwise, and any occupier under any form of tenancy or agreement whatever, whether express or implied, with the owner of the land.
The expressions “Employer” and “Employee “ have the same meanings as arc respectively assigned to them by “ The Industrial Peace Act of 1912.”
After the passing of this act, it shall be unlawful for any person whohas not first obtained in the prescribed manner a certificate of having passed the dictation test to engage in or carry on the cultivation of sugar-cane upon any land within Queensland of which such person, whether individually or in partnership or association with others, is the occupier.
Any such person who acts in contravention of this section shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds, and the crop of sugar-cane so being cultivated shall be liable to be forfeited to His Majesty by order of the Court before which the offence is proved.
After the passing oi this act-
The Queensland Labour Government has the power to restrict and even to prohibit foreigners of any nationality from occupying land in Queensland for the cultivation of sugar; but it has not used it. From time to time it has stated for pro paganda purposes by members . -of the Opposition that, the sugar industry of Queensland is passing into the hands of Italians, and that this is against the best interests of the” people whom it pretends to represent and for whose welfare we are told it has the highest regard. If that is so why does the Queensland Labour party not use the power which it has to prevent such an alleged calamity? Members’ of the Australian Workers
Union have also frequently asserted that Italians are a menace to the advancement of Australian industry; but the Queensland Government, which relies upon the Australian Workers’ Union for its existence, has never sought toprevent or limit the influx of Italians into the Queensland sugar areas or their acquirement of sugar growing properties. There is a good deal of humbug and hypocrisy in the efforts that are being made to saddle the Commonwealth Government with responsibility for the influx of foreigners into Australia. The statement that these people are a pressing and urgent menace to our economic welfare is neither more nor less than a myth which carries the approval of the Australian Workers’ Union, and is encouraged and fostered by State Labour Governments in an insane desire to saddle the Commonwealth Government with a responsibility that in the light of facts it cannot be expected to accept.
I wish now to discuss a little further and briefly the subject of British migration to Australia. In 1926 the Commonwealth received 37,000 British migrants. But did this Government do any canvassing to obtain them? Every honorable member knows very well that it did nothing of the kind, for 98 per cent, of them were nominated by persons already in Australia, or were assisted to come here by some authority other than the Commonwealth Government. Honorable members opposite would have acted more honestly had they made this clear in the course of their speeches. Every one who has any knowledge of the subject is aware that the States are responsible for the requisitioning of nominated and assisted migrants. Labour Governments, which controlled the affairs of five out of the six States during the year of which I have been speaking, must bear the responsibility of having brought the migrants here.’ It is well that statements of this kind should be made . in reply to the loose and childish charges respecting migration which honorable members, opposite frequently lay at . the door of this Government.
I believe in preference to British migrants, just as I believe in preference to returned, soldiers, and for that reason 1 am glad that the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement with the British Government for the expenditure of £34,000,000 over a period of years on the development of Australia, with the object of encouraging British migration to our shores. No one could honestly say, after studying the record of this Government, that it has not made a genuine and generous endeavour to increase our population from British stock.
Sneers have been cast at the Government because it has appointed a number of commissions, and, particularly the Development and Migration Commission, to investigate various problems of development which await solution in Australia; but for my part I agree with its policy in this regard. It has happened too often in our political history that illconceived and half-baked developmental schemes have been put into operation, only to stand as many do today, as colossal monuments to the stupidity of those who initiated them. No government nor statesman in Australia has a sufficiently wide knowledge of our conditions to undertake, without expert assistance, the solution of the many problems which face us here. In . ray opinion the Government has shown sagacity and prudence in appointing commissions composed of experts to make inquiries into these matters. Though honorable members opposite consider such action an extravagant waste of public money, I believe that the adoption of the policy will prevent us from adding to the already large number of monuments that we have to the insane desire of certain persons to gain political capital by involving the country in what are really, though sometimes not apparently, ill-considered national undertakings. The Burnett River scheme in Queensland should, in my opinion, have been thoroughly investigated before it was emburked upon ; but it was hurriedly undertaken without proper consideration, and success is therefore not likely to result from it, though possibly it might have been profitably conducted. Because the Development and Migration Commission, which the Commonwealth Government appointed to advise it in allocating the money available under the migration agreement, has not seen fit to approve of that scheme, it has been roundly abused in certain quarters. This is not as it should be. I shall be quite ready to justify on the public platforms of this country the action of the Government in appointing commissions of this character.
The subject of tariff protection for our industries has been discussed at some length during this debate. I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) upon the success of his administration of his difficult department. I believe that every fair-minded member on this side of the chamber, or the other, will agree with me that the Minister has discharged his onerous duties with marked credit to himself and with advantage to the country. He has taken every possible step to make himself cognizant of the requirements of our industries, and is undoubtedly imbued with the desire to stimulate both primary and secondary development here. On various occasions when tariff schedules have been under our consideration, honorable members opposite have been most fulsome in adulations of his administration. This has been so particularly when they have been desirous of gaining favour with certain interests in their constituencies. As suggested, by the honorable member for Hume (Mr.. Parker Moloney) there are honorable members on both sides of the House who differ in their fiscal views. There are those who believe in freetrade, others who subscribe to one form of protection or another, and some who would go so far as to advocate a complete embargo on the importation of foreign goods. Personally I support the Government’s protective policy. Although I admire the constancy of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) he is, as I have said before, out of date, and like the platypus an interesting link with the past. The honorable member, however, is consistent. I have always explained my position on fiscal .questions without doubt or ambiguity, lt is, imperative, that, so far as is possible, we should produce in this country everything which we need to meet our requirements in every sphere of activity. I have gone further and said that we should produce the necessaries of life, which are at present coming from foreign countries, particularly from Oriental countries, where work is done under sweated labour conditions; that we should do this., even if it were necessary to impose an embargo on the importation of such commodities. In such cases there should be no objection to the Government imposing an almost prohibitive tariff to encourage local production. Although such a policy . is freely criticized by the freetrader, it is essential to the progress and welfare of the people of Australia. The Prime Minister recently announced the renewal of the sugar agreement for a further period of three years. This has met with bitter and open hostility from certain individuals who are illinformed concerning the possibilities of the Australian sugar industry. Such persons have never troubled to investigate the subject of sugar production in all its ramifications, and do not know that within the next two years Great Britain will be in the chains of economic bondage to the ring which controls the sugar markets of the world. . This will lead to starvation prices, which will not be exceeded by those which were charged in Great Britain during the war when Britain was tied to the European beet producers. It is wise, ‘ therefore, to give our sugar industry an opportunity to expand and to supply the Empire with a commodity which is vital to its existence.
-The . honorable member must not forget peanuts.
Dr.NOTT.- The honorable member for Swan should advocate the production of peanuts in “Western Australia. If he did that he would, I am sure, receive the thanks of the people in that State. We are a primary producing nation, and up to the present have not been able to develop our secondary industries owing to various factors with which I shall deal in a few moments. Our primary industries provide a wide field for employment at lucrative rates during certain periods of the year ; but unfortunately when the harvest is over there is a considerable amount of unemployment, and in the secondary industries employment is largely dependent upon an effective protective tariff. That has been mentioned by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The present unemployment difficulty is, as has been admitted by every one who has considered the subject, due to the fact that our secondary industries are not developing at a rate sufficiently rapid to absorb the unemployed during slack periods in primary production.
We have had an enormous amount of “ sob stuff “ from honorable members opposite about unemployment. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) in referring to the subject - he has been responsible for more- unemployment in Queensland than any one else - tried to convince the House that the Prime Minister said that there was practically no unemployment in Australia. The Prime Mininter did not say anything of the kind, and the honorable member for Dalley. knows it. The right honorable gentleman gave certain figures, which were verified by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) before- he resumed his seat. I can say without fear of contradiction that one of the greatest contributing factors to the unemployment which we have in our midst to-day is. the financial. orgies of certain Labour governments in the various States which have gone in for an unprecedented squandering of public money. I shall quote the honorable member for Dalley, because he has a certain reputation in. Queensland for saying wise things, and an unfortunate notoriety for doing foolish” things. The honorable member said on one occasion that they had imposed taxation practically to the limit in ‘ Queensland, and that he would combat the introduction . of a 44-hour week, which to his credit, he did. He fought the principle to the last ditch; but subsequently he had to accept the principle as one that would bring about the millenium in industrial affairs. After eight years of maladministration by Labour governments of which he was the head, or a leading Minister, taxation had been imposed to, the limit ! Would any one invest money or establish new industries in a State where taxation has reached saturation point? We cannot in such circumstances expect persons to erect factories, establish industries, and thus provide avenues of employment. During his dissertation on unemployment the honorable member pitched a harrowing tale, and gave to the House a series of explanations why men were unemployed. He should know-: he is a specialist in the causation of unemployment, as his record in Queensland indicates. I was particularly gratified to hear him say at this period of his political career that he thinks that men who are not members of a union have the same right to a living as have unionists. That is one of the wise things the honorable member sometimes says. I hope that when put to the test he will not as usual swallow his words concerning those who are outside the pale of unionism; but will see to it that they have an opportunity to earn a living at all times. At this critical time, when «election ballots are taking place, honorable members opposite do not like to hear one of their own party advocating that the non-unionist should have the same right to earn his living and daily bread as has the unionist. I, for one, congratulate the honorable member for Dalley on his sane attitude. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) gave pertinent instances of the victimization of non-unionists - on these examples I need not dilate. “We have heard from honorable members opposite - a great deal about the failure of this Government to develop industry, yet the honorable member for Dalley is so keen to foster development in Australia and to find employment for our workers that he has gone out of his way to become a director of an American firm which is importing goods into this country. We have heard much about the pernicious influence which is being exerted by certain interests in. Flinders-lane on this Government, whose policy, the Labour party contends, has been detrimental to the best interests of the workers.- Yet the honorable member for Dalley has become a director of an American firm importing into Australia a considerable amount of material that is competing with the soft timbers of Queensland, for the protection of which this Parliament recently increased the tariff.
– To what firm is the honorable member referring?
– The Celotex Company.
– -I wish to -correct a misstatement that has been made by the honorable member for -Herbert I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and- the honorable- member, also, that I am not and never have been a director of the Celotex Company.
– This is not a point of order; but the honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation. That is usually done at the close of the speech, though sometimes it is allowed at the time the statement is made. However, I ain sure that, as he has given his assurance that he is not a director of the Celotex Company, it’ will be accepted by the honorable member for Herbert.
– I willingly accept the assurance given by the honorable member for Dalley. By way of explanation, I should like to say that about three weeks ago, when in Sydney in company wilh the Director of the Queensland Intelligence Bureau and Other gentlemen, I met the secretary of the Celotex Company, and he definitely told me that Mr. Theodore and Mr. William Morris Hughes were directors of the company.
– Does not the honorable member accept my statement?
– Then why repeat a misstatement ?
– I merely wish to indicate to the honorable member that the information came to me from what I took to be a reliable source. I have with me an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald containing a statement by the honorable member for Dalley, which, as far as I know, has not yet been denied. In it he gives great credit to this Government for assisting in the development of Australia. The extract relates to the Roma Oil Corporation, and reads-
Mr. E. Gr. Theodore, M.P., a director, who seconded the motion for the adoption of the report, said that the Commonwealth had recommended against the utilising of the bore for gas production, since damage might be done to the producing qualities of the dome if the gas was drawn upon. The Government’s advice was to carry out further prospecting and drilling,, at different sites and greater depths. The fact that the oil was so fine showed that it had’ passed through some strata from a not far distant pool, and the oil was probably present in commercial quantities. “ I believe that the discovery of mineral oil incommercial, quantities,” said Mr. Theodore. “ will be the greatest single factor that’ could, be thought of in the” economic development of the Commonwealth.”
I have no wish to unduly prolong the debate, but I must refer to the red herring that the honorable member for Reid has dragged across the trail by discussing during this debate the building of two Australian cruisers in Great Britain. The honorable member delved into history in a futile endeavour to explain what the Government should .do to foster industry. Honorable members opposite have contended, again and again, that the building of the two cruisers abroad has meant a great loss to the workers of Australia. If we search the records of Queensland during the administration of the honorable member for Dalley, we find that the honorable gentleman went abroad to obtain steel bridges, and that on other occasions machinery and locomotives were purchased abroad. The Balmain Federation of Boiler and Locomotive Makers passed a motion of protest against the action of the Queensland Government in placing orders for locomotives outside the Commonwealth, at a time when there was great unemployment in Queensland.
I strenuously oppose the censure motion. It deals mainly with immigration, the protective policy of the Government, and unemployment. Unfortunately for the Opposition, the people of Australia fully recognize that this Government is doing its best to give relief to the people, and to develop Australia along right lines. As an earnest of that, let me refer to the conference which is being convened by the Prime Minister in an endeavour to bring about industrial peace. I regret that, although among the Opposition, and in the circles of Labour generally there is a feeling that the conference should take place, it is possible that the paid agitator will bring his baneful influence to bear upon Labour members to prevent the holding of the conference. I hope that wise counsels will prevail, and that in the interests of the development and prosperity of Australia the conference will be held. If the delegates attending it confer in an atmosphere of good-will and fellowship, and with a desire to achieve the object in view, we shall go a long way towards overcoming those obstacles which,, surrounded and shrouded by misunderstanding and suspicion in the past, have provoked bitterness and strife among capital and labour, and employer and employee, with the dislocation of industry to the detriment of Australia as a whole.
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the motion of censure submitted by the Leader of the Opposition -
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.
I was rather amazed at the speech of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott). His vain effort to blame the Queensland Labour Government for the influx of Italians into that State was ludicrous. He referred to a measure on the statute-book of Queensland, entituled the Sugar Cultivation Act, which he knows quite well was introduced in accordance with a request of the Fisher Federal Government, that, when the Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts were repealed, the State Government should pass legislation to prohibit the employment . of coloured labour in the cane-fields of Queensland. The honorable member is well aware that it was not intended that the act should apply to a white race like the Italians. He also knows that if the Queensland Government applied the provisions of the Sugar Cultivation Act, which was intended to exclude coloured races to the Italians who came in with the approval of the Commonwealth Government, the Bruce-Page Ministry would be the first to protest. It would say that the State Government was acting unfairly, and was creating an international embarrassment that would probably lead to most serious trouble. The honorable member for Herbert knows better than anybody else that that is what would happen. If the Queensland Government applied the dictation test to the Italians coming in, he would probably be one of the first to object, and would ask the Federal Government to intervene. The honorable member also said that the Australian Workers’ Union in Queensland accepts Italians as members. Naturally, when, the Italians find employment in the canefields, the union has no option but to admit them to membership.
– It must do that, as a matter of self-preservation.
– Obviously; otherwise a large number of men’ would be employed in the industry for less than the award rate, and the Australian Workers’ Union would be de-registered if it did not’ admit them. Preference is granted to the members of the union in the sugar industry of Queensland, and what standing would the union have if it refused membership to the Italians employed in the canefields? I know Italians who are good members of the’ union, and abide by its rules. If the union refused to accept them it would create a big industrial crisis, because there would probably be a cessation of work in the sugar fields, and resultant loss to thousands of growers in the honorable member’s electorate.
– The unions could not please honorable members opposite, whatever they did.
– Of course not. The honorable member knows well that the only Government that could intervene to restrict the flow of Italian migrants is the Commonwealth Government. The State Ministries are not consulted with regard to the Italians coming to Australia. These men arrive by boat loads. Over 9,000 Italians entered the country in 1927, and they came with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. The Labour party is not opposed to the Italians as a race. We admit that they make good settlers,, and are useful workers. I recognize, too, that they are white men, and that their country is noted for its art, science and learning. Many of them have done good pioneering work in Queensland; but we say that it is unfair to them, and doubly unfair to the Australian workers who are pushed out of employment, when thousands of these unfortunate individuals, unfamiliar with our language and our local conditions, and without friends, are dumped down in Australia, and forced to live on the ration dole unless they succeed in pushing an Australian out of employment. Certain honorable members opposite have a definite object in view in seeking to encourage the migration of Italians who do not understand our arbitration laws and industrial conditions. These members hope to induce them to work for less than the award rate, and thus break down the conditions of employment operating in Australia.
– We know that they do that.
– Yes. Every Australian should stand for preference to Australian workers. Unfortunately, there are certain employers who prefer to engage foreigners. I was told recently that in the Childers district numerous gangs of Southern Europeans had taken the place of good Australian workmen who had their homes in the neighbourhood of Childers and Bundaberg, and had spent their earnings in the district. The blame for all that must lie at the door pf the Commonwealth Government. When we protest against these things we are not taking exception to, the Italians as a race. We object to an indiscriminate flow of migrants from any country, if no provision is made to absorb them.
– Why call it indiscriminate migration, in view of the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the Italian Government?
– There is no arrangement. We are told that certain representations have been made to the Italian authorities. Our first duty, however, is to our own people, and to their relatives in Great Britain, who would make good Australians. The encouragement of an indiscriminate flow of migrants from Southern Europe, without provision being made to absorb them as settlers on the land, or in useful industries, is calculated to bring about discontent, bitterness, and probably industrial upheavals. If they could be absorbed I would welcome them. The honorable member for Herbert evidently thinks that he personally was responsible for winning the seat he holds in this House, and on every occasion he tries to besmirch the name of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore).
– He thinks that he has a mission.
– Apparently so. If he had better taste he would realize that his attitude is a paltry one, and the winning of the seat was due to the misrepresentation practised by the Nationalist party at the last election.
– Inchcape won it.
– Yes, and the misrepresentations in connexion with the seamen’s strike. A definite pledge was made by the Leader of the Government that if he were returned to power he would deport Walsh and Johnson. The Government and its supporters depicted those men as outrageous individuals, as bolsheviks of the wildest type.
– Then they were compensated.
– After the election, instead of being deported they were compensated for the inconvenience they had suffered because of their detention.
– The Government will not allow Jock Garden to leave Australia.
– That is so. At every opportunity they roundly condemn him ; but when’ he evinced a desire’ to visit China they would not grant him the necessary permission. They were afraid he might stay there and are keeping him handy for the next election, to hold him up as a bogey man, because they fear that. Walsh and Johnson may not then be in the picture. I feel sure that greater alacrity is not shown in the payment of any bill than was displayed by the Government in- connexion with the compensation of Walsh and Johnson for the inconvenience to which they were put so that a political “ stunt “ could be worked on the eve of the last election. It is no wonder that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) described the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as “ the tragic Treasurer.” This and similar bogies were the deciding factor in the victory of the Nationalist party in the electorate of Herbert. The seat was not won from Labour, because Nationalism had held it for eleven years. If we were to accept the statements of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) we should conclude that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) had ruined Queensland, and had been responsible for an unpredecented amount of unemployment during his leadership of the Government of that State.
– Many persons consider that he did.
– The honorable member for Warringah was paid £1,000 a year to make statements of that character.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion.
– We are dealing with the very important subject of unemployment. The honorable member for Herbert has endeavoured to lay the blame on the shoulders of the honorable member for Dalley, when the real culprit is the present Federal Government.
– The honorable member for Herbert is quite in order in attacking the honorable member for Dalley, but another honorable member is not in order in defending him!
– I do not want the Queensland Government to be blamed for any unemployment that may exist in that State, when Lt. has been caused in Australia to a much greater extent by the acts of omission and commission of this Government, its failure to protect Australian industries, and the absence of a constructive policy in relation to primary industries. The honorable member for Herbert alleged that the honorable member for Dalley, during his regime as Premier of Queensland, had caused that that State to retrogress. I point out that, instead of retrogressing during the ten years in which the honorable member for Dalley took a leading part in the Government of Queensland, the annual wealth production of that State increased from £51,000,000 to £85,000,000, and the output of manufactures increased from £25,000,000 to £38,000,000, while the other increases were as follow: -
Farm products from £6,700,000 to £12,200,000.
Dairy products from £3,899,000 to £6,678,000.
Pastoral industry from £18,800,000 to £22,000,000 (value).
Savings Bank deposits from £10,000,000 to £21,500,000.
Population from670,000 to 850,000 persons.
There was less unemployment when the honorable member for Dalley vacated office than there had been in. any previous period in the history of Queensland. The workers, instead of being unemployed, were much better off financially. They banked their savings Avith such regularity that the deposits per head of population in the savings banks increased from £14 19s. 6d. to £24 19s.1d., and the assets of those banks increased from £25,000,000 to £59,900,000. Moreover, the gentleman who is now the honorable member for Dalley was the only Australian premier who introduced an unemployment insurance scheme under which workers who became unemployed receive a weekly payment, not by way of charity, but as a right. When this Government went on the hustings in the last Federal election campaign they deplored the existence of unemployment, and shed crocodile tears over the plight of the unemployed worker and his starving wife and children. They then promised that they would legislate for national insurance including a comprehensive unemployment- insurance scheme. What have they done? Nothing. Why? Because any legislation in that directionwould . strike a blow, at the profits of the Avealthy private insurance companies in Australia, who are the principal contributors to the fighting fund of the spurious political combination which occupies the benches opposite. I refer not to individuals, but to parties. If the honorable member for Herbert Avere to speak truly he would say that the honorable member for Dalley gave a lead to the rest of Australia when he secured the passage of humanitarian legislation designed to alleviate the distress that existed in the community; that he was responsible for bold statesmanlike schemes such as the great Northern Burnett irrigation scheme in my electorate. That is one of the finest schemes of its kind in Australia. It embraces an area of 4,000,000 acres, and received the unequivocal recommendation of’ the honorable member for Henty Avhen that gentleman was Commonwealth Director of Migration. He was assisted by some of the mostcapable land experts in Australia, and had at his command all the data in the possession of the government departments of Queensland. Accompanied by experts he traversed the whole of the country involved, ‘and recommended to the then Nationalist Common- wealth Government that the money necessary to inaugurate the scheme should be made available. That government turned down the recommendation because the proposal had emanated from a Labour Premier, Mr. Theodore, The Labour government borrowed money abroad, and the work is being carried out. I have a very great respect for the honorable member for Henty because of the action which he then took. Because the Government would not accept his recommendation he resigned a position which carried with it a salary of £2,000 per annum. He recognized that a large number of persons would be attracted from the cities and, together with many newcomers to Australia, would obtain useful employment. The other day I had a conversation with a man Avho came from the Northern Burnett district. He informed me that the farmers there are among the most ‘ prosperous in Queensland to-day. The area in question is eminently suited to maize and cotton growing . and dairying operations. As a result of . the scheme three railway lines are nearing completion at Monto. They converge at that centre, which is in the heart of this great area. Thousands of men are making a good living Avhere formerly only a few wealthy pastoralists held land. As can be readily imagined, some of them, fought the scheme bitterly, and. supported the Nationalist party with the object of defeating the scheme. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr.
Nott) put an entirely different complexion on the matter, but I have stated the facts. If I harbour one grievance more than another against this Government it relates to its dilly-dallying policy over the Northern Burnett scheme. Mr. Gepp has had the scheme in hand for some considerable time, but up to the present no finality has been reached. There has been too much delay; and it is imperative , that this Government should arrive at an early decision and provide the necessary loan money in order that the scheme may be carried to fruition. It must be completed and a dam built across the Dawson river so that the necessary 1,250,000 acre feet of water may be conserved to supply the irrigable land in the neighbourhood which, unfortunately, is subject to periodical droughts.
I shall probably be asked to state what I would do to create employment. First I would grant an increased tariff to protect our languishing secondary industries. That tariff would be an effective one, and not just high enough to allow imports to come into Australia in increasing quantities; it would be sufficiently high to keep out of Australia those articles that can economically be made here. If I were Prime Minister I should endeavour to induce the British Government to grant a greater degree of tariff protection towards Australian products, particularly sugar, wine, and dried fruits. I should also send to New Zealand a responsible Minister to negotiate with the Government of that country with a view to establishing a tariff preference for Australian sugar, instead of their getting all their requirements from black labour Fiji. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will deal with that subject when he arrives in New Zealand. Honorable members opposite talk a good deal about this phase of tariff preference, but they have done nothing ‘to induce the New Zealand government to :grant a measure of preference to Australian sugar. I believe that the Premier of New Zealand (Mr. Coates) is a sufficiently “ big “ statesman to take, according to his own words, “ An Empire view “ of the matter, and arrange for the purchase from Australia of at least 100,000 tons of sugar yearly. That would give considerable stability to one of the greatest employ ing. industries in Australia, which affords employment to 25,000 Australians, 4,000 or 5,000 of whom travel yearly from the Southern States to the sugar-fields of Queensland, and assist to create for the manufacturer in Sydney and Melbourne that most advantageous market, the home market. I should also take steps to build a national railway from the Northern Territory, across the Barkly Tableland, connecting up the three east- west railway systems in Queensland, and linking up with Bourke in New South Wales.
– Is not the linking up of those three railway systems a task for the Queensland Government ?
– As it is a national work, providing an outlet for the Northern Territory, it is primarily a Commonwealth job. It would establish communication between the Northern Territory and the big centres of population. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), who takes a keen interest in the Northern Territory, must admit that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to convene a conference representing the Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Commonwealth in order to decide upon the conditions under which this great national railway should be built.
– I consider that the Commonwealth Government should control all our railways.
– I am glad to hear the views of the honorable member, but such a scheme is impossible when we have a Treasurer who advocates the selling of our shipping line, and would probably, if the Commonwealth owed all the railways, advocate the selling of them, too. The honorable gentleman would sell these public utilities to some of his big business friends, whose influence drove the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) out of the Federal Ministry, simply because he was an active representative of the primary producers, and would not bend his knee at the dictate of the National Union.
This Government should institute and develop a national forestry policy by establishing a Commonwealth’ Forestry Department with control over all forests in Federal Territory, to stimulate and co-operate with State forestry departments. This Government should subsidize the’ State Forestry Departments in order that additional areas of Australia might . be planted annually, the subsidies to be taken out of the £1,196,000 which is collected annually from the duties on imported timber. That scheme would give employment to many thousands.
The Commonwealth Government should also give effect to the desire of the Australian dairy-farmers that a stabilization scheme should be established in connexion with the marketing of dairy produce, based on the cost of production, the farmer to receive the cost of production plus a reasonable amount for the work he, his wife and family perform, and plus a reasonable return on. the capital invested. No one could cavil at that scheme. Other important matters needing attention are the establishment of a comprehensive national insurance scheme, embracing insurance against sickness, accident and unemployment, and a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool for Australia. Further legislation should be introduced to provide for a scheme of childhood endowment.-. Those matters have been side-stepped by this Government, principally because their inauguration might jeopardize the profits of the wealthy combinations that supply the bulk of the fighting funds of the Nationalist party.
In the course of his speech the Minister for Trade and Customs claimed that much had been done by the Commonwealth Government to assist the Australian cotton industry. 1 admit that the industry has been afforded a measure of help by this Government, but not so much as would have been given had this party been in power, as the Labour party was pledged to a bounty of 2d. per lb. by a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. I endeavoured to induce the Commonwealth Government to grant a bounty of 2d. per lb. for ten years, or, failing that, at least for a period of five years. Instead of complying with my suggestion, the Government granted a bounty of lid. per lb. for five years. The only support I got was from honorable members on this side of the House. That bounty of 2d. per lb. could have been paid, and still the annual expenditure would have been well within the limit of appropriation for the year. The appropriation was £120,000, and the bounty paid last year was only in the vicinity of £15,000, while a bounty at the rate of 2d. per lb. would have cost only £20,000. The cotton-growing industry is an important one, and I am vitally interested in it, because there is more cotton grown in my electorate than in any other electorate in Australia. The cotton-spinning mills are having a bad time, and the grower consequently feels the pinch because the best market for his product is the home market. Many of these mills are not operating at all, or are doing so only to a limited extent, because they cannot compete with imported yarn. Such yarn can be landed here from England for ½d. per lb. less than similar material can be produced in Australia; while from America it can be landed for lcl. per lb. less. Another matter which the Minister should take into consideration is that there is no bounty paid on cotton used in percentage yarn, tl] at is, yarn containing both wool and cotton. The higher grades of cotton are used in the manufacture of this yarn. The imported percentage is sold here at a lower price than the Australian yarn. The result is that the local cotton-spinning mills are working half time, or are standing idle, and are not able to buy the raw cotton produced in Queensland. Then take tariff item No. 105. The 6-oz. minimum on cotton tweeds is being defeated by the J apanese, who are exporting to this country cotton tweeds weighing 5f oz. to 5£ oz. a yard. In December last, when the tariff schedule was before the House, 1 strongly urged that the proposed increase of duty on cotton piece goods and socks and stockings should be made operative at once. It was the intention of the Government to make it operative from the 1st July of this year. Eventually the Minister agreed to have the duties brought into force in January, but the importing friends of the Government got busy in the meantime, and imported large quantities of yarn, with the result that the Australian cotton-spinners have not used up the raw cotton bought from Queensland last season, and they say that they will not be able to buy any more cotton from that, State for the coming season. In December last I quoted figures dealing with the importation of cotton fabrics from Japan, and I asked the Government whether it stood for the importation of goods from a country which worked- long hours for 17s. a week, when such goods were the means of throwing Australian workmen out of employment. The importations from Japan were as follows : -
The result of this has been that the Australian manufacturer is being knocked out. So much of these cotton fabrics have been imported into Australia that the cotton-spinning mills here are practically idle, and the Queensland cottongrowing industry is threatened with extinction if something is not done by the Government. It is no excuse to say that we have already dealt with the tariff. Has not this Parliament power to re-consider the question. It is for the Government to bring this matter before Parliament again, and to propose the necessary relief to the industry. In the Labour Review of the United States of America of November, 1926, there is a paragraph reading as follows : -
In Japan since 1923 the legal limit for factory hours has been eleven a day (without a weekly limit). The legal age for beginning work up to the present year was twelve. . . . In practice children of both sexes go to work as soon as any employer is willing ito take them. Average wages are 19s. 3d. a week for male adults, and 12s. Od. a week for female adults.
That is what the Australian manufacturer is being asked to compete against. It is absolutely impossible to compete, and it is quite clear that the measure of protection given by the Government is not sufficient. This protection should be increased to enable the Australian manufacturer to go on producing yarn and buying the raw cotton from the growers in Queensland. Last year the Australian cotton crop amounted to 4,S24 bales, and was sold by the Cotton Pool Board to the Australian manufacturers. The. chief purchasers were G. A. Bond and Company, 2,038 bales, the Australian Silk and Cotton Mills, 1,873 bales, and Vicars and Company, 727 bales. Because of this local market the growers obtained a better price for their product, which realized. 5d. per lb. for seed cotton. If the cotton had been exported to Liverpool the growers would have been 2£d. per lb. worse off. That is why they advocate a higher duty on imported cotton fabrics in order to keep the product of alien coloured labour out of the country. Shortly after entering into contracts for the last season’s crop, the Australian manufacturers found that they were unable to dispose of the manufactured goods and yarn at satisfactory, prices, owing to the large importations of foreign goods from abroad. I appeal to the Government to do something, and to cease this lip-loyalty to the cause of protection. I know it is difficult for a man like the Minister for Trade and Customs, but as the Government was returned on a protectionist policy it ought to give effect to that policy. I give the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) great credit for the freetrade influence he wields, although he is not in the Ministry. I have been over in his electorate, where he makes certain promises to his constituents regarding tariff rates, and I -have no doubt that he plays an important part in keeping down the duties.
– The honorable member is mistaken in saying that the members of the Cabinet come here pledged to a protectionist policy. Half of them are not pledged to any such policY.
– That is so. In Queensland every candidate supporting the Government described himself as a protectionist, whereas in “Western Australia every Government candidate was pledged to a reduction of the tariff. In Victoria a “ shandy gaff “ policy was supported. To the credit of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) it must be said that he is consistent. Like the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) he would wipe out the sugar embargo and abolish the Arbitration Court to-morrow.
– I should like the honorable member to show, if he can, how Australia has profited by its protectionist policy.
– “With half the members of the Cabinet in favour of freetrade, and the remainder supporting what they term a “reasonable protectionist policy,” the sugar industry of Queensland would be in jeopardy if it were not for the unanimous vote on this side of the House in favour of the embargo. There is no certainty that the Government will not at any time declare itself to be in favour of partial freetrade. Members of the Labour party are united in their belief that, in the interests of Australia, and in order to keep out sugar grown by black labour, the embargo on imported sugar should be continued. While I am a firm believer in Empire preference, I do not believe in granting to Great Britain preference to the extent of £10,000,000 per annum and receiving in return preference worth only £500,000. Sugar entering England from foreign countries pays a duty of £11 13s. 4d. per ton. As the preference to Empire grown sugar is £4 5s. 7d. per ton, Australian grown sugar sold in England must pay a duty of £7 7s. 9d. per ton. In my opinion a proper system of Empire preference would admit Australian sugar into England free. That would make it possible for a large number of British migrants to be employed in growing sugar in the rich coastal districts of Queensland, where they could make a better living than could be made on some of the poorer country in other portions of Australia. I trust that, as a result of his visit to Australia, Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, will induce the British Government to wipe out the duty now imposed on Australian sugar entering England. That could be done without increasing the price of sugar to the British consumer.
– That would be real Empire preference.
– It would confer a real benefit on Australia, because it would mean an extra £2,000,000 per annum to the Australian sugar industry and provide additional employment in this country. Sugar to the value of £27,000,000 is imported annually into England from foreign countries, whereas the value of the sugar imported from within the Empire is only £6,000,000 per annum.
– Sugar sufficient to meet England’s requirements could, be grown in Queensland.
– That is so. A proper system of Empire preference would enable our sugar industry to maintain a much greater population. I hope that some of the emissaries from Great Britain like Sir Robert Home, whose ability and interest in the Empire - are beyond question, will do what they can to induce the British Ministry to grant a real measure of Empire preference. Such a policy would solve Australia’s problem of an over-production of sugar, and be of incalculable benefit to the Australian sugargrowers, and consequently to. Australia as a nation.
The Government should give earnest consideration to the proposal to construct a railway from the Northern Territory through Western Queensland to Bourke. During the recent drought in Queensland, 7,500,000 sheep perished. If we add to that number a natural increase of 2,500,000 sheep which also was lost, we have a loss of approximately 10,000,0.00 sheep, worth at least £10,000,000. Cattle to the number of 2,000,000 also perished in the country which would be traversed by the railway I have mentioned. Allowing for the natural increase, the total, loss of cattle would be probably nearer 3,000,000. The value of the live-stock lost during that drought in the area which would be served by the railway would pay for its construction. In considering this proposal the Government should bear in mind that within the next few years millions of acres of good pastoral land along the route of the proposed railway will revert to the Crown.
– It will not be of much value if it is covered with prickly pear.
– The prickly pear is not a menace in the area which that railway would serve. I am not suggesting, that a line should be constructed along the South Australian border, but that, it should serve Winton, Longreach, and Charleville, following the best course to Bourke. Such a line would tap some of the best pastoral land in Queensland. It is estimated that every five years Australia loses merino sheep to the value of £22,000,000 through drought. The area most affected is, unfortunately, Western Queensland. The construction of the line suggested would be justified, not only as a means of saving our valuable herds, but also as’ a means’ of defence. Economically it would be a sound proposition. The line would link the Northern Territory with the large centres- blf ‘population in the eastern coastal districts of Australia. The Prime Minister has had this matter under consideration, and I remind his colleagues* of the very favorable statement he made at Longreach, as reported in the Sydney Mail of the 10th August, 1927 -
They must be provided with facilities to move their stock in drought times into areas where drought did not prevail. The great disadvantage obtaining in Queensland to-day was that they had three great railway systems running east and west, and they were not linked up in the western part of the State by a line running north and south,’ and, if possible, running south as far as Bourke, in New South Wales. It might be advantageous to construct a line from the Federal Territory linking up the train systems of Queensland and New South Wales.
I ask him to do something practical towards giving effect to that statement, and not to allow it to go by the board as have undertakings he gave on the eve of the last election in regard to unemployment insurance, and the provision of £20,000,000 to provide cheaper houses for the people. His speech at Longreach showed that he realized the importance of that great national project, and if he will only put his words into practice he will be helping to develop the backblocks. We hear frequent lamentations regarding the tendency of people to flock from the country into the cities. This project offers a chance to the Government to do something big and statesmanlike for the development of the great rich provinces of western Queensland and New South Wales. Another important aspect of the proposed railway, and one which has an important bearing on the welfare of the people in the large centres of population, is the threatened shortage of meat. Unfortunately, owing to the great war and the Argentine’s defeat of Australia in the meat . markets of the old world, there has been serious depression in the cattle industry in Queensland. But I think that Mr. A. J. B. McMaster put the case well when he said recently, speaking on behalf of the United Graziers’ Association -
I do believe, however, that with the great increase in the Australian population the cuttle industry will soon become a paying proposition, which it has not been for a number of years.
The great majority of Australia’s cattle are in central, north and north-western Queensland, but they cannot be made available cheaply in the markets without improved means of transport. The absence of .transport facilities is one of the greatest obstacles to the development of the big spaces of Australia, and I believe that the proposed railway is justified, not only as a defence and economic factor, but also as a means of transporting hundreds of thousands of cattle from the north-west of Queensland to the southern markets. It is estimated that 80’ per cent, of our cattle are killed for local consumption ; therefore, if the Australian population were to increase by 1,500,000, we could consume all the cattle the country produces. When, however,’ the beasts have to be travelled by road from North Queensland, from six to nine months is lost in this way, and further delay occurs in restoring them to market condition. A railway would put the cattle into the market much more rapidly and in better condition.
I have a few words to say regarding the need for a policy for the man on the land. I expected that long ere this the alleged Country party would have enunciated a policy to assure to the farmer a living wage. When the party first came into being in Victoria, some years ago, its slogan was, “ A living wage for the man on the land.” Its leaders argued that the farmer had as much right as any one else to a living wage, and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who is a Minister in the present composite Government, became eloquent on this subject. Speaking as president of the Victorian Farmers’ Union on 25th September, 1917, he trounced the Nationalists, who, he said, were prostituting the word “ national “ and were political spendthrifts who were seeking to be returned to their snug billets under the flag of nationalism. He deplored the fact that the people were flocking from the country into the cities to swell the number of unemployed, and said that the farmers would have to band together in a separate party to get due recognition. To convince his farmer friends that he would not be found dead in a 40-acre paddock with the Nationalists, he said -
Personally I would be prepared to ‘go down and die fighting rather than sacrifice any of those principles, the acknowledgment and adoption of which has caused us to band together.
But did he adhere to those principles when the honorable member for
Wimmera had to step out of the Ministry because he found he was being pushed by the hand of big business to do things against his convictions? No; he smugly stepped into the position vacated by his fellow member of - the Country party and as an ex-President of the Victorian Farmers’ Union is to-day one of the leaders of the alleged Country party wing of the composite Ministry.
– The honorable member forgets that the light had been switched on by the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer did say of the Nationalists prior to entering into an alliance with them - “ We switched on the light and compelled them to drop the loot”. Apparently the Treasurer and his colleagues followed the light and shared the loot. I am not surprised that an upright man like the honorable member for Wimmera refused to be a party to the methods of the composite Ministry, and it is little wonder that the unfortunate farmers who were described by the honorable member for Echuca fis serfs, have decided that if they cannot be represented by a genuine Country party, they will support the Labour party which, they know, is free and untrammelled and will help them, even at the risk of interfering with the profits of the middlemen who support Nationalism.
After all his protestations,- we expected the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to bring forward a policy to help the dairy-farmer and the man on the land. He has always been ready to please their ears with platitudes and fulsome flattery. Speaking at Byron Bay on the 11th January, he said -
Tlie Australian Government has given the dairy farmers the machinery and the opportunity to succeed. Now what is necessary is a complete 100 per cent, co-operation of all the individual units of the industry.
– Voluntary cooperation too.
– Yes. It is futile for the Leader of the Country party to talk platitudes and to demand such an impossibility as the co-operation of 100 per cent, of those engaged in a complex and widely distributed industry. Such a thing is not possible in any industry, and much less in one so far-flung and scattered as dairying.
– It can bc ‘got only by compulsion.
– That is why I strongly supported the request of the Queensland dairymen that the Commonwealth Government should introduce legislation to stabilize the marketing of dairy produce, providing for a compulsory Commonwealth butter pool. They were told that the Government was afraid that such legislation would be unconstitutional. Did it say that when it was asked by the Inchcape combine to legislate for the deportation of Walsh and Johnson? No;’ Parliament was asked to pass the legislation and the onus of proving it unconstitutional was thrown upon somebody else. If the Government had been sincerely desirous of helping the dairyman it could have introduced the legislation asked for by them, and allowed the profiteering middleman to test it in the law courts.
– Why did not the Government at the last referendum ask for those powers, the lack of which it deplored ?
– Whilst deploring that it had not the constitutional power to do what the dairymen asked, the Government did not include a request for those powers in the last referendum on proposed amendments of the constitution.
– It refused to include them.
– When asked specifically to include a request to the people for increased power over trade and commerce it refused to do so, apparently because the big business interests behind the Government were too strong. The alleged leaders of the farmers who said that they intended to get for the man on the land a living wage have fallen down on the job; they have smugly joined forces with the Nationalists and occupy positions which yield to them £2,000 a year and perquisites. The Producers’ Review which is the official organ of the Queensland Cane Growers’ Association, the United Cane Growers’ Association of Australia, and the Queensland Cheese Makers’ Association, referring to the Treasurer’s speech at Byron Bay- said on the 15th February -
Instead of imposing that obligation on the dairymen themselves, we say it is the duty of Dr. Earle Page and his Government to. define thu moans 03’ which the dairymen of Australia should be able to carry on their calling with at least the same safeguard and Government authority as are given to other classes of the community. The plans which are now being defined to help the dairying industry eminated from men in the industry who can devote only limited time to the gaining of their objective. The Federal Government should have time and the means to define remedies for the economic ills which affect an industry on which, to use Dr. Earle Page’s words. 1,000,000 people in Australia, or one-sixth of our population are dependent.
You, Mr. Speaker, no doubt know the ability of those who control the Producers’ Review, because it is printed at Toowoomba, the centre of your elect orate, and also the centre of one of the finest dairying districts of Australia. You no doubt recognize that the editor of that review has hit the nail on the head by saying that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Treasurer to come forward and do something practical for the dairymen of Australia; that it is his duty to help them in some tangible way instead of talking platitudes, and declaring they must have 100 per cent, co-operation in their industry. I told the Treasurer, when the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill was before this House, that the favorable results he anticipated for the dairyfarmers would be negligible, and that the measure would put nothing of a substantial nature into their pockets. He said that if the measure were passed the dairyfarmers would derive substantial benefit immediately. At Byron Bay he claimed that the Dairy Produce Export Control Board had saved the farmers £120,000 in the years 1925-26-27 by negotiating with shipping and insurance companies and thus securing reductions in freights and rates. To my mind it is absolutely unreasonable to contend that the board was responsible for bringing about those reductions. They would have been made even if the board had not been in existence. But, assuming for the moment that’ the board was responsible for saving £120,000, that amount divided among 143,000 persons who are directly employed on dairy farms in Australia was only 4d. per week per individual. We were told by the Treasurer that, as a result’-:6f the passing of the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill there1 would be a substantial increase in the weekly remuneration of the dairy-farmers. But again he was talking wildly. As a matter of fact, he secured his election to this House by telling the farmers” and other electors of the Cowper division that he had only two objects in view in seeking election to this House - the uplifting of the man on the land by giving him a living wage, and the establishment of new States in Australia. He has failed to achieve either object.
We are told that the Labour party does not stand for a living wage for the farmer. That is quite incorrect. Within the last three months, speaking in this House, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, said -
If we insist upon a basic wage, and the observance of a certain standard of living for persons engaged in our secondary industries - and I stand four-square by that policy - we must also extend protection to those fengaged in other industries, whether as wageearners or producers. The people who work on dairy farms are subject to severe competition and the earnings of many of them are below the basic wage. They are entitled to have their standard of living raised, at least so far as that can be done by assuring to them a fair price on the home market.
What could be fairer? We know that the proposed stabilization scheme which the Federal Treasurer was asked to have enacted emanated from the Queensland dairy farmers. We know that Labour in the northern State has established a Queensland butter pool board, which gives the farmers control of their own industry, taking it out of the hands of middlemen and dealers in Brisbane, much to the annoyance of the Nationalist Federation. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) can bear me out when I say that members of the stabilization committee - Mr. T. Flood-Plunkett and Mr. Purcell, of Queensland, and others - are now asking the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to enact similar legislation to that passed by the Queensland Parliament. No section of the community is more deserving of assistance than the man who toils on the land from daylight to dark, and whose average weekly earnings in my district amount to approximately £2 10s. :per week less. If it were not for the fact that these men are able to grow a certain quantity of vegetables and make their own butter they could not possibly exist on their earnings.
It is they whom the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party said in this House we must have the courage to support and for whom we must do our utmost to provide a living wage.
The censure motion is well merited. The Government has done nothing but appoint boards to control different departments. Ministers have gone from one end of Australia to another talking platitudes. They have issued propaganda to every newspaper in the Commonwealth booming their alleged statesmanlike acts, which when examined are anything but statesmanlike. They have done nothing towards the development of Australia. They hold on to office, and administer the affairs of the Commonwealth in a way that is best calculated to help their friends outside to make profits. They allow the importing interests to keep on importing goods to the detriment of our secondary industries. The time has arrived when a halt should be called, and I hope that when they have the next opportunity to “do so the people of Australia will relegate this Government to obscurity and give a truly Australian government a chance to tackle the many .problems of the country in a statesmanlike manner.
.- I can hardly congratulate the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) upon his belief in the freedom and liberty accorded in the Labour Party, but I must congratulate him on the modesty of his requests. I am sure he must have missed a few industries that might be in need of assistance, but I perceive some little difficulty in financing some of the very modest requests he has made. I thought that the object of this debate was to point to the industrial depression now existing, and suggest means for alleviating it. The honorable member’s suggestions are to have child endowment and national insurance and a compulsory wheat pool. He also wants us to build a great national railway from Bourke to Camooweal and further on. He does not say what it is likely to cost. He does not tell us how the railways of Queensland have prospered. He wants bounties on all sorts of produce. There seems to be an insane belief in the minds of many honorable members that a man’s election to Parliament is sufficient qualification for him to control’ vail’. i industries with success; in other words, that an industry can be better controlled by Parliament than by the people engaged in it. If I had a thousand acres of wheat land why should I be compelled to hand over my crop to some organization to sell for what it likes to take> and give me whatever it likes to pay? The producer can impose ho check upon a compulsory pool.
– Could there not be a pool administered by the farmers themselves ?
– During the war we had a compulsory wheat pool, but since then the farmers of “Western Australia started a voluntary pool, and they would not go back on it now. They know that it is well managed, and they are satisfied to have a voluntary pool. They do not want a compulsory pool.
The honorable member for Capricornia suggests that the Minister for Trade and Customs should try to get absolute preference for Australian sugar in New Zealand and Great Britain.
– Why not? There is a great deal of talk about Empire prefer- g11cg.
– The honorable member spoke of the importation of textiles from Japan. Why did he not study the figures relating to the importation of goods from Great Britain to Australia? Great Britain’s greatest importations are the manufacture of textiles and iron and steel goods; yet we impose enormous duties on British textiles and British iron and steel manufactures that come to Australia.
This Parliament has imposed an extra duty on butter to prevent New Zealand from sending her butter to Australia ; yet our Minister for Trade and Customs is to pay a visit to that dominion to ask for concessions. To my mind, it is a contemptible position in which to place Australia. Why cannot we rely on our own efforts, and fight our own battles? Are we to be always seeking concessions here and there ? The. speech of the. honorable member for Capricornia made me think that all we have to do to-day is to tickle the ears of the electors with promises of prosperity. The people can manage their own businesses better than we can. Let us give them liberty, and let us. do away with much of that wretched control of industry about which honorable members opposite talk so freely.
The Burnett scheme certainly comes within the purview of this debate. If we had people working on the Burnett lands they would be producing and providing a market for our secondary industries. But why did not Queensland do what Western Australia did? The Premier of Western Australia entered into an agreement with the British Government by which Western Australia got cheap money for opening up the southwest of the State. If the Premier of Queensland had a good case, why did he not do exactly the same thing?
– I was Premier of Queensland at the time, and when the Commonwealth Government turned down the Burnett lands proposal, my Government raised money in New York, with the result that there are now more than 1,500 settlers on those lands.
– I confess I know very little about the matter, or whether it is a good or a bad scheme. All I can say is that the honorable member for Capricornia is trying to put blame on the Federal Government because it has not given assistance in this direction, whereas I can see no reason why ho could not have followed the example of the Premier of Western Australia.
– The Queensland Labour Government got the money in America. It is now seeking to have the scheme brought within the provisions of the migration agreement.
– We obtained no interest concessions.
- Sir James Mitchell and Mr. Collier were able to make much better terms for Western Australia than the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was able to make for Queensland when he was Premier. An extensive land settlement programme has been undertaken in Western Australia which I hope will ultimately prove successful, although I think that a good deal of the capital expended will have to be written off. Such schemes will help secondary industries tremendously, for they will result in the settlement of the people upon the land thus . providing markets. But it must never be forgotten that continual increases in the cost of living and production render extremely difficult, if not impossible, any comprehensive land settlement scheme.
It must be admitted that there is a little more unemployment than usual in Australia to-day.
– The honorable member is the first on that side of the House to admit it.
– I do admit it. The only remedies that honorable members opposite have suggested to cope with the problem are the cessation of migration and the imposition of greatly increased customs duties.
– We should stop the flow of imports and migrants until we have solved our problem.
– There is more unemployment in South Australia, Victoria, and portions of New South Wales than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. We have very little of it in Western Australia, for we have enjoyed a very good season there. Prior to the rains last August a* feeling of dread depressed the people of Melbourne and Adelaide, because it was feared that the approaching harvest would be a .total failure. This showed that the people realized how dependant they were upon the result of our primary production. Happily, the harvest was much better than was anticipated. Consequently, we have to look elsewhere to find the cause of the present depression. During this debate a good deal of sympathy has been expressed with various sections of the community. But we have not been” told that the fruitgrowers have suffered severely from frosts, and the apple-growers of Western Australia from the ravages of thrip, and very little sympathy has been expressed with the Mallee farmers, some of whom have had to cart water for household purposes a distance of 20 miles. These struggling settlers have, in many cases, not reaped sufficient this year’ to provide them with seed wheat, and will have to be provided with superphosphates and seed wheat to enable them to carry on their operations. As a rule that is all the assistance that the genuine farmer wants. Although the harvest in ‘New South - Wales and Victoria was be’tter than was anticipated, there have undoubtedly been heavy losses in Queensland and parts of New South
Wales.. I regret to say that the drought has not yet entirely broken in Queensland. But it is the fault of the politicians of Australia that such a small setback should cause so much depression. We have enjoyed many years of unexampled prosperity. During the period 1922-26 our area under “wheat increased by 2,000,000 acres. Western Australia was chiefly responsible for this. The average annual value of our wheat production during those years was about £40,000,000. We have in recent years received a very good price for the wheat we have sold overseas, and this has added to our national prosperity. There has also been an increase in our wool clip. In 1922 our wool production totalled 721,000,000 lb., while in 1927 it exceeded 900,000,000 lb. With the exception of one year during that period we have obtained a higher price for each clip. This also has brought an enormous amount of capital into the country. The butter industry maintained, during the period 1922-26, an average production of about £22,000,000 a year. In the face of these facts it is astonishing and humiliating to me that the only remedy that honorable members opposite can suggest to counteract the temporary depression from which we are suffering is the cessation of migration . and the increase of customs duties.
Why cannot we receive migrants as Canada does? There is a continual influx of population into that dominion, and a large and prosperous community is to be found there.
– The Canadian Government makes land available to the people who go there.
– We have huge areas of land available in Western Australia and Queensland, and considerable areas in the other States. The Argentine, like Canada, receives annually a large number of migrants from Europe, and is enjoying notable prosperity. It is true that she has suffered somewhat recently through selling her meat at too low a price, but I have not heard that she has made any very bitter complaints about it. Australia should be in a position similar to that of . Canada and the Argentine. We have a glorious*’ country and people of as fine a type as can be found anywhere in the world. In Canada stock has to be hand fed for six months in the year, but it is not so here. Britishers would be pleased to come to Australia to live if they were given reasonable encouragement. They realize that our people enjoy remarkable . educational facilities, and are of a virile, energetic type. Australians have shown on numerous occasions what they can do on the sporting field. Though probably too fond of sport they have also shown what they can do in a time of war. What, then, is the matter with the country? The fact is that we are living in a fool’s paradise. We are “ lions led by asses.”
– The honorable member may speak for himself.
– I do; but I also speak for the honorable member for Yarra. The time will come when those whom we are leading astray will turn and rend most of us. This Parliament, and every State Parliament, has transgressed almost every accepted economic law. Does the honorable member for Yarra believe in the fatuous loan policy of Australia ?
– I do not.
– The honorable member realizes as I do that it is the cause of many of our difficulties. I do not know how we could pay even a third of the interest bill that would have to be met if the programme suggested this afternoon by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Porde) were put into operation. He suggested bounties here and bounties there, spoils here and spoils there. There seemed to be no end to the schemes that he would set in motion to bring prosperity to the country. But we can only advance on sound lines, and the honorable member appears to have overlooked that essential point.
The finances of Australia are in an altogether unhealthy condition. In 1918 the public debt of the States was £392,000,000. In 1926 it had risen to £642,000,000, an increase of £250,000,000 in eight years. On redemption and conversion loans, our interest rate during that period has increased by not less than £1 per cent, since 1911.
– We are now under obligation to pay £1,000,000 a week in in- terest
– Our interest bill this year will amount to £60,000,000.
According to the Y ear-Book the Statesborrowed £48,000,000 in 1926. How are they to pay the interest on these enormous amounts without unduly taxing industry.
– It depends largely on the purpose for which the money was used. If it were spent wisely on reproductive works, we should be able to pay our way without trouble.
– I shall come to that point in a moment. An extract which I have taken from an article’ in ‘The Times Trade and Engineering Supplement, on Australian borrowing will, I think, appeal to honorable members opposite, as well as to some honorable members who support the Government. It reads -
It is fatally easy for a wholly wrong impression to bc derived by the people of a borrowing country as to its effects, for it is rather difficult to appreciate the wide ramifications of heavy borrowing. In the case of Australia, it has shown itself very clearly in the great rise of imports, which in the year ended 30th Juno exceeded exports by £20,000,000. An adverse trade balance is not a desirable economic feature in the case of a debtor country. Overborrowing is also reflected in the customs revenue, which since the war has increased from less than £17,r>00,000 to over £40,000,000. The buoyancy of the revenue has been largely due to loans. Loans are imported in the forms of goods and services, and, therefore, heavy borrowing means large customs duties. A year or two ago the Australian taxpayer was given a reduction in direct taxation out of the’ large surplus on customs duties. In that case taxation was reduced indirectly out of loans. Another consequence of heavy borrowing is that prices and wages are inflated beyond the world level, and more and more protection is required by industry.
– That is a good argument in support of the motion.
-^ The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), . asked how the States expended the money they borrowed. A great, proportion of the loan money which they raise from time to time is expended on their railways. .In the period 1914-26, the sum of £24,500,000 was lost in operating the various State railway services. That total includes an amount of £3,900^000 in respect of certain South Australian activities which perhaps ought not to be included. To put it in another way, we are losing not less than £1,500,000 per annum on the State railway services.
– The railways assist the development of the country.
– But they have been paid for out of loan moneys, and should provide interest on the capital expenditure.
– How much has been spent on the main roads, which also assist development ?
– The honorable member for Wimmera referred to the assets we have to show for our expenditure on railways, which is justified if the work is reproductive.
– Railways assist development.
– Of course, they do; but the losses I have quoted are tremendous. In 1914’ our railways earned a profit of £633,000, but in 1926 they showed a loss of £6,680,000, although during that period there had been a 60 per cent, increase in freights. In 1914 the average rate for goods was Ss. 5½d. a ton, but in 1926 it was 13s. 7d.
– There has been a corresponding rise in other directions.
– That may be so; but the figures are startling. It has frequently been said that it is the last straw which- breaks the camel’s back, and if production is to be burdened further by the imposition of higher railway freights, production, upon which the country depends, must eventually cease.
– The honorable member should allow for decrease in the purchasing power of money.
– I intend to follow this matter further, and to show the cause of our present financial position.
– Motor transport is largely responsible for the losses on some of our railways.
– There are more important factors than that. I am fully conversant with railway administration, as for six years I was Minister for Railways in Western Australia, and during that time the railways of that State were operated successfully. If our railway systems are to be a financial success, they must be absolutely removed from political influence. Conducted by private enterprise, under strict legislation, we should find that they would be in a much more satisfactory position than they are to-day. Many of them would be showing a” profit.
– I do riot think so. During the past few years the Midland Railway Company in Western Australia, which has to charge the same freights as the Government railways, has been showing a profit.
– The Western Australian Government railways made a profit last year.
– I think they did; but when the figures for all the States are grouped, a substantial loss is shown. If we were to give our railways commissioners absolute control, the returns would be much better, as it is impossible for our railway systems to be profitably conducted when parliaments are continually interfering. I ask any fair-minded man if he thinks it is fair to ask our railways commissioners to conduct services at a profit, whilst at the same time we appoint arbitration judges with power to impose all sorts of restrictions which make that impossible? I do not wish to cast any reflections upon our arbitration judges, but I do npt think it fair that my old friend, Sir John Quick, should have power to determine the conditions under which such an important and essential service should be conducted. It is a stupid policy, and one which should not receive the support of reasonable men.
– What does the honorable member suggest ?
– In the first place it was never intended under the Constitution that the Federal authority should have control -over railways, particularly over State railways, the money for which has to be provided by the States. The control of State railways is essentially a State function, but we have taken the power from the State parliaments to control their own railway systems-. Would the honorable member for Ballarat tell members of a State parliament that they are incapable of legislating for the control of a service for which they find the money? Let the State mind its business and we attend to our own concerns. Political, parties should not have anything to do with our railway systems, and political influence should be debarred. Here is a statement
If the Arbitration Court fixes wages which tlie industry cannot afford to pay then tli’e industry should have recourse to the Tariff Board, which has been created by the Federal Parliament to make necessary recommendations for the granting of whatever protection is necessary.
That suggests the vicious circle, of which we have heard so much, in the worst possible form. A judge in arbitration increases wages, the Tariff Board recommends Parliament to increase duties that raise the cost of living, and then the workers go to the arbitration judge again, and he says that, as the Tariff Board is in a position to protect industries, he will give them higher wages. A request is then made for still higher duties, and so the whole business goes on. Where is it all going to end?
– The purchasing power of the wages of the whole community is reduced.
– Yes. ‘ But what is the position of the man on the land? Our wheat-growers have to compete with the wheat-growers of other countries, including India and the Argentine, where coloured labour is employed. We are also at a greater distance from the markets of the world than other wheatproducing countries.
– But the wheat-growers in Western Australia are nearer to the markets of the world than are those in Victoria.
– That makes very little difference, seeing that we have to pay exorbitant prices owing to the tariff on our agricultural machinery, and under the coastal provisions of our wretched Navigation Act double the freights that were ruling when there was .competition in shipping.
– The honorable member is a dissatisfied man.
– I am wholly dissatisfied with the policy of honorable members opposite, and with that of the party on this side of the chamber. I would like the Federal Arbitration Court t’6 cease ‘functioning and arbitration to be left to the States. I should also like to see the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act repealed, as the service now given is worse than that in the days when there was keen competition, the absence of which destroys initiative, and weakens the national fibre. Competition, is essential” to the progress of’ any nation. Special courts have been created for the benefit of those engaged in winning coal. Has not the result been continuous strikes and enormous increase- in costs? Coal landed at Port Adelaide is now costing about 43s. a ton. It is impossible to carry on manufacturing successfully in that and other distant States when the coal-mining industry has to observe the awards of the Federal Arbitration Court, the Hibble awards, and also the coastal provision of the Navigation Act. Is it intended that we shall have factories only in. the. northern part of New South Wales, adjacent to. the coal-fields, where the price of fuel is lower? I do not think honorable members representing constituencies in New South Wales want that. Now we have filibustering legislation for the benefit of those who man the boats- and the owners of the. vessels, and. this, which reduces employment in. other industries. Much of’ the legislation now in force is- interfering with industry and- causing- an industrial’ depression which will become accentuated.
– The price of’ coal is not as high as it was.
– Consumers of gas in the constituency represented by the honorable member for Maribyrnong are at present complaining of the price they are being, charged, but if the raw material required in the manufacture of gas is so costly the extra charge cannot be avoided. If we keep on building up costs the price of other commodities must also increase. Even under the Hibble awards, there is not industrial peace or additional employment in the coal mining industry as the following paragraph shows : -
Spectre of Hunger Leers from Pantry Shelves.
Never in the history of’ the South Coast mines has there been, such slackness of trade as that which exists at the present time. Many miners and their families are. almost destitute, and to keep up food supplies for the household is a hard task.
What is’ the- cause? Lithgow mines are closed down because the men struck rather than work a third shift, thus creating further unemployment.
– I am showing the causes of unemployment in Australia. Men are unemployed at Lithgow because they will not . work. The price of coal is continually increasing, and this is retarding industry in every direction. Take the mining industry. I emphasize what I have said before, that every man engaged in primary production provides employment for ten other men in various avenues of activity. I do not think I am exaggerating the position, as a miner, for instance, gives employment for timber getters, railway men, mechanics,, those engaged in providing water supplies, stores, and clothing, and in many other directions. Although the value of the ore in the -Mount. Morgan mine, of which there- is a vast: quantity, is said to be £2 10s. a ton, the mine has been abandoned and thousands of men have been thrown out of employment. There is also, the Laverton mine in which development work had proved the existence of 1,000,000 tons of ore worth from 32s. to 34s. a ton, and which was showing a. Small margin of profit.. Owing to the altered conditions imposed by the Arbitration Court that mine is now lying idle.. In 1923 there were 12,700 men employed in the copper mines in Australia, but last year there were only 1,700 so engaged, or a reduction of 11,000 in one industry. In 1913 there were 33,500- gold miners employed, and in 1927 there were- only 8,700. In the silver lead industry 11,000 men were employed in, 1913,” as against 7,100 in 1927, showing that in. these industries there are approximately 40,000. fewer persons employed in 1927 than there were in 1913.
– But mining- fields become worked out in time.
– That is so; but it is not the reason for this, greatloss of employment. Our experimental legislation is. largely respon-. sible for ‘our present position, and we shall have to. consider- whether . in some instances we ought not to .retrace our steps. I know perfectly well that there is a mad desire in this chamber to increase duties. I believe that if the Government introduced duties tanta mount to an absolute embargo on all imports, some honorable. members would support it. I cannot, understand why honorable members opposite support increased duties, ‘ because the number of workers employed in highly-protected industries does’ not represent more than 10 per cent, of the breadwinners of Australia. When we increase the cost of living we place .great disabilities in the way of the workers themselves. The workers of Great Britain would never advocate the imposition of high duties on necessaries of life. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) spoke of the poor coal-miners, and said that some of them had to go to work with only bread and butter for their luncheon. Yet he willingly agreed to an increase of 3d. per lb. in the duty on the butter that those workmen eat.
– His attitude is consistent. He believes in protecting primary as well as secondary industries.
– That seems to be the only explanation. We place a duty on butter and also on workmen’s clothes, which are 200 per cent, dearer than they would otherwise be. We have increased the cost of wooden houses by about £25, and of children’s food by 400 or 500 per cent. The price of medicines has increased by about 500 per cent.; yet not 10 per cent, of the workers are employed in these highly-protected industries. The Minister for Trade and Customs last night referred to himself in eulogistic terms. He told us of the wonderful things that he had done, and I assume that if he is allowed to remain in office he intends to do other wonderful things. He spoke of the wonderful prosperity that had followed the adoption of the policy of protection. I was reminded of ‘ the introduction by Mr. Massy Greene of his famous tariff in 1920. The Labour Government that had previously ‘been in power made one or two minor amendments, to. the tariff, but it was left to Mr. Massy Greene to impose enormous increases in duty. That gentleman stated that, while probably the Government would get a . little .more revenue in the immediate future, it would not be very long before there would be a reduced revenue from trade and customs as the result of the tariff. He then added -
The door of opportunity . is open wide before us. The path beyond lies clear and plain, if we only have the courage to tread it and put our country’s interest before other considerations, bending to no interest, yielding to no pressure, and refusing to be diverted one hair’s breadth from our purpose, pressing on in our endeavour to lead our country to the goal of national greatness.
In 1919, before that tariff was introduced, the customs revenue amounted to about £.18,000,000. Now it is £44,000,000. Is that the way to progress ? Since March, 1920, the duties have increased enormously, and what is the position to-day? Embargoes have been placed on certain commodities, including peanuts. Bounties have been granted, and taxation has been increased throughout the Commonwealth. Money is being taken out of the pockets of the great mass of the people, and the spoils distributed to certain favoured sections, and in this way we attain our ideal of- national greatness. Cannot honorable members understand that if the people were not so heavily taxed more money would be available to give employment to our workers. A friend of mine, wished to erect a building at Canberra at a cost of about £3,000 ; but upon receiving an estimate of £4,200 for the building, he refused to erect it. In other words, he refused to employ labour. The Government is taking money out of the pockets of the people and giving it to a lot of hangers-on. I am referring not only to this Government, but to all governments. Numerous officials have been appointed ; the cost of living has increased, and unemployment has become rife. The Minister for Trade and Customs is a great believer not only in high duties but also in the capital letter “ I.” I am surprised that the type was available to print his speech. It is certainly, extraordinary that an halo has not yet been made to fit him. I admire any honorable, member who is consistent in his desire to build up Australian industries. The Minister himself informed us that .whilst abroad he was able to obtain the promise of the expenditure of millions df pounds to establish new industries in’ Australia. He told us of the success of his mission in Great
Britain; but I remember that quite recently, when replying to a question in this House, the Minister took an unfair advantage of his position. He spoke of “ an ti- Australians,” referring particularly to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and myself, not forgetting that wretched honorable member for the Mallee.
– I do not feel so wretched as the honorable member sounds.
– The commercial column of yesterday’s Argus contained a paragraph that was most interesting, especially in view of the Minister’s statement that he is doing his best, on patriotic lines, to further the interests of the Australian people. The paragraph reads -
A close alliance appears to have been established between the so-called Pratten group of Eastern tin-mining companies, which has its head-quarters in Sydney, and Tin Selection Trust Limited of London. Final negotiations for the purchase of a large area of Eastern tin-bearing country from the Alluvial Tin Malaya Company of Sydney were conducted in London by Messrs. H. E. and F. G-, Pratten late last year, when it was agreed that a subsidiary of Tin Selection Trust Limited should give £500,000 in cash and 200,000 fully-paid £1 shares in a company of £1,500,000 for the area. Sir William D. Henry, chairman of Tin Selection Trust Limited, has just announced to that company’s shareholders that as the result of the intimate relationship established with the Sydney group that body is to be financially interested with the London Tin Syndicate and the Anglo-Oriental Trust, tlie associates of the London Tin Trust Limited, in a reorganization which is now proceeding. Arrangements have been advanced for the appointment of London boards and the opening of share registers in the offices of the AngloOriental Trust not only in respect to all producing companies at present managed by the Alluvial Tin Malaya Company, but to other established Malayan tin companies as controlled by the Sydney group. The Tin Selection Trust itself has arranged for the quotation of its shares by the Paris Bourse, so that its interests will have international attention. To obtain skilled technical advice it has decided to obtain the co-operation of leaders ,of thu Yuba Consolidated Goldfields, the greatest dredging concern of the United States. They will also assist in financing a subsidiary company to be formed to work what is termed tha lower Perak area of the Alluvial Tin Malaya Company.
If honorable members will examine the figures relating to the export of mining machinery from Australia during the last fifteen years, they will find that with the exception of one year, when Thompson and Company made special dredges, little Australian machinery has been exported for use in the Eastern tin mines, despite the fact that an enormous quantity of Australian capital is invested in them. Huge profits are being made. According to a Stock Exchange report one Australian company received £640,000 in dividends, upon which not one pennyof income tax was paid. It is no wonder that we are beginning to think that there is something wrong with our policy of protection. The Minister talks about patriotism and the building, up of industries here. I. should like to see some of the capital invested in the Eastern tin mines expended in Australia, so as to provide employment for our people. Surely when Australian money is invested in foreign mines we should endeavour to. have Australian machinery used in them. I contend that the anti-Australians are, not my friends in this chamber, but the Australian shareholders in those tin mining companies.
– Yet when the honorable member moved in this House that those Australian shareholders should pay income tax on their profits, he withdrew his motion.
– I explained at the time that there might be other matters to consider. What I proposed was an innovation, and therefore I was content to await the inquiry promised by the Prime Minister.
– A vote in this House would have counted most.
– A vote would have enforced the tax without any investigation being made. However, there was a division on this question and I voted for it.
– Did not the honorable member want the tax to operate ?
– The honorable member must realize that it was necessary to consider the departmental view, and therefore I did not press for a vote oil my motion. If the Government does not keep its promise to me I shall endeavour, with the honorable member’s assistance, to bring the subject before tlie House later.
Can we afford to stop immigration? So far as the tariff is concerned, the honorable member knows where I stand. I believe that if we keep on increasing duties we shall greatly injure primary production; in other words, kill the goose that lays the golden’ eggs. We cannot afford to permit an increase in the present cost of production. If the price of wheat falls, there will be a drastic change in the conditions in the industry. Great caution should be exercised lest anything be done that would tend to further increase the cost of production to the man on the land. Can Australia, with a territory as large as that of the United States of America, afford to tell the world that, despite its wonderful resources, it cannot find room for additional people ? Apart from the empty north, the mineral possibilities of which are yet unrealized, this country is capable of carrying an enormously increased population. Many times I have suggested that concessions should be made to encourage white settlers in our northern area3. It would be foolish to allow the impression to be gained abroad that we discourage the settlement of our vast northern spaces. If the subject of the maintenance of the White Australia policy were ever seriously raised before the League of Nations, I doubt whether two countries, apart from Great Britain and the United States of America, would be prepared to support it.
– Nobody suggested that we should tell the world that we refuse to allow white people into Australia. The Opposition holds that, until the people already in this country have been absorbed in profitable employment, we should not pay for the passages of further migrants.
– I think that other countries would reply that, if it were not for the economic conditions now operating here, Australia would have no difficulty in absorbing great numbers of migrants. The rich coastal belt in northern New South Wales and Queensland, between Grafton and Cairns, ought to be carrying millions of people. Some time ago I inspected the country about 60 miles north of Brisbane, and, as I climbed to a height of about 4,000 feet above sea level, the panoramic views were magnificent. I looked down upon plantations of sugar, maize and pineapples. On the slopes of the range I noticed bananas growing luxuriantly, and, when I reached the top, I saw groves of oranges, mandarins and lemons. Below was a winding silver stream, and in the distance the mighty ocean. It was, indeed, an imposing picture. The growth of timber of all kinds in these hilly regions is wonderful. I am told that the country is equally fertile practically all along the coast. It ought to be carrying a population of 20,000,000, yet with our wretched Restrictions and political interference a great part of it is vacant and unproductive.
Every honorable member who believes in promoting secondary industries should also encourage primary production. We should do as was done in Victoria years ago, when a bounty of 2d. per lb. was paid on all butter exported. Under that scheme every butter-producer benefited. We could give, also, a subsidy in the shape of cheap freights; but the whole system is bad and leads to corruption. When I was in office in Western Australia, we declined to send settlers out more than about 60 miles from Northam, because the country beyond was regarded as being out of the rain belt. We thought that it would be criminal to send men farming in the dry. areas; but to-day they are going hundreds of miles beyond the line that was formerly regarded as marking the limit of the safe wheat-growing country. Western Australia has a wheat area equal in size to the whole of Victoria. Much of it is second and thirdclass land, and it is impossible to make a success of agriculture on third-class country unless the production costs are low. We have no right to place men on the land unless, there is a reasonable prospect of their ultimate success. An enormous belt of wheat country, much of which will have to be cleared, is now being surveyed in my State. Roads and railways are needed, and the Federal Government might consider whether it would be well for it to co-operate with the Western Australian Government in this matter, so that employment might more speedily be provided. I do not ask for concessions with regard to the interest on the capital cost of the work, but I suggest that the Commonwealth might assist in the matter of surveys and the provision of roads and railways, the cost to be ultimately borne by the State, and repaid on lengthy terms. It is quite possible that within six months employment could be found in this way for a large number of men.
– When the honorable member for Capricornia suggested something of that kind in Queensland, the honorable member for Swan ridiculed the proposal.
– That honorable member suggested a railway from Bourke to Camooweal, but that would not pass through land on which it would increase settlement.
– Western Australia is not the only State that calls for development.
– I am dealing with a land-settlement scheme inaugurated by the Government of my State, and am asking for no concession or contribution of cost. In searching for a means of giving useful employment, it occurred to me that, if the execution of that scheme were expedited, it would assist to alleviate the present labour trouble. Efforts should be made to find work that could be legitimately undertaken. Keen inquiry is now being made for land in my State. Of the blocks on offer, first choice is given to men who are unemployed through the shutting clown of the gold-mines, and the rest of the available land is offered to settlers throughout Australia. Those who have inspected this country speak highly of it. If the cost of primary production could be reduced, Western Australia would be assured of a glorious future.
The economic policy of the Parliament of this country is vicious, and is doing much to cause the present unfavorable conditions. The trouble has not yet come to a head, because much loan money is now in circulation; but difficulties are being experienced in floating new loans. The Government of Western Australia has no desire to stop the opening up of the country to which I have referred. Australia, however, cannot continue to go into the loan market of the world and borrow as heavily as she has been doing of recent years. We must drastically curtail public borrowing, because our present policy undoubtedly induces heavy imports, to the detriment of Australian industries, places a debt on posterity that it should not be asked to bear, and may lead to repudiation. I hope that in the near future an end will be put to the tyranny practised by some of our industrial organizations, and that the impositions from which industries now suffer will be removed. Opportunity should be given for the fullest development of the national characteristics of our people unhampered by Government interference. This would result in the Government extracting less money from the pockets of the people, and there would be less spoils for the favoured few.
.- I cordially support the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The subject of migration and unemployment has been discussed from many angles, and my object is to endeavour -to get something definite done immediately rather than to prolong the discussion of the causes of the present widespread unemployment. With the exception of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), honorable members on the Government side have declared that there is practically no unemployment in Australia. I emphasize the fact that not only is unemployment very prevalent, but actual starvation has occurred in some of the capital cities. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), suggested that a Premiers’ conference should be held immediately to deal with this matter. Certainly prompt action should be taken.The honorable member for Swan, while admitting that unemployment was to be found, said that very little had occurred lately in Western Australia. As recently as the 25th February last, the following article appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser : -
Position in Western Australia.
Referring to the debate in the House of Representatives on the influx of Southern Europeans and the effect on the labour market, the Premier (Mr. Collier), said the Prime Minister, in reply to Mr. Charlton’s indictment, did not in any way justify the position that had arisen in Australia. The unemployment position in this State, despite the figures quoted by Mr. Bruce, was undoubtedly worse at this time of the year than for some years past, and it was almost entirely due to the influx of foreigners.
– The Premier of “Western Australia states that it is more prevalent this year than for some years -past; yet, according to the honorable member for Swan, it is not acute, because “Western Australia has a bounteous harvest. The newspaper article continues -
There were 2,000 men from Southern European countries on the books of the Timber Workers’ Union, and a large number were employed on the goldfields, and in the agricultural districts. A conservative estimate of £he number employed in those industries would be between 4,000 and 5,000. They wore taking the places of British men and women. Western Australia could only absorb a certain number of new arrivals each year, and to the extent that people of foreign blood were allowed to enter, so was the admission of men and women from the old country in .danger of being restricted. The majority of Southern Europeans coming to Western Australia were single men. Under the migration agreement they undertook to introduce the stipulated number of British families which would add materially to the State’s population. He thought the 2,000 foreigners in the Timber Workers’ Union” did not represent more than 2,500 people, but if they were British or Australian workers a very great number would be married and represent not less than 5,000. They would spend their money in Western Australia. The benefit to this State and Australia generally, by introducing people from Great Britain was so obvious that the Commonwealth Government should take such action as would safeguard the position.
My object in placing that on record is to show that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was incorrect when he said that the unemployed position was not acute in “Western Australia. It shows that,- despite the bounteous harvest and the large area which was placed under crop this year, unemployment does exist in that State, the reason being the large influx of foreigners.
– I came across from “Western Australia only a little while ago with an entirely different impression of the position.
– I accept the honorable member’s explanation, and hope that he also will accept the statement of the Premier of “Western Australia.
– His statement may betinged with a little political colour.
– If. the honorable member thinks so, he can reply to the Premier of “Western Australia either personally or through the columns of the press. I feel sure that Mr. Collier would not decry his State without reason.
– “We are supplied -with a monthly statement outlining the progress of the State, and there has been no mention of the existence of unemployment.
– The article that I have read gives Mr. Collier’s impressions. I wish now to reply to the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), a big part of whose speech consisted of eulogistic references to foreign employees. I regard a foreigner in the light in which he is regarded by many other persons ; he does not live up to the- standards that are observed by Australian workers. In view of the fact that such a large number of our own people are unemployed, too many foreigners are coming to Australia. They could well remain in their own land for the time being. My electorate contains some foreigners who migrated to Australia many years ago, and became very fine citizens; but I do not on that account believe that indiscriminate foreign migration should be countenanced. The honorable member for Herbert, and other honorable members who sit opposite, avail themselves of “every opportunity to bestow praise upon the foreigner. The honorable member for Herbert. said he had always found him to be a very fine workman,’ and inferred that he was better than the Australian. That, however, is not the reason for his eulogy. The reason is’ to be found in interviews that were given a few months ago to a representative of the Melbourne Berala” by a number of foreign Consuls. The honorable member for Herbert has no more time for the foreign than for the Australian workman, but he favours his migration to Australia because the foreigner is unacquainted with our language, and . as a member of a servile race is willing to work under condition0 that Australians will not tolerate. The interviews given to the Melbourne Herald on the 30th September, 1927, read ai follows : -
Alien migrants in Victoria in many cases accept low wages in order to secure employment, according to statements made by several of the European Consulates to-day.
The great bulk of the men, it was said, found employment in the ‘country districts, but office workers, mechanics,’ and other city tradesmen found it difficult to secure work.
Statements summarized below were made 1)y the consulates as to the position of the respective nationalities.
Italians. - Ninety-nine per cent, of recent arrivals have gone to country districts, where they find employment at full ruling wage rates. They refuse to take low wages, and they find ready employment. All hope to secure own farms, and many are now working on farms on share system, taking a percentage of the crop receipts instead of wages. The recent anti-migration decree of Signor Mussolini will almost completely check the (low of Italian migrants to Australia.
Greeks. - All recent arrivals nominated by friends in Australia. A few agriculturists go to the country, but the great bulk are city men, who find employment with other Greeks in the cities. A great number of the recent arrivals have accepted low wages in order to secure any employment offering.
Czechoslovakians. - Not one unemployed in Victoria to-day. Tradesmen for the most part, many of them possessing high qualifications, they find ready employment in their several spheres. ‘New arrivals frequently accept any work offering in the country districts until they become proficient in the English language. They then drift back into their natural employment.
Swiss. - Farmers and mechanics find it most difficult to gain employment. Many are working in the country without wages, merely for their keep, unable .to find profitable employment elsewhere. Many .others, particularly skilled tradesmen, are out of employment. Swiss Government informed of position in Australia, but a few migrants still coming, hoping to secure work.
Austrians. - Very , few coming to Victoria; those who do have not been nominated, but in the majority of cases have- had’ definite prospects of employment. Comprising mainly mechanics, cooks, and labourers, they fmd it difficult to secure work. Having to take any employment offering, they are forced to accept any wages named by the prospective employer in order to live. /Janes. - Of the few Banes who come to Victoria, the majority are farmers, with a few office workers.’ Agriculturists placed readily in country employment, but city men have great difficulty in securing work, and then only at low wages.
With those facts before us, what is the use of the honorable member for Herbert saying that these men become members of the Australian Workers Union and accept employment at Australian rates of wages and under conditions which our own workmen enjoy? They are willing to work for no wages if thereby they are able to obtain employment. It is not to be wondered at that unemployment exists in Australia. I know of companies which are giving preference in employment to foreigners. Only last Saturday fortnight I met in a portion of my electorate two young men who had walked 900 miles from Sydney in an effort to obtain employment. They had no soles to their boots and had not tasted food for 24 hours. They told me that it was their intention to walk further afield. They had approached the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, but had not succeeded in securing employment. Yet I was informed that on the very same day the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited had engaged 30 employees, most of whom were foreigners. One of these young men wore a returned soldier’s badge, and the other also appeared capable of undertaking any kind of work. Companies who adopt such an attitude ought not to receive the protection of. this Parliament. They should give to Australian people the work which they have at their disposal. I shall seriously consider what action I shall take when any company which gives preference to those who come from overseas, while our own men are unemployed, approaches this House for assistance……
In the latter part of his motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) proposes to- censure the Government for having neglected to formulate proposals for the relief of unemployment. It is the duty of this Parliament to deal with that problem. Honorable members opposite take shelter behind the plea that it is a State and not a Commonwealth matter. It would appear to be the policy of Ministers to interest themselves in matters out of which they are likely to gain an advantage in the country irrespective of whether or. not they are solely the concern of the States, and to refrain from interference when no political kudos is to be won. They were not asked to make road construction their concern. The South Australian Government evolved a scheme providing for the construction of roads in that State, and passed a law giving them power to impose a tax upon the users of petrol, but the Commonwealth Government had it declared ultra vires. Having embarked upon that policy this Government ought not now to shelter themselves behind the excuse that any particular matter in which their intervention may be sought is one purely for the States. Nothing ranks higher in importance than the fact that in Australia 100,000 persons are unemployed, and that children are not being sufficiently nourished because their breadwinners are tramping the country looking for work and failing to obtain it. During the regent recess I travelled between 1,200 and 1,500 miles in my electorate. At no time In my life have I seen so many young men searching for employment. The reply of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to the charges of the Leader of the Opposition indicated a condition of placid indifference Vo the seriousness of the position. He even
Went so far as to misrepresent the case, and surprised me by his attempt to show that the problem was not acute. I accept the statement that 100,000 persons are unemployed in Australia to-day, even though the Prime Minister claims that there are fewer than that number. The economic effect of the withdrawal from circulation each week of half a million pounds is felt by not only the workers but also every commercial interest. Those who are on short time are not numbered among the unemployed. The Prime Minister stated that there were 31,032 unemployed1 in Australia. Those figures are not correct. The right honorable gentleman refused to quote the figures for the last quarter of 1927, which are 3S,641.
– It is only fair to say that the Prime Minister had not the necessary information in his possession.
– The Prime Minister had before him The Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics, from which the figures for the last quarter of 1927 are taken. I have no desire to charge the right honorable gentleman with wilfully misrepresenting the case, but the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) shows that he did so. The Prime Minister stated that the figures quoted by him were correct, and as supplied by the trade unions. I was a trade union official for some years, and was never asked to furnish a return of ‘the unemployed members of my union. No doubt other unions are in a. similar position, and have not recorded their unemployment figures. Those 3S,641 unemployed are from a trade union membership of 445,9S5, whereas the total trade union membership of Australia is S51,47S. On that basis, the Prime Minister quoted only .half the number that is unemployed. In addition to them there must be taken into consideration the nomadic section of workers who travel round the country seeking .employment, but do. not inform their unions when they are unemployed. Then there is a further large section who do not belong to organizations. In the circumstances one may, with justification, conclude that there are at least 100,000 unemployed in Australia to-day. Statistics are hot always infallible. Those given officially for 1921 intimated that there were 40,549 unemployed in Australia. It so happened that the census was taken that year, and it disclosed that the number of unemployed, due to the scarcity of work, was 79,338, almost double the number given by the official statistics. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) is obsessed with the idea that the prevailing unemployment is entirely due to strikes and industrial disputes. The honorable member has so frequently broadcast that threadworn propaganda that he has almost convinced himself that it is true. Curiously, and significantly, the 1921 census indicates that only 3 per cent, of the then existing unemployment was due to industrial disputes, whereas 50 per cent, was due to scarcity of work ! The Prime Minister insinuated that the allegedly poor harvest in Australia last year has much to do with the present unemployment. He said -
Because of the poor harvest this year, the banks and other financial institutions in Australia have restricted advances, and towards the end of 1927 the number of unemployed was greater than the figures supplied for the 31st December last.
The prevailing unemployment is not due to a poor harvest. Admittedly, 1927-28 was a lean year, and many people were hard-hit, but, by and large, the harvest was not so bad as to increase noticeably our unemployment. I shall quote figures for our wheat crops and wool clips for the last six years, and honorable members may draw their own conclusions from. them. They are - °
– How many acre/3 were under wheat each year?
– The acreage under wheat last year was not so high as for some of the other years; but I have not taken out the figures. However, the difference is not startling. My table . shows that the argument of . the Prime Minister is unsound. It is rather amusing to notice that the Australian High Commissioner in London has apparently been instructed to use just the opposite argument. The following cablegram appeared in the Daily Guardian of the 25th February last: -
” GLOOM “ REPORTS.
Action in London following “ Scare “ Flood News.
Thanking The Guardian for its suggestion that a statement should be issued from Australia House counteracting exaggerated reports of flood damage in Australia, Sir Granville Ryrie said steps had been taken unofficially which he hoped would have the desired effect. Several papers to-day published The Guardian’s figures of the State’s wool and wheat harvests, showing that the country’s prosperity is not materially affected by local dry spells and floods.
There is a repudiation of the suggestion that adverse seasons are responsible for our unemployment. Because of our modern time and labour-saving harvesting implements the partial failure of a crop does not make so great a difference in the unemployment figures of the nation as it would in the early days. Any one understanding agriculture will agree with me on that.
The Prime Minister also stated -
I draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that in the period covered by the last twelve years Australia’s oversea exports have exceeded her oversea imports by £50,400,000.
Why did the Prime Minister go back for a period of twelve years? If the right honorable gentleman desired to defend his own Government he should have confined himself to the last five years, during which period he and his party have held the reins of government. The Prime Minister went back over a period of twelve years, so that he might make the comparison as favorable as possible to his Government. I shall segregate the last five years from the first seven years of that period, so that honorable members may see the significance of the right honorable gentleman’s artifice. The figures for the two periods are- -
I wonder what would be the action of the Prime Minister if the manager of a private business concern in which he was interested submitted a report that for ten years there had been a profit of £10,000, when for the last year there had been a deficit of £5,000? No doubt the right honorable gentleman would decide that it was time to change his management and investigate the reason for the failure. So, I contend, the people of Australia will draw their own conclusions as to who is responsible for the existing deplorable economic condition of Australia. We cannot agree to go back twelve years in order to obtain favorable figures so that the people may be misled. The Government should deal with the position as it exists, and tell the country the true position in regard to our trade balance. Nor is it only those things which happened more than five years ago which have brought about existing conditions. The events of the last five years are sufficient to have produced the effect of which we complain. During that period we have drifted gradually, as our trade figures show.
In his opening remarks the Prime Minister dealt what he intended to be a backhander to the Leader of the Opposition, when he said, in effect, that the Labour party was opposed to immigration. He said that that was one of the reasons why the censure motion was moved. That is not true. The Labour party is not opposed to immigration. Our platform on this point is perfectly clear, and has been placed on record upon numerous occasions. Personally, I join with those who say that we have not sufficient people in Australia, but we should bring immigrants to this country only in such numbers as will keep pace with the progress we are making. That is generally accepted as a sound policy. The Prime Minister quoted the number of migrants who’ came to Australia during the regime of the Fisher Government from 1911 to 1913 inclusive. During those years Labour was in power, and, if the Labour Government did not then have an opportunity to prevent immigration, nobody would be able to do so. The Labour Government did not prevent immigration; as a matter of fact it encouraged migrants. Those were the peak years of immigration, but we had less unemployment then than at any time since. It is well for the people to analyze the position and to realize why the Labour party could bring such large numbers of migrants into Australia without causing unemployment. In 1911 there were 39,000 arrivals in Australia, and in that year, according to the Commonwealth Y ear-Booh, the percentage of unemployment was 4.7. In 1912 there were 46,000 arrivals, and the unemployment percentage was 5.5. In 1913 there were 37,000 arrivals, and the unemployment percentage was 5.3.’ These figures are an effective reply to those who say that labour is opposed to immigration, and they prove, furthermore, that, notwithstanding the influx of migrants at that time, there was such a high degree of prosperity in Australia, due to labour rule, that there was practically no unemployment. During that time, lands were thrown open and made available to the people, and, in addition, all public worksundertaken were carried out from revenue, and not from loan money. From 1910 to 1913, £30,000,000 worth of land was subdivided in Australia, and that undoubtedly, was one of the reasons for the prosperity of which I have spoken. All Honorable members will agree- that prosperity follows in the wake of land development of that kind. Speaking this afternoon, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), with . whom I do not agree on most matters, referred to the 1 benefits which usually follow the subdivision of land, such benefits as the growth of small towns, increase of population, and greater sale for goods and machinery. During- this same period there was also abnormal development in the Postmaster-General’s Department. As a matter of fact, its operations constituted a record up to that time, and all the work was done- out of revenue. What is the position regarding the department during the last few years ? Practically all the work has been done from loan money, and not from revenue. Since the Estimates came before the House, we have seen that the vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department has been reduced by £360,000, and many people who were relying on the promises made to them for telegraphic and postal facilities will not get them because of this curtailment.
– That is due to the faked surplus.
– Perhaps it is due to that. If more money is not spent by this department we shall have much more unemployment than now. I submit that the time has arrived for the Prime Minister to call a conference of State Premiers to go into this momentous question of unemployment. This matter is already engaging the attention of municipalities, district councils, and other bodies, some of which have only recently come into existence for the purpose of dealing with the problem. The position will become worse in the near future, because many of the seasonal occupations which have hitherto provided employment for large numbers of men are closing down for the year. The wheat crop is still being transferred from railway sidings to the wharfs, and thence to the ships, giving employment to many men. The fruit picking season is not yet quite finished, but in the winter months ahead, when this, and other activities will have ceased -for the year, there will be twice as many unemployed as at the present time. While the Prime Minister may sit back and convey the impression that this is of no consequence, I believe that the people of Australia will insist that something be done. All work that the Federal Government can possibly put in hand should be -undertaken at once. Let me remind the Government that at the beginning of ‘-‘this season ‘il ‘made a present to a few people of £445,000 a year through the reduction of the Federal land tax. While it is able to do that the Government cannot successfully advance the plea that it is not able to carry out reproductive works to relieve unemployment. Of the amount remitted in taxation, £232,500 was remitted to 105 persons. That sum would do much to relieve the unemploymentsituation in some of the States. I wish the Commonwealth Government would make such a- sum available for unemployment relief work in South Australia. Then again, the recent cut in the income tax has relieved taxpayers to the extent of £1,300,000 -a year. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say that it is financially embarrassed while it is giving away -huge sums yearly by way of tax remission. Not only is the Government not going on with public works which have been approved, but it is actually closing down some of the works already started. Take, for instance, the Kyogle-Brisbane railway line. This, and other works have, I understand, been closed down from the end of last year. In my own electorate the men engaged in ballasting the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line were dismissed while on their Christmas vacation, and they were dismissed in a manner that reflects no credit upon the Government. Those men were working under an award or. agreement which entitled them to be paid for their holidays at Christmas time if -they were on the job on the 15th December and on the 9th January. I am not quite certain of the dates, but I think that those are correct. That . provision was inserted so that the benefit of holiday pay would apply to permanent men. Last September I waited on the . Commissioner of Commonwealth’ Railways because therewas a rumour circulating to the effect that thiswork might close down. The Commissioner. told methat the work was not going to close down as they had sufficient money to carry them on to next June. The menwere notified that , that was the case. At the end of the year they left their goods and chattels on the job, andwent to their homes for the Christmas holidays. Later theywere notified by a press ‘ report that they ,were “ sacked,” and could not go back to the job. Not only that, but when they applied for holiday pay theywere refused the money, and the Government still declines to pay it to them. The Government threw these men out ofwork, and is not prepared even to pay themwhat.they are entitled to. I do not agree with the closing down of thiswork. It should have been carried on, and the men, some ofwhomwent for their holidays to Western Australia and Victoria,’ should have been allowed to return to the job.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The cruel action of the
Government in ceasingwork in connexion with the ballasting of the’ transAustralian railway just before Christmas not only added to the number of unemployed ; itwas also a breach of faith, because the men had been told that the workwould continue until June, 1928. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) himself told me that thatwould be the case. The Prime Minister said that the responsibility for providing employment did not rest with the Commonwealth, but was a matter for the States. I desire to remind him that there are manyworks of a purely federal characterwhich should be proceededwith. In addition to necessarywork in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, a number of other proposals, favorably reported on by the Public Works Committee, could be put in hand. The committee reported on the 24th April, 1926, in favour of the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. Although that inquiry was undertaken by the committee as an urgent matter, nothing, has yet been done. The committee reported on . the . 15th June, 1926, in favour of. the erection of permanent administrative offices at Canberra, but so far the only contract let has been for the foundations. . Otherworks reported on by the committee but . not yet commenced, . include the Garden Island wharf, reported upon 29th, June, . 1926; Commonwealth offices, Sydney, 10th March, 1927 ; National Museum of Australian Zoology, Canberra, , 17th March, 1927; Commonwealth offices, Brisbane, 23rd May, 1927 ; Automatic telephone exchange, Oakleigh, Victoria, , 5th October, 1927 ; and Automatic telephone exchange, Cottesloe, ..Western Australia,… . 12th October, 1927. All those . works, ..which would be reproductive, have been reported on favorably by the Public Works Committee after exhaustive inquiries. - If the Government desires to relieve unemployment,work in connexion.with them should be put in handwithout delay.
I have already spoken on the motion for the . second reading of the bill to authorize the . construction of a railway between Port Augusta and Red Hill, and realizethat I shall not be permitted to refer to -that matter again at length; but I desire to quote from the evidence of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Bell, before the Public “Works Committee, as to the advantages which would accrue from the construction of that railway. Mr. Bell said -
Clause 2. - ‘It would permit of passengers and loading being conveyed direct from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, 1,240 miles, obviating the delay and expense at present incurred in transhipment at Terowie and Port Augusta.
Clause 11. - It would increase the revenue on the Trans-Australian Railway by approximately £35,0.00, due to the stimulation of the through traffic, which “would obtain for the reasons mentioned in clause 2.
Seeing tha’t there are at the present time 100,000 men unemployed in Australia, many of that number being in South Australia, surely the Government could proceed wifti the construction of this necessary work, and thus ‘relieve a situation which is indeed acute in that ‘State.
I agree with the honorable member -for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that the position throughout Australia in regard to unemployment is so serious as to justify a conference of State Premiers to discuss it. The Leader of the Opposition in South Australia has signified his willingness to attend such a conference, if desired, and to do all “in his power to assist at arriving at a solution of the difficulty. Itwould be “a good thing if a conference of the Premiers and the Leaders of the Opposition in the Several State’s “were to meet and discuss this important matter.
At an earlier ‘stage,the honor able member for -Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) asked what the States were doing in the “matter of unemployment. I am not intimately acquainted with what the governments of the other States are doing, but I can speak with some authority regarding the attitude adopted by the Government of South Australia. During the ten months that -it has been in office, the Butler Government in South Australia has dismissed 7,000 men from the Government service. The position in that State is worse than it has been for 30 years. In- the Adelaide Advertiser of the 4th February last the following statement appeared : -
The Superintendent of the Labour Exchange (Mr. A. C. H. Richardson) stated yesterday that during January 2,620 labourers, 100 youth labourers, and 799 tradesmen registered at the Central Office of -the exchange and branch agencies. ‘Of that number 449 labourers, 15 youths, and ‘63 tradesmen were provided with employment, leaving a -balance of 3,082 on the books. This number was 941 more than for December, and 2,289 more than for the same period last year, when the number was 793.
Again, on the 8th of February, the Advertiser contained the following: -
Nearly 4,000 Men onthe Books.
The Superintendent of the Labour -Bureau (Mr. A. C.Richardson) stated on Tuesday that there was more unemployment in South Australia than ‘there had been at any previous time since the bureau ‘was established in 1898. . There were upwards of 4,000 men on the books, and at the branch offices throughout the country, and ‘the number was increasing each month. TheJanuary returns showed an -increase of ‘941 over those -of December, and the list was growing daily. Mr. Richardson said ‘that 90 per cent, were genuine eases, and the list was growing daily, andall trades were represented. The building trade appeared to -be ‘particularly slack. He had never before ‘known more men connected with that trade ‘unemployed, and there appeared to be little prospect of the men securing work.
Mr. Richardson, who speaks with a knowledge of the unemployed problem inSouth Australia since 1898, saysthat ‘the position ‘to-day isworse ‘than it has ‘been ‘for 30years.
Like other honorable members representing South -Austraiian -constituencies, I have received a ‘letter from -the secretary of the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Dalziel. The letter, which is dated 20th February, 1928, reads-
It having come to notice that it is the intention o’f the Federal Government to authorize still further retrenchment among the employees of the ‘Federal Public Service, it is desired on behalf of ex-service men concerned to seek your assistance with a view to preventing, wherever possible,astill further increase -in the already deplorably great number of unemployed in the various ‘States.
It is realized that the Government are confronted with a great difficulty at the present time in finding employment for those already -out of work, and at the same time it is thought something may be done through the various departments to prevent further retrenchment, which, if carried into effect, will increase these difficulties, ‘and the distress already suffered.
In Adelaide the position is most acute, and at the League Bureau alone we have .681 returned men registered for employment.
– That is so; the men registered at the Returned Soldiers1 Bureau would probably not register at the Government Labour Bureau. Mr. Dalziel’s letter continues -
Wo find it impossible to place them, and what will happen if these numbers are still further increased, we cannot imagine. Every Federal member for the State has been written to as above, and we feel confident will do everything possible to assist in the direction indicated’.
That letter shows how serious is the p081: tion in South Australia. It behoves every member from tha,t State to urge the Governnent to .do something to relieve the situation,. The policy of the Butler ,G,Qt vernment h,as caused the greatest depression that South Australia h,as.ever known.
Honor.able members opposite may .say that the State Government had to take over a legacy fr.om its Labour predecessor. When the pac.t parties were on the huntings during the last State .ejection they .alleged, in order .tq discredit the Labour administration, that the ,-S.tate finances showed a .certain .deficit, but .su.br sequent investigation showed (that ,the figure mentioned was excessive. The p.act candidates , Also promised that if their parties ,were put in .office there would be no increase of taxation and that the people in country districts would be well cared for. To show how those promises were fulfilled, I shall place on record some of the things done .by the Butler Government. Notwithstanding the promise to .care for country interests, railway freights and fares have .been increased by .20 per cent., thus imposing upon the people of the State .. taxation to the amount of £400,000 a year. Wharfage rates also have been increased 20 per cent.
– On whose, recommendation ?
– That is immaterial. The -Government .has a majority -in both Houses of Parliament and must .accept responsibility for its policy. The in crease of wharfage rates affects the small ports in my electorate and will prove a heavy burden upon those people who were promised that the pact parties would do something to expedite the development of the remote and backward areas. A 25 per cent, increase in water rates is estimated to yield an extra £24,000 to the Treasury, and an additional £275,000 is being taken from the pockets of motor users through the increase in the motor tax.
If there was one thing’ more than another of which the Labour Government in South Australia was proud, it was its education policy. Members of all parties admitted the fine work which Mr. Hill had done for education, especially in the interests of the people outback, hut the Butler Government has reduced the education vote from £224,000 to £82,0.00. False economy of this kind will press very heavily upon the people in country districts. School buildings for which provision was made in the Labour programme1 are not to be proceeded .with, and this -reversal of policy is partly responsible for the existing unemployment.’ The amendment of -the Income Tax Act has created general depression Bachelors and spinsters are subject -to a minimum tax of £1; they have to pay a further £1 -because they become taxable, and there is a super tax of 5s. Thus every servant girl who earns as much .as 14s.” a week and keep will .be required to pay £2 -5s. a ye,ar in income tax. In the case of married .taxpayers,, allowance for each child has been reduced from £50 to £30, and the deduction in respect of a wife has been similarly curtailed. Not only is the Composite Government in South Australia placing the .burden of -taxation on those who can least afford to pay it, but industries are being almost .taxed out pf existence. The economic depression now existing will become much worse if preventive measures are not taken, and for- that reason I hope that the Prime Minister will adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the State Premiers should be called into conference to devise means of relieving the present unemployment. As an illustration qf the effect pf taxation upon industry, I ,quote the following extract from the South Australian Advertiser of 27 th January last : -
Holden’s Considering Removal
Burden Too Heavy
Giving evidence before the Federal Constitution Commission to-day, Mr. E. W. Holden said that the question of removing the works of Holden’s Motor Body Builders to Victoria had at least . been considered. Such removal would cost £100,000, but the saving on two items, wharfage and taxation would be £50,000 a year. Therefore the cost of removal would be recouped in two years.
He gave instances of’ disabilities under which South Australian industries suffered through higher taxation and wharfage rates.
Whilst the removal of that industry, may benefit another State, it will be to South Australia a very bad knock. . The statement by Mr. Holden indicates the extraordinarily heavy burden that the Butler Government. . has imposed . upon industry. Whileit is resorting to these extremes in. order, to raise money, and is practising economy , and keeping the workers on the bread line, it has appointed Senator ‘Barwell to the position of. AgentGeneral in London upon terms much more generous than were, enjoyed by his prede-. cessor. The appointment arose out of the desire of the Commonwealth Government that Senator, Barwell should not stand for re-election at the end of this Parliament, and after certain overtures Mr, Butler came to the ‘rescue by providing for Senator Barwell in London. Notwithstanding the financial straits of the State he has been appointed for’ five years instead of the usual three years, the allowance pertaining to his office is to be increased by ‘£800 a year, and, in addition, he is to be provided with a secretary. It is rumoured that the Publicity Agent of the Liberal Federation in South Australia is going to London to act in a secretarial capacity.
The South Australian Commissioner of Public Works has stated that no Government work will be put in hand’ unless it will pay interest on capital cost. A large water conservation scheme, which will open up’ more country than any other developmental project in that State, is already in partial operation. If it is not proceeded with construction operations will be suspended, and furtherunemployment will be- created. Whereas 600 men were employed on these works before, now only about 100 are engaged, and those who have been awaiting the completion of the undertaking to get water for their areas will be forced by the parsimony of the present Government to wait many years for the water they require. Only one railway in South Australia pays interest on the capital cost.. Water conservation schemes rarely do; but indirectly they repay their . cost many times over. If only works that are directly reproductive are to be undertaken, how much development, will take . place ? If the policy that the ‘Labour party is advocating be adopted, development can proceed, and employment will be found for many hundreds of workers. What has been said from this side of the House with regard to unemployment is not exaggeration. At least ‘100,000 men are unable to find work. The Opposition’ has brought this serious state of affairs before Parliament without any- desire to make political capital out of it. A means “of affording relief has ‘been pointed out- to the Government; and if it will- accept our advice, it will be welcome’ to’ all the kudos’ that may accrue. In1 a few - months’ ‘time, when the wheat has been harvested and shipped, and various seasonal employments : are finished, the conditions in South’ Australia will be very serious if some action is not taken immediately -to- “provide relief. Should the Commonwealth - Government remain inactive in- this urgent matter, it will have occasion before- long to regret that it did not heed : - the warnings- that have been uttered from. thisside of the House.
.- We all have read of those men amongst barbarous tribes who practise the profession of witch doctors. Having a clever instinct for mob psychology these men took advantage of the ignorance, credulity, and fear of the masses to gain domination over their minds, and to build up for themselves , a, reputation for supei’ior wisdom and infallibility. , With the progress of civilization, however, came a cynical doubt of the superior power of the witch doctors, who, in order to reestablish their ascendancy over the minds of their dupes were then forced to resort to the most violent contortions,’ imprecations, and emphatic repetition of their incantations. The position of the Labour leaders in Australia is very much the same. For a long time they have traded in high-sounding and imposing phrases. Their stock-in-trade has consisted of quite a lot of catch words which have appeared to convey wisdom to the people to whom they have spoken. Their principles have been expressed in a series of set phrases which have passed as current coin among the people to whom they have spoken until put to the real test, when they are found to be not gold but only pinchbeck. With the progress of education amongst the people at large and the changes of circumstances that are taking place in the Commonwealth to-day, making electors think for themselves, instead of taking their political or economical beliefs ready made for them, many of these formulae, ‘ which have passed muster hitherto, are now being questioned. Many people are beginning- to realize that the ready expedients advancedby the Labour party to meet all the ills of the body politic are nothing but camouflage, are opposed to economic’ truths, and when put into actual practice fail in- their alleged results; I do not think that this, is true of anything more- than -it -is of unemployment. . 1 ‘-…
So far in this debate the question of unemployment has been touched upon by the Oppositionin1 a very superficial manner. Honorable members opposite have made free use of statements to show the amount ‘ of unemployment in Australia, but I- have not heard from themany analysis ‘that has got right down to the root of the matter. There has been a lot of dispute as to the exact amount of unemployment, but I do not propose to bother about figures, because I do not dispute the fact that there is serious unemployment in our country. Whether it be as great or not as great as the unemployment we had last year, there is an amount’ - of unemployment which should not exist in a country possessing such natural resources, wealth and ability to support a large population.
In passing I draw the attention of the Minister in charge of the House for the time being to what is obviously an unintentional error in the introduction to a table quoted by the Prime Minister, and appearing on page 3354 of the “proof” edition of Hansard, wherein the stated percentages of unemployed must have relation, not to the total population of the country, but to the membership of the unions which supply the information to the Statistician. That this is so can easily be seen by calculating 7 per cent, on a population of 6,000,000.
Instead of disputing the fact that unemployment exists I want to try to analyse its cause and get down if possible to the real root of the trouble. I think it is an axiom that the amount of unemployment in any country depends upon the wage fund of the community or the amount of money available for providing employment. Some honorable members opposite do not seem to have a very clear idea about what this wage fund is. For instance, the last speaker spoke of remissions of taxation by the Government as being a deliberate hindrance to employment. It is evident” that his idea is that employment can come through govern- ment channels only, and that when the government remits taxation or gives up public revenue and leaves it in the pockets of private individuals it is therefore immediately removed ; from the wage fund and no longer -available for the employment of labour. As a matter of. fact in the speeches of all honorable members opposite” the principle lias been laid down that unemployment is to be met by the Government spending money and undertaking this or that activity.
-The honorable member is not right in saying that.
– That principle has been laid down again and again in many speeches of honorable members opposite. Lists of public works that ought to be undertaken to provide employment have been given, and the whole gravamen of the Opposition’s accusation against the Government in this censure motion is that Ministers are not proceeding with sufficient government works to engage the men who are out of work. Remitted taxation may be just as available for paying labour as if it remained in the Treasury. The question is whether Australia is to be run entirely as a government concern, with all its activities purely departmental, or whether private enterprise is to be well and truly encouraged. Apart from the amount of waste which occurs. in administrative expenses when large sums are spent through government .channels, I most .st.ro.ngly believe that money can be more economically and more profitably employed when it is spent by those whose personal concern it is to see that it is employed in a lucrative : manner
If the amount of unemployment ie due to the wages fund of the community, at any particular time that fund will be a more or less definite amount. It may vary from time to time according to the prosperity of the country; but at any one moment it will be a more or less definite amount, and if the wages payable out :of it are doubled the number of people .who can be employed put of it is halved. I state the .case in that way to make clear the general proposition that every increase of wages out of a fixed fund must diminish the amount of unemployment .that can be given by the fund, and that the idea;that we can continue to increase the amount of the wage indefinitely without diminishing employment is a fundamental fallacy which is at .the root pf pur arbitration. system. As I have set out more fully in .other speeches .in .this House., .by ,the action ,o.f the Arbitration Court in .constantly .increasing wages a definite increase .of unemployment was bound to be brought about in .Australia. We .have .such .statements as the extraordinary one that an -.industry .which cannot ,pay .the yages laid down by an arbitration court should cease to .exist. The economic fallacy of that situation is .abundantly .clear. The only alternative, .apparently, which honorable members .of the Opposition oan offer in .that .case is that -an industry which cannot ,pay the wages laid down by .an arbitration Count should .receive a subsidy from the Government to .enable it to do so– as if that would make -it any more a payable proposition. Let me take another point of view. If with a fixed wage fund we have a definite wage, and we double the cost of goods, it naturally follows that we halve the wage, or, in other words, lower the .standard of living. If -we halve the wages of a man we reduce by half his purchasing power and his standard of living.
– And his Wife and children suffer.
– That is perfectly true; but the .honorable member does not seem to remember it when he votes for measures which increase the cost of goods. To interpose sympathetic utterances is all very well; but I have pleaded in vain with honorable members not to do that which the honorable member for East Sydney now admits is imposing a hardship on the wives and children of the -.workers. .An increase in the cost of goods, with, a consequent reduction of wages and lowering of the standard of living- is the first and principal result of the .protective policy .of Australia. Two forces are operating .at the same time - that which tends to increase wages and thus diminishes .employment, and that which tends to increase the price of goods and so diminishes the value .of wages. They have been at work in Australia for a long time. While the .principle involved was carried out in a partial degree only, people did .not mind. They did not quite see where -they were being hit ; but it has gone .on in increasing .proportions year after year .until at ..last -both -forces hav.e operated on -the community to such an extent that the ‘hurden -has become unbearable, ,and the inevitable result has been ,a great deal of unemployment.
The w;age fund,of a country -is provided put of the production (of the country. If production is reduced - that is, by reduction of hours-we must either lower wages, ,and .consequently the standard pf living, ,pr reduce employment. I .have pointed out .again and again a fact that is .undisputed ,by rail .economists- - =that where we have ja system of .constantly raising .prices, increases of wages never catch tup -to the prices. Production is ia matter in which we are all deeply interested, and which we should study with the greatest .care. I direct the attention of honorable members to a paper entitled, Production in Australia, which, a Mr. Bishop, of Mosman, Sydney, re.ad during the meetings of the Australian. Association for the Advancement of .Science, which were held in Tasmania last month. -I do not know Mr. Bishop, but I have read his paper with great .care. It appears to me to have been written by one who has altogether detached himself from any political or academic prejudices, and given the most thoughtful and earnest consideration to his subject. He dealt in an analytical way with the .relation .of secondary and .primary industries to the production of -wealth from various sources. The : paper provided stiff but valuable reading.
-It only gives the gentleman’s personal opinion.
-I understand that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) was present ‘at -some of the meetings ‘of the association. Perhaps ‘he heard -Mr. Bishop read his paper. If ‘he did, or if ‘he would ^undertake !to read it, I should be glad, indeed, to their him answer the arguments that are adduced in at. Mr. Bishop, after his careful survey of the situation, concluded that manufacturing in -Australia could not be considered as production at all ‘unless it was for -export. He stated, ‘in other words, that ‘our secondary manufactures were only primary productions transferred unless they were for export. That is perfectly true, and in harmony with the general principle that that only produces -wealth which produces something of -exchangeable value. Unless our secondary manufactures have -an exchangeable value in the markets ‘Of :£h’e world ,they are not -wealth at-all
Our extreme fiscal ‘and -industrial policies have ‘led Us ‘into a very bad position. In order .to show -what -a modification of our ‘present methods ‘might do for -us I -wish to ‘refer ‘briefly to the experience ;of : the sister Dominion ‘Of Canada, which is ‘not burdened by either of -the ‘t-wo incubuses Which I -have “mentioned. Canada has only a very mild and in -many ‘respects quite -“a low tariff, While her arbitration -‘system, is ‘-vastly different f rom- ours. Arn “article <in ‘the Boston News Bureau of the 31st October makes ;a carefulsurvey ‘Of the development -df ‘Canada during ‘the ‘la’st 60 years. After dealing with her ‘primary production it “reads’ -
Though ‘the basic -producing ‘industries of Canada have shown this ‘remarkable development, even more marvellous -has been ‘the growth of the manufacturing industries, which consume not ‘only ‘the raw ‘materials provided a.t home but also the raw materials from other countries, as -is the case in rubber and cotton industries. From a few small -plants have grown 22,000 manufacturing establishments with a capital of $3,808,000,000, using raw material to the value ‘of $1,587,000,000, and producing manufactured goods to the value of $3,000,000,000. Canada’s export of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods, amounting to $695,000,000, in the last ‘fiscal year, exceeded her imports of manufactured goods in the same year.
That -is the -experience ‘of ‘a “dominion which grants its .great iron ‘and -steel industry a protection of ‘only 7s. .per ton, instead of the monstrous duties that we have provided .for the ‘alleged purpose !of protecting and ‘encouraging our iron and steel industry.
The ‘Leader of the Opposition ‘(Mr. Charlton) and his colleagues have for a long time ‘past been issuing promissory notes ‘to “the rank and ‘-file >of their ; Supporters. They have said that :i’f their policy of higher protection were adopted, employment would increase, ‘and that if employment increased higher wa.ge3 would -follow. They are somewhat concerned now to ‘find ‘that their -promissory notes are not being honoured, and are trying to escape ‘from the difficult” position in which they find themselves by asserting that the only reason ‘why the tariff and the Arbitration Court -have not made Australia a paradise is that, forsooth, ‘we have ‘not had enough of “them ! When the new tariff -schedule ‘was under .consideration ‘in this chamber at the end ‘of last year, -the ‘Leader of ;the Opposition implored that the duties :set Out in it- should become fully operative immediately, and so .prevent unemployment and enable countless families to enjoy a happy Christmas. His speeches during that deba”te were, Jin this regard, ‘most moving. Oh”e gathered -that -if “the ‘ditties ‘provided in the ‘schedule were -at once imposed we should enter ‘upo’n a -new era ‘of ‘happiness and contentment in Australia. Instead of that we -are confronted with -a motion df ‘.censure ‘-Upon the Government “because , of the great increase of unemployment. Three or four months have elapsed since the enforcement- of the new duties, but the position is -worse now than it was ‘previously. As a ‘matter of fact honorable members ‘of ‘the ‘Opposition are ‘floundering in -.an ‘economic ‘morass. They have accepted certain phrases a’s shibboleth’s. They do not know, or -if they do know they will not confess, ‘that their ‘recipes for the happiness and contentment of the workers have proved completely disappointing.
During the interesting and able speech of the honorable member for -Dalley (Mr. Theodore1) ‘delivered last evening, -I ‘interjected that although he professed to be dealing with “the problem df unemployment he was simply stating the symptoms, not diagnosing the disease. He asserted that one of the principal causes of unemployment was slackness of trade. But that does not get us anywhere, and counts for nothing. What is the meaning of the term “ slackness of trade,” and how is it that such a condition is brought about ? The honorable member made certain observations on this aspect of the subject, but shirked the real issue. Slackness of trade occurs when manufacturers cannot sell their products. Why cannot our manufacturers sell their’ products? The reason is that the prices are so high that the people have not the money to pay them. These are simple facts which cannot be denied. Our high tariff and the awards of the Arbitration Court jointly make the cost of production in Australia altogether too high. They have hit every man in the community very hard in his pocket. Because of them shopkeepers in our” cities are unable to make a sufficiently large turnover to pay their way. It is for this reason that numerous small businesses . are closing down every day in our cities, and that “ to let “ notices are appearing in so many shop windows. Less trade is being done. It is for this reason also that meetings of creditors are increasing to an alarming extent in most of the business centres in Australia. Business cannot be done because our cost of production is too high to make it profitable. . And we shall not solve our problem by simply providing the worker with higher wages. That will only accentuate our difficulties.
Apart from the effect of the high cost of production upon individuals, let us think for a moment of its effect upon our public utilities. It ‘is- causing an” enormous increase in the cost of government. We have heard a good deal tonight about railway construction. One of the reasons why railway construction cannot be carried on as. it should be in Australia is that the price, of material’ is absolutely prohibitive.Steel rails may be purchased’ in Europe to-day for £4 17s. 6d. per ton, while in Australia the price is £12 15s. per ton. Structural and commercial steel cost £4 10s. per ton in Europe, and £14 17s. 6d. per ton in Australia. How can it be expected that under such conditions we can build railways and undertake other large- engineering works which are necessary to our development, and which would provide employment for thousands of men? The plain fact is that because of the artificial methods that we have adopted prices have increased to such an extent that government and other public bodies cannot do the work that they would like to do. They have found that in the last analysis the money must come out of the pockets of the producers, and it is not possible to take out of their pockets more than they hold.
How is the ordinary man in the street affected by our high cost of production and living? The official figures issued by our statistical department for last month show that the index figure for the cost of living to-day is’ 1787 compared with HOO in 1911, which year, as honorable members know, is always taken as the standard of comparison. We have gone 687 points to the bad since 1911. In other words, the cost of living, according to the Statistician’s figures, is 75 per cent, higher to-day than it was then. Unfortunately, as I have constantly pointed out, this does not tell the whole’ story. The index figures refer generally only to food and groceries ; though in -some cases the cost of housing is also taken into consideration; the point that we have to remember is that they never take into account the increased cost- of clothing. It may be that there are great difficulties in obtaining reliable figures on this aspect of the matter, - but I venture to say that the cost of do thing has increased’ more since 1911 than any other item of household expenditure. If this is also taken into account the cost of living figures will be considerably raised.
The Opposition has accused the” Government of causing unemployment by refusing to do something. . I accuse’ the Opposition of being parties’ to this ‘unemployment by doing the very things which I.;, have been enumerating^ and which are really responsible for the. present position.
– The honorable member does not appear to be humorous, but he is.
– The’ honorable member’s view of humour is as distorted as is his view of .economics. The policy, advocated by the members of the Opposition is operating with particular severity on the very people whom they are supposed to represent in this House, and whom they profess to care for and desire to succour. It is the poorest people in the community who- are suffering, and yet the members of the Opposition, who profess to have the care of the under-dog upon their conscience, are piling these burdens upon their backs, and wish to escape the responsibility by blaming someone else.
Mr.West. - I do not know why the Government has overlooked the honorable member.
– I intend to deal with the Government now, and honorable members opposite may breathe freely for a few moments. I was intensely interested in the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister, because, if my memory serves me aright, it is the first speech on tariff policy which has fallen from his lips during the five years I have been a member of the Federal Parliament. I do not remember - I may be wrong - the Prime Minister ever delivering in the House a policy, speech on tariff matters.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs never gives “him an opportunity.
– Usually speeches on tariff matters are delivered by that Minister; but the Leader of the Government has not hitherto made a fiscal ‘ speech in this chamber. I listened to the right honorable . gentleman’s utterances, which, as usual, were clearly expressed, with the greatest interest, and I could not help feeling gratified that in that speech he repeated many of the statements and principles which have on various occasions emanated from honorable members in this corner. He repeated them to such an extent that certain honorable members of the Opposition actually twitted him with making afree-trade speech. The Prime Minister described with the greatest accuracy the principles and operation of high protection, and the effect of such a policy upon the community. He objected to higher duties, because he said their effect would be detrimental. If the effect of higher duties would be detrimental, and the principle enunciated ‘by the Prime Minister as to the baneful operations of extreme protection is correct, I am curious to know how far these results can be avoided under the high protection policy which the Government has already introduced. The Minister for Trade and Customs advocates high duties, and wishes to push that policy to further extremes. As a fact, the very things which the Prime Minister said would follow upon the extreme application of high protection are happening in Australia to-day as a result of the high protection which this Government has introduced.
Our position is due, not to the need for further prohibitory action, but because we have already gone too far. Throughout the country there is a demand not for higher duties, but for a reduction in the excessive customs tariff under which we are labouring. The only alternative which the Prime Minister had to offer was this : He said “ This Government will get over these evils by a ‘ scientific ‘ tariff.”
– Good old “scientific tariff.”
– Yes, many have been the uses and abuses of the word “ scientific.”
– What does science mean?
– It means “ exact knowledge” - action based upon facts, not fancies, fallacies or theories. I have never heard ‘ any abuse of the word “ scientific “ so great as is its application to tariffs. If a tariff can be scientific, what is the science applied to it? What is the kind of science? There are a number of different sciences. What science is particularly applicable to a tariff ? The science of economics, it goes without saying.
– Progress is not a science, but the result of the application of science. The only science applicable to a tariff is the science of economics. It is strange that this, phrase, which high protectionists are so fond of using, has no meaning except in. their own imaginations. If we want to know what the science of economics teaches, we must go to the teachers of that science. It is an extraordinary and incontrovertible fact that high protectionists cannot produce a text book or writings by any teacher or authority on economics which approves of protection. I challenge any high protectionist in this House to do so.
– Oh dear!
– It is quite true. It is a disconcerting fact, and I think the honorable member who interjected is strongly suspected of holding these views. At any rate it is extraordinary that there is no such thing as a scientific tariff. There is no foundation in scientific teachings for the theories embodied in the principle of protection. ‘ All writers of economics unite in condemning it as a policy, and it is extraordinary that despite this there are masses of people who believe in protection. They do so solely because selfishness is their guiding principle. Instead of the members of the Opposition having a leg on which to stand in censuring the Government for the heavy importations, wb find on every hand that we already have too much protection. The conditions and standards are unreasonable, and we cannot afford to support a policy which embraces them. Such conditions and standards have to be paid for. An industry which cannot pay is not profitable to any country. An industry should operate under proper commercial and competitive conditions, and should not bo artificially maintained by means of subsidies, duties ‘and the like. The expression which we have often heard that “goods are being commercially manufactured in Australia,” is a gross misuse of words, : because many of such goods are .not being so manufactured. They cannot be, in the proper acceptation of the term, unless “under competitive ‘conditions. When .goods are manufactured ‘with the assistance -of subsidies taken .from die (pockets of the people, who have to pay for the benefit -of a certain section of the community, they are not being manufactured on a commercial basis at all. They are an incubus, a curse, not a blessing, to a country. We speak of establishing industries, when they have to have splints to enable them to stand upright. Establishing industries! What do we mean by that? An ir dustry is established if rendered stable. Il is not stable if it would fall down if not propped up by a duty. It is useless to manufacture goods if we cannot sell them. We cannot sell them to-day owing to the high prices which are due to the high cost of production. The high prices naturally drive buyers to purchase cheaper importations from other countries. They do that instead of buying our own goods. We can preach until we are black in the face about buying Australian-made goods, but every one will buy only what his purse permits him to buy, and he is right in so doing.
We also speak ‘of countries being selfcontained, and, when the occasion demands, honorable members opposite reiterate the catch phrase that it is our duty to make Australia self-contained. We have been busily engaged for a long time in the endeavour to make Australia selfcontained, but we shall never be able to keep it so, because we are placing such an undue strain upon its natural wealth that we have to resort to overseas borrowing. When we cease borrowing the true position confronts us, and we are loth to face it. We have brought about a condition of affairs which .cannot last. The results which we see about us are duc to economic pressure. The difficulties and distress which is prevalent in this country are the result of our own folly for which honorable members opposite must take a large share of responsibility. Experience teaches us that we have made mistakes, and if Ave are wise we shall retrace our steps.-
But we have something .beyond our own experience to .guide us. Only recently -the greatest :conference of thoughtful and experienced men which the world has ever seen - the ,great Geneva Economic Conference - .discussed the vital questions which we should be debating to-day. Instead .of talking .about the advisability of building certain .railways, .or whether -the Government .-is right in opposing the .erection of a certain telephone exchange, we should be discussing the fundamental principles of economic strength and national wealth - subjects which were discussed and carefully examined at the great Geneva Conference. That -conference submitted *one of ‘the finest reports ever published ‘for the guidance of public men. It .sets out all the facts and conditions which the conference had before it, and we are guilty of the greatest folly or ignorance if Ave brush it aside. I regret to say that it is being disregarded in Australia. It is receiving practically no attention, and yet Ave Avant to know why there is unemployment and distress in Australia. Instead of thinking Ave can talk round the subject in this House, we should go to the experts who studied this subject, and who have supplied a solution of our difficulties.
– The honorable member should try to be cheerful.
– Perhaps I have been affected by the “ sob-stuff “ which honorable members of the Opposition have been breathing over us during this debate.
– They are a cheerless lot.
– Yes, they do not even inspire smiles. If honorable members opposite Ban offer any solution of .o.ur difficulties why do they not help to bring about a better understanding between the different sections of the community, by an .exchange of ideas and views which may help .to solve some of o.ur problems. We have at present a proposal by the Government for a conference, at which the representatives of the different sections shall meet and discuss, ,as sensible men, the causes of our industrial unrest and economic difficulties. But what do we find.? Have we heard one word from the Labour members in .this House advocating ,the holding .of -.that , con.ference or urging that steps .should be taken .by the Labour party to choose delegates ‘to attend it? Not one word ,in support -of it has been .uttered ;by “.the Opposition .throughout this .debate. On the contrary, it is regrettable to find that, as far as one can judge from -the -reports -in -the pi-ess - ?and I hope that they are not .true - many of -the leaders of the Labour movement in this country are determined to present the conference from taking place, -and, failing that, will do their best to .annul its effect.
I was astonished to .read in the Argus of Friday, 24th February, the following report of a discussion in the Australian Council of Trade Unions respecting the proposed industrial peace conference -
Mr. -R. S. Ross (Clerks’ Union) -said that the weapon of industrial unrest was the only means whereby the working class could fight the forces arrayed against it. The proposal was simply an attempt to make it easy to introduce bribes to the working class in the form of piece-work and bonus systems.
That is typical of the spirit -that is behind the attitude of the Labour party. .One can only assume ‘that the leaders of that party do not want industrial peace, because there would then be no reason for their existence. They must keep up social discord, since it is only through the discontent of the masses of the people that they can retain their positions as union leaders. If that be so, then whatever good may have resulted from the trade union movement as an industrial force in the community - and I think the results of the movement have been magnificently beneficial - grievous harm has undoubtedly been caused through labour becoming a political party at all. Labour leaders are out to foment class differences and hatred, and they trade upon .the credulity and ignorance of those whom they represent,.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the workers should rely on direct action?
– That is npt the .alternative. Class .differences have .been adjusted in America without the interference of a political party such as that which has -been .the .curse .of this .country. The facts .that I have stated in .trying .to get to the root of industrial unrest may not be acceptable ito honorable members opposite, but I think .that they are wor.th pondering over,. They are., at ‘.any .rate, in accord with the .common-sense view .of the man in .the .street, and -do .show, .to some extent, where we hav.e -been wrong. My desire >in making a .contribution ito this debate has ‘been .to (try to clarify .the position ,and .not .to involve it in ,a tangle ,pf words and generalities. I have given bedrock facts, a sane consideration .of which may lead to ,a better condition of affairs.
.- I dare. say it will occasion no surprise when I .announce .that I propose to support the motion moved by the Leader .of the Labour party (Mr. -Charlton) -
That, in the opinion .Qf 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.
It will be seen that there are in that indictment three counts, any one of which ought -to be sufficient, from a purely political sense, .to hang the Government. On the fiscal issue the ‘Government is undoubtedly in a difficult .position. It is blessed with a Minister if or Trade and
Customs, whose zeal for protection is an unquenchable flame. Only last night he delivered an oration which, will live inhistory long after Cicero, Demosthenes’ and Percy Brunton have become mere fading memories. It is true that the Minister for Trade and Customs unfortunately slipped on galvanized iron-
– It was a good job for him that he did not slip on the item of barbed wire.
– Even galvanized iron makes an impression. His illustration of the goods that were inevitably brought into this country because they could not be manufactured here was unfortunate, in that he quoted galvanized iron as a striking example. But though the Minister is enthusiastic, it has to be borne in mind that even the fives of fanaticism itself must pale in the cooling chamber of political necessity.
Has not the pact been ratified? Not in the electorates, so far as I know, but certainly in the governmental caucus, where selfpreservation is undoubtedly the first law of nature. The pact requires a- number of things. It requires, first of all, that the Government shall give hostages to fortune. It requires, unfortunately, that the people as a whole, whatever they may do in regard to the national debt, shall pay the full price of the pact. A little while ago, when we were in- recess, the Minister for Works ‘ and Railways (Mr. Hill) happened to be in Canberra, and, I think, almost alone. Under the inspiration which pleasant solitude sometimes brings to us, he gave an interview to a pressman, who called to ask him what he thought of Mr. Bruce now that he had completed his five years of distinguished service to Australia. The Minister, forgetting for the moment, perhaps, that his reply would be published,- turned to the pressman and said, “What a statesman it is! What urbanity! What capacity! What dignity! What suavity!” I am not certain that he used those actual words, but he finished - and it is a pity that such a glowing eulogy should have finished so lamely and ambiguously - “ He is one of us.” Whether, from his point of view, the Prime Minister is “one of us,” or “ we are one of him or both, or perhaps a little of each,” the real phenomenon is how, notwithstanding the dangerous conjunction implied by these words, the Country party still retains its separate entity. I hope that it will not be inappropriate - and I am sure it will not be out of order - for me to suggest that the Ministry includes, in fact, a Minister for High Duties and a Minister for Low Duties. I think it would be greatly improved if the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) were added as a Minister for duties applicable only to apples, maize, timber, and other commodities that are produced in the electorate which that honorable member represents ! If that were done, these representatives of various fiscal beliefs could, in due course, meet in the Cabinet room and report to the Prime Minister, who, by the way, is also Minister for Royal Commissions and Minister for Public Urbanity, how they were getting on, with their divergent fiscal views, in their several electorates.
There are to-day from 100,000 to 120,000 people out of employment in this country, and it must be very cheering to them to know that the Government has introduced a new phase of constitutional -government. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), endeavouring to explain the reason for these violently conflicting opinions among government supporters, said that there was. “nothing in them!” “It is true,’’ he said in effect, ; “ that there are varying opinions held- on this side of the House.” “There is, for instance,” he said, “the honorable member for Forrest, but he is out of date.” “ There are other members “, he explains, “ who are before their time, but after all, I,- the honorable member for Herbert, am here to play upon the middle register, and preserve the balance between them.” The honorable member also accused somebody of having drawn a red herring across the path in the shape of a cruiser! Worse than that, he’ associated the honorable member for” Dalley with the tremendous feat of swallowing the millennium! The honorable gentleman, since he became the accidental member for Herbert, appears to deem it his special vocation to constantly heckle and lecture the honorable member for Dalley. May I suggest to him mildly, because I would not think of pursuing the subject, that if he would address himself to Herbert, so as to secure by design what hitherto he has enjoyed by accident,- he would be better employed ?
I do not think I need say anything further to the Government on the fiscal issue. I turn to migration, and it is here that an ounce of experience is shown to be worth a ton of theory. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) well expressed the situation when he said that, a motion of censure having been moved against the Government in respect of the immense volume of unemployment, and its failure to deal with the problem, the Prime Minister emerged from his rural and exceedingly comfortable surroundings in retirement at Canberra, rushed into the House, and, just as a knight of old in an emergency would have said, “Varlet, bring me my sword,” exclaimed, “ Bring me my bluebook !” On the floor of the House he endeavoured to show by fractions and decimals that there is no serious amount of unemployment in Australia. Let me make a suggestion to him. There are some narrow streets in Fitzroy, which is within my electorate. The accommodation in some of the houses there is not great; but I will arrange, if necessary, to have a room put at his disposal. ‘ On the front door of the house a modest notice might be erected bearing the legend, after the fashion of prime donne and others, “Bruce is here.” If he did that, I assure him that he would have such substantial proof of the large volume of unemployment, even in that particular district, that he would not only hasten back to his sylvan surroundings at Canberra, but for the rest of his life would be loth to leave them.
It would be unkind of me to say anything further about the Prime Minister’s unwise choice of figures. It was mentioned to-day more than once, in the course of the debate, that some, friends of the right honorable gentleman said his attention had not been called to figures which conflicted so palpably with those he had presented to the House, and which to such a material extent substantiated the case submitted by the Opposition. Well, I was here when the right honorable gentleman was speaking. The honorable member’ for Dalley was just in front of me, and he, with a manner and modesty that I could not have’ displayed in the circumstances, more’’ than once called the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the figures. To me it was most extraordinary ‘that the Prime Minister, in spite of this kindly assistance from the Opposition, lost the opportunity to inform himself upon a vital part of the case “he was presenting.
Migration is a subject which more than any other tends to illustrate the incapacity of this Government. The Government’s chief defence is a misrepresentation of Labour’s policy. The Prime Minister contents himself -with the statement that Labour does not want any kind of migration, and does not mean what it says. I do not know why he suggests that Ave do not mean what we say. If we do not mean it, I fail to see why we should say it. I give the Government full credit for meaning what it says, and for what it does in this matter : That is to say, it permits and encourages an inrush of migrants, with little consideration of how they are to be employed or disposed in this country. As a, matter of fact, Labour not only means what it says, but, during its last three years of office, gave some proof as an earnest of its meaning in the matter, with the result that those years of Labour rule were conspicuous for the fact that immigration was comparatively high and unemployment low to the point of being negligible”.
There are certain basic theories underlying the subject of immigration. The fatuous theory of the Government is that population necessarily spells wealth. The answer to that is so obvious that it hardly needs to be stated; but, obvious as it is, apparently it has not been assimilated by the Government and its supporters. If population necessarily spelt wealth, countries with the densest populations would naturally be the richest; but, as we know, that is not so. Population usefully employed and with hope in its heart is an asset; population that is unemployed, discontented, disappointed, deceived, is a liability, and a very heavy liability, too. The basic theory of the Labour party is that the natural advantages of a ‘ well-governed and prolific country attract a constantly increasing flow of desirable migrants. But this Government moves in a vicious circle, in the familiar style of a dog chasing its own tail, and is not justified any more by the fact that it has a long and wobbly tail. More unemployment, more migration ! More migration, more unemployment! And so it goes on with its endless chain. You, Mr. Speaker, have no doubt heard the expression, though it has little application to your own virtuous life, of taking a hair of the dog that bites one. That is the practice of this Government. They apply bane and antidote, in succession, as they think, with the result that, to use an expression that is not entirely parliamentary, they are, from the migration point of view, on a perpetual “bender.”
It seems necessary to remind the Government of the fact, so constantly ignored, that the artificial stimulus of migration connotes and requires an artificial preparedness all along the line. It ought to be evident that if migrants are to ‘ be recruited and despatched from England, or elsewhere, as a phase of State socialism, then, - also, as a phase of State socialism ‘they must be accommodated in this country in such a way that they can become wealth producers, and not merely wealth users. I appreciate the fact that these are homely axioms, almost platitudes ; but, if they cannot be understood, it would seem that there is no other way of having them comprehended by the Government than by their frequent repetition. If the lauds of this country were liberated, if the products of the primary industries were being adapted to the requirements of the people by the labour of the people, then, of course, a real impetus could be given to the development of those products in respect of which we are able to . compete in the world’s markets on equal terms. But what are the facts ? A scalding indictment was made against this Government in this House in thelatter quarter of last year. It was pointed out that we have incurred tremendous commitments by way of loans for enterprises that are not only nonproductive, but also, in some cases, inherently vicious, and necessarily carried on at a loss. “ Point was given to the drift of the national finances resulting in the monstrous anomaly of a high tariff with a flood-tide of imports, a high cost of living and increasing unemployment, tremendous taxation at the customs house on the wage earner, and. at the same time the remission of taxation by this Government - the removal of the burden from the shoulders of those, best able to bear it, and its imposition, on those least favorably circumstanced.. ,
The Prime Minister, not being able torn make up his mind whether to admitor deny the existence of any considerable body of unemployment, and not beingquite sure whether he had any facts at all on the subject, weakly recommended, us to the States for a solution. I. admit that we are greatly hampered in. our national efforts by the absurd juggling with responsibility that proceedsfrom the system of government under which we live. I admit that the provision of mere temporary amelioration of unemployment is the duty of the Statesrather than of the Commonwealth, because a far greater variety of enterprisesis necessarily carried on by State governments than by the Federal government.. But the trade of the nation is directed by the Commonwealth and not by theStates, and to an increasing extent the finances of Australia are controlled by the Commonwealth authorities. The safety of this nation lies largely in unhampered and vigorous production. Although the trend of legislation cannot be held responsible for all unemployment, it certainly is responsible for what is unquestionably a cancerous growth upon the body politic, small though the percentage of the unemployed may be to the whole population. It is because of the use of the national funds in the manner I have indicated, through failure to- cooperate with the States in making land and money available to the people of Australia, and through apparent lack of. interest in. or their want of a sense of responsibility towards these problems, that we condemn the Government as inept and unworthy of public confidence.
On the 28th May, 1926, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) moved the second reading of a bill, which subsequently became an act, providing for the creation of a Development and Migration Commission. 1 remind this House that honorable members of the Opposition then advanced what I believe were telling arguments in support, of the view that the Government were putting the cart before the horse - which the Country party, at least, ought to have avoided - in making the stream of immigration run side by side with the appointment of a commission to inquire into developmental proposals. I now point out that the Opposition has been absolutely justified. Although the measure became law nearly two years ago, the commission has barely touched the fringe of those subjects which it was appointed to inquire into. I have no desire to reflect in any way upon that body. Because of the necessities of the case, a different result was not possible. In the report which it presented to Parliament for the period which ended on the 30th June, 1927, it dealt, amongst other things, with the subject 1 of employment and unemployment. I shall quote from that report> to show the fatuity of hoping that the commission would, within a short time of its appointment, discover any practical relief for unemployment, or be in a position to furnish any really useful tabulated information covering the immense field of inquiry which it was required to traverse. This is what it reportedin regard to unemployment -
The commissionhas been in consultation with Senator J. D. Millen, the chairman of the Royal Commission on National Insurance, and with the Commonwealth Statistician (both prior and subsequent to his recent visit to Europe) and is now formulating proposals for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government to deal with the problem in the following respects: -
Collaboration with the Commonwealth Statistician, and through him with the statisticians of the States, with a view to the continual supply of data regarding the incidence of unemployment in the various trades and industries.
Consultation with the States regarding the operation of Labour bureaux and exchanges, with a view to effecting a uniform system and standard throughout Australia.
Inquiry into specific trades and industries, with the object of recommending steps which may be taken by the Commonwealth and States, and the industries concerned, to eliminate as far as possible seasonal fluctuations, and ensure regularity of employment throughout the year.
Consideration of the directions in which Government departments and public bodies can assist by the judicious operation of their constructional programmes, both by planning works ahead over a term of years and deferring non-urgent works until periods of depression.
It is anticipated that a report will be available for the Government’s consideration at an early date.
That is a most inspiring and helpful document for those who are wondering how they are going to get bread and butter next week ! It does- not reflect upon the commission, but merely emphasizes the correctness of our attitude when we said, “ You have no business to carry on migration under this agreement with Great Britain at the rate of so many thousands of pounds a month until you have made the inquiries and done the work proposed to the commission.”
The policy of the Government in regard to migration really accentuates in a variety of ways the hardships of the people as a whole. In the first place, they have built up a vast Government department, which has increased expenditure at the rate of over £50,000 per annum; they have immensely increased our interest bill by borrowing money for the purposes of migration under the name “ “Works “ - a totally irregular use of borrowed money. The adoption of this policy has led to the displacement of labour, and the creation of a feeling of discontent, involved in which is a suspicion, that becomes more strongly founded each day, that the . Government . are pursuing this policy for the purpose of depressing the labour market, and making available a cheap form of labour.
The Government are pleased to doubt our good faith. All I have to say upon that point is that I and, I think, the party to which I belong would welcome approved representatives of all white races proportionately to the opportunities offering. We naturally prefer our own kindred, who in a certain sense are members of our own family, and speak our own language. I do not refer to them as members of our race, because that term is very much misunderstood, and has no connexion whatever with nationality. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) speaks of the desirability of a homogeneous race he surely misunderstands the position, and forgets that the British people are not a homogeneous race, but a combination of races, while their civilization is of Mediterranean origin. The future of this country must depend largely upon our native born, but I am convinced that the strain will be improved, both intellectually and physically, and, indirectly, morally, by drawing in moderation, when migration is justifiable, upon the best representatives of all the white races of the world. Like my leader, I have no prejudice against Southern Europeans, as such, and none against Italians. “ Man does not live by bread alone.” The world owes much of its spirituality to the art and literature of Italy, a land of which might be said what was said of a sister country -
Chosen home of chivalry, the garden of romance.
I have been- greatly struck with the truth contained in a very interesting article which was contributed to the Melbourne Argus last Saturday ‘upon the subject of Italy’s present misgovernment, by a well-known contributor, whose pen name is Elzevir, and whose contributions I regularly read with keen interest. He has summed up the position admirably in the following statement: -
I have an immense liking and admiration for the Italian people, and an utter loathing and abomination for the present Italian Government and all its works and ways.
I accept that judgment, and hope and pray that the present odious misgovernment of Italy is but a temporary phase of a great nation’s development.
– Misgovernment in Australia as well as in Italy.
– In both Italy and Australia, as my friend pertinently interjects.
There is another view to be taken of this question. I invite honorable members to say whether, in connexion with this migration scheme, they consider that we are doing full justice to our brothers in the British Isle’s; whether this system which is receiving such enthusiastic support in certain quarters in Great Britain does not really involve expatriation and the shirking by the British Government of responsibility in regard to its own people. Are we making ourselves a party to the determination of that government to shirk the obligation which it owes to its : own people?. In a speech that he delivered in . the House of
Commons on the 23rd March, 1927, Mr. Mackinder, M.P., a recent visitor to this country, said- -
We had the advantage of hearing Mr. Angwin, recently Minister for Lands and Immigration in Western Australia, and he stated that even in the States most favorable to immigration it would cost at least £1,800 per family. I am afraid if we are going to dump down our surplus of one and a quarter millions of unemployed at a cost of £1,800 per family, it is going to cost more money than either Western Australia or the whole of Australia can afford.
I do not admit that there is a surplus population of one and a quarter million people in Great Britain; I do not admit that there is a surplus population in any country. I quote from the same debate the following remarks of Colonel Gault, M.P.-
I would remind him-
He was referring to a Mr. Riley, M.P. Persons of that name are frequently encountered in the ranks of statesmen -
I would remind him that we have a population of 43,000,000, but our acreage is only 38,000,000, and that the available acreage of arable and pasture land only amounts to some 30,000,000.
That is interesting in the first place because of the words “ the available average of arable and pasture land.” But Mr. Riley makes a pointed interjection -
May I remind the honorable and gallant member on that point that we had 4,000,000 acres more under cultivation 50 years ago than we have now.
The Empire Settlement Act was reprinted in connexion with this report of the Migration Commission and I shallre f er to the debate on it. I have taken the trouble to extract some very useful expressions of opinion by Colonel Wedgwood, M.P., who, on the 26th April, 1922, is reported as having said in the House of Commons -
Only three years’ ago, we were going to make this land fit for heroes to live in. Now it is notthis country, but Western Australia and the Valley of the Darling that is going tobe made fit for heroes to live in. ‘. . .
I am quite aware that honorable members - are only too glad to bolster up any scheme which will put money into the pockets of their friends, but fortunately this, scheme is exempt from that particular vice. I would however, ask the House whether there is not plenty of land in this country.
Honorable . Members. - No
Colonel WEDGWOOD. - In that case mayI just quote the facts as to the growth of deer forests, the object of …which is amusement. In 1883, according to the report which lias been issued to-day, ‘the deer forests in Scotland covered 1,975,000 acres. In 1912, that figure, after 30 years, had grown to 3,584,000 acres. That is a development of a form of cultivation which inevitably results not only in driving sheep and cattle off the land, but in driving away human beings as well. . That is in the Highlands of Scotland.
Sometimes I turu to an interesting column in Saturday’s Argus ‘ wherein a lady writer under the pen name of “ Sib,” contributes interesting social notes from high places in Britain. I have taken this quotation from one of her letters. Referring to the movement of society towards the shooting areas and hunting in Great Britain and Scotland, she writes : -
One Scottish peer has let his moors for the next five years for £35,000. A rent of £3,000 for three months and 3,000 brace of grouse, is said to be a common figure. .Expenditure on dogs, beaters, keepers, and entertaining brings the amount spent in shooting in Scotland between August and November, up to £10,000,000 “.
If honorable members take the trouble to look it up they will find that in England, as in Australia, the movement is from the country to the cities. I am not disposed, therefore, to accept for one moment as proven the assertion that there is any surplus of population in England which justifies the expatriation of her own . people. In England, as in Australia, the land is held by a few grandees, and the legitimate owners of England are being herded in the big cities and reduced, I am sorry to say, to destitution in millions. As a solution of the problem * it is proposed to foist those unfortunates on the people of Australia. My answer to that scheme is that we welcome our kinsmen from Britain as friends and brothers, but we should like to populate Australia not from the ranks of despair, but from the ranks of hope. Our. view is that justice should be done to those people in their own country, by their own government ; that they should not be arbitrarily transported as part of an expensive immigration scheme, to Australia, to add to our volume of unemployment, to create discontent and bad feeling, and generally to retard the process of development.
The Prime Minister stated, and others have adopted the language of the right honorable gentleman in one form or another, that it behoves us to populate
Australia in order to justify ourselves before the League of Nations. By uttering such sentiments the Prime Minister is guilty of weak-kneed surrender of his duties as the trustee of this country, and is promoting la feeling against Australia which he should be the first to prevent, and which in no circumstance””, is justifiable. “Who are the natural owners of this country?
– I believe it may truly be said of the League of Nations that it possesses a sufficient sense of justice to be able to appreciate the Australian view-point if the facts were put before it. Unfortunately, the facts have not been promulgated by the Prime Minister. This country lay unused throughout the centuries until Captain Cook arrived upon its shores. It has been conquered by its present possessors and their immediate predecessors, not by the arbitrament of war, but in a manner much more effective and less bloody, and much more calculated to make their title secure. We, if I may say so without boasting, are the conquerors of this country, by the spirit and courage displayed by our explorers and pioneers, and by the application of scientific methods to our rural industries and manufactures. Our birth-rate is high, our occupation is real. The League of Nations need have no fear of our aspirations, unless its view of the facts is distorted by opinions expressed by and on behalf of this Government.
I am satisfied that the case against the Government is a sound one. I believe that Ministers have been callous in regard to unemployment. Last year, when from the Opposition benches we asked whither we were drifting, the Government should have taken appropriate action. It is very serious that unemployment should be critical at this period of the year. We expect a little unemployment in the depth of winter, but when the summer is with us, when ordinarily we may expect harvests of fruit or grain, there should be no unemployment problem. This Government cannot shift its responsibility on to the States. It is expected to speak for the whole of Australia, and, if necessary, to call together State. Ministers to. consult and to act. upon the. situation before it becomes, over acute and widespread. I heartily support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I did not at first intend to speak on this motion-, but after hearing the misstatements and shocking misrepresentations of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) regarding the Government of South Australia, I felt that I could not allow the occasion to pass- in silence. Up to the dinner adjournment I was prepared to- congratulate the honorable member upon having made a very excellent speech. After that, however, his statements regarding the South Australian Government were not only inaccurate, but, in some cases, bore- no relation to the facts whatever. The South Australian Government has had a very tough job. It has had many difficulties to face, and has faced them manfully, with a courageous determination to do the right thing. Itis setting itself out not to court popularity, but to do what it believes is right.
I do not wish to slander- the previous Government, but there are certain facts which a man is bound, in common honesty, to make clear to the people of this country. The previous Government in South Australia, as a Labour Government, was possibly the best in Australia * –possibly a long way the best - and that is not saying very much. It did some extremely good things. In regard to education it probably did more than any of its predecessors. T candidly admit that. But in other matters it was a very extravagant Government, and was not getting anything like 20s. in the £ value on some of the works it had undertaken. It was not even getting 12s. in the £. I propose to give the facts regarding the particular work that the honorable member for Grey made such a song about. I refer to the Tod River scheme on the west coast. This is peculiar country, and although some of it is well watered, there is a large area extending for hundreds of miles where water is very scarce. Since this development scheme was taken in hand there have been unceasing labour troubles. I do not know of any other instance in which so much trouble of the kind has been experienced. The Labour Government began the work on the daylabour principle, and it was known everywhere throughout the State that the Tod
River scheme was costing a tremendous amount of money: - a, most unjustifiable amount of money. The present Govern-: ment determined: that there should be no more foolery of this kind, because it realized that the enormous expenditure was. going to be a perpetual burden on those plucky settlers who have- gone into this country to make it productive. The Government told the men that they would have to accept piece-work conditions. It said that it had- obtained the advice of independent experts, as to what the work was worth, and told the men that that was the price it intended to pay. If the men were not prepared to. accept that price they could get. off the job. Then; the labour agitators got to. work and induced the men- to refuse- these terms. These agitators are the ruin of the working men of this country. Australian workmen are. as good as those- of any other country, but it is the agitators who have placed Australia in the distressful condition in which’ it is to-day. At last, however, I believe the working men are having their eyes opened. The men of whom I am speaking went on strike, but they came back eventually, and tackled the job with a will. They made up. to. 2s. a day more than they were making before, and the cost of the work was only one third of what it had been under the day-labour system. If the honorable member for Grey is not aware of these things let him ask the Pre:mier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, or the Leader of the Opposition in that State, Mr. Hill, whether the statement I have made is correct. The information which I obtained first hand shows the amount of cleaning up there is to do.
– They are working day work now.
– They are not. They are working at piece-work rates.
– During the last fortnight they have gone back to day work.
– That is not correct. That they have gone back to piece-work is the talk of all South Australia. I know the Tod River district well ; I represented it in the State Parliament for many years, and naturally still take a deep interest in it.
– -Did not Tom Price open up that country when you could not, and would not do so?
– I “got a railway for the West Coast- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) is talking a lot of rubbish about things of which he knows nothing.
– Tom Price did things while the honorable member talked about them.’.
– When the honorable member for Adelaide awakens tomorrow morning he will be sorry that he lost his head to-night. I am telling what I know. The’ Butler Government in South Australia has tackled the position confronting that State in a manner in which no government for twenty years has tackled a problem.
– It has sacked 7,000 men.
– No honorable member opposite can excel the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) when it comes to talking wild rubbish about things of which he knows nothing. It is indeed refreshing to find in Australia a government with the courage’ and determination which the Butler Government in South’ Australia has displayed’. Rather than tackle the problem as it has done, it would have been easier to blame the Labour Government which preceded it for having allowed the country to get into such a deplorable condition.
– The Labour Government had to carry “ Barwell’s baby “ ; the present Government has found it too big to carry;
– What did the present South Australian Government do ?
– It made a howling mess of things’ in a shorter time than any other government could have done.-
– The honorable member for Adelaide is out of order.
– The Government of South Australia, in an attempt to solve the problems confronting it, sought the assistance of two of the brainiest men in the Commonwealth in the persons of Mr. Walter Young, who came to the rescue of the government during the war period; in connexion with the wool pool, one of the biggest and most brilliant things done in any part of the Empire, and Mr. Harold Darlings a son of thelate Hon. John Darling, one of Australia’s brainiest men.
– A millionaire.
– Yes ;. he made his money out of small profits, by the use of his brain.
– He’ made his money out of the farmers of South Australia.
– The less the honorable member forHindmarsh (Mr. Makin) says about farmers the better. The honorable member would not know a Brahmaputra hen from one of the Cochin China breed. The Government of South Australia asked Mr. Young and Mr. Darling to investigate the financial affairs of that State, and offered’ them the assistance of the Under-Treasurer and the AuditorGeneral, two of South Australia’s most resourceful and- capable men. Without fee or reward, but solely in the interests of the country, Mr. Young and Mr. Darling undertook the task. The Government then had to decide whether the- liability should be spread over a term of three years, or drastic measures taken at once. It determined that, if possible, it would make the books balance this year. I believe that it will succeed. I do not say whether it was wise or unwise to place such a big burden on the people at a time when they were not very well able to bear it. The honorable member for Grey had a lot to say about the tax that will be paid by the servant girl who receives 14s. a week and keep. She will have to pay £1.
– She will have to pay £2 5s.
– The minimum is £1, but even if the tax should be £2 5s., does the honorable member deny that it is reasonable when, notwithstanding the depression, the picture theatres and other houses of amusement are crowded night after night? The increase in taxation is in the interests of the servant girl and the lowly paid workman as much as anybody else, and no thinking workman in South Australia complains of what he will be required to pay this year.
– What nonsense!
– The honorable member is not now addressing the mob in the Botanic Park. The honorable member for Grey slandered South Australia and I am clearing its reputation in the interests of all Australia. The burden of taxation will fall, not on the workman or the servant girl, but principally on the moneyed men who, at a time of severe depression are relatively hard up. No doubt the State Government is unpopular to-day.
– There is no doubt of that.
– But intelligent working men do not complain when the reason for the Government’s policy is explained. Those taxation proposals are being exploited for electioneering purposes. It is high time that such matters were discussed with a little common honesty in the interests ‘ of the State and not for the purpose of making political capital for one party or another. The State Government is tackling its financial responsibilities and is increasing by 25 per cent, the income taxation for last year, which was characterized by a good wool clip and a very good wheat crop. I believe there is every prospect that the Government will carry through successfully the job it has undertaken and that South Australia will be relieved entirely of its burden. The wealthy men, the merchants and the farmers are up in arms, but Mr. Butler and his Ministers are touring the State and the newspapers report that the detailed explanation of the financial scheme wins the Government applause instead of condemnation.
– Ripe vegetables are being thrown at the Ministers.
Mr.FOSTER.- An intelligent audience would not waste them on the honorable member. Neither he nor his colleagues would have the pluck to do what Mr. Butler is doing; South Australia is giving a lead to the rest of the Commonwealth, and if more of the same courage and determination were shown in our political dealings, the troubles of the country would soon disappear. Thank God wonderful rains have fallen in many parts of the State, and experienced men are confident that a drought which has been disastrous in some places is ended. Unfortunately there remains a big dry patch” in Queensland, and the people there are afraid that the monsoon season may pass without relief being given to them. But I have known abundant rains to fall all over the State after the monsoon season proper Avas over. That will happen this year. Let us keep up our hearts; talk of depression will avail us nothing,’ and it is to-be deplored that the South Australian Government; which has had the courage to tackle an unpopular business, should be slandered and misrepresented as it has been- to-night. I do not deny that there is serious unemployment, but I have known conditions to be quite as bad in other seasons. “We all know the cause of the existing state of affairs; we have set to work to cure it, and obviously one cannot prescribe a cure without first diagnosing the disease. Australia should be a paradise. At a send-off in London to the Governor-elect of South Australia, one of the speaker.? said that in Adelaide his Excellency would see a place more beautiful than Athens. That is true, and the pride of the people of South Australia in their State and its capital city will rally them to the support of the Government, which will reap its due reward when it has relieved the . State of its tremendous burden.
The motion before the House is the most insincere that was ever proposed in this or any other parliament. It is nothing but very poor pre-election propaganda on the cheap. What will the people think of . honorable members opposite ?
– What do they think of the honorable member?
– They think so much of me that I cannot but love them with all my heart. I want to give my friends ‘ opposite a few home truths for the good of their political souls. Do they want to know the cause of the present trouble? If so, I can tell them that it is not the working men, but the political wreckers of this country. Some of my friends opposite talk with very smooth tongues in the Botanic Park, but if they want to get rid of the present distress quickly, if they want to do the right thing, they must see to it that better results are obtained for the outlay of money. Strikes must cease. Australia would be a perfect paradise if it were not for the strikes engendered by those rebels who toil not neither do they spin; they get well paid for doing nothing.
– How long is it since there has been a strike in South Australia ?.
– I tell the honorable member again that South Australia is not Australia ; but it has to suffer along with other parts of Australia. “When the honorable member goes before his constituents at the next election how will he explain the drift of Queensland, the richest State in Australia, and one of the richest places on the face of the world? The trouble with South Australia to-day is that it is engaged in rehabilitating its railways. If it were not for the expenditure involved in that work its financial position would be much easier. The rehabilitation of its railways will cost the State a lot of money, but it will pay handsomely in the end.
In this connexion I cannot help gi ving my friend the Minister for’ Trade and Customs (Mr. .Pratten) a little bit of a touch up. The other day he was in the seventh heaven of delight with himself. He said that in a big workshop in Sydney he found people doing wonderful things. He ..said that an engine was being built nearly 200 tons in weight, the like of which had never been made before in Australia. That is true, but that engine is being built from blue prints of the design of an engine that Mr. Webb, the Commissioner of Railways in South Australia, introduced, and on which the Minister for Trade and Customs made the State pay 40 per cent. duty.
– I think that I allowed the engines of the Mountain type to come in free of duty.
– That is so, but why were not the engines of the Pacific type, which Mr. Pratten saw in Sydney, also allowed to come in free of duty ? Why should the Minister now begin to chirp because his tariff is up as high as the , ceiling? The introduction of engines of the Pacific, Mountain and Mikado types never seen before in Australia nor in Great Britain, should prove a god-send Already the saving in mileage costs in South Australia has been considerable, and the consumption cost of coal on the South Australian railways will come down almost to the cost per mile run on the New South Wales railways which have their fuel at their very door while South Australia pays 43s. per ton. These engines have all been introduced for thu advancement and development of Australia; yet the Minister for Trade and Customs has imposed on them a duty of 40 per cent. It should not have been more than 10 per cent. It needed courage to introduce these engines and teach’ the people of Australia how to build them; and it was the little -State of South Australia that had the pluck to do so.
– The engines were made in Great Britain.
– Yes, although they were of American design. The people of Great Britain were anxious to use engines of this type, but the engineers, upon investigation, found that the capital cost of acquiring the land needed to give sufficient clearance space for these engines would be out of proportion to the advantage to be gained by their use. The Minister for Trade and Customs will find in the’ Newport railway shops one of these big engines nearly completed, and built from the same blue prints. When these engines are put on the Melbourne to Adelaide run they will cut down the journey by 2£ hours. On the run from Adelaide to Mount Lofty one engine of the Mountain type is doing quite easily the work previously done by three engines. South Australia has to face the rehabilitation of its railways, because it means efficiency of the highest order. If the Minister has any soft spot in his heart, he ought to get down to the penitent form and ask the Almighty to make him a better man - fiscally. He ought to remit all the duty beyond 10 per cent., paid on the Pacific, Mikado and Mountain types of engines. He has done nothing in his life to compare with the blessing conferred on Australia by the importation of these engines.
South Australia’s troubles are heavy because of this rehabilitation scheme which will, before it is finished, cost well on to £10,000,000, but as a result, the State will have the best and most solid rail roads as well as the best rolling stock of every type in Australia. When the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland undertake the rehabilitation of their railway systems they will find that £20,000,000 will go nowhere. The trunk lines of Australia are in fairly good order right through, but nearly all the subsidiary lines need attention.
Another reason why we should have expected difficult times ahead of us in respect to railway and road work was that during the war our railways and roads were starved. They had to be starved. There was very little money to spend on them, and they depreciated badly. We have not had any wonderfully prosperous times since then to enable us to overtake the leeway caused by those years, but to-day we are face to face with the necessity of putting our railways into first-class order to enable them to compete successfully with motor transport. We must have the maximum of railway efficiency if our lines are to pay their way.
Although thousands of men are out of work in Australia, I am glad to say that in South Australia at any rate no man, woman or child will be allowed to go without food. And there is hope that the heavy clouds which now overshadow us will soon break. For the encouragement of those who are passing through severe trials at present let me say that a period of drought in Australia is usually followed by a bumper harvest. I hope that before the end of the year we shall be able to shake hands with each other and thank God that the worst is past. If we get good rains in September a great deal of the gloom that at present envelops us will disappear.
Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say about the failure of the Government to cope with the present situation, but have they made any suggestions to relieve the position? They have. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), for instance, recommended that all kinds of wild-cat schemes should be undertaken which could never pay interest oh the money expended upon them if they were persisted in until the crack of doom. We need to put an end to that kind of thing. Australia has reached an industrial crisis, and honorable members will find when they seek the votes of the electors in a few months time that they will have to do more than tell fairy tales and make promises. ‘Sufficient courage and pluck to tell the truth honestly and fearlessly will be necessary if we are to find our way out of the troubles that encompass us to the path which will lead to prosperity.
The Prime Minister, by arranging for the holding of an industrial peace conference, has given the people an opportunity to find a means to relieve the present tension. We have surely had enough of strikes, which have been responsible for holding back the development of the country in some States for twenty years. Honorable members opposite know that this is so, and in private conversation they are willing to admit it.
– The worker has won nothing without striking for it.
– I know that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who, by the way, will be on tenterhooka until after the next election, has, in his time, taken part in a number of strikes; but he has modified his views of late. I want to tell him something that will be for the good of his political soul. Australia, and the workers of Australia, have almost reached the end of their industrial tether, and advantage should be taken of the opportunity which the Peace Conference will present for the representatives of capital and labour to get together to try to find a way out of our difficulties.
– “ Will you walk into my parlour said the spider to the fly ?”
– That silly talk will not be of much avail to the honorable member when he faces the electors. There is a big movement going on amongst the working men and women of this country to-day. They are reviewing the past, and have come to the conclusion that the high wages that they have been drawing in recent years have not been worth very much to them. Let me recommend honorable members opposite to read the speech which the ex-Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sir Wallace Bruce, delivered recently in Hobart. One of the most influential newspapers in Australia has described it as the finest and most complete summing up of the present situation that has yet been made, and other newspapers throughout the Commonwealth have made flattering references to its common sense and broad outlook. If honorable members opposite would accept the kindly advice given them in that speech they would act wisely. Sir
Wallace Bruce admits that a serious unemployment problem faces us, but he says that we shall never solve it by making it a political issue. He advises that the best brains of the country should be called into consultation to endeavour to find a way of restoring the prosperity ot the nation. We are, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said in a lucid and masterly, although, perhaps, somewhat academic speech, declining to face economic facts. What would our prosperity have been had we proceeded in the right direction?
– Good old supply and demand. Why does not the honorable member say what is really, in his mind?
– When addressing the crowd at the Botanic Park in Adelaide on Sunday afternoons, why does not the honorable member say what is really in his mind, instead of misleading the men. The eyes of those poor individuals, however, like those of kittens arc opening. I wonder if honorable members opposite have carefully studied the report of the Industrial Delegation to America, which is a most informative and interesting document. I, in common with many others, have closely perused it and have studied the progress of the United States of America and Canada for the last eight or ten years. I believe in obtaining the best that is available in any part of the world. We could have the best here ; but, under the methods we employ, we are, in many instances, getting only tho worst.
– The State which the honorable member represents purchased £1,000,000 worth of material from America, regardless of the fact that much of it could be manufactured in Australia.
– Cannot the honorable member for Newcastle speak of anything else? If he challenges me I can go on and tell him some most amazing things which he shall hear, in any event, before very long. Under the policy supported by honorable members opposite in an outrageous, stupid, and most illogical way, a crushing hurden is being piled upon the primary producers of this country. Many honorable members opposite believe in
American methods; but they are not game to say they do. I have read the report of the Industrial Delegation to America three times. It is a magnificent document.
– A very costly one
– It would be cheap if we only adopted some of its recommendations, and I believe we shall before long. We speak of the need for efficiency; but what do we do to acquire itf We have efficiency in some of our undertakings in South Australia, and, for’ the consolation of my dear old friend the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), an original member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I admit that the Newcastle steel works are efficient ; but they cannot do everything. The report of the Industrial Delegation to which I have referred was signed by two members of tho Australian Labour party, who attached an addendum to the effect that certain of the recommendations of the Delegation would not he applicable in some of the States. Honorable members opposite are not free to express their opinions on those recommendations, neither are they free to send representatives to the industrial peace conference. If they are anxious that Australia should prosper and to destroy the fellow who is ruining it, they should send representatives to that conference, which has been convened for the purpose of securing industrial peace and a better understanding between capital and labour. We cannot proceed much further in the direction in which we are now moving. It is impossible to . take more out of a vessel than is in it. We have been trying to do that for a long time. The only solution of our difficulties is that every one shall work. If men work they provide employment for others. We cannot save this country by introducing all sorts of wild-cat schemes, because, in doing so, we get further into the morass of indebtedness and incapacity, and are unable to compete with other nations in the markets of the world. I wonder how many honorable members opposite have read a publication entitled The Secret of High Wages, written by two eminent young English engineers, who went to America to obtain all the information they could for the benefit of their’ country.
These two men returned with a message to the workers of this country. Thousands of Labour men have read it and taken it to heart, and they certainly will refuse to follow blindly the dictates of their leaders who ure bent on dragging them to destruction. I suggest to the Prime Minister that the report of the Australian Industrial Delegation should be laid on the table of this House and debated. If it were given effect it would mean the salvation of this country. We have the Arbitration Court, and I fear that we shall have to continue its work for some time yet. I nsk leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Howe adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280301_reps_10_117/>.