10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 1st March (vide page 3524) 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.
.- Last night I was referring to the stringency of our finances, and pointed out that the Australian people have been living extravagantly for a considerable time. There is no need for panic, because no one doubts the solvency of this country, or its capacity to develop and to carry a much greater population than it has, if we do the right things in the right way. This problem must be faced, and if the Commonwealth Government will not take the lead the people will. I believe that this Government will do what is necessary, and that it can rely upon the support of Parliament. On every platform in the Commonwealth the economic and industrial situation in Australia is being discussed. A few days ago Sir Lennon Raws, addressing the Melbourne Constitutional Club, pointed out that the enormous customs revenue collected by the Commonwealth is a charge upon production and an incentive to extravagance by both Federal and State Governments. That is the literal truth. Industry is being slowed down and brought to a standstill by the rising costs of production, caused mainly by customs taxation and our industrial system’. The Tariff Act, the Arbitration Act, and the Navigation Act are sending up the costs of production so high that industry is being killed and men thrown out of work. There can be no other result. The primary industries are most affected because they are our most valued industries, and also because they sell the bulk of their produce abroad, and therefore cannot pass on the added charges. Farming and mining tools and machinery are dearer on account of the tariff, farming and mining wages are forced up by our arbitration laws, railway freights are higher for a similar cause; yet farm produce and metals bring no higher price in the world’s markets than the products of countries where costs are lower. The secondary industries, selling in the protected home market may, up to a point, pass on the extra charge. The primary industries cannot, when they sell their products abroad. This problem cannot be shirked; honorable members opposite must face it as wo on this side of the House are doing. The Tariff Board has given us repeated warnings, but these have passed unheeded. This Parliament cannot continue to back up inefficient industries. As much as any other man, I desire to see the industries of Australia increase and prosper, but they have no chance of doing so under the present system. Moreover, most Commonwealth and State governments must square their ledgers; that problem must be tackled conjointly.
Last night I referred to American industrial conditions, and I suggested that if the conference convened by the Prime Minister is held, the report submitted by the Australian Industrial Mission to the United States would form a very fine basis of discussion. The growth of American corporations and the extension of co-operation and profit-sharing have been marvellous, and upon those lines Australian .industrialists must proceed. Mr. Hoover, Secretary for Commerce in the United States, says that the American citizen has at his elbow 50 per cent, more power than any of his competitors; production is greater, wages are higher, and the physical strain is less. The laws governing factory legislation generally are in the hands of the States, and the Department of Commerce takes a lively interest in manufacturers and commerce and has a big body of trade commissioners constantly travelling in every part of the world. Notwithstanding America’s unprecedented efficiency and pre-eminence in trade, it is still on the alert and watching, every corner of the world for new markets. Some of the finest works established in Australia are based upon American examples. Amongst them are the steel works at Newcastle, and Holden’s motor body building works in Adelaide. Itwas intended by Mr. Holden that his enterprise should he conducted upon profit-sharing principles, but that was forbidden by the Trades Hall. He managed, however, to assemble a fine body of men and has developed a business which is without parallel in the history of Australia. Before establishing his works he spent a considerable time in getting the most up-to-date ideas from abroad, and his establishment is equipped with the most efficient tools and appliances. Very little tariff protection was given to his industry when it started. The country had not then been deluded by the cry of “ Protection ! Protection ! “ regardless of efficiency. The artisans, who entered his employ decided that as the Trades Hall would not permit them to be employed on a profit-sharing basis they would do their best on wages, and they have done so. The most efficient enterprises in Australia owe a great deal to American examples, and our workmen are quite able to do as well as the Americans if the “reds” in this country will allow them. Mr. William Green, President of the American Federation of Labour, says: -
Management holds a strategic position. Its activities and its policies touch the very life, well-being and happiness of the world. Labour realizes that the success of management means the success of labour. Not a single element, but the whole combination, constitutes scientific management. Science is not rule of thumb. Harmony is required; discord is not. Co-operation is better than individualism, and co-operation does riot mean a restricted output. Standardization means simplification, and simplification means the elimination of waste. We have been talking about these things for a long time, but have accomplished nothing. Let us cease talk and do something.
There is no need for panic. All we need to do is to eliminate strikes and adopt efficient methods. This is imperative in the interests of the masses. We have been told by the “ Reds,” who are still leading sections of the Labour party, that the strike is the thing, but not the strike as it Avas formerly known. The policy of the “ Reds “ is to withdraw one man from this ship, and one from another, and so tie up operations on the waterfront. They have been doing this incessantly until we have reached a critical condition. We do not need any lessons on this score from the Northern Territory, although we know what’ hap-, pened there when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was partly instrumental in deporting Government officials from Darwin.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory is sorry that he spoke.
– That may be so. My friend the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) interjected while I was speaking last night something about “Barwell’s legacy.” I wish to return for a moment to that subject. No doubt Sir Henry Barwell was extravagant in his administration of South Australian affairs, but he did a tremendous amount of good work.
– I suppose that was why he was “fired”?
– He was not “fired.” He put in hand so much good work that the Labour Government which subsequently came into power there was unable to carry it on and at the same time put into operation many of the socialistic projects which it had on its programme.
– Why does not the honorable member tell the truth?
– I am doing so, and the honorable member for Adelaide does not like it. I told the truth last night about certain works on the west coast of South Australia, and I could give the honorable member many other instances of the same kind. The extravagance of Sir Henry Barwell consisted partly in the establishment of hospitals in every large centre in South Australia. In this work he was assisted by that splendid man, the late Sir John Bice. The Barwell Government also undertook the rehabilitation of the State railways. Although the honorable member for Adelaide may consider that this was an extravagance, I must remind him that when the Honorable John Gunn became the Premier of the State, he not only continued, but enlarged, the programme that had been initiated by Sir Henry Barwell on the advice of Mr. W. A. Webb, the railways commissioner who was brought to South Australia from America to put the State railways in proper order.
We ought to do our utmost to find work for the unemployed.
– It is time that the honorable member came to the point; but God help the unemployed if they have to depend upon him.
-My view is that it would be infinitely better for us to provide work for the unemployed than to pay doles to them, as is being done in the United Kingdom. The British Government made a serious error in establishing the dole system, for many work people there at present prefer the dole to a decent job.
– That statement is contemptible.
– I object to an ex-parson vilifying his fellow men.
– It is not in order for the honorable member to make a personal interjection of that nature.
– It is in order to tell the truth, and that is what the honorable member for Wakefield cannot do.
– I am doing it.
– The truth is not in the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Adelaide must know that he is not in order in suggesting that another honorable member is not speaking the truth. I ask him to cease interjecting.
– I am quite prepared to take the interjections of the honorable member for Adelaide for what they are worth.
– And I repeat that such statements coming from the’ honorable member are contemptible.
– I request the honorable member for Adelaide to cease interjecting.
– Let us proceed with our discussion in the mildest way possible. I submit that every thinking working man in Australia holds in contempt the policy which is being pursued by certain of their so-called leaders. They know that we are reaching the end of our tether, and that we need above all things an industrial rehabilitation. It is necessary that we should wipe out the past. Men should be provided with work at standard wages, but it must be reproductive work. Honorable members, like the honorable member for Adelaide, who never look below the surface, could no doubt find in a few minutes any amount of work that could be put in hand to keep the unemployed engaged; but the majority of their schemes could never pay a penny interest on their capital cost.
– “Bow down, you slaves, bow down.”
– Thank God, there are hundreds of thousands of working men here who hold that kind of talk in utter contempt. We should find reproductive work for those who need it. This is largely the responsibility ofthe States, although the Commonwealth being the biggest single employer of labour in Australia, could doubtless do something to meet the situation. I said last night that around the table at the proposed industrial peace conference is the place for Capital and Labour to arrive at a solution of their problems. The extremists in the Labour party should be turned out, and the rank and file, who are sound at heart, should elect the best of their number to replace those who are at present misleading them. Surely it is possible for both parties - for probably there are faults on both sides - to drop all humbug and meet in a conciliatory spirit with the object of examining and settling their troubles. We ought to put on one side our party pledges and prejudices and seek to do our best for Australia.
– It has been hinted that this debate must be concluded to-day. Had the Prime Minister responded to the call of humanity we could have ended the discussion in about two hours. The work people of Australia have declared in no uncertain’way, “ We want work “ ; but the Prime Minister has shown a callous disregard of their urgent need, the like of which I did not think he was capable. He has treated the motion altogether too lightly. There are in Australia to-day at least 100,000 work persons out of employment.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member is out of touch with the workers, in our big industrial centres in particular, and his interjection shows his ignorance of the true facts of the situation. There is no subject that this National Parliament shoulddevote its attention to more closely at this time than that of unemployment. We should do our utmost to find work for the idle hands that are in every State in the Commonwealth. To have 100,000 work people out of employment means that at least 400,000 persons are directly affected as to their means of livelihood. Many others are indirectly affected.
But apart from the sufferings of the people - and they are bad enough in all conscience - there is the serious financial loss that this unemployment means to the country. The present condition of our employment market means that we are losing at least £15,600,000 per annum, and as this state of affairs has existed for the last six months, we have already lost between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. If we add to that the accumulated wealth created by those employed on productive works it means that within twelve months this country will lose no less than £31,200,000. Prom a financial viewpoint alone, gauging it by the lowest possible standards and disregarding human suffering, Australia stands to lose the enormous sum I have just mentioned. When this country is losing so much through unemployment, why does the Prime Minister hesitate to put in hand works which should be undertaken? We are told by honorable members opposite that it is not the duty of the Commonwealth to provide employment for the workers; but I should mention one instance at least in which the Commonwealth should spend money and thus assist in relieving the situation. According to official figures, the Government has, since the Estimates were passed, made a saving of £1,375,000. I do not suggest that all the money voted should be spent, but some works which have been authorized should be undertaken. I refer more particularly to an amount of £333,000 in the Postmaster-General’s estimates, which should be expended during this financial year in carrying out essential work. Everyone agrees with the old proverb that “ a stitch in time saves nine,” and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), in pursuing the policy dictated by the Prime Minister and refraining from spending £333,000, is allowing certain public works to fall into disrepair. I have been in conversation with responsible officers who have said that if men were available certain postal works would be prevented from deteriorating. What does such a policy involve ? When the finances of the country are in a buoyant position the work will be undertaken and the cost will be considerably greater than if it were carried out today. I cannot understand why the national parliament countenances such a thing. The honorable member for Darwin(Mr. Bell), who is usually a very reasonable man, interjected with some ferocity when I said that 100,000 men were out of work. He doubted the accuracy of the statement. . The latest industrial statistics show that although only one-half of the unions send in returns, there are 38,600 unionists out of work. If that number is multiplied by two we get approximately 80,000 unionists who are unemployed, and it is only reasonable to assume that 100,000 persons - unionists and non-unionists - are workless. The Trades Hall Council in Victoria, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) and others, sends out a form known as an unemployment return which contains the following: -
That form is signed by the secretary of the Trades Hall Council, and on the 21st November, 1927, a return was received by the secretary, Mr. E. J. Holloway, giving the number of unemployed unionists who had registered as f ollows : -
It is safe, to assert that these figures have been largely increased since November of last year.Returns were received from only 25 of the 100 unions associated with the Trades Hall Council in Victoria. The secretary of the Trades Hall Council in obtaining authentic figures, received information from only a percentage of the unionists associated with the Trades Hall in Melbourne. It would not have surprised me if the Prime Minister, as leader of the Nationalist Government in Australia and acquainted with the actual conditions prevailing had, on the re-assembling of Parliament informed the members of all parties that as unemployment was so prevalent and there was so much human suffering, it would be wise for Parliament to authorize certain public works to give relief. One would have expected such an announcement from the right honorable gentleman; but he took refuge behind the States and certain organizations whose duty he said it was to provide work. He also said that the unemployment was of a temporary nature, due largely to the climatic conditions. Some honorable members know what it is like to be out of work. Some on this side of the chamber have had the experience of going home to their wife and children without any wages and have experienced the hardships and sufferings associated with unemployment. A correspondent of the Labour Daily visited Newcastle the other day and referred to what is happening there in this way -
Many hundreds of dispirited, gaunt-faced men daily tramp the streets of Newcastle looking for the jobs that do not materialize. In their homes or what is left of what were once reasonably comfortable dwellings - for the best part of the furniture, in many cases, has found its way to the second-hand shops - palefaced, anxious wives and children nightly await the return of “ father.” There is little need to frame the query, “ How did you get on to-day?” The answer is already revealed in the listless eyes and the grim tightening of the lips. On the faces of the women and children the ravages of semi-starvation are plainly apparent.
That is no exaggeration. I could also quote from the Melbourne Age a letter from a minister of religion in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in which he makes an earnest appeal to the residents ofRichmond to respond to the call for relief. Women and little children are suffering and he is earnestly pleading for help. The Mayor of Brunswick has also made a similar appeal for the thousands who are out of work in that district. I ask honorable members, irrespective of their political creed, to treat this subject in a humanitarian spirit. Why should we say that it is the duty of the State to provide employment ? Surely we should not allow this distress to continue. The Prime Minister had the audacity to say that certain statements made by the Leader of the Opposition would do an injury to Australia. The greatest possible injury will be done to Australia if it comes to the knowledge of the people overseas that in this new country where there is so little done and so much to do there are 100,000 people out of work. If there is any country in the world which should have a progressive developmental policy and should incur expenditure on public works, it is Australia. I am not one of those who compare Australia with the older countries of the world where most of the principal developmental work has been done. In Australia we have only scratched the surface and much remains for us to do. The Postmaster-General, in a weak-kneed way, allowed the Prime Minister to reduce expenditure in his department which, I believe, is paying well. Even if it were not showing a credit balance it would not trouble me in the least, because it is a government instrumentality which is assisting to develop the country. It is idle for honorable members to say that this motion has been submitted as election propaganda- I hurl the statement back in the teeth of those who made it - when the representatives of churches in the cities and the presidents of shires in the country are united for the purpose of succoring those in, distress. Is it suggested that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne would convene a meeting at the Town Hall in Melbourne at which representatives of many important organizations were present to discuss the best means of affording relief if the distress was not acute? ‘ This Parliament has protected’ those engaged in the. dried and canned fruit industries, as well as the growers of Doradilla grapes. Some States have provided farmers with seed wheat, and in Victoria, in districts where the thrip pest has been prevalent, fruitgrowers have been given work in road making. In the Victorian mallee the State Labour Government is providing chaff at a cost of £10,000 to feed working horses. Assistance has also been readily given by this Parliament to those engaged in the butter industry. If on other occasions we have been prepared to spend money to give relief to sections of the community, surely this Parliament would readily authorize the spending of money to provide employment for’ those who, at the moment, are workless. This is a fair and a legitimate demand. It is one to which the heart of every true Australian should respond. Members of the Labour party have never lagged behind in matters of this kind. We have always been to the forefront in granting assistance to any section “of the community in need of it. It is natural, therefore, that we should now be voicing this demand for some measure of relief for 100,000 people who cannot find employment.
But I must return to the remarks of the Prime Minister. I should have liked this debate to be conducted in such a way as to leave no cause of complaint on either side, because this is the most important topic that could be discussed by honorable members. Let us consider the feelings of men who are out of work. Let us endeavour also to realize the anxiety which continued unemployment means to their wives and families. How could the Prime Minister airily brush aside such considerations? Yet that is what he did. It was almost criminal on his part to quote what may be regarded as “ cooked “ statistics concerning unemployment when the welfare of so many people- is at stake. Whatever confidence I had in him was dissipated as I listened to his tergiversation and duplicity. I do not wish to describe the honorable gentleman as he has been described by certain of his critics. He is a man in authority, and, like the Centurion of old, it is within his power to say to .this man “ Go, and he goeth,” and to another “Do this, and he doeth it.” The right honorable gentleman has at his command the services of trained officials, and I have no doubt that he has in his office, collated for him by officers and publicity agents, material enough to deliver 20 or 30 different speeches on as many different topics. Notwithstanding his advantage in this respecthe did not, as one might have expected, reply immediately to the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). Instead he secured the adjournment of the debate so as to come fully armed the following day to deliver his reply. If the right honorable gentleman had spoken immediately after the Leader of the Opposition had resumed his seat, one might have excused him if certain inaccuracies were disclosed in his speech. But having taken a day within which to himself furnish with the latest statistics concerning unemployment’ it was inexcusable that he should state the number of unemployed in Australia “ at 8,000 below the figures contained in the latest official returns. Why should any member of this House resort to trickery of that sort when discussing such an important issue? The Prime Minister well merits all the hard things that have been said about him.
– He is a disingenuous manipulator of figures.
Mr.FENTON. - Some people may regard his speech as ingenuous and perhaps clever. In my opinion he was guilty of political trickery, and is deserving of the strongest censure. If we were a parliament of jokers, an assembly of light-hearted men engaged in the discussion of a matter that did not touch so vitally the life and interests of the people, there might have been some excuse for the levity of the right honorable gentleman; but in the circumstances his action was unforgivable. It is a matter for deep regret that in recent times he has not often drawn from the well of truth.
Turning now to the migration policy of the Government, I direct attention to the manner in which New Zealand is dealing with this problem. In the Dominion, the Government led by Mr. Coates is of the same political colour as that led by Mr. Bruce in Australia, though its ideals may not be identical. Like Australia, New Zealand is in an unsatisfactory economic position; but unlike Australia, it is taking steps to meet the situation by restricting migration. In the annual report of the New Zealand Department of Migration there appears the following paragraph: -
In view of the economic conditions ruling at the commencement of the present year it was necessary for a reconsideration of the volume of immigration, and it was decided that during the forthcoming winter the number of assisted migrants should be reduced to a minimum.
Action on these lines has been taken on two occasions since the beginning of this year in order to relieve the present situation in New Zealand. In speeches from a public platform and in Parliament, the Prime Minister of the Dominion has stated that his Government is doing its best to improve the economic condition of the people. It has, as I have stated, taken steps to prevent migrants from entering New Zealand whilst the present economic depression continues. Even Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who recently visited Australia, returned to Great Britain with opinions somewhat modified as to the ability of this country to absorb migrants. In speeches delivered since his return to the Mother Country, he has stated that the transfer of British people to Australia is not by any means an easy matter, and that great care must be exercised to ensure that those who come to Australia shall be profitably employed. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) and other Ministerial supporters, appear to endorse the view of the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth Government has no authority to prevent the influx of foreign migrants. I challenge that contention most emphatically. When dealing with this subject last year, I quoted section 3k of the Immigration Restriction Act, which reserves to the Governor-General in Council complete authority to restrict migration if the economic conditions existing in the Commonwealth warrant such a course. The Government of New Zealand is acting under a similar authority. It is generally admitted that economic conditions in Australia at the moment are most unsatisfactory. I say, therefore, that it is competent for the Government to take the necessary steps to restrict migration and so relieve the present depression. I have nothing to say personally against immigrants from European countries. Some of them are my personal friends. My contention is that since the economic position of the Commonwealth is not satisfactory, we should restrict migration, and be particularly careful not to allow an influx of migrants whose standards of living are lower than our own.
– -Would the honorable member exercise that power?
– I would have no hesitation whatever in enforcing that policy whenever the economic position of Australia justified that course, and I would have no fear of international complications, because such action would be in the interests of prospective migrants. The Prime Minister knows that the Government is vested with the necessary authority, and yet he excuses the inaction of his Government by endeavouring to persuade honorable members that any restrictive action might result in grave international complications. I have in my possession a translation of a speech made by Signor Mussolini, the Prime Minister of Italy, dealing with the migration of Italian nationals to foreign countries. I may add that I obtained this translation from the Foreign Affairs branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, so that the right honorable gentleman must know the views of the government of Italy on this important subject. Mussolini declares that if Italy is to have any voice in international affairs in the future she must enter the next half of this century with a population of 60,000,000. The Prime Minister has declared that the migration of Southern Europeans would not seriously affect the economic position of Australia. Official figures show, however, that in the three years, 1924-27, the excess of arrivals over departures of Europeans was 26,000, mainly from Southern Europe. On this basis we may assume that during the last five years we have added at least 40,000 people from southern European countries to the population of Australia. Can it be argued that the presence of 40,000 migrants from the other side of the world, people whose standard of living is below our own, will not have some influence on the Australian labour market?
– The majority of them cannot speak the English language.
– That is so, and unfortunately some unscrupulous employers take advantage of the plight of these foreign migrants. Many of them, according to consular reports, have to work for their “ keep.”
The Government is to be condemned for the ineffective protection afforded to Australian industries by the existing tariff schedule. We have practically an unlimited supply of the raw materials for many industries. If we utilized our raw materials for the metal and textile industries, there should not be a single person unemployed in Australia who was willing to work. In those two industries alone, we should be able to provide employment for all our own people and a considerable number from abroad. The Prime Minister in his speech the other day gave one the impression that he was addressing shareholders of an importing firm. He declared that the Government intended to protect Australian industries. Unfortunately, while we are waiting for that protection our people are suffering through unemployment.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) yesterday had something to say about a number of industries which he assured us were to be established in Australia as a result of the. tariff protection afforded by this Government. I agree with the Minister as to the wisdom of British manufacturers establishing branch houses in the Commonwealth so that Australian requirements may be met by manufacturing concerns within the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, many overseas visitors who come to Australia on industrial missions have a hazy idea as to what Australia should or should not ‘do in the way of manufacturing. Lately, Mr. W. R. Morris, the well-known British motor manufacturer, has been giving us the benefit of his views. I can assure him that, if he cannot wholly manufacture cars in Australia, he will find that American competitors will do so and oust him from the Australian market. Not long ago, in my electorate I had an interview with Sir Henry Cowan who, as honorable members are aware, has been a member of the British House of Commons for twenty years, and has beenassociated with business concerns in Australia for 40 years.
As Ave were parting I gave him a final message, telling him to advise British manufacturers that if they wished to secure the Australian trade they must be prepared to establish themselves in Australia, otherwise Australian requirements would be met by manufacturing concerns backed with American capital. Henry Ford has established works in Australia, and he is the forerunner of others who are now making inquiries here. Sir Henry Cowan informed me that he agreed with my view, and that he would do all in his power to impress upon his brother manufacturers in Great Britain the need to establish works in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs only yesterday said that before long huge railway engines would be built by our’ engineering works in New South Wales. Why, he is behind the times ! South Australia is to be congratulated upon importing the Pacific and Mountain types of locomotives, although I would prefer it to obtain models from America and to build its engines in its own works.
– Some of those engines are being built in South Australia to-day.
– I am glad to hear that. For some months- Victoria hai had copies of plans and specifications of those engines, and a locomotive of the Pacific type built at the Newport workshops hy Australian workmen, is now undergoing its trials, and very soon will be hauling the Sydney express from Melbourne to Benalla.
The following letter from the secretary of the Federated Coopers of Australia was handed to me by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) : -
I am instructed by the -union to write you and bring under your notice a matter of importations of cooperage. Resch’s Brewery, Sydney, have imported 750 casks from Germany. These casks will be used as containers for distribution of beer in Sydney. At the same time there are many coopers unemployed in Sydney who could quite well make these casks. There are unemployed coopers in the other States as well, and plants available to do this work in all States.
If I were a beer drinker in Sydney I should not drink one drop of Resch’s beer from German casks. Resch’s Limited, although it has a German name, is an Australian firm, and it should work under Australian conditions. I contend that the tariff should be so amended to bring about additional employment. I do not say that the Government can provide reproductive work for everybody, but it can by legislation upon certain lines, provide employment, notwithstanding the waitings of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and the jeremiads of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who I am surprised to find is drifting into the freetrade camp. At onetime he was the champion of Australian industry. Every member of this Parliament should he vitally concerned for the employment of our people. Unemployment is rife although summer is here. Our harvest has been better and our wool prices higher than we anticipated. Things are not so gloomy as we expected, but we are approaching the bitterly cold winter months, when women and children will not have sufficient blankets to cover them nor sufficient garments to clothe them. Many of our men, women and children will suffer severely during the winter. The prospect is appalling. Let us, as true Australians, endeavour to give some relief to suffering humanity. The dole system is a curse to any country. Sometimes I think that in a place like Australia we should be ashamed to talk even about unemployment insurance except in certain cases. There should be work for all and we should be poor, puny Australians if we did not attempt to give some relief to the unemployed.
.- Unemployment is such a poignant factor in both individual and national tragedy, and it means such irrecoverable waste of forces and materials both of production and civilization that this House would be justified, even had it not the specific power to deal with the causes of unemployment, to examine them at length. The discussion of the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), has led to the statement of what the Labour party considers to be some of the causes of unemployment. I shall examine the case so presented and show conclusively, that what are alleged to he causes have nothing at all to do with unemployment. The motion deals with unrestrained migration, the curtailment of public expenditure, and the Government’s alleged failure to assist industry. These are not real but bogus charges, brought vp at this time for electioneering purposes. The policy of the present Administration, since it was constituted some five. years ago, has been to aim at the maximum amount of employment for the people of Australia, under conditions which will -not merely give them decent standards of living but also attract migrants of the best class to this country, and thus enable us to work out our own destiny. In my opinion, one of the most potent causes of the present unemployment is the tyranny exercised by the extremist leaders of the labour unions, who dictate to the unions a policy that, although consistently denounced at first by the same political leaders of Labour in both State and Federal spheres, has in the end been adopted because of the cowardice of some and the folly of other politicians. As a result of the operation of this extremist policy, and the political leaders’ acquiescence in it, ruin is facing many thousands in Australia to-day.
After the war industrial problems arose in practically every country in the world, but they have generally been solved by the co-operation of labour and capital, by an improvement in technique, and particularly by a stimulation of the morale of the workers in order to secure increased production which means an increased wages fund, and further employment. In Australia, however, the extremists have defeated every effort made by the Government to secure industrial peace and cooperation, and in so doing have exercised a tyranny which is almost unspeakable, and is reminiscent of the worst days of persecution in the history of the world. Not only have these extremists exerted pressure upon the political leaders of labour, but they have punished even honorable members in this House for holding to their opinions, and have crucified them for their convictions and their refusal to immediately bow the knee and accept other doctrines. Let me give four instances of such conduct within the last two or three years. In 1926 the industrial referendum was taken. It will be remembered that the leaders of the Labour party in this House said that although the proposals then submitted were not all that they desired, they were a considerable step in the right direction. They voted for the Government’s proposals in this House, and said they would support them in the country. It is to the honour of the Leader of the Opposition and of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that they did this. But although the proposals had been endorsed in great part by the Labour movement, and had been a part ‘ of its platform . for years, the extreme industrialists disregarded that endorsement, and conducted a vigorous propaganda which led to the defeat of the referendum. The members of the Labour party who stuck to their convictions were threatened with expulsion from the Labour movement and prevented from speaking publicly. That is a condition of things such as prevailed in the dark ages, when men were burned at the stake for their opinions. No one would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have ever been guilty of treachery to the principles of the Labour movement, yet for their stand on the referendum they were threatened with expulsion by the extremists leaders. Many Labour men at that time, not having the courage to stick to their convictions, weakly bowed the knee to the extremists, and assisted them to defeat the Government’s proposals. Then there was the industrial mission to America.’ The appointment of that commission was recognized throughout Australia as a wise step, and the Government’s proposals received support from the Trades and Labour Councils. In fact the councils nominated several of their members, including Mr. Jock Garden, to the commission. Because the Government refused to accept those nominations, and accepted instead those submitted by other unionists of Australia, the labour members of the Industrial Mission when they returned to Australia were persecuted by the extremists. One man in Adelaide was hounded from his job simply because he had had the courage to join the mission and to go to America to try to do something for his country. Another member, Miss May Matthews, who had been a labour worker for twenty years, has been denied the right to stand for pre-selection, and therefore cannot be a labour candidate at the next elections. She is being penalized for having had the courage to go to America, and by her observations there, to try to bring back information leading to the betterment of industrial conditions and the establishment of industrial peace in Australia. A similar position has arisen in connexion with the industrial peace conference which the Prime Minister proposes to convene in the near future. It remains for the future to show whether the cowardice that has characterized the so-called representatives of Labour hitherto will continue, or whether they will get courage to say that the movement towards the co-operation of capital and labour should be supported, so that production may he increased, the wages fund augmented and employment made plentiful. Let us take another illustration of the manner in which extremists dominate the Labour party, to the injury of the workers. Some time ago the Arbitration Court said definitely that it would grant a working week of 44 hours in particular industries, if certain conditions were observed, so as to ensure that production would be maintained at the existing level. The court pointed out that in its opinion that result could be brought about only by the adoption of piece work. What is the attitude of the extreme men in the industrial movement towards that system? It is shown by the recent statement of Mr. Chapman, secretary of the Railways Union of New South Wales. The court was appointed to give justice to both sides in industry, and admittedly it impartially considers the cases brought before it. Yet Mr. Chapman has said -
Despite all the threats of the Arbitration Court, we have affirmed more drastically than ever that any member of the Australian Bailways Union who accepts the bonus, butty gang, piece-work, or similar pernicious systems will be disciplined, even to the point of ex- pulsion.
That is the sort of tyranny that can be exorcised in this country by men appointed to official positions in Labour organizations! They thus prevent others from assisting to increase the production of the country in refusing to allow then; to better their conditions by increasing their own wages, and putting themselves in a position to give their children a good chance in life. The disinclination of labour to co-operate with Capital in
Australia is one of the most potent causes of unemployment at the present time. It not only discourages investment in industry, and lessens the opportunities, but it discourages men from doing their best.
Let me now examine the charges levelled by the Opposition against the Government. One is that there has been unrestrained migration to Australia, and that this has brought about a tremendous wave of unemployment. The fact is that, during the last five years, only about 200;000 migrants have come to this country. In 1921, the unemployed, apart from those thrown out of work solely by strikes, represented 9.2 per cent, of the workers registered by the unions. In 1927, despite the fact that our population had been increased by these 200,000 migrants, the number of unemployed had fallen to 7 per cent., so that the migrants could not have displaced workers from employment; in fact the result of their migration was, as it always has been, to increase the opportunities for employment, making greater the total production and the general wages fund.
– The official figure is 8.9 per cent, of the membership of the unions reporting.
– Even if that is so my argument is not affected, because the number of men out of work last year was not greater than the number out of work five years ago, before those 200,000 migrants came here. The honorable member has said that this country must have an increased population, to ensure its security, and yet he wishes to check the present flow pf migrants. Last year the various Governments brought 47,000 persons to this country from abroad. Many of them were women and children, and therefore did not enter the labour market to compete with the workers already here. Is Australia, with its 3,000,000 square miles of largely undeveloped country and barely 6,000j000 people in such a condition that it cannot annually absorb 47,000 migrants, many of whom are not workers ? The suggestion is ridiculous. Between 1880 and 1890,’ Australia received 382,000 migrants from overseas, or at the rate of about 38,000 a year. At that time there was only half the present population, and nothing like the development, industries, or opportunities there are now.
Between 1900 and 1910, when Canada had roughly a similar population to that of Australia at the present time, it absorbed no fewer than 982,000 migrants. “What was the result? The adverse balance of trade that the Opposition is always talking about disappeared.
– Lying again.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, since it is unparliamentary.
– The honorable member must withdraw it unreservedly.
– I withdraw it; but that does not alter my opinion.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order !
– As the result of absorbing 982,000 immigrants between 1900 and 1910, and as the result also of the inflow of capital that occurred during the same period, Canada was able to convert a tremendous adverse trade balance into a large favorable balance. It was able to double its production and increase its exports. The population of the dominion were not as faint-hearted as honorable members opposite, who, because there has been a partially adverse season, and a drought in some of the States, and the time payment system has been indulged in too freely, declare that the whole scheme of migration should go by the board. Have they no faith in the future of this country? The Government and its supporters, and the great bulk of the population, many of whom have themselves come from the Old Country, are not afraid of the future, and I shall give figures later to show that there is no occasion for fear. Honorable members opposite attribute the present labour trouble to -a curtailment of public works expenditure. That is a remarkable volte face ; because during the Budget debate, honorable members charged me with the crime of having borrowed to such an extent that the public debt had been increased by £2,000,000, or by £6,000,000- there was a doubt as to the amount - during the last five years. This year, despite loan retrenchment, we are borrowing £7,875,000. Honorable members opposite now grumble and say that we should not curtial borrowing, but should keep public works in progress. They neglected to mention that although the Commonwealth has increased its indebtedness by. £9,000,000 in six years, the States have borrowed £200,000,000 in the same period. They omitted to say anything about the wonderful increase in reproductive assets in Australia, that Commonwealth loans have been spent which have enabled the country to carry on in a much more satisfactory way than would, otherwise have been possible. Last year the Opposition objected to public borrowing, and now they take exception to its curtailment. Although there has been a reduction of loan expenditure, at the instance of the Loan Council, £46,000,000 of loan money is. to be spent this year by the States and the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite say again that it was a terrible thing to reduce taxation last year by £1,750,000, because the money could have been used to provide employment in the carrying out of public works. This side of the House believe that the best place for surplus money is in the pockets of the people, so that it can be used for developmental enterprises, because in that way it is likely to be spent far more wisely and reproductively than if it were used for public works carried on under Government control for relief. Persons spending their own money take a personal interest in seeing that the best value is obtained for their outlay.” The curtailment of loan expenditure was decided upon after the most careful consideration, and retrenchment was permitted only in the case of works whose stoppage at the present time would not seriously interfere with their becoming ultimately reproductive. A similar course has been followed by the States.
Now I come to the Opposition’s third charge, that the Government has consistently failed to assist industry. I have already said that our policy has invariably been to provide the maximum amount of employment for the people, and the figures prove conclusively that that result has been obtained. We have tried to stimulate production, we have increased the total wages fund of the Commonwealth, and we have added to the avenues of employment. Our policy has been definitely directed to ensure that the workers of Australia shall be able to compete successfully with the workers of other countries, because only by that means can we keep employment in Australia. We have reduced production costs in every possible way. For instance, we have reduced taxation, and we have attempted to improve transport facilities by means of our road policy. We have commenced to put into operation our policy of unification of railway gauges, in order to keep down the cost of transport. ‘ We have fostered scientific research to reduce the loss caused by pests. We have adopted better marketing methods to ensure improved prices for goods sent overseas, thereby increasing the wages fund in Australia. We have secured the orderly marketing of our produce overseas, and we have endeavoured to enlarge our markets by means of imperial preference. All these things have had a direct effect upon the value of our products, and will prove of benefit to Australia generally. We have aimed at increasing our output in every possible way by securing a maximum degree of standardization in connexion with industry, especially secondary industry. We have tried to promote industrial peace by encouraging goodwill between’ employers and employed, in order to get the best results from the labour of the workers, which is the only way to improve the conditions of living. We have given marked assistance, as the Minister for Trade and Customs “has shown, to both primary and secondary industries. He gave a list of the primary industries that have been stimulated by the tariff - butter, maize, fruit - dried and canned - cheese, hops, wine, sugar, timber and cotton, are but a few. The production of wheat and wool has been stimulated by the reductions in direct taxation that have been made in the last five years, and by the removal of taxation anomalies. We have attempted to develop secondary industries as far as possible, and have also tried to secure their development in a manner that will ensure that men with the greatest technical skill shall be” encouraged to come to Australia. I think that the facts adduced by the Minister show beyond doubt that we have been successful in thai direction in no slight degree. The Government has recognized that there are four big items in life - agriculture, mining, industry, and transport - which must be encouraged. Ministers have assisted primary producers to produce the raw materials required and the necessaries of life, and have stimulated secondary industries to increase the population at the quickest rate and making it possible to obtain the highest available value for the goods that are manufactured. But what has been the policy of the Labour party, both Federal and State? It has been in the direction of killing those industries which so vitally affect the welfare of the nation. Take agriculture, for example. Yesterday in Queensland a rural workers’ award became operative, under which in either dry or wet weather, during harvesting operations or at any other time, the employees may not work more than 44 hours a week. Every one is aware that it is absolutely impossible to carry on agriculture under such conditions. Account must be taken of the weather conditions, or one is hopelessly left. Farmers of all shades of political opinion in Queensland are united in holding the view that the award will crucify their industry and confine their operations to areas which they are able to cultivate unaided by outside labour. The Labour party has always been careless in its attitude towards the interests of agriculture. If the arbitration law had been applied to that industry 30 years ago, when secondary industries were brought within its scope, it would have ceased to exist and Australia would have been ruined. Almost every increase in wages and the improvement in the living conditions of the men who are engaged in secondary industries has had to be borne by the primary producer and made possible by his labour.
Let us now consider the mining industry. It is well known that the Mount Morgan mine, which turned out some of the finest engineers the world has produced, and would have had a considerably longer life if properly looked after, was killed by the conditions that were imposed by the government in which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was Premier. A similar state of affairs exists throughout the mining industry as a whole, because the Labour party has been recklessly unmindful of the effects of its policy. It is killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
I wish to place on record the attitude cf both industrial and official labour towards industry generally. It has the wild idea that if output is restricted unemployment is reduced. That policy is preached and practised all over the Commonwealth. The standard rate of wages must be paid by all industries irrespective of the amount of work that is done. It frowns on the piece-work system. The result of the operation of this policy is that the margin, between the wage paid to (he skilled and unskilled worker has progressively declined, the effect being that between 1910 and 1920, the number of unskilled workers in the Commonwealth increased at a rate four times as- great as the growth of the population, while skilled workers maintained the same rate of increase, and primary producers become proportionately fewer in number. Thus, Australia is gradually becoming the wage slave of other countries. If we continue to produce only unskilled workmen and goods that require only the employment of unskilled labour, it will be impossible to maintain our present standard or to carry on any big industry in competition with the rest of the world. That is the direction in which the policy of the Labour party has been steadily leading us during the last 30 years. But the decline has been much more rapid in the last five or six years, since the extremists obtained control of the movement and jettisoned those who desired to promote the welfare of Australian industry along sane and sound lines. Others were coerced into acquiescing in, and accepting, what they formerly denounced. Thus they were guilty of treachery towards those whom they are supposed to lead. This fact is becoming generally recognized by every person in the community, including the workers. The other day, in Queensland, a gentleman who claimed to be the leader of the unemployed throughout Australia pointed out that the policy of the unions and the Labour party generally, was gradually bringing about a condition of “ high wages for a few and many men out of work and no wages at all.” He said a policy which permitted more pay for less work was no good to Australia, and that we had to exhibit a willingness to do more work for those higher wages. I believe in the payment of the highest wages possible; but the amount of work done must be increased commensurately. I can provefrom hundreds of documents that that is not merely my own opinion. At one time the honorable member for Dalley held very strongly the view, “If you do not do the work you cannot get the money. “ The present Premier of Queensland has, during the last few months, shown courage by telling the workers frankly that neither in Australia nor anywhere else can a 48-hour week standard be obtained by working only 44 hours. The other day Chief Judge Dethridge put the matter plainly in the Arbitration Court when he said -
All unions are keenly anxious for a 44-hour week, but it is another thing to be able to get it. Forty-eight hours with a job is better than 44 without one. This is the real stumbling block in many of these cases for a shorter week. To grant it would mean the loss of their jobs. The workmen of the community cannot afford it. There is not enough money being made. If hours were got down to 404, a lot of men would starve. When we get down to the question of where the border line exists I have come to the conclusion that if the great majority of workers were to say: “ We will not work more than 44 hours, “ they would pinch their bellies. That is getting down to homely language. I am not troubling about the employers so much. The 44-hour week for every one would never do. It may be that in twenty years time the country generally, will have so increased productiveness as to make a general reduction feasible.
Eight or nine months ago he said -
I am willing to help you to get a 44-hour week, but you can only get it if you produce in 44 hours as much as you now produce in 48 hours.
– At the last elections the Government promised to make the 44-hour week uniform.
– It can be made uniform if every one will put his back into his work. It should not be necessary for honorable members who sit on this side to tell these home truths to the workers; that should be done by the Labour leaders. Eight or nine months ago Chief Judge Dethridge said -
We are prepared to give you 44 hours ii you are willing to work to earn it. There is only one way in which it can be obtained, and that is by making the production available by means of piece-work.
Honorable members are acquainted with the views of Mr. Chapman on the question of piece-work; but for their benefit I shall read again what he has said -
The Council of the Australian Railways Union . . . has affirmed more drastically than ever that any member of the Australian Railways Union who accepts the bonus for butty gang, piece-work, and similar pernicious systems, will be disciplined even to the point of expulsion.
If these men admit the correctness of the Chief Judge’s view they are to be expelled from the union ! Has any member of the Opposition questioned that attitude? No; they have all taken it lying down. Every one knows that it is impossible to make any progress except along the lines suggested by ‘ the Chief Judge. What can be said of men who claim to be the leaders of the workers and yet sit idly by while Arbitration awards are being defied even by employees in Government workshops? It cannot be argued that the employers, who in this instance are the people themselves, have any desire to cut down the wages of the men. During the last few weeks the boilermakers at Walsh Island dockyard threw the whole of the works idle because of a proposal to introduce piece-work, which is contrary to the rules of their union. That is a State Government undertaking. The Minister for Works in New South Wales has been obliged to consider the advisability of disposing of the undertaking to a private concern as a result of the current trouble. “When the Federal Arbitration Court conceded a 44-hour week to the engineering trades it attached to the award what was understood to be a condition that piece-work should be introduced in order to assist the industry to improve production and meet enhanced costs. Walsh Island recently undertook a big contract for the construction of six steel cars a week for the State Railways Department. The management was unable to keep pace with the work and therefore called for more union workers. Great difficulty was experienced in obtaining those additional workers; consequently the management offered a bonus on the piecework system. The boilermakers’ organization asked the management to abolish the system in three days, and said that in the event of its failure to do so they would have to call the men out of the workshops. The threat has been made that if the work in question is transferred to the Sydney workshops other unions will be involved. It will he seen that the men are disobeying what Chief Judge Dethridge laid down as a condition precedent to a 44-hour week. They not only will not allow their own men to work, but they threaten to force others out of employment. Yet not a Labour leader has the courage to say that this policy, which leads to the sending of work outside Australia, is one of the most potent causes of unemployment, and that it is time a definite stand was taken in regard to it. The New South Wales Railway Commissioners decided on the construction of steel cars mainly as a result of the lessons that were taught by a number of disastrous collisions, ‘ which showed that wooden cars telescoped easily and caused casualties, a result which could be partially eliminated by the use of steel cars. The conversion of the present stock of wood cars to steel cars has been delayed by the strike, thus increasing the danger to the travelling public in New South Wales. Not merely is employment being interfered with, but the lives, the health and the welfare of travellers are jeopardized because these men will not accept conditions that are generally recognized to be necessary to industry. The Labour delegates who accompanied the industrial mission which visited the United States of America advocated on their return a system of payment by results. Yet the unions will not agree to it, and the leaders of the Labour party dare not raise a voice in protest. Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the luncheon adjournment I dealt with the failure of the official leaders of Labour to do their duty to the workers of Australia by showing them clearly that the only practicable means whereby a permanent improvement in their conditions, particularly in regard to hours, can be achieved is by increase’d production. What is true of the question of hours is equally true with regard to strikes. Since we have compulsory arbitration, both Federal and State, a strike is surely an anachronism. Compulsory arbitration surely means that the two parties to a dispute place their case before an impartial tribunal, which determines the issue, and the finding or award of that impartial tribunal should be accepted without quibble and be binding on both parties. But we find that, despite this system of compulsory arbitration, there is a continual series of strikes.
– And lockouts.
– Both are equally reprehensible. The point I wish to make is that the leaders of the Labour movement fail to direct against strikes the criticism that might reasonably be expected of them having regard to their effect on employment and production generally. An analysis of the situation discloses a very close relationship between the number of strikes and the number of men out of employment. In 1923 the percentage of unemployment in Australia was 7 per cent, of the membership of registered trade unions furnishing returns. This figure excludes those industries in which there were strikes or lockouts. In that year there were 256 disputes, and 75,000 men were so thrown out of work. In 1924 the percentage rose to 8.9 per cent., due mainly to the fact that there were 500 disputes, which placed 151,000 men out of work. The number of unemployed being practically doubled in these industries greatly increased the general unemployment throughout the country at large.
Throughout this debate there have been insinuations that the Prime Minister has tried to camouflage the actual position by what has been deliberately stated to be the “ cooking “ of figures. There is not the slightest justification for that charge. The Prime Minister quoted from an official statement supplied to him by the Commonwealth Statistician, and the figures given by him were absolutely correct. It has been suggested that the Prime Minister took the opportunity of a day’s rest to deliberately “ cook “ the figures. I would describe that as a deliberate lie. It was an act of courtesy on the part of the Government towards the Opposition to give honorable members opposite ample time in which to debate the motion that is now before the House, and it is regrettable that they should have abused their privilege by even suggesting that the Prime Minister would descend to such a despicable thing. The figures, after all, really make no difference to the situation, because they are only relative. They were quoted to give an indication of the exact amount of unemployment which has existed.
– But they did not do so.
– The figures afforded a definite comparison in the only manner in which a comparison could be made. The Prime Minister set out the position in a straightforward manner, and it is unworthy of honorable members opposite to attribute ulterior motives to the right honorable gentleman. During the last five ‘years the loss in wages to Australia, as a result of strikes, was no less’ than £7,500,000. The indirect loss was a great deal more than that. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) quoted figures to indicate what 100,000 men out of work meant. My figures show the actual result of strikes which would not have occurred had the leaders of the Labour movement said boldly that they were opposed to anything of the kind. If in their opinion the awards of the arbitration tribunals should not be obeyed, they should say at once, “ Let the arbitration system be scrapped.” Honorable members opposite, however, are too prone to advise their supporters to accept any award that is favorable to them, and to decline anything that is unfavorable.
I propose to quote some figures relating to the coal industry to illustrate the effect of strikes. The coal industry in Australia has a special tribunal to settle all its disputes, a body specially appointed by this Parliament. During the last five years, however, the loss in wages due to strikes in the industry amounted to £5,500,000. The continual set-backs to the coal industry, due to interruption by strikes, have caused a stupendous loss to Australia. They have increased the cost of coal to such an extent that, gradually, the export trade of Australia is being lost. In 1921 we exported 2,771,000 tons of coal, whereas last year we exported only 675,000 tons.
– That was not the result of strikes. At any time during the last ten years it has been possible to pick up 100,000 tons of coal at grass.
– We need to know that we can get 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 tons to give oversea purchasers confidence that their orders will he met without delay. There is a still further result .of this policy to bo pointed out. A continual rise in the price of coal has been passed on to the community, and that has increased the cost of production in many of our industries. I specifically mention the iron and steel industry, whose existence depends to a great extent upon the price of coal.
– The miners have received nothing from that increased price for the last few years. It is entirely the doing of the employers.
– The increase in population in Australia since 1913 is 25 per cent., while the increased output of coal has amounted to 10 per cent., despite the fact that the increase in the number of employees in the industry is 28 per cent. In other words, the output per man to-day is smaller than it was from sixteen to eighteen years ago. As a consequence, prices have been raised, causing us to lose a big proportion of our export trade. Further we have lost some of our internal trade: All this tends to embarrass the industries of Australia. Our transport industry, and particularly the iron and steel industry, are very adversely affected by the existing conditions in the coal trade. Exorbitant coal costs practically preclude competition by the Australian iron and steel trade with other countries. In Australia we have an abundance of coal near the surface, and the product can be readily mined. Yet we have practically a stagnation of output. As a contrast, other countries of the world, by reason of a sane system of co-operation between worker and employer, have increased their coal production and trade.
– Co-operation in England, for example, where there was recently a most disastrous coal strike!
– Which did not do England any good. I am surprised at the honorable member raising such a point. No industrial disturbance of recent years has done so much to retard England’s endeavour to return to normal conditions.
– But is that what the honorable gentleman calls co-operation?
– I am endeavouring to point out that if the political and industrial leaders of the Labour party viewed matters sanely, such disastrous happenings would be obviated.
During the last five or six years France has successfully concentrated its attention upon improving its industrial production. Although in its effort it has electrified its system of transport and power production, which necessarily means a saving in the use of coal, the consumption of coal in France increased from 45,000,000 tons in 1919 to 60,000,000 tons in 1924. The cooperation existing amongst all parties has resulted in increased production and a consequent increase in the number of industries operating. In 1923, 38,000,000 tons of coal were consumed in Canada, despite- the fact that for the preceding five years the average yearly consumption was only 32,000,000 tons, and that, during that period hydro-electric schemes were inaugurated which effected a saving of practically 29,000,000 tons per annum. That indicates that the consumption of coal in Canada has practically been doubled. This, again, has been due to cooperation among all parties, and the determination to get the utmost out of industry.
In Australia the object appears to be continually to engender quarrels between employee and employer. In Queensland, where the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was for some years at the head of the Government, the State railways show an annual deficit of something like £2,000,000, which is reflected in the taxation, railway freights, and price levels of that State. Our overseas shipping has been strangled as a result of these continual industrial quarrels. Last year not merely our own ships, but oversea ships belonging to Great Britain, were held up by industrial extremists, without incurring very much rebuke from the officials of the Labour party. As a result, £1,000,000 worth of trade was diverted from British to foreign bottoms, and Great Britain, our best customer, was the loser.
The people of Australia now demand to be told what is the intention of the Labour party in connexion with this industrial unrest. It is not the Federal Government, but the Australian Labour party that is arraigned on a motion such as this. What is the answer of that party? Throughout this debate honorable members opposite have continually harped on the financial policy of this Government, declaring it to be one of the contributory causes of the present trouble. I desire to dissociate myself entirely from the pessimism displayed by honorable members opposite, some of whom think that because there is a certain amount of financial stringency the country is going to the dogs, and will never recover. Our average production for the five years from 1921 to 1926 increased from £305,000,000 to £397,000,000. There has been very little change in price levels, and the increase in the total production during the same period was 25 per cent.
– Does not the? honorable member consider that the workers have had something to do with that?
– Certainly, but the increase would have been much greater had the honorable member and his party done their duty.
The capital assets of Australian manufactures were 44 per cent. greater in 1925-26 than in 1921-22. That is a complete answer to the charges against this Government. That improvement has taken place despite the industrial troubles that have been forced upon the country. Had honorable members opposite done their duty Australia could have shown an improvement comparable with that exhibited by the United States of America, Canada and France. Australia was less touched by the war than almost any other country, yet its progress since the world conflict is not comparable with that of many other countries - and this simply because honorable members opposite have fanned the flame of class consciousness instead of encouraging all to get together and do their job as it should be done.
We have heard a great deal about £2,000,000 of increased loan money for which we have to answer in regard to the Postal Department. Our loan moneys have been chiefly expended in providing increased telephonic and postal facilities. In 1921-22 our postal assets were valued at £19,000,000. In 1925-26 their value was £38,782,000. Savings banks deposits increased in the same period from £153,000,000 to £195,000,000. Trading bank deposits increased from £221,000,000 to £264,000,000, an increase of £43,000,000. Despite these increased deposits, we have been able during the same periodto carry through £200,000,000 of war loan conversions, besides raising other money for the States, amounting to £25,000,000, for expenditure on public works. Honorable members opposite have sought to reflect on the Government’s borrowing policy, as if borrowing in itself were wrong. Borrowing in itself is not vicious at all. What may be vicious is the way in which the money is spent. How and where you raise the money is immaterial and unimportant compared with the way in which you spend it. If the money is spent for the purpose of increasing the total productivity of a country beyond the cost to’ the borrower it is an advantage to the borrower. Every private citizen in his own business undertakings recognizes that fact, and acts upon it. Indeed, the whole progress of modern times is due to the fact that we have had a continual expansion of credit permitting an increase in borrowing. Any one who examines the figures will see that the great bulk of the money raised by this Government has been for definite reproductive purposes, which have stimulated trade, made for the greater comfort and convenience of people in the outback districts, and brought about increased national production.
We have been blamed for borrowing overseas; but everybody knows why we did so. It is pure camouflage on the part of the Opposition to advance this charge against us. We have borrowed overseas in order to leave the local market open for the States. During the last seven years the Federal Government has raised no new loans in Australia for Commonwealth purposes except for the Federal Capital Commission. It is clear that no more money could have been raised in Australia than has been raised without disturbing the whole business equilibrium of the Commonwealth. During that time Ave have had no less than £200,000,000 of war loan conversions to deal with. In some cases we have managed to convert the whole loan; but in 1923 there was a shortage of £6,000,000 in the subscriptions offered, and in 1927 there was a shortage of £10,000,000. That shows that there was not much money left in the Australian market for such purposes. At the same time we were raising money for the States. All the States as well were having counter sales of securities, .and were taking as much money as could be secured at reasonable rates in Australia. There was no chance of obtaining additional money except by going abroad for it. “We borrowed £27,000,000 overseas during those five years; but that money was not spent in such a way as to interfere with the protectionist policy of Australia, or to endanger the industrial life of the country. It was used primarily for buying goods which could not be made in Australia, or for making payments which had to be made outside Australia. There is much loose thinking in connexion with overseas borrowing. Various critics say that, because we borrow overseas, we are destroying the protectionist policy of the Commonwealth, and creating an unfavorable trade balance. The effect is precisely the opposite. As regards the balance of trade, the loan is an invisible export. The loans overseas are an offset against the interest bills we have to meet overseas. The one is an invisible export and the other an invisible import. The fact that Australia has to pay overseas £25,000,000 a year in interest has more or less balanced the loans we have raised overseas -since the war. Everybody knows that before we came back to the gold standard we were able to clear our balances in this way, which would not have been possible except by such an arrangement.
– The Prime Minister did not deny that we had been paying interest with borrowed money.
– That is not so. We have never yet paid interest with borrowed money. We have had certain payments to make iri London, and we have used the money raised there to make them. At the same time we have used the revenue raised in Australia to meet our loan payments in Australia. Of course, we could have brought to Australia the money raised by loan in London and sent to London the money raised from revenue in Australia. But the only effect of bringing loan money from
London and using it here, and sending our own revenue money hack to London to pay the interest charges there, would be that we should have to pay double exchange. What we are doing at the present time saves exchange charges and does not constitute paying our interest abroad with borrowed money. Under the system I have just explained we are paying for our public works out of loan money and paying our interest with our own revenue, as is shown in the budget statement. Such a procedure does not hurt but really helps Australia. What does injure Australia, is suggestions such as that just put forward that we are paying our interest abroad with borrowed money.
The Government has been much criticized because of the amount of money which has been borrowed. It must be remembered, however, that the public debt of Australia differs from that of other countries. We are doing many things in Australia by Government enterprise that in other countries are done privately. We have, for instance, installed Governmentowned telephone services and Governmentowned railways. In America the capital of the privately-owned telephone systems amounts to £800,000,000, and that of the privately-owned railway to £4,000,000,000.
– Is the honorable gentleman replying now to the Minister for Trade and Customs?
– I am replying to honorable members opposite. I am replying to those members who, when they were leaders, ran away from their responsibilities, and who now run away from their own statements when we seek to nail them down to them.
We come now to- the manner in which the Government has dealt with the finances of the Commonwealth. It has been suggested that because we have carried on in a certain way, unemployment has been brought about. The contrary is the case. We havefound as a result of experience that the co-operation which the Commonwealth Government has been able toexercise with the States has resulted in reduced loan charges, and theformation of sinking funds in a reduction of the rate of interest. If the honorable member for Dalley will cast his- mind back to a transaction of bis own, when he was Treasurer of Queensland, he will remember that the cost of raising a loan for the Queensland Government in America was £4 per cent. On the other hand, the charges on the last loan which we raised in America were only £2 10s. per cent., a clear saving of 30s. The important consideration in regard to borrowed money is the effect which it has on production. During the war the percentage of our interest charges to our total production mounted tremendously. Ever since then, however, the rate has been declining. Those percentages were as follows : -
If we look at the matter from the point of view of the amount of interest on the debt provided by the various services on which the money was spent and the balance to be provided out of taxation we arrive at the following figures: -
It will be seen, therefore, that our position is steadily growing better. That is because practically all the borrowing done by the present Government has been for reproductive work, such as the installation of telephones, which have returned not only interest but provision for sinking fund as well. The fact that we have borrowed this money has nothing to do with the present unemployment. It has tended to prevent unemployment, rather than to increase it.
The last charge levelled against the Government is that we have created certain expensive commissions. Almost every speaker has said that we have done this at great and needless, cost to the country. The experience of other governments shows, however, that the appointment of commissions has something to recommend it. Take the case of New South Wales, where unprecedented losses in industry and great unemployment were brought about through the passing of hasty legislation. Last year Mr. Lang brought down his system of child endowment, without first having the system inquired into by a commission of experts.
Speaking as a New South Welshman I know that that measure practically crippled the State commercially, and brought about a position of business panic and unemployment from which it has not yet recovered. The cost of all the commissions which have been appointed by the Federal Government during the last ten years does not amount to what New South Wales lost in one year, because of Mr. Lang’s failure to remember the old adage, “ Look before you leap.”
The honorable member for Dalley said that we should give the money to the States and allow them to develop their own land settlement schemes without interference from the Commonwealth Government. Even the Queensland State settlement schemes, however, have not been entirely successful. The Samson Vale settlement has disappeared from the face of the earth; and the Beerburrum settlement, so to speak, wishes it could disappear, because everybody there has failed. It is clear that if such ‘schemes had been properly investigated in advance much money would have been saved to the people, and there would have been more money available to pay wages.
– The settlement there was done by the Commonwealth.
– Those, areas were settled entirely by the State.
What would be the effect of this censure motion if it were carried? There would be a general election, and possibly a change of government. What would be the result of such a change? Honorable members opposite would come into power, and would, we presume, put into effect their financial policy. We can only judge of the future by our experience of the past. We have had experience of the honorable member for Dalley as Treasurer of Queensland. Let rae give one instance.
– What about the record of the Fisher Labour Government?
– That record would be no better than what I propose to quote. Here is one instance of what the honorable member for Dalley did in Queensland: As Premier of that State he brought down a measure to annul certain contracts that certain lessees had made with the Government in Queensland. As the result of that act, known, not only in Australia, but throughout the Empire, as the “Repudiation Act,” the honorable member found that he was debarred from entering the London money market. Those in control there said: “We cannot trust in the good faith of the Queensland Government.” As a result the honorable member had to go to America to fill his financial- requirements. Subsequently, he was faced with the position that to meet loans falling due in London, about £13,000,000 had to be found in 1924, and that unless the money was obtained the credit of Queensland would be destroyed. In his dilemma he told the press and the people of Queensland that they must stick to him, and present a united front, or there was no knowing what price they would have to pay for the money. He had to enlist the sympathy and support of the Australian and Imperial Governments to prevent a default, and to promise alteration of his policy. The financiers of London then offered ‘ him. the money, but only on certain conditions. Instead of offering a term of 40 years, such as they were willing to offer to other Australian governments, they insisted on a term of only two to five years.
– That statement is quite untrue.
– Instead of obtaining better rates for a short-dated loan, Queensland had to pay 5J per cent, at £99 10s. for money at a time when the Commonwealth Government could get it at 5 per cent, at par.
– That is quite untrue, and the honorable member knows it.
– The statement is correct, as official documents both of Queensland and the Commonwealth attest.
– I rise to a point of order. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has repeated a statement which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said was untrue. I submit that the Treasurer should accept the word of the honorable member for Dalley.
– Order! The Treasurer made a statement in connexion with certain matters of finance. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) interjected that the statement was untrue, and that the Treasurer knew that it was untrue. Such a remark is distinctly out of order.
– I am prepared to withdraw my remark that the Treasurer knew the statement was untrue, and to substitute for it the statement that the assertion is incorrect - a fact which the Treasurer ought to have known.
– In order to make the matter perfectly clear I shall give the exact figures. The Queensland loan was issued’ on 7th April, 1924^ at 5£ per cent, at £99 10s. for two to five years. That meant an effective rate of £5 12s. 4d. per cent. A South Australian loan floated two weeks earlier gave an effective rate of £5 3s. 6d. per cent., while a Commonwealth loan was issued in May, 1924, at 5 per cent, at par. All these transactions took place within a few weeks of each other, the Commonwealth paying 5 per cent., South Australia- £5 3s. 6d. per cent., and Queensland £5 12s. 4d. per cent, for their money.
– Why not say something about the 100,000 persons unemployed in Australia ?
– With regard to unemployment-
Several honorable members interjecting -
– Order ! I ask honorable members to give the Treasurer an opportunity to be heard. An honorable member asked him to deal with’ the unemployed problem; but when he attempted to do so he found it impossible to make himself heard. I ask honorable members to preserve order while the Treasurer is addressing the House.
– The large sum of money thus unnecessarily paid by Queensland to the financiers of London could have been used to provide more work in Australia. If the Labour party were in office and carried out its financial negotiations along the lines adopted by the honorable member for Dalley when Treasurer of Queensland, the unemployment problem in Australia would become m.ore acute, and industries would languish. I have no doubt that when the vote on this censure motion is taken the result will be a clear vindication of the Government policy.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I was loth to interrupt the Treasurer when he was speaking, although his statement in relation to certain financial transactions conducted by me when Treasurer of Queensland was full of inaccuracies. The trouble experienced with the London financiers was not caused by any repudiation by my government of contracts entered into. It is true that there was a disagreement-
– Is this a personal explanation or a statement in reply.
– The honorable member is entitled to make a personal expla-nation concerning any matter in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented. So long as he confines himself to a personal explanation he may proceed.
– ^Difficulties having been encountered in connexion with the finances of Queensland, it became necessary for me to visit England in 1924 in connexion with the conversion loan referred to by the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman said that the financiers of London would not negotiate with the Government of Queensland unless it accepted whatever terms they cared to dictate. No sv iia. demand was made of me by the f financiers I met, although we discussed together a great many questions affecting the policy of the Queensland Government, including what some people refer to as the repudiation of contracts. No concession, however, was made by me or by the Queensland Government, nor was there any whittling away of the Government’s policy. The terms of the loan were not dictated by the financiers of London with whom. I had discussed matters of policy as affecting Queensland; they were settled at a conference between the Governor of the Bank of England, the underwriters of the Australian governments, and myself. The terms we secured compared favorably with those obtained by the Commonwealth and South Australian governments.
– The honorable member is not now making a personal explanation, but is discussing the merits of the case.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister advised the Treasurer when he was speaking to take no notice of interjections by the honorable member for Dalley, he should be prepared now to hear my refutation of the inaccuracies in the Treasurer’s speech.
– I suggest that the honorable member is referring now to matters of opinion, and not to matters of fact. He is not making a personal explanation.
– I assure the Prime Minister that my only desire is to correct a mis-statement. The comparison made by the Treasurer referred to loans issued at different dates.
– They were all floated’ within a month. _
– Weeks separated them, and when at that time I placed on the London market a loan of, approximately, £13,700,000, I was offered £65,000,000.
– It is obvious that the Government is in sore straits, otherwise it would not attempt to apply the “gag” when a motion of censure is before the House. Honorable members who have not yet spoken to the motion, but desire to do so, will now be prevented from speaking, notwithstanding that they have gone to some trouble to collect data to place before honorable members. Realizing that honorable members on this side have presented facts to the House, and that further facts are in the possession of honorable members who have not yet spoken, the Government is endeavouring to suppress them by applying the “ gag.” Honorable members on the other side have evaded the real issue ; they have consistently refrained from offering any suggestion to alleviate the distress caused by unemployment in Australia. At the last moment the Treasurer has risen in an effort to divert attention from the real issue by raising the question of arbitration. Seeing that the Government is supported by free traders, foreign importers, ex-strikers, and “ shandy-gaff “ protectionists, it is useless to expect from it a policy which will advance Australia’s interests. Following the Prime Minister’s callous references to the unemployed, honorable members behind him slandered the workers of Australia, thus injuring Australia in the eyes of other nations. Last of all we have the Treasurer attempting to deliver a lecture on the duties of Australian industrialists, and advocating piece-work. I wish the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) Avas present to hear what I am about to say regarding piece-work in the department under his control. The construction of a railway in the far north was recently commenced. As a result of a vote of workmen it was decided to adopt the principle of piece-work. They entered into an agreement with the department for the construction of certain earthworks. Expenditure 1 amounting, in some instances, to as much as £300 dr £500, was incurred in the purchase of the necessary plant; but as soon as the Government found itself in financial difficulties, the Minister repudiated the whole of those contracts. It is easy enough for Ministers to preach doctrines in which they do not believe; but they find it difficult to put them into practice. Apparently, what is a vice in the workers is a virtue in members of the Government. If that is to be the spirit in which the Government will meet the workers at the suggested peace conference, all I can say is, “ God help the workers.” The Government appears to take a delight in injuring the workers on every possible occasion. Recently it amended the Navigation Act, making it no longer necessary for competent seamen and officers to be employed on vessels of under 50 tons weight. In the most dangerous waters of Australia the only safeguard to the lives of travellers was removed. In its desire to obtain sweated native labour at 3s. a week, the Government dispensed with the services of certificated masters. Yet it asks the industrialists of Australia to attend a peace conference. What can be expected from a government which on every possible occasion stabs the workers in the hack? The whole of the defence offered by honorable members opposite has been hyprocritical. The Treasurer has spoken about finance. Was there ever a more hopeless bungle than we have at present with the Treasurer not only unable to forecast his revenue but also quite unable to approximate his expenditure to his revenue? Parliament has passed bills authorizing the construction of urgent railways and other works, and provision has been made in loan bills for the cost of these works, but the Treasurer,” unable to approximate his expenditure to his estimated revenue, cannot find the money for them. The works thus suspended would have employed thousands of men not in localities where migrants would have congregated but in portions of Australia requiring development. If carried out they would have “increased Australia’s production, and thus have provided more avenues for employment. But the bungling methods of the Treasurer have tied them up.
I have information in my possession that would give the lie to the deliberate misquotations of honorable members on the Ministerial side of the chamber. The fact remains that there are 100,000 men unemployed in Australia to-day, and when we realize how many persons are dependent on those who are out of work, the present state of affairs is appallingly tragic. Yet the Prime Minister declares that it is not the concern of the Commonwealth Government. If I had the time I could make that argument look ridiculous and so with all the other arguments used by the right honorable gentleman in dealing with this motion. I could show that lack of administrative ability and the refusal to provide adequate protection for our secondary industries, and adequate means - transport and other - for the promotion of primary industries, are the direct cause of the existing unemployment. I know that the motion will not be carried, and that the gag awaits those who want to speak to it; but it will go down in history that the Bruce-Page Ministry was the most callous that ever controlled the Commonwealth.
– I am more than grieved that the motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition should have been received as it has been by honorable members on the ministerial benches, and to be told that it has been submitted only for party political purposes. The Treasurer, in concluding his speech, spoke of the many millions by which the wealth of Australia had increased in five years; but, notwithstanding that increased production of wealth, we have the pitiful sight in every capital city of increasing unemployment. The men affected are the taxpayers of Australia - the family men whose share of taxation is paid through customs revenue, the greatest of all imposts for revenue purposes. Customs taxation is immeasurably greater than income taxation, land taxation and probate duties put together. I have led the unemployed. I have tried to control them. It is a wonder to me that there are not more upheavals than we have had. If I were on the breadline with the unemployed, I should see no other outcome than an upheaval. Of what use is it to quote statistics to men who are hungry? Of what use is it to tell them, when they are starving, that the Commonwealth has no money to carry out this or that work? The reason we have so much unemployment to-day is that we have got, so we are told, too far ahead of requirements. South Australia has only one more railway to build. There is no money for roads, sewers or new water works because we are told new works are not required. In these circumstances what is to become of the wages man? Honorable members suggest that we ought to get together in a peace conference to see how we can add to the productivity of the country.
– The honorable member is surely not advocating a go-slow policy.
– No, but if I were depending on a job for my livelihood and the harder I worked the sooner I would bring it to an end, and if there was nothing in sight for me to do afterwards, selfpreservation would compel meto make the job last as long as possible.When we get to the bread and butter side of the question we must admit that that is the position. I have not yet got to the sob stuff about which the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) was so pleased to talk.
– But no doubt the honorable member will soon get to it.
– Yes, and there is plenty of occasion for it. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) got on to the sob stuff before he finished his speech. His sob stuff was “ Why cannot we get together ? Why cannot the worker let the boss tell him how kind he is in the process of crushing and bleeding him in preparation for further pressure and bleeding ?” Yet that is exactly how the proposed peace conference would work out.
Honorable members of the Labour party have been twitted with not believing in the Arbitration Court. I believe in arbitration but only so far as it will meet the circumstances. I do not believe in the present system except as a palliation of present conditions. When the court talks of giving a little of the profit made by the industry to the man who does the work, I shall believe in arbitration, because it will be getting somewhere definite; but it never talks of giving to the working man any of the profit derived from his industry. It strips him naked in the court. I remember the brushmaker’s case in Adelaide many years ago. Women went into the witnessbox before Mr. Justice Gordon, and told him how much they spent in groceries, meat, and clothing, and on dad’s tobacco and lodge money; their domestic arrangements were literally stripped naked to disclose how they spent the few pounds their husbands earned. After the evidence was given the President of the Industrial Court, knowing full well that nothing could be paid to the workers in the industry unless there was a profit attaching to their work, fixed what he described as the “ irreducible minimum” on which a man, his wife, and three children could live. He added the following addendum, “ I find that it costs just as much to keep a man up in the Stockade as is paid to workmen in an industry in South Australia.” That is the basis of arbitration as we know it to-day; but if labour has got a little more out of it than was got at that period of which I speak, the credit lies with the men whom the honorable member for Wakefield describes as agitators. The honorable member is a nice one to talk about agitators. When he talks he goes absolutely mad. If he were in the midst of a mob of hungry men and talked as flamboyantly as he did this morning, he could not disclaim responsibility for any ebulition or inopportune happening that might be brought about. For him to talk about agitators is for the pot to call the kettle black. There is no greater agitator in manner or language than the honorable member when he is addressing the House. If necessary I could quote statistics to show what a calumniator he was in his attack upon the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). But I have no desire to quote figures. Nor have I any desire to go through a long, rambling resume of the actions of the Government that have brought about the present unemployment. I want Ministers to try to do something to pull the Commonwealth out of the slough into which it has got. Honorable members of the Opposition have been accused of promoting this debate for the purposes of political propaganda, but it would be a disgrace to civilization if we could not come to a national parliament and call attention to a set of circumstances that has come under our notice.
In South Australia I did not identify myself With the unemployed until a week or two ago, but when I saw. a- gathering of 2,000 unemployed, all of them healthy, strong men, willing and ready to work, I could not help associating myself with them. I had nothing to offer them from a Commonwealth point of view. I could only tell them that Commonwealth works were being curtailed because of the financial position. We have the word of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that the existing financial system will not allow the Commonwealth to absorb these unemployed workmen on Commonwealth works. I say now what I said to those unemployed, “ To-day you are useless and scrapped, and the Commonwealth cannot feed you. But if war broke out to-morrow, ninetenths of you would be described as fit to serve. You would be sent white feathers urging you to join up.”
The Treasurer said that if money were borrowed in Australia instead of overseas the commercial equilibrium of the Commonwealth would be disturbed. On the 15th July, 1915, “Willie” Watt made the same statement in regard to a £5,000,000 loan. Since that time, Australia has borrowed over £300,000,000 within its own shores. Now we are told that the country would collapse like a pricked bubble if £20,000,000 were raised in the local market. Loan transactions during the war period showed how little the right honorable member for Balaclava knew of the power to expand credit. I do not say that the cash which the Government requires is available in Australia, but the currency needed to meet the necessities of the moment can be provided if the Government so desires. But of course, the god of profit must be served. Anybody who has money to lend must have his 5 or 5£ per cent. At the beginning of the Great War the interestrate on Commonwealth loans was 4 per cent. Mr. Fleming, who then represented Robertson, said they were giltedged securities, and he urged people to put their money into them. In subsequent flotations, the rate increased gradually till it reached 6 per cent. The patriots who sooled on other men to fight for them and were not game to enlist and enter the wet trenches and eat tin dog, would not allow even their money to serve the country unless they got a substantial profit from it.
Nine-tenths of the men who are out of work to-day have worked themselves out of their jobs. Statistics prove that the productivity of labour was never greater than it is to-day. That is true of the garnering of wheat, the curing of hams, the clipping of wool, and the making of boots, hats, tin pannikins, and everything else. Sir Robert Home said a few days ago that there is no finer type of man in the world than the Australian, but thousands of our men have worked themselves out of their jobs, and the little Australians opposite, having skimmed all the cream off the milk, would allow the real producers of wealth to starve. They would treat the workers worse than the cattle and machinery on their farms; they say it is not their responsibility to find employment for the men who need it. If they have no such responsibility, why do they endorse a financial agreement which will enable the Commonwealth to control the finances of the States? This Government ha3 deprived the States of the per capita payments, and having claimed the right to call the tune to which the States must dance, expects to be immune from the results that follow. If any trouble comes from organized labour through the economic circumstances existing to-day, the blame will attach to this and other Parliaments which have not done their duty, which, we are told, is to govern and not to trade.
The Treasurer stated that the interest payments overseas amount to about £25,000,000, which is approximately the amount which is being borrowed abroad. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition interjected that the Prime Minister did not deny that his Government was borrowing to pay the interest bill. Then the Treasurer speciously explained that it was better to pay the interest due abroad with money raised there than to bring borrowed money from overseas and send it abroad again, thus paying double exchange. That is a fact of elementary finance, is known to the veriest tyro, but the statement that we borrow money to pay interest abroad remains uncontroverted.
– How much of that interest is in respect of State borrowing?
– I do not know, but borrowing now is controlled by a Loan Council. . The Treasurer was speaking of Australian finance generally, and either he has bluffed the honorable member or the latter does not understand what his deputy leader said. I do not believe the Treasurer’s statement, not because I doubt his veracity, but because the Auditor-General has stated that the accounts are not being kept correctly, and that the Treasurer is claiming surpluses that do not exist. If he desires to act honestly by the Commonwealth, he will alter his bookkeeping methods immediately.
The honorable gentleman referred also to the hold-up of works by the employees, but he did not mention that 30,000 workers in the metal trades in New South Wales were sacked immediately prior to Christmas, and 25,000 of them were reengaged a week later. That action by the employers was a violation of the Arbitration Court’s award, but the same practice has been resorted to in the South
AustralianRailway Department for many years. It was stopped only when a Labour government came into office.
– Why were the men in the metal trades sacked for a week?
– So that the employers might evade payment for the holidays. They are the most cunning crowdin Christendom. On one occasion I interested myself in an analysis of the various laws on the statute-book. I found laws directed against burglary, obscene language, theft, assault, and many other offences against the community. These enactments were applicable to all sections of the community, but the vast majority of the laws on the statute-book were designed to keep the commercial community honest. There are laws relating to companies, land agents, doctors, dentists, and dozens of other persons engaged in commerce or the professions; but, except for the Arbitration Act, no law has been necessary to keep the working man up to the collar. In South Australia even the Factories Department will not chase up an employer who has broken the law. Although a man wearing a horse-hair wig may sit in a court to fix the wages and hours of labour, the employers can sack 30,000 men for a week in order to escape payment for holidays.
The Treasurer’s principal argument was that the Labour leaders in this Parliament are controlled by the “Reds,” and have not the courage to stand by their convictions. To illustrate his point, he asserted that when we desired to advocate an affirmative vote in respect of the referendum proposals submitted to the people at the last election, we were obliged to obey the dictates of industrialists connected with another branch of the movement. Mr. Grayndler, the general secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, is credited with having fired the first shot in the anti-referendum campaign, but as soon as he did so he left for Java on a holiday. We have been told that because the “ Reds “ asserted their disapproval of the Government proposals to enlarge the industrial powers of the Commonwealth on the ground that industrial conscription would result, we were forced to advocate disagreement with them; but the very man whom the Treasurer declares was the principal “ Red “ to whom we have to bow the knee, was selected by the Prime Minister as an appropriate representative of organized labour to accompany the industrial delegation to America. The fact of the matter is that the Treasurer, like his colleagues on the other side of the House, is prepared to state his arguments in any way that will meet what he conceives to be the requirements of the moment, without having any regard for the facts. “We have been advised to urge that labour representatives should be allowed to participate in the coming peace conference. But such a conference will not get us anywhere if the Government persists in its intention to allow representation to bodies other than recognized labour organizations. In our opinion it is essential that the industrialists should be permitted to choose their own representatives to’ the conference. For my own part I should be quite willing for bona fide labour organizations to be represented at the conference, for no harm can come to them from hearing what their opponents have to say. The suggestions at the conference are not likely to amount to any thing more than a general adoption of the principle of the survival of the fittest. Such a doctrine will never be acceptable to us. The Labour movement has not grown to its present state -in five minutes. It passed through much travail before it became sufficiently powerful to compel- the various Governments to pass legislation to regulate the hours of labour and working conditions. Our opponents frequently twit us by saying that organized labour has done nothing to improve the lot of the workers; but looking back over my short life, and thinking of the experience through which I passed - I began life as a factory lad, then became a commercial traveller, and ultimately found myself a member of this Parliament - I can see a marked improvement in the standard of living of the common people. Years ago women and children were obliged to work long hours in factory and field for a mere pittance; but to-day the hard work of the nation is done principally by its men. We have very little child labour now, and the ruling wages in those industries in which women are em- ployed are infinitely higher than those of the bad old days.
Let us assume for a moment that the peace conference is held and that an agreement is reached which will have the effect of establishing as a principle in Australia, payment by results. Let us assume also that the workers agree to accept lower wages and work longer hours than at present. Will that solve our unemployment problem ? It will not. The solution of our problem will not be found in increased production. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out the other night, our storehouses are already full to overflowing and the return for our wool clip is quite as satisfactory this year as it has been in recent years. It is not more production that we need, but a more .even distribution of the wealth that is produced. If we persist in our present methods and produce more, it will simply mean that the few will be wealthier and the many poorer. We shall have m’ore unemployment than there is at present. What is necessary to enable us to remedy our trouble is a complete change in our economic system. . The first thing suggested is to dispense with interest on capital. I have taken out the figures in connexion with the New South Wales railways, and find that they are not earning interest on the capital invested in them. I am also conversant with the position in South Australia. Before our railways can earn a penny they have to pay an exorbitant amount of interest to the overseas or local money-lenders. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) spoke of paying £25,000,000 overseas, and apparently it will be a perpetual borrowing business to meet interest on loans. But the £1,000,000,000 which Australia owes, capitalized at 5 -per cent., means £1,000,000 a week, which we have to earn before we can pay wages or obtain the ordinary necessaries of life. It is astounding to realize that from the fruits of our labour we have to pay away £1,000,000 weekly in interest. This must be changed, and there will be no industrial peace in Australia until we produce for use and not for profit.
It is the duty of the Government to find employment for those who are out of work. At a meeting of the unemployed in Adelaide which I addressed, I suggested that it would be advisable for the men to parade through the main streets, so that the people would realize the seriousness of the situation. I told them that I was prepared to lead them, and, although I was told that they had marched without effect on previous occasions, I persuaded them to form a procession and march through the streets so that those who in the ordinary course of affairs were not brought into close association with the distress in their midst would realize the gravity of the situation. I led those men through the streets, and, for the information of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), I should like to relate the attitude adopted by “ Von “ Homburg in that city. The party with which the honorable member is associated would not, during the war, trust that gentleman, who prior to the outbreak of hostilities represented the district of Murray. He was defeated, I think, on two occasions, but subsequently he was again taken to the bosoms of those who had previously supported him. He is now the AttorneyGeneral of South Australia. It is amazing to live and realize the hyprocisy preached at that time. The AttorneyGeneral told me that I was simply leading the men up a hill and down again; but, curiously enough, the same morning he arranged for 130 telegrams to be despatched to the different district councils throughout South Australia, asking them if they could give relief to the unemployed.
– A conference has since been called in Adelaide.
– Yes; but I am referring to what occurred at the outset. At least one Minister was stirred into activity. On the following morning six mounted troopers were stationed outside the Minister’s office. Honorable members can realize what they thought was likely to happen. I know that a hungry man is an angry man, and that there is likely to be trouble when his belly pinches. Whilst in Englandp rior to crossing over to France, we had toline up at 5 o’clock in the evening for our “ eats,” which consisted of a slice of bread about an inch thick and a knife point of treacle.
– Who was supplied with such food?
– The men who fought for Australia whilst many of those who kept the home fires burning were robbing them. There were instances when the men, after waiting perhaps five minutes for this meagre fare, became so enraged that they would have nearly pushed the hut over. If men who signed up and were prepared to make the best of it would resort to such measures, it is easy to imagine the feelings of men who have wives and children depending on them and have no bread and no treacle. The possibility of a revolution may suit some honorable members opposite. What are they doing?
– They believe in “ Fire low and lay ‘em out.”
– Exactly. I do not want to give these illustrations without leading somewhere. What have we to do ? I want this Parliament to tackle the question of unemployment. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth Parliament can do the whole job. We have a federation of States; each State possesses sovereign rights, and I do not suggest that this Parliament should adopt an unconstitutional attitude and ride rough-shod over State authority. No helpful suggestion has been made by honorable members opposite. The Prime Minister quoted certain figures and endeavoured to minimize the seriousness of the situation. As I am now amongst the bald heads in this chamber, having lived in Australia for 57 years, I am able to visualize the position. The position with regard to unemployment is worse to-day than in former years, because we now have a larger population to provide for.
– And the worst government.
– The interjection of the honorable member reminds me that the Government has been effectively criticized by all speakers from this side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) stated the case for the censure motion, and his remarks were endorsed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). The statistics with regard to unemployment quoted by the Prime Minister and Government supporters have been proved to be inaccurate. If the figures relating to the adverse balance of trade were not “ cooked “ they were, at all events, handled very awkwardly.
As the position has been . fully stated by other honorable members on this side, no good purpose would be served by my covering the same ground. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) had something to say about child endowment and national insurance, which, we have been assured, is the settled policy of the Government. Both national insurance and child endowment have been features of Labour policies for many years, and since they have now been adopted by the Government, it is obvious that the Labour party must always have been on sound lines. Had the proposals of the Government with regard to both those questions been given effect, the situation to-day might not have been so serious as it is. Nothing, however, has been done to deal with the present industrial depression.
All members of this Parliament owe a duty to humanity. I could not help feeling, when the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was speaking, that the people who are suffering most are not receiving that consideration which they are entitled to expect. I am well acquainted with the career of the honorable member for Wakefield, and I am familiar with the tenets of his early political faith. I do not wish to hand out “ sob stuff,” as suggested by the honorable member for Gwydir, but I wish to secure justice for those who are suffering at the moment. It is the right of the unemployed to have the opportunity to work. The position in Adelaide is little short of desperate, and I question if the State Government can do much to relieve the situation there. The Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament (Mr. Hill) made certain proposals recently, but the Premier of that State (Mr. Butler) denied that any of the suggestions could be given effect to. While there is this conflict of opinion between the two leaders, the position of the unemployed in that city has become extremely acute. The suggestion was made that the unemployed should take drastic action, even to the extent of breaking a few windows. I strongly objected to such tactics, and pointed out that the men’s position would be worse than ever, because they would be gaoled by the police.
– If they were gaoled they would, at all events, be fed.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is correct, but, unfortunately, before the hungry unemployed could get into a gaol they would have to break the law.
– Some of the unemployed asked to be put in gaol.
– I am aware of that. Some time ago many of them were sleeping behind the Adelaide gaol in tents provided by the Government. Several drifted over into the railway carriages, and when they were ejected by the police they asked if they could be placed under arrest and given proper shelter and food. The police pointed out, however, that they had not committed an offence rendering them liable to arrest. As the Government would not permit them to sleep in the open spaces around Adelaide, they were shifted on by the police as vagrants. These men, I remind honorable members, are out own flesh and blood - our fellow citizens - who in time of war become soldiers fighting for this country.
– They are called the nation’s heroes then.
– Yes. The Prime Minister, replying to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, asked if honorable members on this side had read the report of Mr. Gunn, one of the members of the Development and Migration Commission, on the marketing of our dried fruits. The following appeared in the Sydney Sun on Wednesday last: -
Mr. Bruce said that it was the survey of the position in the dried fruits industry by the commission which brought matters to a’ head. The commission reported that the condition of the world’s market for dried fruit had reached saturation point, and that the plans made originally on the basis of extensive developments in this industry must go by the board.
Mr. Bruce said that the investigations of the commission had also shown that a similar parlous condition of over-production existed in the canned fruit industry throughout the world.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the question be now put -
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Charlton’s) be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 4.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280302_reps_10_117/>.