5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Defence Department 833
The President took the chair at 3p.m., and read prayers.
Administration - Area Officers - Cadet Non-commissioned Officers - Defence Scheme - Compulsory Training - Report of Inspector-General of Oversea Forces - DredgesNational Regiments.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been drawn to the report in to-day’s Melbourne Argus of a statement he made at the Manufacturers’ dinner in Sydney yesterday,to the following effect: -
We are calling upon militarymen to shoulder business responsibility connected with a Department that annually spends ?6,000,000. It would have been a miracle if mistakes had not been committed. So one of the big reforms which will be introduced into this Department is to have some business method of dealing with it. If I can do that it will be the means of securing a more economic handling of money, and will tend to greater efficiency of the Citizen Forces. I want to place before your chamber certain business proposals connected with the Defence Department.
I desire to know whether, in effect, this statement is true; if so, whether the Minister can state what proposals he intends to submit to the Chamber of Manufactures of Sydney, and whether they are going to be taken into the Cabinet, or a secret conclave of Ministers is to decide what shall be done in connexion withthe business policy of the Defence Department?
– I cannot refrain from expressing some surprise at the avidity with which it is assumed, on the strength of newspaper reports, that I am going to do absolutely idiotic things. The statement I made was to this effect : That, allowing for those mistakes which were inevitable in a Department called suddently into existence; and required to expend at a phenomenal rate-
– Do you mean that these mistakes were made under the Fisher Administration?
– Perhaps the honorable senator will tell me what I mean ?
– I am asking what you meant.
– I am endeavouring to say that I told the meeting, as I said before in the Senate, that it would have been a miracle if mistakes had not occurred in a Department which was called upon to grow up in a night; but, allowing for those mistakes, which were inevitable in the circumstances, I assured the meeting that, in my humble judgment as a layman, on the military side matters were all right, though there was reasonable ground for assuming that there was a great deal that was wrong in the handling of the business affairs of the Department. There were certain problems which were engaging my attention, and in respect to these problems I put it to the meeting, as a number of business men, that their advice and assistance might, when the problems came to be propounded, be made available for the advantage of Parliament and myself.
– S - Seeing that the Minister of Defence has indicated that he intends to consult the Chambers of Commerce with regard to the business aspect of the administration of the Defence Act, will he also consult the various Trades and Labour Councils with regard to the industrial aspect?
– All that I can say is that, for the last two months, I have been in very close consultation with various sections of the industrial workers of this country.
– Has the Minister of Defence yet decided the conditions under which the increased payment is to be made to the Area Officers, and, if not, is he prepared to give me an assurance that it will be paid to them during the current financial year?
– I have not yet been able to arrive at a decision, from want of time more than from anything else, as to the basis on which the additional payment is to be allotted; but I shall endeavour to arrive at a decision in the course of the next few days. In any case, the payment will be made to apply to the present financial year.
– Has the Minister of Defence any further information to give the Senate regarding the appointment, as non-commissioned officers, without examination, of certain cadets attending the Sydney Grammar School?
– The answer to the question placed in my hands is as follows: -
Examination for non-commissioned officers, Sydney Grammar School,was held during period, August, September, October last, but Board proceedings for extension did not reach commanding officer.
No promotions yet been made, some cadets have been detailed acting corporals. Fresh examinations will be held at once.
I should like to add that this report from the District Commandant was in my opinion so incomplete and vague as to leave me no option but to wire for a more definite and detailed statement in answer to the question submitted to him. I am now awaiting that further reply.
– Will the Minister of Defence, in view of the increase in cost of defence, have a report prepared showing the recommendations of Lord Kitchener, and how far they have been carried out, and in what respect they have been departed from, and a similar report in connexion with the recommendations of Admiral Henderson ? Honorable senators would be in a better position to know what is going on if they were informed as to the departures, if any, from the recommendations referred to.
– I shall be only too glad to place in the hands of honorable senators any information enabling them to understand the development of our defence scheme, and the particulars in which we may have exceeded or fallen short of the recommendations of the two authorities mentioned. I shall endeavour to see if the information can be put together within a reasonable time in a form that is likely to be useful.
– Has the Minister of Defence any further information to give the Senate in connexion with the matter to which I directed his attention last week? I refer to the publication, in the metropolitan press, of advertisements in which preference for employment is given to lads exempt from military service. The Minister will admit that the matter is a serious one.
– I have ascertained that there is no legal power in the Defence Department to prevent any one from expressing, or acting upon, any preferences he may entertain as to whom he shall employ. I recognise the serious results which might follow if the practice referred to became general, but, for the present, I ask the honorable senator to leave the matter in my hands with the assurance that I am ascertaining exactly what our legal position is, and endeavouring also to discover whether the case referred to is a singular one, or the practice is at all general.
– It has been forecasted in the press that the Minister of Defence proposes to lay on the table the report of the Inspector-General of OverseaForces. There has appeared also what purported to be a summary of the report. I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether the report is available, and, if so, when he proposes to lay it on the table of the Senate?
– The report is not available in this sense, that, although a copy has reached me, it has been necessary to place it in the hands of the Government Printer, in order that it may be made available for presentation to Parliament and for other purposes. I anticipate that the proofs will be revised and completed by the end of this week, and in that event I expect to be in a position to place the report on the table in the Senate and in another place on the first sitting day next week. With regard to the statement which has appeared in the press, I should like to say that it has been published without any authority. So far as I know, no one had any authority to communicate anything to the press in connexion with any report. I cannot believe that anything has been communicated by any official, and when the report is published, it will be seen that the newspaper comments convey their own condemnation by the inaccuracies which they contain.
SenatorRAE. - In view of the reply which the Minister of Defence gave me last week, in which he stated that he had granted no exemptions from compulsory training except in certain deserving cases, I wish to ask the honorable senator whether he recollects having granted an exemption to a cadet named Dodds, the son of Mr. Leonard Dodds, a member of the Sydney Stock Exchange, notwithstanding the opposition of the Area Officer, the Brigade Major, and the District Commandant?
– I cannot remember the particular case, nor if an exemption was granted the circumstances which induced me to grant it. If the honorable senator will repeat his question to-morrow I shall place myself in a position to answer it.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the Minister granted Messrs. Poole and Steel, Balmain, Sydney, an extension of time in their contract for supply of a dredger to July, 1914 (vide Minister’s reply to question No. 14, paragraph 4, on 16th April) ?
– The answer is -
Yes, to 31st July, 1914.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
SPEECH BY SENATOR McCOLL.
– In to-day’s Argus, I noticed, under the head of “ Federal Politics,” some remarks which were alleged to have been made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, at Echuca, on Monday night.
– Why do you not pass a law preventing Ministers from speaking altogether ?
– How very touchy these Ministers are! Before I put my question to the Vice-Presidentl of the Executive Council, the Leader of the Government here takes exception.
– Order ! The honorable’ senator must state his question.
– I hope that the Leader of the” Senate will have a little patience, and will not be so touchy. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is reported to have said -
They had a great programme -
Of course, I take that as so much piffle.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not make any comment.
They had a great programme, which they would give to the people when they were ready for it. They awaited the’ decision of the new Governor-General whether they would be allowed to go to the country or not.
I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether that is an official statement, and, if so, whether the Government have appealed to the. new Governor-General to grant a double dissolution, and are simply awaiting his replyto the request?
– My answer is “ No.”
-“ No No “ to what?
– To that question.
– That answer, sir, is too ambiguous for me. I am not satisfied with it. I wish to ask, in all seriousness, whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council is correctly reported as saying that the Government awaited the decision of the new Governor-General as to’ whether they would be allowed to go to the country or not? This statement means, if it means anything, that the Government have approached in some way the new Governor-General in respect to a double dissolution.
– No, a single dissolution.
– Single or double.
– As this is now going beyond a question as to what Senator McColl may have said, and involves the action of the Government-
– I asked Senator McColl.
– As this is a matter which affects the policy and action of the Government, I am entitled, if an answer is to be vouchsafed to the question, to an opportunity to give it. The answer in this case is “No.”
– Then Senator McColl has made another mistake.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question regarding a. statement made by him at Echuca, as reported in the Argus.
– If Ministers did not speak, you would be absolutely dumb.
– My question is whether the honorable senator made the following statement: -
Mr. Cook has done marvellous work with a small majority, and he was worthy of another trial. (Applause.) By letting works by contract a great saving was effected.
And if so, was the honorable senator referring to the Teesdale Smith contract?
– Is the Minister of Defence in a position to announce the policy of the Government in regard to collecting the costs . of the Instrument Fitters’ Arbitration case, as promised by Senator Clemons last December?
– I promised the honorable senator that I would endeavour to place myself in a position to answer his question.; but, having been absent in Sydney, and having returned only to-day, I have not had an opportunity. If he will repeat the question in the course of the week, I shall be prepared to answer it.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council in a position to-day to answer the question I put to him last week regarding the letting of contracts for excavations at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental railway? The honorable senator promised to obtain information in reply to my question. I wish to know whether tenders were called for the contracts, and whether they were advertised in the press?
– I have not yet received the information for which the honorable senator has asked.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will lay upon the table of the Library any agreements entered into between the Home Affairs Department and any section of the men employed in the construction of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway at the Port Augusta end?
– I will make inquiry into the matter from the Department of Home Affairs, and if there are any such agreements, and there is no objection, I shall endeavour to comply with the honorable senator’s request.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the .Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– As I have no other source of information than newspaper cables, I am not in a position to answer this question.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Until this has been determined, it cannot be definitely stated whether the office of Director of Physical Training will be continued, or, if so, whether the duties will be sufficient to warrant the employment of a “full time” officer ; that is, ofan officer who will devote his services exclusively to the Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2-
George Townsend, Esq., Patent Office, Melbourne, Commissioner of Patents and Registrar of Trade Marks and Designs;
J. Spruson, Esq., Elizabeth-street, Sydney, Patent Attorney.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Audit Act 1901-1912. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1913-14, dated 30th April, 1914 (two).
Inter-State Conference, Melbourne, MarchApril, 1914. - Report of the Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates, together with Appendices.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act 1911-1912. - Schedule of Passenger Fares during construction.
Return to Order of the Senate of 7th May, 1914-
Naval Defence : Strength of British Naval Complement in the Pacific.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 798), on motion by Senator Oakes -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– An event is just about to happen in .the history of the Commonwealth’, which, I am sure, will cause regret, not only to the members of this Parliament, but also to the public. I refer to the approaching departure from our shores of His Excellency the Governor-General, who is retiring from a position which he has filled with much distinction. I believe I am expressing the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the people of this country when I say that Lord Denman has brought to the discharge of his onerous duties an ability and statesmanship which reflect very great credit upon him. He has also identified himself with the social life of the community in such a way as to make a host of friends throughout this young Commonwealth. Regret at his departure will be universal.
– Universal ?
– It will be universal amongst those who have watched the way in which he has discharged the duties of his distinguished office, and the manner in which he has identified himself with important phases of our national life, apart from the political sphere. In my opinion, he has been the superior of some of his predecessors, while he has been quite the equal of others in every respect. I only wish that I could say the same of his advisers for the time being. During their brief term of office, I am sorry to say, they have not done much which commends itself to my judgment. Of course, their twelve months’ administration has not been entirely devoted to a policy of misdirection or mischiefmaking. Before I conclude my remarks, I hope to show that, in one respect at least, the Minister of Defence has taken a very creditable stand in endeavouring to uphold the defence policy of Australia. In doing so he- has earned my personal esteem for taking so decided a stand against the erroneous view of the understanding arrived at by the Minister of War in the Old Country. Apart from that, I am sorry to say I cannot congratulate the Ministry upon a very bold advance during the past twelve months. Some very curious statements have been made, not only in this Chamber, but outside it, by members and supporters of the present Ministry upon public matters. Senator Oakes made a lengthy address here, of which the burden was that the Labour party depended in a great measure for their public support upon the existence of trusts and monopolies in Australia, and that the moment the law against these bodies became supreme the people would have no further time for us. He tried to make it appear that we lived, not upon what we have actually achieved or proposed to achieve, but upon what we threatened to achieve. He said we had levelled a threat against trusts and combines, and that only so long as that threat survived would the Labour party be in the ascendant. He even went so far as to suggest ti) at the existence of combines and monopolies here was the breath of life to the Labour party. That is a curious rendering of the position. The honorable senator will search in vain through the history of those bodies in Australia for one sympathetic word expressed towards the Labour party, or for the slightest evidence that any money has ever been subscribed by them to help the Labour party into power in the same way as, I believe, it has been subscribed to help the honorable senator’s party. Seeing, therefore, that- trusts and combines have not befriended the Labour party in this country, and have never taken an active part in securing our return, I fail to see any cogency in the honorable senator’s remarks upon that point. His leader, Mr. Cook, in the other Chamber, as well as throughout the country, said that when once these industrial pests - the trusts and combines - were made amenable to law in Australia the last prop would be knocked from under the Labour party. That is Mr. Cook in his latest light. I do not know in how many lights he has appeared in the politics of this country, but they certainly must be very many.
– He is a political rainbow.
– He might be compared to one of those prismatic instruments that will throw off colours at whatever angle you present them to the sun. At any rate, that statement of his is only in keeping with his former assertions, both inside and outside- Parliament, with which we are not much concerned. The fact remains that we have laid ourselves out to make war upon these combinations, that up to the present no friendship has existed between us and them, and that the last- thing that enters their minds in a corporate capacity is to help any Labour member into this Parliament. Their attitude towards Senator Oakes and his party has been entirely different. They nave been smiling on his party from the start, and it has been living under their shadow ever since they gained any strength in the industrial life of this country. The Liberal party has been assisted, as has been shown on the sworn testimony of the chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, to the extent of £50,000, more or less, for the purpose of resisting our proposals for the giving of extended powers to this Parliament. The honorable senator’s party had charge of that money. Mr. Knox did not go behind a bush in speaking about it, and all honour to him for being so frank, because we are looking for men in the front rank of politics and industrial concerns who will give honest and straightforward expression to their opinions. When Mr. Knox made his statement regarding that £50,000’ he did something which reflects a great deal of credit on him. That money certainly did not go into the coffers of the Labour party, yet Senator Oakes asks us, to believe that the trusts and. ..combines are the friends of the Labour party, or that we have befriended them, whereas if there is any deadly enmity towards them in Australia, . it is entertained by us.
– Senator Oakes had his tongue in his .cheek when he said that.
– It must be so. I can quite imagine what happens at some of those’ hole and corner meetings away back in New South Wales, where the press is not present, and an organizer like Senator Oakes comes along to tell the old story to the women folk. I can picture the poor deluded dames belonging to. the Liberal party listening and drinking in the tales poured into their ears by men of the Senator Oakes type, about the horrors of the. Labour party. When he ventures in a Chamber like this, under the light and glare of public opinion, with the press present, to put forward such a serious’ statement as that the trusts and combines are friends of the Labour party, we can easily imagine what a .want of veracity prevails at Liberal meetings, when the press is not present to keep the. honorable senator in check. That is only a sample of what has been taking place throughout the militant career of the Labour party. .We have been continually subjected to these misrepresentations, and we generally have to devote about half of our valuable time and energy to removing the false impressions made on the public mind by men of the Senator Oakes type. I draw attention to his atrocious statements merely as a sample of what is said by the honorable party to which he belongs in their attempts to delude the electors, as unfortunately they have too often succeeded in doing. It has been stated by Senator Millen that the Government have had great difficulty in getting their financial Bills through this Chamber. We have been told that we have mutilated their financial measures. Senator Millen, in view of the high position he occupies in this Chamber, should, above all things, try to keep as close as he can to the truth, even if he cannot actually speak the truth in every word he utters. I recognise that it is quite a strain for some men to adhere rigidly to the truth on all occasions. Some of them are so peculiarly constituted psychologically that they like to sail as close as possible to the . truth all the time, while never attempting to tell it. It does not require very much investigation to ascertain how much truth there is in Senator Millen’s state: ment regarding the Government’s financial measures. We can remember when the Government brought down a loan measure which, as a’ matter pf fact, embraced everything that the Government placed before us in the way of financial proposals. That Bill had attached to it a schedule of amounts to be expended on certain public works, including one item of £400,000 for the development of the Northern Territory. How did the Labour party, whom he accuses of having mutilated their financial proposals, behave? On the first occasion we gave him every assistance to pass the Loan Bill, with certain exceptions, which the Government knew would run counter to our platform. In regard to .the item of £400,000 for the development of the Northern Territory, we had this spectacle, that the very senators sitting behind the Government, who ought to be here on all occasions to see that the Minister gets the greatest help in putting any financial proposals through, were not present. Senator Oakes, who is fore- most in his belabouring of the Labour party with reckless accusations, was not here; so that if any person shared in the process of mutilating the financial proposals of the Government it was their own friend and supporter, their faithful adherent ‘and watchdog. Old Tray, in fact, was never so subservient as are some supporters of the present Government here; he was faithful. Where was Senator Gould on that occasion, too? He was not accounted for. Where was Senator Keating? He was not here either. When the financial proposals of the Government were at stake, where were these three gallant supporters? As for the lonely supporter left, Senator Bakhap, because they have only four supporters here, he did not back-up the Ministry on that day. He was the only supporter, in fact, who was found in opposition; he was the only one who was found mutilating their financial proposals. When Senator Millen, who now calls out when a little criticism is levelled against him, tells the Senate and the country that the financial proposals of the Government were mutilated here, my reply is that those who took the leading hand in mutilating them were the members of his own party, either by their absence or by their direct opposition.
– Thirty per cent, of the Government votes were against that proposal.
– When the item for the development of the Northern Territory, which is a serious matter, came before the Senate, of course it caused, as is always the case, a very healthy division of opinion in the ranks of the Labour party. The whip that is cracked by Mr. Irvine, and by Mr. Cook, must be obeyed -by the members of the Liberal party, or they will know “what for.” Outside, in railway carriages, in the streets, and in restaurants, they may express private opinions as to what they will do with Mr. Cook. If one could believe them, they would have mutilated him long aso.
– Just now you were pointing out that 30 per cent, of this party voted against us.
– I am dealing with the specific statement of the honorable senator that the financial proposals of the Government were mutilated here.
– So they were.
– I am trying to show that there is not. a particle of justification for that sweeping statement, and that if any mutilation took place it was done by those of his own party , who were absent, or by a lone supporter who walked across the chamber and. voted against the proposals. I regard money spent on the northern part of Australia as money not wasted, although it may be seemingly wasted. If we wish to make the north attractive, and induce people to leave pleasant parts in the south and go there, we must be prepared to pour money into the development of that country. What happened? When this proposal, after being defeated by a slender majority, was sent back to the other House, it was returned to the .Senate in due course, but there was not one of the Government supporters present. All four of them were absent; the entire following of the Fusion Government here vanished. We saw the mutilation then, and who took the leading part in it. When the Fusion Government wanted their financial proposals for developing the Northern Territory carried they had to rely upon the members of the Labour party. Had they relied upon their own followers here the measure would never have been carried. So much, by the way, in regard to any truthfulness in the statement of the Minister of Defence. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, too, has been saying things at different times. In fact, he has an incurable habit of saying particularly wrong things. I notice, although it is not quite pertinent to the present discussion, because a Royal Commission is inquiring into how the last elections were conducted, that Senator McColl made a very definite statement on the subject, and, like his leader, Senator Millen, he was just as far from accuracy.
– He is ashamed of it now.
– I do not know whether Ministers bother themselves about whether his statements are accurate or not. They apparently blunder into print, and as long as a story gets a good lead - particularly if it contains a spice of political scandal - so long will that story go throughout the land, and the correction is very slow in overtaking it. The good old parliamentary hands ‘know how to work the oracle, and get abroad a good sounding statement, irrespective of whether it contains truth or falsehood ; but for preference they like to circulate a bit of political scandal . They know that by the time a contradiction gets abroad the first impression will be left on the public mind, and that is a poisonous one against the party in opposition. What did Senator McColl say regarding the conduct of the late election? He, like Senator Millen, should always recollect the position he occupies when he comes to deal with public matters. He should always live according to the level of his office. Here is what he said at the Fitzroy Town Hall about how the people throughout the Commonwealth voted as reported in the Argus of 31st May, 1913, and whatever this newspaper states I presume is correct -
The worst of it was that a lot of people voted twice. They had even resurrected the dead to vote. (Laughter.) The Ministry were trying to get to the bottom of it, but they had found that the party that passed the Electoral Act, and were responsible for the conduct of the election, had left as many doors open as possible for wrong-doing. They had practically shut every door that would. enable the mischief to be traced to its source.
Here is a distinct statement made by His Excellency, or rather by the honorable senator who sits in the vice-regal chair at Executive meetings when the GovernorGeneral is absent. Sitting as he does in the vice-regal chair, he should be fair and truthful every time he utters a word, and particularly should he utter the whole truth. On this occasion we find the honorable senator levelling au extraordinary charge against the people of the Commonwealth for having voted twice. The direct charge is that the Labour party had opened every door to wrong-doing, while they had closed every door to the discovery of how the mischief had arisen. Side by side with this very clear and definite statement I wish to read the official statement of what took place in the Commonwealth, not only by way of contradiction of Senator McColl, but in vindication of the purity of the Australian ballot and the straightforwardness of the people. Mr.. Oldham, who represents no party, tendered a memorandum which goes clearly to show that the honorable senator spoke before he was entitled to speak -
In response to the inquiry of the Hon. the Attorney-General as to whether the number of apparent cases of duplication of voting at the recent elections is in excess of the number of errors which officers might make in marking the certified lists of voters owing to misunderstanding or lack of care, I desire to state that it is somewhat difficult to give a definite reply.
While the average number of apparent duplications is less than three per 1,000 voters, it will be noted that in one Division (Ballaarat) the number reaches 175 in a poll of 32,818, and that in another Division (Macquarie) the number falls to 11 in a poll of 23,322.
A review of the Ballaarat lists discloses that many names which have been marked twice are followed on the rolls by identical or similar names which have not been marked. There is reasonable ground, in cases of this kind, for assuming that there have been errors in marking.
While a margin of between two and three errors per 1,000 voters would not appear to be excessive, having regard to the number of similar names appearing on the rolls, it could not, of course, be assumed that, where the average is either above or below, fraud either has or has not entered into the elections.
It is quite clear, on the strength of this impartial official inquiry made by Mr. Oldham, who represents neither the Fusion party nor the Labour party, that an ample vindication has been made of the electors throughout Australia °in voting on clean lines, notwithstanding the foul charges made against them by Senator McColl. The honorable senator has been indulging in language which has been far from the truth, and it is most regrettable that what he has said has had the effect of blackening the good name and fame of the electors of Australia in the eyes of those that are distant from the Commonwealth. We sometimes hear it said that the present generation is not equal to the generation that preceded it. We are sometimes seriously concerned to think that we may not be as good as our forefathers were, and it is a sad commentary upon. life in this country that a man who occupies one of the highest positions in the gift of the people should make statements. concerning them which have been flatly contradicted by an impartial umpire like Mr. Oldham. Happily we have had the character of the Australian people vindicated by a man who is independent of both political parties, and whose sole duty it was to make a searching inquiry into the irregularities alleged. He has found that the Australian electors at the last Federal elections were entitled to retain their good name for clean voting and a fair expression of their political opinions. So much for Senator McColl.
– Surely the honorable senator has not finished with him yet? Senator McColl made other incorrect statements ‘ about the Commonwealth Bank.
– I have said that the members of the present Government cannot reasonably expect commendation from me in connexion with most of the matters with which they have been concerned. I have to refer now to their conduct of the Commonwealth Bank, an institution established for the benefit of the Australian people. It is a bank of which every man in the Commonwealth, to the extent of the interest he manifests in public affairs, is a director. It was established by the Labour Government to give the trading and industrial community of Australia a financial institution of their own to which they might go for accommodation and financial assistance at a minimum of cost. It has, since its establishment, made- a remarkably good showing, and it might reasonably be expected that the Government of the day, no matter to what political party they belonged, would give it sympathetic treatment. .But what has been the position? We have had Senator McColl at work again. The honorable senator appears to have an unfortunate and incurable habit of saying things that will not stand the light of day. He said, concerning the Commonwealth Bank -
This bank, which was going to do such great things, was about £56,000 to the bad already, and was likely to grow worse.
That is a statement by an honorable senator who should be a very sympathetic director of this Australian institution. It is quite clear that in his case the wish was father to. the thought, and the honorable senator, instead of being friendly or even impartial in his attitude towards the Commonwealth Bank, has proved “himself to be the veiled enemy of that institution. He said that the position of the bank was likely to grow worse. But what is the actual position? Notwithstanding the honorable senator’s statement, the position of the bank to-day is that it shows a profit on the first year’s transactions of £1,547 9s. 4d. That is remarkably good showing for a bank with so short a career, with such scant assistance, and opposed as it was by the concentrated power of money throughout Australia. That in the circumstances, and at so early a period of its existence, the Commonwealth Bank should have a credit balance is a monument to the wisdom of the Labour party that established it, and to the management of the institution as well.
– Has the bank a credit balance to-day?
– I have given the credit ‘ balance on the latest showing, and no matter how the honorable senator may attempt to manipulate and juggle with figures, the fact remains that he has made a public pronouncement of distinct hostility to the bank. The balance-sheet proves that he was wrong, and that the wish he entertained was not realized. The balance-sheet has also exposed the honorable senator. It has pulled the mask away from him, and has shown him for what be is, namely, the enemy of the bank, and one who apparently is anxious to see its destruction brought about. The honorable senator is where he is by accident, but he is not there for any idle purpose, and he is certainly not there in order that he may take advantage of his public position to produce a wrong and injurious impression in the public mind concerning the Commonwealth Bank.
– If the honorable’ senator had said the same thing about a private bank he would not be at liberty.
– I was going to remark that if Senator McColl had said the same thing about a private bank he would find himself inside prison bars, instead of in this chamber. He knows that he can flog the people’s bank at will, and that the laws of the country are not framed as they should be to defend that institution as they defend private institutions. The honorable senator has taken a mean and cowardly advantage of his position to vilify the bank of which he is a director, by statements which he would not have dared to make regarding private financial institutions. Any person who has watched the career of the Commonwealth Bank, and realizes its power to do good in this community, and to bring about an easement of financial conditions-
– The interest rate has gone up since the Commonwealth Bank was started.
– And private bank shares are higher now than they have been for some time past.
– Senators Millen and Oakes need not tell me these stories.
We know that the rate of bank interest is controlled, not by conditions in Australia, but by world-wide conditions.
– But the honorable senator said that the Commonwealth Bank had eased things.
– At the same time we know that by virtue of its presence in the community, the Commonwealth Bank has enabled people to obtain accommodation on easier terms than they could have obtained it from private banks. Senator Millen knows that, and I also know it.
– The Liberal party at the last election promised to relieve the tightness of the money market and reduce the price of money. They admit now that it has been increased instead of being reduced.
– The Commonwealth Bank is to-day a sturdy institution, and its doors remain open, despite the efforts of those who did their level best to prevent it coming into existence, and who have tried to frustrate it at every turn. They have not the courage orthe common manliness to bring down a measure to close the doors of the bank, but prefer to take the mean and cowardly alternative of trying to produce an injurious impression concerning it in the public mind by tactics such as those which Senator McColl has adopted.
– The honorable senator should ask at least one Minister to give him some attention.
– Ministers are too busy trying to get out of the intricate position in which they find themselves placed to listen to my criticism. It is natural that they should not like to have the ghosts of the past brought before them. They do not care to have their utterances reproduced, or to hear them flatly contradicted by a certificated balance-sheet or the independent report of a man like Mr. Oldham. At every turn official reports are presented flatly contradicting the statements of Ministers.
– I notice in the strangers gallery the Honorable the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, and, by leave of the Senate, I invite him to take a seat in the chamber.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– Senator Guthrie wonders that Ministers do not listen to what is being said, but they are impervious to all criticism. It runs off them like water off a duck’s back. They have the press throughout Australia behind them, and it only requires a sympathetic touch in the press to-morrow morning to put them right before the public. If they had not the press behind them where would they or their party be to-day? They are in their present position because they have the press behind them and are supported by every social agency.
– And by the money of the trusts.
– They know and feel that in this respect they have an immense advantage over the Labour party. On our part we are perfectly conscious of our position. We know ‘that only the merits and virtue of our cause, and the policy we have espoused, advance us in popularity. We have no press behind us, no social influence, and no power of money to assist us. But the merits of our cause and policy have secured for us the approval of the electors. We still have the platform, thank God, and make a very liberal use of it. It has not been cornered, and from it we are able to reach the people. It is due to the justice and virtue of our cause that we have made such progress throughout the Commonwealth. Ministers will not listen to criticism. They never do. But if we had the press of Australia to give a sympathetic treatment to the measures we have passed, the position would be altered. If we had the daily newspapers of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide publishing leader after leader showing the good effects which have followed the land tax, the Commonwealth Bank, the note issue, the maternity allowance, and the other humane and progressive measures passed during the three years of Labour rule, the Government and their supporters would not be visible on the political horizon to-day. They would be shrivelled up like so many worms in a blast furnace. The Government have been doing things in connexion with the sleeper contract which was let to the Western Australian Government. This is a matter which certainly affects the people of Western Australia, because, happily, we have in that State a large area of timber country from which we could supply sleepers, not only for the railways being built in Australia, but for a great many railways elsewhere. It was natural that the Commonwealth Government should turn to Western Australia for a supply of sleepers when it was decided to build this great railway. But what have the present Government done ‘( They got into power twelve months ago by a fluke. It is well known that they were not returned on their merits^ but merely because there happened to be some disaffection in the ranks of Labour in New South Wales. The Government who are in power to-day by the grace of the Speaker’s vote would not be there if New South Wales had returned the same ratio of Labour members as was returned by the other States. When the appeal was made to the electors at the last election, Western Australia indorsed the policy of the Fisher Government. South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria did likewise. Queensland improved upon the representation which she formerly had in this Parliament. Tasmania did the same thing. So that five States unequivocally indorsed the policy of the Fisher Government.. J
– Did not the State which is represented by the honorable senator himself, return three Liberals out of five members to the other House ?
– The Minister of Defence conveniently forgets that Western Australia returned six Labour representatives to the Senate by a majority of 11,000.
– There is something wrong with the honorable senator’s arithmetic.
– The Minister of Defence is very agile on these matters. He is undoubtedly a tower of strength to his party, because he is the only man amongst them who can make black look white, and daylight look like darkness. He does it all with the touch of an artist. He possesses a marvellous faculty for making a good case out of a bad one. When an appeal was made to the electors on the last occasion, the Fusion party did not secure a majority because of their merits, but because there was a smouldering disaffection against our party in one State.
Five of the States declared that the Fisher policy should be indorsed, whereas one State did not.
– Let the honorable senator make his calculation on a population basis for a change.
– On a population basis we secured an ample majority. But I wish to refer to the sleeper contract, and to show the sinuous policy of the Fusion Government in respect of that contract. The fact is that a contract was entered into with the Western Australian Government for the supply of 1,400,000 powellised karri sleepers. The Prime Minister was very much concerned about the fulfilment of that undertaking. The original contract provided that the delivery of the sleepers should commence in June, 1913, but, eventually, it was altered to provide that the first delivery should take place in November of that year. The Western Australian Government then set about making the necessary arrangements for fulfilling the terms of the contract. They found it necessary to lay down a large and expensive plant, and to connect that plant with the railways of the State. The work was one of herculean proportions, but Premier Scaddan and his colleagues faced it most courageously in their desire to keep faith with the Commonwealth Government. It is quite true that during the months of November, December, and January, no sleepers were delivered by the Western Australian Government, and up till that time, therefore, the contract was not observed.
– - Did that circumstance delay the construction of the line’
– No; it did not delay the work of construction for one day, and there was never a prospect of it delaying the work even for an hour. I repeat that for the three months I have mentioned no karri powellised sleepers were supplied. Then, on the 28th of January of the present year - after some correspondence had passed between the Prime Minister and Mr. Scaddan - the former cancelled the contract. That step was naturally a very unwelcome one to the Premier of Western Australia seeing that his Government had expended no less a sum than £200,000 for the express purpose of supplying these sleepers. After the contract had been cancelled - on the 11 th February last - Mr. Scaddan sent the following wire to the Prime Minister -
As stated in my letter of 18th December, 1913, 13,410 sleepers will be delivered in this month (February), and, if required, the month’s deficiency can be made up by jarrah sleepers at our contract price. From February and onwards deliveries in contract quantities can be relied upon -
In that month it was computed by the Premier of Western Australia that there were three months’ supply of sleepers at the Kalgoorlie end of the line - sufficient to keep the work of construction going continuously until the end of May. In addition to that three months’ supply, the Prime Minister had the assurance of Mr. Scaddan that from February onwards continuous supplies could be depended upon - and the earlier shortage will be overtaken before such supplies are actually required for use. As regards the Port Augusta end, there are already ample sleepers cut in the Bunbury district ready for shipment under the 200,000 jarrah contract, and we have entered into shipping arrangements for the karri supplies as per contract for shipments commencing in April, and the non-delivery in January-March will be overtaken before these supplies are actually required for use at the Port Augusta end. In any event, we can supply jarrah sleepers to make up any deficiency.
He had an assurance that for every powellised karri sleeper which waa not delivered, a jarrah sleeper would be delivered at the contract price. Yet in the face of all these assurances the contract was cancelled. If honorable senators will refer to Hansard for last year, page 4660, they will see that on the 18th December the Vice-President of the Executive Council declared that there were then three months’ supply of sleepers at both ends of the line. In other words, there was a sufficient supply to carry the work on till the end of March. In such circumstances it is difficult to believe that the contract was cancelled because time was regarded as its essence. The reason advanced by the Prime Minister for his drastic action was that it was necessary in the public interest, and because the construction of the line was a matter of urgency. But what happened afterwards? We found the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs groping round in all directions for an excuse to justify, the cancellation of the contract. Speaking in the Masonic Hall on the 3rd February last, he stated that Mr. Fraser, an engineer in New South Wales, found from experimenting with the powellising process, that blue gum so treated had not been a success. But I would point out that blue gum and karri are very different timbers. The honorable gentleman also stated that the Powellising Timber Commission had advised thai the use of. 9-ft. sleepers should be abandoned, and that 8-ft. sleepers should be substituted for them. He affirmed as a further reason why the contract had been cancelled that the arsenic in the powellised sleepers was expected to produce bad effects on the hands of the workmen who were required to handle them.
– The length of the sleepers to be used was a very important matter in connexion with powellised sleepers.
– Exactly. Notwithstanding the assurance of Mr. Scaddan that in February of this year the Western Australian Government would have been in a position to supply the full complement of powellised karri sleepers, and that thereafter they would have been able to deliver supplies regularly, the contract was cancelled. This is a sample of the Jeddart justice of the present Government. They pronounce judgment, and procure evidence afterwards. Since when, may I ask, has the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs exhibited anxiety for workmen’s hands? I would like to know whether in his election addresses in his own constituency he manifested so much concern for working men as he displayed for the men whose hands he declared would be injured by the arsenic in the powellised sleepers. The real and unstated reason why the contract with the Western Australian Government was cancelled was that Ministers did not wish that contract to proceed while a Labour Government in that State was exploiting an industry for the benefit of its people. Of course we have heard all sorts of hollow professions in regard to the treatment meted out to that Government. I heard Senator McColl say- that they had received the same treatment that was extended to every other contractor. But did they ? In connexion with the supply of locomotives for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway - a matter which was described as urgent - what did the present Government do? They extended the time for months, but they would not give even a month’s extension to the Labour Government of
Western Australia. The Government, therefore had one law for the State Labour Government, and an entirely different law for a private contractor. The circumstances of the case did not in the least warrant the ruthless cancellation of the sleeper contract. By their action in that instance the Government turned adrift in the West men who had their homes put up, and who had gone there to supply their requirements. It was a case with the Government of, “Our troubles.” Another phase of the karri contract that has been lost sight of by the people is that although up to the present karri, as even its friends will admit, has not been the equal of jarrah, it is believed that by the completion of the powellising process it will become quite the equal of jarrah as a railway timber as time goes on. The process has already been applied in the western State to railway sleepers, and the Government there are perfectly satisfied, on the authority of their engineers, that it is going to be successful. I could, if I had time, quote a statement by the Minister of Works in the Western Australian Parliament, showing how powellised sleepers were put down, together with unpowellised sleepers, and taken up at the end of six years in the presence of the State Governor and members of the Ministry, when it was found that the powellised sleepers came out as sound and as good as on the day they were put in, whereas the unpowellised timber was found to be attacked by dry rot. The same result followed in the case of sleepers put down for three years in a sand cutting - a wet place where conditions most favorable to dry rot prevailed. With the powellised karri sleepers in that case were put untreated sleepers in such a condition that they were calculated to create or accelerate the disease of dry rot in the powellised timber, yet when the powellised karri was taken up after three years it was found, according to the authority which I hold in my hand, to be as sound as when it came out of the tree. Mr. Kelly threw doubts upon the powellising contract, but that was after the contract was cancelled, so that it is quite clear that the Government cancelled the contract in the first instance on a most flimsy pretext, and afterwards cast about in all directions for reasons. These flimsy reasons were put forward by the Prime Minister as late as the 7th February, al though the contract was cancelled on the 28th January. The Government were not justified in cancelling the contract, either on the ground of delay or on the ground of the merits or demerits of the powellising process, noreven on the ground put forward by Mr. Kelly of the necessity for maintaining a regular supply of sleepers at the rail-head at both ends of the line. It is abundantly clear that the real reason behind the action of the Government in this case was that they did not want to encourage the Scaddan Governmentor Western Australia to exploit the sleeper-getting industry by State action for the use and benefit of the whole of the people of the State.
– For a purely political reason.
– That is patent on the face of it. They extended the time for a private contractor in New South Wales. Why did they not do so in the case of the State Labour Government in Western Australia, especially when it can be shown that they were waiting for the trucks and engines in the one case, whereas, in the other, on the Acting Minister’s own statement, they were three months ahead of supplies? All I wish to say with regard to the Teesdale Smith contract is that although the Government have some very blind followers in another place, not one among them rose to defend the action of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. They had not the hardihood to defend an action which was entirely indefensible. Any man with a grain of common sense in his composition would know that 7s. a yard was an outrageous price to give for the removal of the earth and other stuff to be found in the cuttings on the transcontinental line. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if he had the merest smattering of knowledge of everyday events would recognise that to give 7s. a yard to remove that material, which could be removed for anything from 2s. or 2s. 6d., or up to 4s. at the outside, was simply making an inroad into the public funds. All this has happened throughthe want of knowledge and experience of this so-called business Government.
– The kindergarten Minister.
– Yes, if Mr. Kelly only knew as much about practical work as he does, let us say, about women’s fashions, we should probably have a good contract going now. There are men in this Chamber who have been through every phase of railway working and who know that to give 7s. a yard for shifting that ground is’ monstrous in’ the extreme. I have seen similar country shifted in Queensland for anything up to 2s. 6d. a yard, and if Mr. Kelly, or any of his colleagues, had come through that groove in life they would have known what ‘prices ought to be given, but the Government are as devoid of practical experience as a frog is of feathers. Where, for instance, has Mr. Cook been? He has been in only one State since he came out from the Old Country. He has never wandered abroad or gone into different grooves of life,- such as many members of the Labour party have gone into. What experience has he had ? Mr. Irvine has lived all his life in an office except, perhaps, when he has been a director of some bank. What experience has he had such as we have had? He has not been about the world.
– Had Mr. Deane any experience ?
– Mr. Deane has had experience.
– Did he recommend the tender?
– He recommended it and then resigned.
– That is true. Does Senator Oakes mean to tell me that no other man but Mr. Teesdale Smith could be found throughout Australia to be given a private interview with Ministers, and to be sent to examine that country, and put in a price? If Mr. Kelly had had any business acumen at all he would have set about securing a business-like contract, if contracting is going to be made the rule in this country.
– He would have thrown the work open to public competition.
– That is the only way to do it. I do not want to be any more unfriendly or unkind to the Minister than some of his own followers have been. The Government have been castigated by some of their own supporters in the other Chamber in this matter, while none of the others rose to defend Mr. Kelly for doing a thing which has certainly no parallel in the history of railway work in the Commonwealth. We are called together on the authority of some Ministers for a short session to dis cuss two measures called “test Bills”, which appear to be the gage of battle so far as the parties in this Parliament are concerned. They do not mean anything in themselves. They are not measures which mark off party lines, or stand for great principles.- The Bill which deals with preference to unionists in Government employment is confined to a very narrow circle, although it is linked up with a great principle which the Government have not touched. There is ample work for the Government to undertake and to carry to completion, not only this session, but next session, without touching those two insignificant measures. They announced twelve months ago what they were going to do, but they have not even attempted to carry out their programme, nor do I believe they ever had any intention of carrying it out once they were securely installed on those comfortably cushioned benches. In August of last year, the Fusion Government announced a policy covering quite a wide range of subjects affecting the welfare of the people. Amongst the measures announced then was one to rectify the anomalies in the Tariff. What are the Government going to do about that matter? In the meantime, they have referred that thorny question to the Inter-State Commission. In that regard they have secured one more means of evading their responsibilities. What are they going to do to give relief to some of those industries that we are told are at present languishing for want of assistance at the hands of this Parliament ? They have attempted ‘ nothing, and done nothing, in that direction. Why do they not bring down a Bill now, if they want to give relief or encouragement to those Australian industries which twelve months ago they assured this Parliament needed assistance ? We were informed that “ important proposals for the development of the Northern Territory will be made.” Where are those proposals now ? I look in vain for them.
– They have sacked six men up there.
– If sacking was part of a progressive policy, no doubt they could be regarded as one of the most successful Governments in Australia. They have sacked good men who went up there to map out the ground for them, and to bring before the people of the world the latent resources of the Terri. tory.- If it had not been for the presence of those men in that country, we should still be in utter ignorance. of its resources. If sacking and disorganization were the leading features of any Government, the Fusion Government -would go up top in my estimation. None of their proposals with regard to the Northern Territory have come to light, and the pressing need of the hour is to know what we can do with our tropical areas? What are the Government going to do? They frittered last session away, and they are going to fritter this session away. Notwithstanding the solemn promises that they made twelve months ago that something would be done to develop the Northern Territory, they simply bring down a proposal regarding preference to unionists as affecting 2,000 employes- in the Government service, and a Bill to enable the mistresses of Potts Point and Toorak to go into the kitchen and influence their employes. These are the burning questions which have engaged the attention of this misshapen Ministry up to date! The Northern Territory and the Tariff are to be left untouched. We were told -
Parliament will be asked to provide funds for trial surveys with the object of connecting by railway Port Darwin with Port Augusta, via Macdonnel Ranges, and with the eastern railway systems via Camooweal, which will open up the country for agricultural and pastoral settlement. Without these main lines of transit it will be impossible to complete our defences, or to adequately develop the resources of the Northern Territory. A scheme of immigration will be associated with these proposals.
Where is this scheme? Where is the framework of the measure to secure for this empty country a steady supply of sturdy immigrants ? Nothing in this direction was done last session, and nothing is likely to be done this session. Does any one mean to say that if the Government were in earnest-
– Did not the Senate throw out those Bills?
– Their followers might have assisted to do so. I am only speaking on behalf of my own party today. So far as those measures are concerned, they have not yet seen the light of day, but the Government assure us that the two burning questions of the hour throughout the Commonwealth - the questions on which the bread and butter of the people and the settlement of tropical Australia depend are the removal of preference to about 3,000 employe’s, and the granting once more of the right to the dames at Potts Point and Toorak to go in and influence their female employes as they were known to do in the past. These are the two burning questions of the hour by which this highminded Ministry - this best of all Governments^ - are going to restore confidence, to cheapen the cost of living, to tackle the many weighty problems that have agitated the minds of men, not only during this generation, but during preceding ones. The Government are bringing down as a panacea for all these evils two little Bills which affect in the utmost about 2,000 persons. As for the principles of those Bills I shall have a word or two to say by-and-by. The Government have done nothing in regard to these matters. Then we are told that a Land Bill will be introduced to take the place of the present Lands Ordinance for the Northern Territory. We were told that one of the Ordinances which would be impossible of application in the Northern Territory was the so-called unfortunate measure brought in by the Labour Government. That measure is still in force. It is going to exert its baneful and checking influence still more. What do the. Government intend to do in the matter of bringing in a Bill to restore confidence and to attract, like a swarm of bees so to speak, settlers to the Territory ? What are they doing? .Why is it that we have been called together at this period of the year when we could more usefully be employed in private occupations ? We have been called here by the Government to pass two insignificant measures. But regarding the measures which affect the life, the prosperity and the advancement of the people of Australia, nothing has been hinted at by the Government up to date. According to the opening Speech in 1913 -
The Government propose to introduce a measure for the appointment of three Commissioners to manage the Post Office, holding that in order to successfully conduct the affairs cf this large trading concern continuity of control is an absolute necessity. Whilst administrative independence will be secured, Parlia-% ment will still retain the direction and control * of matters of general policy.
Where is that Bill which a year ago was supposed to be a necessity? We have seen several declarations by Ministers about the maternity allowance. It was going to be wiped out if one member had his way, but that strong man, Mr.
Irvine, has a face like that of a sphinx. One would think that he had firmness stamped on every one of his features. But where is his backbone ? If he had a backbone any stronger than that of a glow-worm he would have left the Ministry long ago. Where is the Bill to give effect to his reasoning? There is no Bill. He said that the Liberal party were about to put before the country a policy that was like a gelatinous compound. What became of him and the gelatinous compound? He was made to eat it, otherwise he would have been left out of the Ministry. When he stands forward as a firm and impassable barrier against all democratic advancement, he turns out to be a mere creature of the hour; he is just like clay in the potter’s hands when it comes to a question of the caucus rule of his party.
Ministers have under consideration the taking over of the State Public Debts as provided by the Constitution, and a measure is being prepared for the purpose, and will be submitted.
When is this important proposal to be submitted? This is a proposal which, along with the others I have mentioned, vitally affects the people throughout the Commonwealth, and which, in fact, was one of the causes that operated to bring about Federation. Can the Minister of Defence deny that one of the chief operating cries in pre-Federation days was that by the Colonies federating a great saving would be made to the people? Ministers have conferred with the State Premiers time after time; yet nothing has materialized to bring a solution of this trouble within measurable distance. Where is the Bill to consolidate the State debts, and to give the people the benefit of a unified stock and Commonwealth control?
– The State Treasurers are meeting to-day to formulate a scheme.
– Sir John Forrest, the Treasurer, gets the name of doing things. He attended tlie recent Conference of State Premiers, and after getting directions from them on other subjects, told them in all seriousness that if in the period from 1906 to 1952 a reduction of J per cent, in the rate of interest could be effected this country would make a saving of £27,000,000. No limit, of course, can be set to his ambition. He has said that the Australian people could make a saving of £27,000,000 during that period. On working this out I find that, according to his own’ figures, as tendered to successive conferences of State Premiers, the people of the Commonwealth would gain to the extent of £587,000 per annum. Is not the Government’s want of action in this matter apparent? Where is the effort that they are making to bring down a Bill? Apparently, in their opinion, it is more important to prohibit preference to unionists and to restore the postal vote than it is to save the people of the Commonwealth, on the Treasurer’s own showing, £587,000 a year. He is supposed to be a financier, and with some degree of warrant he ought to rank with the best of our financiers, because he had to do with a State in trying times.
– Was he not responsible for incurring a big public debt?
– Yes; Sir John Forrest went the pace in his time. I hold in my hand the report of a speech made by the Right Hon. Sir John Forrest, P.C., G.C.M.G., LL.D, M.P., Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia.” Any gentleman who makes such a liberal use of the alphabet as that ought to be believed. He shows that in addition to the saving of £587,000, the enhancement in the value of Australian stocks would be enormous. Here is what he says -
I could hardly believe it myself until assured by those who worked it out. The stocks of New South Wales and Victoria are inferior to British Consols. On the 31st December last year, British 2$ per cent. Consols were quoted at £71 15s., which is equal to £112 for a stock having a currency of fifty years at 4 per cent. On the same basis Victoria and New South Wales stocks were only at £97. This shows that the market value of British Consols is £15 more than the State stocks referred to, and by the taking over of the debts it is hoped’ that some portion of the £15 will be secured to the States.
The people of the Commonwealth passed an amendment of the “Constitution, empowering the Government of the day to take over all the debts of the States up to that date. There is nothing to stop the Government from taking that step to-morT row. Indeed, there has been nothing to stop them from the time they took office from formulating a scheme, and bringing down a Bill. Where is a Bill for that purpose indicated in the opening speech? It is not ‘even mentioned. Two. paltry, insignificant test Bills are to be put forward simply as placards, but the vital interests of the Commonwealth, which include the putting of our loan indebtedness on a proper basis, are to be left to the tender mercies of the money lenders in the distance. No effort is to be made by the Government to bring in a Bill and effect those savings which they say could be effected. This shows a still further dereliction of duty, an abandonment of those promises by which the Government gained a lot of sympathy and support in the past. They have figured before the people as high and mighty authorities; as men who would make two blades of financial grass, so to speak, grow where only one blade grew before. But what do they propose to do here? Nothing, so far as we are vouchsafed any information, but to bring in two paltry Bills. The Government also promised a Bill dealing with life and fire insurance and bankruptcy, so that eight measures which were promised twelve months ago as affecting the people’s welfare in many serious ways have been tossed overboard, or at least we hear nothing about them to-day. We are told, too, that the Government are going to bring in a Bill to settle the trusts in Australia once and for all, although as on other subjects we have heard two voices on the subject. We had, for instance, that small, thin, squeaky voice saying from the Opposition bench in the past that there were no trusts in Australia, or if there were, the law was all-powerful enough to deal with them. What is the position to-day? Why is no effort made by the Government to bring forward and put in the forefront of their fighting programme a Bill to deal once and for all effectively with the trusts? A Bill is certainly mentioned in the opening Speech, but the two measures which are considered to be of vital importance are the two insignificant examples thatI have referred to rather frequently. How do the Government propose to deal with the trusts? I suppose that they have their own remedy. At present some members of the Liberal party profess to see no danger in the trusts. Mr. Kendell, who moved the adoption of the AddressinReply in another place, affected to believe that to have a Beef Trust here was quite harmless. I do not know what the opinion of the Ministers is; I do not know what Senator Oakes thinks.
– I know that Mr. Tudor gave his consent to the erection of the trust’s buildings on the Brisbane River.
– Could he have stopped that work? We have heard so many opinions from the members of the Liberal party that really it is hard to know which is the most sober one to take. We are not to be asked to deal with that Bill now, but with two small Bills, and insignificant ones, too.
– You do not believe that the Government are in earnest about bringing in a Bill to deal with trusts?
– I may be gullible enough in some respects, but I cannot be induced to believe that the present Government have ever been in earnest on this subject. This is amply proved by the way in which members of the party are allowed to express their individual opinions on the question. I am concerned now with the fact that we are threatened in Australia with that all-pervading trust - the Beef Trust, which is the greatest trust in the world. We know that if it gets even a controlling interest in the large pastoral areas of this country, which it is at present attempting to do, the people of Australia - consumers and sellers alike - will be at its mercy for ever more. I do not know whether the Government are susceptible to enlightenment on this question, but I propose to quote for them opinions expressed, not by a member of the Labour party, or one who sympathizes with that party, but by impartial men in London. These opinions have appeared in the British Australasian, which cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be considered friendly to the Labour party. These are the opinions to which I refer -
It is more than probable that the Trust will try to adopt in Australia the tactics which, from its point of view, have been so successful in the Argentine, but so disastrous to the smaller packing companies. As for the cattle raisers, they have not yet felt the full pinch. That experience will come later, when the Trust has accomplished its end, crushed out competition, got control of the market, and then, instead of paying the high prices for stock which it is now offering as a bait to the short-sighted cattle raisers, drops the prices to whatever level it chooses . Then the fat will be in the fire. “ Unless the meat packers of Australia and the stock raisers are firm in their determination to resist the blandishments of the American Beef Trust,” said another importer, “ I am very much afraid there are troublesome times ahead, for the industry and all concerned with it. Some men I know talk glibly of the Australian anti-monopoly laws being sufficient to hold the Trust in check.”
That is an echo of what we have heard from the Treasury bench -
I have taken legal opinion on the matter, and find there are grave doubts as to whether the law as it stands is strong enough for this purpose. There are anti-Trust Acts in the United States, but the Beef Trust simply snaps its fingers at them, as do many other Trusts for that matter. The best thing the Federal Government or the State Governments can do is to pass a drastic anti-Trust law before the Trust gets a firmer foothold in Australia.
The Trust is looking further ahead to the time when the opening of the Panama Canal will bring about much swifter communication between the Atlantic ports and Australia. The Trust fully realizes the great and growing importance of Australia’s packing industry, and my advices from the ‘United States are to’ the effect that it is determined to secure at all costs a controlling interest in it.
It would be a good thing if the Australian public could be aroused once more to the danger - the still greater danger - which now threatens them. The danger is a very real one - a grave menace to their progress and prosperity, and to the development of a valuable industry - and the sooner they realize this the better for all concerned.
Those are the opinions of purely impartial witnesses interested only, it would appear, in the well-being of the people of Australia, and not in any political party. I have quoted them for the benefit of honorable senators on the Government side. Let me say that if the Government shut their eyes to this danger; if they deliberately stick their heads in the sand like the ostrich, and will not press forward with a measure to deal with the trust, which is of vital importance, and prefer to insist upon carrying the measures of minor importance to which I have referred, they will be showing themselves entirely forgetful of the vital needs of the people of this country. This session of Parliament is, apparently, to be absolutely wasted. The course pursued by the Government provokes irritation on one side and on the other. The Labour party are being challenged to .defend the position they took up on the hustings and in this Parliament. We are challenged in the Senate to retrace our steps and to turn our backs upon the attitude we formerly adopted. That is an invitation, which, so long as there is a member of the party true to our policy, will never be seriously entertained. I have said that the measures which the Government pro- pose to press forward, circumscribed as they are, do not indicate much; but one of them involves a great principle to which the Labour party gave their staunch adherence when before the electors. What has been the history of the Government party in the “immediate past ? Every measure of importance passed by the Labour Government during their three years of office was resisted by them. When they had an opportunity to give effect to their views and their promises to the people, what did they do? They did nothing whatever. There is no indication in the Governor-General’s Speech of any intention on their part to repeal the measures which they fought so bitterly in this chamber. Although the land tax was railed against here and in another place, it is not to be repealed. It was described as a measure which infringed upon the domain of the State activities. It was described by Sir John Forrest, in particular, as a confiscatory measure. The confiscation under it continues, but no attempt is to be made by the Government, of which Sir John Forrest is a member, to stop that confiscation. The members of the Government party declaimed against the Commonwealth Bank, the note issue, the maternity allowance, and every other measure of farr reaching -importance which was carried through the last Parliament by the Labour Government. All those measures met with the systematic opposition of the present Government and their supporters. But no attempt is to be made to repeal any of them.
– T - They are against the maternity allowance to-day, and have said so.
– We know, that, in heart, they are against it. If we could only induce them, instead of posturing, to come out into the open and make a plain and truthful statement of their views, their numbers in this Chamber and in another place would be greatly reduced. Their policy is to resist to the last every advance and reform; but once it reaches the statute-book they cry off. They do not dare to raise the issue again, lest they should not see the inside of Parliament if they did so. If they stood to their guns, as the members of tine Labour party do, they would be candid and open.
If they were steadfast to the attitude they adopted during the three years in which they were in opposition to the Labour Government, I should have some sympathy for them. They have, on the contrary, adopted a cowardly attitude, and, though they are now in possession of the Treasury bench; they do not dare to propose the repeal of the measures which they denounced when in opposition. Let us consider the example which was set them by the Labour party. What did we do ? When we were in opposition we took our stand against the Naval Loan Bill. We could not prevent the passage of the measure, and it went through. We said in this, and in the other Chamber that we did not want a Naval Loan Bill, and that the correct policy for the people of Australia to pursue was to meet the bill for defence when it accrued, and not pass it on to posterity. In spite of our efforts the measure reached the statute-book. A defence measure was also passed by the Government of the day, and much trumpeting was indulged in in regard to it. The essence of that measure was to allow the safety of Australia to depend on boys, on stripplings up to eighteen years of age. When on an appeal to the people, a Labour Government was returned to power, what did we do ? We instantly repealed the measure against which we had declaimed in this Parliament. The first thing we did was to repeal the Naval Loan Act, and the next thing was to introduce a Defence Bill which put the defence system of the country on a proper and workmanlike basis. Herein lies the difference between the Labour party, the candid and straightforward party, and the party now on the Treasury bench, who oppose to the last every measure of reform, but when it reaches the statute-book never have the grit or courage to remove it. I do not wish to be too hard upon the Government and theirsupporters, because I know they are going straight to their doom. No matter what may be said about the change of public opinion, I am sure that if an appeal were made to the electors to-morrow, the Government would find that, notwithstanding the advantage of their position, due to the way in which they are supported, their policy would not find favour with the electors.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Honorable senators opposite are doing their best to keep back the day of appeal.
– So far as that is concerned, I am able to say that we have a greater mandate to defend the legislation which is on the statute-book to-day than the Government have to repeal it. If the voting at the last Federal election be analyzed, it will be found beyond cavil that the party that are represented in overwhelming numbers in the Senate have a most emphatic mandate from the people to defend their legislation as it stands to-day. They are justified in resisting any attempt to repeal that legislation.
– Does the honorable senator refer to the number of votes or to State representation?
– Senator Oakes raises another issue with which I am prepared to deal. He reminds me of Mr. W. H. Irvine’s proposal to alter the constitution of the Senate. Here is a gentleman who thinks that the constitution of the Senate should be altered, and why? Why does Sir John Forrest want the constitution of the Senate altered ? Why does every reactionary member of the present Ministry want the Senate altered ? The reason is that the majority in the Senate have developed a habit of voting on the side of the people and in their interests. The presence of the Labour party in the Senate in such large numbers has completely defeated the hopes indulged in by the men who framed the Constitution. I remember well that in Western Australia, Sir John Forrest felt quite sure that, because of the way in which the Constitution was framed, no agitator would ever reach the Federal Parliament, and certainly none would ever be elected to the Senate. The right honorable gentleman took a hand in building up the Senate on the plan which appealed to him, and what is the result to-day ? The representatives of the party with which he is associated are about seven in number in this Chamber. We have seven lone, gaunt specimens on the Government side. There are so few on this side of the Chamber that the winds whistle through, and I am liable to catch cold because of the draughts over here, while on the other side we have the serried ranks of Labour representatives whose advent to the Senate was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. Sir John Forrest builded better than he knew when he gave his approval to the constitution proposed for the Senate. The voice of the Democracy of Australia has entirely defeated the hopes he entertained regarding it. The seven senators on the Government side in this Chamber are like seven black stumps in an open plain after a bush fire has passed over it. They are seven disconsolate wrecks of the party that planned the constitution of the Senate in such a way that it was hoped only their own representatives would be found here. The members of the Labour party are here, however, and are going to remain here. Mr. W. H. Irvine wants to revise the plan of the Senate. What does the honorable gentleman want? He wants to have the small States practically wiped out?, I should like to hear what Tasmania and South Australia have to say about that. I should like to hear the opinion of the people of the larger State from which Senator Gould comes, because one of the ideas in connexion with the proposed alteration of the constitution of the Senate is that the more populous States should be divided and so secure a larger representation.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Senate ought to be abolished ?
– If any legislative chamber is to be abolished it ought not to be the Senate, which is more representative of popular thought than is any other deliberative assembly. Before concluding I wish to direct attention to the extraordinary attitude adopted by the AttorneyGeneral, the Honorable W. H. Irvine, who stated some time ago that he must have a double dissolution. This gentleman appears to be the strong man of the Ministerial team. He has issued an edict that there must be a double dissolution, independently of what any other constitutional authority may say. I hold that it is most unbecoming for any member of the Ministry to indulge in any prophecy as to a double dissolution.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is the very thing which he did not say the night before last.
– Mr. Irvine has struck so many attitudes during his career that it is difficult to know which is his most serious one. But at the Lord
Mayor’s luncheon he is reported by the Age of 10th February of this year” to have said -
When the Government last year adopted the practice of applying the closure, and the unusual expedient of shelving motions of censure, it was with the knowledge that the position could not remain as it was, and that there must be a dissolution.
Councillor J. Gardiner. - Does that mean a double dissolution?
Mr. IRVINE Yes, certainly it does. (Applause.) The Government must rule or go out of office.
If Mr. Irvine has recently contradicted himself, his attitude of the 10th February last goes to show that he issued a mandate to the Governor-General that- the latter must grant a double dissolution. Such action on his part was most unwarranted. It is nothing short of a threat to the new Governor-General, before he lands here, that he must obey the behest of the Government. For my own parti, I am prepared to face the electors any day, but I repeat that we have as much warrant for sticking to our guns and defending every line of the legislation which . was enacted during the regime of (>the Fisher Government as we had twelve months ago. The two test Bills are not much in themselves. They mean nothing at all. While we are faced with the necessity for enacting legislation of a varied character - legislation to deal with trusts and with the Northern Territory - it illbecomes the Government to bring down these two insignificant measures, and to leave important measures in the background. When the time comes, I shall take my part in resisting to the utmost the passing of the Government Preference Prohibition Bill. At the same time, I deplore the want of determination on the part of the Ministry in not fulfilling their intention to bring down the eight measures which I have culled from bo many which were promised.
– In common with others who have preceded me, I regret the approaching departure of Lord Denman from our shores. I think I express the feelings of every honorable senator when I say that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral and his good lady have faithfully discharged the high duties which they were called upon to’ perform. I regret that ill-health has compelled Lord Denman to relinquish his distinguished office, and I hope that when he arrives in the land of his nativity his health will be restored. When my colleague, Senator Lynch, was about to conclude his remarks, an interjection came from the Ministerial benches to the effect that he and others of his party were attempting to postpone the day of reckoning. As a member of that party I am quite prepared - if the Leader of the Government will say that he is willing to shut up shop - to face the country at once.
– Is that a Caucus decision ?
– I am not speaking of the Caucus decision. I am expressing my own opinion. Senator Oakes should be the last to refer to the Caucus decision, seeing that he is bound and gagged ‘by his own Caucus, which at one time he declared he would not allow to dominate him. My honorable friends opposite should never again from any public platform,, or from’ their places in Parliament, object to the Caucus or to a selection ballot, or to a pledge, because I find that the Fusion party throughout Australia have emulated the good example set by the Labour party, and now regularly hold Caucus meetings, require their candidates to sign a pledge, and take a pre-election ballot. I congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council upon having been chosen at the head of the six Liberal candidates for the Senate should a double dissolution ensue. While referring to the famous Senate pre-election ballot in Victoria, I would ask that honorable’ gentleman if it is possible for him to trace the whereabouts of those 68,000 lost ballot-papers. According to the Argus of this morning, there were 118,000 ballot-papers distributed to the members of the Women’s National League, the People’s party, and another party.
– They were never issued.
– Out of that number only 50,000 voted. My honorable friends opposite have often said that Labour members have been selected to contest a seat in Parliament by a little coterie, but I venture to say that we can place our selection ballot numbers against those of the Liberal party.
– Anybody could obtain a ballot-paper for the pre-election of Liberal candidates in Victoria. Why, Packer was seventh on the poll.
– The only thing I am sorry for is that Packer was not one of the chosen six. I think that Mr. Samuel Mauger must now be in a quandary as to whether he will run under the aegis of the Liberal party, or retire and allow Mr. Packer to run in his place.
– Take my word, Sam will not throw up a good thing.
– It is just possible that he may refer himself to a Ministerial Caucus as to whether or not he should persist in his candidature.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we ought to sympathize with any party which is burdened with a man like Mauger, who does not know where he is ?
– The Liberal party probably does not know where it is. I propose now to deal with a few paragraphs in the Governor-General’s Speech. In paragraph 3 regret is expressed that the Government were unable to pass their two test Bills. To my mind, that is a confession of their impotence. I think that the right course of action for them to pursue - seeing that they were unable to pass their so-called test measures - is to immediately tender their resignation. What are these two test Bills? One is the Government Preference Prohibition Bill and the other the Postal Voting Restoration Bill. These two measures were brought forward with a desire to precipitate a double dissolution. Why? Because the Senate has constitutionally exercised its right to revise, review, and, if necessary, to reject measures sent here from another place. There is nothing in the Constitution which forbids this Chamber from exercising its undoubted constitutional rights. Yet because it has done so a clamour has arisen for a double dissolution upon mea- sures relating to preference to unionists and postal voting. In this clamorous demand for a double dissolution we hear the voice of the Leader of the Fusion party, the Attorney-General, the Hon. W. H. Irvine. He is the leader of that party without doubt. Mr. Joseph Cook is merely a figurehead.
– Not a bad-looking one.
– I am not reflecting upon Mr. Cook’s looks, but I say that he is simply a figurehead so far as the leadership of the Fusion party is concerned.
– The honorable senator is mistaken there.
– I am not mistaken, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council knows perfectly well that this Parliament would not be assembled to-day but for the threat of Mr. Irvine, that unless an early session were called he would tender his resignation.
– The honorable senator does not believe that, surely?
– I do.
– Ask him to deny it.
- Senator McColl would deny anything with which he did not agree. Mr. Irvine has suggested that a Bill should be introduced for the purpose of placing the Senate in the same position as that occupied by the House of Lords. That is to say, that if any measures were sent to this Chamber from the House of Representatives three times within two years, and the Senate persisted in rejecting them, those measures should become law. Fancy a gentleman of Mr. Irvine’s ability comparing the Senate with the House of Lords. We all “know that the House of Lords is not an elective Chamber. It is comprised of men who, merely because their fathers had a title, step into the position of legislators. Yet Mr. Irvine has compared the Senate with such an antediluvian Chamber as that. Public opinion in Australia, on both sides of the political hedge, is very much against any such proposal. It nas been said by many that these two measures are simply shams. I admit that they are delusions, but one of them involves a principle which is dear to the hearts of the members of the Labour party, and which, therefore, must be safeguarded. I refer to the principle of preference to unionists.
– How can it be abolished when we have not got it?
– I admit that we have not got it in Government employment, but provision is made for preference to unionists in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act now on the statute-book, and the preference has been granted in one case - the Brisbane Tramway case.
– A - And then the employers dodged it.
– As soon as itwas granted the employers began to fight the question and the award has not become operative, although it was made over eighteen months ago. It is a remarkable thing, in connexion with the awards of the Federal Arbitration Court, that whilst no union of employes has ever disagreed to an award, the employers have contested award after award, and put the unions to considerable expense by defending the cases in Court after Court. I need only instance the award given in the Australian Tramways employes case. It is about twenty months since that award was given, and the employes of the Adelaide Tramway Trust have not yet benefited to the extent of a halfpenny by it, although it was very much in their favour. The Adelaide Tramway Trust have fought it right through, and the case is still pending before the High Court. The principle of preference to unionists is one which the Labour party will never surrender. They have fought for it for a long time, and will continue to fight for it until it is in practical operation. We are not like the honorable senators sitting opposite. I see before me three lone representatives of the Fusion party - some who followed Mr. Cook at one period of their career in the Federal Parliament, and others who followed Mr. Deakin. For instance, Senator McColl was a Deakinite and Senator Gould followed Mr. Cook.
– What about the men on your side who followed Mr. Cook?
– To whom does the honorable senator refer?
– To Senators Gardiner and Rae in 1894.
– In those days Mr. Cook was a Labour man.
– An independent Labour man.
– I do not know whether those honorable senators followed Mr. Cook in those days or not, but I do know that they have never proved faithless to the trust reposed in them, but have been true Labour men all the time, while Mr. Joseph Cook proved a renegade.
– They would not sign the pledge, and followed Mr. Cook. That was the reason that Mr. Cook left the Labour party.
– That statement is not correct. Wait till Senator Gardiner comes in and repeat it before him.
– I am not afraid to repeat it.
– They never proved traitors to the Labour party, while Mr. Cook did. The Cook party abandoned their Free Trade policy, and the Deakin party abandoned their Protectionist policy, in order to form a Fusion for the single purpose of defeating the Labour party, which they have temporarily succeeded in doing. Senator Gould laughs, but he knows as well as I do that when the Cook and Deakin forces combined, they had not one political principle in common. All that united them was the unanimous desire to oust the Labour party from power.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They had nearly every principle of Liberalism in common.
– Liberalism is like charity, which covers a multitude of sins. It is a word almost as blessed as Mesopotamia. What is Liberalism, for a start ? Let the honorable senator show me where they have been liberal, and to whom.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - We have never made a corner for our own party.
– I shall prove before I finish my speech that they have made a corner for some of their supporters. They have another style of spoils to the victors which they cried bo much about during the last election. Preference to unionists was introduced by the Deakin Government in 1904. Mr. Deakin was undoubtedly supported by the Labour party of that day, and the sole object of introducing preference to unionists into the Commonwealth Constitution and Arbitration Bill was to preserve industrial peace. If the present Government are successful, however, they will absolutely destroy industrial peace. The Labour party are fighting for preference to unionists, because they desire to preserve industrial peace. When the workers of Australia agreed to band themselves together in organizations, and register them under the Federal and State Arbitration Acts, they at once, by that very action, surrendered the right to strike. Trior to such registration and organization, the workers, if not satisfied with the conditions under which they were employed, always had at their command the weapon of the strike, which they used because they had no other.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And still use,- although they have access to the Courts.
– The use of the strike weapon to-day is very rare indeed. The honorable senator, with the fairness that is characteristic of him, will admit that, as compared with the days before the introduction of the principle of arbitration, strikes to-day are very few and far between, and, as Senator Ready reminds me, there has been no strike at all in industries to which Federal awards have been applied.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The awards all go the one way. If you always win a law-suit you do not make a fuss about it afterwards.
– I will give the honorable senator the little consolation of admitting, for the sake of argument, that the awards have gone all the one way. He is a man of judicial temperament, and if called upon to arbitrate in an industrial dispute, would give a fair decision as between master and man. If the men got a little more as the result of the honorable senator’s decision than they were getting before, would it be right for me to say that he had given a decision all the one way? The honorable senator is silent. I think he will admit that Mr. Justice Higgins, as President of the Arbitration Court, has endeavoured to decide fairly between .employer and employed, yet, because workmen have got a little more than they had before, the honorable senator turns round and says the awards have all gone the one way. Such a remark is unworthy of him. Even if they have all gone the one way, they have still a long way to go yet before the workers get their fair share, and I for one am prepared to see that they do go further. Suppose that the men employed in our great industries who sought the Arbitration Court for a settlement of their grievances had used the drastic weapon of the strike, what would it have cost Australia? What would it have meant to Australia if the men, instead of submitting their claims to an impartial tribunal, had ceased work and prevented the wheels of industry from revolving?
– If the men will obey the awards of the Arbitration Court when the awards are against them no one can object.
– Where have the men broken a Federal award?
– The bakers did the other day.
– I venture to say that if Senator Gould will turn up the records of the State and Federal Arbitration Courts and the decisions of Wages Boards, he will find that the employers are the greatest sinners. The employers cannot go on strike, but what do they do when adverse decisions are given against them? I remember when the bakers in Melbourne and suburbs got from the Wages Board an award increasing their wages considerably. Although the employers were equally represented on the Wages Board,what did they do? They appealed to a Judge of the Supreme Court to prevent the payment of the award, and were successful. The Judge upset the decision of the Board, and the men did not get the increase awarded to them.What did the men do? They started a co-operative bakery, and very soon brought the employers to their senses. There are many ways of striking. When an employer drags a case along from Court to Court, and prevents an award from being operative, is not that worse than a strike? Decidedly it is. It. compels men who have fought theircase before an impartial tribunal to spend still more money in defending themselves against another attack from their employers.
– The other side have exactlythe same remedy if they are dissatisfied with an award.
– I know that they have the same remedy, but, unlike the employers, they have not the cash.
– Why did the Labour party put the right of appeal in the Federal Act?
SenatorNEEDHAM.- If the honorable senator will obtain a copy of the Arbitration Act and read it carefully, he will find that no appeal is provided for. Let me relate what has happened. Time and again an award of the Commonwealth Court has been appealed against by the employers on some technical ground, such as whether or not a dispute existed, or whether or not the Arbitration Court had jurisdiction. Time and again the Commonwealth Court has been cited before the High Court to show cause why it did certain things. I am very sorry that the Labour party, when they were in power, did not put the law in such a form as to prevent this unnecessary legislation.
– That is the point at which I was aiming. I was not here when the measure was passed.
– There is no provision made for an appeal.
– The law is that there is a right of appeal from an inferior Court.
– I wish to put this point to my honorable friends opposite. Are they or are they not in favour of industrial peace?
– Of course we are.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - If that is the case, it naturally follows that my honorable friends should be in favour of one tribunal being the final arbiter as to industrial conditions. But if they are not, our arbitration system is absolutely useless, and instead of encouraging men in organizations to appeal to the Arbitration Court, it deters them, because once they enter on that path they never know where it is likely to lead them by the time the Courts are exhausted. Mr. Deakin, in 1904, was, as I have said, successful in embodying in the Arbitration Act the principle of preference to unionists, but the same gentleman moved a vote of no confidence in the Fisher Ministry in 1911, when they endeavoured to put the principle in practical operation. If it is right to give preference to unionists in private employ, is it not right to give preference to unionists in Government employ?
– There is a marked difference between the two.
– Perhaps my honorable friend, when he speaks, will point out where the marked difference lies.
– Hear, hear! That is a fair position.
– If it is right to give preference to unionists in private employ it must be right to give preference to unionists in Government employ. If it is wrong to give preference to the former, why should Mr. Cook not attack that position ? Why has he not come, or attempted to come, to the relief of private employers throughout the Commonwealth? It is logical to say that if it is right in the one case it is right in the other.
– Let the honorable senator always remember that it is within the discretion, of a Judge to direct preference to be given or not.
– I have already said that.
– It was not at the discretion of Ministers to determine that they would give preference to unionists in Government employ, and with public funds, too.
– Is it right for the Judge to have the power to say whether or not preference should be granted ?
– -That is a different, question.
– In moving his no-confidence motion in the Fisher Administration, in connexion with preference to unionists, Mr. Deakin said, on the 26th September, 1911-
There is on our statute-book an Act having a history more extraordinary than that or any other measure passed by an Australian Legislature. Its provisions represent the joint work of three Ministries, formed from the three parties into which this House was divided during the first nine years of its existence. As it appears on the statute-book that Act represents no party triumph; but for once it shows a political trinity in unity in that regard, at that time.
Mr. Deakin showed there very clearly that there was never a suggestion of spoils to the victors at that time. The Deakin party, the Reid party, and the Labour party were agreed that for the purposes of securing industrial peace no scheme like preference to unionists had been discovered. No better scheme has yet been discovered. Mr. Cook, in 1904, said -
When I was secretary to a union in’ 1904, we always insisted on preference to unionists. If I were in that position again I would adopt the same attitude.
There is Mr. Deakin’s statement; there is Mr. Cook’s statement that when he was secretary of a union he would insist on preference to unionists. Why does he object to the principle to-day?
– As a unionist he might.
– I ask the honorable senator to try to defend the action of Mr. Cook in that regard.
– He has to represent all classes, not unionists only.
– That is a matter of impossibility. The man is a fool who says that he represents all classes.
– Do you not represent all classes?
– I represent the class that is not a class, but the nation.
– This Bill, which, as a matter of fact, the Government have introduced elsewhere, deals with only Government employes, and, as Senator Russell interjects, with only a very small section of them. Why not deal with the permanent employes of the Government as well as with the casual employes? The Bill was bludgeoned through the House of Representatives last session - and I use the word “bludgeoned” advisedly, sir - per medium of the “ gag.” When the duly elected representatives of the people were not allowed to express their opinions, I sat in the gallery of that House as a visitor.
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable senator to go so far as to reflect on the proceedings of another place.
– I have known the Prime Minister, after speaking to the question himself, to move that the question be now put, and so prevent even the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition from speaking.
– How long were the Bills debated in the other Chamber?
– For about five minutes on the last occasion.
– The Government Preference Prohibition Bill was not. debated at all, but bludgeoned through by the “gag,” and the proceedings would have been a disgrace to the smallest debating society in Australia. If the Government are sincere on the question of abolishing preference to unionists, why did they not have the moral courage to bring down an amendment of the Arbitration Act? There is an Act which affects not 2,000, or 3,000 persons in Government employ, but the workers of Australia. From every platform in the Commonwealth at the last elections our honorable friends who now occupy the Treasury bench roundly and loudly condemned preference to unionists in any way.
– Yes. Turn up the copies of the daily newspapers circulating throughout Australia.
– Turn up the. newspapers, and show me one?
– There are so many newspapers published in Australia that I cannot bundle them all iu here. A perusal of the newspapers will disclose that preference to unionists was then totally condemned, not only by the occupants of the Treasury bench to-day, but by their supporters. They told the farmers, particularly in connexion with the rural workers, that preference to unionists would be injurious to them, and not .to return a Labour candidate, because if he were returned he would be in favour of the principle. No cry which our Fusion friends used at the last elections had more effect than their cry of no preference to unionists. They did not qualify it in any way. They did not limit it to employes of the Commonwealth Government, but roundly condemned preference to unionists holus-bolus. It was the means, to a great extent, of turning the scales temporarily in their favour, and particularly in ,the rural districts. When they made these statements, one would expect that, as men - and I presume they are men - when they got the reins of government they would bring down a measure to amend the Act which covers the whole gamut of our industrialism. But they have not had the moral fibre to attempt to do that. They bring in this trumpery, twopenny-halfpenny Bill dealing only with preference to unionists in Commonwealth employment. So far- as I am concerned, if the measure affected only one employ6 of the Commonwealth Government I should be against it. If a double dissolution is brought about I should not care, so far as the Labour party is concerned, to go to the country on a more popular cry than that of preference to unionists.
– Hear, hear! ‘ That settles it.
– It may, or may not, settle it. So far as the double dissolution is concerned, that is a long way from being settled; and neither Senator Oakes nor I will have- the settlement of that matter. There is another, and, for the time being, he will be a higher authority than either of us, who will have to deal with that question; and the gentleman to whom I refer has already been appealed to before he reached these shores by a member of the Ministry.
– No; that has been denied.
– By whom?
– By Senator McColl.
– I dp not think much of Senator McColl’s denials. The honorable senator will deny anything at all. He very often denies his own statements as they appear in the press. I say that Mr. W. H. Irvine has practically appealed to the Governor-General desig’nate to grant a double dissolution, or none at all. I do not feel inclined to pursue that line of argument. . What I am prepared to -do is to make legitimate use “of my position as a duly elected representative of the people to prevent the present Government whittling away any of the legislation passed by the Labour Ministry. And why? It is because the people of Australia are behind that legislation! We have to-day in that Parliament a majority of members sent here by the people supporting all the legislation at present on the statute-book passed by the Fisher Ministry,’ and which the present Government are afraid to attack. We cannot regard either the House of Representatives or the Senate by itself as the Federal Parliament. We must look . to both branches of the Legislature; and we shall find that of 111 members constitut-ing the National Legislature 66 are members of the Labour party, and 45 members of the Fusion party.
– Let the honorable senator look at the number of votes polled by each party.
– There is a majority of over 50,000 in favour of Labour representatives in another place.
– It will be. found that the majority pf votes were cast for our party, so far as the representation in another place is concerned. .
– What about this Chamber?
– I believe my honorable friends opposite have slightly the advantage here.
– Although the Opposition have the numbers here.
– We have the seats, and my honorable friends opposite have the votes. But the true position cannot be shirked. The people of Australia were asked to elect a Parliament. They did so. They elected members to both branches of this Legislature on the same franchise, and on the same day, with the result that we have sixty-six members of the Labour party and fortyfive of the other party. Yet the fortyfive coolly turn round, and say that they will have a double dissolution because the sixty-six will not agree to the abolition of “preference to unionists in, the Commonwealth service.
-. - Is it not a fact that the majority polled for the Senate by the other side at the last election in New’ South’ Wales has spoken in another way since ?
– That is a fact.
– We are prepared to risk taking ‘ the opinion of the same electors again.
– I say that pre:ference to unionists is a just principle, When the workers of . Australia surrendered their right” to strike, they did so in ‘the interests of the public, and in the interests of commerce and industry. They did not desire to again prevent the wheels of industry revolving. They desired to see commercial and industrial pursuit’s continue without interference, whilst they, by means of conciliation and arbitration, or through Wages Boards, settled their differences with their employers. They surrendered the weapon of the strike, and I am glad that they did so, but having, in the public interest, surrendered that weapon, it is only right that they should be given in return the advantage of the principle of preference to unionists.
– There have been between 300 and 400 strikes in the last few years.
– Strikes have increased since the Liberals have been in power.
– The honorable senator has anticipated me. I was going to ‘say that there have been more strikes’ since the advent of the Liberal Government than there were during the regime. of the Labour Ministry.
– Let us have the numbers, and see.
– Will the honorable senator give me the names of the organizations that took part in the 300 or 400 strikes to which he has referred, and say where those strikes occurred ?
– Does the honorablesenator not think that the word “ strike “ is wrongly used ? When bank directors insist upon 8 per cent, instead of 6 per cent., can they not be said to be on strike for the increased rate?
– I referred’ a little while ago to the fact that the employers went on strike against the awards of the Arbitration Court by dragging the unions from one Court to another.
– By exercising the right which the law gives them to have a matter finally determined.
– That is but another way of striking, and it has. been more effective than the strikes’ of employes. The other test Bill which is to be submitted to the Senate is one for the restoration of the postal voting provisions of the Electoral Act.
– What will that test’ be?
– I really do not. know. I only know that, if carried, it will’ be calculated to again bring about the corruption and bribery that occurred whilst those provisions were previously in operation. Postal voting will never be restored if my vote can prevent it.
– I hope that the honorable senator’s vote will not prevent it.
– Then Senator Gould will hope in vain. When the Postal Voting Restoration Bill comes back again to the Senate, I shall be prepared to vote for the amendment which was moved upon it last session. We are charged in the Governor- General’s Speech with having “ failed to pass “ this measure.
– In the form desired by another place.
– I wish to know what these words “ fail to pass” mean. With all Senator Gould’s legal acumen - and I do not claim to possess any - I venture to say that he is not the only man in Australia who can give an opinion as to the meaning of the words “ failed to pass.” I remember that the Navigation Bill was before the Senate for nine years. Was there in the case of that Bill a failure to pass? When the measure comes before the Senate I shall be prepared to vote for a system which will enable the sick and infirm to record their votes.
– By post!
– By post, or by some other means which, properly safeguarded, will prevent corruption and the exercise of undue influence upon electors.
– Is it not a fact that in the recent ballot for the selection of Senate candidates for the Liberal party 68,000 persons refused to exercise their right to vote by post?
– I understand that 68,000 ballot-papers were lost, but I do not know why those who received the ballot-papers did not make use of them.
– We shall get Senator McColl to say something on that question.
– No doubt the honorable senator will do so when next addressing a women’s meeting, and may be questioned upon his statement later on in this Chamber. I do not care when alleged test Bills come before the Senate, nor do I care whether a double dissolution takes place or not. I realize, with every member of this Parliament, that the present position of affairs is intolerable. I care not whether there is a double or a single dissolution, so long as the people of Australia are. given an opportunity to remould this Parliament. It was formed by the people on the 31st of last May, and I do not care how soon they are given a chance to remake it. When the election day comes round, I feel confident that my honorable friends opposite will be lowered to their political graves, “ unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”
– That was said on the” 30th May last year.
– Some who were in this Chamber lost the number of their mess.
– The elections resulted in the absence from this Chamber of a few who were formerly members of it. Senator Oakes will not deny that Senator McColl and his colleagues in the Ministry condemned from every platform in the Commonwealth the provision in the existing Electoral Act which they dubbed “ the press gag.”
– I do now.
– Yes, but when my honorable friends were returned to power did they propose to repeal that provision ?
– I would repeal it tomorrow if I could.
– If the honorable senator could; but why do not theGovernment introduce an amendment of the Electoral Act to repeal “that provision ?
– We did do so.
– The Government did so, and then dropped the Bill like a hot potato. They introduced an amendment of the Electoral Act providing for the repeal of that provision, but dropped it very quickly when one of their own followers asked them to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole of our electoral system. That waa found to be a very convenient way to enable Mr. Cook to drop his great measure for the amendment of the existing Electoral Act. If the Government were sincere in condemning that provision of the Act under which the writer of every article or letter in a newspaper during an election campaign must sign it with his name, why did not they persevere with the Bill they introduced for the amendment of the Act instead of dropping it and sending us a paltry measure to restore voting by post ? There are many provisions of the existing Act which the Government have condemned, but they lack the moral courage to send up to the Senate a measure to give effect to their views.
– They lacked the ability to get’ it through.
– They did not. They could have gagged that Bill through the House of Representatives just as they gagged the puny Postal Voting Restoration Bill through that Chamber. They possessed the ability to put any Bill through another place last year by the methods which they then adopted, namely, the reckless use of the gag. Again, my honorable friends opposite, when upon the hustings, condemned the Commonwealth Bank. Even to-day the Treasurer is endeavouring to ridicule that institution and all iti transactions. He has made statements concerning, it which he has since regretted, and so also has the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Why did not the Government bring forward a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, upon which we could have a double dissolution?
– The honorable senator might as well ask why his own party does not abolish the Australian Navy, seeing that Senator de Largie is opposed to it?
– There is no analogy between the two things.It is quite true that Senator de Largie is opposed to the establishment of an Australian Navy, but I would remind Senator Oakes that every member of the Government condemned the Commonwealth Bank. I come now to another matter which was the subject of much debate, much contumely, and much contempt in this Parliament, on the platform, in the press, and, I am sorry to say, in some of the pulpits. I refer to the Maternity Allowance Act. That measure was decried from one end of Australia to the other. Every member of the Fusion party opposed it up to its third reading stage, and then swallowed it. Speaking in Western Australia, Mr. Gregory said that if he were returned to this Parliament as the representative of Dampier he would endeavour to secure an amendment of that Act. But the measure is still upon the statute-book. That was’ another splendid opportunity for the Government to obtain a dissolution, seeing that when they were in Opposition they declared that the passing of such a measure would encourage immorality. ExSenator St. Ledger affirmed that it was “ a sop to profligacy.”
– And Senator McColl said it was a “ dirty political bribe.”
– Yes. That measure which, according to my honorable friends opposite, would encourage immorality, and which was “ a sop to profligacy,” still remains upon the statute-book, and not one of them dares to lay his unholy hands upon it. Can hypocrisy go further? In making these statements to the people the Fusion have deliberately misled them.
– So far as I am concerned I dissociated myself entirely from the statement that the measure was “ a sop to profligacy.”
– I accept the honorable senator’s denial. There is no doubt that ex-Senator St. Ledger made that statement, and when he was challenged on the floor of this Chamber with having made it there was not an honorable senator opposite who protested against it. Senator Gould cannot deny that the measure was condemned by every member of the Fusion party in both Houses of this Parliament.
– Mr. Irvine said practically the same thing the night before last at Sandringham.
– If he did I challenge Mr. Irvine to introduce a repealing Bill to-morrow in another place. I hope to God he does. If he does, and if a double dissolution follows, it will mean the eternal damnation of the Fusion party.
– In the Age to-day he is reported to have said that if he had his way it would be abolished.
– If he is the strong man that he is reputed to be, let him introduce a repealing Bill in another place. Still another measure which was subjected to a good deal of criticism during its passage through this Parliament was the Land Tax Act. The farmers were told throughout Australia that the Labour party were intent upon confiscating their farms.
– We told them that the Labour party said that they were going to provide them with cheap land.
– The farmers were assured on every hand that they would be ruined as a result of the operation of the land tax. But where is any mention in the Governor-General’s Speech of any intention to amend that Act? Here again I say that the Fusion party have been false to their promises to the people. In Western Australia the Fusionists loudly condemned the measure, but there has not been a voice raised against it in this Parliament.
– Mr. Cook said that it was not just or equitable that one State, namely, New South Wales, should be called upon to pay half of the total amount raised by the tax.
– If that be so, why does he not bring forward an amending Bill?
– Mr. Falkiner says that he is not going to continue paying £11,000 as land tax every year.
– I believe that he would be very glad to see the Act repealed. But while there is a Labour party in this Parliament, it will remain upon the statute-book. Still another measure which received the maledictions of my honorable friends opposite was the Australian Notes Act. When that Bill was passing through this Chamber a few years ago, I recollect that one honorable senator, who has since paid the debt of nature, affirmed that a few months after it became law the face value of a pound note would be only five shillings. But no more successful piece of legislation has ever been put through this Parliament than the Australian Notes Act. The sentiments given utterance to by the gentleman to whom. I have referred were shared in by Senator McColl, Senator Millen “
– I never said such a thing, or anything like it.
– The honorable senator did not deny the statement, and he opposed the passage of the Bill through this Chamber. He is also a member of the Ministry, and I want to know whether he is prepared to recommend to the Cabinet repeal of the Act. The honorable senator does not answer. I will answer the question myself by saying that he is not prepared to make any such recommendation. There is on the statutebook to-day a number of measures, all of which were opposed and condemned by the honorable senators opposite, and all of which they told the people they would repeal or amend if returned to power. They have not dared to . touch any of them.
– I do not know. They virtually tell us in the Speech that when a certain event takes place they are prepared to tell the people what their policy is. In other words,’ they say to the people of Australia, “ Let ;us get a double dissolution, and then we will tell you what we are going to do.”
– Shut your eyes and open your mouth.
– And see what the Fusion will send you. I do not think that is at all fair to the people, who like to judge political parties by their actions. They like the respective parties to present policies to them. Our own party has never been afraid or ashamed to put its policy before the people in plenty of time to allow them to judge party and policy too. And when the people have indorsed that policy, as they did in 1910* this party does not hesitate to give legislative force to it at once. We have never yet said to the people, “ Wait until a certain thing occurs, and then we will tell you what we are going to do “; yet, according to the Governor-General’s Speech, that is the attitude of the Fusion Government to-day. They are concentrating their efforts and energies on a double dissolution or nothing, and if they get it, they will kindly condescend to .tell the people what is in their minds as regards a policy for Australia. . ‘ If they do not get a double dissolution, what are they going to do ? Do they intend then to face Parliament and inaugurate some new ideas of their own, or are they going to tender their resignations to -the Governor-General ?
– T - They . will commit hari-kari.
– I do not think they have sufficient courage to do anything of the sort. They will cling to the Ministerial bench as long as they can.; and all this clamour for a double dissolution is so much political piffle. There are in the Speech four or five paragraphs referring to .the Premiers’ Conference which sat a few- weeks ago in Melbourne. I have no objection to the Premiers meeting in conference. That is their business, not mine, but I do not see why this Parliament should concern itself so’ much with that meeting, or follow the Premiers’ lead,. This Parliament can go on- with a number of important national questions without waiting for a lead from the Premiers of the States. .Those questions are vital to the welfare . of the people, and are waiting to be dealt with, and the Governor-General’s Speech should not be “burdened by, or the time of this Parliament taken up with, references to such conferences as those. The Government would have been much better guided if they had allowed the Premiers’ Conference simply to go its own way. If any good resulted from it, good and well ; but, quite apart from it, the Government should have brought down to this Parliament a bold national policy for the development of . Australia, if they have any such in their minds. The fourteenth paragraph of the Speech refers to1. -the question of immigration, an important matter that deserves the serious attention of every Government. It is absolutely imperative to attract to our shores a hardy and virile manhood and womanhood to assist us in the development of our resources, but the present system or systems of encouraging people to our shores are detrimental to the best interests of the Commonwealth. There are too many schemes in operation. There are six separate systems, with one State vieing against the other, and the representative of one State saying to the intending immigrant, “ Come to my State, the other States are no good to go to.” Such a condition of things results not in putting Australia properly before the eyes of the people of the Old World, but is really libelling it, because every State is good to come to, and every portion of Australia is good to live in. It would be wise for the Commonwealth Government to suggest to the various State Governments to leave the question of immigration entirely alone. Let the Commonwealth Government take it over and bear the whole cost, so that we may have one system of immigration directed through one channel from a common centre. The scheme could be worked through our High Commissioner’s office in London, and the stream of immigration could be diverted to the various States as they are ready to receive it. I am sure the States themselves would not be sorry to be relieved of the present trouble and expense, and if the Commonwealth Government took full and sole control far better results towards the development of Australia would be achieved.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– In paragraph 11 of the Speech it is said that “ a Bill will be introduced, giving additional powers of control over combines affecting or likely to affect injuriously the trade and commerce of Australia.” I welcome that declaration, because it shows that the Fusion Government have made a volte face on the question of trusts and combines. Their attitude to-day is in complete contrast to the position they took up during the last referenda campaign.
– T - They have been driven to change it by the force of public opinion.
– I dare say they have. It is a well-known fact that on two occasions the Labour Government sub mitted Bills to the people asking for an alteration of the Constitution to give this Parliament added powers, amongst them being a Bill to give additional power over trusts and combines. On each occasion our opponents lost no opportunity to condemn our proposals, and were unanimous that there were no trusts or combines in Australia.
– Did they not prepare a list of about fifty-one of them?
– If they did they did not supply it to the people when fighting the referenda proposals of 1911. They were agreed to a man in telling the people that there was no such thing as a trust or combine here. These pernicious combinations, they said, were not in existence, and therefore could not be acting injuriously to the interests of the people. They were successful for the time being in preventing the acceptance by the people of those Bills, but had it not been for their strong opposition, and, I dare say, the financial assistance of the trusts and combines, this Parliament to-day would have been clothed with the powers which we then sought to give it. Despite all their opposition, and despite all their statements, they now tell this Parliament that they will introduce legislation to control combines affecting, or likely to affect, injuriously, the trade and commerce of Australia. The very use of the word “ affecting “ is an admission on their part that there are to-day in this country trusts and combines working injuriously to the interests of the people.
– Mr. Watt has made a similar declaration as Premier of Victoria.
– Yes.; I read it. Most of them realize now that we were right in submitting those proposals to the people, and that they were wrong in opposing them and in endeavouring by that means to keep the shackles on the National Parliament. Until those shackles are removed, this Parliament cannot carry out its national functions. They have lived to be wiser, if not sadder, men. Whilst I welcome their admission that there are in existence to-day trusts and combines working detrimentally to the people’s interests, I unhesitatingly assert that the legislation that they have foreshadowed cannot cope with those evils until the powers that we sought are given to this Parliament. Time and again they have twitted us with having been three years in office, with an absolute majority in both Houses, and having yet failed to legislate to counteract the evil influences of the trusts. “We did legislate in an endeavour to cope with the evils, but we found when we had exhausted the constitutional powers of Parliament that we had to face a higher tribunal which interprets the Commonwealth Constitution ; and we discovered that, according to the interpretation of that body, we had exceeded our constitutional powers. If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their desire to cope with trusts and combines, I assure them that legislation of the kind which they propose to introduce will not effectively combat the evil. Having admitted so much, they ought to admit .a little more, and announce their intention to bring in- a Bill to amend the Constitution to give this Parliament full power to deal with trusts and combines, just as their predecessors did. They referred to the Inter-State Commission and the Tariff. It is true that they appointed the Inter-State Commission, and in doing so gave another exhibition of their idea of giving “ spoils to the victors.” I do not know that any, of the gentlemen who at present comprise the Commission were ever supporters of the Labour party. 1 do not think that Mr. Lockyer-
– One of them was your party’s nominee for a position on the High Court Bench.
– The honorable senator refers to Mr. Piddington. I do not know that he has been, at any time, a member or supporter of the Labour party. If he was one of our nominees for the High Court Bench I am glad that the Government have, for once, followed our good example.
– To which nomination do you take exception?
– I am taking exception to none. I have every respect for the three gentlemen appointed. I am only saying that there is no man on the Commission with Labour proclivities. If the nomination of the Inter-State Commission intended by the Labour Government had come off, one of its members would have been the ex-honorable mem ber for Bendigo, Sir John Quick, a direct opponent of the Labour party.
– Where would Mr. Hughes have been?
– Mr. Hughes would have been one member, and Senator Lynch would have been the third; but my point is that Sir John Quick, who had been a lifelong opponent of Labour politics, would have been one of the nominees of the Labour Government.
– And there would have been two direct representatives of the Labour party sitting alongside him.
– As things are at present, the Government have three members on the Commission supporting them, and no representation of Labour . thought at all.
– This Government did not think that parties, as parties, should be represented there.
– The Government have not put that principle into practice because they have decidedly appointed all three from one side of the political arena, if I am any judge of the members’ political opinions at all.
– Which of those gentlemen represents a political party?
– Mr. Swinburne is a very strong political party man.
– Do you take exception to Mr. Swinburne’s appointment ?
– I want it to be clearly understood that I am not personally objecting to any of those gentlemen. I am only pointing out a method whereby the Government, who made such a row about “ spoils to the victors,” are themselves quietly giving “ spoils to the victors” all the time. I do not think it is wise to relegate the question of the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission. The people of Australia declared in no uncertain manner in 1906 that they would have a protective Tariff. A Tariff more or less of a protective nature was put through this Parliament. Then there was a cry from the people for a revision, in order to make the Tariff stronger in its protective incidence. As a most pronounced Protectionist, I would have welcomed a re-opening for that purpose.
– Why not make it prohibitive ?
– No ; I do not believe in prohibition, but I do believe in effective protection for the encouragement of Australian industries. This is one of the most important questions to Australia, and, with all due respect, I do not think that the Inter-State Commission is a body that should deal with the question. For months past they have been taking evidence from the representatives of various industries throughout this island continent, and will, I presume, continue that work ; but after they have come to a judgment on the evidence adduced, their recommendations will come before this Parliament, for the Commission cannot alter one line in the Tariff Act. This Parliament will review every line of the Tariff that is submitted by any Government for revision, and, consequently, the work of the Inter-State Commission in this connexion is an absolute waste of time. The Constitution, of course, confers very great powers on the Inter-State Commission, and I do not complain of that fact, but their time could be better spent in dealing with questions which are more within their ambit than is the review of the Tariff, because this Parliament must be the final arbiter, and when it comes to review their recommendations a great deal of time will necessarily have to be spent here. I come now to the transcontinental railway. I desire to supplement the remarks of Senator Lynch on the cancellation of the sleeper contract. It was cancelled unjustly. It was an unjust blow to the people of Western Australia. The State Government was singled out deliberately by the Federal Government for a special attack, whilst other contractors were let go scot-free, although they had not lived up to the letter of the contracts.
– Because it was a Labour Government.
– The Clyde Engineering Company, for instance, entered into a contract with the Commonwealth Government to supply locomotives and bogie trucks for both ends of the transcontinental railway. For some time after the sleeper contract with the State Government was cancelled, not one solitary truck or bogie had been supplied by that company. It was months overdue with the delivery of these necessaries, and, as a result, delay was caused in the con struction of the railway, and in the very early history of constructional work, too. Yet there was no threat held over the head of the company that if it did not speed up with the delivery the contract would be cancelled. No, there was not even a threat of the imposition of a fine for the delay in delivery. Why was this favoritism extended to the Clyde Engineering Company and the guillotine dropped on the head of the State Government? Senator Findley has just put the matter in a nut-shell, and reluctantly I come to the conclusion that it was because the State Government was a Labour Government, and was erecting State timber mills to supply the sleepers, that the guillotine was dropped. What was the reason advanced by Mr. Cook in his letter to Mr. Scaddan? The contract was cancelled because, he said, that at a certain time delay “ might “ occur in the construction of the line. Bead his letter as you like, you cannot find a single sentence to say that he cancelled the contract because delay had occurred. It was cancelled on a mere assumption, and not on a matter of fact. I challenge the Leader of the Senate to deny the statement I have made.
– I do deny it.
– The honorable senator cannot prove that my statement is wrong. In no portion of his letter does Mr. Cook say that he cancelled the contract because delay had occurred. He said that, because at a certain time delay “might” occur, he deemed it advisable to cancel the contract.
– There was no need to say that delay might occur, because the contract was out of date then.
– The question is, What did he say?
– The papers clearly indicate that the StateGovernment was in arrears as to delivery.
– I admit that too, and so was the Clyde Engineering Company, but the Commonwealth Government did not cancel its contract, nor did Mr. Cook sent a letter to the company. As regards delay in delivery of sleepers, let me remind the Minister of Defence that the two principal officers in connexion with the construction of the line at that time, Mr. Deane and Mr. Hobler, gave evidence before the Royal Commission on the powellising process. They were asked if there was a sufficient supply of sleepers at both ends of the line, and if any delay had occurred. The Engineer-in-Chief and the Assistant Engineer-in-Chief swore that no delay had occurred, and that there was a supply of sleepers for three months at one end, and a supply for four months at the other end. Despite the evidence of these two responsible officers, Mr. Cook cancelled the contract with the State Government. Furthermore, when the Treasurer was in Kalgoorlie about February of this year, Mr. Mahon, its representative in the other House, and myself introduced to him a deputation representing the workers engaged on the line, asking for better conditions, and better remuneration for their labour. The right honorable gentleman, in reply to our representations, admitted, from what he had seen at that end of the line, and where he had seen the rails and the sleepers stacked, that there could be no delay in construction as the result of non-supply of sleepers. Although we have the statements of the Treasurer, the Engineer-in-Chief, and the Assistant Engineer-in-Chief that no delay would occur, still the contract was cancelled. It was most shameful treatment to mete out to a private contractor, let alone to a State Government. Had it not been a Labour Government the original contract would have been in existence to-day. .It is a costly matter to the people of Western Australia that the contract should have been cancelled. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had been spent in the erection of mills; over 2,000 employes were ready there to commence operations; their wives and families were assembled there; business men were prepared to open stores in order to supply the necessaries of life; but by one stroke of the pen all this was quashed, and these men and the State have had to suffer through the arbitrary act of the Prime Minister and his Government. Not only has an opportunity been denied to the people of Western Australia to demonstrate to the world the virtue of karri timber, but the opportunity has been denied to them to reap the benefits of the rich soil in which the karri trees grow. There would have been a new tract of country opened up for cultivation, and new resources developed. But all this has been stopped. It is shameful treatment.
– What are they going to do about it now)
- -Mr. Scaddan has been in conference with the Prime Minister, and according to a statement by him, which was telegraphed here the other day, they were still considering the question of a new contract; but as the question is sub judice, I shall confine my remarks to the original contract. Whilst its cancellation was certainly injurious to Western Australia, we found three of its representatives sitting by, and agreeing with the proceeding. They did not raise their voices in any way to protest to Mr. Cook about such an atrocious act. I refer to Sir John Forrest, Mr. Fowler, and Mr. Gregory. If any one of these men had had courage enough to tell Mr. Cook that the original contract should be maintained, it would have been maintained. But no; they agreed silently to an injustice being perpetrated upon their State.
– That is, if any one had put the interests of a portion of Australia before the interests of the whole of Australia ?
– I am not one of those who desire to put the interests of one portion of Australia against the interests of the whole.
– That is what you are doing now.
– But I am one of those who do not want to libel any portion of the Commonwealth. I am one of those who wanted to prove to the world that the karri timber of a portion of Australia was good enough for Australia and for the world. But the present Government have libelled one of the products of Australia by saying that it is not fit to be used in the construction of a railway without ever having given the timber a fair trial. Had it been given a fair trial, and found wanting, I would have been satisfied. But before a trial was given, the article was condemned, and the people of the world are told today that this timber is not fit for use in the construction of a railway in Australia. Dealing with the trans-Australian railway, the Government have announced that they intend to hand over the line to be built by contract. It is a very strange thing that when all the initial difficulties have been overcome - when the plant has been assembled, and a certain number of miles of rails have been laid at each end - the Government are prepared to hand over the line to their friend, the contractor, when he will have nothing to do but to throw the rails down on a level tract of country.
– That was to give him a straight run.
-Yes, a straight run for the money they spent at the last election. I wish to direct the attention of Senator Millen to the action of the Government in letting the construction of the line by contract. I remind the honorable senator that towards the close of last session, the Government were asked many questions as to whether it was their intention to continue the construction of public works by the day-labour system or to have them constructed by contract. After a considerable number of questions on the subject had been asked, this reply was given by the honorable senator, -when discussing the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill on 30th October, 1913. The statement will be found on page 2701 of Hansard for last session -
– A question has been raised as to the attitude of the Government in the matter of constructing public works by day labour. The position of the ‘ Government has been made abundantly clear. They do not possess the whole-hearted faith in the dayabour system which animates my honorable friends on the other side of the Chamber; but it would be ridiculous on that account to say that they must necessarily carry on every public work by contract. Even my honorable friends opposite, who are very much given to wobbling in their political faith, whilst professing a whole-Hearted belief in the day-labour system, frequently, when in power, resorted to the contract system. i wish particularly to direct the attention of the honorable senator to the following statement-
– I thought the honorable senator wished to remind me of what I had said about the wobbling of his own party.
– No, Unlike the honorable senator,’ I have not taken a little out of his statement to suit myself, and omitted the rest. I am giving the whole of his speech on this question, in fairness to the honorable senator himself. He went on to say -
When we are dealing with works which have already been commenced under the day-labour system, and for which a plant has been provided, and a staff assembled, and especially works in connexion with which, as Senator
Beady has said, complete specifications have not been provided, it is impossible for us to step in and substitute the contract for the daylabour system. I find that at the Federal Capital there are some works in progress for my own Department, for which a plant has been provided and a staff assembled. We should be wanting in regard for the interests of the workmen at present engaged in the work if we set them and the plant aside in order to give effect to our views on the contract system.
Who is wobbling now ? Who did wobble T The ink with which the Hansard reporter took down those utterances was scarcely dry when the promise made by the Minister of Defence was broken.
– It has never been broken. The statement quoted describes exactly and definitely the attitude adopted by the Government.
– We shall see whether that is so. The honorable senator said -
When wo are dealing with works which have already been commenced under the day-labour system, and for which a plant has been provided and a staff assembled, and especially works in connexion with which, as Senator Reddy has said, complete specifications have not been provided, it is impossible for us to step in and substitute the contract for the day-labour system.
Was not the construction of the transcontinental railway commenced under the day-labour system? Was the plant not provided, and a staff assembled under the day-labour system ? Have the specifications yet been completed ? The answer to the first two questions is “ Yes “ and to the third “ No.” Senator Millen made the statement that the Government co did not step in in such circumstances, and substitute the contract for the day-labour system. All those conditions applied to the transcontinental railway. The staff was assembled, the plant provided, the construction of the line started on the day-labour system, and the specifications are not yet completed. Still, we have the announcement of the honorable senator’s leader, with, I presume, the consent of the Cabinet, that it is the intention of the Government to call for tenders for the construction of the line. I say that Senator Millen did wobble; and that if he were a man at all, after making such an emphatic statement as that which I have quoted, when his leader announced that the line would be handed over to contractors, his place was outside the Cabinet.
– I - I told the honorable senator last session that he was leaning on a rotten reed.
– It is proved now that the reed was a very rotten one, indeed. That is all I nave to say about the handing over of the transcontinental railway to contractors. It is quite evident from the cancellation of the sleeper contract with the Western Australian Government, and the intention of the Government to let the construction of the line to contractors, that they have been squeezed between the Timber Combine on the one hand, and the contractor on the other, and have had to yield in order to keep faith with their friends. I cannot leave this question without referring to the industrial dispute at present in existence at the western end of the line. I certainly regret the dispute, but it has been practically forced upon the men by the present Government. It might be well to briefly trace some of the events that have led up to the dispute. When the Fisher Government were in power, and some of the members were in Kalgoorlie at the turning of the first sod of the transcontinental railway at that end, I introduced to the then PostmasterGeneral and member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Frazer, a deputation from the men setting forth certain claims for increased wages and better, conditions of labour. Mr. Frazer heard their representations, and submitted them to his colleagues. He came back again to. a meeting of the men, at which I was present, and intimated that certain concessions would be granted, such as free shovels, shade protection at meal times, payment for shifting camp, walking time going to or from the job, whichever the men chose, and one or two other concessions. As regarded the schedule of wages submitted, he explained that that would be considered later on. Before an opportunity could be given to fully consider the schedule of wages submitted by the men, the Fisher Ministry was displaced, and it devolved* upon the present Ministry to carry on negotiations. When, unfortunately, Mr. Frazer paid the debt of nature, I was asked by the men at Kalgoorlie to continue negotiations for the payment of wages at a certain scale from the depot at Kalgoorlie to the 60-mile peg, and from the 60-mile peg further on. I took up the negotiations, and wrote to Mr. Kelly. I sent him the schedule, and one or two other letters. Somewhere about last January, I got replies from the Department to the effect that Mr. Kelly would give the matter attention. On the 11th or 12th January, I got a telegram from Mr. Kelly saying that the men’s request could not be granted, and that he was writing. I awaited his letter, and that letter practically shut the door in the men’s faces. He would not negotiate any further. He said the men were getting the best wages, and were being supplied with goods at Kalgoorlie rates. I proved afterwards that that statement of Mr. Kelly’s was wrong, since at that time the men were being charged from 10 to 15 per cent., more for their goods along the line than the prices obtaining- in Kalgoorlie. Next day I wrote to Mr. Kelly, pointing out to him in all seriousness that he had taken up a .dangerous attitude, that these men had been waiting many weary months to get the question of wages and conditions settled ; and that if he now shut the door in their faces his action might be the means of bringing about industrial trouble. I asked Mr. Kelly, in view ofthese circumstances, to reopen the matter, and go into the whole question with representatives of the men. From that day to this, Mr. Kelly has not even acknowledged the letter. Here is a Minister of the Crown who complains about the men going out on strike, but who did not have even the common courtesy to acknowledge a letter from a senator of Western Australia appealing to him to reopen the matter with a view to preventing industrial strife. The men are out to-day asking for a minimum of 13s. 4d. per day, the wage which a contractor ort another portion of the job is paying, and the wage which has been paid on railway work in the north-west of Australia by other contractors. It is true that the Government ‘offered the men an increaseof something like lOd. per day.
– On what?
– On the minimum of lis. 8d. per day. The Government have offered the men 12s. 6d. per day. I think it is time the Government considered the request made by the menwith a view to bringing about an amicable settlement of the difficulty. I think that reason can and should prevail in this matter. On the question of day labour *versu** contract labour, I propose to quote from a report by the Engineer-in-Chief of tha
Victorian Railways, which makes out a very clear case in favour of the day-labour system, and proves it to be cheaper, whilst it results in more enduring work than that which has been carried out by the contract system.
Advantages of System in actual Practice on large Public Works.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140513_SENATE_5_73/>.