6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the long delay which has taken place in the sending of news of casualties which occurred at Gallipoli - in some cases over twelve months ago - will the Government, in order to allay the anxiety of those who have relatives, at the front, ask the Imperial Government to expedite news of casualties ?
– The honorable senator is probably not aware that the lists of casualties now coming forward refer to soldiers about whose fate no definite evidence could be obtained, that is to say, they took part in various engagements outside our trenches and did not return. It was impossible to say whether they were killed or were made prisoners of war. Every endeavour has been made to obtain information concerning them, but none has been secured, and, following the usual practice, after a certain lapse of time, no information having been obtained to rebut the presumption of death, or stating that they are prisoners of war, they are officially declared to be dead. No action which the Commonwealth or Imperial Government could take would overcome that state of affairs, because there is always between the two contending armies an area of ground over which neither can advance to ascertain what has become of men who are missing. So long as a condition of war exists that difficulty must continue.
– A - Although the lists of casualties now appearing may cover events at Gallipoli, I take it that the cases of illness reported in these lists refer to cases information concerning which has recently been sent from England or Egypt to the Defence Department, and are not in the same category as the casualties to which the Minister has referred.
– That is so, except that mistakes occur from time to time in making up the lists of those who are ill, and as corrections are received they are published. There may be delay in reporting illness through the illness not having been reported at the front, or having been reported incorrectly, and when a corrected list is forwarded it is published. I was, in replying to Senator Needham, referring to those who have now in the lists been posted as dead and were previously posted as missing.
– W - We may assumethat most of the cases of illness now listed are cases that have recently occurred?
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairsexplain what is meant by the reply given to a question I asked on Friday in reference to any fees or expenses paid to Mr. Oliver as Consulting Sanitary Engineer for the Canberra sewerage system? Thereply given me was -
The information will be laid on the table of the Senate when- the matter is finalized.
Does that mean that the amounts are sonumerous that it will take several days toadd them up ? Will the Minister say what is really meant by the reply?
– I understand that. Mr. Oliver has not yet been definitely engaged by .the Home Affairs Department. It is true that a negotiation for his services is going on, and when an agreement is completed the Minister promises to immediately lay it on the table.
– Does that mean that no fees or expenses of any kind have yet been paid to Mr. Oliver?
– Yes; no fees of any description have yet been paid ta him.
– In view of a statement made some time ago by the PrimeMinister to the effect that Australian coal was available for the German fleet that successfully engaged British cruisers off’ the Chilian coast, will the Minister of Defence say whether the Government are at present exercising any scrutiny over thedestination of coal exported from Australia to insure that it will not be used in the same way ?
– And, also, whether those who sent it are now advocating conscription for Australia ?
– Every precautions is tak in in regard to coal now leaving the Commonwealth. That has been the casefor some considerable time past.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General noticed a cable published in this morning’s newspapers stating that Australian nurses in France have received no letters since they left Egypt, in March last? As this may apply also to Australian troops in France, will the Minister have an investigation made with a view to more frequent and efficient deliveries of mails for our soldiers?
– An investigation into the matter referred to will be, made. There was necessarily some difficulty in connexion with the delivery of letters for soldiers due to the alterations made in the disposition of the troops. Battalions and divisions were broken up and re-organized, and it was anticipated that this would meet with some difficulty in the delivery of mails. We were preparing for that, and I can assure the honorable senator that the matter to which he has referred will be investigated.
– Will the Minister of Defence, before the Senate adjourns, give a reply to the question I put to him a few days ago in connexion with the rights possessed by Australian soldiers to appeal from sentences of courts martial ?
– I shall endeavour to do so.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Townsville, Queensland. - Half-yearly Report from 1st July to 31st December, 1915.
Public Service Act 1002-1915.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 83.
Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914.- First General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
War Precautions Act 1914-1915. - Regulations amended. &c. -
Statutory Rules 1916. Nos. 11, 13, 27, 35, 38, 39, 40, 42, 46, 49, 53, 62, 82, 96.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a thirdtime.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreedto -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3, the insertion of a new clause 7a, and the omission of paragraph b from clause 8.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 - .
Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section 1 the following definitions : -
Amendment (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That after the word “ amended “ the following words be inserted: - “ (a) by omitting from sub-section 1 the definition of ‘ Enemy subject ‘ and inserting in its stead the following definition: -
Enemy subject ‘ means -
any person or firm with whom trading is prohibited by or under any proclamation referred to in sub-section 2 of this section; or
any company whether incorporated in any enemy country or not, which the Attorney - General, by notice published in the Gazette, declares to be in his opinion managed or controlled, directly or indirectly, by or under the influence of, or carried on wholly or mainly for the benefit or on behalf of, persons of enemy nationality, or resident or carrying on business in an enemy country;” and (b)”
– It is very hard for honorable senators to follow the amendment just proposed. The Government do not bring down an amendment to their own Bill without some reason for it, and we should certainly have some explanation from the Minister in charge of the Bill as to what the amendment means and why it is proposed.
– I apologize to the Committee for not explaining the amendment, but I thought that its text was sufficiently clear to make an explanation unnecessary. The object is to repeal the definition of enemy subject in the principal Act and to substitute a new definition. The effect of the amendment would be to restrict the operation of the law so far as enemy subjects are concerned to persons or firms with whom trading is prohibited by proclamation, and any company which the Attorney-General by notice published in the Gazette declares to be, in his opinion, carried on for the benefit of persons of enemy nationality. It is believed that this will facilitate the administration of the Act.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after clause 7, the following new clause be inserted : - “ 7a. Section nine of the principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (5) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: -
Any money paid to a Trust Account in pursuance of this section may, at the discretion of the Treasurer -
This amendment affects section 9 of the Act, which provides that persons owing money to others whom they believe to be enemy subjects may pay the debt to the Comptroller-General of Customs, who shall pay the money into the Trust Account. The amendment will empower the Treasurer to permit the money to be paid to the Trust Account in accordance with section 9 of the Act, to the Public Trustee, to a special account in accordance with a licence granted by the Attorney-General, or to the person to whom the money was originally owing, or his executors or his administrators after the termination of the war, or to the creditor forthwith if he proves not to be an enemy subject.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 8 - Proposed new section 9s (Transfer to Commonwealth of returns, &c, made under State Acts).
Amendment (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That the following words be omitted from sub-section 2: - “ (b) Any obligation imposed upon any per son firm or company under this Act to pay any money or transfer any other property whatsoever to the Public Trustee, or tomake to him returns, particulars, or notifications, shall be substituted for the like obligation (if any) under a State Act to pay money, transfer property, or make returns, particulars, or notifications to the custodian.”
Bill reported with further amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
The Estimates to which this Bill refers are those for the financial year ending 3th June next. I have nothing to add to the statement I made on the financial position when I moved that the Budgetpapers be printed, because the position then set out still stands. It is regrettable that these Estimates come forward at this late hour for our concurrence, but in the circumstances that is unavoidable. The Treasurer is endeavouring to get the new Estimates forward, so that they may be presented early in the next financial year, thus giving both Houses an opportunity of dealing with them when they are really alive, and not practically dead, as these Estimates undoubtedly are.
– The special circumstances of the war cannot be held accountable for the late period at which this Bill is brought in. Ever since the establishment of Federation we have had the same old farce year after year, whether the Conservatives or the Labour party were in power, and I trust there is something in the Acting Prime Minister’s intimation that a better method will be adopted in the future. It is high time Parliament took action with regard to the development of our resources. We hear a great deal about the provision that must be made for our returning soldiers, but another army of boys and girls is growing up in Australia every year, for whom provision must also be made. One of the means by which it is hoped to develop this continent is the passage of a Protectionist Tariff, the object of which will be to establish and encourage Australian industries manned by Australian citizens. We have been promised this Tariff for some time, and the people have, at election after election, declared their will on the subject, but nothing has been done, and nothing is proposed to be done even now. One argument raised against the passing of the Tariff now is the absence of the Prime Minister, but I am not aware that his presence is essential in this matter. We all know the declared policy of Australia. It is the Protectionist policy to establish industries within the Commonwealth, and in that connexion it is a matter of little or no moment whether the Prime Minister is present or absent. If we are to carry out our pledges to the electors, and give effect to their orders, we must put a Protectionist Tariff on the statute-book. Another reason given is that we are at war. Everybody knows that, and it is quite within tha range of probabilities that when the war is over there will be no Commonwealth of Australia. But we are proceeding with our every-day concerns on the assumption that the Allies will be victorious, and that, maimed and crippled as the British Empire and every other combatant will be when the struggle is over, things will resume their old course. If that is the case, I see no reason in the present situation for postponing the consideration of the Tariff. It may be said that special trading advantages must be given to our Allies as some reward for their assistance and co-operation. But if we are to carry out our declared policy of developing our resources in harmony with Australian standards of living - and I believe we are not prepared to depart from that policy except under the most severe compulsion - we need not delay by a single hour the framing of this Tariff. That being our policy, there can be no preference to any one, even to Great Britain. I have said on the floor of this chamber thousands of times that there are millions of people in Great Britain in a condition of semi-starvation, while another section lives more luxuriously than any people have lived since tha last days- of the Roman Empire. Wherever you have a large section of the people in such a condition of poverty as the first-named class, industries must be sweated. Those people must be earning less than a living wage, and if we are to give the products of those engaged in such’ industries preference in Australia, this will inevitably tend to degrade our people to the level of the British industrialist. I do not think any honorable senator is prepared to indorse a policy which would undoubtedly have that result. If we give preference to any one outside Australia, the whole fabric of Australian industrialism, as we have hitherto attempted to rear it, will crumble to pieces. It may be said that circumstances after the war will compel us to adopt some system of preference.
– Would not the honorable senator put some super-tax on enemy goods?
– I would put a tax sufficiently high upon everybody’s goods either to keep them out or reduce our importations to a minimum. That is my individual policy, and I believe it is the policy in the minds of the people. It is the only safe policy for them if theycan carry it out. I am proceeding all through on the assumption that at the end of the war Australia will be in exactly the same position as at the beginning, and that is the only safe assumption on which one can proceed, because, if everything is to be suspended until we know exactly where we stand, nothing will be done, and we shall be unprepared for the circumstances which will immediately follow the ending of the conflict. We read in the press that, while the war is proceeding, Germany - undoubtedly the most highly-organized country in Europe, and showing a pattern of organization which every other country might well follow - is manufacturing huge quantities of goods which it is prepared, through agents, to dump wherever they can be disposed of. Does any one imagine that we can rear against a policy of that kind any barrier sufficiently high to keep those goods out if we give preference to anybody ? Nothing would be easier than for Germany to send her goods here through French agencies, although France is our Ally. And, although America may be said to be, indirectly, our Ally also, it will be quite easy for Germany to send her goods into this country through an
American agency or even through British agencies. We have heard before of British merchants lending themselves to such transactions, and we may be sure that wherever profit is to be found there those who are out to make profit will be gathered together. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the only course open to this Parliament is to pass a Tariff of one schedule, with high duties, and no preference. The people of Australia have decided that Protection is to be our policy; and, while the advantage of a Protectionist policy was obvious for a considerable time to a great proportion of our thinking people, the minority, unfortunately, could not be brought to see the necessity for it until the present war began, when they discovered what a disadvantage Australia was placed at through not having taken steps to provide for its own requirements. ‘ It must be evident to every one now how necessary it is, if Australia is to be developed and peopled, and if her inhabitants are to achieve any skill in the industrial arts, for us to place ourselves upon a level with more advanced countries. I, therefore, urge honorable senators to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to go on with the Tariff now, ‘and not to get into recess and delay the passage of such a necessary measure until the return of the Prime Minister or any other future event. Now is tlie accepted time. The war may end at any moment. It is the unexpected that almost always happens, and one finds from history that great struggles similar in character to the present have ended almost as precipitately as they began. If peace is declared to-morrow, are we prepared with our industrial or commercial wall ? We are not. We are in a condition of absolute unpreparedness. German goods and the cheap-labour goods of other countries will be dumped on to the markets of Australia to the extent of millions of pounds, to the peril, not only of our residents, but of our protected industries as well. I do not wish to say any more upon this subject, except that every honorable senator who believes in the Protectionist policy, and who takes the whole existing circumstances into account, ought to bring as much pressure as he can to bear upon the Government to go on with the Tariff now instead of . going into recess. There is another method by which the resources of Australia may be greatly helped. I have referred to that upon various occasions in this Chamber. I allude to the land question. I am aware that several honorable senators will think that I attach too much importance to this question, and say too much about it - that it is more in my thoughts than any other subject. It is quite true that it is in my thoughts more than any other subject, because I regard it as the most important subject of all. Give me the lands of this country, and I do not care what your currency is, or what system of government you adopt - provided the Government do not take the land from me - I will still be “ top dog.” That position holds good with regard to the owners of land all the time.- Notwithstanding that Australia is a country of wide spaces, great difficulty is experienced in getting land.
– That is nonsense.
– Unfortunately, it is not nonsense.
– The Government of Western Australia are having hundreds of farms thrown on their hands.
– But I would remind the honorable senator that Western Australia is only one part of the Commonwealth of Australia; and if the Government of that State are having hundreds of farms thrown on their hands, that is a very strong argument in favour of my policy, because probably those hundreds of farms are situated in localities far from railway lines.
– No. Most of them are close to railway lines.
– Well, probably the land is of very little value.
– No; they include some of the best wheat-growing land in the State.
– Well, all I can say is that there must be something wrong if hundreds of farms are thrown on the hands of the Government. I do not know what the exact circumstances of the cases referred to by the honorable senator are ; but I do know that all over Australia the demand for land is increasing. In Queensland, whenever a few acres of land are thrown open, there are hundreds of applicants who cannot be satisfied. That condition of affairs obtains right throughout the continent of Australia. We all know that the best portions of this continent were picked by fortunate individuals years ago, and that the small farmer who takes up land is usually placed at a serious disadvantage because he does not get the best land available. This country is still in the hands of the monopolist, although this Parliament for years past has had the power in its hands to hit the monopolist with the bludgeon of land value taxation and give the small man the opportunity of getting land fit to settle upon in small areas.
– We have given the monopolist a gentle poke in the ribs lately.
– But something more than a gentle poke is required. The Government should use a high explosive, and while the Labour party has been in possession of that high explosive for years it has failed to use it. .The Land Tax Act of the Commonwealth is merely tickling the ribs of the monopolist, who is cutting down his 100,000 and 200,000 acre areas to smaller areas; but the man below the £5,000 exemption limit is not benefiting at all. I have given this matter a good deal of attention, and I find that at the end of the last financial year the area of land within the scope of the land value tax was actually greater than when the tax was imposed. If the tax had been doing its work and cutting down big estates into small farms that would not have been the case.
– Might it not have been due to the fact that a large area of land previously thrown open had been taken up by men for settlement ?
– I do not know. All I know is that the area included in holdings over the £5,000 exemption mark was greater at the end of the last financial year than it was when the tax was imposed. A man having a holding worth £5,000 unimproved value cannot be said to be a small farmer. I do not believe there is a single small farmer in Queensland the unimproved value of whose holding is more than £5,000. I am told that in Victoria a man cannot make a living on an area the unimproved value of which is much less than £5,000; but I know that in Queensland dozens of families are making a good living on holdings below £500 in value.
– You have just as much poverty amongst the small holders in Queensland as in the other States.
– I am not talking about riches or poverty, but whether the land is in the hands of the small people. My inquiries have demonstrated that it is. If the honorable senator means by the interjection that small holdings are undesirable because those who have them do not make a good livelihood out of them, that brings to view another aspect of the question. I know that the people to whom I refer are not wealthy, but they are making, in many cases, a good living, though perhaps they are not putting much in the bank. The average worker is not doing that either, nor does he expect to be able to do it. I say, however, it is much better that land should be available for those people than that the present state of things should be allowed to continue. Then there is the problem of the growing population in our cities. Surely in a country like Australia, the undue increase of city populations is an exceedingly unhealthy state of affairs. Since the war began I have carefully examined the returns of recruits obtained from the country and the cities respectively. The country returns have shown 100 enlisted, 75 accepted, and 25 rejected; and, as a rule, the city returns have shown for every 100 enlistments 50 rejected men. If these returns are of any value, the country man is shown to be better, from a physical stand-point, than the city man. I have compared the lists in Melbourne and Sydney, and invariably there is a much larger percentage of recruits accepted in the country districts than in the cities.
– We do not know that, because most of the men recruited in the outside districts are roughly passed by the doctor, and sent to the cities to be further examined.
– I have taken my figures from the Melbourne and Sydney papers, and I assume that they are fairly reliable. But we do not require those statistics to prove the superior physique of the country man, as compared with the man who lives in the cities. We all know that the physique of the man leading a country, life is immeasurably superior to that of a man in the cities.
– But modern sanitary science is rapidly making the cities more desirable to live in than the country.
– I am quite aware that sanitary science is making the cities more desirable as places of residence than country districts, and that some diseases which used to be prevalent both in country and town have practically disappeared from the cities, because of improved sanitary arrangements. As against that, we have to remember that the welfare of the race depends, to a very large extent, upon the female section of the population - upon the circumstances under which each woman lives up to the age of reproduction. Will any one tell me that a young woman who has spent her life from fourteen years of age up to the time of her marriage in, say, a draper’s shop, where the atmosphere is vitiated, is likely, to be as good a mother, and produce children as healthy, as a young woman brought up on a farm? This argument may also be applied to the men. Can any one imagine that a city man, working under an artificial light from day to day, can have as good a physique as the timber-getter, the ploughman, the miner, the shearer, or the labourer, or any of those men who earn their living in the bush districts of Australia? The thing is impossible. Therefore I say that, from this point of view, something ought to be done to stem this drift towards the cities. It is undoubtedly taking place in Australia, as in almost every other country in the world; and it had its origin, in other countries, just as in Australia, in the system of landlordism. I was brought up in a part of the British Empire which at one time carried double the population that it has to-day. It has since practically been depopulated and given over to American millionaires as a game preserve. During the Peninsular Wars, thousands and thousands of the finest men in Europe were sent from the place to which I allude. Where ten men were sent then, I doubt if one could be sent to-day. Will any one say that this kind of policy is going to result in good for Great Britain and the Empire? This condition is due to the iniquitous system of landlordism, which is producing the same results in Australia. What depopulated Ireland? Was it not landlordism? About fifty years ago there were nearly ten millions of people in Ireland, and to-day there is hardly half that number. They were driven out of their own country by the iniquitous landlord system which prevailed, but which, I am glad to say, does not obtain to such an extent now. Exactly the same state of affairs in Australia is producing the same results. We have a condition of landlordism here which OUtherods Herod. I do not care where you go you will not find such a huge proportion of the land surface in the hands of so few people as you will find in Australia. Canada is a country very similar to Australia, but we do not find such a condition of landlordism there. There are comparatively few very large estates in Canada, and even the railway companies - those monuments of Conservatism - adopt a system which every Australian Government would do well to adopt. The railways in Canada belong to private companies that have been subsidized by the Government with grants of money and with grants of land. So many miles along each side of the railway lines have been handed over to the companies by the Government. What do the companies do with this land ? They first of all classify it. Close to the railway line the usual area given is 160 acres, or what is called a quarter section. Going back from the railway the area is increased to half a section, and still further back to a full section of 640 acres, but I do not think there are many holdings even of that area in Canada. The railway companies will not allow any man to hold more than 160 acres of land along the railway line. If a man wishes to sell out he must do so to another who will occupy and work the holding or he must sell to the company. On no account will the company allow one man to hold more than a single quarter section along the railway line. That is the policy which the railway companies of Canada have adopted in their own interests. They want to have families settled on the land. They want production and population. Every additional family settled on the land and every cultivated quarter section means more traffic for the railway. What is the case here in Australia? Let us consider what obtains in Victoria - the most thickly-populated portion of the
Commonwealth. You can go for miles upon miles along the railway lines in some districts in Victoria without seeing a single house or any evidence of a single settler. Yet all that land is held by somebody in large estates. I very often read in the newspapers about the 5,000 miles of railway lines they have in Queensland. I say that they have 2,500 miles too many. In that State you can travel along the railway line for a day in some districts and you will hardly see a single human being or a habitation. This i3 the kind of thing which is driving the country people of Australia into the cities, and which is against the interests of those who live in the cities, who, if proper conditions were offered them, would be glad to leave the pavements and get out into the bush. I ask the State Governments of Australia to take a leaf out of the book of the Canadian railway companies. If they do, we shall see that settlement will be very much increased in the near future. This is a matter over which the Federal Parliament has no control. But we can do some’thing very much more effective in the way of breaking up large estates than we have yet done. We have the power to break up every large estate in Australia if we only exercise it. Unfortunately there is a limit below which at present we cannot go. There is an exemption of £5,000. Although I am pledged to vote for that exemption, I am satisfied that no substantial good to the people of Australia in connexion with land settlement will ever be done until this exemption of £5,000 is swept away. I have been giving this question the closest consideration for years, and that is the conclusion to which I have come. I am aware that many members of the Labour party think it undesirable to reduce the exemption, but our present land tax is not breaking up big estates to any extent. It is not helping the small holder and is not making land cheaper for us. If it fails in that, it fails in one of the purposes which the Labour party had in placing land value taxation upon its platform. We might go much further with this taxation than we have done. We want revenue, and have attempted to get it in various directions. We have imposed a very stiff income fax, and we have a Federal income tax as well as a State income tax. Whilst I do not object in the slightest to either of these taxes, and am of opinion that in the present circumstances they might both be very much higher than they are, I want to point out that income taxation, if it does not hinder, does not stimulate industry. What might be the effect of land-value taxation? If every big estate were broken up and the land made available to the people, the result would Be, if conditions of settlement were made as favorable as they ought to be, that in the next few years hundreds of thousands of people would be settled upon the lands of Australia. Would not that be an immense stimulus to industry? Let honorable senators consider what that would do for production. The State and Federal Governments are making experiments in fixing prices, but they have not attempted to fix the price of anything except foodstuffs. It seems to me. to be a paradox of the strangest character that in a country like Australia it should be necessary to fix the price of foodstuffs at all. Surely if the people had access to the land, food here would be abundant, and, being abundant, would be cheap. One need not wonder at the prices of foodstuffs rising when the non-food-=producing portion of our population in the cities is equal to, if not greater, than the number of the people on the soil of Australia who are producing food. The disproportion is becoming every year greater. We have more people in the cities consuming food, and fewer people on the land producing it. This does not apply to Australia alone. It is world-wide phenomenon. How can we wonder that the cost of food goes up unduly? There is ^another aspect of the question to be considered. A few years ago, the United States of America was a very large exporter of meat. She is now importing meat, and has none to export. Canada some time ago sent considerable numbers of cattle to Great Britain. I believe she now finds her market for them across her border in the United States of America. The result is that very few, if any, Canadian cattle now find their way to the United Kingdom. But while we find that the United States of America has become an importer instead of an exporter of meat, almost every country in Europe requires to import meat and other foodstuffs, although but a short time ago most of them produced, at least, enough for their own consumption. Again, the people of the East, who hitherto have not been meat consumers, are beginning to eat meat in comparatively large quantities. We are sending considerable quantities of meat to the East from Australia. The probability is that this trade will continue to expand. If all these circumstances are taken intoaccount, need we wonder that the cost of living is going up in Australia, that meat is becoming dearer? What I have said regarding meat applies to a certain extent also to wheat. Probably in the next twenty years the condition I have indicated will be very much more acute than it is at the present moment. I say that the only way to bring down the cost of living to a proper level is to encourage by every possible means the settlement of people on the land to grow food for themselves and others. You may fix prices if you please. You may say to the meat grower, “You shall not get more than a certain amount for your bullock “ ; to the butter producers, “ We will not give more than1s. 2d. per lb. for your butter.” We may say the same to the milk producer, and to every one of our producers. We can fix prices for them, but we cannot compel them to produce if the prices we fix do not pay them. There is very strong evidence to-day of a kind of strike on the part of a considerable section of our food producers. Therefore, I say this question of land settlement is one which the Government of the Commonwealth ought to seriously consider. The existence of Australia as a nation is at stake. We are not out of the wood yet, and we do not know that we will ever get out of it. But we do know that if we were out of it to-morrow there will inevitably come another occasion when Australia will be in just as much danger as she is now, and when the circumstances affecting her existence as a community will be more serious than they are to-day. Every man here ought to set himself deliberately to try to place Australia in such a position that when that time comes she will be better prepared to defend herself than she is now. There are not 5,000,000 people in this country, and I have said time and again that there ought to be 25,000,000. There is room and to spare for 100,000,000 people here. I say that Australia will never be safe from foreign invasion until she is not dependent on Britain, France, Russia, or any other country for her independence, but upon her own strong right arm. It is the duty of every man in this Commonwealth to strain every nerve to bring Australia into the position I have indicated. Who knows what the immediate future may produce? We have a combination of countries acting together to-day which, within my own memory, were most bitter foes. In the early fifties France and Britain fought Russia. A little earlier Germany, Britain, and a combination of other countries fought France, and the near future may produce a combination altogether different from that which we have at the present time. There is no course of safety open to Australia unless she adopts a national policy which will guarantee her a very much larger population within a comparatively short period of time. The Labour party has such a policy upon its platform, and it only wants the courage to put it into force. We are pledged to a Protectionist Tariff and to land-value taxation, but instead of grasping the nettle firmly, we approach both subjects timidly and hesitatingly. We touch them to see whether or not they are hot. That is not the way in which nations are built up. If there ever was a time when the Parliament and Government of this country should reach out boldly, and do something effective to open the resources of Australia to the people and add to her population, this is such a time. When the war is over, I have not the slightest doubt that a great many people in Europe will be disposed to leave that continent if they can only find a city of refuge to go to. I say that Australia is that city. We could offer a home to the people of France, Belgium,Britain, and. Russia - because we have a considerable number of Russians in Australia now, and they are excellent colonists - andI will say, in passing, of the enemy, although, perhaps, it is not right that anything good should be said of him now, that in the past we have found our German settlers to be men of the very best calibre, and but for the war we should still be glad to welcome them as colonists. Unfortunately, this dreadful outbreak has given us for the time a different conception of the German character ; hut, in any case, when the war is over and things begin to settle down, there will be a large number of people desirous of improving their material conditions, and on no portion of the earth’s surface is the opportunity greater for them to do so than it is. here. If Parliament rises to the occasion, and places on the statute-hook such a Tariff as will create industries rather than produce revenue; if Parliament will break up every large estate and reduce the exemption under the land tax so as to enable small holdings to be obtained at a comparatively cheap rate by a certain section of the people, we shall be within measurable distance of the solution of the problems that now puzzle us. There is another branch of politics which has not had the attention it deserves. We are at war, and spending huge sums of money. If any one had ventured a few years ago to name these amounts as likely expenditure, he would have been laughed at; yet we are borrowing money,1 I suppose, by the hundred million, and are paying interest for it. We must have money as well as men if we are to carry on the war. Parks of artillery and mountains of shells would be of no use if we had not the men to handle them. We are getting money for these purposes in the good old way. I do not blame any one, for it is very easy, and perhaps safer, to move along the beaten track; but if “Every one kept to the beaten track there would be no progress. Australia has lind an opportunity of giving a lead to the world in war finance, but she has allowed it to slip. We are allowing people who lend us the money we require interest at 4£ per cent., with special privileges, and the loan is to be repaid in ten years. The arrangement means that when we borrow, nominally, £50,000,000, we borrow £75,000,000 in reality. When we borrow, nominally, £100,000,000, we borrow £150,000,000 in reality, because that is what we shall have to pay in principal and interest. That is a most serious burden on the people, and its effect will be felt for generations to come. If there were no other way, I should make no complaint. Every man ought to be prepared to do what he can to save the country in the present crisis. The man with money ought to be prepared, if necessary, at the call of the Commonwealth to contribute the last farthing of his substance, just as every man ought to be ready to go to the front and fight if he is able to do so. Young and old, rich and poor, ought to be prepared to do something. If no other course than the present were possible, I should, as I say, not complain; but, with all deference to men who probably have more right to be con- sidered experts in finance than myself, I assert that another course was possible, and ought to have been taken. It has been claimed, on behalf of the exTreasurer, that he consulted the highest authorities available before floating the first war loan. I have no doubt he did; but in doing so he consulted men interested in maintaining the present system - men whose occupation would be practically gone if that system were abolished. He consulted men from whom no other advice was possible, and therefore the advice came from a source which cannot be taken without reserve. A large sum has been borrowed already, and more is to be borrowed; but no one imagines that the Government has got a sovereign for every £1 borrowed. I do not think it has received even a £l-note. What it has got is credit, and the issuers of that credit are the private banking companies. What is the foundation of their credit system? There is in existence a certain gold reserve, and we are told that on this the whole institution of credit rests. If that was all our credit system rested upon, it would not be worth a snap of the fingers, because when wanted it is invariably not there. There is not enough gold in the world to do one-hundredth part of the business of the world. Gold, as a matter of fact, is the mere nominal foundation of credit. It reminds me of the fire-escape in a theatre, which is placarded in big letters, but when a fire takes place is almost invariably useless.
– It is the tailor’s measure-stick.
– Gold is something more than a yard-stick ; it is at once a commodity and a measure of value ; but if credit rested upon nothing but gold, it would be like a house built upon sand. Our credit rests upon something much more substantial. It rests upon the assets of the country - the land, the industries, the machinery, and all the other resources of the community. If the banks can so manipulate those assets as to issue credit upon them, the Commonwealth can do the same. Whatever the Treasurer or any other financial authority may say, the system I advocate is not only capable of being, but should be, carried out. I have considered the question of whether money raised for this war should carry interest, and haw come to the conclusion that it should not. Everything we have in Australia is in jeopardy. If the Allies were defeated, and Germany triumphant, it would be of no advantage to me to own £1,000,000 worth of property. Probably the Kaiser would confiscate every farthing of it, and make me a donkey-driver. Would not I rather give one-tenth, or a half, or even the lot, to be saved from that degradation? Would I not do that rather than offer the Government £20,000 or £100,000 at 4£ per cent? When the very existence of a country is in danger, every man ought to be prepared to give all he has, and do all he can, not for interest or for payment, but for nothing. That is probably a new aspect of the question to some people. In by-gone days England fought many of her battles on the Continent of Europe with the arms of mercenaries. It did not matter to them whom they fought for or against, so long as they were paid for their hire. They were soldiers by instinct and by profession, and fought under any flag. It was even said that many of them had fought under every flag in Europe; and they were called mercenaries to distinguish them from the patriots who defended their country for a bare living, just because it was their country. That is the only basis upon which the defence of a country can be placed. Those who have money ought to be prepared to give it without interest, and those who can fight ought to fight - not because they are paid for fighting, but because it is their country, and they desire to maintain its liberties. A great number of comparatively poor people ask straight out what they have to fight for. I would ask them, in turn, in what country would they find themselves in a better position than they are in here. I do not say the working people of Australia are as well off as they ought to be, or as I wish them to be. I have been doing my little bit for twenty years to improve their conditions, which are much better to-day than when I and a number of others began; but we are still only on the threshold of reform. If they were in Russia they would not have a vote for members of Parliament, nor would they have Arbitration Courts, Wages Boards, an eight-hours day, or a great many other privileges they enjoy here. They would be practically serfs.
And even in Great Britain, the most liberallygoverned country in Europe, they would not be on an equality with the working people of this country. The government of Australia is practically in the hands of the working man and of his wife and daughter. The people of Australia are its rulers. If men are not prepared to fight for a country which they themselves rule, what would they do if they lived in a country which they did not rule, or in the government of which they had very little say? In any of the European countries they would have to fight if the occasion arose. That would be the case even in the United States of America, which is supposed to be one of the freest countries of all. Wherever men live, if the Government requires their services to defend the country, they must fight. How much more necessary is it that in a country like Australia every man should be prepared to take the sword in hand and go forth to defend his country? But I am getting away from the money aspect of the question. I am not only in favour of every man being available for the defence of his country, but I am also in favour of the entire resources of the country being placed at the disposal of the Government. I said. some time ago, when moving an amendment upon the Loan Bill, that the then Treasurer, Mr. Fisher, had an excellent opportunity to try the mettle of the capitalists of Australia by inviting them to give a loan without interest. But he did not do that.. Instead, he took the advice of those financiers themselves, and he invited subscriptions at 4$ per cent., with exemption from State and Federal income tax.-. Then, when some one questioned his successor on the subject, he was told that it would mean ruin if any such course as I have proposed were taken. I do not think it would. I cannot see how, if a matter of this kind were approached in a businesslike way, it would mean any greater ruin than the present system. We have already received nearly £100,000,000, and I do not see that any ruin has eventuated. We will probably have to raise another £100,000,000 before the war is over, and I believe that, while some dislocation of business may result - which, I think, is inevitable - there will not be anything like widespread ruin so long as we can get good seasons in Australia, and good prices for our produce exported to other parts of the world. If the Treasurer had given the capitalists of Australia the opportunity I have indicated, and if they had failed to respond, what could have been done? He had the wealth census before him showing the position of every man in Australia, and he could have made a levy upon the wealth, making the impost on a graduated scale.
– Would you have any exemptions ?
– Yes, for I believe in the old Scotch axiom, “ You cannot take the breeks off a Hielanman,” which, being interpreted, means you cannot take the trousers off a Scotchman. This saying became a proverb, because at that particular time Scotchmen did not wear trousers. You cannot get blood out of a stone, or money out of people who have not got it.
– You can make them pay Customs duties.
– Yes, I am aware of that. Senator Ready has asked me if I would have an exemption. I would, most undoubtedly, but that is a detail which would have to be worked out. The contributions, or forced loans, whatever you like to call them, would be on a graduated scale. Suppose the exemption were fixed at £2,000 worth of property. 1 would not ask a man who owned only £2,000 to give as big a proportion of it as the man who owned £10,000, nor would I ask the man with £10,000 worth of property to pay as much as the man who had’ £20,000. The proportion would be graduated until the very richest were called upon to pay the largest proportions. Now, how would the money be raised? The Treasurer said that such a course would bring about ruin and the collapse of industry. I do not believe a word of it. If the banks can raise millions upon credit - and that- is what they are doing - the Commonwealth can do tile same.
– Do you not think a compulsory war levy would depreciate the value of other investments ?
– Is the honorable senator aware that the present war loan, carrying interest, is depreciating other securities ? When the war is over he will see to what extent other securities have been so depreciated. If the banks can raise all the millions which are being poured into the Loan Fund on the credit ot the assets which they have behind them, the Commonwealth can do the same, through the Commonwealth Bank. In his Budget speech the Treasurer stated that the wealth of Australia was, approximately, £1,000,000,000. I have read elsewhere, on the authority, I believe, of the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, that the accumulated wealth of Australia is not £1,000,000,000 but £2,000,000,000, and I believe the financial editor of that newspaper is in just as good a position to make an estimate as anyone else. Now, suppose the accumulated wealth of Australia is £2,000,000,000. Five per cent, on that would mean £100,000,000. Suppose, however, we say that half of that sum, or £1,000,000,000, belongs to people who would come within the exemption. We would still have £i;000,000,000 upon which to levy o per cent., which would bring us in £50,000,000. Suppose the Commonwealth Government made this levy. Some people would, no doubt, be able to meet it without calling upon their bankers at all, but there would be comparatively few. I have no doubt that a considerable number would have to make arrangements with their own private bankers, but many would not be in a position to do so. Suppose that half of these people, representing a levy of £25,000,000, could not make an equitable arrangement with their bankers, the Commonwealth Government could take them in hand, just as the private bankers are doing at the present moment, and advance £25,000,000 on the credit of their assets. “In all financial transactions that is what the private banks are doing to-day. A good bank manager ought to have no difficulty whatever in carrying through a business matter of this sort. Let me give honorable senators a concrete case. Suppose Senator Ready had property worth £10,000, and 5 per cent., representing £500, was levied upon him. Suppose the honorable senator could not get this advance from his own bank. What would he do? He could go to the Commonwealth. Bank, state his position, and get from that institution an advance of £500 on the security of a mortgage over his estate, valued at £10,000.
– But suppose the property was already mortgaged ?
– The Crown would not take a second mortgage for war purposes. It would have a first mortgage. Having received that advance from the bank, Senator Ready would pay it to the Treasurer as his contribution to the war levy. From my point of view, it would be just as easy for the Commonwealth Bank to do this as it would be for the private banks to do it. No man ought to look upon money invested for the defence of his country in the same way as an ordinary investment. If I were voyaging to Tasmania, and had a thousand sovereigns in the vessel, would I hesitate to jettison it if, during a storm, the officer in command declared that everything must be thrown overboard ? If I did hesitate, the chances are that not only would my gold be thrown overboard, but that I would be thrown overboard myself. Likewise, every mau ought to be prepared to sacrifice all he has when the country is in danger. I believe that every man would be ready to do that if he were placed in the proper position, if the danger were sufficiently imminent for him to appreciate it. What would the people of Belgium give to-day to be rid of the Germans ? I believe that they would give all they have, though I am afraid that the Germans have taken it by forced loans already. If, when they requisition anything, it is refused, they have a summary way of dealing with the people.
– Does the honorable senator propose that this loan should be repaid in ten years?
– I have not made any proposition of that character, but I say that it ought to be repaid as soon as the country is able to pay it. If Great Britain fails in this war, the people who have subscribed to this loan will lose all, and a great deal besides. Every ounce of gold in their coffers will be taken from them, and all property will be confiscated by the conquerors. That would be the experience not only of the banks, but of every citizen of Australia who is worth powder and shot. It is to save them from this catastrophe that they are subscribing this money, and yet some people dare to have the assurance to say that money subscribed for such a purpose should be placed in the same category as money invested in profit-making enterprises. The thing is ridiculous.
– D - Do you mean to say that the whole of the money controlled by the banking companies belongs to big capitalists ? Is not the ownership of it spread amongst tens of thousands of people ?
– I do not know that it is. After providing for all its liabilities and leaving an ample margin to carry on its business, a bank mighthave £i,000,000 which it could afford to put into the war loan at 4£ per cent., with exemption from income tax.
– But But that £1,000,000 would belong to a great number of people.
– In my opinion, it would belong to the shareholders of the bank. I. have dwelt sufficiently long on that aspect of the question. I do not hope to convert honorable senators to my way of thinking in this matter.
– T - The honorable senator’s theory is a beautiful one if it could be worked out.
– I think it is just as easy to work out as it is beautiful in appearance. It only wants a strong hand to grip it and work it out. There is another aspect of the war loans which I desire to put before the Senate. I have often heard and read, in peace time, a statement to the effect that before any country can declare war it has to consult the capitalists who own the wealth of the country. If the capitalists say “Yes,” war eventuates, and if they say “No,” peace reigns for the time being. I have heard also, and it is a matter of public knowledge, that the accumulations of capital throughout Europe, America, and all the civilized world during the last century have been so rapid and so extensive that large capitalists have, at times, had serious difficulty in finding in. vestments for their surplus wealth, and that it was quite a common thing for them, when they found themselves in that position, to promote war, because it is very well known that nothing dissipates wealth so quickly as does war. Let honorable senators consider the thousands of millions that have been spent in the present war. What is the result of it? Destruction. Nothing has been made, but f, great deal has been unmade. The result will be that, when the war is over and these thousands of millions have been spent, tangible investments will remain, so far as the capitalists are concerned, earning 5 per cent, in some countries, and 4£ per cent, in others. Very few small men have contributed to war loans compared with the number of large capitalists who have invested in them. The bulk of the money provided here and in Europe has been contributed by big capitalists, and, after all this destruction, waste, and devastation, it will remain for them a tangible investment, returning a substantial rate of interest, which the unfortunate toilers and spinners of wealth will have to pay for untold generations. If there be a scintilla of truth in what I have said, and if it be to the interest of the capitalist at times to promote war, would not this principle of the abolition of interest on moneys raised for war which I am advocating tend very largely to prevent war taking place? If these big capitalists could not make a profit out of a war, would they not be anxious to restrain the nation when it wanted to go to war? At present they make a profit of from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent, out of war, and if the capitalist when he asked : “ Where do I come in ? What am I going to make out of it?” knew that the answer would be that he would make nothing out of it, do honorable senators not think that his influence, and it is a great one, would be cast into the scale against war? I think it would, inevitably, and the carrying out of the principle I have advocated would go a great way to promote peace and harmony among the nations of mankind. I submit it to the Senate, confident that it is a good system, and that, in its result, so far as the unfortunate people who have to carry the burden of war are concerned, and so far, also, as the tendency to indulge in war is concerned, it would be of very great benefit indeed to civilization. I have said about all I desire to say on the present occasion. I trust that honorable senators will take into very serious consideration the question of developing the resources of this great country. I hope that they will insist upon the consideration of the Tariff being gone on with at once. We need a Protectionist and not a revenue-producing Tariff. We need one which will create industry and dot factories all over Australia. I hope that honorable senators will also demand a. policy for opening up the lands of thecountry so that tens of thousands of happy families may be planted on what now is a. wilderness.
– There are one or two matters upon which one may speak on the first readingof a Bill like this more readily than upon, any other measure, or even upon a substantive motion. I wish to refer to theaction of the Government, as far as wears aware of it, in fixing the prices of foodstuffs. I desire, if possible, to learn from the Minister in charge of the Bill how we stand in this matter. Both those who buy commodities and those who produce them desire to know where they stand. Most of us have been made to look remarkably stupid in connexion with this matter. The fixing of prices seems to me to be just a part of the organization of industry. But the whole thing is ina very chaotic state at present. All that has been so far done in this direction by the different Governments appears to> have been purely experimental, with theobject of discovering what the powers of the Governments are to regulate pricesfor the advantage of the people. When the Senate rose at the conclusion of the last series of meetings this matter had been discussed, and honorable senators were informed time and again that the Government had not the power to fix prices unless the referenda proposals were carried or martial law were declared throughout Australia. Very few members of this Parliament declined to accept that view. One or two deserve considerable credit, because, in spite of all that was said by Ministers, on the advice of the Crown Law officers, they refused te* believe that the Commonwealth Government had not the power to do these: things. I refer particularly to the honorable members for Bourke and Ballarat, who contended that the Government had the power provided they were prepared to exercise it. I have said that some members of this Parliament were made to look foolish in connexion with this matter. A number of us went up to Queensland to take part in the contest for the Wide Bayseat. We, unfortunately, lost that seat,, but that did not surprise me very much. We were continually asked in the Wide Bay district, “Why do not the Government do something to regulate prices?”
The only answer we were able to give vas that the matter had been debated and considered, and that without a declaration of martial law the Government had not the power to fix prices. The explanation was generally received in the spirit in which it was given, and was believed by i ite people to whom it was made. After a time, however, we woke up in Brisbane to “find that a proclamation had been issued fixing the prices of flour and bread for Brisbane and the district within a radius of about 13 miles. The people said, “ We thought you told us that the Government had not the power to do this sort of thing?” We had no excuse to offer. All we could say was that Ministers and the Crown Law officers had apparently altered their opinion, and had come to the conclusion that, notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary, they had the power to fix prices. We looked around .to find the reason. The only reason that I could dis.cover from, the press was contained in a telegram purporting to give the information supplied by the Acting Prime Minister to the representative of a. Melbournejournal to the effect that in the various States, with the exception of Western Australia and Tasmania, Necessary Commodities Boards had been appointed, to whom the Government had given the power to fix prices. In Western Australia it was said that the Government tried to do something in the same direction, but the Legislative Council blocked their attempt, and it was therefore necessary for the Com-‘ monwealth Government to step in and relieve that State from the position into which it was forced by the Legislative Council.
– My statement must have been severely mangled before it reached Brisbane.
– I have given the information sent by wire to Brisbane, as coming from the Acting Prime Minister.
– I think I have a case for libel against J;he newspaper publishing that wire.
– If the honorable senator will turn up the files of Brisbane newspapers, he will find that I have stated the matter correctly. I have said that a proclamation was issued, and a week or ten days later we found the Necessary Commodities Board in Queensland issuing another proclamation. The proclama tion issued by the Commonwealth Government under the War Precautions Act was that £11 5s. per ton should be the price paid for flour delivered within proclaimed areas of the Commonwealth other than Western Australia. The price of flour in Brisbane at the time was considerably more than that, and the people naturally thought that this proclamation would afford them considerable relief. But within a week the Queensland Government issued a proclamation to the effect that the price of flour in the southern part of the State was to be £12 5s. per ton. The people then naturally wanted to know whether it was the State Governments or the Commonwealth Government that were’ in power in Australia. The Government of Queensland had been fixing prices in the southern and northern parts of that State for nearly twelve months. Having acquired a considerable amount of information on the subject, they came to the conclusion that they had the power to do this. The only conclusion at which the Queensland people could arrive in the circumstances was that the Commonwealth Government had, without inquiry or information, decided,, in some rule-of-thumb sort of way, that £11 5s. per ton would be a fair price for flour within the areas covered by their proclamation. Honorable senators are, of course, aware that it is almost impossible for the same rate to be applied in Queensland as in Victoria and New South Wales, for the simple reason that Queensland grows comparatively little wheat. Only once in its history has that State grown enough for its own consumption. It is, therefore, usually dependent upon wheat grown in the neighbouring States. The price of flour was supposed to be reduced, by something like £1 per ton, but when the people read down the schedule of prices fixed, they found that the price of bread was fixed at exactly the same rate as that’ which had been fixed by the Necessary Commodities Board for a considerable time previously, except in the case of bread purchased over the counter. Bread delivered at the consumers’ houses was to be 4d. for the 2-lb. loaf, and that is the price that had been charged for a considerable time. The 4-lb. loaf is practically unknown in the Brisbane district. The action of the Commonwealth Government in stepping in, apparently without information or inquiry, and fixing prices, made the whole thing appear ridiculous. When the Federal Government issues a proclamation fixing the price of flour at £11 5s. a ton, and the State issues a proclamation fixing it at £12 5s., both Government and Parliament must look ridiculous in the eye3 of the people, who simply do not know where they are. They want to know which Government is to prevail. They know the State Government has been exercising its authority for twelve months, but they are not sure yet whether the Commonwealth has the power to do what it is trying to do. The State they know has the power permanently. The Commonwealth, apparently, claims it for the period of the War Precautions Act. Price fixing does not often redound to the credit of Governments that undertake it, more especially when entered upon without inquiry or information. Considerable research is required before even the general conditions upon which action is to be taken can be ascertained. The Queensland Government fixed the price of” meat. It took large quantities from the meat works, and in some cases distributed it. In many instances it fixed the price at which butchers could sell. Nobody imagines that the people were not paying more’ than the price fixed for some portions of the beast which they required’,’ and even now the Government is entering into a contract with the meat works in Queensland to supply them with about 12,000 tons, which they propose to distribute through their agencies. They have begun to realize that, in addition to price fixing, they must take up the business of producing, and are now resuming large areas, which are falling in from large holdings, with the object of producing the beef required to feed their own people, because, the mere fixing of prices has satisfied nobody. I have here a number of proclamations on the matter which the average man will never see or know anything about, fixing the prices of wheat, flour, bran, and pollard. The price oi flour in New South Wales, as fixed by law by the Necessary Commodities Board in the county of Cumberland, is £11 per ton ; in Melbourne the Millers Association fixed it at £11 2s. 6d., delivered on trucks at the railway station, with a discount of 2s. 6d. for spot cash ; in Brisbane the price fixed bv the Necessary Commodities Board of Queensland is £12 5s.. yet I understand that the price nf bread in all three centres is exactly the same. Bread delivered for cash in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane costs 4d. In Victoria bran is £5 5s. .per ton, pollard £6 5s. In New South Wales both are £5 a ton. In Brisbane bran is £7 and pollard £7 10s. There is, therefore, a difference between Sydney and Brisbane - although the whole matter is supposed to be regulated by Government - of £2 10s. a ton in the price of pollard, which cannot be accounted for even by the difference in the cost of wheat sent from New South Wales or Victoria to Brisbane and milled there. The Minister in charge of affairs in Brisbane advertised in his own State the proclamations issued in Melbourne on the subject, instead of allowing them to find their way all over the country - a process that might take from six to twelve months. His action, which was quite right, brought the matter under the notice of the people, and made them inquire the reason. The fixing of the price of bread is a very good thing if it can be successfully carried out, but the people of Australia require quite a number of other things just as urgently as bread, and in many cases their price has gone up considerably more than that of bread. I believe the price of meat in Victoria is enormous compared even with Queensland prices, and the same thing applies to a number of other commodities. Bread is as cheap as it has been for some time, but other commodities’ have gone up. A friend of mine wrote to me the other day asking the position of the Federal Parliament and the State authorities in regard to price fixing, and pointed out how foolish we were being made to look. He said the bread question was a very small one in view of the price at which bread was being sold, and sent me a cutting from a newspaper showing what had been done in France - a country which has gone very extensively into the question of price fixing. According to this authority, a telegram sent from Paris on about 11th or 12th April last stated that the French Senate had adopted the principle of fixing by degrees the ‘maximum selling prices of the necessaries of life. The discussion asio what articles should be in the regulations was not ended. The Government proposed to fix the price of bread, meat, milk, butter, imitation butter, eggs, lard, potatoes, sugar, cheese, green vegetables, w:ne. cider, table beer, fertilizers, petroleum, and alcohol for burning purposes.
It was proposed that the period of application should be during the war and three months after its cessation. The price of a number of commodities which the people of Australia require in their every-day life is hitting them a great deal harder than the price of bread, and, although the Government are supposed to have taken a hand, with Boards here and there inquiring, nothing practical has been done - at any rate in Queensland. The people there are at a .considerable disadvantage so far as prices are concerned, although I understand that in Sydney and Melbourne the prices are not as yet fixed by the Commonwealth Government.
– Yes, they are.
– If so, there is another anomaly. According to this document, the Commonwealth Government fixes the price of flour at £11 5s., while the New South Wales Government fixes it at £11.
– Our price includes delivery.
– I have not seen any conditions attached to the Federal proclamation ; and it is also a fact that the Millers Association in Melbourne quote £11 2s. 6d. delivered, with a discount of 2s. 6d’. for spot cash. The Sydney Baily Telegraph of 9th May shows that the New South Wales Government fixed the price, delivered in the “county of Cumberland, at £11 per ton. That is the sort of thing that makes us look ridiculous. If prices are to be fixed, every one should pay the same throughout Australia; but flour is fixed at £12 5s. in Brisbane, £11 2s. 6d. in Melbourne, and £11 in Sydney. Before the Government deals with a matter of this kind, all necessary information should be available, and the proclamation, when issued, should be obeyed by every one in the community. I shall be glad if the Minister will make a statement for circulation throughout the country, to let people know where they stand. We ought to know whether the Commonwealth or the States have the final say. If both have the power, it is not of much use for the Commonwealth to fix the price at 5s. above, or “10s. below, what the State fixes. The result is that none of the people are prepared to take action, and the consumer is not benefited. Senator Gardiner will remember that last year I brought under Iris notice a letter from a friend of mine -who had travelled through the Northern
Territory looking for land, and that the writer stated that the conditions of travel were very bad, long distances up to 80 miles having to be negotiated without water. This was the condition twentyfive or thirty years ago in western Queensland, but travelling there has become comparatively easy since by means of tanks and bores. My friend is a South Australian native, and has always worked on the land. He was in west Queensland shearing and droving for many years, and during the great trouble of 1890 he had to use a “ purser’s name “ before he could get- a job. He and some friends afterwards made a success of hauling timber. A number of them who had been used to sheep came to the conclusion that there must be something in the Northern Territory, and decided to see what the country there was like. These are the very men we want to open up that sort of country. Ten of them were prepared to put in a certain amount of money and select land there, and my friend was delegated to see if land could be secured. He went overland from Winton or Cloncurry, and about three months ago when I met him in Brisbane he told me he had just come from Melbourne, where he had been to see the Minister. He told me also that he could get no satisfaction regarding the matter he went down about, and I advised him to put it on paper and send it to me. He did so, and the letter I have with me is the result. Honorable senators will understand that the matter was before the Minister some time ago, and that he declined to take action; but I am sure the Minister’s attitude cannot be upheld by any member of the Senate, or even of the Government. The letter, which is date*’ Olive Branch, Murgon, 20th April, 1916, is as follows : -
With reference to our conversation in Brisbane about the Northern Territory, and my promise to write to you about the M case, I now take the opportunity of putting the. case before you in writing. M is, or was, at the time I saw him last August, a pack-horse mail contractor, carrying the mails from Bitter Springs to Borroloola, and his contract time had about a year to run, and was on the look out for a block of country to settle on as soon as his contract was up with the mail, and knowing the Territory well, wanted country on or about the Frew River, about southeast of Powell’s Creek. Some time previously B saw a block of country about the Frew River with a good waterhole on it, and took it up, then hawked it round for sale, asking £100 for it, and M gave him £80 for it. M talked the matter over with me. He said he wanted a block of country with water on it, but did not think it was right that he should have to pay a Government servant the amount asked for. I told him it was a scandal, and the Federal Labour Government would not tolerate such things, and I was quite sure they did not know such things were going on. I told him I would bring the matter directly under Mr. Fisher’s notice.
– Was B a Government employee I
– Yes; the letter continues -
I said, further, I would speak to the Administrator when I was in Darwin. However, I did not see the Administrator in Darwin, but spoke to an upstart in the Lands Office there about it. Now, what I say is this: M should get his money back from B, otherwise B should get the sack immediately out of the Government Service. From my point of view, that is the only clean course. The above case was the main thing that took me to Melbourne. I saw Minister Mahon, and he said he could not do anything only issue an order prohibiting Government servants from doing such things. I say if the Government does not give M redress in the way I have suggested, or on similar lines, then they are only holding out a premium for wrong-doing. These are the plain facts of the case. I do not wish you to use M’s name, but you can use mine as much as you wish.
– This is an ex parte statement.
– The letter continues -
I am enclosing you a letter of M’s. I got from him on my return from Melbourne, which you can return to me later on. Although they are both Government servants, in a sense, there is a great difference between the two. B gets a good salary and travelling allowances, and found in horses; whereas the other man is a contractor. Under decent Labour administration, jobbing in land should not be permitted; but officialism up there has run riot.
P.S. - Just now, by way of taking up land, or any of those that are associated with me, the Government actions there are too “ crook ‘’ for me. They are too kind to the monopolists and jobbers for my sort. I have sent word to the chap I left my horses and plant with to sell them.
With kind regards, yours sincerely,
He enclosed to me a letter he had received from the man who had secured this piece of land in the Territory. That letter is as follows: - - Bitter Springs, 15th November, 1915.
Mr. S. Hack,
Just a line to let you know I received your letter of the 5th October. That Elkedia coun try we were speaking about, situated down the telegraph line, B transferred it to me without any trouble. I paid him £80 for it. There are several other blocks down that way held by Government officials, and they are only waiting for somebody to come along, so that they may sell them. I think this ought to beput a stop to. They take up the pick of the country, and stop any one from coming in.
I have told the Minister about these cases. I understand that lately an inquiry hasbeen ordered into matters connected with the Northern Territory, principally thedisagreements between the different officials there. The gentleman appointed, T believe, is a stipendiary magistrate in New South Wales.
– Mr. Barnett.
– Yes ; and I ask the Minister to have a full inquiry madeinto the matter I have referred to. It is scandalous, if true, that Government servants should be allowed to go aboutthrough the country, provided with, horses, and paid travelling allowances, picking up blocks of land like this, with the idea later on of getting some one- else to buy them. My friend told me that he could have got land at Cloncurry, which had been taken up by some of these people, and had been put in the hands of others for sale. I venture tothink that if Senator Gardiner had found such things existing in New South Wales, when he first went into that Parliamenthe would have made strong representations against the practice on the floor of the House. He would havepointed out how unfair it was that people who wanted to take up the country should be mulcted in expenses asindicated in the letter I have read to the Senate. Personally, I do not ‘know anything about the matter, as I have not been to the Territory, but a friend of mine tells me that he would like an opportunity to say a great deal about the administration there. All I am asking is that the Minister in charge of the Department shall see that this matter is inquired into, and, if it is true, as this letter states, that definite action shall be taken, If the man who has made these statementsis not telling the truth, I shall have no hesitation in letting him know it, but I am inclined to believe what he says, and also the statement of the man who paid the money. The Government should lose no time in inquiring into these statements, and, if they are found to be true, should stop what is happening.
– Do you say the officers are land- jobbing ?
– It appears that they are.
– A few days ago I made some reference to recruiting in Australia and mentioned what is known as the “ Brennan episode,” in which Mr. Watt and Mr. Brennan became entangled on the question of enlistment-
– Did those two gentlemen go to the front ?
-That is the point I am coming to. Honorable senators will remember the facts of the case.
– Mr. Watt has had a birthday since then.
– No. I have computed the time carefully, and I find it is only ten months since the incident referred to. The circumstances, of course, are well within the remembrance of all honorable senators. Mr. Brennan made a speech in the Bijou Theatre, and when the report of that speech appeared, Mr. Watt, commenting upon it, referred to Mr. Brennan as a “ pigeon-livered “ man. Mr. Brennan then, in another place, challenged Mr. Watt to enlist. The next morning Mr. Brennan appeared at the recruiting station, but there was no Mr. Watt there.
– He was wanted elsewhere.
-Yes ; and the other night, when I referred to this matter, I mentioned that Mr. Watt had publicly given as his reason for not enlisting the fact that if he had gone to the front and the worst came to the worst, his children would not be sufficiently provided for. I made that statement, but Senator Millen - who, I am sorry to say, is not in attendance to-day, though, I might add, it is almost unique in my experience to find no representative of the “plucky five,” who constitute the Opposition, present - challenged the accuracy of my statement. I gave Senator Millen an assurance that Mr. Watt had made this statement, and, from an experience of five or six years of parliamentary life, I have always understood that an assurance given by one honorable senator would be accepted by another. At all events, while Senator Millen doubted my assurance, I accepted his assurance that the Fusion party had been responsible for the establishment of the
Cordite Factory, the Clothing Factory, the Harness Factory, the Woollen Mills, and the Small Arms Factory, but the Acting Prime Minister came to my assistance, and cleared up that matter. Senator Millen, as I have said, refused to accept my assurance, but since then I have taken the trouble to look up the files, and find that my view of the matter is correct, because, after Mr. Watt had failed to turn up at the recruiting station in answer to Mr. Brennan ‘s challenge, the honorable member for Balaclava gave an explanation at a public meeting in the Armadale Theatre. I have here the report in the Argus of Saturday, 10th July, 1915. It stated that, long before the time for opening the doors, the street was crowded, and the hall was filled to overflowing. Mr. Watt is reported as follows : -
I want to make a frank statement of my own position. It is three months since I began to talk to my wife with growing concern about the gravity of the situation. Right through these weeks, when we have seen the Germans capture vast harvest fields as big as Victoria, and the city of Lemberg, I have said to my wife, “ I think the call will come soon.”
It had not come then, or it had not in Mr. Watt’s opinion. Mr. Watt went on to say -
And she has said, as every woman in similar circumstances has said, “ When your turn comes, go; but what about the young fellows who are not volunteering? Is it not their turn first?”
Now I come to the point of Senator Henderson’s interjection. Mr. Watt continued -
I am sixteen months within the age limit of forty-five. I am a married man. I have four children, the eldest seven years and three months. I have a sister dependent on me. The circumstances of my business and finances are these - that if I went to the war to-morrow, those children would bo indifferently provided for; but there are ways of financing that.
That is the statement I made, and I gave an assurance to Senator Millen that Mr. Watt had declared publicly that, in the event of his having to go to the front, his children would not be sufficiently provided for.
– Yet this man advocates conscription.
– Yes ; this is the man who is playing understudy to Sir William Irvine, the apostle of conscription in Victoria.
– H - How many children of other married men who have enlisted have been provided for?
- Mr. Watt, Sir William Irvine, and other men of that kidney have, for the past sixteen months, been describing as “ loafers,” “ shirkers,” and “ rotters “ men who failed to enlist whether they had families or not dependent on them. But, of course, what is good enough for John Smith’s seven children is not good enough for Mr. Watt’s four children, the eldest of whom is seven years and three months. Mr. Watt is further reported to have said -
For Ave and a half years I held the office of Treasurer of this State, during which time the business I then held went down to nearly nothing, because I devoted nearly the whole of my time to my office. (Cheers.)
The audience cheered Mr. Watt because he stated that, during his long occupancy of the office of Treasurer of Victoria, he devoted, not the whole of his time, but nearly the whole of his time, to his duties -
My circumstances, therefore, are not prosperous, and no man can go to war impulsively without casting up all the facts that relate, not merely to himself, but to those who are near and dear to hi-m. No man who volunteers regardless of consideration of those he has brought into the world is worth a dUmp as a British fighting mun. I am not convinced yet that my call has come. Until the young mcn volunteer, the middle-aged men should hold back until the second call comes.
Now I am wondering whether, in the opinion of Mr. Watt, the second call has come yet, or how many calls will be required to get him to go to the front. This grandiloquent speaker, this man who is in favour of conscription, continued to show that he was brave at heart, for, at the meeting I refer to he said, as reported in the Argus -
But I have been challenged by Mr. Brennan, and my honour and reputation for courage are at stake, and although in ordinary times I would not permit any man to decide for me, the circumstances are such that I must give a response to that challenge.
Mr. Watt evidently had thought it right that he should reply publicly to Mr. Brennan’s challenge, and so he said -
I will give it to-night. I will go to-morrow morning - (loud cheers) - at any time - (renewed cheers).
Naturally, the people cheered when Mr. Watt declared that he was going, thinking that he was going to the front, and they renewed the cheers when he said he was going in the morning. But let me tell the Senate in Mr. Watt’s own words what he said -
I will go to-morrow morning - (loud cheers)1 - at any time - (renewed cheers) - I can arrange with the Prime Minister, cither with or without Mr. Brennan. .
So it was not to the front that Mr. Watt was going in the morning with his fellow Australian soldiers, but to the office of the Prime Minister, to let him decide -
I will tell him the facts of my life as I have-, roughly told you, and if he says it is up tome to go, I will volunteer within half-an-hour.
– Would Mr. Watt consult Mr. Fisher on any political question?
– I think this subject of enlistment is about the only one upon which Mr. Watt would approach anybody else on, judging by his assurance. Mr. Watt added -
If Mr. Fisher does not care to assume the responsibility of adjudicating on this case, I shall cut my own road through the forest.
– He is still hacking.
– Presumably, h& is, because he has not yet cut his way through the forest. In my opinion, Mr. Watt and Sir William Irvine have had a most detrimental effect on recruiting in. Victoria. Mr. Watt has reached a plane, I will not say whether by ascending or descending, when he has become a publicnuisance. It is my opinion that, having placed himself in so ridiculous a position, every time he gets upon a public plat- form. for one person whom he induces to enlist, he drives five away. I think that, for one person whom Sir William Irvine h;is induced to enlist, he has driven ten away.
– All the railway men? take notice of him.
– I remarked the other night that the railway men and workers of Australia must have very short memories, otherwise every time Sir William Irvine mounted a platform to advocate recruiting in the name of liberty. he would be howled off it. Seeing that ten out of the sixteen months whichhad to elapse before Mr. Watt reached the. age of forty-five years have passed, we may well look forward to the time, six months hence, when Mr. Watt, like so many others who have reached that age, will be making public statements to thiseffect, “ If I were only within the eligible ages, there would be no necessity for compulsion.” I think the Defence Department would have been well advised, inr the interests of recruiting, if they had asked Mr. Watt and Sir William Irvine to cease addressing public meetings in Victoria. Another phase of the enlistment question carries me back to the time when this Parliament adjourned in November last. If my memory serves me rightly, the last sitting day of that period of the session was the 12th November, and when we adjourned it was believed that we would not meet again until about the middle of May. Nothing was said at that time about the issue of enlistment cards to all the eligible men in Australia. But two or three days before the adjournment tooK place, in order to allow Mr. Hughes to go on what, in my opinion, was his self-invited trip to Great Britain, -it was announced in the press that that gentleman or the Government, on behalf of the people of Australia, had made an offer of another 50,000 troops to the Allied Forces. It was announced at the same time that cards of inquiry would be sent out to all the eligible men in Australia, asking them to answer three questions : (I) Are you prepared to enlist? (2) Are you prepared to enlist at a later date, if not now? (3) If not, why not? What are your reasons for refusing to enlist? I take no exception to questions 1 and 2. I think that no reasonable person would take, exception to them, but I do say that Mr. Hughes, or the Government, had no right or authority to ask men of military age in Australia to give reasons for their non-enlistment, then or at any other time. If there were good and sufficient reasons for putting these questions to the men, Mr. Hughes, or the Government, had no right to go behind the back of Parliament fo propound them. It must be apparent that Mr. Hughes, or the Government, riad the offer of troops to which I have referred, and the issue of these enlistment cards up their sleeve while Parliament was sitting, and it was not too much to expect that Parliament would be informed of the intention to put these questions to men of military age in Australia. T say that Mr. Hughes took too much upon himself when he put question 3 to the men of Australia. When these questions were issued, it was pretty generally believed that it was not compulsory upon the men to answer them. I think that Senator Pearce went so far as to make a public or a semi-public statement that no offence would be committed if those who received the cards did not answer the questions. At that time, I suppose, the issue of the cards and the whole proceedings had not been brought under the War Precautions Act. These things I gathered from the progress of events as disclosed by the Melbourne daily newspapers, because I was in Melbourne at the time. It occurred to me that Senator Pearce or the Government subsequently came to the decision, on the advice of Mr. Hughes, that by the issue of a proclamation it should be made a penal offence for any person to whom a card was issued not to return replies to the three questions. In the meantime, some Labour organizations had gone so far as to pass resolutions opposing the issue of the cards, and advising men not to reply to the questions. That was no .crime in the early stages, and it did not appear to me that it would be an offence until the whole proceedings were covered by the issue of the proclamation under the War Precautions Act. What was the attitude of Australia’s Prime Minister regarding the unions which passed these or similar resolutions ? What was the effect upon Mr. Fred. Katz, who moved one of these resolutions at a meeting of the Clerks Union? The treatment handed out to Mr. Katz on that occasion was, I suppose, another instance of that British fair play and liberty that we hear so much about to-day. So far as I could judge the situation, I had every sympathy for Mr. Katz because of the indignity to which he was subjected and the brutality with which he was assaulted.
– He could not have been treated worse in Germany.
– I agree with Senator McKissock that he could not have been treated worse if he had been in the hands of the Germans. The Minister of Defence issued instructions for the apprehension of the people responsible for the assault upon Mr. Katz, but those who perpetrated it could not be discovered. The military police, of course, had nc sympathy with the instruction issued by the Minister of Defence.
– They acted just as badly at the Australian Natives Association meeting in the Town Hall.
– According te the newspapers, that was even hotter. 1 may say that I had a higher regard for Mr. Katz at that time than 1 subsequently had, after he in a manner withdrew and apologized for what, at the time: was but the indulgence of a natural impulse, believing that it would be no offence against the law of the land. The attitude of the Prime Minister subsequently did not appeal to me. In statements appearing in the press, and also from public platforms, Mr. Hughes described the people who objected to the issue of the enlistment cards as being “ parasites on unionism.” I am one of those who objected to their issue without the sanction of Parliament, and without the mention to Parliament of the intention of the Government to issue them, and especially to the third question, asking reasons for nonenlistment.
– I - Is the honorable senator clear that Mr. Hughes referred to those who objected to the issue of the enlistment cards as “ parasites “ ?
– Yes ; he referred in that way to those who passed the resolutions I have referred to in the Trades Hall and elsewhere. Leaving myself entirely out of the matter, I know that amongst those who objected to the issue of the cards demanding that people should give their reasons for not enlisting were many men who have done just as much for the Labour movement in Australia as has Mr. William Morris Hughes. Mr. Hughes said that they should be thrown out of the movement. He said that he would discard them from Labour and unionism, and would “ cast them out like devils out of swine.”
– I think the honorable senator is mistaken as to the section to whom Mr. Hughes referred in the terms used.
– If Senator de Largie will look the matter up he will find that Mr. Hughes was referring to those who were responsible for the resolutions passed at the Trades Hall in Melbourne and elsewhere. It is not often that the Prime Minister is unhappy in his choice of metaphors. But I should like to ask: Who constitute the swine? Is it the great Labour movement in Australia from which the devils are to be cast out? I do not think that Mr. Hughes was justified in making that comparison.
– He was referring to the Independent Workers of the World.
– He referred to the people who passed resolutions advising the workers not to return the enlistment cards. I am not prepared, as a humble member of the great Australian Labour party, as it is sometimes called, to allow Mr. Hughes to go behind the back of the party, and of Parliament, on vital questions like these. This is not the first, but the third, time that this kind of thing has occurred since my connexion with the party. The first occasion was at the time of the double dissolution elections in 1914, when Mr. Hughes took it upon himself to propose a truce to Mr. Cook to do away with the necessity of elections at that time. I have pointed out previously in this Chamber that it is idle for members of Parliament to talk about a truce when exploitation and robbery of the people are going on outside. Only in to-day’s newspapers we read that the master bakers of Victoria are going to appeal to the High Court against the action of the Federal Government in fixing the price of a 2-lb. loaf at 3½d. If they fail in the High Court they intend to go to the Privy Council, and all the employing sections of the State are subscribing money to enable them to take their appeal to the High Court, and later, if necessary, to the Privy Council. We read recently that Mr. Angliss, and other meat kings, approached the Minister of Trade and Customs in adeputation, and excused the high price of meat by putting it down to the dry weather. This was when they were advocating the removal of the embargo upon the export of meat from Australia. In passing I want to give Mr. Tudor every credit for the action which he individually, or departmentally, and I suppose with the backing of the Government,has taken since the outbreak of hostilities in connexion with the export of foodstuffs from Australia. When Mr. Angliss, and the other meat kings, asked for the removal of the embargo on the export of meat to the other side of the world Mr. Tudor asked them how they accounted for the high price of meat, and Mr. Angliss, speaking for the deputation, said it was due to the dry weather. Then, some three or four months ago, we had a rather plentiful rain, though the benefit of it has, to some extent, disappeared by this. The meatking deputation again went to Mr. Tudor to ask for the removal of the embargo, and, in reply to the question he again asked how they accounted for the high price of meat, Mr. Angliss., who had prevously stated that it was due to the drought, then said it was due to the general rains, because the people were buying the stock up torecoup their losses.
– There was something in that, too.
– Whatever happens, it would appear that the people must pay higher prices for meat. If I accept Senator Stewart’s assurance that, owing to the general rains the price of beasts would go up, he must agree that Mr. Angliss could not have been correct on the first occasion when he said that the high price of meat was owing to the drought. We know that the controllers of the butter ring in Melbourne recently placed 500 tons of butter in cold storage, and jumped up the retail price by 3d. and 4d. a lb. When we know these things I repeat that it is idle for members of this Parliament to take upon themselves the responsibility of even talking about a truce with our political opponents, because we know that they represent the people who have been, and are to-day, unduly inflating the prices of foodstuffs. I give Mr. Hughes every credit for sincerity when he proposed to Mr. Joseph Cook that there should be a political truce. If Mr. Cook had agreed, it is probable that a majority of the members of the Labour party would have fallen in behind Mr. Hughes, and would have been prepared to honour the compact.
– I do not think so.
– I certainly would not have been one to do so. That was the first occasion upon which Mr. Hughes went too far in taking the destinies of the Labour movement under his control. The second occasion upon which Mr. Hughes ignored Parliament and the Labour party was in the dropping of the referenda. I cannot help smiling when I read the resolutions of indignation and the threats of what is going to happen to New South Wales and Victorian Federal Labour members for agreeing to that course, because it was solely due to the workers of Melbourne and Sydney that the referenda were defeated in 1913, and they, of all people, have the least right to protest. I cannot agree that the Conservatives of those two States defeated the proposals, because Labour senators in Victoria had a majority of 45,000 over their opponents. The difference between that and the affirmative referenda vote was composed of workers, manual or mental, who through apathy did not vote for the referenda, or went over to the Tory camp. If the workers in Victoria and New South Wales had come to the rescue of their comrades in the other States in 1913, there would have been no occasion for the dropping of the questions, or for the subsequent protests, because they were carried in that year by three States. I was one of those who, after the 1914 election, were not in favour of submitting the referenda to the people apart from a general election. I said their opponents had plenty of money to spend, or would soon get it, and had practically the whole press of the Commonwealth at their command, while the supporters of Labour measures and Labour men, to a greater extent than any other class, offend in not going to the poll ; and I was afraid the proposals would not be carried if put to the country between elections. Compulsory voting might have altered the position, and on its adoption I was quite prepared to see the questions take their chance; but Mr. Hughes did not consult the party before entering into negotiations with the State representatives, and that is my complaint. He had no right to enter into negotiations for a compromise on the matter, but he did so, and to an extent thereby became embroiled, so to speak. It seemed to me, as an outsider, that the hand of Holman was behind the whole affair, although Mr. Holman did not appear in any part of the proceedings.
– Mr. Holman “ made good “ by getting his Parliament to pass the Bill.
– I believe he was the only one to do so. I think Mr. Hughes was afraid that the questions might not be carried if they went to the people, but Mr. Holman’s part in the public discussions on the matter was delegated to Mr. David Hall, who was commonly referred to as his man Friday.
Sitting suspended from 6.3O to 8.35 p.m.
– After things had been set fairly in motion, it seemed to me that the Queensland Government had been made a catspaw. I noticed a great change in its members twenty-four hours after they came into power. Prior to that, most of them were whole-hearted Federalists, but no sooner had they invited Mr. Holman to Brisbane for the
State campaign, and gone themselves to Sydney to confer with him, than I thought I could detect traces of the slime of Holmanism on them. The Labour movement in Queensland got on well for thirty years without his intervention, or that of any of his kidney, and, personally, I was sorry to see him invited to Queensland to take part in the State campaign. I have not much regard for Holman or Holmanism. It was suggested to the Federal candidates in 1913 that it was advisable for him to come to Brisbane, but they unanimously turned the proposal down. Many of our men who had previously been federal in politics expressed a doubt about the wisdom of submitting the referendum. Friends of mine in the Government expressed to me their fear that if these powers were transferred to the Commonwealth Government perhaps the Federal Parliament would go to the extreme limit of nationalizing hens and chickens, take over control of the family milking cow, and such like utilities. They did not use those exact words, but that was the effect of their words, and I attributed this to the fact that the Queensland Labour Government had had association with Mr. Holman and Holmanism. Mr. Holman and Mr. Hughes were pitted against each other in regard to the negotiations over the referendum. I have said previously that I thought Mr. Hughes was sincere in his belief that the referendum, if it went to the country, would be defeated, and that Mr. Holman thought he had Mr. Hughes euchred. But when “ Bill “ Holman was pitted against “ Bill “ Hughes it was diamond cut diamond. Mr. Holman, by his influence, was able to envelop the representatives of the other State Governments, and they thought they were getting the better of Mr. Hughes; but, as it turned out, Mr. Hughes got the better of them, because he threw upon them the responsibility of getting the agreement through their various State Parliaments for an extension of powers. Only one State - New South Wales - fulfilled the agreement. Mr. Hughes threw upon the various State Governments the onus of disrupting the agreement. In these days we hear a lot about the tearing up of scraps of paper. I sincerely trust that on the next occasion when the National Government goes to the country they will take the referendum questions with them, and throw the onus and responsibility of breaking the agreement on to the right shoulders - the State Governments. That is all I have to say regarding the attitude of Mr. Hughes. I think he made a mistake in his negotiations with the State Governments; but he had entered into those negotiations, and I, as a member of the Federal Labour party, fell in behind him for this reason : I saw that Mr. Hughes was acting on behalf of this party, although he did not consult the party before he entered into the negotiation, and had he, as the leader of the party, put the question to the country, we would then have had the influence of the six States against us.
– Did Mr. Hughes commit this party to the proposition ?
– No ; he entered into negotiations, and certain proposals were adopted.
– But not the agreement ?
– No, not the agreement. Having had submitted to him those proposals, had he retreated and said, “ No, we will not accept them,” we would have had all of the State Governments, including the Queensland Labour Government, against us in the referendum.
– Would that have been desirable?
– No; it would have had a disastrous effect upon the referendum appeal. It was proper to accept the agreement in view of the fact that Mr. Hughes had entered into negotiations, and the surprise of my life came when it was declared that the Queensland Government was, if not against the referendum, only passively in support of it. That Government, in my opinion, was made the catspaw, and was dragging the chestnuts out of the fire for the other States. The proposal was put forward as coming from Queensland, the “ pure merino” State so far as Labour is concerned. After the agreement had been put before Mr. Hughes for submission to this party, we had to fall in behind. I believe that when Mr. Hughes comes back from England, after his association with the King and Queen, and cavorting with Duchesses, and so forth, he will find the party against him on that matter. It appears to me that the
Tories of Australia are awaiting Mr. Hughes’ return with a great deal of interest.
– And the workers of Australia, too, are waiting to welcome him back.
– If the workers of Australia are waiting for him, I fancy it will be to give him a welcome somewhat different from that which he has had in Great Britain.
– Mr. Hughes is speaking for them as well as for the other people of the Commonwealth.
– If he speaks for Labourism in Australia as he is speaking for it in Great Britain, I would not give very much for his reception in Australia.
– He has spoken in Australia in the same strain as he has been speaking in England.
– I do not think that Mr. Hughes ever said in Australia that class division was buried.
– As regards this war he has, and that is the truth in Australia, except as regards a negligible minority.
– It is not true. From the Acting Prime Minister’s standpoint it might be buried, but it is not buried by our opponents, and I, for one, am not going to agree to the burial of class division until I find our party getting fair treatment from the other side.
– Some people cannot see the wood for the trees.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister referring to his own head? I can assure the Acting Prime Minister that the sentiments expressed by Mr. Hughes in Great Britain are not the sentiments of Australian Labourism, and if he says they are - well, he and I differ, that is all.
– Do you think we can get a fair interpretation of Mr. Hughes’ speeches from the cable reports?
– I am taking the cable reports.
– In what way is he not representing the Labour movement in Australia?
-Judging by the reports of the Prime Minister’s speeches, if either Mr. Joseph Cook or Sir “William Irvine had gone to Great Britain, they would have represented
Australian Labourism there just as well us Mr. William Morris Hughes is doing.
– You ought to be ashamed to say that.
– Can the honorable senator say in what way Mr. Hughes has advanced Australian Labourism since he has been in Great Britain ?
– He says that Australia wants to win the war, and that is what the Labour party says, too.
– The Labour party says more than that.
– H - He has said, too, that after the war there must be better conditions.
– Twenty years ago such sentiments were expressed by Mr. Alfred Deakin. Any good Liberal would say, in a general way, that every man should get a fair deal. I object to the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister in England as representing Labourism in Australia.
– The Berlin papers object to them, too.
– Perhaps so, but I think the objection of Labourism in Australia will be found greater when Mr. Hughes comes back.
– Mr. Hughes is quite capable of looking after himself.
– Very likely, but, as a member of the Labour party, I am not prepared to let Mr. Hughes represent my views on these subjects.
– He cannot hear what you are saying.
– No ; but some people in Australia can, and that amounts to the same thing. I am not prepared to let Mr. Hughes handle the Australian Labour movement. You are aware, Mr. President, that at one time in Queensland the Labour movement had as a leader Mr. Kidston, who finally put himself above party and aboveCaucus, and a few short years afterwards he fell on the neck of Mr. Robert Philp, the arch-Conservative of Queensland. Probably it will not be a great stretch of imagination to look ahead to the time when we shall find Mr. William Morris Hughes, Mr. Joseph Cook, Senator Pearce, and Senator Millen in a loving embrace. I shall not object to that, perhaps, because it will be an indication of progress, and an evidence that some people are prepared to go ahead.
– I should regard it as evidence of treachery.
– No; I would regard it as a stage in the evolutionary process. If our opponents are waiting for Mr. Hughes to come back to take the responsibility of forcing conscription upon the country, I can assure Senator Pearce that I do not think he will have the Labour movement of Australia behind him.
– Won’t he ?
– Queensland is not Australia.
– It is nearly time we had the views of the Government on this question of conscription. We have not had them yet.
– Have you not had them several times in reply to deputations ?
-No ; the only definite statement we had on the matter was from Mr. Fisher, who said that before conscription would be dealt with the matter would be submitted to the people of Australia. I do hot think we have had a definite statement either from the Acting Prime Minister or from Mr. Hughes. There is another party to be considered in connexion with the referendum question - one who is not very often mentioned, I refer to the Governor -General. It will be remembered that this House twice passed a measure for the submission of the questions to the people contingently upon there being a double dissolution in 1914. Section 128 of the Constitution provides that if a Bill for the alteration of the Constitution is passed, by an absolute majority, twice in one House, and is rejected or fails to pass in the other House, the Governor-General, as representing the King, may grant a double dissolution. Now, there has been much difference of opinion as to whether the GovernorGeneral didthe right thing in granting a double dissolution and in refusing to submit the referendum questions to the people. I think it will be generally admitted that, so far as I am concerned, I never took exception to the GovernorGeneral granting the double dissolution. No one has ever heard me voice one word of protest against that action. I took the view that, before it was taken, it would be better for the Labour party, situated as they were then, to challenge the Cook party to a double dissolution. Mr. Fisher, representing the Labour party, could have said to the Cook Govern ment, “ We will endeavour by every means in our power to bring about the conditions which will produce a double dissolution if you will take the referendum questions to the country.” I stated that view here and elsewhere. I thought it would have been diplomatic and wise of the Labour party to take that course. It would have shown our newly-arrived Governor-General that the Labour party in Australia was not out for office, but had something higher to think of, the interests of the people. That suggestion was lightly received in certain quarters. Then the Senate took the constitutional course of passing the Referenda Bills twice. Senator Pearce, on that occasion, delivered what, in my opinion, was a very convincing speech in support of the attitude taken up by the Senate. When the request of this Chamber was sent to the Governor-General he turned it down. He told the Cook Government that he would accept their opinion that “may” meant “must” so far as the double dissolution was concerned, but when it came to the Senate’s request “ may “ did not mean “must” at all.
– What about the written Constitution? It was shelved.
– That is the whole point. The written Constitution was torn up, so far as its application to the referenda proposals was concerned.
– Did the honorable senator agree with that?
– I thought that the Governor-General was right in granting the double dissolution, having been advised to do so by Mr. Joseph Cook, who was then Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator was out of harmony with his party.
– I do not trouble about that in this connexion. I considered that, having granted the double dissolution, the Governor-General was inconsistent in refusing to submit the referenda proposals to the country. I have consulted other authorities since that time. I have looked to Dicey, who is supposed to be an authority on constitutional law. In his Law of the Constitution, seventh edition, page 534, he has an appendix dealing with this very question of the alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution. Putting aside the first part of section 128, with which we are all conversant, he goes on to the alternative, and says -
It will, however, be noted that, in certain circumstances, a law for the change of the Constitution which has been brought about by a. majority of one House of Parliament, or which has been rejected, or which has not been passed by the other House by an absolute’ majority, must be submitted to the electors for their approval, and, if approved in the manner already stated, it shall become an Act of Parliament.
Dicey uses the word “ must.” With him there is no “ may” about it at all. “ May “ is the command of the King, and must be interpreted as “ must.” I think the blame for the non-carrying of the referenda proposals in Australia rests primarily upon the Governor-General.
– Is there no qualification in the use of the words “ in certain circumstances “ ?
– Those words refer to the passing of the Bill for a change of the Constitution twice in. one House. I think that the Labour Government made a mistake in not asserting their view, and this Senate was doubly negligent in the matter. I think that Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson made a very great mistake in not submitting the referenda proposals to the people after having granted the double dissolution. That is the only fault 1 have to find with his decision. I do not know that I have very much more to say on the question of voluntary recruiting. Only I notice that various newspapers throughout the Commonwealth have, at different times, been strongly advocating the employment of coloured labour in various parts of Australia. Repeatedly during the past six months, and especially while Parliament was in recess, we have been reading in the leading daily newspapers in every capital of the Commonwealth advocacy of the employment of coloured labour in the Northern Territory. It is my opinion that a deeply-laid scheme is being quietly worked throughout Australia at the present time for the importation of coloured labour. We have seen leading articles in the two Melbourne morning newspapers, and also in the Sydney dailies, advocating this, and members of the Senate had sent to them an extract taken from the Pastoralists’ Review. I do not intend to inflict it upon Honorable senators, because the contentions advanced in it are so outrageous as to be unbeliev able. But I should like to put into Hansard the concluding half-dozen lines of the extract, which read -
It is a problem that can be solved, and must be solved; for, even if the question of climate did not make a White Australia impossible, the war has put an end to it.
That is to say that the war has put an end to our White Australia policy. I have seen no action by Senator Pearce, the Defence Department, or the censors, taking exception to this statement. Does Senator Pearce agree that the war has put an end to our White Australia policy ? That has been put into print and circulation by the Pastoralists’ Review. It has been supplied to members of Parliament, and I have seen no action taken by the censors, under the War Precautions Act, against the proprietors of the Pastoralists’ Review. I have, however, seen that various Labour speakers and proprietors of Labour newspapers have been impeached, fined and imprisoned for giving utterance to sentiments calculated to have a detrimental effect on recruiting. Will Senator Pearce contend for a moment tha’t the statement I have read from the Pastoralists’ Revieu) is calculated to improve recruiting? I will give some more of the extract. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to give his attention to this -
After peace is declared, the colour line will become more and more ^indefinable, and we shall be compelled to recognise the fact, for Britain will say to us. “ Renounce your White Australia policy or suffer the consequences. Your blood will be upon your own head.”
Will the Acting Prime Minister stand up in his place and say that any action has been taken against the Pastoralists’ Review for circulating sentiments calculated to prejudice recruiting ? If no such action has been taken, I ask why not, in view of the fact that the law has been put into operation against Labour newspapers and speakers? Why has not the Age been impeached for its leading articles saying that it is time that Indians were indented for the Northern Territory? If that is what Australians are going to fight for, I, for one, am not going on to a platform to encourage thiem to enlist. The sooner my constituents and I understand each other on this phase of the question the better. I say that this sort of tripe, being circulated amongst the people of Australia, has taken more recruits away from the enlisting depots than has any speech uttered by Barker, or any so-called traitorous stuff written or uttered by those holding Labour views. Yet we have seen no move by the Defence Department, under the War Precautions Act, against these newspapers. No wonder the feeling outside is growing that if the Labour Government go before the people at the next elections they will meet their Waterloo. I am prepared to give them full credit-
– T - The honorable senator has not, to-night, given them very much credit for what they have done.
– I give them full credit for continuing public works, and so keeping men in their occupations. If the other political party had been in power they would have closed up all public works with the idea of driving men to the front.
– Who kept the interest down in the country?
– I think the Labour Government put it up. I give Mr. Fisher the chief blame for that in giving an outrageous rate of interest for the war loan.
– Why give any?
– That is a question which Senator Stewart dealt with very ably this afternoon. Surely Senator Russell should agree that the interest paid on the war loans is the very last thing for which the Labour Government should claim credit.
– Mention any country in the world that is obtaining money at the same rate of interest?
– Let the honorable senator mention any other country in the world with universal suffrage and Labour in power as it is in five of the six States of the Commonwealth and in the National Parliament. I admit the chaos that would have been brought about had the other party been in power, through the closing up of public works, and I give the present Government credit in that connexion. I have mentioned to my friends and from the platform - and I say it here now - that but for the continuation of public works it would not have made much difference in Australia whether the Labour Government or the Cook Government was in power since the outbreak of the war.
– We should have had conscription if the Cook Government had been in power, and the honorable senator does not agree with that.
– Let the honorable senator mention one line on which we are not doing better than is done in other countries. Is it freights if
– The greatest outrage, in my opinion, is that the Leader of the last Government - I will not say of the present Government - brought together the financial experts - the men who govern the money markets of Australia - to ask them upon what conditions they would lend money for war purposes.
– Allow me, as one who attended the conference referred to,” to give that statement a flat denial. It isnot correct. I have attended all the Bankers’ Conferences called since the outbreak of the war, and I can inform the honorable senator that what we asked them was what money there was in Australia, and not what the conditions of the loan should be.
– Who fixed the rate of interest for the war loans ?
– The Government.
– Then the more disgrace to them.
– We never asked the bankers at any time what the rate of interest should be.
– Then so much the worse for the Government.
– We inquired of the men who knew what the resources of Australia were.
– I say that if the Government were to blame for giving practically 5 per cent. interest on money loaned for war purposes, so much the worse for the Government.
-Are not the same bankers growling at the Government for prohibiting the export of gold?
– The bankers and jingoes will growl whatever the Government may do.
– The honorable senator should give the Government credit where credit is due to them.
– I have given them credit for not stopping public works, but I can go no further.
– What about the prohibition of the export of meat?
– I gave Mr. Tudor credit for that.
– And the prohibition of the export of gold ?
– I raised that question twelve months ago and was laughed at.
– And the pooling of wheat ?
– I dealt with that this afternoon. When I was engaged in connexion with the Wide Bay byelection campaign, Mr. Hughes came up to the district and made a glowing flagflapping speech, but did nothing else, and on the day of the election I saw the Germans and the bankers going arm in arm to the ballot-box to vote against the Labour party.
– M - Mr. Hughes did not ask the Germans for their vote.
– No, he only flapped the flag.
– H - He is the greatest man in the Empire and in Australian politics to-day.
– He did not do very much to win the Wide Bay byelection. If the Government think that they are gaining the good graces of the people on top by sinking Labour principles and ideals to please them they are making a very great mistake.
– T - They are not sinking them. A majority of the party do not agree with the honorable senator, and, of course, they must be wrong and the honorable senator right.
– The Labour party is an independent party, and a member of it is entitled to express his opinion, even though he should hold it alone. My opinion is that the action of the Government in connexion with the war loan was outrageous.
– T - The honorable senator is like the soldier who could not keep step with his company.
– I have heard the story of the company that was “ all out of step but our Jock.” But I am entitled to express my opinion. If I am wrong, my constituents will deal with me. I may tell honorable senators that they did deal with me once before, but I had no complaint to make.
– The honorable senator is not wrong in expressing his opinion, but he is wrong in giving expression to his opinion by the misrepresentation of facts.
– I have put the matter as it appears to me. I have in terpreted the action of the Government in my own way.
– How could the honorable senator interpret what took place at a bankers’ conference at which he was not present?
– I only assumed that. I will withdraw what I said in that connexion,and will say that the bankers did not fix the rate of interest for the war loans, but that the Federal Government fixed the rate of interest and the conditions, and so much the worse for them.
– We are prepared to take that responsibility.
– I have no intention of defending that action of the Government in the country. I shall stand apart from that policy, which calls upon the manhood of the country to give their blood in the trenches and would give the man with money a higher rate of interest for it than he ever got before.
– Did not a majority of the members of the Senate vote for the rate of the interest the honorable senator criticises so much ?
– I think the minority against it was three.
– So the honorable senator was out of step again.
-Still, I am repeating my own opinion ; and I think that Senator de Largie and the Government, if they continue on the same lines, will find that they are out of step at the next election.
– T - They certainly will if they have behind them many supporters like the honorable senator.
-That is all very well. I have heard a lot about the great Australian Labour party; and expecting a great deal from Labour in power, and not being satisfied with the strides which the Labour Government are making towards the attainment of Labour ideals, I am entitled to voice my opposition to their action here. If I may not do so here, where can I do it? If I go out on to the street to talk against the enlistment policy of the present Government, which I have no desire to do, or to talk against conscription, I run the risk of being placed’ in durance vile.
– If the honorable senator talks against conscription ? That is overstating the case.
– I understand that there is no hall to be obtained in Melbourne for the holding of a meeting against conscription.
– “When the honorable senator says that he would be in danger if he talked against conscription, let me tell him that employees of the Defence Department have exercised their liberty to speak against conscription.
– I understand that an effort was made to secure a hall in Melbourne in which to hold a meeting against conscription, and none could be obtained. Whether the objection is passive or active, I do not know.
– It is due to the natural desire of the owners of halls to protect their property, but no prosecution can be initiated under the War Precautions Act except by the Federal authorities, and not in a single case have we initiated a prosecution against a man for speaking against conscription.
– An officious person might initiate a prosecution, and the case might be heard by a prejudiced magistrate. Prosecutions can also be initiated by the civil police. Two men who recently criticised the Prime Minister on the Tarra bank were prosecuted by the police. A man who speaks against the popular feeling runs a big risk, and the case to which I refer was the worst advertisement Mr. Hughes could get.
– I have spent my life fighting against the Government of Victoria, which is responsible for the State police.
– I spoke in favour of conscription on the Yarra bank, and got a very rough time.
– Tho action of the Government in regard to meetings against conscription has not been all that it might have been, but since the opening of Parliament things have been somewhat modified. Yesterday afternoon, on the Yarra bank, I saw no interference by uniformed soldiers, but a few weeks ago, when Parliament was not sitting, there was trouble. I fear that if there is a protracted adjournment, with Parliament and public speakers gagged, and with our side having no press and no platform to resist the agitation for conscription, while the other people have both, the trouble will be accentuated, and, for that reason, I would urge the Government not to unduly prolong the coming adjournment.
– Most of the sitting has been taken up by representatives of what they have called the pure merino Labour State. That State might be appropriately referred to as the goat State instead of the merino State, some of its representatives are so fond of fighting. We have heard a great deal of criticism of the Prime Minister, who is held responsible by Senator Ferricks for quite a number of things that the Labour party have approved of. It is far too late for the honorable senator to find fault with the postponement of the referenda, of which both the Labour party and Parliament approved.
– Do you not admit that we were sold by the State Premiers?
– Mr. Hughes is not responsible for them. Neither he nor Mr. Holman is to blame. As a matter of fact, Mr. Holman’s Parliament is the only one that has carried out the agreement. Instead, therefore, of censuring “Holmanism” we should glorify and praise it, because, apparently, Mr. Holman is the only honorable and powerful man in the State Parliaments. I do not think any harm oan come to our party from what has happened in regard to the referenda. The Federal Parliament agreed to that method of getting over the difficulty, and the agreement was entered into with every hope that all the parties to it would honorably abide by their promises. We kept our promise, and if the other side broke theirs, surely that is not the fault of Mr. Hughes or the Federal Labour party. Senator Ferricks should put the saddle on the right horse. Much greater good can be done for the country than by entering into this kind of discussion, or even sitting here at all. I would subscribe to an arrangement with the Opposition by which ten honorable members on each side could be left here to conduct the business of Parliament and the Government while the war is on, the remainder being left free to go elsewhere where they can do much more good.
– What about our going to the front!
– A very good suggestion. We could do a great deal more good by going there even as onlookers than by staying here to discuss matters six months old.
– Would not the Tariff do much good?
– It would be a calamity to introduce the Tariff now. We know nothing of the economical or industrial changes that the war will bring about, and, without some understanding of the probable relative positions of our own and other countries, we cannot undertake to pass an acceptable Tariff.
– We have a Tariff in force that has not yet been passed.
– That is due to the war; and it is a good thing that we cannot interfere with it. When the war is over, and we have some data to go upon, we shall be in a much better position to carry through the very difficult task of framing a Tariff. I have been through Tariff debates in this chamber, and can assure honorable senators that there is no subject which divides members, even of the same party, so much as Tariff questions do.
– We are all Protectionists now.
– We may dub ourselves as belonging to the same fiscal faith, but there will always be strong differences of opinion on Tariff items. I have seen as bitter a debate on fiscal matters between two Protectionist senators in this chamber as I have ever seen between a Protectionist and a Free Trader. It does not remove the differences of opinion on Tariff questions to say that we are all Protectionists.
– One honorable senator wanted mining machinery free, and another wanted farming machinery free.
– And another wanted the duty removed from corsets. If Parliament does not sit again for the next twelve months,’ the country will not be much worse off. Senator Ferricks, in severely censuring Mr. Hughes, practically suggested that he had gone over to the enemy. I have been associated with the Prime Minister in the Labour movement for the last quarter of a century, and can say that no man in the movement in this country is better entitled to the name of the father of Labour solidarity than he is. I nave seen nothing to take exception to in the big things he is saying at Home; and the fact remains that he did big things in Australia. He has made a bigger name for himself since the war began than any other man in British or Australian politics. Senator Ferricks talked as if the Prime Minister’s whole work was confined to flag-flapping; but I make bold to sa.y that no Labour leader in Australia has done more for trade unionism during the last decade than Mr. Hughes has done. These are things we should not forget, simply because he has been- patted on the back in the Old Country by people who are not usually associated with our side in politics. We are surely not jealous because Mr. Hughes is being made a hero or darling by the society people in England; and it would have been much better if Senator Ferricks could have told us in what way Mr. Hughes has really done wrong. Surely it is very paltry to find fault with him because he is being made much of by the press and men not usually associated with Labour ideals.
– He has not spoken one word of Labour since he has been in Great Britain.
– He was the principal speaker at a purely Labour fathering. He has done very well, and as done only what those of us who know him expected him to do. In dropping the referenda, he did not act without consulting his party.
– He approached the Premiers without consulting the party.
– The Premiersapproached him, and laid certain proposals before him. It was not until they did this that he would have anything todo with them. Senator Ferricks admitted that if he had turned those proposals down, and put the referenda to the country, defeat would have stared him in the face. I agree that that is so, and the onecry of our political opponents in the press was that they were not anxious to cometo an understanding about the referenda. They accused us of wanting turmoil during the time of the war. If Mr. Hughes had turned down the Premiers’ specific proposals, he would have made an unpardonable blunder, and we should havefailed to carry the questions at the polls.
– Does the honorable senator know that Mr Hall and Mr.
Hughes had several conferences before those proposals were formally placed before Mr. Hughes ?
– I do not know it. Do you 1
– Then it is a pity the honorable senator did not tell us so in his speech. The party was consulted before we accepted the State proposals. How did Senator Ferricks vote on that occasion ?
– That very night in this chamber I made a referendum speech, and came back in time to hear Senator Pearce moving the adjournment of the Senate. I then went upstairs to the Caucus to hear, for the first time, about the dropping of the referenda.
– The honorable senator was in the same position as I was. Only two or three members of the party objected to the agreement on that occasion.
– Nearly all the Victorians did.
– It was impossible to foresee that the State Parliament* would not keep their word. It is of no use playing he after game, even if we did commit a blunder at the time.
– Was it a blunder, after all?
– No; it was the only thing we could do. We have heard Senator Stewart’s speech on the land tax so often that we know it by heart. We are not getting tired of it, but it is strange that the honorable senator, as he grows older, never gets beyond the one place. He seems to be making no advance, but is merely lifting his foot and putting it down again in the same spot.
– The honorable senator is not doing even that.
– Yes, I have changed somewhat, so far as land taxation is concerned, and I am going to give Senator Stewart the benefit of my views. A great deal has been said on this question, and I intend’, to compress my remarks into a very brief statement. Until enthusiastic land taxers are able to show how their proposal is going te provide a better living, and a better rate of wage for those toiling on the soil, there is very little to be gained from a discussion of land taxation. We have heard Senator Stewart deal with this matter every session of the Senate for the last fifteen years. But. in my opinion, only one kind of land taxation will do any good in the direction of breaking up big estates, which Senator Stewart so much desires, and that is a tax upon the unused land. It is useless to talk about taxing a man on the area he cultivates, because in so many cases the man on the land is not making a living out of the soil.
– That is because of land monopoly.
– If Senator Stewart knows any one who wants to get land I can direct him to a State where hundreds of farms have been abandoned. I refer to Western Australia, where this has been the experience in recent years. Can any one say that the farmer of Australia is getting as much for his labour as the workmen in the towns?
– He is not getting 6d. per hour, on the average.
– That is the reason why I advocate land taxation. The honorable senator does not know the ABC of the subject.
– We have heard this so often from Senator Stewart, and as I have already said, he is merely lifting his foot and putting it down in the same place. The tillers of the soil are the poorest paid workers in ‘ the Commonwealth. Can Senator Stewart improve these men’s condition by a further tax on their land ? That is the problem I would direct Senator Stewart’s attention to.
– It is very wise that members of the Senate should have an opportunity on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill to discuss grievances. We have listened with considerable interest to the speeches delivered by honorable senators. Those honorable senators who listened to the admirable speech by Senator Stewart were instructed, if they were hearing it for the first time. But, as Senator de Largie has mentioned, those of us who have been here for some years have heard it frequently, or, rather, we have heard the greater portion of it. Still the honorable senator is always interesting, and he added some new matter to his speech’ today. To a considerable extent I am compelled to agree with some of his arguments, but it ie not my purpose to-night to follow the example of previous speakers, and take a long time airing grievances here. I am only going to deal, with one - though I would like to mention, several grievances. I have a serious complaint against the Home Affairs Department, and another against the Postal Department ; but I do not propose to occupy any time to-night, on those subjects. The grievance I wish to deal with is the unfortunate position in which the Senate is placed so frequently. Time after time this Senate is asked to consider and deal with four or five important measures in a few hours. When we get towards the end of a session, and approach Christmas time, there may be some excuse for this procedure j but there is no justification for it now. The Government intend to finish the business of Parliament to-morrow; but we have the Appropriation Bills to consider, and they would take all the time from now to tomorrow night if they were to receive proper attention from honorable senators.
– But the money has all been spent.
– No, it has not. We have a month or two of the financial year to go yet. Every honorable senator should nave an opportunity of discussing the items of the Appropriation Bills. In addition, there are several other very important measures to come along from another place. We -have a Loan Bill of £50,000,000 to consider, also an important taxation Bill - the taxation of war profits - a measure with a large number of clauses. We have also an amendment of the War Pensions Act; and I say it is not fair that the Senate, which is supposed to have co-ordinate powers with the House of Representatives, should merely be given time to read Bills, and be expected to pass them without consideration.
– We are treated with contempt. .
– All I can say is that if honorable senators allow this to go on, they deserve to be treated with contempt. I appeal to the Leader of the Senate that he is not doing justice to honorable senators when he asks them to deal with important measures in a few hours, especially when those measures have, been discussed probably for several days elsewhere. If this were the first occasion that this had happened to us, there might be some excuse; but time after time the Senate is asked to deal with most important Bills without considera tion; and, if this is allowed to continue, the Senate will justify the statement made outside that it is a useless branch of the Legislature, and ought to be abolished. I protest against the proposal of the Government to finish the business to-morrow.
– Why not sit all the week ?
– When honorable senators from South Australia left their homes at the beginning of last week, there was no proposal to meet on Monday; and every one knows that members returning to Adelaide on Friday cannot leave” again for Melbourne on Sunday. If they wanted to get here for to-day’s sitting, they would have had to leave Adelaide on Saturday evening. I left Melbourne on Friday, reached Adelaide on Saturday morning, and returned by the afternoon train to Melbourne, in order to be present at to-day’s sitting. Other members were unable to do as I did, and probably they will not have any opportunity of discussing any measure brought forward later on to-night. I protest against this treatment, and if I cannot do anything more I shall leave the chamber. I would like to see other honorable senators tell the Leader of the Senate that they refuse to be forced into this position. Even if the Acting Prime Minister desires to go to the Premiers’ Conference in Adelaide - and it is desirable that he should be present at that gathering - surely we can come back next week and do the business sent to the Senate in a way that it ought to be done ? I ask the Leader of the Senate to tell honorable senators that he agrees with me that the Senate should stand up for its rights and have ample opportunity thoroughly to consider legislation before passing it. It is not fair that we should he asked to pass in a few hours legislation which has been discussed at length in another place.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales [9.56]. - I disagree entirely with the sentiments expressed by Senator Story. For my part, I am of the opinion that after the recent recess we ought to be prepared f.o sit any length of time and to discuss matters to the minutest detail. I find we are asked to pass an item of £781,710 under the Defence Department, and I am satisfied that neither this Chamber, nor this Parliament, nor the people of Great Britain or Australia have really given proper consideration to the momentous events which are taking place. I am no pessimist, and I have no doubt as to the ultimate result of the war; but I cannot disguise from myself what appears to me to be the reluctance on the part of the people of the British Empire to get their coats off, to get into this war and to bring it to a termination. What is the position to-day ? After nearly two years of war, is it not a fact that Germany is in possession of the whole ofBelgium, of one of the fairest provinces of France, and of the whole of Servia, and has the run of Turkey in Europe and of the major portion of Turkey in Asia. She is also in possession of Russian. Poland, as well as of a large proportion of Russian soil.
– These countries are about the size of a Queensland cattle run.
– There is a very wide difference between a Queensland cattle run and places like Galicia, or Poland, or even Asia Minor. Australia is doing very well in this conflict, and I have no doubt she will do better as time goes on, for we have sent to the front something like 200,000 men, and we have a. large number in training. There are other matters to which I would like to refer, perhaps in some detail. I think I have heard Senator Stewart speak before on the subject of land-value taxation, and I think I have heard him subjected to the same criticism. Senator Stewart is under a complete delusion. So, also, is Senator de Largie with regard to this fetish which they term a Protectionist policy. The honorable senators have taken great interest in this matter for a number of years, but they have been careful never to place before the Senate the whole of the facts. They know that the fundamental objective, not of theoretical Protectionists like themselves, but of practical Protectionists, is, not to exclude foreign goods, but to secure the admission of goods made in foreign countries with high Protective Tariff and low wage rates in order that we may be taxed heavily through the Customs to keep the national exchequer full. It is a disgrace that honorable senators should stand up here time after time and attempt to deceive the Senate as to the real objective of Protectionists.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to say that certain honorable senators deliberately tried to deceive other honorable senators.
– The statement I make is that the objective of practical Protectionists is to impose taxation upon goods imported from low-waged, sweated Protectionist countries in order to secure revenue. It has never been the intention tokeep such goods out of Australia. I am surprised that Senator Stewart should believe for a moment that it is their intention to keep these goods out of the Commonwealth when he considers what has taken place since Federation was accomplished. I think a reference to what has occurred will demonstrate the real aim of practical Protectionists. If they believed in keeping these goods out with a view to similar manufacture in the Commonwealth, one could understand them. But that is not the case. They take very great care, not only in the Commonwealth, but also in the United States of America, in Germany, and in every other Protectionist country not to approach that point. Since the establishment of Federation, the position is shown by the following figures of revenue from Customs duties : -
The important thing is that, although the Labour Government has been returned as Protectionist, the estimate of Customs revenue for 1916 is £13,200,000. People who tell us that they believe in a Protectionist policy, and year after year see this enormous revenue derived through the Customs without a protest, do not act fairly. The result of their action is not to secure the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth. A more sinister purpose is served, and that is to place, as Senator Ready said the other evening, a very large percentage of the taxation of the country on the shoulders of those least able to bear it. This, to-day and always, has been the objective of the so-called Protectionist party, including Senator Stewart. The estimate of revenue from the Customs for 1915-16 is £13,200,000, from Excise £3,000,000, from the Post Office £5,000,000, from the land tax £1,900,000, from the income tax £3,200,000, from probate and succession duties £500,000, and from some other sources of revenue £1,890,600, making a total revenue of £28,490,600. When of this total £13,200,000 is the estimated revenue from the Tariff, no one can call it a Protective Tariff. It is, and it always has been, a high-revenue Tariff. I well remember hearing the late Sir John See, when a number of. people in New South Wales were urging that the landed proprietors of that State should pay something towards the revenue, saying that if we had only a 10 per cent, ad valorem, duty we would hear no more of a land tax, and Sir John See knew this business very well indeed. To-day we see men who were elected to represent the workers of this country boldly proclaiming themselves Protectionists when they are merely high-revenue Tariffists, and the result of their effort is to place the taxation of the country, not upon those best able to bear it, but, through the Customs, on those least able to bear it. A Tariff of this kind is one of the worst that could be imposed on the people of this country. 1 venture to say that no so-called Protectionist will stand before the electors at the next election, and say, “ I am in favour of keeping” out all foreign-made goods.”
– Is the honorable senator in favour of letting them in?
– No man will say, ‘ I am in favour of a Tariff so high as to prohibit the importation of all foreignmade goods.” I have not had the pleasure of reading the electioneering speeches of Senator Stewart, but I venture to say that they do not contain a statement that he is in favour of a Customs Tariff sufficiently high to keep out all foreign-made goods.
– Yes, they do.
– I am glad to hear it, because that would, at least, be logical. The great bulk of the Protectionists of this and of every other country believe in a Tariff which is called a scientific Protectionist Tariff, sufficiently high to bring the cost of goods from abroad up to the cost of goods manufactured in their own country, but they have no intention whatever of keeping out foreign-made goods altogether.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting Protectionists.
– I am speaking now from the practical experience of Victoria before Federation, and of the whole of Australia since Federation. As time goes on, the great bulk of our revenue will be secured by the taxation of goods imported from low -waged foreign countries. I pass on now to deal briefly with the very important question of land value taxation, referred to by Senator Stewart in his very interesting address. I have repeatedly endeavoured to ascertain what is the value of the lands of the Commonwealth. I should like to know, so that, if it were decided to impose rates of Id., 2d., or even 3d. in the £1 on the land values of the Commonwealth, we might know what revenue those rates would produce. All the efforts I have made so far have failed to extract from our Commonwealth Statistician or the Land Tax Commissioner what the value of the lands of the Commonwealth is. So far as I can make out, no one in the Commonwealth to-day can give us that information. But we know, from a return furnished to the Senate at my request, on the 6th May, 1915, that the land values in estates of over £3,000 and less than £5,000 in value amounted to £38,238,000. That is a very substantial sum; but honorable senators will notice that it takes no account of the innumerable and ever-increasing number of estates of less value than £3,000. No one can tell how many of these estates exist, or what is their aggregate value. According to the Land Tax Commissioner, the value of estates of over £5,000 amounted to £186,877,306 at the date of the return I have mentioned. These totals give an aggregate total of £225,115,306 as the value of estates in Australia exceeding £3,000 in value. We are informed that the estimate of the revenue to be derived from land taxation, 1915-16, amounts to the nominal sum of £1,900,000. That is not to the credit of any member of the Senate or of the present Labour Government. In common with Senator Stewart and others, I have tried to induce the Government to review their action in this connexion, but without success. We must take our share of the blame; but the fact remains that a revenue of only ?1,900,000 is anticipated for 1915-16 from land values, which, so far as they have been returned, represent over ?225,000,000. That is not a fair system of taxation at all. We have no right to impose income taxation or probate and succession duties when we have failed to exploit the land values of Australia by more than that small amount.
– There are State land taxes as well.
– That does not affect the right of the Commonwealth to tax land. The total amount of land value taxation collected in New South Wales for the current year, under the State land value tax, will not amount to ?6,000. That tax is imposed only on some freehold estates in the western division. Land in the central and eastern division, including Sydney, where the land values are ?30,000,000, will not pay a penny per annum to the State Government in land tax.
– Most of the municipalities and shires collect very heavy land tax. It is, at least, 5?d. in the ?1 in the municipality I live in.
– Those taxes are only for services rendered. The land values in New South Wales are worth at least ?250,000,000, yet all the land-owners of the State paid by means of the State land value tax was less than ?6,000 per annum. It is somewhat risky to refer to the exemption under the Commonwealth land tax, but I believe a land value tax, to be effective, should have no exemption. Our present system of State and Federal land taxation has not been effective in breaking up large estates. So long as the exemption of ?5,000 remains part of our platform, I should not care to vote in favour of taxing land values at a less amount than ?5,000, but the whole question of exemption is an important one, and will have to be dealt with later on. It has engaged the attention of the party ever since it took a hand in the formation of the Commonwealth Labour platform. We are indebted to Mr. Lamond and Mr. King O ‘Malley for the fact that, instead of a straight-out land tax, with no exemption, we have a progressive land value tax, with an exemption, in our platform. Ever since the Melbourne conference of 1905, a considerable number of delegates have, at each succeeding conference, objected to that proposal, and, at the last conference, held in Adelaide, Mr. Jackson, of South
Australia, moved the following resolution from the Bobinda (Queensland) local committee of the Australian Workers Union : - .
That the exemption under the Federal land tax be abolished. saying -
The values given to land by community enterprise either belonged to the people or it did not. If it did, Governments should get the benefit of such revenue. The Federal land tax had not broken up large estates into small areas to the extent which had been hoped for when it was put forward. Estates of ?100,000 might have been brought down to ? 70,000 and ?50,000, but this did not mean that the land had been put to its best productive uses. With a proper land tax in operation, many men now unemployed would be enabled to get land and bring it into use. If the motion were carried no evil results need be feared.
Mr. Rae, one of the representatives of New South Wales, said -
There never was a time more opportune, or likely to occur again, than the present one in which to abolish the Federal land tax exemption. It had been thought at the time that this ?5,000 exemption was made in the Federal platform that it would give an opportunity to the States to exercise their taxation powers up to that amount, but the States had not fully done so. Whilst the Federal land tax had done something towards reducing very large estates, the number of large estates was now far too great. All sorts of inducements were held out for the bogus partition of estates so as to evade the tax, and that should not be allowed. The present war necessitated large additions to the revenue, and a tax without exemption would fall equally on all, and he believed in all land-owners contributing in proportion to the benefits they enjoyed.
And the opinion expressed by Mr.
Lamond, also of that State, was:
Land values of Sydney to-day were colossal. They still had land monopoly rampant in their midst, and the failure of the land tax to realize the hopes of its advocates had been foreseen. The enormous increases in land values had made the valuation fixed for land taxation purposes a mere fleabite, owners being very easily able to pay the taxation by reason of the great rise in prices brought about by the public works and enterprises initiated and expanded by the Governments.
Mr. Lutey, of Western Australia, said
Whilst the Governments of Australia, representing the people, were spending millions of money, land speculators were stepping in and reaping a golden harvest. A large sum of money was being spent by the Federal Government at Cockburn Sound, in Western Australia, railways were being built in various parts, and everywhere the land shark was on the look-out to make enormous profits out of the increased values given to land by these great undertakings paid for by the money of the people. He not only believed in there being no exemption, but felt that land nationalization was the remedy in the interests of the people.
Remarks were then made by Senator Ready, of Tasmania, which were wide of the mark. Then the late Mr. Cohen, of Victoria, said -
He did not think any logical argument could be put up in favour of exemptions. If it was decided to retain the exemption, there ought to be some increase in the taxable amounts over £5,000. There was no exemption for the workers, who were taxed on everything they ate, drank, and wore.
That fact cannot be too strongly stressed. The working man receives no exemption on anything he eats, drinks, or wears, under the policy of high revenue tariffism, misnamed protection, now in force in the Commonwealth, with the sanction of the present Government. Mr. Stewart, secretary of the militant Political Labour Council of Victoria, is reported thus at the same conference :
He favoured abolition of the exemption inasmuch as there was no sound argument in favour of exemption. If the thing was right as a principle, then it should operate all along the line, each payingh is proportion according to his possession.Roads, bridges, railroad and public works were erected in development of the country. Should not those who benefited by such State enterprise pay according to the share of benefits received? Was not the State - which was the people - entitled to some unearned increment in return for the services rendered?
Later Senator Givens said -
The Federal Parliament, charged with the defence of the Commonwealth, had an obvious duty to perform, and that was to remove every bar to the settlement of the country. Labour’s object in that Parliament had been to free the hand from the grasp of the monopolist; to get, so to speak, within his fortifications, and shell him out. Something was attempted in this direction, but it was not done effectively. He did not think that the exemption touched the real question at all. They should not be interfering with the small man. It was no use putting the big load on the weakest horse - the one fit to carry it ought to be called upon to do so. Land taxation had two great objects, revenue raising and promotion of settlement, and it was obvious which was the greater of the two.
I have tried time after time, but in vain, to get from the Commonwealth Statistician a return showing the number of men in the Commonwealth who own no land. If that return were furnished to me, and it ought to be, even if it costs £1,000, no public man could stand up at a Labour Conference and say, “ They should not be interfering with the small man.”
– This speech is worthy of a quorum of the Senate.
– There is a quorum present.
– There is no question in our domestic politics approaching that of land taxation in importance, and it cannot be too widely known that a great number of the small men of this country do not own any land. I hope the Government will instruct their Statistician to let us know the facts of this case, so that we may know the number of men who will be affected by the land tax, and the number who will not. The opinions I have quoted of practical representatives of Labour, as expressed at our most recent Inter-State Conference, show clearly and forcibly that the £5,000 exemption was wrong and injurious to the workers. That conference, like previous ones, excluded the public press, and we have to depend on the official Labour press for our information. Unfortunately, they do not give the divison lists on this or any other question. While the exemption exists, we have no hope of solving the difficulty now confronting us. We have Fair Rent Courts doing some good in individual cases, but, generally speaking, they have no effect in the direction of bringing about a general reduction of rent, nor do I think their most enthusiastic supporters expected that they would. We have that alleged panacea and other proposals, but the fact remains that throughout the Commonwealth the greatest handicap every man has to face is the enormous amount he must pay away in rent every Monday morning. Those who have sent us here have instructed us not to interfere with the exemption, and I will say no more about it, but I regret it is there, and hope that in a few years’ time the party will see its way to impose a straight-out land-value tax with no exemption, graduation, or progression. In New South Wales, after years of agitation, we succeeded in inducing the Labour Government to pass a Shires Act, operating throughout the central division. The whole of the revenue locally derived thereby is from land values. No matter what improvement a man puts on his land, he is charged no more for it. It is mandatory that the tax shall be on the unimproved value only.
In all municipal areas, thanks to legislation passed by a Liberal Government, the basis of taxation, subject to a vote of the ratepayers, rests with the aldermen. Throughout the whole of New South Wales nearly every municipality, so far as my memory serves me, strikes its rate upon the unimproved value of land. There are only one or two exceptions - places like Parramatta and a few other Liberal strongholds, but even in those places the great bulk of revenue is raised from taxation on the unimproved value. That system of unimproved land values taxation has done more to create and maintain open the avenues of employment than any other measure placed on the statute-book of New South Wales. I remember one case in the municipality where I lived. A certain gentleman held the premier block in the municipality, and under the old system he paid £6 9s. per year, but under the new system of taxation he had to pay over £140 per year. It is no wonder, therefore, that gentlemen of his type are opposed to this system. In Sydney, after an agitation extending over twenty-five years, although the aldermen are elected upon a property qualification, the ratepayers succeeded at the recent elections in returning a majority in favour of the rate upon land values. The building erected by the Australian Workers Union, the World office - a building which gave employment to a large number of men, and greatly beautified the city in every way - instead of being taxed £600 as it was last year, will find its rates reduced by about £350 this year. That is one of the results of the change in the system of taxation brought about by a council dominated by a majority of Labour aldermen. There is no exemption whatever in Sydney. The poorest ratepayer there, the man who may have only £100 worth of land, must pay up his 4d. per £1 per year, and the man who has £500,000 worth of land must pay 4d. for every £1 worth that he holds. That is the basis of taxation for Sydney. In Brisbane this system has been in operation for many years, with the best results, and I say that the sooner that the socalled Protectionist party in this country get on the track of this system and compel the land-owners of the Commonwealth to subscribe handsomely to the expenses of the Commonwealth the better it will be for the people they represent. I point out to Senator Stewart and others who are so anxious to have a high Tariff barrier that they are not . going to keep out foreign-made goods in that way. Those goods will still come here. And so long as the Treasury is kept full, either by an income tax or a wealth tax, a probate tax, or an Excise duty, any Government will say - “ We have enough revenue to meet the whole of our expenses, and therefore it is not necessary to further tax the people of this country.” That story has gone down successfully with the people for the last twenty-five years, and it will continue to be accepted. I warn Senator Stewart to review his position and to get hold of the facts I have related. The land values of the Commonwealth are admitted by the Commonwealth Land Tax Commissioner to be worth more than £225,000,000, excluding altogether those estates of less value than £3,000 - and there are many thousands of them. I do not wish to encroach on the time of the Senate, but I want to say that, so far as the expenditure of public money on the Federal Capital site is concerned - and I have had an opportunity of inspecting the site on more than one occasion - I am of the opinion that it has been judiciously expended. I do not care what anybody says to the contrary, and, although I would not care to put my opinion against competent engineers or architects, I have spent a large portion of my time in construction work, and I feel confident that the money spent on the Capital site has been wisely employed. I do not say that the works are in the right or the wrong place, because I do not know; but, so far as the power-house, or the dam across the Cotter River, are concerned, I think the money has been judiciously expended. I regretted to see the statement in the pressthat the £800,000 has not been wisely expended. I differ entirely from that view. In conclusion, I regret that any one has’ taken exception to the representation of the Commonwealth in Great Britain by our Prime Minister. I have watched his movements as closely as I could, and, having read the major portion of his speeches as cabled, I am of opinion that Mr. Hughes has done even better than the most sanguine of us ever expected. Every one in the Commonwealth must applaud the courageous manner in which he dealt with the metals question, and with every other matter that he has taken in hand. With reference to the Appropriation Bill before us, I notice we are asked to vote a sum of over £3,000,000. With other honorable senators, I regret that we cannot get the Estimates before us at a’ very much earlier date. I cannot understand why the Government do not employ a few more clerks to expedite this work. The Government ought to get a move on. They could do it if they tried, and I am certain the whole Parliament would warmly approve of their action if they placed next year’s Estimates before us at an early date.
– I desire to avail myself of the opportunity presented to me by referring to one or two important questions before the. first reading of the Bill is agreed to. May I mention - if I am in order in so doing - the fact that, during the whole of to-day’s sitting, I have not seen a member of the Opposition in his place? With Senator Ferricks, I am at a loss to understand the reason for their absence. So far as the Tariff is concerned, I think it is imperative that the question of revision should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. While I have every sympathy with the Government because their leader is in another part of the world, and another Minister is not in good health, I contend that, instead of adjourning until the Prime Minister returns, Parliament should set to work to review the Tariff. Why was the Tariff not proceeded with as promised by the ex-Prime Minister and the present High Commissioner of Australia? This work wasnot undertaken because it was believed that if we started to review a Tariff during the” war, party issues would be raised. Therefore the Tariff which was placed on the table of the House of Representatives in October, 1914,. has been allowed to remain in its present indefinite shape. Parliament has not attempted to review it. Although it is supposed to he a Protective Tariff, it is an absolute abortion. I am speaking as a pronounced Protectionist. The records of the Customs show that, since the Tariff became operative in 1914, the revenue from Customs has increased monthly.
– So it will if we increase the Tariff.
– For a time. But while the revenue has been increasing under the existing Tariff our industries in Australia have not been progressing.
– I do not agree with you there. The Tariff is an improvement on the old Tariff.
– Yes; but I believe that the increases in our industries is the result of the war, and is somewhat fictitious.
– It will disappear immediately the war is over.
– I admit the Tariff is an improvement on the old Tariff, but it is not what I would desire, by a long way.
– I agree with you there.
– I maintain, therefore, that it is the duty of this Parliament immediately to revise the Tariff, in order to make it more in accord with the desire of the people of Australia so far as protective duties are concerned. The inflation of revenue experiencedis not due to the Tariff at all, but to the abnormal conditions under which we are living. It was contended, as I have said, that if we discussed the Tariff during war time, we would raise party issues, and so a party truce was observed. But when the ex-Prime Minister was appointed High Commissioner, was there then a party truce? Was that party truce observed, and were party issues sunk? If they had been, there would have been no contest for the representation of Wide Bay in the House of Representatives. Our friends of the Opposition immediately took advantage of the opportunity to set aside the party truce and placed a candidate in the field for the Wide Bay seat.
– And got special German speakers to go into special German districts for them.
– I dare say they specialized in that regard. I want to connect my argument of the non-revision of the Tariff, because there was a temporary party truce, with the fact that our opponents seized the first opportunity that offered itself during the war to introduce party warfare. There is another reason why the Tariff should be revised immediately, and made more Protective in its incidence. To-day we have something like 500,000 people engaged either in the manufacture of war materials,” munitions, clothing, boots, saddlery, and so on, or in the game of war itself. I take these figures from a speech made by the Minister of Defence. As Senator Stewart said this afternoon, should peace be suddenly declared - and, God willing, I wish it was declared to-night - we should find ourselves faced with the problem of finding other avenues of employment for these 500,000 people. What are we doing in the meantime to prepare those avenues of employment? The Acting Prime Minister has announced that it is the intention of the Government to direct by legislation the investment of capital with a view to meeting the post-war problem. Whilst that is very good and necessary, I say that if we had a proper Traiff it would solve the problem for us more effectively than it can be solved by the projected legislation of the Government. I leave the Tariff for the moment and deal with the price of foodstuffs. I asked the Acting Prime Minister recently the reason for the high price of meat in Western Australia, and what the Federal Government intended to do in that matter. The reply I received was that the cause of the dearness of meat in Western Australia was that ships could not be obtained to bring cattle from the northern parts of the State. The honorable senator went on to say that the Federal Government would assist the Western Australian Government to provide ships to bring the cattle from the north. He has since made a “public announcement that the Minister of the Navy is doing this.
– And a boat arrived at Fremantle to-day.
– I am very glad to hear it. But there is a graver question than the price of meat in Western Australia to be considered, and that is the price of foodstuffs throughout the Commonwealth. The Government would be well employed in engaging the attention of this Parliament to consider the control of foodstuffs generally, which certain people are exploiting to-day at the expense of the wives and children of the men who have laid down their lives for the country on the slopes of Gallipoli or who are prepared to lay down their lives for it in other parts of Europe. To their credit, be it said, the Government have fixed the price of bread and of sugar. I understand that the price of bread has been fixed under the provisions of the War Precautions Act. What I want to point out is that the Federal Government having fixed the price of the loaf, the Government of Victoria threatens to test the validity of their action before the High Court.
– No; they said they would help the master bakers if they appealed.
– At any rate, there was a threat to bring a test case before the High Court as to the constitutionality of the action taken by the Federal Government. If we have power under the War Precautions Act to fix the price of the loaf, we can fix the price of butter, tea, sugar, milk, and every other commodity necessary to the people. I am not a lawyer, constitutional or otherwise, but am speaking from a common-sense point of view. It would be a wise thing on the part of the Federal Government even to strain the Constitution and risk the validity of their action by a test case in the High Court, if at the same time they relieved the pressure of the daily increasing cost of living upon the people. I applaud them for fixing the price of the loaf, but I wish they would fix the prices of other commodities as well. I quote the opinion of a very eminent constitutional lawyer, who is a member of this Parliament; I refer to Sir William Irvine, who has said that, in a time of war, the Government of a country can do practically anything. This is a time of war. We are sending our best and bravest to the scenes of slaughter on the battle-fields of Europe. Their wives and children are in a manner assisted by the Federal Government, but without anticipating a measure yet to come before us I say that they have not given, and do not contemplate giving, assistance to the extent I should like. Instead of adjourning the session until Mr. Hughes comes back, valuable as he is to Australia, and great as is the work he has done, and is doing, in Great Britain, the wisest thing the Government could do would be to propose an adjournment until next week, ‘ and let us reassemble to discuss the problems presented, not only by the war on the battle-fields of Europe, but also by the war in the homes of Australia, where men and women are to-day wondering how they are going to make ends meet with the exorbitant prices that are charged for food. If the householder appeals to a member of a State Parliament he will be told that the State Government does not feel inclined to move in the matter. If he appeals to a member of the Federal Parliament he will be told that the Constitution does not allow us to move. Then, I say, put the Constitution on one side for the moment, and as we are dealing with abnormal conditions, due to the existence of war, let this Parliament assume full powers. The other fellow damns the Constitution, but we are too timid to do so, and we allow things to go on as they are. I say, advisedly, that it is a crying shame that, in the Commonwealth to-day, despite the fact that we have seven Parliaments, there is apparently not one that can come to the rescue of the worker, who is struggling with a small wage to meet the high cost of living. Surely to God that is a war that we can meet, and some action can be taken in fighting this war against the food exploiter. The war on the battle-fields of Europe is certainly a very serious one. It is a cataclysm in which the world is involved, but those of us who are in authority here should remember that there is in the Commonwealth a war, in some cases, a hunger war, because we have men who are deliberately increasing the prices of foodstuffs, knowing that there is no Parliament in Australia that is willing, or, if willing, has the power to deal with them. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer, and it concerns the relation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to the War Pensions Act. I have here a letter from the Department of Defence in connexion with the separation allowance. It refers to the case of a Mrs. Cradden, of Quarry-street, Fremantle, Western Australia. She is in receipt of an old-age pension, and cannot get the separation allowance usually made to the relatives of soldiers under certain conditions. The letter reads -
Melbourne, 25th October, 1915.
With further reference to your memo of the 18th inst., written on behalf of Mrs. M. Cradden, c/o Mrs. J. Beverage, Quarry-street, Fremantle, Western Australia, I now beg to inform you that separation allowance, which is quite separate from, and additional to, an allotment of the soldier’s pay cannot, it is regretted, be paid to the recipient of an old-age pension.
I have here a letter addressed to myself in connexion with a similar matter -
Maylands, 14th January, 1916.
Just a line to thank you for all the trouble you have taken re the pension.
I still hope the Act will be amended, as there are sure to be numbers of aunts who have brought up children, as I have done, and who are entitled to the pension quite as much as any other relation.
Thanking you for your exceeding kindness,
I do not want to claim just now that the separation allowance should be included, but I think it is only right that the War Pensions Act and the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act should be administered separately and independently of each other. If a dependant of a soldier is in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension that should not prevent the dependant receiving a separation allowance. In order to buttress my contention, a,part from the separation allowance, I shall quote a statement of the Minister of Defence, to be found at page 5620 of Hansard for 1915. I asked the honorable senator -
Will an invalid or old-age pension, received! by a dependant, be set off against the pensions, to which that person is entitled under this. Bill?
Senator Pearce replied
The pension, payable under this Bill, will not be determined by the amount any person is receiving under the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, but will depend on the amount of his dependence upon the deceased or incapacitated soldier.
Later, in concluding the debate on the subject, the Minister summed up the contention I wish to make in these words -
So far as this Bill is concerned, the amounts paid under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will not be a set-off against any claim for a war pension. As to whether any amounts paid under the War Pensions Act can be set off against any old-age pension claim, I am not prepared to say; but no amendment of the Bill before us can amend the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. However, as it would be inconsistent for the Committee to say that a pension payable under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is not to be a set-off against the claim under the War Pensions Act, and then to declare that a war pension should be taken as a set-off against an old-age pension, I shall submit the point to the Attorney-General, and if the Government find that a war pension can be set ofl” against a claim under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, they will amend that Act, in order to make the same provision as we find in the Bill before us.
Will the Minister, when replying, promise to bring in a Bill when we resume, in accordance with his statement, so that each Act may be independent of the other?
– Do you want a pensioner to get two pensions?
– I do not want the dependant of a soldier, if in receipt of an old-age pension, to be debarred from getting a war pension ; aor do I want a person getting a war pension to be debarred from receiving the old-age pension, provided the full amount does not exceed the amount provided under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The amount received under the War Pensions Act ought not to be set off against the claim for an old-age pension. The Labour party glory in the fact that they were instrumental in putting the Old-age Pensions Act on the statute-book; but we never dreamt, until nineteen months ago, that we would be faced with the conditions we are facing to-day. We desire that Act to be left intact, so that those who establish their- right to pension* under it may not be deprived of one penny to which they are entitled because some one near and dear to them has offered up his life as a sacrifice on the altar of the world’s liberty. I do not think that is the intention of the Government. The statement of the Minister of Defence sets out, I think, their real intention; and I urge them to put it intopractical operation as soon as possible.
– I was glad to notice, by this morning’s press, that we were within reasonable distance of getting the extra 6d. for the wheat delivered under the Government scheme; but the announcement ought to have been made, not by a State Minister, but by the representative of the Commonwealth on the Board. A State Minister who usurps the position which belongs of right to a Commonwealth Minister, should be told plainly that it is not his place to make the announcement. I trust that the big sale of wheat just announced - amounting to £2,500,000, will enable the Board to make the 6d. advance to the growers. Now is the all-important time to make the advance so that growers may put in extra seed. If it is not made soon, a reduced area will be put under crop, a reduced amount of wheat produced, and less labour provided. That sale provides half the necessary money. If the whole £4,000,000 is paid to the growers, the overdraft will be about £13,000,000, which will be at least £2,000,000 less than the banks agreed to as a maximum.1 I hope the Minister will see that those in need of the extra instalment are told about it straight away, and that the money will be available. I am glad to see that the note issue is in so sound a position. The gold reserve of £15,000,000 still offers a large margin for an increased issue. If the gold reserve is kept at 30 per cent, the note issue can be increased, should the Government want money to prosecute the war. Thirty per cent is about 6s. in the £1 ; but when the leading bankers gave evidence before a Boya1! Commission in Sydney, eighteen years ago, the general managers of the Bank of New South Wales, the Union Bank, and the Bank of Australasia, agreed that 3s. 4d. was ample to redeem the notes of any bank. If 3s. 4d. was- enough for private banks, it ought to be even more than enough for Commonwealth notes, which have the whole security of the country behind them; and on that basis, we have in the note issue alone a margin of some £47,000,000 available for war purposes or internal development.
– Do you think even the 3s. 4dl is necessary?
– That is open to question; but we are, at any rate, entitled to attach a great deal of weight to the opinions of those leading bankers, and the Government can, on their authority, enlarge the note issue with perfect safety. The Treasurer’s proposal to exempt agriculture from the War Profits Taxation Bill indicates a safe course. I do not appeal for special treatment for agriculture, but the industry has no particular form of protection, either by bounties or import duties.
– Except sugar.
– I am prepared to give- sugar a long trial, and am ready to pay sufficient for my pound of sugar to insure the sugar lands being kept cultivated and productive. I believe it is a wise policy, although the time may come when our sugar production will exceed our consumption, and we shall have to look to foreign markets to take the surplus product. So far the consumption has outrun the production. When production equalizes the consumption we shall have a problem for solution. In addition to exempting agriculture from the operation of the war profits tax the Government will be well advised to go a step further and exempt the mining industry. That industry is deserving of special protection and encouragement. It is particularly a pioneering industry. Under the glamour and attractiveness of gold and other metals men have been encouraged to go far and wide throughout the continent, and the hardihood they have displayed in chasing the elusive metal has established the ability of our vacant areas to support large populations in comparative comfort. Therefore the mining industry has played an important part in giving employment to our people. The prices of the products of mining are mostly fixed. There is no chance of raising the price of gold. The price of silver and copper is regulated by the market price throughout the world . Whatever happens in Australia cannot increase it. The price of silver now is what it has been for years. Copper has advanced in price a little, and the same remark applies to lead; but, generally speaking, the values of the mineral products of Australia are fixed by international arrangement, or increase so slightly that it is not worth whilebringing the mining industry within the scope of the war profits tax.
– It is purely a speculative industry.
– That is another reason for exempting it. A man whoputs his money into a commercial enterprise can be satisfied that with reasonable management he at least will get his money returned, but in the majority of cases the man who puts his money into mining loses it, as many honorable senators know from experience. On account of the unstable character of the industry and the large element of risk associated with its development, the Government would be well advised to exempt it along with agriculture.
All other industries can well afford to come within the scope of the tax. I would feel inclined to go further than the Government in regard to the share of the profits to be taken. Men should not be encouraged to make profits out of the necessities of war time; but if we go to the bedrock and took the last penny of what might be regarded as profit earned through the war there would be no incentive to make profits, and various dodges might be resorted to in order to evade the tax. Balance-sheets might be produced which would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer if he endeavoured to pick out what the profit had been; so that while I might feel inclined to get right down to the bone in order to secure the last penny of war profits, I realize that the very act of doing so might raise difficulties which would hinder our efforts in that direction. A tax of 50 per cent. is a very fair proposal, but if the Government wish to take 75 per cent. they will have my support.
I notice that there is no longer any intention on the part of the Government to carry out the standardization of the railway gauge from Port Augusta right to Fremantle, but I think that they can well afford to meet the Western Australian Government half way. The statement of the Treasurer is that the Government have turned down the proposition, and that they are not willing to bear a share of the interest or a share of the extra expense in which the Western Australian Government might be involved in widening the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. I urge the Government to reconsider this decision and share a portion of the interest burden. As representing the taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth the Government have some tangible interest in the completion of the line on the standard gauge, and it is only fair that they should bear a portion of the extra expense that will be involved in doing; so. The difference of gauges throughout the Commonwealth cannot continue for’ all time. They are an unfortunate legacy inherited from the so-called statesmen and politicians who have preceded us. We hear a mighty lot said about what they have done for Australia, but when we recall the legacy of trouble, disadvantage, inconvenience, and positive loss handed down tousby our predecessors, we are appalled at the thought of such men having been suffered in their time. We have as a legacy from them a disjointed railway system, as Senator Stewart has pointed out so consistently. We have a woeful legacy in the wayin which the public estate has been parcelled out, and we have also congested areas around the big centres of metropolitan population as a result of the inaction of the politicians who preceded us. Looking at the map of Australia, one can see that there was no coherence, and no idea of a unified system; no attempt at coordination in having our railways built along common-sense lines. The present state of affairs must come to an end some day, and the railways will be standardized; they cannot continue as they are, offering a positive inducement to any invader who may have designs on this country to come and es_tablish himself, on account of the way in which they lend themselves particularly to his operations and designs. If we have any intention to safeguard the future of this country, we must unify our railway systems; but it is obvious that the whole of the railways cannot be standardized at the same time. The interest burden of the State whose railways are standardized first will have to be borne by somebody. Obviously, we shall not ask the State to bear it. Therefore, if we set up the principle of giving financial relief to the State whose railways are first standardized, we shall be only applying that principle to Western Australia if the people of the Commonwealth bear the whole of the interest burden, or at least a reasonable share of it, in connexion with the cost of completing on the standard gauge the railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. That point must be taken into consideration soon. It was admitted by Mr. Fisher, when head of the Government, that when the work of standardizing the railways of Australia is undertaken, the extra cost in those States where the railways “will be altered to the standard gauge will be a common burden on the whole of the taxpayers of Australia. And rightly so. If therefore, when the work of bringing these disjointed railway systems on to a common-sense business basis, with one standard gauge throughout the Commonwealth, is undertaken, the individual States are not to bear their own share of the burden, we ought to apply that principle to Western Australia in regard to the interest bill for the cost of widening the gauge of the line between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. That is the only point of difference that remains in dispute between the western
State and the Commonwealth. The Western Australian Government are able to do the work, but, naturally enough, they are not going to saddle themselves with an interest burden of £140,000 per annum simply to accommodate the Commonwealth.
– That represents a capital cost of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000.
– The cost of widening the link between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle is estimated at £2,400,000, I think.
– What is a million?
– In these days, the question is not, “What is a million?” but “What is fifty millions?” If the Federal Government desire that railway to be widened - and I should like to see it widened - they will have to display more business tact and a wider outlook than to ask the western State to bear the whole interest bill, as well as find the money for carrying out the work. They will have to approach this question in a more liberal spirit than in the past. I believe that a fair adjustment would be to cut the difference, the Commonwealth paying half the interest, and the State the other half. It is of no earthly use for the Commonwealth to say to the western State, “ We will lend you the money, but you must pay the interest bill, and be responsible for the principal.” If the Federal Government desire the railway to be built to convenience the people of the Commonwealth and to insure the completeness of our defence system, the Commonwealth should be prepared to bear a portion of the cost.
– And share the railway ?
– I would not mind that, but Western Australia will not sell any portion of the railway. The Commonwealth asks the State to widen a railway, and the State naturally replies, “ If you desire the railway widened to advantage yourself and to insure the defence system being put on a proper basis, why are you not willing to pay a portion of the cost? You are calling the tune, and you ask us to pay the piper.” I repeat that the Federal Government should approach the question ‘ in a more liberal and national spirit than it has up to date.
– It is a pity that that was not said before the contract for building the railway was entered into.
– The construction of this link has nothing to do with the building of the railway.
– That is a horse of quite another colour. If we desire to be sure of having a fine stretch of 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge railway stretching from Port Augusta to Fremantle, it is unfair and unbusinesslike to ask one State to pay the whole of the cost of standardizing the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle section. If the Government regard it as a good business proposition for the Commonwealth, they should say to the State, “ We do not wish you to bear all the cost. As the representatives of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and recognising the advantage and benefit the railway will be to the taxpayers as a whole, we are prepared to pay some portion of the interest bill.” The Government have not said that up to date, and that is why I am urging on them to look more closely into the State point of view than they have done in the past. If negotiations are to be continued in this matter, no time is to be lost, because the huge plant at the western end will be out of action about the beginning of next year, and if the Government are in earnest regarding the widening of the section from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, something should be done promptly, so that this plant and the men now employed on the east-west railway may be employed to complete the work.
– We have no money.
– There is plenty of money . If we are to accept the bankers as a guide to the way in which the note issue could be worked, there is £47,000,000 worth of money not touched yet.
I notice from the Budget-papers that a sum of £3,379,000- which is much less than we expected - has been allocated from revenue towards defraying the cost of the war. The war itself has cost us something in the neighbourhood of £44,000,000, so that we are not putting up a record so far as meeting the expenditure out of revenue is concerned. Our efforts are far below those of other countries in bearing the cost on our own shoulders and not passing the burden on to posterity. What we have provided from revenue as compared with what we have raised by borrowing is as £1 to £11, whereas, in the case of other nations, the ratio is much higher. We might, with advantage, follow the example of the British Government during the Peninsular War, which cost £1,073,000,000, of which huge sum the taxpayers contributed no less than £330,000,000 odd, and passed on about £660,000,000.
– They did not pay their men then.
– They did not pay their men as we do now, but had a rotten system of hiring men from rulers on the Continent. We were led to believe, when the war measures were before Parliament, that we should be able to raise a much larger sum. The estimated revenue from succession duties is, according to the Budget, £500,000, whereas we were led to believe that these would yield £1,000,000; but, apparently, rich men are not dying fast enough to see the Government through their trouble. An increased rate of land tax was imposed on large estates throughout the Commonwealth, and this, according to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, was, undoubtedly, a war tax, and a tax, as admitted by the leader of our party, which can well be resorted to in war time.
– How much revenue should we get from the land tax?
– We ought to get much more than we do.
– What is the revenue from this tax?
– It is £1,700,000.
– We ought to be getting £20,000,000.
– By the tax on leaseholds, the land tax is responsible for £357,000 more finding its way into the Treasury during the current financial year. The income tax is also a war impost.
– There is no income tax on war loan investments!
– That is so. The income tax is’ estimated to yield £3,200,000. The three measures - income tax, death duties, and increased tax on large estates - were introduced and passed through Parliament with the avowed object of devoting the proceedings towards the cost of the war.
– The revenue would about pay the interest on £100,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.80 a.m. (Tuesday).
– When the sitting was suspended, I was pointing out the discrepancy which exists between the intentions of the Government in connexion with certain Acts which were passed for the purpose of raising revenue for war purposes, and the application of that revenue after it had been collected. The Treasurer stated, when he was dealing with the Budget-papers, that* for the current financial year the ‘amount of revenue devoted to the prosecution of the war was £3,379,000. Yet he estimates that the income tax will produce £3,200,000, the death duties £500,000, and that the increase in the amount collected from land tax during the present year was £357,000. In other words, a total of £4,057,000 was collected from these sources, and was to be exclusively devoted towards defraying the cost -of ihe war. Bui we now find that out of that sum only £3,379,000 has been applied to that purpose, leaving the huge sum of £678,000 to be accounted for. I think that this discrepancy calls for some explanation on the part of the Leader of the Senate. In regard to the increased amount collected under the land tax, it may possibly be held that the Act authorizing that increase was intended to have a different effect from that assigned’ to it by Ministers. But Mr. Fisher distinctly gave this country to understand that a larger revenue from land taxation was justified in war time.
– The honorable senator will find that there was an estimated deficiency for which a portion of the revenue from land tax was required.
– At any rate the accounts have been disturbed to the extent of nearly £700,000, and, consequently, the loan funds had to be resorted to in order to finance our share of -the war.
The reference in the Budget-papers to the Commonwealth Bank is one which calls for some comment. The statement is there made that the Bank charges different rates of interest for advances to different classes of customers, ft charges ordinary customers 6 per cent., charitable institutions 5 per cent., and municipalities and incorporated bodies 4^ per cent. Whilst I admit that 6 per cent, is a vast improvement on the rate which has hitherto obtained, it does seem an anomaly that persons engaged in the development of our resources should bes charged 6 per cent, by way of interest on. advances made to them, whilst incorporated bodies are required to pay only 4£ per cent. What is the position to-day I A municipality usually follows a certain, amount of settlement in the country. Soon after its appearance the ordinary conveniences of life, such as roads, water works, and electric light, follow. But the man who goes to cultivate a piece of land cannot obtain an advance at 4£ per cent.
– Surely there is a big difference between the security of an> individual and that of a corporate body.
– I suppose that that accounts for the difference in the rates of interest charged. It seems to me that the Commonwealth Bank is following strictly on the lines of other banks, and I imagine that from stress of circumstances it is compelled to do so. But if the Government could, by way of a subvention, compensate that Bank for making advances to our producing interests at the same rateas it charges to incorporated bodies, they would be doing something of broad, national significance. I am inclined to dispute the statement of the Assistant Minister in regard to the value of the security offered. It is true that the security of a. municipality may b© better than that of the average farmer, or the average small industry which is struggling and in need of -assistance j but if anything; like ordinary care were exercised, the Commonwealth Bank would incur very little risk in making advances upon broad acres to the individual at the same rate as it charges to corporate bodies. Indeed. I question whether, in view of the margin which is always insisted upon by financial institutions, the Bank would incur any risk whatever. Of course, in the old days, when our banks were run on wild-cafe lines, there is no doubt that they incurred a great deal of risk. In the early nineties, in your own State, Mr. President, banking was carried on on such a lavish scale that it was extremely risky to make advances on account of country interests. But we have progressed very much since then, and now money loaned to municipalities, incorporated bodies, and Road Boards is furnished principally to provide the facilities for the people, and the risk involved is very small. I believe this Government’ should take into consideration the question of giving to the Commonwealth Bank the difference between the rate of interest charged to the ordinary country interests and that charged to incorporated bodies. By that means it would, in word as well as in deed, be encouraging the industries of the country in a much better way than hitherto. That is all I have to say on that point. I deplore the fact that the expenditure, both from loan and revenue for the extension of. our telegraph and telephone systems, shows a remarkable shrinkage,, while in many other directions where curtailment might be expected there have been substantial increases.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that this matter could be discussed much better in Committee.
– I understood, Mr. President, that in a Budget debate there was really no limit to the scope of the discussion.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that there is a limit to the scope of the discussion! An honorable senator must not anticipate discussion. The first-reading debate is for the express purpose of allowing honorable senators an opportunity to speak: on things which he might not afterwards have an opportunity to refer to. It is contrary to the Standing Orders to discuss, on the first reading, matters which can be more conveniently discussed at a later stage of the Bill.
– Very well,. Mr. President. I was under the impression that in a Budget debate there was no limit to the scope of discussion, and I only want to say that I am rather disappointed that such a small amount has been allocated to the two services I have mentioned.
– I just want to say a few words in reply to questions that have been raised during the course of the debate. In reply to Senator Lynch’s remarks concerning the Kalgoorlie-Premantle section of the Western Australia railway, the Commonwealth made the proposition that it should widen the line, but we thought that, if we did that, the line ought to be owned by the Commonwealth. We did not think it fair for the State to own the line while the Commonwealth had to bear the loss, or any portion of the loss, on its working. Senator Turley raised a question in connexion with the Northern Territory land settlement. Some of his statements were certainly of a serious character, and I can only say that Ministers here have no knowledge of the circumstances he related, but we shall certainly bring them under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs. Mr. Barnet, a Police Magistrate of New South Wales, has. been appointed to go to the Territory to conduct an inquiry, and we shall certainly suggest to the Minister of External Affairs that the statements made by Senator Turley might very well be investigated by that gentleman when he is in the Territory. It is undesirable that officers of the Department should be in any way associated with land speculation, as appears to be the case if the statements put before us are not capable of contradiction. Senator Needham raised the question of a separation allowance to mothers of soldiers in receipt of old-age pensions. Where separation allowances are paid, it is presumed that the soldier is a householder and requires the money to enable him to support his household. This is a payment by the Commonwealth Government, and the same Government pays the old-age pensions. Now, obviously, it is undesirable to place the Commonwealth payments in watertight compartments. If we are paying a woman 10s. per week as an old-age pension, that is equivalent to what she would receive as a separation allowance were she dependent upon a soldier. The position with regard to the other question raised by Senator Needham - the relation between old-age pensions and the war pensions - is that, under the War Pensions Act, old-age pensions are not taken into consideration, but under the Old-age. Pensions Act the income of a pensioner is taken into consideration. Thus, if a person is in receipt of a certain sum of money as a war pension, that fact is borne in mind when the amount of the old-age pension is fixed. Here, again, I would point out that the payments are borne by the same taxpayers in each case, and, although they are made under two different Acts, they are payments for sustenance by the Commonwealth Government, and it seems equitable that the Commonwealth, in fixing the amount of sustenance, should take into consideration what a person is already receiving.. That is the principle underlying payments under the Old-age Pensions Act, and it seems to be an equitable one. If the payments were placed in watertight compartments, as if they were made by independent outside bodies, there might be something in the contention. Supposing a woman were in receipt of 10s. per week as a war pension, she might be entitled to another 10s. per week as an old-age pension, making £1 in all. But if she were receiving 15s. per week as a war pension, she would be entitled to only 5s. per week as an old-age pension, bringing the total payment up to £1 a week.
– If she received 10s. a week as an old-age pension, would the 10s. war pension be a set-off against the income ?
– It is the old-age pension that is determined by the income received. If a woman is in receipt of 10s. as a war pension, she may be entitled to another 10s. as an old-age pension, provided that she has no other income. If she is in receipt of 15s. as a war pension, she gets 5s. as an old-age pension. In each case she would get from the Commonwealth £1 per week, and in each case the amount would be taken from the same taxpayers.
– That is not in consonance with the honorable senator’s former statement.
– The honorable senator has been harping on that statement for a very long time, but though I have not had the time to hunt through Hansard, I am quite sure that I have more than once explained the circumstances under which that statement was made.
– A woman lost her son in the war. She is receiving 10s. as an old-age pension. She was given another 5s., making her pension 15s. in all. She got 5s. for the sacrifice she made through the loss of her son, and the Defence Department wrote to tell me that those were the conditions upon which she would be paid.
– That would be a case where the woman was not totally dependent on her son.
– But she was totally dependent on him.
– What I mean is that it would be a case in which, in the opinion of the War Pensions Committee, she. was not totally dependent on her son. la fixing the war pension, the old-age pension would not be deducted, but the war pension is taken into consideration infixing the amount of the old-age pension.
– The old-age pension is determined by the amount of the war pension.
– That is what I have said.
– Then it is wrong; the two should stand alone.
– Senator Lynch opened up a very tempting discussion on the war profits measure, but as it is to come before us later, I do not propose to go into that matter now. With regard to what was said by Senator Ferricks, I regret that he saw fit to make the statements he did concerning Mr. Hughes. I am sure that if the honorable senator knew Mr. Hughes better he would be under no misapprehension that that gentleman would deviate from the course he has always pursued in regard to the Labour movement. In connexion with the war, Mr. Hughes has said nothing in Great Britain which differs from what he said here. He takes an enthusiastic interest in the war, and is determined to see it through to a successful issue and to bend the whole power of the nation to that end. All his speeches before he left here were in that direction, and his speeches in England have been consistent with that line of policy. I know that Mr. Hughes has not neglected any opportunity that has presented itself to put before the people of Great Britain their duty to the working classes in that country. He told them in straight and unmistakable language that if Great Britain was to hold her place amongst the nations she must not only win in this war, but must give to her people the opportunity to earn a decent living. Senator Ferricks took exception to the war census questions. I should like to put this view to him regarding the third question asking reasons for non-enlistment. I think he may not have given it consideration. It was found that, notwithstanding all the publication that has taken place concerning pay allotments, separation allowance and pensions, there was still a great number of people who were not aware of what, as regards the provision made for him, would be the position of a man who enlisted. One of the objects which the
Government had in arranging for the submission of the third question was to enable the people who were willing to enlist, but refrained from doing so because of some misconception as to what their position would be if they did, to reveal that to the confidential committees and so enable the committees to meet them and explain the position. A large number of the replies that have been received indicate that the third .question served a useful purpose in that way. Many men have given as the reason why they did not enlist that they did not think they could afford to do so, because they had a family, or had some one dependent on them. The confidential committees have been able to put before these men the true position as regards pay, separation allowance, pensions, and so on, and in many cases have bean able to remove their objection to enlist. Senator Ferricks has said that he did not object to the appeal, nor could any reasonable man object to it. There are a number of people who do not think very deeply on these questions. They take them light-heartedly, and sometimes even flippantly. It was the desire of the Government to see that «very citizen in the Commonwealth or military age should be faced with the issues involved in the war. Having had that explained to them, it was for them to decide whether, with that knowledge, they would enlist. What objection could there be to that? Senator Ferricks, as a politician, knows how difficult it is to get many people to take an intelligent interest in political questions. He and others have to take the stump to explain and explain again many questions which, to politicians, appear to be quite simple. The confidential committees have done very much in the way I have mentioned to enable men to see the serious responsibility they were under to answer the census card questions. No doubt abuses have occurred. Every system dependent upon human agencies to give it effect is open to abuse; but when honorable senators realize that nearly 1,000,000 cards were issued, and that the confidential committees were operating throughout the country, they will agree that there have been remarkably few instances proved of abuses in connexion with the third question.
– What right have the Government to ask me my reasons for not enlisting?
– I think they have a right to ask for the honorable senator’s reasons, but not to publish them. They have a right to ask for reasons in order that they may see whether the honorable senator has realized the position ; whether he understands the issues at stake; and whether they can do anything to remove any misapprehension that may be in his mind. Having done that, the honorable senator is left free to make up his” own mind and determine his action. There is in that no interference with individual liberty.
– There was intimidation by the so-called confidential committees.
– As I have already said, when it is remembered that over 900,000 cards were dealt with, the proved instances of intimidation in connexion with them have been remarkably few. The honorable senator was also rather severe on Mr. Hughes’ condemnation of certain “ parasites,” who, as he put it, have attached themselves to the Labour movement, and whom he roundly condemned. I can only say that the man who shuts his eyes to the fact that para-, sites have attached themselves to the Labour movement must be blind. It is the fate of every successful movement to attract, not only genuine and sincere believers in it, but men who hope to rise to some position, or accomplish certain ends through that movement. Senator Ferricks must know that in every State the Labour movement has suffered the usual misfortune of successful organizations by attracting to itself parasites of that character. Mr. Hughes was particularly referring to those parasites who, under the guise of adherence to the Labour movement, were attempting to carry on an anti-British campaign in connexion with the war. The man who does not recognise that that has been the case must shut his eyes to the facts. Mr. Hughes referred also to a movement which has asserted itself to some extent in the Commonwealth, not working on its own basis, but attempting to batten on the Labour movement and to promulgate the ideas of syndicalism, physical force, and sabotage. Mr. Hughes did his duty as a leader when he pointed out that the ideals of Labour and sabotage are as wide apart as the poles. If these people were honest, they would start a movement of their own instead of endeavouring to accomplish their ends under the guise of Labour.
– The Labour Government are rapidly creating the movement you speak of.
– If so, they are doing it unconsciously; and Mr. Hughes is none the less to be praised because he attacked the people who are attempting to promulgate those ideas under the banner of Labour. Nothing Mr. Hughes did with regard to the referenda - and this is somewhat ancient history - merits the blame of anybody connected with the Labour movement. He was approached by the Premiers, and the proposition they made to him he at once took to the party, and obtained the almost unanimous consent of the party to go on with. He cannot be held responsible for the fact that the State Parliaments did not honour the agreement into which the State Governments entered on their behalf.
– Is it too late to rectify that error?
– I do not think it is; and I see that one of the subjects to be discussed at the Premiers’ Conference in Adelaide at the end of this month is the promise made to Mr. Hughes at that time. I would remind Senator Turley that any one who thinks the prices of flour, offal, and bread can be fixed in a few weeks for the whole Commonwealth has not considered the question. First of all, with the information we had, the Commonwealth Government endeavoured to arrive at a fair price for the capital cities. At that time the Wheat Board had fixed the price of wheat for local consumption. If we had not taken action, but had waited until the Board had time to perambulate round Australia, it would have meant that the price of the farmers’ wheat, the raw material of the flour miller and the baker, was fixed, but that the flour miller and the baker could charge any price they liked. They would have got all the profit, and we’ should have been benefiting them and not the consumer. We therefore took action to promulgate immediately a proclamation fixing prices so far as we could, and appointed a Board to investigate the prices we had fixed, and make such recommendations for alterations as they could. There was some delay in the case of Queensland, but for this the Commonwealth were not altogether responsible. We desired, for the sake of expedition, to take advantage of tbe State Boards where they existed. This is a summary of the negotiations - loth March. - Acting Prime Minister wrote State Premier stating that the Commonwealth. Government proposed to take action to regulate the price of flour and bread, and asked if State Government approved of State Board acting under Federal regulations. 24th March. - Provisional regulations issued by Federal Government, to come into operation as from 3rd April. 28th March. - Premier of Queensland wrote approving generally of suggestions made by the Commonwealth, but desiring an opportunity of examining regulations before finally committing State Government. 3rd April. - Copy of regulations forwarded by Acting Prime Minister, with covering letter. Senator Russell wired Acting State Premier, Brisbane, asking if State Government approved of State Board acting at once. 5th April. - Senator Russell wired Acting State Premier, Brisbane, notifying suspension in Queensland of regulations until 17th April, to enable existing stocks of flour to be worked off, and further inquiries to be made with respect to freight charges. 6th April. - Acting Chief Secretary, Brisbane, wired stating willingness to discuss question with Commonwealth Board on their arrival Brisbane. 6th April. - Acting Chief Secretary, Brisbane, wired that Queensland Board could not see way to enforce Federal determination unless Federal Government guaranteed to compensate millers and bakers for loss on wheat and flour stocks purchased prior to proclamation. 26th April. - Commonwealth Order-in-Council issued fixing price of bread in certain Queensland areas. 3rd May. - Acting Chief Secretary, Brisbane, wired that no official intimation of Order issued by Commonwealth had been received,, and asked what action Commonwealth desired. State to take. 4th May. - Senator Russell wired that no action required at present, as enforcement of proclamation is under War Precautions Act.
The blame, therefore, if there is any, does not lie at the door of the Commonwealth.
– But nobody takes any notice of what has been done.
– The Brisbane people must be very simple if they are cheerfully paying prices higher than those fixed. They have the right to inform the Department, and prosecutions willbe launched at once.
– Cases have been reported which we have under review at the present time.
– Experience shows that it is no easy matter to fix prices for a vast area such as Australia. There are different conditions in different areas, and the matter has to be proceeded with methodically and carefully. Nothing would do more damage to the system of fixing prices than to attempt to fix them without due precaution or in such a way that they are capable of injustice, and of being readily attacked, and their injustice made manifest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
First schedule agreed to.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister, at this stage, make a statement as to the policy of the Government in regard to increments ?
– The Government are providing the usual increments. Unless we decide to stop all increments., or even if we decide to stop them in any one year, injustice will be done. If we decide not to pay increments to officers whose salaries are above a certain fixed sum, the officers just above that margin are placed at a disadvantage as compared with those just below it, because they lose not only the increments, but also seniority, for the reason that the officers just below the margin receive their increments, and the difference which previously existed between the two is lost, and the loss continues for all the time they are in the Department. Again, the stoppage of increments because of the shortage in the revenue initiates a class tax; in other words, it means taxing the public servants. In the opinion of the Government, a shortage in the revenue should be met by a general tax, and not by our singling out one class of the community. There is also the question of the amount that would be saved by stopping increments. The whole of the increments on the Estimates amount to between £20,000 and £30,000. The higher the margin of salary above which increments might he stopped is fixed, the smaller will be the amount saved. In order to save a reasonable sum, the margin would have to be fixed very low, because the great bulk of the increments, owing to the numbers who receive them, are among the lower-paid officers. In view of these facts, the Government did not consider that they would be justified in interfering with the ordinary increments. Some are granted on the recommendationof the Public Service Commissioner; others are given to officers who do not come under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, and are granted by Ministers. The Government have adopted exactly the same rule in regard to officers under their control as applies to those controlled by the Public Service Commissioner, as to both the amount and the period. Where an officer under the Public Service Act would get an increment of £25, the corresponding officer under the control of the Minister is given a similar increment.
– I understand that the Commonwealth Government are entering into the matter of silver coinage. Last week a question was asked of Mr. McKenna, in the House of Commons, as to whether the silver coinage of Australia was legal tender in Great Britain, and he replied, “No.” There is a good deal of misconception in regard to this answer, which was cabled, and appeared in the press last week, and it is only fair that the Acting Prime Minister should make a statement, which might remove a great deal of misapprehension.
– I am sorry to say that I did not see the report in the press. The matter has not been brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Government.
– I was not surprised at Mr. McKenna’s answer. I understand that for a time the coining of silver was done for us in Great Britain, and that, after expenses had been paid, the whole of the profits were handed to the Commonwealth Government, but that now we are buying our own bullion, and setting up machinery for the purpose of minting our own silver. Silver, being of a value of less than 2s. per ounce, so that the Commonwealth derives a profit from the coinage of it, it is hardly reasonable to suppose that Great Britain will allow silver coins from Australia to circulate freely there, and be recognised as legal tender just the same as silver minted there. The paragraph was seen by all who read the newspapers, and many people, through a misconception of the true position, fancy that the action of the British Government is unfair.
– The Old-age Pensions Act provides that any support given to the pensioner by a son, a stepson or any other relative, should not be taken into consideration, and that the pension of 10s. per week can be supplemented from other sources to the extent of a further 10s. Will it be competent for an old-age pensioner to draw his full pension even though it and his income under the War Pensions Act amount to more than £52, ‘ provided that he does not by any other means supplement his income?
.- The maximum amount which an old-age pensioner may receive by the Act is fixed at £52, with the exception of assistance received from the other sources referred to by the honorable sena’tor. Any income which the old-age pensioner receives by way of war pension will be taken into consideration in fixing the amount of the old-age pension. That is in accordance with the provision of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– Suppose that the pensions under both Acts would exceed £52, would the old-age pension be reduced ?
– I have already said that the amount which the old-age pensioner receives by way of war pension is taken into consideration when fixing the amount of the old-age pension. Therefore, if he receives more than £26 per annum under the War Pensions Act his oldage pension will be reduced by the amount of the excess.
– The Acting Prime Minister stated to-day that I had harped on this question for some time, and I intend to harp on it again, and to take another opportunity of testing whether the condition of affairs he has mentioned cannot be altered. It is an injustice to the old-age pensioner that the income he receives under the War Pensions Act should be a set-off against the old-age pension. The two Acts have been made by this Parliament for special reasons and upon distinct conditions. We granted an old-age pension because we recognised that a person who had reached a certain age and had done something to develop the resources of the nation was entitled to some comfort in his or her old age. Since the ‘ passing of that Act war has broken out, and Parliament has decided to pay another pension to dependants of citizens whose relatives have died at the front or have returned maimed. We are now told that because the nation is paying a certain amount by way of war pensions it will take away in part the other recognition, which Parliament gave for an entirely different reason. In pursuing this policy the Commonwealth is not recognising the effort of those of its citizens who have been killed or maimed in defending this portion of the Empire. I regret exceedingly that the Government have adopted that position.
– That is the position set out in the Old-age Pensions Act itself.
– That is contrary to my interpretation of a statement made by the Minister when the matter was discussed on a previous occasion. It is the duty of those who support the present Government to see that these two Acts stand independent of each other.
– The old-age pensioner cannot receive more than £1 per week from any source.
– Senator Pearce said on a former occasion that if such was. the case he would consider the introduction of an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act so that the two pensions would not clash. That is what I desire to be done. I admit that the law to-day is. as stated by Senator Pearce, but it is within the power of this Parliament to amend the Old-age Pensions Act so that any money received by the old-age pensioner shall not be reduced by the setoff of the war pension. I will seek another opportunity of bringing this matter to a head, and perhaps the simpler course to adopt will be to bring pressure to bear on the Government to introduce an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– On page 43 of the Bill there is an item, “ Maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions in accordance with the provisions of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. “ I am not clear as to the working of that Act as it relates to persons admitted into charitable institutions. Another item on the same page is “ Grant to State War Councils for recruiting purposes.” Will the Minister be good enough to give an explanation of those two items ?
– The item regarding the maintenance of oldage pensioners in charitable institutions is almost self explanatory. There are in charitable institutions certain persons who are eligible for old-age pensions. Some of those persons used to leave the institutions and draw their pensions, but, being unable to look after themselves, they found their way back again in a more debilitated state than before.
– Does that item cover hospitals ?
– The allowance is not paid to the hospitals. If an old-age pensioner enters a hospital the pension is not paid to him while he is an inmate, but on his release he receives a fortnight’s pay. In my own State there is an institution called the Old Men’s Home. A sum of 8s. is paid for each inmate eligible for an old-age pension, with the condition that he shall be supplied with tobacco if desired. The grant to the War Councils is made to assist in the work of recruiting in the various States, and is used to pay for advertising, postage, stationery, and other incidental office expenses. In practically every case the office accommodation is provided by the State Government, and the employees are usually State officers lent for the purpose’. The grant is distributed on a population basis, and recently application has been made for a further sum of £5,000.
– In the course of the financial year we authorized the raising of two loans of £10,000,000 and £20,000,000. The former resulted in .over £13,000,000, and the latter in £21,000,000 being subscribed, making a total of about £34,000,000. How do we stand in regard to the excess ?
– It is held for another loan.
– Under what authority? If this can be’ done with £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, it could be done with £50,000^000. What is our authority for retaining the money?
– The authority is waiting on the table for the honorable senator to pass into law.
– And in the meantime the Government are illegally holding the money.
– Well, we are holding it.
– In the Department of the Treasury there is an item ‘ ‘ Less savings caused through the absence of officers with the Expeditionary Forces, £689.” This is only one of many similar items throughout the schedule on which I should like a little information. Is the money held in trust to be repaid to the officers if they should come back to their positions, or are they penalized for going with the Expeditionary Forces?
– Shortly after the war broke out a Federal and State Conference was held, at which the question was raised, what should be done in regard to the salaries of Federal and State officers who enlisted? It was agreed that they should receive their military pay while on active service, and not their Civil Service pay in addition. This agreement h’as been observed by the Commonwealth and four of the States, but two of the States have broken away from it. The sum on the Estimates represents the pay that would have accrued to officers employed in the Treasury, and which has not been expended in consequence of those officers serving with the Expeditionary Forces. It does not represent a saving to the taxpayer, because the taxpayer is paying those officers, not as public servants, but as military officers, and, moreover the Treasury has had to employ temporary clerks to do the work previously done by the officers. As a matter of fact, this is really a book entry, showing a saving to the Treasury, but expenditure elsewhere.
– Are the officers not worse off by joining the Forces?
– Some are worse off and some are better off. I know of some who get nearly half as much again, and others who get double what they were paid in the civil Departments, though there are still others who have lost by enlisting.
– The “ bottom dog “ suffers.
– I desire to refer to the delay in the Arbitration Court owing to the insufficient number of Judges. This is a pressing question. I have heard of cases which could not come before the Court for a period of two years, during which time, I suppose, those interested were impatiently waiting for a decision. This ought not to be. If arbitration and conciliation is the policy of the Commonwealth, every opportunity ought to be given to those who desire to have their business settled. It seems to me to be a mere question of money. Why not appoint as many Judges as are necessary’? If similar delays took place in the ordinary Courts there would be such a howl of indignation all over Australia that the Commonwealth and State Governments would be compelled to take steps to overtake the work. I understand that in Queensland a strike has been precipitated with the expressed object of compelling the Court to deal with a case which has been pending for some time; and at Broken Hill strikers have forced the hand of the Government, and had their case taken out of its order. There ought to be some immediate action in this connexion, and the only way to meet the situation, so far as I can see, is by the appointment of additional Judges. In my opinion, it is not absolutely necessary that the Judge of the Arbitration Court should be a professional lawyer; the Government might well appoint laymen of reputation and standing to positions of the kind. Justice, I am sure, would be quite as safe in the hands of such gentlemen as in the hands of lawyers. I ask the Government to take this matter into serious consideration.
– I am glad to be in a position to inform Senator Stewart that the Government have already taken the matter into consideration, and have determined on an amendment of the Act to bring about such a reform as that he has suggested so forcibly, and the necessity for which is apparent to every one. Some time ago the matter came before the Government, and a decision was arrived at. There will be no delay in placing legislation before both Houses with a view to expediting cases, and thus preventing in the future such strides and industrialdisturbances as have arisen from the congested state of the business of the Court.
– I wish to direct attention to an item which reads : “ Patent, Trade Marks, and Designs.” When the small amending Bill relating to patents was recently under review, I had not an opportunity of referring to what I regard as the exorbitant charges which are being levied upon persons who wish to take out patent rights.
– We were told that the charges are very low.
– They are the cheapest in the world.
– They run into about £18.
– By paying the fees of a patent attorney the expenditure may run into that sum. But that does not represent the amount which is paid to the Patents Office.
– There is £1 payable to the Department for making the provisional application, and a further £2 when the complete application is forwarded, and another £5 when the application has been granted and the patent is issued. This makes a total of £8. Of course, the rights can be renewed after a lapse of seven years by the payment of a further sum of £5, which will cover an additional period of five years. But before any of these steps are possible, an applicant is obliged to proceed through a patent attorney - a professional man, who has made himself conversant with the Patents Act. In addition to the £8 in fees which I have outlined, an applicant for a patent right is required to pay £3 to an agent for drawing up the provisional application, which usually consists of about two foolscap pages of typewriting.
– But that is not a departmental matter.
– If an applicant inquires at the Department as to the method of procedure, he is invariably referred to a patents agent. When the provisional application has been granted, he pays the agent a fee of £7 for drawing up thecomplete application or specification. To enable the agent to do this the applicant has to provide a model. The agent has merely to reproduce it. I hold in my hand a copy of an application for a patent right, and attached thereto are two small pages of printed matter. The charge for the preparation of that matter is £7, making a total of £18. I submit that this is not a very great inducement to hold out to persons of an inventive turn of mind. In my opinion, there should be established in every
State capital, an officer who is thoroughly conversant with the Patents Act, for the purpose of advising applicants, and of drawing up their applications. We might further provide that this officer should be paid one or two guineas for each application which he put through. That would be infinitely preferable to the present system. One marvels that such a simple matter cannot be put through a public office. Then, when a man has taken out a patent, I complain that his share of the proceeds accruing from such patent is very small indeed. Quite recently, a friend of mine patented a very useful little invention which has been selling by the gross in Brisbane for some time at 3s. 6d. He is not a man of capital, and yet he was obliged to visit Sydney, and also Melbourne, to arrange for the manufacture of the article. While his invention is selling at 3s. 6d., his share of that sum is only 3d. To my mind, there should be a more equitable distribution of the profits arising from an invention.
– Is not that a matter for bargaining?
– Probably, if the particular manufacturer who took up the invention had declined to do so, nobody else would have stepped into the breach. I frequently receive letters from persons of an inventive disposition, and I am never disposed to lightly dismiss their communications. It is quite true that Australia has not yet produced a Marconi or an Edison, but if the inventive genius of Australia were invited by the Government to design articles such as we have hitherto imported from alien countries, a great avenue of possibilities would be opened up. It is the duty of the Government, acting either alone or in conjunction with some other body, to offer inducement to Australian inventors, with the idea of replacing some of those articles which we have been in the habit of receiving from abroad. I have approached tie Acting Prime Minister a couple of times on this matter, and I have also written a formal letter concerning a proposal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council It appears to me that if a man pays about £18 to protect Ms patent, and then gets only 3d. as his dividend from the sale of an article at about 3s. 6d., the inducement is not very much. Then, on top of that £18, if an inventor wants a licence to hand over to a manufacturer, who undertakes to manufacture all the materials for that invention, the patentee has to pay to the Department £2 2s. for a licence, which, after all, is merely an ordinary printed form, which could be turned out by the gross, and easily sold by the Department at ls. each. I plead with the Government to review the situation. Hot half enough encouragement is at present given to men of an inventive turn of mind in Australia. I hope to see the time come when we will go even further ; when we shall see inventions nationalized; when the Government shall take over every invention that is likely to be a payable proposition, and give the patentee a fair return for the result of his genius, while the profits, if any, go to the Government, or the people. At present the profits do not go to the Government, to the people, or the patentee. They usually go to the middleman. I would like to see the Government establish a school of invention - an institution to which we might go on a Sunday afternoon, as we do at present to the art gallery or the museum, and there view a display of Australian inventions. Every inventor should be asked to contribute to that institution a model; and it is quite possible that among those who would visit that school would be some who would be encouraged to give their attention to inquiries in other directions. We have been sadly negligent in this matter in Australia during the past. We have been too dependent on the other fellow, and too ready to bow down in veneration to the inventive genius of other countries. But the war has given us an excellent opportunity to do something in Australia, and I trust that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who represents the Attorney-General in this Chamber, will give consideration to the representations I have made. Recently I interviewed the Treasurer, under the belief that this matter came under the scope of his Department; but Mr. Higgs informed me that it was under the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General is in Europe, the Acting Attorney-General is away ill, and the Vice-President of th« Executive Council was not then available, so I did not have an opportunity of mentioning the matter as desired. There is great scope for the utilization of Australian ability, and I hope something will be done to encourage it.
– I take it that the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has taken this opportunity of bringing before the House and the country what he considers to be a grievance, and also wishes the Government to make the patent provisions more liberal than at present for persons of an inventive turn of mind. I cannot agree with him in all that he says about a school of invention, but from the showman’s point of view, I can see great possibilities in the idea, because during the past few months we have been continually receiving ideas from men with inventions of all descriptions, including ideas to finish the war, and contrivances for holding trousers up without braces. If once the public became aware of their variety, and the entertainment that would be obtained from an exhibition of inventors’ models, I venture to say that picture shows would almost go out of existence as a medium of amusement. Persons are continually at work, turning out beautiful models of machineguns, bomb-throwers, and hundreds of other articles. These are brought forward and persistently pressed upon the Government to such an extent that those responsible for dealing with inventions have so many ideas to handle that it is quite possible we are missing some first-class inventions, particularly at the present time, when the human mind is stirred up by this great conflict. One has only to put in a few weeks in the Department dealing with the war to realize how many intellects are being exerted to devising some means to assist our side in terminating the war victoriously. I am not so enthusiastic as I was some months ago about making inventions cheaper. Reasonable facilities should be given to people of an inventive turn of mind to patent their inventions. If one in a hundred inventions is successful it may more than make up for the failure of the other ninety-nine. The vote is merely to pay the salaries of the Patents officials, and the alteration of the system would, of course, require an amendment of. the Patent Act. I compliment Senator Ferricks upon putting before the Committee, reasonably and fairly, what he looks upon as a grievance. I am not in accord with all that he said, but I agree that it would be a good thing if the Patent Act could be amended in such a way as to give greater facilities for the issue of patents in the case of small inventions, from which no great gain is to be anticipated. At this hour the honorable senator will not expect me to debate the matter at length. I have risen to acknowledge what he has said, and to assure him that the Government will be prepared to give consideration to any system which will enable people who have inventive ideas to give them effect.
– I cannot say that I have been impressed by the spirit of levity in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has replied to my representations. It may be that there are dozens of people who are ready with inventions to put an end to the war to-morrow, ‘ but I was referring to geniuses, and not to cranks. Senator Gardiner should know that in past years many inventions submitted to the British War Office were set aside as the inventions of cranks, and were subsequently taken to Germany, and are being used against the Allies to-day. This was because the authorities of the great British War Office had not the time to consider the inventions submitted to them, and treated them as so many jokes. We may discriminate between persons of a really inventive turn of mind and those who, for the sake of a better word, may be described as cranks, but, in my opinion, the Australian intellect is as keen as any in the world. A Yankee bounder landing in Australia and applying for a patent will probably be listened to with the greatest deference by the serangs of the Military Department or those of the Attorney-General’s Department, who deal with the issue of patents, whilst if I, as an unknown Australian, bring before them the result of my studies of a certain question, I may be put aside as a crank who thinks he can end” the war in twenty-four hours. I protest against this treatment of our people and this estimate of their capabilities. If Senator Gardiner be a patriotic Australian - and I believe he is - he will give this matter serious consideration, and will bring it before the Government to see whether something cannot be done to advance what I regard as genuine Australianism.
– Have the Government taken any steps towards the resumption of the 70,000,0000 acres of leased land in the Northern Territory, or any portion of that area?
– It is not the immediate intention of the Government to do that. There has, for some little time, been a lull in the development of the Northern Territory, due to the many other pressing matters engaging the attention of the Government. It is quite possible that the return of our soldiers may compel the Government to make lands in the Northern Territory available for them, and the matter referred to by Senator Stewert will then come up for consideration. At present, to be quite candid, nothing is being done by the Government in that direction.
– Some time ago I pressed upon the Government the necessity for doing something in this direction. The Northern Territory is not being developed at all, and no substantial attempt is being made to promote its development. It has become a real white elephant, and something which the Commonwealth in its present circumstances could very well do without. It seems to me that the time has come for action. After a careful examination of all the circumstances I have come to the conclusion that the resumption of the 70,000,000 acres of leased land, which are occupied in very large holdings by people who are putting them to very little use, is absolutely necessary. If the area were resumed and cut into suitable blocks, we would soon have a considerable number of settlers in the Territory. I ask the Government to give this aspect of Northern Territory affairs their serious consideration. I do not know what my beliefs may be worth, but I believe that what I propose is a necessary preliminary to any settlement of the Northern Territory question.
– I wish to refer to the vote of £2,125 for advertising in Great Britain and ‘ Ireland. Some years ago I saw advertisements published in Great Britain professing to indicate the true position of affairs here, and in almost every case, so far as I could ascertain, they did not do so. I shall be glad if the Minister can supply copies of the advertisements for which we have paid £2,125 during the past year. I hope no item of the kind will appear in any future Estimates. I totally disagree with the action of the Commonwealth Government in refusing to pay municipal rates and taxes on property held by it in Australia. The Commonwealth ought to set an example by paying, as a matter of principle, the same taxes as a private individual. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should be required, under the Sydney Corporation Act, for instance, to pay taxes on the land acquired for the Commonwealth Bank, but it ought, as an act of grace, to pay the amount to the council in the same way as if the land was owned privately. Will the Minister state what has been done with the £15,000 voted for the development of oil-fields in Papua?
– The advertisements in Great Britain and Ireland are part of an elaborate system of letting people in the Old Land know our resources. This is done by placard and poster at shows and other places where desirable people are likely to congregate.
– Do you advertise particulars of the rushes for the land ballots in New South Wales? .
– The system is both effective and instructive, and even making the ordinary allowance for any exaggeration of the prosperity possible here, very few of those induced to come here are likely to complain of misrepresentation. We ought to use every legitimate means to induce English, Irish, and Scotch to come here to help us hold and develop our great vacant land. A considerable sum of money has been spent in searching for oil in Papua, the greater part being for the machinery for boring and developing and locating. Like every other pioneering work, this is the most expensive part, but if we strike oil in the quantities we expect, we shall soon congratulate ourselves on our splendid asset. The business is under the management of an efficient and capable man, and though after all these months we have no tangible asset yet in the way of oil produced, the prospects have indicated all along to the trained expert that Papua has possibilities in that direction.
– Are you sure that he is not subject to American influence? The Standard Oil Trust has a long arm and a big purse.
– I have no doubt about the integrity and capacity of the gentleman in charge.
– It has been represented to me that Mr. Barnet, the New South Wales Police Magistrate who has been appointed a Commissioner to inquire into the disagreement between officers in the Northern Territory, is totally unfitted for work of that kind. Seeing that a good man had been already practically appointed to do the work, and was turned down in order that Mr. Barnet might be given the position, will the Minister state the scope of the inquiry, and what special qualifications this Mr. Barnet possesses?
– The inquiry is into the complaints by one officer in the Territory about his treatment by a superior officer. They have been pressed with so much force that the Department thinks it necessary to get an independent capable man to investigate them. From my knowledge of him, I am sure Mr. Barnet’s long experience as a presiding magistrate in Sydney, and his known capacity and high character, will fit him to hold the balance even between disputing parties. I know no reason to suspect that he is not as suitable as almost any other man would be. I know nothing about any person being turned down to make room for him. He stands high as a magistrate of some years’ experience, and no one who knows him would complain that he was not a suitable person for the difficult and delicate business which has been entrusted to him to investigate.
– I recently received a letter from certain persons in Queensland, complaining that they had been refused admission to a rifle club in their district. Can members of rifle clubs subsidized by the Government pick and choose who shall be admitted to the privileges of membership ? It seems to me that as a rifle club is part of the Defence system - it is subsidized by the Government - whatever choice there is in regard to the admission of members ought to be exercised by the Government, and not by the local residents, who may be members of any particular club. In the case to which I am referring the parties complaining could get no seconder for their nomination. They are sons of a Dane, but they are natives of Queensland. One member of the family is an officer serving at the front. They are just as loyal to the British flag as any people in Australia are. There should be some explanation from the Minister as to the powers and constitutions of these rifle clubs.
– A similar case came under my notice some time before the war broke out, and alterations were made in the rules to meet it. I understand that there is now a right of appeal to the Minister in case a wouldbe member of the rifle club should be blackballed. If the honorable senator will give me the particulars I shall have the matter looked into.
– An interesting question has been raised in regard to. members of our Expeditionary Forces. The question is whether, when they have reached Great Britain or France, they are subject to the Imperial Army Act, or to the Australian Defence Act, or whether if a man is charged with a serious offence he will be amenable to the Commonwealth laws or those of Great Britain?
– Members of our Expeditionary Forces are sworn in under the Commonwealth Defence Act, but they are also brought under the Imperial Army Act. By arrangement with the Imperial Government our offenders are dealt with under our Defence Act and by Australian officers. Certain provisions apply to the whole army, but not those to which the honorable senator has referred.
– I would like to know the policy of the Government in regard to the future construction of submarines? Is it proposed to replace those which have been lost, and to add to the number? Of course, I recognise that this is a delicate question to put to the Minister at the present time, and if he does not care to answer I shall not press it.
– The honorable senator is right in be- lieving that some information should not be given, but in regard to submarines the Minister for the Navy has taken action with a view to building them in. future in Australia. He has arranged for artisans, chosen in Australia, to proceed toEngland, and receive a course of instruction in the building of submarines, and they will leave the Commonwealth for that purpose at an early date. We hope that in the near future we shall be undertaking the building of submarines in our own dockyards.
Senator STEWART (Queensland) (2.29 a.m.]. - I am informed that a great deal of expense is incurred in repairing motor-cars which are hired by the Department for the purpose of collecting letters from pillar boxes’. I am told that the cost is very much more than it ought to be. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council has no information upon the matter, he would-be acting wisely if he brought it under the attention of the Postmaster-General. I am informed that the money spent in this way is considerable.
– I have no information with which to answer the honorable senator at this moment, but I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. Nearly all the cars in use are the property of “the Department, but it is probable that in some cases it has been found necessary to hire cars. Motor cars are at all times expensive, and the cost of upkeep is very great.
– Has the Department any repairing shops in Melbourne or Sydney ?
– An effort is being made with a view to establishing repairing shops for the whole of the Government motor cars, but nothing has definitely been done yet.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 and Abstract agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first, time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware, this Bill is merely to complete the provision for the financial year ending 30th June next. It is really only the appropriation for the remaining six weeks of the current financial year to carry on the works that have been authorized from time to time in the various Supply Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Sessional and Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
– I move -
This this BiU be now read a second time.
This Bill is to authorize the borrowing of £25,000,000 from the British Government. There have been two previous loans from the British Government - one of £18,000,000, and the other, of £6,500,000, a total of £24,500,000. The money is to be used for war purposes, none of it going to the States. Already £9,000,000 of the sum covered by the Bill has been received; and a later Bill will be introduced for the borrowing- of £50,000,000 locally. If the latter borrowing be successful, as we hope and believe it will be, it is not likely that it will be necessary to exercise the authority conferred by the Bill before us. However, we desire to be absolutely sure that we shall have the money necessary for war purposes. Honorable senators may rest assured that if the Government . are successful in raising the £50,000,000 locally, we shall not take advantage of the present Bill. The money will be lent at the rate of interest at which it is borrowed in Great Britain. That rate has not yet been determined, but probably it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent. The British loans were arranged before it had been demonstrated that local borrowing would be a success; and honorable senators will join with me in the hope that it will not he necessary to take advantage of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Purpose for which money may be borrowed).
– I notice that the Bill provides that, in accordance with the States Loan Act 1915, temporary advances may be made to the States out of the amount raised under this Bill. I thought the Acting Prime Minister told us that none of this money was for the States.
.- That clause is merely to cover a temporary arrangement, and is really a validating clause. We undertook to borrow for the States, but the British Government advised us that the market was not favorable; and, in order to meet the immediate necessities of the States, we advanced them £2,000,000 out of the £9,000,000 we have received from the Home authorities. That sum will, of course, have to be recouped when we get the proceeds of the later loan from Great Britain.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Repre- tatives.
Standing and. Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to say that, in November last, five of the States agreed to the Commonwealth borrowing for them £8,940,000 to be expended upon public works. New South Wales was not a party to that agreement. As I have previously explained, the States have already received £2,000,000 in anticipation of the passing of this Bill. That advance was made to them because the British Government advised us that the time was not favorable for the floating of this loan. However, we anticipate that we shall shortly be able to place a portion of the loan at a favorable rate of interest. Of course, the States have to pay to the Commonwealth the rate of interest at which the loan is raised, and subsequently to repay the loan itself. In other words, the liability is a State liability, the credit of the Commonwealth being merely used to raise the money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
. -In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I desire to say that it is a measure to authorize the Commonwealth raising an amount in Australia which we believe will be sufficient, with the money already in hand, to carry us through the next financial year. There may be some who doubt the possibility of raising such a large sum as £50,000,000 in Australia, but the experience the Commonwealth has had already with previous loans encourages us to believe that we shall be able to. At any rate, this Bill will give us authority to make the experiment. I do not know that there is any more to be said in explantation of the measure, because it is wholly a war Bill, and the money will be used entirely for war purposes. It is proposed to raise the money on much the same conditions as the other two loans were raised in the Commonwealth.
– Before the Bill goes through the second-reading stage I want to inquire from the Leader of the Senate whether the Government will continue the practice adopted with the first war loan of paying to investors 4½ per cent., at the same time exempting them from income tax. Whilst I do not so much protest against the rate of interest, I think that those who may invest in the prospective war loan should not be exempted from income tax payments.
– They will get about 5£ per cent. net.
– The rate of interest on the previous war loans was sufficiently attractive for those who had money to invest without exempting them from the payment of income tax on the money invested, from which they are now reaping a rich reward. This is a false policy; it is not in accord with the principles of the party to which I belong, and to which the Government owe their existence. When the first war loan Bills were before the Senate I refrained from commenting at all on this matter, because I was desirous of seeing those loans floated successfully. But more money than was asked for was subscribed, and I think that on this occasion the rate of interest should stand alone. I do not want to debate the question further than to say that, speaking for myself, if the same rate of interest is to be paid, investors should not be exempted from income tax.
– The rate of interest is not fixed in the Bill.
– No; but the Acting Prime Minister in his secondreading speech said the conditions would be the same as with the previous war loans.
– That is so.
– That being the case, it is imperative, in my opinion, that the people who will get 4£ per cent, on their investment should not be exempted from income tax. It is time that members of the Labour party made an emphatic protest against these conditions to the war loan. I want it to be clearly understood that I am not objecting to the war loan. I realize the necessity for raising money to successfully conduct this war; but, in this community, there are people who are contributing to the war, not in money, but in flesh and blood, which is of much greater value. Those who remain behind have to maintain the dependants of those sacrificing their lives abroad and have to pay income tax on their earnings. It is time, I repeat, that the party reviewed the situation, and if we cannot encourage the wealthy people of Australia to invest their surplus money in the war loans at a lesser rate of interest than 4£ per cent., we should make a determined stand and say that the interest shall not be exempted from income tax.
. -Even at this late hour, I cannot refrain from rising to indorse the remarks just made by Senator Needham. I remember when the first War Loan Bill came before this Senate, I, with other honorable senators, to a certain extent, ridiculed Senator. Stewart’s argument that war loans should be borrowed without interest ; but though I did ‘ not agree with Senator Stewart on that particular occasion, I say now, with Senator Needham, that if we give investors 4£ per cent for money borrowed to prosecute this war, they should show their patriotism by paying income tax upon the revenue they receive from that investment, just as other persons in the community have to pay income tax on their ordinary investments or earnings. As we started by paying 4^ per cent., free of all taxation, we may be in a peculiar position by floating the third war loan under altered conditions.
– It is never too late to mend.
– We can always retrace our steps, and we are wiser now than we were then.
– You may retrace your steps, but you will not float the loan; that is a certainty.
– It is not necessary to free investors in the forthcoming war loan from income tax or any other taxation under the measure to tax war profits, and other legislation which this Government have the power to pass. The situation is now very serious indeed, and the people who are calling out for conscription of men will, no doubt, be most anxious to invest their money in these war loans, which will return them about 5J per cent., approximately. We are treating these investors very liberally, and the very men who are calling out from the housetops and from every platform for men to go and offer their lives, want to get their cent, per cent, and a little more. I admit that it is very awkward to differentiate between the treatment of those who will be asked to contribute to this loan and that extended to the contributors to the first and second loans.
– It would be in the case of the small contributors.
– I put the small contributor to the loan in exactly the same category as the large contributor.
Whether a man contributes £10 or £1,000,000 to a war loan, and receives interest at the rate of 4”j per cent., he should pay income tax upon the revenue he derives from an investment which, after all, is only a premium of insurance upon his own property. In view of the more” serious position with which we are now confronted, the Government might very well say that if a rate of 4£ per cent, is to be paid as interest upon this loan, the income so derived by investors shall be .subject to State and Federal taxation.
– It must be pleasing to those of us who opposed exemption of interest on war loans from State and Federal income tax, and who opposed also the payment df any interest on these loans, to find that the leaven is working. It is quite true that Senators Blakey and Needham go only so far as to object to the exemption, of the interest from income tax. That seems to me only a first step in the right direction. Let us look this question fairly in the face. Every man who goes to thi front places his life in jeopardy. To a great extent, he sacrifices hia career. He abandons whatever occupation he may be engaged in for the time being, and it is more than probable that if he comes back alive, lie will never be as efficient as he was before he left. We read every day of the clamour for the conscription of men. Every man outside the ranks of the Labour party who takes the platform is crying out loudly for the conscription of men. These people are asking that our young men should be compelled to offer their lives as a sacrifice for the defence of their country. The men who are asking for this sacrifice are those who will find this £50,000,000. It is not the young men of Australia who will contribute to the loan, but the men of mature years who have been successful in life and have accumulated wealth. They are sacrificing nothing. If young men able to fight are ready to offer their lives for the country, the old men who are not able to fight should be prepared gladly to give their money without interest. When the Bill gets into Committee, I intend to move an amendment similar to that which was moved on preceding War Loan Bills. The proposal to exempt investors in the loan from any contribution to the revenue of the coun try passes a joke. Every one in the community must be prepared to sacrifice something in this great emergency. The policy I advocate should even now be adopted by the Government. I have no hope that it will. The Minister of Defence says that if we pass an amendment of the character I suggest, we shall not get the money. If we do not. get the men required to defend the country by voluntary enlistment, and the Government consider that men are absolutely necessary, I am sure that they will follow the- example of Great Britain, and compel those able to fight to go to the front. Similarly, I say that if we cannot appeal bo the patriotism of those who have money to contribute to the war loan to defend their own possessions, and the lives and liberties of themselves and their families, the next step to be taken with regard to them ought to be compulsion. War is npt a thing that can be handled with gloves on. If men are necessary they must be found, and if money is necessary it also must be found. The payment of interest on the sums that are being borrowed for the defence of the country will be a severe toll upon the labours of the working people of the Commonwealth for generations. Before these loans are repaid, the interest bill will have amounted to perhaps two or three times the amount of the loans themselves. That aspect of the matter should not be lost sight of.
– We all recognise that, so long as the war lasts, the duty devolves upon us to find the money necessary to carry it on. Whilst recognising that, I am totally opposed to the methods the Government are employing for financing the war - on former occasions I have protested against those methods - I quite agree with Senator Stewart that the time has arrived when the loyalty of the financially-strong in this community should be put to the test, just as the loyalty of the physically fit has already been put to the test. The physically fit have nobly responded, but the financially fit only responded when bribed to do so by a gilt-edged security with interest at 4£ per cent. These people should subscribe to the loan without special inducement. If they will not, the remedy is simple. The conscription of wealth, I am reminded, has nos yet been defined. I will define it. The estimate of the wealth of Australia is about* £1,240,000,000, 5 per cent, on which gives £62,000,000 straight away. A shilling in the £1 should easily be collected, because we are only working on credits, and it would be an easy matter to create stocks equal to that amount. On these the war could be conducted as easily as on the loan we are discussing. If another levy of ls. in the £1 was wanted, it could be made; and, if necessary, the rate could be made higher, with the poorer classes exempted, as would be essential. A pernicious feature of our new loan policy is the creation of a special financial aristocracy in the community. This is done by exempting the interest on war loans from income taxation, Federal and State, and from stamp, probate, and succession duties. A man who invests his money in this loan can escape all his obligations of citizenship. If he has £1,000,000, and wishes to escape his responsibilities, he can put it into the loan and collect 4 J per cent., which really means 5 per cent, with all the privileges considered, and then he will not have to pay 6d. towards the cost of the war or the Government of the country, Federal or State. That sort of thing should not be possible, and especially should not emanate from a Labour Government. When this Bill is passed, we will have authorized loans for wa? purposes to a total of £129,000,000, the interest on which at 5 per cent, will be £6,450,000 per annum. Taking the income tax on that interest at a flat rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1, the exemption from Commonwealth income taxation will be £806,250 per annum. Putting the .State income tax at a similar figure, our legislation means an exemption of over £1,712,500 per annum in income taxation to the richer classes. If we go on raising our loans in that way, the richest people will be totally exempt from all liabilities of taxation, and there will be no means of getting at them unless we repudiate our own laws. If the war continues, and the bulk of the wealth of the community is absorbed in war bonds, that wealth will be altogether exempt from taxation, so that the richest will be exempt and the poorer classes will have, as in the past, to foot the bill. No such invidious distinction should be created. If we must pay interest, it would be better to make it a little larger, and give no exemptions. Our present system must break down in the end. In Committee I shall move, as I did on a former occasion, to remove all exemptions, because this Bill is subject to the provisions of the Inscribed Stock Act of 1911, as amended by the Act of last year. I shall also support the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Stewart, for the purpose of testing the loyalty of the rich men in the community in the matter of providing a loan without interest, and if we cannot get that I shall be prepared to go further and conscript the wealth of the community in order to secure money for the conduct of the war.
– From the remarks of the Minister, in his brief second-reading speech, I am forced to the conclusion that the three atrocities of the previous War Loan Bills exist in this measure - the payment of interest at the rate of 4J per cent, referred to by Senator Stewart, the exemption from State and Federal income tax, and other exactions, touched on by Senator Mullan, and the payment of brokerage to members of the stock exchanges. Earlier in the sitting, I was greatly relieved to receive from the Assistant Minister the assurance that the rates and conditions of the previous war loans - and presumably of this war loan - were not fixed as the result of a conference held by Mr. Fisher and the financial guardians of Australia, because I had wrongly placed the blame for having arrived at these atrocious conditions at the feet of Mr. Fisher. Seeing that the Government merely received the assurance of the financial experts as to the amount of money that was available in Australia, the Government must accept the full responsibility for the conditions attaching to these loans. When the. previous war loan Bills were before us, Senator Stewart’s proposal that those who owned the surplus wealth should give it to the Government for use for war purposes, in the defence of the Commonwealth, was received in a .spirit of wild hilarity. There were jokes right round the chamber about the idea of Senator Stewart wanting other people’s money, free of interest. The Opposition bench was loudly blatant, not only on that phase of the question, but also on the matter raised by Senator Mullan, whose amendment was treated in a light fashion, though there was nothing light attaching to the proposal to exact from the people of Australia the payment of 4½ per cent. interest to those who own the ‘surplus wealth, to exempt from payment of income tax, State and Federal, or any wealth tax that might be imposed, and to free the instruments of thew ealthy from any future stamp duty. It is the people who must pay the interest and be responsible for the repayment of the loan in the future. Then take the smallest item of the three, the matter of brokerage paid to members of the stock exchanges. Senator Russell informed me the other day that brokerage amounting to £34,000 had been paid to members of stock exchanges in Australia, on account of their obtaining contributions to the war loans through their offices. I will not say that these brokers were instrumental in obtaining contributions to the war loan. The money would have been contributed just the same through the Commonwealth Bank or other banks, and for the fee that has been paid to the members of stock exchanges the Commonwealth Bank could have controlled the whole operation of the loan until its repayment ten years hence, and catered for the paying of interest, the banking of interest, and the holding of bonds for bondholders. I notice that most of the people who have advanced their money to the war loans, on the very inviting conditions offered, are enthusiastic howlers for conscription in Australia. It is a fair assumption to say that 95 per cent. of the members of stock exchanges in Australia advocate it, and that fully 95 per cent. of those who have contributed money to our war loans hold similar opinions.
– Why not give them a dose of their own medicine?
– I agree with Senator Millen when he says that the Government have the power to conscript the Wealth of Australia. My complaint is that the Government have not taken any step towards the attainment of that end. Instead of taking one step forward, they have gone ten paces backwards. As the Irishman says, “ The longer they go forward, the more they go backward at the rate they are going.” If those who possess wealth are not preparedto lend it free of interest and without the very inviting privileges offered to them under the conditions of our war loans, the Government should have the courage to propose that they should do so.If they would not do it, the Government should propose the conscription of wealth under the power which they already possess. When the previous war loan was under consideration I said that I would not attempt to defend it in the country, nor did I. In the Wide Bay electoral campaign, when asked a question, I made the statement that if these conditions had been given in connexion with a war loan by the Cook or Fusion Government, every Labour member and every Labour paper in the Commonwealth would have denounced the loan. If it would have been wrong for the Fusion Government to offer those conditions, it was equally wrong for the Labour Government to do so. I will not bend the knee in obedience to the Government in this matter. The Bill before us asks for authority to borrow a further £50,000,000, and assuming, for the sake of argument, that those ultra-enthusiastic loyalists, the members of the Stock Exchange, will do equally as good work in the future as in the past, when they earned £34,000, they will earn another. £48,000 on this new loan, making the total for. the two loans £82,000. Those are the people who stand on their hind legs on the slightest provocation, and even without any provocation, and sing “ God Save the King” and “Rule Britannia.” I have already mentioned my three objections to this loan; the rate of interest is the greatest, the privileges and exemptions are the next, and this sop thrown to the hangers-on of the Stock Exchange is the third atrocity. I trust that the policy contained in this Bill, even if backed up by the Government and by the majority of members of the Senate, will not be considered the policy of the Labour party, because I assure honorable senators it is not.
– Senator Needham asked what would be the interest and conditions in connexion with this loan. They will be practically the same as those in connexion with the previous loans. Since the other war loans were floated, interest rates generally have somewhat increased. It is all very well to assume that we have only to ask for the money, and it will be there.
– Take it.
– It is easy to talk in that cocksure way, but is by no means certain that the money will be there when we want it. It has to be borne in mind, also, that we can strike out all the attractive features of a loan and make it a failure. Depend upon it, the person who has money to invest takes into consideration the conditions of the investment. He has regard to the fact that the income derived from the loan will be free of income tax, and if honorable senators insist on making it liable to income tax, we will have to pay a higher rate of interest. We must pay for the money in one way or another. A good deal has been said about the possibility of raising these loans free of interest. This loan is for a patriotic purpose, the defence of this country, the highest national purpose to which it could be applied, and surely we should pay interest for such a loan.
– The purpose for which it is raised is the reason why the money should be cheaper.
– If a man subscribes money for a patriotic purpose, knock him on the head, but if he subscribes for the purpose of making a huge profit, encourage him. Let us take an instance of which SenatorStewart will probably be able, through his knowledge of share dealing, to give us some particulars. Here is a company which invites exploiters to come forward with their money. In this year of war, this year of the country’s necessity, it has returned to the shareholders half its capital. How has it made its money? From the people of Australia. It is returning not a mere 4½ per cent., but half their capital, to the noble patriots who subscribed themoney in the first place.
– What were the Government doing to allow that?
– I assure the honorable member that this company was not affected by the war; it would have made this profit if there had been no war. Its return to the shareholders is equal to 100 per cent. in one year. Senator Stewart does not suggest that those shareholders should be made to subscribe their money free of interest. Oh, no; let them earn their 100 per cent. ; it is perfectly legitimate. But if some other gentlemen come forward with money to be utilized for the defence of the country they must not get 100 per cent., nor even 3 per cent.; the loan must be free of interest, and the lenders must be made liable to all taxa tion. That is the way honorable senators would treat a man who lends his money to the nation for the defence of Australia. If he likes to invest his money in a private company, such as the one I have mentioned, not for the defence of the country, but simply for the purposes of exploitation, let him have his 100 per cent., he is welcome to it, and Senator Stewart will pat him on the back, and say that he is a clever financier, and a patriot. But let him put a single pound into the war loan and he must be hounded down. A man may invest in a tramway company, a mining company, or any other company, and be welcome to his interest. But if he dares to put his money into one other investment - a war loan to insure the safety of Australia - he is to be punished by being deprived of all interest.
– The war loan is a gilt-edged security.
– The stock of the company I have referred to as returning 100 per cent. on its capital in one year is diamond-edged. I think I have clearly indicated the attitude that is being adopted by some honorable senators.
– Your words are unadulterated sophistry.
– Unless we are going to rob people of their money, take it from them - which is robbery-
– Would it be robbery ?
– If a man lends for the defence of the country, I would rather give him 5 per cent. than I would give a man 3 per cent. who invests in a tramway company for the purposes of exploitation. According to Senator Stewart, a man who does the latter must be allowed to get 100 per cent., whereas a man who lends to his country is to have no interest at all. I confess that I cannot understand that sort of argument, nor have I any sympathy with it. A man who lends his money to the Government for the purposes of defence has a right to the fair market rate of interest.
– What about the income tax?
– As I have already explained, if we applied the income tax to a war loan, we should have to pay a. higher rate of interest.
– Because the lender would take the tax into consideration when thinking of investing. The Government do not propose to rob people, but to deal with them on a fair and equitable basis. They propose to recognise that this is the money of the investor, who has earned it.
– It is at the call of the country.
– The country has the right to call on wealth, but also the right to pay a fair interest. I remind honorable senators who talk about conscription that, even if it were adopted, we should still have to pay our soldiers. And, in the case of money, unless we are going to rob the people, we must pay for the use of it. Even the conscription of wealth does not mean taking it without interest, for that would not be conscription, but robbery; and it is just as well to call things by their real names.
– Then, by the same reasoning, conscription of life must be murder.
– I am sure that nobody would propose to conscript life without paying wages. It is something more than conscription that honorable senators propose, because they object to pay the wages of capital, and would rob the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2(Power to borrow £50,000,000).
– I move -
That the following words bo added to the clause: - “But, notwithstanding anything contained in the abovementioned Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-15, no interest shall be paid or payable on the sum or sums borrowed under the provisions of this Act.’’
We have just listened to one of the most sophistical speeches from the Minister of Defence that I believe I have ever heard in a legislative assembly. The honorable gentleman placed a money loan to the Government on the same plane as an ordinary investment. It is surprising that a man of his character and attainments should be capable of such a defect in examining any question. I desire honorable members to look this question fairly and squarely in the face. Can money raised for the purposes of war be placed in the same category with money raised for any other purpose?
– Picture shows, for instance.
– Picture shows! The Minister is almost approaching a “picture show “ himself to argue in such a stupid way. Why are we raising this money ? Because the country is in danger. I wish honorable senators to give their minds to the subject. Apparently, the Minister of Defence has not done so, because he has explained it in a most desultory fashion. We are raising the money because the life and liberty and the possessions of every man in the country are in danger. If I invest money in a tramway company - the Minister mentioned a tramway company, though why I do not know - I am investing money when the country is at peace, and no man’s possessions, life, or liberty is threatened. It will be seen that the cases are altogether different. When the country is in danger, we require men to do the fighting, and in fighting they risk life and limb, together with their health and their reputation - they abandon their careers, leave their families behind, and must, in fact, abjure everything which they hold most dear. That is the case in regard to men ; and we must have men to defeat the enemy, not on the soil of Australia, but wherever he is to be found. These are the sacrifices which the men who go to the front are asked to make. But, in addition to men, we require money, for fighting men are of no earthly use without it. Money is required toprovide equipment and ammunition, to feed and clothe them, and to transport them to the scene of action. Are we to say that while these men. are asked to sacrifice everything, the men who find the money are to be asked to sacrifice nothing? That is one of the most remarkable pieces of reasoning I have ever listened to in my life. It is a pure example of the special pleading of the capitalist - one which any member of a party like the Labour party ought to be ashamed to utter. Not only are the men who lend the money to be asked to sacrifice nothing, but they are actually given a higher rate of interest than is to be found at the present time in what are termed “ giltedged “ investments. The interest on the war loans is practically 5 per cent. If honorable senators will examine the share-list to-day, they will find that the return upon gilt-edged investments is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent. Any sound investment which is returning 5 per cent. interest at the present time is regarded as a gilt-edged one. Now, this loan is gilt-edged. Unless Australia is conquered and taken possession of by the enemy, this money will be repaid some day. It may not be repaid in ten years, but it is as sure to be repaid as the sun is sure to rise to-morrow morning. While Australia lasts, and while her resources are available, the amount subscribed to this loan will still remain a good asset to those who lend it. So that, from every point of view, it will be a remarkably good investment for those who put their money into it. They will get 4½ per cent. interest, as well as exemption from income tax, both State and Federal, and exemption from stamp duties.On the whole, therefore, it is one of the best investments of which I have any knowledge in Australia. Now, I desire to impress upon honorable senators the boundless gulf which exists between money which is invested in any other concern and money which is invested for the purposes of defence. Our country is in danger, our lives and liberties are threatened, and yet the patriotic capitalists will not find the money todefend their own possessions unless they are paid 4½ per cent. interest upon it, in addition to being exempted from income tax; while the men who go to the front risk, not only their lives, but their careers, and everything that they hold dear. They risk everything ; the capitalist risks nothing. Indeed, instead of risking anything,he will actuallymake a profit out of the war. Where is the soldier at the front who will make a profit out of it ? Even if hecomes unscathed from the war,he will suffer in some way. No man willemerge from this great conflict as well as he was when he entered it. He will be maimed or weakened in some wayor other. But the capitalist will not be maimed in any way. He will get 4½ per cent. interest upon his money, and some day he will be repaidhis capital. The arguments in favour of paying no interest upon this loan are unassailable. They appeal to every man of common sense. When the country is indanger,everything should bedone to save it. “ What will a man give for his life?” I have often heard asked. If I have £1,000,000, and somebody threatens to take my life, will I not give himthe £1,000,000 in order that I may preserve it? In the same way, everybody with possessions, at a time like this, ought to give them up without fee or reward. I think it is manifest that this kind of investment cannot be compared with any other form of investment. Everything in Australia is in danger - life, liberty, and possessions. To say that any class of the community ought to be allowed to make a profit out of this war is altogetherabsurd. It is a statement which ought not to be indorsed by this Committee.
– In supporting the amendment, I wish to say that I was astonished at some of the utterances of the Minister of Defence this morning. In defending the capitalist who subscribes to this war loan, he pointed out that, under Senator Stewart’s amendment, we should be depriving this poor unfortunate man who possesses, possibly, half-a-million sterling-
– I neither described him as poor nor unfortunate.
– Then I will describe him for the Minister. It has been urged that, if we adopt the amendment, we shall be depriving this unfortunate gentleman of 4½ per cent., whilst allowing companies to reap profits of 50 and 100 per cent. Moreshame, I say, to the Government to permit such a state of things. Had theydone their duty, they would have brought down a Billto prevent such a rich harvest being reaped at a time when the country is fighting for itsexistence.
SenatorRussell. - Willnot the warprofits tax cover those cases?
– Not sufficiently.. The Ministerhas stated that, at a time when we are at war, the Government are permitting companies to reap profits amounting to as much as100 per cent. He further set up the extraordinary position that the man whodares to conscript wealth is a robber. What a remarkable statement to emanate from a responsible Minister. If his argument holds good, my interjection that if conscription of wealth is robbery, conscription of life is murder equally holdsgood. I am glad that the Minister has admitted it.
– Without payment in each case.
– It is without payment in the case of life, because we can never pay a man for his life. What payment is there for the man who has laid down his life in Gallipoli ?Forhim there is no Compensation Act and no pension rights. His only reward is the high honour of having died nobly in defence of his country. Does the insurance society pay a man 4½ per cent. for insuring his house against the risk of fire? No; the insurance society will charge him a substantial rate of interest to cover the risk. But that is what we are doing in the case of this war loan. The Government are insuring the wealthy of the community with the lives of the community, and they are paying the wealth of this country 4½ per cent. for the insurance. I wish the Minister would look at it in this way. I never heard such extraordinary arguments in my life as I have this evening from the Minister in defence of the giltedged security holders of the Commonwealth. The people who invest in these war loans are really in a better position than they were before. They are rapidly becoming rich, and generations of their descendants yet unborn will receive tribute from this Commonwealth because of the financial policy which we are adopting for the prosecution of this war. We are sending our brave men to the front while their wives and children are being exploited by the men whom the Acting Prime Minister is defending, because for the most part the wealthy people are the contributors to our war loans. At any rate, I am not here to defend them. I owe ho allegiance to them.I am not responsible for my position to the financial hierarchy of Australia, nor, indeed, is Senator Pearce.
– Is it not a fact that a great deal of the war loan has been subscribed by the middle classes ?
– If so, more shame to the wealthy classes of the community for not doing their duty to the Commonwealth.
– The same argument applies to the middle classes who may invest in the war loan. They have no right to look for special privileges out of the investment.
– Certainly. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment, which will test the patriotism of the men controlling the finances of this country. If they do not respond, I will have no hesitation in voting for the conscription of so much of their wealth as will be necessary for the successful prosecution of this war.
– I desire just to mention one phase that has not been touched upon yet in this discussion, and that is the amount of money going into this loan, and what becomes of it. Senator Pearce has told us that fully 75 per cent. of the subscriptions to the war loans is being spent in Australia in payment of our troops, camp equipment, food, and so forth, while the other 25 per cent is being spent in sending our men abroad. It is gratifying to know that 75 per cent. is being spent here, but we must remember that a large proportion of it will, in the ordinary course of trade, go back into the hands of the men who originally subscribed it. Then, when the call comes for another war loan at over 5 per cent., they will be able to put some of the money in again. A man desiring to invest in the war loans will be persuaded to pull some of his money out of industry - because it will pay him to do so. - he will get his cut of this 75 per cent. of the war loan which is being expended in Australia, and return it again to the Government at 5 per cent. with all the privileges attaching thereto.
– A man who invests £100 in these loans will not be able to get it back for fourteen years, anyhow.
– I am quoting the figures given to us by the Acting Prime Minister. The Assistant Minister overlooked the fact that if he or I put £100 in a bank for three months at 5 per cent. we do it for investment purposes ; but in the other case people are asked to provide money for war purposes and for the defence of their country. I am surprised at the sentiments uttered by the Acting Prime Minister. I could not sustain my position better than by indorsing Senator Mullan’s view that, if the Acting Prime Minister is pleased to consider that the asking for a loan without interest for war purposes, for the defence of Australia, is an act of robbery, one can never go on the platform again and ask men to enlist for the war. If, after expressing such sentiments a man asked me to go to the war, I should give him a pretty straight answer. Is any member of the Senate going to place surplus wealth on the same level as human life? I hope that if the Government are going to do so, the Labour movement in Australia will not be behind them. If a majority of the members of the Committee are going to do it, I express the hope and belief that they will not represent Labour thought in Australia. I shall not support such a doctrine. I will support the amendment moved by Senator Stewart. It was ridiculed when first enunciated, it is being listened to tonight; and I believe, when promulgated in the country, it will receive the indorsement of a majority of the people.
– -I think that the sooner we get an Opposition in this Chamber the better it will be for the Labour party. It would appear that if some honorable senatorshave no one else to attack, they will have a fling at the leaders of their own selection. Many of the remarks which have been made here to-night will be picked out later on and will make very fine ammunition to fire at the Labour party. When men arrogate to themselves that they are the pure merinos and the only lone watch-dogs on the beach of all that is vital and sacred to the wageearners and producers of the country, I am always suspicious of the claims they make. When we hear Senator Pearce, the Leader of the Senate, and the elect of our party, described as the friend of capitalism, it is about time we called a halt, and drew the line very sharply. The honorable senator has’ been longer in the firing line of the Labour party than those who have uttered these hints in describing him; and those supporting the honorable senator have been longer in the firing line than those who are opposing him. Some things have been said here by persons posing as the bold and courageous champions of the people about men who have done as much as, and more, for the people than their detractors.
– When you have no case, abuse your adversary.
– It is about time Senator Stewart got back some of his own.
– We were not abusive.
– A member of this party would need the patience of an old saint on occasions to remain silent under the veiled charges hurled against him by members.of his own party. It is about time that straight speaking from the heart was indulged in from this side, as well as from the other side. There are people who have done as much for the Labour movement as Senator Stewart has done, and perhaps more, and the honorable senator and those who are associated with him are not entitled to cast reflections upon such persons. Senator Stewart has proposed that those who possess liquid capital in this country shall be singled out for special and severe treatment. Let us examine that proposal. They are £o be invited to give their liquid capital on the condition that they shall get no return from it. Are Senators Stewart, Mullan, and Ferricks prepared to carry their reasoning to its logical conclusion, and ask people who are not possessed of liquid capital, but of its equivalent in worldly goods and services, to give them to the Defence Department at their market value, less a fair interest upon their investments? We are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in this country in the purchase of boots, clothing, food, hats, and other requirements for our soldiers.- Will Senators Ferricks and Mullan go to Brisbane and ask boot manufacturers supplying boots to the Defence Department there to sell them at so much below their market value as would be represented by interest on their capital ? What kind of a howl would go up from these honorable senators if the employees of the factories had their wages reduced in proportion to meet the logical demand that those who had invested their capital in their establishments should sell their goods to the Defence Department on the same terms as these honorable senators demand from those who put their liquid capital into the war loans?
– Wages will have to be reduced to pay the interest on these loans.
– Let us take the case of Mort’s Dock, or of any other shipbuilding establishment in which capital has been invested. Would Senator Stewart demand that that capital should be loaned to the Government for nothing ? If we want shi,ps repaired, is the honorable senator prepared to ask the proprietors of the shipbuilding yards to carry out those repairs at a price so much below the ordinary rate as would be represented by interest on their capital ? Will these honorable senators ask the Melbourne Tramway Company to convey our soldiers free of charge, as the Western Australian Government are doing ? Shareholders have put their money into the Melbourne Tramway Company to get, not 4^ per cent., but 15 per cent. If the company were asked to follow the example set in Western Australia, and carry soldiers free, how would the shareholders feel ? They would feel that they were being trampled upon when they looked abroad and saw that people who invested their capital in other ways were differently treated, or not touched at all. So we could go through the whole list of those who are supplying goods and services to the Defence Department, and, applying the reasoning and logic of Senator Stewart, ask them to give their goods or services at their market cost, less interest on their capital. How some honorable senators would rage when the employees of these people came along and complained that their wages had been reduced because, through the action of Labour members in the Federal Parliament, the goods they were employed to make had to be supplied to the Defence Department at less than their market value. We should have “Senators Stewart and Mullan on the door mat of the Defence Department saying, “ Why do you not pay the full market price for these goods? You are robbing these men.” The Meat Trust may supply thousands of pounds worth of meat to the Government, and get its full pound of flesh, while the man who has a few hundred pounds and lends his money to the Government is not to have as much as a bone flung to him for his patriotism. But, because other men have their worldly substance in the form of liquid capital, these honorable senators say that we should collar it, and that those from whom we take it should ask for no return. I ask Senators Stewart, Mullan, and Ferricks to put the matter to themselves in this light. Is Senator Stewart prepared to ask the Minister of Defence to go to Mort’s Dock and get our ships repaired at 5 per cent, lower than anybody else will do it for? Will he advise Senator Pearce to go to Brisbane and offer a price for hats and boots 10 per cent, less than the market value ?
– There is no parallel between the two cases.
– If the honorable member thinks so, I have no more to say.
– I remind Senator Lynch that the workers are making more sacrifices than the capitalists through the waT. The purchasing power of money has depreciated at least 33 J per cent., and, therefore, the man getting £3 per week is making the gigantic sacrifice of £1 a week for his country. That is far greater than the sacrifice made by the man who receives interest at 4£ per cent. Instead of yelling, as Senator Lynch suggests, the workers are making sacrifices uncomplainingly. The men who are yelling for more blood are the capitalists.
– If Senator Lynch and others are not prepared to ask those with money to lend it without interest, they ought to shut up about asking men to enlist.
– No man WhO is not prepared to ask another to give his wealth ought to ask him to give his life. Whilst we have an absolute right to take the one, I question our right to take the other, but we should have no hesitation in asking the wealthy to pay to protect their own property.
– We would not deal with the workmen making boots or repairing ships in the same way as we propose to deal with the capitalists, because the circumstances are altogether dissimilar. Ninety-five per cent, of the people who have subscribed to the loan are in good circumstances, and will not miss a meal by their action.
– Fifteen thousand of them have subscribed under £100 each.
– Those may feel the pinch by subscribing to the loan, but probably they do not. An overwhelming proportion of the money subscribed has been advanced by corporations, companies, and individuals in good circumstances. The labourer who makes a boot must be clothed, fed, and housed in order to be effective, and in most cases he must provide for the wants of a family.
– What about the boot capitalist? Of course, he must have his interest.
– He is just as necessary under existing conditions as the boot-worker, and just as much entitled to his wages. The time may come when our soldiers will have to fight without fee or reward, as the Italian, German, and French, and even the English soldiers, are doing. The Australians are the only men. paid a fair amount, but if the war continues long we may not be able to pay them at all, and every service, in connexion with the war may have to be given. for the lowest possible wage, as has been the case in many countries before, and is probably the case in Germany to-day. Men engaged in hundreds of ways in the countries at war are paid very little indeed. Of course, if we can pay our soldiers, it is right to do so; but if the time should arrive when the country is unable to do it, they will have to fight without fee or reward. Fortunately, that position has not yet arrived in Australia. I need not go over the whole argument as to the difference between money raised for the purposes of defence and that which is put into industries in time of peace. The matter must be patent to every one who gives it the slightest consideration.
– Senator Lynch has referred to certain workers in Brisbane, and has asked what their attitude would be if their wages were cut down owing to the fact that their employers were compelled to give money to the war loan, or if they were expected to contribute to the war loan without interest, in the shape of a reduction in their pay. Let me tell the honorable senator that some Brisbane unions have submitted to a reduction in wages, in that they have given money to the war loan and declined to accept interest.No doubt if that system were widespread throughout Australia with the capitalist and the worker and the man in between each taking his due share, no complaint would be heard from the workers. I cannot conceive how a man, who is an enthusiastic advocate in the cause of voluntary enlistment, can oppose Senator Stewart’s amendment; much less can I conceive a man who advocates compulsory service, as Senator Lynch has done, opposing it. The amendment does not ask for the conscription of wealth, or for the confiscation of the surplus wealth of Australia, it simply asks for the loan of that wealth. Will Senator Lynch go on the platform and say, “ I advocate the conscription of human beings, the manhood of Australia. I will see them slaughtered and their blood flowing in the trenches; but as for the sacred treasure, the surplus wealth of Australia, no, ladies and gentlemen, I will not take that money. I will not even take a loan of it. If the people will give their money just the same as those whom I am going to send into the trenches are forced to give their lives, by my vote I shall give them 5 per cent. for it, and call them patriots”? Patriotism at 5 per cent.! I can understand a man who believes in voluntary enlistment being consistent, and advocating voluntary effort in regard to money, but Senator Lynch goes to the other extreme. He does not believe in voluntaryism of men or money; he believesin compulsion of men, and in compulsorily shovelling money out to the wealthy at a rate of 5 per cent. I hope that his attitude will not continue to be the policy of the Labour party in Australia, or of the Federal Government, otherwise my humble support of the party must cease.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added (Senator Stewart’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I propose now to submit an amendment which will prove whether honorable senators are desirous of placing the loan on a fair footing. The amendment has for its object, the removal of all exemptions. The Bill exempts the bond-holders’ interest from State and Federal income tax, and stamp duties, and allows the holders the privilege of paying in his bonds at par, even if they have become depreciated, to meet probate duty. I move -
That the following word’s be added to clause 2 - “ Provided that the provisions of sections 52a, 52b, and 52c, of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-15 shall not apply to the loan raised under the authority of this Act.”
If that amendment is carried, subscribers to the loan will receive 4½ per cent., no more and no less, and the Commonwealth may impose on the interest from this loan income tax or any other kind of tax.
– Cannot their bonds be accepted by the Government in payment of a debt to the State or the Commonwealth ?
– Yes ; if their bonds can be bought in the open market.
– Will you accept a bond at the market value?
– Certainly. Suppose a man has to pay probate duty, and that the bonds have depreciated to £70, as might be possible owing to the enormous amount of the loans, for £700, he could pay a probate duty debt of £1,000.
– But if the bonds have depreciated, would you still accept them at the market value?
– Certainly; but the holder would not submit them if they were above par in the open market. It is ridiculous to propose that we should allow a man to pay to the Commonwealth depreciated stock, to met his legitimate obligations in probate duty. The Government will, of course, object to removing these exemptions, because they have already been included in two previous loans. My answer is that, we must commence somewhere to do the right thing. If the argument of the Government were sound, we should never make any improvement. My desire is to abolish exemptions which are the special privileges of an already privileged class.
– I have grave doubts as to whether the amendment is in order, but, in any case, I feel confident that the good sense of the Committee will reject it. I infer that the Senate desires this war loan to be a success, but if honorable senators desire it to be a failure the passage of an amendment such as this is the way to realize that desire. This loan represents the biggest proposal for raising money in Australia that has ever been made, hut the object of Senator Mullan seems to be to so shape the Bill as to foredoom the loan to failure. I can conceive of no worse misfortune to Australia than that that should happen. The failure of the loan would be hailed with shrieks of delight in Berlin, and it would give the Commonwealth a bad advertisement the world over.
Senator Mullen says that we have done wrong on previous occasions. That is a very cheerful, happy sort of way of assuming that he is right and everybody else is wrong; but we are obstinate enough to believe that we are right. Senator Mullan is very like the man who insisted that the whole regiment was out of step except himself; but I contend that the regiment was in step on the previous occasion, and I hope they will continue to keep in step. The honorable senator’s attempt to improve the measure will ‘ ‘ improve ‘ ‘ it out of existence; and I hope the Senate will take a serious view of the position, and will not consent to make these alterations. After all, this loan will be regarded as an investment; and men who have money to invest, will take into consideration its advantages and disadvantages. They will remember that the investors in a previous loan were granted certain privileges which, with the same rate of interest, are now withdrawn. Can it be expected that, under such circumstances, we shall have the same amount of investment? The supporters of the amendment must give it their support, with the knowledge that they are going to make the loan a failure. I leave the responsibility with them. Of course, the Government cannot accept such an amendment, but regard it as an attempt which, if successful, would damn any prospect of success. It would be an unfriendly act to Australia - an act that would damage us for all time.
– I support the amendment, and will take all the risks of supporting it. I am going to speak with all the responsibility that I know I carry, notwithstanding the statement of the Leader of the Senate to the contrary. Before I enter on the subject-matter of the debate, may I refer to the homily that was preached to the Committee by Senator Lynch. He expressed the opinion that it would have been better if an Oppositionist had been in the chamber, and then lectured his colleagues as to what they should or should not do. Because I dared - dared, mind you ! - as a humble member of the Committee, to ask him a question in a very courteous manner, he replied in what I can only describe as an uncouth, and I might almost say insulting, way.
– I am sorry; will that satisfy you ?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that, when next he addresses the Committee, if some honorable senator dares to interrupt his rhetoric with an interjection, he should treat that interjection with the courtesy it demands, and the courtesy with which it was made. As to the amendment by Senator Mullan, I intimated, in the second-reading discussion, that, while I was not altogether wedded to the rate of interest which is being paid in order to make the war loans a success - indeed, I am indifferent on the matter - I was certainly very definite as regards exemptions. If we exempted from taxation profits derived by investing in war loans, we should be doing wrong. In response to my contention, the Minister told us that there are private companies which make 100 per cent, profit. If that be so, the Government, of which he is Acting Leader, has a remedy that may be applied to prevent such profits. Personally, I regard it as no argument against an exemption from income tax on the profits of a war loan, to say that private companies are earning dividends of the kind; nor is it any argument on the part of Senator Lynch, who supports the Minister of Defence, to speak of prices in Brisbane and so forth. I wish to reduce the argument to one of solid common sense.
– The Meat Combine, for instance !
– All such combines are within our purview, and the Government have a remedy if they like to use it in time of war.
– What could the Government do?
– The Government have the power if they care to use it. However, I do not wish to be drawn from the point which I wish to emphasize, and which has been referred to time and again during the debates. While the flesh and blood, bone, and sinew of Australia have been given, and will continue to be given, in defence of the Empire, people who have money to invest in war loans, which are necessary to feed and supply the fighting men and to prosecute the war, must draw, not only 4J per cent, interest, but also be exempt from income tax. If that is the policy of the Labour party, to which I have the honour to belong, I say that it is a wrong policy; and I cannot too often repeat that the sooner we review our position in this regard - the sooner we retrace our steps - the better it will be, not only for those who sent us here, but for Australia as a whole. The cry to-day is for men, money, and munitions. Australia under the voluntary system has raised over 250,000 men, about 43,000 of whom are on the casualty list. Thousands are dead, and others have been maimed, or are invalided for sickness. The remainder are in the activities of the theatre of war, or preparing to go there. All that we propose to give these men is the compensation provided by the War Pensions Act, though I admit that their pay is higher than in other portions of the Empire. But some of the people belonging to those soldiers are not exempt from income tax. The Federal income tax operates on every £1 over £156 of income. That tax, of course, falls on the poor and middle class, while people who can invest in war loans not only get, as I say, 4£ per cent, interest, but are exempt from taxation. I do not know whether the joint efforts of a few honorable senators will be able to alter the determination of the Committee, but I hope that they will. Surely when we stand upon public platforms and appeal to the men and women of the Commonwealth to give of their bravest and best, it is not too much to ask that persons who invest money in this war loan shall not be exempt from income tax and other imposts ?
– I voted against Senator Stewart’s proposal, but intend to support this amendment. If we fix the rate of interest payable upon this loan at 4^ per cent. - as we did in connexion with our two previous loans - I think we shall be placing a fair business proposition before prospective investors. It will be an equitable arrangement for the investing patriots of Australia if we pay them that rate of interest, - and subject them to any taxation which may be levied upon other persons, either by the State or Commonwealth Governments. It has been stated many times in connexion with our previous loans that 4J per cent, interest with exemptions from State and Federal income tax is equivalent- to 5 J per cent. The saving which we shall effect on this loan by wiping out the exemption will amount to no less than £375,000.
– But if we subject them to income tax, their return wilt ho less than 4£ per cent.
– The effective rate will not be very much less than that. Because a man invests in this loan he ought not to be exempt from taxation. He should be prepared to incur the risks which every other business person in the community has to incur.
– While the proposal of Senator Mullan goes farther than did the amendment submitted by Senator Stewart, I intend to support it. It goes farther in that it lays down that the Government shall accept bonds or stock at their face value in discharge of a debt due to the Crown. If, for example, the’ Government issue a £1 note and I owe them 20a., they ought to be prepared to accept that note in payment of my obligation. If a person dies, and leaves a certain amount of money, including investments in the war loan, this should be accepted by the Government in payment of probate duty. When the first loan was floated, and an amendment was moved against the exemption from income tax, State and Federal, I opposed it for the reason that the prospectus had gone out to the public, and considerable sums were then in the hands of the Treasurer. As a Parliament, we were obliged, on that occasion, to keep faith with the people on account of the promise made by the Prime Minister. When the matter came up again on the occasion of the second war loan, I voted against any exemption from future taxation, for I held that every person investing should be liable to contribute something more to the Government than was considered necessary when the first loan was floated. No other form of investment carries with it an exemption from income tax, or gives the holder special advantages. An alteration of the conditions of this loan will not, in my opinion, affect it very much. I am glad to hear the Acting Prime Minister say that 15,000 people in Australia invested under £100 in the previous war loans, because there may be some idea in the minds of some honorable senators that it is the big capitalists who are putting the money into these loans, or that .the average business man has a lot of spare cash available. The average business man, if he is a good business man, does not have money floating about, but he sees that every pound is working for him in some way or other. He may be able to raise money against his capital, and in that way assist the war loans. There were 187,000 subscribers to the last loan. I should like to see that number multiplied by ten in future loans, because the broader a loan like this is based the better it will be for the community. The more investments we get of £50, £100, or £200, the better it will be.
– Like the French debt.
– Yes. If a man saves up 100 francs in France he can buy his rentes over the counter, and he knows the position he is in at once. Suppose we were able to induce, not 180,000, but ten times that number of people in Australia to put their savings, whether £20, £30, £50, or £100 in this war loan, how much better would it be for the community than to have the investment in the hands of a few large financiers? These people, I should think, would not want exemption from other taxation, or any other advantages which they would not receive if they put their money into the ordinary avenues of trade. The Government are making a great mistake in sticking to this exemption. I know it might well be said that this condition applied in the case of the first war loan,- but it was then, in my opinion, a mistake, but because the prospectus had gone out to the public with a promise from the Prime Minister that there would be exemption from income tax, I supported it. When the last Loan Bill was before the Senate my vote went against the proposal for exemption from income tax, just as it will now, because in that case no prospectus had been issued to the public, and I did not see that any special privileges should be enjoyed by any class in Australia.
– The Government have made a mistake in granting special privileges to subscribers to the war loans. I remember, on the occasion of the last loan, Senator Turley voted against the exemptions from income tax. I do not intend to traverse the ground covered to-night. I only want to say I think it would have been more honest if the Government had definitely stated the rate of interest, so that people who subscribe would know the exact conditions under which they would be asked to advance their money. This 4£ per cent., with various privileges, is misleading. The system of privilege always is bad, and it does not synchronize with Democracy. One of the greatest obstacles we are up against in our State administration is the privileges allowed to civil servants, railway employees, and so forth; and here we are extending the same principle again. The Government should definitely fix the rate - I would not care if they fixed it at 6, 7, or 8 per cent., so long as they stated that that was the whole return to the investors. Twelve months ago, after the passage through this Chamber of the first War Loan Bill, I travelled north with a man who was evidently some guns “ in the financial world, and I was speaking against what I described as the rather inviting conditions of the Commonwealth war loan. As a financial man he was opposed to my view, and employed the arguments that we heard from the Government side last night and this morning about the market price of money and all that sort of thing. But when I told him that I thought it would have been better if the Government had stated a definite rate of interest for the money, he agreed with me. I can quite understand the diversity of opinion upon the last amendment, as there was room for it. Personally, I would go further than Senator Stewart. I would not borrow the money for defence purposes. I would confiscate it.
– Then the honorable senator would have to confiscate wealth all round; that invested in bricks and mortar, as well as liquid wealth.
– We have the proposal made to take men’s lives, and they are of more value than bricks and mortar. It must appeal to honorable senators that the principle of throwing in these extras is bad. Let the Government say that they are prepared to pay 5 per cent, for this money. I have said that with the privileges granted the rate is slightly over 5 per cent. I am prepared to take the assertion of Senator Blakey, an experienced accountant, that with the concessions the rate amounts to per cent. If that be so it would be far better for the Government to offer the loan at 5J per cent. Why should we not be honest in the matter? Why should there be this juggling and covering up? Why should we add the concessions which the 5 per cent, patriots who contributed to the previous war loans are enjoying to-day, and will no doubt enjoy» from the contributions they will make to the loan now under consideration? I cannot understand by what the Government were actuated in departing from the recognised practice of asking for the money they required at a certain definite rate of interest. I trust that the amendment will be carried.
– It is to be regretted that this Bill for the borrowing of £50,000,000 was not agreed to by the Senate without discussion. I should like to have seen it go through without debate. I am opposed to the amendment on several grounds. First of all I am opposed to an income tax.- It has always been a difficult question for me ‘ to decide which is the more objectionable, a practical protectionist policy of collecting revenue through the Customs or the policy of collecting ‘it by means of an income tax. Stamp duty is a more irritating and objectionable method for the collection of revenue than either of the above mentioned devious means of securing it. I do not agree with the statement made that investors in these war loans are receiving 5 per cent, interest. They are receiving only 4$ per cent. The Government require the money, and it has to bo remembered that since the war broke out the value of money has increased very considerably. I doubt very much whether a rate of 4^ per cent, is as good a rate of interest now as it was when the first war loan was floated. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the bulk of the people who contributed to the war loans are wealthy capitalists. I give honorable senators the following figures from a return dealing with the applications for the second war loan.
From these figures it will be seen that the total number of applicants was 28,938, and the total amount applied for £21,621,720. The table discloses the very important -fact that 15,040 persons applied for amounts ranging between £10 and £100, and no less than 24,677 persons applied for sums ranging from £10 to £500. We may for the purposes of the debate regard a person who has £500 to lend as something of a capitalist, but on other occasions honorable senators and members of the Labour party scout the idea that a man who has land of the value of £5,000 should be regarded as a capitalist. In other debates we have been invited to believe that men owning land of the value of £5,000 are poor men who should be sheltered and protected against all kinds of taxation, and especially against a land tax. I believe that very many of the 199 applicants for large sums represent institutions like the A.M.P. and other insurance societies that are merely investing the premiums of a very great number of people who cannot by any stretch “of the imagination be regarded as capitalists. Fifty per cent, of the loan was subscribed by the rank and file, the great bulk of whom are exempted in any case from the income tax. Four and a-half per cent, is not much to give for money, and those who take it are apparently sacrificing about 6 per cent., according to the list of 10 per cent, investments supplied to members by some enterprising sharebroker.
– If the contributors to the war loan are as Senator Grant describes, then the very men we want to get at will not be reached by offering a reduced rate of interest. The bulk of the money being subscribed by insurance companies, which means the general public, the object of the movers of the amendment, the penalization of the rich man, fails.
– There were 199 applicants for £10,500,000.
– These were mostly big companies, composed of a large number of smaller share or policy holders. We cannot reach the rich man by this amendment, unless he subscribes. If he does not, and Senator Grant says he does not, we can reach him only by using our unlimited power to impose income taxation. It will penalize our own class to tax the 15,000 subscribers of small amounts. At the outside some of them might have to pay 10s. in income tax, on a flat race of 2s. 6d. in the £1, or perhaps a little more, if Senator Blakey’s estimate of a return of 5J per cent, is correct. The Government by exempting owners of war loan stock from taxation are not conferring on them more than the intrinsic value of the loan, for it is always easier for a tradesman to give in kind than in cash. If we imposed taxation, and if Senator Blakey is correct in fixing all charges at about f per cent., the effective rate of interest on this loan would be brought down to 3f per cent. Thus we should be offering a rate of interest which is decidedly below the ordinary market rate of interest to-day, and if we proposed to do so, and let it be known, I do not know how we should get the £50,000,000. Now, looking at the matter from the point of view of the speculative rate of interest, which Senator Stewart says is 5 per cent. There, again, there is at least a i per cent, to the prejudice of the holder of war loan stock. If we reduce the effective rate of interest by per cent., how can we raise the war loan ?
– Then let them keep their money.
– If the honorable senator is prepared to create such a situation, I am not. If there is such a difference as $ per cent., we cannot expect to make the war loan a success. . Taking the figures and calculations and reasoning of those who support the amendment as showing that there will be a difference of per cent, against the holders of the war loan stock, I shall vote against it, with the object of making the loan a success.
– After the vituperative remarks of an honorable senator when he spoke against a previous amendment submitted by those who wished to deal with the capitalist, I am delighted to £nd that he now shows a burning desire to do the same thing, but not in the same way. He claims that the subscribers to the loans are all poor men, and yet he proposes to impose a stiff income tax and take them down, whereas those who have moved to amend the Bill seek a more substantial way of doing it, namely, by conscripting money.
– The honorable senator is merely asking for a loan of the money without interest.
– The object of Senator Stewart’s amendment was unmistakably the conscription of wealth.
– It was not; it was merely asking for a loan of £100 without interest.
– The honorable senator must pursue the argument upon his own amendment.
– The response to a loan without interest would come from patriots only.
– It would come from nobody.
– I hope that the patriots in the community will provide the money. We propose to make up any deficiency by the conscription of wealth.
– How much would the honorable senator subscribe under those conditions?
– All that I could afford. I guarantee that in proportion to what I possess, I would do as well as the wealthy man. I believe that if the subscribers to the war loans were classified it would be found that the working classes have put up most of the money. If a man invests £1,000,000 in the war loan at 4½ per cent., he will receive £45,000 in interest per annum, and if that source of income were not exempted from taxation, the income tax on that revenue at 5s. in the £1 for State and Federal Income Tax would be £11,250. We allow him to escape the obligation of paying £11,250 annually in the shape of income tax. He also escapes stamp duty, and he cannot be got at by a wealth tax, to which, of course, Senator Lynch would be opposed. We desire to remove these anomalies. . The Bill provides a means by which the rich man may escape, but if the amendment be carried he will not be able to escape, because, even if he is paid 5 per cent. in interest, the Government will always be able to tax him when they desire to do so.
– The Beef Trust, which is supplying the Commonwealth with meat for the troops, is probably getting more nearly 8 per cent. than 4½ per cent.
– The Minister stated that if this amendment were carried it would probably lead to the failure of the loan, and he hinted that some of us desired to bring about that result. That remark showed how little the honorable gentleman knows of finance, because, while pointing out how much more attractive the exemptions make the loan, he overlooked the fact that those exemptions are only equal to so much more interest. In other words, if the loan can be floated at4½ per cent. with exemptions it might be floated at 5¼ per cent. without exemptions. If the Government think that the loan, without exemptions, is likely to be a failure, what is to prevent them from increasing the rate of interest to an extent equal to the value of the exemptions, and then we could reach the bond-holders by means of an income tax. If there be one debt of honour to the community it is that which a man owes for the preservation of himself and his property. Yet, strangely enough, while Senator Lynch advocates conscription of manhood, while he argues that it is the incontestable duty of every man to shed his blood in fighting for his country, he will not take up the same attitude in regard to the wealth that will be protected. By the payment of interest we are piling up a debt which the descendants of our dead soldiers will have to pay. That is a damnable policy, and its advocates have not a leg to stand on.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added (Senator Mullan’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 - (Purpose for which money may be borrowed).
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Providing that such expenses of borrowing shall not include any amount of moneys to be paid as brokerage or commission to members of Stock Exchanges for contributions to the war loan made through their offices.”
I regard the system of allowing brokerage to members of Stock Exchanges as entirely wrong. The Commonwealth Bank and the post-offices throughout Australia are prepared to do this work, and the Commonwealth Bank, at the same charge of 5s. per £100 is prepared to control the loan over a- period of ten years. When the last loan was being subscribed, the Commonwealth Bank opened offices for the convenience of. members of the Stock Exchange, and Senator Russell has told me that the amount of brokerage paid to them totalled £34,000. In my opinion, that money was not earned, for all the money necessary would, I think, have found its way into the loan irrespective of the members of the Exchange.
.- I appeal to the honorable senator not to press the amendment. Why make the Bill the vehicle for the abolition of brokers, and for social reform generally ? Brokers are an established fact in connexion with all these transactions, and if Senator Ferricks likes to play Sir Galahad, by all means let him do so; but why use this Bill for the first tilt? I understand that the brokers have made one alteration, inasmuch as they do the work connected with these loans at half rates. Another point is that a large number of people accept the advice of brokers as to investments of this kind. We may think such people foolish; but, nevertheless, many prefer to employ brokers; who, of course, would not exist if they did not fill some place in the financial economy. This Bill is not a measure to insure the continuance of brokers, and it is hard to see why it should be made one for their abolition.
– I do not feel disposed to withdraw the amendment, because I think these brokers have not rendered adequate service to the defence of the country for the £34,000 already received. I rather regret that the Minister has not- shown us what services have been rendered by these gentlemen. This is not the first occasion on which I have raised this question, for Senator Russell will remember that, when the first Loan Bill was introduced, I took exception to the payment of brokerage charges. I do not profess to be cognisant of all the details of loan floating and so forth; and, though I have repeatedly asked for the Government reasons for their present policy in this re gard, I have not received any reply to my satisfaction. When the loan now’ under consideration has been subscribed, these brokers will probably draw commission amounting to £82,000. I am not prepared to allow this, unless I am assured by Senator Russell or the Acting Prime Minister that adequate service to the Commonwealth is given in return. It has been advanced that these brokers advise their clients to invest in the loans,, and that, but for this, the whole of the money might not be subscribed. I take an opposite view, and think that it is just a case of friends acting through brokers because they know that the latter will get commission, and that the State is a good old milch cow. Members of Stock Exchanges are usually keen business men, and I take no exception to their utilizing their intellect and abilities to the best possible advantage. But when we consider that the money borrowed is for war purposes, and that the members of the Stock Exchange, when war news arrives, are given to singing “God save the King” and “Rule Britannia,” it would seem that they are acting a double part, seeing that they accept such substantial suras in brokerage. I cannot consent to the present state of affairs continuing unless the Acting Prime Minister can convince me of the advantage accruing to the Commonwealth from this magnificent gift to the brokers. It is safe to assume that 95 per cent, of the members of the stock exchanges throughout the Commonwealth are to-day advocating the conscription of the manhood of this country. In such circumstances am I justified in allowing these persons to draw this huge sum for brokerage in connexion with the flotation of our war loans? If the Minister has good reasons for his action, he has, so far, withheld them from the Committee.
Senator MULLAN (Queensland [6.21 a.m.]. - The Minister assigned as a reason why the amendment should not be proceeded with that this loan is for war purposes. Now, if there is one measure moi-e than another which should appeal to everybody in the community, it is a War Loan Bill.
– The labourer is worthy of his hire.
– If there be one form, of investment more than another which should appeal to capitalists, it is investment in a war loan. They know that it is a gilt-edged security. The brokers come into contact with the moneyed classes, and the latter rather than go to the Commonwealth Bank agree to make their applications through their brokers, and thus assist in “ taking down “ the Government. We ought not to allow that sort of thing in connexion with a war loan.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added (Senator Ferricks’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill covers all the war loans, but involves nothing beyond a bookkeeping arrangement in relation to them. The Acts authorizing the two previous loans enacted that the money borrowed should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue. We desire that the whole of future loans shall be paid into a distinct fund to be used for war purposes only. The Bill is intended to simplify the keeping of accounts, so as to show clearly the expenditure made from war loan funds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I may inform honorable senators that the term of the Public Service Commissioner had expired, and under the Public Service Act we had no power to appoint an Acting Commissioner. It is the desire of the Government to review the Public Service Act, and to bring down definite proposals with regard to the position of the Public Service Commissioner. But in order to give us time to deal with these matters, it is necessary to carry on with an Acting Public Service Commissioner, and this Bill merely gives us power to appoint Mr. Edwards to that position until the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, or until the Governor-General otherwise directs. It makes no change in the Public Service Act, and it gives to Mr. Edwards the salary at which Mr. McLachlan began in the Public Service as Commissioner.
– How long will this temporary appointment be maintained?
– Until the Government come forward with an amendment of the Public Service Act, or until they see fit to make a further appointment.
– I can understand the need for such a Bill as this, but I would point out that it is not the best practice to have men “ acting “ for any great length of time. In fact, I know of no other condition more confusing to the Public Service than to have men kept indefinitely in an acting capacity. That is the reason why I asked the Leader of the Senate how long it was intended to keep Mr.
Edwards temporarily in this position. For my part, I would like to see a Public Service Commissioner appointed now, and I do not know why one could not be appointed. An amendment of the Public Service Act is not required to enable an appointment to be made. One of the most fruitful sources of friction in the Western State has been the practice of appointing leaders of Departments and sub-Departments in an acting capacity. They never take any interest in their work, and the experience in Western Australia should guard us from introducing the trouble into the Commonwealth Service. I hope that the fact that Mr. Edwards will be appointed temporarily does not mean that the Government will continue indefinitely with an Acting Public Service Commissioner. I would like to have an assurance from the Leader of the Senate as to the extent of his term.
– I am not so much concerned about the appointment of a Public Service Comisisoner in a temporary capacity, or about the officers who will act under him as I am about the policy of the Government with respect to the service as a whole. It is time they introduced a comprehensive amendment of the existing Act with a view to take from the Public Service Commissioner, whoever he may be, some of the mighty powers with which he is invested, and give the Ministers in charge of Departments some powers which they do not now possess.
– The honorable senator would give the powers back to the politicians ?
– No; but I would apportion powers between the Public Service Commissioner and Ministers, and would safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth Public Service. We had a demonstration in another place by a responsible Minister, who said that he could not sack an officer of his Department. I do not say here that our public servants are good, bad. or indifferent, but I do say that the Federal Parliament is not the place in which to attack them, and they certainly ought not to be attacked by the Minister controlling the Department in which they are employed.
– Does the honorable senator think that that matter is under review now?
– That particular matter is not under review, but I was referring to the necessity for a comprehensive amendment of the Public Service Act with a view, not to place all power in the hands of the politicians, but to take away from the Public Service Commissioner the privilege of absolutism which he enjoys to-day, and to give to Ministers of the Crown some power to deal with questions and with men in their Departments as occasion arises. Where there is responsibility there should be authority. Under the principal Act, the Commissioner has too much power, and Ministers have too little. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will, in reply, indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce a comprehensive amending Act.
– I can only say in reply to Senator Lynch that the word “temporarily,” as used in this Bill, is intended to convey its accepted meaning. But it is impossible to give the exact time when a permanent appointment will be made. I hope that, in a few months, such an appointment will be made. In answer to Senator Needham, I may say that it is the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill to amend the Public Service Act at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appointment of Acting Public Service Commissioner).
– I should like the Minister of Defence to say whether the Acting Public Service Commissioner will be subject to the same discipline, and his officers subordinate to him, in the same way as he would be if the appointment had been possible under the existing Act. I ask for the information because it appears to me from the way in which this clause is drawn, that the Bill is not co-related in any way with the existing Act. It provides that the Acting Public Service Commissioner shall hold office only until the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, or until the Governor-General otherwise directs. This implies a right to discontinue his services, but my point is that this Bill is not co-related with the existing Act, and contains no provisions con- trolling the Acting Public Service Commissioner.
. -It is quite clear that the Acting Public Service Commissioner will be under the Public Service Act, which is the only Act making provision for a Public Service Commissioner. This Bill is therefore linked up with the existing Act.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth, under its power to acquire land for semi-public institutions compulsorily acquired the site being now built on for the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, but under the existing Act the title to that land must be transferred to the Commonwealth. It is desired to obtain power to transfer the title to the Commonwealth Bank authorities on payment of the amount expended in purchasing the site, which was £102,000.
– At what interest?
– The bank has been paying the Government 3 per cent., which is the rate fixed by Parliament under the Lands Acquisition Act, when the land was acquired by the Commonwealth about four years ago. There is no reason why the bank should be charged more because of the war, which broke out three years later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - (Vesting of lands in Commonwealth authorities) .
.- Will the land on which the bank premises are being built be subject to municipal taxation, which on the present valuation would come to £2,000 per annum ?
– I cannot answer that question definitely. If the municipality has no power to tax Commonwealth properties in general, it should not have power to tax the bank, which undoubtedly belongs to the Commonwealth, but the High Court decided against the Commonwealth in the stamp duties case, and, as the bank has been made an independent body, the position may be uncertain.
– Do the Government intend to pay the municipal rates ? The bank certainly ought to pay them, being run for profit like any other business.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment. Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-day.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I wish to thank honorable senators for the way in which they have sat through the long sitting in order to get through the business. The following reply has been furnished to Senator Needham’s questions regarding appeals from the sentences of courts martial : -
– During the course of the debate on the’ Budget, I took occasion to refer to a notification in the press of a further sale of wheat in the Old Country.
I desire to know from the Honorary Minister, who represents the Government on the Wheat Board, the latest developments in that respect, and what chance the wheat-growers have of getting the extra 6d. per bushel that means so much to them. Apparently, we are living in an age when the fashion seems to be to pay no interest on money advanced. Unfortunately, the people who .have turned over the soil, and delved and dug for the last two or three years have received no interest on their produce, nor have they got full value for the goods they have supplied. Instead of getting the London parity, they get 2s. 6d. a bushel, less than 50 per cent, of the face value of their goods. I wish to speak also of the impropriety of a State Minister jumping the position of mouthpiece of the Wheat Board. I still hold that the representative of the Commonwealth on the Wheat Board should have the exclusive right to make its announcements. No State Minister should usurp the position. Nevertheless, I hope that, as a result of the sale effected in the Old Country, according to the report given to the press by a State Minister, tlie Board will be enabled to take some action in the direction I have indicated as desirable more than once in this chamber during the last few days. The £2,000,000 which will be received will reduce the overdraft to about £9,000,000. If the Board would make the additional advance of 6d., the overdraft would then be increased to £13,000,000, but as the Honorary Minister has told us that the maximum margin is £15,000,000, the amount will be well within the limit if it remains at £13,000,000. In the Western State, on one occasion, a politician said, “ What is a million?” We have been getting on since then. We have been passing Bills for the borrowing of £50,000,000. That politician we now find was but a pessimist. He ought to have been saying, “What is fifty millions?” I am asking for but a fraction of £50,000,000 to be advanced to these farmers at this particular juncture, so that they may be able to turn over the ground, and get their seed under cover; that, in their turn, they may be able to employ labour, and when the land becomes productive, there will be more wheat for loading on our railways, and for cargo in our ships, all this giving con- siderable employment at the proper time to our people. If we are to move we should move now - I know the position of the men who are interested - and even at this eleventh hour, I ask the Minister to announce the latest developments in regard to the wheat transactions, and say whether the extra 6d. is to be forthcoming so that the people can do some good with it,
– I regret that the honorable senator has been deceived. I have already told him all I know about the matter. It is true that a report appeared in a newspaper, but I accept no responsibility for it ; in fact, I was as much astonished to see it as the honorable senator was. It. said that something like 250,000 tons of wheat had been sold within the last few days. Everything depends on the interpretation of the words “ last few days.” There was a good sale of wheat on the 8th May, and again on the 18th May we sold another 90,000 tons to the international commission. Those are the only sales which I know of. Whoever said that 250,000 tons had been sold within the few days must have meant last few months.
– It must be misleading.
– I am not here to say hard things, but I regret the publication of the report. I was at a meeting of the Board on Saturday morning from 10 o’clock until midday, and I heard nothing about sales. It is possible that, going back over two months, the sales may have extended to 200,000 tons. The position is a difficult one, much more difficult than most people realize. Freight has shown no signs of improving; on the contrary, the position is worse than it was in the early days. No one knowing, the facts would feel justified in recommending an increase of 6d. a bushel while there is an overdraft of £11,000,000, and uncertainty in regard to freight. I hope that the High Commissioner will be able to do something. If he can, we shall not hold back the announcement longer than is reasonable. If the outlook is bright we shall make an announcement in regard to the advance, but that announcement will come from the president of the Board, the Acting Prime Minister. I ask the honorable senator not to be pessimistic in regard to the forthcoming season. It is not too late. I have had reports from the different States, and I believe that the farmers are going to exceed the area they put in last year. I understand that in New South. Wales, where there was an enormous harvest, a good deal of new land is being put under crop. I had an opportunity of going through the Riverina district, and I saw the land being cropped there. In Victoria the position is the same. However, the fact that the farmers are making an effort to get the land under crop is no reason why we should not give them every assistance. I assure the honorable senator that the Board is sympathetic, and will make the advances at the earliest possible moment, consistent with sound business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senateadjourned at 7.11 a.m. (Tuesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19160522_SENATE_6_79/>.