6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Re-instatement of Men : Treatment of Clothing.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy an answer to the questionwhich I asked him yesterday!
– The honorable senator asked me yesterday to ascertain from the Minister for the Navy some information as to certain Government employees who had lost their employment through responding to the call to go into Camp on the issue of the Home Service proclamation. The honorable senator gave the particulars about two men at Cockatoo Island, and one. man off the Tingira. The Minister has informed me that, upon the matter being brought under his notice he ordered the reinstetement of these men.
– Is it a fact that the clothing supplied to the men who were called up under the Home Service proclamation, and dismissed from the Camp after the referendum on the 28th October, was destroyed by fire?
– It is not a fact. All clothing was inspected by a Board.All the clothes which were serviceable were washed, sterilized, and are now in store. Only clothing which had become unserviceable through being torn or otherwise mutilated was destroyed.
– Has the Leader of the Senate yet had the time, or the opportunity, to ascertain from the Prime Minister’s Department by whose authority, or at whose suggestion, the arrangements for the Protectionist meeting proposed to be held in the Melbourne Town Hall were cancelled ?
– I direct the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that, owing to the Friday sitting starting early in the morning, it is impossible, except in extraordinary circumstances, to obtain by Friday morning a reply to questions submitted on Thursday afternoon. I ask other honorable senators to accept this explanation in regard to some of the questions on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whetherit is the intention of this Government to appoint an Industrial Commission to visit America; and, if so, when will the personnel of the Commission be announced, and will it be chosen from amongst those representatives of employers and employees in the six States whose applications are, I understand, already in hand?
– The matter, I understand, was under the consideration of the late Government; but, as the honorable senator’s question brings the matter down to date, I ask him to give notice.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether there is any truth in the reports in the various daily newspapers that two important positions, namely, the Chairmanship of the Murray “Waters Commission, and the Administratorship of the Northern Territory, have already been allotted, and that certain events are being awaited before the names are officially made public.
– The reports or rumours to which the honorable senator refers are distinctly inaccurate.
– Is it the intention of the present Government to reappoint Dr. Gilruth to the position of Administrator of the Northern Territory?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice.
Paymaster at Sydney.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether there is any truth in the report in the daily newspapers of Sydney that a certain paymaster in the Defence Department found in a safe 10,000 sovereigns which he could not account for, and if so, whether that man is still in the Service?
– There is no truth, in the report.
Wheat Pool and Wheat Prices
– Can the AssistantMinister give the Senate any information! as to whether the Government has done; or proposes to do anything, with reference to the position in Tasmania owing; to the shortage of wheat through the price fixed by the Wheat Board? Does: the Government intend to take any action in the matter?
– There is a good deal of debatable matter in the question as to the effect of the determinations of the Wheat Board. The Government has taken action in this matter. It was brought under the notice of the Wheat Board, who state that they are not in a position to sell wheat at a lower price in Tasmania than in Victoria and New South Wales. On the other hand, to meet the difficulties of the millers of Tasmania, we have increased the price of bran and of pollard by 10s. per ton.
– Is Senator Russell now in a position to give definite information concerning any action taken since the visit of the Treasurer of Tasmania to Melbourne in connexion with the wheat supply for milling purposes in Tasmania? Can he indicate what has been done since the Treasurer of Tasmania saw him upon the matter, and whether it is hoped that any action can he taken in the future to relieve the strain existing in Tasmania?
– The honorable senator’s question is practically a repetition of one asked this morning by Senator Ready. The position is that the Wheat Board have declined to sell wheat to Tasmanian millers at a rate lower than they sell to millers in Victoria and New South Wales. As a consequence, millers in Tasmania, having to pay freight charges, must pay 6d. per bushel more for wheat supplied by the Wheat Board than do Victorian and New South Wales millers. In the circumstances, it was felt that, in the interests of Tasmanian millers, action might be taken through the Commissioner for fixing prices in Tasmania. The price of bran there has been increased by 10s. per ton, and the price of pollard has also been increased by 10s. per ton. This increase in the price of their by-products places the millers of Tasmania in practically the same, or perhaps a little better, position than that of the millers in Victoria in dealing with wheat.
– Arising out of the answer to thequestion, I ask the Assistant Minister whether, subsequent to the deputation of Tasmanian members which he received last Monday, he made any communication to the Wheat Board, in whose hands, the whole settlement of the matter seems to lie, respecting the urgency of the position in Tasmania, representations concerning which are coming forward almost every minute.
– Yes ; the matter was placed before the Wheat Board. Representations on the subject have been made, not only in this Chamber, but through a good deal of correspondence from Senator Keating, who has continually raised the constitutional question. I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth has not the power to take absolute control of the wheat of the States. The wheat has not been commandeered. The Wheat Pool is the result of a voluntary co-operative movement amongst the wheat-producing States.
– Tasmania, amongst other States, is backing the Wheat Pool financially, and secures no advantage from it.
– Order I The question cannot be argued.
– Every possible step has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to ease the situation in regard to wheat in Tasmania. The matter has raised an old question, which has been thoroughly discussed.
– Tasmania is being penalized for standing behind the Wheat Pool. That is about the position.
– Has Senator Russell any objection to state the price per bushel charged for wheat by the Wheat Board in Queensland and in Tasmania ?
– The position in Queensland and in Tasmania is practically the same. The four wheatgrowing States fixed the price of wheat at 4s. 9d. f.o.b. at the principal ports. That is to say, Queensland buys wheat, in New South Wales chiefly, at 4s. 9d. f.o.b., and the price of wheat in Queensland is 4s. 9d. per bushel plus freight. Tasmanian millers buying in New South Wales and Victoria pay 4s. 9d. f.o.b. plus freight to Tasmania, which brings the price there up to 5s. 3d. per bushel. It should be stated that this year Queensland has produced almost, if not sufficient, wheat to meet local consumption, but in Tasmania the wheat locally produced is something less than one-fourth of the local consumption.
Prosecution of Mr. Dicker, M.H.A
– Will the Minister for Defence state under whose instructions the prosecution was instituted against Mr. David Dicker, M.H.A., of Tasmania, for alleged utterances against the provisions of the War Precautions Act?
– The prosecution was instituted in the ordinary way. Certain information was supplied to the Defence Department, and referred to the Crown Solicitor for advice. The Crown Solicitor advised that there was a case for prosecution, and the Minister for Defence approved of a prosecution.
– On the word of two travelling girls.
Uniforms : Hat Contracts
– Will the Minister for Defence say what difficulties there are in the way of the Defence Department having uniforms for Australian soldiers abroad made in Australia and sent to them? Instead of making arrangements for the whole of the wool clip being exported, would it not be better to have a portion of the clip retained here, manufactured into the finished article, and sent to the troops abroad?
– In reply to the first question, the only difficulties are those of freight and infrequent sail-.,, ing. It is a mistake to say that the Australian troops are not supplied with Australian uniforms, for it is not the case. The circumstances in which some of the troops abroad have been supplied with English uniforms have arisen in this way : In England we have only one Australian military hospital, and that is at Harefield Park. Some thousands of wounded Australians are distributed to the various hospitals under the control and management of the British War Office. In some of these hospitals there are only five or six Australian soldiers. Upon their admission their uniforms are stained, torn very frequently, and in bad condition. When the men recover they are given a set of the uniforms which are in store in the hospitals, and which, of course, are English uniforms. As soon as they rejoin our Forces, however, they are again supplied with Australian uniforms. It is obviously impossible that we can keep a depot of Australian uniforms at every one of these forty or fifty hospitals, where, perhaps, we have only half-a-dozen wounded Australians, and have them at irregular intervals. It is not correct to say that English uniforms are being supplied to Australian soldiers in England. The second question is answered by my reply to the first one. Australian wool is being made into cloth in Australia, and the cloth is being made “into Australian uniforms, which are sent to England to supply the Australian troops there.
– Are there any difficulties in the way of turning some of the raw material here into the finished article and supplying uniforms to the men who are not in hospitals or similar institutions in the Old Country?
– I have already replied to that question by stating that the only difficulties are in the way of freight and infrequent sailing. It has happened occasionally that we have not been able to get a ship just at the time required to take the uniforms which were made up here and were waiting for shipment. That is a difficulty which, as honorable senators know, is beyond our power to rectify at the present juncture.-
– Would there be greater difficulties in the way of shipping the Australian uniforms than in making the arrangements for the exportation of the wool itself?
– There are exactly the same difficulties in the way of sending the uniforms as there are in the way of sending the wool. I repeat that, as far as uniforms are required,, the Australian wool is being made up here and despatched as we get the opportunity.
– Wool is also being exported.
– Is it not a fact that while contracts with hat makers in Australia are being discontinued, at least one large contract has been let to English manufacturers?
– It is a fact that a contract for hats was let by the Australian authorities in England for the supply of hats for Australian soldiers. Immediately that fact became known here we cabled instructions that it was not to be repeated, and it will not be repeated.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence Act 1903-1915. Regulations amended, &c. Statutory Rules 1917, No. 25.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a measure repealing the Daylight Saving Act, and, if so, when ?
– The question has not yet been considered by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.If representations have been made by the Launceston Chamber of Commerce to the PostmasterGeneral about the irregularity or lateness in the arrival in Tasmania of mails from the mainland consequent on the reduction in the speed of the mail steamer Loongana?
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he give a return showing -
The number, date of application, and names of applicants or patentees who have appealed from decision of the Patents Commissioner in patents and trade marks cases to the High Courts and Supreme Courts of the States since the inauguration of the Patents and Trade Marks Office?
What percentage of the appeals was given against the Commissioner in regard to
– The information will be obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether,in view of the widespread unemployment throughout the Commonwealth, the Government will undertake to continue the military pay of returned soldiers who are now being discharged as medically fit to earn their own livelihood, until the State War Council in their respective States, or some other authority, has provided them with suitable employment?
– The whole question of repatriation and the welfare of returned soldiers is receiving the most earnest consideration of the Government, and this aspect of the matter will not be overlooked.
Motion (by Senator Ready) agreed to -
That two months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Long and Senator Guy on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator Findley) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing -
The number who responded to the proclamation issued on 29th September, 1910, calling up certain men of stated ages for home service.
The number of men passed as medically fit for such service.
The number not medically examined.
The number of claims lodged for exemption.
The number of exemptions granted.
The number of exemptions refused.
The number of claims for exemptions not dealt with.
The total amount expended in connexion with the referendum decided on 28th October, 1916.
The total amount expended in calling up men for home service under the proclamation of 20th September last.
Debate resumed from 22nd February (vide page 10556), on motion by Senator
That the paper be printed.
– In rising to address myself to the statement put before us yesterday afternoon by Senator Millen, I commence by saying that when the document which he read is printed it will represent in the records of the Senate the high water mark of bluff and hypocrisy. Senator Millen reviewed very briefly the pre-war statements of both political parties. I propose briefly to follow his example. For six weeks after the declaration of war the Liberal party, the same Liberal party that now governs this country, conducted the affairs of the Commonwealth, that is to say, from the 1st August till the 17th September, 1914. They were then displaced by the Fisher Government. From the1st August till the 5th September, when the elections took place., many speeches were made by many candidates, and many whole-hearted and enthusiastic promises were given, each and every one pledging themselves to the loyal prosecution of the war. So far as the party I represent is concerned, I want to say that we have fulfilled all our pledges to the letter. No man in the Senate or in the country can point to anything that will controvert that statement in the records of the conduct of affairs by the Labour Government from the day they took office, on the 17th September, 1914, until the party was broken up by’ the deliberate tactics of the Leader of the present Coalition Government. It stands to the record of the Australian Labour party that, when they had an absolute majority in both Houses of Parliament, they faithfully observed their pledges to the people of this country.
– As soon as the pinch came you ran away.
– I am referring to the pledge made by our party during the war period and whilst the elections were being conducted. I repeat that those pledges have been honorably kept, and that if any man hereafter wants to know the policy of our party, 1 can best answer him by referring to our past record, and intimating to him that that will be our record for the future if called upon to direct the affairs of this country.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And your action during the referendum campaign.
– Which we are proud of.
– And which was confirmed by the majority of the people of Australia.
– When Senator Millen was speaking yesterday, I endeavoured not to interrupt, and I venture to say that a review of the honorable senator’s remarks will show that my name does not appear very often by way of interjection. I am glad, also, to be able to affirm that, to the credit of our party, it can be said that interjections made from this side of the chamber were very few. I ask now for the same consideration during my discussion of this serious question.
– Interruptions are coming from your own side.
– Yesterday Senator Millen, in his reference to the events prior to the elections, seemed to convey the impression - although I do not suggest he had that in mind - that the pledges given to the electors on that occasion bound the people to support the present combination. If that was what Senator Millen had in his mind, I would like to know by what process of reasoning the honorable senator arrived at such a conclusion. Mr. Fisher, as the leader of our great party, made certain promises, and when he came into office he carried them out faithfully. When he left office he handed over the obligation to Mr.
Hughes, who continued to observe the pledges. Now, however, it appears that Mr. Hughes has bargained away, or given to the Liberal majority in his Cabinet, something that was promised by Mr. Fisher as the Leader of the Labour Government, and it appears that Senator Millen is now trying to build up his case by suggesting that the Liberals, having purchased an interest in this concern, also purchased the pre-election pledges of honorable members who sit on this side of the Senate. We know, of course, that they made a very hard bargain, for it took these men, under cover of forming a National Government, weeks and weeks of negotiation to come to anything like a decision, even amongst themselves. That brings me to the statement made by Senator Millen yesterday, and in quoting from his speech I want to give his exact words, because I do not wish to misrepresent him in any way. Senator Millen said -
The representatives of both parties assured the electors that they were there to do what was possible to help to win thewar, and were doing it, not only as a matter of loyalty to Australia, but as a matter of loyalty to the Empire itself.
I want to say now, as the representative of the Australian Labour party, that we stand by every word of that pledge, and that, as since the war began, so while it continues, no action will be withheld for one minute that would assist in winning the war. I point to our record to show what the Australian Labour party has done to help win this war.
– And what the party is doing. We want the country to know that particularly.
– The Liberal Government were in power for six weeks after the war broke out, and during that time they proposed to equip and send overseas a Force of 20,000 troops. I point out here it was what the Labour party had done in the teeth of the most bitter opposition from the Liberals that made such a thing possible. Our bank note issue - the proposal which the Liberals said would wreck the finances of Australia - our notes, which Mr. Joseph Cook said would be regarded as Fisher’s “ flimsies,” and in a little time would be worth only 15s. in the £1 - made all this possible. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank enabled the Liberal Government, and the Labour Government who followed them, to lay their hands on from £14,000,000 to £16,000,000 of money to meet the extraordinary expenditure suddenly forced upon the country. The fact that they were able to do this without disturbing the currency of the country - because we had then become accustomed to the circulation of the notes - and the financial foundations laid by the Labour party, did as much towards the successful prosecution of the war as any of the subsequent flag-flapping by the Liberals.
– The honorable senator might as well be correct, and give credit to honorable senators on this side for what they did at that time.
– If the honorable senator and others had not left our party, there would be no occasion to suggest that we are taking credit from them.
– It is all very well to dissemble your love but why did you kick us downstairs?
– I can see that some honorable senators would like this debate to develop into a dialogue between myself and certain members who formerly belonged to our party, but who deliberately broke their election pledges, and of their own free will left us.
– That is not correct.
– It is absolutely untrue, and I will not allow a deliberately untrue statement to eo unchallenged.
– Order ! Senator Newland in an interjection to Senator Gardiner has charged him with saying something which is “ deliberately untrue.” Senator. Newland must be perfectly well aware that such a statement is distinctly unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it unreservedly.
– If that is your ruling, Mr. President, I withdraw it.
– I need hardly have noticed Senator Newland’s interjection, for the reason that neither on the floor of this Senate nor anywhere else have I deliberately’ uttered an untruth. I intend now to read the Federal pledge, so as to enable the public to judge whether or net they broke it. It is as follows : -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognised political Labour organization, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour party’s platform, and, on all questions affecting the platform, to vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted Caucus meeting.
– All of which we havekept.
– I want to point out that a duly constituted Caucus meeting was called by the present Leader of the coalition, Mr. Hughes, and that that meeting was being conducted in a most orderly manner when certain honorable members left it. The Caucus came to anunanimous decision, but from then until now not one amongst those who left the meeting have kept the pledge they signed.
– That is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
– I intend toplace these facts clearly before the public. I say certain members of the Caucusvoluntarily left the meeting.
– After we were expelled, or threatened to be expelled.
– They left the meeting, as I have said, and they immediately set about forming a rival Labour party called the “ National “ Labour party.
– Which is now dead.
– Don’t you make any mistake about that.
– Having answered my friends-
– You are the last person who ought to speak about breaking; Caucus rules.
– Speak the truth.
– As far as I am concerned, the Caucus door is open for those members to walk in again when they are prepared to keep the pledges they made.
– I would not be seen in such company.
– Order! Senator Gardiner has a right to be heard without interruption.
– I want to repeat that the pledge which we gave to thepeople when the war was in progress, and when we were contesting an election, has been faithfully carried out. I have already shown that it was due to the policy of the Labour party that our financial institutions were in a satisfactory condition. I remind the Senate, also, that years ago, when we established the Australian Navy, we then builded better than we knew, because we have since realized that it was the presence of the battleship Ana- tralia in these waters that saved Australian ports from bombardment by the German warships, the Scharnhorst, the Gniesenau, and other vessels belonging to that German squadron.
– And you have since driven out the leader of your party.
– I feel compelled, Mr. President, to appeal to you to be heard.
– I again point out to honorable senators that Senator Gardiner is entitled to be heard, and that interjections are disorderly. If honorable senators will persist in disobeying my repeated requests for order, I shall certainly be compelled to take stronger measures.
– I was about to say that our Australian Navy - which the Liberals described as a mosquito fleet, and our river boats, which the present Minister for the Navy said were of no use, because we had no rivers for them to operate in - played a most important part in the early stages of this war; and that, when we are free from party heat and from party desires to get party advantages, the Australian Labour party, which brought that Fleet into existence, will then receive its full measure of credit at the hands of the impartial historian. I have no desire to take from the Liberals all the credit they are entitled to for their administrative actions during the first weeks of the war. They did all that could have been done in that time to prepare Australia for the great struggle.
– They acted with lightning-like velocity.
– The Liberal Government prepared the machinery for the organization and arming of 20,000 men. I do not want to say that that was all that they intended to do, but I am here entitled to point out that when the Labour party came into office they carried on that policy with an expedition that will always stand to their credit. “Within a. few months after coming into power, Mr. Fisher, the then Leader of the Labour Government, as soon as the first unit was despatched, made a splendid offer of another 30,000 men to participate in this great international struggle. With that second offer there was naturally associated all the labour and the equipment of another great army, because, in proportion to our population, these armies are great. Yesterday, Senator Millen wished to take credit for his generous treatment of the Government while they were in office. I want to say that if lip promises of generosity count, we had that support from him. But the Liberal party, during the whole conduct of the war by the Labour Government, exploited every popular cry to discredit the Government. Mr. Orchard’s tactics in connexion with the Liverpool Camp made discipline there impossible for months, and finally resulted in an outbreak which stands to the discredit of the whole Australian Army. While we were working seriously and earnestly in putting figures before the people with a view to showing what was being done, what was the attitude taken up by two leaders of the Opposition party - Mr. Cook and Sir William Irvine? The Round Table Review for March, 1915 - some eight months after the commencement of the war - credits Sir William Irvine with saying that Australia should have at the front at least 100,000 men, and Mr. Cook is reported to have said in another place that the ideal of Australia should be at least 100,000 men. But the Labour party had already passed that limit; and, before twelve months had elapsed from the outbreak of the war. 100,000 men had been organized!, equipped, and were undergoing training to enable them to play their part in it.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There has never been more than 100,000 men at the front. The others are required to make up wastage.
– Before two years had elapsed, the Australian Labour party had organized, equipped, and had in training in camps, and on their way to the front, not 100,000, nor 200,000, but 300,000 men. That was the Labour party’s contribution towards winning this war. At that period there came into the party the wedge which has since divided it. Mr. Hughes, fresh from Great Britain, had determined that the voluntary system was not satisfactory. At the end of November, after 150,000 men had been despatched overseas, he said that we wanted another voluntary army of 50,000 men. What happened? The months of January, February, and March gave us more than that number. Fifty thousand were asked for by him at the end of November, and had been enlisted and enrolled by the end of March. Yet, the total number of men required when that offer was made was 286,000. I come now to the element that brought us to the vote of the people on the 28th October last, and that left the Government which had formerly had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament with only the remnants of a party in either House. May I be permitted to say that it left that Government with only the remnants, the rats, and the renegades of a party in this House.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable senator is in order in describing honorable senators as “rats”?
– I certainly withdraw the expression. I was referring to the remnants of a party, and not to any individual, and consequently thought that my remarks would be in order. I thought it was one of those truths which should be forcibly expressed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator is qualifying his insult by another.
– Then I withdraw unreservedly, if Senator de Largie takes exception to my statement.
– Knowing the honorable senator’s history in the early part of the Labour movement in New South Wales, I do.
– It is quite appropriate, coming from the chief headhunter.
– Before that time the Labour party had had the unswerving loyalty of a majority in this Parliament; and, according to the popular vote of 28th October last, it still retains the confidence of a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator has a front !
-It is a pity the honorable senator has not a back, and some backbone.
– He is known throughout the country as a man with backbone.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I would remind the Senate of the fact that Senator Gardiner has requested that he shall be allowed to speak without interruption, and I intend that he shall be given that opportunity.
– I thank you, sir, for your intervention, and I know that your intentions are good; but I am afraid that I shall not be allowed to do what I desire. I was remarking that the Hughes party, after leaving the Labour party, formed a new party called the “National” Labour party. It consisted of thirteen members in another place, and of eleven members in the Senate. Nobody will question their ability, their manhood, or their loyalty to Mr. Hughes, and nobody will question their treachery to the Labour movement.
– Nobody will question their loyalty to their country.
– I can quite understand the enthusiast who ventures all his fortunes on his loyalty to one man, and who follows that man to his ownv political destruction. To me loyalty is a thing well worthy of commendation, even when it is exhibited by my opponents. Mr. Hughes’ party met Parliament with a remnant in either House. That remnant, or some of the members comprising it, have condemned the treatment which was accorded to them by the Leader of the Opposition. It has been said that we put obstacles in their way. I venture to say that no man with a full sense of his responsibility to his country, or to Parliament, would have attempted to carry on the government of the Commonwealth as Mr. Hughes did. No man would have come to this Houseand to the other branch of the Legislature and asked for a grant of Supply without one word being vouchsafed as to what were his future intentions. I think that in granting them two months’ Supply we treated that remnant generously. Mr. Hughes, with his minority, had no right to govern this country for one hour. He had lost his majority. But he had the means of getting another majority. ‘ He could dangle before the members of the other House such prospects of place, power, and pay that if he could only hold office sufficiently long he could bring them to heel, and thus be enabled to remain the leader of a party that have been brought together by huckstering and bargaining such as I hope will never discredit our political life again. Senator Millen has affirmed that after these negotiations had been in progress some weeks the Labour party were invited to join in the formation of a
National Government. I wish to say that no such invitation ever came to the Labour party. It is quite true that Mr. Joseph Cook sent a letter to Mr. Tudor, as the leader of our party, inviting him to a Conference - not to form a Coalition Government, but to discuss the matter. It is quite true that Mr. Hughes afterwards sent a very similar letter. But there is nothing in either of those communications to show that any invitation was extended to the Labour party to join in forming a National Government. It was merely an invitation to Mr. Tudor to attend a Conference to discuss the matter. When that gentleman asked for details as to what decisions had been arrived at by Mr. Cook and Mr. Hughes during their weeks of negotiation, he received the reply that no decisions had been arrived at, and he was merely being invited to discuss the matter. I wish to draw this distinction, although some honorable senators may possibly contend that it is a very fine one. Further, I say that any man who followed the political negotiations between the Liberals and Hughesites knows that it was because Mr. Cook and his party could not agree among themselves that the afterthought was prompted of inviting the head of the Labour party to attend a Conference for the purpose of discussing matters.
– Is that correct?
– Every honorable senator knows that it is. Wo all know that from the middle of January till the time when this request was sent to Mr. Tudor negotiations had been in progress between the Liberals and the Hughesites.
– All the thimble rigging had been going on.
– Yes, all the thimble rigging had been going on with a view to bringing about certain results. The Labour party, immediately upon receipt of the invitation by Mr. Tudor, were prepared to meet and discuss it. In Western Australia I said at the time that the position was so serious that if there was an honest proposal to put before us, there was an honest party to consider it. But on my return to Melbourne I found that there was no proposal to put before us, but that haggling and huckstering were proceeding between the Liberals and the Hughes party, which must remain an everlasting discredit to those parties.
There was huckstering and haggling between Mr. Hughes National party and the Cookites - I will not say between the Liberal party and the Hughesites, because we have it authentically from Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook that they had been in agreement all along. We gave our decision immediately and promptly.
– No. You were many weeks before you would meet to consider it.
– That is not true. The immediate reply that Mr. Tudor sent to Mr. Hughes was that the party would be called together as soon as Parliament was called together, and that the answer would be sent forthwith. The blame for any delay rests, not at our door, but at the door of Mr. Hughes. If he wished for an immediate answer, he should have called Parliament together sooner. Our party met, and the Hughesites and Cookites got what they expected. They also got what they knew was the only answer we could give, because both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook, as one-time members of our party, who in their own way and for their own interests have bettered themselves by leaving it, knew that one of our principles and one of our pledges to our party outside, and to the people outside, was that we stand in Parliament as a separate and independent body.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why did you not give an answer at once to that effect when Mr. Hughes sent the invitation?
– No one can say that Mr. Cook and Mr. Hughes, and even Senator Gould, did not knowthat that was the fact. I say “ even Senator Gould,” because he has not been a member of our party. The others have.
– Was that the time you left your party ?
– The honorable senator can never attribute that to me. In 1891 I was elected as a pledged Labour man. In 1894, I was elected again as a pledged Labour man.. In 1895, I was defeated as a pledged Labour man. I was out of Parliament till 1904, and was then returned as, the pledged representative of the Labour party. I challenge the honorable senator to question that statement. The leaders of the Hughes and Cook parties tried to invite us into the new Cabinet, with a view to covering up the fact that, although they were hungering and thirsting for a strong National Government, they could not agree among themselves. What have the public been told of the reasons for their disagreement ? Mr. Hughes stated that he offered the Liberals equal representation in the Cabinet; but it is well known that the Liberals would not trust him sufficiently to let him form a Cabinet in which his party had equal representation. The only agreement that the Liberal party, thirsting for a strong National Government, would enter into was that they should have an ‘absolute majority in the Cabinet. Weeks of negotiation went on, and finally the Hughesites succumbed. They knew that, although we had treated them generously in giving them two months’ Supply, every individual honorable member of both Houses would be responsible for the continuance of the unconstitutional condition of affairs by which a party without a majority was governing Australia. As the period of Supply had ended, the Hughesites capitulated, and gave Mr. Cook a preponderance of representation in the Cabinet. This made the Cabinet what it was before the vote of the people in 1914 - a Liberal Cabinet ruled by a majority of Liberal members. In the Cabinet defeated at the polls in 1914, when the war had been raging a month, were Senator Millen, Mr. Joseph Cook, Sir John Forrest, Mr. Glynn, and Mr. Groom. In the majority of the present Cabinet appear the same five. The vote of the people has been flouted. The people said those men were not to conduct the war, because the war, and their ability to conduct it. was made one of the strong appeals to the people in 1914. “ Do not swop horses crossing the stream,” was the catch cry by which they thought to hang on to their positions; but the people of Australia thought differently. They not only swopped horses, but they did so with great advantage to themselves and to the Empire.
– You have just paid a tribute to the excellent administration with which they conducted the first month of the war.
– I am not complaining, and do not want to complain of their conduct of the war for the first month, but I want to bring home the fact that governing the country at the present moment is a majority of Liberals, five out of seven of whom, when the war was rag ing, received the condemnation of the people at the polls. I have shown that in the pre-war period the Australian Labour party had organized a Navy and a financial system that has done much to win the war. When we took office in 1914 we set about the task of organizing the Military Forces, and 300,000 men were called to camp, trained, equipped, and sent to the service of the Empire in two years. That is an achievement of which the Labour party can never be robbed.
– And the Liberal party were behind the Government the whole time helping them in every way they could.
– I am certain the Liberals will take all the credit they can get from their boastful desire to help inthe good work we have done.
– Yes, because it has always been more a boast than a reality, as I know as a member of that Government. That brings me to the period when the Labour party becamedivided - a condition brought about on the question of conscription. I agree with Senator Millen that the result of the referendum vote on that question did not mean a slackening of the efforts of Australia in the war. It meant that the free people of Australia were not prepared to accept a system repugnant to them that compelled them to go outside their country, whether they liked it or not. Yesterday Senator Millen said with regard to the conscription question -
As for conscription, the policy of the Government is clear and definite - it intends torespect the verdict of the people delivered on 28th October, 1916. It is, of course, impossible to see or to say what the future may have in store. It will have to be left to circumstances to decide. But it is clear that the electors of Australia alone can reverse their previous decision.
Let us examine that statement. Senator Millen and his Government are prepared to accept the verdict of the people ! I am sure the 470,000 electors of New South Wales who voted “ No “ will thank Senator Millen for his respect, but he should have told them and all the others who voted “No” in Australia that the Government would not only respect their decision, but would accept it and stand by it.
– Is he not saying so?
– I tad no intention of misreading his words, and will read them again to see if he did say so -
As for conscription, the policy, of the Government is clear and definite - it intends to respect the verdict of the people delivered on 28th October, 1916.
– That is respecting it.
– I respect Senator Millen, but I do not accept his policy. He adds -
It is, of course, impossible to see or to say what the future may have in store.
There is the immediate qualification that can receive no other interpretation than that, secure in their seats for a little while, and having the prestige of government to help them, they will take steps to find reasons why conditions have so altered that even respect will no longer be given to the decision of the people of the 28th October.
– Read on.
– I will read it again and again, because I want the public to know that there is no loyal acceptance of the verdict of the people in Senator Millen’s statement. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that even under the name of nationalism those two parties could not have formed a Government unless they compromised on the conscription issue. Sir William Irvine is out of the Cabinet because he was an outspoken opponent of the decision of the people. Senator Millen added -
It will have to be left to circumstances to decide. But it is clear that the electors of Australia alone can reverse their previous decision.
How are the electors to be brought to reverse their previous decision ? They are to be bullied and bluffed and terrorized by such statements as came from the Leader of the Government yesterday. I refer to his pessimistic utterances as to the position of the Allies in the war. If you could get the people of Australia panic-stricken you might get them to carry anything, but the vote of 28th October showed that, stripped of most of their old-time political leaders, they were still able to form a very sound judgment on a very important question.
– History will tell us whether it was a sound judgment or not.
– It will, but I am expressing my own opinion, and not the opinion of Senator Gould. Let me see the method by whichthe ‘ ‘ new circumstances” are to be created, because, I suppose, the new Napoleon will make circumstances. Senator Millen addressed, us in the capacity of an acting German Minister. He is an excellent actor, and played the part well, and if a German Minister actually had the ear of the present Cabinet at this critical juncture of the Empire’s affairs he could not wish for matter that could be used more effectively throughout the world to further German interests than that used by the honorable senator yesterday.
– As to asking the people to reverse their previous decision, has not the honorable senator himself quite recently submitted six Bills for that very purpose?
– I shall discuss that matter when it comes up for consideration. I am discussing now the fact that yesterday, in language so plain that he who runs may read, the Leaders of the Government in both Houses stated that as soon as circumstances are ready they will try to get a changed verdict from the people. That is the interpretation I put upon their words. How are they going to bring about the changed circumstances? Senator Millen said - and he was only acting at the time, putting himself in the position of a German Minister-
– I was also putting you in the position of a German auditor.
– And we were just as placid as a German audience would be. I am not suggesting that Senator Millen was a real German, but this is what he. said -
I am asking the Senate to assume that we are members of the German Parliament, andI the Minister charged with an explanation of the position from the German stand-point. In such circumstances might I not point to the map of Europe, and say that, because of the dauntless courage of the German armies, we had subjugated Belgium, had overrun one-fifth of France, the whole of Servia and Poland, portion of Russia, and when a new enemy dared to enter the arena, had pushed him almost out of his own territory.
There are other factors; but I venture to say that I have said enough to show that we ari not by any means in such a position that we can cease our efforts in connexion with this war.
Mark these words -
The outlook is as serious to-day as at any time since the fateful 4th August.
– Has not that been said at Home, too?
– Mr. Lloyd George said the same thing yesterday, though in different words.
– Here is the Minister posing as a German addressing the Senate, and saying, “ Thanks to the courage of the German armies, they have gone rough-shod over Belgium.” The German armies went over Belgium because they brutally and cruelly attacked a neutral nation without warning. And, moreover, they went over the borders of that nation before the actual declaration of war. The honorable senator boasts of this as an evidence of the courage of the German soldiers, as if he were a German Minister-
– And addressing a German audience.
– The honorable senator boasts of. that as an evidence of the courage of the German soldiers. I submit that it was the treachery and the cowardice of the German nation in overwhelming neutral Belgium which gave them the advantage which they obtained in the early stages of the war. I would like to know whether any member of the Senate approves of this latter statement - that “ the outlook is as serious to-day as at any time since the fateful 4th August, 1914?” Does any man in the Senate, with the exception of Senator “Millen, subscribe to that?
– If . any honorable senator says that the position today is as serious as it was on the 4th August, 1914, I have the opportunity of enlightening him, thanks to our press. I will enlighten any honorable senators who hold that view by quoting a military authority. I hold in my hand a report of an interview with General Haig. It has the advantage of most press communications; it has the advantage that questions asked in the British Parliament have shown it to be authentic. That fact, of itself, makes it a valuable record, and possibly will make it my excuse for reading it. I wish Hansard to. print the pessimistic prophecies of Senator Millen, his utterances with regard to the splendid achievements of Germany, and his statement that the position is as serious to-day as it was on the 4th August, 1914, side by side with General Haig’s prediction -
The text of the interview which FieldMarshal Sir Douglas Haig had with the French war correspondents (the main points . were published in the Argus on Thursday) has been made available in a semi-official despatch from Paris. The important passages are as follow : -
The Interviewers. - Is a great offensive imminent ?
Sir DOUGLAS HAIG. ; It matters little who commence it. If the Germans begin to attempt the points on the north and south that they consider the most favorable we are ready to make their folly cost them dear. We possess trained armies and cavalry in full working order, so that defeat may be turned into a rout that will prevent the possibility of the Germans entrenching themselves again even far in the rear. We most certainly shall break the German front severely, and at many points. The Germans have the advantage of a powerful network of railways behind the front. These were helpful in defence and in the first attacks. Our great offensive may be limited at some points and indefinite, but we shall strike without respite until the German armies have been totally destroyed.
The Interviewers. - What are the prospects for 1917?
Sir DOUGLAS HAIG. ; This year we shall see upon the battlefield the decisive event of the war, namely, the showing that Germany is beaten from the military point of view. Possibly we shall also see peace. We all desire to do everything in our powerto achieve it, and peace can only come with absolute victory attained by the force of our arms. The Allies must not allow themselves to be deceived by Germany’s suggestions or threats. Germany, in offering peace, thinks only of preparations for the next war. If we unfortunately yielded to such perfidious appeals, the tragedy would recommence in three years. Our soldiers understand that. I have entire confidence in my troops. Their moral is above suspicion. Our eagerness to advance is at least equal to that of the French, as our frequent raids prove. While we are waiting for the moment so impatiently expected, we must accumulate material, and give this decisive effort finality. The enemy will try to disconcert our arrangements, but all has heen foreseen. I believe that no effort against us can prevent the Allies carrying out their intentions. The affectionate fraternity in arms of the British and French troops will continue after the war. The blood of the two peoples has been mingled on heroic soil, whichhereafter will be sacred to all nations.
The Interviewers. - What are the prospects for peace ?
Sir DOUGLAS HAIG.; Regarding peace. We are all square-jawed ; that is to say, we have the indomitable will to fight until the end. Our two most serious preoccupations at the present time are railways and artillery. The war does not call merely for armies. We have hadto construct in the past few months, at the rear of our lines, more than 350 kilometres of railways (200 miles). We recently showed some of the managers of the greatest English railways what we had done, and what’ was still required. They understood the urgency and the extent of the task. Regarding monitions, we have reached the maximum, and can now supply the Allies with material in excess of their needs, but we must have more artillery, especially heavier guns. We musff be not merely equal to the enemy, but must overwhelm him with the whole of our strength.
– Does not that imply the underlying condition of a man-power in excess?
– I do not care what construction the prophets of evil put upon that statement. I put side by side the utterance of the Leader of the Government here that the position is as serious to-day as it was in 1914, and the utterance of the leader of the British Army in France. If there is one thing that is needful at the present time, it is that the British people should not have their ardour damped by utterances of this character by responsible men. And when it is done for aparty purpose - when it is done with the view to create a panic which will form the foundation and give the Government, as they say, the right to try again to force the shackles of. conscription on the free people of Australia - it is the more to be condemned. The position is as serious now as it was on the 4th August, 1914, when Britain’s gallant little army in France numbered 60,000. At the present time I venture tosay it numbers well between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000. In France to-day we have more Australians than we had English, Irish, and Scotch on the 4th August, 1914, or in the three months succeeding that date, to say nothing of the gallant Canadians and New Zealanders, and all those other brave Britishers who are ready to sell their lives, if need be, in defence of the Empire.
– What do you say is the strength of the British and French armies?
– I venture to
Bay that it is between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000.
– It is about 8,000,000.
– I did not wish to exaggerate when I said that the strength of the British Army is between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000.
– You said last year that the shipping was all Tight.
– Interjections of this kind convince me that it is useless to put facts before men of the type of Senator Shannon. Before to-day I have put facts before the Senate, and they will pretty well stand the test, of time.
– History has disputed the facts which you placed before the Senate.
– I have to break off to meet that interjection, because this very honorable senator, when in the first week of December I was discussing the position of the watering down of the financial proposals of the HughesGovernment as a sop to the Liberals to- support them called upon me not to speculate, but. to state facts. When I said that in March there would be a National Government in Australia, the honorable senator again asked me to state facts. A lapse ofthree months has shown that my statements on that occasion were facts. The only thing is that the honorable senator had to wait before he was able to appreciate what was going on. Ther watering of the Repatriation Fund has taken place. The Hughes Government of which I was a member, were prepared to call up £3,000,000 this year, but the Hughes-Cook Government are calling up nothing.
SenatorMillen. - And the reinforcements have come exactly as you stated, have they not?
– Yes. When the referendum vote was being taken there were 103,000 reinforcements in hand, andsince then the average, I take it, has been about 5,000 a month.
– Twothousand in November and 3,000 in December. It has not been up to 5,000 since.
– When Mr. Hughes and Senator Pearce put forward the proposal for a referendum on conscription I said that there were 103,000 reinforcements in hand, and since then the reinforcements have averaged 5,000 a month.
– The honorable senator begins on one month and says that the reinforcements have not averaged 5,000. I challenge him to take the figures. In October there were 10,000; in November, 9,000 or 10,000; and in December, 2,000 or 3,000.
– The number in November was 2,000, and the number in December was 2,000, too.
– Senator Gardiner only multiplies by five to get his facts.
– I am stating facts, and I challenge Senator Millen or Senator Pearce to refute that on the day they made the statement in the Senate when asking for a referendum there were over 103,000 reinforcements in hand, and that the average since then hasbeen 5,000 a month. Let them give the figures - they will have the opportunity - and honorable senators will see how far wrong I am. They will see that I am not wrong, but right. I estimated then that with a loss of 10,000 men a month, there was a ten months’ supply in hand, and that with a reinforcement of 5,000 men a month afterwards, we could have within a year another three months’ supply. What have the “Hughesites” and the “Cookites” done in regard to recruiting? They have been haggling for personal advantage in the Cabinet ever since. They even begrudged us time to discuss here serious matters of public concern, because it would mar recruiting. But from the day we left the Senate until they met ub again, they marred recruiting by keeping the chief men of both parties engaged in a tug-of-war to see what party would get most portfolios in the Cabinet.
– I have here letters asking me to go recruiting, but I cannot go because of the action which you have
– Because of the action of this Government. I quite agree with the honorable senator. I come now to another part of Senator Millen’s statement, and that is the part dealing with the Conference which is to be held. One day this week I asked the honorable senator if an invitation had been extended to Mr. Hughes or. any other honorable members. His answer was that the first part of my question was correct, and as regards the rest I was to ask again, or something to that effect. Let us see what the position is: We, in the Senate, do not know what invitation has been extended. The Leader of the Senate doos not know; but he discussed the question with all the knowledge and fluency of a man who is thoroughly acquainted with what the Conference is to do.
– I knew the main fact that Australia - had been asked to participate in the Conference.
– Would the honorable senator mind supplying me now with information as to whether Mr. Hughes or any one else has been asked to go?
– You had an answer to that question yesterday.
– Then you do not know ? I come now to the question of the Conference, and on that subject Senator Millen said -
In addition to the war, there is another reason why it is essential that Australia should be able to speak without hesitancy, clearly and definitely, and that reason is the approaching Imperial Conference.. That Conference may fairly be said to open a new page, not merely in the history of the Dominions, but in the history of the Empire itself. It is not requisite to even consider many of the matters which must necossarily be discussed there. But we do know that, among the things which will necessarily come up for review, there are the two matters of war and peace. Never before have the Dominions been consulted in these matters by the Imperial authorities. We are thus invited to step on to a higher and closer plane in our’ relationship to the Imperial authorities. But in addition to war and peace - subjects which in themselveB are of sufficient importance to . justify us and any of the other Dominions in sending representatives to the Conference - there are one hundred and one other matters which must necessarily pass under review. For instance, there are the by no means insignificant post-war problems. These In themselves would compel an interchange of views between the representatives of the people of this country and those of Great Britain. We have to recollect, too, that with the advent of science and the shortening of distances, trade matters are to-day becoming international in character, and frequently . involve international complications. Here we are invited to take our stand as brothers in our father’s household, and to disenss matters which areof as much interest to us as they are to the people of Great Britain themselves.
That is an interesting statement for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to make, especially in view of the fact that he does not know who has been in- . vited to attend the Conference. He says that it is to be asked to consider postwar problems, questions of trade, and the relations of the Dominions to each other and to the Empire. I say as a representative of the people that if Australia has been invited to send a representative to such a Conference, the nature of the Conference should not be withheld from the people. Why have not the people been taken into the confidence of the Government party who, by huckstering for Ministerial positions, have secured a majority in another place ?
– That is beside the question altogether.
– Of course it is. This Conference is submitted to the people of Australia by Senator Millen as one which will be called upon to deal with great questions in which we are vitally concerned, and I therefore ask why the people of Australia should be kept in the dark as to the real purpose of tlie Conference. We have been told - I will not say by the Government, but the statement has appeared in the press as an official announcement by the Prime Minister - that Mr. Hughes, Sir William Irvine, and Sir John Forrest are to be Australia’s delegates at the Conference.
– That is quite correct.
– I have the statement now from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that that is correct. What right have these men to claim to be representative Australians at the present time? I recognise that they are representative party men. I cannot say of the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes that he can claim to be a representative of New South Wales, because he does not represent a majority of the people there, but I am quite prepared to admit that Sir William Irvine for Victoria and Sir John Forrest for Western Australia may fairly claim to represent a majority of the Tory and Conservative elements of their respective States. But to claim that these men can go to a Conference fraught with such possibilities to the future of Australia as representative Australian delegates is, in my opinion, to insult the people of Australia.
– The ‘honorable senator admits the importance of the Conference.
– I admit the importance of any conference likely to deal with Australian interests. I freely admit the importance of a conference likely to put shackles upon Australia which it may take us years to throw off.
– Or to give greater liberty to Australia than she has previously had.
– When I want more liberty for .Australia, I shall prefer to select men other than Sir William Irvine or Sir John Forrest as Australian delegates. Of course I can quite understand the new-born enthusiasm of some of our friends opposite for these lovers of liberty.
– We want a shield and not a shackle.
– I quite admit the enthusiasm of Senator Lynch for a greater liberty when we find “him standing down from the Government, because he believes that the presence of Sir John Forrest in the Government will make it stronger. The honorable senator’s sacrifice will be much appreciated by the miners of Western Australia. We are now told that Mr. Hughes, Sir William Irvine, and Sir John Forrest are to represent Australia at an important Conference as to the purpose of which the people of Australia have never yet been informed. They have been selected in secret conclave of the two parties, and I venture to say that the sending of Sir William Irvine to the Conference was one of the terms of their agreement. He could not take his place in the Government, because if he did, he would insist upon conscription immediately, and he had therefore to be placated by being given a commission to represent Australia at the Conference. I do not believe that Sir William Irvine is a native-born Australian. I am pleased to think that, although he is a Tory and Conservative, and therefore does not represent. Australian sentiment, one Australian finds a place in the delegation, and that is Sir John Forrest. It cannot be said to be a representative Australian delegation when we have on it a man like Mr. Hughes, who puts “Wales for ever best” before Australia, a man like Sir William Irvine, who has never yet been in touch with the true sentiment of Australian Democracy, and a man like Sir John Forrest, whose Toryism is as old as that of his old friends the sand-grubbers of Western Australia. These men cannot represent Australia at an Imperial Conference, and the British Government must be warned to beware of listening to their statements as to the aims, interests, and aspirations of the Australian nation. The cord that binds Australia to the Empire is the crimson thread of kinship, and not the shackles of people who set up new Governments and new forms of government. We have tested our free institutions given by the British people, or shall I say won for us from the British people by our own pioneers, who secured for us the liberties we have? When the war came it was a test of our loyalty, and British statesmen at any rate have expressed themselves as more than satisfied with it. But it is absurd to send to an Imperial Conference to voice Australian aspirations and desires two men born in other parts of the Empire, and incapable of getting into touch with Australian sentiment.
– The honorable senator cannot refer to Mr. Hughes.
– Yes, Mr. Hughes in Great Britain said, “Wales for ever best,” and placed Wales above Australia. That should not be forgotten.
– That is very small.
– Honorable senators need make no mistake about it, because Mr. Hughes, in his utterances throughout Great Britain, posed as British, and not Australian.
– That is a lofty sentiment. The honorable senator is trying to distinguish between those of different nationalities in the community.
– It may not be lofty; but it is Australian, and I want to draw the distinction because I am myself an Australian.
– There are many men who were born outside of Australia who are better Australians than is the honorable senator.
– No doubt Senator Lynch thinks so; but the difference between us is that I am Australianbom, and he is not, and I put Australia first every time. I do not blame Mr. Hughes, Senator Lynch, and other men born outside of Australia, for their patriotism for their own countries, but I do say that they put the country of their birth first every time.
– Why does not the honorable senator say straight out that they are not as good as are the nativeborn ?
– I do not make such comparisons, but I am stating facts.
– The honorable senator is making innuendoes.
– I am not making innuendoes. Senator Lynch is moreloyal to Ireland than to any other country, and I am more loyal to Australia than to any other country. Mr. Hughesis more loyal to Wales, the land of his birth, and I am more loyal to Australia. These are facts which honorable senatorsshould remember.
– Mr. Hughes has donemore for Australia than he ever did for Wales, and more for the Labour party than Senator Gardiner could do.
– I do not wish to enter into a discussion of what Mr.. Hughes has done or has not done. I am. discussing now his fitness to be a representative of Australia at the Imperial Wiar Conference. I say that no one should be sent to the Conference - I care not if he be the best Australian we have - to legislate, it may be, upon the interests, trading and otherwise, of the future of Australia, unless the people of Australia are made aware of what the business to be discussed at the Conference is to be. Are we a lot of children? I have the statement of the Leader of the Government in. the Senate that he does not know the text of the invitation that was received. Heknows that Mr. Hughes was invited to attend the Conference, but he does not. know that any one else was invited.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has yet made up his mind with regard to the matters to be discussed?
– If Senator Bakhap is content to sit in the corner, likeLittle Jack Horner, and open his mouth to see what Providence may send him, I am not.
– Has the honorable senator any objection to what Providence has sent him?
– Providence has been very kind to me, so far, and perhaps more kind than I deserve. The man, or set of men, who think that the Australian people can be governed like children, by doing things first and telling them about it afterwards, will make the biggest of blunders. There never were people more sensitive on such points, and the reason for their sensitiveness must be apparent to any one who is in touch with them There is a growing Australian sentiment. which makes us feel proud to be Australians. Are honorable senators going to shut their, eyes to this Australian sentiment? Are they going to leave its interpretation to men born on the other side of the world? At a Conference to discuss Australia’s interests, Australians should represent the people of Australia.
– Imperialism, as well as Australian Nationalism, is involved in this case.
– “We have had a long line of British statesmen, who have been very careful to give us our own way in developing our own Nationalism. The idea of sending men like Sir William Irvine and Sir John Forrest to a Conference at which Australian Nationalism is to be considered is absurd.
– Who should go to the Conference?
– Some repre1 sentative Australian should go. If one man has been invited, let one mau be sent ; but the proposal made is that, because the Liberal party cannot trust the Right Honorable W. M, Hughes, Sir William Irvine and Sir John Forrest should be sent to keep him in his place. I say that is carrying the party disputes of honorable senators opposite to the very heart of the Empire.
– The Prime Minister should have gone to Great Britain as soon as he received the invitation. The mistake he made was that he did not do so.
– I am aware that quite a number of people are now prepared to place implicit confidence in Mr. Hughes who did not have very much confidence in him before. I am not surprised, therefore, that Senator Bakhap should say that when Mr. Hughes received the invitation he should have packed up immediately and gone to Great Britain.
– Because he is the Prime Minister of Australia.
– The very fact that he is the Prime Minister of Australia is the best reason, in my opinion, why he should remain here during Australia’s most serious hour. ‘ I think that the Prime Minister of Australia should not leave the Commonwealth to attend any Conference at such a time as this.
– This is the Empire’s most serious hour.
– In times of peace it is very questionable whether tlie Leader of the Government should go outside the Commonwealth, but in time of war it is unpardonable that he should do so’. Events and changes occur very quickly.
– Did not the honorable senator vote for Mr. Hughes going to England before in time of war ?
– That does nob make it right.
– And without instructions, too.
- Senator de Largie says that I agreed to Mr. Hughes going to England previously without instructions, and 1 say here - and it ought to be said - that the most important piece of business that this country ever participated in was that upon which Mr. Hughes previously went to England, and that was to obtain ships for tlie export of our wheat. T was quite aware that that was one of the reasons for his going and aware of its importance. But the fact that I agreed to his going for such a purpose does nob make the practice, to which I now take exception, any better. After seven months’ experience of the absence of the Prime Minister in Great Britain, and his return to Australia entirely out of touch with Australian sentiment and feeling, as he has shown himself to be, are we going to permit tlie mistake bo be repeated ? I say most seriously that the absence from the Commonwealth of the Leader of the Government in normal times of peace is dangerous, arid in times like the present it might be disastrous.
– Yet the British Prime Minister goes to France.
– And gets back to England very quickly. One can leave London at 9 o’clock at night for Paris and be back again in London at 9 o’clock on the following night. Bub that is quite like the kind of comparison that Senator Bakhap would draw. He forgets that Australia is isolated. The Government of the country when Parliament is not sitting is practically in the hands of the Prime Minister and his Ministers, and he should not be absent from the country ab such a time as the present.
– Does the honorable senator not think that it may be as necessary to have a Caucus of the Empire as to have a Caucus of the Labour party ?
– Senator Lynch has silenced the honorable senator.
– Such a question as that put by Senator Lynch during the discussion of a matter like that with which we are now dealing is calculated to silence any one. For quite a number of years Senator Lynch attended the Caucus of the Labour party.
– I am still in it.
– The honorable senator has prided himself as being a representative Labour man. Of course, when Senator Lynch attended the Caucus meetings there was nothing wrong; but now when I attend Caucus, he finds something to sneer about.
– When you put your Indian scalping knives into members and became political head hunters, it was time to part from it.
– I recognise that I am not capable of the great personal sacrifice which Senator Lynch made when he so generously gave up his position to Sir John Forrest; for by that act he indicated that he considered Sir John Forrest more capable of filling a position in the new Government than he was.
– But Senator Lynch did not say that.
– I am aware of that, but his actions indicated that evidently he agreed that that was the position, just as the action of Senator Story now in supporting the new Leader of the Senate indicates that he has cut loose altogether from the Labour movement and is following the lead of the Liberal Government.
– The present Labour movement is not worth following.
– I am glad of the interjection. Senator Story says he does not consider the Labour movement worth following.
– There is a distinction between the Labour movement and the organization, if you please.
– I do not care by what name it is called.
– But I do.
– I do not care by what name it is called, because during the last ten years there has been no change in its constitution which other honorable senators besides myself have not accepted.
– There has lately.
– There has been no change lately at all, although there certainly has been a change in the mental attitude of certain members towards the movement ; but I have no desire to deal with that aspect of the question, attractive though it may be to me.
– The electors will do that.
– I desire now to direct attention to the fact that, although we are within measurable distance of the time when portion of the Senate should go to the country, the statement made by Senator Millen has left us no wiser as to what steps the Government intend to take. It is true he has placed on the notice-paper a motion for the extension of the life of this Parliament until six months after the war, or until October, 1918, whichever period is the shorter; but I would like to know if, in the event of that motion not being carried, whether Senator Millen and his Government are prepared to make an immediate appeal to the people. After our experiences of the referendum campaign, I am satisfied no other appeal could so disturb the people or create such dissension; and as far as our party is concerned we will welcome an immediate election for the House of Representatives and for those senators whose term of office will expire on the 30th J une next. That appeal should be. made without unnecessary or undue delay. One of the first duties of a Government such as this - constituted, as it is, by one small section of a party that cannot govern by itself, and by another large section of a party which already stands condemned at the poll - is to submit themselves to the people to find out if the electors confirm them in their present position.
– You do not mind losing the war, if you can win an election.
– If I thought the personnel of the Government could have any particular effect in winning the war, I might speak as Senator Story is speaking. If a change of Ministry could have any such effect, surely the inclusion of Sir John Forrest in the present Government should mean the annihilation of Germany; the admission of Mr. Watt should bring about the termination of the war, and as for Senator Millen leading the Senate, why, if such a stroke of policy could affect our position in the war Germany might as well not send another man into the field! I wish to point out, however, that, apart from winning the war, there are serious Australian problems to be faced, and I want the country to know that the Australian Labour party, tested by the war standard, has fallen short in no particular in its efforts to win the war.
– If the war is not won the same problems will exist.
– There is all the more reason why a strong Australian party should be in power to look after Australian interests if the war is not won.
– And the Australian Labour party will be responsible for it.
– I am sorry that the honorable senator was not present at an earlier stage in the debate when I outlined the magnificent record of the Australian Labour party in regard to this war.
– You did not keep up to it.
– We are not the governing power at present, but as far as our individual members are concerned we have done more to assist the recruiting movement than the Liberals and the Hughesites put together.
– I would have done as much as any one if-
– The honorable senator would have done as much as others if the Government had not kept him and others waiting until they knew whether his soul was his own or not.
– You gave the Government one month’s Supply, so we had to come back in three weeks.
– At your behest.
– No, at yours.
– At the behest of the Prime Minister.
– In conclusion, I desire to say that as the Government command a majority in the other House they are certainly entitled to different treatment from that given to the “ Hughesites,” who did not have a majority in either House. They are entitled to different treatment, and the treatment to be meted out to them will depend upon themselves. If they think that the Government of this country can be carried on by means of secret counsels, the attitude of the Senate towards them will bo such as to endeavour to force them to the country at the earliest possible moment, and at any cost. If, however, they are prepared to take the people of Australia into their confidence - if they are prepared to come down to either House and let us know what their intentions are, and what they are doing - we will give them such treatment as a Government with a majority in the other House is entitled to receive.
– They want to extend the life of Parliament without consulting the country until after the war, and the war might last ten years.
– If there were any possibility of the war lasting ten years I should say that the extension of the life of Parliament for that term would be viewed by certain honorable senators with a good deal of complacency.
– Why not have a life tenure ?
– Well, the suggestion comes from Senator Sir Albert Gould. But this is a very serious question, and if our representative institutions are to be without that safeguard of Democracy - the will of the people - and if we have the right tc extend the life of this Parliament by one month, we have the right to extend it by one year or ten years.
– When you said the suggestion came from Senator Sir Albert Gould you should have noted it was a jocular interjection.
– Yes, but I must ask to be pardoned if I were misled by the solemn demeanour of that honorable senator, for I have no wish to misrepresent him at all. I say again, however, that if we have the right to extend the life of this Parliament by a few months or a year, then the principle having been adopted, another Parliament might extend its life for a greater period. That is quite within the bounds of possibility.
– The honorable senator must recognise that his party organizations have conceded the principle.
– It can only be done by an Imperial Act.
– In order to avoid the expense of two elections our organization was prepared to allow both Houses to go to the country at the expiration of the term for the House of Representatives. I do not think the members of the conference that passed the resolution referred to by Senator Bakhap were fully aware that an extension of the life of Parliament could only be obtained by Imperial action; but I want to make our position quite clear. If the Government think that members of the Senate are bound by that determination let them bring forward a motion for an immediate appeal to the people. If they do, I can promise them that every man in our party will vote for an immediate election.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order! The honorable senator must not anticipate the discussion of a motion on the notice-paper.
– I was merely stating that we are not bound hard and fast by a resolution of outside organizations, and I want now to say that for the whole time I have been in the Labour movement I have never refrained from recognising the authority and the right of our organizations to consideration. Though they are attacked now by those who left our party; as they always have been by the Liberals, I personally still respect and appreciate the work of our organizations. I have been in public life twenty-five years, and for fifteen years in Parliament, and during that time I never had one intimation that in any way interfered with my public duties as a public man. I have never received from the outside organizations anything that any member of Parliament could not regard as a reasonable request.
– In our case it was not a request, but a demand.
– There is no more outside interference than ever there was. Yesterday we had a statement from Mr. Hughes on this subject, and I point out that for twelve years the Prime Minister represented one of the most radical constituencies in Australia, and that during that time he never even had to fight for re-selection. His experience has been shared by others, and surely, that is a guarantee that Labour members are not unduly interfered with. The present is an anxious time for all, and certainly it is an anxious time for those occupying responsible positions in a community. This anxiety has, to a large extent, got upon the nerves of many people, and if a man is not prepared to say- .
– That is what we have said, but we are being continually insulted.
– If the honorable senator, in his attitude towards outside organizations, thinks that rudeness and abuse can be regarded as manliness, he is mistaken.
– Do not talk about rudeness to me. I have just as keen an anxiety to conduct myself decently as you.
– The honorable senator’s replies to deputations from representative organizations were worse than we ever received at the hands of the Liberals.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– One point which I had overlooked, and which I had’ intended to make prior to the suspension of the sitting, was that Senator Millen made much of the fact that the Australian Labour party had been invited to join with the Cook party, or the Liberals, and the Hughesites, who call themselves the “National “ Labour party, in the formation of a strong Government for the conduct of the war. If the political party whose members were described by Mr. Hughes and Senator Pearce during the referendum campaign as associates of the Industrial Workers of the World, as men who were unfit almost for decent company, are what they were represented to be, what ,is to be thought of the members of the present Government who wished to intrust them with the highest offices of State? If they are all that is bad, why were these discredited men invited to participate in the highest functions .of government ?
– What did the honorable senator’s party call us?
– Words, fail me in attempting to describe a set of men who, believing that we were a body associated with dangerous elements in the community, and proclaiming it publicly, yet invited us to the highest offices in the Commonwealth.
– Is there no such thing as plucking brands from the burning?
– There is,- and I can quite understand the anxiety of the men who were desirous of forming a National Government to have those firebrands in that Government.
– The honorable senator’s argument is weak .inasmuch as it suggests that the cap fitted.
– Any suggestions of that sort are answered by our record. But the point I wish to stress is that if recent events have shown that our associations are with the Industrial Workers of the World, and that our hands are soiled with German gold, what is to be said of the men who, knowing that, invited us to fill the ‘highest offices in the Commonwealth ?
– Invited you to repent.
– There are times for repentance, and the electors of this country will note that the party opposite - notwithstanding that with their lips they endeavoured to discredit us - recognised in their hearts that we were to be trusted. When it came to the question of forming a National Government, they said in effect, “ Whatever representatives the Australian Labour party chooses to elect are entitled to participate in that Government.” That is the complete answer to the miserable attempt which has been made to discredit a party that has stood the test of twenty-five years’ experience in the Common weal bli. I have shown by our record what we have done. Senator Millen has told us that the present Ministry is not a rich man’s Government nor a poor man’s Government. During the early stages of the war I venture to say that the Labour Government was both a rich man’s Government and a poor man’s Government. For two years we so administered the affairs of this country that the commercial men, and the workers throughout it, scarcely knew that we were at war. The ship of State was kept on such an even keel that the Government did not disturb trade relations, did not unwisely interfere with commercial interests, and consequently the effects of the war were not felt to any great extent. But now that we have been out of office three months we find unemployment rampant. The Government, whose first duty should be the employment of its own people, makes no reference to any attempt to grapple with this serious problem - the problem which has been directly brought about by the concerted action of the Commonwealth and State Governments in closing down public works.- These are facts which are known in the homes of the workers who have been thrown out of employment. Only this morning we learnt that many men who were called up under the proclamation in October last were displaced. Their positions were not kept open for them, and it was only when representations were made by the Government that they were reinstated. I repeat that for two years the Labour Government conducted the affairs of Australia with the general approval of the whole community r rich and poor alike. They did it in such a way that there was no serious interference with trade or with the finances of this, country, which continued in a flourishing; condition.
– The war loan showed that.
– According to that argument, it showed confidence in MrHughes.
– The war loanevidences the healthy condition of our finances after two years of war. Thebalancesheets of the commercial enterprises of this country exhibit the same thing. I was glad to hear Senator Pearce’s reply to-day in regard to the hat* contracts. So long as we have men capable of doing the work, I think that our Australian troops should be clothed from head to foot with Australian products. I hope that there will be a tightening up process in the matter of letting contracts for materials overseas. I take it that the Ministerial statement is the electioneering manifesto of the new Fusion party and the new Coalition Government. If that beso, what have we to put side by side with it? We put the record of the Australian Labour party for twenty-five years, during which period every piece of progressive legislation has been opposed to thelast ditch by this old Liberal party. We put the Labour party’s record of its Factories Acts, -of its Arbitration Acts, and of all those statutes which make for betterhousing and sanitary conditions in our factories.- We put these side by side with the negative efforts of the Liberal party. We place all that we have done in the* direction of putting the defences of Australia on a sound ‘footing, and we say to the people, “ Judge these two parties by their performances.” Nobody can urge that the Coalition party represents anything but the old Liberal section in politics. It has a majority in the Cabinet, and upon any question upon which there is a difference of opinion it will have its way.
– Then the honorable senator does not think that, the Liberal party can be charged with having sunk its identity in the Labour party ?
– I do not. I am glad that the honorable senator laughs at the idea.
– You will make the charge when it suits you.
– The Liberal party would’ not form a Coalition Government with the Hughesites unless they were granted a majority in the Cabinet.
– And the Honorable senator’s party would not join in any circumstances.
– I am perfectly satisfied that, no matter what set of men may administer the affairs of Australia, will make very little difference to the part we shall play in helping to win the war. Australia will still continue to exert herself in that direction, but she is not going to be governed by the bounce and bullying of men who wish to secure their positions by extending the life of this Parliament.
– Order! The honorable senator must not anticipate the discussion of a motion which is already on the business-paper.
– But surely I shall be in order in pointing out that the party which is endeavouring to avoid an appeal to the people by extending the life of this Parliament - the party which my leader in another place has asserted is already sending out the S.O.S. signals - has never yet shown itself to possess the confidence of the people of this country. We are asked to contrast twenty-five years’ of progressive legislation by the Australian Labour party with the statement of my honorable friends opposite that the present Ministry is neither a rich man’s Government nor a poor man’s Government. If they represent neither the rich nor the poor, whom do they represent? They represent themselves. They make no pretence to represent other than the two parties who, as the result of joining their- forces, have secured the Government of this country until such time as they cannot prevent the people’s voice being heard in this matter. Let the legislation that has been forced by the Australian Labour party upon our Commonwealth and State Governments be placed side by side with the declarations embodied in the statement of the Ministerial policy, and what pronouncement will the people make upon the rival claims of the two parties? Whether in the coal or gold mines, one sees the better conditions forced from hostile Governments by the power of organized labour. I have just come from the Western fields. When one sees the efforts made to make life more tolerable and to prevent the spread of disease, which, if it cannot- be altogether prevented, can be to a great extent curtailed, due to the legislation forced upon Governments by the Labour party, one can face the future with hope and with confidence. I say to men like Senator Story, who says a decent man cannot follow this party, if he thinks he was the only decent man in it I am sorry for his method of thought. Any decent man can stand in the ranks of the Australian Labour party and point in every State to a long list of splendid legislative enactments the result of our united efforts, .a result that could not have been obtained by disunity, and that would have been impossible by each set and section of men saying, “ I claim my individual liberty, and refuse to stand with my outside organizations.” In my own State - and I believe Western Australia has done even better - I can point to the path not only marked, but cleared, for the poor man’s son to go from the first school right up to the university itself, and occupy places which were the close preserves of the rich before the Labour party entered Parliament. Those things were impossible without solidarity and organization. They are impossible without a united party, and yet they are but the dawn that promises the noontide yet to be for the Australian Democracy. Let all you people, who are putting a’ veil round yourselves to blind your vision, remember that what we have so far done is the mere clearing of the ground .for that great enlightened in.tellectual Democracy that will yet come into its own when the Labour party triumphs in real earnest.
– It is interesting to listen to a eulogy of the work of the Labour party and its past record, particularly from Senator Gardiner. I would remind him that the members who followed Mr. Hughes took some small share in creating that record under the system of organization which existed up till October last, and which was then changed. The -protest against that change is the cause of our presence on these benches to-day. In his clear address at the beginning of -this debate, Senator Millen made reference to the pledge given by members of the Labour party, as well as the Liberal party, at the election which took place just after the commencement of the war. Senator Gardiner recognised that that was a very difficult position to deal with. His attempt to deal with it, boiled down, amounts to a claim that that was a conditional pledge. If so, the condition was not stated at the time. He now contends that a change of Government released honorable senators on the other side from the pledge they made. There was no such condition attached to it by Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hughes, or any other Labour member throughout Australia. We were not in the Government at the time. There was in power a Government in which we had no representative, a Government in direct opposition to us, and yet the Leader of our party, and the party manifesto, and every member elected as a supporter of the Labour party at that time promised support to that or any other Government in doing everything they could to help to win the war. Senator Gardiner now says that a change of Government, of which he does not approve, releases them from their pledge, and leaves them free to adopt an entirely new attitude. That was not stated at the time by Senator Gardiner, or any one else. There was no condition ana no reservation. No matter what Government was in office, they gave that pledge to the people unconditionally. Senator Gardiner referred to those of us who followed Mr. Hughes from the Official Labour party as having broken away from the Labour party’s pledge. That pledge bound us on all questions affecting the Labour platform on which a decision was come to by a majority vote -of the Caucus assembled, and I would remind Senator Gardiner that the gentlemen who broke away from that pledge sit on his side of the Senate. There was a Caucus, and there was a resolution passed in regard to the Military Service Referendum Bill, which members sitting on Senator Gardiner’s side deliberately broke in both Houses. In any case, Senator Gardiner’s respect for this pledge is a thing of comparatively recent growth. At one time he did not pay so much respect to it. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of 27th June, 1894, reports that, at Parkes, on the previous day -
The local branch of the Labour League has declared invalid the nomination of Mr. A. Gardiner, owing to his refusal to sign the required pledge. There are four candidates for Ashburnham - Messrs. Gardiner (Labour), Hutchinson (Free-trade), Stokes (Protectionist) , and Thomas E. Spencer (Free-trade).
So that apparently he was still a Labour candidate although the Labour League had turned him down. According to the same paper, on the 28th June -
Mr. Gardiner reviewed his political acts during the three years he had acted as the representative of the Forbes electorate, and) justified his refusal to accept the Labour Electoral League pledge. He denounced the pledge, saying that it had been drawn up by traitors to the cause of Labour, and declared that as soon as a representative pledged his responsibility to a Caucus of the majority he cut the bond binding him to his constituents . . . and . . . In conclusion he condemned those members of the local Labour League who, in obedience to the dictation of the Sydney clique, had refused to recognise his candidature as the Labour candidate.
– That was not thispledge. The men who drafted that were William Hughes, Chris. Watson, and” William Holman, and that pledge was the first attempt to split Labour.
– If the honorable senator will look at the statement made here by Senator Millen, he will find that Senator Millen uses almost identical words in referring to the attitude of the party on this side of the chamber now in bringing about responsible government.. We’ contend, as he did, that we are responsible to the electors.
– Then since 1901 you have not been playing a straight game in this chamber, since you have been sticking to that pledge all the time.
– I did not make that speech. If Senator O’Keefe has any quarrel with it, he should argue it out with Senator Gardiner. I do not think Senator Gardiner was just to Senator Millen in his criticism of his remarks,, because Senator Millen did not argue that the Labour party had not carried out an effective war policy up to the referendum. Rather he said that, up to that time, both parties had endeavoured to carry out an effective war policy. It is somewhat remarkable to find Senator Gardiner passing such an effusive eulogy on the work of this two and a half years, when we’ remember that for the greater part of that time the work was carried out under the leadership of the man who is now, in his opinion, not only not fit to lead the Government, but not fit to go to the Imperial Conference, or to be trusted in any way whatever. Practically all the work which Senator Gardiner has quoted in such glowing terms was carried out under Mr. Hughes’ leadership; and, as regards the defence work, to which Senator Gardiner made eulogistic references, I was Minister for Defence during the whole of the time. It is, therefore, somewhat singular that both Mr. Hughes and myself, who, up to quite recently, were worthy of all those encomiums, have now become unfit to be trusted with leadership. I want to test one part of Senator Gardiner’s eulogy. He claims a fine record of work for the Labour party, and says that all the credit for it is due to the Labour party. That statement needs qualifying in this way: During the whole of that time there were members in the Labour party who did their best to hamstring us on many questions brought forward in both Houses. If any honorable senator looks back over the division lists, he will find that, on our war measures, there were Labour members in this and another place who more frequently voted against us than did members of the Liberal party.
– Did you not nearly always have a majority of your own party?
-We always had. But it is singular to look back over the division lists, and find that those Labour members, who voted against us time and again in both Houses, on our war measures, are all sitting in opposition to us now. Not one of them came over to this side. Those members of the Labour party, therefore, have no right to claim any credit for the last two and a half years in regard to the conduct of the war, because all along they did their utmost, both by their criticism and their votes, to make the performance of that work in Parliament impossible. I would remind Senator Gardiner that he himself made that statement, or one very like it, from this bench on an occasion when we were being harried by a section of our own party. He stated that we had in that measure received more support from the Liberals than we had from those of our own party, who were at that time opposing us, and doing their best to defeat the measure. I am surprised to hear from Senator Gardiner that he did not regard the letter or letters sent to Mr. Tudor from Mr. Cook and Mr. Hughes as an invitation to the Official Labour party to come in and help to form a National Government.
– Why was it not sent at the same time as Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook began negotiating?
– That is a mere quibble, and I am sure Senator Gardiner himself would not put it forward seriously. The point was not raised at the time, either by Mr. Tudor or by any critic who dealt with the invitation in the public press or on the platform. It was accepted generally as a bond fide invitation, to that party to come forward and take part in the formation of a National Ministry. Obviously, before such a Government could be formed negotiations must take place. Even if the Official Labour party had seen their way to accept the invitation, negotiations would have had to take place between the three parties, and therefore to say that, because the first step referred only to negotiations, it was not an invitation, is simply to quibble with words. But are we to understand that Senator Gardiner’s party would have accepted the invitation if it had been worded differently ?
– Certainly not.
– Ifwe are to understand that it was merely the form of the invitation which was taken exception to, why did not Mr. Tudor tell us so? That was not the objection. The objection . was that the members of that party were not free to take part in the formation of a Government. Senator Gardiner made that statement himself when lie referred to the conference’s decision. He said : “ It was the onlyanswer that we could give.”
– Because the members of his party were away on recruiting platforms.
– Senator Gardiner did not say that.
– I do.
– Senator Gardiner raised the point that there was no invitation to a conference, but simply an invitation to a discussion. Are Ave to understand that if the invitation had been worded more directly it would have been accepted ? Senator Gardiner said “No”; and in his speech he indicated why. He said that the party were bound by a decision which had been come to previously - a decision which, mark you, was come to in a time of peace, when war was not contemplated. Senator Gardiner’s admission to-day is: “No matter what, the conditions .may be, no matter whether the country is at war and on the verge of ruin, there is the decision of the conference, and by that you must stand.” No alteration is possible; the circumstances of the country are not to affect the question. The fate of the country, in fact everything, is to go by the wall. Senator Gardiner made a reference to the Liberal Ministers who are now in the Government, and said that because a Government of which they were members some time ago was rejected, therefore, they have no right to be in office now. But again I point out to the honorable senator that he pledged himself to support those Ministers if they remained in the Government intact.
– If they got a majority at .that election, which they did not get.
– If the Government got a majority the honorable senator was pledged to support them. They did not get a majority at the polls, but that does not alter his pledge. Certain members of that Government are here to-day, and they are here on exactly the same platform as that on which Senator Gardiner was elected, and that is the platform to do everything which Australia can possibly do to help to win the war - that, and jio more. I remind Senator Gardiner that one of the claims we have made is that owing to the- fact of the coun try being at war we have not followed up our social programme. We have kept it in the background - and we did so when Senator Gardiner was in the Government, and did it deliberately - in order to give to war measures first place. Had the Cook Government continued in office, had they acted, as they probably would have done, on the same lines as those on which we have acted, Senator Gardiner would have been bound by his pledge to support them. Those Ministers are here to-day on that programme as enunciated by himself - the programme of war measures - and, therefore, we have a right to ask those honorable senators who then pledged themselves to act up to their pledge. Dealing with the question of conscription, Senator Gardiner tried to make it appear that the words used by Senator Millen are not clear, and do not mean what they say. I confess that I cannot think of any words which would be clearer. “ To respect the decision of the people,” surely is a phrase that has a clear meaning. You are not respecting the decision of the people if you flout or disobey it. Senator Gardiner referred U> the words used by Senator Millen as to the future. Can the honorable senator tell us what the future holds ; can he prophesy ? * Of course he cannot. Not one of us knows what is in the future, and, therefore, the honorable senator would not be so foolish as to say, “ No matter what circumstances may arise I shall not do a certain thing in the future.” But in that statement of Senator Millen there is one thing definite which governs the future, and that is the words. “The electors of Australia alone can reverse their previous decision.” That remark governs both present and future.
– By what method - election or referendum ?
– That the circumstances of the case will determine, but in any case it will be by the people.
– If you sneak a majority you will give us conscription.
– When we talk of an appeal to the people, those who pay least respect to the feeling of the people speak about sneaking a verdict.
– Are you courageous enough to give an answer to my question on behalf of your Government !
– The statement made here yesterday by Senator Millen is the statement of the Government.
– If you have a Senate election and get a Senate majority, will you bring in conscription?
– I have already told the honorable senator what our policy for the election is. Senator Gardiner objected to Senator Millen’s outline of the present situation in regard to the war. As regards the statement of the position of Germany in the war, can the honorable senator point to one thing in which Senator Millen was inaccurate? Is it not a fact that Germany is in possession of the greater part of Belgium, a fifth of France, Poland, Servia, and Montenegro, and a large part of Roumania? Are these not facts? They are the facts which Senator Millen outlined. Senator Gardiner, in order to discount what Senator Millen had said as to the serious position in regard to the war, quoted an interview with Sir Douglas Haig. If the statement is read carefully it will be found that Sir Douglas Haig was dealing entirely with the military situation at the front. Did the honorable senator read this statement of Sir Douglas Haig, “The war does not only depend on actions in the field.” That remark is very significant when it is remembered that in his forecast he was dealing entirely with actions in the field. In to-day’s newspapers we have the statement that: -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) has written a letter to the Rev. J. H. Shakespeare (secretary to the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland), in which he appeals ‘to him to secure the organized co-operation of the Free Churches in the food economy and increased production campaigns. “ Activities of this order,” says Mr. Lloyd George, “ will give the best results. We must be a united, and not an individual people. We must organize freely in local groups. Speed is essential, because if we miss the spring season this year’s chance has gone. Our responsibility at present is grave beyond words.”
That is not a statement from some irresponsible person, but a statement from a man who probably knows more about the position of the war than does any man on earth. It is a statement by one whose words will be read closely and carefully, not only by Britishers, but by the Allies and the enemy. The statement was not made without careful thought, and without summing up all the possibilities. Putting that statement alongside the words used here by Senator Millen yesterday, if there is any criticism to be offered it is that his forecast was too mild. If there is any criticism which ought to be contradicted it is not that he gave too gloomy a forecast when we read of such words as these having been used by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. SenatorGardiner, in the peroration he made to that part of his discourse, referred to the brave British soldiers at the front who are prepared to sell their lives for the Empire. Many of them are conscripts. That is my comment on that.
– Do you say that there are any conscript British troops at the front now?
– I do.
– Of course there are.
– Senator Gardiner made a statement here to-day which was of a loose and general character, but one which I desire to contradict. He said that the financial proposals of the Government are being watered down, that the repatriation fund is being watered down, that the previous Government had arranged to raise £3,000,000 this year, and that the present Government is not going to do anything of the sort. Dealing with the last point first, the late Government was not going to raise £3,000,000 this year unless the money was required. It was dependent upon that fact. No Government would be so foolish as to raise money which would not be required. The present Government does not propose to raise money which is not required. It does not propose to raise more than is required, and it does not propose to raise it until it is required. So that if there has been any watering down in that respect, the charge might be applied equally to the late Government. Of course the policy of the Government is clear. We shall raise every penny which is wanted to deal with repatriation in that spirit in which the soldiers themselves dealt with their country when they offered their services.
– Are you still going to adhere to the wealth tax?
– The money will be raised, and it will be raised, too, in a fair and equitable manner.
– But you are not going to stick to the wealth tax?
– The honorable senator will know how the money is going to be raised when definite proposals are brought before him. Senator Gardiner dealt with the Imperial Conference, and complained that Senator Millen did not outline its objects. I should say that Senator Millen did indicate two things which make the objects of the Conference obvious - so obvious that they did not need further explanation. The honorable senator said that the Conference is to deal with the conditions of war and peace. Honorable senators have only to apply their intelligence to those two questions to see how we come into the matter, in what way we are affected, and how we are interested.
– How will the Conference be constituted?
– It will be constituted, as these conferences always are, of representatives of the Dominion Governments, and the practice hitherto has been that a Dominion may be represented by as many as three persons. I was at a Conference in 1911 when there were three representatives from Australia, but only one vote was given. As regards the present Conference we have seen in the press that Canada is to send three representatives. Australia is invited to be represented at the Conference in exactly the same way as it was invited to send three representatives to the’ Conference held in 1911. The invitation is sent to the Prime Minister, who is asked if he will attend the Conference on behalf of Australia.
– Do you think that Sir- William Irvine will represent the democratic aspirations of Australia?
– On Imperial questions I believe that Sir William Irvine will fully and adequately represent the people of Australia. There are honorable senators on the other side who see eye to eye with myself on Imperial questions. But there are honorable senators on that side who do not see eye to eye with anybody on Imperial questions.
– Hear, hear!
– It is a question which divides parties.
– We do not see any Imperial question.
– They do not see any Imperial question.
– That is right; that is my view anyhow.
– Senator Gardiner objects to the proposed representation, but how does he suggest that Australia should be represented ? He objects to Mr. Hughes. Does he propose to send Mr. Anstey ?
– I prefer Mr. Anstey to Mr. Hughes.
– The honorable senator objects to Sir William Irvine; does he prefer Senator Ferricks?
– He objects to Sir John Forrest; does he prefer Senator Mullan.
– I prefer Senator Mullan to Sir John Forrest.
– Then we have a clear-cut issue. Let the people of Australia be asked whether they prefer Mr. Hughes, Sir William Irvine, and Sir John Forrest to be their representatives, or Mr. Anstey, Senator Ferricks, and Senator Mullan, especially having in view the statements of these latter gentlemen in regard to the war. I should be quite prepared to submit that choice to the country, and to accept the decision of the people upon it.
– What statement of mine can the honorable senator quote in connexion with the war that was not calculated to promote the successful prosecution of it?
– I was thinking more of the honorable senator’s general attitude with respect to the war than of any particular statement. I was thinking of his attitude towards some of the legislation which it was my duty to pilot through this Chamber.
– The honorable senator cannot refer to one Bill, except the Loan Bills, in connexion with which I desired a fair deal for the people and to prevent the Government from exploiting the poor for the benefit of the rich.
– If the honorable senator claims that I have misrepresented his attitude as hostile in connexion with the prosecution of the war, I shall withdraw the statement.
– When the honorable senator refers to statements made by Senator Mullan, it is only fair that he should mention them.
– I do not recall any particular statement of the kind by Senator Mullan, but I have felt that his general attitude was hostile. If he thinks that I have misrepresented him, I am willing to withdraw what I have said.
– How did Senator Mullan vote on the Military Service Referendum Bill?
– I am proud of the vote I gave on that Bill, and would give the same vote again.
– I am quite prepared that the issue should be left between the other two representatives of the Official Labour party and the gentleman put forward by the Ministerial party. I am quite content that the country should be asked to pass judgment as to which of these gentlemen should be intrusted with the destinies of Australia, so far as they may be affected by the work of the Imperial War Conference. The other oversea Dominions of the Empire are to be represented at the Conference, and it will be admitted that no other Dominion has more at stake in the matter than has Australia. That is an overwhelming reason why Australia should be represented. Senator Gardiner has taken some exception to the statement made by Senator Millen with respect to the proposals to enableour delegates to go to the Conference. The honorable senator scents Imperial intervention, some danger of the Imperial Parliament sapping our rights of self-government. Why, Senator Gardiner was himself a member of a Government and of a Caucus that charged Mr. Hughes when he was Prime Minister with the duty of asking the Imperial Parliament for an extension of the life of this Parliament. I well remember the anxiety of certain members of the party then in power when Mr. Hughes came back from Great Britain. They did not want to know what was done in connexion with trade questions, but how Mr. Hughes had got on in connexion with the question of the extension of the life of this Parliament. That was for them the important question. That was the mission with which he was charged on behalf of the Caucus of the then Federal Labour party.
– I think it was Mr. Webster who was anxious about that,- and who brought the matter up.
– The fact remains that it was discussed; that the decision I have indicated was arrived at, and that Mr. Hughes was charged to make that request.
– The honorable senator knows that that was a request for an extension of the life of the Parliament for three or four months in order that there might be one election instead of two’ during the present year. He has been careful not to say that.
– I will give that in if Senator O’Keefe regards it as in any way important. Whether the proposed extension was to be for three months or six months or twelve months, the really important thing in this connexion is that the Imperial Parliament was to be asked to intervene to secure it. I come now to a rather remarkable statement made by Senator Gardiner. Speaking for honorable senators on his side he said, “We are not governing today.” The honorable senator has forgot ten that honorable senators on the other, side are a part of the Government of Australia, which does not consist only of the Cabinet. Parliament is a part of the Government of Australia in its truest sense.
– It is the Government.
– Senator Gardiner cannot disown the responsibility. He must take his share of it as well as other members of this Parliament. He is a part of the Government of Australia, and his only way to avoid that responsibility is to resign his seat. I come now to the honorable senator’s heroics - and I do not use the term offensively - on the subject of the burning anxiety of the members of the party to which he belongs for an early election. The honorable senator must think that we do not know human nature. He knows only too well that there is no desire on his part, or on the part of the party to which he belongs, to go to an election. He knows that there could not be a worse time for them to go before the people.
– Test our sincerity at once. Do not lose a minute.
– I venture to say that when the election has been held some of the honorable senator’s following will be sadder if wiser men.
– Senator Gardiner has three more years yet to run.
– That is so. I can only assure the honorable senator that his earnest desire for an early election does not fool anybody on this side.
– Nor on the other.
– I doubt very much whether it fools any one on the other side either. Coming back to the position of parties to-day, Senator Gardiner said that he had never had any interference with his liberty as a member of Parliament. This was said in connexion with the honorable senator’s eulogy of the party to which he belongs, and its record. I could say the same thing, up to October last. In fact I could say the same thing up till two or three months ago. We could all say it until that time, and it is because we could not say it since then that we are where we are now. It is because from October onwards we were subjected to that interference; because there was an important change in the practice of the organization”, an innovation such as never occurred in the history of the Labour party before; it is because of that revolution in the practice of the organization that we find parties in the Senate constituted as they are at the present time.
– Did the honorable senator not have a free hand in Western Australia?
– Yes, I had.
– Then whydidthe honorable senator leave?
– I left Senator Mullan. I did not leave my colleagues in Western Australia. I left Senator Mullan, because, to be associated with him was to be associated with a man who was not a free agent. When a question came along for decision if I had not left the honorable senator Ishould have found myself sitting alongside a man who was not free £o exercise his own conscientious judgment, but had to refer to some one in Brisbane, whilst I was myself a free agent.
– I am freer in this Parliament than is Senator Pearce, who is bound hand and foot to the Liberals.
– I could not remain associated with a man who was not free to follow his own judgment and conscience. I preferred to be dissociated from men who permitted themselves to be bound in that way.
– Is it not a fact that the taxation proposals of the present Government were submitted to the Liberal party ?
– No doubt Senator Ferricks would like to get me away from this point, but I have not said all that I wish to say upon it, and I shall not leave it until I have done so. When the Military Service Referendum Bill and the question of conscription came along, what did we find ? The State Labour executives of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria told honorable senators that if they dared to support conscription, or to speak in favour of it, even if their organizations selected them, they would refuse their indorsement.
– That was not the case with regard to Queensland, anyhow,
– I can only say that it was published in the press that the Queensland executive passed the same resolution as was passed by the New South Wales and Victorian executives.
– And wires to that effect were sent to members of the Senate.
– If that was not the case, I should like to know why they expelled our President, Senator Givens?
– That was an after effect,I suppose.
– If that were not so, they must have expelled Senator Givens without notice. They must have given him no notice of his execution.
– I speak for myself, and I received no such notice.
– What was done at the Melbourne Conference? Did not that Conference give honorable senators notice ?
– No, it did not.
– This was the first time in twenty-five years of the history of the Labour party that such a resolution was passed. It was the first time that any part of the organization assumed the right to prevent members of the party exercising their own judgment and following their consciences on a question outside the platform. That was a revolution, and it. brought about the new Official Labour party. That party is entirely different from any party that has existed in Australia before. The members of it are pledged to the same platform as I am pledged to; but on other questions they have to go before their State executives, who have the right to decide for them what they shall do. Members of the National Labour party on this side are free on such questions to follow their consciences, and are responsible only to their electors. I propose now to answer a question put by Senator Ferricks concerning the taxation proposals of the present Government. For those taxation proposals I am responsible to the electors of Western Australia. For whatever action I take upon them I shall have to answer to those electors.
– But the honorable senator has no say in framing them?
– I think that I have.
– I think the Cook party has all the say.
– I shall have to answer to the people who elected me for any action I take upon those proposals. I again remind honorable senators opposite that before they can give a decision upon any question, should it be outside the platform, they must first find out what their State executives think they ought to do.
– Did the people of Western Australia displace the honorable senator as Leader of the Senate?
– No; but the Caucus threatened to do it.
– I accepted the decision of the joint Ministerial party on that question.
– Not the decision of the people of Western Australia.
– The honorable senator forgets that the people of Western Australia never made me Leader of the Senate. Senator Gardiner took some exception to some remarks which he said Mr. Hughes and I had made to the effect that members of the Industrial Workers of the World had given his party support during the conscription campaign.
– That we were associated with them, and that our hands were soiled with Hun gold.
– That could not have referred to Senator Gardiner, who did not take part in the conscription campaign.
– Does the Minister make the charge against those who did take part in it on this side that their hands were soiled by Hun gold.
– No, I do not. That was an interjection. I was dealing with the charge that members of the party opposite were associated inthe anticonscription campaign with members of the Industrial Workers of the World.
– If a pickpocket voted for conscription, could Senator Pearce be said to have been associated with him?
– That is not the same thing. The members of the Industrial Workers of the “World, through their newspaper, and on public platforms, officially took part in the campaign against conscription.
– Let the honorable senator be manly, and fair. Does he think that it is fair to say that they were associated with myself and others who were anti-conscriptionists?
– I say that they associated themselves with the honorable senator and those who agreed with him.
– And the honorable senator blames us for it?
– I do not blame honorable senators opposite for it. I am saying only that they were in the same camp with members of the Industrial Workers of the World.
– Then no matter what the character of a man who voted for conscription may have been, the logic of the Minister’s statement is that he was associated with that man.
– Will the Minister say why he was so anxious to get this party to join in with his party, seeing that, according to him, we were associated with the Industrial Workers of the World?
– I am not complaining about any charges being levelled against me because certain people were associated with me in the conscription campaign. I do not disown any one who was then associated with me, and I leave honorable senators opposite to say whether they disown the company they found themselves in. Senator Gardiner madeanother rash statement when he said, “ Concerted action was being taken by the Federal and State Governments for the purpose of causing unemployment.” That is absolutely inaccurate.
– Absolutely correct.
– It is absolutely inaccurate, and Senator Gardiner ought to know it.
– Were not men put off the East-West railway and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard at the same time that the Harbor Boards were putting men off?
– Those facts, even if admitted, do not support Senator Gardiner’s charge that they were put off for the purpose of causing unemployment. There may have been a hundred-and-one other reasons for men being displaced. Every one knows that men were put off the East- West railway simply because we could not get rails; and in making his statement, I think Senator Gardiner must have allowed his biased views to get the better of his judgment. Senator Gardiner made another statement, and one which has been repeated by one or more of the leaders of the Official Labour party outside. He said, “ It does not matter what Government is administering the affairs of the country, they will do their best to win the war.” That is all we are asking honorable senators to say, and I direct attention to Senator Millen’s statement. What is there in that to object to as not being in the best interests of this country, and as not being calculated to assist us in doing our best to win the war? That is the point at issue, and if Senator Gardiner admits that it does not matter what Government is administering the affairs of the country, then we say, “ Here is a Government that is administering the affairs of the country, and here is the policy that has been put forward.” It is for honorable senators to say that this policy is not in the best interests of the country. Senator Gardiner did not attempt that task. He devoted himself entirely to questions not affecting the policy of the Government at all, and I presume he left that phase of the question for some future time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ready) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take this opportunity of referring to a statement made by Senator Pearce with regard to my earlier political career, and I am speaking now in order that my reply may appear in the same volume of Hansard as his remarks. He quoted from the Sydney Daily Telegraph certain statements about my career, and, as half the truth is always worse than a real lie, I want to have my position made quite clear. The statement made by Senator Pearce referred to 1894. At that time I was not in Parliament, neither was Mr. Hughes, nor Mr. Chris. Watson. There was then an organization known as the Solidarity Labour party, and exception was taken to me because I would not sign the required pledge. It was a pledge which I would not sign to-morrow. I went to the local league in Parkes, and said I was perfectly prepared to sign the pledge which I had. signed in 1891. To this the league agreed, and I contested the ballot with a Solidarity Labour candidate, went to the poll for the Ashburnham electorate, and won by an overwhelming majority. I have never associated myself with any other party but the Labour party.
– Was not that pledge known as the cast-iron pledge?
– Yes, and two or three years afterwards it was wiped out because it was unworkable. I want to be quite frank about the matter. I have no objection to any criticism concerning my political career. In 1891 I was the selected candidate for Forbes, and in 1894 the selected Labour candidate for Ashburnhara. Another candidate got eighty-four votes, while 1 was elected with something like 1,000 votes, so this will give honorable senators an idea how I stood with the Labour party at that time. I do not mind any inquiry into my political record of the last twenty years, but when any statement is made affecting my association with the Labour party, it is up to me to put the position properly. When I was elected as the Labour candidate in 1895, I had the united support not only of the league, but of the executive in Sydney.
– I crave the indulgence of honorable senators for a few moments while I make some brief references to a matter vitally affecting the State of Tasmania, and which has been occupying the’ attention of members of the Tasmanian Government, as well as those connected with the milling trade, and a large number of men affected by the situation in that State. Tasmania, although a wheat-producing State, does not grow a very large quantity, and it is not readily saleable on the mainland, because it approximates too closely to the products of the wheat fields of the United Kingdom. In normal years Tasmania does not produce enough wheat for the bread consumption of her own people. A very singular situation has arisen, I suppose primarily out of the war position, because many things which, if attempted in time of peace would meet with considerable opposition, are now being attempted and being done. I have no hesitation in saying I am cardinally opposed to price fixing. One of the lamentable results of this fixing of prices is that the Tasmanian milling trade is now in danger of being extinguished.
– There is no pricefixing for wheat; that is determined by the f.o.b.’ price.
– But the price of flour is fixed, and by an authority different from that fixing the Australian price of wheat. Only this morning I received from the president of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce in Hobart a letter, which, perhaps, far more succinctly furnishes honorable senators with, an idea of the state of affairs than would any lengthy utterances of mine. Honorable senators would have been addressed on this subject by Senator Keating had he been present, but he had to catch the boat for Tasmania, and I want it to be understood that he has been handling this question for some time, because the Tasmanian Government and public men of that State have seen the present state of affairs approaching, and have been making representations -to the Commonwealth Government in the matter. The letter to which I refer is written by Mr. T.- Murdoch, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Hobart, under date 20th February, and is as follows: -
Confirming my cable of the 19th inst., copy of which is attached, and I trust that the Tasmanian representatives in the Federal Parliament have been fully seized of the importance of the situation.
I am informed that there is less than a fortnight’s supply of flour in Tasmania. The mills have practically ceased grinding for lack of wheat, and the flour cannot be. profitably imported and made into bread at the prices as fixed by proclamation.
Pollard, bran, and sharps are unobtainable, and this is having, and will have, a serious effect on the dairying, butter, and poultry industries.
From the latest Tasmanian statistics, the milling industry is one of the most important in the island, there being seventeen mills, with a capital of £80,000, employing 130 hands, paying £17,000 odd per annum in wages, and having an output of £464,502 per annum. I trust that ere this reaches you I will have received some assurance that the Honorable the Prime Minister will, at the representation of yourself and your fellow members, have taken steps to alter the anomalous and serious position in which not only the flour millers, but the whole population of Tasmania, is at present placed with respect to so important a matter as the production of their daily bread.
The wheat supplies of the Commonwealth at present are controlled by what is known as the Wheat Pool, and although the Commonwealth has been frequently appealed “to by the Tasmanian Government, they have disclaimed any power in the matter, and have referred the State Government to the Wheat Pool. The Wheat Pool, however, will not do anything to furnish the Tasmanian millers with wheat at a price that will enable them to carry on their industry, which is one of the oldest in the Commonwealth. If this price-fixing and pooling of one of Australia’s primary products brings us to a kind of commercial impasse of this description, there must be something wrong with the whole business. The correspondence shows -that the Tasmanian Government are absolutely at a loss to knowhow to approach this question. The Commonwealth Government, as I have said, disclaims any responsibility, and the Wheat Board sits down in a practically legislatively fortified position, and says to the Tasmanian miller, “ You must pay this price or we cannot supply the wheat. “ What is the position in regard to the Wheat Pool? If the Commonwealth Government have no power over that Pool, it cannot be denied that through this Legislature they have strongly buttressed its operations. The Assistant Minister has been most courteous to me since I took up the handling of this question, and from an interview which he granted to representatives of Tasmania the other day I gathered that a vast benefit has been conferred on the wheat-growers of Australia by reason of the collective action of the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to freight arrangements. I learn that Australia had exported 2,000,000 tons of wheat, and that it was estimated that the Commonwealth freight arrangements had benefited the producers of that wheat to the extent of not less than 40s. per ton. I suppose that this circumstance is due to the superior freight arrangement concluded by the Commonwealth before the shipping question became so acute. That arrangement was a pretty fortunate one. It was made at an auspicious moment, when conditions permitted the Commonwealth to obtain terms which would not have been possible of attainment at a later stage in the history of the war. At any rate, the fact remains that by its action the. Commonwealth benefited the wheat-producing industry to the extent of 40s. per ton on 2,000,000 tons of wheat. Now. Tasmania is an integral part of the Commonwealth, and if the collective action of the Commonwealth - as exhibited through its Government: - has enabled the Wheat Pool to benefit to the extent of £4,000,000. Tasmania has contributed to that benefit most materially, seeing that she is a nonwheatexporting State. The Wheat Pool has sold a large quantity of wheat to the Imperial Government, and has fixed the price at which wheat will be sold to millers in Australia at 4s. 9d. per bushel. Now. this arrangement discriminates against Tasmanian millers by making them pay the freight charges to Tasmania in addition to the 4s. 9d. per bushel, with the result that they cannot produce flour and sell it profitably at the price which has been arbitrarily fixed by a Commonwealth authority acting independently of the Wheat Board.
– Not at all. The price paid by the Tasmanian millers is fixed by Victorian competition. It is not a price which is arbitrarily fixed by the Commonwealth .
– It is fixed by a Commonwealth authority which has nothing to do with the operations of the Wheat Pool. Of course, it is easy to be wise after the event, but my only concern is to find a practical remedy for this state of things. The Commonwealth authorities did something, and I believe that what they did was satisfactory. The transports going empty to Tasmania for Tasmanian products were availed of, and the Minister for the Navy made an ar- rangement which enabled wheat to be carried there in those vessels. I believe that 750 tons were thus carried. The Tasmanian people, as the result of that action, were in that one instance placed on an equality with those of the mainland, so far as the milling industry was concerned. I understand that a good deal of destructive criticism is likely to be directed against this action. Bub I take the responsibility of saying that it was a most correct act, and one which removed disabilities from which the Tasmanian millers were suffering. Yet, for reasons best known to the Commonwealth Government, that assistance has been withdrawn. Tasmania and the other States have jointly enabled the Wheat Poo] to benefit to the extent of several millions sterling. I venture to say that if the Commonwealth Government have no control over the Wheat Board - and I believe that Ministers have exerted themselves to the best of their ability in this matter-
– We have exhausted all human agencies.
– Then I suggest that the Minister should invite the Wheat Pool to pay the freight on wheat to Tasmania. I respectfully suggest that it should be clearly put to the Pool that as its operations are backed by the Commonwealth, of which Tasmania is an integral portion, and as it has benefited so much from the freight arrangements, it ought not to permit Tasmania to be blockaded in the same way as Germany is attempting to blockade England. Is the result of our action in backing the Wheat Pool to be the destruction of one of our State industries? The present position is a lamentable one, and convinces me more than ever of the inherent failure of all attempts at price fixing, which are so devoid of flexibility even in time of war. I shall take the earliest opportunity of informing the Tasmanian people that the present position is attributable to the vicious policy of price fixing.
– Is that the only cause of the trouble?
– It is the main cause. In all equity the Wheat Pool is the proper authority to put the Tasmanian milling industry, on the same footing as the milling industry of the mainland.
– Tasmania deserves all the help that we can give her.
– That State is never behindhand in any matter affecting tlie welfare of the Commonwealth.. It may be territorially small, but its people are just as sound at heart as are those of tlie mainland. I implore the Government to make such representations to the Wheat Pool as will enable something practical to be achieved. The Wheat Pool, which has benefited by millions of money, is the proper authority to make the concessions, and not the Commonwealth which has backed its operations, but has not made a penny out of them. Responsible men of every grade of opinion in Tasmania regard this question as one of supreme moment. The Minister, I hope, will represent to the Wheat Board that Tasmania has stood behind it in immunising it from loss, and should request it to grant this measure of relief to that State, which is urgently required at the present juncture.
, - Under the guise of dealing with the misfortune of Tasmania in that she is not a wheat-producing State, the honorable senator has availed himself of the opportunity to vigorously denounce price fixing. I wish to set his mind at rest on that point. The difficulty that is being experienced in Tasmania is not in any way associated with the policy of price fixing. As Senator Bakhap claims to be a friend of the farmer, I wish to say that had his State been as wise as other States last year, and had she supported the policy of the Wheat Pool in fixing the price of wheat, the farmers would have received ls. 3d. or ls. 6d. per bushel more for their wheat than they did. The honorable senator ought, therefore, either to seek to destroy the system altogether or to infuse sufficient energy into his efforts to induce Tasmania to participate in the benefits derived from the Wheat Pool just as the better organized States are participating in them. The difficulty is that Tasmania does not belong to the Wheat Pool, which is one of the most magnificent co-operative organizations that has ever been established in the world’s history. The Wheat Pool to-day is not a Commonwealth institution - it is purely a cooperative marketing scheme on the part of the four wheat-producing States of Australia with the financial backing of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has no control in itself over the Pool - that control is exercised by the votes of representatives of the four wheat-producing States of the
Federation, The Commonwealth has but one vote on it, just as each of the four States referred to has one vote. The object of the Pool has been to prevent the depression of the market through the overselling of wheat. Last year Tasmania had an exportable surplus of wheat, and it was quite possible for her to have joined the Pool had she been so inclined.
– That was a matter for the State Government.
– The four States which are represented in the Pool have fixed thi price of wheat - which was determined by the f.o.b. market price of the world - at 4s. 9d. per bushel at our principal ports. Tasmania has not sufficient wheat for her own requirements this year, and has,’ consequently, to import from other States. She is, therefore, obliged to pay 4s. 9d. f.o.b. at Sydney or Melbourne. The position, of Queensland is very much the same. She has to pay 4s. 9d. f.o.b. at Sydney. Now, suppose that the Victorian representative on the Wheat Board consented to sell wheat to Tasmania at 4s. 5d. per bushel f.o.b. at Melbourne, so that its total price to Tasmanian millers would not exceed 4s. 9d. per bushel, is it not possible that the people of Victoria would be inclined to ask, “Why should this be done?” Immediately an agitation would be started in Victoria to sell Victorian wheat at the same price as in Tasmania. That would be a nice pickle for any Minister in Victoria to face.
– If Tasmania had come into the Pool would the position be different ?
– Every State should be in the Pool, because there are certain features of it which make it essentially a Commonwealth organization, and I believe the people of Australia have a common interest, not only in the collection and selling of wheat, but in its distribution in war time.
– Is Queensland in the Pool?
– No. It is in the same position as Tasmania, except that it has nearly enough wheat this year to meet its own requirements. Tasmania this year, owing to floods, has a shortage of wheat, and is dependent upon a greater, proportion of mainland wheat than it ever was previously. Tasmanian wheat is not inferior for certain purposes, and nearly all the .biscuits of the mainland are made of it. The usual practice in Tasmania, is to use one-third local wheat and two-thirds mainland wheat, but this year they will probably have to use about 4 bushels of mainland to one of local. Tasmania is to-day in simply the same position that she was in during pre-war days. Before the war, and before the Pool, Tasmania could not buy wheat in Victoria any cheaper than Victorian millers. To-day, the Tasmanian millers buy their wheat as cheaply in Melbourne as the Melbourne millers. Therefore, what Tasmania wants to do is to participate in some of the benefits, and even the privileges of. the Wheat Pool, without having participated in its organization and management.
– I have allowed the honorable senator to proceed, but a sessional order provides that the question, “ That the Senate do now adjourn,” shall be put without debate at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoons. I must put the question now, but if it is -desired to continue the debate honorable senators can achieve that end by defeating the motion.
Question put in accordance with Ses-“ monal Order, and resolved in the negative.
– In any previous year of shortage in Tasmania, the local millers were compelled to buy wheat from the mainland, which meant that they came into open competition in Sydney and Melbourne, and consequently always had the freight to Tasmania to meet in addition. Senator Bakhap said the difficulty had been brought about by the vicious principle of price-fixing. I am not an enthusiast about the details of ‘ price-fixing, but the fixing of a maximum price has been in some cases very beneficial to Australia. I could point to one line on which an increase of 25 per cent, was recently announced. That increase has not been imposed upon the people.. If that is what the honorable senator calls a vicious system, God knows what the other system is. The Tasmanian millers waited upon me as the Minister in charge of price-fixing, and I told them that I recognised their difficulty. They had to pay 6d. per bushel more for their wheat than the Victorian millers, and to meet that situation I offered them an increase in the price of flour. They begged me not to do that, because the moment flour went up 5s. a ton in Tasmania the Victorian millers poured flour into the State, and there was no trade for them to do. Of course, the flour is only twothirds of the. wheat, and consequently there is a little advantage in the shape of the flour, plus the offal, as against the wheat. I met the members of the Tasmanian Government, as I knew the difficulty, which is a real one for Tasmania, but it is due to what the honorable senator would probably call the natural law of supply and demand. To meet that difficulty I, as Federal Commissioner of Prices, granted an increase of 10s. per ton on bran and 10s. per ton on pollard, which puts the Tasmanian miller on an equal, if not a superior, footing to the Victorian miller.
– Yet he is closing down his mills.
– I have seen them closed down in Victoria. The honorable senator does not know flour millers yet The difficulty, however, has only been got over by putting an increased tax on the poultry farmers and dealers in Tasmania, who use bran and pollard. I am not supporting that system, though it was the. only thing to be done to save the milling industry of Tasmania. It does not affect the price of bread in that State, because the price of flour there has not been raised.
– It will increase the price of meat, so you see the bulge at once.
– I assure the honorable senator there is no bulge in the price of flour or bread in Tasmania. The Wheat Pool can be improved from the Australian point of view in many directions, but the real difficulty with Tasmania is that she has nob produced sufficient wheat this year. If her Government made application to join the Wheat Pool, I am sure all the other Governments would treat the application sympathetically, bub I have no power to commit the New South Wales or Victorian Governments on the question.
– Does the honorable senator think that is a practicable step 1
– I believe so. I have taken what I believe to be the best practical steps to overcome the difficulty, bub I shall be glad to receive representations on the subject. The matter has been going on for about twelve months, and a constitutional authority like Senator Keating has. made half-a-dozen speeches here, and written probably fifty or sixty letters to me, and yet is no nearer solving the problem to-day. After all, the difficulty seems to be very nearly that of a law of nature.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170223_senate_6_81/>.